About the smoke extracted by the Indians in the province of Chontales, in the governorate of Nicaragua, from which they make kindling for charcoal and ink to paint the slaves. The Indians call the charcoal or ash from the smoke tile.
Translated by Kendal Simmons ’23
On this island of Hispaniola and in some parts of Tierra-Firme, there are natural pine trees similar to those of Spain. In the governorate of Nicaragua, among the Chontale Indians, there are pine forests in the mountains. One of their industries is to extract the smoke from torched branches of pinewood and then make a powder from its remains, similar to the powder that silversmiths extract from oil to draw. They wrap this powder (which is like a very ground-up charcoal) in some leaves of biahos, which forms a rounded mass as long as a palm and as thick as the wrist of an arm. The price of this powder or smoke is thereby determined by the quantity and then brought to the tianguez, which is the market where the Indian men and women meet to trade and sell. They barter this powder for other things, and for almonds, which is their common currency. The Indians use this powder for the purpose of branding slaves with whatever mark their owners see fit and also for painting themselves as adornment. This powder is a deep black color, and it is called tile in their language.
To use this powder, they cut the arm or the face with a knife made of flint, cutting in between the skin and the muscle in order to make a subtle mark. The incision is then filled and covered with this powder and dampened to form mud. It heals quickly and the black markings do not fade for the remainder of the branded person’s life.
I put this here with the other repositories, but do not misinterpret, reader, the earlier mention of mud because the mixture does not actually contain mud nor is mud placed on the branded person. Instead, it is made from the powder of the smoke, which smothers the cut in the same way that mud might. This paint is left untouched and unwashed until it dissipates by itself. If you wish to clean it, it should be washed after about five or six days and it should be done with a light hand. From then on, the figures and aforementioned paint remain fixed.