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Police Activity In Humacao






Category: IN THE CARIBBEAN

Source: Myths & Legends Of Our New Possessions & Protectorate

For three centuries a Spanish convict station was kept in Porto
Rico. The unpleasant and undesirable found, not a welcome here,
but a more congenial company than in the home land. Life was easier
because one needed less food and clothes, and they were furnished
by the authorities, anyway. What with the convicts and discontented
slaves, it is a wonder that any sort of comfort or safety existed on
the island, and especially that so much of pleasant social life was
to be found in the cities. Those who knew Porto Rico in those days,
however, say that class distinctions were not sharply marked; that
the master was kind to the slave, and the slave felt as if he were a
member of his master's family, rather than a dependent; that the two
were often seen at the cockpit sitting elbow to elbow, kneeling side
by side in the same church, greeting the same friends or cracking
the heads of the same enemies before the church doors at Epiphany,
and in the humbler homes sitting at the same table.

In those simple times the robber gangs were a great vexation. Killing
was something to grow used to, and a disagreement over cards was
liable to result in having one's head snipped off by a machete; but to
be robbed of one's machete, or of one's jug of rum, or of one's only
trousers, was a sad affliction, and soldiers and police were as active
as Spanish functionaries could persuade themselves to be, in running
down--or walking down--these outlaws. It is said that the detectives
were especially amusing. They would go about in such obvious disguises,
with misfit wigs, window-glass spectacles, and the costumes of priests
or notaries, that a robber could barely keep his countenance when he
met them in the street. The thief always escaped, either through the
incompetence of the officers, or by sharing his profits with them.

But there was one fellow who made such trouble that the police
began to chafe beneath the public criticism. To impugn their honor
did not hurt them much, though they ruffled a good deal under it,
but to threaten them with reduction of pay or removal was a serious
matter; so the chief of the San Juan constabulary bestirred himself,
after a particularly daring robbery had occurred in his bailiwick,
the rogue making off with six thousand dollars' worth of jewelry. He
got safely away from town and was traced to Humacao, where his
footprints were found leading to the door of a small, tumble-down,
deserted house, and none of these prints could be seen with toes
pointing away from it. The chief dismissed his men and prepared to
conduct a siege. He had a dagger, a machete, two pistols, and a gun,
with a box of ammunition. Thus equipped he went to the front door,
gave it a sounding whack with the flat of his machete, and bawled,
"Open, in the name of the law!"

There was no response, so he struck his weapon impatiently against
the panels two or three times and called on the bandit to emerge
and give himself up. Again there was no reply. A bolder move was
necessary. He pushed open the window, crouching down outside, that he
might not become a target for the fellow, who was probably lurking
in the dark interior, and after calling on him for a third time to
appear and go to jail, he thrust his firearms in and began to blaze
in all directions over the floor.

After emptying the pistols and gun he shouted, "If you don't come
out I'll blow you to the bad place, for I have one hundred and fifty
cartridges here, and I can surely shoot you."

All this time the robber had been lying on the floor, just below
the window, very flat and very still. As the chief did not show
himself to take aim, but reached up from his kneeling position and
fired at random, the bold, bad man in-doors began to feel a return
of confidence. He waited until a second fusillade was over, when
he slipped softly through the back door, went around to the front,
waited until a third volley had been fired, when he pounced on the
chief from behind, and in a trice had a stout rope around him. In
a few seconds more he had the astonished and indignant functionary
tied securely to one of the posts of the veranda. Then, calmly taking
possession of the weapons, he lifted his hat, wished the officer a
very good day and a pleasant siesta, and sauntered off to some other
town where the police were still less active.





Next: The Church In Porto Rico

Previous: The Ghost Of San Geronimo



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