The governors and captains general of the colony were commonly called presidents because, from the time the royal audiencia was established in Santiago in 1609, they presided over this supreme tribunal of the country. Their duties varied little from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century; on the other hand, their moral authority and their prestige were subject to many fluctuations in that long space of time, because of the attendant circumstances by which their actions had to be governed, as well as the personality, not less distinct, of each one.
The governors of the sixteenth century were almost all military men and had no time for anything but the war in Arauco. Those of the seventeenth century were of a different type; some were military men and some were civilians, but all were equally interested in making a fortune in office at the expense of colonists and Indians. They were representatives of a weak, incapable government, managed in Spain by unworthy favourites, and of a society such as that of the Spaniards of that period — a society much exhausted by wretchedness and discouragement.
There were many types among these colonial presidents of the seventeenth century who were without refinement and were morose or greedy, caring only for their personal enrichment; but we shall mention only three. The first governor of this kind who arrived in the middle of the seventeenth century was Antonio de Acuña y Cabrera. Old, infirm, and lacking in character, he believed his government might prove a copious fount of wealth for himself and his brothers-in‑law, two officials named Salazar. In spite of the fact that the country was in profound peace, this pair, who saw a means of making a fortune in war, decided to undertake a campaign against the Indians south of the Bueno River. They planned to lead this in person in order to punish the savages for having murdered some shipwrecked sailors from a Spanish vessel. The campaign was actually made and proved a military disaster of greater proportions than had up to that time ever been experienced in Chile. Half the army was lost in crossing the Bueno River, because the pontoon bridge constructed for the crossing broke while the soldiers were p113 passing over it and no less than a hundred men perished. Some were drowned, while others fell into the hands of the Indians.
A general insurrection of Araucania was the first fruit of these blunders. As one of the Salazars, who was in the fort of Nacimiento, believed himself powerless to resist, with nearly two hundred and fifty soldiers at his disposal, he started hurriedly toward Concepción and while crossing the Biobío in 1655 he and his men fell into the power of the Indians, who massacred all of them. The enterprise advised and directed by the Salazar brothers thus cost three hundred and fifty lives. Meanwhile, the governor, Acuña y Cabrera, awaited in Concepción the result of their operations. When the people of the town learned of the disaster, they arose with cries of "Long live the king!" "Death to the bad governor!" Acuña y Cabrera was forthwith deposed.
Other governors, more prudent than he, succeeded him for some years and tried to put down the Araucanian uprising; but it was not long before a new adventurer, one more inept and more shameless, took charge of the colony. This was Francisco de Meneses, who had been a morose, turbulent military man. His subalterns nicknamed him Barrabas.º He began his administration by quarreling bitterly with Bishop Diego de Humanzoro1 because the latter had not received him at his arrival with that formality of etiquette which, in his opinion, his high position merited. Soon he was engaged in very noisy persecutions of his predecessor and the religious orders that had favored the latter. He later married secretly and without permission; he publicly established business undertakings of his own; he monopolized the sale of tallow, the most important article exported to Peru; he demanded that very valuable presents should be made to him, which he paid back in his own way; he converted into a source of wealth for his own use the confirmation and renewal of concessions of encomiendas; he sold military posts and some civilian positions and made those promoted pay him in gold; he took in charge the provisioning of the army, in order to make a profit from it; he imposed a heavy tax on vessels carrying on commerce between Valparaiso and Callao before allowing them to leave port, with the exception of those carrying his own goods. In short, there was no p114 public service that he did not reduce to his own personal profit, and all this openly and without the least prudence. His abuses and acts of violence against private persons knew no limit. The colonists in the greatest alarm wrote to the viceroy and to the court urgently begging that they be freed from the tyrant. He intercepted the correspondence and persecuted its authors. Finally the colonists succeeded in getting a hearing at the court and Meneses was dismissed in 1668.
Such unheard‑of excesses taught the Spanish government that it was not possible to keep on entrusting the colony to this class of adventurers. In 1670 Juan Henríquez came to Chile in the capacity of governor. His honorable antecedents served as a guarantee of prudence, and his official labors in behalf of the material progress and security of the colony met with great approbation during his term of office. Among the important public works in which he definitely participated were the construction of the first dikes in the Mapocho, now confined to its actual bed, to protect the city of Santiago from its overflow; the erection of the masonry bridge over the same river, to assure the introduction of the fruits and foodstuffs with which the surrounding farms supplied the inhabitants; and the bringing in of a supply of clear water from the slopes of the cordillera to the Plaza de Armas of Santiago. He also coöperated efficiently in the building of new churches and convents. In another field of activity he fortified Valparaiso and Concepción and created a little "military park" in Santiago, in which numerous arms were collected.
After governing for twelve years, Henríquez was relieved from command. He did not leave behind favorable memories, in spite of his initiatory activities. He had lived in permanent conflict with the royal audiencia — the fiscal tribunal of the governors although composed at time of individuals of the same class as the latter. Moreover, what was worse, Henríquez had performed many acts of doubtful honesty. The following is particularly recalled and is only one of many of the same kind. In the frequent campaigns or incursions into Arauco, he took some eight hundred Indians prisoner; and these he later sold as slaves to several agricultural encomenderos, the buyers paying for them at the rate he himself set — five hundred fanegas of wheat per Indian, each fanega being valued at fifty centavos only. In this way he gathered four hundred thousand fanegas of wheat, all of which he sold to the contractors of his own army at two pesos per fanega, and was paid from the royal treasury. Thus he gained eight hundred thousand pesos.
The administration of justice also had been so completely relaxed p115 that it depended only on the selfish caprice of members of the audiencia or other subordinate officials. The slow procedure and contradictory laws ordinarily made the exercise of private right a fiction. Among the multitude of cases which show the state of affairs, one is worth mentioning. There lived in Chile during the first half of the seventeenth century a very rich family called Lisperguer,2 related to all the best families of the period. Among its members were some judges of the audiencia. A woman of this family, Catalina de los Ríos, committed so many murders that she never could keep count of them, and yet she always remained unpunished. When old and ill she was imprisoned for trial and the heaviest penalty imposed on her was the payment of an indemnity to the poor victims of her perfidy, but the payment was not to be effective until after she died. Nevertheless, the vulgar nickname of "La Quintrala"a by which she was called is still a hateful and legendary memory of a vampirish monster whose crimes neither moved greatly the society of which she formed a part nor the judiciary called upon to restrain her.
In order to systematize the labyrinth of legislation which prevailed in America, the Spanish government published in 1681 Recopilación de las leyes de los reinos de Indias (Compilation of the Laws of the Indies),3 which complicated that labyrinth even more, for it was so badly made that many of its provisions were contradictory; and, as no method was observed in its arrangement, it was exceedingly difficult to find the legal provisions applicable to a given case. Its best regulations were devoted to the protection and defense of the subjected Indians, but were never carried out.
From the beginning of the eighteenth century, the administrative personnel of the colony improved in quality as it also did in Spain. The new Bourbon dynasty, initiated by Philip V, in the Peninsula in 1700, was surrounded by coworkers of more intelligence and greater ability in the exercise of authority. In Chile nearly all the presidents of that century were respectable and industrious men p116 who always deserved not only the royal confidence, but also consideration from those they governed. Several of them — such as José de Manso (Conde de Superunda), Manuel de Amat y Junient, and Ambrosio O'Higgins (Marqués de Vallenar) — well merited their elevation to the office of viceroy of Peru. Taking advantage of the relative peace enjoyed by the colony during that period, they founded cities, undertook to execute important public works, promoted local improvements of no little significance, and carried out with skill and honesty the administrative and economic reforms ordered by the royal court.
During the last quarter of the eighteenth century under the reign of Charles III the boundaries of the colony were modified. On the creation of the viceroyalty of La Plata in 1776, there was incorporated with it the province of Cuyo, which had belonged to Chile from the time of the conquest. This province, like Tucumán, which had been incorporated two centuries before into the viceroyalty of Peru, was settled by order of the governors of Chile but maintained a separate existence almost completely foreign, indeed, to that of Chile. The mountain gaps of the Andes, which thus separated it, remained impassable for several months a year; but commercially and socially the cities of Mendoza, San Juan, and San Luis kept in touch with Santiago.
In completing this change years later, in 1787, the archipelago of Chiloé passed under the charge of the Peruvian viceroyalty, and Valdivia was reincorporated with the government of Chile. At that same date, and under the presidency of Ambrosio de Benavides, the first territorial division of the colony was effected, which consisted in the establishment of two divisions (intendencias) — that of Concepción, which extended from the Maule to the Araucanian border; and that of Santiago, which extended from Copiapó to the Maule.4 It was then decided that the intendant of Santiago would also be the governor of the colony, while the intendant of Concepción should be a special official, subordinate to the other but appointed directly by the king. Thus the first intendant of Santiago was the p117 governor himself, Ambrosio de Benavides; as for Concepción, the one favored with the nomination was the Irishman, Ambrosio O'Higgins.
Conjointly with this action each intendencia was also divided into departments (partidos), as we would say today. There were eight for Concepción and fourteen for Santiago — a total of twenty-two. At the head of each was placed a subdelegate, an official who filled the place of the old corregidor, this office being abolished. By these reforms the colonial administration was regulated as much as possible.
Presidents and governors now attained their greatest authority. Chiefs of the army, chiefs of the highest tribunal of justice, vice-patrons of ecclesiastical dignitaries and of the university and other institutions of learning — they became powerful officials. Moreover they enjoyed a good salary — ten thousand pesos a year. The governor and the intendant of Santiago as well as the intendant of Concepción had an advisory counselor (asesor letrado) or lawyer, whom they consulted when making their decisions and settling lawsuits in which they still took part as judges. The "judgments of residencia," to which they were subject, were now merely forms, in view of the integrity with which almost all of them acted.
From the beginning of their administration they were surrounded with all the prestige possible to such a degree that one of the best attended and most solemn public colonial holidays in the capital and in the most populous cities was the reception of the governor. The governor, on coming to take over the command, made his entrance into Santiago with great pomp. He was introduced into the city by a delegation of the cabildo that had gone to meet him in Valparaiso or Concepción or Los Andes, according to the way he journeyed. He and his family, in government coaches, accompanied by the members of the cabildo and the members of the audiencia and followed by the other public functionaries and distinguished persons on horseback and in carriages, entered the Plaza de Armas by way of the Street of the King to the chiming of bells, and between the double file formed by the people. Each instant could be heard cries of "Viva elº rey!" "Viva el señor gobernador!" Once in the palace there was a banquet lasting three days. It was customary also for the governor to have a theatrical performance presented at the palace by improvised actors. Shows and fireworks were also given for the public. Afterward came the visits, called besamanos (the kissing of hands), of prominent persons and the special receptions in the cabildo, in the audiencia, and in the university. During the p118 reception offered by this last body, one of the doctors read the discourse in praise of the governor, whom he extolled in most flattering verse.
None of the colonial presidents better represented Spain in Chile than Ambrosio O'Higgins, whose eight-year term of office (1788‑1796) was the most active and fruitful of the eighteenth century. Irish by birth, O'Higgins enlisted in the Spanish service and came to Chile as engineer of fortifications. As a reward for his work, he received promotion after promotion; he was colonel of militia, then intendant of Concepción, president of the colony, and finally viceroy of Peru and Marqués de Vallenar, a title with which his sovereign ennobled him.
With his name have been linked public works of great benefit for that time, such as the wagon road from Santiago to Valparaiso, the road to Argentina through Uspallata Pass, the reconstruction of the "dikes" of the Mapocho, and other projects; and, apart from the founding and refounding of numerous cities, such significant reforms as the abolition of the encomiendas of Indians and the creation of the Commercial Tribunal (tribunal del consulado). There are not, however, many who can compare with him. The last of these colonial presidents was Brigadier Francisco García Carrasco, a coarse, obscure military man under whose administration began the struggle for emancipation (1808‑1810).
But if, in general, the quality of colonial governors had notably improved during the last years of Spanish rule, the same could not be said for the administration of justice, which had scarcely acquired a more serious status than formerly. Its ancient complexity still persisted, and lawsuits lasted ten, twenty, and even a hundred years. The alcaldes and subdelegates of each locality always had judicial functions. The Commercial Tribunal heard commercial suits; the Tribunal of Mining (tribunal de minería), recently created, passed judgment on matters indicated by its name, both with more rapid procedure. The president also used to hear petty cases, such as blows received in a fight, or bad deportment on the part of a son of some prominent family.
The "ecclesiastical tribunals," "military tribunals," and the "judges of water and forests" also continued to try cases involving their special jurisdictions; but the superior tribunal of justice was still as it had been for the past two centuries, the royal audiencia, composed of a "regent," four judges (oidores), and two attorneys (fiscales).
p119 The strength of these officials lay in the permanent army, which amounted to about fifteen hundred men, distributed among the three branches of the infantry, cavalry, and artillery. Their principal cantonments were Valdivia and Concepción. In spite of being well disciplined and well equipped, they were not sufficient for the security of the inhabitants of the country. Almost all the cities that did not have the services of urban police would have remained completely unguarded if they had depended only on the army. But this lack was supplied by the militia (or national guard) which was organized upon a social basis during the last third of the eighteenth century. At the beginning of the nineteenth century it comprised some sixteen thousand men. All males able to bear arms had to take part in it and were instructed by officials of the regular army, principally on Sundays. When, in case of danger, they were called into service and went into quarters, they received a small compensation.
The officers of the militia were composed exclusively of young Creoles who were enthusiastic both about their uniform and their rank. The rank and file of the militia, as well as of the regular army, was composed entirely of Chilean mestizos, no less enthusiastic for military service than their officers. Although the pay of all was very low (a soldier received eight to twelve pesos a month according to his branch of service), the expenditure that the armed force necessitated exceeded 250,000 pesos, an equivalent of two fifths the total receipts of the colony. Because of this expenditure, it had no navy.
In reality, the public revenues scarcely reached 600,000 pesos a year, and the monopoly on tobacco, the alcabala and almojarifazgo or customs duty were the ones that brought in the most returns; but the revenue just about equaled the budget of all administrative services. In this way Chile, which had always cost more than it produced in taxes, at the end of the colonial period had come to be self-supporting.
Local administration, entrusted to the cabildos, had gained very little in efficiency. Those corporations, the only ones in which Chileans could acquire representation, had experienced many changes in their organization since they had been established at the founding of the first cities of Chile. They had extensive and varied duties which made them powerful; but the court, seeing a menace in their popular origin and action, had little by little restricted their functions. Early in their history it had taken from them the political power of designating the person who was to exercise the functions ad interim of the colonial governor; and instead of the election of p120 residents who were to succeed them in their position, which the regidores held each year, it decided that membership in the cabildo should be perpetual and should be sold at public auction. The minimum price fixed at first for what was called the regidor's "emblem of authority" (vara), a cane with tassels, was three thousand pesos; but few were disposed to pay that sum in order to have the pleasure of occupying a seat in the hall of the cabildo, and as a result several places were left vacant. In the middle of the eighteenth century, when that sum was lowered to three hundred pesos, the cabildos were filled. The number of members varied according to the importance of the city, that of Santiago being composed, during its last years, of twelve regidores, who, furthermore, annually elected two alcaldes. An attorney (procurador) and a secretary, as before, formed part of the corporations.
Although the popular origin of the cabildos had disappeared, since any person could become a member by paying the auction price, they had, however, one especially important feature. They were composed, ordinarily, of men who loved their country — of Creoles who had been born in it — and they always tried to represent the aspirations of their fellow countrymen. When the idea of independence was spread abroad, it was these cabildos that best embodied it and defended it until they made it triumph.
The profound religious spirit of the first conquerors of Chile lasted through the whole colonial period and always formed the basis of individual conduct in society. The importance of the clergy and the veneration they enjoyed among the faithful had, nevertheless, decreased somewhat. After the opening of the Universe of San Felipe, the monopoly in learning which they had held until then commenced to decline and a greater knowledge came to be the civic inheritance of many people. On the other hand the increase of wealth made study easier for some and they very soon realized that they could be taught without the necessity of wearing a habit. Furthermore, the expulsion of the Jesuits5 and the disrespectful attitude toward religion and the clergy in the second half of the eighteenth century, of which King Charles III had given so many proofs, showed that it was not the priests who shaped the policy of the government. But if, in the judgment of some persons, the clergy p121 had lost a little of its early influence, it had, in exchange, gained generally in morality and culture, and this should have made it still more respected.
The most extreme act against the Church and the clergy during the colonial period was the expulsion of the Jesuits, which was executed in 1767 by royal edict. These priests formed the most influential order or congregation among all the religious orders in country. By the end of the sixteenth century, they had succeeded in gaining, little by little, a decisive influence in society and in government. The zeal with which they practiced their pious duties, the reputation of being the most learned of all the orders, and the and tranquillity that reigned in their cloisters had gained for them the favorable influence they exerted. Neither the failure of defensive warfare, which they had fostered with such generous effort, nor the poor results of the missions in Arauco, which they also had decided to create, had any part in overthrowing their influence. Furthermore, they were united to the wealthiest class of the colony by extensive commercial and industrial ties.
The enormous wealth represented by their fifty haciendas, all well cultivated, gave them great power. They had acquired them through pious effort as donations from the faithful; through their influence over the governors, who had also authorized some donations for them; and through the sale of the produce of these very estates. These "temporalities," as they called them, constituted an "ecclesiastical province," governed by a provincial chief and divided into eleven "colleges," or convents, each in charge of a rector.
The exploitation of the estates of these colleges was carried on with great activity and skill. No one produced with more profit than the Jesuits the principal articles of internal and external trade — wheat, tallow, dried beef, wines, and brandy. Their European connections facilitated the acquisition of better tools for farming than those in general use. Their workers, subjected to a strict, watchful system, became capable and export, and their thirteen hundred Negro slaves made a producing power superior to any other known in the country.
The industries resulting from these labors were looked after with equal faithfulness. Their tanneries; their shops for the construction of furniture and small ships; their factories of clay vessels, pots, and table ware; their mills, bakeries, and even their apothecary shops — the only ones in the Chilean settlements — made the order virtually indispensable to the people. Numerous foreign artisans, whom they brought over clad in Jesuit robes, allowed them to display to common gaze fine embroideries, paintings, chalices, cups, p122 candelabra, and even bells for their churches, such as no others possessed, and, furthermore, they polished delicate jewels which the rich competed for at high prices. This vast network of business involved the whole colony, from private persons to the governing groups, and gave the Jesuits a powerful influence, material as well as spiritual. Therefore, the economic disturbances produced by their expulsion were in proportion to their activity, and the sumptuous celebrations of the Church, the grand sermons, the rigorous course of exercises — all the worship, indeed — suffered when they left.
Their expulsion reverberated also in educational and cultural circles because they maintained schools and colleges, the most important of which was the Convictorio6 de San Francisco Javier (St. Francis Xavier) in Santiago, and because among their priests were men of outstanding learning. One of them, Juan Ignacio Molina, a Chilean by birth, later wrote in Italy the Historia de Chile, the most complete of all histories published up to that time.
The administration of the Church was maintained until the end of the colonial period without much variation. The country remained divided into two bishoprics: Santiago and Concepción. It should be remembered that there was a bishopric formerly in Imperial, but this is the same as that of Concepción, to which city it was transferred at the end of the sixteenth century when the Church had considered Monseñor Gaspar de Villarroel of Santiago a bishop of faultless virtue, so also in the eighteenth it had another no less in Monseñor Manuel de Alday.
Each of the bishoprics was divided into numerous "curacies" or parishes. The number of persons consecrated to the service of worship is not exactly known, but it is believed that the clergy did not exceed three hundred in number, and the regulars, or friars living in convents, fluctuated around a thousand. If these figures are compared with those for the end of the seventeenth century and further compared with the total number of the civil population, it is evident that at the beginning of the nineteenth century a considerable diminution had been effected in the religious personnel, while the population had increased. The number of nuns, however, had not diminished.
The situation of the priesthood was good in the cities but bad in the country. The income on which the parish priests, canons, and bishops lived was the tithes and the first fruits or the part collected p123 from the first crops gathered; but because the bishops generally had little to do with the country parish priests or because of difficulties in communication or what is more probable, because of greed, which would prevent many farmers from paying those imposts justly and promptly, it is true that country ministers of worship were found almost everywhere living in the greatest poverty. Morality was relaxed among them and as those least competent or of the least influence were sent to the faraway parishes they soon began to forget what they had learned and to neglect their charges. As for the religious communities, the chaplaincies or fields mortgaged to them, from which they reaped the advantage, the alms given them, and the properties that they owned allowed them to live comfortably.
But not only did the religious diminish in numbers and in the importance of their functions, but at that time devotion also began to lessen among people. The festal days continued to be magnificent, and the masses and processions were especially well attended; but, as for confession, it usually happened that many of the faithful did not comply with the precepts of the Church during Lent — an act usually looked upon as so sinful that if it became known it was enough to bring persecution on the offender and even the withholding of the customary greeting.
There was a custom in the parishes of giving a paper or ticket to the one who observed Lent, that is to say, who made confession and partook of his "Easter communion." Afterwards a priest collected these papers, going from house to house. The house where he did not find one could be punished with some penalty by ecclesiastical authority; but usually the names of all those who rebelled at that sacrament were merely posted on a chart at the entrance of the church, which was equivalent to exposing them to public shame. There were few, however, who did not show this token, although many of those who did show it had not confessed or received holy communion, for they usually avoided complying with the precept of the Church by buying the ticket from some sacristain, or from some pious friend who consented to commune four or five times and could in this way save from going to confession three or four sinners in addition to himself. But, however that might be, what was both evident and well known was the social influence exercised by the Catholic Church in Chile during the three centuries of Spanish colonization.
Doctrinal teaching of the natives was little less than useless because it did not bring peace and civilization to the Indians at it pretended to do. Among the mestizos, on the other hand, the effectiveness p124 of preaching was much greater, for it constituted the only form of culture and the only standard of morality that this mass of the population was capable of receiving, for they had hardly advanced a step from primitive barbarism. The violence of their character and the rudeness of their sentiments and customs were softened by the Church in order to accustom them to live in society and to incline them to satisfy their wants by labor.
In the Creole and Spanish society, also, cast as it was in the mold of European civilization, the influence of the Church was seen in the correction of hereditary vices, which the conditions ruling in those times and the life of the country stimulated rather than opposed. It is true that the crimes committed among these social classes, from grave offenses against personal dignity to treacherous murders by means of poison or dagger, were not rare either among men or women, and that evangelical preaching was powerless to restrain such violent manifestations even among the most fervent spirits. It is also true that impotency was shown, too, in the failure to correct drunkenness and gambling which had developed to lamentable proportions since the seventeenth century. But it must be remembered that everything contributed to favor these vices among uncultured people lacking ordinary distractions, governed by greed, and having control over large numbers of slaves. Without the counterpoise of religion, social relaxation would assuredly have had no limit.
Undoubtedly the Church went further than was fitting in its endeavor to regulate private customs and even the clothing that should be worn, in order to correct excesses of luxury among the women of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It is also true that it overstepped its authority in the obstacles it put in the way of the free acquisition of culture by preventing the introduction of European books; but these mistakes did not menace the civilizing and moralizing influence that began to spread in the colonial society, although they may have restricted it.
The educational organization of the colony advanced very little during the seventeenth century. It did not immediately affect the mestizos, the popular mass of Chile, who were in complete ignorance. It is not possible to calculate the number of schools in existence at that time, but it can be affirmed that there were very few, and those were designed exclusively for the descendants of Spanish blood.
On the other hand, there were the two conciliary seminaries p125 (colegios) of the bishoprics, which were founded in the sixteenth century, and two other colleges that acquired the title of pontifical universities because, according to the special concession of the pope, they could confer the degree of doctor of theology. One of these belonged to the Dominican friars and the other to the Jesuits. The most important of the four was the last, called Convictorio de San Francisco Javier. Studies in these establishments were divided into three successive courses: Latin, philosophy, and theology. According to the Laws of the Indies, the individuals who graduated here had to swear that they believed and would teach that the "Virgin Mary had been conceived without stain,"b and that they would obey the kings, viceroys, and audiencias, in the name of God. The number of students who frequented these halls and were graduated from them was always very small.
In the middle of the eighteenth century, there was established in the colony its principal institution of learning. This was the University of San Felipe, called thus in honor of Philip V, who, as mentioned above7 issued the royal order for its erection in 1738. Because of difficulties concerning its location, it could not be dedicated until 1756, and its teaching began two years later, that is to say, exactly twenty years after it was created.
There were to be ten professors in the university, all of whom were not invariably present. The subjects taught were lay and canonº law, medicine, philosophy, theology, Latin, and mathematics. All these branches were divided into four departments that conferred respectively the degrees of doctor in theology, jurisprudence, and canon law (advocate), medicine, and mathematics (engineer). All instruction was given in Latin. From the first, the departments of theology and jurisprudence were the best attended. Very few studied medicine and mathematics, because physicians were little esteemed in society. Their profession was hardly considered decent; they continued to be the old "bloodletters." The same thing happened with respect to engineers or "surveyors," as they were called. Those who won the greatest consideration were theologians and lawyers but, as the profession of theology belonged to the ecclesiastical status, those who wished to have a good, lucrative, civil profession devoted themselves merely to the study of law. For that reason the University of San Felipe was principally a law school. The number of its students did not exceed one hundred in any year.
All things considered, the University of San Felipe represented p126 great progress. No university yet existed in Argentina, Uruguay, or Paraguay, and those who aspired to university degrees in those countries had to go to Chile, which actually occurred, because it was the nearest. It freed Chile from the intellectual tutelage of Lima, where some Chileans had had to go to study and be graduated. In the country itself it filled a general desire for instruction which had been making itself felt for a long time.
Until then the papal universities had graduated only ecclesiastics, since they had no authority for anything else. The seminaries had done the same; they had prepared only those who were going to devote themselves to a religious career. The conventual schools for men and women gave scant primary instruction to a small number of rich pupils. Higher civil teaching now was to be given but the curriculum of the University of San Felipe did not differ in any way from the papal universities and other religious educational establishments — the same pious discipline, the same oath of faithfulness to God and the king, the same official language, Latin. Even the professors were essentially priests because there were others capable of teaching. It cannot be denied, however, that this university at once began to exert a considerable influence on the very limited development of the lower branches of education.
Its company of a hundred students, which kept renewing itself with the years, belonged for the most part to the wealthy Creole society; and, although the knowledge it imparted to its members lacked scientific character and in reality was not worth a great deal, it at least served to impart love for study and learning and served to fortify the intelligence with that kind of mental gymnastics which involved the comprehension of Latin and of casuistical philosophy. This body of young men, then, devoted to study, formed in time a small intellectual group in the country. It favored primary instruction, which was now given not only in the conventual schools but also in the parochial schools — one for each parish — and it fostered the aspirations for culture that in the eighteenth century were germinating in the colonial society.
A general reform in education was desired more in extent than in content. No attempt was made to take from the Church the predominance it had always exercised over institutions of learning, but an effort was made to extend primary instruction in such a way that all social classes might profit by it; to embody the studies of physical and mathematical science in secondary instruction, with freedom from religious dogma, just as was already the case in the most enlightened countries of Europe; to permit the free introduction of all kinds of books, especially those devoted to the applied p127 sciences such as those treating of agriculture, mining, and the other branches; and, lastly, to establish a printing press in the country, on which the productions written by Chileans could be published. But the ideas of the governing social class continued to prevail. Its members believed that learning to read and write was dangerous or of no advantage for the poor or for women, even rich women, because it might corrupt their religion and morals. Aspirations of the sort described above, therefore, were not immediately realized or even discussed.
Instruction in the schools was paid for by the students, and the teachers were generally priests. The salary received would not permit one to discover himself exclusively to teaching. Each child who went to school paid his preceptor fifty centavos a month. He had to carry his seat also and supply books and implements for writing. He was taught to read and to "spell," that is, to pronounce each word letter by letter and afterward to repeat it as a whole. Besides reading, he was then taught writing and the four arithmetical operations, although it was the rare student who passed beyond addition, some idea of grammar, Latin, and, most important of all, the catechism.
It will be noted that only the children of families who could pay went to these schools, but some were admitted free when their poverty and good habits were proved. In the classrooms they were separated into two groups, according to their means; one formed of the richest to whom the preceptor gave the title of "don" and whom he addressed as usted (you), and the other formed of the poor, whom the master addressed simply as tú (thou). Once or twice a week they had contests which were called mercolinas (Wednesdays) and sabatinas (Saturdays). They were separated into two groups to which they used to give the names "Carthaginians" and "Romans," or "reds" and "blues." When one of the group did not answer the question proposed by a member of another group, the questioner gave to the one questioned "gloves" (guantes) or strokes with a ferrule (palmetazos). The glove was a cord which had several knotted strands at the end, with which punishment was applied on the palms of the hand. The ferrule was a slat, oval-shaped at one end and with a handle at the other, with which the palms were struck. The professor himself used these same instruments frequently as well as a lash (chicote) of braided rawhide which he applied to leg and shoulder when the pupil did not know the lesson. Sometimes he drew blood, but it was a common saying and thought very reasonable that "the letter enters with blood."
p128 There were no schools for girls. In some convents of nuns, daughters of rich families spent two or three years, where they learned particularly to pray. Some studied at home. The teaching of girls was judged so demoralizing that respectable priests denied absolution in confession to a girl guilty of learning French.
Until the end of the eighteenth century, there were no schools of secondary education (colegios), except the two conciliary seminaries and the Convictorio Carolino (which the Jesuits called San Francisco Javier), and teaching in them was hardly advanced beyond what had been received in the schools. The Convictorio, like the others, was of a monastic character, and for the greater part of the day, which was devoted to pious exercises, it seemed to be only a branch of the seminaries designed to prepare the clergy. In all of them Latin and religion had the preferred place.
Special or technical teaching was represented in Santiago by the college called the Academy of San Luis, where instruction was given in arithmetic, geometry, and drawing, with a section in practical mining. This institution, the only one of its kind in the colony, began to function in the last years of the eighteenth century. Its founding was due to one of the most scholarly and patriotic Chileans of that time, Manuel de Salas. As in the Convictorio Carolino, attendance did not exceed a hundred students.
Such was, in toto, the intellectual preparation that young people received during the last years of the colony; petty, certainly, in extent and in content, but even poorer because of the extreme scarcity of books which restricted its perfection and diffusion. As Latin was the scholarly language, almost all books were in that tongue. The master works of Castilian literature were found only in the hands of a small number of Chileans. Foreign works which had acquired fame in Europe were read even less, because the Church prohibited them and did not yet permit their shipment to America. However, scholarly men who travelled in Europe introduced these latter works by contraband, read them secretly, and lent them only to members of their own family or to those in whom they had much confidence. Novels of knighthood and pious manuals furnished the common reading, together with a few treatises on the laws of Spain and the Indies. Not even the Don Quijote of Cervantes had a vogue in the colony. It is fitting, nevertheless, to point out an exception with respect to Plutarch, the agreeable but severe ancient moralistc whose Parallel Lives widely distributed throughout p129 Chile and constituted profitable reading, chiefly for its civic character.
José Antonio Rojas was among those men who, by means of their voyages to Europe, succeeded in forming for themselves a small library for their personal use. Moreover, this scholarly Creole of the eighteenth century introduced chemical substances into the country for experiments and apparatus for physics, and for that reason simple-minded people called him "the wizard." In 1780 he, with two Frenchmen — Antonio or Antoine Gramusset and Antonio or Antoine Berney — conspired together to make Chile independent of Spain. This unsuccessful attempt was called the "conspiracy of the three Antonios." However, it was a fruit of the higher culture of the epoch and a forerunner of emancipation. Gramusset was an illustrious merchant, and Berney a professor of classical languages.
Since nothing could be printed in Chile, even secretly, because there was no printing press8 and since it was necessary to send manuscripts to Lima or to Madrid for publication and to obtain permission of the inquisitorial tribunal, it is easily understood that the literary production of national authors in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was simply nonexistent. Writers were not lacking, however, among the religious orders and the military men who came to Chile and settled in the country, and likewise among the foreigners who visited it, but not all had the good fortune to see in print the works they wrote.
The principal author of the colony in the seventeenth century was Bishop Gaspar de Villarroel, a defender of the liberty of the Indians and a man of high culture for the time and for the country. The most important of his works was entitled Gobierno eclesiástico pacífico (Peaceful Ecclesiastical Government). The works of the Jesuit, Diego de Rosales, and of Captain Francisco Núñez de Pineda belong to this same century. To the former is due the very thorough Historia general del reino de Chile (General History of the Kingdom of Chile), written after forty years of residence, which extends to the second half of the seventeenth century. To Núñez de Pineda we owe a valuable book entitled Cautiverio feliz (Happy Captivity), in which he treats principally of the character and customs of the Araucanians, with whom he had an opportunity of being acquainted at first hand because he was their prisoner for six months. These books were not published in Chile until the p130 nineteenth century — some two hundred years after they were written.
To the eighteenth century belong the historical books of Abbot Juan Ignacio Molina, the Chilean Jesuit expelled in 1767. They were written and printed in Italy, were well circulated throughout all Europe, and helped to make the country known to the outside world. Another Chilean author who lived and wrote in Chile, a priest of the Dominican order and a man reputed for wisdom, was Fray Sebastián Díaz. He filled the highest position of his order in Santiago, and had a professorship in the University of San Felipe, from which he graduated also as doctor of theology. His principal work, Noticia general de las cosas del mundo (General Knowledge of Worldly Things), merited publication in Lima and serves to give an idea of what the university learning of that time was like. In his work he treats of angels and their nature — whose number is fixed at 6,666 — of ghosts and different classes of miracles, and then he discusses the stars, the atmosphere, and the "three heavens," as he understood them, which he supposed were peopled with invisible spirits.
But the national writer of greatest merit in the century is without doubt Manuel de Salas. Especially versed in economic matters, as syndic of the Tribunal de consulado he wrote numerous exposiciones to the court. They are worthy of notice not only for the material they contain but also for their literary form.
Very valuable, too, for Chile, are the works of some travelers and voyagers from Europe who, after visiting the country, wrote complete accounts of the manner of the social life of those times. Among the best were the Frenchmen, Frézier and La Pérouse, and the Englishman, Vancouver, who published in their respective countries at the end of the eighteenth century the narratives of their travels. Their books afford most interesting information on colonial society.
From this point of view the works of the Spaniards, Jorge Juan and Antonio de Ulloa, also have importance and value. They traveled through America in the middle of the century on a special government mission. The Relación histórico del viage (Historical Story of the Voyage) and Noticias secretas de América (Confidential Information about America) are works in which they give exact information about the government regime and the social conditions of these countries and among them, naturally, of Chile.d These same European travelers record the backward cultural state existing in the colonies during the eighteenth century. Chile certainly figured among the most unfortunate, for it had no adequate colleges, no p131 modern books to read, no printing press, no theater, no arts of any kind; its little nucleus of learned people absolutely lacked the opportunities, means, and stimuli to leave any trace of their intellectual capacity.
In colonial society, during the eighteenth century, three social classes came to be defined, each with well-marked characteristics:
1. The Spaniards. — This name was given to the natives of the Peninsula, purely Europeans, who had settled in the country. Afterward they were nicknamed "Goths." Their number, relatively few, did not exceed twenty thousand. They were composed of the follows of public administration with their families, presidents, judges, and other members of the audiencia, royal treasurers, and others — chiefs of the army, ecclesiastical dignitaries, big merchants, and another group of people who had come to seek their fortune. The relations which this social group enjoyed at court, the authority and power they held in their hands, the ostentation displayed by them in clothes and customs — more in keeping with European usage — were motives that led them to treat with disdain those who did not belong to their class. In every case, as they enjoyed public authority, they constituted the privileged, dominating element of the colony.
2. The Creoles. — These were Chileans by birth but Spanish by blood and not always free from some native mixture. Descended as a general rule from the former conquerors, they formed a much more numerous group than the Spanish — about one hundred and fifty thousand — and, if they did not enjoy authority, they possessed, on the other hand, the stable wealth of the country. They were usually merchants, industrialists, agriculturalists, or miners. Some were owners of large estates or exploiters of valuable mineral lands; others were proprietors of farms or of extensive landholdings. Proud of the services of their ancestors, they had aristocratic leanings. Some established entails of their lands (mayorazgos); that is, they provided that their properties could not be alienated after death but were to pass into the possession of the oldest son, who, in turn, was also to leave them, when he died, to his oldest son, and so successively in order, with such possessions, to maintain to the end the luster and position of the family. Some of those same Creoles, moreover, acquired titles of nobility, buying them from the court, and had themselves called "count" or "marquis" and put over the doors of their houses escutcheons which indicated the insignia or heraldry of their rank. Several of them had also become p132 men of learning, either in Lima or in Spain; and, after the University of San Felipe was founded, not a few graduated as doctors, principally in law.
The wealth, pride, and learning that some Creoles attained made them feel aggrieved with the court because it conferred the public offices of greatest influence and honor not on them but on individuals of the mother country. Of all the governors in Chile during the colonial period, only two were Chileans and they merely served in an ad interim capacity. On the other hand, there were several native bishops of Chile, because the king felt sure of the fidelity of the clergy and did not exclude them from office with such systematic strictness.
Where the Creole had a great deal of public influence was in the cabildos, which were composed for the most part of that element. This, however, did not satisfy their ambition, as the importance of these institutions had lessened considerably. Their love for their country, which they thought the most beautiful in the world, inspired in them a desire to serve it in a wider capacity; and to see themselves pushed aside and governed by individuals — oftentimes unworthy — by vulgar adventurers, whose only merit consisted in having been born in Spain, incited their souls to rebellion. In this way a mute but deep-rooted rivalry was established between them and the Spaniards. The above-mentioned travellers, Jorge Juan and Antonio de Ulloa, observed this fact very clearly.
3. The mestizos. — This social group, the most numerous — more than three hundred thousand — had been formed slowly through the centuries by the union of native women with Europeans or Creoles. All manual work was done by them. Whether as domestic servants in the cities, peons or renters on the farms, or diggers and pickers in the miners, their life was a perpetual sacrifice. Absolutely ignorant, addicted by inheritance to gambling and drinking, superstitious in the extreme, like the former natives, and also violent like them, they indulged in frequent quarrels and lived in the deepest poverty. However, they constituted a vigorous, hardy race, frugal in eating, capable of all kinds of work, including warfare, which aroused them more than anything else. From sun to sun they carried on without aspiration of any kind.
The majority of them were occupied in the fields, and the system of work to which they were subjected there was severe. The master gave to each head of a family a little plot of ground on the estate, which he might cultivate for himself and where he might raise some animals, such as sheep, hogs, cows, and horses. In return, this tenant was obliged to supply one or two peons when the proprietor (señor) p133 needed them, during the season of sowing and harvest or at any other time. Usually the proprietors treated the farm hands badly, nor were they better treated by the administrator, overseer, and herdsman, who were the upper employees; but the proprietor lived little on his estate — two or three months a year only — because country life was very insecure and absolutely unprovided with resources in case of illness. His customary residence was in the nearest city, preferably Santiago.
In those different tasks, the tenant received a small wage, about a real per day. The free time left to him he occupied in cultivating his small plot, or cerco. As he usually lacked tools, work animals, and seeds, he could ask the owner or administrator for all these, which were given to him in return for a half share of the produce. This was called "planting on shares." But the poor man, together with his family, needed to be fed during the winter, and if anything was scarce with him it was money; so he frequently found it necessary to sell his crops ahead of time to the owner himself or to the upper employees, or to some travelling merchants who carried on this kind of business. This was called "buying green." The price of this sale was a third and at times a fourth of the real value of the produce after it was harvested, so that the interest on that loan rose to no less than 200 or 300 per cent of the value delivered. It is easy to calculate the miserable profit that remained to the farmer for his year's work.
The house in which he lived was a small hut of mud bricks mixed with straw, of only one room in which all the family ate and slept in the massed confusion. The native ruca was very similar. The bed was frequently nothing more than a heap of straw. On winter nights the winds and rain filtered through the chinks in the clay with which the walls were daubed. Food consisted of vegetables, garden stuff, and above all, kidney beans, potatoes, squash, and black bread. Very rarely were they lucky enough to eat the flesh of the flocks which grazed before their eyes.
When bad treatment obliged anyone to leave the hacienda, his sufferings had no limit. He was asked to stop nowhere, for the person who changed masters was considered a poor worker and a bad tenant. All the country people did not succeed in finding employment, however, and therefore formed themselves into wandering gangs of day laborers who gravitated by preference to the cities to work and there constituted a dangerous rabble, because when they found nothing to do they lacked the means to obtain food and inevitably devoted themselves to robbery. The aged day laborer who was incapable of working was forced to become a beggar. The nickname p134 of roto (ragamuffin, literally, "broken one") which came from the ragged condition of his clothing, began to be used at that time.
4. The Negroes. This class included the offspring of the Negroes mixed with zambos and mulattoes. The offspring of Negro and Indian blood was called "zambo," and the descendant of white-Negro blood, "mulatto." They were the slaves for whom there was no legal or human protection. Ordinarily they led a secure life, since, hard as the heart of the master might be, it was to his own good to keep them in health and strength sufficient for the tasks to which they were assigned. Generally they were domestic servants and were clothed with the castoff apparel of the family. As is known, the Jesuits brought them from Peru in great numbers to toil in their fields and workshops, but they never exceeded more than twenty thousand, zambos and mulattoes together. Due to the rigid laws guiding their conduct, they mixed very little with persons of different stock, nor did the climate favor them.
Only the first two of these social classes — the Spaniards and the Creoles — formed the cultured society. Their most important center, the axis of their life and activity, was always Santiago, although Concepción had at one time considerable importance as the military city of the country; but Santiago fixed the standard of social life and the customs of all the other cities, and the highest social group imposed them also on the others.
The colonial house was usually of not more than one story and consisted of three patios. The first, which faced the street, was entered by a broad passage or paved entrance hall (zaguán) in which there almost always stood a bench of stone or wood. On one side of the hall was the room of the porter or key keeper, and on the other side, the parlor where a high-backed bench was also frequently seen. Here the mistress of the house looked after those who provided for the family, the outside servants, the beggars, and the rest of the people who entered and left. In the center of this first patio stood one or two posts to which were fastened a pair of mules which drew the carriage (calesa), a small cart on two wheels. Rarely were there any rooms on the side walls of that patio, and when there were they were used for storerooms or for servants' bedrooms.
On the side at the rear was a room or salon where visitors were received and where the family gathered at night to take maté, or sometimes tea, and to pray. Some stools, "tabourettes" or square p135 wooden seats, several chairs with backs, a sofa, some mirrors and small tables, a brazier, and above all, the platform (estrado), a kind of bench covered with floor carpet or matting on which the master of the house sat, formed the household furniture of this room. Off this opened the bedroom of the master and mistress of the house, in which were wooden beds, screens of painted cloth, chairs, and washstands. In the more pretentious houses the hall or reception room, and the boudoir or dressing-room were placed in front of the parlor.
In the second patio were found the rest of the family rooms — surrounded by corridors and vines — the garden, and the dining room. In the third patio were the kitchen, the bread oven, the tubs for washing, and the guardians of the house — the dogs, often numerous. The floors of the principal rooms were paved with brick and the walls, although hardly ever plastered, were painted white or rose-color. The eaves and spouts projected over the street. The only means of illumination were tallow or wax candles (mecheros) and small oil lamps (velones). In place of phosphorous matches paper lighters were used, or twisted cotton fibers, which when frayed were lighted by contact with a flame or live coal. The patios were almost always dark at night, as was the entrance hall, whose door of two panels guarded by enormous bolts was closed and securely fastened. Houses where a little street lamp with its tallow candle shone under the eaves were rarely found. Slight attention was paid to illumination. The same was true of ventilation and light; doors and windows were few.
In this dwelling the head of the family spent his time in the following manner: He rose very early with the sun, took maté, smoked a cigar, and went to mass. On his return he attended to some of his business, gave orders, and at ten in the morning drank a cup of chocolate with bread, which he called breakfast (almuerzo). Another period of attention to business followed and then a quiet siesta. The streets at that hour were deserted. After the siesta, between two and three in the afternoon came the dinner (comida); afterward some other occupations were carried on and at eventide the residents of the town gathered to converse in shops or in house entrances. Between eight and nine the curfew (queda) sounded, and all shut themselves up in their houses. They supped and slept. This was their ordinary life.
The women did not leave the house except to go to mass or to make some purchases. On clear summer nights they took the fresh air seated on the bench in the entrance way (zaguán). Some of the boys went to school and, until down appeared on their lips, they p136 did not speak to their parents unless the latter spoke to them, and then they had to address them by the term "your honor." Young men up to the age of twenty-five could do nothing without their parents' permission and, when they wanted to smoke, they had to seek the consent of the father. Their first shave was a reason for a celebration. Their marriage was generally arranged by their parents, who selected the bride from among their family relatives or friends, in accordance with pecuniary interests. There were occasions when the bride did not know her fiancé, or even how he looked. Only rarely were betrothals spontaneous.
Among poor people farm life was a jumble of misery. Those better off were the domestic servants in rich houses where they numbered eight or ten men and women, comprising Negro slaves and mestizo servants of both sexes. Although these latter got very small wages, from eight to ten reales a month, they ate regularly and clothed themselves in the castoff garments of their masters.
Already, at that time, groups of boys filled the streets of Santiago and embarrassed passers hurrying by with their talk and quarrels, with their throwing of stones, and with their tops, kites or games of hockey (chueca). They were insultingly called "street urchins," the palomillas (young pigeons)9 of today.
In spite of this simple life, men and women displayed unreasonable luxury in their clothing. This practice had already attracted attention in the seventeenth century and was the object of angry sermons on the part of some of the religious who saw motives for sin in it. The display of expensive apparel was, furthermore, in striking contrast to the general misery of the people. It was not possible to correct it, however, then or afterward.
The most costly cloth and jewels of gold on the men; the short silk skirts of the women, cloth from Flanders bound with gold and silver thread, and the multitude of jewels and their immoderate use were the preferred themes of those religious sermons. In the midst of the greatest calamities through which the colony passed, the wealthy class continued to display its expensive tastes. Some houses were also furnished with great luxury. In the salon or cuadra were rich European tapestries, costly mirrors, and stools or tapestried chairs with brocades worked in picturesque designs. The silver table service of the dining room was equally costly; and if the high price of imported articles is taken into account, together with the general poverty, the great expense represented by these acquisitions p137 will be understood.10 This disproportionate luxury was attributed to all the governors and members of the audiencia who, accustomed to the showy Spanish life of the time, brought to Chile their passion for expensive and frivolous decorations.
During the eighteenth century high colonial society was no less ostentatious. In the second half of that century, the ladies had stopped using the old-style petticoat and dress skirt as street apparel or for the holidays. Instead, the fashion of dresses of very fine fabrics made with trains was introduced, with stays underneath. A boy beautifully dressed as a page bore the train of the dress, and if he held it by the plaits, so as to allow one to see above the foot, the clergy preached in the pulpits against the practice, declaring it immodest. Finally, Bishop Alday prohibited it as sin; but then came dresses with short skirts (faldellín), even above the ankle. The ecclesiastical authority judged this another immorality and, although he prohibited it also, no one stopped wearing it until the first years of the nineteenth century.
The faldellín consisted of a kind of hoop skirt, tight in front and spreading out below the waist in such a way that the bottom was widened at the edge. Gold and silver tissue, velvet, and other cloth, according to the station in life, were the fabrics generally used. Under the faldellín, and longer at the bottom and showing through in front, went the justán or underskirt, with ruffles of fine fabric also edged with lace trimmings. Stockings of white silk and openwork showed through this finery. Shoes of kid edged with gold or silver were another valuable belonging of the lady. A woolen bodice girded the bust. A little jacket with sleeves above the elbow and generally of lace allowed the arm to be uncovered. Rings, breast-pins, earrings, and gold chains with pearls and diamonds completed the apparel. The hair was dressed in braids and was arranged on both sides like a covering over the ears; natural flowers and ribbons of gold and silk of different colors held this arrangement in place. A muslin scarf was sometimes used as a head covering. A custom that was very much criticized by foreigners, although it was the mode at that time in Europe, was the use of rouge and make-up (manito de gato, "cat's paw") — a practice which no lady omitted.
As for the men, the old-style coat and cloth cape had not changed. But the use of the frock coat and the dress coat had already begun at that time, and the shoe with silver buckles, the three-pointed hat for grand celebrations, and the high flat derby. p138 Among the poor the former costumes, made of shirtings and flannel, with sandals (ojota) and the big straw hat, still prevailed.
The wealthy class frequently rode in carriages. These conveyances consisted of the four-wheeled coach covered with an awning; the large coach (carroza) like our victorias, drawn by four horses which only the grand potentates — mayorazgos, governors, and bishops — used; the gig (calesa), a two-wheeled vehicle drawn by a pair of mules, which the ladies preferred to occupy; and the single gig (calesín), something like the present tilbury drawn by one mule only.
The most common amusements of society people were private calls, during which the finest courtesy reigned and confections and beverages11 were served. Of the public festivals, in addition to the church processions, the parade of the royal standard, the reception of the governors, the solemnities with which births and marriages of princesses and princes of Spain were still celebrated, the frequent bullfights, the cockfights, the horse races, and carnival festivities, in which confetti was merrily thrown, were also very well attended.
This tranquil and indolent population showed, however, many faults in its organization and common life. Its social morality was in an undeveloped stage. The mestizo, lacking culture, still semi-barbaric, without occupations in which decent livelihoods could be gained, kept the rude and violent character of his ancestors. The Creoles themselves, like the Spanish adventurers, were by no means models of equity and justice in their relations with others.
Crime reached enormous proportions. Not only were robberies and severe wounds received in assaults and quarrels the subjects of constant complaint; there were frequent murders on central streets of every city. In the completely unguarded country districts, an unbridled vandalism reigned. There were places, like the hills (cerrillos) of Teno, famous for the groups of bandits that made their dens in the vicinity. During some years it was estimated that there were twelve thousand wretches infesting the roads in the center of the country. No punishment — not even the most severe — was sufficient to check them. The stock, the whip, the gallows, enforced labor — all were useless. The most implacable persecutions, such as those ordered by Governor Amat y Junient in the middle of the eighteenth century, and those drawn up by the corregidor of p139 Santiago, Luis de Zañartu, also failed. The evil had deep roots; misery and ignorance kept the mestizo in barbarism and prevented him from developing social ideas. Religious principles, taught with difficulty, might hold the great majority through fear of eternal punishment, but they did not penetrate into the less capable souls, except in the form of superstitious practices. Lack of foresight, due to the same intellectual backwardness, claimed many of the indigent as its victims. Society had not succeeded in remedying this condition except to a limited degree. Charity was very little developed. Only the most important cities had hospitals and they were always poorly organized and poorly kept.
The absolute lack of cleanliness and of hygienic habits occasioned much illness. Appallingly fatal epidemics frequently occurred. Smallpox, particularly, caused disastrous effects nearly every year. In the second half of the eighteenth century a priest named Chaparro12 had introduced vaccination, but only at the beginning of the nineteenth century did the practice extend to all social classes, owing to the initiative of the Spanish doctor, Manuel Julián Grajales, who earnestly advocated it. This remedy, however, scarcely lessened at all the effects of the scourge and by no means stamped it out.
The extraordinary mortality of which the poor especially were victims made this situation even more difficult. Families left in poverty had to beg in order to live and, if to this cause of general misery one adds the rest, he will come to the conclusion that begging was then one of the most common social customs. Useless were the ordinances repeatedly issued by the governors to prohibit and regulate it; those who needed bread overruled the laws. And in this land, so beautiful and so rich that it is a "veritable paradise" — to quote Salas — was seen the spectacle of an emaciated and half-nude mendicant begging for alms on every street corner. The long-delayed but at all events beneficial founding of the asylum by this self-denying philanthropist remedied somewhat the mournful impression produced by the sight of abandoned misery.
In this dark picture the higher groups of society also had their place. The militant spirit, so fully developed in them through many generations, continued to impress on their familiar customs an irreconcilably hard character. The excessive authority exercised p140 by the father over his children gave rise to frequent scandals. The aristocratic prejudice that condemned wealthy families to idleness developed in them habits of intemperance and gambling that at times resulted tragically. As among the mestizo element, drunkenness and gambling were the favorite vices of many distinguished people. It was impossible, however, to avoid these extremes since there was no other way for them to spend their time and energy, nor should one forget the heritage of centuries which impelled them in that direction.
Such a society, then, was that of the colony — a society whose imperfections in all their aspects attracted attention. It had been formed by violence and for only one of its groups, leaving the great mass of the population abandoned to its fate. The portion blessed by that state of things (Spaniards and Creoles of fortune) appropriated to itself the European civilization and lived in conformity to it, but the great mass (the mestizos), who also bore their blood and whose sacrifices afforded them well‑being, continued to vegetate materially and morally in a semibarbarism that differed very little from that of the native period.13
1 Fray Diego de Humanzoro was a native of Guipúzcoa, where he assumed the Franciscan habit. He was a man of some prestige at court, held important posts of his order in Peru, and took charge of the diocese of Santiago in 1661. In both provinces he insisted tenaciously on the prerogatives of his office and had already passed through serious disputes with the audiencia at Santiago before beginning his more heated quarrels with Meneses. See Barros Arana, Historia jeneral, V, 55.
2 The founder of the Lisperguer family in Chile came to that colony from Worms in 1557 with Don García Hurtado de Mendoza. Barros Arana (ibid., III, 400‑1, n. 10) characterizes as doubtful some of the accusations against the earlier members of this family, although acknowledging the impunity with which many of them flouted the laws and the authorities. For reference to "La Quintrala," see ibid., IV, 236. See also Catalina de los Ríos, biographical notes, infra.
3 The first edition of this great work, after earlier partial attempts at codification, appeared at Madrid in three volumes in 1680 under this title. The fifth edition, in four volumes, was issued by the Spanish government in 1841, but a later private edition has the approval of the government. See Espasa, Enciclopedia, XLIX, 1223, 1224.
4 The creation of the viceroyalty of La Plata in 1776 afforded opportunity for reforms in colonial administration, which were incorporated in the Ordenanza de intendentes. The system under this ordinance was gradually extended to the other Spanish colonies, with some modifications. By decree it was to apply to Chile in 1784 and was actually introduced in 1787, but it was modified in 1802. See Vicente Fidel López, Historia de la república argentina, su origen, su revolución, y su desarrollo político (10 vols. New ed. Buenos Aires, 1913), Vol. I, chap. xxi; Bernard Moses, Spain's Declining Power in South America, 1730‑1806 (Berkeley, 1919), p246; Barros Arana, Historia jeneral, VI, 457‑460.
5 See ibid., chap. xi; Moses, op. cit., pp131‑141. See also Herbert Ingram Priestley, José de Gálvez, Visitor-General of New Spain, 1756‑1771 (Berkeley, 1916), pp211‑233, for an account of the contemporary expulsion of the Jesuits from Mexico.
6 A convictorio is the section in the Jesuit College where the boarders live and receive instruction.
Thayer's Note: In case you've come here via a link from elsewhere in this book, Galdames will tell us a few pages further on that the Convictorio San Javier is the same institution as the Convictorio Carolino (or San Carlos).
9 Palomilla, thus translated, is the name of a species of destructive night moth which lives in granaries. In America the name is applied to the lowest class of people; in Chile, to a group of young vagabonds. See Espasa, op. cit., XLI, 497.
10 The following passage has been left out of the seventh edition: "The poor people, on the other hand, continued to use the national rough woolen garments, the table service of clay, and wooden spoons."
11 Mistelas is the name mentioned in the text. It is a beverage made of wine, water, sugar, and cinnamon.
12 Friar Pedro Manuel Chaparro graduated from the University of San Felipe in 1770 with degrees in theology and medicine. In 1802 he gained the chair of philosophy in the same institution. He introduced the practice of inoculation in Chile in 1764, but it did not then come into general use. See Medina, Dic. biog., p231; Barros Arana, Historia jeneral, VII, 470.
Thayer's Note: Pedro Lautaro Ferrer in Historia general de la medicina en Chile (Talca, 1904), pp132‑133, gives slightly different dates: 1771 and 1772 for Chaparro's degrees (citing primary sources); and 1765 for his first inoculations.
13 For brief sketches of Chilean social life during the eighteenth century, see Edwards Bello, in Imágenes de Chile, pp105‑142, 191‑200, 221‑230.
a Why this should be vulgar (or maybe just "common"), the author apparently assumed his readers would know, and the translator leaves us guessing. My own guess is that the nickname is from quintral (the plant mentioned in chapter 1, q.v.): either because she was suspected of using it as her poison, or, more likely it seems to me, because it was the common source of black dye: she turned a family's clothes mourning black.
b The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception would not become dogma, binding on every Catholic, until 1852 (the pope who would promulgate it, by the way, had worked in Chile). At this early date then it's interesting to see it inserted into the beliefs required at the Jesuit university, since the Dominicans that ran the other pontifical university had long been a traditional adversary of the doctrine.
c A very curious characterization of Plutarch, much more commonly felt to be gentle, humane, and latitudinarian, if admittedly some of that is filtered thru the eyes of Montaigne. Judge for yourself, though: the Lives (and much of the rest of his output) are onsite.
Images with borders lead to more information.
The thicker the border, the more information. (Details here.)
A page or image on this site is in the public domain ONLY
if its URL has a total of one *asterisk.
If the URL has two **asterisks,
the item is copyright someone else, and used by permission or fair use.
If the URL has none the item is © Bill Thayer.
See my copyright page for details and contact information.
Page updated: 3 Nov 09