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Across Unknown South America by Landor

Fourteen long and tedious days elapsed in Goyaz


One thing that struck me most in Goyaz was the incongruity of the people. With the little literature which found its way so far in the interior, most of the men professed advanced social and religious ideas, the majority making pretence of atheism in a very acute form. "Down with faith: down with religion: down with the priests!" was their cry.

Yet, much to my amazement--I was there in Easter week--one evening there was a religious procession through the town. What did I see? All those fierce atheists, with bare, penitent heads stooping low, carrying lighted candles and wooden images of our crucified Saviour and the Virgin! The procession was extremely picturesque, the entire population, dressed up for the occasion, being out in the streets that night, while all the men, including the policemen and federal soldiers--all bareheaded--walked meekly along in the procession, each carrying a candle. When the procession arrived at the church, the Presidente himself--another atheist--respectfully attended the service; then the priest came out and delivered a spirited sermon to the assembled crowds in the square. Then you saw those atheists--old and young, civil and military--again kneeling on the hard and irregular paving-stones--some had taken the precaution to spread their handkerchiefs so as not to soil their trousers--and beating their chests and murmuring prayers, and shaking their heads in sign of repentance.

Such is the world! The prettiest part of the procession was that formed by the young girls, all garbed in immaculate white, and with jet-black hair--masses of it--hanging loose upon their shoulders. The chanting was musical and the whole affair most impressive.

I had received somewhat of a shock in the morning on passing the principal church--there were five or six in Goyaz. Spread out upon the pavement was the life-size wooden figure of our Saviour--which had evidently long been stored in a damp cellar--much mildewed and left there in the sun in preparation for the evening performance. The red wig of real hair, with its crown of thorns, had been removed and was drying upon a convenient neighbouring shrub! Really, those people of Goyaz were an amusing mixture of simplicity and superstition.

One great redeeming point of the people of Goyaz was that they were extremely charitable. They had erected a huge building as a workhouse. It was entirely supported by charity. A small library had also been established.

As I have elsewhere stated, I needed for my expedition no less than thirty men, so that they could, if necessary, carry all my instruments, cameras, provisions, ammunition, etc., where animals could not get through.

Fourteen long and tedious days elapsed in Goyaz. No one could be induced to come. In despair I sent a despatch to the Minister of Agriculture, asking for the loan of at least four soldiers--whom I should naturally have paid out of my own pocket, as I had duly explained to the Presidente, who backed my request. To my regret I received a reply from the Minister of War saying that at that moment the Government could not possibly spare four soldiers. It must be said that, although the men of Goyaz did not shine for their bravery, it was not so with the ladies, several of whom offered, if necessary, to accompany the expedition and do, of course, the work of the men. I believe that they meant it.


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