PERUVIAN TRADITIONS:
Ricardo Palma’s Latin American Historic and Folkloric Tales

 

Written by

Ricardo Palma

 

Edited by

Merlin D. Compton

 

Translated by

Merlin D. Compton and and Timothy G. Compton

 

Copyright © 2003 by Merlin D. Compton

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by an electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems with out permission in writing from the copyright holder.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Chapter

Year

Title

 

 

 

Acknowledgments

 

 

 

Introduction To The Translated Traditions...

 

 

 

Preface.......................................................

 

 1

1541

The Knights of the Cape..............................

 

 2

1542

Don Alonso the Brawny One........................

 

 3

1551

The Mayor’s Ears.........................................

 

 4

1558

The Singing Letter......................................

 

 5

1561

A Famous Excommunication........................

 

 6

1561

The Conspiracy of the Saya y manto..............

 

 7

1575

I Appeal to the Church................................

 

 8

1587

The Nun of the Key.....................................

 

 9

1591

Once on the Donkey, Suffer the Whip Lashes..................................................................

 

10

1600

The Governments of Peru............................

 

11

1601

Woman and Tiger........................................

 

12

1604-06

The Viceroy of the Miracles.........................

 

13

1615

The Goblins of Cuzco...................................

 

14

1616

Two Friendly Little Doves............................

 

15

1619

The Tiles of the Church of San Francisco.....

 

16

1620

Happy Barber!.............................................

 

17

1625

The Righteous and the Sinners...................

 

18

1631

The Powders of the Countess.......................

 

19

1639

Why Friar Martín of Porres, Limean Saint, Doesn’t Perform Miracles Any Longer ..........

 

20

1639

Friar Martín’s Mice.....................................

 

21

1640

A Life in Exchange for Honor.......................

 

22

1656

A Heretic Viceroy and a Cunning Bellringer

 

23

1668

Drink, Father, This Is a Lifesaver................

 

24

1673

The Christ of the Agony...............................

 

25

1696

The Love of a Mother...................................

 

26

1698

An Original Lawsuit....................................

 

27

17__

An Elegant Preacher...................................

 

28

1706

Don Dimas de la Tijereta............................

 

29

1727

A Limeña’s Whim.........................................

 

30

1765

Margarita’s Chemise...................................

 

31

1768

“Well, I Am a Beauty and a Castellanos”......

 

32

1780

The Cigar Vendor of Huacho........................

 

33

1788

“Mari Ramos’ Little Kitten That Cajoles with its Tail and Scratches with its Paws”...........

 

34

1790

Ijurra, Don’t Rush the Donkey.....................

 

35

1796

“To Jail with Every Christ”...........................

 

36

1801

An Intimate Drama.....................................

 

37

1806

The Viceroy of the Riddle............................

 

38

1816-24

Where and How the Devil Lost His Poncho

 

39

1821

Conquer We Will with Days and Jars...........

 

40

1822

The Calf of the Leg of the Commander.........

 

41

1825

The Secret of the Confessional ...................

 

 

 

Chronology..................................................

 

 

 

Glossary.....................................................

 

 

 

About the Editor and Translators.................

 

 


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

There are many I need to recognize for their help in making this volume possible. In so many ways my son Dr. Timothy Compton, Professor of Spanish at Northern Michigan University, provided essential assistance. He translated some of the traditions and proofread all of the ones I translated. His translation skills and his many suggestions have been invaluable. Thanks to my eldest son, Dr. Todd Compton for all of his help and advice. To my daughter Tina Compton go my heartfelt thanks for helping me with the computer work. It would have been very difficult to complete the project without her knowledge and encouragement. My other children, Terry Ann Harward and Tamara Anderson have always shown interest in my research and have always wanted to see the published results of that research. My wife, Avon Allen Compton, provided the original ink sketches that she did in Peru while I was researching the works of Ricardo Palma. For her support and love my deepest gratitude. Professor Oswaldo Holguín, Professor of History at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, Lima, Peru, accomplished Palmista, has given me continued encouragement and has never let me forget that Palma’s works deserve to be made available to those who read English.

This work would not have been possible without the time for research made available to me by Brigham Young University while I was a Professor of Spanish and Portuguese at that institution. And finally, thanks to Tim Murphy and 1stBooks Library for making this book a published reality.

Merlin Compton

St. George, Utah

August, 2003

 

Return to Table of Contents


INTRODUCTION TO THE TRANSLATED TRADITIONS

The world of the Peru of the colonial years is one that the pages of this volume open up in a way that makes of the reader a spectator of one of the most fascinating periods in the history of the Americas. Ricardo Palma, an illustrious Peruvian writer who was born in 1833 and died in 1919, set about to make that world come to life by transforming history into short prose pieces which he called “traditions.” What are “traditions”? They are history and they are not history. They are short stories and they are not short stories. They are anecdotes and they are not anecdotes. And yet they may include all of these and much, much more. In fact, we may say that an accurate definition would require a long paragraph and even then the definition would not be complete. The problem we face here is that Palma did not set out to clothe his thoughts in any particular literary genre or in any genres. When he began his literary career he was writing poetry and dramas and dabbling in history. His great dream was to write successful Romantic dramas and poetry. When he was about eighteen years of age, the idea of writing “traditions” was apparently far from his mind. At this early age he had published articles in many newspapers, had written two dramas and had published a number of poems. His first prose piece, “Consolación,” a Romantic memoir, he sketched in 1851. It is evident that this piece is completely unlike the prose pieces Palma years later called “traditions.” It is merely a sentimental story told in a serious, not very attractive style. The history of Peru is not treated in any way and the satirical, the ironic, the sprightly humorous style, hallmarks of his mature productions, are nowhere in evidence. Many years would pass before what we know as the typical “tradition” would come into existence.

The “tradition” treats history, but in an oblique way, for important events are rarely the focus of the author’s interest. Thus, he portrays incidents which relate to historical events which bring to light human foibles and idiosyncrasies on one hand and examples of courage and integrity on the other. In this manner Palma is able to paint a remarkable panorama of life in Peru’s colonial years. Depicted is a wide range of the members of the society of that period, from viceroys and their courts to criminals and their milieu. In between we find just about every social type, including nobles, priests, soldiers, merchants, beggars, nuns, housewives and prostitutes. As we see these people in their daily pursuits we are permitted to understand what were the important values in their lives and what motivated them. By so doing Palma has made it possible for us to feel the spirit of Peru by his recreation of the past. But as previously suggested, this is no boring, dusty recounting of history; this is literature based often, but ever so slightly, on a historical foundation. In fact, this type of literature fits into no recognized category, thus it is considered to be a new genre, the “tradition,” created by Ricardo Palma.

In order to characterize the genre we must pay attention to the style, which is unique. Palma’s “traditions” continue to be printed and one of the reasons for their popularity is their style. Although Palma is at times completely serious his most celebrated pieces are light in tone, even playful, as he pokes fun at the pompous, the overbearing, the egotistical. Targets of his satirical pen are institutions such as the Catholic Church, the monarchy, the courts, education, etc. However, he does not attack these institutions head on, but rather prefers to point out the human weaknesses of individuals who make up these institutions.

In the “tradition” we find poetry, some of which is original, slang, proverbs, archaic words, humor and a rich vocabulary. It is to his credit that hundreds of words now a part of the dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy were first submitted by him to that body for their consideration.

II

This is a world about which many Americans are not very knowledgeable. It is a world in which the monarchy and the Catholic Church are the two most powerful institutions and honor is the concept on which all Spaniards, especially those of the nobility, based their behavior. It is a world of hierarchy and privileges, which arbitrarily set limits to political achievements. Race and blood were determining factors in the worth of an individual. Moors and Jews were infidels and were driven from Spain. No one could aspire to any political office if there was even one drop of Moorish or Jewish blood in his veins. Thus the need for establishing one’s genealogy became critical and certificates of lineage were zealously sought and zealously preserved. And if a researcher had to be bribed to expunge from a certificate some Jewish or Moorish blood four generations back—well, who would know the difference? And here the concept of honor impinges upon the question of race. Theoretically a person whose blood was not “pure” could not possess honor, nor could he be of the nobility. But to complicate matters even further, a person could have the purest blood and even be born into a noble family and yet be denied being considered for important government positions if he had the misfortune of being born in the New World instead of in Spain. In the hierarchy of privilege a person born in the mother country was called a peninsular and the person who was born in the New World was a criollo, and thus was automatically inferior, a source of jealousy and bitterness which played an important role in the wars for Independence. Of course mestizos, those who possessed a mixture of Spanish and Indian blood could claim no privileges at all and Indians and blacks were at the bottom of the heap. They were the servants and the workers and they really had no social status.

In this world where honor was all-important, even the slightest suspicion could stain one’s reputation and call for violent means to regain lost honor. Many “traditions” turn on the question of honor because the concept of honor permeated all of society. In the code of honor, which was not a written one, more important than what happened was whether it was made public and what people thought of the situation. Cervantes expressed this idea very well in one of his stories from Novelas exemplares (Exemplary Novels) entitled “Call of the Blood,” when a father says the following to his daughter who has been abducted and raped by a reckless young nobleman, “...and know, my child, that an ounce of public dishonor weighs more than a bushel of secret infamy.” This concept is expressed by the words ¿qué dirán,? a question which translates to the English “What will people say?” One would not be far off the mark by saying that in those days and to a certain extent even today in the Hispanic world that it would be better to be dead than to lose one’s honor. Thus the reader of these “traditions” should pay particular attention to the way in which the concept of honor plays itself out in the lives of Palma’s characters. Many died because of sullied honor, real or just suspected or imagined.

In view of the fact that the history of Peru attracted Palma with a very strong pull, we are not surprised to see what an important role historical events play in his “traditions.” However, some readers may be a little disconcerted to find inserted in the middle of some of the stories a section that has nothing to do with the developing plot. Its purpose is to provide a historical background for the period in which the story takes place. One of Palma’s purposes for writing “traditions” was to expose his fellow Peruvians to their country’s history, of which he felt far too many were ignorant, or almost so. Therefore, if the reader of these “traditions” wishes to, he or she should feel at liberty to skip these historical sections, which Palma at times referred to as the “obligado parrafillo histórico” (“obligatory short historical paragraph”). Let the reader be assured that by so doing nothing in the plot will be lost. We have identified these historical sections by the word HISTORY as shown. The reader may wish to skip over these sections if he or she is interested only in the main narrative.

Related to the question of the “historical paragraph” is that of digressions in general. There are many of them. that are not a resume of the reign of the viceroy of the period under consideration. Palma felt that they added interest to his works; in fact, in a long poem (“Flor de los cielos” [1852]) he expressed his idea this way:

 

                   Pardon me if I return to my customary

                   Habit of inserting digressions;

                   Without digressions a story is no good,

                   It’s like a drama without any scoundrels.

 

The use of digressions may do violence to the desire on the part of some readers to read a plot, which is neatly structured. That attitude is understandable. However I would suggest that in the case of Palma’s “traditions” the digressions relate to the story line in some way and add variety and spice to his works.

If the monarchy and the related hierarchy of the nobility are over-arching in the lives of colonial Peruvians, just a tiny bit less important is the role of the Catholic Church and its most feared instrumentality—the Inquisition. And to be completely accurate, at times the Church and the Inquisition were more powerful than the viceregal government. Only one religion, the Christian religion, was allowed and only one church, the Catholic Church, had the right to exist. Life revolved around Masses, christenings, marriages and funerals, not to mention confession and processions and feast days, usually to honor some saint. The Inquisition’s influence was felt everywhere, including on reading material. The Holy Office determined which books could be imported into the New World and kept a list of prohibited works, some of ones which portrayed immoral life (novels in general), some of which raised unwelcome questions about Church dogma or those who ran the affairs of that institution, and others which treated political theories or actions which attacked the monarchy and advanced the cause for independence from the mother country. In addition, the Inquisition was on the lookout for heretics and members of the Church who were accused of practicing witchcraft, of immoral behavior or of religious views, which were at variance with accepted Church doctrine and practice. Just about every person in Peru feared a knock at the door at midnight which would precede a surprise arrest and being carried off in the infamous green carriage to, at the very least, incarceration, which could result in sequestration of goods and property, torture and even death. This fear was well founded for many reasons, but especially because the accused was never told which charge or charges had been leveled against him and who had leveled the charge. It should be noted, however, that Indians, considered to be innocent creatures, were not victims of the Inquisition, and that the Holy Office’s activities were not as severe as they were in the peninsula. Further, relatively few heretics were burned at the stake in the New World.

In addition to the Inquisition the Church possessed one other tool to enforce conformity—excommunication. To lose one’s membership in the Church and at the same time lose all hope for salvation and for any social standing was indeed a heavy blow. Little wonder that even the threat of excommunication could force a person to get into line.

Since the Church, in its manifold roles, is one of Palma’s favorite themes, so in this world that Palma created we find the Inquisition, excommunication, many, many miracles and priests and nuns praying and meditating and at times in conflict with each other and with the government and with other religious orders. Palma takes great delight in poking fun, not maliciously, at ecclesiastics who take themselves too seriously and at Church practices that smack of authoritarianism and lack of good judgment.

III

In 1945 Harriet de Onís published an excellent translation of thirty-eight “traditions.” That collection has been out of print for many years. This volume which the reader is now reading contains forty-one “traditions,” some twenty-nine of which did not appear in the De Onís collection. Why another volume of “traditions”? I put forth four reasons: 1) They open up to the reader a fascinating world almost completely unknown to the American reader. 2) They are enjoyable reading because of popular themes, such as: intrigue, treasures, duels, honor, love, vengeance, etc. 3) They make the past come alive. And 4) Even though inevitably something is lost in translation, Palma’s engaging style shines through. In his “traditions” we see a light tone with a sparkling use of language in which he exhibits a sure hand and a masterful knowledge of every level of written and spoken Spanish in Peru from the erudite to the familiar. Many writers have tried to imitate that style; none have succeeded.

IV

Ricardo Palma’s life began in Lima in 1833 and ended in a suburb of that city, Miraflores, in 1919. In between he pursued a writing career that included writing articles for and directing newspapers, composing poetry and dramas, publishing works on lexicography and the history of Peru, in addition to creating more than 500 “traditions.” He spent several years on the Pacific Ocean serving his country on some of Peru’s warships and as a liberal opposed the government of President Ramón Castilla and took part in a plot against him which failed and resulted in Palma’s being exiled to Chile for a period of about three years. In 1865 he began to work with José Gálvez, who was Minister of War. One year later Spanish forces invaded the Chincha Islands and bombarded Callao. Gálvez lost his life when a shell from the attacking Spanish naval force exploded in an ammunition magazine. Palma had been with Gálvez and his life was spared only because just a short time before the bombardment he had left to establish telegraphic communication with Lima.

In 1867 José Balta rebelled against the then president, Mariano Prado. Palma backed Balta and later when the rebel chief overthrew Prado and became President, Palma became Balta’s private secretary and also senator from the district of Loreto. Five years later three colonels rebelled against Balta and assassinated him. At this point Palma turned his back on the present in which he was living and tried to bury his life in the past. From this time on Palma’s involvement in politics was of little significance. It should be noted that this year, 1872, was a pivotal one in his life for the reason just mentioned and because it was in this same year that he published his first collection of “traditions,” which he entitled Tradiciones.

In 1876 he married Cristina Román and in 1878 he was named corresponding member of the Royal Spanish Academy. The following year hostilities broke out between Peru and Chile in what became known as the War of the Pacific. Palma fought against Chilean troops at Miraflores, where he owned a home. Chile won the war easily and before the invaders had left, Palma’s home and his private library were in ashes and Peru’s National Library in Lima had been sacked. Palma had been associated with this Library for some time, so the loss of thousands of books and manuscripts was a deep personal tragedy. After the departure of the Chileans Palma was named Director of the National Library, a position he held for about thirty years. The Library became the home of Palma’s family and also became his second love, his first love being that of his wife. He became known as the “Bibliotecario Mendigo” (“librarian beggar”) because he asked friends the world over to send books to the Library to replace those, which the Chileans had destroyed or stolen. Another high point in his life was being named Peru’s official delegate to Spain in 1892 to help celebrate the Fourth Centenary of the discovery of America.

He was dealt a severe blow in 1911 when his beloved wife died and suffered another one in 1912 when for political reasons his resignation as Director of the Library was accepted. In failing health he lived out the rest of his life in his home in Miraflores, dying in full control of his faculties and revered as one of Peru’s great literary figures.

 

Return to Table of Contents

 


PREFACE

Of the more than 500 “traditions” Palma wrote, why have we chosen to translate the forty-one found in this volume? Our criteria fall into three basic categories: 1) Plot; 2) Portrayal of Peruvian colonial society; and 3) Style.

Included are “traditions” which have been our favorites for decades because they treat themes of adventure and intrigue, because they show us what Peruvian society was like, and because they exhibit Palma’s sprightly style. These, then, are “traditions” which we have selected very subjectively. They are works that give the reader some idea about the nature of these short pieces that breathe life into Peru’s dusty past.

The translations are ours and ours alone. We fully understand that not all will agree with our interpretation of these “traditions.” That we are willing to accept. We ourselves often disagree on the interpretation of certain passages. However, in spite of any missteps we might have committed we feel that our work faithfully communicates the spirit of Palma’s “traditions” and for the first time in many years makes the world he created available to everyone who reads the English language.

The editor has supplied all footnotes, unless a note is specifically referred to as “Palma’s note.” Since some readers will be reading selected stories, some footnotes repeat.

Because of the historical base on which the majority of the “traditions” were structured, it was felt advisable to arrange the pieces in this volume in chronological order, thus permitting the reader to follow, to a certain extent, the flow of history in Peru. The dates in which the action was supposed to have taken place in the “traditions” have been listed below.

 

Chapter

Year

Title

 1

1541

The Knights of the Cape

 2

1542

Don Alonso the Brawny One

 3

1551

The Mayor’s Ears

 4

1558

The Singing Letter

 5

1561

A Famous Excommunication

 6

1561

The Conspiracy of the Saya y manto

 7

1575

I Appeal to the Church

 8

1587

The Nun of the Key

 9

1591

Once on the Donkey, Suffer the Whip Lashes

10

1600

The Governments of Peru

11

1601

Woman and Tiger

12

1604-06

The Viceroy of the Miracles

13

1615

The Goblins of Cuzco

14

1616

Two Friendly Little Doves

15

1619

The Tiles of the Church of San Francisco

16

1620

Happy Barber

17

1625

The Righteous and the Sinners

18

1631

The Powders of the Countess

19

1639

Why Friar Martín of Porres, Limean Saint, Doesn’t Perform Miracles Any Longer

20

1639

Friar Martín’s Mice

21

1640

A Life in Exchange for Honor

22

1656

A Heretic Viceroy and a Cunning Bellringer

23

1668

Drink, Father, This Is a Lifesaver

24

1673

The Christ of the Agony

25

1696

The Love of a Mother

26

1698

An Original Lawsuit

27

17__

An Elegant Preacher

28

1706

Don Dimas de la Tijereta

29

1727

A Limeña’s Whim

30

1765

Margarita’s Chemise

31

1768

“Well, I Am a Beauty and a Castellanos.”

32

1780

The Cigar Vendor of Huacho

33

1788

“Mari Ramos’ Little Kitten That Cajoles with its Tail and Scratches with its Paws.”

34

1790

Ijurra, Don’t Rush the Donkey

35

1796

To Jail with Every Christ

36

1801

An Intimate Drama

37

1806

The Viceroy of the Riddle

38

1816-24

Where and How the Devil Lost His Poncho

39

1821

Conquer We Will with Days and Jars

40

1822

The Calf of the Leg of the Commander

41

1825

The Secret of the Confessional

 

Return to Table of Contents

 


 

CHAPTER 1

THE KNIGHTS OF THE CAPE

(1541)

(The Chronicle of a Civil War)

 

For Don Juan de la Pezuela, Count of Cheste.

 

I
WHO THE KNIGHTS OF THE CAPE WERE AND THE OATH THEY SWORE

On the afternoon of June 5, 1541, twelve Spaniards, all of whom had been honored by the king for their exploits in the conquest of Peru, met at the mansion of Pedro de San Millán.

The house that sheltered them consisted of a parlor, five rooms, and a large open area. Six leather chairs, an oak bench and a dirty table flush with the wall constituted the furniture of the parlor. Thus, just like the clothing of the structure’s inhabitants, the house itself proclaimed a poverty that bordered on destitution. And that was the truth.

The twelve noblemen belonged to the number of men who had been defeated April 6, 1538, in the battle of Salinas.[1] The victor had confiscated their goods but they were allowed to breathe the air of Lima, where they survived due to the kindnesses of certain friends. The victor, as was the practice in those days, could have had them hanged without any problem; but Don Francisco Pizarro was ahead of his time, and seemed much more like a man from our age, in which an enemy isn’t always killed or imprisoned, but is deprived either wholly or partially of his ration of bread. Crestfallen yet lifted up, filled up yet starving, that was the Colony, and it has been and is the Republic. As the verse goes:

 

          We leave Guate-mala (mala = bad)

          And enter Guate-peor; (peor = worse)

          The tambourine changes hands

          But not the music.

 

          Or as they say in Italy: Break free of the barbarians only to fall into the hands of the Barbarini.[2]

 

The names of these twelve knights were Pedro de San Millán, Cristóbal de Sotelo, García de Alvarado, Francisco de Chávez, Martín de Bilbao, Diego Méndez, Juan Rodríguez Barragán, Gómez Pérez, Diego de Hoces, Martín Carrillo, Jerónimo de Almagro and Juan Tello.

Because of the importance of the role they play in this chronicle, we will quickly draw a historical sketch of each of the noblemen, starting with the owner of the house. A tout seigneur, tout honneur.

Pedro de San Millán, Knight of the Order of Santiago, was thirty-eight years old and was among the 170 conquistadors who captured Atahualpa.[3] Upon dividing out the ransom of the Inca, he received 135 weights of silver and 3330 ounces of gold. As a loyal friend of Don Diego de Almagro,[4] he fell in line under Almagro’s standard and fell into disfavor with the Pizarros, who confiscated his fortune, leaving him, as an alm, the dilapidated mansion on Judíos Street. It is said: “A small cage is large enough for a sparrow.” San Millán, when fortune had smiled upon him, had been guilty of ostentatiousness and of excessive spending. He was brave, genteel, and generally popular.

Cristobál de Sotelo was approaching fifty-five years of age, and having served as a soldier in Europe, his opinion was very highly regarded. He was the infantry commander in the battle of Salinas.

García de Alvarado was a dashing young man of twenty-eight, possessing a martial air and an overbearing manner. He was very ambitious and very sure of himself. He also exhibited streaks of roguishness and villainy.

Diego Méndez, of the Order of Santiago, served with the famous general Rodrigo Ordóñez, who died in the battle of Salinas while commanding the losing army. Méndez was forty-three and was better known as a Don Juan and courtier than as a soldier.

The chroniclers tell us little regarding Francisco de Chaves, Martín de Bilbao, Diego de Hoces, Gómez Pérez and Martín Carrillo, only that they were fearless soldiers and beloved of their own men. None of them had reached thirty five years of age.

Juan Tello, the Sevillian, was one of the twelve founders of Lima. The others were Marquis Pizarro, the Treasurer Alonso Riquelme, the Inspector García de Salcedo, the Sevillian Nicolás de Rivera the elder, Ruiz Diáz, Rodrigo Mazuelas, Cristobál Palomino, the Salamancan Nicolás de Rivera the younger, and Picado, the secretary. The first mayors of Lima’s town council were Rivera the elder and Juan Tello. It is obvious that the latter had been an important person, and at the time of our story was forty six years old.

Jerónimo de Almagro was born in the same city as Marshal Almagro. Because of this detail and their last names that were in common, they referred to each other as cousin. Such a relationship did not exist, for Don Diego was an impoverished orphan. Jerónimo was about 40 years old.

It is common knowledge that just as in our day nobody who considers himself to be anybody will be seen in the street in shirtsleeves, likewise, in days past, nobody who was aspiring to be held as a decent man would dare show his face publicly without a cape. Whether it was hot or cold, on a walk, at a banquet or in a church ceremony, the Spaniard and his cape formed an inseparable partnership. Because of this, I suspect that the decree issued in 1822 by Minister Monteagudo[5] prohibiting the Spaniards the use of the cape was as important for Peru’s independence as winning any battle. With its cape outlawed, Spain disappeared.

To compound the misery of our twelve noblemen, between them there was only one cape. And when one of them was compelled to leave, the eleven who remained were unable to set foot outside the mansion because they lacked the indispensable garment.

Antonio Picado, Marquis Don Francisco Pizarro’s secretary, or stated more aptly, his demon of perdition, referred one day to the noblemen as the “Knights of the Cape.” The nickname became famous and before long was on everyone’s lips.

 

This is a convenient spot for a brief biographical note about Picado.

He came to Peru in 1534 as secretary to Marshal Don Pedro de Alvarado, he of the famous leap in Mexico.[6] Alvarado claimed that certain territories in the North were not included in the territories conceded by the Emperor to Pizarro as part of the conquest and just as he was about to take up arms against Don Diego de Almagro’s forces, Picado sold Alvarado’s secrets to Almagro. One night, suspecting that this infamy would soon be discovered, Picado fled to the enemy camp. Alvarado sent forces in his pursuit, but after failing to overtake him, wrote Don Diego saying that he would not enter into any treaty unless they first sent back the traitor. The gallant Almagro rejected the proposal, thus saving the life of a man who later proved to be traitorous to him and his men.

Don Francisco Pizarro made Picado his secretary, and in this office he exercised a fatal, decisive influence over the Marquis. It was Picado who, stifling the governor’s generous impulses, made him hostile towards those whose only crime had been losing the battle of Salinas.

By 1541 it was known that the monarch, informed of what was happening in these kingdoms, was sending the lawyer Don Cristóbal Vaca de Castro[7] to impeach the governor; and the followers of Almagro, preparing to demand justice for the death of Don Diego, sent captains Alonso Portocarrero and Juan Balsa to receive the man commissioned by the crown and give him reports to bias his opinion. But the investigating judge did not arrive when expected. Sickness and maritime setbacks delayed his arrival at the City of Kings.[8]

Pizarro, meanwhile, decided to win friends, even those of the Knights of the Cape. He sent messages to Sotelo, Chaves, and others, offering to help them out of their indigent situation. But to the credit of the followers of Almagro, they did not stoop to receive the crust of bread being cast to them.

With things in this state, Picado’s insolence increased by the day, and he did not miss any opportunity to insult “the Chileans,” as Almagro’s supporters were called. Angered one night, these followers hung three ropes from the gallows with signs stating: “For Pizarro,” “For Picado,” and “For Velázquez.”[9]

When Pizarro learned of this irreverent act, he was far from being upset, and said while smiling: “Poor wretches! We need to allow them some way to vent their frustrations. They are in such a bind that we need bother them no longer. They are allowing their frustrations to surface.”

But Picado felt, as his name implies, pricked,[10] and that afternoon, June 5, put on a small French cape embroidered with silver amulets, mounted a magnificent horse, and rode back and forth in front of the house of Juan de Rada, the guardian of the youthful Almagro, and the mansion of Pedro de San Millán, the home of our twelve knights. He carried his provocation to the point that, when some of them looked on, he flaunted an insulting gesture, by saying, “For the Chileans,” as he applied his spurs to the animal.

The Knights of the Cape immediately sent for Juan de Rada.

Pizarro had offered to be the second father of the young Almagro, who was orphaned at age nineteen, and as a result accommodated him in the place, but it nettled the young man to hear words discrediting the memory of his father and his friends so he left the Marquis to come under the tutelage of Juan de Rada. The latter was a very spirited and respected old man who belonged to a noble family from Castile, and he was esteemed as a man of great prudence and experience. He lived in some rooms on the street off the Arcade of Botoneros that is known today as “Callejón de los Clerigos”. Rada saw in the youthful Almagro a son and a rallying standard to avenge the Marshal’s death. And all the Chileans, whose number exceeded 200, while recognizing young Don Diego as their leader, looked to Rada for the call to arms and to organize the revolutionary efforts.

Rada quickly responded to the summons of the knights. The old man arrived seething with indignation because of Picado’s most recent offense, and the council resolved not to wait for the justice the crown was sending through this representative, but to take upon themselves the punishment of the Marquis and his insolent secretary.

García de Alvarado, who was wearing the company’s cape that afternoon, threw it to the ground and, standing on it, said: “Let us swear by the salvation of our souls to die in the defense of the rights of young Almagro, and to cut from this cape the death shroud for Antonio Picado!”

II

OF THE DARING EXPLOIT CARRIED OUT BY THE KNIGHTS OF THE CAPE

The matter could not be carried out so secretly that Pizarro did not find out that the Chileans were holding frequent clandestine meetings, that a restless excitement reigned among them, that they were buying arms, and that when Rada and the young Almagro went out into the street they were followed at a distance by a group of supporters under the guise of escorts. Nevertheless, he did not take any measures to defend himself.

During this time of inaction Pizarro received letters from several dignitaries telling him that the Chileans were openly preparing an uprising throughout the country. These, and other reports, forced him one morning to send for Juan de Rada.

Rada found Pizarro in the palace garden, at the foot of a fig tree which is still in existence, and according to Herrera’s Decadas,[11] the following dialogue ensued:

“What is this all about, Juan de Rada, that it is said that you are buying guns with which to kill me?”

“It is true, sire, that I have purchased two breastplates and a coat of mail to defend myself.”

“And what has made you feel the need to thus equip yourself at this time?”

“We are told, sir, and it is no secret, that your lordship is gathering lances to kill all of us. Let your lordship put an end to us now and do with us what he pleases, because if one starts with the head there is no reason to respect the feet. It is also said that your lordship intends to kill the judge sent by the king. If this is your disposition and you are determined to administer death to the Chileans, stop short of killing them all. Send Don Diego off in a ship, for he is innocent, and I will go with him wherever fortune may carry us.”

“Who has led you to believe such great evil and treason as this? I have never thought of any such thing, and am more anxious than you are for the judge to arrive. He would be here now had he come on the galleon I sent for him to Panama. Regarding the arms, be it known that the other day I went hunting, and among our company there was not a single lance; I ordered my servants to buy one and they bought four. I hope to God, Juan de Rada, that the judge will come and these matters will be put to rest, and may God assist the right.”

It has been rightly said that “good advice comes from the enemy.” Perhaps Pizarro would have avoided his unhappy end if, as the astute Rada had indicated, he would have banished Almagro at the moment.

The discussion continued in a friendly tone, and when Rada bid him farewell, Pizarro gave him six figs that he cut from the tree, among the first grown in Lima.

After this interview Don Francisco thought he had averted all danger, and he continued to ignore the warnings he constantly received.

On the afternoon of June 25, a clergyman secretly told Pizarro that he had become aware that the followers of Almagro were going to attempt to assassinate him, and very soon.

“That priest wants to be a bishop,” replied the Marquis, and with usual confidence, went unescorted on a walk and then bowling with the elder Nicolás de Rivera.

When he retired to bed, the little page who aided him with his clothes told him: “Marquis, sire, all that is being said in the streets is that the Chileans are seeking to kill your lordship.”

“Bah! Leave that nonsense alone, youngster, that kind of thing isn’t for you,” Pizarro said, interrupting him.

With the dawning of Sunday, June 26, the Marquis arose somewhat troubled.

At nine o’clock he called the mayor, Juan de Velázquez, and recommended that he stay informed as to the plans of the Chileans, and if he sensed anything unusual to imprison them without delay. Velázquez gave him the following answer, which is made humorous by the ensuing events:

“Fear not, your lordship, for as long as I hold this staff in my hand, I swear to God no harm will befall you!”

Departing from his usual custom, Pizarro did not go out to mass, and ordered it said in the palace chapel.

Apparently Velázquez did not show prudence, as he should have, regarding the Marquis’ order, and talked it over with the treasurer, Alonso Riquelme, and others. Thus the news reached Pedro San Millán, who went to Rada’s house where a group of the conspirators were gathered. He shared with them what he knew and added: “The time has come to act. If we leave this for tomorrow we will be massacred this very day.”

While the others were scattering throughout the city to carry out different assignments, Juan de Rada, Martín de Bilbao, Diego Méndez, Gómez Pérez, Arbolancha, Narváez and others, nineteen conspirators in all, hastily left the Callejón de los Clerigos (and not from Petateros Street, as is commonly believed) for the palace. Gómez Pérez went around a puddle of water to avoid stepping into it, and Juan de Rada chastised him saying: “We shall be swimming in human blood, and you are taking precautions to keep your feet dry? Turn around and go back--you aren’t meant for this business.”

More than 500 persons who were passing by or were going to noon mass were in the square at that time, and indifferently looked at the group. Some of the suspicious ventured to say: “Those men are going to kill the Marquis or Picado.”

The Marquis, governor, and captain general of Peru, Don Francisco Pizarro, was in one of the rooms of the palace chatting with the bishop elect of Quito, Mayor Velázquez and some fifteen other friends, when a page burst in, shouting “The Chileans are coming to kill my lord the Marquis!”

The ensuing confusion was astonishing. Some rushed through the halls out to the garden, others lowered themselves out the windows to the street. Among the latter was Velázquez, who, to get a better grip on the balustrade, placed his staff between his teeth. Thus he did not break the oath he had made three hours earlier, for if the Marquis found himself in trouble, it was because Velazquez did not have his staff in his hand, but in his mouth.

Pizarro, with his armor poorly adjusted, for he didn’t have time to finish dressing, his cape folded around his arm as a shield, and sword in hand, went out to meet the conspirators, who had already killed a captain and wounded three or four servants. Accompanying the Marquis were his half-brother on his mother’s side, Martín de Alcántara, Juan Ortiz de Zárate, and two pages.

In spite of his sixty-four years, the Marquis fought with youthful vigor, and the conspirators could not get past the threshold of a door defended by Pizarro and his four companions, who resembled him in vigor and courage.

“Traitors! Why do you desire to kill me? Shame! Attacking my house as outlaws!” shouted Pizarro, furious and brandishing his sword. And just as the Marquis struck one of the conspirators pushed forward by Rada, Martín de Bilbao thrust Pizarro through the neck.

The conqueror of Peru pronounced but one word, “Jesus!”, and fell to the floor. He drew a cross in the blood on the ground with his finger, then kissed it.

Juan Rodríguez Barragán then broke a clay pot from Guadalajara over his head, and Don Francisco Pizarro took his last breath.

Martín de Alcántara and the two pages died with him, and Ortiz de Zárate was gravely wounded.

Later on they wanted to drag Pizarro’s body through the square but the pleadings of the bishop of Quito and Juan de Rada’s authority prevented this act of barbaric savageness. That night two of the Marquis’ humble servants washed his body, dressed him in the habit of Santiago without the golden spurs, which had disappeared, opened a tomb on the grounds on which the cathedral stands today, in the patio still known as Naranjos, and buried the body. Pizarro’s bones are now enclosed in a gold-clasped velvet coffin under the high altar of the cathedral. At least that is the general belief.

Once the assassination had been carried out, the authors of the same went out to the square shouting, “Long live the king! The tyrant is dead! Long live Almagro! May justice reign in the land!” And Juan de Rada rubbed his hands together in satisfaction, saying, “Happy is this day on which it shall be known that the Marshall had friends loyal enough to avenge his murder.”

Jerónimo de Aliaga, Illán Suárez de Carbajal the Factor, Nicolás de Rivera the Elder, the council mayor, and many of the other prominent citizens of Lima were immediately taken prisoner. The homes of the Marquis, his brother Martín de Alcántara, and Picado were looted. The value of the booty of the first was estimated at 100,000 pesos; the second, 15,000; and the last, 40,000.

 By three in the afternoon more than two hundred Almagrists had created a new town council; had installed Almagro the Younger in the palace with the title of governor, until the king should make other arrangements; had recognized Cristóbal de Sotelo as Lieutenant Governor and had made Juan de Rada commander of the army.

The monks of the Order of La Merced, who were Almagrists in both Lima and Cuzco, bore the monstrance in a procession and hastened to recognize the new government. The friars always played an important part in the quarrels between conquerors. There were those who turned the pulpit into a rostrum for slander against any group not to their liking. And as proof of the influence sermons had over troops, we will copy a letter from Francisco Girón[12] to Father Baltasar Melgarejo in 1553. It reads as follows:

 

“Very Excellent and Reverend Sir:

 

“I have learned that your Reverence is waging more of a war against me than the soldiers with their arms. I should be pleased to learn of a change in the matter, because otherwise, God granting me victory, I shall be forced by your Reverence to overlook our friendship and the position your Reverence holds. May your most excellent and Reverend person be preserved.

“From my army tent in Pachacamac, your servant kisses your Reverence’s hand.

“Francisco Hernández Girón.”

 

A historical observation in passing. Rada was always the soul of the conspiracy and young Almagro was unaware of his followers’ plans. He was not consulted on the matter of the assassination of Pizarro, and the youthful leader had no more involvement in it than to accept the completed fact.

After Mayor Velázquez had been imprisoned, his brother, the Bishop of Cuzco, Friar Vicente Valverde, the fanatic of the Dominican Order who had such an important role in the capture, torture and execution of Atahualpa, found the way for him to escape. The two brothers then left to go join with Vaca de Castro, but on the island of Puna the Indians killed them as well as sixteen other Spaniards with their arrows. We are not certain whether the Church reveres Father Valverde as one of its martyrs.

Velázquez jumped from the frying pan into the fire. The Knights of the Cape would not have pardoned him anyway.

From the very first signs of the revolution Antonio Picado hid in the house of Riquelme the treasurer, and when his hiding place was discovered the next day they went to take him captive. Riquelme told the Almagrists: “I don’t know where Picado is,” while making clear with his eyes for them to look under the bed. The pen refuses to comment on such an act of treason.

The Knights of the Cape, presided over by Juan de Rada and with the consent of Don Diego, formed a court of justice. Each reproached Picado with the injury he had received when Picado had been so powerful with Pizarro. They then tortured him so he would tell where the Marquis had placed hidden treasures. Finally, on September 29, they cut off his head in the main square with the following proclamation voiced in Spanish by Cosme Ledesma, a black man who spoke Spanish, accompanied by drums and four soldiers carrying his lances and two others holding harquebuses with the fuses lit: “His Majesty commands that this man die for being a trouble-maker in these kingdoms, and because he wrongfully seized and burned many royal orders, concealing the same due to the damage it constituted to the Marquis, and because he was extorting and had extorted a great sum of gold from the land.”

The oath of the Knights of the Cape ran true to the letter. The famous cape became Antonio Picado’s death shroud.

III

THE DEMISE OF ALMAGRO THE YOUNGER AND THE TWELVE KNIGHTS

We do not pretend to go into detail concerning the fourteen and a half months young Almagro was in power, nor to give the history of the campaign which Vaca de Castro had to undertake to overthrow him. We shall only speak of the events without dwelling on the details.

With only a few sympathizers in Lima’s environs, Don Diego was forced to flee the city to gather strength in Guamanga and Cuzco, where he had numerous supporters. A few days before his retreat, Francisco de Chaves came to him with a complaint. When he received no redress he said, “I desire to be your friend no longer, and I now return to you my sword and my horse.” Juan de Rada arrested him for insubordination and had him beheaded. Thus one of the Knights of the Cape met his end.

Juan de Rada, stricken by age and fatigue, died in Jauja at the beginning of the campaign. This was a fatal blow to the revolutionary cause. García de Alvarado replaced him as general, and Cristóbal de Sotelo was named Field Marshal.

Before long discord broke out between the two army leaders, and while Sotelo was lying sick in bed, García de Alvarado went to him seeking an explanation for certain gossip which had reached his ears. “I do not recall saying anything about you or any member of the Alvarado family,” the Field Marshal answered. “But if I did say something, I’ll say it again; because, being who I am, I couldn’t care less about the Alvarados. And just wait until this fever subsides and you can demand an explanation with the point of your sword.” At that point the impetuous García de Alvarado committed the vile deed of wounding him and one of his followers finished him off. Thus, the death of the second Knight of the Cape.

Young Almagro would have liked to punish the treacherous killer in the act, but that undertaking wasn’t feasible. García de Alvarado, now haughty because of his prestige in military matters, conspired to do away with Don Diego, and then, depending on which suited his interests, either fight Vaca de Castro or reach an agreement with him. Almagro, giving the impression that all was well between them, inspired the confidence of Alvarado, and found the way to lure him to a feast Pedro de San Millán was giving in Cuzco. There, while the party was in full sway, a confidant of Don Diego threw himself upon Don García while saying:

“You are under arrest!”

“Not under arrest, but dead,” added Almagro, delivering a thrust of his sword. The other guests finished him off.

Thus three of the Knights of the Cape disappeared before even facing the enemy in the battle. The handwriting was on the wall that they would all die a violent death, bathed in their own blood.

In the meantime, the crucial moment was drawing near, and Vaca de Castro made peace proposals to Almagro and offered general amnesty, from which only the remaining nine Knights of the Cape, along with two or three other Spaniards, would be accepted.

The civil war ended on Sunday, September 16, 1542, with the bloody battle at Chupas. Almagro, leading 500 men, was almost the conqueror of the 800 following Vaca de Castro’s standard. During the first hour the victory seemed to be all but certain for the young leader; Diego de Hoces, who was commanding one wing of the army, thoroughly routed an opposing division. Without the daring of Francisco de Carbajal, who reestablished order in Vaca de Castro’s battle lines, and more importantly, without the inexperience or treachery of Pedro de Candia, who commanded the Almagrist artillery, the Chileans’ triumph would have been certain.

The number of dead on both sides exceeded two hundred and forty, and that of the wounded was also considerable. With such a small number of soldiers it is only possible to explain such butchery by remembering that the Almagrists held the same enthusiastic fanaticism for their leader that they had professed for his father, the Marshal. And it is no secret that fanaticism for a cause has always produced heroes and martyrs.

Those certainly were times in which entering into battle required a stout heart. The conflicts ended in hand-to-hand combat, and strength, skill and courage were the factors governing success.

Firearms were about three centuries away from guns with firing pins, and were a hindrance for a soldier, who was unable to use a musket or harquebus if he wasn’t equipped with flint, steel and tinder to light the fuse. Artillery was in the diaper stage, for if the stone-throwing mortars or falconets, were good for anything, it was to make noise like bombs. And while we are on the subject, gunpowder was wasted in salvos, for as the gunners were not skilled in range-finding, the balls would scatter wherever the devil guided them. Nowadays it is a pleasure for both the cowardly and the bold to die on the field of battle, for they are felled with the cleanliness with which a complex equation is solved. One dies mathematically, according to the rules, without an error in addition or in writing. And that ought to be comforting for any soul being taken to the other side. Without a doubt, nowadays a cannonball is a scientific matter, for it is born well educated, knowing exactly where it is to go. This is real progress, and to deny it is nonsense.

When all hopes of victory had vanished, Martín de Bilbao and Jerónimo de Almagro refused to flee the battlefield, so they rushed out among their enemies shouting, “Here I am! I killed the Marquis!” In a few moments they fell lifeless. Their bodies were sliced up the following day.

Pedro de San Millán, Martín Carrillo and Juan Tello were taken captive, and Vaca de Castro immediately ordered that they be beheaded.

Diego de Hoces, the fierce captain who caused such great destruction to come upon the loyalist troops, was able to flee the battlefield, but was beheaded a few days later in Guamanga.

Juan Rodríguez Barragán, who had been made lieutenant governor of Cuzco, was taken prisoner in the city and executed. When the same authorities that Don Diego had appointed learned of his defeat, they declared their support for the conqueror hoping for pardons and favors.

Diego Méndez and Gómez Pérez were able to take refuge with the Inca Manco, who in a protest against the conquest maintained a good-sized Indian army in the peaks of the Andes. They lived there until the end of 1544. One day after having an altercation with the Inca Manco, Gómez Pérez killed him by stabbing him, and in turn the Indians killed the two knights and four other Spaniards who had taken refuge with them.

Young Almagro fought desperately until the last moment, when, with the outcome of the battle decided, he spurred his horse to gallop towards Pedro de Candia, and while shouting at him “Traitor!”, ran him through with his lance. Diego de Méndez then forced him to take flight with him in order to take refuge with the Inca. And they would have been successful had it not occurred to Méndez to go into Cuzco to bid his mistress farewell. Because of this act of folly Almagro was taken prisoner, and while Méndez did manage to escape, he later died at the hands of the Indians.

A trial was held, and Don Diego was found guilty. He appealed the judgment to the court at Panama and to the king, but in vain, for the appeal was denied. He then said with integrity: “I summon Vaca de Castro to appear before the judgment seat of God, where we will be tried without bias. And since I will now die where my father was beheaded, my only request is that I be placed in the same grave, underneath his corpse.”

He met death, says a chronicler who witnessed the execution, with courage. He refused to have his eyes covered so he could fix them, up until the last moment, on the image of the Christ crucified. And as he had requested, he was placed in the same tomb in which his father the Marshal had been interred.

This young man was twenty-four years old, born to a noble Indian woman from Panama. He was of medium height and winning countenance, a fine cavalryman, very courageous and skilled in the use of arms. He inherited the shrewdness of his father, and was even more generous, although his father was a very giving person, and like him, he knew how to command the utmost allegiance of his followers.

Thus, with the sad end of their leader and of the Knights of the Cape, the band of Chileans ceased to exist.

 

Return to Table of Contents

 

 


CHAPTER 2

DON ALONSO THE BRAWNY ONE

The story is told about the Venezuelan General Páez,[13] the hero of the plains, who during the epoch of war to the death with the mother country,[14] took a fat Spanish soldier prisoner, a man who had a reputation of possessing Herculean strength, and said to him, “Listen, you terrible excuse for a horseman. I will spare your life if you are able to throw me to the ground.”

The prisoner smiled and accepted the challenge, sure that victory was certain, but Páez, who as a wrestler was more clever and more agile than he was strong, was able to put the Spaniard down in two minutes. Then the winner said, “Now, you trembling nincompoop, prepare yourself to be shot.”

Whereupon the soldier said, “Agreed, my general. You have played me the same way that a cat plays with a mouse. Now, swallow me up.”

We can guess that the reply found favor with Páez because he pardoned the prisoner.

In the Royal Army there was also a very strong man, Commander Santalla, of whom it was said that he would take a small book of forty pages, that is a deck of cards, and tear it in two, saying, “This a lot of people do.” He then would do the same with the resulting eighty pieces, saying, “This, very few can do.” Then he would take the 160 pieces and tear them in two, exclaiming triumphantly, “This only one person can do, and he is Commander Santalla!”

But in the matter of powerful men, Páez, Santalla and all the modern Samsons are babes in arms compared with Don Alonso, a person of whom one chronicler said that when his horse got tired he would hoist it onto his shoulders without removing the harnesses or the gear and would continue on his way as if he were doing nothing worthy of comment.

Don Alonso el Membrudo[15] is the nickname the conquistadors gave to Captain Alonso Díaz, a relative of the Governor of Panama, Don Pedro Arias Dávila.

An inhabitant of Cuzco when the rebellion broke out, which in the early stages favored Almagro the Younger,[16] he was very devoted to Marquis Pizarro and refused to abandon the city, hiding there and conspiring to aid the efforts of the lawyer Vaca de Castro, who had been sent to Peru to put an end to the turmoil.

Upon receiving notice that 800 Royalist soldiers had departed from Guamanga in order to do battle with 600 of Almagro’s troops, Don Alonso decided to abandon his hiding place and make his way to Chupas, anxious to arrive in time to take part in the battle which took place on September 16, 1542.

He was still several leagues from Vaca de Castro’s encampment when he saw coming toward him three horsemen on spirited horses at full gallop, who were carrying to Cuzco news of the disaster suffered by the armed forces of Almagro the Younger.

Alonso Díaz stopped one of the emissaries, and the latter, upon recognizing one of the original conquistadors to come to Peru with Pizarro, dismounted, exclaiming, “Good news, Captain! Long live the king! The tyrant has been defeated!”

So great was Don Alonso’s satisfaction upon hearing the welcome news that he embraced the soldier, saying, “Long live the king! Give me a real embrace!”

And so powerful was that embrace that the soldier let out a cry and fell down, blood spurting from his mouth.

Alonso Díaz, who in the battles of the conquest killed not with his sword but by applying a bear hug to his Indian adversaries, forgot in the enthusiasm of his glee that his arms were lethal weapons when they embraced—causing death in friend or foe.

Having been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, he was pardoned by Vaca de Castro, but he was forbidden to embrace anyone, under pain of death—man or woman, friend or foe.

In the article that Manuel de Mendiburu wrote about Alonso Díaz in his Diccionario histórico del Perú he states that a royal order came from Spain taking from the braggart the right to embrace. I assume that this royal order was the approbation of the sentence decreed by Vaca de Castro.

That skill is worth more than strength is proved by the sword duel between Alonso Díaz and Francisco de Villacastín. The latter was one of the companions of Francisco Pizarro, who considered him such a loyal supporter and good friend that he made him one of the first governors of Cuzco, giving him for his wife Doña Leonor, a ñusta,[17] daughter of Huayna Capac.[18] By virtue of this marriage Villacastín came to be the lord of Ayaviri, an encomienda[19] which boasted 8,000 Indians who paid tribute.

Villacastín, because of his ugliness, was a grotesque person in appearance. He was missing two front teeth and the reason for such a defect was indeed something that caused people to laugh. It happened this way. One day, Don Francisco was walking through a jungle in Panama when a monkey that was in the top of a tree threw a rock at him and knocked out four teeth. Villacastín, after having recovered from the blow, cocked his crossbow and killed the creature that had disfigured him for life. How fortunate we are to live in a time when we have not only false individual teeth but also false sets of teeth. If I’m not mistaken, Garcilaso,[20] who knew him well, tells about the monkey that threw the rock.

Alonso Díaz, who was a great joker, made fun of Villacastín one day, saying to him, “You only have the courage to challenge a swaggering monkey, and then come out toothless for the eternities.”

This stung Villacastín, whereupon he unsheathed his sword. Alonso Díaz put himself on guard and the two of them began to fight. But Don Francisco, who although not as strong nor as vigorous as his adversary, was superior to him in agility and after a few moments of dueling dealt him such a vicious blow that for a period of eight days it was uncertain whether Don Alonso would recover from his wound.

Having fought with Girón in his rebellion,[21] in which this rebel chief was defeated and executed, Díaz took advantage of the pardon extended by the Royal Audience[22] and returned to Cuzco to live out his last days peacefully in Cuzco, where he was one of the wealthiest inhabitants. But in 1556, suspecting that Díaz would take part in new uprisings, the Viceroy, the Marquis de Cañete, had him garroted in secret.[23]

One day, someone who was curious about the death of Alonso Díaz asked the Viceroy why he had executed such an outstanding Spaniard. The Viceroy replied, “I did it to cure that crazy person of the bad habit he had of embracing people. In spite of the fact that he knew his caresses were dangerous and forbidden, one night in a dance he defied the royal order and embraced one of his female acquaintances according to the testimony of ten of the most notable inhabitants of Cuzco.”

Whatever may be the truth in the case, I don’t know which is the right version and I am not in the mood to write more on the subject. Embracer or revolutionary, the fact is that Don Alonso el Membrudo died an ignoble death.

 

Return to Table of Contents

 

 

 


CHAPTER 3

THE MAYOR’S EARS

HISTORY OF THE TIME OF THE SECOND VICEROY OF PERU

The imperial city Potosí[24] was the place where adventurers preferred to seek their fortune. This explains why five years after silver was discovered there its population exceeded 20,000.

There is a saying that states: “A mining village is a village of depravity and altercations.” And never was there a more accurate saying than this one, which could certainly apply to Potosí in the first two centuries of the Conquest.

The year 1550 was ending and the Mayor of Potosí, Don Diego de Esquivel, was a bad-tempered and greedy fellow who was capable of putting justice up for sale at auction in exchange for silver bars.

His Honor was also attracted by the apple in the Garden of Eden and in the imperial city there was much tongue-wagging about his philandering.

Since he had never been placed in the peril of having the parish priest read to him St. Paul’s famous epistle, Don Diego de Esquivel prided himself on the fact that he belonged to the fraternity of bachelors, which in my opinion constitutes, if not a social plague, a threat against the property of one’s fellow man. There are those who maintain that communists and bachelors are bipeds that have much in common.

At that time His Honor was head over heels in love with a girl who was living in Potosí, but she didn’t want anything to do with him and had given him the brush-off, very courteously of course, and had placed herself under the protection of a soldier of the Tucumán regiments, a handsome young man who was enchanted by the young lady’s considerable charms. The Mayor, therefore, anxiously awaited the opportunity to avenge himself on the favored young man and at the same time on the disdain of the ungrateful young woman.

Because the Devil never sleeps it happened one night that there was a row in one of the many gambling houses that flourished on Quintu Mayo Street in violation of the law. One gambler, inexperienced in prestidigitation and lacking in skill, had allowed three dice to drop on to the table while a bet of considerable value was being disputed and another of the gamblers, an ill-humored fellow, pulled out his dagger and pinned the cheater’s hand to the table. With all of the uproar that followed, the night patrol soon arrived and with it the Mayor with his sword and staff of office.

“That’s enough; everybody to jail!” he said. The constables, buddy, buddy with the gamblers, turned the other way and let most of them escape through the loft, a common practice in those times, contenting themselves with satisfying the law by detaining two of the least agile.

We can imagine the delight of the Mayor when he discovered that his rival, the soldier of the Tucumán regiments, was now a prisoner in the city jail. He exclaimed, “Well, what do you know? Look at this fine fellow! And a gambler on top of everything else!”

“You’ve got it all wrong, sir. A miserable toothache was driving me crazy last night and in order to get some relief I went to that gambling house in search of a friend of mine who always carries in his pouch a couple of Saint Appolonia’s molars, which, they say, cure toothaches as if by magic.”

“You rascal! I’ll perform some magic on you!” muttered the Mayor, and turning to the other prisoner added, “Both of you know how the law reads. One hundred duros or twelve lashes. I’ll return at 12 and, take care!”

The companion of our soldier sent a message to his home and received in return the money to pay the fine. When the Mayor returned he freed the prisoner who had paid the fine and then said to the soldier, “And you, you troublemaker, are you going to pay or not?”

“Your Honor, I am as poor as a church mouse. I warn you, however, that you should be careful how you treat me because, even though you cut me to ribbons you won’t get a red cent from me. I’m very sorry, but I have no money to pay the fine.”

“Well, a good whipping will do you a lot of good.”

“That’s not possible, Mayor, because even though I am a soldier I am an hidalgo[25] of a well-known family and my father is an alderman in Seville. If you don’t believe me, contact my captain, Don Alvaro de Castrillón and he will vouch for me. I am as noble as the King, God bless him.”

“You, an hidalgo! You scoundrel! Antúnez give this prince twelve lashes right now!”

“You better be careful, your Honor, for by Christ, you can’t treat a Spanish hidalgo in such a despicable way.”

Hidalgo! Hidalgo! Tell me that in my other ear!”

“Don Diego,” the soldier replied vehemently, “if this cowardly infamy takes place I will avenge myself on the Mayor’s ears.”

His Honor gave him a disdainful look and walked out of the room into the patio of the jail.

Shortly thereafter Antúnez, with the help of four of his underlings, took the soldier, who was in irons, into the patio, where, in the presence of the Mayor, the prisoner suffered twelve soundly administered lashes. The victim endured the pain without uttering the slightest complaint. The punishment at an end, Antúnez set him free.

“I bear you no ill will, Antúnez,” said the soldier, “but inform the Mayor that from this moment on his ears belong to me and I will let him use them for one year, but be sure to tell him to take good care of them for they are what I value most.”

The jailer let out a stupid laugh and muttered, “This fellow is off his rocker. If he has really lost his mind all the Mayor has to do is give me the order and we will see if the saying is true that says that a crazy person becomes sane when he suffers enough pain.”

II

HISTORY

Let’s pause a moment, kind reader, and enter the labyrinth of history, because in this Series of Traditions we have committed ourselves to write a few lines about the viceroy with whose reign our narrative is related.

After the tragic fate that befell the first Viceroy, Don Blasco Núñez de Vela,[26] the Spanish government decided that it was not appropriate to send another official of such high rank to Peru, so for the time being, it would be governed by the lawyer La Gasca,[27] who arrived with the title of governor, possessing ample authority and armed with the signature of Charles V, which gave him carte blanche to do anything he felt necessary. The historical accounts indicate that his victory over Gonzalo Pizarro was due more to his talent and sound judgment than to superior arms.[28]

The country having been pacified, La Gasca himself pointed out to the Emperor that it was necessary to have a viceroy in Peru and recommended for the position Don Antonio de Mendoza, Marquis of Mondéjar, Count of Tendilla, a man who was well trained because he had served as Viceroy in Mexico.

The Marquis of Mondéjar, the second Viceroy in Peru, made his modest entry into Lima on September 23, 1551. The viceroyalty had just passed through a long and disastrous war. Passions of the different factions were still running high, immorality was rampant and Francisco Girón was preparing to begin the bloody revolution of 1553.

Certainly the times were not the most promising for the beginning of Viceroy Mendoza’s reign. He started out by adopting a conciliatory policy, rejecting, wrote one historian, the accusations that feed persecution. Recorded Lorente: “It is said of him that when a captain accused two soldiers of living among the Indians, sustaining themselves by hunting and making gunpowder for their own use, Mendoza said to him with a stern countenance, ‘These crimes really deserve gratitude instead of punishment because for two Spaniards to live among Indians and live from what their harquebuses killed, and make gunpowder for their own use and not to sell it—what kind of crime is that? I am persuaded that what they have done is very praiseworthy and something that should be emulated. Go with God. I don’t want anyone to come to me in the future with this kind of idle talk because I don’t like to listen to it.’”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if government officials would give similar responses to court busybodies and troublemakers? The world would certainly be better off.

Full of great plans for the future, Viceroy Mendoza was able to accomplish very little. He commissioned his son Francisco to travel to Cuzco, Chucuito, Potosí and Arequipa in order to write a report concerning the needs of the Indians; he named Juan Betanzos to write a history of the Incas; he created the guard of the halberdiers; put into effect some well-thought-out ordinances dealing with the municipal police in Lima and punished duelers and their seconds severely. Challenges to duel, even for ridiculous reasons, were common and many duels ended with blood staining the tunics of the combatants.

The good Mendoza intended to institute beneficial reforms but unfortunately his afflictions sapped the energy of his spirit and death took him in July of 1582 before completing ten months as Viceroy. Eight days before his death, July 21, a terrifying clap of thunder was heard, accompanied by flashes of lightning, something that had not been witnessed in Lima since it was founded.

III

The next day Don Cristóbal de Agüero, for that was the name of the soldier, reported to the captain of the Tucumán regiments, Don Alvaro Castrillón, saying, “My captain, I request that you give me permission to leave the service. His Majesty wants soldiers with honor and I have lost mine.”

Don Alvaro, who was very pleased with Agüero’s performance, tried to persuade him to change his mind, but the soldier was determined. Finally, the Captain gave his permission.

The affront suffered by Agüero had been kept a secret because the Mayor gave orders to the jailers that they were not to mention the whipping. Perhaps Don Diego’s conscience whispered to him that he had used his mayor’s staff of office to make the gambler pay for the insult he had suffered when the young lady rejected him in favor of the soldier.

Three months later Don Diego received some papers informing him that his presence was required in Lima in order to take possession of an inheritance. After obtaining permission from the corregidor[29] he began to make preparations for the journey.

The night before his departure he was walking along Cantumarca Street when someone whose face was hidden in his cloak approached him and asked, “Do you leave tomorrow?”

“And what business is it of yours, you impertinent fellow?”

“It’s my business because I have to see that those ears are well taken care of.” Then he slipped away, leaving Don Diego in deep thought over what had happened.

Early the next morning the Mayor set out for Cuzco. After arriving at the city of the Incas he went to visit a friend and upon turning a corner he suddenly felt a hand on his shoulder. Don Diego, surprised, turned around and found himself face to face with his victim.

“Don’t be frightened, your Honor. I see that your ears are where they ought to be, and that pleases me greatly.”

The Mayor was petrified. Three weeks later he arrived in Guamanga and had closed the door of his room in an inn when, just at dusk, someone knocked at the door.

“Who is there?” asked the magistrate.

“Blessed be the Lord,” replied the person outside the door.

“Blessed be He forever, amen,” said Don Diego and opened the door.

Neither Banquo’s ghost during Macbeth’s banquet, nor the statue of the commander in Don Juan’s room could have produced more astonishment than he experienced when he saw the soldier he had ordered whipped in Potosí.

“Be calm. Are those ears still in good condition? Apparently they show no deterioration. Well, I’ll see you later.” Terror and remorse struck Don Diego dumb.

Finally he arrived in Lima and the first time he walked through the streets there he encountered our phantom soldier, who, on this occasion, merely stared at the Mayor’s ears without uttering a word. From then on, Don Diego could not avoid him. Wherever he went, in the cathedral or just on the streets the soldier was his shadow, a never-ending nightmare.

Esquivel was so nervous that the slightest sound made him tremble. Not his money, the Viceroy’s attention nor the consideration shown him by the society of Lima nor anything he did could calm his nerves. It seemed that the image of his persecutor was always stamped on the pupil of his eye. And so the anniversary of the whipping arrived.

It was 10 o’clock at night and Don Diego, feeling well protected because he knew that the doors to his quarters were locked and well secured, was sitting comfortably in his armchair writing a letter with the help of a lamp that was giving off a dying light when suddenly a man slipped in through a window from the adjoining room and pinned the Mayor to his chair, stuffed a gag in his mouth and tied him up. The hidalgo then stood in front of Don Diego with a sharp dagger in his hand.

“Mayor Esquivel,” he said, “today I have come to regain my honor.” And with savage serenity he sliced off the ears of the unfortunate mayor.

IV

Don Cristóbal de Agüero escaped to Spain, evading Viceroy Mendoza’s royal agents who tried to arrest him. He requested an audience with Charles V and explained to him what had happened to him in Peru. Upon hearing what the soldier told him, the King not only pardoned him but named him captain of a regiment that was being readied to serve in Mexico.

Mayor Esquivel died one month after the attack, more because of shame than of his wounds. He was deathly afraid that people would ridicule him by calling him “The Earless One.”

 

Return to Table of Contents

 

 


CHAPTER 4

THE SINGING LETTER

Until the middle of the 16th century we see an expression used by the most correct prose writers—“letters relate”—in the sense that such and such a fact is related in letters. But suddenly letters were not satisfied with just “relating,” but they began to “sing,” and even today, in order to put an end to a dispute, we are accustomed to taking a missive out of our pockets and saying, “Well, sir, the letter sings.” And we read in public the truths or the lies contained therein and the field of battle is ours. As for the upper crust of the criollos,[30] they don’t say the letter “relates” or the letter “sings”; they say, “The little paper speaks.”

Last night while I was reading the works of Father Acosta, a man, as you know, who wrote at great length about what happened during the Conquest, I stumbled upon a particular episode and said to myself, “That’s how it came about.” Although Father Acosta may not have said it the same way, behold the origin of the expression in question, which I am going to bring to the notice of the Royal Academy[31] and claim as an authentic Peruvianism.

Having said this, we need to stop beating around the bush and get to the matter at hand.

I believe I have already written about this, but in order to make sure I haven’t left it out, I want to include it here. When the conquistadors conquered Peru, the following were not grown in this part of the world: wheat, rice, barley, sugar cane, lettuce, radishes, cabbage, asparagus, garlic, onions, eggplant, mint, garbanzos, lentils, broad beans, mustard, anise, lavender, cumin, oregano, sesame seed and many other foods too numerous to mention. As for the common bean, we already knew what that was. We were cultivating many other vegetables and fruits that had the Spaniards licking their chops.

Some of the new seeds gave better results in Peru than in Spain and very seriously and with self-assurance some very highly-respected chroniclers and historians report that in the Valley of Azapa, in the jurisdiction of Arica, a radish was produced that was so huge that no one could put his arms completely around it, and that Don García Hurtado de Mendoza, who at the time wasn’t the Viceroy of Peru, but Governor of Chile, was so ecstatic that his mouth was wide open in amazement when he saw such a wonder. Take it from me, that radish was nothing to sneeze at!

About the year 1558 Don Antonio Solar was one of the most affluent citizens of this City of the Kings.[32] Although he was not one of Pizarro’s companions in Cajamarca, he arrived in time to be able to obtain a goodly share of the booty of the Conquest, which consisted of a large area on which he built his home in Lima, about 300 acres of fertile land in the Supe and Barranca valleys and fifty Indians to serve as laborers.

For our grandfathers the following saying had the value of an aphorism or an article from the Constitution: “A house to live in, a vineyard for making wine and all the land you can see and get your hands on.”

Don Antonio established a valuable agricultural operation in Barranca and in order to speed up the work he imported two yokes of oxen from Spain, an action which in those days gave to the owners the same importance now enjoyed by steam ships which come to Peru from London or New York. Says one chronicler: “The Indians in awe went to see the huge animals plow, and reported that the Spaniards were so averse to work that they made their animals do their work for them.”

Don Antonio Solar was that wealthy encomendero[33] whom Viceroy Blasco Núñez de Vela wanted to hang, because a certain lampoon was attributed to him, alluding to the mission of reform that His Excellency was committed to carry out. It was written on a wall of an inn in Barranca and read as follows: “I will throw out of this world the one who throws me out of my house and my property.”

Since I have used the term encomendero it would not be out of place to indicate its origin. In the documents in which each conquistador was assigned land, the following clause could be found: “Item, commended to you are (a certain number of) Indians which you are to instruct in matters pertaining to our holy faith.”

Together with the oxen there arrived melon seeds or plants, noseberries, pomegranates, citron, lemons, apples, apricots, quince, sour cherries, cherries, almonds, walnuts and other fruit from Castile unknown to the natives of our country, who gorged themselves to such an extent on them that not a few died. More than a century later, under the government of the Viceroy, the Duke of Palata, a decree was published which the priests read to their parishioners after Sunday Mass, prohibiting the eating of cucumbers by Indians, a vegetable which because of its fatal effects was called “mata serrano”[34].

The time came when the first harvest of melons was taking place in the Barranca melon fields and that marks the beginning of our story.

The overseer selected ten of the best melons, packed them in two boxes and put them on the shoulders of two of the Indians serving there and gave them a letter for the master.

The two Indians had carried the melons a few leagues when they sat down to rest near a wall. As one would expect, the aroma of the fruit awakened the curiosity of the Indians and a battle began between fear and their appetite.

“Do you know something, brother?” said one of them to the other in his Indian dialect. “I have discovered a way to eat some melons without anyone finding out. All we have to do is hide the letter behind the wall. It won’t be able to see us eat so it won’t be able to accuse us of anything.”

The naiveté of the Indians attributed to writing a diabolical and marvelous prestige. They didn’t believe that the letters were only symbols but that they were spirits, which functioned not only as messengers but also as watchmen or spies.

The second Indian thought that his companion’s idea was a very good one, so without saying a word, he placed the letter behind the wall, put a rock on top of it and then the two proceeded to devour, not eat, the inviting and delicious fruit.

As they were nearing Lima the second Indian gave himself a blow to the head and said, “Brother, we are making a big mistake. We need to make our burdens equal, because if you carry four and I carry five our master will suspect something.”

“Well said,” replied the other Indian.

And so once again they hid the letter and then they ate a second melon, that delicious fruit that according to the saying is gold before breakfast, silver at noon and death in the evening, for it is true that there is nothing more indigestible and causes more upset stomachs after a full meal.

After the Indians arrived at Don Antonio’s home they delivered to him the letter that announced the fact that the overseer was sending ten melons.

Don Antonio, who had promised to give some of the first melons of the harvest to the archbishop and several other individuals, began to examine what the Indians had brought.

“What do you think you are trying to do, you good-for-nothing thieves?” bellowed the irate landowner. “The overseer sent ten melons and two are missing.” Whereupon Don Antonio read the letter once more.

“There were only eight, master,” protested the two Indians.

“The letter says ten and you have eaten two of them on the road. You over there! Give these scoundrels a good beating—a dozen blows for each one.”

And the poor Indians, after receiving a thorough thrashing, sat in the corner of the patio gloomily considering what had happened to them.

Then one of them said, “You see, brother? The letter sings.”

Don Antonio happened to hear what the Indian had said, whereupon he shouted, “Yes, you rascals. And you better watch your step and not try any more funny business because now you know the letter sings.”

And Don Antonio related the incident to his friends at the next tertulia.[35] The saying became popular and eventually made its way to the Mother Country.

 

Return to Table of Contents

 

 


CHAPTER 5

A FAMOUS EXCOMMUNICATION

I

Without a doubt, the period in which Don Hurtado de Mendoza, Marquis de Cañete and the king’s master of the hounds, governed these kingdoms of Peru for Philip II was a time of religious fanaticism. And I don’t say this because of the abundance of religious foundations or for the sumptuousness of religious holidays or because the wealthy left their fortunes to convents, leaving their heirs poverty-stricken or because, as the conquistadors thought, every crime or foul deed could be cleansed on their deathbeds by making a handsome bequest for masses, but rather because the Church had taken it upon itself to intervene in anything or everything and for the slightest indiscretion it slapped a person with an excommunication which left him stupefied.

In spite of the fact that frequent were the spectacles of churches draped in mourning and filled with snuffed-out candles, our forefathers were impressed more and more by the show that accompanied excommunications. In some of my traditional legends[36] I have had the opportunity to speak at greater length about many of the excommunications that were laid on sacrilegious thieves and on mayors and law enforcement officers who dared to violate the sanctity of asylum by arresting delinquents in church buildings. But all of these are piddling matters and celestial froth compared with one that was handed down by the first archbishop of Lima, Don Friar Jerónimo de Loyaza. It is true that his most illustrious lordship was never lax in handing out interdictions, censures and other frightening sentences, as proved by the fact that before the Inquisition was established here, Archbishop Loyaza celebrated three autos da fe. Another proof of my statement is that he threatened the sursum corda[37] himself, that is to say the viceroy of Peru, with a brick from Rome (a nickname given for an excommunication). This is how it happened:

The story is that when Viceroy Don Francisco de Toledo came from Spain he brought with him as a house and personal chaplain a cleric who was very stuck on himself and was ready to dispute just about anything and was possessed of a very peevish disposition. This individual the Archbishop had the temerity to jail, to bring to trial and to sentence to return to the Mother Country. The Viceroy raised a hue and cry and said in a fit of anger that if his chaplain was sent packing he would not make the trip alone; he would be accompanied by the Archbishop. The latter found out about the Viceroy’s threat because all gossip reached his ears. It is said that His Excellency backed down as soon as he heard that the Archbishop had met with some of the theologians and that, as a result, the Viceroy wore a furrowed brow because in secret black pieces of material were being made ready. The unfortunate cleric, abandoned by his godfather, the Viceroy, was sent off to Spain under official orders.

But the excommunication that has made me pick up my pen is an excommunication with a capital E! Therefore it deserves a chapter all to itself.

II

The decade from 1550-1560 could bring a lot of attention to itself in a century that we could call without hesitation the century of hens, of bread, of wine, of oil and of mice. Let me explain.

According to tradition the Indians gave the name hualpa to hens, thus abbreviating the name of the last Inca, Atahualpa. Father Valera (of Cuzco) says that when the roosters crowed they were crying because of the death of the last Inca and that is why they gave the name hualpa to roosters. The same chronicler tells us that no Spanish hens were able to have any chicks in Cuzco, but they were successful in valleys with a more moderate climate. As for turkeys, they were brought from Mexico.

Garcilaso, Zárate, Gómara[38] and many other historians and chroniclers say that it was during that decade that Doña María de Escobar, wife of the conquistador Diego de Chávez, brought from Spain half a bushel of wheat which she distributed at the rate of twenty or thirty kernels each among her neighbors. From the first harvest of wheat several bushels were sent to Chile and other locations in the Americas.

At about the same time the wheat arrived mice also arrived in a ship that sailed through the Strait of Magellan and docked at Callao. The Indians gave the name hucuchas to this plague of destructive immigrants, a name meaning “coming from the sea.” Fortunately a Spaniard by the name of Montenegro had brought some cats in 1537 and it is common knowledge that Don Diego de Almagro bought one from him for 600 pesos. The Indians in Peru couldn’t pronounce the Spanish words miz miz[39], so they called them michitus.

And at this point, by way of illustration, we will note that in the first twenty years of the Conquest the minimum price for a horse was 4,000 pesos, 300 for a cow, 500 for a donkey, 200 for a pig, 100 for a she goat or a ewe, and for a dog the price varied. On the eve of the battle of Chuquinga[40] a wealthy captain offered 10,000 pesos to a soldier for his horse, an offer to which the soldier indignantly replied, “Although I don’t have a red cent, I value my companion more than all the treasures of Potosí.”

Such was the scarcity of wine that in 1555 an arroba[41] cost 500 pesos. Francisco Carabantes brought from the Canary Islands the first cuttings of black grapes planted in Peru. In the Tacaraca district in Ica (wrote Córdova y Urrutia in 1840),[42] there is this very day a vine of black grapes which is purported to be one of the cuttings Carabantes planted. It still produces a good harvest. Human injustice! Drunks always bless Father Noah, who planted grape vines and there is not one single word of gratitude for Carabantes, who was the Noah of our country.

Bread and wine having been obtained, oil was still lacking. That lack of oil must have been on Don Antonio de Ribera’s mind as he boarded a ship in Seville, for he brought with him 100 cuttings of olive trees.

In Lima Don Antonio de Ribera was a very prominent individual, possessing a coat of arms that boasted two wolves with two wolf cubs on a field of gold. He married the widow of Francisco Martín de Alcántara, half brother of Francisco Pizarro, who died at his side defending him. She brought with her a considerable dowry. He played a very important role in the civil wars in which the conquistadors engaged, and after Giron’s[43] rebellion went off to Spain in 1557 with the title of solicitor for Peru.[44]

Ribera was the owner of a spacious cultivated area that we in Lima know as the “Huerta perdida”.[45] He possessed a fortune of 300,000 duros,[46] acquired by having his Indians sell figs, melons, oranges, cucumbers, peaches and other fruit unknown at that time to Peruvians. The first pomegranate that was grown in Lima was displayed in a procession on a float on which the Holy Sacrament was placed. It is said that this pomegranate was a huge one.

Unfortunately for Ribera, the voyage from Spain lasted nine months due to dangerous situations and many misfortunes; therefore, in spite of his precautions he found that when he arrived in Peru only three cuttings had survived. The rest served only as firewood.

He planted them and then he gave them the most attentive care, even more than he gave to his bags of duros; this in spite of the fact that his reputation as a miser was very well deserved. And in order that not for an instant would they escape his vigilance he planted the cuttings in a small garden which had walls on all sides and was guarded by two massive blacks and a pack of fierce dogs.

But put your faith in walls, like those of Peking, and in giants like Polyphemus[47] and in canines like Cerberus[48] and you will find yourself believing the impossible. The blessed cuttings had more admirers than a beautiful young lady. It is well known that for men who covet the property of others, whether it be one of Eve’s daughters or something which is really worth the trouble, there is no obstacle which would be spared a concerted attack.

One morning Don Antonio got up at the crack of dawn. He hadn’t been able to sleep the whole nightlong. He had a presentiment that some major disgrace had befallen him.

After crossing himself he put on his slippers and wrapped in his cape he headed toward the walled garden. Suddenly his heart started to pound and almost burst as he shouted, “Great Scott. I’ve been robbed!” And he fell to the ground, the victim of a seizure.

The truth was that one of the cuttings had disappeared. That day Ribera took a stick and beat half of the pack of dogs unmercilessly and whipped the poor slaves severely. He was beside himself with rage.

Weary with the punishment he administered and searches he undertook and seeing that his efforts were fruitless he went off to inform the Archbishop, a friend of his, concerning his misfortune, compared with which Job’s ordeal was just froth and a piddling matter.

Now, reader, what you are going to read is not fiction; it really happened, and any chronicler whose works you leaf through will tell you the same thing.

That day the bells put up a clamor like you’ve never heard before and finally, after some very impressive ceremonies, the most illustrious Archbishop thundered a terrifying excommunication against the thief of the cutting.

But that didn’t produce any results either. The reader must think that the thief must have been some unbeliever or some free spirit like those that run rampant in this century of gas and steam. If so, you couldn’t be more mistaken. During that day and age an excommunication pressed down on the conscience with the weight of many tons.

III

Three years went by and the cutting did not appear. The truth is, of course, that not even a tiny bit did Ribera miss the cutting because he saw the two remaining ones multiply many times over and he had enough to sell and even to give away. I assume that the famous olive groves of Camaná, a land famous for its olives and other things that I prudently fail to mention because I don’t want to get into a row with the people from Camaná, had their start with a cutting from the “Huerta perdida.”

One day a gentleman who had recently arrived on a ship from Valparaíso that had docked in Callao presented himself to the Archbishop with letters of recommendation. Under secrecy of the confessional he confessed that he was the thief who had stolen the highly celebrated cutting, which he had carried off to his estate in Chile with the utmost cunning. In spite of the excommunication the cutting had become acclimated and had transformed itself into a grove of olive trees.

Because the matter took place under the secrecy of the confessional I don’t feel authorized to divulge the name of the sinner, the trunk from which has sprung a wealthy family of our neighboring republic.

All that I can tell you, reader, is that the gnawing away of the excommunication had the thief in constant anguish. The Archbishop agreed to lift it on the condition that the cutting be replaced as mysteriously as it had been stolen.

How was this excommunicated person able to accomplish what he did with the Archbishop? I can only say that one morning when Don Antonio visited his little garden he found a cutting which had traveled from Chile and at the foot of it a bag of 1,000 duros with a note without a signature asking in a Christian-like manner for pardon, which Ribera did give with great good will in view of the fact that so much shiny money had fallen out of the sky.

Also receiving alms in the amount of 2,000 pesos was the Hospital of Santa Anna, whose construction Archbishop Loyaza was in charge of. All this took place without anyone learning the name of the very generous benefactor, except of course for the Archbishop.

The upshot of the whole matter was that Don Antonio de Ribera came out of the transaction a definite winner. In Seville the cutting had cost half a peseta.

IV

Upon the death of Commander Don Antonio de Ribera, who wore the habit of the Order of Santiago, his widow, Doña Inés de Muñoz, founded the convent of Concepción, taking the veil of a nun in it and bestowing upon it her immense fortune. The painting of the lady still hangs in the presbytery of the church and on her sepulchre the following can be read:

 

                   This sunlit spot is where

                   A sun is deposited, a sun

                   Which is a great mother,

                   The generous Doña Inés de Muñoz de Ribera.

                   She was the wife of an encomendero

                   Whose name was Don Antonio de Ribera,

                   He who waved with a spirited hand

                   The royal banner of the Alférez Real.[49]

 

Return to Table of Contents

 

 


CHAPTER 6

THE CONSPIRACY OF THE SAYA Y MANTO

Many are the hours I’ve spent poring over ancient manuscripts, and in the process singeing my eyelashes with the flame of a lamp trying to uncover the origin of that graceful and original disguise called the saya y manto.[50] Unfortunately, burning the midnight oil has been in vain and I am still beset by the same curiosity. It was easier for Columbus to discover America than for me to determine the year in which the saya made its first appearance. I must resign myself to the fact that the date has been lost forever. The wheat is not mine, neither are the husks; and so let whoever wishes grind away.

What I do know without any doubt is that around 1561 the Count of Nieva, fourth Viceroy of Peru and founder of Chancay, dictated certain regulations relative to the cape of the men and the mantle of the women. For the Count’s sinful obsession with sayas, an uncompromising husband cut out for him a coat that was so tight that it sent him to the grave.[51]

Of course, for the limeñas[52] of our day that garment, which was worn exclusively in Lima, is a ridiculous outfit. Those who might come along later will say the same thing about certain Paris fashions and the fake ones that are in vogue now.

Our grandmothers, who were very good natured, knew how to make a constant carnival out of life. All of the limeñas of the past appeared to be cut out of the same cloth. They were slim, with plump, dimpled arms, small waists, dainty feet, large black eyes and were very articulate. They gave off more sparks than a volcano in eruption. And finally, what hands they had! Saint Christ of Puruchuco.

 

I maintain they were not fingers

on those hands

but they were carnations,

five to a stem.

 

One more detail, they possessed protuberances so irresistible and so appetizing that if they provided everything they promised I maintain that the houris of Mohammed could not compare with them.

Whether the canutillo, the encarrujada, the vuelo, the politrica, or the filipense,[53] as soon as a daughter of Eve set foot in the street disguised thus, not only was the most jealous husband unable to recognize her, for husbands are known for their poor vision, but her own father wasn’t able to recognize her.

Wearing the saya y manto, one limeña appeared just like any other, as much alike as two drops of dew or two violets. I’ll stop now and put an end to this sentence, for I don’t know how far these poetic comparisons will carry me.

In addition, the picaresque saya y manto had the hidden virtue of sharpening the ingenuity of the female species. There would be enough material to fill a large volume with the mischief and the subtleties for which they are reported to be responsible.

But as if the saya alone were not sufficient to cause Satan himself to beat his head against a wall, suddenly there appeared the fashion of the saya de tiritas,[54] a disguise used by the beautiful aristocratic limeñas when they would promenade on the Alameda the Thursday of the Assumption, the day of Saint Jerónimo and two others my notes don’t mention. The Alameda on those days had the appearance of a gathering of ragged beggars, but as the saying goes: “Under a poor cape is hidden a good drinker.” So the gallants of the time, bloodhounds with a well-developed sense of smell, knew the most ragged saya and the most mended manto covered up a most attractive young lady.

The ill-starred count of Nieva wasn’t the only one to issue regulations against the tapadas (women whose faces were covered, except for one eye). Other viceroys, among them the Count of Chinchón, the Marquis of Malagón and the devout Count of Lemos didn’t hesitate to follow his example. It is superfluous to say that the limeñas sustained splendidly the honor of their position and that the viceroys were always defeated, that this business of legislating concerning feminine matters requires more intestinal fortitude than is necessary to storm the barricades. It is true that behind the scenes, we, the ugly sex, gave help and moral support to the limeñas, encouraging them to make curling papers or paper cones of the paper on which the regulations were printed.

II

But there was one time when the saya y manto was in serious trouble. It was going to die a violent death, as one might put it, of a violent heart attack.

Such scandalous stories the friars would hear in the confessionals, and such pretexts for sinning would the saya y manto provide, that in one of the Councils of Lima presided over by Saint Toribio, the proposition was presented that every daughter of Eve who should go to a church meeting or be a spectator at a procession wearing the saya y manto would incur ipso facto the punishment of excommunication. You are anathema and—too bad, like it or lump it, little daughters.

Although the matter was treated in a secret session, it was precisely this circumstance that caused it to be more noised about than if it had been spread by kettledrums and announced by the town crier. The limeñas knew immediately, with all the jots and tittles, all the details of the session.

The principal matter was that several prelates had severely castigated the saya y manto, which was defended only by Bishop Don Sebastián de Lartahun, who was in that Council what canonists called the lawyer of the Devil.

With such a defender, who was always at odds with the Archbishop and his Cabildo,[55] the matter could be given up for lost, but fortunately for the limeñas the vote was not to be taken until the following session.

Do you remember the feminine turmoil that in our republican times was whipped up because of the campanillas[56] and the scenes that have taken place in Congress when legislation to make freedom of religion a constitutional article was debated? Well, those frays were insignificant compared with the fracas that took place in 1561.

Which proves to us that since there has been a Lima, my beautiful compatriots have been fond of rows.

And to top it off, what is really great is that they have always come out winners, and they have always managed to outwit us poor hen-pecked husbands.

The limeñas of that century didn’t know how to make fly specks[57] (what can you expect if they were not taught to write out of fear that they would write letters to some young Romeo) nor did they know how to even make a scrawl on official documents, in contrast with what they do nowadays.

No protests were permitted, for to protest is to abdicate legitimacy, and for a long time it has been evident that protests don’t serve any useful purpose at all, not even to package sesame seeds. But without any need to sign anything, these crafty women were past masters when it came to hatching conspiracies.

Within a period of twenty-four hours the chicken coop was in such an uproar that the men, beginning with the very proper judges of the Royal Audience and ending with vagabonds, were forced to participate in the matter. Domestic anarchy threatened to take over. The women refused to take proper care of their homes, the servants hardly did anything at all, the meat and vegetable dish was insipid, children couldn’t find anyone to clothe them or wipe their noses, the husbands went around wearing socks with holes in them and shirts as dirty as could be. In short, everything was being done sloppily in every Lima home. The weaker sex thought of nothing but conspiracy.

Just imagine how difficult the rumpus would become when the person who placed herself at the head of this turmoil was no other than the very beautiful Doña Teresa, the pampered consort of the Viceroy Don García de Mendoza.

With all the pressure brought to bear, with all the comings and goings and attempts to influence important people, the truth of the matter is that the prudent and wise Saint Toribio put off the matter, agreeing to place it last on the agenda of items treated by the Council.

You had better believe it when I say that women are able to bring up dust from under the water and to count the hairs on the Devil’s head.

A matter that is postponed is a matter that is won—thought the limeñas—as they sang their song of victory. And so it was that order returned to the homes in Lima.

It occurs to me that the women from that moment on began to conspire against the existence of the Council; and this opinion isn’t too far off the mark because if we look at the sequence of events and fit everything together I see that a few days after the postponement the bishops of Quito and Cuzco found a pretext for a heated discussion and the Council just about came to blows before it was dissolved. It was inevitable that the devil’s lawyer should be successful.

Of course it couldn’t be any other way!

If you get into a controversy with them you will see how easily they get their way.

III

After 1850 Frenchification has been more powerful than decrees of viceroys and the statutes of the Church in burying the saya y manto. Will they be resurrected some day? Let the following wishy-washy answer suffice.

Perhaps yes; perhaps no.

But what will never be resurrected like Lazarus is the light-hearted chit-chat, the ingenious repartee, the criollo[58] wit of the limeña tapada.

 

Return to Table of Contents

 

 


CHAPTER 7

I APPEAL TO THE CHURCH

Al doctor don Juan Antonio Ribeyro

 

In a house on the outskirts of the city of Guamanga one night in 1575, there were some twelve Spanish adventurers who were engaged in the not very angelic entertainment of rolling dice on a gambling table. The players were miners and it is well known that there are no people more attracted to the ugly passion of gambling than the ones who spend their time and efforts wresting treasure from the bowels of the earth.

The night was one of the coldest of that winter; it rained all the moisture that God had to send, the lightning was the kind produced by a very fierce storm, and from time to time the rumble of the thunder made the buildings shake. It appeared impossible that any living soul would dare to cross the street in such foul weather.

Suddenly they heard someone knocking at the door and the gamblers held the dice while they looked at each other in amazement.

“By Saint Millán, he of the cowl,” shouted one of them. “If the one who is knocking is a soul in torment, go someplace else to ask for suffrage! This is a bad time for such a bothersome fellow. Get along with you, street walker or scoundrel. Be on your way and leave honest people in peace.”

“That’s the kind of company I seek, Mengo Jiménez. Open up and stop wasting words. My cape is soaked, as is my hat,” said the person outside the door.

“Come on in, lieutenant,” replied Jiménez, opening the door. “Welcome, although I have a feeling that the person who makes thirteen can’t bring anything very good.”

“Leave the soothsaying for someone less deceitful and less unbelieving than you, Mengo Jiménez. God be with you, gentlemen,” said the person who had just arrived, tossing his hat and his cloak on a chair near the brazier and taking his place among the gamblers.

The lieutenant was a young man thirty years old who, in spite of his beardless face was able to command the respect of the dissolute adventurers of which Peru had an abundance at that time. That night he had dressed with a certain elegant carelessness. He was wearing a hat with a feather and a blue ribbon, a high collar of lace from Flanders, a scarlet jacket, trousers of the same color with jet black seams, and a velvet belt from which was suspended a sword with a gilded hilt.

He had been in Guamanga for a little less than a month and he had already had a duel. It was said of him that he had been a soldier in the regiments campaigning in Chile and that he had deserted from his unit and had gone to Tucumán, Potosí and Cuzco, from which cities he had been forced to leave because of his troublesome nature. A native of San Sebastián de Guipúzcoa, he was as tough as nails, as hard as the iron of the Basque mountains, and as merciless were the hilts of his swords as his soul. It was said of him that the most skillful bullies and swordsmen were not able to parry a thrust he had invented, which he called, alluding to its sinister success the “blow without mercy.”

After watching with some interest the excitement with which his companions in vice followed the rolling dice, he threw on the table a bulging leather bag, saying, “That’s a niggardly game you are playing; you seem to be more like stingy Jews than hidalgos and miners. There you have my pouch for the one who dares to play against me.”

“Pretty high and mighty you are, Don Antonio,” answered Mengo Jiménez, “and by the horns of the devil, I must accept the challenge.”

“Here goes,” replied the lieutenant, rolling the dice. “Snake eyes. Not even Christ, regardless of who he was, could throw a lower point. Face it, I have won!”

“Wait just a minute, lieutenant. It may be that my luck will equal yours.”

“Well, be on your way with that hope to the physician who took the pulse in the shoulder.”

“I’m not risking anything by rolling dice with people like you. From one pirate to another only some barrels are at risk”

“Then throw the dice, sir. Boasters have nothing to fear.”

And Mengo Jiménez shook the dice box and threw the dice. Everybody was thunderstruck. Mengo Jiménez had come out the winner.

One die had come to rest on top of the other one, covering it completely, leaving only one dot exposed.

The lieutenant protested against the unanimous decision of the players; following the protest there were oaths and insults, some referring to the illegitimacy of the births of those involved. When Don Antonio tired of verbally abusing the other players, he drew his sword and with it snuffed out the lamp that was suspended from the ceiling. After the room was plunged into total darkness there took place one of the most violent frays one could imagine. Blows with the flat of the sword and then dagger stabs accompanied with the shout “God help me!” preceded the fall to the floor of one of the players, mortally wounded. When the other players became aware of what had happened to him they rushed out into the street.

The killer fled at top speed; but upon going around a corner he ran headlong into the police patrol and the magistrate detained him with the traditional and obligatory expression: “In the name of the king, you are under arrest.”

“Not on your life, constable, as long as the strength of my arm sustains me.”

And the furious lieutenant attacked all the members of the patrol and perhaps would have dispatched a goodly number of them if one of the more agile had not tripped up the lieutenant, who fell full length to the ground.

The minions of the law fell on him and took him to jail with his arms tied together.

This was not the first altercation the lieutenant had become involved in because of gambling. He experienced one in which he miraculously saved his neck. While he was gambling in Cuzco with a fellow from Portugal who bet large sums of money, the latter set the stakes at an ounce of gold for each point. Don Antonio threw sixteen consecutive winners, and the loser, striking his forehead with his hand exclaimed, “This fellow is the incarnation of the devil! I’ll raise you!”

“What are you raising with?”

“I’ll raise you a horn,” said his opponent, striking the table with a gold coin.

“I accept and I’ll see the other horn you have left,” answered the lieutenant.

The reply of the Portuguese, who was married, was to draw his sword.[59] Don Antonio was not inept, so after a short fight he left his opponent dead. The authorities arrived and took him to prison. He was tried in court and sentenced to death. The executioner had placed the rope around his neck when a courier arrived who delivered a pardon granted by the Audiencia of Cuzco.

II

The trial in Guamanga was expeditious and required little paper. Three months later, to the day, the hour arrived when the populace was milling about the gallows in the main square of the city.

All of Don Antonio’s previous crimes had been made part of the official record of the trial. The lieutenant didn’t deny anything, answering “Amen” to every accusation and adding, “If for one crime I am to be hung, how much more can you twist my neck for ten; it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other.”

For him the question of quantity was of slight importance.

The priest had entered the death house where he was awaiting execution and had listened to the confession of the criminal; but upon offering him communion the condemned man snatched the Host from the priest and began to run, shouting, “I appeal to the church! I appeal to the church!”

Who would dare detain this individual who was carrying in his hands the divine Form, which he was showing to everyone as he went? If the lieutenant had in reality committed a sacrilegious act, thought the pious people, wouldn’t it be also sacrilegious to make an effort to stop a person who was carrying the Eucharist?

That man, after all, was sacred. He had appealed to the church.

It was the practice in all of the domains of the king of Spain that when a criminal was to be executed all of the churches remained open and the bells tolled.

Don Antonio, followed by the people, took asylum in the Church of Santa Clara and, kneeling down in front of the principal altar, deposited on it the Host.

Human justice at that time could not touch anyone who took sanctuary in the church. The lieutenant was safe.

Having been made aware of these events, Bishop Don Friar Agustín de Carvajal, an Augustinian, made his way to the Church of Santa Clara, determined to carry out the penalty imposed by canon law on criminals who had committed such a sacrilegious act. The canonical penalty was to scrape the offending hand and pass it through fire.

It is certain that the Inquisition had been established in Lima a few years previous to these happenings and it could claim jurisdiction in the case. Extradition, which was not lawful for civil tribunals, was a prerogative that could be claimed by the Holy Office. But the Inquisitors were still very busy organizing the Inquisition in Peru and they couldn’t be bothered with questions of jurisdiction in Guamanga.

Don Antonio asked His Grace to hear his confession, which was very long. Finally, much to everyone’s astonishment, the Bishop took the criminal by the hand and led him to the gatehouse of the convent. After a few moments of whispered conversation with the abbess, the lieutenant was ushered into the convent and the door was closed behind him.

This was tantamount to shutting up the wolf in the sheepcote.

As the days passed by the scandal took on greater proportions among the members of the Church, and the faithful began to question the mental equilibrium of the good Bishop. But he merely smiled piously when the servants brought such gossip to this attention.

And so two months passed by. Then one day a messenger from the viceroy arrived from Lima with documents meant only for the eyes of the Bishop. The latter met with Don Antonio and the next day, well escorted, the criminal left for the capital of the viceroyalty.

In Lima he was detained for three weeks in the company of the Bernardine nuns of the Trinity and in the first galleon that sailed for Spain the trouble-making lieutenant was shipped off under guard.

III

Soon everyone knew that the lieutenant, Don Antonio de Erauzo, was a woman, to whom her parents had given the name Catalina Erauzo and history refers to as the “nun-lieutenant.” Doña Catalina had taken the habit of a novitiate and was about to take her solemn vows when she fled from the convent, made her way to the New World, enlisted as a soldier, fought valiantly in Arauco,[60] earned the rank of lieutenant and in the disturbances of Potosí was recognized as captain by one of the bands.

Since it has not been my purpose to write a history of the life of the “nun-lieutenant” but rather to narrate one of her extremely original and little-known adventures, we direct the reader who wishes to know all about the mysteries of her life to the several books which have been printed about her. It is sufficient to note that Doña Catalina de Erauzo returned from Spain, that she tired of her adventurous life and became a muleteer in Veracruz and that she died in a Mexican village, more than seventy years old. She didn’t ever stop wearing her masculine clothes and she didn’t ever lose her virginity, although while she was palming herself off as a man she deceived more than three maidens with her wheedling and compliments, promising to marry them and then taking French leave or going back on her word.

 

Return to Table of Contents

 

 


CHAPTER 8

THE NUN OF THE KEY

(1587)

(A Chronicle of the Era of Peru’s Sixth and Seventh Viceroys)

 

I

The month was May in the year of our Lord fifteen hundred and eighty-seven. At the stroke of midnight, on the street that is known today as Bolivar Square, a masked man scaled the balcony of the house of the conquistador Nicolás Ribera the Younger, who had been favored by Don Francisco Pizarro in the form of plentiful treasures and by King Carlos V in the form of the Habit of Santiago. Whoever should read Lima’s founding documents (18 January 1535) will find the names of both Nicolás de Ribera the Elder and the Younger. At the time of this tradition, Ribera the Younger’s youthfulness was an expression of sarcasm, for our founder of the City of Kings[61] was bordering on eighty Decembers.

Apostolic inspiration is not needed to guess that it was a dashing young man who was making his way into Ribera the Younger’s house, and that the brilliant knight of Santiago probably had a beautiful daughter of marriageable age.

Doña Violante de Ribera, may it be stated in all purity, was a pretty Limean with eyes that were blacker than evil desire, velvet-like skin, curly thick hair, the figure of a nymph, a childlike hand, and the cutest feet satin shoes have ever had the privilege of touching. At this time she was a very flowery twenty-four Aprils old; at that age, any girl with a beautiful face who is not either betrothed or a troublemaker is next to impossible to find. Her father futilely kept her under the safekeeping of an aged governess more crotchety than a watchdog and in a marvelously preserved condition. Doña Circuncisión was very good at overlooking shady goings on—but she would fulfill her religious obligations every morning and participate in Holy Communion each Sunday!

Violante had a brother by the name of Don Sebastián, an officer among the viceroy’s escorts and an intimate associate of the captain of the musketeers, Rui Díaz de Santillana. Now as the devil spends all his time looking for ways to help men lose their souls, it just so happened that the captain entered into the girl’s life through her right eye, and the following dialogue ensued:

 

          “Is anyone else listening?”

          “No.”

          “Do you mind if I talk to you?”

          “No. Go ahead.”

          “Do you have a lover?”

          “I?”

          “Would you consider me?”

          “Yes.”

 

Doña Circuncisión, upright as she was, saw to it every night that her pupil would read out loud the life of that day’s saint, that they would pray the Rosary together, and, upon hearing the bells of the nine o’clock curfew, they would have a glass of chocolate with a pastry and crackers. But Violante found a way to, with affected carelessness, place in her governess’ chocolate a few drops of floripondio extract, which caused the devout woman to experience sleep not far from eternal. Under these circumstances, at the point during which a person could hear a pin drop both in the house and in the street, Captain Rui Díaz, with the aid of a rope ladder, was able to enter his beloved’s chamber without any fear of being discovered by the duenna.

An old verse goes:

 

                   Mother, yes mother,

                   You try to keep me safe...

                   But if I don’t protect myself

                   Then what you do’s a waste.

 

The man who wrote that certainly had his head on straight and was aware of feminine passions. We know that:

 

                   When two love-birds

                   Find themselves together,

                   They will find the way to love

                   In any type of weather.

 

On that night in May of which we first spoke, the Captain had barely reached the balcony when a fit of coughing made him raise his handkerchief to his mouth. A moment later he lowered the kerchief, now soaked in blood, and collapsed into the arms of his lover.

It is not the duty of our anti-Romantic pen to sketch Violante’s pain. Suffice it to say that a corpse is not the most fitting guest in a noble and esteemed maiden’s room.

Ribera the Younger’s daughter thought that the most important thing was to keep her misdeed from the eyes of her aged and proud father. After making her way into the room of her brother, Don Sebastián, amid sobs and tears, she informed him of her compromising situation.

Don Sebastián was angry at first, but after becoming pacified, went to Violante’s room, took the dead man upon his shoulders, lowered himself and the cadaver by means of the balcony’s ladder, and thanks to the darkness and the fact that in those days a soul was rarely seen on the street after 10:00 P.M., he was able to deposit his burden without any problem on the doorstep of the Concepción Monastery, the construction of which was very advanced at that time.

Once back at home, he helped his sister clean the balcony’s tiles to rid them of any trace of blood, and when that task was completed, he told her:

“For the wrath of God! Right now only Heaven and I know your secret. You have soiled the honor of Ribera the Younger. Make ready to enter a convent if you don’t want to die at my hands and thus reap the fury of our father’s honor.”

In those days honor was a very delicate matter.

And, indeed, a few days later Violante entered the Encarnación Convent, which housed the only congregation of nuns in Lima at the time.

To the honor of the Knight of Santiago, Peru’s Viceroy, the Count of Villardompardo, attended the ceremony as the girl’s godfather.

It would not be inappropriate to indicate here, that, when Ribera the Younger died, his house was demolished, and the famous jail of the Inquisition was built in its rubble. Before that time the Inquisitorial proceedings has been carried out in the building across from the Church of La Merced.

II

HISTORY

Let us now proceed, dear reader, with the obligatory historical interlude, since in passing we did mention Count Villardompardo, who was christened “The Trembler” by Lima’s mischievous women after they noted a nervous twitch in his hands.

Ill-fated was the rule of the Most Excellent Fernando de Torres y Portugal, Count Villardompardo and the seventh Viceroy of Peru under His Majesty Don Felipe II. He succeeded Don Martín Enríquez of the house of the Marqueses of Alcañices and who had before that time been Viceroy in Mexico. It could well be said that Don Martín passed along general misfortune from his rule. It is no secret that he ruled scarcely twenty-one months, and that is only if you think of ruling in terms of suffering from physical ailments that allow a person only to prepare for death.

With regard to public works, the two viceroys were able to complete but one project--the paving of the Via Láctea.

The earthquake which destroyed Arequipa in 1582 and the one which leveled Piura and Lima in 1585; the third Limean council presided over by the saintly archbishop Toribio de Mogrovejo which ended in a great scandal; the disasters of the fleet which took 530 men to colonize the Chilean province Magallanes and in which all but 20 fell to the rigors of deprivation and weather; the terror in the Pacific brought about by the English pirate Thomas Cavendish; a small-pox epidemic which claimed the lives of thousands of victims in Peru; the loss of several growing seasons, the result of which was a scarcity of provisions to the point that a bushel of what was sold for ten pesos; and, finally, the news of the rout of the Invincible Armada at the hands of the “Virgin Queen” Elizabeth of England; behold the synopsis of the history of Don Martín Enríquez, the Gout-Stricken, and his successor, Don Fernando de Torres, the Trembler.

In his three years of rule, the Count of Villardompardo managed to defame the board of trustees, become involved in ridiculous disputes with the Inquisitors, feed the flames of the court’s disagreements, allow embezzlers of the treasury to go free, and permit immorality to become deeply entrenched in every level of government. When he was replaced by the second Marquis of Cañete, Villardompardo slipped away to live in the Franciscan Monastery in Magdalena until a galleon was provided for his return to Spain.

III

Captain Don Francisco Hernández Girón was executed in Lima’s main square in December of 1554 for revolting against the king. His widow, Doña Mencía de Sosa, and her mother, Doña Leonor Portocarrero, founded a convent in the same house in which they lived on March 25, 1558. Within a very short time a good number of ladies of colonial nobility had professed. Doña Leonor was recognized as the Abbess while Doña Mencía was the Subabbess.

 One of the daughters of Marshal Alvarado, who was the Field Marshal of the forces of La Gasca in the campaign against Gonzalo Pizarro, was permitted to profess and the event caused no small uproar. Only Archbishop Loayza approved. One who opposed the profession was no less than the provincial Augustine vicar, who was in opposition because Doña Isabel and Doña Inés de Alvarado, in spite of being the daughters of such a rich and illustrious man, were of mixed Spanish and Indian blood.

The Marshal bequeathed a dowry of twenty thousand pesos to each of his two daughters and offered to include the Convent in his will. The provincial vicar made a trip to Cuzco and in his absence Doña Isabel professed, for the nuns in the Convent were not about to let the dowries and the hope for part of the inheritance slip through their fingers. When the vicar returned to Lima and was informed of what had happened, he ordered the nuns punished by cutting off a sleeve of their habit. People of every social stratum disapproved of this act with such vehemence that the vicar, his wrath placated, pardoned the nuns by returning to each the sleeve he had ordered removed.

This turn of events, with the nuns under the care of the Archbishop and the Limean society taking an interest in them, sparked the viceroy, the Marquis of Salinas, to speed up the building of the Convent, which is still standing today, to which the nuns were moved.

The elections of the abbesses among the canonesses were always very tempestuous, up until the time of independence. About the year 1634, while Don Fernando de Arias Ugarte was Lima’s Archbishop, Ana María de Frías, a nun, stabbed another nun to death. After the case was sent to Rome, the congregation of cardinals sentenced the offender to six years imprisonment in the Convent jail, the loss of active and passive voice, prohibition from using the locutory and fasting every Sabbath. The common people said that she was “walled in”,[62] which is not true because in the National Archive there is a legalized copy of the sentence issued in Rome.

This was Lima’s first Convent, for the Concepción Convent, founded by Pizarro’s sister-in-law, and the Trinidad, Descalzas and Santa Clara Convents were all built during the last twenty-five years of the century of the conquest. The Santa Catalina, Prado, Trinitarias and Carmen Convents were established in the seventeenth century, and last century produced the Nazarenas, Mercedarias, Santa Roma and Cupuchinas de Jesús y María Convents.

In view of the fact that only the rich and noble descendants of conquistadors were allowed to join the aristocratic canonesses of Encarnación, this Convent soon had large assets to its credit as well as grants and protection from numerous viceroys.

Let us return to Violante de Ribera, whose acquisition of the habit and solemn profession, setting her apart from the world forever, took place in the primitive nunnery a year after Doña Isabel was accepted.

Sadness permeated the spirit of the girl. Her heart was of the type that does not know how to forget that it has loved.

Her profound melancholy and a little gold key that hung from a chain about her neck gave rise to conversations and conjecture among her cloistral companions. Although they were nuns, they had not stopped being women and curious ones at that! Their Latin lessons were regularly preempted to guess the meaning of her grief and the mystery that the chain constituted for them. When they finally grew tired of gossip, they christened Violante with the name “The Nun of the Key.”

A year passed and Doña Violante died unexpectedly, a victim of the moral sufferings that devoured her.

The other nuns then removed from her neck the mysterious little gold key which had intrigued them for so long, and used it to open a small sandalwood box which Violante had kept on a piece of furniture in her cell.

Inside the sandalwood box were the love letters and the bloody handkerchief of Captain Rui Díaz de Santillana.

 

Return to Table of Contents

 

 


CHAPTER 9

ONCE ON THE DONKEY, SUFFER THE WHIP LASHES

Father Calancha and other chroniclers relate an incident which took place in Potosí in 1550 which is similar to the one I am going to tell you; but among the inhabitants of Cuzco there is a popular tradition that the events I refer to took place in that city, the City of the Sun. Be that as it may, the question of where all this transpired is a minor sin; it is enough for me to say that the action portrayed is authentic and that is all the justification I need to fill up several sheets of paper without any scruples.

I

Mancio Sierra de Leguízamo, who was born in Pinto, which is near Madrid, was a handsome soldier who possessed all the vices and virtues of his period, but I must hasten to add that deep down inside he was a model of uprightness.

When Pizarro started toward Cajamarca in order to take Atahualpa prisoner in a most cowardly way, Leguízamo remained in Piura among the few soldiers of the garrison left by their commanding officer. For that reason Leguízamo’s name does not appear on the list of men who shared in the ransom of the Inca.

When the Spaniards took Cuzco and sacked the holy temple of the Incas, the Coricancha, Leguízamo became the owner of the famous golden sun; but such was the impetuosity of the soldiers that the very same night he lost the valuable artifact on one throw of the dice. From that time on the saying has been heard that is applied to incorrigibles: “He is capable of using the sun as a stake in order to get what he wants.”

Nevertheless, during those periods when the town council named him to serve as a regidor[63] he swore off gambling completely. With respect to his moral standards we can say that he was above reproach. But as soon as he was no longer alderman he returned to his old gambling ways with a vengeance.

Leguízamo was able to avoid becoming involved in the civil conflicts of the time; this crafty and independent behavior probably explains why he was perhaps the only conquistador who didn’t meet a tragic end. As he himself says in his will, dated Cuzco, September 13, 1589, with his death died the last of Pizarro’s companions. In that curious document which is found in the Crónica agustina and of which Prescott published a portion, Leguízamo praises the patriarchal government of the Incas and the virtues of the Peruvian people, but severely criticizes the morality of the conquistadors.[64]

Leguízamo died of physicians (or of sickness, which is the same thing) as piously as would befit a devoted Christian; the Grim Reaper carried him off when he counted eighty Januaries.

According to the first book of the records of the Cuzco city council, Leguízamo was one of the forty citizens who on the 4th of August, 1534, made a contribution of thirty thousand pesos in gold and three hundred thousand marcos [65]in silver. We set down this fact in order that the reader may form an idea concerning the wealth and prestige that Leguízamo had acquired just one year after losing the sun in a dice game.

In the distribution of land we note that there is an entry in the above mentioned book of records which states that Leguízamo was assigned one of the best lots.

A person of such importance had for his lover no less than a ñusta, or princess of the family of the Inca Huáscar; and from this union was born, among others, a son, baptized with the name of Gabriel, who was, just like his father, responsible for the creation of a saying.

II

About the year 1591 there lived in Cuzco a lovely young lady named Mencía, whose favors were sought not only by the frivolous young fellows that were dying to make her acquaintance but by men of substance, even men who had a reputation of having good sense. It was only natural that Gabriel Leguízamo should be one of the flies that was attracted to the honey, and he had the good fortune, or perhaps the bad fortune, that for him Mencía was not like stone from the quarry.

Unfortunately for Gabriel, Don Cosme García de Santolalla, Knight of Calatrava and at the time Lieutenant Governor of Cuzco, was the most favored of her lovers, showering her with gold and catering to all her caprices and fantasies.

With reason the following verse says:

 

Love is a thing

(God save us and preserve us)

which causes even the most sensible

to take leave of his senses.

 

Of course some busybody took it upon himself to remove the blindfold Don Cosme was wearing and make him aware that he wasn’t the only one who was having an affair with Mencía. We can just imagine his rage when he found out the truth.

One afternoon the Lieutenant Governor was walking through the main square of Cuzco with some of his constables when Don Gabriel, upon rounding a corner suddenly found himself face to face with his rival with no opportunity to avoid him. The young man smiled in a mocking way and continued on his way without raising his hand to the brim of his hat. Don Cosme, infuriated, shouted: “You there! You insolent fellow! Stop! You are under arrest!” And immediately the constables, very brave people when there is no danger, apprehended him, saying: “Give yourself up, you lily-livered so and so!”

Don Gabriel protested vigorously, but it is well known that in the past as well as in the present it is a waste of time and saliva to protest under such circumstances. Anyone who has even the slightest authority will make mincemeat of those of us who were born to be governed rather that to govern.

Not one of the holy saints would heed his pleas for help, so they packed him off to jail.

What do you think, reader? Was his crime of the insignificant kind?

“What’s that? You think that it is perfectly all right for a young whippersnapper to go around the streets of our city so proudly with his nose in the air and not even remove his hat in the presence of a person who has authority? What? Aren’t there any social classes or privileges any more? We are all the same, are we?” That was what Don Cosme was saying to himself to justify his treatment of Don Gabriel.

That lack of respect cried out for punishment. To have left it unpunished would have been to democratize society ahead of schedule.

The nobility of that period were very expeditious in handling the punishment of such unacceptable behavior, therefore, the next morning all of Cuzco knew that Don Gabriel had been sentenced to ride on a donkey at noon, his back bare in order to receive a dozen whip lashes administered by the executioner on the very same spot in the plaza where the evening before he had the misfortune of meeting his rival, and the effrontery to fail to greet him in the proper manner.

Friends of the dead Manco Sierra took an interest in his son and asked for a reconsideration of the matter, but to no avail, because the hour for punishment arrived and Don Cosme was still determined to carry out the brutal and cowardly punishment.

Don Gabriel was in the street, mounted on a sickly donkey, and accompanied by the executioner, the town crier and minor officers of the law when a scribe arrived with an order from those in authority postponing the whipping until the following day. The postponement was the only concession that Gabriel’s friends had been able to obtain from the vengeful Governor.

The young Leguízamo, upon being informed of the contents of the order calmly said: “Now that I have been humiliated in this manner it doesn’t make any sense to start this business all over again. ‘The bad things in life need to be suffered quickly. Once on the donkey, suffer the whipping.’ Get up, donkey!” And using his heels to spur the donkey he rode to the place where the executioner would apply the lashes.

III

The foregoing is the origin of the saying which some have changed to say: “Once on the donkey one hundred are the same as a hundred and a few more.”

Three months later as Don Cosme García de Santolalla was passing the spot where Don Gabriel had suffered the shameful whipping, the Governor was attacked and stabbed to death by the young hidalgo, who had lain in wait for him behind a door.

Friends in Cuzco helped him to flee to Lima, where he found protection in the person of none other than the illustrious Doña Teresa de Castro, wife of the Marquis de Cañete, Viceroy of Peru. Thanks to her and to her influence in the Court, a document signed by King Philip II himself arrived from Spain stating that Don Gabriel was a good and honorable person who was within his right as an hidalgo, a man of noble birth, to avenge himself on the person who had offended him by putting him to death.

 

Return to Table of Contents

 


CHAPTER 10

THE GOVERNMENTS OF PERU

Pardon me, Don Modesto de la Fuente;[66] but what you write in your sparkling “capilladas” as a colloquy between Santa Teresa de Jesús and Christ I heard from my cross-eyed grandmother as having taken place between Santa Rosa of Lima and the King of heaven and earth. Friar Gerundio[67] tells the episode with the Atticism[68] that is characteristic of him. Be that as it may, I insist on telling this little story that is traditional in my country. If there is plagiarism in it, as I have been told, let the reader decide.

One day when the good Lord was in the mood to pass out favors Santa Rosa of Lima had a chat with Him. My country-woman, who in a jiffy recognized the good mood of the Lord, took advantage of the opportunity to ask favors (not for herself, for she had sufficient having been born to serve the Lord) but rather for her country.

“Lord, cause the mildness of the climate of my land to become proverbial.”

“Granted, Rose. In Lima there will not be extremes of cold or heat, nor will there be too much rain nor too many storms.”

“I beg of Thee, Lord, that Thou makest of Peru a very rich country.”

“Agreed, Rose, agreed. If the land should not be fertile enough, or if the treasures of the mines should not suffice I will give to the country, at an opportune time, guano and saltpeter.

“I beseech Thee, Lord, that Thou mayest give beauty and virtue to the women of Lima and intelligence to the men.”

As you can see the Saint was asking whatever she wished.

The request was a very pretentious one and the Lord began to get a little out of sorts.

What she was asking for was a great deal, but finally after thinking it over a moment, he answered without smiling.

“That is all right, Rose, that’s all right.”

And the Lord murmured through his teeth, “The only thing left for this young woman to ask me is to turn Lima into a portion of the celestial glory.”

The Saint who was so persistent in begging lacked the tact to understand that with all her requests she was starting to get on the Lord’s nerves. After all, she was a woman. They are all like that. You give them an inch and they’ll take a mile.

The Lord made a movement to leave her but the Saint called to Him, “Lord! Lord!”

“What? You still want something more?”

“Yes, Lord. Give my country good government.”

At this point the good Lord, now really irritated, turned his back on her, saying, “Rosie, Rosie, how would you like to go jump in the lake?”

Now you can see why Peru is always poorly governed, and that our situation would be much different if the Saint had commenced where she left off.

 

Return to Table of Contents

 


CHAPTER 11

WOMAN AND TIGER

It is always enjoyable to look back on the days of our infancy, that period of rose-colored illusions in which we are free from worries, and we believe that the world doesn’t go any further than our toys and the things we see. Blessed are those hours in which we see life as a bowl of cherries, in which no one has yet told us that friendship is exploitation and love is a business matter!

Yesterday I was going through the album of my memory, and I paused suddenly at the memory of a little girl, a childhood companion, a busy-body and mischief-maker if there ever was one. When she would hide her grandmother’s spectacles, light a firecracker tied to the cat’s tail or pull some other prank, the good old lady would administer a swift pair of blows and cry out:

“This girl is as evil as anyone could imagine! She’s worse than ***.”

The evil of *** was emphasized so much by this woman that she started to scare me more than the bogeyman. Here and there I deciphered as many old manuscripts as would fall into my hands. The life and wheedlings of every witch punished in Lima by the Holy Inquisition became known to me. When I least expected it, I found that in one of the books of the cathedral chapter and in the census records there was authentic information about ***. I can’t hold it in any longer! I have to write this story, even if for nothing else than to prove that no matter how mischievous and crafty and cunning she became with the passing of time this poor girl for whom her grandmother predicted such a disastrous end and who, as much as she might have tried to give meat to the Devil and then to offer bones to God, never in a million years could there be a woman whose crimes could surpass those of the lady of my story.

Enough introduction. Let’s be on with it!

I

Senorita ***, around 1601, was a fresh and desirable flower bud sixteen Springs old, the kind a libertine dreams of to cure his dyspepsia. Sr. ***, her father, foolishly died, leaving his heiress, Doña Sebastiana, under the tutelage of Don Blas Medina, a harsh Asturian more arrogant than King Pelayo[69] himself. Think, my dear reader, whether it would be attractive and capable of arousing the appetite of even the least greedy of men to have a girl who, not even counting her youth, beauty, and riches, possessed the rare quality of not bringing in-laws into the marriage.

At that time marriage could not be contracted as easily as in our day. That’s obvious! That was a century of darkness and not of progress, like the one we live in, when a young girl who just the day before taking a husband was playing with dolls. There are plenty of people around who affirm that today’s marriages are nothing more than a change in toys for the fair sex, and because of this the matter is more tangled than the needlework of a lay sister or the conscience of a scribe. I repeat, in 1601 marriage was an all-encompassing matter, and that good guardian, who thought he could see Doña Sebastiana itching to say “Yes” to the first man saying “Will you,” resolved to deny the entrance of male guests into the house and to save the girl as treasure in a miser’s chest.

In those days, the education of women of high social standing was reduced to no more than reading just well enough to learn of the saints, to make an order for the laundry, and to play the harp with enough skill to be in Christmas mass. Such an education is good only for repeating a hymn to the Holy Trinity and offering prayers, a little bit of making candies and salads, and nothing of being around people. This was the education of the fair maiden millionaire. May I be under God’s protection and may He allow me to free the guardian from blame! Let us blame the century, for it is well suited to endure that and all of the charges for which it strikes my fancy to make it responsible.

In addition to her harp teacher, an old man so ugly that he could frighten fear itself, who scraped rather than played the instrument, Doña Sebastiana’s associates consisted of a chubby seraphic friar, the guardian, and his son, an eighteen-year old seminarian whose father dreamed of turning every bit of him into a thorough-going canon. Don Carlitos, while with his father and companions, would adopt an air of devotion that made him look like the angel on an altarpiece. Place your trust in nitwits, though, my dear reader, and I’ll bet my dessert that one of these days you’ll be sorely hurt.

Doña Sebastiana had been under the tutelage of her guardian for six months. The young man would leave the school cloister every Sunday to spend the day in the home of his father. Afterwards a black man would accompany him back to the seminary beadles.

Nevertheless, the writing was already on the wall. Don Carlos was more interested in pursuing the study of that mysterious book called woman than theological folios. A Jesuit named Sánchez with his very romantic treatise “On Marriage” pricks boys’ curiosity more than the serpent who tempted Eve. Perhaps one of his chapters fell into the hands of our seminarian, and behold how this bad book could have led him, who had been as chaste as Joseph, to perdition, and deprived Lima’s church of one of its most splendid lights. This preamble should let you know, dear reader, that in spite of the precautions of Don Blas to keep unsullied the jewel entrusted to him, the inflammable maiden didn’t play hard to get at the first sign of affection showed to her by the spirited young man. Every Sunday the love-struck couple would take advantage of the hour during which the guardian, as a loyal son of lazy Spain, would sleep his siesta, to have their fill of honeyed words and whatever else I suspect lovers exchange.

Man is fire; woman, fuel, and as a spark can cause a greater fire than the one Homer sings about, the demon appears suddenly, and ...blows!

II

Five years elapsed and with the death of Don Blas Medina, Don Carlos entered into open enjoyment of his plentiful inheritance. He hung up his seminary robes, convinced that God had no calling for him in the Church. Don Blas had served as a corregidor[70] in Cuzco during his youth; his fortune had grown after that through his business. He bequeathed these riches to his heir, by no means a paltry sum.

The young man began to do as he pleased, to frequent the world that the austerity of his late father had kept at a distance, and to be successful in all he did.

The love he had felt for Sebastianita disappeared. It was a love already spent, and he had to be out looking for something new. He left behind his promises to marry her and to make legitimate the two children that had resulted from their secret love. When she least expected it, the poor lovesick girl received a letter in which Don Carlos notified her that he had given himself in marriage with church sanction to a Doña Dolores, the daughter of the harquebusier Captain Don Santiago Pedrosa.

Imagine, my dear reader, the effect this letter would have on this passionate woman. For some time the women of Lima talked openly and thoughtlessly of her lost honor. It was rumored that Doña Sebastiana didn’t have a bit of sense in her head. In the end, as every woman who has loved without control, she turned to the Creator, which in a good romance means that she became a lay sister, a full-fledged one, a lay sister who would read the book written by the Jesuits called “Spiritual Alfalfa for Jesus Christ’s Sheep,” in which the consecrated wafer is called “dog bread” (sinner bread).

Nevertheless, every time she would come across her forsworn lover in the church or in the street scandalous scenes took place. Doña Sebastiana would not back down in her efforts to recapture the rebel, and he had undertaken the foolish whim of giving the world an example of fidelity in marriage.

Three years elapsed like this, until the unhappy girl became convinced that she had nothing to expect from Don Carlos. She resolved to change her strategy and devote herself to revenge.

III

One Monday upon leaving mass of Saint Augustine Don Carlos met up with his shadow, or nightmare, embodied in Sebastiana.

“Please, Don Carlos, listen to a few words which for the last time I will speak to you.”

“I am at your disposition, my lady, as long as you do not try to show me some affection, as that would now be a crime,” answered the young man.

“I am pleased to see that you are such a loyal husband. You know I now observe a severe religious life, so cast out once and for all your apprehension that I may say something reminding you of our errant wanderings.”

“Please, madam, do talk.”

“As you know, my son is quite rich. In Lima, and under my care, it is impossible for him to receive the education he deserves. Tomorrow a galleon is setting out from Callao for Spain, and he will be a passenger on it, headed for Madrid, where he will be with my relatives. I beg you, his father, to impart to him your blessing, that he may have a prosperous journey.”

“Your claim is just, madam, and I promise to come to your house a little later.”

It was about noon when Don Carlos embraced his children in Sebastiana’s living room. His fatherly heart overflowed with love toward them, and his caresses and counsels for the boy about to leave for Europe were without limit. His daughter, at a signal from Doña Sebastiana, offered her affected father some cookies and a cup of Alicante wine. Don Carlos ate and drank with the children and the mother joined in with them. Soon enough his body fell to the floor.

The poor devil had been given a narcotic.

IV

Two hours later a carriage stopped in the patio of a hacienda near the city.

Doña Sebastiana and her two children got down from the carriage. The driver with the help of a slave led a drugged Don Carlos to a bed prepared by the vengeful woman in one of the bedrooms.

Alone with her victim, she bound his arms and legs tightly and waited for him to awake from his deadly lethargy.

Don Carlos’ impression when he came-to can not be described by our pen. Let us give the word to the chronicler:

“Sebastiana, after hurling insults at Don Carlos, told him to prepare to die on account of his perfidy. She then called her son, and placing him in the father’s view, told him: ‘I loved you when your father was my lover. He abandoned me, mocking my innocence, and is now the husband of another woman who has not sacrificed her honor for him as I have. So great is the source of the hate which I now have for you that I want you to die in the presence of this scoundrel, because I refuse to keep the remnants of articles belonging to him.’ She then savagely attacked the child, cut off his head, and threw it on Don Carlos. She then called the daughter and in the same manner slew her. Finally, lavishing the most atrocious insults on him, she started cutting off parts of his body, member by member, until she saw him expire. That same night, when she had finished this horrible butchery, she buried the three cadavers with the help of the carriage driver, and then she returned tranquilly to Lima.

The disappearance of such a highly regarded subject as Don Carlos started quite an uproar in the city, and the efforts of the family of the wife compelled the viceroy to offer 2000 pesos, through an edict, to any person who could offer information about Medina. This incentive drove the carriage driver to uncover the crime. The public indignation was great. After being tortured, the offender confessed her crime. She was sentenced by the Royal Court to be hanged and to have her hands cut off. These members were afterwards to be placed on spikes on the outskirts of the city, near the hacienda where she committed such a terrible crime.

During the forty-eight hours in which she was in the death house not the least bit of distress was noted in the fierce woman. She calmly said: ‘Now that my vengeance is satisfied, I await death without any fear.’“

V

Señora *** was the first woman hanged in Lima’s Plaza Mayor.

 

Return to Table of Contents

 


CHAPTER 12

THE VICEROY OF THE MIRACLES

(1604-1606)

(A Chronicle of the Era of Peru’s Tenth Viceroy)

 

I

HISTORY

THE AUTHOR EXPOUNDS A BIT OF HISTORY

The most excellent Lord Don Gaspar de Zúñiga Acevedo y Fonseca, the count of Monterrey, was deserving of the nickname “The Viceroy of Miracles,” not because he may have performed any (although there are plenty of eulogizers who attribute miracles to him because of his asceticism, charity and other notable virtues), but because during the short time that he was ruling, marvels and wonders were very much in style in these kingdoms of Peru. Chronicles are filled with amazing occurrences, such as the conversion, in Cuzco, of the libertine Selenque, who, like Captain Montoya in Zorilla’s legend, unknowingly attended his own funeral; rarities such as the earthquake in Arequipa, on November 25, 1604, phenomenal results of lightning, the raising of the dead, the repentance of a friar whose concubine left mule-like tracks like horseshoes make, apparitions of souls from the other life who came on walks to these out of the way places, and I’ll end the list here, because if I were to continue, it would be an endless story. It isn’t true that I, a modest historian and firm believer, am among those who say that God no longer bothers with miracles and that the devil has never performed them, but at those times there were two so outstanding and stupendous that I’ve not been able to resist the itch I’ve had to bring them to light at the height of the 19th century for the edification of the incredulous, the comfort of the faithful, and the contentment of people in general.

[The next paragraph is omitted because it deals with coats of arms and is not relevant.]

The Count of Monterrey, whose daughter was the wife of the famous Count-Duke of Olivares, came from the Viceroyalty of Mexico to Peru, and arrived in Lima November, 18, 1604. His health was so poor that he was able to attend to little, if anything, with regard to the political government of the country. The hours during which his ailments allowed him to leave his bed were spent visiting churches and distributing his money as alms. His charity led him to such poverty that when he died, on March 16, 1606, he didn’t leave anything worth even a few grimy coins. He was buried in St. Peter’s church at the expense of the Royal Court of Justice, and his tombstone bore this inscription: Maluit mori quam foedari.[71]

The only notable occurrences of his time were the founding of the state treasury and the discovery of Tahiti and with it the assurance of the existence of that part of the globe called Oceania. The Count of Monterrey sponsored this maritime undertaking, which met with little success. The ships were loaded with their provisions in Callao, and the commander of the fleet was the illustrious and courageous mariner Quiros.

At this time Saint Toribio, Saint Francisco Solano, and Saint Rose were enjoying their highest moment of brilliance in Lima, and Father Ojeda, of the Dominican monastery, was writing the first lines of this immortal poem “La Cristiada.” It should not seem surprising, then, that miracles were running rampant.

At that time, according to one chronicler, the famous miracle of the Holy Christ of the Column occurred. I will quickly relate this miracle in my own way.

One day a priest was hearing confessions from a repentant sinner, and the offenses were so serious that the good priest, shocked, told him out loud: “I cannot absolve you.”

“Absolve the man,” exclaimed the Christ, while pointing his finger at him. “His confessions of sins committed didn’t cause the anguish in you that they did in me.”

The miracle does not rest in that the Christ talked, for that could have been disputed, but in that his finger did not return to its original position.

This wonder, nonetheless, which came to my pen by chance, is not the object of my tradition, but those that the reader will soon see. I won’t attempt to assign a specific date to these marvels, for the chronicles I have read, although in agreement with regard to the basic facts, are not with regard to dates.

II

HOW A PIECE OF PAPER, WHEN PLACED ON A SCALE WEIGHED ONE THOUSAND DUROS

In diebus illis,[72] there was a woman who lived the life of a dog and misery in these parts, who had come to such a state due to the death of her husband. When he was placed in his grave, he left her completely destitute, and also left two nice looking girls who were threatened to be forced into the street and a state of disgrace. The mother and her daughters performed work with a needle, but at that time, just like in our day, sewing didn’t provide much food, even for fantasizing, and it was always threatening to lead to tuberculosis and other ills.

Both girls had their respective boyfriends. One was a carpenter and the other was a government clerk or apprentice to a scribe. Both were very honorable young men, but without a penny to their name. Unless God should change their situation, marriage in facie ecclesiae[73] was slightly less than impossible. The parish priest was not a man who would waste his saliva reading St. Paul’s epistle gratis et amore.[74]

In this state of tribulation, it occurred to the mother to request the protection of a wealthy businessman who enjoyed the reputation of being generous and compassionate. The widow went to a store, bought a sheet of paper, cut it in half, borrowed ink and a goose feather quill from the Spaniard on the corner, wrote the letter, sprinkled a handful of dirt on what was written, sealed it with a bread crumb, and asked a neighborhood boy who was a very skillful courier to rush the letter to its destination.

Several of the businessman’s friends were chatting with him at the time that the letter reached him in his store. All of them were from different places and were very well off. The owner received the note, and laughing, showed it to the others. It said, ad pedem litterae,[75] and please pardon the spelling, for an insignificant seamstress is not required to be proficient in grammatical backstitching:

 

“My Dear Sir and Owner of my Heart: Doña Juanita Riquelme, a penitent woman, asks you, whose Hands she Kisses, to help her in her need by sending her as an Alm the equivalent of the weight of this little paper in gold, and may God bless you and prosper you. I am your humble servant.”

All present laughed heartily at the originality of the request. The conceited businessman placed the letter on one side of the scale with an ounce of gold on the other. Witchcraft! The pan did not move. The friends marveled, and started to add ounces and more ounces, and...nothing happened! The pan with the letter would not budge.

It was either a case for the Inquisition or a very weighty miracle.

Finally the piece of paper gave way when the scale had the equivalent of one thousand pesos heaped upon it. The widow used the money as a dowry for her daughters, who bore many children and died in due time.

It seems to me that this miracle is no small matter. Here goes the other one.

III

HOW PURGATORY’S BLESSED SPIRITS WERE PROCURERS AND HARBORERS

This did not take place in Lima but rather in Potosí.

Whoever doubts this need do nothing more than read the “Annals of the Imperial Villa” by Bartolomé Martínez Vela, which will prove that I am not a liar.

It is said that the nephew of the magistrate Sarmiento, whom neither the reader nor I had the misfortune of meeting, was an enthusiast of fruit from other men’s gardens. One night he was pursuing an escapade with the wife of one of his fellow human beings, when the husband, who had been alerted to the situation, arrived so suddenly that the dashing young man could do no more than hide, completely doubled up, under a piece of furniture in the bedroom. Meanwhile, his distressed accomplice, trembling like a leaf, exclaimed:

“May the blessed spirits of purgatory protect me!

A furious Otelo burst into his home with sword in hand and dagger in his belt, resolved to perform carnage more terrible than that of a butcher shop or a slaughterhouse. But suddenly he paused at the threshold of the door, bowed courteously, and said:

“Good evening, ladies.”

He then continued to another room, convinced that there was not even the smallest stain to his honor and that the informer who had given him the bitter message was no more than a vile slanderer.

Later on when he found himself alone with his wife, he asked her:

“Who were the good women who were visiting you?”

His crafty wife, without batting an eye, answered:

“Darling, they were some of my friends who love me very much, and to whom I return my affection.”

And the woman was firmly convinced that she owed her salvation to the pleasure of blessed spirits of purgatory, who helped her by taking the role of go-betweens. She put an end to her romantic whims and became very devoted to her “friends” from the other world. And she spared no expense in attending to them with masses and assistance just so they would be on her side if at any time she should find herself in a similar predicament.

And if this is not a miracle of great import, and if it is not true let someone else relate a miracle. Well, as for me, I wash my hands, as did Pilate, and administer a closing period to this tradition.

 

Return to Table of Contents

 


CHAPTER 13

THE GOBLINS OF CUZCO

How a Poet Viceroy understood justice.

 

This tradition has just one authoritative origin—a story told by the people.[76] Everyone in Cuzco knows it and I will tell it exactly the same way they do. No chronicler mentions the event. As a matter of fact I found the very brief account in just one manuscript, which covers the period from the time of the ninth viceroy, the Marquis of Salinas[77] until that of the twenty-second viceroy, the Duke of Palata.[78] It reads:

“During the reign of Prince Esquilache[79] the Admiral of Castile, known as the excommunicated one, died a miserable death in Cuzco at the hands of the Devil.”

As you can see, these lines shed very little light on the matter and even in the Anales del Cuzco, an edited version which Bishop Ochoa possesses, I am told that nothing is added to our knowledge of the episode; however that work places the mysterious happening in another period.

I prefer to place it in the reign of Viceroy Borja y Aragón not only because of what I have just quoted but because the witty words that end the story fit in very well with the very special circumstances portrayed knowing as we do the character of this Viceroy.

Having dealt with the necessary explanations and at the same time salving my chronicler’s conscience, I put an end to the introduction and get on with the story.

I

HISTORY

Don Francisco de Borja y Aragón, Prince of Esquilache and Count of Mayalde, citizen of Madrid and Knight of the Orders of Santiago and Montesa, was only thirty-two years old when Philip III, who held him in high repute, named him Viceroy of Peru. The Monarch’s courtiers criticized the appointment harshly because until this time Don Francisco’s experience had been limited to writing verses, chasing women and fighting duels. But Philip III, who had heard these criticisms, something which didn’t happen very often, said, “It is true that he is the youngest of the viceroys who have served in the New World; but I see in Esquilache a very intelligent man, and even more, a man who is very strong.”

The Monarch was not mistaken. Peru was threatened by fleets of pirates and as effective a Viceroy as was Don Juan de Mendoza y Luna, Marquis of Montesclaro,[80] he lacked the energy of youth. George Spitberg, commanding a Dutch squadron of buccaneers, had just laid waste the Chilean coast and was headed toward Callao. A Spanish squadron sailed out to meet his ships and joined combat on July 22, 1615. After five hours of hard-fought and ferocious combat near Cerro Azul or Cañete, the flagship caught fire and several ships sank. The victorious pirates put their prisoners to the sword.

The Viceroy, the Marquis of Montesclaro, directed the defense from Callao, more out of a sense of duty than faith that with the limited forces at his command he could stop the invasion and the subsequent sack of Lima. Absolute panic held sway in the capital city and the churches were filled not only with weak women but with men who, far from serving with the brave forces that would defend family and home, spent their time pleading for divine intervention in the struggle against the heretical Dutch pirates. The elderly and irascible Viceroy found himself at the head of barely 1,000 men in Callao in spite of the fact that according to the census of 1614, Lima’s population numbered 25,454.

But Spitberg was satisfied with shooting a few volleys from his cannons, which were answered with some sporadic shots, and then he made off toward Paita. Peralta in his Lima fundada[81] and the Count of Granja in his poem about Santa Rosa provide details about those gloomy days. The belief of the pious inhabitants of Lima was that the withdrawal of the pirates was a miracle performed by the Virgin of Lima,[82] who died two years later, on August 24, 1617.

According to some, the Prince of Esquilache entered Lima on December 18, but others say it was December 23, 1615. On the voyage from Panama to Callao he was providentially saved from falling into the clutches of pirates.

The reception of this Viceroy was lavish and the town council spared no expense to make it a magnificent event.

He first gave his attention to the creation of a squadron of ships and to the fortification of the port, which kept the audacity of the pirates at a distance until the reign of his successor, in which the Dutchman Jacobo L’Heremite began his formidable piratical attacks.

A descendant of Pope Alexander VI[83] and of Saint Francis of Borja, the Duke of Gandia, the Prince of Esquilache governed Peru under the influence of the Jesuits, just as did his successor and relative, the Count of Lemos.

After the anxiety over the threat from the buccaneers had subsided, don Francisco worked hard to put the country’s finances in order and issued wise ordinances regulating mining activities in Potosí and Huancavelica. On December 20, 1619, he established the tribunal of the Office of Commerce.

A man of letters, he created the famous Colegio del Príncipe, a school for the education of sons of the Indian chieftains and did not permit the performance of secular or religious plays until he had approved them. Said he, “It is the duty of he who governs to make certain that taste is not perverted.”

The censorship that the Prince of Esquilache exercised was purely literary; no judge could have performed the task better because his reputation as a writer was well deserved. In the Pleiad of 17th century poets he figures among writers such as Cervantes, Calderón, Lope, Quevedo, Tirso de Molina, Alarcón and Moreto.[84] The Prince is not noted for a great sweep of ideas but rather for the vigor and the correctness of form. His loose compositions and his historical poem “Nápoles recuperada”[85] are sufficient to guarantee him a place in the Spanish Parnassus.

He is no less noteworthy as the creator of a prose that is correct and elegant. In one of the volumes of “Memorias de los virreyes”[86] is found the account of his reign, which he delivered to the Audiencia so that this body could pass it to his successor, Don Diego Fernández de Córdoba, Marquis of Guadalcázar. The correctness of diction and the clarity of thought stand out in this document, worthy in truth of a less synthetic treatment.

In order to provide some idea of the extent to which Esquilache paid homage to the world of letters, it is sufficient for us to point out that he established in Lima an academy or literary club, a term we use nowadays, whose sessions took place every Saturday in one of the palace rooms. According to a writer who is a friend of mine and who emphasized chronicles in his work, those who attended did not exceed twelve, among whom were included figures of the bar, the military and the Church. Wrote he:

“In attendance were the profound thinker, theologian and humanist Don Pedro de Yarpe Montenegro, Colonel in the army; Don Baltasar de Laza y Rebolledo, member of the Audiencia; Don Luis de la Puente, illustrious lawyer; Friar Baldomero Illescas, of the Franciscan Order, well versed in Greek and Latin classics; Don Baltasar Moreyra, poet; and others whose names have not survived after a period of two and a half centuries that separates them from us. The Viceroy hosted them with exquisite courtesy; and the buns and the sugar-glazed rolls, the chocolate and the sherbet drew the attention of the guests away from the literary presentations. What a pity that the proceedings of those sessions were not recorded because without a doubt they would be preferable to those of our Congresses.”

Among the clever examples of repartee attributed to the Prince of Esquilache is this one. To someone who was rather stupid who read a lot but did not arrive at any conclusion, Esquilache said, “Forget about books, my friend, and remember that the longer you cook an egg the harder it gets.”

Esquilache returned to Spain in 1622 and was highly honored by the new king, Philip IV. He died in Madrid in 1658.

The coat of arms of the House of Borja is made up of a red bull on a field of gold, a green border and eight golden bushes of heather.

Now that we have met the Poet Viceroy let’s get on with the tradition.

II

Situated in the city of Cuzco is a magnificent house known as the House of the Admiral. It appears that said Admiral had about as much maritime experience as someone I know who has only seen the ocean in pictures. The fact is that the title was hereditary, and was passed from father to son.

The house was an extremely remarkable work. The water drains and the carved beams on one of which is seen fashioned the bust of the admiral who built the structure, really catch your eye.

That four admirals lived in Cuzco is proved by a genealogical tree presented in 1861 by Don Sixto Laza to the August Congress of Peru in an attempt to persuade that body to declare him the legitimate and only representative of the Inca Huáscar, with rights to a part of the guano holdings, to the Duchy of Medina de Rioseco, to the Marquisate of Oropesa and several other tidbits. It was going to cost us a pretty penny to have a prince in our midst. But let it be noted that when we tire of the republic, in theory or practice, and we proclaim a monarchy, absolute or constitutional, anything can happen, God willing and according to the slow pace we set.

With respect to that genealogical tree, the first admiral was Don Manuel de Castilla, the second, Don Cristóbal Espinosa y Lugo, the third, Don Gabriel de Castilla Vásquez de Vargas, and the fourth and last, Don Juan de Castilla y González, whose offspring are lost in the female branch of the family.

It is said of the Castillas, proving how inordinately proud they were of their lineage that when they recited the Hail Mary that they used this version: Santa Maria, Mother of God, our lady and our relative, pray for us.

The coat of arms of the Castillas consisted of a split shield. The first quarter was in red with a golden castle against a bright blue background; in the second quarter, in silver, were a raging red lion, a green band, and also in green, two dragon heads, with jaws wide open.

We would be speculating if we had to say which admiral of the four is the hero of this tradition. The reader, faced with this uncertainty, can choose any one of the four because it is clear not one of them will make a trip from the other world to sue for calumny.

The admiral of our story was exceedingly proud, very satisfied with his official parchments and stiffer than his starched ruff. In the patio a magnificent stone fountain caught everyone’s attention. It was customary for the neighbors of the Admiral to draw their water there because they believed the proverb that runs: “No one is denied water or candles.”

But one morning he got up on the wrong side of the bed and in a fit of bad humor gave orders to his servants to beat black and blue any of the rabble that might have the audacity to trespass on his property in an attempt to get some of the refreshing liquid from his fountain.

One of the first to suffer a beating was a poor old lady. This incident caused a great hue and cry in the city.

The next day the son of this lady, a young priest who served in the parish of Saint Jerónimo, a few leagues from Cuzco, arrived in the city and was immediately informed of the shameful manner in which his mother had been treated. He hurried to the Admiral’s house, where the proud nobleman called him every name under the sun, verbally ripping him up one side and down the other, and then proceeded to give the unfortunate priest a sound beating.

The uproar that this attack caused could hardly be exaggerated. The authorities didn’t dare to bring the Admiral to justice, feeling that with the passing of time the furor would die down. But the Church, supported by the people, excommunicated the arrogant Admiral.

The affronted priest went to the Cathedral shortly after he had suffered the beating and knelt before the figure of Christ which had been bequeathed to the city by Charles V. Having finished his prayer, he left at the foot of the Supreme Judge a document in which he explained the insult he had suffered and demanded justice, knowing full well that he could not get it from mortal men. It is said that the next day he returned to the Cathedral and found a notation in the margin of the note reading: “According to what has been requested, justice will be done.” Three months later there appeared in front of the Admiral’s house a gallows and from it hung the dead body of the excommunicated noble. Although suspicion immediately fell upon the priest, the perpetrators of the crime were never discovered because the ecclesiastic could provide numerous witnesses who could provide an alibi.

In the investigation which followed, two women of the neighborhood testified that they had seen a group of men with huge heads and very small bodies, that is, goblins, preparing the gallows, and when it was completed they knocked three times at the Admiral’s door, which opened after the third knock. A little later the Admiral, dressed in his finest clothes, came out, surrounded by the goblins, who without further ado hanged him up just like a bunch of grapes.

With such testimony the authorities remained in the dark, and not being able to bring the goblins to justice declared the case dismissed.

If the people believe as if it were an article of faith that goblins put the excommunicated Admiral to death, who is the chronicler who would place himself in the dangerous position of trying to convince the reader of anything else? Of course the skeptical souls of that time murmured under their breath that what took place was the work of Jesuits who wanted to build up the importance of men of the cloth and who wanted to encourage respect for the priestly vocation.

III

The members of the town council of Cuzco gave a full report of the matter to the Viceroy, who, after reading the account said to his secretary, “That would be a great subject for a Moorish romance. What do you think about all of this, my good Estúñiga?”

“I believe that Your Excellency ought to come down hard on those idiotic magistrates who haven’t been able to pick up any clues leading to the guilty parties.”

“If you do that you lose the poetic part of the affair,” replied the smiling Esquilache.

“That’s true, my lord; but justice will have been done.”

The Viceroy thought the matter over for a few seconds, and then, rising from his chair, placed his hand on the shoulder of his secretary and said, “My friend, what’s done is done, and the world would be better off if in certain cases it weren’t shyster lawyers and the other crows of Themis but goblins who were administering justice. And with that, good night, and may God and the Virgin Mary keep us from harm and deliver us from goblins and feelings of remorse.”

 

Return to Table of Contents

 


CHAPTER 14

TWO FRIENDLY LITTLE DOVES

I

Doña Catalina de Chaves was the most desirable widow in Chuquisaca. She had a complexion the color of taffy, a mouth like a wild cherry and two eyes that were more like constables who kept prisoners than they were like eyes. To sum up, she was twenty-one years old and had a sizeable fortune in houses and agricultural lands.

Take into consideration that with such addends there would be not a few mathematicians stubbornly involved in a Christian way to carry out the operation and assist our widow in changing her widow’s attire for that of a bride.

But because there is no sky without clouds, there is no beauty that doesn’t have some small defect, and Doña Catalina’s was to have a dislocated leg, which made her walk like a schooner bounced around on unruly waves.

Since they say that love is blind the aspirants who weren’t completely discouraged affirmed that it was a delightful limp and that it was really one enchantment more in a person who had them by the bushelsful. To which, like the spiteful fox which couldn’t reach the bunch of grapes, answered the spurned suitors:

 

                   If even a woman who doesn’t limp

                   Takes a false step now and then

                   And stumbles from time to time,

                   Figure it out for yourself.

 

In spite of everything, Doña Catalina was one of the fashion queens, and I don’t say the only queen because Doña Francisca Marmolejo, wife of Don Pedro de Andrade, Knight of the Order of Santiago and of the house and family of Lemos, also lived in that city.

Doña Francisca, although younger than Doña Catalina and of the opposite type, for she was dark-skinned like Christ, our Salvation, was equally pretty and dressed with identical elegance, because both of them had dresses and adornments brought not from Paris, but from Lima, which was at that time the center of good taste.

Daughter of a mine owner of Potosí, she took with her to her wedding a dowry of a half million assayed pesos, although there were those who called the father-in-law stingy when comparing him with others who, according to the chronicler Martínez Vela,[87] gave two or three paltry millions to each girl when they married a nobleman without a cent to his name, but well provided with parchments proving nobility. It was said that the great aspiration of the mine owner of that time was to buy for his daughters titled husbands from deep in Asturias and Galicia, for the best nobility came from there.

The Devil, who sticks his tail into everything, caused Doña Francisca to get word that her blessed husband was one of the swarm of suitors who sought the favors of the widow, and the termite of jealousy began to bore into her heart like a moth through parchment. To be perfectly truthful Doña Catalina found in Francisca’s husband the odor of burnt paper and not that of aromatic wood, which is the perfume of bachelors, and she paid no attention at all to his flattery.

At first the rivalry between the two ladies didn’t go beyond competing in who could wear more luxurious clothes than the other; but the constant stream of gossip in the city caused an outbreak of hostile actions. In Doña Francisca’s drawing room the reputation of “La Catuja”[88] was dragged through the mud and in Doña Catalina’s parlor the reputation of “Pancha”[89] received the same treatment.

And that was the way things stood on Holy Thursday in the year 1616.

The monument of the Church of Saint Francis was decorated with exquisite care and all of the cream of society of Chuquisaca were present. Of course in the scenes of the Last Supper and the arrest of the Savior there figured prominently Judas Iscariot with his red hair, a chili pepper in his mouth and accompanied by ugly looking persons with very black faces.

At 3 P.M. our two heroines found themselves leaning on the railing that served as a barrier blocking off the altar. They began to examine each other from head to toe and to exchange glances that were as sharp as polished daggers. Then, engaging in guerilla warfare, they exchanged coughs and contemptuous smiles, and as the skirmish began to grow in intensity they began to whisper with their duennas.

Doña Francisca resolved to declare full warfare, and, feigning conversation with her duenna said, “The catiris[90] can’t deny that they are descendants of Judas, and therefore they are treacherous.”

Doña Catalina didn’t want to leave this salvo without a reply, so she answered, “Nor the cholas[91] that they are descendants of the Jewish executioners, and that’s why their faces are as dusky as their souls.”

“Tell that crippled monstrosity to shut up! No lady would stoop to talk to her!” replied Doña Francisca.

Good gracious! Did she say “crippled”? May God protect me! The nervous widow let her mantilla fall and with her fingernails at the ready she attacked her rival. The latter held off the furious attack with serenity and, grasping Catalina with her arms, she threw her to the ground. Quick as lightning she took off one of her small slippers, raised the fallen heroine’s petticoat, exposing to everyone present her western promontories, and smacked them with three lusty blows, saying to her, “Take that, you swine. Maybe that will teach you to respect someone who is more of a ‘person’ than you are!”

All of this happened, as they say, in the blink of an eye, with great scandal and shouting of the multitude in the church. The women milled around and there was more cackling than in a chicken coop. The female friends of the contenders were able, with great effort, to separate them and carry Doña Catalina away.

There were no tears, no sobbing, but the insults continued, which proves to me that the women of Chuquisaca have a lot of guts.

In the meantime, the men in the vicinity rushed to the scene to see what was going on and in the atrium of the church they divided themselves into two groups. The supporters of Doña Catalina were in the majority.

Doña Francisca, fearing some outrage on their part, didn’t dare to leave the church until eight o’clock that night when her husband and the corregidor,[92] Don Rafael Ortiz de Sotomayor, Knight of the Order of Malta, and a pack of petty officers arrived on the scene to escort her home.

They were approaching the Plaza Mayor when the sound of swords striking each other and the clamor of a fuss between the friends of Doña Catalina and Doña Francisca forced the magistrate to leave with his constables to pacify the trouble-makers, thus leaving Doña Francisca and her husband to protect themselves.

Curious onlookers ran toward the square while at the same time Doña Francisca could scarcely walk, leaning on the arm of her husband.

In all of this uproar an Indian passed by, running at full speed, and upon reaching Francisca made a cut on her face in the form of a Z with a knife, slicing cheek, nose and chin.

In the darkness, the running hither and yon and the confusion, the infamous face-cutter disappeared into thin air.

II

As was natural, the law set out to identify the perpetrator of the attack, but it was like looking for a needle in a haystack. And thus it was that the police magistrate presented himself Easter Monday in Doña Catalina’s home, for she was thought to be the instigator of the crime.

After much beating around the bush and apologizing for having to perform such an unpleasant task he asked her if she knew who were the ones responsible for the attack on Doña Francisca Marmolejo.

“Why, of course I know, sir, and you also know,” answered the widow without showing any signs of emotion.

“What do you mean, I know? Are you accusing me of being an accomplice?” shot back the exasperated magistrate, Don Valentín Trucios.

“I didn’t say that,” replied the bemused Doña Catalina.

“Well, then, let’s put an end to this matter. Who wounded that lady?”

“A knife wielded by an arm.”

“Well, I knew that,” murmured the magistrate.

“That is also what I know.”

The law could not progress further. Doña Catalina was suspected of the crime, but it was not possible to bring formal charges without clear proof.

Nevertheless the two rivals continued their lawsuit as long as they lived, and I dare to say that there were even some gleanings left over for their children and grandchildren.

This is what Don Joaquín María Ferrer, Captain of the Concord Regiment and later on Minister of Foreign Affairs under the regency of Espartero,[93] tells us. Ferrer is the one who, in a curious book that he published in 1828, guarantees the truth of this tradition, but I suspect that there was more interest in privileges than finding out the facts.

In the meantime, Doña Catalina said to her friends in the neighborhood, male and female, that her skirts covered up the red marks caused by the blows with the slipper, if camphorated water had not made them go away; but that Doña Francisca would never be able to hide the scar that disfigured her face.

With everything I have related to you it is obvious that these two ladies of Chuquisaca were indeed—a pair of friendly little doves.

 

Return to Table of Contents

 


CHAPTER 15

THE TILES OF THE CHURCH OF SAN FRANCISCO

(A tradition in which there is proof that not

even a person standing in the shadow of the

gallows should ever lose hope.)

 

I

To all here present let it be known that the most just Real Audiencia[94] of this City of the Kings of Peru[95] has condemned to death on the gallows Alonso de Godínez, native of Guadalajara, Spain, for having murdered María Villoslada without fear of divine or human justice. Let he who committed such a crime pay the price! Let this be a lesson to all present so that no one will find himself in similar straits. Let justice be done!

 

Such was the proclamation that the populace in the Plaza Mayor of Lima heard on the 13th of November, 1619. The gallows were erected close to the intersection of the narrow Petaleros Street.

Let’s listen to a conversation going on between some idlers and some busybodies who were gathered together in a small shop in which fabric adornments were made.

“On my soul, what a dashing young man is being lost,” said a handsome young fellow from Andalusia. “All because of a woman who wore short skirts, who was a schemer, and to top it all off, was a scatterbrain. Would you believe that this viceroy snuffs out the life of a human being the way someone would compose ballads and doggerel?”

“Stop your grumbling, Menchaca. You know very well that justice is justice and knows what it is doing. And without letting our tongues wag too much, keep in mind the miserable fate of Don Martín de Robles, who was no pickpocket but a real hidalgo who ended up in an ugly fashion because he made fun of the Viceroy, the Marquis of Cañete,” replied the owner of the shop, who was a very reserved Catalonian.

“Well, as for me, Montúfar, I’m not going to swallow my words. I will say what I want to and then deal with the consequences. I will say it again and then repeat it that it is not right to sentence a man to death because of the sin of love.”

“What a wild fellow the condemned person must be... He must be worse than a tomcat on the prowl.”

“Stop right there, Montúfar. Alonso Godínez is a man of honor and a courageous individual in every sense of the word!”

“And with all his honor and his courage, look at it any way you want to,” insisted the Catalonian, “a shameless hussy has brought him to the gallows.”

“Cursed be all women and the bombs they explode! The very best of them is not worth a nickel. Sad indeed is the poor fellow who lets himself become entangled with them. That’s what I believe and the king himself can certify it!”

“Hold on there, Gil Menchaca, don’t you dare put women down! It’s bad with women, but it’s worse without them. That’s neither here nor there. You, sir, with all your mouthing off are the first one to lick your chops when you see a pretty face like mine,” said a charming young lady who had butted into the conversation. Only one eye was visible because the rest of her face was covered up, a face that had been studied and restudied more than a picture in a prayer book.

The Andalusian winked at her, saying, “Long live the saucy young Lima women! How fortunate can you hens be, for here is the rooster!

 

                   You charming young lady,

                   The butterflies are seeking

                   Syrup from your red lips.

 

He began to pursue the young lady at the moment that the crowd began to surge forward and trumpets sounded signaling the arrival of the funeral escort.

A brother of the Charity Guild stopped in front of the group, pronouncing these fateful words in a peculiar nasal singsong voice. “Alms for the soul of this poor fellow who is about to be executed.”

“Here, take this, brother,” shouted Gil Menchaca, tossing two silver coins onto the plate, a generous act that the other members of the crowd imitated. “How I wish I could save the life of my countryman! He doesn’t deserve to die in the public square like a mongrel dog; rather he ought to die a Christian death in a monastery of friars.”

“And in a monastery he will die,” murmured a voice.

All who were present turned around surprised and saw that the person who had spoken was the Father Superior of the Church of San Francisco. He made his way through the crowd to the gallows at whose foot the condemned man was waiting.

The latter was a man of some thirty years, at the peak of his physical vigor. His mien revealed courage as well as resignation.

The crime which had brought him to the gallows was the murder of a wench with loose morals who had been punished for one of those little tricks that the weaker sex has committed since the world began; of course this weaker sex has been dragged along to do such things because of her weaknesses.

The Father Superior arrived at the site where the gallows had been erected and when the executioner was making out the official papers necessary in such cases the cleric pulled out a sheet of paper from his sleeve and handed it to the captain of the escort. Then, taking the arm of the condemned man he passed through the crowd, which followed them to the San Francisco Monastery, clapping as they went.

Alonso Godínez had been pardoned by His Excellency Don Francisco de Borja y Aragón, Prince of Esquilache.

II

HISTORY

Let’s throw in a paragraph about history at this point.

The San Francisco Church and Monastery in Lima are structures that are truly monumental. “In the same year that Lima was founded,” says one chronicler, “the Franciscans arrived and Pizarro granted them a small piece of land on which they began to build. Later on they requested that their property be enlarged and the Viceroy, the Marquis de Cañete, agreed to give them all the land that they could fence in one night. Armed with this agreement they set up stakes and strung ropes so that as dawn broke it was apparent that the Franciscans were owners of a piece of property measuring a frontage of 400 varas[96] which obstructed a public road. The town council complained about this abuse but the Viceroy had the land appraised and then paid what it was worth from his own pocket.”

While the construction of the church was being completed, the one that was solemnly dedicated in 1673, the Franciscans put up a temporary chapel on the site that is now occupied by that of Our Lady of the Miracles. Those friars never used tablecloths, or mattresses, and their chasubles for celebrating Mass were of heavy wool cloth or taffeta.

It is not in harmony with the light nature of these Traditions to enter into details concerning the beautiful works of art of this institution. The façade, the towers, the principal archway, the subterranean vault, the reliefs of the half cupolas and the lateral naves, the chapels, the pool in which San Francisco Solano bathed, the garden, the sixteen fountains, the infirmary—everything in the final analysis invites the attention of the traveler. The chronicler cited above wrote the following about the cloister: “Nothing we could write about the imponderable merit of the ceilings would do justice to praise the hand that carved them; each angle is worked differently and the combination of the molding and of its joints so magnificently worked, do not merely demonstrate the ability of the artisans but also give an idea of the opulence of the period.”

But, legitimate sons of Spain, we do not know how to preserve, just to destroy. Today the famous ceilings of the cloister are food for moths. Our negligence is fatal. The canvases, works of notable painters of the Old World, in which the monasteries possessed a treasure, have vanished. It appears that there remains in Lima just one of these paintings—“The Communion of Saint Jerónimo,” an original done by Dominiquino, which is one of those that form the collection owned by Ortiz de Zeballos.

In the meantime, my readers, how much do you think the wood for the splendid ceiling cost the friars? One little cup of chocolate . . . And don’t you dare laugh because the story I am going to tell you is true.

It is said that there lived in Lima a wealthy Spanish merchant by the name of Juan Jiménez Menacho, with whom the padres negotiated a contract to supply the wood for the project. Days, then months and finally years went by and in spite of bills which were sent regularly no payment was received except for words, which in spite of their good breeding, to my knowledge have never been accepted in the market place as legal tender.

The year 1638 arrived. Jiménez Menacho, now convalescing from a serious illness, was invited by the Father Superior to attend the Celebration of the Patriarch. After it was over, the group, including His Excellency Don Pedro de Toledo y Leyva, Marquis of Mancera and fifteenth viceroy of these kingdoms in behalf of Philip the Fourth, retired to the refectory to have some refreshments.

Jiménez Menacho, whose stomach was very delicate, couldn’t take any more than a cup of chocolate. The time came to leave the table and the merchant, whom the friars had loaded down with attention and favors, leaned over to the Father Superior and said, “I have never drunk a tastier cup of chocolate in my life and your Reverence knows that I am a pretty good judge of fine chocolate.”

“May it make you healthier in body and spirit, brother.

“That it will benefit my spirit I have no doubt because it is a blessed chocolate and smacks of indulgence. As for the body, believe me, Father, I feel invigorated, and it is only fair that I pay for this satisfaction with alms that will benefit this Seraphic Order.”

With that he placed a sheaf of legal papers near the cup. All had been signed by him, attesting to the fact that the debt had been cancelled.

A few years later the benevolent and generous creditor died, but before he departed this life he also bequeathed to the Monastery the tile now found in the main entry. On it this inscription can still be read: “Jiménez Menacho gave these tiles as alms. Your Reverences, commend his soul to God. The year 1643.”

In conclusion, the monumental construction of the Church of San Francisco was made possible entirely with offerings from the faithful.

And keep in mind that two million two hundred and fifty thousand pesos were spent on it. That’s really spending!

“In this Monastery,” says the chronicler, “can be found the remains of San Francisco de Solano, although the precise site is unknown. Only the coffin and the skull, which they show to the public in July during the Novena of San Francisco de Solano, have been preserved. The friars also show a large wooden cross of which there is no devoted soul who does not carry a sliver. The mother-in-law of a friend of mine carries two as relics, but not even with these has the character of this damned old woman been sweetened.”

III

Let’s return to Alonso Godínez. Doña Catalina de Huanca, a person of considerable political and administrative importance, had bequeathed thousands of Spanish tiles to the Monastery. When arranged properly they would form the images of saints. But Doña Catalina had forgotten the most crucial part of the project; she had forgotten to have a skilled artisan accompany the tiles to lay them in their proper order.

For years the tiles lay stored in the monastery without there being found in Lima an artisan capable of laying them correctly.

The morning that Alonso Godínez was to be hung the Father Superior of the Monastery of San Francisco went to confess him and from the conversation that took place it became clear that the criminal was versed in the making of pottery.

The Father Superior didn’t waste this important discovery. He rushed to the Viceroy’s palace and obtained from him and the Audiencia a pardon for Godínez under the conditions that he would become a lay brother and that he would never set foot outside the Monastery.

Alonso Godínez not only laid the tiles in one year but he also made some pots, according to this doggerel that can be read in the corner of the first cloister:

 

                   New artisan, work hard

                   For everyone likes to watch you

                   Make pots of clay around here.

 

When Alonso Godínez finally died he did so in the odor of sanctity. He is one of the forty whom the Franciscan chronicles esteem as one of the most venerable in the Order which has flourished in Lima.

 

Return to Table of Contents

 


CHAPTER 16

HAPPY BARBER!

I

Let’s begin—at the beginning.

In September of 1542, and immediately after Peru had been pacified following the bloody battle of Chupas,[97] the Governor, Vaca de Castro, wished to reward the service of the victors and since there were many of these and the favors few, the good licentiate began to mull the matter over in his mind until suddenly, hitting his forehead with the palm of his hand he exclaimed, “Happy news, father, for the bishop is also the director of the choir. My solution is as good as the miracle of the five loaves of bread. Get your fill, you greedy so and so’s.”

It is certain that the result of his deep thinking would satisfy all aspirations. It consisted of making all of his 800 soldiers into something like feudal lords.

Lima had been founded seven years previously and everyone was clamoring for building lots, Indian workers and the right to continue the Conquest in the lands of the savages.

The government, therefore, flattered some by sending them to discover El Dorado or the country of Cinnamon,[98] and others to carry out expeditions as fabulous as that one.

Pedro Puelles, Gonzalo Díaz de Pineda, his son-in-law and ten or twelve more captains, all of them hidalgos, lacked the ambition to participate in any adventures, rather they wanted land and governing power in the central section of Peru and a short distance from the capital. That’s what the monkey wanted—shelled pine nuts.

The Governor, giving in to their entreaties, gave them authority to found and populate a city that was named and still is named the city of the Knights of León de Huánuco. That’s a pretty impressive sounding name, right?

The site of the city is a beautiful one. The climate is excellent and the soil is very fertile. Viceroy Marquis de Cañete gave it, many years later, a coat of arms, and ennobled it with the title “very noble and very loyal”; others who succeeded him honored the Cabildo with several privileges. In order to give an idea of the importance the city came to have it is sufficient to note that the Franciscans, Dominicans, Mercenarians, Augustines and Juandedianos established monasteries in it.

I am not acquainted with Huánuco, for which I am very sorry, but they say that nowadays the following lines apply:

 

                   Yesterday I was a marvel.

                   Today I’m not a shadow of

                   What I was.

 

As for the founder Pedro Puelles, I have related in another tradition how he met a disastrous death[99] and historians portray him as a scoundrel, a traitor, and an avaricious and ferocious individual with cowardly tendencies

Be that as it may, it is important for me to record that if it is true that the principal founders arrived in Peru without a red cent, by coincidence it turned out that they were all segundones[100] of noble families of Castile, Andalusia, Valencia and other kingdoms of Spain. As the years went by their descendants showed more pride than Don Rodrigo when he was about to be hung, and looked superciliously at the rest of the colonial nobility. The inhabitants of Huánuco began to imagine that God had fashioned them out of different material and they very nearly said what the haughty Portuguese had said: “We didn’t descend from Noah, for when that drunkard saved himself from the flood in his ark, we, the Braganzas, saved ourselves also, but in another boat.”

There was no other community in Peru that boasted more of its blue-blooded aristocracy during the period of rule by the monarchs than did Huánuco. Everyone, including the common rabble, paid homage to the conquistadors who established their homes in Huánuco. To say huanuqueño was the same as to say noble by birth. In a word, without having a sacred peak of Covadonga,[101] they were the Biscayans and the Asturians of America.

What I am writing here, thank the Lord, cannot wound the sensibilities of the huanuqueños of our day because they are republicans in every sense of the word, and they know where the shoe pinches, paying no attention at all to parchments, titles of Castile, lances, shields and other silly heraldic nonsense.

But, why go off on a tangent like this? asks the reader. What do breeches have to do with the sales tax on beans? When will the history of the refrain come forth? Without a doubt, sir chronicler, the chocolate is tasteless and you are beating it in order to make it foamy.

No, dear reader. These lines have not been written willy nilly; without them the popular tradition you are going to read would be a little obscure. And now, let’s get to the story without beating around the bush, before someone accuses me of being like the bagpiper of Bryalance, to whom they gave a maravedi to pipe and ten to stop.

II

It is said that about the year 1620 there lived in the very noble and loyal city of the Knights of León de Huánuco a gentleman by the name of Don Fermín García Garrochano, more noble of course than the Cid Campeador and the seven princes of Lara.[102] On the García side Don Fermín displayed on his coat of arms a black heron in flight on a silver field; red border with gold crosses and these words: “Nobody is more important than the Garcías.”

Our nobleman lived on the third floor of a house next to the building where the prefecture is now located. The structure was not yet finished and off the drawing room was a small balcony without a railing or blinds. This balcony is a historical monument in Huánuco as is the famous window in Paris at which appeared the foolish predecessor of Henry IV when he gave the signal to begin the massacre of the Huguenots the infamous night of St. Bartholomew.

Don Fermín was what might be called a fop who was very stuck on himself and whose blood was the bluest of blue. Rich and noble, he thought of only one thing, chasing women, and it appears that in these efforts he was as successful as Caesar and Alexander were in other types of conquests.

One day he was making preparations for a romantic liaison during the hours when our forefathers used to take a siesta.

Beginning at eight in the morning his servant had been trying to catch up with the barber Higinio, for he who wishes to harvest the first grapes of the vine or myrtle and laurel in the garden of Venus has to show up with his hair skillfully cut, and dressed to beat the band. Form is extremely important in questions of State and those of Cupid.

But that day the accursed barber was busier than a scribe in the Treasury Department in a time of crisis and bankruptcies.

He had to apply leeches to a friar, mustard plasters to a young maiden, extract the root of a tooth from the corregidor’s[103] wife, shave a member of the town council, tonsure an altar boy and cut off the braids of a young girl who was bad natured. When I say that he was up to his ears in work...............

“Tell your master that as soon as I apply some cupping glasses to the priest’s niece I will be at his service,” answered the barber to one of the entreaties of the servant.

“There isn’t a mute barber nor a wise singer,” so goes the saying.

Later the barber said, “As soon as I shave the scribe and the inspector I will be with His Grace.”

“And this hair,” murmured don Fermín, “is longer than the debt of a poor man held by a usurer.

In such comings and goings, like in the children’s game called corregüela,[104] search for him inside and outside, the three o’clock hour came and went and Don Fermín missed the date he had looked forward to with such great anticipation.

Higinio was a rather simple Indian with a smattering of learning and even if he had been a Goliath grafted into Seneca, the situation would have turned out the same. He was paid more handsomely to apply a plaster or give someone an enema than to lather up a beard. Besides, he had no reason to suspect that the hidalgo was really in such a hurry; otherwise he might have proceeded with more dispatch.

When, upon hearing the clock strike three, he saw that there were no more enemas to give or customers to serve he set out nonchalantly toward Garrochano’s home.

The latter was awaiting him completely beside himself. Taking nervous strides in the living room from time to time he would stop, thinking he had heard the derelict barber coming up the stairs.

“That rascal will come, sure, but not until the day that hens urinate! By all that’s holy, that scallywag will certainly have good reason to rue this day!”

At long last Higinio showed up carrying a sack in which he kept the instruments of his trade. No sooner had he gotten within striking distance of Don Fermín than the hidalgo, without so much as a by your leave, began to hit him and kick him. The barber, now falling, now getting up, went around and around the living room, the hidalgo in hot pursuit, dancing a macabre dance, until the unfortunate soul found himself in front of a partially opened door which opened onto a small dilapidated balcony.

In his confused state, the poor fellow imagined that the door led to another room, so he bolted through it just as Fermín administered a tremendous kick to his backside.

Higinio fell like a cannon ball to the street, where the impact dashed his brains out, leaving him stretched out like a shirt left to dry in the sun.

An aristocratic Spanish lady, elderly and without teeth, a whole portable arsenal of sins, far from fainting upon seeing such a harrowing sight, as any woman of the times would have done, exclaimed, “What a fine death! Such a lucky barber to die at the hands of a gentleman!”

“Upon my faith! That is really heart-felt consolation,” say I.

And the dead person went to the grave and the authorities sat and twiddled their thumbs while the hidalgos of León de Huánuco said as they strutted about, “That’s one way of teaching these good-for-nothings to show proper respect for their masters.”

Since then we have had in Peru a saying that was first uttered by the toothless old lady: “What a fine death! Such a lucky barber to die at the hands of a gentleman!”

 

 

Return to Table of Contents

 


CHAPTER 17

THE RIGHTEOUS AND THE SINNERS

How a wolf dressed in a sheepskin.

 

For Don José María Torres Caicedo

 

I

QUARRELS

One evening, at the end of a day in June of 1605, back in the good old days in which these kingdoms of Peru were governed by his most Excellent Lord Don Gaspar de Zúñiga y Acevedo, Count of Monterrey, a group of busy-bodies crowded around the door of a shop on Guitarreros Street, known today as Jesús Nazareno Street, on which Pizarro’s house was located. Upon the façade, in the shadow of a balcony, was a wooden board with distorted letters reading:

 

IBIRIJUITANGA

Barbershop and Tavern

 

Something noteworthy must have been happening in that establishment, for even the least observant eye could find in the crowd men of the law and constables armed with clubs, capes and rapiers.

“For the king! Give yourselves up to His Majesty’s justice!” So shouted a magistrate of a weak and worthless physiognomy and a rascal if there ever was one.

In the meanwhile opinions and oaths were being exchanged, rickety chairs and bottles rolled on the floor, slaps were delivered as in the chanting of the Rosary. The constables didn’t get involved in the melee because, like discreet men, they avoided them entirely. They certainly wouldn’t have put an end to the disorder without the actions of a young, courageous official who quickly passed through the mob, unsheathed his sword, a fine blade from Toledo, and started attacking the trouble-makers with the flat of his weapon, swinging at everybody right and left without pardoning anyone. The constables recovered their courage, locked elbows and without further ado led the rascals they arrested to the Pescadería jail, where in our democratic days you can still spend time in the love and company of thieves. May God keep us in His holy hand and save us from spending time in that hole.

The altercation began in the following manner. Four of the squint-eyed rascals, after gulping down jugs of red wine to the point of leaving the devil dry, refused to pay the bill, alleging that it was vitriol they had drunk, and that the tight-fisted bartender had tried to poison them.

The bartender was a man short in stature, a little overweight, of swarthy complexion, originally from Brazil, and known only by the nickname Ibirijuitanga. In his swollen face were two eyes smaller than the generosity of a miser, and his gossiping neighbors whispered that he was involved in witchcraft, which had put him in contact with the Holy Inquisition more than once, and reflected badly on his tavern and the clients of his razor blade, who preferred him over any other. This fellow, although not blessed with Solomon’s cunning, neither was he thick-skulled, and could recount stories about the thrice-crowned City of Kings to the letter, with no small pleasure to his curious listeners. Furthermore, as he prepared to shave his clients, standing by with fine Flemish towels, was his niece Transverberación, a beautiful maiden eighteen Januaries old, of attractive countenance and good-looking hips. She was, according to the expression of her compatriot and uncle, a pretty lady-in-waiting, and if the author of Os Lusiadas, the unfortunate lover of Catalina de Ataide, before going blind would have placed his chin under the light hand and skillful blade of Ibirijuitanga, without a doubt the smallest compliment he would have paid Transverberación would have been to call her:

 

                   Rose of love, violet and beautiful.

 

And Luis de Camoens wouldn’t have been a flatterer, but a true judge of beauty.

Notwithstanding the fact that her uncle’s scatterbrained clients would offer her flowers and compliments, and would swear and forswear that they were dying over her, the girl, who had been taught well, did not offer them any encouragement to continue the courting. Indeed, there was no lack of over-eager men, an abundant fruit in the Lord’s vineyard, who would like to measure the girl’s slender waist; but she, biting her lip furiously, would raise her lovely, round little hand and make the sign of the cross, telling the man, “Please stop, sir. My uncle isn’t saving me to be the dish of noble busybodies.”

Because of this, all the clientele came to the conclusion that the girl was as pretty as a locket and as fresh as sherbet, yet more obstinate and unyielding than a wild beast. Finally they gave up trying to woo her and settled for the everlasting and entertaining chit-chat of the barber.

But this business of falling in love right when you least expect it is the very devil! A woman can be extremely fussy and believe that she is far from giving a place in her heart to a guest, but the day comes when she trips in the street, raises her eyes, and finds a man complete with silky moustache, black eyes, dashing countenance,.....and she throws in the towel as far as keeping her soul independent is concerned! The electricity of affection has shocked her heart. What door isn’t knocked on without the answer “Who is it?”

 

                   Love is a little bug which, when it bites,

                   Not even in the drugstore is the cure to be found.

 

Alfonso the Wise[105] had more than enough reason to say that if this world wasn’t poorly made, it at least seemed that way. If he would have lived in our day with those ideas, as sure as there is God, we would have been left without love and other nuisances. Then men and women would have lived safe from burning passion. This whole matter of affection is hard to swallow. Whoever said the following was certainly right:

 

                   Love and oranges

                   Are very much alike:

                   No matter how sweet they might be,

          They are always somewhat bitter.

 

Transverberación finally yielded, and started looking with tender eyes upon Captain Don Martín de Salazar, none other than the young man who provided such timely aid to the tavern keeper as our story began. Once the fight had come to an end a few words were exchanged between the two, which could well have been evidence of gratitude or the setting of a date, and while curious onlookers thought nothing of it, the same wasn’t true of a man whose face was covered and was standing in the door of the tavern, who muttered, “May the devil take me to hell if this rascal of a Captain isn’t flirting with that girl! And if she doesn’t show any resistance I will be forced to take action for my sister’s honor!”

II

DOÑA ENGRACIA DE TOLEDO

In a room with Gothic furnishings we see a woman resting on a soft couch. Next to her on a low-cushioned seat is a young man reading out loud to her from a parchment-covered book about that day’s saint. Blessed were the days in which, more than just a question of sentiment, the routine of religion played a big part in the lives of the Spanish people!

But the girl isn’t paying attention to the Christian Year, for all her consciousness is fixed on the minute hand of a pendulum clock on the other side of the room. No human being is more impatient than the woman who is awaiting the arrival of her lover.

Doña Engracia de Toledo, since I think it is about time we bring her name to light, is an Andalusian bordering on twenty-four years, and her beauty is emphasized by that air of distinction accompanying education and riches. She had come to America with her brother, Don Juan de Toledo, a wealthy landowner from Seville, who carried out the office in Lima of supplier of the royal armada. Doña Engracia spent her time in luxury and idleness, and there was no lack of women who, feeling themselves humbled, embarked on finding out their proud rival’s ancestry. They discovered she had blood from Alpujarras, that her ancestors were converted Moors and that some had been found guilty by the Inquisition. For this work of hanging out dirty linen women have always been and always will be the same, and whatever they don’t get is unreachable to even Satan, with all his powers as a fallen angel. It became known that Doña Engracia was engaged to be married to Captain Don Martín de Salazar; but as the union was not carried out immediately, unfavorable rumors started circulating about the honor and the virtue of the proud woman.

We, who are well informed and know to what we should pay attention, can say with confidence that the murmuring was not entirely unfounded. Don Martín, who was a wild youth, a daredevil, and who tread a path more crooked than a goat horn, had felt captivated for some time by Doña Engracia’s beauty. He started visiting her often, and ended up swearing to her a thousand oaths of love. The young lady, who was a very sensitive person and in truth was not made of stone ended up succumbing to the flattery of the libertine, and opened her bedroom to him one night.

The Captain was set on making her his wife and asked Don Juan for her hand. He granted it to him willingly and set a waiting time of six months, during which time he thought he could arrange his financial affairs and complete his sister’s dowry. The devil, however, who is always slipping his tail into matters, arranged things so that during this short time Salazar would meet Ibirijuitanga’s niece, and that the mischievous temptation to possess her would enter his heart. That day he began to act coolly and reservedly toward Doña Engracia, who demanded of him that he keep his word. The Captain then requested a moratorium, claiming that he had written to Spain for the consent of his family and was expecting an answer on the first galleon returning to Callao. This wasn’t enough to hinder the awakening of jealousy in the Andalusian woman; she made known to her brother the fear of being deceived. Don Juan set out to trail the fiancé, and in the preceding chapter we saw the casual occasion that helped him pick up the scent.

Eight distinct strokes of a bell were sounded by the clock, and the woman, as if giving in to galvanic impulse, sat up straight on the couch.

“Finally! I thought time had ceased. Stop reading, brother... Don Martín is coming, and you know how much I’ve looked forward to this visit.”

“But what if it’s all just another disillusionment?”

“Well, in that case, dear brother, we will simply have to carry out my decision.” The young lady’s expression was dark as she pronounced these words.

Don Juan opened a glass door and slipped out of the room.

III

A STEP TOWARDS THE CRIME

“May I come in, Engracia?”

“I am delighted that you keep your promises, Don Martín.”

“I am a nobleman, my dear, and a slave to my word.”

“That is what we shall need to see, my Captain. Let us talk plainly now for a moment.”

And with a smile full of grace and a look of dignity, the young lady motioned for him to take a seat at her side.

It is only fair that we now acquaint you with Don Martín, since in Master Ibirijuitanga’s shop we forgot to carry out this act of strict courtesy on the reader’s behalf. We had the Captain show up like rain from the sky. This matter of showing up in the thick of things with complete strangers not properly introduced to us usually has its drawbacks.

Don Martín borders on thirty years, and is what is known as a gallant and handsome young man. He dons a cavalry captain’s uniform, and the self-confidence in his actions indicates a certain mixture of nobleman and rascal. Upon sitting next to her, he took one of Engracia’s hands, and that romantic conversation used by lovers started, which, depending on your experience, you all know word for word. If, instead of making known a story we were writing a romance, although we’ve never had a knack for that game, we would rattle off a novel-sized dialogue. Fortunately, a storyteller can pretend to not understand the flatterings of lovers and go straight to the heart of the matter.

The clock struck nine and the Captain stood up.

“Excuse me, my lady, but my responsibilities to the service demand that I leave you sooner than my soul would desire.”

“And your final word, Don Martín, is what you have already told me?”

“Yes, Engracia. Our wedding will not take place until I receive the consent of my family and the royal permission for which every high-born nobleman should apply. Your legal patent of nobility is spotless. In your family line there is no one who has been tried by the Inquisition, nor is there a drop of Moorish blood in your line. May God take me up into His blessed care if the monarch and my family will not comply with my request.

Because of the insulting irony of these words, which reminded the lady of her origin, she trembled with rage and her face became engulfed in red. She regained control of herself quickly, however, and pretending to ignore the affront, looked steadily at Don Martín, as if trying to read in his eyes the answer to this question, “Tell me honestly, Captain, do you esteem what your family says more highly than the honor I have sacrificed for you and what you owe yourself?”

“You are excessively tiring, madam. Just wait for the message to arrive and I will keep my word.”

“Assume it has arrived.”

“Well then, madam...God will tell!”

“Go with Him, Don Martín de Salazar...You are right...God will tell!”

Don Martín gave a slight bow ceremoniously and then departed.

Doña Engracia’s eyes followed him with a look of hate that revealed all of the indignation of offended pride. She brought her hands up to her breast as if to suppress the wild throbbings of her heart, then, with her face twisted out of shape and her clothing in disarray, she rushed to the glass door, at the threshold of which appeared, livid as a ghost, the provider for the royal armada.

“Did you hear him?”

“I wish to God I hadn’t!” said Don Juan in an intense tone.

“Well why didn’t you stab him with your sword? Kill him, brother! Kill him!”

IV

GOD WILL TELL!

Seven hours later, when dawn was beginning to color the horizon, a man was descending, with the help of a silk ladder, from a balcony on Jesús Nazareno Street above Master Ibirijuitanga’s tavern where Transverberación lived. Just as he placed his foot on the final rung a masked man fell upon him, stabbed him in the back with a dagger, and murmured into the victim’s ear, “God will tell!”

The climber collapsed onto the ground. He had suffered a treacherous death—the death of a traitor. At the same time a desperate scream came from the balcony, and the faint light of the dawn provided the light that made it possible for the killer to flee quickly from the scene.

V

CONSEQUENCES

Fifteen days later a gallows was being erected in the main square of Lima. The Royal Audiencia had not proceeded with leaden feet, and just like a mayor who told his policemen to apprehend the first person they came across in the street should they not find the guilty party, the august body had condemned the unfortunate barber to a dance in midair. The matter was so clear to the judges that nothing could have been more obvious. It consisted of evidence that the victim had been a client of the barber, and the night before he had aided some gossipers. This was a sufficient lead. A ladder beneath the balcony couldn’t have fallen out of some cloud, especially when Ibirijuitanga had a niece of marriageable age whom the incident had struck dumb. A girl does not go crazy over nothing. “Let’s tie the loose ends together,” said the judges to each other, “and weave some hemp for the gallows, for it is not worth a wooden nickel that the crafty and cunning barber remains stubborn in his denial, even upon torturing him to find out about his participation in the crime.”

Furthermore, the old women for four blocks in every direction declared that Ibirijuitanga was a repugnant man because he knew how to cast the evil eye; and the ugly, unbetrothed maidens, who, without God’s help would be buried as nuns, affirmed under oath that Transverberación was an impudent young girl who was always looking for romantic escapades with the young men in the neighborhood, and who got dressed up on Saturdays to help her uncle, riding a broomstick to a witch’s conventicle.

The details of the affair were the required snack at every gathering. The women clamored for the permanent imprisonment of the disgraceful niece and the men for the hanging of the crafty barber.

The court then ruled: “Your wish is our command.” And although Ibirijuitanga shouted to high heaven that he was innocent the executioner answered with, “Quiet, you babbler, and let’s get this over!”

At the same time the cord tightened around the neck of the poor devil and Transverberación was introduced into the prison, the bells sounded in the Concepción Convent, which had been founded by a sister-in-law of the conquistador Francisco Pizarro, in order to announce that Doña Engracia de Toledo, the fiancée of the unfortunate Don Martín, had become a nun.

Human justice! No wonder you are portrayed blindfolded!

Now let us conclude: The Viceroy died in Lima on March 6, 1606, seven days before the death of Archbishop Toribio de Mogrovejo.

The barber was put to death on the gallows. The niece ended up losing the little bit or lot of sense with which she came into the world. Doña Engracia finally professed and it is said that as time went on she became an abbess, and that she died as devoted as would be expected of a Christian lady in her advanced years.

As for her brother, he disappeared from Lima one day, and...

May God protect you, my reader.

VI

THE SCENT OF PIETY

Certainly the urge to call me the most terrific weaver of lies ever born of woman would occur to many of my readers if I were not to set my pen to this and the following chapter to give my story its historical setting, with the support of the testimonies of some of the chroniclers of the Indies. It is not in Lima, however, where our tale will play itself out, and whoever is curious to know its end will have to travel with me, on the wings of thought, to the imperial Villa of Potosí. No one will be able to say of me that during my overworked life as a storyteller that I left a character hanging between heaven and earth, as is said to be the state of St. Hinojo, and the soul of Garibay.

In the 16th century Potosí was the place in America to which all those who dreamed of coming up with a fabulous fortune would flow. Its rich mine was discovered in January of 1538 by an Indian named Gualpa. Its importance grew and aroused the covetousness of our conquistadors since, in just a few months, Captain Diego Centeno, who worked in the famous mine “Descubridora,”[106] acquired a fortune which would be considered fantastic today, at least if we respect the Jesuit Acosta, Antonio de Herrera and the Historia potosina by Bartolomé de Dueñas. Within ten years the population of Potosí grew to 15,000 inhabitants, with that number tripling by 1572, when by royal order the mint was moved to the Villa from Lima.

The last years of that century in Potosí were characterized by luxury and opulence and those circumstances gave birth to rivalries between Andalusians, Extremadurans and Creoles in opposition to Basques, Galicians and Navarrese. These conflicts ended in bloody battles, in which the luck of arms would give itself over to one faction as easily as to another. Even the women participated in the warlike spirit of the age. Méndez, in his Historia de Potosí, deals extensively with the details of one duel in the countryside on horseback, complete with lances and shields, in which the sisters Doña Juana and Doña Luisa Morales killed Don Pedro and Don Graciano González.

These weren’t the only masculine women in Potosí. In 1662, when the law had taken Don Angel Mejía and Don Juan Olivos prisoner, their wives went after them accompanied by two feminine friends. The four, armed with dagger and pistol, stabbed the judge, killed two soldiers and fled to Chile with their spouses. In that same year Doña Bartolina Villapalma, with her two maiden daughters and all of them armed with lance and buckler, set out to defend her husband who was being harassed by a group of enemies, and put them to flight after having killed one and injured others.

But we don’t want to compose, certainly, a history of Potosí or its civil wars. To whoever is desirous of knowing its outstanding events we will recommend reading the work that, with the title “Anales de la Villa Imperial,” was written by Bartolomé Martínez Vela in 1775.

VII

NOW YOU WILL SEE

It was in the middle of the year 1625.

During the early hours of a cool morning the people of the Villa were hurrying to the parochial church.

In the middle of the church an elevated coffin was seen by the light of four candles.

Inside the coffin was a cadaver whose arms, folded across his chest, were holding a skull.

The dead man had died in the odor of sanctity, and the notaries were finalizing the papers to prove his pious life in order to send them to Rome. Perhaps the calendar was going to be adorned by another name such as had happened with Tomás de Torquemada, Pedro Arbúes and Domingo de Guzmán!

And the people, the simple folk, firmly believed in the piety of the person who for many years had been seen walking the streets with the coarse sackcloth of a penitent, the beard of an Anchorite, being sustained by a diet of herbs, sleeping in a cave, and always carrying a skull, as if to always have within his sight a reminder of the ephemeral nature of human existence. And what can’t fanaticism and prejudice bring about? Many of those in attendance insisted that the cadaver smelled of roses.

But when the papers had been taken care of and the body was about to be buried in the church, it occurred to one of the notaries to examine the skull, and between the clenched teeth he found a small, carefully rolled parchment, which he read to the people. This is what it said:

“I, Don Juan de Toledo, whom all of you took for a saint, and who donned penitential garb, not on account of virtue, but on account of wicked malice, declare at the supreme moment: That almost twenty years ago I, due to wrongs committed against me by Don Martín de Salazar to the detriment of the honor which God granted me, treacherously took his life from him. After his burial, I found the way to open his grave, eat his heart, cut off his head, rebury him and take with me his skull with which I have walked without ever allowing it to leave my side. This I have done in order to retain in my memory my revenge and the offense I suffered. I pray that God will have pardoned him and that He will desire to pardon me.”[107]

The notaries tore the papers into tiny pieces, and those who three minutes earlier had sensed the smell of roses coming from the dead man scattered throughout the Villa asserting that the corpse of Juan de Toledo was putrid and nauseating, and that they would never again have any faith in appearances.

 

Return to Table of Contents

 


CHAPTER 18

THE POWDERS OF THE COUNTESS

(Chronicle of the Epoch of the Fourteenth Viceroy of Peru)

 

I

One afternoon during the month of June in 1631 the bells of all the churches in Lima gave a mournful, funereal, pleading sound and all of the monks of the four religious orders that were functioning in the capital city gathered in the choir of the cathedral, where they sang psalms and petitioned God.

The inhabitants of the thrice-crowned city stopped in front of the side door of the viceregal palace after having made their way through the area where sixty years later the Viceroy, the Count of Monclova, was to construct the arcades of the Scribes and the Buttonmakers. The door where they stopped was the scene of intense activity, with important people constantly coming and going.

One would have thought that a galleon with important news from Spain had just docked in Callao because there was such agitation in the palace and among the people, or that, as in our democratic days one of those dramatic turns of events which is brought to a sudden end by means of the justice imposed by the rope and the stake was taking place.

The accuracy of historical events, just like the purity of water, is determined by tracing them to their source, and therefore, with permission of the captain of the harquebusiers who stand guard at the aforementioned door, we will enter the palace, reader, if my company pleases you, and slip into one of the small bedrooms.

Present in it were His Excellency Don Luis Jerónimo Fernández de Cabrera Bobadilla y Mendoza, Count of Chinchón, Viceroy of Peru, appointed by Philip IV, and the Viceroy’s close friend, the Marquis of Corpa. The two of them silently looked at a small open door through which entered a third person, an elderly man wearing black breeches which came to his knees, corduroy shoes with buckles made of precious stones, and a velvet dress coat and vest from which was suspended a heavy silver chain from which hung very beautiful seals. If we add that he was wearing chamois gloves the reader will have recognized that we have here the perfect picture of a physician of that day.

Doctor Juan de Vega, a native of Cataluña who had recently arrived in Peru, was serving as the palace physician. He was one of the leading lights of the science that teaches how to kill by means of prescriptions.

“And so, Don Juan?” questioned the Viceroy, more with his look than with his words.

“Sir, there is no hope. Nothing but a miracle can save Doña Francisca.”

And Don Juan withdrew, sharing in the Viceroy’s grief.

This short dialogue is sufficient for even the dullest reader to know what was happening.

The Viceroy had arrived in Lima in January of 1639 and two months later his strikingly beautiful and youthful wife, Doña Francisca Henríquez de Ribera, disembarked in Paita so that she would not be exposed to an imminent naval battle with pirates. Later on the wife of the Viceroy came down with that periodic fever which is called tertian and which the Incas considered epidemic in the Rimac valley.

It is recorded that when in 1378 the Inca Pachacutec sent an army of 30,000 troops from Cuzco to the conquest of Pachacamac[108] he lost the flower of his warriors to the havoc of tertian. During the first centuries of European domination the Spaniards who made their home in Lima suffered a great deal from this illness, from which some recovered without having taken any particular medicine, but not a few were carried to their death.

For the Countess of Chinchón there was no hope. By means of the mouth of its oracle, Don Juan de Vega, science had passed judgment.

“So young and beautiful!” said the disconsolate husband to his friend. “Poor Francisca! Who could have known that you would never again see the skies of Castile or the villas of Granada? My God! A miracle, dear Lord, please, a miracle!”

“The life of the countess will be saved, Excellency,” said someone who was standing in the doorway.

Surprised, the Viceroy turned around. What he saw was a priest, a follower of Ignacio de Loyola, who had spoken the consoling words.

The Count of Chinchón bowed to the Jesuit, who continued, “Let me see the Vicerreine. Your Excellency. Have faith and God will take care of the rest.”

The Viceroy led the priest to the bed of his dying wife.

II

HISTORY

Let’s pause in order to give a brief picture of the conditions in Peru during the reign of Don Luis Jerónimo Fernández de Cabrera, native of Madrid, Commander of Criptana in the Order of Santiago, Warden of the castle of Segovia, Treasurer of Aragon and the fourth Count of Chinchón, who governed from January 14, 1629 until January 18, 1639.

At the time the Pacific was threatened by the Portuguese and by a flotilla of Dutch pirates under the command of “Pie de Palo.”[109]. The Viceroy devoted a great deal of his time and energy to place Callao and the naval squadron in a defensive attitude. In addition he sent a thousand men to Chile to fight against the Araucanian Indians and three expeditions against some tribes of Indians in Puno, Tucumán and Paraguay.

In order to support the capricious luxury in which Philip IV and his courtiers indulged themselves, America had to contribute heavily, with great damage to its economy. There was an excess of taxes and fees that the businesses of Lima had to pay.

The decline of Potosí and Huancavelica, as well as the discovery of the lodes of Bombón and Cayllama date from that period.

It was under the reign of this Viceroy in 1635 that the famous bankruptcy of the banker Juan de la Cueva took place. Confidence was shown in his bank by private parties as well as the government. This bankruptcy was celebrated until recently with a public festivity called “Juan de la Cova, Coscoroba,”[110] in which masks were worn.

The Count of Chinchón was as fanatical as might be expected of a venerable Christian lineage, which is proved by some of the decrees he issued. No ship owner could allow passengers on his ship unless they possessed documents that stated that they had been to confession and had taken communion the day before. The soldiers were also obligated, under severe punishment, to do the same once a year, and during Lent the mingling of men and women in churches was prohibited.

As we have written in our Annals of the Inquisition, this was the period in which the implacable tribunal of faith sacrificed the most victims. It was sufficient to be Portuguese and wealthy to find oneself buried in the cells of the Holy Office. In just one of the three autos da fe which the Viceroy attended eleven Portuguese Jews, wealthy businessmen of Lima, were burned at the stake.

We have read in the book of the Duke of Frías that the first time the Count of Chinchón visited the jails he was told of a gentleman of Quito who was accused of having tried to rebel against the king. From the documents he read the Viceroy reached the conclusion that the accused was the victim of calumny so he ordered that he be set free and permitted him to return to Quito under the following conditions. If after six months the region had not risen in rebellion, his accusers would have to pay the cost of the legal proceedings and bear the cost of the damages suffered by the accused.

That’s a very practical way to punish envious and infamous denouncers.

The Viceroy got involved in a fuss with the limeñas on two occasions when he issued a decree against the tapadas[111] who, I must hasten to add, proceeded to make curling papers and crimpers of it. To pass laws against women always has been and always will be a sermon to which no one listens.

Let us now return to the Vicerreine, whom we left dying in her bed.

III

A month later there were great festivities in the palace to celebrate the recovery of Doña Francisca.

The power of cascarilla to subdue the fever suffered by the Viceroy’s wife had been discovered.

An Indian from Loja, Pedro de Leyva, who had been afflicted with a fever, drank from a calm place in a river on whose banks there grew some cinchona trees in order to quench his thirst. When his fever went away he gave some jugs of water in which he had deposited cascarilla roots to some friends who were suffering from the same fever. With his discovery he went to Lima and shared it with a Jesuit priest who made use of the knowledge to bring about the happy cure of the Vicerreine. With this act he made a greater contribution to humanity than the friar who invented gunpowder.

The Jesuits kept the powers of cinchona a secret for several years and anyone afflicted with the fever would go to them for help. For this reason, for a long time, the powders of the quina bark were known as “the Jesuit’s powders.”

Doctor Scrivener says that an English physician, Mr. Talbot, cured the Prince of Condé, the Delphin, Colbert and others with these powders, selling the secret to the French government for a considerable amount of money and a pension for life.

Linnaeus paid homage to the Vicerreine, Countess of Chinchón, when he gave the scientific name “chinchona” to the tree that provides cascarilla bark.

Mendiburu says that at first the use of quinine met strong opposition in Europe and that in Salamanca it was held that any physician who prescribed it was guilty of a mortal sin because the efficacy of the powder was due to a pact with the Devil into which the Peruvians had entered.

As for the people of Lima, until just a few years ago the powder made from the bark of that marvelous tree was known as “the powders of the Countess.”[112]

 

Return to Table of Contents

 


CHAPTER 19

WHY FRIAR MARTIN OF PORRES, LIMEAN SAINT, DOESN’T PERFORM MIRACLES ANY LONGER

If you are looking for a miraculous saint, or performer of miracles, I give you my countryman Friar Martín of Porres. I will put him up against any saint from Europe.

Since in another “Tradición” I have already written a succinct biography of Friar Martín,[113] who was a blessed soul, and not too bright, but with much sainthood conferred by God, I will not repeat it here. Let it be enough for the reader to know that because Martín’s father didn’t leave to his offspring any inheritance but the seven days of the week and a fingernail on each finger to scratch his fleas, he had to end up choosing to become a Dominican lay brother and perform miracles. God above everything, like oil on the water.

That was a time when the plague of radicals, masons and freethinkers did not exist, when all of us believed with a simple faith, when we didn’t have to go around looking for miracles because we had them by the dozens. Why is it today, when perhaps it would be suitable to revive faith, we don’t have even one little miracle of minor importance a week? There must be some reason. However, I’m not going to lose my composure trying to determine what is none of my business. Who got me into this mess?

The famous writer and preacher, Father Ventura of the Ráulica, in his panegyric of Fray Martín de Porres, printed in 1863, reports that without leaving Lima, our saintly compatriot was in the Moluccas and in China and in Japan saving Jesuit missionaries from martyrdom. For God conceded him the privilege of bilocation or double presence, a favor that he denied Saint Phillip Neri when the latter requested it. Father Ventura adds that what he cites in his panegyric is found in the petition for canonization. I will stitch up my mouth with heavy thread, for I don’t have any objection to the miracle. As far as I am concerned I say “Amen” to everything connected with friars because I don’t want to be like the tyrant Rosas’[114] scribe, who put his hide in danger because of his nitpicking. I won’t pass up this opportunity to tell you the story. If the reader wishes, he may smoke a cigarette while I tell what happened.

It appears that one afternoon the scribe was reading to the Supreme Dictator proofs of an ode that was to appear in the Gaceta of May 25, when he came to some lines of poetry which he read as follows:

 

The people venerate you

And every Argentine knows

That in your hands his banner

Waves victoriously.

 

At that point Don Juan Manuel interrupted him saying, “I don’t like the third line. Where it says “banner” put “standard.”

“Most excellent, sir,” the impudent young fellow said, daring to argue the point, “since the word “standard” doesn’t rhyme the way it should, it won’t be poetry anymore.”[115]

Don Juan Manuel de Rosas, who didn’t tolerate the bite of a louse, struck the table furiously with his fist and shouted, “Caramba! Shut your mouth and put in the word ‘standard’ before I have your head chopped off as a savage Unitarian!”

Get rid of the cigarette. I am going to return to what I’m doing, that is, to talking about miracles. Back then, during the first third of the eighteenth century when friends met each other in the street they didn’t say as they do today: “What’s new? Is the Cabinet resigning or not?” but “What can you tell me about the latest miracles? Has blessed Friar Martín performed any since yesterday?”

Every morning a whole swarm of old women and young girls would gather around the gate house of the Monastery of Saint Dominic seeking out the Friar in order to ask for a magnificent miracle. Even “Little Face of Heaven,” a woman who in her ugliness could not have asked any more from God, for her ugliness was of the very highest quality, (like that of Picio,)[116] asked the saint to make her beautiful, a miracle that, it is said, he did not want to perform or did not know how to perform or just refused to perform. If he had performed it he really would have had his hands full because no ugly woman in the vicinity would have let him alone.

The Prior, who was so annoyed that more women came to the Monastery than attended the jubilee, decided to settle this once and for all, so he summoned the wonder worker and said to him: “Brother Martín, I prohibit your performing any more miracles without asking me first for permission. This you must do to prove you are obedient in sacred matters.” Friar Martín replied, “I will obey the prohibition, Reverend Father.”

But Friar Martín, who was purely and sincerely a miracle worker by nature, without being aware of what he was doing and without any desire or intention of disobeying the injunction, continued to perform frequently miracles of little significance. One day a mason who was repairing a cloister in the Monastery slipped and fell off the high scaffolding on which he was working and while falling he called out: “Save me, Friar Martín!” “Wait a moment,” shouted the good Friar, “I need to get permission from the Prior.”

And the worker remained suspended in midair dumbfounded and stunned, like the soul of Garibay, waiting for the return of the lay brother. “Too late! It’s no use shutting the stable door after the horse has escaped!” said the Prelate when Martín came to him. “How can I give you permission if you have already performed the miracle? So be it! Be off with you and finish up your miracle. I will overlook it this time, but don’t let it happen again!”

This miracle caused more ruckus in Lima than a whole band of drums and was noised about by everyone in the city.

When Friar Martín died in November of 1639 at sixty years of age there wasn’t anyone who didn’t have a relic of the Saint or who didn’t have a piece of his habit or his shirt or at least an inch of earth taken from his grave, soil that they kept in little velvet bags and which as a relic the faithful would wear around their necks. It is said that this soil was especially efficacious for curing diarrhea.

As the years passed by the relics wound up in the trash and the ones that were kept by the Monastery were ordered placed in a box by the first republican Archbishop Don Jorge Benavente, who sent them to Rome on the 28th of September, 1837, in care of the General of the Order of Preachers.

Assuredly we limeños have been very ungrateful to our Saint, because we don’t even have any relics to remind us of him. I am sorry but I do not weep over such great ingratitude. I’m not going to be like the executioner of Malaga who died of sorrow because his tailor ruined some of his trousers by making the waist too tight.

For many months people kept going to the Friar’s grave and asking for miracles and the good lay brother wasn’t always remiss in granting the petitions. But one morning the Prior got up on the wrong side of the bed and preceded by the community of monks, made his way to the grave, where with solemn and pompous voice intoned: “Brother Martín, while you were alive you humbly obeyed my orders and I have no reason to believe that now you are in Heaven you have become rebellious and proud, refusing to obey righteous orders, which you swore to do one day here on earth. We’ve had enough miracles! I notify you and order that you are to perform no more miracles.”

And that our sainted compatriot obeyed and continues to obey the injunction of his prelate is proved by the fact that not even in jest has the topic of marvelous miracles performed by Saint Martín been discussed after 1640.

As for our day and age, in the 20th century, it is more practicable to raise flies with nursing bottles than to perform miracles.

 

Return to Table of Contents

 


CHAPTER 20

FRIAR MARTIN’S MICE

And from the same dish

ate a dog, a cat and a mouse.

 

With this couplet we come to the end of an account of the virtues and miracles attributed to Friar Martín de Porres. It was actually a broadside that was circulated in Lima about the year 1840 for the purpose of celebrating in our cultured and very religious capital city the solemn activities related to the beatification of this miracle worker.

This holy man, Friar Martín, was born on December 9, 1579, the natural son of the Spaniard Don Juan de Porres, Knight of Alcántara, and of a Panameñan slave. When he was still very young little Martín was taken to Guayaquil, where in a school in which the teacher made good use of the whip, he learned to read and write. Two or three years later his father and Martín returned to Lima and the boy was placed as an apprentice, learning the trade of barber and bloodletter in a barbershop on Malambo Street.

Martín wasn’t very adept with the razor and the lancet and this kind of work didn’t appeal to him so he opted for another career—that of sainthood, for in those days the career of a saint was just as legitimate a profession as any other. He took the habit of a lay brother at the age of twenty-one in the Monastery of San Domingo and remained there until he died in the odor of sanctity on November 3, 1639.

While he lived, and even after death, our countryman Martín de Porres performed miracles on a wholesale scale. He performed miracles as easily as others compose verses. One of his biographers (I don’t remember if it is Father Manrique or Doctor Valdés) says that the Prior of the Dominicans had to prohibit his continuing to perform miracles or milagrear (forgive me the use of the word).[117] And to prove how deeply rooted in Martín the spirit of obedience was, on one occasion while he was passing a mason working on some scaffolding the worker fell a distance of some twenty-five to thirty feet. But while he was still in mid-air Martín stopped his fall—and there was the man suspended above the ground. The good Friar shouted, “Wait a moment, brother,” and the mason remained in the air until Martín returned with permission from his superior to complete the miracle.

That’s a doozy of a little miracle, don’t you agree? Well, if you think that one is great, wait until you read the next one.

The Prior sent the extraordinary lay brother on an errand to purchase a loaf of sugar for the infirmary. Perhaps he didn’t give Martín sufficient money to buy the white refined type so he returned with a loaf of brown sugar.

“Where are your eyes, Brother Martín,” said the Father Superior. “Can’t you see that it is so dark that it’s more like unrefined sugar?”

“Don’t get upset, Reverend Father,” answered Martín slowly. “All we have to do is wash this loaf of sugar right away and everything will be fine.”

Without allowing the Prior to argue the point the Friar submerged the loaf of sugar in the water in the baptismal font, and when he pulled it out it was white and dry.

Hey! Don’t make me laugh! I have a split lip!

Believe it or make fun of it. But let it be known that I don’t put a dagger at anyone’s breast forcing him to believe. Freedom must be free, as a newspaperman of my country once said. And here I note that because I had intended to speak of mice under Martín’s jurisdiction, I went off on a tangent and forgot what I was doing. That’s enough for the prologue; let’s get right down to business and see what happened to the mice.

* * *

Friar Martín de Porres had a special predilection for mice, unwelcome guests who came for the first time, it appears, with the Conquest, because until the year 1552 no mention of them was made. They arrived from Spain in a boat carrying codfish that had been sent to Peru by a certain Don Gutierre, Bishop of Palencia. Our Indians gave them the name hucuchas, which means creatures that came from the sea.

During the time that Martín was serving as a barber a mouse was still considered a curiosity, for the mouse population had just begun to multiply. Perhaps it was during that period that he began to concern himself with the welfare of the little animals, seeing in them the handiwork of God; that is to say he could see a relationship between himself and these small beings. As a poet put it:

 

The same time that God took to create me

He also took to create a mouse,

or perhaps two, at the most.

 

When our lay brother served as a male nurse in the Monastery the mice overran everything and made a nuisance of themselves in the cells, the kitchen and the refectory. Cats, which made their presence known in 1537, were scarce in the city. It is a documented fact that the first cats were brought by Montenegro, a Spanish soldier who sold one in Cuzco for 600 pesos to Don Diego de Almagro, the Elder.

The friars were at their wits’ end with the invasion of the little rodents and invented various kinds of traps to catch them, but with little success. Martín put a mouse trap in the infirmary and one rascal of a mouse who was inexperienced, attracted by the odor of some cheese, found himself trapped. The lay brother freed him from the trap, and then placing him in the palm of his hand said to him, “On your way, little brother, and tell your companions not to bother the friars in their cells. From now on all of you stay in the garden and I promise to take food to you every day.”

The ambassador complied with his mission and from that moment the mob of mice abandoned the cloister and took up residence in the garden. Of course Martín visited them every morning carrying them a basket of leftovers and other food and they would come to meet him as if they had been summoned by a bell.

In the cell Martín kept a cat and a dog. Through his efforts he had succeeded in having them live together in fraternal harmony, to such an extent that they both ate from the same dish.

One afternoon he was watching them eat in holy peace when suddenly the dog growled and the cat arched its back. What had happened was that a mouse had dared to stick its nose outside of its hole, attracted by the smell of the food in the dish. When Martín saw the mouse he said to the dog and cat, “Be calm, creatures of God. Be calm.” He then went over to the hole in the wall and said, “Come on out, brother mouse, have no fear. It appears that you are hungry; join in with the others. They won’t hurt you.” And speaking to the dog and cat he added, “Come on, children, always make room for a guest; God provides enough for the three of you.”

And the mouse, without being invited, accepted the invitation, and from that day on it ate in love in the company of the cat and dog.

And..., and..., and... A little bird without a tail? What nonsense!

 

Return to Table of Contents

 


CHAPTER 21

A LIFE IN EXCHANGE FOR HONOR

Chronicle from the epoch of the fifteenth viceroy of Peru

 

I

In about the year 1640 Doña Claudia Orriamún was the prettiest little rose bud in this City of the Kings. Twenty-four Aprils, gracefulness and shrewdness to spare, and an angelical countenance would be enough to make any gourmand’s mouth water. She was one of those limeñas who seem to reward a man just by looking at him and whose smiles seem more like kisses. If we add to this that the young lady’s father had passed on to a better world in 1637 and had left her a sizeable fortune under the guardianship of an ailing aunt in her sixties, it should not be too hard for us to believe that not a few young men pursued her, pestering her with honey-coated words, hypothetical kisses, serenades, love notes and all of the other strategies with which we of the ugly sex have known how to wage war upon women, be they novices or experts, in “ars amandi.”

It seemed that for Claudia that memorable fifteen minutes in a woman’s life had not come to pass, for she had not given as much as a suggestion of encouragement to any of the dashing young men by means of the slightest flirtation. However, just as when you least expect it, a rabbit hops. It just so happened that the girl went with her duenna and a page on Holy Thursday to visit the stations of the cross, and from no more than a walk to the church she returned home hopelessly in love. It goes without saying that such a gem must have been found by a very handsome fellow.

And that is exactly what happened. Claudia happened to enter the Church of Santo Domingo at the exact moment when the Viceroy was departing from the temple with his retinue of justices, officials and courtiers, all of them elegantly dressed. The girl, in order to better watch the splendid entourage, leaned on the baptismal font which, since it is lined with silver, is today the pride of the Dominican community. As has been documented, everyone born within the first few years of Lima’s founding was christened in this font. After the retinue had passed by, Claudia was about to wet in the font the most beautiful hand a glove has ever touched when a branch of verbena was presented to her with extreme gallantry. She raised her eyes, her cheeks showing a tinge of red and...may God forgive her! She forgot to cross herself. Devilish happening!

Poor thing. Her memorable fifteen munutes had arrived because standing in front of her was the most elegant captain in the royal troops. He greeted her courteously and although his mouth uttered not a word, the way he looked at her spoke volumes. The declaration of love was finalized; the branch of verbena was in Claudia’s hands. At that time no idle person had thought of inventing the language of flowers, and blossoms meant nothing more than what one wanted them to mean.

At the other stations that Claudia visited she always met up with the charming Captain, of course at a respectable distance, and this delicate discretion broke down her resistance. The following lines could well apply to those who have sustained wounds inflicted by Cupid’s arrows:

 

                   Don’t look at me

                   For people look at us

                   When we look at each other.

                   Let us be careful

                   Not to look at each other.

                   Let’s not look at each other

                   And when people stop looking at us

                   We will look at each other.

 

In order to quiet the alarm sounded by her chaste conscience she could say, like the pious woman in a certain story: “Let it be known, Lord, that I didn’t search for him; but in Thy Holy House I have found him.”

Don Cristóbal Manrique de Lara was a young Spanish hidalgo who arrived in Peru in the retinue of the Marquis of Mancera, serving as captain of the Viceroy’s escort. Having agreed to become a member of the Viceroy’s family, for he was to marry one of His Excellency’s nieces upon his return to Spain, he was one of the Viceroy’s favorites.

It is easy to guess that just as the Sabbath arrived and Christ was resurrected and the bells rang out the Gloria, the handsome young man changed tactics and laid siege to the fortress without any hesitation. Like the brave Córdova in the battle of Ayacucho[118] the Captain said to himself: “Forward! Make way for the victors!”

And the attack was so powerful and decisive that Claudia entered into an agreement to capitulate, declaring herself conquered and in utter defeat, for

 

                   A woman is the same as

                   Green kindling wood;

                   It resists, wails, cries

                   And finally catches on fire.

 

Of course the first article, the sine qua non of the capitulation agreement, was that they would receive the priest’s nuptial blessing as soon as certain family papers should arrive, ones which he would request by means of a letter he would send on the first galleon departing for Cádiz. As a certain couplet states:

 

                   In order to get to heaven

                   You need one big stairway

                   And one that is small.

 

The promise to marry Claudia was the small stairway; his desire to make love to her was the big one. Long courtships, especially if what is sought has already been obtained, are completely foolish. Marriage should be like a fried egg; from the frying pan right into the mouth.

The months went by and the documents so earnestly desired by Doña Claudia never did arrive. Finally, tired of playing the waiting game, she put a real scare into him by threatening to cause a real scandal, and she caused him so much anxiety that the frightened hidalgo told the Viceroy everything that had taken place and asked him for advice that would extricate him from his critical situation.

The conversation that took place between them has never been revealed to me or to any other chronicler to my knowledge, but it is certain that as a result of that meeting, when morning dawned the Captain had disappeared carrying with him, in all probability, Doña Claudia’s honor in his traveling bag.

II

HISTORY

While Don Cristóbal gallops off swallowing up the miles, traveling on difficult roads, let’s throw in a paragraph of history.

His Excellency Don Pedro de Toledo y Leyva, Marquis of Mancera, Master of the Five Villas, Commander of Esparragal in the Order and Knights of Alcántara and Gentleman Attendant of His Majesty, arrived in Lima to replace his predecessor, the Count of Chinchón, on January 18, 1639.

The coat of arms of the Leyvas consisted of a gold castle on a green field, with a red border and three gold stars.

The fantasies of the misguided policies of Philip IV and of his court favorite, the Count Duke of Olivares, were felt even in the Americas. On one side the Brazilians, supporting Portugal in its war against Spain, were making preparations for military action against Peru; and on the other a powerful Dutch squadron, fitted out by William of Nassau and commanded by Henry Breant, threatened to seize Valdivia and Valparaíso.[119] The Marquis of Mancera took appropriate and energetic means to keep at bay his neighbors who were casting covetous eyes on Paraguay; and although the corsairs abandoned the undertaking because of internal disagreements and because they were not able to enter into an alliance with the Araucanian Indians, the prudent Viceroy not only constructed a wall around and fortified Callao, casting cannon in Lima for its defense, but he also gave his son Don Antonio de Toledo command of a flotilla known as the “Flotilla of the Seven Fridays.” This nickname arose from the fact that when the Viceroy’s son returned from Chiloé without having fired a shot, he recorded in his log that on Friday he had set sail from Callao, had arrived in Arica on Friday to investigate the situation there, docked in Valdivia on Friday, from which he departed on Friday, put down a mutiny of gambling sailors on Friday, saved one of the ships from sinking on Friday and finally he dropped anchor in Callao on Friday.

As we have recorded in our Anales de la Inquisición, the Portuguese who resided in Lima were almost always well-to-do and they were suspected of conniving with Brazil to undermine Spanish power. On December 19, 1640, Portugal revolted against Spain. The Inquisition had punished and even burned at the stake many Portuguese, whether they were convicted of practicing the religion of Moses or not.

In 1642 the Viceroy ordered the Portuguese to present themselves in the palace with any weapons they might possess and then to leave the country, an order that was also sent to the authorities of the River Plate area. More than 6,000 appeared in Lima, but it was said that the expulsion was revoked when a large sum of money was handed to the Marquis. In the “residencia”[120] which followed when he was replaced by the Count of Salvatierra, an accusation of bribery was made based on this event. The Viceroy was absolved of this charge.

The enemies of the Marquis spread the story that when he was most energetically involved in persecuting the Portuguese Jews his mayordomo announced to him that three of them were in the waiting room seeking an audience and that the Viceroy’s response was, “I do not wish to receive these despicable people who crucified our Lord Jesus Christ.” The mayordomo then announced the names of the three who were waiting, who were among the wealthiest merchants in Lima, and then the Viceroy, in dulcet tones, said, “Oh! Well let those poor devils in. Since the death of Christ happened such a long time ago, who knows but what the Jews are the victims of exaggerations and slander.” With this story the slanderers explain the rumor that the Viceroy had been bought by the gold of the Portuguese.

During the government of the Marquis de Mancera the gallery in the mine of Huancavelica was completed; and in 1641 the use of official stamped paper was introduced, causing desperation among the litigants and bringing new income to the Royal Treasury.

In 1645 the eruption of Pichincha, a volcano near Quito, caused great destruction in the city and almost destroyed Riobamba; in 1647 a terrible earthquake buried more than 1,000 inhabitants of Santiago, Chile, causing the limeños, fearing celestial wrath, to turn their attention from festivities and dissipation to dedicate themselves to a pious life. Christian feelings were transformed into fanaticism and rare was the day when a procession of penitents was not seen passing through the streets of Lima. Soldiers were required to attend the sermons of Father Alloza and in such gloomy times the Mercedarian Urraca, the Jesuit Castillo, the Dominican Juan Masías and the Augustine Vadillo lived in an aura of sainthood as performers of miracles. Each religious community had to have its saint so that there would be no excuse for envy.

This Viceroy was the one who in 1645 restored, with impressive ceremony, the marble marker that defames the memory of Francisco de Carbajal, Commander in Chief of the military forces of Gonzalo Pizarro.[121]

III

General Don Juan Vásquez de Acuña, the eighteenth Corregidor of Potosí and a Knight of the Order of Calatrava, was governing that city when, early in the year 1642 Captain Don Cristóbal Manrique de Lara presented himself to the Corregidor bearing documents in which the Viceroy named the Captain the commander of military forces being organized to garrison Tucumán in the River Plate region. At the same time the Viceroy made it clear that he held the Captain in high esteem and recommended him highly to the Corregidor.

This was a period when mining was enjoying great success, for the faction known as the “Vicuñas” had celebrated a type of armistice with the opposing faction and there was only one thought in the whole city—mine silver as rapidly as possible in order to spend it lavishly. Such was the opulence that the dowries that daughters of mine owners carried with them to their weddings were rarely valued at less than half a million and there was one nuptial bed on which the father-in-law had placed a rail of solid gold. Now if that isn’t real luxury, may Croesus come to tell us otherwise!

We have many and irrefutable documents in front of us which reveal that the wealth mined from the hill of Potosí from 1545, year of the discovery of the silver bearing veins, until December 31, 1800, was 3,400 million solid pesos and a bit more, which this meddler would love to have just to buy cigars and gloves. And one should not consider this to be a fable; the proof is found legitimately and without errors of addition or of the pen.

There is only one mine we know of which has produced more silver than all of the mines of Potosí put together. That mine is Purgatory. From the moment when the Church invented or discovered Purgatory it also fashioned a great chest without a bottom which will never get filled up with offerings of the faithful for masses, indulgences, prayers for the dead and other goodies of which the blessed souls are so fond.

Gambling, ostentatious competition, love affairs and duels made up the normal life of the mining society and Don Cristóbal, who carried with him his passport of nobility and his martial mien, soon found himself surrounded by fawning friends who dragged him into a life of dissipation and constant folly. In Potosí everyone lived for the moment; no one worried about the morrow.

One night our Captain found himself in one of the most popular gambling dens when a young man entered and took a seat next to him. Good fortune did not smile on Don Cristóbal that night because he lost all of the money he had, down to the last coin in his pouch.

The stranger, who hadn’t bet even one real, seemed to have been waiting for such an opportunity because without uttering a word, he offered the unlucky Captain his purse, which was full of money and even contained pieces of gold.

“Thanks, sir,” said the Captain, accepting the purse and counting the fifty pieces it contained.

With this replenished supply the gambler feverishly tried to win back what he had lost, but to no avail. When he had lost all his money he turned to the stranger.

“And now, sir, since you have done me such a great favor, tell me, if you would, where is your inn so I can pay back your generous loan?”

“Day after tomorrow, at dawn, I will await the hidalgo in Regocijo Square.”

“I will be there, “ replied the Captain, not a little surprised by the inconvenient hour.

At that the stranger covered his face with his cloak and left the gambling house without shaking hands even though Don Cristóbal had extended his.

IV

It was a terribly Siberian cold morning, sufficient to benumb even the king of fire, and the first rays of the sun were casting a golden tint on the crest of the imposing hill of silver ore when Don Cristóbal, with his cloak wrapped tightly about him, arrived at the deserted Regocijo Square, where the stranger waited for him.

“I compliment you on the precise way in which you have kept your word, Captain.”

“I pride myself on keeping my promises when it’s a matter of paying my debts.”

“And is Don Cristóbal just as careful about keeping his pledged word?” asked the stranger, giving the words an impertinent ironic tone.

“If someone other than yourself, to whom I find myself obligated, should permit himself to doubt my integrity, I have a sword girded to my waist which would answer the question in a completely satisfactory manner without one word being uttered.”

“Well, then, let’s not waste words, you miserable hidalgo without nobility, draw!”

And the stranger drew his sword rapidly and gave the Captain a blow with the flat of the sword before he could take the en garde position. Don Cristóbal attacked furiously but his adversary parried the blows with skill and with cold determination. The duel had lasted several minutes and Don Cristóbal, blind with rage, became careless, letting down his defense and thinking only of attacking. Suddenly his opponent struck his sword from his hand and seeing him unarmed plunged his sword into his breast shouting, “Your life for my honor. Claudia puts you to death!”

V

The poet Juan Sobrino who, in imitation of Peralta in his Lima fundada wrote the history of Potosí in verse form, makes a brief mention of this happening.

In his curious Crónica potosina Bartolomé Martínez Vela writes: “That same year, 1642, Doña Claudia Orriamún, slew with one blow of her cutlass, Don Cristóbal Manrique de Lara, nobleman of the kingdoms of Spain, because he seduced her with certain promises and then abandoned the deceived woman. Doña Claudia was taken prisoner and sentenced to death. When she was taken to the scaffold to have her head cut off, a group of criollos[122] freed her from her captors after a skirmish that left many dead and wounded. She was hurried away to a church and later was spirited to Lima. The previous year there had taken place the battle so celebrated by the poets of Potosí and so popular in songs sung in the streets of that city in which two sisters, Doña Juana and Doña Lucía Morales, noble young women, took the field to do battle with two brothers, Don Pedro and Don Graciano González. The battle was waged with the four mounted on spirited horses wielding lances and shields. Don Graciano and Don Pedro suffered ignominious deaths, perhaps because their opponents were in the right, since it was a case of honor.”

That the ladies of Potosí were very sensitive about their “black” honor is proved by copying what another author wrote in the following account: “In 1663 a scuffle broke out in a church between Doña Magdalena Téllez, a wealthy widow, and Doña Ana Rosen. The husband of Doña Ana, Don Juan Salas de Varea, slapped Doña Magdalena, who later promised to marry an auditor by the name of Don Pedro Arechua on the condition that he would avenge the affront. Arechua kept putting off taking any action against Salas de Varea and ended up refusing to do anything about the matter, which offended Doña Magdalena to the point that one night she decided to kill her husband, which she did, going so far as to tear out his heart. She was imprisoned and garroted in spite of the pleas of Bishop Villaroel, which were rejected by the Audiencia of Chuquisaca, and the offer by the inhabitants of Potosí to pay 200,000 pesos in exchange for her life.”

May the Devil take the women of Potosí!

But let’s get on with our story and see what happened to Doña Claudia.

The Viceroy decided that it would be best to let sleeping dogs lie and ordered the case closed. There must have been a case of troubled conscience on his part in order for him to take this action.

Claudia took the veil in the convent of Santa Clara and her godfather, when she donned the habit, was the Archbishop Don Pedro Villagómez, nephew of Saint Toribio.[123]

Fortunately her example and that of the Morales sisters was not contagious, for if the daughters of Eve had taken it into their heads to challenge the rascals who after beguiling them had just gone on their way and abandoned them, this world would not have any men left.

 

Return to Table of Contents

 


CHAPTER 22

A HERETIC VICEROY AND A CUNNING BELLRINGER

I

WHIP LASHES FOR THE RINGING OF A BELL

The church and the monastery of the Augustinian fathers were first constructed (1551) on the site now occupied by the parish church of Saint Marcelo, until in 1573 they were moved to the large area they now occupy. But this transaction was not without lawsuits and controversies on the part of the Dominican and the Mercedarians, who were opposed to the establishment of other monastic orders.

Within a short period of time the Augustinians gained supremacy over the other orders by virtue of their austerity and their superior knowledge in science and other fields. They acquired very valuable properties in the outlying areas as well as the cities, and such was the skillful management and growth of their income that during more than a century they were able to distribute annually during Holy Week five thousand pesos in charitable donations. The most eminent theologians and the most distinguished preachers belonged to this community, and from the cloisters of Saint Ildefonso, an institution they founded in 1606 for the education of novitiates, came some men who were truly illustrious.

Around the year 1656 a limeño by the name of Jorge Escoiquiz, a young man of some twenty Aprils, was able to don a habit; but since he showed more interest in pursuits befitting a scoundrel than in his studies, the fathers, who did not wish to have any lazy good-for-nothings in their novitiate, tried to expel him. But the unfortunate person found a supporter in one of the distinguished figures of the monastery and the fathers charitably decided to let him stay, in the lofty position of bellringer.

The bellringers of the wealthy monasteries had for helpers two slave boys who wore the garb of a lay-brother. The job was not all that bad, because in addition to pay of six pesos there were board and room, what they could pick up on the side, and the feeling of importance which came from ordering the boys around.

During the time when the Count of Chinchón was viceroy the city of Lima created the position of the curfew bellringer, a job that was eliminated half a century later. The curfew bellringer was the outstanding member of the guild and had nothing to do except to ring the bell at nine o’clock at night in the cathedral tower. It was an honorary position to which many aspired, and was paid at the rate of one peso a day.

On the other hand it was not the kind of job that allowed the bellringer to go to sleep, for if there ever existed and if there does exist in Lima a diligently sought position that requires constant activity it is that of bellringer. This was more true in colonial times when religious holidays abounded and the bells were rung for at least three days whenever ships from Spain would arrive with the latest mail carrying edifying news that the royal infant had a new tooth or that he had recovered from the measles or some similar disease.

That the job of bellringer was not without its risks is evident when we look at the small wooden cross imbedded in the wall of the square in front of the Church of Saint Augustine. It so happened that towards the end of the eighteenth century a bellringer got caught in the frame of the “Monica,” which was a revolving bell, and flew through the air without benefit of wings and didn’t stop until he was dashed to pieces on the front wall facing the tower.

Until about the middle of the 17th century there were no carriages except for the large state coaches that were used by the viceroy and the archbishop and four to six chaises belonging to judges of the Audiencia or nobles of the highest rank. In a royal order dated the 24th of November, 1577, Philip II decreed that no carriages were to be constructed in the New World nor were any to be sent from Spain. This action was deemed necessary in order to prevent the use of horses with carriages for they were needed for military service. The penalties suffered by those who violated the law were severe. This royal order, which was not revoked by Philip III, began to be disobeyed in 1610. Little by little the luxury of being driven around in a carriage became more prevalent and in the days of Viceroy Amat there were more than one thousand such vehicles in evidence on the day of Jubilee on the Alameda of the Discalceds.

The bellringers and their helpers, who kept a constant lookout from the towers, had orders to ring the bells whenever the viceroy or the archbishop passed through the monastery squares, a practice which continued until the time of the Marquis of Castel-dos-Rius.

It appears that the Viceroy at the time, the Count of Alba de Liste, who was not without reasons for arousing suspicion among the church people, left on Sunday in his carriage with an escort in order to pay a visit. The clattering noise of a passing carriage was in those days an event of some importance because many families thought that it preceded an earthquake and would rush into the street to see what was going on.

The Viceroy’s coach had to pass through Saint Augustine Square but the bellringer and his helpers were probably having a good time far from the tower because not a single clapper moved. This lack of respect rubbed the Viceroy the wrong way and in his nightly tertulia[124] he verbally jabbed at the Prior, who was not present, and blamed him for the lack of attention. Not surprisingly the Prior soon heard about the Viceroy’s accusation so that next day he went to the palace to make amends to His Excellency, who was his close friend. After learning all the details in the case, he spoke with the bellringer, who rather than admit that he was derelict in his duty said, “that although he saw the coach pass through the square he didn’t believe it was necessary to ring the bells because the blessed bells were not obliged to express any happiness in the presence of a heretic Viceroy.”

Jorge’s case was not that of Bishop Don Carlos Marcelo Corni. In 1621, after being ordained in Lima, he arrived in Trujillo, where he was born and whose diocese he was to govern, and exclaimed, “The bells that ring most happily do so because they were cast by a part of my family; my father was the one who cast them.” And that was the truth.

The oversight, which could bring serious lack of accord between the representative of the monarch and the community, was declared by the chapter to be worthy of a severe punishment, in spite of the excuses offered by the bellringer, for it was not the place of a rascally fellow in the tower to pass judgment on the conduct of the Viceroy and his troubles with the Inquisition.

And so each father, armed with a whip, laid one penitential blow on Jorge’s bare back.

II

THE HERETICAL VICEROY

HISTORY

The Most Excellent Don Luis Henríquez Guzmán, Count of Alba de Liste and of Villaflor and descendant of the Royal House of Aragón, was the first grandee of Spain who came to Peru with the title of viceroy. He arrived in February, 1655, after having served in the same office in Mexico. He was the uncle of the Count of Salvatierra, whom he relieved in Peru. The arms of Guzmán are as follows: Shield with blue chief and central points, a golden cauldron, red chess squares, with seven serpents’ heads, flanked with silver and five black ermine in saltire.

A magistrate of good administrative talents and a man of ideas somewhat advanced for his epoch, his government is only notable in history because of a great number of misfortunes. The six years of his administration were six years of tears and anxiety. The galleon that under the orders of the Marquis of Villarrubia was carrying six million in gold and silver and six hundred passengers disappeared in a shipwreck off of the reefs of Chanduy. Only forty-five of those on board survived the disaster. Rare was the family in Lima that did not lose a relative. A private company was able to salvage from the ocean almost 300,000 pesos, handing over a third of this amount to the Crown.

One year later, in 1656, the Marquis of Baldes, who had just served as governor of Chile, had been transferred to Europe with three ships laden with riches. Defeated in a naval battle near Cádiz by the English pirates, he preferred to set fire to the powder magazine rather than to surrender.

Finally, the squadron of small ships under the direction of Don Pablo Contreras that set sail from Cádiz in 1652 carrying merchandise for Peru was broken up in a storm and seven ships were lost.

But for Lima, the greatest of its misfortunes was the earthquake of the 13th of November, 1655. Publications of that epoch describe in great detail the devastation, the penitential processions and the repentance of sinners guilty of major sins; and to such an extent were consciences terrorized that something amazing took place; many swindlers returned to their rightful owners funds they had usurped.

On the 15 of March, 1657, another quake, which lasted longer than a quarter of an hour, in Chile caused terrible grief; and finally the tremendous eruption of Pichincha[125] in October of 1680, are events that are sufficient to prove that this Viceroy came with an ill-fated star.

And causing the terror of these poor spirits to increase even further was the appearance in 1660 of the comet observed by the learned don Francisco Luis Lozano, who was the first major cosmographer in Peru.

In order that there should be nothing lacking in this gloomy picture, a civil war broke out in one part of the territory. The Indian Pedro Bohorques, after having escaped from the prison at Valdivia, raised a banner proclaiming himself a descendant of the Inca rulers. He had himself crowned and placed himself at the head of an army. He was defeated, made a prisoner and taken to Lima, where the scaffold awaited him.

Jamaica, which until then had been a Spanish colony, was taken by the English and converted into a center of pirate activities that for a century and a half kept neighboring lands in a state of constant alarm.

The Viceroy, Count of Alba de Liste, wasn’t very well liked in Lima because of the unconventionality of his religious ideas. The people believed, in their naive fanaticism, which it was he who had brought down upon Peru the wrath of God. And although he gave his full support to the celebration with great pomp of the papal brief of Alexander VII proclaiming the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, an event which took place in the University of Lima, whose president at the time was Ramon Pinelo, he was still referred to as the “Heretic Viceroy,” a nickname which a distinguished Jesuit, Father Alloza, had helped to make popular. What happened was that His Excellency had attended a religious holiday observance in the church of Saint Peter and Father Alloza lectured him severely because he was not paying attention to the divine word, but rather he was busy conversing with one of the judges of the Audiencia.

One year Archbishop Villagómez showed up with a parasol in the procession of Corpus Christi and since the Viceroy reprimanded him, he retired from the observance in high dudgeon. The monarch issued an order which put them both on the same level, for he decreed that neither one of them would be able to use a parasol.

The Viceroy objected to the consecration of Friar Cipriano Medina as bishop of Guamanga on the grounds that the bulls that appointed him were not in order. But the Archbishop made his way at midnight to the novitiate of Saint Francis and there consecrated Medina.

Because the alcaldes[126] of the court had made prisoners of the scribes of the curia for contempt, the Archbishop excommunicated them. The Viceroy, supported by the Audiencia, forced the Archbishop to lift the order of excommunication.

Concerning measures relating to ecclesiastical benefices, the Viceroy had countless disagreements with the Archbishop which contributed to the fact that fanatical people considered him an disbeliever and a bad Christian, when in reality he was merely being a zealous defender of royal patronage.

The Count of Alba de Liste also had the misfortune of having to live in a state of open warfare with the Inquisition, a body that was omnipotent and very prestigious at the time. The Viceroy had brought with him from Mexico, among other prohibited books in his possession, a pamphlet written by the Dutch writer William Lombardo that he showed to a member of the Holy Office in confidence. However the latter denounced him and on the first day of Pentecost, while His Excellency was in the Cathedral with his retinue, a representative of the Inquisition ascended to the pulpit and proceeded to read an edict compelling the Viceroy to hand over the libelous pamphlet and also to place his personal physician, César Nicolás Wandier, at the disposition of the Holy Office, because he was suspected of Lutheran sympathies. The Viceroy indignantly stalked out of the Cathedral and sent an official complaint to Philip IV. From this matter there arose some serious questions that the monarch put to rest by reprimanding the conduct of the Holy Office, while at the same time counseling the Viceroy in a friendly way to turn the document in question over to the Inquisition.

As for the French physician, the noble Count did everything in his power to free him from the clutches of the ferocious torturers, but it was no easy task to snatch a victim from the grasp of the Inquisition. On the 8th of October of 1667, after more than eight years of detention in the cells of the Holy Office, Wandier was condemned. He was accused, among other chimeras, in spite of trying to give the appearance of being orthodoxly religious, of having in his room a crucifix and a figure of the Virgin Mary to which he directed blasphemous expressions. After the autos da fe, in which fortunately he was not condemned to be burned at the stake, there were three days of supplicatory processions and other religious observances to make amends for the sacrilegious treatment of the images, which were finally moved from the Cathedral to the Church of the Prado, where we presume they can still be found.

In August of 1661, after having delivered the government into the hands of the Count of Santisteban, the Count of Alba de Liste returned to Spain, very grateful to be abandoning a land where he ran the risk of being burned to a crisp, the proper punishment for a heretic.

III

It is very probable that Escoiquiz didn’t soon forget the sting of the lashes because he made an oath to himself that he would avenge himself on the fussy Viceroy who placed so much importance on the ringing of the bells.

Not even one week had passed since Jorge suffered the whipping when one night, between midnight and one o’clock in the morning, the bells in the tower of the Church of Saint Augustine began to ring enthusiastically and continued to ring for a long time. All of the inhabitants of Lima were fast asleep at this time of night, so when they heard the commotion they ran into the streets inquiring about the happy news that the bronze tongues of the bells were making public.

His Excellency, Don Luis Henríquez de Guzmán, Count of Alba de Liste and Viceroy of Peru, without being a libertine, was having an affair with a certain aristocratic lady, and when, after ten o’clock, no one would venture out into the streets of Lima, the Viceroy would stealthily leave the palace through the private door which opens on to Desamparados Street and with his face concealed and in the company of his mayordomo he would set out to visit the lovely woman who held his heart captive. He would spend several hours in sweet intimacy with her and after midnight he would return to the palace with the same stealth and the same mystery.

The following day everyone knew that a nocturnal visit by the Viceroy had brought about the inopportune ringing of the bells. And there were little groups and a lot of gossiping on the steps of the cathedral. And of course there were speculation and slander out of which developed the story that the Count was sneaking about in order to attend some mysterious conventicle of heretics, for no one would suspect that a gentleman as dignified as the Viceroy would be involved in an amorous adventure with a mantle hiding his face as if he were a smuggler, just like any young swain.

But His Excellency was very much concerned about the whole matter, fearing that the bellringer might say something damaging to the reputation of the Viceroy, so he summoned Jorge and had him come secretly to his palace. As soon as the young man arrived the Count closeted himself with him and said: “You scoundrel, you! Who told you last night that I was passing through the Square?”

“Your Excellency,” he answered, “in my tower there are owls.”

“And what in the devil does that have to do with me that there are owls there?”

“Excellency, you who have had your problems with the Inquisition and who are at the present time fighting with the Holy Officer must know that witches enter into the bodies of owls.”

“And in order to get rid of them you scandalized the whole city with your bells? You are a rogue of the worst sort and I am tempted to send you to jail.”

“It wouldn’t be appropriate for you to punish with such severity someone like me who is very discreet and who hasn’t told a soul why the Viceroy himself comes and goes during the night on Saint Sebastian street.”

The chivalrous Count didn’t need any more details to be aware of the fact that his secret, and with it the reputation of a lady, were at the mercy of a bellringer.

“In that case,” he interrupted him, “keep your mouth shut and keep the clappers of your bell silent.”

“There is no need to worry about me; I will be as quiet as a corpse. I don’t like to go around talking about what other people do; that is their business. But as for the decorum of Mónica and my other bells, I won’t back down one inch because the craftsman who cast them didn’t intend for them to conceal the sneaking about of people who have their faces hidden and who are engaged in sinful pursuits. If your Excellency doesn’t want them to ring, the solution is very simple. If you don’t pass through the square there will be no problem.”

“Agreed. And now, tell me, is there anything I can do for you?”

Jorge Escoiquiz, who as you can see, was a pretty sharp fellow, asked the Viceroy to intercede with the Prior in his behalf in order that he might be allowed back into the novitiate. The Count must have granted his request because three or four months later the Father Superior of the Augustinians removed him from his position of bellringer and put him back in the novitiate. And so powerful was the help of his protector that in 1660 Friar Jorge Escoiquiz celebrated mass, and acting as his godfather who held the cruet was no other than the heretic Viceroy.

According to some, Escoiquiz never became anything except an uneducated cleric, but others insisted that he occupied some of the most important positions in the Monastery. Who knows what the truth of the matter really is?

What has been determined without a shadow of a doubt is that the Viceroy, fearing what the ringing of the bells would do to his reputation, made sure that when he went to pay nightly visits to the lady who lived on Saint Sebastian street, he avoided at all costs going through the small square in front of the Church of Saint Augustine:

 

                   And here I make an end to all this,

                   taking from this story the following moral:

                   there is no small enemy.

 

Return to Table of Contents

 


CHAPTER 23

“DRINK, FATHER, THIS IS A LIFE-SAVER”

(Chronicle of the Days during which a wife of a Viceroy Ruled)

 

Doña Ana de Borja, Countess of Lemos and Vice-reine of Peru, was a woman of greatness more finely tempered than a sword made in Toledo. She was esteemed in this way by her Majesty Doña María Ana of Austria, who ruled the Spanish monarchy while Carlos II was a minor. When Doña Ana’s husband was named Viceroy of Peru by royal decree it was specified that if, in the best interest of the kingdom, he should be obligated to leave Lima, the reins of the government should be placed in the hands of his spouse.

Under this agreement, when His Excellency considered it essential to personally quiet the disturbances in Laycacota, by hanging the wealthy miner Salcedo, Doña Ana remained in this City of Kings presiding over the royal tribunal, and she ruled from June of 1668 until April of the following year.

The Count of Bornos used to say that the most able woman is only fit to rule over twelve hens and a rooster. Nonsense! Such a statement doesn’t wash with regard to Doña Ana de Borja y Aragón who, as you will see, was one of the infinite exceptions to the rule. I know some women who are fit to rule over twenty-four hens...and up to two roosters.

As bad as it may sound to us as Peruvians, just as you hear it, for ten months we were ruled by a woman..., and frankly, things did not go too badly for us with her, because the tambourine was in hands that knew how to play it.

And so that you will not say that chroniclers are irresponsible, and that I force you to believe me by virtue of my honorable word, I will here copy what the scholar Mendiburu wrote concerning the subject in his historical dictionary: “When the Count of Lemos undertook his journey to Puno, he left the government in the hands of Doña Ana, his wife, who ruled during his absence. She handled all matters of business without anyone raising an eyebrow, beginning with the royal tribunal, which recognized her authority. We have in our power an official document from the Vice-reine, in which she makes an appointment to the Cuentas court. The heading is as follows: ‘Don Pedro Fernández de Castro y Andrade, Count of Lemos, and Doña Ana de Borja, his wife, Countess of Lemos, by virtue of the authority invested in her, with regard to the vacancy in the court, is pleased to appoint, etc. etc.’“

Another bit of evidence. In the collection of Documentos históricos by Odriozola is found a decree issued by the Vice-reine in which she provided maritime supplies for protection from the pirates.

Doña Ana, at the time of her rule, was a woman of twenty-nine years. She had a shapely body but a face with little beauty. She dressed elegantly and was never seen in public without being loaded down with diamonds. It is said of her character that she was pompous and overbearing to an extreme, and that she was obsessed with glass beads and titles of nobility.

Imagine the vanity of a person who, like Doña Ana, had as a member of the celestial courts no less an individual than her grandfather Francisco de Borja!

The mischievous women of Lima, who so loved Doña Teresa de Castro, wife of the Viceroy Don García, never did like the Countess of Lemos, and nicknamed her “Bigfoot.” I assume the Vice-reine was a woman with a solid foundation.

Let us now commence the tradition. The story that is told of Doña Ana is something that would not have crossed the mind of even the firmest of governors and is proof, with tangible evidence of feminine cunning that, when women enter into politics or affairs of men, they know very well how to leave their mark.

Among the passengers that the galleon from Cádiz brought to Callao in 1668 was a Portuguese friar of the Order of St. Jerome. His name was Father Núñez. His fatherhood was a plump little man with broad shoulders, a big belly, a short neck, swollen eyes and a rosy Roman nose. Imagine, dear reader, a candidate for a sudden stroke, and you will have a perfect picture of the clergyman.

When he had scarcely arrived in Lima, the Vice-reine received an anonymous message in which she was informed that the Friar was not really a friar, but rather a spy or a secret agent from Portugal who, to better achieve his political ends, was dressed in the holy habit.

The Vice-reine called the members of the court together and presented the message to them. Their lordships were of the opinion that, immediately and without a great deal of considering the matter, Father Núñez should be apprehended and hanged coram populo.[127] You see, individual rights and other similar silly notions that are so much in vogue today were not in style at that time. Such fancies provide about as much protection to the unlucky wretch who finds himself in trouble as a silk coat of armor against a blow on the back.

The shrewd Vice-reine resisted the urge to handle the matter rashly. There came to her mind something that Garcilaso tells about Francisco de Carbajal, and she said to the members of the court: “Gentlemen, suppose you leave this matter to me. Without any fanfare and getting ourselves into a pickle, I promise I will find out whether he is a Friar or a fake. It isn’t the habit that makes the monk but the monk that makes the habit. And if his head has been shaved by a barber instead of a priest, then without further Kyries or litanies we will summon Gonzalvillo so that he can hang him by the neck on the gallows in the town square.”

Gonzalvillo, a Negro of dark brown skin and ugly as the Devil, was the Master Executioner of Lima.

That same day the Vice-reine commissioned the majordomo to invite Father Núñez to do penance there.

Three judges were present at the table with the lady, and Gonzalvillo the Terrible awaited orders in the garden.

The table was set sumptuously, not with tidbits such as are used today, which seem to be fit only for nuns, light and sponge-like, but with dishes that were succulent, solid and would stick to your ribs. Delicacies from the poultry yard, turkey, chicken and even suckling pig were all served in abundance.

Father Núñez didn’t eat...he devoured. He paid due honor to each and every dish.

The Vice-reine winked at the judges as if to say: “Look at the way he eats--he is a friar all right.”

Without realizing it, Father Núñez had scored well on the test. But there was still another.

Spanish food is full of spices and eating them naturally results in thirst.

It was popular at the time to place large clay jugs from Guadalajara on the table, for they keep water cool and give it a pleasing taste.

After polishing off an admirable portion of honey and nut cakes, cookies and sweets which had been prepared by nuns, the diner couldn’t help but feel the burning need to drink--”a dry throat can neither growl nor sing.”

“Now I have you where I want you,” murmured the Countess. This was the fool-proof test for which she had been waiting. If her invited guest wasn’t what his clothing indicated, he would drink with the kind of restraint never seen in monasteries.

The Friar took the Guadalajaran jug in both hands, raised it to the level of his head, which he rested on the back of the chair, pulled the spout back toward his mouth, and started to drink with a vengeance.

The Vice-reine, seeing that his thirst was like that of a pile of sand, and that his manner of quenching it was very friar-like, said with a smile: “Drink, Father, this is a life-saver.”

The Friar, taking her advice to be friendly interest in his health, didn’t allow his lips to leave the spout until not a drop was left in the jug. His fatherhood then wiped the sweat off his forehead with his hand, and from his mouth a belch erupted which was similar to the bellow of a harpooned whale.

Doña Ana excused herself from the table and went out to the balcony, where she was met by the judges.

“What is your verdict?”

“Madam, that he is a friar worthy of the cloth,” the men answered in unison.

“That is also my belief. May the holy priest go in peace.

Now tell me that this woman who ruled Peru was not some kind of man!

 

Return to Table of Contents

 


CHAPTER 24

THE CHRIST OF THE AGONY

For Doctor Alcides Destinge

 

I

San Francisco de Quito,[128] founded in August of 1534 on the ruins of the ancient capital of the Scyris,[129] today boasts a population of 70,000 inhabitants and is located on the eastern slope of Pichincha, “the boiling mountain.” 

Visible on Pichincha to the alert traveler’s eye are two large craters that are without a doubt the result of its many eruptions. It has three noteworthy cones or vents, known as Rucu-Pichincha or Old Pichincha, Guagua-Pichincha or Child Pichincha, and Condor-Guachana or Condor’s Nest. After Mount Sangay, the most active volcano in the world, which is also in the former lands of the Scyris, near Riobamba, Rucu-Pichincha is unquestionably the most awe-inspiring volcano in the Americas. History has only brought us notice of its eruptions in 1534, 1539, 1577, 1588, 1660 and 1662. Nearly two centuries had elapsed without its streams of lava and violent tremors disseminating mourning and grief, and there were geologists who believed it to be a lifeless volcano, but on March 22, 1859, it disproved the high priests of science. Picturesque Quito was almost entirely destroyed. Nevertheless, since the principal crater of Pichincha is on the west slope, its lava is hurled toward the Esmeraldas desert, a saving circumstance for the city, which has been a victim only of the jolts from the giant which functions as its watchtower. It would be desirable, for the tranquility of the city’s inhabitants, to find out whether there is any basis of truth to Baron Humboldt’s opinion that underlying six thousand three hundred square miles of the land surrounding Quito are the materials from just one volcano.

For the sons of independent America, Pichincha is associated with one of the most glorious episodes of the epic of the revolution. On the slopes of the volcano, on May 24, 1822, the bloody battle was fought which secured independence for Colombia.

May you be blessed, home of the courageous, and may the future hold happier moments in store for you than those of the present! On the banks of the picturesque Guayas River you have provided me hospitable refuge in days of exile and misfortune. It behooves the pilgrim to never forget the fountain that quenched his thirst, the palm tree that gave him shade and shelter form the heat, and the sweet oasis where his horizon was opened up to hope.

So I once again take up my chronicler’s pen to bring forth from the dust of forgetfulness one of your most beautiful traditions, to tell of one of your most illustrious sons, the history of one who reached the pinnacle of greatness with his brush, just as Olmedo[130] received the immortal crown of poetry with his Homeric song.

II

I have already told you. I am going to tell you about a painter, Miguel de Santiago.

The art of painting, which Antonio Salas, Gorívar, Morales and Rodríguez made famous in colonial times, culminated in the magnificent paintings of our protagonist, who should be considered the true master of the school of Quito. Just as the paintings of Rembrandt and the Flemish school are characterized by a special treatment of light and shadow, a certain mysterious chiaroscuro, and for the successful portrayal of groups, the school of Quito is known for vivid colors and naturalness. Don’t expect to find in it great artistic polish or excessive correctness in the lines of its Madonnas; but if you are a lover of the poetic, such as the blue skies of our valleys, or of the melancholy, as the yaraví[131] which our Indians sing while accompanied by the rich tones of the quena,[132] then let your eyes rest upon the works of Rafael Salas, Cadenas or Carrillo.

The Merced Church in Lima today proudly boasts a painting by Anselmo Yáñez. The style of Quito with all its ramifications is not found in all the details of the work; but as a whole it reveals that the artist was greatly affected by national feeling.

The people of Quito have a real love for art. A story will bear this out. The cloisters of the Monastery of San Agustín are adorned by fourteen paintings by Miguel de Santiago. One of them, of large dimensions and bearing the title “The Genealogy of the Holy Bishop of Hipona,” is outstanding. One morning in 1857 one of the works of the series, in which a beautiful group was portrayed, was stolen. The city was excited to action and the entire populace conducted a thorough search. The painting was restored. The thief had been a foreign merchant in paintings.

Since, as luck would have it, I have mentioned the fourteen paintings at San Agustín that excel in their naturalness of color and the majesty in their conception, especially in that of the Baptism, we shall acquaint the reader with the reason they came into existence. We have taken most of this information we included here with regard to the life of this great artist from an outstanding article written on the subject by the Ecuadorian poet Don Juan León Mera.

A Spanish magistrate commissioned Santiago to paint his portrait. When it was finished, the artist departed for a town called Guapulo. He left the portrait in the sun to dry under the care of his wife. The poor woman allowed the work to become soiled and hired the famous painter Gorívar, a disciple and nephew of Miguel, to correct the damage. When he returned, Santiago discovered in the joint of a finger that another brush had passed over his work. The guilty parties confessed the truth to him.

Our artist had a more violent temper than the sea when its belly aches of stomach cramps. He was outraged at what he considered a desecration. He thrashed Gorívar with the flat of his sword and sliced off one of the ears of his poor wife. A judge appeared on the scene and rebuked him for his violence. With no regard for the man’s high rank and distinction, Santiago attacked him also at swordpoint. The officer fled and brought charges against the madman. The painter sought refuge in a friar’s cell, and during the fourteen months he spent in hiding he created the fourteen paintings that grace the cloisters of San Agustín. Among them the work entitled “The Miracle of the Weighing of the Candles” deserves special attention for its masterful use of colors. It is said that one of its figures is the portrait of Miguel de Santiago himself.

III

When Miguel de Santiago again breathed the air of his native city, his spirit was already subject to the asceticism of his century. One idea burned in his brain: to reproduce on canvas the supreme agony of Christ.

He began the work many times; but dissatisfied with his efforts, he would throw down his palette and destroy the canvas. Yet never for a moment did he forsake the project.

Inspiration’s fever devoured him but still his brush refused to obey his powerful intelligence and determined will. But his genius found the way to triumph.

Among the pupils who visited in his studio frequently there was a young man of singular beauty in whom Miguel thought he saw the model he needed to carry out his intent.

He had the youth undress and placed him on a wooden cross. The pose was anything but pleasant or comfortable; nevertheless, on the model’s face there was a faint smile.

But the artist was not looking for an expression of compliance or indifference, but of anguish and pain.

“Are you suffering?” he asked his pupil time and again.

“No, master,” answered the youth, smiling peacefully.

Suddenly, Miguel de Santiago, with his eyes starting from their sockets, his hair bristling and swearing a horrible oath, ran a lance through the young man’s side.

The pupil cried out in pain and convulsions of agony were reflected in his face.

Miguel de Santiago, delirious with inspiration and filled with the fanatical frenzy of art, copied the mortal anguish. His brush, quick as thought, flew over the smooth canvas.

The dying youth strained, cried out, and writhed upon the cross; and Santiago, while reproducing each of the convulsions, exclaimed with increasing enthusiasm:

“Good! Good, Master Miguel! Good, very good, Master Miguel!”

Finally the great artist loosed his victim, now bloody and lifeless. He brought his hand to his head, as if to recall a memory, and as a man who starts from a fatiguing dream, he realized the magnitude of his crime. Alarmed at himself, he threw down his palette and brushes and ran recklessly from the studio.

His art had driven him to crime!

But his “Christ of the Agony” was complete.

IV

This was Miguel de Santiago’s last painting. Its outstanding value was the artist’s defense, and after a long trial, he was acquitted.

The painting was taken to Spain. Is it still in existence? Or has it been lost through that country’s famous carelessness? We do not know.

Miguel de Santiago, a victim of frequent hallucinations from the day of his artistic crime, died in November of 1693, and his grave is located at the foot of the altar to San Miguel, in the Sagrario chapel.

 

Return to Table of Contents

 


CHAPTER 25

THE LOVE OF A MOTHER

Chronicle of the reign of the Viceroy nicknamed “Silver Arm”

 

We consider it wise to change the names of the principal characters in this tradition, a venial sin we committed in “La emplazada”[133] and others. The names are not important if the historical truth is not falsified; and the reader will readily guess why we strongly feel that it is necessary to change names.

 

I

In August of 1690 His Excellency Don Melchor Portocarrero Lazo de la Vega, Count of Monclova, Commander of Zarza in the Order of Alcántara and twenty-third Viceroy of Peru, appointed by His Majesty Don Carlos II, made his entrance into Lima from Mexico, where he had been serving as Viceroy. He was accompanied by his daughter Doña Josefa, other members of his family, servants and some Spanish soldiers.

Among these soldiers was Don Fernando de Vergara, who had distinguished himself by his dashing martial air. He was an hidalgo from Extremadura, the Captain of a company of pikemen and it was said of him that he didn’t exactly have the austere reputation of a Benedictine monk among the Mexican beauties. Troublemaker, gambler and womanizer, it was difficult to make him settle down, and the Viceroy, who had a fatherly affection for him, set about to marry him off in order to determine if the saying: “Status changes lifestyles” was true.

Young men seeking a wife were attracted to Evangeline Zamora, the most sought after match in the city, because she was not only young and beautiful but she came from a very distinguished family. Her great grandfather had been one of the most favored of Pizarro’s conquistadors when the spoils were divided with land in the Rimac Valley. Among these only Jerónimo de Aliaga, Mayor Ribera, Martín de Alcántara and the wealthy Diego Maldonado received more. The Emperor gave him the right to use “Don” with his name and some years later he was authorized to wear the habit of Santiago in recognition of the valuable gifts he sent to the Crown. At the age of 100, wealthy and a noble, our conquistador felt that there was nothing left for him to do in this valley of tears, so he turned up his toes, bequeathing to his first-born son property in the country and the city which was valued at a fifth of a million.

Evangeline’s grandfather and father added to the inheritance. At the age of twenty she became an orphan and was placed under the care of a guardian. Of course she was envied by many because of her immense wealth.

Between the modest daughter of the Viceroy and the opulent Evangeline there developed a close friendship, which explained the fact that she visited the palace frequently and thus became acquainted with Captain Vergara, who, in keeping with his reputation, took advantage of every opportunity to court her. Not once did she express any amorous feelings toward the Captain in spite of the fact that she was very much attracted to him, but she was delighted to learn that through the good offices of the Viceroy marriage to her had been proposed. Who was she to disdain the efforts of such a lofty godfather?

During the first five years of marriage Captain Vergara forgot his previous life of dissipation. His wife and his children were his whole life, his pride and joy; in fact, we may say that he was a model husband.

But one fateful day the Devil caused Don Fernando to accompany his wife to a family party. In the home they were visiting there was a large room where people were not only playing the very popular malilla[134] but there were also quite a few who were gathered around a green table shooting dice. The passion for gambling, though dormant for some time, was sleeping in the soul of the Captain and it shouldn’t surprise us that the sight of dice, his obsession, should awaken with even greater force. He gambled, and with such perverse fortune that he lost 20,000 pesos that night.

From that moment the exemplary husband was transformed into a changed man who became caught up in the feverish life of a gambler. His luck went from bad to worse, so he appropriated funds from the possessions of his wife and children in order to pay off his debts, throwing himself into that abyss without a bottom which is called trying to recoup one’s losses.

Among his gambling friends there was a young Marquis whom the dice constantly favored and Don Fernando capriciously decided to struggle against bad fortune by inviting him on many occasions to Evangelina’s home for dinner. After the meal the two of them would retire to an adjoining room where they would spend hour after hour losing their shirts, jargon used by gamblers that is repugnantly exact.

Without a doubt there is no difference between a person who is crazy and a gambler. If there is anything that detracts from the historical image of the Emperor Augustus it is, in my opinion that, according to Suetonius he gambled at odds and evens after all his evening meals.

In vain Evangeline tried to keep her husband away from the precipice. Tears and tender words and actions, anger and reconciliation—nothing had any effect on him. An honorable wife has no other weapons to use against the heart of the man she loves.

One night the unfortunate Evangeline was lying asleep in her bed when Don Fernando woke her and asked for her wedding ring, in which was mounted an extremely expensive diamond. She became very upset, but her husband calmed her anxiety by saying that he merely wanted to satisfy the curiosity of some friends who doubted the value of such a precious jewel.

What had happened while Don Fernando and the Marquis were gambling? Don Fernando was losing a lot of money and, finding himself without anything else to bet, suddenly remembered his wife’s splendid ring.

Disgrace is inexorable. A few minutes later the lucky Marquis was wearing the valuable ring on his finger.

In a flash Don Fernando became fully aware of what he had done and trembled with shame and remorse. The Marquis took his leave of Vergara, who accompanied him to the living room, but on passing through it he glanced through the glass doors of Evangeline’s bedroom and saw her sobbing while kneeling in front of a statue of the Virgin Mary.

Attacked by a fit of insanity, like a tiger he pounced on the Marquis and stabbed him three times in the back. The miserable creature then fled toward the bedroom and fell in a faint beside Evangeline’s bed.

II

HISTORY

In his earlier years the Count of Monclova, little more than a youth at the time, commanded a company in the battle of Arras in 1654.[135] His daring propelled him to the most heated part of the battle and he retired from the conflict half dead. He finally recovered, but he had lost his right arm, which had to be amputated. He had it replaced with one that was plated with silver, which explains the nickname he bore in Mexico and Lima.

Viceroy “Silver Arm,” on whose coat of arms was found this motto: “Ave María, gratia plena” succeeded the illustrious Don Melchor de Navarra y Rocafull. Of him wrote Lorente: “Equal in prestige with his predecessor, although with less administrative talent, his lifestyle was pure, he was religious, a conciliator and moderate in his actions. The Count of Monclova edified the people with his example and the needy always found him ready to contribute alms, which came from his salary and his other income.

In the fifteen years and four months of “Silver Arm’s” term as Viceroy, a period that has never been equaled, our country enjoyed complete peace; the administration was orderly and magnificent houses were constructed in Lima. It is true that the public treasury didn’t do very well, but politics had nothing to do with its problems. The processions and religious festivities of that time brought to mind the magnificence and luxury of the Count of Lemos.[136] The arcades with their eighty-five archways, which cost 25,000 pesos, the town hall and the palace gallery were built during this period.

In 1694 a monster was born in Lima with two heads and faces, two hearts, four arms and two chests united with one piece of cartilage. From his waist to his feet he appeared to be quite normal and the encyclopedic Don Pedro de Peralta wrote about it in a book entitled “Some Deviations of Nature,” in which he not only provided a detailed anatomical description of the creature but also tried to prove that it had two souls.

After Charles the “Bewitched”[137] died in 1700 Philip V succeeded him and later rewarded the Count of Monclova by making him a grandee of Spain.

Sick, in his eighties and tired of governing Peru, Viceroy “Silver Arm” suggested to the Court that he be replaced. Before a successor could be named the Count of Monclova died on the 22nd of September, 1702, and was put to rest in the Cathedral. The next Viceroy, the Marquis of Castel-dos-Ríus, did not arrive in Lima until 1707.

Doña Josefa, the daughter of the Count of Monclova, continued to live in the palace after the death of her father; however, one night, having made arrangements with her confessor, she climbed out of a window and took asylum with the nuns of Santa Catalina, taking the habit of Santa Rosa, whose convent was under construction. In May of 1710 Doña Josefa moved to the new convent, where she became the first Abbess.

III

Four months after he was imprisoned, Don Fernando de Vergara was sentenced to death by the Royal Audiencia. From the first moment he had declared that he had treacherously killed the Marquis, driven to the deed by a fit of desperation because he was a gambler who had lost everything. Faced with such a frank confession the tribunal couldn’t do anything but sentence him to death.

Evangeline left no stone unturned in her efforts to spare her husband an ignominious death, but all was in vain. Disconsolate, she saw the day of the execution arrive.

Then the self-sacrificing, valiant wife made the decision to carry out an unprecedented sacrifice because of her love for her children.

Dressed in mourning she appeared in the large hall of the palace at the moment when the Viceroy was in conference with the judges of the Audiencia and proceeded to declare to all assembled that Don Fernando was within his rights to kill the Marquis because she was an adulterer and her husband had caught them in the act. She fled from his wrath and her lover received a just death at the hands of the offended husband.

The frequency of the visits of the Marquis, her ring as evidence of their love on the hands of the corpse, the wounds in the back, the circumstance of finding the body of the Marquis at the foot of Evangelina’s bed, and other small details were sufficient motivation for the viceroy to suspend the sentence.

The presiding judge of the case went to Don Fernando’s cell in order for him to verify what his wife had declared. But hardly had the scribe finished the reading of the declaration when Vergara, possessed by a thousand conflicting feelings, let loose a dreadful laugh. The miserable Captain had lost his mind.

A few years later death hovered over the chaste bed of the noble wife, and an austere priest performed the last rites for her, providing the consolation the Church could make available in her last moments.

Evangeline’s four children kneeled at her bed and waited to hear the maternal blessing. Then the unselfish victim, forced by her confessor, revealed to them the tremendous secret. “The world will forget,” she said to them, “the name of the woman who gave you your life; but it would have been implacable with you if your father had ascended the steps of the gallows. God, who can read my conscience, knows that in the eyes of society I lost my honor so that you would never be called the children of an executed criminal.”

 

Return to Table of Contents

 


CHAPTER 26

AN ORIGINAL LAWSUIT

Between the second Marquis of Santiago, Don Dionisio Pérez Manrique y Villagrán and the first Count of Sierrabella, Don Cristóbal Mesía y Valenzuela, there developed in the reign of Viceroy Count Monclova, a hell of an antagonism. The title of the first dated from Philip IV, and that of the second from Charles the Bewitched[138]; a mere thirty years separated the nobility of the one from the other.

The war was, let us say, from family to family, a matter of somewhat yellowed parchments and of ermine, bezant or a dragon’s head on the coat of arms.

If the heads of the two households had not been combing gray hair, blood would have been spilled. For much less Troy burned.

One day (which appears to be the 8th of September of 1698), all of Lima’s aristocrats were congregated in the Church of Saint Augustine in order to hear the panegyric sermon which on the occasion of the Nativity of the Virgin was to be delivered by one of the eloquent friars who were plentiful in that monastery, a center for men of great knowledge and of brilliant speaking ability.

Mass having ended, Count Sierrabella got into his carriage, and wishing to pay a visit to the Countess of Vega del Ren, Doña Josefa Zorrilla de la Gándara, gave the necessary orders to his servant to start in that direction. Upon going around the corner of Lártiga Street, all of a sudden he found himself facing the carriage of the Marquis of Santiago, who was also attempting to turn the corner at the same intersection. Both coachmen pulled on the reins and stopped their horses. The Count’s coachman said to the other coachman, “Go to the left, you stupid Negro!”

“Give me the right of way, you black as pitch Negro!” answered the coachman of the Marquis.

And the two blacks continued to insult each other with a vengeance.

The Count and Marquis stuck their heads out of the windows and upon recognizing each other said to their slaves, “Don’t give a single inch, Negro. If you do I’ll cut you to pieces with my whip.”

The scandal continued and the cream of society that had been in the church surrounded the doors of the carriages.[139]

The gentlemen whose names I have mentioned, and many others whom I’m not in the mood to put on paper, were bustling about proposing compromises which would settle the matter, but it all boiled down to the fact that one of the coaches would have to give up the right of way.

“I refuse to move,” said the Count of Santiago, stretching himself out on the green velvet seat with gold edging, while taking out his diamond studded snuff box and then snuffing a noseful of pure Martinique tobacco with delight.

“This is where I will stay,” said the Marquis of Sierrabella, lighting up an exquisite cigar with a lighter from Guamanga that had emeralds and rubies embedded in the case.

An hour passed and neither of the stubborn nobles would give the other the right of way. They expressed their firm resolve to send to their homes for their evening meal, and they even insisted they would remain in the middle of the street until the week of three Wednesdays should arrive. And they would have carried out their intentions if the Viscount of Saint Donás, a young man experienced in getting out of tight places had not said, “But, gentlemen, this is a stupid matter to which we must put an end. Leave the coaches where they stand and let’s put the problem before the Viceroy and let him decide.”

The suggestion struck everyone as being sound so the two rivals got out of their coaches. The Marquis and his supporters set out on Lártiga Street for the Viceroy’s palace while the Count and his friends started up Lescano Street for the same destination.

When the two contingents arrived at the palace they found that all of the nobility of Lima were there. The only ones not present were the paralytics and those receiving extreme unction. It was a conflict of great moment for anyone who was concerned about his nobility.[140]

Although I am embarrassed to confess it, as a truthful chronicler I must, there wasn’t a single Palma in that group. If somebody by that name was alive in the Lima of that epoch he must have been home taking care of a toothache or he must have had a sharp pain in the small bone at the base of the spinal column. With his absence he served me poorly because he deprived me of the opportunity to find out what my coat of arms was like so I could show it off on my stationery.

The Viceroy, who was well acquainted with the two noblemen, saw himself between the Devil and the deep blue sea. They both defended their claims with abundant proofs of superior nobility. One said that on his shield there was a lion rampant with his tongue showing, on a field of silver, with five griffins of green on gold and two castles with merlons on blue. The other produced a black eagle with a crown on a field of red, four griffins and three towers. The one argued that the lion couldn’t lower its mane in front of the eagle and the other replied that a creature that could fly through the skies with no one to challenge it should not have to humble itself to anything on the ground. The result was that upon hearing them one could not decide whose nobility was the purer and more quartered: for the one whose coat of arms lacked a griffin had a castle, and so it went six of one and half a dozen of another. The Marquis of Santiago said that a marquis was superior to a count, for the word “marquis” in almost all the known languages (and this is a curious observation made by philologists) means watchman or one who guards the frontiers, borders or “marches”[141] of the territory. The Count of Sierrabella answered that the title of count comes from the Latin “comes,” which means companion, and therefore a count was a companion of the prince and guardian of his royal person.

Do you think you can guess how the Viceroy decided the matter? I will give it to you after a count of one, or two, or three, or a thousand. I see that you give up, because not even Solomon, who threatened to slice a baby in half, would have come up with the idea that occurred to the Viceroy.

“Gentlemen,” he said, “I don’t consider myself sufficiently instructed in the science of heraldry, which is, as you know, the science of sciences, nor do I believe that in the entire Viceroyalty there is anyone who can make the decision. The point couldn’t be more intricate and I suspect that I am more capable of turning a quarry stone into gold than to give the correct decision in the matter at hand. The only solution, as I see it, is to ask His Majesty to make the decision. In the meanwhile, return your horses to their stables and let the carriages remain where they are without changing their positions one fraction of an inch until the solution to the problem arrives from Spain.”

The Count of Monclova was a man of great talent and was well acquainted with that little corner of the human soul where vanity resides. That is to say, that’s the way it appears to me; pardon me if I’m wrong.

The parties involved authorized lawyers and kings of arms who were knowledgeable about heraldry to represent them in the court, and they spent considerable sums of money while the case was being heard.[142]

Of course, when after a couple of years the decision was handed down by the monarch, a decision that was celebrated by the victor with a splendid banquet, there was nothing left of the carriages, not even a nail, because the vehicles had been left standing exposed to the elements and to anyone who wanted to carry off parts of the carriages. Naturally, everyone felt that he had the right to walk off with at least a wheel.

Now, I’m very sure that on the lips of all my readers this question is being formed: “All right, Mister Traditionist, who won the case? The Marquis of Santiago or the Count of Sierrabella?”

Let Vargas find out the answer. (And by the way, this Vargas must have been a great sniffer out of other people’s lives, because he is always involved in gossip and inquiries.)

I know what the answer is, but I don’t want to reveal it. I have friends on both sides of the controversy and I am not in the mood to lose any friendships just to satisfy impertinent curiosity seekers.

And so, as I said before, let Vargas find out.

 

 

Return to Table of Contents

 


CHAPTER 27

AN ELEGANT PREACHER

In the thirty years that Father Samamé of the Dominican Order was in the monastery he preached on only one occasion, but this one was sufficient to establish his reputation. Of the blessed, just a little bit.

What I am going to tell you took place where the Devil became a cigarette vendor and was not completely unsuccessful in the endeavor.

Huacho was, in the past century, a small village of fishermen and peasants, people with little education and poor judgment, but very skillful in selling someone a pig in a poke. By the art of magic or with the help of supernatural powders, which to our knowledge are not sold in the drug store, they transformed a bass into a corvina and made use of orange peels to make oranges used for spells.

The inhabitants of present day Huacho can’t hold a candle to their progenitors from the standpoint of ability or industry. Decidedly, all races are degenerating.

My story doesn’t have anything to do with the huachanos of our day. I am referring to people of another century who are now pushing up daisies. And I make this qualification so that no one will jump up and haul me into court because such things have happened in the past and I am suspicious concerning human susceptibilities and stupidities.

It so happened that as Holy Week approached, the priest of the village found himself so seriously afflicted with rheumatism that he decided that he would not be able to preach the three hour sermon. In such a difficult situation he wrote to a friend in Lima, giving him the responsibility of finding a preacher to deliver the sermon on Holy Friday, one who would have at the very least, two b’s.[143] The friend went around from monastery to monastery without locating a friar who would make the round trip journey of fifty miles for very little money.

Having lost all hope, he made his way to Father Samamé, whose life was so dissolute that he was almost always in the monastery jail and suspended from the exercise of his priestly functions. Father Samamé had the reputation of being a dolt; in spite of his being a member of the order of preachers he had never appeared behind the pulpit. But if he didn’t understand anything about theological texts or of sacred oratory he was by contrast a renowned connoisseur of liquor.

The two met, the contract was agreed to, between cups of liquor, and without giving Father Samamé time to go back on his word, the friend of the parish priest told him to get saddled up, and off they went to Huacho.

When they arrived, everybody in the place greeted Father Samamé with great enthusiasm having heard the news that there was going to be a three hour sermon preached by a friar of great importance who had been brought from Lima for that sole purpose. And so it was that on Good Friday there wasn’t a soul left in Laurima, Huara or in any other village within five leagues in any direction because everyone had gone to Huacho to listen to that silver-tongued preacher of the Dominican Order.

Father Samamé ascended to the holy pulpit, invoked to the best of his ability the Holy Spirit, and started in with gusto as God gave him the necessary help.

Upon dwelling on those words of Christ “Today thou wilt be with me in Paradise,” his reverence said, more or less, “Dimas, the good thief was saved by his faith; but Gestas, the bad thief, was lost because of his lack of faith. I fear, my dear huachanos, and listeners, that you are condemning yourselves as bad thieves.”

A muffled murmur of protest could be heard among the members of the Catholic congregation. The huachanos were offended, and rightly so, to hear themselves called “bad thieves.” To be called thieves, by itself alone, was slanderous, although it could pass as an example of florid rhetoric, but that appendage, that qualifier “bad” was enough to strike at the inflated self-importance of everyone there.

The Reverend Father, who noted the terrible impression his words had produced, hurried to correct himself: “But God is great, omnipotent and merciful, my children, and in Him I hope with his sovereign help and your wonderful dispositions, that you will come to have faith and that every one of you, without exception, will be a good, a very good thief.”

If they hadn’t been in church the congregation would have applauded; but it had to be satisfied with showing its contentment with a surging that was similar to applause. That bit of honey on a fingertip was very much to the taste of all palates.

In the meantime the priest was in the sacristy beside himself and waiting for the friar so that he could chastise him for the insolent manner in which he had treated his parishioners.

“What effrontery you showed, Reverend Father, to tell them face to face what you just told them.”

“And what did I tell them?,” asked the friar without changing expression.

“That they were bad thieves.”

“Did I really say that to them? Well, Father, I really got the best of them!”

“Thanks to the fact that afterwards you had the good sense to gild the pill.”

“And what did I tell them?”

“That with the passing of time and with the help of God they would become good thieves.”

“Did I say that to them? Well, Father, I got the best of them again!”

And that’s the end of the story.

 

Return to Table of Contents

 


CHAPTER 28

DON DIMAS DE LA TIJERETA

An old wives tale that tells how

a scribe won a lawsuit from the Devil.

 

Once upon a time, the bad go away and the good come our way, a long time ago during the beginning of the last century[144] there plied his trade on the Street of the Scribes under the arcades in the thrice-crowned City of the Kings[145] a scribe with eyeglasses straddling his Ciceronian nose, a goose feather or a feather from a bird of prey, a horn inkwell, wide breeches of blue cloth down to the knees, a tight-fitting jacket of thin silk cloth and a Spanish cape of a color similar to that of God because it could not be determined, one which he had inherited legitimately which had been handed down from generation to generation for three generations.

Everybody knew him as the namesake of the good thief to whom Christ gave a passport to enter Heaven; well, his name was Don Dimas de la Tijereta, duly authorized scribe of the Royal Audiencia and a man who had been required so many times to dar fe[146] that he wound up without any fe [147] because in his vocation he used up very quickly the little that he brought to the world.

It was said of him that he was more cunning than a fox, he was as tricky as could be and had heaped up for himself more doubloons as a result of his cheating, lying and unscrupulous mistakes than could be piled into the last galleon that set sail for Cádiz, a voyage duly reported by the Gaceta. Perhaps it was on his account that a writer of doggerel wrote that:

 

                   A scribe and a cat

                   Fell into a well;

                   Since both of them had claws

                   They were able to climb up the walls.

 

It is said that the three enemies of the soul had taken possession of the scribe’s soul so completely that it had been stitched up so many times and was so full of patches that His Divine Majesty would not have recognized it even though He is God and He it was who created it. And I am absolutely certain that if the Supreme Being had taken it into his head to call him to account he would have exclaimed with surprise: “Dimas, what have you done with the soul that I gave you?”

The fact is that the scribe, from the standpoint of despicable actions, was the cream of those who were the members of his vocation, and if in his behavior there was not an excess of the bad, neither would his guardian angel find a handle on his spirit to carry him off to heaven when he should draw his last breath.

About this gentleman they say that, while he was acting as the officer in charge of the guild during a feast day funded by the scribes, a cat fell from the cornice of the church in the middle of the sermon, which perturbed the preacher and caused a stir among those in attendance. But Don Dimas reestablished order shouting, “There is no need for all this hubbub, gentlemen. Be aware that the creature that has dropped in on us is a fellow member of this illustrious guild, who has been a little negligent and has arrived late for the festivities. Reverend Father, continue with your sermon.”

All of the guilds have for their patron saint someone who while here on earth followed the same profession: but not even in Roman mythology is there listed a saint who had been a scribe, for whether Saint Aproniano was one or not is still to be determined. The unfortunate creatures have no one in heaven who can intercede for them.

May God punish me with a bad Easter, the first one that comes along, if in this physical and moral portrayal of Don Dimas I have had any desire to tax the patience of any living member of the respectable body of the “before me”[148] and the “I certify.”[149] And I make this disclaimer...not so much to unburden myself of all my offenses, which are not a few, nor to satisfy my narrator’s conscience, which certainly does need some satisfying, but rather because there are people of substance with whom I don’t want to get involved in any way. And that’s enough of sketches and circumlocutions and let’s get on with it and let the merrymaking continue, for if God wishes, and time and weather allow it and the story pleases, I will supply more stories abundantly without further intervention from the scribe. Get the wheel rolling and give it a kick!

II

I don’t know who got it into his head that women were the perdition of the human race. In such an idea, it is my firm belief that that person was guilty of saying the most idiotic thing imaginable. For centuries we have been blaming Eve for the curiosity that led her to take a bite from the well-known apple, as if it hadn’t been up to Adam, who, after all was an unfortunate fellow who didn’t have a decent education, to turn down the apple because eating it wasn’t “relevant,”[150] in spite of the fact that, by all that is holy, the delicacy was tempting enough for anyone who has a drop of red blood in his veins.

That’s a fine excuse our fine fellow Father Adam used. In our days such an excuse would not have saved him from being imprisoned at hard labor although I suspect that going to prison would be sufficient with the demanding and wretched life that some of us lead in this valley of tears and trouble. Men, let’s accept our part of the responsibility in a temptation that affords us such pleasurable moments and let’s not allow the fairer sex to be left holding the bag.

 

                   Up, legs

                   Up, shank!

                   In this world

                   There’s nothing but snares.

 

There will be some who will think that this digression is not relevant. But it certainly is relevant! Since it gives me the opportunity to inform the reader that Tijereta was guilty of the silliest thing that could ever happen to an old man in his old age, a period when men and women smell not of patchouli[151] but of wax candles burned for the deceased. He fell head over heels in love with Visitación, a charming young thing who was twenty springs old, with a pretty little face and a bearing and a certain something that would have tempted even the general of the Bethlehemite Fathers, a slim and attractive waist of the “look at me but don’t touch” type, lips as red as cherries, teeth like unripe almonds, eyes like morning stars more deadly than swords and clubs in a game of ombre. Believe me when I say this lass was as beautiful a rosebud as you could ever find.

In spite of the fact that the scribe was so stingy and so stuck to the gold in his money chest, like a member of the Cabinet to his easy chair, and that as far as giving was concerned he would not even give a “good evening” to anyone, he tried to break down the girl’s resistance with gifts, sending her on one occasion earrings of diamonds and pearls as big as garbanzos and on another occasion dresses made of rich velvet from Flanders, which at the time cost a fortune. But the more money Tijereta squandered, the more distant he saw the day when she would reward him with a charitable act, and this resistance was enough to drive him to distraction.

Visitación lived in love and company with an aunt, old as the sin of gluttony, on whom the Holy Office placed a cone-shaped hat reserved for the condemned for being a panderer and a fence for stolen goods, causing her to pass through the streets on an animal wearing a packsaddle with screamers in front and floggers behind. The accursed bawd did not believe as did Sancho, that it was better to have a niece poorly married than living comfortably in concubinage; and indoctrinating her niece slyly with her procuring, it happened one day that the leg of ham was no longer on the meat hook and this was the fault of a shrewd rascal. From that time on, if the aunt was the fishhook, the niece, a woman in every sense of the word who, according to the procedures associated with the art of magic converted herself into bait to pick up some maravedis from more than two, yes even more than three well-heeled hidalgos of the land.

The scribe would pay a call every night on Visitación and after greeting her he would go on to make clear to her his declaration of the proven nature of his love. She would listen to him while she was cutting her fingernails, all the while recalling how some dandy threw flowers and compliments her way while she was leaving the local church, saying to herself, “You boor, wrap yourself up for you are sweating, and clean yourself up, for you are covered with slime.” Or she would hum to herself:

 

          Soldier, don’t waste your bullets on me

          Because I am a dove that flies high.

          If you want favors from me you have to give me first

Earrings and rings, Spanish lace and gloves.

 

And so she paid attention to the compliments and flattery, like granite to the sounds of glass on which it is shattered. Six months passed by during which time Visitación accepted the gifts but without giving in or revealing any intention of covering the payment, because the sly girl was well aware of the influence of her charms on the heart of the scribe.

But at this point we will find her on the road to Santiago,[152] where all slip, the crippled as well as those who are whole.

III

One night when Tijereta tried to bring the issue to a head or, expressed in a different way, tried to take the bull by the horns, Visitación told him to get lost because she was sick and tired of having the very image of a heretic before her eyes, for that is precisely how he appeared to her. Crestfallen he left her house and directed his footsteps to the foot of Ramas Hill, where he found himself deep in thought. At 12 midnight, he felt a light playful breeze on his face, one which brings on head colds, and he exclaimed, “On my faith. This is certainly a hassle I find myself in with this scullery maid who puts on airs of being so pure and so modest when I myself know miracles about her that are more impressive than the ones found in the Flos Sanctorum.[153] Come, any devil at all and carry off my almilla[154] in exchange for the love of that capricious creature.”

Satan, who from the uppermost depths of his infernal caverns had heard the words of the scribe, rang a bell, whereupon a devil by the name of Lilit made his appearance. Just in case my readers are not acquainted with this person, they should know that experts in demonology, who struggle with the “Clavículas de Salomón,”[155] a book which they read in the glow of a carbuncle, affirm that Lilit, a really handsome, flattering and fluent devil, is the go-between for his Infernal Majesty.

“Lilit, go to Ramas Hill and enter into a contract with a man you will find there who has so little regard for his soul that he calls it ‘a little soul.’ Grant him whatever he asks for and don’t bargain with him. You know that I am not stingy when it comes to getting my prey.”

I am just a poor and hackneyed narrator of stories and so I haven’t been able to obtain any details about the interview between Lilit and Don Dimas that took place because there wasn’t a stenographer handy who could write everything down without missing a period or comma. And that is really a shame! Suffice it to say that Lilit, upon returning to Hell delivered to Satan a document that read as follows:

“Let the record state that I, Don Dimas de la Tijereta, hand over my almilla to the king of the Infernal Depths in exchange for the love and possession of a woman. Item, I am obligated to satisfy the debt three years from today’s date.” And below this were affixed the signatures of those involved and the seal of the Devil.

Upon entering his house the scribe discovered that none other than the disdainful and finicky Visitación was there to open the door for him. Intoxicated with love she threw herself into his arms. They made a perfect match.

Lilit had lit in the heart of the poor girl the fire of Lais and in her senses the shameless lubricity of Mesalina. Let’s skip over this page because it is dangerous to dwell on details that could tempt the reader to do something that would bring about his eternal condemnation, without the bull of Meco or any other able to help him.

IV

Since there is a deadline for everything and every debt comes due sooner or later, the three years passed by day by day, one right after the other, and the day arrived when Tijereta was to honor the contract. Dragged up by a superior force and without realizing what was happening he found himself transported in a split second to Ramas Hill, for even in this detail the Devil was meticulous; he wanted to be paid at the same site and the same hour in which the contract was signed.

Upon seeing Lilit the scribe began to take off his clothes very calmly, but the imp said to him, “Don’t bother about taking off your clothes. They won’t add enough weight to make any difference. I’m able to carry you with your clothes and your shoes on.”

“Well,” responded Don Dimas, “how do you expect me to honor the contract if I don’t undress?”

“Go ahead and do what you want to in the minute of liberty that you still have.”

The scribe continued to disrobe until he took off his almilla or jacket worn under his outer clothes and handing it over to Lilit said, “The contract is now honored; give it back to me.”

Lilit began to laugh as hard as a carefree, rascally devil can laugh and said to the scribe, “And what do you want me to do with this article of clothing?”

“That’s the limit! That garment is called an almilla and that’s what I sold to you and I’m not obligated to you for anything else. Carta canta.[156] Examine that contract, my fine devil, and if you are fair you will admit you have been duly paid. After all, that almilla cost me an ounce of gold in Pacheco’s store.”

“I don’t understand anything about such silly trifles, Don Dimas. Come with me and keep silent until you appear before my master.”

At that moment the minute expired and Lilit put Dimas on his shoulders and straightway made his way to the fiery pit. While they were on their way the scribe shouted as loud as he could that there was undue haste in Lilit’s procedure, that everything that had transpired was null and void and illegal, and threatened the devil constable with taking him to court if he should find minions of the law in Satan’s kingdom; and at the very least he would sue him for the cost of the legal proceedings. Lilit turned a deaf ear to Dimas’ complaints, and just to warn him of the danger he was confronting, he was trying to dunk him in a cauldron of boiling lead when all Hell broke loose and Satan, perceiving the turmoil that had been created and why it had been created agreed that the case should be brought to court. Which goes to show that the Devil holds fast to the law and brooks no arbitrariness and despotism.

Fortunately for Tijereta, the use of legal documents had not been introduced into Hell, a practice that made a trial interminable, and so he saw his case decided in the first and second instance. Without citing the Pandectas[157] or the Fuero juzgo[158] and with only the authority of the Dictionary of the Royal Academy, the rogue proved that he was in the right; and the judges, who while alive were probably men of letters and academicians, ordered that Tijereta be set free without delay and that Lilit guide him through the straight and rough roads of Hell and deposit him on the doorstep of his own home. The instructions were carried out to the letter, which is proof that in Hell, laws are not, unlike those of the world, trampled underfoot by the one who rules and good only on paper. But after the diabolical charm had been lifted the scribe discovered that Visitación had abandoned him, running off to shut herself up in a house inhabited by pious women, thus following the old maxim of “Give God the bone after having made a gift of the flesh to the devil.”

Satan, in order not to lose everything, kept the almilla, and that’s why from that time on scribes have not worn almillas. As a result, any slight cold causes in them a case of pneumonia of the most serious kind, or a case of tuberculosis that is very grave.

And no matter how much I’ve tried I haven’t been able to find out how Tijereta died—whether he came to a good or bad end. But what is certain is that he packed it in, for it wasn’t right for him to remain on the earth helping other pícaros to develop. Such is, my reader, my belief.

But one of my good friends told me, in strict confidentiality, that when Tijereta was dead, his soul, which had more wrinkles and folds than a coquette’s fan, wanted a drink in the cauldrons of Beelzebub, but the guardian at the gate shouted, “Get away from here! We don’t admit scribes anymore.”

This caused my friend to surmise that the same thing that happened to the soul of Judas Iscariot happened to the scribe’s soul. Since the matter is relevant and one has to strike while the iron is hot, I feel obligated to note it here as a kind of conclusion.

Very old chroniclers state that the apostle who betrayed Christ realized the enormity of what he had done and decided that the best way to make the thing right was to throw away the thirty pieces of silver and end his life dangling from the end of a rope, converted into the fruit of a tree.

He carried out his suicide without writing out ahead of time, the way it is done now, a farewell note, and his soul spent hours and hours knocking at the gate of purgatory, where in spite of all his entreaties, he was not given lodging.

The same thing happened to him in Hell, so desperate and shivering from the cold, he returned to the world searching for shelter.

While engaged in looking for a place to stay, he bumped into a usurer’s body, from which the soul had fled some time ago, tired of putting up with his master’s crooked dealings. Judas’ soul said to itself, “I can’t go wrong here,” and took up lodging in the usurer’s body. From that time on it has been said that usurers have the soul of Judas.

And so, friend reader, with the fact that every four year years one is bissextile I make an end to the story, wishing you good health and hoping that you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed the opportunity to provide you with a few moments of pleasure.

 

Return to Table of Contents

 


CHAPTER 29

A LIMEÑA’S  WHIM

I don’t know, reader, if you are acquainted with one of my traditional legends entitled “Pepe Bandos,” in which I tried to paint the character, energetic to the point of being arbitrary, of Viceroy Don Juan de Armendáriz, Marquis of Castelfuerte. Today as a complement to that one I feel like relating one of the outbursts of His Excellency, one that I had previously left untold.

I

About the year 1727 Don Alvaro de Santiponce, master in all the arts and apprentice in none, was a young Andalusian hidalgo residing in Lima. He was a fine looking fellow who was constantly involved in one row or another. He frequented gambling dens and was often found loitering near the windows of the fairer sex. He was so sensitive that the slightest contradiction was enough for him to draw his rapier and cause a terrible fuss. Concerning money matters it could be said of him that he was “presumptuousness and poverty in one person” and one could apply this quatrain to him without incurring calumny:

 

                   Of Don Pascual Pérez Quiñones

                   It has been said that of shirts

                   He had an uneven number,

                   He didn’t even have three.

 

As an aftermath of the recent execution of Antequera,[159] the city was in an uproar and the Viceroy had issued a decree establishing a curfew at 10 PM. No one could be on the streets of Lima after that hour, and to put teeth into the order the Marquis of Castelfuerte multiplied the number of night patrols and at times he himself went with them to see what was going on in the city.

Our young fellow from Andalusia was not about to give up his romantic adventures because of some decree, so one evening the night patrol surprised him while he was engaged in saying sweet nothings to someone on the other side of the grating of a window.

“You there, young gentleman. You are under arrest!” the officer in charge of the patrol shouted to him.

“The Devil you say!” replied Santiponce, and drawing his sword he began to exchange parries and thrusts. He was able to wound one of the members of the patrol, thus opening up a way to escape. He took off running with the patrol right on his heels. After having run past several streets he saw a door of a house open and ducked inside, running to the parlor. There he found a family enjoying a tertulia,[160] celebrating the birthday of one of its members, when our hidalgo burst onto the scene and ruined the whole affair.

The lady of the house was an aristocratic limeña[161] by the name of Doña Margarita de ********* who was very proud of her blue blood, having descended from one of the Knights of the Golden Spur who were ennobled by Juana la Loca[162] for having accompanied Pizarro in the conquest of Peru. The proud lady was the wife of one of the wealthiest landowners in the country, a man who, if not being able to claim nobility for himself, held his wife’s nobility in high esteem. She had the legal papers to prove her claim.

The pursued hidalgo informed Doña Margarita of his predicament and begged her pardon for having interrupted their tertulia. Whereupon she escorted him to the interior of the house.

It was one of the quixotic customs of the times, something which survived feudal times, not to deny asylum even to the worst criminal, and the aristocrats were committed to defend vigorously the immunity of their homes even if it meant a compromise with their sense of honor. In Lima there were homes that were called “homes of the chains” in which according to royal decree the officers of the law could not enter without first obtaining permission from the owner. Entering homes under such circumstances took place only in specific cases and only after many legal steps had been taken. Our colonial history is replete with disputes over the legitimacy of asylum in certain circumstances between civil and ecclesiastical authority and even between the state and individuals. Nowadays, thanks be to the good Lord, we have gotten rid of such old-fashioned practices, and even at the foot of the high altars of the Church the fellow who breaks the law can find himself grabbed by the police. Although in the Constitution there is written some article or piece of nonsense that guarantees the inviolability of the home, our government minions pay as much attention to the prohibition as they would to the giant Culiculiambros’ mustache. And here, for the occasion doesn’t present itself often, I am going to tell you the origin of a saying that originated in our Republic.

A certain president, whose name I remember but which I don’t feel like writing, saw a conspirator in all of us who weren’t a supporter of his politics and kept the police in constant comings and goings with orders to throw into jail any who opposed him.

It was midnight, right on the dot, when an agent of the local police district accompanied by a swarm of policemen climbed over the walls and, unannounced, rushed the house of an individual who was suspected of giving asylum to a demagogue of some importance.

The family, which had been in the arms of Morpheus, was terrified by the sudden appearance of a band of vandals and the owner of the house, incapable of getting mixed up with political shenanigans, asked the agent to show him the warrant duly made out and duly signed by the proper authority, which made it possible to trample on his rights as a homeowner.

“What are you talking about? What warrant or anything of the sort?” answered the agent. “With me there is no god but Mohammed and I am his prophet!”

“Well, without a warrant I will not allow you to violate the privacy of my home.”

“What silliness. You don’t seem to be a Peruvian.”

“You there,” he shouted to the policemen, “search the house!”

“The Constitution guarantees individual rights...”

The agent didn’t allow the owner, who was not very well versed in the law, to finish his discourse. He interrupted him exclaiming, “The Constitution at this time of night? Tie him up!”

And there was nothing the poor fellow could do. Thus was born the saying with which the people’s common sense expresses the futility of protesting against the arbitrary actions to which are inclined those who possess a tiny bit of power.

Doña Margarita’s home was a recognized “house of the chain,” borne out by the fact that there were heavy chain links of a chain which extended to the entryway of the hall. In the home there was a basement or a hiding place, whose entrance was a secret for everyone except for the lady of the house and one of the maids whom she could trust implicitly. It was so well hidden that the structure could be torn down and it still would not be discovered.

The man in charge of the patrol handed his sword to one of the constables at the street door and thus unarmed made his way to the parlor, and using very courteous words demanded that the fugitive be handed over to him.

Doña Margarita got on her high horse and responded by saying that she was not of Judas’ kind and she was not about to hand over to the law someone who had placed himself under the safeguard of her nobility. Furthermore, she told him to relay the message to Pepe Bandos, the Viceroy, for whom she didn’t give a rap with all his tantrums.

 When a woman gives free reign to her tongue words flow out and keep gushing out and they never cease, just like water flowing from a stream. She proceeded to rake the poor agent over the coals and to refer to His Excellency as a dog and as an excommunicant, making reference to the cavalry charge directed against the friars of San Francisco the day that Antequera was executed.

Words once uttered and stones once cast cannot be returned. The agent suffered the tongue lashing impassively, then retired in a black mood and by surrounding the street with policemen made his way to the palace and had the Viceroy awakened, whereupon he related to him detail after detail everything that had just happened and how the noble lady had ripped him up one side and down the other, leaving in shambles the respect which was due to a person in the Kingdoms of Peru who aspired to be looked at as the very person of Philip V.

II

Knowing as we do the character of this Viceroy we can suppose that he began to snort with anger. At first he was tempted to jump over the chains and privileges, arrest the insolent lady and imprison her along with her parchments of nobility in a room in the court jail which was used for women with loose morals.

But, calming himself down, he thought that it would be unwise to go to such extremes with one of Eve’s daughters, for his behavior would be considered unworthy of a gentleman. Besides, he reasoned, women use their tongues like weapons, ones that are both offensive and defensive, which Nature gave them. But when women have someone responsible, like a husband, to edit what they say, the most practical thing to do would be to go directly to him and arrive at an understanding, man to man.

No sooner said than done, he summoned an official and sent him post haste to an estate a few leagues from Lima in which Doña Margarita’s husband happened to be at the time. The husband was handed a letter that informed him about everything that had transpired. The letter concluded as follows: “It is time for you, sir, to know who wears the pants in your home. If you do, you will prove it to me by turning over to the police within twelve hours the fellow who has sought refuge behind your wife’s skirts. If the disrespectful person the Church joined to you in holy matrimony wears the pants, tell me in all honesty so that I can tailor my conduct to the reply. May God, our sovereign Lord, give you the firmness to establish proper government in your home, for heaven only knows, you need it. I hope you won’t think ill of me for the wish I have expressed. Signed, the Marquis of Castelfuerte.”

The husband answered the ridiculing and threatening letter very laconically: “It pains me, Marquis, that you should speak to me with such displeasure. I would intervene in the matter if your letter hadn’t insulted my personal honor more than show a love for carrying out justice. Do what you deem best; I will not be angry. Let me remind you that the husband who loves and respects his companion who shares his bed and is mother of his children places her in complete control over his home as a safeguard that no one will place in a bad light the good name and reputation of the family. May God give you long life for the benefit of these communities and for better service to His Majesty. Signed, Carlos de *********.”

As you can see, the two letters were two doses of Spanish fly, loaded with irony.

When Armendáriz received the reply from Don Carlos he ordered him brought as a prisoner to Lima.

“And so, my good sir,” said the Viceroy to him, “with me there is no beating around the bush. I gave you twelve hours to hand over the criminal. What is it to be? Apples or oranges? You choose.”

“It will be what your Excellency decides, because even if you were to grant me a hundred years I would not exert any pressure on my wife to deliver to you a person who suffers persecution because of the law.”

“Oh, so that’s the way it is!” exclaimed the furious Marquis. “Well, this very night you will pack your personal belongings and off you will go to Valdivia;[163] I swear by all that is holy that it will not be said of me that no insignificant husband of high lineage was able to succeed in telling me how to run the government. That’s a great home you have, sir, where the hen cackles and the rooster doesn’t crow!”

But because palace walls have ears everybody in Lima knew that the wealthy Don Carlos was to be put aboard the frigate “María de los Angeles,” ready to sail that night from Callao. Doña Margarita put on her mantle and, accompanied by her duenna, an old male servant and a page, set out to get support from any quarter possible to change the Viceroy’s mind. The archbishop and several canons, judges of the Audiencia, members of the town council and titled noblemen went to the palace to attempt to persuade the Marquis to reconsider his order; but His Excellency, after giving orders to the captain of the palace guard, retired to his bedroom for his night’s sleep and gave strict orders to his chamberlain that even if Troy should burn, no one was to dare to wake him up.

When on the following day the Viceroy attended a session with the Royal Audiencia the “María de los Angeles” had already disappeared over the horizon. One of the judges dared to question the Marquis on the matter, whereupon the Viceroy replied as follows, “Let Doña Margarita turn the fugitive over to us and her husband will return from Valdivia.”

But Doña Margarita would not budge an inch, unusual in our day, so staunch was she in defending what she thought was right. She loved her husband very much but felt that if she should submit to the demands of the Marquis that she would debase her husband and herself. With respect to tenacity, this lady and the Viceroy were on equal terms.

III

And so the years passed by. Doña Margarita sent reams of letters and petitions to the Madrid court and spent huge sums of money for Masses, candles and lamps in order that the saints would perform the miracle of having Philip V send a letter of reprimand to his representative. In the meantime, while all this was going on Carlos died in exile. Armendáriz returned to Spain in 1731, where he was honored with the Order of the Golden Fleece.

Under the government of his successor, the Marquis of Villagarcía, Don Alvaro de Santiponce left Doña Margarita’s home and breathed fresh air again; and just in case the officers of the law should want to pursue him again he embarked for a Portuguese possession without wasting a minute.

The Marquis of Castelfuerte excused this abuse of authority by saying, “I made that decision so that husbands would not permit their wives to show contempt for the law and those who administer it; but I doubt that they will take advantage of the lesson; for in spite of what may be stated to the contrary, we, the sons of Adam, will always be hen-pecked and they will carry the voice of authority and will always mold us to their will, just like you make wax and wicks into candles.”

 

Return to Table of Contents

 


CHAPTER 30

MARGARET’S CHEMISE

It is probable that some of my readers have heard the old women of Lima say: “Why this is more expensive than Margarita Pareja’s chemise” when they are discussing the high cost of some article.

For some time I had been dying to learn the identity of this Margarita whose chemise was so well known in Lima when I happened upon an article in La América of Madrid written by Don Ildefonso Antonio Bermejo (author of an outstanding book about Paraguay) who, although just in passing, referred to the young lady and her chemise. This article gave me the impetus to sort out all the relevant details and was instrumental in the eventual writing of this account.

I

The year was 1765 and Margarita Pareja was the most spoiled of the daughters of Don Raimundo Pareja, Knight of the Order of Santiago and head tax collector in Callao.

The young lady was one of those limeñas[164] who, by dint of her striking beauty, could make a prisoner of the Devil himself and force him to cross himself and throw stones. She boasted a pair of black eyes like two torpedoes filled with dynamite that would explode in the hearts of Lima’s dashing young men.

One day an arrogant young fellow arrived from Spain, a native of the crowned city of the madroño tree and the bear,[165] whose name was Don Luis Alcázar. He had an uncle in Lima who was a wealthy bachelor, a native of an old elite family from Aragón who was prouder than the sons of King Fruela.[166]

Of course our Don Luis was as poor as a church mouse and lived for the day when he would inherit his uncle’s wealth. Even his amorous escapades were on credit. Difficult, indeed, were those days for Don Luis, knowing that his debts would be paid only when his uncle should die.

During Santa Rosa’s procession,[167] he met the lovely Margarita, who filled his eye and shot arrows into his heart. He threw some flowers to her and, although she didn’t say “Yes” or “No” she gave him to understand with seductive smiles and other weapons in her feminine arsenal that the young man was very much to her liking. The truth is, and I would not hesitate to say it in a confessional, that they fell head over heels in love.

Since people in love forget that there is such a thing as arithmetic, Don Luis thought that his lack of money wouldn’t be a serious obstacle to their marriage and so he talked with Don Raimundo about the matter and without wasting any time asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage.

The request did not please Don Raimundo at all so he courteously dismissed Don Luis telling him that Margarita, who was still too much like a child to take a husband, still played with dolls in spite of the fact that she was eighteen years old.

But this was not the real reason behind the refusal, for Don Raimundo did not want to be the father-in-law of a penniless young man, and he said as much in confidence to some of his friends, who immediately carried the story to Don Honorato (the name of the Aragonese uncle). More arrogant than the Cid, he bellowed with rage and said, “How is it possible? Snubbing my nephew. I know a lot of men who would give their eye-teeth to marry their daughter to Luis. There isn’t a more dashing young man in Lima. Has there ever been such a show of insolence before? Well, just what does that miserable tax collector think he’s doing, anyway, treating my nephew and me with such contempt?”

Margarita was ahead of her time because she was just as flighty as a young lady of our day. She whined and pulled out her hair and threw tantrums and if she didn’t threaten to commit suicide it was because matches with phosphorus tips had not been invented.

Margarita became paler and paler and lost weight and spoke of becoming a nun. On top of that, nothing she did seemed to make any sense.

“It’s Luis or God for me!” she would shout, when she became upset, which happened quite regularly.

The gentleman of the Order of Santiago became alarmed and had doctors and quacks come to diagnose her ills. They all declared that she was coming down with tuberculosis and that the only melecina that would save her was not sold in any drugstore. Raimundo could marry her to the man with whom she was in love or he could put her in a casket. Those were the doctor’s last words.

Don Raimundo (after all, he was a father) hurried like a crazy man to talk to Don Honorato, leaving in such a hurry that he forgot his cape and cane. Said he, “I have come to request that you permit your nephew to marry Margarita tomorrow because if she doesn’t wed Luis she is going to die.”

“The marriage cannot take place,” replied Honorato. “My nephew is poverty-stricken and you are looking for someone who is made of money.”

The dialogue was stormy. The more Raimundo pleaded with Honorato the more stubborn he became and the tax collector, completely disheartened, was about to leave when Luis broke in and said, “But uncle, it isn’t Christian to kill a person who is not to blame.”

“Do you feel that your honor is restored?”

“With all my heart, my uncle and my lord.”

“Well, all right, I give my consent to the marriage on one condition: Don Raimundo must swear to me before the holy Eucharist that he will not give one cent to his daughter, nor will he leave one real[168] in his inheritance.”

Of course this demand precipitated another heated argument. “But my good friend,” argued Raimundo, “my daughter has a dowry of 20,000 duros.”[169]

“Forget the dowry. The girl will go to her husband’s house without anything except what she is wearing.”

“At least permit me to give her furniture and her trousseau.”

“Not one single thing. If you don’t like it, then it’s death for your daughter.”

“Be reasonable, Don Honorato. My daughter at least needs to take with her a chemise to put on when she takes off the one she will be wearing.”

“Agreed. I’ll allow the chemise so you won’t accuse me of being obstinate. You can give her a bride’s chemise and that’s that! I don’t want to hear anymore about the matter!”

The following day Don Raimundo and Don Honorato made their way to the San Francisco Church and while they were kneeling to hear Mass, according to what they agreed upon at the moment when the priest was raising the divine Host, Margarita’s father said, “I swear not to give to my daughter anything except a bride’s chemise. May God condemn me if I should break my word.

II

And Don Raimundo kept his word down to every last jot and tittle because while he was alive and even after his death he gave nothing to his daughter after the wedding—not one red cent.

The lace that adorned Margarita’s bride’s chemise cost 2,700 duros[170] according to Bermejo, who it appears, copied his information from the Relaciones Secretas (Secret Relations) written by Ulloa and Don Jorge Juan.

Item—the drawstring that adjusted the size of the neck opening was a string of diamonds valued at more than 30,000 morlacos.[171]

The newlyweds made Honorato believe that the chemise wasn’t worth more than an onza[172] for they knew that he was so bull-headed that if he had known all of the details he would have forced his nephew to divorce Margarita.

Let us agree that the reputation enjoyed by Margarita Pareja’s nuptial chemise was certainly well deserved.

 

Return to Table of Contents

 


CHAPTER 31

“WELL, I AM A BEAUTY AND A CASTELLANOS”

 

Mariquita Castellanos was what could be called a most striking young lady, a choice morsel for an archbishop, and a real delicacy for a judge of the Audiencia. She was the kind of person for whom this popular ballad would be well suited:

 

If I should find myself with you

With the door locked

And the blacksmith should die

And the key should break...

 

Weren’t you acquainted with her, reader?

I wasn’t either; but an elderly gentleman who lived during the time of Viceroy Amat spent many hours with me when we had nothing better to do than talk of the past, and he would tell me stories about Mariquita. He it was who told me about the saying that serves as the title for this article.

Mica Villegas was an actress of the theater of Lima who provided the most excellent Viceroy of these kingdoms of Peru, named by Charles III, with many headaches, and to whom His Excellency spoke in harsh terms, which happens quite often when two people love each other. Because the Viceroy could not be considered an expert in the pronunciation of the Castilian language he called his lover Perricholi. La Perricholi, whose biography has been written better by someone else, was a woman who was rather homely in appearance. It would seem that His Excellency wasn’t a man of very discerning taste.

María Castellanos, as I have had the pleasure of saying, was the most beautiful brown-skinned limeña who ever put on size 4-1/2 shoes.

 

Just as one and one are two

I die for a dark-skinned lass;

White ones the silversmith made;

Brown skinned ones were made by God.

 

That was the way a ballad went that was popular during those years, and by my faith, it must have been Mariquita who inspired the poet to compose those lines. He said to me, that gentleman of Amat’s reign, licking his lips, that even the sun was cross-eyed and the moon floated through the heavens with its mouth agape when that young lady, dressed fit to kill, went walking under the arcades.

But while Mica Villegas twisted no less than the Viceroy around her little finger, Mariquita Castellanos had her way with the stuck-up Count of ***** who was fastened to her petticoats, an aged millionaire who in spite of his physical defects and his Decembers still enjoyed taking bites out of the apple of the Garden of Eden. If the Viceroy did crazy things because of Mica, the Count was not far behind in what he did because of Mariquita.

La Perricholi wanted to humiliate the ladies of the aristocracy, showing off her ambiguous charms in a carriage that was driven down a public avenue. All of the nobility were scandalized and expressed their displeasure to the Viceroy. But the actress, who had satisfied her vanity and her whims, made a gift of the carriage to the parish of San Lázaro in order that the parish priest could ride in it while carrying the viaticum to the dying. And keep in mind that a carriage cost a fortune and that Perricholi’s was the most splendid of all of the ones that drove along the Alameda.

Mariquita couldn’t tolerate the fact that her rival was able to create such an uproar in Lima because of the incident of the carriage.

“No. I’m determined to humble the pride of that gadabout. My lover is not a first-born of dogs and muskets, nor did he learn to steal the way Amat did from his steward, and what he spends is his own, and very much his own without having to give an accounting to the king concerning where the money comes from. Coming to me with her pride and her fantasies, as if I weren’t better than she is, the miserable little actress! Look at the puddle of water that wants to be an arm of the sea! Well, I am a beauty and a Castellanos!”

And now, a digression. Evil-tongued persons said that in Lima during the first years that he governed, the most excellent Viceroy Don Manuel Amat y Juniet, Knight of the Order of Santiago and decorated with a whole cemetery of crosses, had been a model of integrity and administrative probity. But there arrived a day in which he gave in to the temptation to make himself rich, thanks to the fact that by coincidence he found out that the awarding of corregimientos[173] was a mine that was more powerful and prosperous than the ones in Pasco and Potosí. We shall see how such a marvelous discovery took place.

Amat was in the habit of getting up at the crack of dawn (according to a writer who is a friend of mine, getting up early is the mark of good rulers) and all wrapped up in a jacket made of coarse fabric he would make his way down to the palace garden, where he would work until 8 AM, taking care of the plants. One day a certain gentleman who was seeking the position of corregidor in Saña or Jauja, the most important such posts in the Viceroyalty, approached the Viceroy in the garden, taking him for the steward, and offered him several hundred doubloons to use his influence with the Viceroy to be awarded the coveted position.

“I swear by Saint Cebollina, virgin and martyr, patron saint for those who suffer from calluses! So that’s what has been going on with my majordomo!” he said to himself. And from that day on he managed to make a killing without any help from anyone. Within a short period of time he was able to amass large sums of money—sufficient to satisfy the expensive whims of La Perricholi, who, it should be noted in passing, was certainly a spendthrift and a waster.

Let’s return to Mariquita Castellanos. It was the fashion that every woman who was worth anything had a predilection for a lap dog. Mariquita’s was a cute little treasure she had named Cupid. The feast day of Rosario came along and the Count’s lover showed up dressed in very common clothes and bringing with her a female servant who was carrying the little dog in her arms. That, you will say, reader, is not so unusual; but in this case the little dog was wearing a small gold collar encrusted with diamonds as large as garbanzos.

The extravagance thus ostentatiously displayed gave the limeñas[174] plenty to talk about, but their heightened interest gave way to astonishment when, after the procession had come to an end it was learned that Cupid, with all of his valuable adornments had been given by his owner to one of the hospitals in the city which was having such a difficult time financing its activities that it was about to close its doors.

From that moment on Mariquita could count on the sympathy of the aristocracy and the common people, all of which Mica Villegas had lost. It is said that whenever anyone spoke to Mariquita about the event she would say emphatically that no other person of her class could surpass her in arrogance and luxury. “But of course! I am a beauty and a Castellanos!”

And the statement was repeated so much that it became a popular saying, and as such has continued down to the present time.

 

Return to Table of Contents

 


CHAPTER 32

THE CIGAR VENDOR OF HUACHO

(A Tradition about the Devil and one of his love affairs)

 

A little more than twenty-five leagues from Lima there is a village that is most pleasant because of its weather, the fertility of its fields, the flavor of its fruit, and above all, for the patriarchal simplicity of its inhabitants. This latter quality, it is true, is beginning to disappear in order to give way to the bad habits and the duplicity which are a necessary escort of civilization.

Huacho, a humble village of fishermen and laborers, is situated on the coast of the Pacific Ocean about one league from Huaura, a famous site in the history of our wars for Independence because it provided asylum for San Martín for many months, and because a small force of patriots that made Huaura its headquarters kept the powerful royalist armies in a state of constant alarm.

In spite of their proximity to the capital of the Republic, the huachanos believe in the Devil and in witches; and it is well known that Huacho is the only place in the world where the “Maligno”[175] goes by the name of Don Dionisio the Cigar Vendor. 

It is a venerable custom in our communities to mount an auto da fe on Easter with the effigy of the apostle who sold our Divine Master for the trifling sum of thirty pieces of silver. But the huachanos do not condemn poor Judas to the flames, rather, they pity him and pardon him, thinking piously how great his difficulties were that would drive him to commit such a foul act for such a paltry sum. Perhaps Judas’ situation is similar to that which afflicts people who draw pensions from the state in our day. The victim sacrificed by the huachanos is the effigy of the unfortunate Don Dionisio.

The huachano does not conceive as honorable or a devoted believer anyone who had the bad luck to receive with the salt of baptism the name Dionisio, and it is well known that when in 1780 the Inspector of the Royal Treasury, Don Dionisio de Ascasibar, passed through the town, the inhabitants made a big fuss and threatened to do bodily harm to this very distinguished individual. Fortunately, his lordship got wind of the less than hospitable welcome that had been planned for him, so he spent the night there, but by morning he had slipped away. And can you believe that people say that what Espronceda[176] wrote was a silly thing?

 

                   The name is the man

                   And the first fateful thing is his name.

 

As for me, I have always been fascinated by sayings and folktales. I have heard mentioned so much the Cigar Vendor of Huacho mention on the many occasions when I have lived on such friendly terms among the honorable people of the communities of Lauriana and Cruz Blanca that finally the itch to learn about the history of aforesaid Don Dionisio overcame me and so here you have the first fruits of my investigative efforts.

I

It so happened that by good or bad fortune we were born in this age of coal, so permeated with the Romanticism of Victor Hugo, and so little attuned to that of Pedro Calderón de la Barca.[177] And by my soul, if now, when we write about affairs of the heart, daggers and poison have to enter in, as a contrast, during the time of the cape and dagger, an age of bibs and straws for Humanity, everything was serenades and occasionally a drubbing administered by officers of the night patrol. Nevertheless, if at times the fine blade of Toledo was to shine it was in a duel of gentlemen and the conflicts took place away from the centers of town and ended only when blood stained the sword.

It appears that the Romanticism of our grandfathers hadn’t discovered that the most elegant arms for a combat are two bottles of wine and the best field a good table loaded down with a tasty meal consisting of truffles, frogs’ legs and sparrow breasts. God, the king and the lady made up the code of honor. How benighted and how stupid they were! Nowadays we cause a row when the night is well spent over the grace of a pirouette of the can-can and although “blood doesn’t reach the river” we are agreed that this is really the proper appreciation of black honor and that what our grandfathers practiced was nothing more than fol de rol.

In that day and age the organization known as the “young mothers” was still in limbo, in fact it was completely unknown. This society of plump, no longer “young” mothers became confidants of the coquetry and the mischievousness of their daughters.

To tell the truth, their exploits could cause enough scandal to provide the town crier with plenty to announce.

Many years ago, that is before Independence, a mother was what she was supposed to be. A daughter dared to get out of line? Out with the scissors and off with her hair! Men don’t like hairless women. She falls asleep during the Rosary? Undoubtedly the child must have had her head full of worldly thoughts and in order to get her back on the right track she would be shut up in a dark room until the documents having been duly signed by the vicar general, she was sent to a convent where she learned to make embroidered items, figures of wax, marzipan candy and cakes. In addition, whether she was guilty or not, she received a whack with the broom handle, many a pinch and many a blow, leaving not just one bruise[178] but a whole conclave of them on her delicate body. A mother had no king or master other than her own sovereign will. That was really autocracy; to which that of the Czar of Russia couldn’t hold a candle. On my soul, my lovely readers, aren’t we glad we didn’t live in the days of the underskirt? Now under the rule of crinoline and other artificial things when a girl sasses the ones who gave her life a mother has to walk a fine line. No one fears the old customs. What would anyone think today if there were threats of cutting hair, shutting people up and head thumping?

II

It was in the middle of the last century during the night preceding Saint John’s Feast Day. The Spanish custom had been introduced of having every girl fifteen years or older light a candle in front of Christ’s precursor. On the stroke of twelve the young ladies hurriedly rushed to their balconies and windows, where they were agreeably surprised by the young gallants who, to the accompaniment of a lute and a small guitar sang romantic laments and whining yaravíes.[179] They believed that the singers had fallen from heaven and they were too Christian to tell them to be on their way.

Two months previous to this, Doña Angustias Ambulodegui de Iturriberigorrigoicoerrotaberricoechea, widow of a Biscayan employed in the government store, had, with her daughter, taken up residence in Huacho. Eduvigis was a young girl capable of driving crazy no less than Saint Jerónimo himself, who would have thrown into a well the rock and the whip with which he tormented himself in the desert.

I would not dare to swear that that night Eduviges had lit a candle to John the Baptist, asking him to favor her with a serious concern; but it is certain that she was still awake and dressed at midnight and that she appeared in a small window as soon as she heard some chords from a guitar which was being played with show and verve. Certain it is that the singer would not have sung couplets like the ones we heard from a young gallant in a small country town:

 

                   When the bells toll,

                   Don’t ask who died,

                   Because, absent from sight,

                   Who could it be but Pepe González?

but rather lively and pointed ones like this one:

                   The love I have for you

                   I have freely confessed.

                   And the confessor has told me

                   That it is not a sin,

                   For it is natural

                   That men and women

                   Love each other.

 

Couplets come and couplets go. The singer gave signs of waiting for dawn in order to put an end to his designs on the young lady when suddenly the sharp sound of a slap and a raspy voice ruined the whole affair. These words stung: “So you like songs, you insolent thing? Well, I want you to understand that a serenader who courts a girl should come in through the door without making a scandalous scene in the neighborhood. A little puddle of water you are; you will never be a lake or a river!”

And similar to the witches in Macbeth, an old hag in her petticoat with a face adorned with a pair of boar’s teeth that served as crutches for her jaw appeared at the window. That’s the way Quevedo[180] would have expressed it.

“See here, you fancy fellow, you masher, be off with you and mess up the good judgment of some floozies with less self-esteem than my daughter has!”

We don’t know if it was the fright caused by the infernal apparition or if it was a gust of wind that tore away the mantle from the serenader’s face; what we do know is that in the dim light which came from the window the flustered Eduviges and the furious widow recognized the person of whom we will speak in a separate section.

III

During the same period when Doña Angustias and her daughter settled in Huacho there arrived a young fellow about twenty-five years of age, a fine looking person but a rogue and a picaro who proved to be a person who possessed very few of this world’s goods. He rented a run-down store in which he opened up a tobacco shop. The curiosity of the neighbors wouldn’t leave the stranger alone. The latter, it must be noted, didn’t care for any kind of conversation with the huachanos. A young fellow like he was, who had no friends and wanted to keep it that way, was destined to be the talk of the village.

One afternoon two old ladies entered the shop and after buying some cigars they set about to engage the stranger in a conversation and among other more or less impertinent questions they asked are the two which follow: “And where do you come from, my good man?”

“From Purgatory!”

The questioner gave a start believing that he was a soul in torment who had lived in a frigid mining area of Cajamarca that was known as Purgatory. Having recovered from her fright the curious woman ventured another question: “And what do you plan to do here in Huacho?”

“Make cigars and have myself a devilish good time!”

A new surprise for the elderly women.

“And how old are you?”

“I’m as old as the Devil,” answered the exasperated Don Dionisio.

At this point the women crossed themselves and scurried out of the shop. The vendor’s responses were soon on everyone’s tongue, accompanied, of course, by additional bits of information and commentaries. All were in agreement that the stranger was at the very least a heretic and that some fine day Huacho would see the visit of an agent of the Holy Office. Contributing to the fact that the huachanos looked upon him as a dangerous guest was the knowledge that he did not kiss the priest’s hand or attend Sunday mass, minor sins which were sufficient at that time to cause an unfortunate person to have to deal with the torturers of the Inquisition.

IV

Someone said that women are the very spirit of contradiction. The resounding blow that was well received sufficed for Eduviges, on a whim, to exchange love notes with the vendor, and if the serenades were not repeated it was because the exchange of billet doux and mysterious meetings became quite common at the back door.

One night Doña Angustias found out that her dove had flown from the nest, which led to her tearing out her hair and shouting to high heaven, “You ungrateful daughter. May God allow the Cloven Footed One to carry her off!

“Lordy, lordy! Praise be that they have flown the coop!” the neighbor women said, scandalized by what Doña Angustias had shouted. “Don’t curse her; after all, you gave her birth!”

“Yes, yes,” insisted the inflexible mother. “I want my words to reach her. May the Devil carry her off!

She had no sooner uttered these words when an explosion was heard. Don Dionisio’s shop was enveloped in flames and it was reported that there was a smell of sulfur in the air. For huachanos it was an article of faith that the Devil and not a young man of flesh and blood was the individual who carried off the disobedient and scatter-brained girl.

V

Although no one in Huacho ever heard of Eduviges and her lover again, I will tell you in confidence, reader, that the fire was just an ordinary happening and that there was no burning sulfur and no burnt horns except in the simple preconceived notions of the huachanos. Don Dionisio was no more the Devil than any other reckless fellow who falls for a delicious well-built young thing. The amorous turtledoves, fleeing from Doña Angustias’ wrath, made their way to Trujillo, where one of Dionisio’s aunts provided shelter for them.

Please keep what I have just told you a secret, reader, for I do not want any bickering with my friends in Huacho. It makes no difference to me one way or another in this mess; I’m not about to contradict the popular belief. I’m not going to be like “the priest of Trebujera who was killed, not by his own sufferings but by those of others.”

I repeat what has already been said: Don Dionisio was the Devil himself, with claws, tail and horns.

If the huachanos are stubbornly convinced that the Devil sold them cigars, I’m not going to be the dashing fellow who will risk a good beating by casting doubt on the matter. Apart from all this, a friend of mine who lives in Huacho keeps as a souvenir a pair of cigars rolled by Don Dionisio!

 

Return to Table of Contents

 


CHAPTER 33

MARI-RAMOS’ LITTLE KITTEN THAT CAJOLES WITH ITS TAIL AND SCRACHES WITH ITS PAWS

(Chronicle of the epoch of the thirtieth Viceroy of Peru)

 

At the spot where the Alameda de Acho begins and on the sidewalk in back of the Church of San Lorenzo, constructed in 1834, there stands a house which has seen better days which in the year 1788 was the setting for a terrible drama, really nothing to take lightly, which tradition has made available to us.

I

Twenty very charming Aprils, a skin characterized by that enchanting, velvety brown color for which the limeñas were famous until the accursed fashion came along which decreed that the face should be made up with messy stuff and that the fair sex should go around like a mason on a wall covered with rice and rose powders; eyes blacker than a night of intrigue, which were guarded by curly eyelashes and a provocative mouth like a meringue-like lemon sugar bar; a graceful body, if there ever was one, and a foot which tempts any human being to kiss it. That is a description of Benedicta Salazar in the year of our Lord 1776.

When her parents died they left her penniless and in the care of an aunt who was half witch and half Celestina,[181] as Quevedo[182] would say, and she growled more than a mastiff that roots around in what people throw away. She took it into her head to marry her niece to a friend from Spain who from some distance showed he was from Cataluña, and what is more, had callused hands and a beard that had grown more than the public debt. Benedicta disliked him profoundly, the way she disliked mosquitoes, and not daring to give him the brush-off, she resorted to the well-worn expedient of making herself into an overly-pious person, and of saying that she aspired to nunhood, not to marriage.

The Catalán, paying close attention to her ridiculous scruples murmured:

 

                   Girl friend of many lovers

                   Who doesn’t marry any one of them.

                   If you are waiting for a king

                   A deck of cards contains four.

 

And so hard feelings developed between the aunt and her niece. The old lady called her a prude and a goody-goody church-goer, whereupon she began to dissolve in tears, which infuriated the aunt even more. She shouted, “You hypocrite, you! Don’t try to wheedle your way into my good graces with your tears. You are like Juan Molleja’s dog that begins to whimper before the blows are struck. So, it’s to be the life of a nun, is it? Well, let someone who doesn’t know you fall for that line, you sack of cockroaches. Someone might say that you are a mild little thing, but I know all about you! So you can’t stand beards? Look at you! You’re so finicky that you are like the person who washes eggs before frying them. Well, you are going to see who is in charge around here!” While she was berating her niece she used this phrase, “Miren, miren a la gatita de Mari-Ramos que hacía ascos a los ratones y engullía los gusanos.”[183] Curses on such a prim little thing!

Because these rows took place every day, the young girls in the neighborhood, envious of Benedicta’s beauty, started calling her “Gatita de Mari-Ramos” and soon in the whole district the young men, and the rest, who were still acting like children, would say to her upon meeting her as she returned from High Mass, “How proper and how lovely is Mari-Ramos, the little kitten!”

The truth of the matter is that the aunt wasn’t very far off the mark in her suspicions. A young fop by the name of Don Aquilino de Lauro was claiming her attention, and whether she was exasperated by the constant ugly scenes with her aunt over every little trifle, or whether she had fallen head over heels in love with the fellow, she had decided to fly in the face of accepted behavior, as they say, giving the devil everything, lock, stock and barrel. The fact is that what was bound to happen indeed did happen. La Gatita de Mari-Ramos escaped by climbing out on the roof accompanied by a lively cat that smelled of musk and possessed a suave paw.

II

HISTORY

Let’s take advantage of the time and not dilly-dally. That is to say, while our lovers enjoy their honeymoon, which soon becomes one of bile, we can throw in at this point, my dear reader, the well-known “parrafillo histórico.”

His Excellency Don Teodoro de Croix, Knight of Croix, Commander of the distinguished Teutonic Order in Germany, Captain of the Walloon Guards and lieutenant general in the royal army, had served several years in Mexico under his uncle, the Viceroy, the Marquis of Croix. When he returned to Spain he was named Viceroy of Peru by Charles III and made his entry into Lima on April 6, 1784.

He was an extremely charitable individual who, according to a certain chronicler, on occasion was left with a candle in his hand because he would give the silver candleholder to the poor when he had no money to offer to them. He attended Sacraments regularly and was a true Christian.

The administration of De Croix, whom they called The Fleming, was very beneficial. He divided Peru into seven administrative units, established the Real Audiencia of Cuzco and the court of justice in Minería and populated the valleys of Vítor and Acobamba. During his reign Bishop Chávez de la Rosa founded the famous orphanage in Arequipa from which there came many illustrious Peruvians.

During that period there arrived in Callao, consigned to the Count of San Isidro, the first vessel of the Philippine Company; and to prove that commerce developed briskly during the five years of his reign it is sufficient to note that imports rose to 42 million pesos and exports to 36 million.

National revenue reached a little more than four and a half million pesos and expenditures didn’t exceed that figure, the first and the only time in our history that we have had the phenomenon of a balanced budget. It is true that in order for this to happen the Viceroy had to resort to harsh economic measures such as reducing the number of employees, cutting salaries, discharging the Soria and Extremadura battalions and reducing his personal escort by one-third.

The most scandalous event of Viceroy Croix’ reign was a quarrel between the Marquis of Laura, intendant of Huamanga, and Bishop López Sánchez, bishop of the diocese. Shedding his priestly meekness, the most illustrious ecclesiastic allowed his bile to rise to the point that he slapped the royal scribe who delivered to him a ruling. The lawsuit ended in a humiliating manner when the Council of the Indies handed down a decision against the irate prelate.

In Lorente’s history[184] there is an event that bears a resemblance to the trial of the false Portuguese nuncio. According to this historian, “A poor Galician who arrived in Peru as a soldier and subsequently worked as a merchant in several small businesses which brought him little income, such as dealing in peddlers’ wares and in furniture, burdened with family and the necessities of life and years, remembered that he was the natural son of a brother of the patriarch cardinal, the president of the Council of Castile, and in order to exploit the foolishness of the wealthy, pretended to receive letters from the king and others of high nobility which he had a Mercedarian answer for him. The deception couldn’t have been more gross; nevertheless he deceived several people. When the hoax was discovered he was threatened with torture, so he confessed everything. His farce was considered to be a state crime and because of extenuating circumstances he was sent off to serve a ten year prison term in Spain accompanied by the Mercedarian.”

The wise Don Hipólito Unanue, who with the pseudonym of Aristeo wrote erudite articles in the famous Mercurio Peruano, the eloquent Mercedarian Friar Cipriano Jerónimo Calatayud, who signed his writings in the same newspaper with the name Sofronio; the eminent physician Dávalos, so praised by the University of Montpellier, the cleric Rodríguez de Mendoza, called because of his vast scientific knowledge the Bacon of Peru and who for thirty years was rector of San Carlos; the Andalusian poet Terralla y Landa and others no less distinguished attended the tertulia of His Excellency, who in spite of his education and the prestige of this notable intelligent circle, promulgated severe decrees prohibiting the introduction into Peru of the works of the French encyclopedists.

This Viceroy, so taken with the caustic and libertine poet of the riddles, Terralla y Landa, reacted vigorously when an Augustinian by the name of Friar Juan Alcedo gave him a manuscript that he recommended His Excellency read. It turned out to be a satire, written in mediocre verse, concerning the conduct of the Spaniards in the New World. The Viceroy considered the act to show disrespect for his person and the unfortunate son of Apollo was exiled to Spain to serve as an object lesson for murmuring priests and second-rate poets.

The Marquis of Croix embarked for Spain on April 7,1790, and died in Madrid shortly thereafter in 1791.

III

          “Do you have any eggs?”

          “You’ll find some at the next corner.”  (Popular)

 

          Well, sirs, now that I have written a summary of the administrative history of the reign of the Viceroy, I will not leave untold the story of the origin of a game which all the children in Lima know about, for it is related to the Viceroy himself. Actually, it did not come from my research, rather it comes from a good friend of mine, a man of integrity, who works with me on a journal entitled La Broma.[185]

The fact is that the Viceroy had the habit of eating four fresh soft-boiled eggs for breakfast every day, and the task of selecting and buying the eggs fell to his majordomo, Julián de Córdova, and it was his delicate responsibility and his alone, to choose and buy the eggs every morning. But if the Viceroy was fastidious, Córdova would carry annoyance and avarice to the point that he would barter with storekeepers to save a few pennies; however, at the same time he had to make sure the eggs were large enough and weighed enough. In order to determine whether they were suitable for the Viceroy, Córdova carried with him a ring with which to check the size and a scale for determining the weight. If an egg passed through the ring or weighed one tiny bit less than another he left it. So irritated were storekeepers of the corner of Archbishop Street, the corner of Palacio Street, the corner of Mantas Street and the corner of Judíos Street by the majordomo’s actions, that finding themselves one day in a meeting to elect the one who would be in charge of calibrating the scales, they agreed not to sell Córdova any eggs, and as a result he had to go farther and farther to buy them. The next day after the meeting he went to a store to buy some eggs and the young man working there said to him, “We have no eggs. You will have to go to the next corner for them.” The majordomo received the same answer on the four corners and he had to go farther and farther to buy the eggs. Within a short time all of the storekeepers within an area of eight blocks around the palace were fed up with the fussy don Julián and they all agreed to refuse to sell him eggs. One day the Viceroy, having been appraised of Córdova’s excursions in search of fresh eggs, said to him, “Julián, where did you buy the eggs today?” The reply was, “On the corner of St. Andrés.” Whereupon the Viceroy said, “Well, tomorrow you will have to go to the next corner for them.” “That’s right,” said Córdova, “and some day I’ll have to travel to Jetafa[186] to get them.”

Having related this story of the origin of the children’s game of the eggs, it appears to me that I should leave the Viceroy in peace and get on with the tradition.

IV

There is a saying that goes like this: “Patience and a mule get tired if they are in a hurry,” and we can say the same thing about love. Benedicta and Aquilino were in such a hurry that six months after their flight the young man, now bored with Benedicta, took French leave, that is, without saying goodbye to her, leaving the cheese for the mice to lunch on, and made his way to Cerro de Pasco, at the time a prosperous mining area. Benedicta spent days and weeks waiting for the return of smoke, or what is the same, that of her ingrate of a lover, who had left her without a stitch. Finally, realizing that she was indeed disgraced, she resolved not to return to her aunt’s home but to rent a room between the ground floor and the first floor on Alameda Street.

In her new dwelling our Mari-Ramos carried on an extremely mysterious existence. She lived in isolation, hardly ever leaving her room. Sundays she would go to early Mass, buy her food and other necessities for the week, then she would not set foot outside her door until Thursday evening in order to deliver and pick up sewing that she worked on. Benedicta was the seamstress of the Marquis of Sotoflorido, with a wage of eight pesos a week.

But, however private her life and however much she wrapped her face in her mantle, this tapada[187] did not seem to be just a bundle of straw to a neighbor who lived close by in a room with grated windows who got in the habit, whenever he spied her, to pay her compliments which were accompanied by sighs that would cause even a granite statue to lose control of its emotions.

There are names that by their nature are ironic, and one of them was that of the neighbor, Fortunato, who, judging by his success in amorous conquests, was the most unfortunate of mortals. He had an itch to get better acquainted with all of the cute young things in the parish of Saint Lázaro, but they were as much interested in him as they were of the rooster of the Passion that with rice kernels, chili, sunflower seeds and maidenhair must have been a dish that was finger-lickin’ good.

Said individual, we speak of Fortunato and not of the rooster of the Passion, was what one could call a poor devil, in spite of the fact that he came from good stock, since he passed himself off as a natural son of the Count of Pozosdulces. He served as clerk in the government clerk’s office in which the position of chief clerk was held by the Marquis of Salinas, who paid our young man twenty duros a month, gave him a nice Christmas bonus and looked the other way when the young fellow took advantage of perquisites.

It is necessary to say that Benedicta didn’t pay the slightest attention to the interest shown to her by her neighbor, nor did she steal a glance at him nor did she even part her lips to send him on his way with, “Pardon me, brother, go knock on someone else’s door; as for this one, it will not provide lodging for any pilgrim.”

But one night when Benedicta returned to her room after delivering some sewn goods she found Fortunato on the threshold of her door and before he could pay her one of his customary compliments she spoke to him with dulcet tones that were like a shower of pearls and which must have sounded to the infatuated young man like celestial music. She said, “Good evening, neighbor.”

The clerk, who was a very sly fellow and full of cleverness said to himself, “At last this creature has decided to strike the flag and enter into negotiations. Undoubtedly I have what it takes with women and whenever I wink at one with my left eye, which is the eye of the heart, there is nothing she can do but surrender.

 

                   I overcome the arrogance of all of them;

                   With me there is no Sagunto or Numancia.[188]

 

And with an air of bullying and of a conquistador he followed her to the door of her room. The key turned with difficulty, so the young man very courteously opened the door for her. Grateful for such a magnificent service, Benedicta, blushing and very pleased, murmured, “Come in, but I must warn you that my home isn’t a very fancy one.”

We suppose that this or something similar must have happened and that Fortunato didn’t need to have her invite him into heaven the second time, for the opportunity for a young man to be alone and speak privately with a pretty young thing is just that—heaven. The impassioned young man expressed himself in a straight-forward manner.

 

                   Amorous words

                   Are like the first bead of a necklace.

                   When the first one comes off

                   The rest quickly follow.

 

With words that were well articulated and well chosen she gave him to understand that her heart wasn’t made of brick and mortar; but that since men are such scheming and untrustworthy creatures she had to proceed with caution and gain confidence before taking a risk in a game in which the cards almost always turn out to be unlucky. He swore, on a Calvary of crosses not only to love her eternally but all the other nonsense that a person swears in such cases. He added that in his room there were two bottles of muscatel wine that he intended to present to the Viceroy as a gift, but in order to properly celebrate this occasion they should drink them, so quick as lightning he descended to his room and returned carrying the bottles of wine.

Fortunato considered the battle already won. The family residing on the main floor had gone to the country and there was no reason to fear even the appearance of scandal. Adam and Eve couldn’t have been more alone in Paradise when they decided to play that little game whose consequences, without eating it or drinking it, we have been paying ever since, century after century, without ever paying the debt. This fellow counted on the influence of the wine, and as the saying goes, “Of less God made Cañete and he laid him low with one punch.”

The second cup having been consumed, Fortunato, emboldened by the alcohol, was beginning to make plans to initiate the decisive attack when Benedicta, suddenly greatly agitated and very emotional, exclaimed, “Heaven forbid! We are lost! Get into that other room, and no matter what happens, don’t say one word and don’t try to leave until I tell you that the coast is clear.”

Fortunato was not known for his bravery and would have preferred to make himself scarce, but hearing footsteps on the patio, he got goose pimples all over and with the docility of a child allowed himself to be shut up in the adjoining room.

V

Let’s take a moment to fill you in on what had happened several hours previous to the episode just related.

The clock had just struck seven when Benedicta happened to see Aquilino while walking by the Palace corner. Instead of giving him a tongue lashing for his shameful treatment of her, she spoke to him with affection and, in order to save time, we will merely say that where there was fire there will always be ashes so the young lover made a date with her for ten o’clock that night.

Benedicta found out that the ingrate had abandoned her in order to marry the daughter of a wealthy mine owner. With that knowledge she swore by all that was holy to get revenge. Upon meeting Aquilino that evening and making the date with him her active imagination worked out a plan. She needed an accomplice, so she decided to involve the clerk in her machinations.

This is the explanation for her sudden interest in Fortunato. Now let’s return to her room.

VI

The scene in her quarters was one of reconciliation as they drank wine and spoke of their undying love for each other. Not a word about the past, nothing about the disloyalty of the young man who was deceiving her once more, promising that he would never be without her again. Benedicta feigned that she trusted what he said and covered him with caresses in order to make her vengeance even more certain. Without understanding why, Aquilino became drowsier and drowsier. Benedicta had drugged the wine they were drinking. At this point the following saying is appropriate: “The dinner killed more than Avicena cured.” When he succumbed to the effects of the narcotic she tied him with strong cords to the bed posts. She then took out a dagger and waited an hour impassively until the power of the narcotic would wear off. At twelve o’clock she moistened a handkerchief in vinegar and rubbed his forehead with it. Then began the horrible tragedy.

Benedicta was the court and the executioner.

She threw in his face his villainy, rejected his pleas, and then she said: “You have been sentenced! You have one minute to think about God.” And with a sure hand she plunged the dagger into the heart of the man she had loved so much.

The poor clerk trembled like a leaf on a tree. He had looked through a hole in the door and had heard and seen everything. Benedicta, now that her vengeance had been realized, unlocked the door and brought Fortunato out of the room. “If you seek my love,” she said, “you begin by being my accomplice. You will get the prize when this corpse has disappeared from here. The street is deserted, the night is dark, the river runs right in front of the house. Come help me.” And in order to eliminate any vacillation on the part of this cowardly clerk, that woman with the soul of a demon but embodied in the figure of an angel, leapt on Fortunato like a panther leaps on its prey and planted a fiery kiss on Fortunato’s lips. The fascination was complete. That kiss carried to his blood and his conscience the contagion of the crime. If now with our gas lamps and increased number of police officers it is an undertaking of a daring person to venture out after eight o’ clock on the Alameda de Acho, let the reader imagine what it would have been like in the last century, keeping in mind that it was not until 1776 that there was lighting on the central streets of the city.

The darkness that night was frightful. It appeared that even nature was complicit in the crime.

The gate partially open, Fortunato left the house cautiously carrying on his shoulders the corpse of Aquilino sewed up in a mantle. Benedicta followed along behind and with one hand helped hold up the corpse but with the other, with a large needle and heavy thread she sewed the mantle to the coat of the clerk. The anxiety of the young man and the darkness served as auxiliaries to a new crime.

The two living shadows arrived at the foot of the parapet next to the river.

Fortunato, with the funereal burden on his shoulders, climbed up on the parapet and leaned over to throw the corpse into the river.

Horrors! The dead man in his fall dragged the live man into the river.

VII

Some fishermen found the body of the unfortunate Fortinato three days later on the beach at Bocanegra. His father, the Count of Pozosdulces and his boss, the Marquis of Salinas, suspecting that the young man had been the victim of some enemy, had an individual apprehended on whom had fallen, it is not known what suspicions of bad will.

Months went by and the case was moving along very cautiously and the poor accused devil found himself involved in a maze of accusations and the prosecutor saw clear proof of his guilt where everybody saw nothing but chaos. The judge vacillated between handing down a sentence of the gallows or prison.

But Providence, which looks out for the innocents, has resources that are able to throw light on the crime. Benedicta became ill, and while dying revealed her crime to a priest, requesting that he make the facts public in order to clear of guilt the accused individual. And so it is that the story of Benedicta came to be preserved in the records of a trial, and later the somber story of the “Gatita de Mari-Ramos” furnished material for my chronicler’s pen.

 

Return to Table of Contents

 


CHAPTER 34

IJURRA, DON’T RUSH THE DONKEY

So you don’t know who Ijurra was? How strange!

Don Manuel Fuentes Ijurra was the richest man in Peru during the 1790’s. He was the owner of a silver mine in the Cerro del Pasco which in a period of fifteen years produced for him 1200 marcos[189] for every box he extracted. He made money hand over fist.

Ijurra was as ugly as sin, as ugly as any man could possibly be, an ugliness that was made even more noticeable by his being unkempt in the clothes he wore. But in his dealings with other people he was very generous, in fact he spent his money very freely, as long as his largess was public knowledge. And so when he was in the presence of some gentlemen and a beggar asked for a peseta, Ijurra would dig into his pockets and give him some ounces of gold, saying, “I hope this helps out a little bit. Please pardon the small amount I’m giving you.” However if a widow in need or some other person asked him for alms when no one accompanied him he would say, “I don’t feed lazy people or prostitutes; you shiftless person, find some work to do, you are strong enough. You hooker, you, be off with you to the inn or the arcades.”

I have no desire to speak of the women he conquered because of his wealth because that topic could set me off on a tangent. For example, there is the case of the young woman he stole away from no less a person than the Regidor[190] Valladares, a person I’ve never had the displeasure of knowing personally, but of whom I’ve heard plenty. I had better leave all of that for another occasion.

It is apparent that the Devil had seized Ijurra by his vanity and that it was useless to remind him that the Bible says that the left hand should not know what the right hand is doing. The luxury in his home, his coach with silver wheels and the splendor of his parties made history.

In those days neither marble bathtubs nor running water in homes were in vogue. Well-to-do people would wet their skin in wooden bathtubs. There was no underground sewage system in those days in Lima; human and other waste was carried in repugnant open ditches, offensive to the eye and to the nose. People would put their tubs in some of the ditches for a couple of hours so that the wood would not dry out and cause the tubs to fall out of their framework.

Ijurra had the effrontery and the extravagant vanity to soak his solid silver bathtub in the ditch near his home.

It is reported that one day he ordered that a Spaniard who was working in his mine suffer twenty-five lashes. The Spaniard complained bitterly and even took Ijurra to court. The trial was still going on after two years and it put the insolent Ijurra in a very bad light. He began to understand that in spite of his millions he was in danger of going to jail, and in order to avoid such an experience he took counsel with his pillow, a good idea because such counsel is better than what you get from the best government counselors.

The next day a scribe arrived to give him a summons to appear in court. After signing the document, Ijurra, giving the false impression that he mistook the inkwell for the box of sand, poured ink from a pitcher of silver, which he used as an inkwell, on the summons. The scribe, upon seeing the sudden flood of ink, took his head in his hands and shouted, “May Jesus help me! I am lost!”

“Don’t be alarmed,” Ijurra said. “For such a big blot I use this sand over here.”

He then grabbed a sack full of ounces of gold and spilled them on the summons, an act of magic that sufficed to tranquilize the spirit of the scribe, who, in a way unknown to us, was able to make an accommodation with the judge.

 

Certainly the poet who wrote this verse was right:

An English astrologer says that the sign of the scribe

Is Cancer the Crab because he eats everybody.

 

The upshot of the whole matter was that the Spaniard, seeing that after two years his case was still not close to being decided and that he would have to start the case over again from scratch with all the documents involved, decided to settle out of court, satisfied with some doubloons.

Not without reason a friend of mine says that everything is a question of money, from the shaking of hands to the beat of the heart.

II

On Bodegones Street there was situated a watchmaker’s shop in which the owner of the shop, an Italian, displayed a curious desk clock. It had little towers, Chinese bells, a song bird and, who knows what other figures that moved automatically.

For those times it was truly a curiosity, the price of which the Italian set at 3,000 pesos. For months and months the clock sat on the counter and no one bought it.

The watchmaker’s shop was the site of tertulias[191] that the fashionable men of the reign of Viceroy Gil y Lemos attended. One night the watchmaker said to some of them, “Praise be to Bacchus! It is interesting that Peru has the reputation of being a rich country and Peruvians of being so free with their money. Santa Madonna de Sorrento! And yet in my opinion they are as stingy as all get out. In Europe I would have sold this clock in the twinkling of an eye; in Lima there isn’t anyone who is man enough to buy it.”

The news reached Ijurra that the Italian held Peruvians in such low repute, so without attempting to determine all of the details of the incident he put on his cape and hat and, followed by three black servants who were carrying a bag each of 1,000 gold pieces, he entered the watchmaker’s shop, saying in an angry voice, “Listen here, Ño Fifirriche, I’ll teach you to be more civil and not to call stingy the very people who provide you with your livelihood. The clock is now mine and now you miserable fellow, you will see what little importance money has for us Peruvians.”

With that Ijurra picked up the clock, went to the door of the shop, threw it to the ground and with his heel ground it into a thousand pieces, and the street urchins who witnessed the scene threw themselves on what was left of the clock trying to find some parts that might have some value.

One of the customers in the shop was offended by Ijurra’s display of vanity or chauvinism because as the mine owner was departing he shouted at him, “Ijurra, don’t rush the donkey,” which meant that in the customer’s opinion one day Ijurra would overstep his bounds and his good fortune would desert him because he was so reckless in his pursuit of wealth and prestige.

The truth of the matter is that these words were, for Ijurra, similar to the words of the gypsy who foretells a calamitous future, because a few days later the administrator of the mine arrived on a winded horse with the disastrous news that his mine had been flooded.

Certain it is that when it rains, it pours. Ijurra spent the wealth he had accumulated in a vain attempt to drain the mine. His grandchildren, who still live on Pasco Hill, never saw the project realized either. This disaster and the loss of considerable sums of money at the gambling tables ended up bankrupting Ijurra and he died in a nook in the San Andrés Hospital. Here it is appropriate to write this proverb: “That’s the way the world is; you are born in a palace and you end up in a humble inn.”

From that time on limeños have said of a person who squandered his means without worrying about tomorrow, “Ijurra, don’t rush the donkey!”

 

Return to Table of Contents

 


CHAPTER 35

“TO JAIL WITH EVERY CHRIST”

I

About the year 1752 a peddler or hawker, a stout man of average size, traveled the streets of Lima. He looked to be slightly more than twenty years old and had rough hands and features, blond hair and an almost alabaster complexion. He was Irish, the son of poor farmhands and, according to his biographer, Lavalle, spent the first years of his life carrying bundles of firewood to the kitchen of the Dungan castle, residence of the Countess of Bective, until one of his uncles, a Jesuit father of a convent in Cádiz, called him to his side, educated him moderately, and seeing that he had decided to pursue business rather than the Holy Habit, sent him to America with some shoddy merchandise.

Mister Ambrosio the Englishman, as the women of Lima called the peddler, convinced that the trade of belts, needles, Spanish lace, thimbles, and other odds and ends would never produce enough money to thicken his stew, resolved to go to Chile, where he arranged, through the influence of an Irish doctor with numerous connections in Santiago, that he be hired as a draftsman engineer to work on the construction of shelters or houses to protect the mail carriers who would transport mail over the Andes between Chile and Buenos Aires.

He was attending conscientiously to his obligations when the Araucanian Indians invaded Chile. In order to hurl back this invasion the Captain General organized, among other forces, a company of foreign volunteers, whose command was granted to our flamboyant engineer. The campaign brought him honor and profit; and the King conferred upon him, successively, the ranks of Dragoon Captain, Lieutenant Colonel, Colonel and Brigadier; in 1785, he promoted him to the rank of Field Marshal and then made him President of the Audiencia, Governor and, finally, the Captain General of the kingdom of Chile.

We don’t have enough facts, nor does the light tone of our traditions allow us to recount the history of the ten years of the memorable governorship of Don Ambrosio O’Higgins. The fortress of Barón in Valparaíso and a multitude of public works make his name immortal in Chile.

O’Higgins reconquered the city of Osorno, wresting it from the hold of the Araucanians, whereupon the Monarch named him Marquis of Osorno, promoted him to Lieutenant General, and transferred him to Peru as Viceroy, where he replaced the Knight Commander of Malta Don Francisco Gil y Lemus of Toledo y Villamarín, Knight of the Order of St. John, Knight Commander of Puente Orvigo and Lieutenant General of the Royal Fleet.

On June 5, 1786, O’Higgins took command. While he was Viceroy, just a few years, the streets were cobbled and the towers of the Cathedral of Lima were finished, the Society of Benevolence was created, and weaving factories were established. The portal, the tree-lined walk and the wagon road to Callao were also the work of this administration.

During this time the intendancy of Puno, which had been governed under the Viceroyalty of Buenos Aires, was joined to Peru, and Chile was separated from the jurisdiction of the Viceroyalty of Peru.

The alliance which because of the Treaty of St. Ildefonso the Prime Minister Don Manuel Godoy, Duke of Alcadía and Prince of Peace, celebrated with France, after the campaign of Rosellón, brought as a consequence the war between Spain and England. O’Higgins sent to the Crown seven million pesos, by which Peru contributed even more than to the necessities of war, to the luxury of the Court and the pleasures of Godoy and his royal concubine, María Luisa.

Rapid, but fruitful, was the administration of O’Higgins, who was called in Lima “The English Viceroy.” He died March 18, 1800, and was buried in the vaults of the Church of St. Peter.

II

The corruption of Lima was rampant when O’Higgins began to reign. According to the census ordered by the Viceroy Gil y Lemus, Lima, within its wall’s precincts, consisted of 52,627 inhabitants,[192] and for such a small population the number of private carriages exceeded 700 which, with rich harnesses and haughty teams, would parade up and down the boulevard of the Alameda. Such excess in luxury is enough to reveal to us that the social morality could not have been very high.

The robberies, murders and other nocturnal scandals were multiplying, and to counter them His Excellency thought it wise to make a proclamation forewarning everyone that whoever was found on the streets after ten o’ clock at night would be lodged in the jail by patrolling watchmen. The companies of police agents established by Viceroy Amat received privately an increase in pay and improvement in position along with the naming of captains, awarded only to noteworthy persons.

But the proclamations were left posted on the street corners and disturbances did not decrease. The youth of colonial nobility took pride in being the first offenders. The common people followed their example; and when the Viceroy saw that the wrongdoing did not diminish he called a meeting one day and ordered the five captains of the police agents to attend.

“I’ve been informed, sirs,” he said, “that you cart off to jail only the poor devils that don’t have connections; but when it has to do with one of the little marquis or counts that are scandalizing the neighborhood with break-ins, serenades, stabbings, and merry-making, along come the compromises and you all look the other way. I want justice to have not two weights and two measures, but that it be equal for large and small. Let it be understood that way, and after ten o’clock at night to jail with every Christ!”

Before continuing let us refer, since this is a handy stopping place, to the origin of the popular saying: “To jail with every Christ!” They say that in a small town in Andalusia there was a procession of penitence, in which many pious people would come dressed in Nazarene tunics carrying a heavy wooden cross on their shoulders. It seems that one of Christ’s impersonators maliciously pushed another, who was certainly not a chicken-hearted person, and the latter, forgetting the meekness to which his role committed him, flashed a shining blade. The rest of the penitents intervened in the brawl, striking blows and stabbing until the mayor appeared and shouted: “To jail with every Christ!”

Probably Don Ambrosio O’Higgins remembered the story when, upon delivering his ultimatum to the captains, he finished the order with the words of the Andalusian mayor.

That night His Excellency wanted to be personally convinced that his orders were being carried out, so after 11 o’clock one night, when the city was completely dark, he covered his face with a cloak and left the palace.

After walking a short distance he came across one of the police companies, but upon recognizing him, the captain let him continue on his way peacefully, muttering: “Great! Just as I thought! His Excellency also wants some night action, and for that reason he doesn’t want anybody else to have any fun. It is obvious that the office of viceroy has more perquisites than the will of the Moqueguano.”

This phrase cries out for an explanation. In the city of Moquegua there lived a wealthy man by the name of Don Cristóbal Cugate, whose wife was of the Devil’s own flesh, and who had driven him to his deathbed. When the poor wretch was in his final days, he decided that it would be impossible for any man with a disposition as meek as his to keep on eating bread while enduring even a tenth of what he had endured from his wife without giving her ten thrashings.

“It is essential that someone take revenge for me,” the dying man said to himself; and summoning a scribe, he dictated his will and testament, leaving that hag as heir to his fortune, on the condition that she was to marry a second time within six months of his death, and should this condition not be met, it was his desire that his inheritance be passed on to a hospital.

She was a young woman, with a nice figure, rich, and authorized to quickly replace the deceased. Whereupon the young men of Moquegua said, “What a lovely will!” And the saying had been coined.

The Viceroy came across another three companies, and the captains all gave him a “Good evening,” and asked if he wanted to be accompanied. They melted away in courtesies and let the Viceroy continue on his way.

The clock struck two, and the Viceroy, tired from his long walk, was heading to the palace to go to bed when the light of the lanterns of the fifth company hit him square in the face. The Captain was Don Pedro Losteneau.

“Halt! Who goes there?”

“It is I, Don Juan Pedro, the Viceroy.”

“I don’t know the Viceroy after ten o’clock at night. Let’s go, vagabond!”

“But, my dear Captain...”

“No sir! The proclamation is a proclamation and... to jail every Christ.”

The next day the four captains who, for the sake of respect, had not arrested the Viceroy, were fired; those who replaced them were energetic enough to not wander about contemplating, but stop the disturbances.

The fact is that like any other poor devil, no other than Don Ambrosio O’ Higgins, Marquess of Osorno, Baron of Ballenari, Lieutenant General of the Royal Army and thirty-sixth Viceroy of Peru for His Majesty Don Carlos IV, was lodged in a cell of the Pescadería prison for a whole night.

 

Return to Table of Contents

 


CHAPTER 36

AN INTIMATE DRAMA

The time period, the names and the setting of this account have been changed. The author has reasons for the changes. As for the story, it is absolutely authentic. I will say no more in this short prologue because...I don’t want to; do you understand?

I

Laurentina was the youngest and most spoiled daughter of Don Honorio Aparicio, Marquis of Santa Rosa de los Angeles and a member of an old Castilian family. The young lady was a fresh and delightfully-perfumed small bouquet of some eighteen Springs.

The Marquis was about to celebrate his sixtieth birthday and, surfeited with earthly splendor, he had abandoned all ambition and had withdrawn from public life, and, determined to die in peace with his God and his conscience, he was hardly ever seen in church, even on the days of obligation.. For the Marquis, the world ended at the walls of his residence and with the pleasures of his home. He had spent his life serving king and country, had fought courageously and had been generously rewarded by the monarch, a fact clearly demonstrated by a habit of the Order of Santiago adorned with crosses and sash that he wore on special days.

Invited to his tertulias[193] were three or four elderly gentlemen who had belonged to the elite colonial nobility—an inquisitor, two canons, the father superior of the Paulines, the prelate of the Merced and other friars of distinction. He would play a game of chaquete, tresillo, or malilla de compañeros,[194] then at the stroke of nine he would offer them a cup of tasty soconusco[195] accompanied by tostaditas[196] and almond marzipan prepared by the Catalina Sisters, and at the first stroke of 10 all the guests would leave. Don Honorio, surrounded by his three daughters and Doña Ninfa, the old woman who served as tutor, Cerberus, guardian or duenna of the young ladies, recited the Rosary, and this having been completed the girls kissed their father’s hand. Don Honorio then murmured a “May God make you holy” and then off to bed they all went, the father, the daughters and Doña Ninfa.

That was indeed the patriarchal life. Each day was like any other in the home of the noble and respected elderly gentleman. No stormy cloud threatened the serenity of the family of the Marquis.

Nevertheless, Don Honorio, in the loneliness of his bed, would worry each night about dying without leaving his daughters married or taken care of in some way. Two of them chose to take the veil, but the youngest, Laurentina, the apple of the Marquis’ eye, showed no interest in the cloister but rather in the world and in its tempting delights.

The good father thought seriously about trying to find a husband for her and one night while conversing with his friend Don Benicio Sánchez Roldán, the Count of Villaroja, concerning the delicate topic, his friend interrupted him, saying, “Look, Marquis, don’t worry about the matter. For your Laurentina I have a prince of a suitor, my son Baldomero.”

“That sounds good to me, Count, although I have heard that he has a reputation of being a rascal of a reckless and wild person.”

“What? Gossip started by fellows who envy him. Yes, there are some youthful indiscretions he has committed. What of that? My son is no saint in a niche, for sure, but he’ll settle down when he gets married.”

And the next day and from that day on the Count attended the Marquis’ tertulia accompanied by his son Baldomero, who was allowed to attend in order to court Laurentina while their elders were playing cards. Four or perhaps six months later everything had been arranged for the couple to be engaged and married.

Baldomero was a dashing young fellow, but a libertine and professional womanizer. There was no one who employed more tricks or exhibited more patience in laying siege to the fortresses of womens’ virtue. But once the fortress was taken, he would go on his merry way and act as if he had never known the woman he had seduced.

Baldomero found in the venality of Doña Ninfa an accomplice within the fortress; and the inexperienced young lady, betrayed by the morally corrupt duenna, was swept into the arms of her suitor. Relying on the nobility of her fiancé she succumbed to his charms before the parish priest had pronounced them man and wife.

Shortly after conquering Laurentina, tired of the easy conquest, the libertine began to make his visits less frequent and finally stopped visiting altogether. This conduct was quite natural because he was involved with another woman.

The miserable Laurentina lost her appetite, sighed a lot and her appearance visibly worsened. Her father, who could not suspect the reason for his favorite daughter’s unhappiness, tried his best to make her happy and to console her, being fully aware that Baldomero was no longer paying any attention to her.

“Put that crazy fellow out of your mind, daughter, and give thanks to God that he has shown his true colors this early in the game. There will be plenty of suitors because you are beautiful, well-to-do and honorable.”

At that point Laurentina threw herself into her father’s arms, sobbing violently while she tried to hide from the Marquis the red color of her cheeks that expressed the shame she felt when he called her “honorable.”

Finally the Marquis decided to write to Baldomero, asking him to offer an explanation for Laurentina’s behavior. The scoundrel of a libertine had the cruel cynicism and cowardly unworthiness to reply to the letter of the offended Marquis as follows: “An immoral daughter would be an adulterous wife.” What abominable words! What a horrible thing to say!

II

The Marquis felt that he had been struck by a bolt of lightning. After a moment of stupor a spark of hope began to glow in his breast. That’s the way it is with the human heart. Hope is the last thing that abandons us when we are beset by many misfortunes.

“Boastful words of a perverted young man. The infamous rascal is lying.”

He then showed the letter to his daughter, a letter that contained all of the vileness of which a wicked man is capable.

“Read this and answer me right now. Has this man lied?”

The wretched daughter fell on her knees before her father, murmuring in a voice shaken with sobs, “Can you ever pardon me, dear father? More than anything, I seek your pardon. I loved him so much. But I swear to you that I am ashamed of my love for that cad. Please pardon me, father.”

The good-hearted old man dried a tear, raised his daughter, took her in his arms, and said to her, “My poor angel!” In the heart of a father pardon is as infinite as mercy is with God.

III

A whole year went by, and with it the anniversary of the day Baldomero wrote his reprehensible letter.

The Mass at 9 o’clock in the Church of Santo Domingo celebrated at the altar of the Virgin of the Rosary was what we now call the aristocratic Mass. Society’s elite attended the services.

In those days, as in ours, the most elegant of the young men would stand at the door of the church to see and be seen and cast tasteless remarks at the beautiful and elegant pious young ladies who attended the services.

Baldomero Roldán found himself that Sunday in the company of other irresponsible young fellows leaning on one of the cannons which held up the chain which until a few years ago was located in front of the side door of the church, when the Marquis approached him, and placing his hand on his shoulder, said to him, speaking directly into his ear, “Baldomero, be ready to fight within half an hour if you don’t want me to kill you without your defending yourself, the same way a rabid dog is killed.”

The libertine, recovering quickly from the surprise, answered him in an insolent manner, “I am not used to fighting with old men.”

The Marquis continued on his way and entered the church. A little later, at the stroke of eleven o’ clock, the sacristan rang a bell in the atrium, indicating that the priest was going to ascend the altar steps and the streets outside were no longer filled with the local dandies.

A half hour later the congregation spilled out onto the street and the young men returned to watch the limeñas from the sidewalks. Baldomero Roldán stood at the foot of the chain. The Marquis of Santa Rosa approached him with a measured, solemn step and said to him, “Young man, are you armed and ready to fight?”

“I repeat, you silly old man, that I will not waste any weapons on you.”

With that the Marquis unsheathed a dagger and plunged it into Baldomero’s breast. The modern revolver was still in limbo.

IV

Don Honorio Aparicio made his way slowly to the city jail, which was situated one block from the Church of Santo Domingo, where he encountered the mayor. “Your honor,” he said to him, “Your honor, I have just killed a man for reasons that only God and I know and I refuse to make them known. I have come to tell you that I am your prisoner. May justice run its course.

The Count of Villaroja, Baldomero’s father, hurried the process along and was so successful that one month later he presented his case to the Real Audiencia for the final decision.

The Viceroy was presiding and the chamber was filled to overflowing. Out of deference to his title, the Count of Villaroja was seated next to the prosecutor. The Marquis occupied the seat of the accused. The charges having been read and the arguments of the defense attorney having been heard, the Viceroy said to the defendant, “Do you have anything to say in your behalf, Marquis?”

“No, sir. I killed that man because there wasn’t room for the two of us on this earth.”

This defense could not satisfy the law from the standpoint of reason or social considerations. The prosecutor demanded the death penalty for the killer and the Audiencia realized that it was impossible to employ the tactic so often used—that of extenuating circumstances—because the accused provided no grounds for such a procedure. The attorney for the defense had used all of his wits and skill to provide a defense, which was more sentimental than judicial, for the Marquis’ few words had left room only for conjecture and speculation. There was no cloth to weave nor loose ends to tie together. Nothing more could be done.

The Viceroy was lifting the bell in order to ring it and signal that the Audiencia should gather in secret session to pronounce its verdict when the Marquis’ attorney, to whom a certain gentleman had delivered a letter, rose from his seat and advancing toward the Viceroy placed it in the hands of His Excellency, who read it and then gave an order to the macebearers: “Clear the chamber and shut the door!”

V

Laurentina, upon comprehending that her father’s life was in serious danger, did not hesitate to sacrifice her honor by making public the vileness of the situation that had made her a miserable victim. She ran to the Marquis’ writing desk and, breaking the lock, removed Baldomero’s letter and sent it with one of her relatives to the defense attorney. She knew that her father would never have resorted to that means, which would save him, or at least lessen the weight of guilt.

The Viceroy, visibly moved said, “Approach the bench, Count of Villaroja. Is this your dead son’s handwriting?”

The Count read the letter silently and as he read, the expression on his face portrayed the anguish he felt. He pressed his free hand to his breast as if he wished to keep his paternal heart from bursting. What a horrible struggle between his noble conscience and the natural feelings of a father for his son!

Finally, his trembling right hand let the accursed letter slip to the floor and the Count collapsed into a chair, and covering his face with his hands in order to stop the tears that were welling in his eyes exclaimed, while making a heroic effort to give vigorous energy to his words, “He deserved to die. The Marquis acted within his right to kill him!”

VI

The Audiencia acquitted the Marquis of Santa Rosa. Perhaps this verdict, in the strict legal sense, was not the correct one. Let the nitpickers of the bar find fault with it. I don’t smoke tobacco from that tobacco shop and I certainly don’t intend to do so. But the members of the Audiencia were, in the final analysis, men before they were judges and upon casting their final decision preferred to hear the voice of the conscience of fathers and men of good will, ignoring what had been recorded in the laws of the Siete partidas by Alfonso the Wise,[197] which reads: “Any man who kills another must suffer the death penalty.” Bravo! Bravo! I applaud the judges of the Audiencia, and it appears that they have sufficient with my palmadas.[198]

As for the public in general, they never knew how to explain the verdict (for the Viceroy, the judges of the Audiencia and the attorneys swore they would never reveal the contents of the letter), and there was no little grumbling about the injustice of justice.

 

Return to Table of Contents

 


CHAPTER 37

THE VICEROY OF THE RIDDLE

(Chronicle of the Era of the Thirty-eighth Viceroy of Peru)

 

Not long ago we asked a certain old man, a grand friend of ours, to tell us how old was an acquaintance of ours when she died. Concerning this lady, a respectable matron, the good old fellow, who has more spunk than a young bull, said, after taking a pinch of snuff, “I will satisfy your curiosity, my dear Chronicler. That woman was born two years before the ‘Viceroy of the Riddle’ returned to Spain. You figure it out.”

The answer was by no means satisfactory, because we knew as much about that Viceroy as the hour in which our sweet-toothed father, Adam, took the first bite of the bittersweet apple in Eden.

“And who was that ‘Viceroy of the Riddle’?”

“What? You don’t know? It was Viceroy Abascal, the Viceroy to whom Lima owes its public cemetery and the best medical school in America, and under whose government the last shipment of African slaves was received, sold at 600 pesos each.”

But as much as we questioned that seventy-year old concerning the details of the riddle we could not get anything out of him because he was as much in the dark as I was. So we started inquiring about it here and there and were finally able to produce the result the reader will discover if he has the patience to keep us company until the end of this story.

I

GOD GIVES US LUCK!

It is said that Don José Fernando de Abascal, from Asturias, Spain, was a second-rate nobleman in his younger years, without anything more than his gallant figure and a musty patent of nobility proving seven generations of blue blood, and without a drop of Moorish or Jewish blood. Finding himself one day without two cents to rub together and goaded on by necessity, he became an assistant counter clerk in an (at that time famous) inn located in Madrid, adjacent to the Puerta del Sol, until his smiling fate afforded him the acquaintance of a brave second lieutenant of the Royal Army by the name of Valleriestra, a regular client of the inn, who offered him a post in the Mallorca regiment. The bachelor made good on the opportunity by the skin of his teeth, and after great poverty and two years of soldiering, he managed to get into the cavalry. Following a saber wound received and returned in the battle of Argel in 1775, he was promoted without further questioning to be an officer. From this point on, luck began to smile on Don Fernando so much that within fewer than five years he climbed to the rank of captain as easily as one would climb a hill.

One evening while he was training his company in the environs of the royal grounds, the carriage in which His Majesty was riding happened to pass by. Owing to one of those frequent whims of not only monarchs, but also of republican governors, he had the carriage stop to see the maneuvers of the soldiers. He then sent for the Captain, asked him his name, and without any further ado ordered him to return to his quarters and place himself under arrest.

Our protagonist was beside himself trying to figure out the cause of his coming under royal displeasure; but the more he racked his brain, the more he came up with bizarre conjectures. His comrades fled from him like they would from someone who has the plague, since one quality of wretched souls is to abandon a friend in the hour of his misfortune, causing the condemned increased anguish through isolation.

But as we don’t wish to make the reader participate in the same anguish, we will say at once that it was all a friendly joke on the part of the Monarch, who, back in Madrid, called his secretary and conferred with him:

“Do you know,” he asked, “ if there is some regiment without a commanding officer?”

“Your Majesty has not yet named the officer who is to command the regiment of the Military Orders in the campaign of Rosellón.”

“Well, promote Captain Don José Fernando de Abascal to the rank of colonel and give him that command.”

And His Majesty left, leaving the minister flabbergasted.

Whims of this kind were more than frequent with Carlos IV. One evening while riding in his carriage he was delayed by a priest who was headed to the house of a dying man in order to administer the last rites. The King invited the priest to get into his carriage and when they arrived at their destination, accompanied the Sacrament, candle in hand, to the bed of the person who was about to die. The latter was a man who was studying to be a lawyer. He recovered and became a lawyer and was later named by Carlos IV to a position in the Court of Cuzco, where the teasing and epigrammatic people baptized him with the nickname of “The Typhoid Fever Judge.” Let’s continue with Abascal.

Twenty-four hours after he gained his liberty he was soothed by congratulations from the same men who shortly before had fled from him like cowards. He sought an interview with His Majesty, in which, after thanking him for his goodness, he voiced his curiosity concerning what had motivated the punishment.

The King, smiling with a paternal air, told him, “Ideas, Colonel, ideas!”

When the campaign of Rosellón ended, the one in which the Commander in Chief of the Army, Don Luis de Carbajal y Vargas, Count of the Union and native of Lima found his glorious grave, Abascal was advanced to Brigadier General and moved to America with the title of President of the Royal Court of Guadalajara.

Don Fernando stayed in Mexico a few years, astonished more each day because of the zeal shown by the King for the advancement of his career. It is true enough though, that Abascal provided very important services to the crown. Let it suffice to say that upon being transferred to Peru with the title of Viceroy, he entered Lima on the retirement of His Most Excellent Don Gabriel de Aviles at the end of July in 1806, declaring himself Field Marshal, and six years later he was named Marquis of Concordia in memory of a regiment he founded with this name to calm the revolutionary tempest, and in which he was declared colonel to further honor him.

Abascal was, let us do him justice, a distinguished military man, an able politician and a wise administrator.

He died in Madrid in 1821 at seventy-seven years of age, invested with the high rank of Captain General.

His family coat of arms consisted of: A shield in a cross; two quarters with gules and a silver castle, and two quarters in gold with a passant wolf and a saber.

II

OCCUPATIONAL HAZARDS

About 1815 when the popularity of Viceroy Don José Fernando de Abascal started to wane, which is always the result of flattery to magnates, it was the lot of His Excellency to grace the Cathedral in the company of the town council, the royal court and members of the then magnificent University San Marcos, to solemnize a festival. Commissioned for the delivery of the sermon was a Reverend of the Order of Preachers, a man well versed in logic, a great commentator on the Holy Fathers and upon whose lustrous, thick neck rested the cardinalate.

The friar went up to the sacred pulpit, rattled off some fancy Latin, and after half an hour of silver-tongued eloquence designed to show off an indigestible and bombastic erudition, he descended very satisfied among the murmurings of the audience.

His Excellency, who claimed to be a learned man and an appraiser of talent, did not wish to squander the opportunity which the occasion afforded him, although deep down inside the only worth he found in the sermon was its brevity. According to general opinion of the competent critics of the time, the Marquis wasn’t far off. So while the Reverend was in ecstasy in the vestry, receiving congratulations from his close friends and flatterers, he was surprised by a servant of the Viceroy, who, in the name of His Excellency, invited him to a meal in the palace. He certainly didn’t make the servant repeat the invitation, but answered that, with the sacrifice of his modesty, he would grace the Viceroy’s table.

An official banquet in those days was not as sumptuous as in our days of constitutional congresses; nevertheless, in those days the Republic started to assert its independence, and the Fatherland and liberty were quietly discussed. But, returning to banquets before I get completely off the track because of my chit-chatting about politics, although it is true that neat and tidy porcelain was not displayed there, dazzling silver plate was not uncommon. And although French cuisine with all of its delights was unknown, their gastronomic fancy featured much that was solid and succulent. So, six of one and half a dozen of the other.

The Reverend, who would baste a sermon as easily as he would devour a chicken in garlic and olive oil sauce or theological soup with prosaic slices of bacon, made just honor to the table of His Excellency. He even became a bit tipsy after repeated swigs of Catalonian and Valdepeñas wines which the Marquis was saving for festival days, together with the exquisite and riotous Motocachi brandy.

After finishing the meal, the Viceroy looked out of the balcony facing the Street of the Abandoned and remained there in delicious discussion with his table companion until it was time for the theater, the only entertainment His Excellency allowed himself. The friar, to whom the wine had lent more talkativeness than necessary, gave way to his tongue, letting it loose in roguery which His Excellency judged to be the fruits of a distinguished intellect.

That night the Reverend received a fat chaplaincy, along with a jeweled cross to adorn his rosary.

III

HISTORY

NOTABLE EVENTS IN THE REIGN OF ABASCAL

Four months after Abascal’s becoming the Viceroy of Peru, and on the same day in a which a conference was held which celebrated the propagating of vaccines, a messenger arrived at Lima with a set of documents communicating the news that Buenos Aires had been reconquered by Liniers, who had defeated the British invasion force. This same messenger, surnamed Otayza, traveled to Lima in thirty-three days and thereafter was unable to ride a horse again. The Viceroy extended to him a lifetime pension of fifty pesos, for the speed of such a trip borders on the miraculous even today, and made he who had accomplished it worthy of such recompense.

On December 1, 1806, an earthquake was felt in Lima that lasted two minutes and made the city’s towers shake. The ferocity of the sea at Callao was so great that the waves hurled an anchor weighing about 325 pounds onto a captain’s cabin. One hundred fifty thousand pesos were spent repairing the walls of the city, and nine thousand were spent building the arch or portal of “Wonders.”

In 1808 a law school was organized and the public cemetery was used for the first time, the construction of which cost 110,000 pesos. Two years later came the solemn inauguration of the San Fernando College for students of medicine.

Among the notable happenings of 1812 and 1813 we will point out the great fire of Guayaquil, which destroyed half the city, a hurricane which pulled up by their roots some of the trees of the Alameda of Lima, earthquakes in Ica and Piura and the abolition of the Holy Inquisition.

In October of 1807 a comet was sighted in Lima, and in November of 1811 another was spotted which could be seen for six months without the aid of a telescope.

The rest of the important events—which aren’t a few—which took place in the reign of Abascal are related to the War for Independence, and would require research from us which is beyond the scope of the Tradiciones.

IV

WHICH DEALS WITH THE INGENIOUS MEANS EMPLOYED BY A FRIAR TO FORCE THE MARQUIS TO RESIGN FROM THE GOVERNMENT

The Viceroy, who had found himself for some time in open warfare with the members of the town council and the high clergy, poked fun at the lampooning and graffiti that decorated not only the street walls but even the palace halls. The popular outcry, which threatened to take the vast proportions of a mutiny, did not invoke fear in him either, because His Excellency had 2500 soldiers to fall back on, and they were equipped with new hemp ropes to hang clusters of humans on the gallows.

That Abascal was courageous to the point of recklessness is proven, in addition to many of his life’s events, by what we are about to tell. On the afternoon of November 7, 1815, like a good Spaniard, he was taking a siesta when someone informed him that there was an entire regiment from Extremadura in open rebellion against their leaders in Santa Catalina Square and that the demoralization had spread to the hussar and dragoon quarters. The Viceroy quickly mounted his horse and without waiting for an escort made his way into the quarters of the rebels, restoring order just by being present.

After some American republics had gained their Independence the idea of gaining freedom from Spain was also making its way into Peru. Abascal had smothered uprisings in Tacna and Cuzco, and at the time his efforts were putting down similar revolutionary activities in the highlands of Peru. As long as he remained in command Lima’s patriots judged success practically impossible.

Fortuitously the award extended by Abascal to the less than energetic preacher suggested to one of his Augustinian colleagues, Father Molero, a man of genius and acclaim, who must have had his reasons to feel that he had been offended, that he take advantage of an opportunity, and all without notable scandal, to communicate to His Excellency the fact that it would be fitting for him to pack up his bags and disappear from Peru. In order to execute his plan Father Molero had to win over the loyalty of a servant in whom the Viceroy had entrusted his greatest confidence. And behold how that tenth-rate little sermon produced such a great effect.

One morning, upon arriving at his writing desk, the Marquis of Concordia found three small sacks, which he ordered thrown out into the street after examining their contents. His Excellency flew into a rage, roared tempestuously, punished his servants, and it is even rumored that two or three people were placed under arrest. The joke probably did not cut him completely to the quick until it was repeated fifteen days later.

At that point he didn’t cause a big to-do, but calmly announced to the Royal Court that the air of Lima was not agreeing with him, and that he needed the company of his only daughter, the beautiful Ramona Abascal, who had recently married Brigadier General Pereira and had departed for Spain. So would they be so kind as to support the request for resignation he would present to the Royal Court? Sure enough, he sent the well-known petition in the first galleon embarking from Callao to Cádiz, and on July 7, 1816, he handed the command to his favorite, Don Joaquín de la Pezuela.

Clearly, very clearly, Abascal saw that the cause of the Crown was hopeless in Peru, and as a sane man he preferred to resign with his reputation intact. He wrote these prophetic words to one of his friends in Spain: “I have done more than my share to turn back the onslaught, and I do not desire, in the eyes of history and in the eyes of my King, to have the responsibility upon my shoulders of losing Peru for Spain. Perhaps another can achieve that which I feel without the power to accomplish.”

The political integrity of Abascal and his loyalty to the monarch go beyond any eulogy. Splendid proof of this are the following lines we transcribe from a biography written by José Antonio de Lavalle:

Spain, invaded by Napoleon’s hosts, watched with astonishment the events at El Escorial, the trip to Bayonne and the imprisonment at Valencay, and angered at such audacity rose up against the usurper.[199] But with the seizure of the king, the center of gravity in the vast monarchy of Fernando VII was lost, and the American provinces, although still timidly, began to manifest the desire to part company with a crown which did not morally exist. They say that in Lima Abascal was urged to place the Inca’s crown on his own head. It is asserted that Carlos IV ordered him not to obey his son (Fernando VII), that Joseph Bonaparte granted him honors, and that Carlota,[200] Brazil’s princess, gave him her full power. The noble old man didn’t allow himself to be dazzled by the luster of a crown. With tears in his eyes he shut his ears to any voice not of the king. He indignantly scorned the offers of his Motherland’s invaders and respectfully called Fernando’s sister to do her duty. The population of Lima anxiously awaited the designated day on which they would swear allegiance to Fernando VII; for no one was ignorant as to the intrigues surrounding Abascal; the gratitude he felt toward Carlos IV and the friendship linking him to Godoy. The general yearning in Lima was for Independence under the rule of Abascal. The nobility, the clergy, the army and the people desired and hoped for it. The troops were lined up in the square, the people were crowded together in the streets and corporations gathered in the palace, all anxiously awaiting his word. Abascal, in his room, was actively urged on by his friends. Finally, after all, he was a man, his eyes sparkled with the grandeur of the throne, and they say he hesitated momentarily. Then returning to his senses he took his hat and with a relieved countenance went out to the balcony of the palace, and everyone listened in stupor to him as he proclaimed Fernando VII as the new king and swore allegiance to him. A great cry of admiration and enthusiasm welcomed his words, and the face of the old man trembled with the pleasure that comes from a conscience that has fulfilled its duty. The more painful the fight to overcome the feeble nature of humanity, the more intense is the pleasure from overcoming.”

V

CURIOSITY SUFFERS

Now let us remove the reader from limbo.

The contents of the little bags that produced such a remarkable result were: SALT-BEANS-LIME.[201]

Without even consulting any witches His Excellency deciphered the message. “Breath, I give it to you alive and if you return it to me dead, you’ll pay dearly for it.”

And this is why our most excellent Don José Fernando de Abascal high-tailed it to Spain, and why he is called the “Viceroy of the Riddle.”

 

Return to Table of Contents

 


CHAPTER 38

WHERE AND HOW THE DEVIL LOST HIS PONCHO

“And I’ll have you know, my dear fellow, that I lost my head and went off like a run-a-way horse all because of a girl born in the land where they relieved the Devil of his poncho.”

Thus ended the narration of one of the adventures of his youth my friend Don Adeodato de la Mentirola,[202] an old man who served in the army side by side with the royalist colonel Sanjuanena, and who presently prefers the paternal government of Fernando VII to all the theoretical and practical governments which have existed and will exist in the future. If we overlook this weakness or mania, my friend Don Adeodato is a gem of great worth. Nobody has at his fingertips as does he the ancient scandalous annals of this City of the Kings.[203] He tells things with a certain straightforwardness of language which astounds; and I, since I am crazy about investigating life and miracles, not of those who are alive, but those that are rotting in the soil and pushing up daisies, stay stuck to him like a button to a shirt, and I wind him up, and Don de la Mentirola’s tongue is off and running.

“And where and how was it that the Devil lost his poncho?” I questioned.

“What? You who compose poetry and call yourself a chronicler or a historian and write in public newspapers, and have been deputized by Congress, do not know what in my day even the smallest schoolboy knew. Such is our literary reputation since republican Peru came into being. Rubbish and hot air! All for show; nothing but tinsel!

“What can you expect? I confess my ignorance and beg you to enlighten me: after all, to teach the ignorant is a precept of Christian doctrine.”

It seems that the contemporary of Pezuela and La Serna[204] felt pleased with my humility, because after lighting up a cigar he made himself comfortable in his easy chair and let loose his tongue with the story which follows. Of course, as you know, neither Christ nor his disciples dreamed of roaming the Andes (although very learned historians affirm that the Apostle Thomas preached the Gospel in America), neither in those times was the telegraph known, nor the steamboat, nor the printing press. You must overlook these and other anachronisms, and here goes the tale ad pedem litterae.

I

Well, sir, when our Lord Jesus Christ was making pilgrimages throughout the world, as a gentleman on a very docile she-ass, giving sight to the blind and returning to the crippled the use and abuse of their members, he arrived at a region where sand formed the horizon. Now and again a palm tree would rise up in the shade of which the Divine Master and His chosen disciples would stop, and the disciples absent-mindedly would fill their knapsacks with dates.

That stretch of sand seemed to be eternal; somewhat like God Himself, without beginning or end. It was getting late in the afternoon and the travelers were afraid of sleeping with the starry vault serving as their awning, when with the last ray of the sun, suddenly there greeted their eyes the outline of a belfry.

The Lord placed his hand over his eyes, making a visor to better concentrate his line of sight, and said, “Over there is a city. Peter, you understand navigation and geography. Can you tell me what city it is?”

Saint Peter licked his lips with the compliment and answered, “Master, that city is Ica.”

“Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s go!”

And all the Apostles applied their heels to the flanks of their donkeys, and at a donkey’s gallop the procession headed to the town.

Once near the city they all dismounted to spruce themselves up. They perfumed their beards with balsam from Judea, adjusted their sandals, brushed their tunics and cloaks, and continued their course, but not without good Jesus providing this caution for his favorite apostle. “Be careful, Peter, with your fiery temper and your cutting off ears. Your behavior is always putting us in a bind.”

The Apostle blushed to the whites of his eyes, and no one could have known, upon seeing him so gentle and remorseful that he had been going around cutting people up.

The inhabitants of Ica received the illustrious guests with palm leaves, as is reported; and even though they might have been in a hurry to continue their journey, the inhabitants promised such good things to keep them there, and the lavish treatment and celebrations were such that eight days slipped by like a single breath.

Elías, Boza and Falconi wines were found in the mouths of everyone. During those eight days Ica was an imitation of glory. Doctors didn’t make any money, nor did pharmacists sell drugs; there wasn’t even a single toothache or embarrassing light case of measles.

Rust appeared on the pens of the scribes from not having even one complaint to record. Not even the most minor squabble surfaced among spouses and, what is truly miraculous, sweetened was the venom of the rattlesnakes which one naturalist calls mothers-in-law and sisters-in-law.

It was well known that in that city the Supreme Being dwelt. In Ica there was nothing but peace, happiness and good fortune.

The kindness, grace and beauty of the women of Ica inspired Saint John to compose a sonnet with extra verses which was published simultaneously in the Comercio, the Nacional and the Patria. The inhabitants of Ica, between drinks, committed the Apostle to write the Book of Revelations:

 

                   Pindaric poem, immortal work,

                   Where reason is lacking, genius excels,

 

as a poet friend of mine once said.

With this and other things the eighth day was coming to a close, when the Lord received a message by telegraph in which they called Him urgently back to Jerusalem, to stop the Samaritan woman from tearing out Mary Magdalene’s hair; and suspecting that popular affection would be a stumbling-block to the journey, He called the chief of the Apostles, shut himself up in a room with him and said, “Peter, get yourself ready as best you can, but it is necessary for us to slip out of the city without a living soul knowing anything about our departure. Circumstances exist in which one must take French leave.”

Saint Peter drafted an official order in the usual manner, brought it to the attention of his subordinates, and the guests went to bed and were on their way before the sun rose.

The city leaders had prepared a program for that morning, but they were disappointed. The travelers had crossed the Huacachina lagoon and had lost themselves in the horizon.

From that time forth, the Huacachina waters acquired the ability of curing ailments, excepting the bites of wild monkeys.

When they had put quite a few miles behind them, the Lord turned his countenance to the city and said, “So you say, Peter, that this land is called Ica?”

“Yes, Lord, Ica.”

“Well, what a beautiful place!”

And raising His right hand, He blessed it in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

As the newspaper correspondents had written to Lima, describing long, often and pompously the merrymaking and feasts, the Devil received, by means of the first steamboat from Europe, the notice and details transmitted by all our mass media.

They say that “Cachano”[205] nibbled his snout away with envy. The thick-lipped rascal! And he exclaimed, “Damn it! I’m not going to let Him upstage me! That is the last straw... No one gets the upper hand over me!”

And calling together twelve of his courtiers, he disguised them with the faces of the Apostles. One thing is for sure: “Cucufo”[206] knows more than an actor and a flirt about make-up and appearance-mimicking.

But as the correspondents had forgotten to describe the dress of Christ and His disciples, the wicked one imagined that, to avoid difficulties, it would suffice to consult the pictures of any travel book. And right away he and his colleagues laced on grenadier boots and threw over their shoulders a cape with four points, in other words, a poncho.

The inhabitants of Ica, upon spotting the procession, thought that it was the Lord returning with His chosen ones, and went out to meet Him, resolved this time to roll out the red carpet so that the Man-God might not have reason for boredom and that He might decide to set up camp in that city for good.

The inhabitants of Ica were until then happy, very happy, extremely happy. They didn’t take up time with politics; they paid their contributions without saying a word, and it mattered not a whit whether they be ruled by either Prester John or Muza the Moor. There did not exist among them gossip or trifles from neighborhood to neighborhood or house to house. They thought of nothing but taking care of the vineyards and doing all the good they could to each other. There overflowed, in short, such good fortune and prosperity, that all the neighboring regions were green with envy.

“Carrampempe”[207] though, who can’t look upon another’s fortune without his jaw chattering with rage, set out from the first moment to get his tail in the way and to make a mess of everything.

The horned one arrived at Ica right at the time when the marriage was being celebrated of a young man who was like a ram, to a lass who was like a ewe. The couple was ideally suited to each other in character and station in life, and they promised to live always in peace and in the grace of God.

“Not even had I been summoned could I have come at a more opportune time,” thought the Demon. “By the life of St. Tecla,[208] patron of raucous pianos.”

Unfortunately however for him the bride and groom had confessed and received the Holy Communion that morning; therefore, the traps and temptations of the cloven-footed one had no influence over them.

With the first toasts drunk in honor of the happy couple everything was turned topsy-turvy, not with that noble-spirited happiness, expansive and without malice which reigned in the banquets which the Lord had honored with His presence, but with sensual and indecent delirium.

One youth, a type of premature Don Juan, started directing suggestive words to the bride; and one big middle-aged woman threw looks of covetousness in the direction of the groom. The old lady was pure petroleum, and looked to the groom for the spark of a match to create a bonfire that couldn’t be extinguished by the Garibaldi fire engine or every fire department in the world. And things didn’t stop there.

Lawyers and scribes contrived to cook up lawsuits; doctors and pharmacists agreed to raise the price of aqua fontis; mothers-in-law vowed to scratch out the eyes of their sons-in-law; women began again to be persistent in begging and insistently demanding jewels and velvet dresses; serious men started to talk about clubs and riots; and, to top it off even the city leaders clamored about the need to impose a tax of ten cents on their fellow-men for each sneeze.

The hours went by, and they weren’t drinking by the cup but by the bottle, and those who before had settled into a peaceful drunkenness drank themselves into a drunkenness so savage..., so savage..., that it bordered on the rabid.

The poor bride, who as we said, was in the grace of God, was grieved and ran from one person to another begging everyone to make peace between two handsome men who, each armed with a cudgel, were softening each other’s hide with heavy blows.

“The Devil has gotten into their bodies; it can’t be anything else,” thought the poor soul to herself, who wasn’t far from the truth. Drawing near to the long-finger-nailed one, she took him by the poncho saying, “Look, Lord, they are killing each other!”

“And why are you telling me?” replied “el Tiñoso”[209] very slowly. “I’m not from this parish... Let them kill each other, well and good! Better for the priest and me, for I will serve as sexton.”

The girl, who couldn’t see for sure the meaning of the remarks, answered, “Jesus! What a terrible attitude you have! By the sign of the cross...”

And she joined the action to the word.

Scarcely had the evil one seen the fingers of the girl forming the crosspieces of a cross when he tried to escape like a dog being threatened by having something tied to its tail, but because she was holding the poncho, there was left to the rascal no other choice but to pull his head through the opening, leaving the poncho corners in the hands of the maiden.

The hoofed one and his acolytes evaporated; but it is well known that since then His Infernal Majesty comes from time to time to the city of Ica looking for his poncho. When it happens, there is great carousing among the wild drunkards and...

 

                   Pin-Pin

                   St. Augustine,

                   Here the story ends.

 

Return to Table of Contents

 


CHAPTER 39

CONQUER WE WILL WITH DAYS AND JARS

During the first days of June of 1821 and when the famous negotiations or armistice of Punchauca had just begun between Viceroy La Serna and General San Martín, the patriot army, which was quartered in Huara,[210] received the following password and counter-password: “With days—and jars—we will conquer.”

For everyone else, except for Monteagudo, Luzuriaga, Guido and García del Río, the password was a stupid game, an absurd expression; and those who judged San Martín in a manner most Christian and kind shrugged their shoulders and murmured, “Just another of his wild ideas.”

Nevertheless, the password was an astute one and had a hidden meaning. It is actually the synthesis of a significant historical event! And that is what I intend to treat in this tradition, which I heard from the lips of San Martín’s private secretary and other soldiers of that period. However, I base my account primarily on the authority of my good friend Don Mariano Pelliza, a writer of Buenos Aires, who in passing treats the password in one of his interesting books.

I

San Martín, for wise reasons that history records and applauds, did not want the occupation of Lima to happen because of a successful battle but rather because of political manipulations and tricks. His impatient troops, anxious to have it out with the conceited royalists, were furious at San Martín when they saw his apparent torpor; but the Argentine hero was determined, as we have previously noted, to walk the streets of Lima without resorting to gunpowder and without what was even more important to him, exposing the lives of his soldiers to danger, because in reality, he didn’t have too many of them.

San Martín was in secret and constant communication with the patriots of the capital and relied on their enthusiasm and activity to conspire against the royal forces, an effort which had produced among other successes of importance for the liberating cause the defection of the Numancia Battalion.

But frequently spies and scouting or advance units were successful in the interception of these communications, thus frustrating on many occasions the development of the General’s plan. This impediment, aggravated by the fact that the Spaniards shot those who were caught with letters in code, was extremely disconcerting to the enterprising San Martín and caused him to do a lot of thinking. It was absolutely essential that a safe means be found which would expedite the communications between him and patriots in Lima.

Preoccupied with this concern, one afternoon the General was walking through the long and only street in Huara, a long one, accompanied by Guido and an aide when, while approaching the bridge, he fixed his wandering gaze on an old large home which had a patio in which there was an oven for baking brick and pottery. In those days in which manufactured porcelain did not arrive in Peru, the making of pottery was a very lucrative business because table service and kitchen utensils were of clay baked in the country, with the exception of an occasional jug from Guadalajara and silver platters, which certainly were to be found only on the table of the well-to-do.

San Martín was struck with one of those sudden and mysterious inspirations which only pop into the minds of geniuses, whereupon he exclaimed to himself, “Eureka! The x of the problem has been solved.”

The owner of the house was an Indian of advanced years, lively spirit and allegiance to the revolutionary cause. San Martín conversed with him and the potter promised to bake a jar with two bottoms so skillfully fashioned that even the most expert eye could not detect the deception.

The Indian made weekly trips to Lima taking with him two mules loaded with clay plates and jars; at that time utensils of pewter and of tin-plated copper were unknown in our country. Among the jars transported by the Indian was the one that could not be distinguished from the others—the so-called “Revolutionary Jar”—carrying in its false bottom important letters in secret code. The potter allowed any enemy soldiers to inspect his wares and submitted himself to interrogations, removing his hat when the officer of the detail pronounced the name of Fernando VII, our lord and master, and they permitted him to continue on his way, but not without his shouting as he left, “Long live the King! Death to the revolutionary cause!” Who could possibly have imagined that this poor old Indian could have been so heavily involved in a politically hazardous business.

Our potter was an improviser of verses, like a certain soldier who when taken prisoner was challenged by a Spanish colonel who, in order to have him deny his flag or to make fun of him said to him, “Look, you boaster, I will give you a peso if you compose a quatrain with the two verses I will give you. Here they are:

 

                   Long live Fernando the Seventh

                   With his noble and loyal nation.

 

“I have no problem with that at all, colonel,” answered the prisoner. “Listen.”

                   Long live Fernando the Seventh

                   With his noble and loyal nation.

                   But on one condition, that he not

                   Govern me, so hand over the peso.

II

The person who was designated by San Martín to receive the message was a priest, Don Francisco Javier de Luna Pizarro, who exercised great influence on the country and who lived in a house facing the Church of the Conception. The Indian would pass by the priest’s home at eight o’ clock in the morning and shout at the top of his lungs, “Jars and plates! Cheap! Cheap!”

Until just a few years ago the peddlers in Lima could provide sufficient material for a whole book based on the rich variety of their calls. Something more. There were houses where in order to know the time of day limeños didn’t look at their clocks, they merely listened to the calls of the street vendors.

Lima has made progress with respect to civilization but it has been deprived of its poetic character. Day after day it loses more and more of what was original and typical in its customs.

I have known those times when it appears that the occupation of people in Lima was to have in constant operation mills of mastication, otherwise known as teeth and molars. Let the reader judge for himself the following information concerning how the hours were signaled in my neighborhood, back when I was playing hooky in gardens and on top of walls, when I was far away from writing traditions and making a show of myself as a poet, which is another way of killing time or playing hooky.

The milkmaid came around at 6 A.M.

The tea vendor and the chicha[211] vendor from Terranova announced their goods at 7 A.M.

The biscuit or cake vendor and the vendor of milk-vinegar marked the eight o’clock hour, and not one minute before nor one minute after. The latter would shout, “Come and get your curdled milk!”

The vendor of zanguito de ñajú[212] and roasted tripe came by at nine o’ clock, which was the hour of the canons.

At ten o’ clock the vendor of tamales made her appearance.

The melon vendor passed by at eleven and at the same time the mulatress from the convent would announce that she was selling among other things nougat, strained beans and chancaquitas.[213]

The noon hour was marked by the cries of the fruit vendor and the seller of chopped meat turnovers.

Without fail the vendor of ante con ante,[214] the rice vendor and the vendor of alfajores[215] would pass by at one P.M.

At two o’clock there appeared the doughnut vendor, the vendor of humita[216] and the vendor of the rica causa de Trujillo.[217]

At three o’clock the cries of the melon vendor, the nougat vendor and the anticucho[218] vendor were heard, with more punctuality than the ringing of the Mariangola bell of the cathedral.

The vendor of highly spiced foods and the vendor of piñita de nuez[219] shouted their wares at four.

At five the vendor of jasmine and the vendor of cloth flowers screeched. The latter would shout, “A garden! A garden! Can’t you smell the flowers, young lady?”

The root and sweetbread vendors sang out at six.

At seven the vendor of caramels and the vendor of mazamorra.[220]

The vendor of ices and the vendor of wafers arrived at eight.

Even as late as nine o’clock, at the same time as the curfew was rung, the animero or sacristan of the parish would appear with his red cloak and lantern in hand asking for offerings for the souls in Purgatory or for candles for Our Lord. This individual was the terror of children who rebelled against going to bed.

After nine o’clock the sereno[221] replaced the traveling clocks, calling out, between whistles, “Ave María Purísima! Ten o’clock! Long live Peru and all is clear!” That’s what they said, whether it was cloudy or raining, and every sixty minutes the same irritating song was heard until dawn.

I hasten to add that I have omitted the calls of many vendors that were given at certain times of the day.

Ah! Delightful times. There were those who liked to show off clocks that told time precisely out of the sheer love of ostentation, but in order to know precisely the hour of the day there was no clock more punctual than the cries of the vendors. It is certain that this clock wasn’t even one second fast or late, and, in addition, there was no need to clean it or send it to the hospital for clocks every six months. And then you have the cost. Dirt cheap! Well, now, I must admit that when I talk of the past I forget what I’m doing and my pen goes like a run-a-way horse. That’s the end of the digression; let’s continue with our insurgent jug maker.

Hardly had the vendors shouted their calls on each corner when all the neighbors who needed kitchen utensils were at the door.

III

Pedro Manzanares, majordomo of Luna Pizarro, was a short, very dark Negro with all the criollo[222] cheek of the madcaps of Lima, always saying crude and shameless things. He was a singer, guitar player and knife fighter, but very loyal to his master and favored by him. He always bought from the potter, paying one real for each jug, but the following day he would appear in the doorway with a jar in his hand and would shout, “Listen here, half-breed thief. Your miserable jars are not worth a straw. This one you sold me yesterday I want replaced right now with a good one before I smash your nose! I’ll teach you not to cheat your customers, you deceiving rascal!”

The potter smiled like a person who is used to disregarding insults and exchanged the jar.

This scene, which was repeated many times, with all the insulting and obscene language, and which the Indian bore patiently in spite of the intemperate outbursts, caused the neighborhood barber, an Andalusian busybody, to say one morning, “On my soul! They say that men of the cloth haggle over petty details! Why, not even I, as poor as a church mouse would make such a fuss over one miserable real! To Hell with him! Listen, you black so and so. Jars made of clay and also women, for they are made of clay, are taken without any thought of returning them and if you are disappointed, well, that’s too damn bad! Go suck on your little finger and keep your mouth shut! You are going to have to live with your mistake! We’re tired of hearing all the shouts and complaints in our neighborhood!”

“And you, contemptible horned Spaniard, you rattlebrain, who gave you the right to stick your nose into this affair?” answered Manzanares with his habitual insolence. “Mind your business and keep on skinning your customers alive while you shave them. And don’t butt into matters which don’t concern you. You sorry excuse for a human being, you pitch-covered blusterer! You ill-bred nincompoop!”

Upon hearing himself insulted in this manner the Andalusian’s temper got hotter and hotter. Finally, he exclaimed, with his Andalusian lisp, “María Thantíthima! I’m lothing control of mythelf. Defend yourthelf, you turkey buthard born in a dung heap!”

And pulling out his dagger he went after Perico Manzanares, who, without wasting time, took refuge in his master’s home. Who knows if the row between the barber and the majordomo might have raised suspicions about the jars; from small causes have arisen great effects! But fortunately the confrontation coincided with the last trip that the potter made carrying his contraband jars because the shouting match took place on the 5th of July and at dawn the following day La Serna abandoned the city, which the patriots seized the night of the 9th.

When the Indian carried his first jar to San Martín, which had been returned by the majordomo of Luna Pizarro during the first days of June, the General was in his private room dictating the orders of the day. He interrupted what he was doing, and after reading the letters that arrived in the false bottom, he turned to his ministers García del Río and Monteagudo and said to them with a smile, “As the petitioner requests.” Then he turned to his private secretary and added, “Write, Monolito, the password and the counter-password for today will be: ‘With days—and—jars-we will conquer.’ ”

The triumph San Martín had desired so intensely was to take possession of Lima without firing a shot; and thanks to the jars that carried in their false bottoms ideas that were more formidable than modern cannons, his success was so splendid that on the 28th of July Independence was declared and Peru declared its autonomy. Junín and Ayacucho[223] were the corollary.

 

Return to Table of Contents

 


CHAPTER 40

THE CALF OF THE LEG OF THE COMMANDER

I

A fragment of a letter from the third commanding officer of the “Imperial Alexander” to the second commander of the “Gerona” Battalion.

 

                                                Cuzco, December 3, 1822

 

My dear countryman and companion: Captain Don Pedro Uriondo has been sent by the Viceroy to deliver certain documents to General Valdés and I am taking advantage of his journey to write to you.

Uriondo is the most entertaining malagueño that an Andalusian mother ever brought into the world. I heartily recommend him to you. He is obsessed with making bets on everything and the most singular thing is that he always wins them. By the heavens, brother, don’t fall into the trap of accepting any bet with him and warn all your friends most sincerely that they shouldn’t either. Uriondo boasts that he has never lost a bet and he is telling the truth. And so, keep your eyes open and don’t allow yourself to be trapped.

                                                Yours as always,

                                                Juan Echerry

II

Letter from the second commander of the “Gerona” to his friend of the “Imperial Alejandro.”

 

                                                Saura, December 28, 1822

 

My unforgettable comrade and relative: I am writing to you on a drum. In just a few moments I form the troops before we leave for Tacna, where I am sure that we are going to cut off the retreat of the gaucho Martínez before he joins up with the troops of Alvarado whom we will make dance the zorongo. Starting on this date the devil will carry off the insurgents. It’s time for Satan to take what belongs to him and for the epaulets of a colonel to shine on the shoulders of this, your unswerving friend.

Thank you very much for making me acquainted with Captain Uriondo. He is a fellow who is worth his weight in gold and in the few days that we have had him here in headquarters he has been the fair-haired boy of the corps of officers. And what a devil of a singer he is. He certainly knows how to make the strings of a guitar talk.

Tomorrow he will leave on his return trip to Cuzco carrying communications from the General to the Viceroy.

I am sorry to have to inform you that his laurels as a winner of bets have withered. He insisted that the hesitation with which I walk is the result, not of the bullet wound I suffered in Upper Peru[224] during the battle of Guagui, but of a mole as big as a grain of rice, which according to him, as if he had seen it and touched it, I had on the lower part of my left leg. He added with the assurance worthy of the physician of my battalion that that mole was the head of a vein and if I didn’t have it burned off, as time goes by I would be stricken with a fatal heart attack because of it. I know everything there is to know about this poor old body of mine and I know very well I have no mole, so I began to laugh out loud. Uriondo was a little piqued and he bet six ounces that he would be able to convince me that indeed I did have a mole. Accepting the bet was tantamount to stealing his silver from him and I refused, but he insisted so stubbornly that Captain Murrieta, who was a second lieutenant of the dismounted Cossacks in Callao; our countryman Goytisolo, who is now Captain of the Fifth; First Lieutenant Silgado, who was with the hussars and is now with the dragoons; Father Marieluz, who is a chaplain of the troops and all the other officers said to me, “Come on, Commander, win those doubloons which are falling from the skies.”

Put yourself in my place. What would you have done? What I did, surely. I showed my bare leg to all present so that they could see that there was nothing resembling a mole on my leg. Uriondo’s face took on a bright red color like that of a parboiled shrimp and he had to admit that he had been wrong. And he handed over to me the six ounces, which he had me accept in spite of my reluctance to do so. But finally I had to keep them, for he insisted on maintaining that he had lost them fair and square.

Against your advice I was weak enough (that’s the way you put it) to accept a bet with the unfortunate malagueño. At least he was with me, for more important than the loss of the six yellow pieces was the fact that I was the first one to have the glory of conquering someone who was considered invincible.

The assembly of the troops is being played. May God protect you from any traitorous bullets and may He protect me also.

                                                Domingo Echizarraga

III

Letter from the third commanding officer of the “Imperial Alejandro” to the second commander of the “Gerona.”

 

                                                Cuzco, January 1, 1823

 

My good friend; you have ruined me. Captain Uriondo had bet me thirty ounces that you would show the calf of your leg on the day of the Innocents. Since yesterday, and you are to blame, there are thirty doubloons fewer in the meager assets of your friend, who pardons your naiveté and absolves you of your disobedience to my counsel.

                                                          Juan Echerry

 

And I[225] the undersigned, guarantee with all the seriousness that should be incumbent upon a traditionist, the authenticity of the signatures of Echerry and Echizarraga.

 

Return to Table of Contents

 


CHAPTER 41

THE SECRET OF THE CONFESSIONAL

Several months ago I was visited by the Prefect of the Order of the Holy Cross of San Camilo de Lelis, who showed me a photograph which was sent to him from Rome, which portrayed a priest of the Order in a coffin and four soldiers shooting him to death. In the background could be seen merlons of a castle and the tower of honor from which was flying the Spanish flag. Farther in the distance were a body of water, an island and ships anchored close to it. The Prefect, carrying out a request from his General in Rome, asked me for details concerning the event depicted, which apparently took place in Peru. The tradition that you are going to read is the product of my research.

Friar Pedro Marieluz was born in Tarma in approximately 1780 and belonged to a family that enjoyed a comfortable life. He was educated in the novitiate of the Order of the Holy Cross in Lima and in 1805 received the priesthood.

Political matters in Peru were beginning to heat up and we were on our way to winning our Independence. It was the fashion to be a patriot, but Friar Pedro preferred to remain loyal to the Crown. In his opinion the patriots were nothing more than propagators of heresy and odious excommunicated wretches. Father Marieluz was more of a royalist than the king himself.

When in June of 1821 La Serna abandoned the capital leaving the way open for San Martín to enter it, the Father of the Good Death[226] was one of those who, not wishing to make himself subject to the new regime, followed the Spanish army. The Viceroy named him chaplain of one of the divisions and in this position Marieluz accompanied the army in the surprise of Macacona and in other military encounters.

Brigadier General Don Ramón Rodil took possession of the fortress of Callao and Father Marieluz joined him in the capacity of military vicar.

The Spaniards found themselves in a desperate situation in 1825 because they had lost the battle of Ayacucho and were under siege in Callao, but Marieluz refused to abandon Brigadier General Ramón Rodil.

In September of 1825, after nine months of siege and daily bombardment, the scarcity of food and the curse of scurvy began to cause discouragement in the ranks of the besieged. Conspiracy permeated the atmosphere.

On the 23rd day of the month while the day was drawing to its close, this being the eve of the day dedicated to the Virgin of Mercy, Rodil was notified that at nine that night a revolution would break out headed by Commander Montero, the most prestigious of Rodil’s lieutenants. The men in whom the Brigadier General had most faith were involved.

Without wasting a single minute, Rodil had them arrested, but regardless of the tactics employed by his men he was not able to extract from them any incriminating evidence. They obstinately denied the existence of any revolutionary plot. Then the Brigadier General, in order to save himself further concern, decided to shoot all of them, the innocent and the guilty alike, at nine o’clock that night, precisely when the conspirators planned to tie him up and send four ounces of lead crashing into his chest and through his back.

“Father Vicar,” said Rodil, “it is now 6 o’clock and in three hours you are going to confess these insurgents.”

And with that he left the casemate.

At 9 P.M. the thirteen condemned men were in the presence of God.

That night a very moving drama took place. One hour before being shot Commander Montero was married to a very lovely young lady who was now a widow and a virgin. Her first wedding took place in Cuzco, where she married a Spanish captain, who moments after hearing the wedding ceremony pronounced, kissed his bride on the forehead and rode off to fight, dying eight days later in battle. Death always was present at the weddings of this young lady. Just as was the case with her first husband, Montero’s kiss was also the kiss of a man whose fate was sealed.

The unfortunate woman, twice a widow and still a virgin, took the veil in a convent in Lima. Among my readers there are quite a few who have known her because she died not too long ago.

Some of these thirteen executed men left wife, mother or sisters in the fortress. Rodil had them taken up to the tops of the walls and then had them lowered to the moat by means of ropes. From there they made their way to Bellavista, the camp of the insurgents, carrying news about the bloody way as well as speedy way in which Rodil thwarted revolutions.

As a matter of fact, the impression that the executions caused was so horrifying in its Neronian military procedure which was intended to provide a brutal object lesson that no one, in the four months that the siege lasted, thought again about conspiring in order to free himself from the claws of the tiger.

But in spite of the extremely harsh punishment Rodil was beside himself. “Who knows,” he said to himself, “if there aren’t others left alive who were just as involved or more so than the ones who were executed? No, I’m not going to rest until I know for sure. The confessor must surely know all the details, down to the last jot and tittle. Have the Father Vicar brought here at once!”

When Marieluz arrived Rodil spoke to him in private, saying, “Father, it is certain that when those rascals confessed to you they revealed all of their plans and the names of those who were to assist them. I also need to know this information. I want you to tell me everything without omitting details or names.”

“Well, General, you are asking the impossible of me. I will not sacrifice the salvation of my soul by revealing the secrets of penitent brothers. Even if the king himself, may God preserve him, were to order that I reveal what I heard in the confessional I would not comply.”

Blood rushed to Rodil’s face and, leaping at the Vicar, grabbed him by the arm and shook him violently while he shouted at him, “Friar, if you don’t tell me everything I will have you shot.”

With a serenity truly evangelical, Father Marieluz replied, “If God has prepared me for martyrdom, let His will be done. A minister of God can’t tell you anything.”

“Won’t you say anything, Friar, traitor to your king, to your flag and to your superior officer?”

“I am as loyal as you are to my sovereign and to the flag of Castile, but you are demanding that I be a traitor to God...and therefore I am prohibited from obeying you.”

Rodil, driven to despair, called out, “Captain Iturralde! Summon four men with their rifles ready to fire.”

The four soldiers entered immediately. In the room where the terrible scene was taking place there were several large, empty boxes and among them was one that measured a little more than 5 1/2 feet.

The fiend of the castlefortress didn’t just say but roared: “On your knees, Friar!.

And the priest, as if he sensed that the box was to be his coffin fell on his knees at the side of it.

“Ready! Aim!” ordered Rodil. And turning to the victim he said in a commanding voice, “For the last time, in the name of your king I order you to give me the information.”

“In the name of God I refuse to comply,” answered the priest with a voice that was weak but peaceful.

“Fire!”

And Father Pedro Marieluz, a martyr to both his religion and his duty, fell dead, his breast riddled by the bullets.

 

Return to Table of Contents

 


CHRONOLOGY

1531  Pizarro’s forces arrive at Cajamarca. Atahualpa, the last of the Inca rulers, is executed by Pizarro.

1535  Foundation of the City of Kings (Lima) by Pizarro.

1537  Civil war between Francisco Pizarro and Diego de Almagro.

1538  Almagro captured and executed.

1541  Pizarro assassinated by the men of the son of Almagro.

1544  Arrival of Blasco de Núñez, first viceroy of Peru.

1544  Rebellion of Gonzalo Pizarro, brother of Francisco.

1548  Defeat and execution of Gonzalo Pizarro and his military leader, Francisco de Carbajal, “The Demon of the Andes.”

1551  The second viceroy of Peru, Don Antonio de Mendoza.

1821  José de San Martín enters Lima and proclaims the independence of Peru. He proclaims himself “Protector” of Peru.

1822  Simón Bolívar and San Martín meet in Guayaquil, Ecuador. On September 20 San Martín resigns as “Protector” of Peru and a few days later he leaves for Chile.

1823  The Peruvian Congress appoints José de la Riva Agüero president of Peru.

1823  Bolívar arrives in Callao and the Congress votes to give him supreme and independent military command and all political power needed to fulfill his military role.

1823  Congress writes the first Constitution.

1824  The Peruvian Congress votes to make Bolívar dictator of Peru. The viceroyalty in Peru lasts until 1824. The last viceroy, number forty, is Don José de la Serna e Hinojosa.

1824  The battles of Junín and Ayacucho put an end to Spanish power in Peru.

1826  Bolívar writes new Constitution for Peru and is accepted by the Peruvian Congress in 1826.

1826  Bolívar abandons Peru.

1827  The Congress writes a new Constitution. Between 1823 and 1860 there were ten different Constitutions in Peru.

1827 General José de la Mar elected president by the Congress.

1829  General Agustín Gamarra elected president by the Congress.

1833  General Luis José de Orbegoso elected president by the Congress.

1833  Ricardo Palma born in Lima.

1835  General Felipe Santiago Salaverry seizes power.

1835  Orbegoso, still the legal president of Peru, joins forces with the Bolivian general Andrés de Santa Cruz in an effort to force an alliance of Bolivia and Peru. Gamarra and Salaverry join forces to fight against the Alliance. They are defeated and Salaverry is executed. Santa Cruz becomes the Supreme Protector of the Peruvian-Bolivian Confederation.

1836  Chile declares war on the Confederation.

1839  Chile wins the war and the Confederation is dissolved. Gamarra appoints himself provisional president of Peru. Gamarra defeats Santa Cruz in the battle of Yungay and the Confederation’s military power is destroyed.

1845  General Ramón Castilla seizes power. He serves three terms from 1845-1851, 1855-1858 and 1858-1862. He is considered by many as the best Peruvian ruler of the nineteenth century.

1856  A new moderate constitution is approved, which lasts until 1920.

1860  Revolutionary forces storm the home of Ramón Castilla. Because of Palma’s support of the attack he is exiled to Chile.

1863  Amnesty is decreed and Palma returns to Peru in 1865. He fights the Spaniards when they attack the Chincha Islands. His close friend, José Gálvez, is killed in the attack.

1868  Colonel José Balta becomes president of Peru.

1868  Henry Meiggs, the railroad builder arrives in Peru.

1872  Balta is assassinated. Palma publishes his first series of Traditions.

1872  Manuel Pardo becomes the first civilian president in Peru.

1876  Palma marries Cristina Román.

1879  War of the Pacific between Peru and Chile.

1883  War of the Pacific ends with the Treaty of Ancón.

1883  Palma becomes Director of the National Library.

1912  Palma’s resignation from his position as director of the National Library is accepted.

1919  Palma dies in Miraflores.

 

Return to Table of Contents

 


GLOSSARY

alcalde

Mayor

audiencia

Supreme court of Peru

cabildo

City council; also ecclesiastical chapter

corregidor

A local official who possessed certain governmental authority.

criollo

Person born of pure Spanish blood on both the paternal and maternal sides but born in the New World, thus inferior to the “peninsulares, who were born in the Mother Country.

duro

A silver coin roughly equivalent to our dollar.

encomienda

Legal system of trusteeship of Indians in a given area.

godo

Epithet applied to Spaniards during the War of Independence.

hidalgo

Member of the lower Spanish nobility

morlaca

Coin worth a peso, which was worth varying values.

quena

Rustic flute used by the Andean Indians

segundón

Second born male in a family. Because the first born inherited the family estate, the second born had to choose to be a soldier, a priest or a lawyer.

tapada

Woman in colonial Peru who wore her mantle in such a way that it covered all of the face except one eye, thus providing a disguise.

tertulia

Informal gathering of friends in order to converse and entertain themselves.

yaraví

Plaintive music of the Andean Indians.

 

Return to Table of Contents

 


ABOUT THE EDITOR AND TRANSLATORS

MERLIN D. COMPTON, editor and translator

Merlin D. Compton was born in Ogden, Utah, in 1924. He served in the United States Army Air Force during the Second World War. In 1952 he graduated from Brigham Young University with a B.A. He took his M.A. from the same institution in 1954 and in 1959 he graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles, with his Ph.D. in Hispanic Languages and Literature. Professor Compton has served on the faculties of Adams State College (Colorado), Weber State College (Utah) and Brigham Young University, (Utah) where he was a professor of Spanish and Portuguese from 1964 - 1989.

He has written extensively about Ricardo Palma and his works including numerous articles and four books: Ricardo Palma (1982); La trayectoria de las primeras tradiciones de Ricardo Palma (1989), [The Trajectory of the First Tradiciones Written by Ricardo Palma]; La obra poética de Ricardo Palma (2000), [The Poetic Works of Ricardo Palma]; and La historicidad de las tradiciones peruanas de Ricardo Palma (2000) [The Historicity of Ricardo Palma’s Tradiciones Peruanas]. In recognition of his research on this great Peruvian the University of Ricardo Palma in Lima has made him “Honorary Professor” and has inducted him into the Ricardo Palma Institute as Corresponding Member of that body. In the citation issued by that University he was recognized as “the most important disseminator (diffuser) of the works of Ricardo Palma in his country.” Dr. Compton has traveled to Peru on four occasions, doing research, primarily in the National Library of Peru, of which Ricardo Palma was Director for thirty years and where he and his family lived for many years. For their kindnesses, their help and cooperation Dr. Compton wishes to express his gratitude to the personnel of that Institution. During the time he spent in Peru Professor Compton gave many lectures, all treating the works of Ricardo Palma.

Professor Compton is married to the former Avon Allen. They are the parents of five children, three of whom are married. They have thirteen grandchildren and six great grandchildren.

 

TIMOTHY G. COMPTON, translator

Timothy G. Compton (1960-   ) has been a professor of Spanish at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan, since 1989, and has chaired the department of Modern Languages and Literatures there for several years.

He received degrees in Spanish language and literature from three universities (B.A. from Brigham Young University, M.A. from the University of Utah, and Ph.D. from the University of Kansas), and received minors in Computer Science and Brazilian literature.

He has traveled to Spain, Peru and Mexico, and has concentrated most of his studies on Mexican literature. He published a critical work, Mexican Picaresque Narratives: Periquillo and Kin in 1997 and a translated book, Delirium Tremens: Stories of Suffering and Transcendence, in 2000.

As of this date, he has traveled to Mexico City for each of the last 12 years to study Mexican theatre, and in the process has seen hundreds of plays and published a number of articles on the subject in English and Spanish. He has translated all the English articles into Spanish for a book soon to be published in Mexico, Una década de teatro mexicano: 1992-2002.

He and his wife, Virginia, are the parents of six children.

 

Return to Table of Contents

 

 



[1] Battle between the forces of Diego de Almagro and Pizarro fought on April 26, 1538, in which Pizarro’s army was victorious. Almagro was subsequently captured and beheaded.

[2] Correct spelling, Barberini. An Illustrious Florentine family. Cardinal Maffeo Barberini became Pope Urbano VIII (1623-1644).

[3] Atahualpa was the last Inca. He was made a prisoner by Pizarro in Cajamarca and executed there in 1533.

[4] Don Diego de Almagro was a conquistador who, along with Francisco Pizarro, conquered Peru. Conflict arose between the two leaders over how the conquered territory was to be divided. This conflict resulted in warfare between them and finally the death of Almagro.

[5] Bernardo Monteagudo was an Argentine politician who was a close friend of José de San Martín. He held the portfolios of both War and Foreign Affairs in the Peruvian Government of San Martín.

[6] When Cortés fought his way out of Tenochtitlán after the death of Montezuma his army had to make their way to solid land using a causeway as their only means of escape. The Aztecs cut gaps in the causeway so the Spaniards had to swim or jump from one side to the other. Alvarado is famous for his leap across one of these gaps.

[7] Cristóbal Vaca de Castro was appointed royal governor of Peru by Charles I in 1541 with the commission to put an end to the unrest in that viceroyalty. Before he arrived Pizarro had been assassinated and Almagro the Younger was ruling Peru. Vaca de Castro organized a royal army that defeated the forces of Almagro and put an end to the rebellion.

[8] Lima.

[9] Velázquez was the mayor of Lima.

[10]picar” means to prick.

[11] [Palma’s note] History of the Events of the Castilians on the Islands and the Lands of the Ocean during Eight Decades from 1492-1554. In Madrid, 1601-1615, 8 tomes, 4 volumes in folio.

[12] Captain Francisco Girón led an ill-fated rebellion against the Crown in 1553.

[13] During the War for Independence in Venezuela in 1817 José Antonio Páez was one of Bolívar’s generals.

[14] The War for Independence between Spain and the colonies.

[15] membrudo = “brawny” in Spanish.

[16] Diego de Almagro, son of Diego de Almagro, the Elder. Almagro the Younger’s men assassinated Francisco Pizarro and rebelled against the Crown. Vaca de Castro defeated Almagro in the battle of Chupas.

[17] princess.

[18] Huayna Capac (died in 1525), the last Inca of the undivided Inca empire, father of Huáscar and Atahualpa.

[19] Legal system of trusteeship of Indians in a given area. The encomendero was given a certain number of Indians whom he could use to work on his property. In return he was to feed and clothe his Indians and see that they were instructed in the Catholic religion.

[20] Garcilaso El Inca. This is Garci Lasso de la Vega (El Inca), a prominent historian who treated the history and culture of the Incas and the conquest of Peru. His father was a Spanish conquistador and his mother an Inca princess. He lived from 1539 to 1616.

[21] Francisco Hernández Girón (1510-1554) was a conquistador who revolted against the Viceroy La Gasca in 1553. He was defeated and executed.

[22] The highest tribunal in the viceroyalty.

[23] A former Spanish method of execution by strangulation or by breaking the neck with an iron collar screwed tight with a knoblike device.

[24] City in what is now Bolivia, famous during the colonial period for its rich silver mines. Its wealth gave rise to the saying: “Vale un Potosí.” (“It is worth a Potosí.”)

[25] Nobleman.

[26] First viceroy in Peru, who reigned from 1544-1546. He lost his life in the battle of Iñaquito fighting against the forces of the rebel Gonzalo Pizarro.

[27] The lawyer Pedro de la Gasca was sent to Peru to restore order after Gonzalo Pizarro had rebelled successfully against the Crown. He defeated Gonzalo Pizarro’s army and executed Gonzalo. He governed the viceroyalty from 1547 to 1550 as President of the Royal Audience.

[28] This battle was fought near Cuzco on April 9, 1548.

[29] A local official who possessed certain governmental authority.

[30] In Spanish criollo is defined as a person who was born with “pure” blood (no Jewish or Moorish blood) but was inferior to the person born in Spain because he had the misfortune of being born in the New World.

[31] The Royal Spanish Academy was created in 1714 by Phillip V in imitation of the French Academy. Its purpose was to maintain the elegance of the purity of the Spanish language. Palma submitted many words to the Royal Spanish Academy that were accepted and became a part of the official dictionary published by the Academy.

[32] Lima.

[33] The encomendero was given a certain number of Indians that he could use to work on his property. In return he was to feed and clothe his Indians and see that they were instructed in the Catholic religion.

[34]killer of mountain people.”

[35] An informal social gathering.

[36]traditions.”

[37]the great high and mighty.”

[38] Garcilaso de la Vega (El Inca) [1539-1616] was a Peruvian historian and chronicler. Francisco López de Gómara [1511?-1566?] was a secretary to Hernán Cortés and wrote a chronicle about the conquest of Mexico entitled Historia de las Indias y conquista de México. Agustín de Zarate [16th century] was a Spanish chronicler who wrote Historia de la conquista del Perú.

[39]pussy, pussy.”

[40] Battle fought in 1553 between the rebel Francisco de Girón and government forces in which Giron’s army defeated the royalists.

[41] A liquid measure of varying value.

[42] Palma must be referring to one of two works by José María de Córdova y Urrutia, either Noticias históricas estadísticas sobre Lima, 1839 or Las tres épocas del Perú o compendio de su Historia, Lima, 1844.

[43] Francisco Hernández Girón (1510-1554) was a conquistador who revolted against the Viceroy La Gasca. In 1554 he was defeated and executed.

[44] Representative to the governing body of Spain.

[45] A sizeable irrigated region.

[46] A silver coin roughly equivalent to a dollar.

[47] The Cyclops whom Odysseus blinded in the Odyssey by Homer.

[48] In Greek mythology Cerberus is the three-headed dog that guards the entrance to Hades.

[49] The Alférez Real carried the royal banner, a high privilege and honor.

[50] The saya was a skirt that was like a sheath from the waist to the feet and restricted movement so much that the longest step that could be taken measured just three inches. The manto was a mantle that was wrapped around the shoulders and the head in such a fashion that only one eye was left uncovered, which provided a very effective way of hiding one’s identity.

[51] The Count of Nieva died while attempting to scale a balcony in an attempt to carry out an amorous tryst with a certain aristocratic lady. The master of the house arranged for his men to drop bags of sand on the Viceroy while he was trying to ascend a rope ladder.

[52] Women living in Lima.

[53] These are different styles of the saya y manto.

[54] Another style of the saya y manto. This one, the saya de tiritas, is especially interesting because the skirts were literally made of strips. The word “tirita” is the diminutive of “tira,” which means “strip.” The expression “hecho tiras” in the New World means “in rags.”

[55] The cabildo is the town council.

[56] My research has failed to discover the nature of this confrontation.

[57] I.e., they didn’t know how to write.

[58] Person of “pure blood” who had the misfortune of being born in the Americas instead of in the mother country.

[59] The lieutenant had just implied that the wife of the Portuguese had cuckolded him.

[60] A region of Chile.

[61] Lima.

[62] That is, “imprisoned.”

[63] Councilman.

[64] [Palma’s note.] The distinguished Bolivian writer Don José Rosendo Gutiérrez published in 1879 in the Revista Peruana an interesting article about Manco Sierra de Leguízamo in which the famous testament can be found.

[65] The marco was a weight of about 230 grams.

[66] Spanish historian. Published General History of Spain from its Early Period to Our Day (Madrid, 1850-57) and “Fray Gerundio, Capelladas [Shoe Patches], Satirical newspaper about Politics and Customs (Madrid-León, 1837-1843).

[67] Fray Gerundio, pseudonym of Modesto de la Fuente, taken from a novel written by Padre José Francisco de Isla y Rojo (1703-1781), entitled History of the Famous Preacher Friar Gerundio de Campazas (1758 and 1770). The work by Lafuente is folkloric in nature and numbered seventeen volumes.

[68] Atticism is characterized by conciseness and elegance, something characteristic of the Attic Greek style.

[69] King Pelayo conquered the Moslems in Covadonga in 718 A.D., a battle traditionally regarded as the beginning of the Reconquest in Spain, which ended with the defeat of the invaders in Granada in 1492. He became the first king of Asturias in 737 A.D.

[70] A local official who possessed certain governmental authority.

[71] “He preferred to die rather than capitulate.”

[72] “In those days.”

[73]under the auspices of the church.”

[74]for free and with love.”

[75]at the foot of the letter”, i.e., literally, apparently.

[76] Note: Part I is an “obligado parrafillo histórico.” In other words, it is a section that deals in its totality with the historical background of the tradition. The story itself begins in Part II.

[77] 1596-1604.

[78] 1681-1689.

[79] Viceroy Borja y Aragón, 1615-1621.

[80] 1607-1615.

[81] Lima Founded.

[82] Santa Rosa.

[83] Rodrigo Borgia.

[84] Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547-1616); Pedro Calderón de la Barca (1600-1681); Félix Lope de Vega (1562-1635); Francisco de Quevedo y Villegas (1580-1645); Fray Gabriel Téllez Tirso de Molina (1583-1648); Juan Ruiz de Alarcón y Mendoza (1581-1639) and Agustín Moreto y Cabaña (1618-1669) are all outstanding writers of the Spanish Golden Age.

[85] Naples retaken.”

[86] “Memoirs of the Viceroys.”

[87] Bartolomé Martínez Vela, also known as Bartolomé Arzáns de Orsúa y Vela, who died in 1735, wrote two historical works, Historia de la Villa Imperial de Potosí and Anales de la Villa Imperial y Crónica potosina. His works have been published by Brown University (1965).

[88] Catalina.

[89] Francisca.

[90] blondes.

[91] half-breed women.

[92] The corregidor was the chief magistrate of the town.

[93] Baldomero Espartero (1793-1879) was a Spanish politician who was significant in Spanish political affairs from 1833-1856. He was Regent of the Kingdom from 1841-1843 and governed Spain from 1854 to 1856.

[94] The highest judicial body in the Viceroyalty.

[95] Lima.

[96] About 11,200 feet.

[97] Vaca de Castro defeated the forces of Almagro the Younger in this battle, thus putting an end to the rebellion against the Crown.

[98] In 1540 Gonzalo Pizarro, brother of Francisco Pizarro, set out in search of what he thought was a land rich in spices in the heart of the continent. He found no such land, but one of his men, Francisco de Orellana, discovered the Amazon River and sailed down it to the Atlantic Ocean.

[99] In the tradition “Pedro Puelles” Palma writes that Puelles was stabbed in his bed and he was subsequently beheaded.

[100] Segundones were the second-born sons in Spanish families. Because only the first-born sons in these families inherited the family wealth, the segundones inherited nothing and had to choose to be a priest, a soldier or a lawyer. Therefore, in many families the sons who were not the first born had little or no money.

[101] First battle of the Reconquest (718 A.D.), which ended with the defeat of the Moors in Granada in 1492.

[102] The seven princes of Lara (X century) were betrayed and put to death by a treacherous uncle while they were trying to set their father free.

[103] A local official who possessed certain governmental authority.

[104] This children’s game, judging by its name, involved a lot of running.

[105] Alfonso the Wise, also known as Alfonso X (1221-1284), was a king of Castile and Leon who is famous for his achievements in the field of letters.

[106] “Discoverer.”

[107] This quote, supposedly written by Don Juan de Toledo, is actually a paraphrasing of what was written by him as it appears in the works of Bartolomé Martínez de la Vela. His works were published by Brown University in 1965.

[108] Near the present Lima.

[109] “Pegleg.”

[110] Coscoroba=swan. Juan de la Cueva was a famous banker who caused his bank to go into bankruptcy because he absconded with all the funds of the institution. For many years after his disappearance a public festival was held to keep in remembrance his perfidy.

[111] Tapadas were women who wrapped a mantle around themselves in such a manner that only one eye was left uncovered.

[112] [Palma’s note] The first wife of the Count of Chinchón was Ana de Osorio and for many years it was believed that she was the one saved by quinine. An interesting historical study published by Don Félix Cipriano Zegarra in the Revista Peruana in 1879 has convinced us that the Vicerreine who was in Lima was Doña Francisca Henríquez de Ribera. With this note we rectify a grievous error we had committed.

[113] This tradition is entitled “Friar Martin’s Mice” and is Number 20 in this collection.

[114] Juan Manuel Rosas, born in 1793, was dictator of Argentina from 1835-1852. His political enemies were the “Unitarios.”

[115] The verses in Spanish read as follows:

 

            El pueblo te venera

            Y el argentino sabe que en tus manos

            Flamea victoriosa su bandera.

 

Rosas wanted the word “estandarte” instead of “bandera.” The scribe insisted on “bandera” because it rhymes with “venera.”

[116] Popular expression, a superlative equivalent to the English “Ugly as sin.”

[117] Palma invented the word milagrear, which means “to perform miracles.” Of course, this word was not to be found in the dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy.

[118] The battle of Ayacucho, Peru, which was fought in 1824, marked the end of Spanish domination in South America. José María Córdoba (1799-1829) was a Colombian general whose timely intervention decided the outcome in favor of the revolutionaries.

[119] Valdivia and Valparaíso, cities in Chile. Valdivia was named after Pedro de Valdivia (1500-1554), a Spanish conquistador who helped Pizarro conquer Peru. Later on he led a group of 150 soldiers to Chile and founded the city of Santiago. He died at the hands of Araucanian Indians who were led by the famed chieftain Lautaro.

[120] The “residencia” was a period of time during which the viceroys remained in the viceroyalty where they had served after their term of office came to an end for the purpose of an investigation of the viceroys’ financial affairs. It was felt that the “residencia” would eliminate or at least reduce cases of bribery and corruption while the viceroys were in office.

[121] Gonzalo Pizarro (1502-1548), one of Francisco Pizarro’s brothers, revolted against the Crown after Francisco’s death. He was defeated, captured and beheaded by the royal forces. Francisco de Carbajal, the “Devil of the Andes,” was the commander in chief of Gonzalo’s armed forces.

[122] Person born of “pure” Spanish blood on both the paternal and maternal sides but born in the New Word, thus inferior to the peninsulares, who were born in the Mother Country.

[123] Alfonso Mogrovejo, Saint Toribio (1538-1606) was Archbishop of Lima and was canonized in 1726.

[124] Social gathering of friends and acquaintances.

[125] Ecuador.

[126] Alcalde—mayor and other important municipal officers.

[127] That is, “in public.”

[128] Ecuador.

[129] Indian culture of the Ecuadorian Andes.

[130] José Joaquín Olmedo (1780-1847). Ecuadorian poet and patriot who wrote Neo-classic poetry eulogizing military leaders who played important roles in the revolution against Spain, the most prominent of whom was Simón Bolívar.

[131] Plaintive music of the Andean natives.

[132] Flute used by the Andean natives.

[133] “The Displaced Woman.”

[134] A card game.

[135] Site in France of a battle between the armed forces of Spain and France.

[136] Don Pedro de Castro (1667-1672), 19th viceroy of Peru.

[137] Charles II.

[138] Charles II (1661-1700).

[139] At this point in the tradition Palma inserts a long list of the noblemen present, accompanied by details concerning their coats of arms. This information has no role to play in the story line; therefore the translator has opted to leave it out.

[140] At this point in the tradition Palma inserts another long list of noblemen accompanied by details concerning their coats of arms. The translator has opted to leave this section out for the same reason given in the note above.

[141] Frontier lands.

[142] [Palma’s note] Another investigator who searches out old documents maintains that this case involved the Marquis of Tabalosos, not the Marquis of Santiago. In order to prove that he is wrong, it is sufficient for me to state that the first Marquis of Tabalosos was not named until 1765 by Charles III, when he named the lieutenant general of his armed forces, Don Eugenio Fernández de Alvarado y Perales, native of Lima, to that title. For this reason it is obvious that the title in question did not exist during the reign of the Count of Monclova. The reader who wishes further information concerning the titles of Castile created in Peru until the reign of Charles IV can consult the book Lanzas y medias anatas del Perú by Judge Rebazal, the statistics of Córdova y Urrutia, volume XI of Odriozola’s documents and various articles by Mendiburu.

[143] Bueno and barato—good and cheap.

[144] The 18th century.

[145] Lima.

[146] “Attest, certify.”

[147] “Faith.”

[148] ante mí.

[149] certifico.

[150] In a judicial sense.

[151] An aromatic oil.

[152] Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia, was and still is the destination of many pilgrims because the remains of the body of St. James are said to repose in a casket in the Cathedral in that city.    

[153] Flos Sanctorum de las vidas de los santos (Barcelona, Consortes Sierra, Oliver y Marti, 1790) by Pedro Ribadeneyra (Ortiz de Cisneros), was a collection of lives of the saints. See Flos Sanctorum.

[154] Primary meaning: “small, insignificant soul.”

[155] Solomon’s Clavicles.

[156] “The letter sings,” or tells all.

[157] A digest of Roman law compiled in the sixth century.

[158] Castilian version of a compilation of Roman and Visigothic laws translated by Ferdinand III in the XIII century.

[159] José de Antequera y Castro (1690-1731), Peruvian lawyer and patriot, was executed in Lima because he was the leader of a revolution against the Crown in Paraguay.

[160] An informal social gathering.

[161] A woman who lives in Lima.

[162] Juana la Loca “Crazy” (1479-1555), Queen of Castile in 1504, was daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, wife of Philip the Handsome, Archduke of Austria and mother of Charles the Fifth. She lost her mind when her husband died.

[163] Chile.

[164] A woman who lives in Lima.

[165] Madrid.

[166] King of Asturias from 757 to 768.

[167] Santa Rosa de Lima (1586-1617) was canonized in 1671. She is the patron saint of Lima.

[168] Spanish coin that has had various values.

[169] Dollar—Spanish coin.

[170] Dollar—Spanish coin.

[171] Peso.

[172] Spanish coin made of gold and weighing about 28.7 grams.

[173] Office or district of corregidores. A local official who possessed certain governmental authority.

[174] Women who live in Lima.

[175] The Malignant One, i.e., the Devil.

[176] José de Espronceda (1808-1842). Spanish writer of the Romantic period. Wrote many works in verse and one historical novel.

[177] Pedro Calderón de la Barca 1600-1681) was an outstanding dramatist of Spain’s Golden Age. He is noted for plays dealing with the Spanish concept of honor.

[178] cardenal.

[179] sweet, melancholy songs of the Indians of the Andes.

[180] Francisco de Quevedo y Villegas (1580-1645) was an author of picaresque novels and satiric verses that are noted for the realistic way in which they portray Spanish society.

[181] Celestina was the prototype of the go-between who arranges love affairs. She is a character who appeared in a work by Fernando de Rojas entitled The tragicomedy of Calixto and Melibea, better known as La Celestina, published in 1499.

[182] Francisco de Quevedo y Villegas (1580-1645) was an author of picaresque novels and satiric verses that are noted for the realistic way in which they portray Spanish society.

[183] “Look, just look at the kittens of Mari-Ramos that turned up its nose at eating mice and swallowed worms.”

[184] Sebastián Lorente wrote several historical works dealing with Peru. The one that is relevant to this tradition is History of Peru under the Borbones (1700-1821).

[185] The Joke.

[186] A village near Madrid.

[187] Woman who hides one eye with a mantle.

[188] Sagunto and Numancia are sites of famous sieges in Spain. Sagunto fell to Hannibal after heroic resistance in 219 A.D. and Numancia fell to the Roman Scipio in 133 A.D. after a terrible siege in which the Celt-Iberians preferred death rather than surrender.

[189] A weight of gold or silver weighing 230 grams.