Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Peruvian Remembers The Voyages of Markhan to Peru


Clements Robert Markham


Clements Robert Markham, visited Peru in two opportunities, he was left with a deep impression that marked the rest of his life. He would have the longest Presidency tenure on record of the RGS (Royal Geographical Society).


In his first visit he was only 23 year-old and on his second voyage to Peru, he was 29 years old. Prolific writer, he was able to tell an interesting, account of Peru’s life, society, geography and history with a very distinguished voice. The depth and the richness of his accounts and testimonies are of invaluable importance for Peruvians and historians as for explorers as well. 


Moreover, he understood the power of the Plant Cinchona, his second voyage was geared to get the plants and know all about it.  The Cinchona or Quina is a medicinal plant, and evenly more than a simple plant is a genus that counts with more than 30 different species that are originally from Peru, one of whose alkaloids is the famous Quinine use to fight the malaria because stops the reproduction of malaria-causing protozoa. 


Eventually, Markham, and the botanist Spruce took the Cinchona, within a warlike atmosphere between Peru and Bolivia, precisely for its commercialization, circa in those days of the 1860s and made a total and successful industry for England but down in India (Burma, now Myanmar, and Ceylon, now Sri Lanka); place which was far away from Peru. With the Cinchona they and others were able to create immense areas for Cinchona’s cultivation, as India was under the dominion of the British Empire, the labor was practically free and its territory offered similar climate and environment for the growing of Cinchona; few years after Peru would enter without knowing in a war with England, although, the war it is known to have been against Chile with Bolivia as a blinded ally. 

The Pacific War (1879–84), such was its contradictory name, likewise it was for England the most accurate label, since some of its interested parties just put into this war a much effort as the necessary animosity to stir the whole situation, plus some few heavy weaponry and engineers to win it. 

In England is also known as “The Saltpeter War”; precisely, because, the hate, war or love, it was not for the Cinchona, they already had obtained that and evenly made good money from it, they wanted the Peruvian Saltpeter.  As there are many types of saltpeter, the one from Peru was considered a powerful fertilizer, and really, chemically speaking, it is Sodium Nitrate or the mineral nitranine, rather a component of a fertilizer; more importantly, for the British Empire perhaps, it was a component that they could use to manufacture explosives and solid rocket propellants, also it can be used as a strong food preservative.  May be is needless to explain why or how, after England vicariously won that 'pacific war', the otherwise “Peruvian Saltpeter”, was renamed as “Chilean Saltpeter”.  

In the end all that industry by now is a sad museum, it is located in a deserted and forsaken graveyard, one in which also many cadavers of Peruvians and Chileans soldiers that fought in the name of their country in such "Pacific War" are since then now somewhat buried where the English are not. 


However, Peru remembers Markham well, as one of the most remarkable private schools in Lima-Peru, it has solely his name: The Markham College. With this brief introduction, I just want to thank the University of California for the preservation of some of the first editions of the books that Markham wrote so diligently, as some important records, and accounts and for allowing me to have access for continuing my investigations. I really appreciate it. Thanks. Here some of the recollections of Clement Markham about traveling Peru:

" For the real enjoyment of traveling in the interior of Peru, it is necessary to throw aside all superfluity of luggage, portmanteau, and almofrex[i] ; and setting forth with a small pair of leather saddle-bags, and a few warm ponchos for a bed, to commence the journey with a perfect absence of care or anxiety. Thus, unhampered by luggage, the traveler may wander through the enchanting scenery, whithersoever his fancy leads him ; and, taking his chance for a lodging or a supper, roam amidst the majestic Cordilleras, and pass a time of most perfect enjoyment.

In very light marching order, with two mules lately arrived from the pastures of Tucuman, and a black cavalry soldier, who proved of no use and was certainly no ornament, the pilgrimage to Cuzco was commenced on the 7th of December, 1852 ; and, leaving Lima by the gate of Guadalupe, passing through Chorrillos and by the old temple of Pachacamac, we arrived at the little village of Lurin, and accomplished the first stage of the journey along the coast of Peru. "

From: "Cuzco With Lima"
By: Clements E. Markham, F.E.G.S.,
Publishers: Chapman & Hall, 193, London: Piccadilly, 1856.


[i] Clements Robert Markham, explain in his book “History of Peru” the following: “One mule carries two bullock hides sewn together, called an almofrex, containing mattress, pillow, and bed clothes, besides many articles of clothing, ...”

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