chapter  11
20 Pages

Describing the country of Chiafa, with the chiefeft towns and commodities belonging unto it

T h o u g h Chiapa in the opinion of the Spaniards be held to be one of the poorest countries' of America, because in it as yet there have been no mines dis­ covered, nor golden sands found in the rivers, nor any haven upon the South Sea, whereby commodities are brought in and carried out, as to Mexico, Oaxaca, and Guatemala, yet I may say it exceedeth mo£t provinces in the greatness and beauty of fair towns, and yieldeth to none except it be to Guatemala; nay it surpasseth all the reft of America in that one and famous and moft populous town of Chiapa of the Indians. And it ought not to be so much slighted by the Spaniards as it is, if they would look upon it as standing between Mexico and Guatemala, whose strength might be all America’s strength, and whose weakness may prove dangerous to all that flourishing empire, for the easy entrance into it by the river of Tabasco, or for its near joining and bordering unto Yucatan. Besides, the commodities in it are such as do uphold a constant trading and commerce amongst

This country is divided into three provinces, to wit, Chiapa, Zeldales, and Zoques; whereof Chiapa itself is the poorest. This contains the great town of Chiapa of the Indians, and all the towns and farms northward towards Maquilapa, and westward the priory of Comitan, which hath some ten towns, and many farms of cattle, horses, and mules subject unto it; and neighbouring unto it lieth the great valley of Copanabaftla, which is another priory reaching towards Soconusco. This valley glorieth in the great river, which hath its spring from the mountains called Cuchumatlanes, and runneth to Chiapa of the Indians, and from thence to Tabasco. It is also famous for the abundance of fish, which the river yieldeth, and the great ftore of cattle, which from thence minifter food and provision both to the city of Chiapa, and to all the adjacent towns. Though Chiapa the city, and Comitan as ftanding upon the hills, be exceeding cold, yet this valley lying low is extraordinary hot, and from May to Michaelmas is subjeft to great ftorms and tempefts of thunder and lightning. The head town, where the priory ftands, is called Copanabaftla, consifting of above eight hundred Indian inhabitants. But greater than this is Izquintenango at the end of the valley and at the foot of the mountains of Cuchu­ matlanes southward. And yet bigger than this is the town of St Bartholomew northward at the other end of the valley, which in length is about forty miles, and ten or twelve only in breadth. All the reft of the towns lie towards Soconusco, and are yet hotter and more subjeft to thunder and lightning, as drawing nearer unto the South Sea coaft. Besides the abun­

S U R V E Y O F W E S T I N D I E S dance of cattle, the chief commodity of this valley consiSteth in cotton-wool, whereof are made such Store of mantles for the Indians’ wearing that the merchants far and near come for them. They ex­ change them to Soconusco and Suchitepequez for cacao, whereby they are well stored of that drink. So that the inhabitants want neither fish (which they have from the river) nor flesh (for that the valley abounds with cattle) nor clothing (for of that they spare to others) nor bread, though not of wheat, for there grows none; but Indian maize they have plenty of; and besides they are exceedingly Stored with fowls and turkeys, fruits, honey, tobacco, and sugar-canes. Neither is money here nor in Chiapa so plentiful as in Mexico and Oaxaca; and whereas there they reckon by patacones, or pieces of eight, here they reckon by toStones which are but half patacones. Though the river be many ways profitable to that valley, yet it is cause of many disasters to the inhabi­ tants, who lose many times their children, and their calves and colts drawing near to the water-side, where they are devoured Ity caymans, which are many and greedy of flesh, by reason of the many prizes they have got<The city of Chiapa Real is one of the meaneSt cities in all America, consisting of not above four hundred householders Spaniards, and about an hundred houses of Indians joining to the city, and called el barrio de los Indios, who have a chapel by themselves. In this city there is no parish church, but only the cathedral, which is mother to all the inhabitants. Besides, there are two cloisters, one of Dominicans, and the other of Franciscans, and a poor cloiSter of nuns, which are burdensome enough to that city. But the Jesuits having got no footing there (who commonly live in the richest and wealthiest places and cities) is a suffi­ cient argument of either the poverty of that city, or of want of gallant parts, and prodigality in the gentry,

T H E E N G L I S H - A M E R I C A N from whose free and generous spirits they like horse­ leeches are ftill sucking extraordinary and great alms for the colleges where they live; but here the merchants are close-handed, and the gentlemen hard and sparing, wanting of wit and courtiers’ parts and bravery, and so poor Chiapa is held no fit place for Jesuits. The merchants’ chief trading there is in cacao^ cotton-wool from the adjacent parts of the country, in pedlar’s small wares, and in some sugar from about Chiapa of the Indians, in a little cochineal, for commonly the Governor (whose chief gain consifteth in this) will not suffer them to be too free in this commodity, left they hinder his greedy traffic. These have their shops all together in a little market-place before the cathedral church, built with walks and porches, under which the poor Indian wives meet at five o’clock at evening to sell what slap and drugs they can prepare moft cheap for the empty Creole ftomachs. The richer sort of these merchants go and send yet further to Tabasco for wares from Spain, such as wines, linen cloth, figs, raisins, olives, and iron, though in these commodities they dare not venture too much, by reason the Spaniards in that country are not very many, and those that are there are such as are loath to open their purses to more than what may suffice nature. So that what are Spanish commodities are chiefly brought for the friars who are the beft and jovialleft blades of that country.