Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

ace.

classes. To placardNo smoking al

American horses are a luxury inlowed,” and enforce it, would ruin the road. dulged in only by the wealthiest. At the

During the day, ladies are rarely or livery-stables the hire of a volante with never seen in the streets of Havana ; and an American horse is nearly twice as much never walking, unless perchance you catch as that of one with a horse of the country. a glimpse of one with a mantilla thrown The jockeys give them a name which over her bead and using her fan as a pa means ' horses which hold up their heads.' rasol, while she trips along to have a bit It is not strange that an upright carriage of gossip with her next neighbor. The of the head in man or beast should strike men are not noteworthy in appearance,

a Cuban Spaniard as a peculiarity. save for their swarthiness and their sloth It is just the time now to eat a pine; and ful movements. The consequence is a luckily here is the Dominica, the café striking incongruity in appearance between which figured so largely in the exaggerthe strange, fantastic, Eastern air of the ated accounts of indignities offered to city, and the very proper and Parisian the remains of the misguided fifty who looking people who inhabit it. The vo were shot under the walls of Fort Atares. lantes and the caleseros alone have an It is a large building; of a single story, air which would be out of place in any opening on three sides through wide and other city. The volante or quitrin is ex lofty arches upon an inner court, in the actly like a large gig, with the body in midst of which is a fountain. Its single front of the huge wheels, and resting upon floor is of tesselated marble. The pine the shafts between the wheels and the which the waiter placed before us so saddle. It is drawn by one horse, or two, courteously, and which it is almost needor three, always harnessed abreast. It is less to say we eat by tearing it in pieces built for two persons; but it is common with a silver fork, is truly excellent, but not to see three fat Spanish women seated in so much more luscious than some which we one, especially round the Grand Plaza, remember to have eaten at the North, as and upon the Paseo. The calesero we expected to find it. The truth is, that mounts postilion-wise upon the horse. occasionally as fine a pine can be procured His dress consists of a bright cloth or vel in New-York as the market of Havana will vet jacket, richly trimmed with lace, in ordinarily afford; but there such a pine which the arms of his master are often costs six shillings, and is rarely seen; here worked, a laced hat with a cockade, and it may be had at any time for six cents. white linen trowsers, over which enormous There are few visitants to this famous boot-legs rise almost to his hips. His café at this time of day, and it is not surlace is gold, he wears massive silver spurs prising that evof formidable dimensions, and his boot ery head should legs are covered with buckles and etceteras

be raised as yonof the same material. He delights in a der tall, slovgayly-embroidered cambric handkerchief, enly figure enwhich he is always sure to display to the ters. "Los Calbest advantage from the side pocket of his ifornianos !is jacket. But amid all this magnificence, passed around. this carrying about of bullion, this war True enough, like encasement of cucumber shins in boot he is one of the legs, the poor blackey's feet are bare, at same tribe by least on the top. His boot-legs have no which we were feet. They are magnificent shams, strap encountered ere ped over his trowsers. He wears low-cut we had reached shoes perhaps, but no stockings, and be the shore. A tween the edge of the shoe and the termi steamer arrived nation of his boot, is six inches by four this morning of unmitigated ebony foot. Often enough from Chagres, he is without shoes as well as stockings; and as that from and yet, unless he is a public calesero, New-York is and a very unsuccessful one at that, he

not

expected wears his stupendous boot-legs. The until to-morhorses are small and have very little ac

row, a hundred tion; and as their long tails are plaited and fifty or two tightly and looped up to the saddle, to hundred of prevent them from swashing about the these Jasons are liquid mud which floods the streets when turned loose upthere is rain, they have a very mean and rat-like appearance. They are, however, Singly, in pairs, and in companies they not without spirit and a power of endur rove about the place, utterly indifferent

[graphic]

on

the city

vana.

as to their forlorn appearance, and with an ill-disguised contempt for the people around them, which increases every hour. This one, as he stands for a moment alone on the threshold of the door, his hands thrust deeply into the pockets of his baggy sack-coat; his trowsers threatening to tumble in a heap about his heels; his boots virgin of blacking, but not of Chagres mud, and turned up at the toes like the front of a woodsled; his matted beard hiding his mouth, but not its sneer; his hat so shapeless and so greasy that it is fit only for the use of the soap-boiler, -as he stands thus, he looks with the quiet unconcern of native independence and conscious wealth, for ten thousand doll is wealth to him, -upon the people who regard him as little better than a pirate and an ogre. Catch him eating pines and ices! He comes in to 'liquor; and regretting that none of his companions were with him when he stumbled unexpectedly upon this “bar-room,' he whets his thirst, while awaiting their arrival, by a slight preliminary potation, consisting of a quarter of a pint of brandy and two tablespoonfuls of water. The excellent quality of the spirit tends somewhat to elevate the country in his estimation; and wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, he turns around with a complacent smile, and resumes his bold scrutiny of the other visitants of the place; not seeking to suppress a broad grin as he notices many of them eating thin slices of crisp cake, which they dip daintily into the huge tumblers of lemonade from which they occasionally sipa little of the refreshing liquid with a spoon, or suck it through a sil-, ver tube. Though in appearance he is a fair type of the Californian, as he is known in the south and west, there are occasional varieties of the genus which differ from him materially. Look through one of the doors into the street, and see that pair, one of whom, not unlike our first acquaintance, stands staring at some object new to him. His companion differs from him equally in manner and in dress. He wears a cutaway coat, a waistcoat, a cravat; he has blacked his boots ; and his trowsers, which

once were black, are thrust into them only because the bottom rims are ragged. Moro wonderful than all, he wears a tolerably clean shirt, kept doubtless to provide against a contingency, and put on in honor of the ladies he vainly expected to meet in HaHe is evidently a city man.

His beard is reduced to a moustache and a peaked tuft upon his chin.

He wears a cap which mayhap was bought at Genin's, and carries a well preserved umbrella under his arm. He thinks it 'ungenteel' to stare; and with folded arms he stalks on in dignified propriety, while the other satisfies his curiosity. He is evidently some young lawyer or merchant's clerk, who was more devoted to his moustache and the opera than to clients or customers, and who foolishly thought he could make that fortune in California which did not 'turn up ready made at home. He has failed; but had he succeeded in his wishes, his success would have been of little service to him. Ready-made fortunes, like ready-mado clothes, rarely fit those who get them.

By this time the place seems to swarm with Californians. The Spaniards begin to entertain fears that they may hold a mass meeting on the Grand Plaza, and organize a revolution. They pervade the city, and as they are bent on pleasure and have very little coined money, you may see them in the silver-plate shops and the exchange offices selling gold dust. They drive a sharp bargain, and sell only as much as they must part with to supply

[graphic]

their present need; for the government prevents the exportation of gold by giving the ounce (doubloon), which is actually worth but sixteen dollars, the legal value of seventeen. I remember one of them, thin-faced, with straight yellow beard and hair ; a fellow like Falstaff's friend Justice Shallow, " so forlorn that his dimensions to any thick sight were invincible.” He stood listlessly behind two others who were selling dust to an old Spaniard, who took no notice of him until he found that his companions turned continually around to consult him, for he was the sharpest and the richest of the party. In spite of the iniscellaneous condition of their wardrobes, these inen have a certain manliness of man and abundance are to be found in the fish ner, which contrasts favorably with the air market of Havana, of which, till lately, of those around them, and which, aided Señor Marty, the manager of the opera, not a little by the full growth of that had the entire possession, by monopoly. manly ornament, the beard, makes them But all the varieties are alınost equally not unpleasing objects of contemplation, - tasteless. This is accounted for by some, at a distance.

from the fact that all the fish for Havana Having put money in their purses, their are taken upon the coral reefs, the lime in first desire after "a drink all round," is which has this effect upon them. How for a drive. They have a contempt for much of a reason this may be, I will not the volante, which they call "a damned pretend to say; but I have remarked that parson's gig with the wheels behind.” trout, the highest flavored of all fish, are Some of them are obliged to take up

with never found in a brook which flows over the despised vehicle; but as many as can, lime-stone rocks. Beef always must re get into an old barouche, which for years main bad in Havana, until the Cubans has been getting mouldy in some out-of are taught how to raise it and how to the-way stable. There are but three oth butcher it. It is ill-fed, over-driven, imer four-wheeled vehicles in the city, to properly killed, and instead of being wit, the state carriages of the Captain divided into proper joints, is cut into strips, General and of a foreign dignitary; and with the grain. There are one or two after being reluctantly convinced that nei butchers, however, who cut joints for the ther of those gentlemen would “hire out" few American and English tables in the their carriages, half a dozen of our Cali- city. Coffee concludes dinner ; after which fornian friends take this, and sitting in it no Habanero does any thing but go to the and out of it in all possible and impossi paseo, the grand plaza, the theatre, the ble attitudes of nonchalance, they drive café or a cock-fight. about the town and the suburbs, through On Sundays and saints' days, the ladies the pascos, to the Bishop's Garden; ev drive upon the paseo Isabella II., for an erywhere but to the baths; not neglecting hour and a half before sundown. They to stop and drink at every other posada, go in full dress, and without hats :-no and make themselves fit subjects for the lady in Havana ever wears a hat, except cholera as they go up the Mississippi. some person of high fashion and fortune

Every body dines in Havana at three who may wear a very costly one in a o'clock. There is nothing remarkable at ball-room. Two always, and sometimes dinner, except that the fish, though firm, three, occupy one volante; but it is not the is insipid, and the beef dark-colored, and custom for a gentleman to share the seat of a strong flavor. Fish in great variety with a lady. The volantes thus filled,

[graphic]
[graphic]

and with their tops thrown down, pass raphernalia they are here, as in Spain. slowly up one, and down another, of the Some ladies have a hundred, and more. long avenues of the paseo, which are some On two or three evenings a week, one of times so full, that the checking of one the regimental bands plays in the Grand horse stops the whole line. The gentle Plaza, before the Palace. At this time men walk at the sides, or crowd together the square is surrounded with a double at the ends of the avenues, where they row of volantes filled with ladies in full scrutinize the ladies as they pass, without dress. Gentlemen walk in the square and reserve. Should one admire matron or pay their respects to such of their fair maid, he tells his admiration, and his friends as they may recognize. This anavowal is graciously received. This ge swers the purpose of our evening visits. neral custom of driving in full dress, af Society, as we understand it, does not fords continual opportunities to judge of exist in Havana. Set balls and fêtes, the the pretensions of the fair Habaneros to paseo, the Grand Plaza, and the theatre, beauty. I became reluctantly convinced take its place. The music over,

the ladies that personal charms are rare among drive home, and soon the streets are althem, especially in the higher classes. I most deserted. At half-past eight o'clock saw but one of gentle blood, and but three

the watchmen make their appearance. or four among the middle class, who would Each one is armed with a lance, a long be made the marks for opera glasses in knife, and a pair of pistols, and carries a New-York. The ladies, Creoles and Span lantern ; and thus they bristle through iards, generally have bright black eyes, the city, blowing a whistle, and calling the and dark glossy hair, but the mouth is apt time and the weather at every half hour. to be large and heavy, and the eyes are Their orders are "to comprehend all vararely expressive or finely formed. Their grom men,” and they are not slow to obey figures incline too often to excessive ful them. The police of the city, especially ness or its opposite. Their hands and at night, is very rigid, and any man in the feet are small; but they spoil the appear street after ten o'clock, is liable to be called ance of the latter by wearing shoes which to an account. This, among other things are too short, by which they are made to about the place, smacks of antiquity; look clubbed and ungraceful. They dress and as you are dozing off into your first more hideously than it is possible to con sleep and beginning to think uncertain ceive. Their fashions are, of course, Pa thoughts, the long drawn nasal cry of the risian; but their combinations of colors watchmen will mingle with your fancies, would drive a French modiste mad. An and take you back perchance, in dreams, orange-colored robe with maroon flounces, to Messina, and Dogberry, who had “two or the same flounces upon a green robe, coats and every thing handsome,” and or a French gray robe, with rose-colored Verges, who was as honest as any man flounces, are not uncommon. Their fans who was no honester than he ;” and to are magnificent, and it is needless to say that soldierly bachelor Benedick, and the what an important part of the female pa lady Beatrice, who loved him from the

beginning, even while she jeered and flouted him; and to gentle Hero, “done to death by slanderous tongues :” and if it should be so, you will never patiently see

the play played out again, even though Ellen Tree were Beatrice, Wallack Benedick, and Burton Dogberry. One such ideal vision kills stage effect for ever.

NOTE.

We have received from an esteemed correspondent, the following communication of interesting facts, relating to the building known in Havana as The Chapel of Columbus' first Mass,' which was alluded to in our last number. We were fully aware of the objections which he urges against the supposition that Columbus hcard Mass upon the site of this chapel; and we stated explicitly, as our correspordent quotes, that that event took place “ according to tradition," only. To speak of the Church of the Nativity at Bethlehem, as standing, according to tradition, upon the spot where Christ was born, even when we know that such is not the case, is not to claim credit for the tradition. The seiba treo "became sterile" long ago; but its trunk is said, doubtless erroneously, to have been standing within the memory of living inhabitants of Havana. The monument described by our correspondent, stands a little more than half-way between the gate and the entrance to the building G. P. has our thanks for the interesting inscriptions, copies of which we did not possess. To the Editor of Putnam's Monthly,

Sir :—I have been much gratified by a perusal of " A Glance at Havana " in the February number of your " Monthly,”—a very correct idea being given of both the place and people. There is one statement, however, which, although the traditions of the city may afford some foundation for it, is not historically correct; and as I do not think your contributor would desire to have it remain uncontradicted on the pages of a magazino, which, hereafter, I trust, will be recognized as authority upon many subjects, I wonld beg leave to notico it.

The statement referred to is contained in the following passage:

***** Another minute's walk brings us to the chapel built upon the spot, where, according to tradition, Columbus first heard mass upon the island. This is a very small Grecian building, standing at the end of a court-yard, about one hundred feet in depth, the entrance to which is through a lofty gateway, surmounted with the royal arms of Spain, surrounded with the ever-present inscription, "Siempre feal isla de Cuba." The tree, under which the temporary altar was said to have been raised by the discoverer, was standing not many years since, but fell in one of the terrible hurricanes which sometimes enliven the torpor of tropical life. The chapel is opened to the public but once a year, and then with great solemnity."

Now, as Columbus died in 1506, and Havana was not founded until 1519, his performance of Mass upon the spot would be rather questionable, independent of proof that he did not visit that part of the coast, and that the structures referred to were not intended to commemorate such an event.

The chapel, to which allusion is made, was erected about the year 1827, and within it are two pictures, of large size, by some modern artist; one of them representing the celebration of the first Mass, and the other, the meeting of the first Cabildo (congress or local council), held on the site of the present city. As stated in the magazine, the court and chapel are rarely open to visitors, except by special permission, but inore frequently than once a year. Had access been obtained by your contributor, he would bave found the following inscription in Spanish, upon its front :

“In the reign of Ferdinand VII.—Don Francisco Dionisio Vives being President and Governor-loyal Havana, religious and civil, erected this simple monument, decorating the spot where, in the year 1519, tho first Mass and Cabildo were celebrated. The Bishop, Don John Joseph Dias de Espada, solemnized that grand sacrifice."

In front of the chapel stands (I use the present tense, presuming it to be still there, although it is not mentioned by your contributor), a white monumental column (brick stuccoed I think), standing on a base of the island stone, of which you have here a representation, of older date, but repaired and improved when the chapel was erected, which bears an inscription on each of its three faces. The first is in Spanish, which may be thus translated :

“ The town or city of Havana was founded in the year 1515, and when removed from its first site to the banks of this harbor in 1519, it is related that there was on this spot a frondiferous (frondosa) Seiba, under which were celebrated the first Mass and the first Cabildo. It remained until 1753, when it became sterile, and to perpetuate its memory, our Catholic Monarch Ferdinand VI., then governing Spain, ordered this stone to be erected. Field Marshal Don Francisco Cajigal de la Vega of the order of Santiago, Governor and Captain General of this island. The Attorney General being Doctor Don Manuel Philip de Arango, LL. D., A. D., 1754."

The second inscription is in Latin, and is of similar import. The third is also in Latin, and refers to Columbus, which accounts for the connection of his name with the place; the following is a free translation :

D. O. M. " The illustrious august hero, Christopher Columbus, renowned for skill in nautical affairs, having discov. ered a new world, and subjected it to the crown of Castile, died at Valladolid on the 20th May, 1506. His body, delivered to the care of the Carthusians of Spain, was transferred, at his own desire, to the Church of the Metropolis of Hispaniola. Thence, when peace was concluded with the French Republic, his remains were removed to the Cathedral of the Virgin Mary, of Conception: the chief religious orders being present at the solemnities on the 19th January, 1795. The city of Havana, not unmindful of so great a benefactor, preserves bis precious remains until the great day.

“ The most illustrious Señor Don Philip Joseph Tres-palacios being Bishop, and his Excellency, Don Lewis de las Casas, Governor and Captain General."

Very respectfully, yours, G. P.

« PoprzedniaDalej »