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week of six days, while the wages of labourers who work in the open air, husbandmen for example, are seven livres, sixteen sous, on the central table land, and nine livres, twelve sous * near the coast. The miners, tenateros and faeneros occupied in transporting the minerals to the place of assemblage (despachos) frequently gain more than six francs † per day, of six hours I. Honesty is by no means so common among the Mexican as among the German or Swedish miners; and they make use of a thousand tricks to steal very rich minerals. 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 sulphuretted and muriated silver in their hair, under their arm-pits, and in their mouths ; and they even lodge in their anus, cylinders of clay which contain the metal. These cylinders are called longanas, and they are sometimes found of the length of thirteen centimetres, (five inches). 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
* 69. 3d. and 7s. 6d. Trans. + 45. 10d. Trans.
| At Freiberg in Saxony the miner gains per week of five days, from four livres, to four livres ten sous, (from 35. 3d. to 3s. 8d. Trans.)
to allow themselves to be searched on leaving the pit or the gallery. 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 Valenciana at Guanaxuato, the value of these stolen minerals, of which a great part was composed of the longanas, amounted between 1774 and 1787, to the sum of 900,000 francs*.
In the interior of the mines much care is employed in controuling the minerals transported by the tenateros from the place of operation towards the pit. At Valenciana, for example, they know to within a few pounds the quantity of metalliferous gangue which daily goes out of the mine. I say, the gangue, 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 place of assemblage of the great pits, 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 minerals presents himself at the counter; and two, persons stationed near the balances, judge of the
* £ 36,000 sterling.
weight of this load by raising it lightly up. If the tenatero, who, during 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 mineral which he carries in his bag to be greater than it is estimated, he then demands that it should be weighed in the balance; 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 nine arrobas, and one and a half real for a load of thirteen arrobas and a half per journey. There are sometenateros who perform in one day, from eight, to ten journies, 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 minerals, which are furnished by veins of twelve or fifteen metres * in breadth in a single day.
These minerals, wbich are separated from the sterile rocks in the mine itself, by the master miners (quebradores) undergo three sorts of
* 38 or 48 feet. Trans.
preparation, viz. at the place of trial, where women work, under bocards, and under the tahonas or arastras. These tahonas are machines in which the metalliferous gangue is triturated under very hard stones, which have a giratory motion, and which weigh more than seven or eight quintals. They are not yet acquainted with washing with the tub (setz wäsche) nor washing on sleeping tables (tables dormantes) (liegende heerde) or percussion (stossheerde). The preparation under the bocards (mazos) or in the tahonas, to which I shall give the name of mills, on account of their resemblance to some oil and snuff mills, differs according as the mineral is destined to be smelted or amalgamated. The mills properly belong only to this last process; however, very rich metallic grains called polvillos, which have passed through the trituration of the tahona are also smelted.
The quantity of silver extracted from the minerals by means of mercury, is in the proportion of 31 to 1 of that produced by smelting. This proportion is taken from the general table formed by the provincial treasuries, from the different districts of mines of New Spain. There are however, some of those districts for example, those of Sombrerete and Zimapan in which the produce from smelting exceeds that of amalgamation.
Silver (plata quintada) extracted from the mines of New Spain, from the 1st January, 1785, to the 31st December, 1789.
Silver ex. tracted by
tracted by Provincial treasuries receiving Jamalgama i the fifth.
(mircos de gue).
cos de azo- fuego).
Total in marcs 7,572,762 2,159,454
I believe we must augment the quantities stated in the preceding table one fifth to come at the real state of the mines. In times of peace, amalgamation gains a gradual ascendancy over smelting, which is generally badly managed. As wood is becoming yearly more scarce on the ridge of the Cordilleras, which is