Gambling, fandango & mosquitoes

Description of Gambling at Tampico

Among the first of these were placed a great tables, with all the implements of Gambling as dice, balls &.c On each on the tables was placed one or more lights, and a square box of 5 or 6 inches in depth & filled with shining tinsel and having a glass over all. On this glass at one end was painted in six compartments, 6 cards with one, 2, 3, 4 &.c marked on them and represented by the figures of dice. At the other end of the glass next the proprietor was exhibited a tempting heap of glittering dollars, which the simple gull was made to believe would soon be transferred to his pocket, if he would only try his luck. The principle of the game was exceedingly simple, and the gain or loss depended upon the chance of the die. You had only to put what you liked upon any of the six cards – and when this had been done, the dicer, after an appropriate invitation to more to try their fortune, rattled his box and announced the number of three dice – of which there were three – and if the turn up should be two or three of the same number, upon which you had staked your money, you would then receive double or triple the amount of your stake. Of course, as in all these games of chance, a decided advantage was on the side of the proprietor – the number of dice permitting him to have a double chance of success. Of such tables as I have described there were 7 or 8 – and besides these, there were two of a very superior pretensions and where the stakes, instead of being rial medios (3.d) rial (6.d) or half a dollar, as at the former, were dollars, 2 or 6 dollars. Here too all was chance, and I am not sure but that their might have been some underhand deception. It consisted of a circular sloping table, and along the slope were a dozen hollow tubes of tin, proceeding from the centre like the radii of a circle. One person, after all had staked took eight small balls and threw them round the table with a rotary motion. Some of these passing right between the spaces of the hollow tubes, fell into a pool in the centre, while others, acted upon by the powers of gravity dropped into the open mouths of these tubes. According to the number of ball thus caught, whether they were even of odd, you gained or lost – that is, if you had risked any sum upon the evens, you lost if the number was odd & vice versa. Over these two tables was a net & fanciful canopy, from the interior of which was suspended a handsome light.

All these gambling tables were much frequented, and the fruits of days & weeks labour squandered in a few hours. The excitement which gambling invariably & necessarily produces, possessed more attractions than the slow and measured steps of the fandango. Here in a small scale was exhibited all the eagerness and interest, which mark the play of those who put their large fortunes on the throw of the dice – here among the distant Mexicans you can see the same excessive joy in success and the same overwhelming despair, when utter ruin stares them in the face, as with Us, but still you see these passions in a modified degree.

Fandango at Tampico

Passing thro’ the dense and highly interested crowd of Gamblers, we came to the place where the brown sons and daughters of Tampico footed it slowly to the music of a guitar, a flageolet, and a rude drum. There a large circle was formed of benches upon which were seated almost solely a most numerous, decent, and quiet congregation of women – behind whom again crowds of male spectators of the dance were standing. The centre of this circle was occupied by 10 or 12 couples, who went thro’ the steps of the fandango, much to their own and the satisfaction of the beholders. When one set had finished they were succeeded by a fresh and in this manner the amusement would be kept up till far in the morning. To give light to this assembly, three large candles, covered with proper glass covers to prevent them from being blown out, were suspended from a _____, which crossed the circle – and these lights were furnished by the keeper of a public house, who found his advantage for this expanse in the increased sales of his liquors by the thirsty dancers. After remaining a very short time, I left the place, most pleasingly impressed with what I had seen.

Excessive Heat – Mosquitoes at Tampico

Tampico, even in its present situation is accounted very unhealthy – and great numbers die every year. This is owing to the excessive heat and the presence of extensive marches near to it, together with heavy rains. Of the excessive heat, I can speak with feeling from personal experience. Once or twice I left the cool and open gallery in M.r Crawfords to traverse the town, amidst the scorching heat of a midday sun. At first, so strong was the glare and reflected heat, that I felt oppressed with faintness, and could not for a few moments keep my eyes open. I did not prolong my walk far – but soon returned with a determination in future to confine my peregrinations, till the cool of even time should permit me to perform them with pleasure. As for the unhealthiness of the place, I luckily experienced none but enjoyed perfect health – both eating & sleeping well.

Often the heat of the atmosphere does not cease with the departure of the sun, for when there is no sea or land breeze, you find little relief from the approach of evening. Then the oppression in the small houses is insupportable even to the natives who as a remedy bring out a simple pallet & pillow or even a movable bed, and spread these out in the open air and even in the midst of the street. They cannot even bear the weight of a sheet – but retain merely their light trousers & shirts – and entirely take their chance of being deluged with rain for the present comfort which they feel. And when the cooling breeze would permit poor mortals to enjoy exemption from heat and sweet repose, another enemy appears to torment. I mean the mosquitoes, which are small flies, whose numbers are immense and whose annoying buzzing and stings are dreadful. In every place where they bite, they leave a smart, and soon inflammation taking place, a tumour of the size of a small pea is produced. If you have suffered much during the day or evening, the intolerable itching which is the consequence will make sleep a stranger to your couch, and next morning awake with a harassed mind & unrefreshed body. You may consider yourself fortunate if you escape with a few marks, say 40 or 50 – but very often, the bites of these pests are so numerous that you can hardly put a pin head between them. In this case your arms and legs swell – your eyes are completely bunged up, and the rest of your face and neck puffed up like a patient ill of emphysema. Some degree of inflammatory fever frequently attends which of itself prevents all sleep or enjoyment. Last year time our Steward suffered so much that he could only advance by crawling on his hands and feet – and at present most one or two of our boats crew, by their frequent and furious scratching and clawing, would lead you to suppose, that they were labouring under an inveterate itch.

For my own particular part I escaped pretty well with only a few favours – which is the more fortunate for me, as the mosquitoes are either more fond of or more virulent against newcomers, than against natives or long residents. In the day I kept them at a distance, when I saw them – and in the night, they might have attacked me with impunity and disturbed my sleep, had I not been protected by a mosquito curtain, of very thin gauze, and completely enveloping the bed. Such an article is indispensable in hot climates, however strange it may appear to us.

Leave Tampico for the Ship

I spent two days very agreeably on shore, during which we had fine weather and generally a breeze. I would have remained at Tampico for three more, had not illness of our Steward I been called on Sunday morning the 4th July to see our Steward, at the place where he had slept all night. I found him labouring under the hot stage of  fever, peculiar to the country and I recommended that he should immediately be conveyed on board. On board then I went and remained there till the Captain came onboard with the Mail. On Sunday the morning was very rainy and we were unfortunately caught in the deluge on our way to the ship. The afternoon was fine.

Read on … Waterspout