The National Geographic Magazine;
March 1918, Vol.XXXIII , Number 3
Published by the National Geographic Society
A Unique Republic, where Smuggling is an Industry
By Herbert Corey
Author of “ On the Monastir Road,” “ Shopping Abroad for Our Army in France,” ETC
It was quite by accident that I found Llivia. I had started out on a hunt for Andorra, that joyous little republic on the crest of the Pyrenees which is trying to live up to its medieval traditions by making an honest living as a smuggler during the world war. It is not every-day that one finds a cheerfully outlaw State in the midst of moderately innocent outlawry. In Barcelona stories were told of the flagrantly public leave-taking of the mule smugglers from the great square of Vieille Andorra, and of the narrow paths by which the contrabandists who specialized in tobacco made their way into France. A visit to Andorra seemed imperative.
I had never heard of Llivia. Not one guide-book in three mentions it.Those that do give it a slighting four-line paragraph as “ a Spanish village in France,” and further impair a reputation that has been blown upon for centuries by alleging that the principal trade is in articles of contraband. its stern old church and the lowering little fortresses the Llivians believe are homes, and the narrow, winding alleys in which mounted men were once helpless against cross-bows do not attract tourists.
Tiny electric lights now make the Lillian nights visible, and there is a telephone in the Bureau of the Guardia Civile, at the corner of the Plaza de la Constitucion. But these modernities do not impair llivia’s status. Even its enmities are of the seventeenth century. Its people do not permit themselves to forget that they are Spanish people in a Spanish town set down by the accident of an old war in the land of France. One reaches them by a neutral road.
Because the Andorran smugglers furnish the reason for this narrative and Llivia is but the incidental decoration, the story of Andorra should be told first. But I find it difficult to keep away from Llivia. There is something exquisitely anachronistic in this little town- it has but 600 people in all- wise men work in the fields by day and run loads of contraband into France by night. The hand of every officer of the law is against them.The neutral road by which one reaches Llivia from Spain is guarded by two posts of French and one of Spanish soldiers.
Visitors regarded with justifiable suspicion.
Strangers who wish to visit Llivia are regarded with a justifiable suspicion. When the carrier’s cart in which the Spanish mails are carried jolts down the road, the bell on the neck of the fat old horse jingling merrily, the soldiers look into the cart and poke inquisitive fingers into packages. It seems to me that the Llivians do not smile as do the cheerful Catalans on the one side or the French people on the other. They regard one dourly from under drawn brows.
But it is necessary to make a start for Andorra.
I left Barcelona, then, at six in the morning, the one hour of the day in which sleep seems desirable in this gay city. At 7 o’clock the rag-pickers begin their noisy rounds in the little donkey carts from which the “la Defensa” flag of their union floats defiantly to the breeze. By 9 o’clock the sellers of lottery tickets are in full cry. At 10 O’clock the ramblas are full of people, who gossip as they walk between the bird markets on the one hand and the flower stalls on the other. Many pretty girls, clad in the lightly floating costume suited to the Spanish summer, appear by noon, and from 1 o’clock on all Barcelona eats as though eating were a rite. The revolutionists fill the streets at 5 o’clock and the government is freshly torn down with each fresh edition; and from dinner time until that hour in the morning when the last revealer nods sleepily to bed, the café concerts thump and squeal, and trams rattle and taxis hoot, and an unending stream of blind operators upon instruments of music stops before the restaurant terraces while their maimed agents clash coppers in little pans. The pan, it appears, serves as a cash register. The clank of a copper in a tin never fails to register on the sensitive musical ear, no matter with what fervour its owner may be attacking a difficult harmony. Decidedly 6 o’clock in the morning has its somnolent attractions in Barcelona. It is cool then and the streets are wide and empty, and quiet comes to one as a balm.
Travelling in the sort of cart immortalised by Don Quixote
At Ripoll a carrier’s cart, of the sort that was cursed and immortalised by Don Quixote, waited. It had the body of a prairie schooner swung on two wheels, while beneath the axle a net carried such baggage as could not be thrust upon the laps of the passengers or roped on the conveyance somewhere above the water line. We climbed in through a gate at the rear and sat facing each other, eight of us, all knees rubbing and all voices going at once. Later on the trunk of the boy who lived in Andorra and was on his way home from his first venture in the world was tied across the gate. Then we climbed in and out of the front end by clinging to the shaft and the harness of the rightfully dissatisfied wheel mule.
One was compelled to sympathize with this cynical beast. He did his part – and certainly tugged quite as stoutly as did either of the horses that led the caravan. But the old man who drove the cart had two whips – one for the horses and one for the mule. The horse whip was a longhand ornamental affair, with which he flicked at the rumps of the lead team; but the mule whip was a short,stout business-like bludgeon, with he battered that unfortunate. When the whip popping and shouts which accompanied failed to stir the leaders into action, it was the old man’s habit to lay aside his reins entirely and whack the mule until the noise startled into action the team ahead. One agreed with the mule that this seemed hardly fair.
From time to time the items of the human cargo changed. The home-coming boy, who had worked in a restaurant in Seville, was distressingly inquisitive. He had a few words of French, and kept at me until he had extracted every bit of information that our joined vocabularies could convey. Then he told the others. His round, china-blue eyes stared unwinkingly during the eight hours of our cart companionship, but what he missed in courtesy was more than atoned for by the other passengers. Not one gave me more than a glance on entering, though they listened to the boy’s story with grave attention. A girl insisted on sharing a basket of fruit, and a bent old peasant woman on her way to work in the high fields, a leather bottle across her knees and her wardrobe in a pathetic little basket, helped to find lunch in a wayside inn. The pretty daughter of a hidalgo of the countryside pointed out the views that were revealed at each turn as we climbed the pass.
A mountain country resembling Colorado
For the better part of sixty kilometres to Puigcerda, we drove through a mountain country familiar in every gran hill and green valley to one who knows our own Colorado. Sheep dotted the landscape, and the narrow meadows were farmed to the last inch. Now and then a golden ribbon wound about the dark shoulder of a hill where grain was being harvested. A terrace had been built there and fertile earth carried in baskets and the water from some overdrawing spring coaxed to vivify it. Some of these little hillside fields seemed no wider than a cradle is long, and wandered in the most decorative fashion along rocky slopes that seemed hardly fit for sheep pasture. It was as though a mural artist of the Titans had painted garlands on the canyon walls.
The carrier’s cart jolted into Puigcerda through a country that might be France, except that a political accident made it Spain. Mountains hem in the little valley in which this old town stands. The trees were of that gran green to which one is accustomed across the border. The sound of running water fills the land. Everywhere little rills prattle down from the mountains and are trapped in irrigating ditches and tinkle away over stones and under overhanging tufts of sod in the most friendly and intimate fashion.
At first one wonders at the work that has been done upon this country, in comparing it to some portions of our own barb-wired and clapboarded farming States. These fences are boulder walls and the houses are of heavy stone; the irrigating flumes and larger canals are of rock work that would almost withstand an earthquake and are concreted against the loss of a single drop. Then one recalls something of history. Men have been at work on these farms for more then thirteen hundred years. There was a bishopric at Urgel, the next stop after Puigcerda on the road to Andorra, in the sixth century, and the same bishopric is still there. Puigcerda was the capital of the land of Cerdagne more than a thousand years ago. There is a marble tablet in the old church which tells of the burial of a well-loved lady in 1310 and Puigcerda and the church were gran in age even then.
Woman and donkey toil together
At first one looks with a wholly American contempt on plowing done by oxen and marketing in which an old woman collaborates with a panniered donkey; but this gives way to respect. The farmers here make their hay with wooden forks cut from a conveniently folded sapling. After the mules have trodden out the grain they toss the wheat into the air from wooden shovels for the wind to winnow it, just as the Moors did before they were driven out of Cerdagne. The plows never have more than one handle and are sometimes mere crooks of wood shod with iron. But the sheaves piled high in the fields told of an intensive cultivation that has only made these fields more fertile in the centuries of use.
I had already learned there are two sorts of Spaniards. At Barcelona one is asked if one speaks Castilian or Catalan. At Puigcerda my national pride somewhat abated by the discovery that there are two sorts of Americans. I sought to negotiate with the soft-voiced girl in the shop nearest the hotel for some postcards. A question revealed my status. “Mother,” she cried. “ Mother, here is an American.” Mother came from the dark rear of the little establishment and smiled in a pleasant and wholly friendly curiosity. At first she was incredulous. Upon listening to the disjointed conversation she made known the reason for this skepticism. “ The stranger,” said she, “is a Frenchman. Does he not speak French?” “ He is a North American,” the daughter explained. It was most flattering to have my French accepted at its face value. Heretofore it has only passed current among the graduates of schools of languages. Perhaps my heavy buying of postcards gave the girl a clue to my habitat, for she asked me if I had ever been in New York. Upon the admission she fairly beamed. “ I have something here from New York. “ said she. She delved under the counter and produced a pasteboard box in which cartridges had been shipped by a firm in New York State, and pointed out the name to me in real pride. We turned it over and over in our hands thought were a curio. She seemed to have kept the box in much the same spirit in which our grandmothers once kept the lacquered packages in which tea had been shipped from China.
But the old lady was not satisfied. She had been revolving apparent discrepancies in her mind, and when I left she asked another question: “Do the North Americans also speak English?”
Spain drips with spies
In war time one wanders in Spain without the annoying formalities of travel in the belligerent lands. It is difficult to get into Spain, and much more difficult to get out, for the country drips with spies, and Spain’s neighbors are insistent as to the credentials of travellers. Inside the line one wanders as he wills. An occasional visé from a police official is all that is required, and the police are even willing to abet mild errancies. It was from the host of the Hotel Europe that this was learned. Llivia’s existence had just become known. “It is difficult to go there, you understand,” said he. “It is a Spanish village, true; but it is inside French territory, and the French do not like to have strangers going there. It is true that one goes there by a neutral road.” The situation seemed difficult, but Catalan kindness conquered it. If the host of the Hotel Europe seems singled out, it is only because he is typical of all other Catalans with whom I came in contact. I was travelling without other visible luggage than a camera. My pockets bulged disreputably with the various necessities of life. I entered his hostelry filmed with dust after eight hours in a mule cart, and yet he went to infinite rains to aid me. With that fatuity that sometimes comes upon one, I tried to tip him. This is a public apology. It was he who solved the problem of getting to Llivia. “ I shall see the chief of police,” said he. These worthies contrived a plot against the laws of two countries. The chief wrote out a paper which, upon translation, seemed to be an asseveration in Catalan that I had long been favorably known him as a resident of Puigcerda. The host of the Hotel Europe enlisted the carrier in the stratagem and drilled him in the story he was to tell. I was to say no word, for my pitiful incapacity in all tongues known in the Pyrenees would have betrayed me at once. “ The carrier will say what is necessary if the soldiers stop you,” said the hotel keeper. “ At the worst, you will only be inconvenienced for a few days.”
A Spanish town inside the French frontier
The chances of arrest seemed excellent, but they also seemed worth taking; for there is but one Llivia. Away back in the the seventeenth century Spain paid for an unwise war with France by ceding 33 villages and the territory surrounding them to the stronger power. But after the Treaty of the Pyrenees was signed, Spain “rued back” on a part of the bargain. She yielded the 33 villages, as agreed on, but exempted Llivia on the plea that it was a town and not a village. So for 250 years Llivia has remained a Spanish town inside the French frontier. It is Spanish in everything but location. The Spanish mail goes there, andSpanish taxes are occasionally collected there, and Spanish money is taken, and there is a post of the Guardia de Civile upon the public square. As one jolts down the neutral road towards Llivia in the carrier’s cart, one could toss his hat on either side into France. The very water that runs in the irrigating ditches at the sides runs in French territory. “The principal trade of Llivia,” according to the guide-books, “is in articles of contraband”
At Llivia the stranger suffers from the unjust suspicion that he is an officer of the law. Elsewhere in Catalonia the people are friendly and of an American self-respect. The boy who brought the morning coffee at Seo d’Urgel shook hands affectionately when we parted. The carter of Puigcerda cheerfully perjured himself when the French soldier abandoned his midday drowse beneath a tree and came to look at me. The carter said we were friends, and later took the franc with which this divagation was rewarded rather under protest. He was understood to say that any one would do as much for a comrade. Everywhere one encounters the most open-hearted and open-handed kindness. But at Llivia one is watched sullenly. Too often, perhaps, smuggling confidences have been betrayed. So, I wandered unhappily through Llivia’s tortuous thoroughfares, conscious of this civic distrust. There was a little girl who was blowing with a hand bellows upon the coals in the bottom of what seemed an early form of the tailor’’s goose.. Ashes spurted out of vents at the side, and the coals at last glowed a yellow red in the hollow of the pressing iron. All this was magnificently new to me, and I beamed upon the girl and prepared to take a photograph when a long arm stretched from the doorway and girl and iron were retrieved. Then a door that would have withstood a battering ram closed softly in my face.
A town ready for a siege
But perhaps this pessimism is general and is not confined to the untouched-for individual. The windows are barred with thick steel. Sometimes these bars are set with knife-like spikes, the edges of which have once been sharp, to catch the predatory arm that sought to reach through. When a housewife goes to the municipal fountain to draw water or wash the daily salad, she closes her great, nail-studded door behind her and locks it with a key that might weight a pound or more. If the municipal pig bothers her too greatly, she may withdraw this huge key from her girdle and throw it at him, so that it clangs loudly on the uneven cobbles in the rebound from his dusty hide.
There are overhanging balconies from which an attacking force might be resisted, and slits in some doors through which the caller is inspected before the bars are drawn. One might say that Llivia could stand a siege today, if only medieval means were used against her medieval defences. Even the church seems fort as much as sanctuary. One long old wall is pierced by loopholes for archers and is bare of any window. It is defended at the corners by loopholed bastions. One gains entrance to the only vulnerable side, in which the great old door is set, by climbing a flight of steep stone steps, in their turn flanked by a tower which alone remains of the original defensive works. The courtyards, in which oxen are kept under their owners’ windows, much to the injury of the village sanitation, are thick-walled inclosures whose gates are great affairs of plank, well barred against aggression, and always overlooked by a window from which they can be defended. The town breathes age and a state of arms. One learns to look with distaste upon the parvenu Café del Progreso on the Plaza de la Constitucion. It is a mere newcomer, this café, with its date 1791 carved above the lintel. It is only when one learns this marks the time of its reconstruction that it is received into favor.
Life of Llivia centres upon the public square
It is upon the public square that the visible life of Llivia centres in the daytime. Now and then a wanderer called at the Café del Progreso for one of the mild and sugared drinks to which the Spaniard is partial. A man shrouded in a great cloak and wearing a wide black hat pulled well down over his eyes passed and reposed. He had been a cart passenger and the carter had quite gratuitously assured me that he was a traveller in commerce. He was the breathing image of an operatic conspirator. A small boy led a pig by a cord attached to a foreleg, and at intervals graciously permitted other small boys to hold the cord while he instructed them in the technique. A yoke of oxen swung slowly by, hauling a cart piled high with hay. But of the male residents of Llivia nothing was to be seen. If one smuggles by night, it is to be assumed that one sleeps by day.
The town crier was making his rounds when he returned to Puigcerda. He seemed as wholly out of date to an American as though a megatherium had been found strolling through these placid streets. He was an old man, most leisurely in his movements, and with an expression of confirmed melancholy. At first I attributed this to his knowledge that he was out of the modern picture. At intervals he blew a long brass horn, fishmonger style, so that I was entranced by it and followed him.
I had been watching the rope-walk under the caves of the church, where an old man walked slowly backward all day long, a wad of hemp fastened to his grindle. He spun rope yarn from the spindles that were whirled by the belt from a wheel an irritated small boy turned. Later he twisted the the yarn into rope in the same fashion.
The crier had not recognized at all that the time had passed for his leisurely method of diffusing information. When we reached the public square of Puigcerda, where a crowd waited the autos that was to carry us to Seo d’Urgel, it became evident that his dejection had been occasioned by the lack of a proper audience. To the stranger and to the curious small boy who had trailed the stranger he had mumbled at intervals— Always preceded by a thrilling film of the life and adventures of Cristoforo Colombo was to be presented that very evening at the municipal theater.
an art in town crying
But in the presence of the throng in the public square, before that Hotel de Ville that was build in 1400, and which still bears, the half-obliterated wheat sheaves of Puigcerda’s arms on its walls, he became a different person. He registered emotion, as a movie man would say. His voice soared until it reached an oratorical climax, and then dropped low and thrilling tones as he dwelt upon the pathos of his marvellous film. We who waited fairly hung upon his words. There is an art in town crying. With every revolution of the wheels of the autos towards Seo d’ Urgel we moved farther towards the days of the Knight of the Mancha. Oxen began to wear fringed and beaded veils upon their patient faces. Men came down from the hillside farms, driving before them donkeys on whose pack-saddles were racks resembling five barred gates on which wheat sheaves were tied. Wheeled vehicles are current only on the main roads. Pack-mules jingled with bells and wore heavily brassed saddles on which every form of package was securely roped. The authentic diamond hitch was in use everywhere, so that one saw where the art of our Western packers was born. Chains stretched across the roads at the Guardia Civile stopped traffic for examination.
On the hilltops are the remains of castles and fortified farms, reminders of the days, not so far distant, when each man took what he could and held what he might. The twin interventions of repeating firearms and the Guardia Cicvile have made rural life in Spain fairly safe now, and the bandit no longer roams upon these roads. Nevertheless, the passer-by sometimes carried a rifle in the crook of his arm, and the priest, who later rode down from Andorra with me, indicated that the knife is still a ready solvent of difficulties. Perhaps I misunderstood him, as we talked by signs and scattered words, lacking any common language; but he his head sadly over the backwardness of his flock and pantomimed a dispute in the hills in most illuminating fashion. First the injured party shook a petulant forefinger at his antagonist; then there was an outburst of violent speech; finally the priest’s hand flew to the belt of his black cassock, withdrew an imaginary knife, and thrust it so swiftly at my own girdle and with such a venomous air that I shrank coldly. He was a good priest, though. For slow miles he struggled with a statement until I finally made it out:
“America will be the friend of all the world”
“It is good,” said he, “that America has entered the war. For all the other nations would seek to be masters if they won; but America will be the friend of the world.”
At Seo d’ Urgel a temtation was resisted. The guide-books pay little attention to Seo—the country folk call it “Saao” — because it is off the beaten path. I had no time to explore it thoroughly. But certainly the “float,” as a prospector would say, offered rich finds to the interested digger. There is a street of heavy, arched arcades, under loopholed walls, through which little streets pierce at intervals, which takes one back at a glance to the Middle ages. They are for the most part two men wide, these little streets. Some of them are roofed over, and dim lamps twinkle in their twisty lengths. They tell of the days called good, when men were killed fervently in them with axe and sword, instead of being scientifically entered upon the casualty list by cold-blooded mathematicians hidden miles away behind hills, and who would be helpless without their books of logarithms.The open doors of the shops afford glimpse that tantalise the stroller. Shop-keeping in the bishopric of Urgel seems to run largely to the sale of pack-saddles, coils of rope, and firearms, and the fragant scent of leather comes to the nostrils. It was just opposite the great pots built in stone oven under the arcade, from which bean soup is served to travellers on market and feast days, that I encountered the temptation.
The shop of skin flasks
There is a shop there, a cavernous, dark, windy shop. The floor is clean of the riffraff of rope and leather that one sees in other business houses. In the farthest corner a single candle is screened against the draft from the open door, and its tiny flame casts long, moving shadows of objects that swing lightly from the heavy rafters. There was a mysterious similitude of life about these things. They were faintly recognizable. It was as though many of the common domestic animals had reversed their normal habit and had attached themselves flulike to the half-seen ceiling. Then came enlightenment. These were wine sacks made of pig and goat skins, which by the art of their maker had preserved a horrible likeness to their original inhabitants. There was a small wine sack there—it had been the earthly integument of a tiny pig— that I coveted with all my heart. It swung in the breeze from the open door, the half light concealing the imperfections of its present and emphasizing the plump coquetry of its original state. Twice I walked past the door and twice I was redeemed from folly. A dusty wanderer whose solvency was only vouched for by the possession of a camera must have added to his handicap by the surreptitious fondling of a wine sack that uncannily resembled a little pig.
Many old costumes have disappeared from the Pyrenees. The men rarely wear sabots, and then only when they are at work irrigating. Their footgear is usually the rope-soled alpargatax. Some wear a wide sash, but the crowd-color is chiefly furnished by the velveteens, which, chosen for their wear-resisting qualities, have with age and patches taken on almost Turneresque hues. Now and then one sees the scarlet Catalan cap, which folds longitudinally of the head and falls over one eye in the fashion once beloved of sea adventurers. Only on Sundays and fête days do the girls on the short skirt and low shoes of the artist’s peasant. For the most part the skirt is short for utilitarian reasons, and all beauty of line is destroyed by their clumsy shoes.
smugglers reaping a golden harvest
Doubtless Andorra smuggles at the best of times. That is the conclusion I reached, at least, from the perfect openness with which every one discussed the free-trade proclivities of the Andorrans. One might have thought they were talking of the spring plowing or the price of lambs. And yet Andorran secretiveness has become a proverb in the hills. “Tell a thing to an Andorra an and it is lost’” is one form of this saying. Nowadays, with the neighbor Francine the marketer everything that Andorra can furbish, and too busy fighting to watch her douanes very carefully, the men of Andorra are reaping the golden harvest. Scandalous rumor has it that the Spanish frontier guards look with a certain complacency on the illegal traffic.
“I have a cousin who is a frontier guard,” a man in Barcelona told me, “He says that if the war lasts another year he will retire. At ten dollars a mule, he is already rich.”
The situation of this quaint little survival of lost ages favors this form of activity. The Republic of Andorra measures about 25 miles in one direction and 20 miles in the other, and is located right on the crest of the Pyrenees. It is as though the little State were a wedge driven in and dividing France and Spain at this point. Charlemagne gave the Andorrans a certain measure of freedom because of their services in the field. They steamed down out of their hills and helped Louis the Debonair fight the Moors, with whom, however, they had a very lively quarrel of their own. For that he gave them a franchise.
it is a political curiosity
Napoleon looked the little State over. “It is a political curiosity,” said he. “It must be preserved.” Andorra has maintained itself as a political entity for more years than has any other republic in the world. The tiny State of Marino, in Italy, vies with it in point of diminutiveness, but Andorra was hoary with age when San Marino was born. It is not worth fighting for, and it makes no trouble that a few policemen would not quell. Nevertheless it is a real State. Andorrans pay almost no taxes at all. Each year a small tribute must be paid to the Prince Bishop of Urgel and to the Republic of France, and a levy is made on the incomes of the Andorrans for the purpose. There are almost no other costs attached to the operation of the republic. Each of the six cantons in which the little State is divided elects annually four councilors, and the 24 select one of their number for president. They are paid a few sous each when they attend a meeting of the council. Their horses are fed by the State and they have their meals. Now and then the hall of the council needs a new slate on the roof. The annual budget stops there.
The carrier’s cart left Seo d’Urgel when it was just light enough in the morning for me to see that my neighbors were all peasant women on their way to St Julian de Loria, the first Andorran village one reaches and a famous resort of smugglers. Not so long ago a mere mule track connected Seo with the capital, but now a fairly good road follows the winding course of the torrent of the Valira. Coffee is not to be had out of hours at a provincial Spanish inn, and we were more than sharp set when the carter turned us out at St Julian and made us walk up a grade the mules could not negotiate with a full load.
A fête day in St. Julian
It was a fête day in St.Julian, it appeared. A stand in the public square, which was a mere bulbous enlargement of the cart road, had been decked with greenery. A girl dressed in a fête-day costume of the hills—a white bodice cut modestly low, operationally short skirts, and low shoes— ran to meet the discontented little violinist who had frowned on us and on her peasant mother from her place in the crowded cart. The violinist was dressed in a cheap finery of Barcelona, with high-heeled shoes of poor leather, badly scuffed and run over at the heels, while around her neck she wound a boa that had been built of chicken hackle. The sister was charming, but the feminine in her led her to admire the awful tawdriness of the violinist. “Thou art in grand tenue,” I heard her say. There was time to see that the public square was filled with men putting impatient feet against the ribs of rebellious mules in the effort to pull tighter the ropes of the diamond hitch. Loads were going across the hills, fête day or no. Other tired men straggled in at the heels of tired mules, the pack-saddles empty, after a successful trip into France. Small boys were importantly aiding. Girls clung to the arms of the contrabandista, and old women waddled about with parcels that looked like provisions for the departing. Then came the call to breakfast, and the smugglers were forgotten.
There were tiny trout served this one peseta breakfast, and toasted bread and doubtful coffee; but the undoubted pièce de résistance of the table was an automatic fly-swatter that ran by clock-work, and which at least made the swarming flies respectful. Wine was served in the two-spouted bottles from which one pours the fluid at a distance into a thirsty mouth, and which are such a snare to the unaccustomed wayfarer. The old woman who was mistress of ceremonies hunted about behind the counter of the tiny store which was an adjunct to the inn and found a fly-specked letter-head. “Thou shalt have this,” said she. “It will serve to save us from forgetfulness,” All the way to Andorra I had cherished a secret hope that I might be permitted to accompany the smugglers on one of their illicit trips; but when I reached the capital this vain hope was blighted. It was not that there was the slightest suspicion of a stranger, or that the march over the hills was considered too difficult for tender feet; but the Andorrans felt they must consider the state of the stranger if he were discovered in France without a proper visé on his passport. It was felt that he might have the greatest trouble to explain himself, and that in the explanation an official and undesirable attention might be directed towards themselves; so I was regretfully refused. But the operations of the smugglers were made quite clear to me. In these Pyrenean hills a tobacco is raised by which the rankest Connecticut second growth might class as Havana. This frightful stuff is labeled in accordance with the tastes of the prospective victim. One may have a Havana cigar, or one ticketed from the Canary islands, or marked Carolina or Virginia or Gibraltar. Even the revenue stamps are counterfeited, so that, so far as externals are concerned, the elect would surely be deceived. But an outraged palate would discover the deception. In the tobacco factory of Andorra these cigars and cigarettes are put up in packages, and packed in haversacks which are just a load for one man. If the smugglers run a haversack through to France they are paid eighty pesetas. If they are forced to abandon the load en route they are still paid twenty pesetas. The packages of cigarettes which one buys for twenty centimes in Andorra sell, according to the stamp upon the package, for eighty centimes outside; so that the smuggling profit is not to be despised. But the most profitable trade is in mules.
chief traffic is in Spanish mules
Spain has been fairly robbed of her mules by the needs of the Allied armies, and so the further exportation is frowned upon by the government. Likewise, although these mules are bought for the French army, France still maintains an import duty upon live stock. The Andorrans procure mules by hook and crook from Spain, and lead them over the hills at night by unfrequented paths into France. The share of gendarmes in this traffic, as previously stated, is ten dollars a mule. There is no record that an Andorran smuggler has been recently injured in the practice of his vocation. There is a prosaic stability about the business of smuggling in Andorra that detracts from its interest to the visitor. I turned my attention to the study of history in Andorra, but here I was somewhat disappointed. It was possible to get into the old council hall, in which the horses of the councillors are stabled on the ground floor, while the council hall and their sleeping quarters are on the floor above. There is a fine old fireplace there, in which the administrative meat is roasted, and a cupboard with six locks, in which archives are kept that date from the days of Charlemagne. But each canton has a key, and the keepers of the keys were on the hills, smuggling or watching the cattle that furnish the most permanent source of income here; so that my inquiry into Andorra’s past was a somewhat scanty one.
Titles once obtained are never relinquished
The total population of the republic is about 6000, and those men that have arms serve in the army. There are no uniforms in the army, but this shortage is made up by the surplus-age of officers. Artemus Ward’s regiment of brigadier generals might well have had its inspiration here. The man who once gets an officer never relinquishes the title, and as officers seem to go somewhat by rotation, the untitled man in Andorra must be a poor stick indeed. Nor is there a finicky precision in he matter arms for the army. The man who served lunch showed me with pride a blunderbuss made by Tower, in London, in the days of one of the first Georges, and assured me that he was a soldier in good standing. It was a good blunderbuss, too —clean as a watch and obviously up to anything. I did not wonder at the pride he took in it. “It is a hard country,” said the priest who shared the mule cart on the way back to Seo. “The cattle begin to straggle down from the hills when the snow falls early in September. The winter is long and very cold and my people are so poor. But for the smuggling they would suffer. What would you?”
The National Geographic Magazine, March 1918, Vol.XXXIII , Number 3