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riodically a want of nourishment which the industry of more civilized nations banishes from the most sterile regions of the north.
The working of the mines, has long been regarded as one of the principal causes of the depopulation of America. It will be difficult to call in question, that at the first epoch of the conquest, and even in the seventeenth century, many Indians perished from the excessive labour to which they were compelled in the mines. They perished without posterity, as thousands of African slaves annually perish in the West Indian plantations from fatigue, defective nourishment, and want of sleep. In Peru, at least in the most southern part, the country is depopulated by the mines, because the barbarous law of the mita is yet in existence, which compels the Indians to remove from their homes into distant provinces, where hands are wanted for extracting the subterraneous wealth. But it is not so much the labour as the sudden change of climate, which renders the mita so pernicious to the health of the Indians. This race of men has not the flexibility of or. ganization for which the Europeans are so eminently distinguished. The health of coppercoloured man suffers infinitely when he is transported from 'a warm to a cold climate, particularly when he is forced to descend from the elevation of the Cordillera into those narrow and humid
vallies, where all the miasmata of the neighbouring regions appear to be deposited.
In the kingdom of New Spain, at least within the last thirty or forty years, the labour of the mines is free; and there remains no trace of the mita, though a justly celebrated author * has advanced the contrary. No where does the lower people enjoy in greater, security the fruit of their labours than in the mines of Mexico; no law forces the Indian to choose this species of labour, or to prefer one wine to another; and when he is displeased with the proprietor of the mine, he may offer his services to another master who may pay perhaps more regularly. These unquestionable facts are very little known in Europe. The number of persons employed in subterraneous operations, who are divided into several classes (Barenadores, Faeneros, Tenateros, Bareteros), does not exceed in the whole kingdom of New Spain 28 or 30,000. Hence there is not more than zóo of the whole population immediately employed in the mines.
The mortality among the miners of Mexico is not much greater than what is observed among the other classes. We may easily be convinced of this by examining the bills of mortality in the different parishes of Guanaxuato and Zacatecas.
* Robertson, History of America, vol. ii. p. 373.
This is a phenomenon, so much the more remarkable, as the miner in several of these mines is exposed to a temperature 6° above the mean temperatures of Jamaica and Pondicherry*. I found the centigrade thermometer at 34° + at the bottom of the mine of Valenciana (en los planes), a perpendicular depth of 513 metres f, while at the mouth of the pit in the open air, the same thermometer sinks in winter to 4° or 5°S above 0. The Mexican miner is, consequently, exposed to a change of temperature of more than 30°| But this enormous heat of the Valenciana mine is not the effect of a great number of men and lights collected into a small space; it is much more owing to local and geological causes which we shall afterwards examine.
It is curious to observe how the Mestizoes and Indians employed in carrying minerals on their back, who go by the name of Tenateros, remain con. tiunally loaded for six hours with a weight of from 225 to 350 pounds, and constantly exposed to a very high temperature, ascending eight or ten times successively, without intermi-sion, stairs of 1800 steps. The appearance of these robust and laborious men would have operated a change in the opinions of the Raynals and Pauws, and a
1681 feet. Trans.
* Nearly 11° of Fahrenheit. Trans.
number of other authors, however estimable in other respects, who have been pleased to declaim against the degeneracy of our species in the torrid zone. In the Mexican mines, children (enfans) 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 ruins most rapidly the robustest 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 air in pits and galleries. Machines are beginning to be introduced in place of the old method of
* I should be inclined to think that the author meant here to say enfans de sept a dix ans, instead of enfans de dix sept ans ; for enfant, it is believed, can hardly be applied with propriety to a youth of 17; and if a full-grown man could ascend eight or ten times, without intermission. 1800 steps of a stair with 350 pounds, it certainly could not add to the evidence of the strength of this race to say, that a young man of 17 could carry little more than the fourth part of that weight. Trans. :
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 Freiberg, Clausthal, and Schemnitz, the miner's health will be less injured by the influence of the Mofettes*, 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 in, dividuals pass their lives in walking barefooted over heaps of brayed metal, moistened and mixed with muriate of soda, sulphate of iron, and oxid 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 oxid 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 greyish-blue colour, and contains in suspension
• Thie translate professes his ignorance of the meaning of this word.