The Indian language is chiefly spoken here, even by the Spaniards one amongst another; and they say they think it a finer language than their own. The women have fine complexions, and many of them are very handsome; they have good voices, and can strum a little upon the guitar; but they have an ugly custom of smoking tobacco, which is a very scarce commodity here, and therefore is looked upon as a great treat when they meet at one another’s houses. The lady of the house comes in with a large wooden pipe crammed with tobacco, and after taking two or three hearty whiffs, she holds her head under her cloak lest any of the smoke should escape, and then swallows it; some time after, you see it coming out of her nose and ears. She then hands the pipe to the next lady, who does the same, till it has gone through the whole company. Their houses are but very mean, as will be easily imagined by what I have said of the governor’s. They make their fire in the middle of their rooms, but have no chimneys; there is a small hole at each end of the roof to let the smoke out.
It is only the better sort of people that eat bread made of wheat, as they grow but very little here, and they have no mills to grind it; but then they have great plenty of the finest potatoes in the world: These are always roasted in the ashes, then scraped, and served up at meals instead of bread. They breed abundance of swine, as they supply both Chili and Peru with hams. They are in no want of sheep, but are not overstocked with cows, owing, in a great measure, to their own indolence in not clearing away the woods, which if they would be at the pains to do, they might have sufficient pasture. Their trade consists in hams, hogs-lard, which is used throughout all South America instead of butter; cedar-plank, which the Indians are continually employed in cutting quite to the foot of the Cordilleras, little carved boxes, which the Spanish ladies use to put their work in, carpets, quilts, and punchos neatly embroidered all round; for these, both in Chili and Peru, are used by the people of the first fashion, as well as the inferior sort, by way of riding-dress, and are esteemed to be much more convenient for a horseman than any kind of coat whatever.
They have what they call an annual ship from Lima, as they never expect more than one in the year; though sometimes it happens that two have come, and at other times they have been two or three years without any. When this happens, they are greatly distressed, as this ship brings them baize, cloth, linens, hats, ribbons, tobacco, sugar, brandy, and wine, but this latter article is chiefly for the use of the churches: Matte, an herb from Paraguay, used over all South America instead of tea, is also a necessary article. This ship’s cargo is chiefly consigned to the Jesuits, who have more Indians employed for them than all the rest of the inhabitants together, and of course engross almost the whole trade. There is no money current in this island. If any person wants a few yards of linen, a little sugar, tobacco, or any other thing brought from Peru, he gives so many cedar-planks, hams, or punchos, in exchange. Some time after we had been here, a snow arrived in the harbour from Lima, which occasioned great joy amongst the inhabitants, as they had no ship the year before, from the alarm Lord Anson had given upon the coast.