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Two Years in the French West Indies By Lafcadio Hearn Characters: 1835

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02

The erect carriage and steady swift walk of the women who bear burdens is especially likely to impress the artistic observer: it is the sight of such passers-by which gives, above all, the antique tone and color to his first sensations;-and the larger part of the female population of mixed race are practised carriers. Nearly all the transportation of light merchandise, as well as of meats, fruits, vegetables, and food stuffs,-to and from the interior,-is effected upon human heads. At some of the ports the regular local packets are loaded and unloaded by women and girls,-able to carry any trunk or box to its destination. At Fort-de-France the great steamers of the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique, are entirely coaled by women, who carry the coal on their heads, singing as they come and go in processions of hundreds; and the work is done with incredible rapidity. Now, the creole porteuse, or female carrie

r, is certainly one of the most remarkable physical types in the world; and whatever artistic enthusiasm her graceful port, lithe walk, or half-savage beauty may inspire you with, you can form no idea, if a total stranger, what a really wonderful being she is.... Let me tell you something about that highest type of professional female carrier, which is to the charbonnière, or coaling-girl, what the thorough-bred racer is to the draught-horse,-the type of porteuse selected for swiftness and endurance to distribute goods in the interior parishes, or to sell on commission at long distances. To the same class naturally belong those country carriers able to act as porteuses of plantation produce, fruits, or vegetables,-between the nearer ports and their own interior parishes.... Those who believe that great physical endurance and physical energy cannot exist in the tropics do not know the creole carrier-girl.

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