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lights collected into a small space; it is much more owing to local and geological causes.
It is curious to observe how the Mestizoes and Indians called tenateros, employed in carrying minerals on their backs, remain for six hours at a time loaded with a weight of from 225 to 350 pounds, and constantly exposed to a very high temperature, ascending without intermission eight or ten times successively, stairs of 1800 steps. The appearance of these robust and laborious men would have wrought a change in the opinions of the Raynals, Pauws, and many other authors, who have declaimed against the degeneracy of our species in the torrid zone. In the Mexican mines, lads of seventeen years of age are able to carry masses of stone of a hundred pounds weight. This occupation of tenateros' is accounted unhealthy, if they enter more than three times a week into the mines. But the labour which rapidly ruins the most robust constitutions is that of the barenadores, who blow up the rock with powder. These men rarely pass the age of 35, if from a thirst of gain they continue their severe labour for the whole week. They generally pass no more than five or six years at this occupation, and then betake themselves to other employments less injurious to health.
The art of mining is daily improving, and the pupils of the School of Mines at Mexico gradually diffuse correct notions respecting the circulation of HEALTHINESS OF LABOURERS ON THE SURFACE. 201
air in pits and galleries. Machines are beginning to be introduced, in place of the old method of carrying minerals and water on men's backs up stairs of a rapid ascent. In proportion as the mines of New Spain resemble more and more those of Europe, the miner's health will be less injured by the influence of the foul air, and the excessively prolonged efforts of muscular motion.
From five to six thousand persons are employed in the amalgamation of the minerals, or the preparatory labour. A great number of these individuals pass their lives in walking barefoot over heaps of brayed metal, moistened and mixed with muriate of soda, sulphate of iron, and oxide of mercury, by the contact of the atmospheric air and the solar rays. It is a remarkable phenomenon to see these men enjoy the most perfect health. The physicians who practise in places where there are mines unanimously assert, that the nervous affections, which might be attributed to the effect of an absorption of oxide of mercury, very rarely occur. At Guanaxuato part of the inhabitants drink the very water in which the amalgamation has been purified (aqua de lavaderos) without feeling any injury from it. This fact has often struck Europeans not intimately acquainted with the principles of chemistry. The water is at first of a grayishblue colour, and contains in suspension black oxide of mercury, and small globules of native mercury and amalgamation of silver. This metallic mixture gradually precipitates, and the water becomes limpid. It can neither dissolve the oxide of mercury nor the muriate of mercury, which is one of the most insoluble salts we know. The mules are very fond of this water, because it contains a little muriate of soda in solution.
We have already said, that the labour of a miner is entirely free throughout the kingdom of New Spain. No Indian or Mestizo can be compelled to devote himself to the working of mines. It is absolutely false, though the assertion has been repeated in works of the greatest estimation, that the Court of Madrid sends out galley slaves to work in the gold and silver mines. The mines of Siberia have been peopled by Russian malefactors, but in the Spanish colonies this species of punishment has been fortunately unknown for centuries. The Mexican miner is the best paid of all miners; he earns at the least from ll. to 1l.4s. per week of six days, while the wages of labourers who work in the open air, husbandmen for example, are 6s. 3d. on the central table-land, and 7s. 6d. near the coast. The miners, tenateros and faeneros, occupied in transporting the minerals to the plats (despachos), frequently gain more than 4s. 10d. per day of six hours. Honesty is by no means so common among the Mexican as among the German or Swedish miners ; they make use of a thousand tricks to steal rich specimens of ores. As they are almost naked, and are searched on.
leaving the mine in the most indecent manner, they conceal small morsels of native silver, or red sulphuret and muriate of silver, in their hair, under their arm-pits, and in their mouths. It is a most shocking spectacle to see in the large mines of Mexico, hundreds of workmen, among whom there are a great number of very respectable men, all compelled to allow themselves to be searched on leaving the shaft or level. A register is kept of the minerals found in the hair, in the mouth, or other parts of the miners' bodies. In the mine of Va. lenciana at Guanaxuato, the value of these stolen minerals amounted between 1774 and 1787 to the sum of 63,0001. sterling.
In the interior of the mines much care is employed in controuling the tenateros, by whom the ores are carried towards the shaft from the place of operation. At Valenciana, for example, they know to within a few pounds the quantity of work containing ore which daily goes out of the mine. I say, the work, for the rock is never there an object of extraction, and is employed to fill up the vacancies formed by the extraction of the minerals. At the plats of the great shafts, two chambers are dug in the wall, in each of which two persons (despachadores) are seated at a table, with a book before them containing the names of all the miners employed in the carriage. Two balances are suspended before them, near the counter. Each tenatero loaded with ores presents himself at the
counter; and two persons stationed near the balances judge of the weight of this load by raising it lightly up. If the tenatero, who on the road has had time to estimate his load, believes it lighter than the despachador, he says nothing, because the error is advantageous to him ; but on the other hand, if he believes the weight of the ore he carries in his bag to be greater than it is estimated, he demands that it should be weighed, and the weight which is thus determined is entered in the book of the despachador. From whatever part of the mine the tenatero comes, he is paid at the rate of one real de plata* for a load of 21 cwt., and one real and a half for a load of 32 cwt. per journey. There are some tenateros who perform in one day from eight to ten journeys, and their pay is regulated from the book of the despachador. This mode of reckoning is no doubt highly deserving of praise ; and we cannot sufficiently admire the celerity, the order, and the silence with which they thus determine the weight of so many thousand quintals of ores, which are furnished by veins of 6 or 8 fathoms in breadth, in a single day..
These ores, which are separated from the sterile rocks in the mine itself by the master miners (quebradores), undergo three sorts of preparation, viz. at the places for jigging or washing the ores, where women work; under the stamping mills; and under the tahonas or arastras. These tahonas.