Savage America, Chapter II [Excerpt from: The Moral History of Women, Vol. 1, Book 4] [Translation]

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Nacente, Francisco, Historia moral de las mujeres: influencia de la mujer en el progreso y cultura de las naciones: sus deberes, sus derechos en la sociedad y la familia: educación y enseñanza que convendría para su misión. Vol 1 & 2 (Barcelona (Espana): Francisco Nacente, 1889 y 1991)

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Title: Savage America, Chapter II [Excerpt from: The Moral History of Women, Vol. 1, Book 4] [Translation]
Author: Nacente, Francisco
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Translation: This document is an English translation of the "Historia moral de las mujeres: influencia de la mujer en el progreso y cultura de las naciones: sus deberes, sus derechos en la sociedad y la familia: educación y enseñanza que convendría para su misión. Vol 1 & 2." Translated by Lorena Gauthereau-Bryson. The language of the original document is Spanish.
Description: 2 volumes in 1 (568, 143 p.), illustrated, 32 cm.
Abstract: The book this excerpt was taken from ranges widely over the unique and often hidden position of women in relation to society, from ancient cultures up to the time of writing. This chapter, in particular, focuses on the degradation of women among native tribes, their treatment as slaves, various marriage customs (including, by extension, the treatment by different societies of adultery and divorce), and folklore of native peoples from across the Americas, including: the Aztecs, Labrador Eskimos, Corotecas, Muiscas, and tribes from Ecuador, Peru, Brazil and the Araucania region. In addition, the author also mentions the people of Iceland and includes a short section on the Mormon Church and polygamy.
Source(s): Nacente, Francisco, Historia moral de las mujeres: influencia de la mujer en el progreso y cultura de las naciones: sus deberes, sus derechos en la sociedad y la familia: educación y enseñanza que convendría para su misión. Vol 1 & 2 (Barcelona (Espana): Francisco Nacente, 1889 y 1991)
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Chapter II
Savage America

Contempt for Women

The characteristic trait that unites almost all the aboriginal tribes of America is that of considering physical strength as the only superiority among the human species, a trait that consequently places many of these peoples in the lowest class of barbarianism and savagery alongside the most backward Oceanic people. From this, we can deduce that the woman in savage America is a slave, with the particularity that her slavery is so painful and terrible that, in the northern hemisphere, she appears to constitute an inferior species, not very different from domestic animals. Imagine the extent of her degradation and misery when the dominion of brutal force is responsible for reducing her to such a lowly condition.

There, women are excluded from participating in festivities, dances, public acts, religious ceremonies– that is, anything that tends to expand relative life is reserved for men, as if it were possible for all the charm and joy inspired by woman’s presence and action in public merriment to exist in similar recreation. But why should such exclusion surprise us when we know that these women are prohibited from even eating at the table in the company of their husbands, and that in times of shortage, the men would allow the women to starve to death one hundred and one times before depriving themselves of anything? What contempt these savages have toward women! This demonstrates what the weaker sex’s situation has been like in all primitive societies devoid of civilization and culture.

There is something even more repugnant that we can point out regarding the abuse of brutal strength that has degraded women. In those tribes, the weak woman, who deserves such disdain because she is weak, is scorned to such a degree that the savage husband thinks he is dishonored if he drinks from the same cup or glass as


his wife or if she walks over his feet while he is lying down or sitting on the floor. This belief would not prevent the savage from standing up in a fit of rage and beating the poor wretch, who had acted audaciously or had accidentally committed such a disrespectful error, to death.

Polygamy, the cause of so many wrongs in any place it is permitted, undoubtedly reigns in some of the countries where physical strength is supreme law and where ignorance and barbarism are unfamiliar with all types of worship of the fairer sex, leaving no room for anything more than concupiscence, an animal instinct less depraved than the disordered desire of men. Yes, polygamy is common among the people of the copper race, especially among leaders and the powerful, since in order to have women, they must buy them.

Another sign of woman’s slavery in American tribes is found in paternal power: daughters are subjected to their father’s absolute control; he can sell them without their consent or approval, taking for himself the gifts exchanged for his daughters as the price placed on merchandise. And sometimes, instead of selling one of his daughters forever, the father rents her out for a certain amount of time or lends her out in exchange for services that a suitor has carried out.

Yet, buying women is not the only method of acquiring them; instead, the victim is usually kidnapped or the man who covets another’s wife provokes combat, and Victory determines the future of the disputed thing. As a result, a strong and bold man can have many women, whereas the pusillanimous and weak man is left with none. The empire of strength dominates and rules: any personal talents other than courage are worthless and do not signify anything. Finally, the woman cannot choose or favor the man she prefers. The fact is that some men, brutal in every meaning of the word, have eight or more women, whom they treat like beasts of burden, while others, who, because of their natural kindness and gentleness, would treat their wives humanely and would be good fathers, cannot have a wife.

Immorality and Degradation

Another example of the backward and immoral state of many of the American tribes is the fact that more or less close family relation is not an obstacle for matrimony: a man can marry many of his sisters and the person who marries the oldest has the right to possess the rest. If this degree of close relationship, which is much respected among all cultured people, does not pose difficulties for matrimony, what little scruples much exist in the other degrees of blood relation! This should not shock us, since this assertion has been made by illustrious travelers who affirm the execrable custom of a father marrying one or more of his daughters and, most repugnant of all, of a son marrying his mother. This is abominable; it destroys morality in its principal foundations. There, no type of emotion can move the heart; there, nothing exists other than animality, brute instinct.

Indeed, while divorce is allowed and carried out with the most minor of pretexts (which, in a certain way favors the unfortunate who lack the wealth or riches to acquire a woman) among the savage tribes of North America, there is no notion of love– that sweet emotion that beautifies life. There is no doubt that this notion does not exist due to the ease in which rising passions are satisfied, the miseries of savage life that impede such a noble and generous emotion to develop freely or perhaps due to the degradation of women, which destroys their charm and prestige. Imagine what the weaker sex must be worth if they no longer awaken true love. Imagine, along that same vein, the state of degradation and moral misery in which those wretched people must lie.

It is impossible for us to imagine the suffering felt by the woman in savage America. Men use her like the most vile and despicable animals; if they feel like it, they sell her, they exchange her, they lend her, they rent her, and the women do not even


dare to formulate a minor objection, since any reply, any hint of resistance, will be punished with terrible penalties, including death. No, they cannot utter the smallest complaint; they must always obey, whatever the despot husband’s mandate, even when he orders her to follow the man who has bought her, even when he orders her to nurse some bear cubs that are too small to be eaten. What do these barbarians care if terror impedes a woman from carrying out this order? They must obey… or die!

Woman’s Strenuous Work; Man’s Idleness

While the men enjoy the most fruitful and lazy life permitted by their continuous wars, the women must carry out all the labor and chores: prepare food and meals, build tents, carry provisions, hunt and fish, and, in agricultural regions, reap the cornfields, thresh the wheat, sow and harvest, in sum, perform all the necessary agricultural duties. And while they drag themselves, overwhelmed by the weight of the harshest jobs and mistreatment, while they are found on the roads, carrying all the supplies as well as their children, the men walk freely and quickly in front of them, and many times, on horseback. If, in the course of their expeditions, the men judge the woman to be an obstacle, they abandon her in the middle of the jungle, ignoring her cries of anguish and desperation, while they laugh, at times demonically, at those hurled clamors meant to move the heart of fathers, sons, brothers, husbands. To what extent can the men take the deviation of the human mind or the exaggeration of brute force without the light of reason!

This is the deplorable manner in which the weak sex is treated in almost all North and South American tribes. Therefore, we propose, according to reports by eyewitnesses and the incontestable facts that we have, that the copper race is the most cowardly and sagacious, the most perfidious and egotistical, the most obscene and despicable in this miserable world. Contempt for women is always a sign of stupidity or corruption; brutal despotism is an example of vile cowardice or of the perverse man’s cruelty. In other words, and perhaps repeating ourselves for the hundredth time (which will be excused since this is the strict topic of our work), the closer men are to the savage state or the more they have lost their moral sense, the less they respect woman: the history of all times and countries makes this eloquently obvious.

The Aztecs or the Ancient Mexicans

It appears, however, that among the Peruvian, Aztec, and other Guyana and Brazilian tribes, woman’s fate was once much less deplorable. While we cannot explain its causes, this is a circumstance that we can understand perfectly through its effects: we are well aware that some tribes’ ancestors were once much more civilized and, upon losing their wealth and splendor, they also lost all their culture and moral progress. The Aztecs, in particular, seem to have reverence for their wives, which proves, without a shadow of a doubt, the comparatively splendorous indicated state of civilization in Mexico during the time in which Hernan Cortes discovered and conquered it.

Actually, the women among the ancient Mexicans, although submitted to the dominion and dependence of men, were not tormented as those from other savage tribes and their work was limited to domestic chores. They took part in religious festivities, in public merriment, and were only excluded from political congresses. This proves the state of development in which the Spaniards found that vast empire when they conquered it.

It is true that the Aztecs practiced polygamy, and this seems to have contributed to the destruction of that primitive grandeur;


however, this practice was only adopted by the wealthy classes, or perhaps it was the vestige of a corruption that had mined the temple of prosperity, built in remote times on relative purity and morality. We would be inclined to believe the latter if we would like to completely believe these words that a father gives his son in an Aztec story mentioned by Sahagún [1] 1, which we have faithful translated in these words: “For the propagation of the species, God has ordered that each man should have no more than one woman.” These words implicitly condemn polygamy, which we must consequently consider as an abuse introduced in times of corruption and decadence in that empire.

William Prescott, in The History of the Conquest of Mexico [2], refers to some advice given by a mother to her daughter that can shed much light on this case. Read the passage that we have found to be most characteristic:

“My dearest daughter, my dove, if God gives you life, if you remain on earth for some years, always guard yourself carefully against all sorts of dishonor. If you lose your chastity before you marry, you will never be happy; you will never truly be loved. Your husband will always remember that you were not a virgin on your wedding day and this will be the cause of great affliction and great anguish for you. You will never enjoy peace because your husband will always be suspicious of your love… Oh, my dear, sweet daughter! If you live on earth, never allow more than one single man to approach you; also, follow what I am about to tell you like a strict command. When God decides to give you a husband and you are under his authority, do not be arrogant, do not scorn him, do not neglect him, do not allow your heart to oppose his. Never disrespect him. Be careful not to commit, in any time or place, the betrayal called adultery. Never listen with favor to another man because you will succumb, my dear, sweet daughter, falling into a bottomless pit from which you will not be able to escape. According to the custom of our nation, if your crime were to be discovered, they would kill you by throwing you in the streets to serve as an example to the people; they would crush your head and make it roll on the floor. There is a proverb about guilty women that says: ‘You will be stoned and dragged through the dirt. Your death will be a lesson for the rest.’ It would be a stain and opprobrium for your ancestors– the nobles and members of the council from whom you descend. You would stain their name and tarnish their glory with the impurity of your conduct. You would lose your reputation, your nobility, the honor of your birth in the same way: your name will be forgotten or abhorred, it will be said that you were wrapped in the mud of your own faults. And remember, my child, that even if no one sees you and your husband ignores what has happened, God, who is everywhere and sees all, will be irritated with you; he will incite the indignation of the people and his revenge will reach you whenever he chooses.”

The Mormons

We do not include the Mormons in the savage class, but, due to their habits and customs, we consider them to be on their way to reaching a state of moral dissolution or savagery; we will mention something here regarding them. At the beginning, they wanted to lead one to believe that the numerous women with whom the heads of their sect associated were spiritual wives, but the unbelievers who visited the holy city of Nauvoo did not take long to realize that those supposed spiritual wives gave birth to cherubs of flesh and bone. They could no longer hide this fact and wished to defend it and established polygamy in the midst of perfection and sanctity.

As a result, these false apostles preach that no woman can reach celestial glory unless a husband brings her into heaven; that a man cannot reach perfection without at least one wife; and that the more he has in this world, the more elevated and grand he will be in the other.

You can see the extent to which this deviation from reason, or the overflow of passions, can reach in their newspaper, The Seer; in it, Pratt, the


apostle of this doctrine, has defended polygamy, alleging that it had been introduced among Mormons only to prevent immorality. The morality of these strange sects must be magnificent! Today, polygamy is openly practiced on the shores of Salt Lake and the dignitaries of the Mormon Church have as many wives as they can support. President Young, the Mormons’ sovereign pontiff, had thirty.

The Man of the Polar Regions

We will also say something regarding the people of the artic lands. Although some pertain to Europe, the majority of the inhabited lands are part of Asia and mostly America. Let us begin with Iceland, which is a semi-savage country; it should be understood that what will be said about its polar inhabitants can be applied to many of its neighbors. In general, their character is sweet and affable, with the exception of the inhabitants of the northern American zone, who are distinguished by their barbarism and brutality. Later, we will provide some information regarding the uneducated tribes of North and South America to then discuss other savage peoples.

In Iceland, when two youths like each other, they tell each other and marry before their family and from that moment, they live together in a baer, built with their relatives’ help. From that moment, they are legally spouses, in their conscience and in the public eye; they do not receive a religious blessing until the first child is born, which appears to legitimize the union. Sometimes they ignore the fulfillment of this formality and the child is born beforehand, which obligates the priest to amend the dates in his registry, as required by the case.

The Eskimos inhabit the area from the Gulf of Welcome [3] to the Mackenzie River and probably to the Bering Strait; they extend to Great Slave Lake to the south, and reach the shore of the Polar Sea or prolong their travels to an ice desert.

Small, chubby, weak, although well-proportioned, these polar inhabitants have more of a dirty, reddish-yellow complexion, rather than copper. Their backs are wide and their hands and feet are notably small. Their faces are longer and wider than Europeans’; they have small noses and small, black eyes, sunken and partially hidden by their thick lashes; a large mouth, thick lips, wide and movable ears; and long, thick, black hair. The men have very little facial hair and what they do have, they remove.

Those who live near the mouth of the Mackenzie River shave their head, a particular custom that is not enough to prove their Asiatic origin. Eskimos wear clothes made from animal hides, especially seals, with the fur facing out; for the men, this consists of a round tunic, which the women also wear, although with an opening on the side; and pants and boots common to both sexes. The women’s tunics reach all the way down to the hips; they are held in place with whalebone and are used to hold their babies when they are tired of carrying them in their arms. They wear their hair in braids, on which they suspend polar bear claws and teeth; this composes their outfit’s principal adornment. They also draw or paint their faces and the rest of their bodies.

To temper the immense brightness of the ice and snow, the Eskimos use a type of visor, make of a very thin board with two small apertures that allows them to distinguish objects.

They eat whale and seal meat, fish, and some half-cooked, smoked game. They hunt reindeer, polar bears, and, most of all, white fox, whose fur is sold at a good price but this last animal is very difficult to catch; its instinct and cunning mocks the hunters. They enjoy eating raw meat and they find fat and soap to be appetizing meals and enjoy drinking fish oil.


The Woman Considered a Beast of Burden

The matrimonial ceremonies are very simple: the man chooses a woman and sometimes he sets his sights on a suckling child, declaring that he will take her as his wife. When she reaches the age to marry, her parents take her to her husband’s house, where a meal has been prepared; and once the meal is done, the married couple performs a ceremonial dance. After the dance is over, the relatives leave, though not before directing an exhortation to the new bride so that she can bear in mind the duties of wife and mother. This concludes the matrimony.

The Chippewa claim to have descended from a dog, which is why they consider this animal sacred. They imagine the world’s creator in the figure of a bird, whose eyes emit rays and voice produces thunder. The ideas of a vast abundance and of the long life of the first men have been transmitted through succession.

For them, woman is nothing more than a type of beast of burden. If you were to ask a northern Indian what beauty consisted of, he would respond, a long and flat face, small eyes, sunken cheeks with three or four black wrinkles, flat forehead, extended chin, thick and bent nose, tanned skin, and loose, hanging breasts. All these delightful perfections considerably augment the value of those who possess them when they know how to tan all types of hides, make clothes, and transport 50 to 70 kilograms on their back in the summer and much more weight in the winter. The habit of polygamy provides these men with a good number of submissive, loyal, and even affectionate servants.

The Nistenals travel or live across the country south of the Mountain lakes to the Canada lakes and from the Hudson Bay to Winspey Lake. They are of medium stature, are well-proportioned, and are extremely agile; black, penetrating eyes intensify their pleasant and frank physiognomy. They paint their faces with different colors. They wear simple and comfortable, delightfully cut and adorned clothes, but sometimes they go hunting during the rigorous cold completely nude. Of all the savages of North America, the Nistenals are the ones who have the most beautiful women. Their proportioned figure and the regularity of their features call the Europeans’ attention. Their skin is less tan than that of other savage women because they are much cleaner. These savages are naturally affable, honest, generous, and hospitable when the disastrous influence of liquor has not corrupted their nature. They do not count chastity among their virtues nor do they believe that conjugal fidelity is necessary for the happiness of spouses. They offer their women to strangers and they trade among themselves. They consider the darkness of the lakes to be the spirits of the dead.

The Labrador Eskimos

The Labrador Eskimos have populated all the northern and eastern coasts of that area: they live off fishing. The Moravian brothers have founded three colonies among them: Nain, Okkak, and Hoffnungstall or Hopedale. When they arrived, the Eskimos had the custom of killing orphans and widows to prevent them from starving to death. After having taught them diverse, useful practices for fishing, the missionaries built a warehouse so that they could store the surplus, telling them to share a tenth of it with the orphans and widows.

The Labrador Eskimos have flat faces, short noses, black curly hair, very small hands and feet, and differ from the Indians of the interior by the beard, which they do not have. Their main foods consist of seal and reindeer meat and fish, which they sometimes eat raw, even when it is rotting.

Their clothes consist of a hooded shirt, pants, seal skin stockings, and boots with fur on the inside, at least during winter;


the women wear the same outfit as the men, except that their boots are looser fitting and their jacket has a train: the adorn their head with small glass beads or a shiny brass hoops.

During the summer, the Eskimos live in circular tents, constructed with stakes covered with tanned hides, which they continuously transport from one place to another. They own a great number of dogs, which they use to pull their sleds and whose meat sometimes serves as their food and their fur for clothing.

Their weapons include the javelin, the bow, and the arrow. They practice polygamy, but their families are generally small. They lack government and laws. A man is not considered superior to another unless proven so by valor, strength, or the number of individuals in his family.

The Toltec [4]

In their religious ceremonies, they excluded human sacrifice, with the exception of those they performed in honor of Tlatotl, the God of waters, whom they worshipped on the summit of one of the highest mountains of the Sierra Nevada, to the East of Texcoco; and that made to Tonacatecuhtli; offering up to the first six maidens, and to the second a criminal who was broken to pieces by the projecting points of revolving stones [as is still practiced in some parts of Asia].

The laws prohibited polygamy, and decreed that the monarchs could not contract a second marriage; and courage was as much admired in the men as modesty in the women. [If there was no male child, inheritance went to the women, but even in this case, the woman received a part of the patrimony.]

We cannot resist the urge to record the history of a woman who was an innocent cause of the decadence of her country, precisely because she inspired a passion that made the sovereign break the law, which resulted in extremely serious wrongs, a passion that, in another sense, we think is worthy to stand alongside that inspired by Helen, the famous cause of the Trojan War. [5]

The Tale of Xochitl

On the death of queen Huihtlalzin, four years afterwards (year 990) her son, the prince, held the reins of government, assisted by the nobility, but during his sway, the decline of the monarchy had its beginning.

A noble Toltec, called Papantzin, has discovered the method of extracting the juice from the “maguey” [6] and anxious to make his sovereign a present of that liquor, he with this purpose, made his daughter accompany him, – a noble maiden as lovely as her name, as she was called “the flower” (Xochitl). The lady presents herself and offers the beverage to the king, which pleased the sovereign exceedingly, not so much for the present as for the beautiful personage that brought it. He immediately conceived a violent passion for her and preoccupied himself solely in the contemplation of a plan to obtain the sinister ends he desired. He took leave of the father and the daughter, but requesting them to repeat their favor, and intimating that on again doing so, it should be the captivating Xochitl alone. She returned once more to the royal palace, but never to go back to her home. Seduced by the praises and offers of the monarch, she was prevailed upon to accede to his importunities and resign herself to live in the place of recreation, assigned to her by the king, who to screen his proceedings sent to say to Papantzin that wishing to unite his daughter to a king, one of his vassals, he had placed her under the care of the matron to give her a proper education. Some time passed over, when either from suspicion or from a desire to see his daughter, Papantzin resolved to seek her place of abode. After many enquiries and some bribery, he attained his object, and was introduced to some gardens where the lady was just at that moment, with an infant in her arms. Not approving of the disloyalty of his kind, he addressed his daughter in these words: “Has the king, by chance, placed you here to play with children?” Ashamed and tremulous, she confessed her weakness, and the noble Papantzin decided immediately on presenting himself to the king, demanding satisfaction for this affront.

The following day, on Tecpancaltzin’s listening to the complaint of the old man, he consoled him


by promising that he would not take a wife to himself, and that the son of Xochitl (who had received the name of Meconetzin or son of the “maguey”) should inherit him.

On the expiration of the term of the fifty two years of his reign, Tecpancaltzin fulfilled his promise, by having his natural son Meconetzin sworn in as king, who took the name of Topiltzin, and became the apple of discord in the Toltec kingdom.

The reign of the prince was made remarkable by the excellence of his government in the earlier years, by his dissipation and dissolute life in those following and by the energetic and appropriate measures he dictated ultimately, with the view of redeeming his faults. His disorderly conduct contaminated all classes of society and libertinage was such, that the priests in spite of their vows of chastity, lived publicly with some of the principal women: vice and the greatest scandal reigned everywhere, a state of disorder which was rapidly precipitating the nation towards an abyss, in the same degree that industry, labor and respect for the law, had previously flourished in all their splendor.

To this commencement of the inevitable decay of the people, other calamities followed as a just punishment of their crimes, at times the heavens sent down heavy rains that inundated the lands and destroyed the crops, and at others they were deprived of water, so that a frightful drought joined to the burning rays of the sun ruined the harvests and even the grain that had been stored in the granaries.

To crown their misfortunes, the lords of XaliscoRegularized:Jalisco, of the same race, alleging rights to the throne of Toltan and believing the law to have been violated by the exaltation of Topiltzin, invaded the possessions of this monarch’s dominion with a large army. Neither the friendly expressions of the noble ambassadors sent to meet them by the king, nor the rich presents which, in his name, the offered them, sufficed to make their invaders desist from their intention, but on the contrary they continued their march until they penetrated the precincts of Tollan.

The persuasive conduct observed by Topiltzin, towards the monarchs of XaliscoRegularized:Jalisco, with the view of inducing them to abandon their undertaking, was fruitless, nothing more being procured from their tyrannical pretensions than a truce of ten years, which was conceded in other that preparations might be made for defense. This concession is not to be wondered at from a race that esteemed bravery and loyalty in all their worth. This compact gave as a first result the immediate withdrawal of the invading forces.

On the conclusion of the time stipulated, which was not misspent by the illustrious Topiltzin, he prepared for war, and posted his troops advantageously and selected the plains of Tultitlan as his headquarters. The enemy’s hosts had scarcely borne in sight, when the advanced guard of the Toltec army rushed to attack them. The first battle was commenced, giving rise to a series of sanguinary struggles that lasted three years, the Toltecs, in the midst of all, sometimes conquerors and sometimes vanquished, displaying unheard traits of bravery. The first division of the army having been completely routed, Topiltzin advanced with the aged Tecpancaltzin, at the head of their forces, the lovely Xochitl leading the ladies, who like a body of amazons, were also prepared for the combat. One and the other of the disputants rush to the struggle with the greatest bravery and courage; the presence of their sovereigns animates and inspires the warriors who with their unerring arrows spread death and desolation on all sides, and even the ladies themselves and the women of the soldiers, imitating the example of queen Xochitl, penetrate into the midst of the heat of the battle, and fight hand to hand with the enemy’s men. The battle lasts for three consecutive days and nights without suspension of hostilities, but not without the enemy’s receiving fresh reinforcements, while the Toltecs were not aided by any new warriors. The forces of the latter becoming exhausted by so desperate a struggle, the enemy’s superiority rose in proportion; and they gradually gained ground. At last, the victory was decided in favor of those of XaliscoRegularized:Jalisco, and the Toltec army having dispersed, took refuge in the mountains and lakes, only a small body of the army remaining which commences its retreat, led by its two kinds and queen Xochitl, with some of their vassals, were


overtaken before arriving at TultecaxochitlalpamRegularized: Tultecasochitlalpám , which I suppose was at the hills of Tlalmanalco, and had to struggle man to man, the king perishing at the hands of his enemies, without his great age serving him as a protection, and the queen, without any respect being paid to her bravery, her sex or her beauty. Topiltzin took refuge in a cave at Xico, from whence he escaped after the retreat of his enemies, marching to Tlalpalan, which as I believe, was the kingdom of Aculhuacan, where he decreed certain laws which were confirmed by Netzahualcoyotl, and lived much esteemed until the day of his death.

This was the tragical end of a heroine worthy of being celebrated in poetry.

Topiltzin took refuge in a cave at Xico, from whence he escaped after the retreat of his enemies, marching to Tlalpalan, which as I believe, was the kingdom of Aculhuacan, where he decreed certain laws which were confirmed by Netzahualcoyotl, and lived much esteemed until the day of his death.

The rest of the Toltecs were disseminated over different parts; some of them left for the coasts of the Southern Ocean and CuauhtemalanRegularized:Guatemala, and others went to Tehuantepec, Coatzacoalco, CampeachyRegularized:Campeche and Xacolotlan. [7]

Corotecas, Muiscas, etc.

Apparently, the Corotecas, inhabitants of Central America, did not have a written language; they counted 18 months and just as many solemn holidays and honored their idols, which were different from the Aztecs’; practiced a religion that was as bloody as that of Mexico; and the men ate a part of the meat of the women, children, and slaves that were sacrificed by the priests. Yet, although the women were submitted to obvious inferiority– as seen by the role represented by both child and slave as the sacrificial victim– the women (never in the company of men) exerted great power, especially when, similar to other tribes, they were elevated to the position of priestesses, healers, or tricksters. Then, their prophetic spirit earned them veneration and respect.

CAdultery was punished regularly, in virtue of unwritten laws or customs, which that tribe rigorously respected.

The old women– who acquired wisdom through experience and natural observation or thanks to the transmission of medical secrets passed down from an old mother to her daughter on her deathbed– tended to practice medicine. Yet, there was one distinctive characteristic noted among these people; the healer would put the decoction of certain herbs in her mouth and introduce it into the patient’s mouth through a sugar cane.

The infamous right that dishonors some periods of the Middle Ages in Europe, called the droit de seigneur, or prelibation, also exists in this community; the difference is that said savages took pride in what occurred on the continent due to poverty and opprobrium. Newly-wed brides were generally taken to the lords or caciques[8] before the consummation of the marriage, and the husband was highly honored to have permitted such a servile sacrifice. We believe something like this still exists among the savage tribes of Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and other regions of Central America.

Among the Muiscas, ancient inhabitants of the territory we know today as Colombia or the United States of Colombia, woman was greatly scorned. She lived as a slave her entire life and was considered to be an inferior species. One example of this is the punishment given to men accused of cowardice, who were obligated to dress as women for some time and carry out the tasks assigned to the weaker sex. In turn, it is true that kidnapping, incest, and adultery, as well as homicide, were punished by death, while sodomites were impaled. At least those applied laws were in favor of morals and woman’s condition, because the latter are always better off in the most moral societies.

They sacrificed human victims to the sun god, preferring the young prisoners; in addition, every fifteen years they celebrated the horrible ceremony of offering a human victim to the same god and his heart would be ripped out in the middle of lugubrious pomp.

The Guaranos and other savage people from the territory of Venezuela, have peaceful customs, they love their children profoundly and marry at a very young age.

When one of them becomes ill, they place him in a separate hut;


they light bonfires around it and take him food. If he dies, they wrap him in Moriche Palm leaves so that the wrapping is firm; then, they hang him from a tree and go build new huts with their families in distant places, abandoning in this way, the homes they possessed.

In a sign of mourning, widows and orphans cut their hair from the front to the crown of their heads, leaving a part of the hair in the back long.

He, who has just had a child, goes out the next day to fish or hunt; he then comes back with the name they will give the newborn, being that of the first tree, bird, or fish that draws his attention. Those who are baptized are given the name of their godparent.

Despite the fact that this last comment indicates that Christianity has produced some effect on those tribes, we must point out that there is not a single trace of religious beliefs among the completely savage Guaranos. However, they are docile, affable, courteous, and ardent enemies of war. They call anyone with arms, black or white, citizens or authority, corsairos [9]. As soon as they see an armed man, they run away, afraid that he will harm them. They undoubtedly remember the old conquistadors’ persecution of them and the destruction it caused; we base this belief in the terror still inspired by the Spanish name, which they give to all foreigners, even Venezuelans of the civilized country.

The Indians of Ecuador

The savage tribes of Ecuador, such as the Jibaros, Zaparoans, etc. have the most absurd fetishisms. All the savages of the East believe in metempsychosis, supposing that the brave transform into the most beautiful birds and cowards and traitors into the most disgusting reptiles. The women are submitted to slavery and contempt founded on their own weakness.

The Indians in the west are more civilized, vigorous, and have the best bodies, in spite of having an ungainly head: the custom of tying the heaviest bundles to their forehead with ropes makes their neck muscles develop excessively, which causes a disagreeable visual shock. Those poor people are tireless: they walk entire days carrying bundles that couldn’t be carried by a pack animal; they only rest one or two times to eat a few spoonfuls of flour that they often mix in their mouth with water from the closest spring or stream; then, they chew some coca leaves mixed with lime and continue on their way.

The muscular development of the women of these native tribes is equally notable since– in addition to carrying bundles as heavy as those carried by the men– they also tend to carry one or two small children. It is important to note that the country lacks effective methods of communication because the construction would be expensive and difficult, owing to the unevenness of the terrain; as a result, it is necessary for them to use the poor Indians to transport commercial articles through areas where neither carriages nor pack animals can pass. Luckily, in the Republic of Ecuador, even though it calls its government democratic, Indian slavery reigns to benefits the whites; and today, although the reasons that existed in other times to deprive them of certain rights and, above all, of the very sacred right of freedom no longer exist, these wretches are still deprived of all civil rights– they are recruited against their will to serve in the army, since the whites only want to form part of its class of officers. Half a century ago, those republicans would have been fervent inquisitors, and when absolutism reigned in all its vigor, they would have chained all the poor classes of society.

The Indians of both sexes are distinguished in Ecuador by their patience and natural sweetness that calls attention to a people whose character should be resentful because of the heavy oppression under which they suffer. They never pass by a white man without respectfully taking off their hat and greeting him in their particular language. Like the larger part of


the enslaved people, who conserve the memory and love of their own nationality in the bottom of their heart, the Indians have the marks of profound melancholy imprinted on their countenance. Almost all their songs are dirges, whose rhythms breathe an indefinable sadness; it is not necessary to know Quechua, their language, to comprehend that the subject of such melodies is the sympathy for the loss of freedom and that they perpetuate the memory of the last Incas’ disastrous end. How noble and holy would the conquistadores’ task have been if, instead of enslaving, they had had the exclusive and principal goal of true civilization! Yet, we suspect that the conquest’s enterprises have always carried the curse of God for the punishment of stray humanity.

The Peruvian Indians [10]

n another time, the indigenous tribes of Peru were completely barbaric. As nomads, the nourished themselves by hunting, fishing, and with the few fruits they found in their excursions. The victors dismembered their prisoners 2. Some of them, due to the instinct of gratitude, worshipped propitious nature: the mountains that were the mothers of the rivers that irrigated and fertilized the land; the trees that provided wood for bonfires; the gentle and timid animals that nourished them; and the ocean that was abundant in fish, which they called their mother (Mama Cochas) [11]. A very ancient temple was consecrated to a certain supreme god that is unknown to us. Yet, the most popular cult was that of terror: they had created the most hateful and horrible gods; they professed superstitious respect toward the puma, the jaguar, the condor, and the large snakes; they worshiped storms, winds, lightning, caverns, and abysses; and they prostrated themselves before the torrents that violently stirred their waters with terrible uproar in the bowels of the earth. [12] According to superstition, one god stabbed his chest, ripping out his entrails; another, more furious one tore his children from their mother’s breast to strangulate them at the altar consecrated to an appalling deity. National pride had allied itself with superstition. Some– such as the ones from Cuba, Quinvala, and Tacna, proud because they believed themselves to be descendants of the lion worshipped by their parents– would dress in their god’s remains, their forehead covered with its mane and their eyes stamped with threatening fierceness. Others, such as those from Lulla [13], Vilca, Hanco, and Hurimarca [14], were worshipped for being born from a mountain, a cavern, a lake, or a river, to which their parents sacrificed their first children 3.

Province felt pity on this world, devoted to the nature of evil, and sent the wise and virtuous Manco [15] and the beautiful Oello [16] 4, his sister and wife. Where did this virtuous, beneficent couple from from? It was thought that they descended from heaven. The savages scattered through the neighboring forests and reunited at their VOICE. Manco taught the men how to work the land, to sow, and set the course of the waters to irrigate it; Oello taught the women to spin, weave wool, wear their knits, as well as to raise their children, and serve their husbands with tender zeal.

In addition to the gift of arts, these founders added that of laws. The cult toward the sun, their father [17], a cult founded in gratitude, was the first of these laws and the soul of all institutions. The voice of a beneficent religion congregates from everywhere to arrive in these barbaric villages. They learn to love each other, to help each other, to demolish the bloody altars erected for lions and tigers, and they renounce their nomadic existence. The land, cultivated by its inhabitants, opens its fertile heart and is covered in rich cornfields.

Yet, the gentle laws that established the division of the lands, common work, and fraternal love in all families also ordered absolute sacrifice to satisfy the Inca’s wishes; they chained industry’s progress by constantly making the son take on the father’s profession and impeded the development of intellectual faculties. The Incan authority was not, after all, more than “a paternal despotism.” They assured that they always had a large harem. Their subjects


amaudas did not approach them without tributes, and they never dared to look them in the face. At a single indication by the Inca, the entire population of a province would be put to the sword 5. Finally, this badly-dressed, badly-lodged people ate raw meat and mixed argil in their food. Garcilaso [18] does not hide the most evident traits of a superstitious tyranny. Thousands of human victims were sacrificed on the monarch’s tomb.

A trace of fanaticism glimmered in the terrible law regarding the violation of the sun virgins’ vow. To spy on a sacrilegious love, to calm a jealous God, not only was the disloyal priestess burned alive and the seducer made to surrender to the most horrible pleas, but the law also involved the criminals’ family in the crime– father, mother, brothers, sisters, and even the nursing babies– all of them had to perish in the flames; the very place in which the two impious offenders were born must always be deserted. It is important to keep in mind that the conquest of the Incas was not as peaceful as has been supposed; these barbarians would cut off the noses and pull out the teeth of all the individuals of a rebellious tribe 6. Japanese ferociousness and Chinese servility stand out against the excellent qualities that are attributed to the Incan government. The amaudas or institutors have much in common with the Mandarin Chinese. [19]

The modern indigenous Peruvians are far from being similar to those whom Marmontel [20] delightfully described. Their faculties are very limited, their character is melancholic, timid, disheartened by oppression, pusillanimous in the moment of danger, ferocious and cruel after victory, proud and hard, implacable regarding power. They are naturally distrusting; they believe that a favor cannot be done for them without the intention of tricking them. Stout, robust, and able to endure any task, they live in indolence and in filth; they live without any sort of care. Their habitations are nothing more than badly made huts– uncomfortable and repugnantly sordid. Their clothes are poor and paltry, their food is miserable, but they are very fond of hard liquor and they sacrifice everything to procure the pleasure of drinking them. Although their religion is impregnated with the superstition of their ancestors, they are faithful observers of the Church’s rites and ceremonies and they make considerable expenditures on processions and masses 7. [21]

The number of Indians has decreased since the conquest and since the other castes have not increased proportionately, the country’s total population is less than it was when the Spaniards arrived, but this decrease has been singularly exaggerated. [22]

Among the causes that have contributed to the decrease of the number of Indians, Ulloa [23] reasonably notes that the abuse of hard liquor causes more damage in one year than the mines in one century. The Indians from the upper country (Sierra) surrender themselves to the drink with such fervor that they are often found dead the next morning as a result of the previous night’s drunkenness. In 1759, the government saw itself obligated to prohibit the sale and production of spirituous liquors due to an epidemic fever that arose in large part from the Indians’ fondness for drunkenness.

Other Peruvian Tribes

The growth of the other indigenous or foreign castes is another of the circumstances that continuously influence the decrease of the Indians and will ultimately cause the race to disappear. It has been observed that everywhere the Europeans establish themselves among the natives, the latter’s population begins to decrease, but they are not replaced by mestizos or zambos. We can predict with certainty that there will be a time when all the pure, mixed races will form a single mass and constitute a new nation 8.

The black slaves were, at one time, destined to be in the service of the houses or work in the sugar refineries and other plantations. The free blacks are usually lazy, dissolute, and authors of the larger part of the assassinations and misdemeanors committed in Peru 9. The mulatta women, generally employed as wet nurses, know how to gain the trust of their mistresses 10.

The Indians of Incayali, Huallaga, and


Viajero universal the Pampa del Sacramento have whiter skin, they are taller, and their facial features are more expressive than those of the Peruvians. Some tribes, such as the Conibos, for example, would be lighter than the Spaniards if they didn’t dye their bodies with oils and if mosquito bites (which they do not protect themselves from) did not disfigure them 11. The Carapachos are almost as white as the Flemish, and their women, because of their beauty, must be compared to the Georgian and Circassian women 12. They take cruel precautions against nature: all children who seem to have weak natures or are badly formed in the cruel eyes of their parents are instantly condemned to death, like a being born under sinister omens. During their adolescence, they employ a very innocent method to conserve the race’s beauty; it consists of tying any part of the body that can be given a suitable shape with hemp cords. The Omaguas, who once lived in the Pampa, had the custom of placing their children’s heads between two boards and squeezing their forehead and occiput, making their face wider and giving them the appearance of, in their own words, a full moon. It seems that this custom has not completely been abolished even among the current inhabitants of these regions. The missionaries attribute the lack of intelligence, which, according to them, is general among these people, to this violent operation. The Panos have their daughters circumcised, a custom unknown among other tribes.

[All these peoples, who have lost their strength solely due to smallpox or other illnesses, live governed by caciques or sovereigns.] To give credit to the missionaries, polygamy is considered barbaric among those peoples and the caciques are only allowed to have two wives. It is not rare to see married couples who love each other until death; however, that does not impede marriages from dissolving, since the married couple can separate from the instant that mutual consent gives the two spouses freedom. [24]

Just as in all the tribes of the Southern continent, the union of the two sexes did not require any ceremony or formality among the Siriniris; they looked for each other and found each other, period.

The sons that resulted from these bestial, or natural as they prefer to be called, unions were under maternal tutelage until seven years of age, passing then to the father, who took care to educate them in a manly manner. Their first diligence was to throw their son in the water, as if he were a dog, and when he had drunk enough water against his will, he helped him out, thereby ending that first swimming lesson. Then he would teach him how to use a bow and arrow and the art of carving the handle of a club or mace with a piece of flint and the help of fire. These practical skills and the study of various animal cries (in order to imitate them with more or less perfection) constitute the program of his savage education. Accompanying his father on runs, the boy would continue to grow and develop, he would learn to chase game in the forests, fish in the water, and, upon reaching manhood, he would take as many women as he could support, who would then serve him in all the domestic chores and in the difficult field labor.

The Indians of Brazil and Araucania

The fierce Indians of Brazil do not know of any other superiority than that of physical strength, and they treat their women with all the contempt inspired by everything weak or poorly apt for violent fights. In the exact moment in which they are about to perish, decapitated by their enemies, they insult them and imply their scorn, demonstrating with their arrogance that they can lose their life, but not their valor.

They do not remain in fixed areas except in groups of six or seven families, and they abandon these areas when they have eaten all the fruits and roots that they have found there and killed all the game in the nearby areas. Many of these Indians allow themselves to be baptized– well, for a bit of brandy and tobacco, they are willing to submit themselves to said ceremony as many times as necessary and, incidentally, they feel that it cannot be repeated, since it takes place in such a


quick manner. The priest believes that this is enough to win a soul for heaven, and he does not concern himself with the education or customs of these neophytes. From that moment, they are called Christians or converted savages, but they do not stop living like pagans, following their old customs.

This is how they contract matrimony for a determined amount of time and then abandon their women, especially when they have lost their youthful beauty.

Some of these Indians are horribly ugly, more than the blacks. They have light copper skin, look swollen, are corpulent, are of average height, and their black hair looks like charcoal falling around their face. The women braid a part of their hair and tie it in back, leaving their face disheveled: their forehead is wide and fallen; their nose is somewhat flattened; their eyes are small and almond-shaped, very similar to the Chinese; they have a very large mouth; and thick, hanging lips. To make such beauty worse, those poor people have stupidity written across their faces, reveled, above all, through their mouth, which is always open.

In general, both the men and the women daub themselves with red and blue paint, although only around the lips in the form of mustaches. Men and women smoke with a passion, and they love brandy above all things. Their typical outfit consists of rags tied around the waist.

The Indians situated in the most southern parts of Brazil, especially the Araucans, whom our poet Ercilla most masterfully described [25], are generally of medium stature, robust, well-built, agile, have hardly any beard, are tan, and through their countenance they reveal that they do not have a limited intelligence. Yet, the habits of laziness and the abuse of liquor make the men almost incapable of any occupation other than war and shepherding. The women, on the other hand, manifest a delicate, hard-working character and discover sentiments of tenderness that one wouldn’t think possible.

They bury their dead in square holes in a sitting position, and, next to them, they place weapons and cups for them to drink from. Around them, they place the skeletons of horses sacrificed in honor of the deceased, and once a year, an old woman opens the sepulcher to clean and dress the cadaver or skeleton. Polygamy is allowed among them, although it is submitted to prudent rules. Their customs are almost identical to those of the savages who inhabit the forests and mountains of the great Argentine Confederation, although, in truth, they are more civilized.

The small nomadic tribes that migrate through Patagonia are docile and hospitable, participating somewhat in the culture that their brush with civilized people has left them; but the numerous Gauchos, Pampas, and other warring tribes are distinguished by their haughty character, bad temper, and for being traitors and brutal. Among the first, woman lives surrounded by certain consideration, while the second group treats her with the brutality that they demonstrate in everything they do.

We will now continue to study the condition of the women among the uncivilized tribes in another part of the world.

Translator's Notes

Benardino Sahagún, Spanish missionary to the Aztecs.
New York: Harper and Brothers, 1843.
Welcome Bay
The majority of the following sections appear to have been copied word for word from Antonio García Cubas’ Escritos diversos de 1870 a 1874, which was translated into English by George F. Henderson (The Republic of Mexico in 1876). The translation that follows is Henderson’s. Any additions made by Francisco Nacente are included in brackets. Page numbers have been kept consistent with Nacente’s text. For further comparison, see: Antonio García Cubas, Escritos diversos de 1870 a 1874. (Mexico: Imprenta de Ignacio Escalante, 1874), pp 349-356. Antonio García Cubas, The Republic of Mexico in 1876, trans. George F. Henderson (Mexico: “La Enseñanza” Printing Office, 1876), pp 47-51.
Nacente left out some of García Cubas’ text here.
Left out by Nacente: (agave Americano).
End of García Cuba’ text and Henderson’s translation.
Indian chiefs.
The majority of the following sections were copied word for word from Conrad Malte-Brun, Précis de la géographie universelle ou description de toutes les parties du monde. (“Universal Geography, Or a Description of All the Parts of the World, on a New Plan.”) In this section of Malte-Brun’s work, he cites Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, Agustiín Zarate, the Peruvian newspaper Mercurio peruviano (“Peruvian Mercury”), and Viajero universal (“Universal Traveler”). For further comparison, see: Conrad Malte-Brun, Précis de la géographie universelle ou description de toutes les parties du monde. Vol. 5, 2nd ed., (Paris: Chez Volland le Jeune, Libratre, 1821), pp 593-603. Agustín de Zárate. Historia del descubrimiento y conquista de las provincias del Peru. (Sevilla: En casa de Alfonso Escriuano, 1577.)
Incan sea goddess.
Nacente left out some of Malte-Brun’s text here.
Spelled, “Sulla” in Multe-Brun’s text.
Spelled “Urimarca” in Multe-Brun’s text.
Incan god and the father of the Incan race, Manco Capac.
Incan mother goddess, Mama Oello.
Reference to the sun god Inti, who fathered both Manco Capac and Mama Oello.
“El Inca” Garcilaso de la Vega, Peruvian historian.
Nacente left out some of Malte-Brun’s text here.
Jean-François Marmontel, French historian.
Nacente left out some of Malte-Brun’s text here.
Nacente left out some of Malte-Brun’s text here.
Francisco de Ulloa, Spanish explorer.
End of plagiarized text.
Alonso de Ercilla y Zúñiga, a Spanish poet and soldier wrote La Araucana (“The Araucaniad”), the national epic of Chile.

Instituto de Investigaciones Jose Maria Luis Mora
Date: 2010-06-07
Available through the Creative Commons Attribution license