National Geographic : 1900 Jul
THE ROAD TO BOLIVIA By WILLIAM E. CURTIS (Continued from the June number) Ninety per cent of the population of Cuzco are pure Indians, and the Quichua language, spoken by the Incas, is still in common use. The whites, who are comparatively few, are priests and monks, gov ernment officials, haciendados,and a few foreign shop-keepers, mostly Germans. The old families still retain ancestral homes filled with massive furniture, gilded mirrors, and costly hangings brought to Peru 250 years ago, when it was the richest and most extravagant country on earth and when the nobility and wealth were concentrated at Cuzco. Most of these houses are in a state of advanced decay, for their proprietors are suffering from hereditary and incurable diseases called pride and poverty. Their estates have been ruined by neglect and devastation of revolutionary armies, their mines are no longer profitable because of the low price of silver, and now nobody knows and many people wonder where they find the means of sustenance. Their pride will not permit them to work, and their poverty makes it impossible for them to develop the natural resources that lie dor mant in their property. If their ancestors had shown as much en ergy in that development as they displayed in searching the Incas' ruins for treasure, there would have been permanent prosperity. Even now, after 350 years' digging for secret places of concealment, the Spanish inhabitants can always raise money somehow to pay the ex penses of further excavations. For more than three centuries the inhabitants of that region and the speculators of Europe have been plunging year after year into the icy waters of Lake Urcos to recover a golden chain of the Inca Huaina Capac, which was thrown there to spite the Spaniards. It was of pure gold, wrought into links about one foot in length and as large as a man's arm, and long enough to stretch twice around the grand plaza in Cuzco, which is nearly as large as Lafayette Square, in the city of Washington. At one time a syndicate was organized, with a capital of $5,000,000, to bore a tunnel to drain the lake. After spending a large sum of money it was found that the mountain was composed almost entirely of living rock, so that the enterprise was abandoned.