« السابقةمتابعة »
sweeping in behind the promontory on which the city stands, large enough, but not deep enough, to hold all the shipping which is ever likely to visit the port. On the side of the harbour opposite to the city rises the Cerro, a hill five hundred feet in height, surmounted by a small fort and a lighthouse. This Cerro, with the site of the city, forms all the high ground visible: the rest of the coast, both up and down the river, is flat and low.
We are carried ashore in one of the large broad-beamed boats—whose seaworthy qualities are often tested here when a westerly or south-westerly · Pampero' comes sweeping down and across the river with its tremendous gusts and its accompanying troubled sea—and land inside the harbour, close to the quay of the Custom-house. We spend a week inside the city, though had we merely wished to see the place, in the ordinary sense of the term, a much shorter time would have sufficed. An hour's walk through some of the principal streets, and a panoramic view from the cathedral tower, or from one of the ‘miradores' (look-outs) which rise from many of the azoteas’ (flat roofs) of the better class of houses, would exhaust all the outward ' sights' of Monte Video.
The city has a general look of freshness and cleanliness; the streets are broad and straight, and all cut each other at right angles; from any of the cross-streets, which. run down from the higher part of the city towards the harbour or the river, pleasant views are obtainable of the water, of the Cerro, or of the open country to the north, thus driving away that feeling of being 'cribbed and confined' which is felt more or less in most cities. The principal streets are lined with good shops, kept chiefly by French or German people; and the city can boast more than one spacious Plaza. Of good public buildings, however, the capital of the Banda Oriental is much in lack. The Matriz,
or cathedral, is such a church as one might see in a second
a rate Italian town, except that it is clean both outside and inside ; it is built of brick and plaster, and contains no ornaments worth noticing. Of the other churches, none are of any beauty or interest, unless we except one, which possesses two curious fonts, each formed out of one of a pair of scallop-shaped shells of gigantic proportions, three feet in their greatest diameter, and with a thickness of shell of at least three inches. The President's Palace is perhaps the most untidy-looking building in the city, though very solidly built; and the Cabildo, or Town-hall, is a very ordinary structure. Of good private houses, banks, and hotels, there is a better display. The population of the city numbers 60,000, of which the native portion is quite a minority; servants, boatmen, porters milkmen, &c., are principally Basques (or Galliegos, as they are here called), and the troops are largely composed of Italians and negroes.
While in Monte Video we are forced to confine our movements to the city itself, from the fact of its being in a state of siege! Yes : Paris is not the only civilised capital undergoing at this time the horrors of war.' Would that the fair metropolis of France could be besieged with as few real horrors as it seems cities in South America can be ! What can be thought of a city with 60,000 inhabitants and a garrison of 3,000 or 4,000 men, submitting to a siege by about an equal number of ill-mounted and worse-drilled troopers, who, within a year, were all driving cattle or tending sheep? Such is the case here. Inside the city is a weak and corrupt government (of the party styled Colorados or Reds), whereof every member seems to serve his country for his pocket's good. In the pay of the government-or at least in their employ, for the pay seems doubtful—are 3,000 or 4,000 troops, chiefly, as before mentioned, Italians and
negroes, described by a newspaper of the city as ‘magnifica infanteria,' but appearing to the unpractised or unbiassed eye a beggarly levy, poorly-clothed, badly-drilled, and wretchedly armed. These gallant defenders of their hearths and homes are on duty in the Plaza, or behind breastworks thrown across the streets which lead out into the country, for the city has now no regular fortifications. Their artillery consists of half-a-dozen old cast-iron cannons (twelve or sixteen pounders) and a similar number of brass field-pieces, of the size of so many blunderbusses. Outside the barricades are the advanced guards,' consisting of a handful of the riff-raff of the townmounted on weedy raw-boned steeds, which have been forcibly impressed from some neighbouring 'estancia,' or from the livery-stables of the city—and armed with a variety of weapons, from blunderbusses and carbines to rusty lances and ancient-looking spears, which might have been stolen from the museum of ancient arms and armour nearest at hand.
All these doughty warriors are supposed to be preventing the entrance into the city of the opposite party, the ‘Blancos,' encamped on the Cerrito, or "little hill,' outside. These Blancos are pleased further to style themselves ‘Restauradores de las Leyes' (Restorers of the Laws), and their object of course is to turn out the existing government by force or fraud, fair means or foul—they care not a straw which-and establish one of their own. Their troops are nearly all bodies of rough 'gauchos,' who have been got together from all parts of the Banda Oriental, and who, after wandering over the length and breadth of the country, fighting one or two sinall battles with the bodies of Colorados sent to intercept them, making requisitions of cattle and sheep, horses and men, from almost every estancia' in the Republic (but behaving, it is said, in a somewha's
less wanton manner than the government troopers), have now pitched their camp before the metropolis. already been encamped before the city for upwards of two months, and during our stay there are daily reports, ‘from the best authorities,' that “a great attack is imminent, ' or ' the Blancos are infallibly coming in to-morrow,' and so on: but evidently these gentlemen are in no hurry to end a siege during the continuance of which they get food, pay, and little or nothing to do. Consequently the extent of the military operations which we can witness, or be near to, is a skirmish resulting in the death of one man and the wounding of another, or the capture of the fort on the Cerro by a detachment of four men, the garrison being asleep at the time!
But the besiegers cause the besieged much annoyance by confiscating a large portion of the beef and other provisions which usually find their way into the city from the country, and thus send the price of the former article from 2d. up to the almost famine price of ls. per pound ! Also they prevent peaceable citizens from paying visits to their quintas' (country houses) in the suburbs, and effectually stop the supply of the morning's milk! How long this mock siege is to continue no one can tell; the city people betray little political sympathy with either party, inclining the rather to the Blancos, though this is probably more from 'ennui' of the Colorados than from any higher principle. It is not long since the city underwent a similar kind of siege, which lasted for nine years (1842-1851), and there seems no great reason why this should not last as long—become, in fact, a second Trojan war without the heroes.'
1 These somewhat melancholy forebodings were happily cheated of fulfilment in the middle of the month of December 1870; when, to the agreeable surprise of Monte Videan residents, the Colarados made a
EFFECTS OF THE SIEGE.
But though the incidents of the siege are in the main almost ludicrous, yet a war of this kind has a most disastrous effect on the progress and prosperity of the country. The cultivation of crops in the Republic is, partially at least, suspended, the cultivators either having been impressed into the army, or hesitating to grow what may very probably be ó requisitioned' by troops of one or other of the hostile armies. All the best horses have been taken from the various farms and settlements, and the breed throughout the country will consequently be inferior for several years to come.
Retail business between the town and country is almost entirely suspended, and investments of all kinds are rendered insecure. Even life itself is regarded as of less value, and is certainly less safe, in such a state of guerilla warfare and general anarchy. Rough, indolent, and savage troopers of both sides, wander about over the country, skilled in the use of the knife, accustomed to scenes of blood and carnage in the saladeros' (slaughter-houses) where many of them have been brought up, and ready for almost any deed of violence. Robberies, assaults, and murders, are in consequence by no means uncommon in country districts, nor have the local authorities sufficient energy or power to check these crimes, or to trace out and punish the criminals.
In a recent report on the trade and commerce of Monte Video by Major Munro, the British Consul stationed in that city, this lamentable state of affairs is very strongly depicted. The Consul states that while there is an annual immigration into Uruguay of between 20,000 and 30,000
vigorous sally against the Blancos, and with the aid of troops whom they had caused to land in the rear of the enemy, routed them decisively. The siege was thus raised, though the Blanco party held out obstinately in several parts of the country, and is not yet (May 1871) thoroughly crushed.