On this page you can find excerpts from the first major document written by the German Jesuit Ignaz Pfefferkorn (1725-1795) in English translation. They serve as illustrations of what this Jesuit author saw, experienced, and thought about the world of Sonora, and hopefully the translation will wet your appetite to turn to the original texts, prepared for modern German readers and students of German.
TAKEN FROM: Ignaz Pfefferkorn, Sonora- A Description of the Province. Trans. and annotated by Theodore E. Treutlein. First published in 1949. Reprinted with a New Foreword by Bernard L. Fontana. Southwest Center Series (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1989).
LOCATION AND BOUNDARIES OF SONORA, IN WHICH THE ADJACENT TRIBES
ARE ALSO DESCRIBED LOCATION AND BOUNDARIES. NEIGHBORING PEOPLES. KINO AND SEDELMEYER. PRINCIPAL RIVERS. THE APACHES. NEW MEXICO. PROVINCE OF MOQUI. RIO AZUL. PIMAS. COCOMARICOPAS. NICHORAS. YUMAS. QUIQUIMAS. BAGIOPAS. HOABONOMAS. CUTGANES. PAPAGOS.
Sonora is situated in North America to the east of, and directly opposite, the Peninsula of California, a gulf separating them. The eastern neighbors of Sonora are the still wild Apaches who inhabit a strip of land nearly three hundred Spanish miles in extent and who have been for more than a hundred years, and still are, the terror and scourge of Sonora because of their frequent raids, depredations, and murders. On the south Sonora touches the Yaqui River, the Province of Sinaloa, and the high mountains of Tarahumara. It extends northward without definite boundaries. Tucson, which is situated in the thirty-fourth degree of north latitude, is the outermost settlement of the Christian Sonorans. Of this extensive country the most remote part discovered and to some extent known is inhabited by wild and still unconverted tribes. These are the Papagos, Pimas, Cocomaricopas, Nichoras, Moquis, Yumas, Quiquimas, Bagiopas, Hoabonomas, Goanopas, and Cutganes. Whether there are tribes still farther north and what kind they are is yet unknown. There is no detailed knowledge even of the tribes just named, of their location, or of the nature of the almost limitless areas, except that which is recorded by two German Jesuits, Eusebio Francisco Kino and Jacob Sedelmeyer, in accounts of their repeated journeys. With the latter I had a six-years’ association. Both penetrated the land as far as was possible because of their desire to attract those wild tribes to Christianity and with the purpose of definitely establishing whether California was an island or a peninsula. Father Kino undertook this difficult and dangerous journey four times, Father Sedelmeyer twice. Their discoveries are briefly the following:
The great Gila River runs through these northern regions from east to west. It comes from the Apache country, the probable location of its source. After some fifty or sixty miles it unites with the large Rio de la Asunción, which flows from north to south-west, and into whose great volume pour two little streams, the Rio Salado (salty river) and the Rio Verde (green river), some miles before the Rio de la Asunció joins the Gila. Enlarged by this powerful addition the Gila continues until it meets the Rio Colorado (red river) at thirty-four and one-half degrees. The Rio Colorado takes a north to south direction at thirty-six degrees and after it has been joined by the Gila it empties into the Gulf of California at thirty-four degrees. The Colorado is the largest river in all of New Spain, and, at the point where it flows into the gulf, it is almost one Spanish league wide.
Toward the east the wild Apaches are the first to inhabit the banks of the Gila. Farther north are New Mexico and the populous Province of Moqui, wherein lies the probable source of the Rio Azul (blue river), also called Rio de San Francisco, which flows in a southwesterly direction until it plunges into the Gila, not far from the territory of the Apaches. From here there stretches toward the west a desolate and uninhabited strip of land estimated to be over twenty hours in length.
Following down the Gila beyond this, spread along both sides of the river, are the still unconverted Pimas. This tribe is separated into three populous communities, of which the largest inhabits a pleasant, abundantly tree-covered country fourteen miles long and irrigated by aqueducts, which are built from the river to the surrounding country with little difficulty because the land is so level.
From the habitation of the Pimas it is approximately twelve miles to the above-mentioned Rio de la Asunción. The region where this river flows into the Gila is very beautiful, is entirely level, and is exceptionally good for raising all kinds of grain and plants. Both sides of these two rivers are inhabited by the Cocomaricopas. The territory occupied by the Nichoras borders on these rivers and extends along the north side of the Gila to the Sierra Azul (blue mountains) . The two tribes wage unceasing warfare, but because the Nichoras are less courageous than the Cocomaricopas it is the Nichoras who are generally worsted. In these warlike engagements and invasions the Cocomaricopas do not seek so much to kill their foes as to capture them alive. They sell the captives to the neighboring Pimas, and through them some reach the Spaniards, who buy them for a few ells of cloth, some iron implements, or for other trinkets acceptable to the savages, and who afterward often treat them worse than many would treat a dog. Commencing on the border of the Cocomaricopas and extending for forty miles there is a completely desolate and uninhabited wilderness where there is to be found very little water and no nourishment for human beings or animals.
The Yumas live where this desert ends on the south side of the Gila just before it unites with the Colorado River. On the north side, at the juncture of these rivers, are located four tribes which are still wild: the Quiquimas, Bagiopas, Hoabonomas, and Cutganes. Following down the Colorado, now united with the Gila, there are on the east bank some Yumas who still live in continuous warfare with the Cocomaricopas, despite the fact that the languages of both tribes are so little different that the people seem like members of the same nation. Not far from the Yumas and on the same side of the river toward the south there is a considerable strip of land which is settled by another y group of Quiquimas, who, together with those living at the confluence of the Gila and the Colorado, constitute a tribe. On the west bank of the Colorado is a windy plain thirty hours in length. It is adequately watered by abundant springs and is so fruitful that it produces in abundance, maize, beans, gourds, melons, and other like products. Here live a large part of the Cocomaricopas who are united with those on the Gila. Farther to the south one again meets Quiquimas who have established themselves in this district on both west and east banks of the Colorado. In the regions where the Colorado empties into the California Gulf are located yet three other tribes of different languages: the Coanopas, Bagiopas, and Cutganes. The two last belong to the peoples of the same name whom we have noticed above on the north side of the Gila and east of the Colorado. The country is perfectly level for some miles, is rich in wood and tall trees, is good for farming, and is settled, it would appear, by about ten thousand souls.
This is the substance of the reports which the two reverend men, Kino and Sedelmeyer, have left about those distant, still heathen lands.
From the Gila River and the dwelling place of the Cocomaricopas there stretches south-westward to thirty-three degrees and to the beginning of Christian Sonora a large strip of country which is inhabited for the most part by the so-called Papabi Ootam, more commonly called Pipagos. These people, indeed, speak the same language as the Pimas, and presumably are derived from them, but nevertheless are looked upon with contempt by the Pimas as people of lowly origin. The country which they inhabit suffers a great shortage of water and is seldom moistened by a beneficial rain. It is sandy for the most part and capable only in a very few places of producing grain and other necessities of life so that most of the people are forced to live by hunting and by eating wild fruits. Among the savages these are the only people who have any intercourse with the Christian Sonorans. In very dry years even the wild fruits, such as pitahayas, tunas, saguaros, and others, may fail. Then the poor people, driven by hunger, come to the neighboring missions to seek food. They are always received with kindliness by the missionaries, just as are the Christian inhabitants, and are fed and provided, for a time, with the necessities. This humane treatment makes such an impression on them that each time some voluntarily remain with the Christians and seek baptism. I myself often had the good fortune to make such a joyful catch. But never was it possible to persuade the whole nation to leave its poor country though they were offered more fertile areas where missionaries would have been present to instruct them in Christianity.
DIVISIONS OF SPANISH AND CHRISTIAN SONORA CHRISTIAN SONORA. OPATAS. EUDEBES. LOWER PIMAS. UPPER PIMAS. WICKEDNESS OF SOME SPANIARDS. NEW MISSIONS. DEATH OF FATHER KING. PIMAS REPENT. MISSIONS REESTABLISHED. CONVERSION OF THE APACHES.
The part of Sonora which the Christian Church really embraces, including the little district of Ostimuri, is over three hundred Spanish miles in circuit. Contained therein are ninety seven Indian villages, which [before the expulsions] were under the supervision and guidance of twenty-three missionaries of the Society of Jesus. Its inhabitants are the Upper and Lower Pimas, the Eudebes, Opatas, and Guaymas, of whom we shall speak below. Formerly the Seris also belonged to this group. Now, however, they have again apostatized from the faith and ve returned to their animal-like existence. All of these peoples were made subject to Christianity and to the Spanish crown, without the least burden to the royal treasury, by the indefatigable zeal and the resolute patience of the Jesuits alone.
Toward the east lie the populous villages of the Patas, covering a strip of land which stretches one hundred and forty hours to the north from the To-dos Santos and Mulattos rivers. Alongside the Opatas to the west, in the middle of Sonora, as were, are the Eudebes and Lower Pimas, neighboring one other in scattered villages. The stretch which they occupy, from the first village, Cucurpe, southward to the Yaqui River, is reckoned at one hundred and twelve leagues.
The country of the Upper Pimas begins on the other side of the mountains which separate them on the east from the Patas and on the south from the Eudebes and Lower Pimas. The first village, which lies in the thirty-first degree, is named Caborca, and from there the Pima settlements extend ninety hours toward the northeast to the borders of the Papagos. The Pimas attained a knowledge of the true God only at the close of the last century, whereas the rest of the nations had already accepted the Christian faith many years earlier. This great work of conversion was accomplished by the above-mentioned Father Kino, a zealous man who fearlessly ventured among this very savage people, whom he was able to win and to instruct in Christianity. He baptized a great number of them with such happy success that his new converts promptly performed for him the service of building churches and dwellings in different places for the missionaries who were to follow. For nearly seven years Kino carried the burden of this heavy work alone. In the meanwhile he frequently petitioned for help, but always in vain. Had he received it at the very beginning, it would have been easy at that time to bring to Christianity all the tribes who dwell on the banks of the Gila and Colorado rivers. Even the savage Apaches were attracted to such an extent by the gentle call of Father Kino that, of their own accord, they requested missionaries for instruction in Christianity.
Solely through the cupidity and self-interest of some powerful and unprincipled Spaniards, this harvest, already entirely ripe for gathering, was miserably ruined with the irreparable loss of so many thousands of souls. The innocent Pimas were living in entire peace and quiet under the loving care of Father Kino, when these wicked people, using the pretext that the Pimas were chattels and enemies of the king, attacked them in order to enslave them and so to use them for the hardest kind of labor in mines or on haciendas. The excessive distance from the Spanish court made these scoundrels so bold that they put aside all respect for the edict of Charles II which expressly commands that for the first twenty years no new converts shall be held to work in the mines. In extenuation of their unjust proceedings, they spread the false report that the Pimas had revolted against the king, and they brought things to such a pass that no one believed Father Kino, who had pictured most vividly in Mexico the favorable opportunity for converting all the above nations. Much less was there sent to him the help he so earnestly requested. The cruel oppression of the Pimas frightened the remaining peoples away from the Gospel because all feared that, with the acceptance of it, they too would fall under the Spanish yoke and be mistreated as were the Pimas. The Spanish name was abhorred and with the passage of time was made still more hated by further deeds of violence against the poor Indians, so that a Spaniard no longer dares to set foot in those regions.
Nevertheless, these disasters could not destroy the perseverance of Father Kino. Constantly and untiringly he traversed the country of the Pimas to strengthen his new converts. He never ceased requesting more workers for this vineyard of the Lord, and finally he succeeded in establishing four missions in the country of the Upper Pimas and in appointing to them the same number of missionaries, who were finally sent to him from Mexico. These missions he named San Ignacio, Tubutama, Caborca, and Dolores. After some years, however, mission Dolores was depopulated because most of the inhabitants had succumbed to diseases, and the few survivors could no longer defend themselves against the invasions of the Apaches.
This was the condition of Pimeria (the land of the Pimas) at Father Kino’s death, which occurred in the year 1710 , after he had spent thirty years in this apostolic work and had won for Christ the numerous nations of the Upper Pimas. He also it was who first supplied the assurance that California was not an island, as had been believed to that time and had been so represented on the maps, but a peninsula, which was connected to the mainland of Pimeria Alta. This discovery was later definitely confirmed by Father Sedelmeyer on his journeys to the country where the Colorado debouches into the Gulf f California. There will be opportunity later to speak of this at greater length.
In time the four missions founded by Father Kino were augmented because the four priests did not suffice to administer e necessities of this far-flung new Christendom. The first three new missions were established in Soamca [Suamca], Guéavi, and San Francisco Xavier del Bac. The missionary at Tubutama found it practically impossible to take care of the work in his widespread districts, but the pious liberality of the Marquis de Villa Puente, a special patron and benefactor of the missions in Pimería and California, removed this difficulty in the year 1750 through the founding of two new missions at Sáric and Sonóitac [Sonóita]. This last place is situated nearly twenty-four leagues northwest of Tubutama and about forty leagues south of the Gila River.
The first and last spiritual guide in Sonoita was Heinrich Ruhen, a German Jesuit from the Lower Rhine province. This venerable man had spent hardly a year at Sonoita when the Pimas were incited to a terrible uprising by the rashness of the governor of Sonora. The governor was so taken in by the prattling of an Indian that he believed it possible to conquer the fierce Apaches, hereditary enemies of the Sonorans, under this Indian’s leadership, with the help of the numerous Pimas. For that reason he appointed the Indian leader of all his compatriots, presented him with horses and Spanish weapons, dressed him expensively in Spanish fashion, and even gave him the pompous title of General. Because of this the Indian completely lost his head, especially because he saw that even the Spaniards, following the example of their stupid governor, did him honor. He ascribed this behavior of the Spaniards to fear, and, because he felt himself so powerful, he resolved to satiate the natives’ hatred, to that time sly and concealed, for the Spaniards, with their complete extermination. Through the authority which he had gained for himself among his simple compatriots, and with promises and threats, he succeeded in a short time in fomenting a plot among the Pimas to exterminate completely the Spaniards and also the missionaries. On the twenty-first of November, in the year 1751, the conflagration broke out with such fury and cruelty that most of the missions were devastated, churches and houses were reduced to ashes, and all Spaniards who could not defend themselves or save themselves in flight were pitiably murdered. Two missionaries were at this time shot to death with arrows. These were Father Toms Tello, a Spaniard at Caborca, and the above-mentioned Father Heinrich Ruhen, at Sondita. I had the fortune, after six years, to give decent burial to the latter’s still unburied corpse, with its blood-stained skull. Afterward the Indians obligingly discovered for me the bodies of some Spaniards who had been murdered in the uprising at Caborca. These also I buried.
After the deed was done the Pimas repented and soon showed that their revolt had originated more from thoughtlessness, imprudence, and the foolish fear of their wicked general, than from their own ill will. For the following year they voluntarily returned to their deserted villages, without compulsion delivered their ringleaders to the Spaniards for merited punishment, and welcomed their returning spiritual fathers lovingly and penitently. Thereafter, to the time of the expulsion of the Jesuits from Sonora, they showed not the least sign of unrest.
I have told above how during the lifetime of Father Kino the Apaches earnestly asked to be instructed in Christianity and how this happy prospect was at that time frustrated. Some twenty years after his blessed decease, hope for their conversion began to be revived. One Apache, moved by the grace of God, resolved to become a Christian. He revealed his desire to a missionary, who received him lovingly and gave him thorough instruction in the truths of the Faith. Almost every time he came, he brought with him one or another of his compatriots, whom he successfully instilled with the same views. Moreover, since he was so highly respected by the Apaches, he brought it to pass that they spared the inhabitants of Sonora from their robbing and murdering, and in consequence peace and prosperity slowly revived in this country that had previously been so troubled. He and some of his companions were almost ready to receive the holy baptism, which example, presumably, the entire nation would have followed.
However, all these beautiful expectations were destroyed at once and perhaps forever by the impiety of the captain of a Spanish garrison situated on the eastern border of Sonora. This wicked man, pretending that he wished to give them presents, extended a friendly invitation to Pedro (the name already assumed by the worthy Indian) and his companions to visit him. These and others who joined them went peacefully, trustfully, and unarmed to the house of the captain. As soon as the Apaches were in his house, the captain gave a signal to hidden soldiers to attack suddenly the unarmed and unsuspecting band. The order was carried out. The Indians were tied together like dogs, the intention of the captain being to lead them to Mexico and there to represent them to the viceroy as trophies of their nation, which had at last been vanquished and subjugated. However, this plan did not succeed as did the first betrayal. En route the Spaniards with their captives came to a village where a church dedication was being celebrated with the usual festivity. While three or four soldiers remained outside the village with the captives, who were believed safely enough guarded in the custody of these heroes, the rest went into the village to take part in the festival. When the Apaches saw how small their guard was they freed themselves in various ways from their fetters and took flight. The guards fired upon the fugitives and the good Pedro fell to earth mortally wounded. Divine Providence seems to have decreed this for his salvation, for immediately he requested holy baptism, received it, and died. The rest returned to their native land, but on the way left behind them, wherever they could, the most terrible traces of their vengeance and of their hatred for the Spaniards, which was now more implacable than ever and the effects of which up to the present time Sonora has but too often experienced.
NATURAL STATE, CLIMATE, AND FERTILITY OF SONORA INTRODUCTION. MOUNTAIN RANGES. QUEBRADAS. CLIMATE. WINTER. HOT SEASON. RAINY SEASON. THUNDERSTORMS. EXCELSELENCE OF THE COUNTRY. PRESENT WOEFUL CONDITION. DECLINE OF MINES, AGRICULTURE, AND STOCK RAISING.
Sonora has many high mountains, very fruitful valleys, and broad plains. In general the valleys are watered by rivers flowing through them, but there are also extensive plains where there is no running water. This scarcity is now and again relieved, to be sure, by a spring issuing from the earth or by a deep slough. Sometimes, however, one travels eight or ten hours without finding a drop of water, a condition which is extremely inconvenient in such a hot country.
In some places there are adjacent ranges of high mountains extending for four or five leagues, with a long, narrow, and deep valley, like a defile, between them. Rivers flow through these valleys and gaps, and through them also often run roads from one place to another. According to the distances between the mountains, the road may be wide enough so that one may ride a good distance along the bank of the river, or it may become so narrow that it is necessary to travel part of the way through water or to cross the river and seek a road on the opposite bank. The same narrow valleys and uncomfortable roads are found, among other places, in the region of my former mission, one running from Cucurpe east to Saracachi, the other southward to Toape [Tuape]. The first was six, the other eight hours in length. On the former road one had to ford the river forty-five times, on the latter, forty-two, an extremely tiresome procedure, very dangerous and often quite impossible when the stream was swollen, as was generally the case during the ordinary rainy period. Under such circumstances one was forced to take an untrodden and very difficult detour of two or three hours over a high, rough mountain. This frequently happened to me.
In Sonora the valleys and gaps described are called quebradas, or canyons, and are considered by some to be the results of former earthquakes which cleft the mountains, opening the way for rivers to take courses other than those they followed before. It is probable, others assert, that the streams made these gaps, deepening and widening them by degrees in their continuous dashing against and, as it were, perpetual undermining of the mountains. At least, it is certain that when the Sonora rivers are tremendously swollen by daily downpours during the rainy season they have such power that their rapid current often tears off large pieces of rock from the mountains and carries them away; for when the streams have again subsided there are always tremendous rocks lying here and there, some in the stream bed, some on its banks. It seems more probable, therefore, that the quebradas are caused by the force of in-cutting streams than by earthquakes, particularly in a country where earthquakes are so little known that there is no one left who remembers having experienced or heard anything of one.
Although Sonora is situated outside the torrid zone, beginning in the twenty-seventh degree of north latitude, it is nevertheless, on the whole, a very warm country. By February one is bothered by the sun, though the heat is not continual in this month. For one or two days it is almost as warm as Germany in the hot summer-time, but immediately thereafter it is cold again. On a given day the weather may be so changeable that one feels great heat and severe cold, and not infrequently this change takes place in the space of two or three hours. The reason for this change is the inconstancy of the winds, which blow from all points of the compass. In March the heat rises, although this month also is often subject to changes. By May the heat is already as intense as it usually is in Germany toward the end of June. It rises until the end of July and continues so to the end of September. October and thence to about the end of December is really the most comfortable time, this period being comparable to the mild spring months in Germany. The sun is so moderately warm that it is not vexatious, nor does it become cold. Only the morning and evening hours and the nights are cool, though so moderately that a single bedcover provides enough warmth for the night.
Toward the end of December, winter and low temperatures commence. This condition lasts through January to the beginning of February, and is very similar to that which one is accustomed to experience along the Rhine River in March during years of average winter. When north winds blow they cover the fields with frost, but never with snow, and it is considered an astonishing occurrence and a sign of severe cold if snow falls on the plains. In the eleven years which I spent in Sonora, this happened only once, in the year 1761. However, the snow disappeared after it had remained on the ground only a few minutes. It is often seen, indeed, on high mountain peaks, but there also the sun does not allow it to remain for long. Now and then ice forms on the edges of brooks, and thin sheets of it will cover little pools also; but in houses water never freezes. Moreover, the cold is so tolerable that one can well do without having a stove in the room. A German needs nothing more than a good mantle to protect himself sufficiently against the cold, but a Sonora-born Spaniard, on the other hand, who cannot endure any cold, is somewhat more sensitive and must at times take refuge at a fire, which he builds under the open sky. The Indians, who have no clothes or covers other than their own brown skins, tend a small fire throughout the night to warm themselves in their lowly and tightly closed huts.
The summer heat begins in May, as already stated, and lasts until the end of September. One would think that the heat would be greatest in Sonora, as it is here in Germany, in the second half of the summer; however, experience proves the opposite. May, June, and July are noticeably hotter than the months which follow, since no winds blow in those three months, and, if there is a stray breeze, it is so weak that it cannot cool the atmosphere. Besides, as a rule, not a drop of rain falls from the beginning of January to the end of June. Consequently the earth as well as the air is greatly parched by the sun’s burning rays, augmented by the so-called quemazones, or conflagrations. For in Sonora it is the custom at this season to burn the dried-out straw which remains lying on the field after the threshing. It often happens also that on their expeditions through the country the Apaches and Seris, as well as the herdsmen, light fires on the mountains to roast their meat. Because these are not extinguished before their departure, the fires spread easily and without resistance in the high grass, which is generally dried out by the heat of the sun at this time of year, seize on trees which stand in the way, and often cause a frightful conflagration. One thing and another fills the air with fiery vapors and increases the heat, which is great enough without this.
This season is very dangerous to man, and far too often the injurious effects of the burning sun are apparent, especially to foreigners. When such people, whose bodies are not yet accustomed to this penetrating heat, walk for long in the sun or, more often, stand still somewhere for a time, the rays, they say in Sonora, have a way of pressing down upon the body. There result unbearable headaches, inflammatory fevers, stitches in the side, and other deadly illnesses which not infrequently also attack the Indians, notwithstanding that they are accustomed from childhood to remaining more in the sun than in the shade. I, too, can confirm the injurious effects of the burning heat from my own experience, for once in June, when I had to travel the entire day in the sharply piercing sun, I was overcome on the second day with an inflammatory fever, which was so dangerous that neither I nor others held out hope for my recovery.
Everything which is putrescible spoils very quickly in this season. Fresh fish and meats can with decency appear only once on the table. That which is killed in the morning must be consumed by mid-day; if one wishes to keep it for supper, one must not be averse to stench and worms. Therefore, it is a rare occurrence for the inhabitants to enjoy fresh meat during this warm period. Jerked and sun-dried meat, which can be kept for a long time without spoiling, are almost everywhere used at this season. Those who have large families and who also have the means (there are very few such, however) will slaughter a wether or a lambkin and will have consumed most of it by the afternoon. Poultry also often serves well during the summer. The missionaries were fortunate enough never to have their meat wasted, for they always had many heavy-eating mess-mates, who were not dismayed by an entire ox.
Since the heat in May, June, and July is already so intense, it would necessarily be quite unbearable during the hot season in August and September were the heat not moderated, in Sonora as in New Spain in general, by daily rains. Consequently, this season is called tiempo de aguas, or the rainy period. It begins in July and ends in September. The rain is not continuous, but passes off in two or three hours. However, the precipitation is so heavy that brooks and rivers are extraordinarily swollen and are very dangerous to those who, because of pressing need or audacity, would cross them on horseback, for there are no bridges in this country. When the storm has ended, the rivers fall again as rapidly as they have risen, and the sky assumes its former brightness. These rain showers are not general; at times they affect a stretch of but a few miles, over which the rain-cloud empties itself, while the surrounding regions remain completely dry. Where rain does not occur for some days, field products, especially maize or Indian corn, stand in danger of drying up, because it is not everywhere possible to irrigate the country from ditches. However, such a misfortune is not very often to be feared. After the first heavy shower the heat is indescribable, so that at night as well as in the day-time one nearly suffocates. After some days, though, the air becomes cooled by repeated rains and the heat so moderated that it is quite bearable.
Sonora, through these daily rains, receives a pleasant relief from the heat, and at the same time its products are increased. Hence, these rains would surely be considered as priceless blessings of nature were they not always accompanied by the most horrible thunder-storms, which not infrequently do great damage to men and animals in the villages and in the fields. One cannot listen to the continuous crashing of the thunder without shuddering. At times such thunder-storms bring with them a damaging hail, which destroys all growing things in the field and garden; or there may occur a ruinous cloudburst, in Sonora called culebra de agua, or water snake, which will flood over country and villages, devastating them. Sometimes the thunderstorms are accompanied by violent windstorms and whirlwinds, which lift the sand in a very thick, twisted column almost to the clouds. Nothing these whirlwinds seize can withstand their power. Even the strongest trees are often uprooted, roofs are uncovered, and houses upset, if they are not very solid. It is noteworthy that these thunder-storms and heavy showers never occur in the morning but always in the afternoon. Mornings the sky is entirely clear, but afternoons clouds form and two or three hours thereafter there breaks out the fearful thunderstorm, which sometimes returns at night and rages again. Hence, during these months everyone avoids traveling in the afternoon if possible, because of the constant danger of being caught in such a storm. Therefore, wherever one reaches a shelter around noon, or even a little before, the day’s journey is ended. This three-month rainy season ends, indeed, as has already been stated, in September. However, this is true only of the daily showers accompanied by terrific thunder-storms, for quiet, gentle rains occur intermittently in the three months following. These are general rains which last from one to three days. It even happens, although very seldom, that they continue eight, nine, or ten days. Twice in eleven years I experienced this; the one time it rained ten, the other twelve days and nights, practically without ceasing. At this time the rivers rose over their banks, flooded the surrounding regions, made the roads impassable, and cut off communications with the neighboring villages. Even in the houses, one was afforded little protection. In Sonora the roofs are in very poor condition, since they consist only of twigs with earth thrown upon them. When the water has penetrated them, they drip continuously. Consequently, in such a protracted rain there remained hardly a spot where one could find shelter.
Sonora is altogether a blessed country. Its hills and valleys shine with gold and silver mines. Indeed, there is gold in the rivers and commonly in sands in various other places. The fertility of the soil incites wonder. It produces incomparably all plants, trees, and growing things which require rich soil and warm air. Also many kinds of plants, which have been introduced from Europe, grow exceedingly well there, and they would prosper even better were there people who would apply themselves to their cultivation with diligence and industry. On the hills, as well as on the plains, there are the most excellent pastures, where grow in superabundance the choicest grass and all kinds of healthful herbs. Because of this Sonora has the most desirable conditions and conveniences for a considerable livestock industry and has, for some thirty odd years, nourished a multitude of animals on its fine pastures the whole year round.
At present, however, Sonora is not a shadow of what it was, and there remains for it only the sad remembrance of its former prosperity. Because of the continual inroads and invasions of the cruel Apaches on one side and on the other those of the apostate Seris, this country, so richly blessed by nature, has been brought to the most pitiful condition. These savages have for many years raged terribly in Sonora, have cruelly murdered or carried off into captivity a large number of Spaniards as well as converted Indians, have stolen an indescribable number of horses, mules, and cattle, and have committed other like devastations. Because of this, there has occurred a gradual exodus from Sonora of many and, indeed, of the most well-to-do Spaniards, who have sought another abode where their lives and properties would be safe.
A result of this emigration is the entire abandonment of various mines, and the few still being worked yield little profit to the owners or to trade. Those who take up mining are generally people of small fortunes and are, therefore, without the necessary capital, which is so important, especially in a country where everything except victuals is most expensive. The reason for this is the decline of domestic manufacturing and trades, everywhere noticeable in Spanish America. Hence, it is necessary to procure from Spain practically all necessities. Since Spain now has insufficient factories to provide for its own wants, much less is it able to supply those of another part of the world, and most of the goods must be brought from England, France, Holland, and other places. The merchants of these countries bring goods to Cádiz and sell them at a large profit to the Spanish tradesmen, who take them to Vera Cruz, where they are received by Mexican merchants, are then sold in the City of Mexico, and sent to all parts of New Spain. Of these goods a part arrives in Sonora after a journey of seven hundred Spanish miles. Goods are transported by land on muleback, and for each arroba (twenty-five pounds) a freight charge of four pesos (thirteen florins, thirty-two stivers) must be paid.
From this it is easy to understand how goods which have made such a long journey and which have been through so many hands, each time being sold with great profit, must finally come to an enormous price in Sonora, a price which is often raised still higher because of the avarice of the tradesman. For example, one may believe me that an ell of common linen costs three Rhenish guilders, an ell of mediocre linen as much as thirty guilders, an ell of taffeta thirteen guilders, twenty stivers, a pound of iron forty-three stivers, a half ounce of quicksilver sixty-nine stivers, and that other necessities are very extravagantly priced on the same scale.” Now the mines require a large investment in iron, steel, and quicksilver, and the miners must continually be given plentiful advances of clothing and other necessities, as well as food, to maintain them steadily at work. The owners, as already stated, have not the capital to carry the heavy costs and hence seek out merchants who will make the advances with the hope of profit. Finally, when the account is closed, both owners and merchants generally find themselves disappointed, for the costs commonly exceed the profits-whence ruination necessarily follows for each party.
Just as the fury of the Apaches and Seris stands in the way of profits which could be derived from the many rich gold and silver mines of Sonora, so are curtailed the benefits with which the products of such a fruitful country could prosper its people. The great restrictions on agriculture result from the small number of inhabitants and from their fear of being captured by savages. Only those areas which are within sight of villages are tilled and planted; the others are but little used. No one can engage in agriculture in outlying areas without risking his life, so that, if anywhere a village is forced to seek its nourishment from a distance, in each one a strong company must be assembled to afford protection from the savages in case of need. So the largest and best part of this beautiful and extremely fertile country lies uncultivated and deserted because of the fear of the barbarians.
These same savages have also almost completely ruined stock raising. In earlier times this country could boast innumerable cattle as well as excellent horses and mules. However, since the savages have continuously preyed upon the animals with theft and butchery, the number of such animals is so diminished that people who previously owned three, four, or five thousand head of cattle and some hundreds of horses and burros, now consider themselves fortunate if they can keep a few of each, because nothing is safe from these “birds of prey” except that which wanders around wild on the hills and in the bushes and does not let itself be run off.