POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
|THE CONQUEST OF THE TROPICS.|
ACTING COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION, PORTO RICO.
THE most beautiful and the most fruitful portions of the earth are at the present time in the possession of partially civilized, or barbarous and savage races, to the exclusion of the more enlightened Caucasian. Shall he ever remain unable to possess and occupy tropical lands to the exclusion of dark-skinned and inferior races? Will the time never come when he can rear a family of strong and vigorous children, of pure blood, under the equatorial sun? Is it true that the white man removing to the Tropics necessarily deteriorates?
The almost universal belief is that these questions must be answered in the affirmative. That, owing to the great heat, and to evil influences operating through the air, the water and the soil, it will always be impossible for white people to live in hot countries permanently, and, at the same time, to retain the physical vigor of temperate latitudes, and to rear healthy children. But these persons do not take into account certain recent great discoveries in the domain of science, medicine and hygiene. In the light of these discoveries, it is not wise to say that the white man will never conquer the Tropics.
White races have, in the past, reached a high degree of civilization in hot countries. Egypt, where the first civilization arose, is a land of tropical heat. The valley of the Euphrates, where arose the civilization of Babylon, and much of Persia, are both tropical or sub-tropical in temperature. The people of Egypt, Babylon and Persia were white. It would seem that to originate a civilization is more difficult than to maintain it.
Many countries, now most salubrious, were once considered very unhealthful. Health conditions were so bad in England, after the withdrawal of the Romans, that for nearly a thousand years there was absolutely no increase in the population, and the most dismal accounts of the reign of disease have come down to our times. What was true in England, was in great part true of all of Europe throughout the Dark Ages. Scurvy, rheumatism, fevers and plagues held high carnival in recurring epidemics every few years. If we can believe the reports, it was fully as dangerous then to dwell in the most favorable portion of Europe as it is now in the most dreaded tropical regions.
New England was at first thought to be a very unhealthful land. The early settlers in Massachusetts wrote to their friends in England