G.W. Ray was a 19th century North American missionary but he is remembered more for being a long rider, someone who traveled more than 1,000 miles on horseback in a single journey. Ray wrote about his experiences in South America in “Through Five Republics on Horseback: Being an account of many wanderings in South America.

If you can get through his proselytizing and colonial attitudes (which are both laughable and sad), then you’ll find an intriguing work. In much of the book there is a sense that Ray used religion mostly as an excuse to justify his explorations. His journey began in Buenos Aires in 1889 when he arrived by steamer ship after a five week voyage from North America.

How shall I describe the metropolis of the Argentine, with its one-
storied, flat-roofed houses, each with grated windows and centre patio?…The Buenos Ayres of 1889 was a strange place, with its long, narrow
streets, its peculiar stores and many-tongued inhabitants. There is
the dark-skinned policeman at the corner of each block sitting
silently on his horse, or galloping down the cobbled street at the
sound of some revolver, which generally tells of a life gone out….At early morning and evening the milkman goes his rounds on
horseback. The milk he carries in six long, narrow cans, like
inverted sugar-loaves, three on each side of his raw-hide saddle, he
himself being perched between them on a sheepskin.”

Throughout the book is Ray’s love for horses. He describes this scene from late 19th century Buenos Aires:

One is struck by the number of
horses, seven and eight often being yoked to one cart, which even
then they sometimes find difficult to draw. Some of the streets are
very bad, worse than our country lanes, and filled with deep ruts and
drains, into which the horses often fall. There the driver will
sometimes cruelly leave them, when, after his arm aches in using the
whip, he finds the animal cannot rise….

As I have said, horses are left to die in the public streets. It has
been my painful duty to pass moaning creatures lying helplessly in
the road, with broken limbs, under a burning sun, suffering hunger
and thirst, for three consecutive days, before kind death, the
sufferer’s friend, released them….

I have said the streets are full of holes. In justice to the
authorities I must mention the fact that sometimes, especially at the
crossings, these are filled up. To carry truthfulness still further,
however, I must state that more than once I have known them bridged
over with the putrefying remains of a horse in the last stages of
decomposition. I have seen delicate ladies, attired in Parisian
furbelows, lift their dainty skirts, attempt the crossing–and sink
in a mass of corruption, full of maggots.

A few years years later

Ray contrasts those scenes of Buenos Aires in 1889 with the dramatic changes that took place in the city around the turn of the century.

The city, once so unhealthy, is now, through proper drainage, “the
second healthiest large city of the world.” The streets, as I first
saw them, were roughly cobbled, now they are asphalt paved, and made
into beautiful avenues, such as would grace any capital of the world.
Avenida de Mayo, cut right through the old city, is famed as being
one of the most costly and beautiful avenues of the world.

On those streets the equestrian milkman is no longer seen. Beautiful
sanitary white-tiled _tambos_, where pure milk and butter are sold,
have taken his place. The old has been transformed and PROGRESS is
written everywhere.