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Title: Aztec Land
Author: Ballou, Maturin Murray, 1820-1895
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  By Maturin M. Ballou.


  AZTEC LAND. A new Book. Crown 8vo, $1.50.

  THE NEW ELDORADO. A Summer Journey to Alaska.
  Crown 8vo, $1.50.

  DUE WEST; or, ROUND THE WORLD IN TEN MONTHS.
  Crown 8vo, $1.50.

  DUE SOUTH; or, CUBA PAST AND PRESENT. Crown 8vo,
  $1.50.

  UNDER THE SOUTHERN CROSS; or, TRAVELS IN AUSTRALASIA.
  Crown 8vo, $1.50.

  DUE NORTH; or, GLIMPSES OF SCANDINAVIA AND RUSSIA.
  Crown 8vo, $1.50.

  GENIUS IN SUNSHINE AND SHADOW. Crown 8vo, $1.50.

  EDGE-TOOLS OF SPEECH. Selected and edited by Mr.
  BALLOU. 8vo, $3.50.

  A TREASURY OF THOUGHT. An Encyclopædia of Quotations.
  8vo, full gilt, $3.50.

  PEARLS OF THOUGHT. 16mo, full gilt, $1.25.

  NOTABLE THOUGHTS ABOUT WOMEN. Crown 8vo,
  $1.50.


  HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & COMPANY,
  BOSTON AND NEW YORK.



AZTEC LAND

BY

MATURIN M. BALLOU



  The dust is old upon my sandal-shoon,
  And still I am a pilgrim.

  N. P. WILLIS.


[Illustration]


  BOSTON AND NEW YORK
  HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY
  The Riverside Press, Cambridge
  1890



  Copyright, 1890,
  BY MATURIN M. BALLOU.


  _All rights reserved._


  _The Riverside Press, Cambridge, Mass., U. S. A._
  Electrotyped and Printed by H. O. Houghton & Company



PREFACE.


Having resolved to visit Mexico, the question first to be considered was
how to do so in the most advantageous manner. Repairing to the office of
Messrs. Raymond & Whitcomb, in Boston, after a brief consultation with
those experienced organizers of travel, the author handed the firm a
check for the cost of a round trip to Mexico and back. On the following
day he took his seat in a Pullman parlor car in Boston, to occupy the
same section until his return from an excursion of ten thousand miles. A
select party of ladies and gentlemen came together at the same time in
the Fitchburg railroad station, most of whom were strangers to each
other, but who were united by the same purpose. The traveler lives,
eats, and sleeps in the vestibule train, while _en route_, in which he
first embarks, until his return to the starting-point, a dining-car,
with reading and writing rooms, also forming a part of the train. All
care regarding the routes to be followed, as to hotel accommodations
while stopping in large cities, side excursions, and the providing of
domestic necessities, are dismissed from his mind. He luxuriates in the
pleasure of seeing a strange and beautiful land, without a thought as to
the _modus operandi_, or the means by which detail is conquered. In
short, he dons Fortunatus's cap, and permits events to develop
themselves to his intense delight. Such was the author's experience on
the occasion concerning which these wayside views of Mexico were
written. It was a holiday journey, but it is hoped that a description of
it may impart to the general reader a portion of the pleasure and useful
information which the author realized from an excursion into Aztec Land,
full of novel and uninterrupted enjoyment.

  M. M. B.



CONTENTS.


  CHAPTER I.


  Locality and Political Divisions of Aztec Land.--Spanish
      Historians.--Boundaries.--Climate.--Egyptian Resemblances.
      --Products of the Country.--Antiquities.--Origin of Races.
      --Early Civilization.--Pictorial Writings.--Aboriginal Money.
      --Aztec Religious Sacrifices.--A Voluptuous Court.--Mexican
      Independence.--European Civilization introduced by Cortez.--
      Civil Wars.--The Maximilian Fiasco.--Revival of Mexican
      Progress.--A Country facing on Two Oceans.--A Native Writer's
      Statement.--Divorce of Church and State                            1


  CHAPTER II.

  Remarkably Fertile Soil.--Valuable Native Woods.--Mexican Flora.--
      Coffee and Tobacco.--Mineral Products.--Silver Mines.--Sugar
      Lands.--Manufactories.--Cortez's Presents to Charles V.--Water
      Power.--Coal Measures.--Railroads.--Historic Locality.--Social
      Characteristics.--People divided into Castes.--Peonage.--
      Radical Progress.--Education and the Priesthood.--A Threshing
      Machine.--Social Etiquette.--Political Organization of the
      Government.--Mexico the Synonym of Barbarism.--Production and
      Business Handicapped by an Excessive Tariff                       23


  CHAPTER III.

  The Route to Mexico.--Via the Mammoth Cave.--Across the Rio
      Grande.--A Large River.--Piedras Negras.--Characteristic Scene.
      --A Barren Prairie Land.--Castaño, a Native Village.--Adobe
      Cabins.--Indian Irrigation.--Sparsely Populated Country.--
      Interior Haciendas.--Immigration.--City of Saltillo.--Battle
      of Buena Vista.--City of Monterey.--The Cacti and Yucca-Palm.
      --Capture by General Taylor.--Mexican Central Railroad.--
      Jack-Rabbits.--A Dreary Region.--The Mesquite Bushes.--Lonely
      Graves                                                            43


  CHAPTER IV.

  Zacatecas.--Sand-Spouts.--Fertile Lands.--A Silver Mining Region.
      --Alpine Scenery.--Table-Land of Mexico.--An Aged Miner.--
      Zacatecas Cathedral.--Church and People.--A Mountain Climb.--
      Ownership of the Mines.--Want of Drainage.--A Battlefield.--
      Civil War.--Local Market.--Peculiar Scenes.--Native Beauties.
      --City Tramway Experience.--Town of Guadalupe.--Organized
      Beggars.--A Noble and Successful Institution.--Market of
      Guadalupe.--Attractive Señoritas.--Private Gardens                62


  CHAPTER V.

  A Mexican Watering Place.--Delightful Climate.--Aguas Calientes.
      --Young Señoritas.--Local City Scenes.--Convicts.--Churches.
      --A Mummified Monk.--Punishment is Swift and Sure.--Hot
      Springs.--Bathing in Public.--Caged Songsters.--"Antiquities."
      --Delicious Fruits.--Market Scenes.--San Luis Potosi.--The
      Public Buildings.--City of Leon.--A Beautiful Plaza.--Local
      Manufactories.--Home Industries of Leon.--The City of Silao.
      --Defective Agriculture.--Objection to Machinery.--Fierce
      Sand Storm                                                        76


  CHAPTER VI.

  Guanajuato.--An Ex-President.--Richest Silver Mine in Mexico.--
      Reducing the Ores.--Plenty of Silver.--Open Sewers.--A Venal
      Priesthood.--A Big Prison.--The Catholic Church.--Getting Rid
      of a Prisoner.--The Frog-Rock.--Idolaters.--A Strawberry
      Festival at Irapuato.--Salamanca.--City of Queretaro.--A Fine
      Old Capital.--Maximilian and His Fate.--A Charming Plaza.--
      Mammoth Cotton Factory.--The Maguey Plant.--Pulque and Other
      Stimulants.--Beautiful Opals.--Honey Water.--Ancient Tula.--
      A Freak of Tropical Weather                                       97


  CHAPTER VII.

  City of Mexico.--Private Dwellings.--Thieves.--Old Mexico.--
      Climate.--Tramways.--The Plaza Mayor.--City Streets.--The
      Grand Paseo.--Public Statues.--Scenes upon the Paseo.--The
      Paseo de la Viga.--Out-of-door Concerts.--A Mexican Caballero.
      --Lottery Ticket Venders.--High Noon.--Mexican Soldiers.--
      Musicians.--Criminals as Soldiers.--The Grand Cathedral.--The
      Ancient Aztec Temple.--Magnificent View from the Towers of
      the Cathedral.--Cost of the Edifice.--Valley of Anahuac          126


  CHAPTER VIII.

  An Extinct Volcano.--Mexican Mountains.--The Public Institutions
      of the Capital.--The Government Palace.--The Museum.--
      Maximilian's State Carriage.--A Peculiar Plant.--The Academy
      of Fine Arts.--Choice Paintings.--Art School.--Picture
      Writing.--Native Artists.--Exquisite Pottery.--Cortez's
      Presents to Charles V.--A Special Aztec Art.--The Sacrificial
      Stone.--Spanish Historical Authorities.--Public Library.--The
      Plaza.--Flower Market.--A Morning Visit.--Public Market.--
      Concealed Weapons                                                150


  CHAPTER IX.

  A City of Vistas.--Want of Proper Drainage.--Unfortunate Site.--
      Insecure Foundations.--A Boom in Building Lots.--Pleasant
      Suburbs.--Night Watchmen.--The Iturbide Hotel--A Would-be
      Emperor.--Domestic Arrangements.--A New Hotel wanted.--
      Places of Public Entertainment.--The Bull Ring.--Repulsive
      Performance.--Monte de Piedad.--An English Syndicate purchase
      it.--The Alameda.--The Inquisition.--Festal Days.--Pulque
      Shops.--The Church Party.--Gilded Bar-Rooms.--Mexican
      Marriages.--Mothers and Infants.--A Family Group                 170


  CHAPTER X.

  Benito Juarez's Grandest Monument.--Hotel del Jardin.--General
      José Morelos.--Mexican Ex-Convents.--City Restaurants.--Lady
      Smokers.--Domestic Courtyards.--A Beautiful Bird.--The Grand
      Cathedral Interior.--A Devout Lottery Ticket Vender.--
      Porcelain-Ornamented Houses.--Rogues in Church.--Expensive
      Justice.--Cemetery of San Fernando.--Juarez's Monument.--
      Coffins to Let.--American and English Cemetery.--A Doleful
      Street and Trade                                                 194


  CHAPTER XI.

  The Shrine of Guadalupe.--Priestly Miracles.--A Remarkable
      Spring.--The Chapels about the Hill.--A Singular Votive
      Offering.--Church of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe.--Costly
      Decorations.--A Campo Santo.--Tomb of Santa Anna.--Strange
      Contrasts.--Guadalupe-Hidalgo.--The Twelve Shrines on the
      Causeway.--The Viga Canal.--The Floating Islands.--Indian
      Gamblers.--Vegetable Market.--Flower Girls.--The "Noche-
      Triste" Tree.--Ridiculous Signs.--Queer Titles.--Floral
      Festival                                                         205


  CHAPTER XII.

  Castle of Chapultepec.--"Hill of the Grasshopper."--Montezuma's
      Retreat.--Palace of the Aztec Kings.--West Point of Mexico.
      --Battles of Molino del Rey and Churubusco.--The Mexican White
      House.--High above Sea Level.--Village of Tacubaya.--Antique
      Carvings.--Ancient Toluca.--The Maguey.--Fine Scenery.--Cima.
      --Snowy Peaks.--Leon d'Oro.--The Bull-Ring and Cockpit.--A
      Literary Institution.--The Coral Tree.--Ancient Pyramids.--
      Pachuca.--Silver Product of the Mines.--A Cornish Colony.--
      Native Cabins.--Indian Endurance                                 220


  CHAPTER XIII.

  Puebla, the Sacred City.--General Forey.--Battle-Ground.--View of
      the City.--Priestly Miracles.--The Cathedral.--Snow-Crowned
      Mountains.--A Cleanly Capital.--The Plaza Mayor.--A Typical
      Picture.--The Old Seller of Rosaries.--Mexican Ladies.--Palm
      Sunday.--Church Gala Day.--Education--Confiscation of Church
      Property.--A Curious Arch.--A Doll Image.--Use of Glazed
      Tiles.--Onyx a Staple Production.--Fine Work of Native Indian
      Women.--State of Puebla full of Rich Resources.--A Dynamite
      Bomb.--The Key of the Capital                                    241


  CHAPTER XIV.

  Ancient Cholula.--A Grand Antiquity.--The Cheops of Mexico.--
      Traditions relating to the Pyramid.--The Toltecs.--Cholula of
      To-Day.--Comprehensive View.--A Modern Tower of Babel.--
      Multiplicity of Ruins.--Cortez's Exaggerations.--Sacrifices of
      Human Beings.--The Hateful Inquisition.--A Wholesale Murderous
      Scheme.--Unreliable Historians.--Spanish Falsification.--
      Interesting Churches.--Off the Track.--Personal Relics of
      Cortez.--Torturing a Victim.--Aztec Antiquities.--Tlaxcala.--
      Church of San Francisco.--Peon Dwellings.--Cortez and the
      Tlaxcalans                                                       258


  CHAPTER XV.

  Down into the Hot Lands.--Wonderful Mountain Scenery.--Parasitic
      Vines.--Luscious Fruits.--Orchids.--Orizaba.--State of Vera
      Cruz.--The Kodak.--Churches.--A Native Artist.--Schools.--
      Climate.--Crystal Peak of Orizaba.--Grand Waterfall.--The
      American Flag.--Disappointed Climbers.--A Night Surprise.--
      The French Invasion.--The Plaza.--Indian Characteristics.--
      Early Morning Sights.--Maximilian in Council.--Difficult
      Engineering.--Wild Flowers.--A Cascade.--Cordova.--The Banana.
      --Coffee Plantations.--Fertile Soil.--Market Scenes              282


  CHAPTER XVI.

  The City of Vera Cruz.--Defective Harbor.--The Dreaded and also
      Welcome Norther.--San Juan d'Ulloa.--Landing of Cortez.--His
      Expedition Piratical.--View of the City from the Sea.--
      Cortez's Destruction of his Ships.--Anecdote of Charles V.--A
      Sickly Capital.--Street Scenes.--Trade.--The Mantilla.--Plaza
      de la Constitucion.--Typical Characters.--Brilliant Fireflies.
      --Well-To-Do Beggars.--Principal Edifices.--The Campo Santo.
      --City Dwelling-Houses.--The Dark-Plumed Buzzards.--A City
      Fountain.--A Varied History.--Medillin.--State of Vera Cruz      301


  CHAPTER XVII.

  Jalapa.--A Health Resort.--Birds, Flowers, and Fruits.--Cerro
      Gordo.--Cathedral.--Earthquakes.--Local Characteristics.--
      Vanilla.--Ancient Ruins.--Tortillas.--Blondes in a City of
      Brunettes.--Curiosities of Mexican Courtship.--Caged Singing
      Birds.--Banditti Outwitted.--Socialistic Indians.--Traces of
      a Lost City.--Guadalajara.--On the Mexican Plateau.--A
      Progressive Capital.--Fine Modern Buildings.--The Cathedral.
      --Native Artists.--A Noble Institution.--Amusements.--San
      Pedro.--Evening in the Plaza.--A Ludicrous Carnival.--Judas
      Day                                                              320


  CHAPTER XVIII.

  Santa Rosalia.--Mineral Springs.--Chihuahua.--A Peculiar City.--
      Cathedral.--Expensive Bells.--Aqueduct.--Alameda.--Hidalgo's
      Prison and his Fate.--Eulalia.--A Large State.--A Grand Avenue
      of Trees.--Local Artists.--Grotesque Signs.--Influence of
      Proximity to the United States.--Native Villages.--Dangerous
      Sand-Spouts.--Reflections on Approaching the Frontier.--
      Pleasant Pictures photographed upon the Memory.--Juarez, the
      Border Town of Mexico.--City of El Paso, Texas.--Railroad
      Interests.--Crossing the Rio Grande.--Greeted by the Stars
      and Stripes                                                      343



AZTEC LAND.



CHAPTER I.

Locality and Political Divisions of Aztec Land.--Spanish Historians.--
    Boundaries.--Climate.--Egyptian Resemblances.--Products of the
    Country.--Antiquities.--Origin of Races.--Early Civilization.--
    Pictorial Writings.--Aboriginal Money.--Aztec Religious Sacrifices.
    --A Voluptuous Court.--Mexican Independence.--European Civilization
    introduced by Cortez.--Civil Wars.--The Maximilian Fiasco.--Revival
    of Mexican Progress.--A Country facing on Two Oceans.--A Native
    Writer's Statement.--Divorce of Church and State.


Bordering upon the United States on the extreme southwest, for a
distance of more than two thousand miles, is a republic which represents
a civilization possibly as old as that of Egypt; a land, notwithstanding
its proximity to us, of which the average American knows less than he
does of France or Italy, but which rivals them in natural
picturesqueness, and nearly equals them in historic interest.

It is a country which is much misunderstood and almost wholly
misrepresented. It may be called the land of tradition and romance,
whose true story is most poetic and sanguinary. Such is Mexico, with her
twenty-seven independent states, a federal district in which is situated
the national capital, and the territory of Lower California,--a
widespread country, containing in all a population of between ten and
eleven millions. As in the instance of this Union, each state controls
its internal affairs so far as it can do so without conflicting with the
laws of the national government, which are explicitly defined. The
nature of the constitution, adopted in 1857 by the combined states, is
that of a republic pure and simple, thoroughly democratic in its
provisions. The national power resides in the people, from whom emanates
all public authority. The glowing pen of Prescott has rendered us all
familiar with the romantic side of Mexican history, but legitimate
knowledge of her primitive story is, unfortunately, of the most
fragmentary character. Our information concerning the early inhabitants
comes almost solely through the writings of irresponsible monks and
priests who could neither see nor represent anything relative to an
idolatrous people save in accordance with the special interests of their
own church; or from Spanish historians who had never set foot upon the
territory of which they wrote, and who consequently repeated with
heightened color the legends, traditions, and exaggerations of others.
"The general opinion may be expressed," says Janvier, in his "Mexican
Guide," "in regard to the writings concerning this period that, as a
rule, a most gorgeous superstructure of fancy has been raised upon a
very meagre foundation of fact. As romance, information of this highly
imaginative sort is entertaining, but it is not edifying." One would be
glad to get at the other side of the Aztec story, which, we suspect,
would place the chivalric invaders in a very different light from that
of their own boastful records, and also enable us to form a more just
and truthful opinion of the aborigines themselves. That their numbers,
religious sacrifices, and barbaric excesses are generally overdrawn is
perfectly manifest. Every fair-minded student of history frankly admits
this. It was necessary for Cortez and his followers to paint the
character of the Aztecs in darkest hues to palliate and excuse, in a
measure, their own wholesale rapine and murder. It was the elder Dumas
who said, "Truth is liable to be left-handed in history." As Cortez was
a champion of the Roman Catholic Church, that institution did not
hesitate to represent his achievements so as to redound to its own
glory. "Posterity is too often deceived by the vague hyperboles of poets
and rhetoricians," says Macaulay, "who mistake the splendor of a court
for the happiness of a people." No one can forget the magnificence of
Montezuma's household as represented by the chroniclers, and as
magnified by time and distance.

Let us consider for a moment the geographical situation of this great
southland, which is separated from us only by a comparatively
insignificant stream of water.

The present republic of Mexico is bounded on the north by the United
States, from which it is separated in part by the narrow Rio Grande; on
the south by Guatemala, Balize, and the Pacific Ocean; on the east by
the Gulf of Mexico; and on the west by the Pacific Ocean, extending as
far north as the Bay of San Diego, California. Of its nearly six
thousand miles of coast line, sixteen hundred are on the Gulf of Mexico
and forty-two hundred miles are on the Pacific. The topographical aspect
of the country has been not inappropriately likened to an inverted
cornucopia. Its greatest length from northwest to southeast is almost
exactly two thousand miles, and its greatest width, which is at the
twenty-sixth degree of north latitude, is seven hundred and fifty miles.
The minimum width is at the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, where it contracts
to a hundred and fifty miles. The area of the entire republic is
probably a little less than eight hundred thousand square miles.
Trustworthy statistics relating to Mexico are not attainable. Even
official reports are scarcely better than estimates. Carlos Butterfield,
accredited statistician, makes the area of the republic about
thirty-three thousand square miles less than the figures we have given.
He also calculates that the density of the population is some ten or
eleven to the square mile. Other authorities, however, give the area
much nearer to our own figures. A detailed survey which would enable us
to get at a satisfactory aggregate has never been made, so that a
careful estimate is all we have to depend upon.

The climate of the country is divided by common acceptation into three
zones, each of which is well defined: it being hot in the _tierra
caliente_, or hot lands, of the coast; temperate in the _tierra
templada_, or region between three thousand and six thousand feet above
the level of the sea; and cold in the _tierra fria_, or region at an
elevation exceeding six thousand feet. In the first named the extreme
heat is 100° Fahr.; in the last the extreme of cold is 20° above zero.
In the national capital the mercury ranges between 65° and 75° Fahr.
throughout the year. In fact, every climate known to the traveler may be
met with between Vera Cruz and the capital of the republic. In the
neighborhood of Orizaba one finds sugar-cane and Indian corn, tobacco
and palm-trees, bananas and peaches, growing side by side.

Let us state in brief, for general information, the main products of
these three geographical divisions. In the hot region we find cotton,
vanilla, hemp, pepper, cocoa, oranges, bananas, indigo, rice, and
various other tropical fruits. In the temperate region, tobacco, coffee,
sugar, maize, the brown bean, peas, and most of the favorite northern
fruits. Here extreme heat and frost are alike unknown. In the cold
region, all of the hardy vegetables, such as potatoes, beets, carrots,
and the cereals, wheat growing at as high an elevation as eighty-five
hundred feet, while two crops annually are grown in various sections of
the _tierra templada_. Tobacco is indigenous in Mexico, and derives its
name from Tabaco in Yucatan. Indian corn and brown beans, two of the
principal sources of the food consumed by the natives, are grown in all
the states of the republic.

Mexico is situated in the same degree of latitude in the Western
Hemisphere that Egypt occupies in the Eastern, the Tropic of Cancer
dividing both countries in the centre. There is a striking resemblance
between them, also, in many other respects, such as architecture,
vegetation, domestic utensils, mode of cultivating the land, ancient
pyramids, and idols, while both afford abundant tokens of a history
antedating all accredited record. Toltec and Aztec antiquities bear a
remarkable resemblance to the old Egyptian remains to be found in the
museums of Europe and America. Speaking of these evidences of a former
and unknown race still to be found in southern Mexico, especially in
Yucatan, Wilson the historian says: "In their solidity they strikingly
remind us of the best productions of Egyptian art. Nor are they less
venerable in appearance than those which excite our admiration in the
valley of the Nile. Their points of resemblance, too, are so numerous,
they carry to the beholder a conviction that the architects on this side
of the ocean were familiar with the models on the other." Doubtless the
volcanic soil of Mexico conceals vast remains of the far past, even as
Pompeii was covered and continued unsuspected for centuries, until
accident led to its being gradually exhumed. Whole cities are known to
have disappeared in various parts of Mexico, leaving no more evidence of
their existence than may be found in a few broken columns or some
half-disintegrated stones. Of this mutability we shall have ample
evidence as we progress on our route through the several states. When in
various parts of the country we see the native laborers irrigating the
land in the style which prevailed thousands of years ago on the banks of
the Nile, and behold the dark-hued women slightly clothed in a white
cotton fabric with faces half-concealed, while they bear water jars upon
their heads, we seem to breathe the very atmosphere of Asia. The rapid
introduction of railroads and the modern facilities for travel are fast
rendering us as familiar with the characteristics of this land of the
Montezumas as we have long been with that of the Pharaohs; and though it
has not the halo of Biblical story to recommend it to us, yet Mexico is
not lacking in numberless legends, poetic associations, and the charm of
a tragic history quite as picturesque and absorbing as that of any
portion of the East. Many intelligent students of history believe that
the first inhabitants of this continent probably came from Asia by way
of Behring Strait or the Aleutian Islands, which may at some period in
past ages have extended across the north Pacific Ocean; the outermost
island of this group (Attoo), it will be remembered, is at this time but
four hundred miles from the Asiatic coast, whence it is believed to have
been originally peopled.

Relative to the early peopling of our continent, Bancroft says: "It is
shown pretty conclusively that the American people and the American
civilization, if not indigenous to the New World, were introduced from
the Old at _a period long preceding any to which we are carried, by the
traditional or monumental annals of either continent_. We have found no
evidence of any populating or civilizing migration across the ocean from
east to west, north or south, within historic times. Nothing approaching
identity has been discovered between any two nations separated by the
Atlantic or Pacific. No positive record appears even of communication
between America and the Old World,--intentionally by commercial, exploring,
or warlike expeditions, or accidentally by shipwreck,--previous to the
voyages of the Northmen in the tenth century; yet that such communication
did take place, in many instances and at different periods, is extremely
probable."

The emigrants of whom we have spoken are supposed to have been nomadic,
to have first built cities in the north,--that is, the present United
States; it is not improbable that they were the mound-builders of Ohio
and the Mississippi valleys, and that they afterward migrated southward
into Mexico. These pioneers were called Toltecs, and were settled south
of the Rio Grande a thousand years ago, more or less, their capital
being what is known to-day as the city of Tula, forty miles northwest of
the present capital of Mexico, where many antique and curious remains
still interest the traveler. The names of the nine Toltec kings who
ruled up to A. D. 1097 are well ascertained. It was the fourth
king, if we may believe the chroniclers, who built the city of
Teotihuacan, that is, "the habitation of the gods," the only visible
remains of which are the two earth pyramids of the sun and the moon. Of
these we shall have occasion to treat more at length in a future
chapter. In speaking of the most ancient remains at Tula and elsewhere
in Mexico, Wilson pronounces them to be clearly Egyptian. It is made
plain by authentic writers upon the subject that this people enjoyed a
large degree of civilization; the ruins of temples supposed to have
been built by them in various parts of the country, especially in
Yucatan, also prove this. Humboldt says that in 648 A. D. the
Toltecs had a solar year more perfect than that of the Greeks and
Romans. Other-writers tell us that they were a worthy people, averse to
war, allied to virtue, to cleanliness, and good manners, detesting
falsehood and treachery. They introduced the cultivation of maize and
cotton, constructed extensive irrigating ditches, built roads, and were
a progressive race. "But where is the country," asks Humboldt, "from
which the Toltecs and Mexicans issued?" They were well housed, and even
elegantly clothed, maintained public schools, and commemorated passing
events by elaborate sculpture and by picture-writing. So complete was
their system of hieroglyphics that they wrote upon religion, history,
geography, and the arts. These records were nearly all destroyed by the
malicious and bigoted iniquity of a Spanish priest named Zumarrage, who
made it his business to seek for and burn all tokens, great and small,
which related to the history of this extremely interesting people. A few
of these curious records, in the form of pictorial writing, yet remain
in Mexico, principally in the National Museum at the capital, and some
have found their way across the ocean to adorn the shelves of European
libraries. One of these documents, still extant, represents the country
as having first been settled by a race who came out of a great cave and
traveled over the realm on the backs of turtles, founding cities and
towns wherever they went. This will show that the traditions of the
aborigines are so fabulous as scarcely to deserve mention. Touching the
vandal act of the Catholic priest Zumarrage, Prescott says: "We
contemplate with indignation the cruelties inflicted by the early
conquerors. But indignation is qualified with contempt when we see them
thus ruthlessly trampling out the sparks of knowledge, the common boon
and property of all mankind. We may well doubt which has the strongest
claim to civilization, the victor or the vanquished." We know that the
early inhabitants reared palaces, temples, and pyramids, that they
constructed a grand system of aqueducts for irrigating purposes, and for
the liberal promotion of agriculture, being in many respects in advance
of the Mexicans of to-day in the cultivation of the soil, as well as in
some productions of art.

This people, after several centuries of occupation, seem to have been
driven away, probably to South America, by the arrival of another race
called Aztecs or Mexicans, about the year 1325,--some writers say much
earlier,--who finally, under the emperors known as the Montezumas,
brought the country to a lofty height of barbaric and extravagant
splendor, though they were largely, if not almost entirely, indebted to
the discoveries and genius of their intelligent predecessors. The early
faith of the Toltecs, it is claimed, was the adoration of the sun, moon,
and stars. They offered to their representative gods flowers, fruits,
and the life-blood of small animals. The sacrifice of human beings was
later engrafted on their simple faith by other tribes.

History tells us that these aboriginal races did not possess stamped
coin. They had certain signs of the value of different articles, which
took the place of money. One of these, for example, is said to have been
cacao beans counted into lots of eight thousand, or in sacks of
twenty-four thousand each. To exchange for articles of daily necessity
they used pieces of cotton cloth. Expensive objects were paid for in
grains of gold dust, which were carried in quills. For the cheapest
articles, copper pieces cut like the letter T were used. After the
conquest, the earliest mint was established in Mexico, in 1538, by Don
Antonio de Mendoza, who was the first viceroy.

When Cortez came from--in the light of history we should say, ran away
from--Cuba to conquer and possess Mexico, in 1519, a hundred years
before the Pilgrims lauded on the shore of Massachusetts Bay, he
encountered a people who had reached, comparatively speaking, a high
degree of civilization, though weighted by an idolatrous worship which
was most terrible in its wild and reckless practice of human sacrifice,
as represented by Spanish authorities. Their imposing sculptures,
curious arms, picture records, and rich, fanciful garments, filled the
invaders with surprise and whetted their gross avariciousness. There was
much that was strange and startling in their mythology, and even their
idol worship and sacrificial rites bore evidence of sincerity.
Altogether, this western empire presented a strange and fascinating
spectacle to the eyes of the invaders, who flattered themselves that
they would be doing God service by subjugating these idolaters, and
substituting their own religion for that of the natives. At the time
when the Spaniards arrived in the country, Montezuma II. was on the
throne, one of the most extravagant of voluptuaries. According to the
accounts of the early Spanish chroniclers, the ornaments worn by him
must have been equal in elegance and value to the crown-jewels of any
imperial family of Europe. Asiatic pomp and luxury could not go to
greater extremes than these writers attribute to the Aztec court and its
emperor. Cortez eagerly and unscrupulously possessed himself of these
royal gems, and kept them concealed upon his person until his return to
Spain. They are represented to have been worth "a nation's ransom," but
were lost in the sea, where Cortez had thrown himself in a critical
emergency. The broad amphitheatre, in the midst of which the capital of
Anahuac--"by the waters"--was built, still remains; but the picturesque
lake which beautified it, traversed by causeways and covered with
floating gardens laden with trees and flowers, has disappeared. Though
the conquered natives, roused at last to a spirit of madness by the
unequaled cruelty and extortion of the victors, rose in a body and
expelled them from their capital, still the ruthless valor of Cortez and
his followers, aided by artful alliance with disaffected native tribes,
together with the superiority of the Spanish weapons, finally proved too
much for the reigning power, and, after a brave and protracted struggle,
the star of the Aztec dynasty set in blood.

Montezuma died a miserable death in the hands of Cortez; while
Guatemozin, the last of the Aztec emperors, was ignominiously treated,
tortured, and afterwards hanged by the Spanish conqueror.

Three hundred years of Spanish rule, extortion, rapacity, fraud, and
bitter oppression followed,--a period of struggle for supremacy on the
part of the Roman Catholic Church, during which it relentlessly crushed
every vestige of opposition by means of that hideous monster, the
Inquisition. During these three centuries, the same selfish policy
actuated the home government towards Mexico as was exercised towards
Cuba, namely, to extort from the country and its people the largest
possible revenue for the Spanish treasury. Finally came the successful
revolution which separated the country from continental Spain and
achieved the independence of the nation.

We must not, however, blind ourselves to facts. Hateful as the Spanish
rule in Mexico appears to us, we must admit that Cortez introduced
European civilization, such as it was, into the country, and it has
virtually continued until the present day. We see that under his rule
great cities sprang into life, magnificent buildings were erected,
national roads, viaducts, bridges, and aqueducts were built, on so grand
a scale as to still challenge our admiration. Silver and gold were
extracted from the mines, and together with ornamental woods, precious
stones, dyes and drugs were shipped in unlimited quantities to Spain,
whereby her already richly endowed treasury became full to repletion.
True, it was a period of false gods, of high living, and of vice; might
made right; morality had not the same signification then as it has in
our time. The conventionalities of one century become the vices of the
next. Virtue and vice must, in a certain degree, be construed in
relation to latitude and longitude. That which is sacred in Samoa to-day
may be considered impious in Boston.

Cortez's expedition, which landed at Vera Cruz, April 21, 1519, was not
the first to discover the continent in this neighborhood; he had been
preceded nearly two years by a rich merchant of Cuba, who fitted out a
couple of small vessels on his own account, mainly for the purpose of
trading, and being also in search of that great lure, gold, which it was
supposed existed in large quantities among the native tribes of the
mainland. This adventurer, Francisco Hernandez de Cordova, landed near
the present Cape Catoche, April 8, 1517, having brought with him only
about one hundred men. As to the final result of that enterprise we are
not informed, except that his landing was opposed by the natives, and a
battle was fought in which fifteen or twenty Indians were killed and a
number of Spaniards were wounded.

The fighting instinct of the people of Mexico was never exercised to
better purpose than during the period between 1810 and 1821, in the
gallant and successful war with the home government to establish their
freedom. On the 15th day of September, 1810, a solemn declaration of
independence was made, and for eleven years, under various patriotic
leaders, such as Hidalgo--their Washington--and the truly great Morelos,
the trying fortunes of a relentless war were experienced, until August
24, 1821, when Spain was forced to give up the contest and retire
humiliated from the field. Not, however, until so late as 1838 did she
formally recognize the Mexican republic.

It is natural to pause for a moment in this connection, and contrast the
past with the present status of Spain, a country which conquered,
possessed, and misruled Mexico for so long a period. In the sixteenth
century she threatened to become the mistress of the world. In art she
held the foremost position. Murillo, Velasquez, and Ribiera were her
honored sons; in literature she was represented by Cervantes, Lope de
Vega, and Calderon; while of discoverers and conquerors she sent forth
Columbus, Cortez, and Pizarro. The banners of Castile and Aragon floated
alike on the Pacific and the Indian Oceans. Her warriors were
adventurous and brave; her soldiers inherited the gallantry of the
followers of Charles V. She was the court of Europe, the acknowledged
leader of chivalry. How rapid has been her decadence! As in the
plenitude of her power she was ambitious, cruel, and perfidious, so has
the measure which she meted to others been in turn accorded to herself.
To-day there are none so humble as to do her honor.

As years progressed, interstate struggles impoverished the land and
decimated the number of its ruling spirits. To recall a list of the
names of patriot leaders who laid down their lives during this half
century and more of civil wars makes one shudder for man's inhumanity to
man. Little progress was made. The Romish Church held its parasitic
clutch upon state and people, impoverishing and degrading both, until
the burden became too great to bear; and, in 1857, the Laws of Reform
were enacted and the constitution amended, causing the church to
disgorge its millions of ill-gotten wealth, and also depriving it of its
power for further national injury.

A brief but decisive war with the United States ended in the humble
submission of Mexico, causing her to lose a large portion of her
territory, amounting to more than one half its number of square miles.
Probably very few of the readers of these pages could answer correctly,
if they were asked what was the real cause of this war between the
United States and Mexico. Let us briefly state the facts, since we shall
incidentally refer more than once to the matter. In 1835, Texas, then a
part of Mexico, rebelled against that government, and succeeded not only
in achieving her independence, but also in being recognized as a
distinct power by several of the nations of Europe, including England
and France, as well as this country. After a lapse of nine or ten years,
at the earnest solicitation of the inhabitants, Texas was admitted to
the American Union. The Mexican government expressed great
dissatisfaction at this, and sent troops to camp all along the Rio
Grande, which compelled the President to order a division of our array
there to protect the national interests. The Mexican troops crossed over
their border and attacked our soldiers on Texan soil, killing sixteen
Americans and capturing many prisoners. This was on April 24, 1846, and
precipitated hostilities at once. After the battles of Palo Alto, May
8th, and Resaca de la Palma, May 9th, both fought on Texan soil, and
both defeats for the Mexicans, General Taylor crossed with his forces
into Mexico and occupied Matamoras. The subsequent battles on Taylor's
and Scott's lines resulted in a series of hard-won victories for our
troops in every instance; until, finally, the flag of the United States
floated triumphantly over the city of Mexico. It was not this country,
but Mexico, which was the aggressor, and it was her foolhardiness and
outrageous insult which brought about the war. There is not a power in
Europe which would not have done precisely as this country did when thus
attacked. The author knows very well that it is the fashion to berate
our government for the punishment it inflicted upon the aggressive
Mexicans, but we are not among those who believe that when nations or
individuals are smitten upon one cheek they should turn the other for a
like treatment. Mexico got what she deserved, that is, a thorough
drubbing, and lost one half of her territorial possessions in return for
a long series of aggressions.

Though thus geographically curtailed, she is still of mammoth
proportions, exceeding in size Austria and Germany with Sweden, Norway,
and the Netherlands combined; or, to make a more familiar comparison,
Mexico is sixteen times larger than the State of New York, stretching
through seventeen degrees of latitude and thirty degrees of longitude.
Finally, there came the ridiculous and abortive attempt of Napoleon the
Little to make a foreigner--Archduke Maximilian of Austria--Emperor of
Mexico, in which Quixotic purpose he was at first abetted by England and
Spain. After a bloody and fruitless struggle, backed by all the subtle
influence of the Roman Catholic Church, the French withdrew from the
country in utter disgrace, while the royal interloper, deceived,
deserted, and cheated by the weak, scheming mountebank on the French
throne, was condemned to death by a Mexican court martial, and with two
of his most notable and trusted generals was shot at Queretaro.
Ill-advised as was the attempt to establish an empire on American soil,
and although it resulted in such a bitter failure, involving the death
of its principal actors, and terrible waste of human life, it must be
admitted by every candid observer that Mexico made great material
advance during the brief period of Maximilian's bastard government. The
national capital was especially beautified, and it exhibits to-day the
advantages of many grand improvements instituted and completed by
Maximilian and "poor" Carlotta, his devoted wife, and daughter of
Leopold I., king of the Belgians. The Mexicans will long remember that
they owe their magnificent boulevard, the Paseo de la Reforma, to
Maximilian, and their charmingly arranged Plaza Mayor to the refined and
womanly taste of Carlotta.

At last it would seem as though the energies of this much distracted
country, so long the victim of the priesthood, professional brigandage,
and civil and foreign wars, have become diverted into channels of
productive industry, developing resources of wealth and stability which
have heretofore been unrecognized. A country facing upon two oceans, and
having seven or eight railroad lines intersecting it in various
directions, cannot remain _in statu quo_; it must take its place more or
less promptly in the grand line of nations, all of whom are moving
forward under the influence of the progressive ideas of the nineteenth
century. It is only since 1876 that Mexico has enjoyed anything like a
stable government; and as her constitution is modeled upon our own, let
us sincerely hope for the best results. General Porfirio Diaz, President
of the republic, is a man whose official and private life commands the
respect of the entire people. That his administration has given the
country a grand impetus, has largely restored its credit, and insured a
continuance of peace, seems to be an undisputed fact. His principal
purpose is plainly to modernize Mexico. The twelve years from 1876, when
he became president, until 1889, when his third term commenced, has
proved to be the progressive age of the republic. He is of native birth,
and rose from the ranks of the masses. The only opposition to his
government is that of the church party, led by the Archbishop of Mexico,
and supported by that great army of non-producers, the useless priests,
who fatten upon the poor and superstitious populace. At present this
party has no political power or influence, but is working at all times,
in secret, silently awaiting an opportunity to sacrifice anything or
everything to the sole interests of the Roman Catholic Church. "The
political struggle in Mexico," says United States Commissioner William
Eleroy Curtis, "since the independence of the republic, has been and
will continue to be between antiquated, bigoted, and despotic Romanism,
allied with the ancient aristocracy, under whose encouragement
Maximilian came, on the one hand, and the spirit of intellectual,
industrial, commercial, and social progress on the other."

Here, as in European countries, where this form of faith prevails, it is
the women mostly--we might almost say solely, in Mexico--who give their
attendance upon the ceremonies of the church. The male population are
seldom seen within its walls, though yielding a sort of tacit
acquiescence to the faith. We are speaking of large communities in the
cities and among the more intelligent classes. The peons of the rural
districts, the ignorant masses who do not think for themselves, but who
are yet full of superstitious fears, are easily impressed by church
paraphernalia, gorgeous trappings, and gilded images. This class, men
and women, are completely under the guidance of the priesthood.
"Although the clergy still exercise a powerful influence among the
common people," says Commissioner Curtis, "whose superstitious ignorance
has not yet been reached by the free schools and compulsory education
law, in politics they are powerless." It was in 1857 that Mexico
formally divorced the church and state by an amendment to her
constitution, thereby granting unrestricted freedom of conscience and
religious worship to all persons, sects, and churches. Several
denominations in the United States avail themselves of this privilege,
and in some of the cities Protestant churches have been established
where regular weekly services are held. "With the overthrow of
Montezuma's empire in 1520," says that distinguished native Mexican
writer, Riveray Rio, "began the rule of the Spaniard, which lasted just
three hundred years. During this time, Rome and Spain, priest and king,
held this land and people as a joint possession. The greedy hand was
ever reached out to seize alike the product of the mine and soil. The
people were enslaved for the aggrandizement and power of a foreign
church and state. It was then that the Church of Rome fostered such a
vast army of friars, priests, and nuns, acquired those vast landed
estates, and erected such an incredible number of stone churches, great
convents, inquisitorial buildings, Jesuit colleges, and gathered such
vast stores of gold and silver. All this time the poor people were being
reduced to the utmost poverty, and every right and opportunity for
personal and civil advancement was taken from them. They were left to
grope on in intellectual darkness. They could have no commerce with
foreign nations. If they made any advance in national wealth, it was
drained away for royal and ecclesiastical tribute. Superstition reigned
under the false teachings of a corrupt priesthood, while the frightful
Inquisition, by its cruel machinery, coerced the people to an abjectness
that has scarcely had a parallel in human history. Under such a
dispensation of evil rule, Mexico became of less and less importance
among the family of nations."

This brief summary brings us to the peaceful and comparatively
prosperous condition of the republic to-day, and prepares the canvas
upon which to sketch the proposed pen pictures of this interesting
country, with which we are so intimately connected, both politically and
geographically.



CHAPTER II.

Remarkably Fertile Soil.--Valuable Native Woods.--Mexican Flora.--Coffee
    and Tobacco.--Mineral Products.--Silver Mines.--Sugar Lands.--
    Manufactories.--Cortez's Presents to Charles V.--Water Power.--Coal
    Measures.--Railroads.--Historic Locality.--Social Characteristics.--
    People divided into Castes.--Peonage.--Radical Progress.--Education
    and the Priesthood.--A Threshing Machine.--Social Etiquette.--
    Political Organization of the Government.--Mexico the Synonym of
    Barbarism.--Production and Business Handicapped by an Excessive
    Tariff.

Mexico is remarkable for the fertility and peculiar productiveness of
her soil, both of a vegetable and mineral character, though the former
is very largely dependent upon irrigation, and almost everywhere suffers
for want of intelligent treatment. As a striking proof of the fertility
of the soil, an able writer upon the subject tells us, among other
statistical facts, that while wheat cultivated in France and some other
countries averages but six grains for one planted, Mexican soil gives an
average product of twenty-two times the amount of seed which is sown.
Humboldt was surprised at this when it was reported to him, and took
pains to verify the fact, finding the statement to be absolutely
correct. Being situated partly in the tropics and partly in the
temperate zone, its vegetable products partake of both regions, and are
varied in the extreme. In the hot lands are dense forests of rosewood,
mahogany, and ebony, together with dyewoods of great commercial value,
while in the temperate and cooler districts the oak and pine are
reasonably abundant. It must be admitted, however, that those districts
situated near populous neighborhoods have been nearly denuded of their
growth during centuries of waste and destruction by the conquering
Spaniards. From this scarcity of commercial wood arises the absence of
framed houses, and the universal use of stone and clay, or adobe, for
building purposes. There is valuable wood enough in certain districts,
which is still being wasted. The sleepers of the Monterey and Mexican
Gulf railway are nearly all of ebony. Attention having been called to
the fact, orders have been issued to save this wood for shipment to our
Northern furniture manufacturers. Iron ties and sleepers are being
substituted on the trunk lines of the railways as fast as the wooden
ones decay, being found so much more durable. Those used on the Vera
Cruz line are imported from England; on the Mexican Central, from the
United States. There is a low, scrubby growth of wood on the table-lands
and mountain sides, which is converted by the peons into charcoal and
transported on the backs of the burros (jackasses) long distances for
economical use in the cities and villages. All the delicious fruits of
the West Indies are abundantly produced in the southern section, and all
the substantial favorites of our Northern and Western States thrive
luxuriantly in her middle and northern divisions. Some of the cultivated
berries are remarkably developed; the strawberry, for instance, thrives
beyond all precedent in central Mexico, and while larger, it is no less
delicately flavored than our own choice varieties. The flora throughout
Mexico is exceedingly rich and varied, botanists having recognized over
ten thousand families of plants indigenous to the soil. It appeared to
the writer, however, that while the color of the flowers was intensified
above that of our Northern States, their fragrance was not so well
defined. Even the soft green mosses threw out a star-like blossom of
tiny proportions, which seemed almost as full of expression as human
eyes, while they emitted a subdued fragrance. The best-grown coffee of
the country is in our estimation equal to the best grades of Mocha or
Java, while the tobacco produced in several of the states compares
favorably with the much-lauded brands of Cuba. The most fertile regions
of Mexico lie on the east and west, where the districts decline abruptly
from the great plateau, or table-land, towards the coast.

The Monterey and Mexican Gulf railway has lately opened access to most
excellent land, suitable for sugar plantations, equal to the best in
Louisiana devoted to this purpose, and which can be bought for a mere
song, as the saying is. These lands are better adapted to sugar raising
than those of the State just named, because frost is here unknown. In
the opening of these tropical districts by railroad, connected with our
Southern system, we have offered us the opportunity to secure all the
products which we now get from Cuba. These staples are equal in quality,
and can be landed at our principal commercial centres at a much less
cost than is paid for shipments from that island. Such is the arbitrary
rule of Spain in Cuba, and the miserable political condition of her
people, that all business transacted in her ports is handicapped by
regulations calculated to drive commerce away from her shores. The fact
should also be recalled that while Mexico produces every article which
we import from Cuba, she has over five times the population to consume
our manufactures and products, rendering her commercial intercourse with
us just so much more important. At present, or rather heretofore, she
has sought to exchange her native products almost wholly with Europe,
through the port of Vera Cruz; but on account of the excellent
facilities afforded by the Mexican Central Railroad the volume of trade
has already begun to set towards the United States. While upon the
subject it may be mentioned incidentally that the way business of this
railroad has exceeded all calculations, and yet it is but partially
developed, the rolling stock being quite inadequate to the demand for
freight transportation.

In minerals it would seem as though the list of products was unequaled.
At present the silver mines are undoubtedly the greatest source of
wealth to the country, though under proper conditions the agricultural
capacity of the land would doubtless exceed all other interests in
pecuniary value, as indeed is the case in most other gold and silver
producing countries. The principal mineral products of Mexico are iron,
tin, cinnabar, silver, gold, alum, sulphur, and lead. In the state of
Durango, large masses of the best magnetic iron ore are found, which at
some future day will supply the material for a great and useful
industry. Other iron mines exist, and some have been utilized to a
limited extent. Coal is found in abundance, notably in the states of
Oaxaca, Sonora, Nuevo Leon, and Coahuila. These coal measures are
particularly valuable in a country many parts of which are treeless and
without economical fuel. The total coinage of silver ore in the mints of
Mexico to this date, we were intelligently informed, amount to the
enormous aggregate of three thousand millions of dollars, to which may
be added, in arriving at the total product of the mines, the amount
exported in bars and the total value consumed in manufactures. This last
item amounts to a much larger figure than one who has not given the
subject careful thought would be prepared to admit.

Mexico can hardly be spoken of as a manufacturing country, in the usual
acceptation of the term, though the Spaniards found that cotton cloth
had been made here long before their advent. It is also a fact that such
domestic goods as the masses of her population absolutely require she
produces within her own limits by native industry, such as cotton cloth,
blankets, woollen cloth, cotton shawls, leather goods, saddlery, boots,
shoes, hats, and other articles of personal wear. There are over twenty
large woollen mills in the country, several for the production of
carpeting, and many cotton mills, the product of the latter being almost
wholly the unbleached article, which is universally worn by the masses.
The cotton mills are many of them large, and worthy of special
commendation for the healthful and beneficent system adopted in them, as
well as for the excellence of their output. The number of factories of
all sorts in the country is estimated at about one hundred. There is
nearly enough sugar produced on the plantations to satisfy the home
demand, an industry which might be indefinitely extended. Climate, soil,
and the rate of wages all favor such an idea. The Sandwich Islands,
which have been so largely resorted to for the establishment of sugar
plantations, cannot show one half the advantages which lie unimproved on
the new lines of the Mexican railways. If a capitalist were considering
the purpose of establishing a large sugar plantation, the fact of cheap
and easy transportation to market being here close at hand should alone
settle the question as between the islands referred to and this
locality. Hardware and cutlery, of excellent quality and in large
quantities, are manufactured. The paper, household furniture, pottery,
crockery, and even glass generally in use, are of home production, which
will give the reader an idea of the present native resources of the
country, developed not by fortuitous aid, but under the most depressing
circumstances.

It will be remembered that Cortez, soon after he landed in Mexico, sent
to Charles V. specimens of native cotton fabrics, so that probably
cotton was not only grown but manufactured here as early as in any other
country. The historians tell us that the Aztecs made as large and as
delicate webs as those of Holland. Besides working in textile fabrics,
this ancient people wrought metals, hewed stone, and manufactured
pottery of delicate forms and artistic finish. The misfortune of one
country is the gain of another. The paucity of fuel wherewith to obtain
steam power, and the lack of rivers capable of giving water power, must
always prevent Mexico from being a competing country, as to
manufactures, with the United States, where these essentials abound. She
has, however, only to turn her attention to the export of fruits, and
other products which are indigenous to her sunny land, to acquire ample
means wherewith to purchase from this country whatever she may desire in
the line of luxuries or necessities.

That a portion of Mexico is utterly sterile and unavailable is just as
much a fact as that we have such regions in the western part of the
United States. There are large sections here which suffer from annual
droughts, but which might be redeemed by irrigation, the facilities for
which in most cases are near enough at hand, only requiring to be
properly engineered. It is not correct to paint everything of rose-color
in the republic; it has its serious drawbacks, like all other lands
under the sun. The want of water is the prevailing trouble, but, like
Australia, this country has enough of the precious liquid if properly
conserved and adapted. The Rio Grande produces more water in a
twelvemonth than the great Murray River of Australia, which is flooded
at certain seasons and is a "dry run" at others. As we have intimated,
the absence of available wood and coal will prevent the growth of
manufactures in Mexico, at least, until the coal deposits are opened up
by railroads. The coal measures are not yet fully surveyed, or
developed, but sufficient has been shown to demonstrate their great
extent and valuable qualities. When these coal deposits shall be brought
by means of railroads, already projected or in course of construction,
within the reach of the business centres, and deliverable to consumers
at reasonable prices, a great impetus to manufactures will be realized
through this article of prime necessity. A company has lately been
formed in England to explore and develop these coal fields, for which
purpose a liberal concession has been obtained from the Mexican
government. This is only one more evidence of the fact that foreign
capital and foreign enterprise are flowing towards the country. It will
be observed also that these new companies are mostly English; some are
German; but there are comparatively few Americans engaged in these
enterprises. We have seen it in print that Mexico was fast becoming
Americanized, but this is a mistake; there are many more Europeans than
Americans in Mexico, as we use the word Americans, that is, people of
the United States.

Where water power is to be obtained, it is improved to the utmost, as at
Queretaro, where a small river is made to turn the largest overshot
wheel which has ever been constructed, furnishing power in the famous
Hercules Cotton Factory of that city, which gives regular employment to
many hundred native men and women.

An improved and stable system of government and increased railroad
facilities are doing wonders for our neighbors across the Rio Grande.
The iron horse and steel rail are great promoters of civilization. It
would be impossible to overestimate the importance of this branch of
progress in the interests of both Mexico and the United States, by which
means we are constantly becoming more and more intimately united. The
Mexican Central Railroad has lately completed its connection with
Tampico on the Gulf by a branch road running almost due east from its
main trunk, starting near or at Aguas Calientes; another, running about
due west towards the port of San Blas on the Pacific, has already been
completed as far as Guadalajara, starting from the main trunk at
Irapuato. The former city being the present terminus of the road, is
considered the second in importance in Mexico. When the narrow space
still remaining is opened by rail, the continent will be crossed by
railway trains between the Atlantic and Pacific at a narrow and most
available point. The increase of way passengers and freight upon this
road during the past two years is a source of surprise and of
gratification to the company. The rolling stock is being monthly
increased, having proved to be inadequate to the business.

The Tampico branch of this road passes through scenery which experienced
travelers pronounce to be equal in grandeur to any on this continent.
Indeed, had the appalling engineering difficulties to be encountered
been fully realized before the road was begun, it is doubtful if it
would have been built. The cost has slightly exceeded ten million
dollars. That which seemed easy enough, as designed upon paper, proved
to be a herculean task in the consummation. It was a portion of the
original plan, when the Mexican Central Railroad was surveyed, to build
this branch, and six years after the completion of the main trunk the
Tampico road was duly opened. The distance from this harbor on the Gulf
of Mexico to Aguas Calientes is a trifle over four hundred miles. With
the improvements already under way, it will be rendered the best seaport
on the Gulf, infinitely superior, especially in point of safe anchorage,
to the open roadstead of Vera Cruz. Every ton of freight is now landed
at the latter port by lighters, and must continue to be so from the
nature of the coast; while in a couple of years at farthest Tampico will
have a most excellent harbor, perfectly sheltered, where the largest
steamships can lie at the wharf and discharge their cargoes. We are
sorry to say that San Blas, on the Pacific side, does not promise to
make so desirable a port. It is even suggested that Mazatalan, further
north, should be made the terminus of this branch road. American
enterprise and progressive ideas are peacefully but surely
revolutionizing a country where all previous change has been
accomplished by the sword, and all advance has been from scaffold to
scaffold. It would seem as though political convulsions formed one of
the conditions of national progress. In our own instance, through what
seas of blood had we to wade in abolishing that long standing curse of
this land, negro slavery. The Czar of Russia freed the millions of
serfs in his empire by a bold and manly ukase; but the nobility, who
counted their wealth by the number of human beings whom they held in
thralldom, have not yet forgiven the Czar for doing so. Revenge for that
philanthropic act is still the motive of the conspiracies which
occasionally come to the surface in that country. "Every age has its
problem," says Heinrich Heine, "by solving which humanity is helped
forward."

The federal capital of Mexico is in the centre of a country of
surpassing richness and beauty, but from the day of its foundation,
between seven and eight hundred years ago, it has been the theatre of
constant revolutions and bitter warfare, where hecatombs of human beings
have been sacrificed upon idolatrous altars, where a foreign religion
has been established at the spear's point, through torture by fire and
the rack, and where rivers of blood have been ruthlessly spilled in
battle, sometimes in repelling a foreign foe, but only too often in
still more cruel civil wars. Some idea of the chronic political
upheavals of the country may be had from the brief statement that there
have been fifty-four presidents, one regency, and one emperor in the
last sixty-two years, and nearly every change of government has been
effected by violence. Between 1821 and 1868, the form of government was
changed ten times.

Politeness and courtesy are as a rule characteristics of the intelligent
and middle classes of the people of Mexico, and are also observable in
intercourse with the humbler ranks of the masses. They have heretofore
looked upon Americans as being hardly more than semi-civilized. Those
with whom they have been most brought in contact have been reckless and
adventurous frontiersmen, drovers, Texans, cow boys, often individuals
who have left their homes in the Northern or Middle States with the
stigma of crime upon them. The inference they have drawn from contact
with such representatives of our population has been but natural. If
Mexicans travel abroad, they generally do so in Europe, sailing from
Vera Cruz, and they know comparatively little of us socially. It is
equally true that we have been in the habit of regarding the Mexicans in
much the same light. This mutual feeling is born of ignorance, and the
nearer relation into which the two countries are now brought by means of
the excellent system of railroads is rapidly dispelling the
misconception on both sides of the Rio Grande. The masses, especially
the peons, are far more illiterate than in this country, and are easily
led by the higher intelligence of the few; nor have the Mexicans yet
shown much real progress in the purpose of promoting general education,
though incipient steps have been taken in that direction in most of
their cities, affording substantial proof of the progressive tendencies
of the nation. We heard in the city of Mexico of free night schools
being organized, designed for the improvement of adults.

A division of the populace into castes rules here almost as imperiously
as it does in India, and it will require generations of close contact
with a more cultured and democratic people before these servile ideas
can be obliterated. Though we hear little or nothing said about this
matter, yet to an observant eye it has daily and hourly demonstration.
The native Indians of Mexico are of a different race from their
employers. Originally conquered and enslaved by the Spaniards, though
they have since been emancipated by law, they are still kept in a quasi
condition of peonage by superior wit and finesse. The proprietor of a
large hacienda, who owns land, say ten miles square, manages, by
advancing money to them, to keep the neighboring people in his debt.
They are compelled by necessity to purchase their domestic articles of
consumption from the nearest available supply, which is the storehouse
of the hacienda. Here they must pay the price which is demanded, let it
be never so unreasonable. This arrangement is all against the peon, and
all in favor of the employer. The lesser party to such a system is
pretty sure to be cheated right and left, especially as the estate is
nearly always administered by an agent and not by the owner himself.
There are some notable exceptions to this, but these only prove the
rule. So long as the employés owe the proprietor money, they are bound
by law to remain in his service. Wages are so low--say from twenty-five
to thirty-five cents per day--that were the natives of a thrifty,
ambitious, and provident disposition, which is by no means the case,
they could not save a dollar towards their pecuniary emancipation. The
laboring classes seem to have no idea of economy or of providing for the
morrow. Food, coarse food, and amusement for the present hour, that is
all they desire, and is all about which they seriously concern
themselves. The next score of years, while they will probably do much
for the country as regards commercial and intellectual improvement, will
prove fatal in a degree to the picturesqueness which now renders Mexico
so attractive. Radical progress in one direction must needs be
destructive in another, and while some of the allurements of her strong
individuality will disappear, her moral and physical status will be
greatly improved. Her ragged, half-naked people will don proper attire,
sacrificing the gaudy colors which now make every out-door scene
kaleidoscopic; a modern grain thresher will take the place of weary
animals plodding in a circle, treading out the grain; half-clad women at
the fountains will disappear, and iron pipes will convey water for
domestic use to the place of consumption. The awkward branch of crooked
wood now used to turn the soil will be replaced by the modern plough,
and reaping machines will relieve the weary backs of men, women, and
children, who slowly grub beneath a burning sun through the broad grain
fields. Irrigating streams will be made to flow by their own
gravitation, while the wooden bucket and well-sweep will become idle and
useless. Still, we are not among those who see only a bright side for
the future of the republic, nor do we believe so confidently as some
writers in her great natural resources. They are abundant, but not so
very exceptional as enthusiasts would have us believe. Aside from the
production of silver, which all must admit to be inexhaustible, she has
very little to boast of. It is doubtful if any other equal area in the
world possesses larger deposits of the precious metals, or has already
yielded to man more bountifully of them. We have seen it asserted by
careful and experienced writers, that one half of all the silver now in
use among the nations originally came from Mexico. Her real and
permanent progress is inevitable; but it will be very gradual, coming
not through her rich mines of gold and silver, but by the growth of her
agricultural and manufacturing interests; and if in a score of years she
can assume a position of respect and importance in the line of nations,
it is all that can reasonably be expected. If Mexico can but advance in
progressive ideas as rapidly during the next ten years as she has done
during the decade just past, the period we have named will be
abbreviated, and her condition will amount to a moral revolution.

Our sister republic has yet to accomplish two special and important
objects: first, the suppression of the secret and malign influence of
the Roman Catholic priesthood; and, secondly, the promotion of education
among the masses. Since the separation of church and state, in 1857,
education has made slow but steady advances. Most of the states have
adopted the system of compulsory education, penalties being affixed to
non-compliance with the law, and rewards decreed for those who
voluntarily observe the same. Though shorn of so large a degree of its
temporal powers, the church is still secretly active in its machinations
for evil. The vast army of non-producing, indolent priests is active in
one direction, namely, that for the suppression of all intelligent
progress, and the complete subjugation of the common people through
superstition and ignorance. A realization of the condition of affairs
may be had from the following circumstance related to us by a
responsible American resident. It must be remembered that the wheat,
which in some well-irrigated districts is the principal product, is
threshed by means of piling it up on the hard clay soil, and driving
goats, sheep, and burros over it. These animals trudge round and round,
with weary limbs, knee deep in the straw, for hours together, urged
forward by whips in the hands of men and boys, and thus the grain is
separated from the stalks. Of course the product threshed out in this
manner is contaminated with animal filth of all sorts. An enterprising
American witnessed this primitive process not long since, and on
returning to his northern home resolved to take back with him to Mexico
a modern threshing machine; and being more desirous to introduce it for
the benefit of the people than to make any money out of the operation,
he offered the machine at cost price. A native farmer was induced to put
one on trial, when it was at once found that it not only took the place
of a dozen men and boys, but also of twice that number of animals. This
was not all; the machine performed the work in less than one quarter of
the time required to do the same amount of work by the old method,
besides rendering the grain in a perfectly clear condition. This would
seem to be entirely satisfactory, and was so until it got to the ears of
the priests. They came upon the ground to see the machine work, and
were amazed. This would not answer, according to their ideas; from their
standpoint it was a dangerous innovation. What might it not lead to!
They therefore declared that the devil was in the machine, and
absolutely forbade the peons to work with it! Their threats and warnings
frightened their ignorant, servile parishioners out of their wits. The
machine was accordingly shipped north of the Rio Grande, whence it came,
to prevent the natives from destroying it, and cattle still tread out
the grain, which they render dirty and unfit for food, except in the
most populous centres, where modern machinery is being gradually
introduced.

"The clogging influence of the Romish Church," says Hon. John H. Rice,
"upon civilization and progress are seen in its opposition to the
education and elevation of the common people; in its intolerant warfare
against freedom of conscience, and all other forms of religious worship,
frequently displayed in persecutions, and sometimes in personal
injuries; and in its stolid opposition to the onward march of
development and improvement, unless directed to its own advantage."

The stranger who comes to Mexico with the expectation of enjoying his
visit must bring with him a liberal and tolerant spirit. He must be
prepared to encounter a marked difference of race, of social and
business life, together with the absence of many of such domestic
comforts as habit has rendered almost necessities. The exercise of a
little philosophy will reconcile him to the exigencies of the case, and
render endurable here what would be inadmissible at home. A coarse,
ill-cooked dinner, untidy service, and an unappeased appetite must be
compensated by active interest in grand and peculiar scenery; a hard bed
and a sleepless night, by the intelligent enjoyment of famous places
clothed with historic interest; foul smells and rank odors, by the
charming study of a unique people, extraordinarily interesting in their
wretched squalor and nakedness. Though the stranger is brought but
little in contact therewith, owing to the briefness of his visit to the
country, quite enough is casually seen and experienced to show that
there is no lack of culture and refinement, no absence of warmth of
heart and gracious hospitality, among the more favored classes of
Mexico, both in the northern and southern sections of the country.
Underneath the exaggerated expressions so common to Spanish etiquette,
there is yet a real cordiality which the discriminating visitor will not
fail to recognize. If, on a first introduction and visit, he is told
that the house and all it contains is his own, and that the proprietor
is entirely at his service, he will neither take this literally nor as a
burlesque, but will receive the assurance for what it really signifies,
that is, as conveying a spirit of cordiality. These expressions are as
purely conventional as though the host asked simply and pleasantly after
his guest's health, and mean no more.

If progress is and has been slow in Mexico, it must be remembered that
every advance has been consummated under most discouraging
circumstances, and yet that the charitable, educational, artistic, and
technological institutions already firmly established, are quietly
revolutionizing the people through the most peaceful but effective
agencies.

As to government organization, the several states are represented in
congress by two senators each, with one representative to the lower
house from each section comprising a population of forty thousand. The
federal district is under the exclusive jurisdiction of congress. The
division of power as accorded to the several states is almost precisely
like that of our own government. The federal authority is administered
by a president, aided by six cabinet ministers at the head of the
several departments of state, such as the minister of foreign affairs,
of the treasury, secretary of war, and so on. Thus it will be seen that
the republic of Mexico has adopted our own constitution as her model
throughout.

As long as heavy and almost prohibitory duties exist in Mexico, and are
exacted on nearly everything except the production of the precious
metals, the development of her other resources must be circumscribed.
With a rich soil and plenty of cheap labor, she ought to be able to
export many staples which would command our markets, especially as
regards coffee, cotton, and wool. If the custom-houses on each side of
the boundary between this country and Mexico could be abolished, both
would reap an immense pecuniary benefit, while the sister republic would
realize an impetus in every desirable respect which nothing else could
so quickly bring about. Wealth and population would rapidly flow into
this southern land, whose agriculture would thrive as it has never yet
done, and its manufactories would double in number as well as in
pecuniary gain. It requires no argument to show that our neighbors could
not be thus largely benefited without our own country also reaping an
equivalent advantage.

The very name of Mexico has been for years the synonym of barbarism; but
the traveled and reading public have gradually come to realize that it
is a country embracing many large and populous cities, where the
amenities of modern civilization abound, where elegance and culture are
freely manifested, and where great wealth has been accumulated in the
pursuit of legitimate business by the leading citizens. The national
capital will ere-long contain a population of half a million, while the
many new and costly edifices now erecting in the immediate environs are
of a spacious and elegant character, adapted, of course, to the climate,
but yet combining many European and American elements of advanced
domestic architecture.



CHAPTER III.

The Route to Mexico.--Via the Mammoth Cave.--Across the Rio Grande.--A
    Large River.--Piedras Negras.--Characteristic Scene.--A Barren
    Prairie Land.--Castaño, a Native Village.--Adobe Cabins.--Indian
    Irrigation.--Sparsely Populated Country.--Interior Haciendas.--
    Immigration.--City of Saltillo.--Battle of Buena Vista.--City of
    Monterey.--The Cacti and Yucca-Palm.--Capture by General Taylor.--
    Mexican Central Railroad.--Jack-Rabbits.--A Dreary Region.--The
    Mesquite Bushes.--Lonely Graves.


Although it is of Mexico exclusively that we propose to treat in these
pages, still the reader may naturally feel some interest to know the
route by which the Rio Grande was reached, and thus follow our course
somewhat consecutively from Boston through the Middle and Southern
States to the borders of the sister republic. The road which was chosen
took us first westward, through the Hoosac Tunnel, to Niagara Falls,--a
view of which one cannot too often enjoy; thence southward via Detroit
to Cincinnati, Ohio. The next point of special interest was Louisville,
Ky. That great national marvel, the Mammoth Cave, was visited, which,
next to Niagara, the wonderland of the Yellowstone Park, and the grand
scenic beauty of the Yosemite Valley, is the greatest curiosity of this
country. The vast interior, with its domes, abysses, grottoes, rivers,
and cataracts profitably entertain the visitor for hours. It is said
that one might travel a hundred miles underground if all of the
turnings were followed to their terminations. Echo River alone may be
traversed for three quarters of a mile by boat in a straight course.
Much might be written about the cave, but our objective point is Mexico.

Resuming our journey, and keeping still southward, Nashville, Tenn.,
Montgomery, Ala., Mobile, and New Orleans were reached respectively, and
on schedule time. The Crescent City is the greatest cotton mart in the
world, and is situated about a hundred miles from the Gulf of Mexico,
within a great bend of the Mississippi River, and hence its title of the
"Crescent City." It has over a quarter of a million of inhabitants. Its
peculiar situation makes it liable to floods each recurring spring.
Following what is known as the "Sunset Route" westward, we passed
through Texas by way of Houston, Galveston, and San Antonio.

A few hours were devoted to the latter place, in order to see the famous
Alamo, the old fort which, in 1836, the Texans so gallantly defended
while fighting for their independence. There were less than one hundred
and fifty men in the Alamo when it was besieged by four thousand Mexican
troops under Santa Anna. The Mexicans had artillery, the Texans had
none. They were summoned to surrender, but knowing what Mexican "mercy"
meant, they refused, and resolved to defend themselves to the very end.
The siege lasted for thirteen days, during which Santa Anna's soldiers
threw over two hundred shells into the Alamo, injuring no one. In the
mean time, the Texan sharpshooters picked off a great number of the
Mexicans. No shots were thrown away. If a gun was fired from the Alamo,
one of the besiegers was sure to fall. Santa Anna made several assaults,
but was driven back each time with great loss, until, it is represented,
he become frenzied by his want of success. At last, on the 6th of May, a
final and successful assault was made. When the fort was captured, every
Texan fell, fighting to the last. To be exact, there were just one
hundred and forty-four men inside the fort at the beginning of the
siege, and this handful of men either killed or wounded about one half
of the besieging force. It is said that over fifteen hundred Mexicans
were killed! This was about seven weeks before the battle of San
Jacinto, on which occasion General Houston captured, with a much
inferior force, the entire Mexican army, including Santa Anna himself,
who was running away in the disguise of a common infantry soldier. It
was with difficulty that his life was saved from the just fury of the
Texan soldiers. This decisive battle ended the war, and made Texas
independent of Mexico. It was a large slice to cut off the territory of
Mexico, as it would make, so far as size goes, over thirty States as
large as Massachusetts. It contains at this writing about two million
inhabitants, and the value of its taxable property is nearly or quite
eight hundred millions of dollars.

Finally we reached Eagle Pass, which is the American town on the north
bank of the Rio Grande, Piedras Negras being its Mexican neighbor on the
other side of the shallow river. Previous to the opening of the Mexican
Central Railroad, which was completed March 8, 1884, nine tenths of the
travelers who visited the country entered it from the south, at the port
of Vera Cruz, journeying northward to the city of Mexico by way of
Orizaba and Puebla, and returning by the same route; but the completion
and perfection of the railroad system between the north and the south
has changed this. Since 1888, when the International Branch Railroad was
opened, the favorite plan is to cross the border from the north, say at
Eagle Pass; and on the homeward route, after visiting the central and
southern portions of the republic, to recross the dividing river at Paso
del Norte. This was the route followed by the author, the Rio Grande
being crossed at the international bridge, and Mexican territory entered
at the town of Piedras Negras in the State of Coahuila, a thriving place
of some four thousand inhabitants.

One pauses thoughtfully for a moment to contrast the present means of
crossing the dividing river with the primitive rope ferry which answered
the purpose here not long since. A little flutter of anticipation also
moves us when it is realized that the territory of another country is
reached, that we are actually on a foreign soil, where a strange tongue
is spoken, where a new emblem floats from the flagstaffs, and where
another race possesses the land. The Rio Grande, which we cross at this
point, is not a navigable stream; in fact, river navigation is
practically unknown in Mexico, though some of the watercourses are of
considerable size. The Rio Grande has a total length of fifteen hundred
miles, rising in Colorado and emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. In the
rainy season, and when the snow melts in the mountains, the Rio Grande
is flooded to its full capacity, often overflowing its banks in marshy
regions. The first bridge built by the railway company at this point was
of wood, which was swept away like chaff by the next flood of the river.
The present substantial iron structure bids fair to last for many years.
The river, such as it is, belongs to the two nations, the boundary
agreed upon being the middle of the stream.

As we drew up at the railroad station, a lazy, listless, bareheaded,
dark-skinned crowd of men, women, and children welcomed us with staring
eyes to Mexican soil. The first idea which strikes one is that soap and
fine-tooth combs are not yet in use on the south side of the Rio Grande.

Piedras Negras boasts a spacious stone hotel, two stories in height,
which is quite American in appearance. The town is spread over so broad
an area as to have the effect of being sparsely peopled, but it is
thrifty in aspect and growing rapidly. From the manner in which scores
of men wrapped in scarlet blankets and mounted on little wiry Mexican
horses dashed hither and thither, one would think some startling event
was to transpire; but this was not the case--all was peaceful and quiet
in Piedras Negras.

The section of country through which the route first takes us is perhaps
one of the least interesting and most unproductive in the republic, with
an occasional mud hut here and there, and a few half-naked peons. What a
dreary region it is! What emptiness! How bare the serrated mountains,
how inhospitable the scenery, how brown, baked, and dusty! At the
International Bridge we are about seven hundred feet above the sea. Here
we take the International Railway, and from this point to Jaral, a
distance of two hundred and fifty miles almost due south, the cars are
constantly climbing an up-grade until the great Mexican plateau is
finally reached. It should be remembered, however, that this vast
table-land, covering nearly three quarters of the republic, is by no
means level, but is interspersed with hills, valleys, gulches, canyons,
and mountains of the loftiest character, in many places duplicating our
Rocky Mountain scenery both in height and grandeur.

A stop of a few hours was made at the quaint little adobe-built
town--cabins formed of sun-dried bricks--known by the name of Castaño,
situated on the trunk line of the Mexican Central road, near the city of
Monclova, which is a considerable mining centre. This small native
village is the first typical object of the sort which greets the
traveler who enters the country from the north. It lies in a nearly
level valley between the two spurs of the Sierra Madre, where beautiful
green fields delight the eye, where fruit trees are in gorgeous bloom,
and where wild flowers add a charm in the very midst of cheerless, arid
surroundings. This inviting and thrifty aspect is produced entirely by
the hoe in the hands of the simple, industrious natives, with no other
aid than that of water. The peons are most efficient though unconscious
engineers, diverting a supply of water from the distant mountain
streams with marvelous ingenuity and success. No practical operator,
with every modern appliance and the most delicate instruments, could
strike more correct levels than do these natives with the eye and the
hoe alone. Upon entering one of the adobe cabins at the ever-open
door,--there are no windows,--we found the flat roof to be slightly
slanted to throw off the rain, having four or five wooden beams upon
which a few boards and rough sticks were nailed. On the top of these a
foot or more of earth is deposited. This primitive covering Nature
enamels with moss and dainty wild flowers. But this represents the
better class of cabin, the majority having only a thatched covering
supported by small branches of trees trimmed for the purpose, over which
are placed dried banana and maguey leaves. Some of the floors had stone
tiles, but most of them consisted of the uncovered earth. These last
must be wretchedly unwholesome in the brief rainy season. Swarthy,
unclad children were as numerous and active as young chickens. In more
than one of the cabins, dark-hued native women, wearing only a cotton
cloth wound around the lower part of their bodies from the middle, and a
short cotton waist over the shoulders without sleeves, knelt upon the
ground kneading tortillas between a flat, inclined stone and a long,
narrow one, just as their ancestors had done for centuries. Indeed, all
through Mexico one is surprised to see how little change has probably
taken place in the features of the people, their manner of living, their
dress and customs, since the days of the Montezumas. The traveler is
struck with the strong resemblance of Castaño to an Egyptian village.
One sees its counterpart almost anywhere between Cairo and the first
cataract on the Nile. Clouds of black, long-tailed jackdaws flew over
our heads and settled abruptly here and there. Goats and donkeys dispute
the dusty roadway with the curious stranger, while women, with babies
hanging upon their backs, half concealed their dark-brown faces in red
or light blue rebosas, and peered at us with eyes of wonderful blackness
and fire. The rebosa, the universal garment of the common class of women
in Mexico, is utilized as a carry-all for baby or bundles. It is worn
over the head and shoulders in the daytime, when not otherwise in use,
and at night is the one blanket or covering while the owner is asleep.
The donkey, or burro, as it is called, is to be seen everywhere in this
country. Poor, overburdened, beaten, patient animal! How so small a
creature can possibly carry such heavy loads is a constant puzzle. When
its full strength would seem to be taxed, the lazy owner often adds his
own weight by bestriding the animal, sitting far back upon its hips.
Before the coming of the Spaniards there were no beasts of burden in
Mexico; everything that required transportation was moved by human
muscles. It was not until the eighteenth century that the jackass was
introduced; cattle, sheep, horses, and hogs long preceded them.

Rain falls at Castaño only for three weeks, or so, during the year,
about the early part of May; the dust is consequently very deep and
fills the air at the slightest atmospheric movement. The general view
is broken now and again by the Spanish bayonet tree, ten or twelve feet
in height, and by broad clusters of grotesque cactus plants, which
thrive so wonderfully in spite of drought, hanging like vines along the
base of the adobe cabins and creeping up their low sides, the leaves
edged here and there by a dainty ruffle of scentless yellow flowers.
Beside a very lowly mud cabin was a tall oleander, branches and leaves
hidden in gorgeous bloom, imparting a cheerful, joyous aspect even amid
all this squalor and poverty. Close at hand upon the adobe wall hung a
willow cage imprisoning a tropical bird of gaudy plumage; but the
feathered beauty did not seem to have any spare notes with which to
greet us. From another cabin came the pleasant sound of a guitar,
accompanied by a human voice. So this people love birds, flowers, and
music. The half-effaced image of God must be still upon their hearts!
The little town has four or five broad, unpaved streets, and is as
primitive as nature herself in all its domestic surroundings.

Except on the immediate line of the railways, one may travel thirty or
forty miles in almost any part of Mexico without seeing a
dwelling-house. The people live mostly in towns and cities, and are very
little dispersed over the country, that is, compared with our own land.
Occasional haciendas or large farmhouses, built of adobe and stone, are
seen; but isolated dwellings are not common. On these estates there is
usually less farming or raising of cereals carried on than there is of
stock raising, which seems to pay better. Large droves of cattle are
seen grazing, sheep, burros, and mules roam at large, and all seem to be
getting food from most unpromising land, such as produces in its normal
condition cactus only. It is the true climate and soil for this species
of vegetation, of which there are hundreds of varieties, flat, ribbed,
and cylindrical. No matter how dry and arid the region, the cacti
thrive, and are themselves full of moisture. Even these haciendas,
rectangular structures forming the headquarters of large landed estates,
are semi-fortifications, capable of a stout defense against roving
banditti, who have long been the dread and curse of the country and are
not yet obliterated. These structures are sometimes surrounded by a
moat, the angles being protected by turrets pierced for musketry. As in
continental Spain, the population live mostly in villages for mutual
protection, being compelled to walk long distances to work in the fields
at seed time and harvest. The owners of the large haciendas, we were
told, seldom live upon them. Like the landlords of Ireland, they are a
body of absentees, mostly wealthy men who make their homes with their
families in the city of Mexico, some even living in Europe, entrusting
the management of their large estates to well-paid superintendents.
There are not a few Americans thus employed by Mexican owners, who are
prompt to recognize good executive ability in such a position, and value
their estates only for the amount of income they can realize from them.
A hacienda ten or fifteen miles square is not considered extraordinary
as to size, and there are many twice as large. The proprietorship of
these haciendas dates back to the old Spanish times when Mexico was
under the viceroys. Little can be hoped for as to improvement in the
condition of the poor peons of the country, until these immense estates
are broken up and divided into small available farms, which may be owned
and operated by them for their sole benefit. No lesson is more clearly
or forcibly taught us by the light of experience than that the ownership
of the soil by its cultivator is the only way to insure successful and
profitable agriculture. There is nothing to induce emigration to Mexico
now. Foreigners prefer to seek a country where they can purchase the
land cheaply, and, when they have improved it, be certain that their
title is good and secure. At present there is virtually no immigration
at all into the republic, though the climate in many places is perhaps
the most desirable known to man. The Mexican government not long since
made an effort to encourage immigration, offering a bonus of fifty
dollars a head for _bona fide_ immigrants, and even partial support
until occupation was secured. Many Italians availed themselves of this
offer; but it was found that the criminal class was too largely
represented in the ranks of these immigrants, and other abuses became so
manifest that the government abandoned the purpose.

In passing through the country, one wearies of the long reaches of
brown, arid soil which would seem to be beyond the redeeming power even
of irrigation. Occasionally the scene is varied by a few yucca palms
dotting the prairies at long intervals. Now and again a small herd of
antelope dashed away from our neighborhood, and an occasional flock of
wild turkeys were flushed from the low-growing bushes. These were
exciting moments for one member of our party, who is a keen sportsman.
At long distances from each other small groups of the pear-cactus, full
of deep yellow bloom, lighted up the barren waste. Here and there a
simple wooden cross indicated a grave, the burial place of some lone
traveler who had been murdered and robbed by banditti, and over whose
body a Christian hand had reared this unpretentious emblem. As we got
further and further southward, the graceful pepper tree, with myriads of
red fruit, began to appear, and afterwards became a prominent feature of
the scenery.

Saltillo, which lies some seventy miles to the eastward of Jaral, is now
the capital of the State of Coahuila. Before the separation of Texas
from Mexico it was the capital of that State. It is situated five
thousand feet above the sea level, on the northeastern edge of the
table-land already spoken of, and has a population of about eighteen
thousand. The table-land, as it is termed, declines more or less
abruptly on the east towards the Gulf of Mexico, and on the west towards
the Pacific Ocean. Saltillo is a manufacturing town, built almost wholly
of sun-dried bricks, and is noted for the production of rebosas and
serapes. The people living south of this region and on the lower lands
make of Saltillo a summer resort. It is humorously said that people
never die here; they grow old, dry up, and disappear. The place is
certainly very healthy. It is over three hundred years old, and looks as
though it had existed in prehistoric times. It has, like all Mexican
cities, its alameda, its bull ring, and its plaza, the latter
particularly well-cared for, beautiful in flowers and charming shade
trees, together with well-trimmed shrubbery. The Calle Real is the
principal thoroughfare, over which the traveler will find his way to the
famous battlefield of Buena Vista (pronounced Wana Veesta), about eight
miles from the city proper. This was one of the fiercest battles ever
fought on Mexican soil. General Taylor had only forty-five hundred men
of all arms, while Santa Anna's army numbered twenty-two thousand! The
Americans had the most advantageous position, but were at times
overwhelmed by numbers. Notwithstanding this, at the end of the second
day, February 23, 1847, the American flag waved in triumph over the
field, and the Mexicans were utterly routed. It was of this hard-fought
battle that Santa Anna said: "We whipped the Americans half a dozen
times, and once completely surrounded them; but they would not stay
whipped." The battle of Buena Vista was fought at a great altitude,
nearly as high above the level of the sea as the summit of Mount
Washington in New England.

The baths of San Lorenzo, a league from the city, are worth visiting,
being cleanly and enjoyable.

About seventy-five miles to the eastward of Saltillo, and eight hundred
miles, more or less, from the national capital, on the line of the
Mexican International Railroad, which crosses the Rio Grande at Laredo,
is the city of Monterey,--"King Mountain,"--capital of the State of
Nuevo Leon. It is eighteen hundred feet above the sea and contains
nearly twenty thousand inhabitants. It was founded three hundred years
ago, and its history is especially blended with that of the Roman
Catholic Church during the intervening period. Here one finds quite a
large American colony; but still the place is essentially Mexican in its
manners and customs. The city stands upon very uneven ground, in the
middle of an extensive plain, with grand mountains rising to view in the
distance on all sides. The Rio de Santa Catarina flows through the town.
In coming hither from Saltillo we descend thirty-five hundred feet, or
about an average of fifty feet to the mile. It is considered to be a
healthy locality, and invalids from the Northern States of this country
have often resorted to Monterey in winter; but the public accommodations
are so poor that one should hesitate about sending an invalid there who
must necessarily leave most of the ordinary domestic comforts behind.
Mexican hotels may answer for people in vigorous health who have robust
stomachs, but not for one in delicate health. In no other part of the
country is there a greater variety of the cactus family to be seen,
illustrating its prominent peculiarity, namely, that it seems to grow
best in the poorest soil. Several of the varieties have within their
flowers a mass of edible substance, which the natives gather and bring
to market daily. The flowers of the cactus are of various colors, white
and yellow being the prevailing hues.

There is a very highly prized and remarkable water supply afforded the
citizens by an inexhaustible spring, situated in the heart of the town,
known as the Ojo de Agua. The cathedral is interesting, though it is not
nearly so old as the Church of San Francisco. It was converted into a
powder magazine during the war with this country. When General Taylor
attacked the city, its remarkably thick walls alone saved it from being
blown up, as it was repeatedly struck by shot and shell. Monterey is a
finer and better built city than Saltillo. No stranger should fail to
visit the curious Campo Santo, a burial place lying to the northwest of
the city, and reached by the way of the alameda, which latter
thoroughfare is hardly worthy of the name. The few notable buildings in
the city are the municipal palace, the state government edifice, and the
episcopal palace near the cathedral. All are situated about the Plaza
Mayor, or Plaza de Zaragoza as it is called by the people here. A
graceful fountain with spouting dolphins occupies the centre,
supplemented by two lesser fountains, all very appropriate and artistic.
Of the two confiscated convents, one is occupied for a jail, the other
as a hospital. It will be remembered that General Taylor, with less than
seven thousand men, took the city by storm in 1846, after three days of
hard fighting, it being gallantly defended by ten thousand Mexicans
under command of General Ampudia. General Worth, who on two occasions
led desperate storming parties, was pronounced the hero of the
occasion. General Grant, then only a lieutenant of infantry,
distinguished himself in the taking of what was known as the Bishop's
Palace, but which was in fact a citadel. The Americans carried the
citadel by assault, and, planting their guns in position upon its wall,
commanded the city, which was forced to surrender. The fighting lasted
four days. The Americans lost in killed one hundred and twenty-six, and
had three hundred and sixty-three wounded. The Mexicans lost five
hundred killed, but the number of wounded was not made public. In
recognition of the gallant defense made by the Mexicans, Taylor allowed
them to retain their arms and equipments, and when they evacuated the
city to salute their own colors.

Resuming our course westward by the way of Jaral, and having arrived at
Torreon Junction, a distance of about three hundred and eighty miles
from the International Bridge, connection is made with the grand trunk
line of the Mexican Central Railroad, which will take us direct to the
national capital. This important road extends from Juarez (formerly Paso
del Norte), on the Rio Grande, to the city of Mexico, a distance of over
twelve hundred miles. It is a standard-gauge road, well built and well
equipped,--the growth, in fact, of American enterprise, and really
nothing more or less than an extension of the Santa Fé Railroad system.
Track-laying began upon this road from both ends of the line in
September, 1880, that is, from the city of Mexico and from the Rio
Grande at Juarez, and upon the completion of the bridge at La
Encarnation, the north and south tracks met, March 8, 1884. The line was
formally opened on April 10 following.

From this point southward, towards the mountain city of Zacatecas, we
pass through a most uninviting country, where the mesquite bush and the
cactus mostly prevail, a region so bereft of moisture as to seem like
the desert of Sahara. Here again the cactus is seen in great abundance.
As we have intimated, there are several hundred varieties known to
botanists, most of which can be identified on Mexican soil, this being
their native climate. No matter how dry the season, they are always
juicy. It is said that when cattle can get no water to drink, they will
break down the cacti with their horns and chew the thick leaves and
stalks to quench their thirst. The variety of shapes assumed by this
peculiar growth almost exceeds belief; some seen in Mexico assumed the
form of trees from forty to fifty feet in height, while others,
vinelike, run along the ground bearing leaves as round as cannon balls.
Another variety, closely hugging the earth, twists about like a
vegetable serpent. The great marvel relating to this plant has been, how
it could keep alive and remain full of sap and moisture when other
neighboring vegetation was killed by drought. But this is easily
explained. It is protected by a thick epidermis which prevents
evaporation, so that the store of moisture which it absorbs during the
wet season is retained within its circulation. One sort of the cactus
known as the _cereus grandiflorus_ blooms only in the night; the frail
flower it bears dies at the coming of morning. The cochineal insect of
Mexico and Central America is solely nurtured by the native growth of
cacti. The yucca palm, fifteen to twenty feet in height, with its large
milk-white cluster of blossoms, resembling huge crocuses, dotted the
expanse here and there. Occasional flocks of sheep were seen striving to
gain a sufficiency of food from the unwilling soil, while tended by a
shepherd clothed in brilliant colored rags, accompanied by a dog. Now
and then scores of jack-rabbits put in an appearance among the
low-growing mesquite bushes and the thick-leaved cactus. These little
animals are called jack-rabbits because their tall, straight ears
resemble those of the burros or jackasses. The mesquite bushes, so often
seen on the Mexican plains, belong to the acacia family. They yield a
sweet edible pulp, used to some extent as food by the poorer classes of
natives and by the jack-rabbits. The burros eat the small, tender twigs.
Indeed, they will apparently eat anything but stones. We have seen them
munching plain straw with infinite relish, in which it seemed impossible
there could be any nutrition whatever. This is a far-reaching, dreary
region, almost uninhabitable for human beings, and where water is
unattainable three-quarters of the year. The broad prairie extends on
either side of the railroad as far as the eye can reach, ending at the
foothills of the Sierra Madre--"Mother Mountains." Here and there, as
already instanced, the burial place of some murdered individual is
indicated by a cross, before which the pious peon breathes a prayer and
adds a stone to the pile, so that finally quite a mound is raised to
mark the murdered man's grave. Towards the twilight hour, while we
rejoice that our lot has not been cast in such a dreary place, more than
one hawk is seen to swoop from its lofty course and fly away with a
young rabbit which it will eventually drop and thus kill before it
begins to devour the carcase. Thus animals, like human beings,
constantly prey upon each other. So prolific are these rabbits that they
will soon prove to be as great a nuisance as they are in New Zealand,
unless some active means are taken to prevent their increase. The wonder
is that the half-starved natives do not make a business of trapping and
eating them; but the poor, ignorant peons seem to be actually devoid of
all ingenuity or enterprise outside of their beaten track.



CHAPTER IV.

Zacatecas.--Sand-Spouts.--Fertile Lands.--A Silver Mining Region.--Alpine
    Scenery.--Table-Land of Mexico.--An Aged Miner.--Zacatecas Cathedral.
   --Church and People.--A Mountain Climb.--Ownership of the Mines.--
   --Want of Drainage.--A Battlefield.--Civil War.--Local Market.--
    Peculiar Scenes.--Native Beauties.--City Tramway Experience.--Town of
    Guadalupe.--Organized Beggars.--A Noble and Successful Institution.
   --Market of Guadalupe.--Attractive Señoritas.--Private Gardens.


The first place of special interest on the line of the Mexican Central
Railroad after leaving Torreon is Zacatecas, the largest town between
the Rio Grande and the city of Mexico, being nearly eight hundred miles
south of the river and four hundred and forty north of the capital. Its
name is derived from the Indian tribe who inhabited this region long
before the coming of the Spaniards. Between Torreon and this city, for a
distance of some three hundred miles, as we have described, the country
is lonely, prairie-like, and almost uninhabited, forming a broad plain
over a hundred miles wide, with ranges of the Sierra Madre on either
side. On these dry and sterile plains sand-spouts are frequently seen;
indeed, half a dozen were counted at the same time from the car windows.
These are created just as water-spouts are formed on the ocean, and to
encounter one is almost equally serious. One must visit either Egypt or
Mexico to witness this singular phenomenon. As Zacatecas is approached,
large flocks of sheep and herds of mules and horses are grouped in the
fields, overlooked by picturesquely draped horsemen. The cultivation of
the land and its apparent fertility improve, and many one-handled
ploughs, consisting of a crooked stick, sometimes shod with iron, are
being used. The marvel is that anything satisfactory can be accomplished
with such an awkward instrument, and yet these fields in some instances
show grand results.

We expressed surprise to an intelligent citizen at seeing long lines of
burros laden with freight beside the railroad, and going in the same
direction, remarking to him that the railway ought to be able to compete
with the jackasses. "You must take into consideration," said our
informant, "that a man who owns a score of these cheap animals can
himself drive them all to market or any given point. His time he counts
as nothing; his burros feed beside the way, and their sustenance costs
him nothing. Wages average throughout the country something less than
thirty cents per day, and the cost of living among the peons is
proportionately low. A railway is an expensive system to support, and
must charge accordingly; consequently the burros, as a means of
transportation for a certain class of goods, are quite able to compete
with the locomotive and the rail." Of course, as other avenues for
remunerative employment are opened to the common people, this antiquated
style of transportation will gradually go out of use, and the locomotive
will take the goods which are now carried by these patient and
economical animals.

Zacatecas is the capital of the state of the same name, and has a
population of nearly fifty thousand. This is one of the oldest and most
productive silver mining regions in Mexico. The town seems actually to
be built on a huge vein of silver, which has been penetrated in scores
of places. Eight or ten miles below the city the cars begin to climb
laboriously a grade of one hundred and seventy-five feet to the mile,
presenting some of the most abrupt curves we have ever seen in a railway
track. Here we are in the midst of Rocky Mountain scenery. One can
easily imagine himself on the Northern or Canadian Pacific road, among
their giant peaks, hazardous roadbeds, and narrow defiles. The huge
engine pants and trembles like an animal, in its struggle to drag the
long train up the incline and around the sharp bends, until finally the
summit is reached. To mount this remarkable grade a double engine has
been specially built, having two sets of driving wheels; but it is often
necessary to stop for a few moments to generate sufficient steam to
overcome the resistance of the steep grade.

Here we are on the great table-land of the country, about eight thousand
feet above the level of the sea, in a narrow valley surrounded by groups
of hills all teeming with the precious ore. These rich mines of
Zacatecas have been worked with little intermission for over three
hundred years, and are considered to be inexhaustible. "There is a
native laborer," said an intelligent superintendent to us, "who is over
seventy years old," pointing out a hale and hearty Indian. "He entered
the mines at about ten years of age, so he has seen sixty years of
mining life, and he may be good for ten years more." These men
constantly climb the steep ladders, bearing heavy loads of ore upon
their backs, for which hard labor they are paid about thirty-five or
forty cents a day. The most productive districts, as relates to mineral
products, especially of silver, lie in the northern part of the
republic, but metalliferous deposits are found in every state of the
confederation.

There are a number of important edifices in the city, among which is the
municipal palace, the cathedral, and the mint. The courtyard of the
first-named forms a lovely picture, with its garden of fragrant flowers,
tropical trees, and delicate columns supporting a veranda half hidden
with creeping vines. Both the interior and exterior of the cathedral are
extremely interesting and worthy of careful study, though one cannot but
remember how much of the wages of the poor populace has been cunningly
diverted from their family support to supply this useless ornamentation.
For this object indulgences are sold to the rich, and the poor peons are
made to believe their future salvation depends upon their liberal
contributions to support empty forms and extravagance. In his "Through
the Heart of Mexico," lately published, Rev. J. N. McCarty, D. D., says:
"If ever any people on earth were stripped of their clothing and starved
to array the priesthood in rich and gaudy apparel, and to furnish them
the fat of the land, these poor Mexicans are the people. Where the
churches are the richest and most numerous, as a rule the people are the
poorest. Their earnings have gone to the church, leaving them only rags,
huts, and the cheapest and coarsest of food."

An ancient stone aqueduct supplies the town with excellent water, but it
is distributed to consumers by men who make a regular business of this
service, and who form picturesque objects with their large earthen jars
strapped across their foreheads, one behind and one in front to balance
each other. We are struck with the aspect of barrenness caused by the
absence of vegetation. The nature of the soil is such as not to afford
sustenance to trees, or even sufficient for the hardy cactus. The
grounds are honeycombed in all directions with mines; silver is king.

Mines in Mexico are individual property, and do not, as we have seen
stated, belong to the government, unless they are abandoned, when they
revert to the state, and are very promptly sold for the benefit of the
public treasury. In order to keep good the title, a mine must be
absolutely worked during four months of the year. If this rule is in any
way evaded, the government confiscates the property and at once offers
it for sale, so that those on the lookout for such chances often obtain
a good title at a merely nominal price. But there are mines and mines in
this country, as in our western districts; some will pay to work and
some will not. As a rule it depends as much upon the management of such
a property as upon the richness of the native ore, whether it yields a
profitable return for the money invested in the enterprise.

In climbing to the level of the city from the plain below, the railroad
sometimes doubles upon itself horseshoe fashion, like a huge serpent
gathering its body in coils for a forward spring, winding about the
hills and among the mines, affording here and there glimpses of grand
and attractive scenery embracing the fertile plains of Fresnillo, and in
the blue distance the main range of the Sierra Madre. The color of these
distant mountain ranges changes constantly, varying with the morning,
noon, and twilight hues, producing effects which one does not weary of
quietly watching by the hour together.

Vegetables, charcoal, fruit, and market produce generally are brought
into the town from various distances on the backs of the natives. These
Indians will tire the best horse in the distance they can cover in the
same length of time, while carrying a hundred pounds and more upon their
backs. Mules and donkeys are also much in use, but the lower classes of
both sexes universally carry heavy burdens upon their backs from early
youth. Some of the Indian women are seen bearing loads of pottery or
jars of water upon their shoulders with seeming ease, under which an
ordinary Irish laborer would stagger. Comparatively few wheeled vehicles
are in use, and these are of the rudest character, the wheel being
composed of three pieces of timber, so secured together as to form a
circle, but having no spokes or tire, very like the ancient African and
Egyptian models. To such a vehicle a couple of oxen are attached by a
wooden bar reaching across their frontlets and lashed to the roots of
the horns by leather thongs. The skins of animals, such as goats, sheep,
and swine, are universally employed for transporting and storing
liquids, precisely as in Egypt thousands of years ago. The daily supply
of pulque is brought to market on the natives' backs in pig-skins, the
four legs protruding from the body in a ludicrous manner when the skin
is full of liquid. Everything in and about the city is quaint, though
the telephone, electric lights, and street tramways all speak of modern
civilization. The insufficient water supply is the cause of much
inconvenience, not to say suffering, and partly accounts for the untidy
condition of the place and the prevalence of offensive smells. The
latter are so disgusting as to be almost unbearable by a stranger. No
wonder that typhoid fever and kindred diseases prevail, and that the
death rate exceeds, as we were told is the case, that of any other
district in the republic.

There is an article of pottery manufactured in this vicinity, of a deep
red color, hard-baked and glazed inside and out, having rude but
effective ornamentation. Almost every large town in Mexico has one or
more pottery manufactories, each district producing ware which is so
individualized in the shape and finish as to distinctly mark its origin,
so that experts can tell exactly whence each specimen has been brought.
The manufacture of pottery is most frequently carried on by individuals,
each Indian with his primitive tools turning out work from his mud
cabin sometimes fit to grace the choicest and most refined homes. The
accuracy of eye and hand gained by long practice produces marvelous
results.

Overlooking the city, on a mountain ridge known as the Büfa, is a quaint
and curious church, Los Remedios. From this point one obtains a very
comprehensive view of the entire valley and the surrounding rugged
hills. One of the most bloody battles of the civil wars was fought on
the Büfa in 1871, between a revolutionary force under General Trevino
and the Juarez army, which resulted in the defeat of the revolutionists.
"Both sides fought with unprecedented frenzy," said a resident to us.
"From those steep rocks," he continued, pointing to the abrupt
declivities, "absolutely ran streams of blood, while dead bodies rolled
down into the gulch below by hundreds." We ventured to ask what this
quarrel between, fellow countrymen was about that caused such a loss of
life and induced such a display of enthusiastic devotion. "That is a
question," he replied, "which the rank and file of either army could not
have answered, though of course the leaders had their personal schemes
to subserve,--schemes of self-aggrandizement." It was Lamartine who said
significantly, "Civil wars leave nothing but tombs."

It is the custom for a stranger to descend one or more of the silver
mines; indeed, it may be said to be the one thing to do at Zacatecas,
but for which only the most awkward means imaginable are supplied, such
as ladders formed of a single long, notched pole, quite possible for an
acrobat or performer on the trapeze. It is up and down these hazardous
poles that the Indian miners, in night and day gangs, climb, while
carrying heavy canvas bags of ore weighing nearly or quite two hundred
pounds each. The writer is free to acknowledge that he did not improve
the opportunity to explore the bowels of the earth at Zacatecas, having
performed his full share of this sort of thing in other parts of the
world.

Zacatecas has its plaza; all Spanish and Mexican towns have one.
Probably, in laying out a town, the originators first select this
important centre, and then all other avenues, streets, and edifices are
made to conform to this location. In the middle of this plaza is a large
stone fountain, about which groups of native women are constantly busy
dipping water and filling their earthen jars, while hard by other women,
squatting on their haunches, offer oranges, pineapples, figs, and
bananas for sale. How these Mexican markets swarm with people and glow
with color, backed by moss-grown walls and ruined archways! Long burro
trains block the roadway, and others are seen winding down the zigzag
paths of the overhanging declivities. Close at hand within these low
adobe hovels, pulque is being retailed at a penny a tumbler. It is the
lager-beer of the country. Poverty, great poverty, stares us in the
face. No people could be more miserably housed, living and sleeping as
they do upon the bare ground, and owning only the few pitiful rags that
hang about their bodies. At the doors of these mud cabins women are seen
making tortillas with their rude stone implements. These little flat
cakes are bread and meat to them. Now and again one observes forms and
faces among the young native women that an artist would travel far to
study; but although some few are thus extremely handsome, the majority
are very homely, ill-formed, and negligent of person. The best looking
among the peons lose their comeliness after a few years, owing to hard
labor, childbirth, and deprivations. Few women retain their good looks
after twenty-five years or until they are thirty. Another fact was
remarked, that these Indian men and women never laugh. The writer was
not able to detect even a smile upon the faces of the lower grade of
natives; a ceaseless melancholy seems to surround them at all times, by
no means in accordance with the gay colors which they so much affect. In
contrast to the hovels of the populace, one sees occasionally a small
garden inclosed with a high adobe wall, belonging to some rich mine
owner, in which the tall pomegranate, full of scarlet bloom, or a
stately pepper tree, dominates a score of others of semi-tropical
growth.

One practice was observed at Zacatecas which recalled far-away Hong
Kong, China. This was the prosecution of various trades in the open air.
Thus the shoemaker was at work outside of his dwelling; the tailor, the
barber, and the tinker adopted the same practice, quite possible even in
the month of March in a land of such intense brightness and sunshine. We
wandered hither and thither, charmed by the novelty and strangeness of
everything; not an object to remind one of home, but only of the far
East. The swarthy natives with sandaled feet, the high colors worn by
the common people, the burnous-like serape, the sober unemotional
manners of the peons, the nut-brown women with brilliant eyes and
half-covered faces, the attractive fruits, the sharp cries of the
venders, the Egyptian-shaped pottery,--surely this might be Damascus or
Cairo.

An excursion by tramway was made to the neighboring town of Guadalupe,
six or eight miles away, nearly the entire distance being a sharp down
grade, over which the cars pass at top speed by their own gravitation;
no animals are attached. So steep is the descent that it may be compared
to a Canadian toboggan slide. It requires six mules to draw each car
back again, the animals being harnessed three abreast like the horses in
the Paris and Neapolitan omnibuses. Though this tramway is now admitted
to be an indispensable adjunct to the business of the place, when it was
first resolved upon by some of the residents more enterprising than
their neighbors, it was considered to be a serious innovation, open to
great objections, the local priesthood bitterly opposing it. Even the
moneyed mine owners and others who instituted the project had no fixed
idea how to operate a tramway of this sort, and an American overseer was
from the beginning and is to-day in charge. The cars were ordered from
Philadelphia, and while they were building, the steel rails, which came
from Liverpool by way of Vera Cruz, were laid down from one end of the
route to the other. Finally, when the cars arrived from the United
States, it was found that they would not run on the track, the fact
being that the rails had been laid on a gauge three inches narrower than
the cars were designed for. What was to be done? The Mexicans at first
proposed to rebuild the cars,--make the bodies narrower, and cut off the
axle-trees to fit the gauge of the rails. In their hopeless ignorance
this was the only way they could see out of the difficulty. The present
superintendent, a practical American engineer, was at the time in
Zacatecas, and took in the position of affairs at a glance, offering for
five hundred dollars to show the owners how to get out of the trouble
without changing an article upon the cars. The money was paid, and with
twenty men and some suitable tools the American took up a few rods of
the track, made a proper gauge for the rest, and had the cars running
over the short distance in one day. It was the old story of Columbus and
the egg, easy enough when one knew how to do it. The managers of the
road promptly put the American in charge, and he has filled the position
ever since.

Guadalupe is an interesting town of some six thousand inhabitants, not
counting the myriads of dogs, which do much abound in every part of
Mexico. As a rule these are miserable, mangy-looking, half-starved
creatures, with thin bodies and prominent ribs. The poorer the people,
the more dogs they keep, a rule which applies not only here, but
everywhere, especially among semi-barbarous races. The people seem to be
very kind to pet animals,--though they do abuse the burros,--cats
especially being of a plump, handsome species, quite at home, always
sleeping lazily in the sunshine. If they do purr in Spanish, it is so
very like the genuine English article that its purport is quite
unmistakable. The persistency of the beggars here attracted attention,
and on inquiry about the matter, a resident American informed us that
these beggars were actually organized by the priests, to whom they
report daily, and with whom they share their proceeds, thus enriching
the plethoric coffers of the church. This seems almost incredible; but
it is true. The decencies of life are often ignored, and the open
streets present disgusting scenes. Men and women lie down and sleep
wherever fatigue overcomes them, upon the hard stones or in the dirt.
The town is generally barren of vegetation, though a few dreary cactus
trees manage to sustain themselves in the rocky soil, with here and
there a yucca palm.

There is a famous orphan asylum in Guadalupe which is designed to
accommodate a thousand inmates at a time, and there is also a
well-endowed college. The former of these, the Orfanatorio de Guadalupe,
is one of the most important charitable institutions in the republic.
The old church of red sandstone, with its somewhat remarkable carvings,
as exhibited upon the façade, has two graceful towers and is elaborately
finished within. The church contains a half dozen oil paintings by
Antonio de Torres, which bear the date 1720. The finest of these is that
of "The Last Supper." The very elegant interior of the chapel of the
Purisima was not completed until so late as 1886, and is justly
considered the finest modern church structure in Mexico. As one passes
out into the surrounding squalor and obtrusive poverty, it is impossible
not to moralize as to the costly, theatrical, and ostentatious road
which seems to lead to the Roman Catholic heaven.

The little market-place of Guadalupe presents a scene like a country
fair, with its booths for the sale of fruits, pottery, vegetables,
flowers, bright-hued serapes and rebosas, all combining to form a
conglomerate of color which, mingled with the moving figures of the
mahogany-hued Indian women, is by no means devoid of picturesqueness.
One must step carefully not to tread upon the little mounds and clusters
of fruits and vegetables spread upon the ground for sale. The careless,
happy laugh of a light-hearted group of señoritas rang musically upon
the ear as we watched the market scene. Their uncovered, purple-black
hair glistened in the warm sunlight, while their roguish glances, from
"soul-deep eyes of darkest night," were like sparks of electricity. Was
it their normal mood, or did the presence of a curious stranger, himself
on the _qui vive_ to see everything, move them to just a bit of
coquetry?



CHAPTER V.

A Mexican Watering Place.--Delightful Climate.--Aguas Calientes.--Young
    Señoritas.--Local City Scenes.--Convicts.--Churches.--A Mummified
    Monk.--Punishment is Swift and Sure.--Hot Springs.--Bathing in
    Public.--Caged Songsters.--"Antiquities."--Delicious Fruits.--Market
    Scenes.--San Luis Potosi.--The Public Buildings.--City of Leon.--A
    Beautiful Plaza.--Local Manufactories.--Home Industries of Leon.--
    The City of Silao.--Defective Agriculture.--Objection to Machinery.
    --Fierce Sand Storm.


Aguas Calientes (hot waters) is the capital of a small state of the same
name, and is a very strongly individualized city, containing something
less than twenty-five thousand inhabitants. The town is handsomely laid
out with great regularity, having a number of fine stone buildings,
luxuriant gardens, and beautiful public squares. It is situated
seventy-five miles south of Zacatecas, on the trunk line of the Mexican
Central Railroad. This route brings us down to the plain through rugged
steeps and sharp grades, near to the famous salt and soda lakes, where
the Rio Brazos Santiago is crossed. Though we say that Aguas Calientes
is on a plain, yet the town is over six thousand feet above sea level,
and is well situated for business growth in a fertile region where three
main thoroughfares already centre. It is just three hundred and
sixty-four miles northwest of the city of Mexico. The Plaza des Armas,
with its fine monumental column and its refreshing fountain, as well as
several other public gardens of the city, are worthy of special mention
for their striking floral beauty, their display of graceful palms and
various other tropical trees. It seemed as though it must be perpetual
spring here, and that every tree and bush was in bloom. The Mexican
flora cannot be surpassed for depth of rich coloring. Sweet peas,
camellias, poppies, and pansies abound, while oleanders grow to the
height of elm trees, and are covered with a profusion of scarlet and
white flowers. The day was very soft, sunny, and genial, when we
wandered over the ancient place; all the treetops lay asleep, and there
was scarcely a breath of air stirring. Every sight and every sound had
the charm of novelty. Groups of young señoritas strolled leisurely about
the town; their classic profiles, large gazelle-like eyes, rosy lips,
delicate hands and feet, together with their shapely forms, indicated
their mingled Spanish and Indian origin. The many sonorous bells of the
churches kept up a continuous peal at special morning and evening hours.
In spite of the half-incongruous notes of these different metallic
voices floating together on the atmosphere, there was a sense of harmony
in the aggregate of sound, which recalled the more musical chimes one
hears on the shores of the Mediterranean. Mexican churches are not
supplied with chimes, though each steeple has at least a half dozen, and
often as many as a score, of costly bells.

Here and there the town shows unmistakable tokens of age, which is but
reasonable, as it was founded in 1520. The variety of colors used upon
the façades of the low adobe houses produces a pleasing effect. The love
of the Aztec race for warm, bright colors is seen everywhere. The Garden
of San Marcos, one of many open public squares, forms a wilderness of
foliage and flowers, where the oleanders are thirty feet in height,
shading lilies, roses, and pansies, with a low-growing species of
mignonette as fragrant as violets, our admiration for which was shared
by a score of glittering humming-birds. Here too the jasmine, with its
tiny variegated flowers, flourished by the side of hydrangeas full of
snow-flake bloom, while orange blossoms made the air heavy with their
odorous breath. Close to this garden is the bull ring, opposite to which
gangs of convicts are seen sweeping the streets under the supervision of
a military guard. Though these men are unchained, they make no attempt
to escape, as the guards under such circumstances have a habit of
promptly shooting a prisoner dead upon the spot; no one takes the
trouble to inquire into the summary proceeding, and it would do no good
if he did. There is no sickly sentimentality expended upon highwaymen,
garroters, or murderers in Mexico. If a man commits a crime, he is made
to pay the penalty for it, no matter what his position may be. There is
no pardoning out of prison here, so that the criminal may have a second
chance to outrage the rights of the community. If a trusted individual
steals the property of widows and orphans and runs away, he must stay
away, for if he comes back he will surely be shot. All things
considered, we believe this certainty of punishment is the restraining
force with many men of weak principles. Since the order to shoot all
highwaymen as soon as taken was promulgated, brigandage has almost
entirely disappeared in Mexico, though up to that time it was of daily
occurrence in some parts of the country.

There are several churches in Aguas Calientes which are well worth
visiting, some of which contain fine old paintings, though they are
mostly hung in a very poor light. There is an unmistakable atmosphere of
antiquity within these walls, "mellowed by scutcheoned panes in
cloisters old." The church facing the Plaza Mayor has a remarkable bell,
celebrated for its fine tones; and when this sounded for vespers,
Millet's Angelus was instantly recalled, the poor peons, no matter how
engaged, piously uncovering their heads and bowing with folded hands
while their lips moved in prayer. We were told of the great cost of this
bell, which is said to contain half a ton of silver; but this is
doubtless an exaggerated story framed to tickle a stranger's ear, since
if over a certain moderate percentage of silver is employed in the
casting, the true melody of the bell is destroyed. A queer object is
shown the visitor for a trifling fee, in the crypt of the church of San
Diego, being the remains of a mummified or desiccated monk, sitting
among a mass of skulls, rib and thigh bones, once belonging to human
beings. The moral of this exhibition seemed a little too far-fetched to
be interesting, and our small party hastened away with a sense of
disgust.

The hot springs from which the state and city take their name are
situated a couple of miles east of the town, at the end of a delightful
alameda. A small canal borders this roadway, which is liberally supplied
with water from the thermal springs, and scores of the populace may be
seen washing clothing on its edge at nearly any hour of the day, as well
as bathing therein, men and women together, with a decided heedlessness
of the conventionalities. The Maoris of New Zealand could not show more
utter disregard for a state of nudity than was exhibited by one group of
natives whom we saw. The admirable climate, the hot springs, the
beautiful gardens, vineyards, and abundant fruits, render this place
thoroughly attractive, notwithstanding that so large a portion consists
of adobe houses of only one story in height. These are often made
inviting by their neat surroundings and by being frescoed in bright
colors inside and out. One or two native birds in gayest colors usually
hang beside the open doors, in a home-made cage of dried rushes, singing
as gayly as those confined in more costly and gilded prisons. Just
opposite the public baths was one of these domesticated pets of the
mocking-bird species, who was remarkably accomplished. He was never
silent, but was constantly and successfully struggling to imitate every
peculiar sound which he heard. He broke down, however, ignominiously in
his attempts with the tramway fish-horns. They were too much for him.
This bird was of soft ash color, with a long, graceful set of
tail-feathers, and kept himself in most presentable order,
notwithstanding his narrow quarters in a home-made cage. It was in vain
that we tried to purchase the creature. Either the Indian woman had not
the right to sell him, or she prized the bird too highly to part with
him at any price. As we came away from the low adobe cabin, the bird was
mewing in imitation of another domestic pet which belonged to the same
woman.

Comparatively few humble dwellings have glass in the windows, but nearly
all have these openings barred with iron in more or less ornamental
styles. There are a few central situations where two-story houses
prevail. Besides the churches, there are the governor's palace, the casa
municipal, and the stores and dwelling-houses which surround the Plaza
Mayor, the latter having open arcades, or _portales_, beneath the first
story. People come from various parts of Mexico to enjoy the baths of
Aguas Calientes, and one sees many strangers about the town. The place
has, in fact, been the resort of people from various sections of the
country from time immemorial, on account of the presumed advantages to
be derived from the hot springs. Mineral waters, hot and cold, abound on
the table-land of Mexico.

It is said that by digging almost anywhere in this neighborhood, one can
exhume pottery and other articles concerning whose manufacture there is
a profound mystery, the shapes and style of finish being quite different
from what is now produced. These articles are reputed to antedate the
Toltec period, though the natives, finding that the antique shapes are
most popular with European and American tourists, imitate them very
closely. When "antiquities" are offered to one in a foreign country, he
should be very wary in purchasing, as the artificial manufacture of them
is fully up to the demand. The writer once saw an article sold at Cairo
as an antique for ten pounds sterling which was afterwards proved, by an
unmistakable mark, to have been made in Birmingham, England. So Aztec
and Toltec remains are produced to any extent in the city of Mexico; and
the enterprising English manufacturer, we were told, has even invaded
Yucatan with his "antique" wares.

Fruit is abundant, cheap, and delicious in the market-place of Aguas
Calientes. Fifty oranges were offered to us for a quarter of a dollar,
or two for a penny. Sunday is the principal market-day, when the country
people for miles around bring in fruit, vegetables, flowers, pottery,
and home-woven articles for sale. Men and women, sitting on the ground,
patiently wait for hours to make trifling sales, the profit on which
cannot exceed a few pennies, and often the poor creatures sell little or
nothing. The principal market is a permanent building, occupying a whole
block, or square. The area about which it is built is open in the
centre; that is, without covering. Here a motley group displayed
baskets, fruits, flowers, candies, pulque, boots, shoes, and sandals.
White onions mingled with red tomatoes and pineapples formed the apex to
a pyramid of oranges, bananas, lemons, pomegranates, all arranged so as
to present attractive colors and forms, being often decked with flowers.
Green sugar-cane, cut in available lengths, was rapidly consumed by
young Mexico, and gay young girls indulged in dulces (sweets). Hundreds
of patient donkeys, without harness of any sort, or even a rope about
their necks, stood demurely awaiting their hour of service. Beggars are
plenty, but few persons were seen really intoxicated, notwithstanding
that pulque is cheap and muscal very potent. Red, blue, brown, and
striped rebosas flitted before the eyes, worn by the restless crowd,
while occasionally one saw a lady of the upper class, attended by her
maid in gaudy colors, herself clad in the dark, conventional Spanish
style, her black hair, covered with a lace veil of the same hue, held in
place by a square-topped shell comb.

The public bathhouse, near the railroad depot, is remarkable for
spaciousness and for the excellence of the general arrangements. It is
built of a conglomerate of cobble-stones, bricks, and mortar, and might
be a bit out of the environs of Rome. In the central open area of these
baths is a choice garden full of blooming flowers and tropical trees.
Oleanders, fleurs-de-lis, flowering geraniums, peach blossoms, scarlet
poppies mingling with white, beside beds of pansies and violets,
delighted the eye and filled the air with perfume. The surroundings and
conveniences were more Oriental than Mexican, inviting the stranger to
bathe by the extraordinary facilities offered to him, and captivating
the senses by beauty and fragrance. There is a spacious swimming-bath
within the walls, beside the single bathrooms, in both of which the
water is kept at a delightful temperature. The luxury of these baths,
after a long, dusty ride over Mexican roads, can hardly be imagined by
those who have not enjoyed it. In the vicinity of the Plaza Mayor,
ice-cream was hawked and sold by itinerant venders. We were told of a
mysterious method of producing ice, which is employed here during the
night, by means of putting water in the hollowed stalk of the maguey or
agave plant, but we do not clearly understand the process. The volatile
oil of the century plant is said to evaporate so rapidly as to freeze
the water deposited in it. At any rate, the natives have some process by
which they produce ice in this tropical clime; but whether it is by aid
of the maguey plant, from which comes the pulque, or by some other
means, we cannot say authoritatively. In the cities and on the Texan
border, ice is largely manufactured by chemical process aided by
machinery, a means of supply well known in all countries where natural
ice is not formed by continued low temperature.

San Luis Potosi is situated about one hundred miles to the eastward of
Aguas Calientes, on the branch road connecting the main trunk of the
Mexican Central with Tampico on the Gulf. It is the capital of the State
of San Luis Potosi, and has, according to estimate, over forty thousand
inhabitants. The city contains many fine buildings, the most notable
among them being the state capitol, the business exchange, the state
museum, the mint, and the public library. This last-named contains
between seventy and eighty thousand volumes. There is here a larger
proportion of two-story buildings than is seen in either Saltillo or
Monterey. There are also a college, a hospital, and a theatre. It has
several plazas and many churches. The cathedral is quite modern, having
been erected within the last forty years; it faces the Plaza Mayor,
where there is a bronze statue of the patriot Hidalgo. We are here fully
six thousand feet above the sea level, in a wholesome locality, which,
it is claimed, possesses the most equable climate in Mexico, the
temperature never reaching freezing-point, and rarely being
uncomfortably warm. There are several fine old churches in San Luis
Potosi, containing some admirable oil paintings by Vallejo, Tresguerras,
and others of less fame. The city is three hundred and sixty miles north
of the national capital, and is destined, with the opening of the
railroad to Tampico, which has so recently taken place, to grow rapidly.
Its tramway, or horse-car, service is particularly well managed, and
facilitates all sorts of transportation in and about the city. In the
Sierra near at hand are the famous silver mines known as Cerro del
Potosi, which are so rich in the deposit of argentiferous ore that it is
named after the mines of Potosi in Peru. There are valuable salt mines
existing in this State of San Luis Potosi, at Peñon Blanco. The city has
always been noted as a military centre, and a large number of the
regular army are stationed here. When Santa Anna returned from exile, at
the beginning of the war with this country, in 1846, it was here that he
concentrated his forces. When defeated by General Taylor at Buena Vista,
he marched back to San Luis Potosi with the remnant of his thoroughly
demoralized army, where he again established his headquarters. On the
Sabbath, as in other Mexican cities, the grand market of the week takes
place, when cock-fighting, marketing, praying, and bull-fighting are
strangely mixed.

About a hundred miles south of Aguas Calientes we reach the important
manufacturing city of Leon, State of Guanajuato, a thrifty, enterprising
capital, containing over ninety thousand inhabitants. It is considered
the third largest and most important city of the republic. We have now
come eight hundred and thirty miles since leaving the International
Bridge, by which we entered Mexican territory at Pedras Negras, and find
ourselves in the midst of a fertile, well-watered plain, intersected by
the small river Turbio, two hundred and sixty miles northwest of the
city of Mexico. Rich grazing fields are spread broadcast, many of which
exhibit the deep, beautiful green of the alfalfa, or Mexican clover,
which is fed in a fresh-cut condition to favored cattle, but not to
burros, poor creatures! They feed themselves on what they can pick up by
the roadside, on the refuse vegetables thrown away in the city markets,
on straw; in short, on almost anything. There is a theory that they will
live on empty fruit tins, broken glass bottles, and sardine boxes; but
we are not prepared to indorse that. The fields and small domestic
gardens hereabouts are often hedged by tall, pole-like cacti of the
species called the organ cactus, from its peculiar resemblance to the
pipes of an organ. This forms a prevailing picture in the wild landscape
of southern Mexico. Leon is nearly six thousand feet above the sea.

As the railroad depot is a mile from the city proper,--a characteristic
of transportation facilities which applies to all Mexican capitals,--we
reach the plaza of Leon by tramway. The place has all the usual
belongings of a Spanish town, though it contains no buildings of special
interest. The plaza, the market-place, and the cathedral are each worthy
of note. The first-named has a large, refreshing fountain in its centre,
whose music cheers the senses when oppressed by tropical heat. The plaza
is also shaded by thick clusters of ornamental trees. There was a grand
annual fair held here before the days of railroads in Mexico, which was
an occasion attracting people from all the commercial centres of the
country. While talking to a local merchant he said to us: "Certain
circumscribed interests were at first unfavorably affected by the
establishment of the railroad, and people grumbled accordingly; but we
have come to see that after all it is for the universal good to have
this prompt means of transportation. It was the same," he continued, "as
regards the tramway; but we could not do without that convenience now."

On one side of the plaza is the governor's palace, a long, plain,
two-story building of composite material,--stone, sun-dried bricks, and
mortar, colored white. On the other three sides is a line of two-story
buildings, beneath which is a continuous block of _portales_, or arches,
crowded with shops and booths; the first story of these houses being
thus devoted to trade, the second to dwellings. The general effect of
this large business square, with the deep greenery of the plaza in the
centre, is extremely attractive. Strolling about it in the intense
sunshine are many beggars and grandees; women in bright-colored rebosas;
others in rags which do not half cover their nakedness; fair señoritas
with tall, red-heeled boots pointed at the toes, and poor girls with
bare limbs and feet; cripples and athletes; beauty and deformity;
plethoric priests and cadaverous peons. Now a horseman in theatrical
costume, sword and pistol by his side, and huge silver spurs on his
heels, seated on a small but beautifully formed Andalusian horse, passes
swiftly by, and now a score of charcoal-laden donkeys, driven by an
Indian larger than the animal he bestrides. All the men who can afford
it wear broad-brimmed sombreros richly ornamented with gold and silver
braid; the poorest, though otherwise but half clad, and with bare limbs,
have a substitute for the sombrero in straw or some cheap material. The
broader the brim and the taller the crown, the more they are admired. It
is a busy, ever-shifting scene presented by the Plaza Mayor of Leon,
such as one may look upon only south of the Rio Grande.

The paseo is a remarkably fine, tree-embowered avenue, a sort of
miniature Champs Elysées, flanked by well-cultivated fields and gardens,
forming the beginning of the road which leads to Silao. Besides the
Plaza Mayor and the paseo, there are a dozen minor plazas (plazuelas) in
Leon, all more or less attractive. On the road leading to Lagos, not far
from the city, there are hot mineral springs much esteemed and much used
for bathing. One can go anywhere in and about Leon by tramway as easily
as in Boston or New York. The specialty of the city is its various
manufactories of leather goods, but particularly saddles, boots, and
shoes, together with leather sandals, such as are worn by the common
people who do not go barefooted,--though the fact is nine tenths of them
do go barefooted. Another special product of Leon is blue and striped
rebosas, so universally worn by the women of the humbler class.

It is a peculiarity in Mexico that a certain branch of manufacture is
confined in a great measure to one place, other business localities
respecting this partial monopoly by devoting themselves to other
productions. Thus the industry of Leon is developed in tanning leather,
and the making of boots, shoes, saddlery, and rebosas; Salamanca is
noted for its buckskin garments and gloves; Irapuato is devoted to
raising strawberries, and supplies half the republic with this delicious
fruit; Queretaro is famous for the opals it ships from its unique mines;
Lerdo enriches itself by the cotton which it sends to market; Celaya, in
the valley of the Laja, is known all over Mexico for the production of
fine dulces (sweets, or confectionery) made from milk and sugar; from
Puebla come the elegant and profitable onyx ornaments so much prized at
home and abroad; Aguas Calientes is famous as an agricultural centre,
supplying the markets of the country with corn and beans; from Orizaba
and Cordova come coffee, sugar, and delicious tropical fruits; Chihuahua
raises horses and cattle for the home market and for exportation;
Guadalajara is unrivaled for the production of pottery and crockery
ware, Zacatecas and Guanajuato for the mining of silver; and so the list
might be extended, showing the native resources of the country and the
concentration of special industries.

Many of the dwellings--most of them, indeed--are but one story in
height, in the city proper, though often constructed of stone; but in
the suburbs they are altogether of one story and built of adobe. Some of
the hedges are both striking and effective, consisting of the
prickly-pear cactus, which presents an impenetrable barrier to man or
beast. The natives prepare a dish of green salad from the tender leaves
of the cactus, as we do from dandelions and lettuce, which satisfies a
certain appetite, and no doubt contains considerable nourishment. There
are several quite ancient churches, a cathedral, and two theatres in
Leon. Of the latter, that which attracted us most might have passed for
a floral conservatory. It was a stone edifice, with a broad vestibule
full of flowers, having a fountain in the centre and a dome covered with
glass. The cathedral, under the ascribed patronage of "Our Lady of
Light," makes up for its shortcomings in the architecture of its lower
portions by a fine dome and two lofty towers, these last of quite modern
construction, having been completed so late as 1878. The oldest church
in the city is La Soledad, which dates back three hundred and fifty
years. Two others, San Juan de Dios and San Felipe Neri, are of more
than passing interest to the traveler.

It was observed, in nearly all the dwellings which were entered, that
the women as well as the men were engaged with hand-looms, weaving
rebosas or serapes. In many instances children were thus employed, of
such tender age that it was surprising to see the excellence of the work
which they produced. These humble interiors present notable pictures of
respectability, industry, and thrift. In the market-place, flowers,
mostly beautiful roses of white and red varieties, were sold by the
score for a five-cent piece, and lovely bouquets, containing artistic
combinations of color and great variety of species, were offered for ten
cents each. The plains in the environs of Leon are beautified by some
magnificent groves of trees, and exhibit great fertility of soil.

After passing through miles of dreary territory which produced little
save an abnormal growth of cacti of several species, exhibiting great
variety in shape and the color of its blossoms, which were sometimes
white, but oftener red or yellow, twenty miles southeast of Leon and two
hundred and thirty-eight north of the national capital, we reach the
small city of Silao, in the State of Guanajuato, which has a population
of about fifteen thousand. This is an agricultural district, six
thousand feet above the level of the sea, where irrigation is absolutely
necessary, and where it is freely applied, but by hand power, the water
being raised from the ditches by means of buckets. Under this treatment
the soil is so fertile as to yield two crops of wheat and maize
annually, besides an abundance of other staples. The eyes of the
traveler are delighted, on approaching Silao, by the view of
far-reaching fields of waving grain, giving full promise of a rich
harvest near at hand. We were told that these fields were flooded twice
during the growing of a crop: first, early in January, when the young
plants are two or three inches high, and again soon after the first of
March, just before the ear is about to develop itself. Sometimes, as is
done in Egypt, the fields are inundated before sowing. Some of the
richest soil for wheat-growing in all Mexico lies between San Juan del
Rio and Leon. The idea of a rotation of crops, the advantages of which
the intelligent American farmer so well understands, does not seem yet
to have dawned upon the Mexican cultivator of the soil. He goes on year
after year extracting the same chemicals from the earth, without using
fertilizers at all, and planting the same seed in the same fields. By no
happy accident does he substitute corn for oats, or wheat for either. He
never thinks of giving his grain field a breathing spell by planting it
with potatoes or any other root crop, and substituting a different style
of cultivation. In and about the town are some large and admirably
managed gardens of fruits and flowers. One was hardly prepared, before
coming hither, to accord to the Spanish character so much of
appreciation and such delicacy of taste as are revealed through the
almost universal cultivation of flowers in Mexico, wherever
circumstances will admit of it. Silao is just fifteen miles from
Guanajuato, the capital of the state, with which it is connected by
railway.

The rainfall is comparatively very slight on the entire Mexican
plateau, limited, in fact, to two or three months in the year, which
renders irrigation a universal necessity to insure success in farming;
but the means employed for the purpose, as we have seen, are singularly
primitive. The same objection that limited intelligence evinces
everywhere to the introduction of labor-saving machinery is exhibited
here in Mexico. When the author was at the Lakes of Killarney, a few
years since, and saw the hotel employees cutting grass upon the broad
lawn with a sickle or reaping-hook, he suggested to the landlord that an
American lawn-mower should be used, whereby one man could do the job
quicker and in better shape than twenty men could do by this primitive
mode. "If I were to introduce an American lawn-mower on to this place,"
said the landlord, "the laborers would burn my house down at once!" So
when the air-brakes were introduced on the National Railroad in Mexico,
thus not only adding unquestionably to the safety of the cars, but
decreasing the necessity for so many train hands, the laborers cut and
destroyed the brakes. Through persistent determination on the part of
the officers of the road, the air-brake is now in use by the Mexican
Central corporation, from the Rio Grande to the capital; but the
National line between the capital and Vera Cruz is not able to make use
of this greater safeguard and economical air-brake, because a lot of
stupid, ignorant brakemen object!

Silao is of little commercial importance, but it has the over-abundance
of churches always to be found in Spanish towns of its size, none of
which, in this instance, are any way remarkable. But the place is
picturesque and interesting; one would not like to have missed it. The
church of Santiago has a tall, graceful, and slender spire, sure to
attract an observant eye, recalling the pinnacle of St. Peter and St.
Paul in the capital of Russia. We have said Silao is of little
commercial importance, but there are six or eight flour-mills, which
seem to be the nucleus about which the principal business interests
centre. The place was founded more than three centuries ago, and
impresses one with an atmosphere of crumbling antiquity which somehow is
pretty sure to challenge respect. "Time consecrates," says Schiller,
"and what is gray with age becomes religion."

Seeing a number of Indian men and women relieving themselves from heavy
burdens brought into the market, we were surprised to note the weight
which these trained natives could carry. On inquiry it was found that
some of them had come over mountainous roads a distance of twenty miles
and more, each bearing upon his or her back a weight in produce of
various sorts which must have been near to a hundred and fifty pounds.
As profit on all their chickens, eggs, vegetables, pottery, and fruit,
they could hardly average more than a dollar to each individual. How
simple and circumscribed must be the necessities of a people who can
sustain themselves upon such earnings! When on the road, these Indians
have a peculiarly rapid gait, a sort of dog-trot, so to speak, which
they will keep up for hours at a time while carrying their heavy
burdens. Though they all speak Spanish, yet each tribe or section of
country seems to have a dialect of its own, which is used exclusively
among its people. Scientists tell us that the various languages and
dialects spoken by the Indian race of Mexico in the several parts of the
republic number over one hundred; there are sixty which are known to
have become extinct.

In contradistinction to the theories of many careful observers,
scientists have pointed to the fact that in all of these native tongues
not one word can be found which gives indication of Asiatic origin.

While at Silao a Mexican sand-spout, a visitant which is very liable to
appear on the open plains during the dry season, struck in our immediate
vicinity, followed by a fierce dust-storm, which lasted for about an
hour, darkening the atmosphere to a night-hue for miles around, and
covering every exposed article or person with a thick layer of fine
sand. It was necessary promptly to close all doors and windows. Indeed,
a person could more easily face a furious hail-storm, than one of these
dry gales; men and animals alike sought shelter from its blinding
fierceness. So men, horses, and camels, composing the caravans which
cross the desert of Sahara, when struck by a sand-storm, are obliged to
throw themselves flat upon the ground, and there remain until it has
exhausted its fury. The condition of the soil at Silao may be easily
imagined when it is remembered that rain had not fallen here for seven
months. It was late in March, but the rainy season does not begin until
about the last of May. In this region people do not speak of summer and
winter, but of the dry and the rainy seasons, the former being reckoned
from November to May, and the latter from June to October. It should not
be understood that it rains constantly in the wet season. The rain falls
generally in pleasant showers, afternoons and nights, leaving the
mornings and forenoons bright, clear, and comfortable. It is really the
pleasantest season of the year on the Mexican plateau.



CHAPTER VI.

Guanajuato.--An Ex-President.--Richest Silver Mine in Mexico.--Reducing
    the Ores.--Plenty of Silver.--Open Sewers.--A Venal Priesthood.--A
    Big Prison.--The Catholic Church.--Getting Rid of a Prisoner.--The
    Frog-Rock.--Idolaters.--A Strawberry Festival at Irapuato.--
    Salamanca.--City of Queretaro.--A Fine Old Capital.--Maximilian and
    His Fate.--A Charming Plaza.--Mammoth Cotton Factory.--The Maguey
    Plant.--Pulque and Other Stimulants.--Beautiful Opals.--Honey Water.
    --Ancient Tula.--A Freak of Tropical Weather.

The quaint old city of Guanajuato, capital of the state bearing the same
name,--pronounced Wan-a-wato,--is situated nearly a thousand feet higher
than Silao, two hundred and fifty miles north of the city of Mexico, and
fifteen miles from the main trunk of the Mexican Central Railroad, with
which it is connected by a branch road. It contains between fifty and
sixty thousand inhabitants, and has been a successful mining centre for
over three hundred years. Manuel Gonzales, ex-president of Mexico, is
the governor of the state. This man was the Tweed of Mexico, and one of
the most venal officials ever trusted by the people. He succeeded, on
retiring from the presidency, in taking with him of his ill-gotten
wealth several millions of dollars. The astonishing corruption that
reigned under his fostering care was notorious. In enriching himself
and his ring of adherents, he brought the treasury of the country to the
very verge of bankruptcy. It may be mentioned that this State of
Guanajuato is the most densely populated in the Mexican republic. It has
an area of a trifle over twelve thousand square miles, or it is about
the size of Massachusetts and Connecticut united. The town is reached
through the suburb of Marfil, along the precipitous sides of whose
mountain road large adobe and stone mills are constructed, resembling
feudal castles; while beside the roadbed, broken by sharp acclivities,
the small, muddy, vile-smelling river Guanajuato flows sluggishly along,
bearing silver tailings away from the mills above, and wasting at least
twenty-five per cent, of the precious metal contained in the badly
manipulated ore. Here and there in the river's bed--the stream being
low--scores of natives were seen washing the earth which had been
deposited from the mines, working knee-deep in the mud, and striving to
make at least day wages, which is here represented by forty cents.
Others were producing sun-dried brick out of the clayey substance, after
it had been rewashed by the independent miners. This river becomes a
torrent in the rainy season, and owing to its situation the town is
liable to dangerous inundations, one of which occurred so late as 1885,
causing great loss of life and property. Creeping slowly upward over the
rough road, an abrupt corner of the gulch was finally turned, and we
suddenly found ourself in the centre of the active little city, so
compactly built that business seemed to be overflowing its proper
limits and utterly blocking the narrow streets. The provision and fruit
market was trespassing on every available passageway. Curbstone and
sidewalk were unhesitatingly monopolized by the market people with their
wares spread out for sale. In Guanajuato is found the richest vein of
silver-bearing ore in the country, known as the _Veta Madre_, and though
the most primitive modes of mining and milling have always been and
still are pursued here, over eight hundred million dollars in the
argentiferous metal have been realized from this immediate vicinity
since official record has been kept of the amount; and with all this
Mexico is still poor!

The ore has now to be raised from a depth of fifteen hundred feet and
more. There are between fifty and sixty crushing mills in operation at
this writing, reducing the silver-bearing quartz. Two of the mills are
operated by Europeans, who use steam power to some extent, but the
scarcity of fuel is a serious objection to the employment of steam. We
saw scores of mules treading the liquid, muddy mass for amalgamating
purposes, driven about in a circle by men who waded knee-deep while
following the weary animals. As these huge vats contain quicksilver,
vitriol, and other poisonous ingredients, the lives of men and animals
thus occupied are of brief duration. The mules live about four years,
and the men rarely twice as long if they continue in the business. This
result is well known to be inevitable, and yet there are plenty of men
who eagerly seek the employment.

Without going into detail we may describe the process of obtaining the
silver from the rocky mass in a few words. The ore is first crushed, and
by adding water is made into a thin paste. Many tons of this are placed
in a huge vat, at least a hundred feet square, and into it are thrown,
in certain quantities, sulphate of copper, common salt, and quicksilver.
Driving the animals through this mass, ten hours a day for three or four
days, causes the various ingredients to become thoroughly mingled. The
quicksilver finally gets hold of and concentrates the coveted metal. The
quicksilver is afterwards extracted and reserved for continued use,
performing the same function over and over again. There is, of course, a
large percentage of quicksilver lost in the operation, and its
employment in such quantities forms one of the heavy expenses of
milling.

The mills are semi-fortresses, having often been compelled to resist the
attacks of banditti, who have ever been ready to organize a descent upon
any place where portable treasure is accumulated. We were told, on good
authority, that every ton of raw material handled here yields on an
average thirty-three dollars. This figure our informant qualified by the
remark that it was the average under ordinary circumstances. Sometimes
the miners strike what is called a bonanza, and for a while ore is
raised from the bowels of the earth which will produce five times this
amount to the ton; but after a short time the yield will return to its
normal condition. Occasionally, but this is rare, nuggets of pure or
nearly pure silver are found weighing from fifteen to twenty pounds
each. The process of milling here is slow, tedious, and wasteful. The
scientific knowledge brought to bear upon the business in the United
States is not heeded in Mexico, and yet these people obtain remarkably
favorable results. The fact is, the precious metal is so very abundant,
and the profits so satisfactory, that the managers and owners grow
careless, having little incentive to spur them on to adopt more
economical and productive methods. An intelligent overseer of a mine at
Guanajuato said to us in reply to a question relating to the usual
process of milling in Mexico: "We get probably sixty per cent. of the
silver contained in the raw ore which we handle, and that is about all
we can expect." On being asked if the men whom we saw working in the
open bed of the river, far below the mills, did not obtain good results,
the superintendent replied, "They succeed best in getting part of the
quicksilver which has been carried away in the process, which they sell
to us again." These men, we observed, worked mostly with shovels and
earthen pans, or with their hands and a flat, shingle-like piece of
wood.

Guanajuato is built on the sides of a deep, broad gorge, surrounded by
rolling hills, the ravine, the mouth of which commences at Marfil, being
terraced on either side to make room for adobe dwellings. Here and there
a patch of green is to be seen, a graceful pepper tree, an orange, or
stately cypress relieving the cheerless, arid scene. The narrow,
irregular streets are roughly paved; but the clouds of dust which one
encounters in the dry season are almost suffocating. Now and then a few
potted flowers in front of a low cabin, a bird cage with its chirping
occupant, a noisy parrot on an exposed perch, a dozing cat before the
door, all afford glimpses of domesticity; but, on the whole, this mining
town, rich in native silver, gave us in its humbler portions the
impression of being mostly composed of people half clothed and seemingly
but half fed.

The city has an alameda and a plaza. The latter, in the centre of the
town, is decorated with bright-colored flowers, tall palm trees, and has
a music pagoda in its centre. This plaza has an elevation of over six
thousand eight hundred feet above the level of the sea. What a queer old
city it is, with its steep, narrow, twisted streets! It might be a bit
abstracted from Moorish Tangier, or from the narrow thoroughfares of
Granada, close by the banks of the turbulent Darro.

The occupation of three fourths of the people is naturally connected
with the mines, and it may be said to be an industrious community. The
pulque shops are many, far too many; but there was no intoxication
noticed on the streets. The open sewers render the death rate unusually
high in Guanajuato, where typhoid fever and pneumonia were particularly
prevalent during our visit. Indeed, the place is notoriously unhealthy.
There are many excellent oil paintings hung in the churches and chapels,
representing, of course, scriptural subjects, including one of the
much-abused St. Sebastian. There are two or three primary and advanced
schools supported by the municipality; but these, we were told, were
bitterly opposed by the priests. We speak often and earnestly concerning
the malign influence of the priesthood, because no one can travel in
Mexico without having the fact constantly forced upon him, at every
turn, that its members and their church are, and have been for nearly
four centuries, the visible curse of the country. The most interesting
of the many churches is the Compañia, which has a choice group of bells
in its cupola, and an unusually excellent collection of paintings, among
them a series illustrating the life of the Virgin, by an unknown artist,
besides two fine canvases by Cabrera. But one grows fastidious in
visiting so many of these churches as he approaches the capital, and
becomes satisfied with examining the cathedral in each new city. The
whole country is strewn with these costly and comparatively useless
temples, many of which are gradually crumbling to dust, and nearly all
of which are dirty beyond description. Immediately after the Spanish
conquest a rage possessed the victors to build churches, without regard
to the necessary population for their support, perhaps hoping thereby to
propitiate heaven for their rapaciousness and outrageous oppression of
the native race. The criminal extortion exercised by the priesthood and
their followers forms a dark blot upon the escutcheon of both the church
and the state. O Christianity, as Madame Roland said of Liberty, "what
atrocities have been committed in thy name!"

Charles Lemprière, D. C. L., an able writer upon Mexico, says: "The
Mexican church, as a church, fills no mission of virtue, no mission of
morality, no mission of mercy, no mission of charity. Virtue cannot
exist in its pestiferous atmosphere. The cause of morality does not come
within its practice. It knows no mercy, and no emotion of charity ever
nerves the stony heart of the priesthood, which, with an avarice that
knows no limit, filches the last penny from the diseased and dying
beggar, plunders the widow and orphans of their substance as well as
their virtue, and casts such a horoscope of horrors around the deathbed
of the dying millionaire, that the poor, superstitious wretch is glad to
purchase a chance for the safety of his soul in making the church the
heir of his treasures."

Many of the better class of houses in the upper portion of Guanajuato,
some of which are extremely attractive, are built from a peculiar
sandstone quarried in the neighborhood, which is of many colors, giving
the fronts an odd, but not unpleasant appearance. The balconies of these
dwellings are rendered lovely by a great variety of creeping vines and
flowers in blossom. Among these the honeysuckle prevailed, often shading
pleasant family groups, and forming tableaux in strong contrast with the
more humble and populous portions of the town. In this part of the city,
where the gorge widens, a large reservoir has been constructed which
gets its supply of water from the mountain streams, and affords the
necessary article in the dry season. Along either side of these
reservoirs, for there is a succession of them, are situated the
pleasantest residences. These are so charmingly adapted to the locality,
and depart so far from the conventional Mexican style, as to cause one
to think some American or English architect had been exercising his
skill and taste in the neighborhood. They recalled some of the lovely
villas one sees near Sorrento and along the shores of the Bay of Amalfi,
in southern Italy.

The spacious and ancient structure known as the Alhondiga de Granaditas,
situated on elevated ground, dominates the whole city. It was erected a
century and more ago, and designed for a commercial exchange, but it has
since been greatly altered, and served as a fortification in the civil
wars. It is to-day occupied for the purposes of a prison, where convicts
are judiciously taught various mechanical trades. The view from the
summit of this rude old building takes in the town, the long, narrow
gulch, the gray and rugged hills which reach upward towards the deep
blue sky, dotted here and there by the yellow dome of some ancient
church, and an occasional cypress or graceful palm striving to redeem
the surrounding barrenness. In the prison yard, where the convicts seem
to be permitted to roam at their own pleasure, hens, chickens, and
turkeys were seen dodging in and out among the feet of the prisoners,
with whom they were apparently on the best of terms.

One could not but think that a large number of these prisoners were
probably better off as to creature comforts than when at liberty and
following their own behests. They eat, sleep, and work together at light
occupations, and no attempt is made to keep them from communicating
with each other. They have good air, light, and better food on the
average than they have been accustomed to when providing for themselves,
and they are allowed to keep a part of their own earnings. They are
permitted good bathing facilities, and to play checkers or any other
small games during their off hours, as they term the portions of the day
in which discipline requires no regular service of them. We became
interested in the case of an intelligent American who was held as a
prisoner here. He had been confined for nearly two years without a
trial, for which he was earnestly begging. The charge against him was
that he had been connected with some Mexicans in the robbery of a
railroad train, but of which he declared himself entirely innocent.
Whether innocent or guilty, he was entitled to a fair trial. Our party
took the matter in hand, supplied the man with proper pecuniary means,
interested our local consul in his behalf, and brought the matter to the
attention of the American minister to Mexico, finally obtaining
assurance that justice should be obtained for the prisoner.

Though these places of confinement are conducted with apparent
looseness, still the escape of an inmate rarely takes place unless it is
connived at by the officials. The bullet is very swift in Mexico, as
already instanced, and a man who attempts to escape from legal restraint
is instantly shot without the least hesitation on the part of the guard,
no matter for what he may be confined, even though held only for a
witness. In well-authenticated cases, where it was considered desirable
to get rid of an inmate without the form of a trial, which perhaps
might compromise some favored individual, opportunity was afforded the
prisoner to escape; the temptation was too strong, he could not resist
it; but scarcely had he broken the bounds before the fatal lead laid him
low in death. The place was pointed out to us on these prison walls
where the head of the Indian patriot Hidalgo was exposed upon a spear
point by the Spanish governor of the place, until it crumbled to dust by
the action of the elements.

Quite a pretentious theatre of stone is in course of erection just
opposite the little Plaza de Mejia Mora. The dozen large stone pillars
of the façade were already in place, and there are other evidences that
when finished it will be a spacious and elegant structure. We say when
finished, but that will not be this year, or next, probably; building,
like everything else in this country, is slow of progress. The
significant Spanish word _mañana_ is on everybody's lips, and expresses
a ruling principle, nothing being done to-day which can possibly be put
off until to-morrow.

The somewhat singular name of the city is from _guanashuato_, an Indian
word in the Tarrascan tongue, which signifies "hill of the frogs," a
name given to the place by the aborigines because of a huge rocky mound
which resembles a frog, and forms a prominent object in the immediate
environs. With their idolatrous instinct the early natives made this
peculiar rock an object of worship, and, it is said, offered human
sacrifices at its base. No doubt these tribes were sincere, and
positive in proportion to their ignorance,--the idol is but the type of
the worshiper's intelligence. In visiting the Temple of Hanan, at
Canton, we find to-day, a number of "sacred" hogs wallowing in dirt. The
Parsee still worships fire; the uneducated Japanese bows before snakes
and foxes; the Hindoo deifies cows and monkeys. Why should we wonder,
then, that the Toltecs worshiped idols a thousand years ago?

While looking upon the strange stone images, large and small, in the
museum of the national capital, which the ancient people who possessed
this land erected and worshiped, one cannot avoid forming a very low
estimate of such a race. Their deities were not only hideous, but were
made in the crudest possible manner, without one correct line of anatomy
or physiognomy, and represented utterly impossible beings in equally
impossible attitudes. They are, however, of growing interest, and
invaluable as mementoes of a vanished race.

After returning to Silao, we resume our journey southward on the main
line of the Mexican Central Railroad, crossing the State of Guanajuato
through a fertile and well-cultivated region, in strong contrast to much
of the country left behind. At Irapuato, an unimportant, dingy,
dilapidated little town, nineteen miles from Silao, is the junction of
the trunk line and a branch road to Guadalajara, which city we shall
visit on our return trip northward. Irapuato is pleasantly remembered by
all travelers in Mexico, being noted for the fact that fresh ripe
strawberries are sold on the railway trains by the inhabitants every day
in the year. Strangers never pass this point without enjoying a
strawberry picnic, as it may be called, every one purchasing more or
less. Even the train-hands would rebel were they not permitted to tarry
long enough to enjoy the one luxury of the place. The delicious berries
are supplied by native men and women with wild-looking, swarthy faces,
who hand them to the travelers in neat, plain baskets which hold nearly
two quarts each. Basket and strawberries together are sold for
twenty-five cents. The top layer of the fruit is carefully selected, and
most tempting to look upon, the berries being shrewdly "deaconed,"--a
fact of which the purchaser becomes aware when he has consumed the first
portion. However, all are eatable and most grateful to the taste. Human
nature is very much the same in trade, whether exhibited in Faneuil Hall
Market, Boston, or at Irapuato in Mexico. The deaconing process is not
unknown in Massachusetts. Nice, marketable strawberries could be
forwarded from Irapuato to Chicago and all intermediate cities, so as to
be sold in our markets in good condition every day in the year, by means
of the present complete railway connections. The industry of producing
them would be stimulated by an organized effort to its best performance,
and all concerned would be benefited.

About a dozen miles beyond the junction, we arrive at Salamanca, a small
but thriving city. Here, in the Church of San Augustin, are some
elaborate wooden altars of such beautiful workmanship as to have a
national reputation. These carvings are by native workmen, and evince
an artistic taste and facility which one would hardly expect to find
among a people so uncultured as the laboring class of Mexico. There is
genius enough lying dormant in the country; it only lacks development.
The principal industry of the town is the manufacture of buckskin
garments and gloves. Twenty miles further southward is the thriving city
of Celaya, in the charming valley of the Laja, with about twenty
thousand population. The town is situated nearly two miles from the
river, in the State of Guanajuato, and contains extensive cotton and
woolen mills, with the usual abundance of Roman Catholic churches. There
are quite a number of buildings in Celaya, both public and private,
which evince notable architectural beauty. These were erected after the
design of a local Michael Angelo,--a native architect, sculptor, and
painter named Tresguerras. Finally we arrive at Queretaro (pronounced
Ka-ret-a-ro), the capital of the state of the same name, situated a
little over one hundred and fifty miles northwest of the city of Mexico,
and having a population of about fifty thousand. This is generally
admitted to be the most attractive city, in its general effect upon the
stranger, of any in the republic outside of the valley of Mexico, though
we unhesitatingly place Puebla before it. It was here, in 1848, that the
Mexican Congress ratified the treaty of peace with the United States.
Perhaps some of the readers of these pages will remember with what
distinguished honors Mr. Seward was received in this city during his
visit to Mexico in 1869.

Queretaro was founded by the Aztecs about four hundred years ago, and
was captured by the Spaniards in 1531. It contains numerous fine stone
buildings, mostly of a religious character, and has some very spacious
public squares. A grand stone aqueduct over five miles long brings a
bountiful supply of good water from the neighboring mountains. The
lofty, substantial masonry of the aqueduct reminds one of similar works
which cross the Campagna at Rome, and those in the environs of Cairo.
This work must have been originally a tremendous undertaking, many of
the arches, where ravines and natural undulations are crossed, being
nearly a hundred feet in height. The cost of the aqueduct is said to
have been borne by a single individual, to whose memory the citizens
have erected a statue on one of the plazas. The water-supply thus
brought into the town feeds a dozen or more large, bright, crystal
fountains in different sections, around which picturesque groups of
water-carriers of both sexes are constantly seen filling their jars for
domestic uses. To an American eye there is a sort of Rip-Van-Winkle look
about the grass-grown streets of Queretaro. We are here some six
thousand feet above the sea, but the place enjoys a most equable and
temperate climate. It was in the suburbs of this city that Maximilian
and his two trusted generals, Mejia and Miramon, the latter ex-president
of the republic, were shot by order of a Mexican court-martial,
notwithstanding the appeal for mercy in their behalf by more than one
European power, in which the United States government also joined. The
Princess Salm-Salm rode across country on horseback a distance of over
one hundred miles, to implore Juarez to spare the life of Maximilian;
but it was in vain. Juarez was obliged to look at the matter in a
political light, whatever his own inclination towards clemency may have
been, and therefore refused to annul the sentence of death. Putting all
sentimentality aside, it seems to the author that Maximilian justly
merited the fate which he so systematically provoked. The measure which
he meted to others was in turn accorded to himself. He issued a decree
that every officer taken in arms against his self-assumed authority
should be promptly shot without trial. This is considered admissible in
the case of professed highwaymen and banditti, but such an order issued
against a large body of organized natives who sincerely believed
themselves fighting for national liberty was unprecedented and uncalled
for. This order was enforced in the instance of some noted patriot
leaders. The Mexican generals Arteaga and Salazar, with Villagomez and
Felix Diaz, who were ignorant of the existence of any such order or
determination, were all shot at Uruapam, October 21, 1865. When
Maximilian was himself taken prisoner, the like summary punishment
became his just award. In the state legislative palace of Queretaro we
were shown the table on which the death sentence was signed by the
members of the court-martial, the coffin in which Maximilian's body was
brought from the place of execution, and a fine oil painting
representing the late would-be emperor.

All strangers who visit the city are taken out to the grounds where the
execution took place. One naturally regards the spot with considerable
interest. It is marked by three rude stones within an iron-railed
inclosure, each stone bearing the name of one of the victims, in the
order in which they stood before the firing party on the Cerro de los
Campañas, two miles from the city proper. It seemed serene and peaceful
enough as we looked upon the locality, surrounded by highly cultivated
fields, dotted here and there by sheep and cattle quietly grazing in the
calm, genial sunshine.

The whole of the Archduke's Mexican purpose and career was a great and
absurd political blunder. Personally he was a pure and honest man,
though a very weak one. He never possessed mental power equal to that of
his wife, who won from the Mexicans unbounded and deserved praise by her
devotion to her husband and to the public good. Carlotta freely expended
her private fortune for the relief of the poor of the national capital,
and in the founding of a much needed and grand free hospital for women.
When Maximilian received notice that Napoleon III. was about to desert
him and his cause, he was absolutely discouraged, and would have
resigned at once and returned to Europe; but his courageous wife
dissuaded him. She started the very next day for Vera Cruz, on her way
to induce the French emperor to keep his word and hold sacred the treaty
of Miramar. In vain did she plead with Napoleon, being only insulted for
her trouble; nor was she received much better by the Pope, Pius IX.
Disappointment met her everywhere. The physical and mental strain
proved too much for Carlotta. Brain fever ensued, and upon her partial
recovery it was found that she was bereft of reason. More than twenty
years have passed since the faithful wife was thus stricken, nor has
reason yet dawned upon her benighted brain.

After three years of ceaseless struggle, Maximilian had grown
desperately weary, in a vain effort to reconcile the various political
factions of the country, so that to one in his condition of broken
health and disappointment, death must have been a relief from mental and
physical suffering. His body rests at last in the burial place of the
Hapsburgs, thousands of miles from the spot where he fell, while those
of Mejia and Miramon lie in the Campo Santo of San Fernando in the city
of Mexico. The broad view from this "Hill of the Bells" is very
beautiful, and it lives vividly in the memory, taking in the green
valley in every direction, spread with fields of undulating grain ready
for the reapers, ornamented with umbrageous trees, the city with its
mass of towers, domes, and stone dwellings forming the background. A
score of ancient churches, convents, and chapels may be counted from the
hill-top. The alameda lies on one side of the town, consisting of some
fifty or sixty acres nearly square, about which a broad driveway is
arranged, the whole charmingly laid out, with greensward and noble shade
trees. The Church of the Cross is on slightly elevated ground, and forms
a conspicuous architectural feature in the general view. It was in this
structure that Maximilian made his headquarters, which he partially
fortified, and where, after a protracted siege, he was betrayed into the
hands of his enemies; from this place he marched to execution on the
19th of June, 1867.

The Plaza Mayor of Queretaro is a beauty and a joy forever, with its
musical fountain uttering ceaseless and refreshing notes, its tropical
verdure, its tufted palms and flowering shrubs, its fruitful banana
trees, pomegranates, and fragrant roses. Here Maximilian was accustomed
to pass an hour daily, and here, we were told, he took his evening
recreation, his favorite seat being upon the curbstone of the capacious
fountain. The besiegers discovered the fact, directing shot and shell
accordingly at this special point, and though the emperor was unharmed
by the missiles, a monumental statue situated within a few feet of him
was shattered to pieces. In the sunny afternoons the pretty señoritas
come to the plaza with their heads and necks lightly shrouded in Spanish
veils, and otherwise clothed in diaphanous garments, short enough to
show their shapely ankles in white hose, and their small feet in
high-heeled, pointed slippers. He must be indeed calloused who can
withstand, unmoved, the battery of their witching eyes.

There is a large cotton factory about two miles from the city, known as
"The Hercules Mills," having over twenty thousand spindles, and nearly a
thousand looms. The machinery was imported from this country. A colossal
marble statue of Hercules is seen presiding over one of the large
fountains, in the midst of ornamental trees and flowers. This statue
cost fourteen thousand dollars before it left Italy. The mill gives
employment to some twelve or fourteen hundred natives, mostly women and
girls. One of the young sons of the house of Rubio, the family name of
those who own this property, went to England years ago, and learned the
trade of cotton spinning. This industry as now carried on was
established by him, and is still conducted by the same manager, Don
Cayetano Rubio. The excellent system of the establishment would do
credit to a Lowell or Lawrence factory; indeed, almost any similar
establishment might take a favorable lesson from this at Queretaro. The
immediate surroundings form a well-arranged and fragrant flower garden,
ornamented with fountains and statuary, with fruit trees, where the
employees are all welcome, and the sweet fragrance of which they can
enjoy even during the working hours. Wages, to be sure, are
insignificant, being only about forty cents a day for each competent
operative, and the hours are long, twelve out of each twenty-four being
devoted to work; but as wages go in Mexico this is considered to be a
fair rate, with which all are content. We were told that a portion of
the cotton used in the mill comes from Vera Cruz, that is, the short
staple; the long comes mostly from the Pacific coast; while fully half
of the raw material is imported from the United States. The fibre of the
Mexican cotton is longer, and not so soft as the American product; but
the cotton raised in some parts of the republic has this remarkable
property, that for several consecutive seasons the plant continues to
bear profitable crops, while in our Southern States the soil must not
only be fertilized, but the seed must also be renewed annually. The
cotton plant is indigenous to Mexico, and is more prolific in its yield
than it is with our Southern planters. It is the same with cotton as
with wool; though quite able to do so, Mexico does not at present grow
enough of either staple to supply her own mills, or produce enough of
the manufactured article to furnish the home market. Both water and
steam power are employed as motors in the Hercules Mill. The overshot
wheel used in the former connection is a monster in size, being
forty-six feet in diameter. Such has heretofore been the disturbed
condition of the country that it has been found necessary to organize
and maintain a regular company of soldiers, with ample barracks inside
the walls, to defend the property of the mill; and it has three times
repulsed formidable attacks made upon the well-fortified walls and gates
which surround it.

Catholic churches and priests form, as usual in all Spanish towns, a
prominent feature of the neighborhood; and we are sorry to say that
beggars are very importuning and numerous. It is the same in Spain and
in Italy as it is in Mexico,--where the priests abound, beggars do much
more abound.

In the environs of Queretaro one sees immense plantations devoted to the
growth of the maguey plant, from which the national beverage is
manufactured. Pulque is to the Mexican what claret is to the Frenchman,
or beer to the German, being simply the fermented juice of the aloe. It
is said that it was first discovered here, though its advent is
attributed to many other towns in Mexico; but it is certain that either
the process of manufacture here is superior to that of most other
localities, or the plant grown here possesses peculiar properties, as it
commands the market. When we consider the matter, it is surprising to
recall the number of uses to which the maguey plant is put. Paper is
made from the fibre of the leaves, as well as twine and rope; its thorns
answer for native pins and needles; the roots are used by the Indians in
place of soap; the young sprouts are eaten after being slightly roasted;
while in the dried form the leaves are used both for fuel and for
thatching the native cabins. The maguey plant has been called the
miracle of nature, on account of the large number of articles which are
made from it and the variety of uses to which it is adapted. It may be
added that of all these properties of the agave the early Toltecs were
fully aware, and improved them for their own benefit. We have measured
specimens of the well developed plant, the leaves of which were eight
feet in length, a foot in width, and eight inches in thickness. When the
maguey is about seven or eight years old it is at its best for the
production of the desired liquor, and is tapped for the milk-like sap,
of which it yields from two quarts to a gallon daily for three or four
months. This natural liquor is then called _agua miel_, or honey water,
but when it has gone through the process of fermentation it becomes
_pulque_. If the plant is left to itself, at about ten years of age
there springs up from the centre of the leaves a tall stem, twelve or
fifteen feet in height, which bears upon its apex clusters of rich
yellow flowers, and then the whole withers and dies,--it never blooms
but once. The maguey plant constituted the real vineyards of the Aztecs,
as well as the tribes preceding them, its product being the drink of the
people of the country long before the days of the Montezumas. At this
writing, over eighty thousand gallons of pulque are consumed daily in
the national capital. It is to be regretted, as we have seen it
announced, that an American company propose to go into the business of
pulque making by the use of improved facilities, claiming that it can be
produced by the use of this machinery at one half the present cost, the
plants being also made to yield more copiously. Of course it will be
adulterated, every intoxicant is, except pulque as at present made from
the maguey by the Indians.

The Mexicans have two other forms of spirituous liquors, namely
_mescal_, which is also prepared from another species of the maguey, by
pressing the leaves in a mill, the juice thus extracted being distilled;
and _aguardiente_, or rum, made from sugar-cane juice. Both of these are
powerful intoxicants. A very valuable and harmless article is thus
sacrificed to make a liquid poison. So in our Middle and Western States
we pervert both barley and rye from their legitimate purposes, and turn
them into whiskey,--liquefied ruin.

Wherever we go among civilized or savage races, in islands or upon
continents, in the frigid North or the melting South, we find man
resorting to some stimulant other than natural food and drink. It is an
instinctive craving, apparently, exhibited and satisfied as surely in
the wilds of Africa, or the South Sea Islands, as by the opium-eating
Chinese, or the brandy-drinking Anglo-Saxons. Every people have sought
some article with which to stimulate the human system. Oftenest this is
a fermented liquor; but various articles have been found to serve the
purpose. The Aztecs, and the Toltecs before them, had the fermented
juice of the maguey plant. The Chinese get their spirituous drink from
rice. People living under the equator distill the saccharine product of
the sugar-cane for aguardiente. The German combines his malt and hops to
produce beer. The Frenchman depends upon the juice of the grape in
various forms, from light claret to fierce Bordeaux brandy. The Puritans
of Massachusetts distilled New England rum from molasses. The faithful
Mohammedan, who drinks neither wine nor spirits, makes up for his
abstinence by free indulgence in coffee. In the islands of the Indian
Ocean the natives stimulate themselves by chewing the betel nut; and in
the Malacca Straits Settlements, Penang, Singapore, and other islands,
the people obtain their spirit from the fermented sap of the toddy-palm.
In Japan the natives get mildly stimulated by immoderate drinking of tea
many times each day; and all of the civilized and barbaric world is
addicted, more or less, to the use of tobacco.

One of the staple commodities produced here is that classic, beautiful,
and precious gem, the opal. It is found imbedded in a certain kind of
rock, in the neighboring mountains, sometimes in cubes, but oftener in
very irregular forms. It will be remembered that Nonius, who possessed a
large and brilliant specimen of the opal, preferred exile to
surrendering it to Marc Antony. Whether he was opal-mad or not, it is
clear that persons who visit this place are very apt to become
monomaniacs upon the subject of this beautiful gem. Our party expended
considerable sums for these precious stones, cut and uncut, during the
brief period of our visit. The choicest of these specimens is the true
fire-opal, which in brilliancy and iridescence excels all others. Nearly
every person one meets in Queretaro seems to have more or less of these
lovely stones to sell; nine tenths of them are of a very cheap quality,
really fine ones, being the exception, are valued accordingly. The
pretty flower-girl, who first offers you her more fragrant wares,
presently becomes confidential, and, drawing nearer, brings out from
some mysterious fold of her dress half a dozen sparkling stones which
she is anxious to dispose of. Even the water carrier, with his huge red
earthen jar strapped to his head and back, if he sees a favorable
opportunity, will importune the stranger regarding these fiery little
stones. These irresponsible itinerants have some ingenious way of
filling up the cracks in an opal successfully for the time being; but,
after a few days, the defect will again appear.

The finest specimens of the opal come from Hungary. They are harder in
texture than those found in other parts of the world. Those brought from
Australia are nearly equal in hardness and brilliancy, while, so far as
our own experience goes, the Mexican often excel either in variety of
color and brilliancy; but it is not quite so hard as those from the
other two sources. This quality of hardness is one criterion of value in
precious stones, the diamond coming first, the ruby following it, and so
on. The author has seen an opal in Pesth weighing fourteen carats, for
which five thousand dollars were refused. They can be purchased at
Queretaro at from ten dollars to ten hundred; for the latter price a
really splendid gem may be had, emitting a grand display of prismatic
tints, and all aglow with fire. The natives, notwithstanding the seeming
abundance of the stones, hold very tenaciously to the valuation which
they first place upon them. Of course, really choice specimens are
always rare, and quickly disposed of. While the ancients considered the
opal a harbinger of good fortune to the possessor, it has been deemed in
our day to be exactly the reverse; and many lovers of the gem have
denied themselves the pleasure of wearing it from a secret superstition
as to its unlucky attributes. This fancy has been gradually dispelled,
and fashion now indorses the opal as being both beautiful and desirable.

Mexico also produces many other precious stones, among which are the
ruby, amethyst, topaz, garnet, pearl, agate, turquoise, and chalcedony,
besides onyx and many sorts of choice marbles.

On our route to the national capital we pass through a number of small
cities and towns, while we ascend and descend many varying grades.
Native women, here and there, bring _agua miel_, or fresh pulque, to us,
of which the passengers partake freely. It is a pleasant beverage when
first drawn from the plant, very much like new cider, and has no
intoxicating effect until fermentation takes place. As we progress
southward, occasional wayside shrines with a cross and a picture of the
Virgin are seen, before which a native woman is sometimes kneeling, but
never a man. Among other interesting places we come to Tula, which was
the capital city of the Toltecs more than twelve centuries ago. The
cathedral was erected by the invaders in 1553. The baptismal font in the
church is a piece of Toltec work. There is to be seen the yellow,
crumbling walls of a crude Spanish chapel, even older than the
cathedral, now fast returning to its native dust. There are other
extremely interesting ruins here, notably a portion of a prehistoric
column, and the lower half of a very large statue situated in the plaza.
Mr. Ruskin said in his pedantic way that he could not be induced to
travel in America because there were no ruins. There _are_ ruins here
and in Yucatan which antedate by centuries anything of recorded history
relating to the British Isles. Across the Tula River and up the Cerro
del Tesoro are some other ancient ruins which have greatly interested
antiquarians, embracing carved stones and what must once have been part
of a group of dwellings, built of stone laid in mud and covered with
cement. The valley shows a rich array of foliage and flowers, forming
bits of delightful scenery. There are some fifteen hundred inhabitants
in Tula; but it must once have been a large city; indeed, the name
indicates that, meaning "the place of many people." The locality of the
ancient capital is now mostly overgrown and hidden from sight. We are
fifty miles from the city of Mexico at Tula, and about seven hundred
feet below it. The records of the Spanish conquest tell us that the
natives of this ancient capital were among the first, as a whole
community, to embrace the Christian religion; and it seems that its
people ever remained stanch allies of Cortez in extending his conquests.

Here we experienced one of those freaks of tropical weather, a furious
summer hail-storm. The thermometer had ranged about 80° in the early
day, when suddenly heavy clouds seemed to gather from several points of
the sky at the same time. The thermometer dropped quickly some 30°. It
was a couple of hours past noon when the clouds began to empty their
contents upon the earth; down came the hailstones like buckshot, only
twice as large, covering as with a white sheet the parched ground, which
had not been wet by a drop of rain for months. This unusual storm
prevailed for nearly an hour before it exhausted its angry force.
"Exceptional?" repeated the station-master on the line of the Mexican
Central Railroad, in reply to a query as to the weather. "I have been
here ten years, and this is the first time I have seen snow or hail at
any season. I should rather say it was exceptional." By and by, after
stampeding all the exposed cattle, and driving everybody to the nearest
shelter and keeping them there, the inky clouds dispersed almost as
suddenly as they had gathered, and the thermometer gradually crept back
to a figure nearly as high as at noon. The fury of the storm was
followed by a sunset of rarest loveliness, eliciting ejaculations of
delight at the varied and vivid combinations of prismatic colors. One
does not soon forget such a scene as was presented at the close of this
day. The sun set in a blaze of orange and scarlet, seen across the long
level of the cactus-covered prairie, while soft twilight shadows
gathered about the crumbling, vine-screened walls of the old Spanish
church in the environs of Tula. Soon the stars came into view, one by
one, while the moon rode high and serene among the lesser lights of the
still blue sky.



CHAPTER VII.

City of Mexico.--Private Dwellings.--Thieves.--Old Mexico.--Climate.
    --Tramways.--The Plaza Mayor.--City Streets.--The Grand Paseo.--
    Public Statues.--Scenes upon the Paseo.--The Paseo de la Viga.--
    Out-of-door Concerts.--A Mexican Caballero.--Lottery Ticket Venders.
    --High Noon.--Mexican Soldiers.--Musicians.--Criminals as Soldiers.
    --The Grand Cathedral.--The Ancient Aztec Temple.--Magnificent View
    from the Towers of the Cathedral.--Cost of the Edifice.--Valley of
    Anahuac.


As Paris is said to be France, so is the national capital of this
country equally representative, it being indisputable that the main
business and the social interests of the country all centre here. The
city derives its name from the Aztec war-god Mexitli, and is a large and
handsome metropolis, containing considerably over three hundred thousand
inhabitants, who embrace a large diversity of nationalities. In 1519,
when Cortez first saw it, the city is represented to have been nine
miles in circumference, and to have contained half a million of
inhabitants,--a statement which, we doubt not, is greatly exaggerated,
as were nearly all of his representations and those of his followers.
This capital originally bore the name of Tenochtitlan, and was
completely destroyed by the invaders, who established a new city upon
the same site. Cortez officially announced, three or four years
afterwards, that the population was thirty thousand. "For a century,"
says Charles Lemprière, an able writer on Mexico, "the city continued to
increase in numbers, wealth, and power, so that when Captain John Smith
and his followers were looking for gold mines in Virginia and the
Pilgrims were planting corn in Massachusetts, an empire had been founded
and built up on the same continent by the Spaniards, and the most
stupendous system of plunder the world ever saw was then and there in
vigorous operation."

The streets of the city as we see them to-day are generally broad and
straight, lined with two-story houses, and there are also several
elegant boulevards and spacious avenues. The better class of houses are
built of stone, covered with stucco, the windows opening upon cosy
little balconies handsomely ornamented and shaded by linen awnings,
often in high colors. The interior construction of the dwellings follows
the usual Spanish style, as seen on the continent of Europe, in the
island of Cuba, and elsewhere, often displaying touches of exquisite
Moorish effect, whose highest expression one sees in the Alhambra at
Granada. Here and there there are seen horseshoe arches supported at the
abutments by light and graceful columns, inclosing marble-paved courts.
The open areas about which the houses are built often present most
pleasing effects by a display of fountains, flowers, and statuary
tastefully arranged. On the main thoroughfare leading from the Plaza
Mayor to the alameda are several grand private residences, having the
most beautiful courts, or patios, as they are called, that the
imagination can conceive, lovely with tropical trees and flowers in
vivid colors, and rendered musical by the singing of caged birds. Upon
these areas, which are open to the sky, the inner doors and windows of
the dwellings open, the second story being furnished with a walk and
balustrade running round the patio. Heavy, nail-studded doors shut off
this domestic area from the street at night. It is not safe to leave
anything outside the house after dark that a man can lift. It is sure to
be stolen, if so exposed. The lower classes all over the country are
inveterate thieves. The bolts that fastened the ties to the rails of the
National Railway were stolen nightly by the people, until they were
finally riveted on. But then there are thieves everywhere; we chain our
out-door mats to iron fastenings in Boston, Chicago, and New York, and
dealers in "improved burglar alarms" do a thriving business in all our
Northern cities.

The houses in this capital are very substantially built, the walls being
composed of stuccoed bricks of great thickness. Fires are of rare
occurrence, and, indeed, it would be nearly impossible to burn up one of
these dwellings. If a fire does occur, it is almost always confined not
only to the building in which it originates, but even to the room where
it first makes its appearance. The roofs are nearly all flat and without
chimneys; there is no provision made for producing artificial heat in
the dwelling-houses. This is quite endurable even to foreigners in a
climate where the temperature seldom falls below 60° Fahr., and averages
the year round nearly ten degrees higher. It is always warm in the
middle of the day, and cool only early in the mornings and at night.
The climate may be said to be temperate and the atmosphere is extremely
dry. Travelers are liable to suffer considerably from thirst, and the
lips are prone to chap, owing to this extreme and peculiar dryness. The
warmest months of the year are April and May. It was somewhat of a
surprise to the author to learn that the death-rate of the city of
Mexico averages nearly double that of Boston. As to elevation, it is
over seven thousand feet higher than the city of Washington, D. C., or
more than a thousand feet higher than the summit of Mount Washington, N.
H.

Regarding the fine residences on San Francisco Street, there is a
peculiarity observable as to their location. This is almost wholly a
business street, and therefore to select it for an elegant home seems
incongruous. The choicest residence we can remember on this thoroughfare
stands between a large railroad-ticket office and a showy cigar store.
This house has a most striking façade finished in Moorish style with
enameled tiles, and is on the opposite side of the street from the
Iturbide Hotel.

Numerous large squares, beside the grand plaza and the spacious alameda,
ornament the capital. Several of the main thoroughfares enter and depart
from the Plaza Mayor, as in the city of Madrid, where the Puerto del
Sol--"Gate of the Sun"--forms a centre from which radiate so many of the
principal streets. Some are broad, some are narrow, but all are paved,
cleanly, and straight. The street-car system is excellent. If any fault
is to be found with the management, it is with the rapid manner in which
the mules attached to the cars are driven through the highways amid a
crowded population; and yet, we were told, accidents rarely if ever
happen. They are generally run double, having a first and second class
car, both of which are seemingly well filled at all hours of the day.
Funerals are conducted by turning one of the street cars, made for the
purpose, into a catafalque, or hearse, another being reserved for the
pall-bearers and mourners. Sometimes one sees a long string of these
cars occupied for this purpose gliding into the suburbs where the
grave-yards are located. The use of cow-horns by the driver to warn the
people who obstruct the way appeared to be a little primitive, to say
the least of it, in a city so large as this capital. It seems very
effective, however. The fact that all of the tramway cars start from and
return to the Plaza Mayor in front of the cathedral makes it easy for a
stranger to find his way to any desired point of the city or its
environs, and safely to return to the starting point when he desires to
do so. The Plaza Mayor in every Mexican city is not only the central
park, but also the central idea. There could no more be a full-fledged
Spanish city without a plaza than a cathedral without a bishop.

Statistics show that there are nearly, or quite, five hundred miles of
streets in the Mexican capital. These, intersecting each other at right
angles, are so strangely alike as to be not a little puzzling to the
uninitiated. It is also somewhat awkward at first to find one continuous
avenue bearing many names, each block being individualized by a fresh
appellation. This subdivision of the large avenues, we were told, is
gradually to be discarded. The admirable boulevard called the Paseo de
la Reforma, leads out of the city to the castle of Chapultepec, and is
over two miles in length, with a uniform width of two hundred feet,
forming the fashionable afternoon drive and promenade of the town. It
has double avenues of shade trees to the right and left, with stone
sidewalks and convenient seats for those who desire them. On either side
of this grand boulevard are seen an occasional chateau with handsome
gardens. At certain intervals the avenue widens into a _glorieta_, or
circle, four hundred feet in diameter. The first of these contains
Cordier's Columbus, one of the most admirable and artistic modern
statues which we remember to have seen, though there appeared to be some
confusion in the extraordinary amount of detail which is crowded upon
the base. Other appropriate monuments ornament the several circles,
including an equestrian statue of Charles IV. of colossal size; thirty
tons of metal was used in the casting, and, if not the largest, it is
the second largest that has ever been cast. Still another represents
Guatemozin, the last of the Indian emperors. It is a little singular
that Montezuma II. is not remembered in this connection, he whose life
was so intimately interwoven with the history of the Aztec race in the
time of Cortez. Humboldt is said to have declared that the statue of
Charles IV. had but one superior, namely, that of Marcus Aurelius. There
are six of these _glorietas_, which beautify the long line of
perspective ending in the elevated palace-castle of Chapultepec, with
its snow-white, picturesque walls clearly defined against the blue sky.
When Maximilian planned and completed this charming driveway, he named
it the Boulevarde Emperiale; but on the establishment of the republic
the more appropriate title which it now bears was adopted. Some people
persist in calling it the Empress's Drive, in honor of Carlotta.

One never wearies of sitting upon the well-arranged benches of the paseo
in the afternoon, and watching the motley throng of people driving,
riding on horseback, or promenading: the ladies with piercing black eyes
and glossy dark hair shrouded by lace mantillas; the dashing equestrians
exhibiting all the gay paraphernalia of a Mexican horseman; stately
vehicles drawn by two snow-white mules; tally-ho coaches conveying merry
parties of American or English people; youthful aristocrats bestriding
Lilliputian horses, followed by liveried servants; while here and there
a mounted policeman in fancy uniform moves slowly by. In the line of
pedestrians are well-dressed gentlemen in black broadcloth suits,
wearing silk hats and sporting button-hole bouquets, mingled with whom
are a more common class of the people in picturesque national costumes.
The women of the middle class add gayety of color by their red and blue
rebosas, sometimes partly covering the head, at others thrown carelessly
over the shoulders, or tied across the chest securing an infant to the
back. The general effect of the constantly moving throng is
kaleidoscopic, while the mingled groupings are delightfully
entertaining. Nothing more peculiar and striking in its line is to be
seen this side of the Maidan, Calcutta. Here, as in that Asiatic Champs
Elysées, now and again one sees a light American trotting wagon or a
heavy-wheeled English dog cart, with a dude at the reins and a liveried
flunky behind holding a flaring bouquet!

The carriages go out towards Chapultepec on one side and return on the
other, during the popular hours for driving, leaving the central portion
of the roadway exclusively for equestrians. Every man who can afford it
owns a saddle horse in this city, and the men are universally good
riders. The horses are broken to a certain easy gait called the _passo_,
a sort of half run, very easy for the rider, scarcely moving him in the
seat. These horses average about fifteen hands in height, and are taught
to stop, or turn back, at the least touch of the bit. They are both fast
and enduring, with plenty of spirit, and yet are perfectly tractable.
The enormous spurs worn by the riders, with rowels an inch long, are
more for show than for use. Mexican or Spanish ladies are hardly ever
seen on horseback, though both English and American ladies are often met
in the saddle, dashing gallantly through the throng upon the paseo at
the fashionable hour. Something of oriental exclusiveness and privacy is
observed by Mexican ladies of the upper class, who drive on the paseo
even in close carriages, not in open barouches, like those of European
cities. In shopping excursions they do not enter the stores; but the
goods are brought to the door of the vehicle, in which they retain
their seat while examining the articles which are offered. It is a
Sunday scene which we are describing; but it is all the gayer for that
reason. The pulque shops drive a lucrative business; the billiard
saloons are all open. Children ride hither and thither in little fancy
carriages drawn by goats; donkeys covered with glittering ornaments are
ridden by small boys, and led by their owners; clouds of highly-colored
toy balloons float in the air, tied to the wrists of itinerant venders;
gambling stands do much abound; while candy-sellers, with long white
aprons and snow-white paper caps, offer candy and preserved fruits on
all sides. The class of women whom we meet as pedestrians are quite
Parisian in the free use of rouge for lips and cheeks, not forgetting
indigo-blue with which to shade about their dreamy-looking eyes. Ladies
belonging to the aristocratic class are rarely, if ever, seen walking in
the streets. They only drive in the paseo. For a couple of hours in the
closing part of the day, the paseo is a bright, giddy, alluring scene. A
military band performs on Sundays, adding life and spirit to the
surroundings. The wholesome influence of these out-of-door concerts upon
the masses of the people is doubtless fully realized by the government.
A love of music is natural to all classes here. Groups of half-clothed
men and women, bareheaded and barefooted, always take places modestly in
some corner and quietly listen during the performance of the bands,
never speaking while the music lasts. To such these out-door concerts
are a real boon. To the higher classes they are simply an addition to a
long list of other pleasures. Another boulevard, known as the Paseo de
la Viga, runs along the banks of the canal of the same name, and leads
out to the Lake Xachimilco; but, since the new paseo was completed this
has ceased to be the favorite resort for driving. It is situated in the
southern suburb of the city, and seems to be rather deserted, though as
we view it there passes a typical horseman, a description of whom shall
be literal.

The horse is of Arabian descent. His sire must have been imported from
continental Spain, and being crossed upon native stock has produced a
medium-sized, high-spirited, handsome animal, with a broad chest
expanded by the air of this altitude, the nostrils being widespread, the
ears small, and the eyes full of intelligence. The horse's saddle,
bridle, and trappings are gorgeous with silver ornaments, without the
least regard to usefulness, twenty-four inches square of leather
fancifully worked and shaped being attached to each stirrup. His rider
appears in a short leather jacket, bedizened with silver buttons, tight
pantaloons of the same material, also heavy with silver buttons, being
partially opened at the side and flaring at the bottom. He does not wear
a waistcoat, but has a mountain of frills on the linen bosom of his
shirt, set off by a red scarf tied about the waist. The spurs upon his
heels are of silver, weighing at least half a pound each, while the
rowels are an inch long. On his head is a sombrero of yellow or brown
felt, the brim of which is twelve to fifteen inches broad, and the crown
measuring the same in height. The sombrero is covered with gilt cord
formed into a sort of rope where it makes the band. The wearer's
monogram, in gold or silver letters from two to four inches long, on the
side of the crown, completes the whole. Every article is of the finest
material, and therein, principally, he differs from a Western cowboy or
a dandified Buffalo Bill.

During the period of Lent, owing to some caprice of fashion, the Paseo
de la Viga becomes the popular afternoon resort for vehicles and
equestrians.

While we are making these notes, sitting upon the curbstone of a
fountain of the paseo, we are personally reminded that the lottery
ticket vender is ubiquitous. Sometimes it is a man who importunes you to
purchase, sometimes a young girl, and at others even a child of eleven
or twelve years belonging to either sex. The pretty girl of course finds
the most customers, offering to "kiss the ticket for good luck," and on
the sly, perhaps the purchaser also. This must be a Spanish idea, as it
is practiced both in Madrid and Cuba. The Mexican government realizes
fully a million dollars per annum from the licenses granted to protect
this gross swindle upon the public. It is a regular thing for prominent
business houses to make their monthly purchases of these lottery
tickets; rich and poor, prince and beggar, alike invest, differing only
in the amount; while most strangers, smothering their conscientious
scruples, purchase a ticket, thus adding their mite to the general
folly. We were told in Havana that one satisfaction in buying tickets in
the national lottery there was, that like the Louisiana Lottery it was
honestly conducted. Our incredulity upon the subject was laughed to
scorn, but since then the Havana Lottery has been detected in a series
of the most barefaced swindlings that can be imagined. As to that of
Louisiana, we never for a moment have believed in there being anything
"honest" about it. A concern which can afford to offer the State
government of Louisiana over a million dollars per annum for the
privilege of running a gambling institution there, must carry on a more
reckless swindling game upon the public at large than its worst enemies
have suspected.

Just at high noon, on our return from the Paseo de la Viga, the Plaza
Mayor was reached on the great square fronting the cathedral, where a
simultaneous movement was observed among the people who filled the large
area. As the cathedral and church bells throughout the city chimed the
hour of twelve, every Mexican in sight uncovered his head and bowed
devoutly. It was difficult to analyze this spirit of reverence, for
which no one could assign any satisfactory reason except that it was the
custom.

The swarthy soldiers of the republic are often seen paraded opposite the
plaza, and though they are sure to recall the French Zouaves, yet they
lack their admirable discipline and perfection of company movements.
Indeed, to speak plainly, the author has never seen a more slatternly,
knock-kneed, uncouth body of soldiers than the rank and file of the
Mexican army. The white gaiters of the French Zouaves moving all
together have a fine effect when a body of them are marching through a
Parisian boulevard; but the Mexican soldiers have neither stockings nor
gaiters, besides which they do not pretend to keep step at all when
marching. They move at will, while the bottoms of their feet only are
covered with the crudest sort of sandals, laced about the ankles with
leather thongs. Every soldier in the Mexican service is his own
shoemaker. An intelligent officer, in reply to a question regarding the
sandal for army use, said: "They are far more comfortable for a soldier
on the march than any shoe that can be made. They are cool, cheap, and
do not irritate the feet. They can be renewed anywhere in this country,
and a sandal that will fit one man will do for any other in the
regiment. In a warm climate nothing is so suitable for the feet of a
soldier." It is well known that so painful will close shoes often become
to the foot soldier, that he will take them off and throw them away in
despair when making a forced march, preferring to walk barefooted rather
than endure the suffering caused by swollen feet and tight shoes, which
cannot occur when the sandal is used. The feet have always perfect
freedom in them, and the sole and toes are protected. Neither men nor
women of the common class wear stockings, and in fact nine out of ten of
the population of the country go barefooted all the year round.

It puzzles a stranger to see a good military band--and they are
excellent musicians here--play upon their instruments in perfect
harmony, and at the same time march out of step or cadence with the
music. It would seem almost impossible for one possessing a true musical
ear to perform such a trick. With any European or American band, both
feet and instruments would get out of accord constantly, or fall into it
naturally. Like the king's guard in Hawaii, the troops here parade in
white linen or cotton uniforms, stout and unbleached, with a plenty of
silvered buttons, the cap being white and of the same material as the
rest of the simple costume. At times they appear in a plain uniform of
dark blue, but this is on special occasions only, as it is considered to
be full dress. The officers are nearly all graduates of the military
school at Chapultepec, where the best of foreign teachers are employed
in the various departments, so that in future it is confidently expected
that the army will be found in a more efficient condition than ever
before. The common soldiers, we were told, are composed of rather
questionable material. A large percentage of them are criminals released
from prison on condition of their enlisting and serving for a certain
length of time in the ranks of the regular army. On the caps of those
serving out a term of imprisonment in this manner are certain marks
indicating the same, as well as showing the length of the prescribed
service. Punishment is ever prompt in this country, and despotic methods
prevail. Any one attempting to evade his term of service, or breaking
army regulations, is very apt to have his business settled by a bullet
at once, without even the form of a trial. The department of the cavalry
seemed to a casual observer to be much more efficient than that of the
infantry. The fact is, the average Mexican is an admirable horseman,
and appears better in that capacity than in any other. The national or
standing army numbers about forty-five thousand of all arms, besides
which each state has a regular militia force, but of a poorly organized
character, in most instances, as we were informed, being neither
uniformed, nor drilled at regular periods. President Diaz is opposed to
the employment of criminals, such as we have described, thinking with
good reason that it has a tendency to bring disrepute upon the service.
This would seem to be such an unquestionable fact as to admit of no
argument.

As, in the case of the first Spanish invasion, Cortez with his handful
of followers could not have conquered and possessed Mexico but for the
dissensions existing among the several native tribes, so, as regards the
French invasion and attempt to seat Maximilian on the throne of a new
American empire, these invaders could not have met with even the partial
success which they achieved had the Mexican people presented an unbroken
front in opposition. The American invasion was also more or less
favorably affected by partisan divisions among the Mexicans. The present
organization of the army is upon a basis so national, and is governed by
a spirit so faithful to the whole union of the states, that in case of
another war Mexico could put a large and effective army into the field.
In other words, she is better prepared to-day than ever before to
successfully maintain her national integrity by force of arms.

The famous cathedral of Mexico, with its tall twin towers and graceful
dome, is built of unhewn stone, and fronts upon the Plaza Mayor, forming
the main architectural feature of the city. Ninety years did not suffice
to complete it, and several millions of dollars were expended in the
original construction. Among the sixty churches of the capital it is
preeminent for its vast proportions and elaborate architectural finish.
The edifice stands upon the spot, or very near it, which, was once
occupied by the great Aztec temple dedicated to the war god of the
nation, which the Spaniards promptly destroyed after subjugating the
natives and taking full possession of the place. The first church on
this site after the destruction of the idolatrous temple was founded by
Charles V. His successor ordered it to be pulled down, and the present
edifice erected in its place. We are told that the great Aztec temple
was surrounded by walls having four gates fronting the four cardinal
points, and that within the enclosure were five hundred dwellings
accommodating the priests and priestesses, and others who were devoted
to religious dances and devotional ceremonies connected with the worship
and service of the idols. Five thousand priests chanted night and day
before the altars. Consecrated fountains and gardens of holy flowers
were there, mingling barbaric fanaticism with natural beauty. In
describing these matters the old priests and monks gave free scope to
their imaginations.

The ancient temple was pyramidal, the summit being about one hundred and
fifty feet above the ground, and accessible by numerous broad stone
steps. On the platform at the top, according to Spanish authorities,
human sacrifices took place not only daily but hourly; wars were made
with neighboring tribes to supply victims for the altar, and when there
was a revolt among the native tribes, it was subdued by the strong arm,
while the offending district was compelled to supply a certain number of
their people to die on the sacrificial stone. It is represented that the
number of lives thus disposed of was reckoned by tens of thousands.
David A. Wells, in his able and comprehensive work entitled, "A Study of
Mexico," says of these Spanish chroniclers that their representations
are the merest romance, no more worthy of credence than the stories of
"Sindbad the Sailor," though from this source alone Prescott drew the
data for his popular "Conquest of Mexico." One of these chroniclers, who
gives his name as Bernal Diaz, not only repeats these stories of the
multitudinous sacrifice of human beings at the rate of thousands
monthly, but charges the Cholulans with "fattening men and women to use
for food, keeping them in pens as animals are fatted!" Wilson pronounces
this to be intolerable nonsense, and though Diaz pretends to have been
one of Cortez's soldiers, always with him throughout his remarkable
invasion, Wilson proves clearly that he was never in the country at all.
His obvious and constant blunders as to geography and other matters
would alone convict him of being a pretender and not a true witness.
Besides which, he contradicts both himself and Cortez's account in many
important particulars. We believe, with Wilson, that this name of
Bernal Diaz is a pure fabrication, gotten up as a priestly scheme to
further their own purposes, and cover up the insufferable wickedness of
the Roman Church in Mexico, as well as to screen the bloodthirsty career
of its agent Cortez. Las Casas declared all these Spanish histories of
the conquest to be wicked and false. He wrote a history himself, from
personal observation, but as it would have exposed the falsehoods and
schemes of the priestly chroniclers, it was promptly suppressed by the
all-powerful Inquisition.

In destroying and leveling the great sacrificial mound which formed the
pyramid supporting the Aztec temple, together with the debris of the
dismantled dwellings and temples generally belonging to the native race,
the Spanish conquerers must have found ample material wherewith to fill
up the many canals and small lakes which made of this ancient Aztec
capital another Venice. Every vestige of aboriginal architecture has
disappeared from the surface of the city. Three hundred and sixty odd
years have served to turn the probably frail dwellings of the people
completely to dust. So, also, have the earliest structures of the
Spaniards disappeared. There are few of their churches which have not
been rebuilt. The causeways which connected the ancient city with the
mainland are still considerably higher than the general level of the
plain, and are thus distinctly marked, besides being bordered with
venerable umbrageous trees, tall and graceful, producing a fine effect,
particularly when seen from a distance, forming divisional lines in the
broad and varied landscape.

The façade of the present grand cathedral, at each side of which rises a
massive tower crowned by a bell-shaped dome, is divided by buttresses
into three parts, and though there is some confusion of orders, Doric
and Ionic prevailing, still as a whole the front is majestic and
imposing. The towers are each over two hundred feet in height, and are
also of mingled orders. In the western tower is the great bell,
_nineteen feet_ high, named Santa Maria de Guadalupe. We know of nothing
of the sort exceeding it in size and weight except the great Russian
bell to be seen in the square of the Kremlin at Moscow. The
basso-relievos, statues, friezes, and capitals of the façade of the
great edifice are of white marble, which time has rendered harmonious
with the gray stone. Though millions of dollars have been lavishly
expended upon the interior,--the cost of the bare walls was over two
millions,--it will strike an artistic eye as incongruous. Like the grand
and costly interiors of the churches at Toledo, Burgos, and Cordova, in
Spain, the general effect is seriously marred by placing the choir in
the middle of the nave. It is like breaking midway some otherwise grand
perspective. The cathedral is over four hundred feet in length and two
hundred in width. Quadruple pillars, each thirty-five feet in
circumference, support its roof, which is a hundred and seventy-five
feet from the floor. The high altar--there are six altars in all--was
once the richest in the world, and though the church has been many times
plundered, it still retains much of its magnificence. The solid gold
candlesticks, heavier than a single pair of arms could lift, the statue
of the Assumption, which was also composed of solid gold, inlaid with
diamonds, rubies, and other precious stones, valued at a million
dollars, besides many other equally extravagant and nearly as costly
objects, have from time to time disappeared. But with all of its losses,
this cathedral is doubtless decorated in a more costly manner than any
other in America. The railing of the choir is a remarkable affair,
manufactured in China at great cost, and weighs nearly thirty tons. It
is said to be composed of silver, gold, and copper, containing so much
gold that an offer has been made to take it down and replace it with one
of solid silver in exchange. The original cost of this railing is stated
to have been one million and a half dollars! (Spanish authority.) There
are a dozen or more side chapels, inclosed in bronze gates, in one of
which the Mexican Emperor Iturbide is buried, though he was condemned
and executed as a traitor. Two invaluable oil paintings hang upon the
walls, a genuine Murillo and an original Michael Angelo. A dim light
pervades the interior of the cathedral, tempered by the flare of tall
candles, but it lacks the beautiful effect of stained glass windows. The
imagination, however, is very active, and easily summons from the dim
past ghostly shadows, while an overpowering sense of height and silence
prevails.

Here Maximilian and Carlotta were crowned, in 1864, emperor and empress,
with great ceremony, little dreaming how briefly their imperial honors
would remain to them.

In contemplating this grand architectural development, as well as the
hundreds of other similar structures, erected at such enormous
expenditures of money and labor, one cannot but be exercised by mingled
emotions. We are apt to recall how much of absolute misery was entailed
upon the down-trodden natives, who were compelled to work for barely
sufficient food to sustain life. The control of the priesthood was
absolute; they levied taxes upon everything and everybody. They were
amenable to no civil laws, and recognized none but those of the church.
The extent to which they carried their extortion is almost beyond
belief, and the amount of wealth which they accumulated is nearly
incredible. At the time of the reform, the clergy absolutely owned three
fourths of the entire property of the country.

The view from the towers of the cathedral,--in which there are between
forty and fifty costly bells, each dedicated to some saint or
martyr,--is so remarkable that not even the most casual visitor to the
capital should miss it. It presents such a picture as promptly
photographs itself on the brain, never to be obliterated. It was from
this locality, on the summit of the Aztec temple which stood here four
hundred years ago, that Montezuma pointed out to Cortez the beauties of
his capital and its fairy-like environs, so soon to be destroyed by the
hands of the ruthless invader. At our feet lies the tree-dotted plaza,
with its central pleasure-garden and its fine architectural
surroundings, including the long, white façade of the national palace,
while the entire city is spread out before us with its myriad domes,
spires, thoroughfares, and causeways. There are typical scenes and
groups everywhere formed by the eddies of busy life. Long lines of
heavy-laden burros thread the streets, the natives assume the size of
huge insects crawling about in bright colors, the blooming trees are
like button-hole bouquets, and dashing horsemen move about like animated
marionettes. Not far away looms against the blue sky the tall castle of
Chapultepec, while the clustered towers of Guadalupe, the Mecca of all
pious Mexicans, comes still nearer to the vision. The many outlying
villages upon the plateau, each with its central spire, recall the
lovely plains of Granada. The distant fields of maguey, the verdant
patches of alfalfa, luxuriant meadows, groups of grazing cattle, and the
two arched stone aqueducts are all prominent features presenting
themselves to the eye, together with the gardens and villas of Tacubaya
and San Angel. As we gaze at the unequaled panorama, which Humboldt
pronounced to be the most beautiful the eye ever rested upon, the
thought forced itself upon us that with all its scenic beauty, this
valley and plain of Anahuac has for centuries been cursed with crime and
barbarism. The whole scene is inclosed by a grand circle of mountains,
just far enough away to clothe them in charming purple. The rarefied
atmosphere adds distinctness and brilliancy of coloring to everything.
Two of these sky-reaching elevations are of world-wide reputation,
namely, Mount Popocatepetl ("the smoking mountain"), and Mount
Ixtaccihuatl ("the white woman"). The former presents so perfect a
conical form, while the summit is rounded into a dome of dazzling
whiteness, that it seems to far exceed the height of eighteen thousand
feet which is accorded to it; and though it does not rise abruptly from
sea level to its giddy height, like Mount Tacoma in the State of
Washington, still in shape it much resembles that noble elevation.

Cortez in 1520 and Scott in 1847 led their conquering hosts over the
elevated pass which nature had formed between these mountains. The two
summits are connected by a well-wooded ridge, itself some three thousand
feet in height, looking from a distance like a deep valley between the
grand mountains. While regarding the interesting scene, it was natural
to compare the loftiest elevation before us with that of the Valley of
Chamounix. Mont Blanc is a little less than sixteen thousand feet at its
summit above the sea. Popocatepetl is a little less than eighteen
thousand, but the latter rises from the plateau of Mexico, which is over
seven thousand feet above the sea, while Mont Blanc at the base, is only
thirty-five hundred feet above the ocean. Thus about two thousand feet
more of elevation is visible to the eye in the Swiss mountain than the
Mexican monarch shows above the plain.

In the rear of the cathedral, and adjoining it, is an interesting chapel
known as the Capilla de las Animas, "Chapel of the Souls." It is really
a part of the cathedral, though arranged quite separate from it, facing
upon the Calle de las Escalerillas. We find no record of its origin,
though it is said to have been built in 1748 to replace a similar
edifice which was destroyed by fire. The branch of business to which
this chapel is devoted, as we were told upon the spot, was to pray to
the good God to release souls from purgatory! One Concha, a priest who
carried on this lucrative farce until he was eighty-seven years old,
died so long ago as 1755, having, as the church record shows,
"celebrated" over forty-five thousand masses in his time; the amount of
cash received for the same is not set down. As the priests do nothing on
credit, officiating at marriages or funerals, selling indulgences or
performing masses for cash only, this good man must have realized for
his services, in the aggregate, at the very lowest reasonable estimate,
about one million dollars. Undoubtedly high rates were sometimes paid to
get a very "hard case" out of purgatory. Sinners who dreaded a future
state of punishment, as a just reward for their evil deeds on earth,
were accustomed to leave Father Concha a good round sum of money, to
pray them out of the uncomfortable quarters to which they expected to be
consigned after departing from this life. Like a certain shrewd
Irishman, they "accepted" purgatory, fearing they might go further and
fare worse.



CHAPTER VIII.

An Extinct Volcano.--Mexican Mountains.--The Public Institutions of
    the Capital.--The Government Palace.--The Museum.--Maximilian's
    State Carriage.--A Peculiar Plant.--The Academy of Fine Arts.--
    Choice Paintings.--Art School.--Picture Writing.--Native Artists.
    --Exquisite Pottery.--Cortez's Presents to Charles V.--A Special
    Aztec Art.--The Sacrificial Stone.--Spanish Historical Authorities.
    --Public Library.--The Plaza.--Flower Market.--A Morning Visit.--
    Public Market.--Concealed Weapons.


The crater of Popocatepetl--being an extinct volcano--is now a valuable
sulphur mine. To obtain this product, it is necessary to descend into
the crater by means of a rope, one of great length being required for
the purpose; and when a certain quantity is secured, it is packed in
mats before being hoisted to the mouth of the crater. The Indians tie
these packages together; then, making a cushion of their serapes, they
slide down the mountain as far as the snow extends, dragging the mats
after them. On the north side of the volcano, near the limit of tree
growth, the sulphur is distilled in iron retorts, and is then ready for
the market. The crater's mouth is huge in dimensions, being half a mile
in diameter, and the amount of native sulphur deposited there is
enormous,--practically inexhaustible. This profitable sulphur mine is
owned, or was, a few months since, by General Ochoa, a resident of the
capital. It is said that when Cortez had expended his supply of
gunpowder, he resorted to the crater of Popocatepetl for sulphur to make
a fresh supply, and that the natives had never ascended the mountain
until the Spaniards showed them the way. Earthquakes are not uncommon,
even to-day, near the base of this monarch mountain; but no eruption has
taken place since 1692. Earthquakes have always been more or less common
in Mexico, but never very serious in the capital; otherwise, with its
insecure foundations, it must have suffered seriously. Smoke is reported
to have been seen bursting forth from the crater of Popocatepetl several
times at long intervals, but no positive volcanic action has taken place
since the date named. Its actual height is given by the best authorities
as being but about two hundred feet less than eighteen thousand.

One is apt to speculate mentally, while gazing upon it, as to the
possibility of this sleeping volcano one day awaking to destructive
action. That it still lives is clearly seen by the smoke and sulphurous
breath which it exhales, and the occasional significant earthquakes
which occur about its widespread base. There are seventeen or eighteen
mountains in the republic which rise more than ten thousand feet above
the level of the sea, four of which are over fifteen thousand feet in
height, Popocatepetl being the loftiest of them all. Parties ascend on
horseback to the snow line, and from thence the distance to the summit
is accomplished on foot. Some adventurous people make the descent into
the crater by means of the bucket and windlass used by the
sulphur-gatherers, but the most inquisitive can see all that they desire
from the northerly edge of the cone. The expeditions for the ascent are
made up at Amecameca. The time necessarily occupied is about three days,
and the cost is twenty-five dollars for each person. It is a very
exhausting excursion, and few persons undertake it.

The city of Mexico is famous for its large numbers of scientific,
literary, and charitable institutions, its many schools, primary and
advanced, and its several well-appointed hospitals. The national palace
covers the whole eastern side of the Plaza Mayor, having a frontage of
nearly seven hundred feet, and occupies the site of the royal residence
of the Montezumas, if we may credit tradition. The present edifice was
erected in 1693, in place of one which Cortez and the Spanish viceroys
had occupied until it was destroyed by fire in 1692. Though the palace
is only two stories in height, yet the central tower over the main
entrance and the finish on each side of it give it all necessary
prominence. It contains the President's suite of rooms, and those
devoted to the various departments of the state officials. The hall of
ambassadors, a very long, narrow apartment, is interesting on account of
its life-size portraits of Mexican rulers from the period of
independence, a majority of whom either endured exile or public
execution! At the extreme end of this hall is a very good full-length
portrait of our Washington. Here, also, is a pretentious battle-piece by
a native artist, representing the battle of Puebla, when the French
were so completely defeated. The picture is entitled "Cinco de Mayo,"
the date of the conflict. It is not a fine specimen of art, but it is
certainly a very effective picture. This battle of the 5th of May was
another Waterloo for the French. An apartment known as Maximilian's room
is shown to the visitor, situated in the corner of the palace, having
two windows at right angles and thus commanding a view in two
directions, one window overlooking the plaza, the other the business
streets leading to the market. A room called the hall of Iturbide is
hung in rich crimson damask, displaying the eagle and serpent, which
form the arms of Mexico. The edifice contains also the General
Post-office and the National Museum. In the armory of the palace there
was pointed out to us the stand of arms with which the Archduke
Maximilian and his two faithful officers were shot at Queretaro. In the
grounds which form the patio of the palace, a small botanical garden is
maintained, containing many exotics, choice trees and plants, besides a
collection of those indigenous to the country. The curiosities in the
department of antiquity of the museum are of intense interest. In an
historical point of view they are invaluable. A great amount of money
and intelligent labor has been expended upon the collection with highly
satisfactory results. It is of engaging interest to the merest museum
frequenter, but to the archæologist it is valuable beyond expression.
Here are also deposited the extensive solid silver table-service
imported for his own use by Maximilian, and also the ridiculously gilded
and bedizened state carriage brought hither from Europe, built after
the English style of the seventeenth century. The body of the vehicle is
painted red, the wheels are gilded, and the interior is lined with white
silk brocade, heavily trimmed with silver and gold thread. It surpasses
in elegance and cost any royal vehicle to be seen in Europe, not
excepting the magnificent carriages in the royal stables of Vienna and
St. Petersburg. Among the personal relics seen in the museum is the coat
of mail worn by Cortez during his battles from Vera Cruz to the capital,
also the silk banner which was borne in all his fights. This small flag
bears a remarkably lovely face of the Madonna, which must have been the
work of a master hand. The shield of Montezuma is also exhibited, with
many arms, jewels, and picture writings, these last relating to historic
matters, both Toltec and Aztec. The great sacrificial stone of the
aborigines, placed on the ground floor of the museum, is, in all its
detail, a study to occupy one for days. It is of basalt, elaborately
chiseled, measuring nine feet in diameter and three feet in height. On
this stone the lives of thousands of human beings, we are told, were
offered up annually. The municipal palace is on the south side of the
plaza, nearly opposite to which is a block of buildings resting upon
arcades like those of the Rue Rivoli in Paris. Let us not forget to
mention that in the garden of the national palace the visitor is shown a
remarkable floral curiosity called the hand-tree, covered with bright
scarlet flowers, almost exactly in the shape of the human hand. This is
the _Cheirostemon platanifolium_ of the botanists, an extremely rare
plant, three specimens of which only are known to exist in Mexico.

In the rear of the national palace is the Academy of Fine Arts,
generally spoken of as the Academy of San Carlos,--named in honor of
Carlos III. of Spain,--which contains three or four well-filled
apartments of paintings, with one and, in some instances, two pictures
each of such masters as Leonardo da Vinci, Velasquez, Titian, Van Dyck,
Rubens, Perugino, and others. There is also a large hall of sculpture
attached, which presents casts of many well-known and classic originals.
This department, however, does not compare well with the rest of the
institution. The art gallery will be sure to greatly interest the
stranger, as being the foundation of an institution evidently destined
in time to reach a high degree of excellence. Besides possessing several
priceless examples by the old masters, there are many admirable
pictures, the result of native talent, which are remarkable for their
conception and execution. Two large canvases by José Maria Velasco,
representing the Valley of Mexico, form fine and striking landscapes
which few modern painters can equal. These two paintings were exhibited
at the Philadelphia Exposition, and won high encomiums. In our
estimation, the gem of the galleries is, unquestionably, the large
canvas by Felix Parra, a native artist. It is entitled "Las Casas
protecting the Aztecs from slaughter by the Spaniards." This young
artist, not yet much over thirty years of age, has given us in this
picture an original conception most perfectly carried out, which has
already made him famous. It was painted before Parra had ever seen any
other country except Mexico, but it won for him the first prize at the
Academy of Rome. The original painting was exhibited at the New Orleans
Exposition not long since, eliciting the highest praise from art
critics. It is worthy of being placed in the Louvre or the Uffizi. One
canvas, entitled "The Dead Monk," attracted us as being singularly
effective. The scene represents several monks, with tapers in their
hands, surrounding the dead body of a brother of their order. The dim
light illumines the scared faces of the group, as it falls upon the
calm, white features of the dead. The masterly handling of color in this
picture has rarely been excelled.

The Academy of San Carlos contains an art school free to the youth of
the city, and is subsidized by government to the amount of thirty-five
thousand dollars per annum. As we passed through the galleries, a large
class of intelligent-looking boys, whose age might have ranged from
twelve to fifteen years, were busily engaged with their pencils and
drawing-paper in copying models placed before them, under the
supervision of a competent instructor. It was pleasant to see the
democratic character of this assemblage of pupils. All classes were
represented. The school is as free to the son of a peon as to him with
the richest of parents. Prizes are given for meritorious work by the
students; one annual prize is especially sought for, namely, an
allowance of six hundred dollars a year for six years, to enable the
recipient to study art abroad. The institution is in a reasonably
flourishing condition, but it lacks the stimulus of an appreciative
community to foster its growth and to incite emulation among its pupils.
Strangers visit, admire, and applaud, but native residents exhibit
little or no enthusiasm for this nucleus of the fine arts in the
national capital. The encouragement offered to artists in any line in
Mexico is extremely small. There can hardly be said to be any home
demand for their products. There is one other canvas, seen in the
galleries, which comes back to memory, and of which it is a pleasure to
speak in commendation. The artist's name has escaped us, but the
admirable and effective picture represented "Columbus contemplating the
Sea."

Art should certainly be at home in Mexico, where it has found expression
in various forms for hundreds of years. What were the picture-writings
of the aborigines but early examples of art? There are numerous
specimens of Aztec paintings illustrative of the early history of
Mexico, which were produced long before the arrival of the conquering
Spaniards. Some of these on deerskin, and some on a sort of parchment,
or papyrus, which the Toltecs and Aztecs made from the leaves of the
maguey plant, may be seen in European museums. They show that the arts
of metal casting and the manufacture of cotton and of jewelry were
derived from the Toltecs by the Aztecs. There are plenty of examples to
be seen showing that these aborigines were admirable workers in silver
and gold. So eager was Cortez to send large sums of gold to his
sovereign, and thus to win royal forgiveness and countenance as regarded
his gross insubordination in stealing away from Cuba, and in boldly
taking upon himself all the prerogatives of a viceroy, that he not only
extorted every ounce of gold dust he could possibly obtain from the
natives of the conquered provinces, but he melted many of their
beautiful and precious ornaments into more available shape for his
purpose. Some of these he transmitted to Spain, where, in course of
time, they also shared the same fate. The aggregate sum thus sent by him
to Spain, as given in the records of the period, was so large as to
provoke our incredulity. Were specimens of those golden ornaments, the
product of Toltec and Aztec art, now extant, they would be worth fifty
times their weight in gold, and form tangible links of history
connecting the present with the far past. This native art has been
handed down from generation to generation; and there is nothing of the
sort made in the world superior to Mexican silver filigree work, which
recalls the lace-like texture of similar ornaments manufactured at
Genoa. Again, illustrative of this natural instinct for art in the
aborigines, let us not forget to speak of the colored straw pictures
produced by the Indian women, representing natural scenery and prominent
buildings, done with wonderful fidelity, even in the matter of
perspective. Statuettes or wax figures are also made by them,
representing the native laboring classes and street scenes to the very
life. This is a sort of specialty in Naples; but we have never seen one
of these small Italian figures superior to those which one can buy in
the stores on San Francisco Street in Mexico, all of which are the work
of untaught native Indians. While we are writing these lines, there
stands upon our library table a specimen of Mexican pottery which we
brought from Guadalajara. It is of an antique pattern, made by hand in
an Indian mud cabin, beautifully decorated and glazed, combining colors
which mingle in perfect harmony. This is not an organized industry here.
Each family produces its own ware for sale; and no two pieces can be
exactly similar. No people, unless possessed of a high degree of
artistic instinct and appreciation, could produce pottery, either in
shape or finish, such as the traveler sees at Guadalajara.

We are told that the ancient Aztecs excelled in one branch of art above
all others; namely, in the production of scenes and various
ornamentations in feather work, the effect of which is similar to
Florentine mosaic. The gorgeous plumage of the humming-bird and of
parrots was especially devoted to this object. The feathers, glued upon
a cotton web, were made into dresses for the wealthy to wear on festal
occasions. The gradations and brilliancy of these feather pictures are
said to have been marvelous. There is preserved in the museum at the
national capital a vestment of this character, said to have been worn by
Montezuma II. Antonio de Solis, royal historiographer, speaks of "a
quantity of plumes and other curiosities made from feathers," by the
Aztecs, "whose beauty and natural variety of colors, found on the native
birds of the country, were placed and combined with wonderful art,
distributing the several colors and shadowing the light with the dark so
exactly, that, without making use of artificial colors or of the pencil,
they could draw pictures, and would undertake to imitate nature." One is
constantly importuned, in the patio of the Iturbide Hotel, to purchase
figures and small landscapes newly made of these brilliant feathers,
offered at a very moderate price. Indeed, their production forms quite
an industry among a certain class of Indians. So it seems that this art
has been inherited; there being no present market for such elaborate
examples as used to be produced, the fine artistic ability of centuries
past is neither demanded, nor does it exist. According to one Spanish
authority (Clavigero), so abundant were sculptured images that the
foundation of the cathedral on the Plaza Mayor is entirely composed of
them! Another writer of the same nationality (Gama) says that a new
cellar cannot be dug in the capital without turning up some of the
mouldering relics of barbaric art. As cellars cannot be dug at all on
account of the mere crust of earth existing above the water, this
veracious historian could not have written from personal knowledge, or
have visited the country. It is these irresponsible writers who have
made "history" to suit their own purposes. Father Torquemada surpasses
Baron Munchausen when he tells us that, at the dedication of a certain
aboriginal temple, a procession of persons two miles long, numbering
seventy-two thousand, perished on the sacrificial stone, which is now
exhibited in the National Museum of Mexico. This stone, by the way, is
to our mind clearly Toltec, not Aztec. Examination shows it to be
identical with the stone relics of Tula, the original capital of the
Toltecs. The same may be said of the "Calendar Stone," placed in the
outer walls of the cathedral.

The National Conservatory of Music, dating from January 25, 1553, is
near at hand; so also is the National Library, where the admirable
collection of books numbers nearly two hundred thousand. The confiscated
convent of Saint Augustine serves as an appropriate building for this
library of choice books. We say of choice books, not only because they
are many of them unique, but because all books are choice, being sources
from which the careful student and historian can cull true history and
philosophy. He does not accept each and all of the statements which are
here presented, but from the collated mass culls the truthful
deductions. These books very largely and very naturally relate to
religious subjects, as they are mostly made up from the confiscated
convent libraries heretofore existing in Mexico. Valuable modern and
secular books have been added to these collections from time to time.
Our attention was called to a volume bearing the date of 1472, and to
one still older which was printed in two colors. There is here an atlas
of England which was printed in Amsterdam in 1659, with steel plates,
and in colors which are as bright and fresh as though just from the
press. A Spanish and Mexican dictionary, printed in Mexico in 1571,
showed how early the printing-press followed the period of the
conquest. A book of autographs bearing the names of Cortez's notable
soldiers was interesting. This, we understood, was one of the
much-coveted prizes which has been sought by foreign collectors. The
manuscripts are of great antiquity and interest. One was in the form of
a large volume, done with the pen in old English letters; another, very
highly prized, is of painted pictures, which purports to be original
dispatches from Montezuma to his allies, and which was captured by
Cortez. This last is on a roll of prepared deerskin. The richly-carved
front of the library is a profound study in itself, and is the work of a
native artist. The fence which incloses the edifice is ornamented with
marble busts of famous scientists, orators, and authors, while beautiful
flowers grace the small plot in front, the whole made refreshingly cool
by the playing of a small fountain. This library contains books in all
languages, and bearing dates of four hundred years since. Some of these
books are almost priceless in value, very old, and believed to be
unique. We were told that an agent of the British Museum, who came
thousands of miles for the purpose, had offered a fabulous price for
some half a dozen volumes on the shelves of the National Library of
Mexico; but he offered the princely sum in vain,--a fact which speaks
well for those in authority. The library has no systematic arrangement
and no catalogue.

The Plaza Mayor must be fully a thousand feet square. It was laid out
and beautified under the personal direction of the youthful, handsome,
and would-be empress, Carlotta, who exhibited exquisite taste in such
matters, and hesitated at no cost to carry out her imperial will, freely
expending from her private fortune for the purpose. In the centre of the
plaza is the Zacalo, so called, screened with groups of orange-trees,
choice shrubbery, and flowers. Here there is a music stand and fountain,
where frequent out-of-door concerts are given by military bands,
especially in the evenings. At the western side of the square, under the
shadow of the cathedral, is the flower market, rendering the whole
neighborhood fragrant in the early mornings with the perfume it exhales,
while it delights the eye with hillocks of bright color. This market is
in an iron pavilion covered in part with glass, the lovely goods
presided over by nut-brown women and pretty Indian girls. Barbaric as
the Aztecs were, they had a true love and tenderness for flowers, using
them freely in their religious rites, a taste which three hundred years
and more of oppression, together with foreign and civil wars, has not
served to extinguish. The most abundant specimens of the floral kingdom
one meets with here are red and white roses, very finely developed,
pinks of all colors, violets, mignonette, heliotrope, scarlet and white
poppies, pansies, and forget-me-nots. Such flowers were artistically
mingled in large bouquets, with a delicate backing of maiden-hair fern,
and sold for fifteen cents each. There is no fixed tariff of prices,
strangers naturally paying much more than the residents, and the sum
first demanded being usually double what will be finally received,--a
manner of trade which is by no means confined to the Spanish-speaking
races. It must be remembered that although, these are cultivated
flowers, still they bloom out-of-doors all the year round. The women
venders emulate their lovely wares in the colors they assume in their
costumes. The dahlia, we are told, first came from the valley of Mexico.
The universal love of flowers finds expression in the houses, not only
of the rich, but in those of the very humble poor, all over the town and
the environs.

It was interesting to note the special class of customers drawn in the
early morning to this flower pagoda. These were the true lovers of
Flora, bent upon securing their favorites while damp with dewy
sweetness. There was the very humble but appreciative purchaser, who
invested only a few centavos, but took away a choice collection of
bright colors and of mingled fragrance. Here was an ardent lover, all
eagerness, who would write his words of devotion to his idol in the
alphabet of angels. Now and then an American tourist was seen to carry
away an armful of bouquets to bestow with impartial hand among his lady
friends. Looking on at the suggestive scene is a scantily-clad Indian
girl, with a curious hungry expression upon her face. Is it flowers or
food that she craves? She shall have both. How rich the color of her
cheek; how eloquent the expression of her dark eyes; how grateful her
hesitating smile, as she receives from the stranger a piece of silver
and a cluster of flowers!

On the open space in front of the cathedral a sort of daily fair is
held, where a most incongruous trade is carried on amid great
confusion; but there are no more male and female slaves offered for sale
here, as in the days of the Spanish victors. Slavery existed both under
Aztec and Spanish rule; but it was abolished, as an institution, soon
after the establishment of Mexican independence. The match boys,
lottery-ticket venders, fruit men, ice-cream hawkers, cigar and
cigarette dealers, and candy women (each with a baby tied to her back),
rend the air with their harsh and varied cries, while the stranger is
quickly discovered, and importuned to the verge of endurance. We were
told that this army of hawkers and peddlers were allowed just in the
shadow of the church by special permit, a percentage of the benefit
derived from the sales accruing to the priests, who carry on their
profession inside the walls of the grand and beautiful edifice, where a
less noisy, but quite as commercial a performance is going on all the
while, "indulgences" being bartered and sold to moneyed sinners nearly
every hour of the day.

The principal market-place has always been near the plaza, at its
southwest end, a single block away; but a new and more spacious one is
in course of erection at this writing, progress being made in the usual
_mañana_ style. Sunday morning is the great market day of the week, the
same as in all Mexican cities, when there is here a confusion of tongues
that would silence the hubbub of the Paris Bourse. How a legitimate
business can be accomplished under such circumstances is a marvel. Each
line of trade has its special location, but confusion reigns supreme.

In passing through the Calle de San Francisco, we were struck with the
difference of temperature between the sunny and the shady sides of the
street. It must have been fully ten degrees. One becomes uncomfortably
warm while walking in the sunshine, but upon crossing into the shade he
is quickly chilled by the frostiness of the still, dry atmosphere and a
realizing sense of dampness beneath his feet. "Only dogs and Americans
walk on the sunny side," say the Mexicans. To this we can only answer by
commending the discretion of both men and beasts. In the early evening,
as soon as the sun sets, the natives begin to wrap up their throats and
faces, even in midsummer. Yet they seem to avoid the sun while it shines
in the middle of the day.

In New Zealand and Alaska, when two natives meet each other and desire
to express pleasure at the circumstance, they rub their noses together.
In Mexico, if two gentlemen meet upon the street or elsewhere after a
considerable absence, they embrace cordially and pat each other on the
back in the most demonstrative manner, just as two parties fall on each
other's neck in a stage embrace. To a cool looker-on this seemed rather
a waste of the raw material, taking place between two individuals of the
same sex. In Japan, two persons on meeting in public begin bowing their
bodies until the forehead nearly touches the ground, repeating this
movement a score of times. In China, two gentlemen who meet greet each
other by shaking their own left hand in their right. In Norway and
Sweden, the greeting is made by taking off and replacing the hat half a
dozen times; the greater number of times, the more cordial is the
greeting considered; but in Mexico it is nothing more nor less than an
embrace with both arms.

The carrying of concealed weapons is prohibited by law in the United
States and some other countries, but in Mexico a statute is not
permitted to be simply a dead letter. While we were at the Iturbide, the
police of the capital were vigorously enforcing a new law, which forbids
the carrying of any sort of deadly weapon except in open sight. The
common people were being searched for knives, of which, when found, they
were instantly deprived, so that at one of the police stations there was
a pile of these articles six feet high and four wide. They were in all
manner of shapes, short and long, sharp and dull, daggerlike or
otherwise, but all worn for the purpose either of assault or defense.
They came from the possession of the humble natives, who could not plead
that they kept them for domestic uses or for eating purposes, since they
use neither knife nor fork in that process. We were told that this
wholesale seizure had been going on for a month or more, the police
stopping any person whom they chose in order to search them in the
street. Such a thing as resistance is not thought of by a peon; he knows
that it is of no sort of use, and will be the cause of sending him to
prison immediately. Quarrels at low drinking places are no longer
followed by the use of knives. It was the frequency of these assaults
which filled the hospitals with victims and caused the passage of a law
which meets the exigencies of the case. The fine for carrying concealed
weapons is heavy, besides involving the penalty of imprisonment. A
certain class of persons coming from out of the city are permitted to
carry revolvers, but they must be in a belt and in full sight. Probably
no municipal law was ever more thoroughly enforced than this of
disarming the common class of this city.

The tramway facilities are so complete in the city of Mexico that one
has very little occasion to employ hackney coaches. Sometimes, however,
these will be found, if not absolutely necessary, yet a great
convenience. The legal charges are very moderate, and may well be so,
for the entire turnout is usually of a most broken-down character,--poor
horses, or mules, a stupid driver, and a dirty interior, with such a
variety of offensive smells as to cause one to enter into an analysis to
decide which predominates. One dollar an hour is the average charge made
for these vehicles, the driver expecting, as in similar cases in Paris,
Berlin, or elsewhere, a trifle as a _pourboire_ at the end of the
service for which he is engaged. Where these ruinous structures which
pass for public carriages originally came from is a conundrum; but there
can be no possible doubt as to their antiquity. Mexican fleas, like
those of Naples and continental Spain, are both omnivorous and
carnivorous, and these vehicles are apt to be itinerant asylums for this
pest of the low latitudes. There are three grades of hackney coaches in
the capital, those comparatively decent, another class one degree less
desirable, and a third into which one will get when compelled to do so,
not otherwise. Each of these grades is designated by a small metal sign
in the shape of a flag, of a certain color, and the charges are
graduated accordingly. As to the drivers, they are not such outright
swindlers as those of their tribe in New York, nor by any means so tidy
and intelligent as those of Boston.



CHAPTER IX.

A City of Vistas.--Want of Proper Drainage.--Unfortunate Site.--Insecure
    Foundations.--A Boom in Building Lots.--Pleasant Suburbs.--Night
    Watchmen.--The Iturbide Hotel.--A Would-be Emperor.--Domestic
    Arrangements.--A New Hotel wanted.--Places of Public Entertainment.
    --The Bull Ring.--Repulsive Performance.--Monte de Piedad.--An
    English Syndicate purchase it.--The Alameda.--The Inquisition.--
    Festal Days.--Pulque Shops.--The Church Party.--Gilded Bar-Rooms.
    --Mexican Marriages.--Mothers and Infants.--A Family Group.


Mexico is a city of vistas. One looks down the long perspective of a
thoroughfare north, south, east, or west, and at the end he sees the
purple mountains, some far away, some quite near to view, some
apparently three miles off, some sixty; but the air is so transparent
that even the most distant objects seem to be very near at hand. Beneath
the plain which immediately surrounds the city is a dry marsh which was
a broad lake in Cortez's day,--indeed, it is a lake still, four or five
feet below the surface of the ground, containing the accumulated
drainage of centuries. The site of the national capital was formerly an
island, only a trifle above the level of Lake Texcoco; hence there are
no cellars possible beneath the dwelling-houses of the populace. Herein
lies the secret of the want of drainage, and of the unpleasant and
unwholesome odors which are constantly saluting the senses and
challenging the remarks of strangers. Were it not for the absence of
atmospheric moisture in this high altitude, where perishable articles of
food dry up and do not spoil by mould or putrefaction, the capital would
be swept by pestilence annually, being underlaid by a soil reeking with
pollution. As it is, typhoid fever prevails, and the average duration of
life in the city is recorded at a fraction over twenty-six years! Lung
and malarial diseases hold a very prominent place among the given causes
of mortality. Owing to the proximity of the mountains, the rains
sometimes assume the character of floods. A resident friend of the
author's told him that he had seen the surrounding streets and the Plaza
Mayor covered with two feet of water, extending a quarter of a mile up
San Francisco Street after a sharp summer shower, which did not continue
much more than an hour. Of course this gradually subsides; but the
inconvenience of such an episode in a busy city, not to speak of its
unwholesomeness, is a serious matter. The wonder is that Cortez, after
destroying the Aztec capital, should have rebuilt it on so undesirable a
site, while there was plenty of higher and more inviting ground close at
hand. To this blunder is owing the unhealthfulness of a city which might
have been rendered one of the most salubrious dwelling-places on the
continent, if placed on any of the neighboring elevated lands, with
their possibilities for pure air, their location above fogs, and their
being so entirely out of the range of devastating storms. Peter the
Great had good and sufficient reason for building his capital at such
enormous expense upon marshy ground beside the Neva, but one can see no
good reason for Cortez's choice of a site for this capital. History
gives us an account of seven disastrous floods which have occurred in
this city since 1521, all of which were accompanied with serious loss of
life, as well as great destruction of property. If a broad channel could
be opened so as to reach the Tula River, some forty miles away, adequate
drainage might be obtained for the capital. This is too stupendous an
undertaking, however, for Mexican capital or enterprise. Perhaps a
foreign company will some day accomplish it; but whether such a scheme
would be a safe one, _quien sabe_? It is possible that in attempting to
procure perfect drainage, even a worse condition of affairs might be
brought about. The city, it will be understood, rests upon a body of
water supported by an intervening stratum of earth and accumulated
debris. If this buried lake were to be drained, that is, absolutely
removed, would not a collapse of some sort necessarily take place? What
would support the present frail foundations of the city buildings, which
seem to be now sustained by hydraulic pressure? Even as it is, no heavy
structure can be found in the limits of the capital which is not more or
less out of plumb, in emulation of the leaning tower of Pisa. The thick
walls of the Iturbide Hotel are so full of cracks and crevices, caused
by the settling here and there of its insecure foundation, as to cause
anxiety and constant remark among its guests. There is another
consideration worthy of mention. It is said by persons whose
intelligence makes their opinion worthy of consideration, that during
the severe earthquake which took place here in 1882, the nearness of the
water to the surface of the earth prevented the city from the
destruction which was imminent. This certainly may have been a correct
deduction.

As the city is in the lowest part of the valley, and all the lakes
except that of Texcoco are above its level, there is no positive safety
from inundation at any hour. The lake just named is said to be only
about two feet below the level of the city plaza. As the valley is
entirely closed by a wall of mountains, there is no natural outlet for
these extensive waters. Lake Zumpango, with a surface ten miles square,
is twenty-nine feet higher than the average level of the city of Mexico.
Such drainage as is contemplated must tap and carry away these lakes
also, to obviate the danger of their flooding the capital on any
extraordinary emergency, else it will be of little avail.

At this writing there is quite a "boom" in land in the neighboring
suburbs of San Angel and Tacubaya, which present most desirable building
localities, and are free from the prominent objections of the capital
itself. The latter suburb already contains nearly ten thousand
inhabitants. It is situated on a hillside, sloping towards the
northwest. In its present form the town is quite modern, but from the
earliest times there has been a village here. After the great inundation
of 1629, the project of making this the site of the capital was
seriously considered. There is already a small alameda and a miniature
plaza in Tacubaya. San Angel is a couple of miles further away from the
city, and is also built on a hillside, amid orchards and gardens. The
deserted and ancient Carmelite monastery is a feature of this place.
Both Tacubaya and San Angel can be reached almost any hour of the day
from Mexico by tramway, the cars starting from the Plaza Mayor. It was
noticed that considerable building for domestic purposes was going on in
both of these places, but principally at Tacubaya, and it is thought the
citizens of Mexico are "hedging," as it were, by providing themselves
with pleasant and healthful homes in anticipation of some sort of
collapse which must sooner or later befall the business portions of the
capital. There is universal complaint regarding the high price of rents
in the city for respectable residences, quite a percentage having been
added to the rates heretofore charged each succeeding year. Drainage is
more and more seriously thought of by cutting an outlet of some sort, as
we have suggested, and what result may follow remains to be seen. That
there is a steady growth of population and business here is perfectly
obvious, stimulated by closer business connections with the United
States, which are being constantly added to. People who look in advance
see that ten years hence the two suburban towns will practically be part
and parcel of the city proper. The new buildings now erecting in
Tacubaya are observed to be of stone, and built to last. Wooden
structures are almost unknown. Iron is used for many purposes, taking
the place of wooden beams, as in this country. We were assured by
intelligent persons that all skilled mechanics were busy, such as
masons, iron-workers, plasterers, and carpenters. It is surprising to
the writer that more has not been said relative to the extraordinary
growth and prosperity of the national capital of Mexico. The most
prominent agent in bringing all this about is undoubtedly the Mexican
Central Railroad.

One easily becomes acquainted with the topography of the city, each
point of the compass leading directly to the mountains, while the town
itself forms a perfect level. The chief business street leads from the
railroad depot to the Plaza Mayor. The most fashionable shopping street
is that known as the Street of the Silversmiths. It is of good width,
and nearly a mile long. Calle de San Francisco is another of the main
business thoroughfares. As a rule, the many sacred titles given to the
streets come from the names of churches or convents which stood or still
stand in them. Thus the Street of the Holy Ghost contains the church so
designated. Several of the most important avenues, beside the Plaza
Mayor and the alameda, are lighted by electricity, other portions of the
city proper by gas, and the outlying districts by oil-fed lanterns. One
peculiar object, always observable in the city at night, is the bright
lantern of the policeman of the immediate beat, placed in the middle of
the junction of the streets, with the man himself standing beside it,
ready to answer any legitimate call for his services. The police system
of the capital is certainly excellent, and in the two weeks which we
passed there no such affair as a street brawl of any sort was seen,
though we visited all parts of the town, and at all hours of the day and
night. There are few of our own cities where the public peace is so
thoroughly preserved, or with so little demonstration, as is the case in
the capital of Mexico.

Our hotel, the Iturbide,--pronounced Eater-beady,--situated on the Calle
de San Francisco, and called after the emperor of the same name (Don
Agustin de Iturbide), is probably the best, as it is the largest in the
city; but this is faint praise. Hotel-keeping is one of the arts which,
at its best, has not yet been introduced into this country. Iturbide's
aspiration led him to assume the imperial crown, in consequence of which
he fell. After reigning for a twelvemonth, he was banished from Mexico
on parole never to return. This parole he broke, landing from Europe at
Vera Cruz in 1824. He was seized, thrown into prison, and was shot by
orders of the government, as a traitor, July 19 of the same year. The
old flint muskets used for the purpose hang beside the modern arms, in
the national armory, with which was performed a like sentence upon
Maximilian. Thus the two men who essayed the role of emperor of Mexico
ended their career. The Iturbide is spacious and well situated, being
within a few rods of the Plaza Mayor, and having once served as the
palace of the emperor whose name it bears. It is entered, like the
Palace Hotel of San Francisco, and the Grand Hotel of Paris, by an
archway leading into a spacious area or court, on whose four sides rises
the elaborate structure. Upon this patio the several stories open, each
with a line of balcony. This broad area, open to the sky, is paved with
marble, and has spacious stairways of the same material. The windows are
of the French, pattern and open down to the floor, so that the occupant
of each room steps out upon the balcony by passing through them. The
windows are the same on the public street side. The house is fairly well
furnished so far as comfort is concerned, and the beds--well, they might
possibly be worse,--domestic comfort is not the strong point in the
Iturbide, where cleanliness is also one of the lost arts. All the
chambermaids here, as in Japan, are men, and very good servants they
are, according to their light and the material which is furnished to
them. The fact that three fourths of them bear the name of Jesus is, it
must be admitted, a little confusing when it is desired to summon any
particular one. In the selection of a sleeping apartment the visitor
should be sure, if it is possible, to obtain one facing east or south,
thus securing an abundance of sunshine. Rooms situated otherwise, in
this climate particularly, are liable to be damp and even dangerous to
health, especially in a city which rests upon the surface, as it were,
of a hidden lake. Such facts may seem to be trifles to the casual
reader, but experience will soon teach him their real importance.

The broad, three-story front of the Iturbide Hotel is quite imposing,
and exhibits some very elaborate native carving in stone. We were told
that it was once occupied by a very rich and eccentric mine owner for
the accommodation of himself and family, embracing half a dozen wives
and over sixty children! quite after the style of a Turkish harem or the
establishment of a Utah magnate. A capacious and well-appointed hotel on
the American plan is something which this city greatly needs. It would
be welcomed and well-patronized by the native citizens, and all foreign
travelers would gladly seek its accommodations. It seems that a large
Mexican hotel designed to cost some two million dollars is already under
consideration by an incorporated company of wealthy natives; but this
will not, we believe, fill the requirements of the present time. The
Mexicans do not know how to keep a hotel, and any money expended in the
proposed plan, we suspect, will be next to thrown away. Government has
lent its aid to the purpose of establishing a new hotel on a grand
scale, by passing an act exempting from import duties all furniture and
goods intended for use in the house, to the amount of fifteen per cent,
on the entire capital invested in the enterprise of building and
properly equipping the establishment. This exemption from custom-house
taxes will prove a saving of considerably over two hundred thousand
dollars to the hotel company. Now, if this purpose is consummated and
the owners will put the whole in charge of an experienced American,
something satisfactory may come from it. The best hotels in the world
are kept by Americans,--this not in the spirit of boasting,--and next to
them in this line of business come the Swiss, who have copied us very
closely. The English follow, but rank only third in the line of
progress, while the Mexicans are simply nowhere. The Iturbide has no
ladies' or gentlemen's parlor, that is to say, it has no public
reception-room worthy of the name. The conventionalities here do not
absolutely demand such an arrangement, though it would be appreciated;
nor can one obtain any artificial heat in his apartment, however much it
may be required. There are no fireplaces or chimneys in the house, while
the other domestic accommodations are of the most primitive character.
As to food, the Iturbide is kept on the European plan, and one can order
according to his fancy. The service, however, is anything but neat or
clean. The meal-hours are divided as in France and continental Europe
generally: coffee and bread upon first rising, breakfast at noon, and
dinner at six o'clock in the evening. The proprietor has lately put into
service a very good steam elevator, which was at first deemed to be a
serious innovation. We heard of some rather ludicrous experiences which
occurred during the first few days of its use; but the people were very
soon reconciled to the comfort it afforded, and put aside their
prejudices. Even this elevator is so restricted in its running hours as
not to afford the guests the accommodation it should supply. As some one
has wittily said of the ballet-girl's costume, it begins too late and
leaves off too early.

The ice used in the city of Mexico comes from the top of the neighboring
range of mountains, but it is rarely seen except in bar-rooms, the
retail price being ten cents a pound. In order to obtain a cool
temperature for their drinking water, the people keep it in porous
earthen jars made by the native Indians. Rapid evaporation from the
outside of the vessels renders the water highly refreshing, indeed, cool
enough, the dry atmosphere is so very active an absorbent. The ice is
brought to the nearest railway station wrapped in straw, on the backs of
the peons, and is thus transported daily, no large quantity being kept
on hand.

Opening from the main patio of the Iturbide Hotel upon the level of the
street is a large billiard-saloon and bar-room combined. As our bedroom
was on the first chamber floor, and opened upon this patio, with a
little balcony and a long French window, we had the benefit nightly, as
well as daily, of all the ceaseless noises which usually emanate from
such a place. Billiard balls kept up their peculiar music until the wee
small hours of the morning, and all day on the Sabbath. The Mexicans,
like the Cubans, do not drink deep, but they drink often; and though it
is seldom that a respectably dressed person is seen intoxicated, either
on the streets or elsewhere, still the active bartenders of the Iturbide
drinking-saloon did not quit their posts until nearly broad daylight in
the morning. So our sleep in that palace hotel was achieved to the
accompaniment of clinking billiard-balls, the clatter of
drinking-glasses, the shaking up of iced mixtures, and the sharp voices
of disputants at the card-tables. However, a thoroughly tired person can
sleep under almost any circumstances; and after many hours each day
devoted to sight-seeing, the writer did not spend much time in
moralizing over the doings in the spacious apartment beneath him.

Regarding places of public entertainment, the city contains several
theatres and a permanent circus, but only one of the theatres seemed to
be patronized by the best people; namely, the Teatro Nacional, built so
late as 1844, and having seating capacity for three thousand persons.
The commencement exercises of the military school of Chapultepec are
given annually in this house. Here, at least one good opera company is
engaged for a brief season annually; indeed, there is some kind of
opera, French, Spanish, or Italian, nearly all the year round. Smoking
of cigarettes between the acts is freely indulged in by the audience;
and though the ladies do not smoke in public, at least not generally,
they are known to be free users of the weed at home. Three other
theatres, the Coliseo Viejo, the Arbeu, and the Hidalgo, are respectably
good; there are three or four others, minor establishments, all open on
Sundays, but they are to be avoided.

There is a spacious bull-ring at the northern end of the paseo, on the
left of the roadway as we drive towards Chapultepec, where exhibitions
are given to crowded assemblies every Sunday and on festal days. Of all
the public sports the bull-fight is the most cruel, being without one
redeeming feature to excuse its indulgence, while its evil moral effect
upon the people at large is clearly manifest. There is certainly a close
affinity between the Spanish language and the Latin, as well as a strong
resemblance between the old Roman masses and the modern Spanish people.
In the olden days the Roman populace cried, _Panem et circenses_ (bread
and circuses); so to-day the Spanish people shout, _Pan y toros_ (bread
and bulls). The bull-fight is a national institution here, as it is in
continental Spain and in Cuba, and is strongly indicative of the
character of the people. While we were in the country a bull-fight
performance was given on a Sunday in one of the large cities, as a
"benefit" towards paying for a new altar-rail to be placed in one of the
Romish churches. Only among a semi-barbarous people and in a Roman
Catholic country would such horrible cruelty be tolerated, and
especially as a Sabbath performance. This is the day when these shameful
exhibitions always take place, at Madrid as well as in Mexico, it being
also the most popular and fashionable evening of the week for theatrical
entertainments.

Some of our party attended one of these exhibitions in the city of
Mexico; but they very promptly and emphatically declared that nothing
could induce them again to witness anything of the sort, pronouncing it
to be only a repulsive butchery. The author had seen both in Spain and
in Cuba quite as much as he desired of this wretched national game, and
therefore he did not visit it on the occasion referred to above. A
distinguished citizen of the national capital, General H----, told us
that the better class of ladies did not now attend the bull-fights in
Mexico, though there are plenty of women who do so regularly. "I have
four grown-up daughters, one of whom is married," said he, "but neither
they nor their mother ever witnessed this debasing exhibition. Be
assured," he continued, "that the cultured class of our community do not
sympathize with these relics of barbarism." This is a sentiment which we
are gratified to record, more especially as at Madrid, the headquarters
of the cruel game, it has not only the full sanction of the public
officials and of the _élite_ of the Spanish capital, but the patronage
of royalty itself. The central box of the bull-ring in that city is
reserved for the court, and there are no empty seats during the
performance. A law was passed a few years since forbidding bull-fights
to take place in the Federal District of Mexico; but this law has been
repealed in accordance with the clamorous demand of a large majority of
the people; besides which the law was virtually inoperative, as these
exhibitions were held all the same, only they were removed to a few rods
beyond the boundary of the prohibited territory. The thought comes over
us that, after all, the bull-fight is but one degree worse than the
shameful prize-fights of professional bruisers in England and America.

One of the most admirable and practical charities established in the
Mexican capital is known as the Monte de Piedad, which is simply a
national pawn-shop. The title signifies, "The Mountain of Mercy." It was
originally founded more than a century since by Count Regla, the owner
of the famous silver mine of Real del Monte, who gave the sum of three
hundred thousand dollars for the purpose, in order that the poor and
needy of the population of this city might obtain advances of money on
personal property at a low and reasonable rate of interest. Any article
deposited for this purpose is valued by two disinterested persons, and
about three fourths of its intrinsic worth is promptly advanced. If the
owner ceases to pay the interest on the loan, the article in pawn is
kept six months longer, when it is exposed for sale at a marked price.
After six months more have expired, if the article is not disposed of,
it is sold at public auction, and all that is realized above the sum
which was advanced, together with the interest, is placed to the
original owner's credit. This sum, if not called for within a given
time, reverts to the bank. The capital of the institution has more than
doubled since its organization, but the amount of good which it has been
the means of accomplishing cannot be estimated. Its first effect was to
break up all the private pawn-brokers' establishments which charged
usurious interest for money, its own rates being placed at a low figure,
intended barely to meet necessary expenses. These exceedingly low rates
have always been scrupulously maintained. The average annual loans on
pledges amount to a million dollars, distributed among about fifty
thousand applicants. The establishment is also a sort of safe deposit.
All the goods in its vaults have not been pawned. As the place is a sort
of fortress in its way, many valuables are here stored for safe-keeping.
One dollar is the smallest sum that is loaned, and ten thousand dollars
is the largest. The loans will average from two to three hundred daily.
It appears that one third of the merchandise deposited is never
redeemed. Among other articles of this class is the diamond snuff-box
which was presented to Santa Anna when he was Dictator, and which cost
twenty-five thousand dollars. Tourists often call in at the Monte de
Piedad, looking for bargains in bricabrac, and sometimes real prizes are
secured at very reasonable cost. A gentleman showed the writer an old,
illuminated book, of a religious character, entirely illustrated by the
hand of some patriot recluse, which was marked five dollars, and upon
which probably four dollars had been loaned to the party who deposited
it. The time for its redemption had long since expired, and our friend
gladly paid the sum asked for it. He said he should take it to the Astor
Library, New York, where he felt confident of receiving his own price
for it, namely, one hundred dollars: "Then," said he, "I will give the
money to some worthy charity in my native city." The volume had
undoubtedly been stolen, and pawned by the thief. Possession is
considered to be _bona fide_ evidence of ownership, and unless
circumstances are very suspicious, money is nearly always advanced to
the applicant on his or her deposit.

Speaking of old books, there are three or four second-hand bookstalls
and stores under the arcades running along one side of the plaza, where
rare and ancient tomes are sold. Volumes, of the value of which the
venders seem to have no idea, are gladly parted with for trifling sums.
Civil wars and the changes of government have never interfered with the
operations of the Monte de Piedad. All parties have respected it and its
belongings, with one exception--during the presidency of Gonzales in
1884, when its capital was somewhat impaired and its usefulness
circumscribed by a levy of the government in its desperation to sustain
the national credit in connection with its foreign loans. A curious
collection of personal property is of course to be seen here, including
domestic furniture, diamonds, rubies, and other precious stones, swords,
pistols, guns, saddles, canes, watches, clothing, and so on. The large
building used for the purpose of carrying on the business stands upon
the site once occupied by the private palace which formed the home of
Cortez for so many years, a short distance west of the great cathedral.
This institution has lately been sold to an English syndicate for the
sum of one million dollars. The new owners have a cash capital of
twenty-five millions, and will resume the banking department, which was
suspended in 1884, and carry on the pawnbroking business as heretofore.

The alameda, a name usually applied to large Spanish parks, is a
parallelogram of about thirty or forty acres in extent, situated between
the two streets of San Francisco and San Cosme, abounding in eucalyptus
trees, poplars, evergreens, orange and lemon trees, together with
blooming flowers and refreshing fountains. In olden times this
alameda--this forest-garden in the heart of the city--was inclosed by a
wall pierced with several gates, which were only opened to certain
classes and on certain occasions; but these grounds, greatly enlarged
and beautified, are now open on all sides to the public, easily
accessible from the surrounding thoroughfares. We were told that the
name comes from the fact that the park was originally planted with
_álamos_, or poplars. One cannot forget, while standing upon the spot
and recalling the early days of the Spanish rule, that it was on a
portion of these grounds that the hateful Inquisition burned its
victims, because they would not subscribe to the Roman Catholic faith.
According to their own records, forty-eight unbelievers were here burned
at the stake at one time. We do not think that the Aztec idolaters ever
exceeded in wickedness or cruelty this fiendish act.

The alameda has a number of open circles with fountains in the centre,
about which stone benches are placed as seats. These spaces are much
frequented by children as playgrounds. An interesting aviary ornaments
one of the roomy areas, filled with a variety of native and exotic
birds, which attract crowds of curious observers. The inexhaustible
spring at Chapultepec supplies these fountains, besides many others in
various parts of the city, from whence water-carriers distribute the
article for domestic use. The alameda is the largest public garden in
the capital, of which there are twelve in all, and is the daily resort
of the corpulent priest for exercise; of the ambitious student for
thought and study; of the nursery maid with her youthful charge; and of
wooing lovers and coquettish señoritas, accompanied by their staid
chaperones. On Sunday forenoons a military band gives an out-of-door
concert in the central music stand, on which occasion all grades of the
populace come hither, rich and poor alike, the half-fed peon in his
nakedness and the well-clad citizen. All classes have a passion for
music. The cathedral empties itself, as it were, into the alameda just
after morning mass. This, be it remembered, is the forenoon. The closing
hours of the day are devoted to driving and promenading in the adjoining
Paseo de la Reforma. On the evenings of festal days, the central
pavilion, where the band is placed, as well as other parts of the
alameda, are illuminated with Chinese lanterns and electric lights
disposed among the trees and about the fountains, so that the artificial
lamps rival the light of day. On these gala occasions two or three
additional bands of musicians are placed at different points to assist
in the entertainment. The fountains play streams of liquid silver; the
military bands discourse stirring music; the people, full of merriment,
indulge in dulces, fruits, ice-cream, and confectionery, crowding every
available space in the fairy-like grounds, and Mexico is happy.

There is no noisy demonstration on these occasions. The multitude, we
must frankly acknowledge, are better behaved than any such assemblage
usually is in Boston or New York. All seem to be quiet, contented, and
enjoying themselves placidly. It should be mentioned, in this
connection, that all pulque shops in the capital are promptly closed at
six o'clock P. M. throughout the year. This is imperative and
without exception; consequently, no evening disturbance is to be
anticipated from that source. It was found that there are over two
thousand _pulquerias_ in the capital. The effect of this special
stimulant, however, is not to make those who indulge freely in it
pugnacious or noisy. It acts more like a powerful narcotic, and puts
those who are overcome with it to sleep, having, in fact, many of the
properties of opium. The gilded bar-rooms where the upper classes seek
refreshment, who, by the way, seem rarely to abuse the privilege, are
permitted to remain open until midnight, but into them the common people
have not the wherewithal to procure entrance. A tumbler of pulque which
costs them a penny they indulge in, but drinks at fifteen or twenty
cents each, and in small portions at that, are quite beyond their means.
A somewhat peculiar effect of pulque drinking was also mentioned to us.
The people who partake of it freely have an aversion to other
stimulants, and prefer it to any and all others without regard to cost.
The beer-drinking German is often similarly affected as regards his
special tipple. Chemical test shows pulque to contain just about the
same percentage of alcohol as common beer; say, five or six per cent.

Besides witnessing the foul deeds of the Inquisition when the priesthood
publicly burned and otherwise tortured unbelievers, the alameda has
frequently been the scene of fierce struggles, gorgeous church
spectacles, and many revolutionary parades. Here scores of treasonable
acts have been concocted, and daring robberies committed in the
troublous times not long past. To-day it is peaceable enough; so quiet
in the summer afternoons, here in the very heart of the busy city, that
the drone of the busy humming-birds among the flowers comes soothingly
upon the ear of the wakeful dreamer. Quiet now, but awaiting the next
upheaval, for such, we are sorry to say, is pretty sure to come, sooner
or later; the Roman Catholic Church party is not dead, but sleepeth. A
strong, costly, and united effort on its part, stimulated from Rome, to
once more gain control of the government of Mexico, has been
successfully defeated without an open outbreak since the second term of
President Diaz commenced. The success of the church party would simply
throw Mexico back half a century in her march of improvement towards a
higher state of civilization. It would check all educational progress,
all commercial advance, and smother both political and religious
freedom.

The number of infant children, strapped or tied to their mothers' backs,
that one sees in the streets of the capital, and indeed all through the
country, is something marvelous. The fecundity of the peons is beyond
all calculation. Eight women out of ten, belonging to the humbler
classes, are sure to be thus encumbered. Marriages take place here at as
early an age as in Cuba or South America, namely, at twelve years. Few
young girls among the common people remain unmarried after fourteen
years of age, or rather there are few of them that do not bear children
as early as that. Marriage among the poor is a ceremony not always
considered necessary, and, indeed, as a rule, they are too poor to pay
the priest the price he charges for performing the ceremony. Speaking
of marriage, this relationship among people of position and property is
assumed under somewhat peculiar circumstances in Mexico. First, a civil
marriage takes place, which makes all children born to the contracting
parties legitimate. After this civil rite is duly complied with, perhaps
a day and perhaps ten intervening, the usual church ceremony is
performed, and then the bride and bridegroom join each other to enjoy
their honeymoon, but until the latter ceremony is consummated, the
couple are as much separated as at any time of their lives. Why this
delay in consummation takes place is by no means clear to an outsider.

One not infrequently sees a mother carrying two infants at a time
wrapped in her rebosa, and tied across her chest; only ten months of age
separating the little creatures. Besides these infants the mother
carries her burden of vegetables, fruit, baskets, or pottery, to dispose
of in the market near the plaza. Like Japanese and Chinese babies, these
little ones seldom, if ever, cry, but submit patiently and with apparent
indifference to what seems to be a very trying position, as well as to
almost total neglect. These children were never in a bed since they were
born. They probably sleep at night upon a straw mat spread upon the
earthen floor, and we much doubt if they are ever washed. Sometimes the
father is seen carrying the baby, but this is very rare; the women take
the laboring oar almost always here, as among our Indian tribes, the
people of the East, and the South Sea Islanders. This is a
characteristic applicable not alone to the national capital, but
observable again and again all over the republic. Though so very poor,
and doubtless often suffering from hunger, the half naked people are not
infrequently seen with a cigarette between the lips. Drunkenness is
seldom seen, notwithstanding that pulque is cheap and potent, and it is
very rarely the case, as already intimated, that any quarreling is
witnessed among the people. They are quiet and orderly, as a rule, yet
most of them are homeless and hopeless.

Though begging is chronic with the Spanish race everywhere, and
notoriously prevalent in continental Spain, persistent in Havana and
Matanzas, and nearly universal throughout the Mexican republic, still,
in the national capital it is far less obtrusive than elsewhere, because
the police are instructed to suppress it. So, also, begging is
prohibited by law in Paris, London, and Boston, but how constantly the
law is disregarded we all know. Sad is the condition of things which, as
Thackeray expresses it, gives the purple and fine linen to one set of
men, and to the other rags for garments and dogs for comforters.

It is not uncommon to see a family group, mother, father, and one or two
children, huddled close together in a street corner, where they have
passed the night, sleeping in a half upright position, while leaning
against an adobe wall. In an early morning walk towards the Paseo de la
Viga, we saw just such a scene, with the addition of a mongrel dog,
which had so bestowed himself as to give the shelter of his body as well
as its natural warmth to a couple of small children. One thing the
reader may be assured of, to wit: the whole family, including the dog,
had a hearty and nourishing breakfast that morning at least.



CHAPTER X.

Benito Juarez's Grandest Monument--Hotel del Jardin.--General José
    Morelos.--Mexican Ex-Convents.--City Restaurants.--Lady Smokers.
    --Domestic Courtyards.--A Beautiful Bird.--The Grand Cathedral
    Interior.--A Devout Lottery Ticket Vender.--Porcelain-Ornamented
    Houses.--Rogues in Church.--Expensive Justice.--Cemetery of San
    Fernando.--Juarez's Monument.--Coffins to Let.--American and
    English Cemetery.--A Doleful Street and Trade.


There exists a much grander monument to the memory of Benito Juarez than
the fine marble group over his last resting-place in the cemetery of San
Fernando, namely, the noble School of Arts and Trades founded by him.
Poor native girls are here afforded excellent advantages for acquiring a
knowledge of various arts, while they are both clothed and fed free of
cost to themselves. The pupils are taught type-setting, book-binding,
drawing, music, embroidery, and the like. There is a store attached to
the institution in which the articles produced by the inmates are placed
for sale at a moderate price. We were told that their industry went a
long way towards rendering the institution self-supporting, and so
admirably is the work of embroidery executed here that the orders for
goods are in advance of the supply. Nearly four hundred girls are at all
times reaping the advantage of this school, which is a grand and
practical form of charity worthy of emulation. Individual instances of
notable success crowning the career of graduates from this institution
were related to us, some of which were of touching interest, and many
quite romantic, showing that genius knows no sex, and that opportunity
alone is often all that is required to develop possibilities frequently
lying dormant about us.

The College of Medicine, near the Plazuela of San Domingo, occupies the
old palace of the Inquisition, whose last victim in Mexico, General José
Morelos, was executed in December, 1815. For two hundred and fifty
years, since 1571, this institution of the church fattened upon the
blood of martyrs. We do not wonder at the futile efforts of the Romish
church of the nineteenth century to ignore, deny, and cover up these
iniquities; but their awful significance is burned too deeply into the
pages of history to be obliterated.

While engaged upon a voyage of discovery accompanied by a friend who has
long resided in the city of Mexico, we chanced upon the Hotel del
Jardin, a cheerful, sunny hostelry, occupying a building which was once
a famous convent, leading our companion to remark that "the shameful
record of wickedness, licentiousness, and cruelty, practiced in these
Mexican institutions before their suppression, could it be made public,
would astonish the world." The present Hotel del Jardin nearly surrounds
a garden full of tropical verdure, and seemed very inviting. Determining
to test its cuisine, dinner was ordered, the presiding genius being
given _carte blanche_ to do his best; but, heaven save the mark!--all
we have to add is, don't try the experiment of dining at the place
referred to. The best and most usual way for transient visitors to this
city is to take rooms in comfortable quarters, and to eat their meals at
some of the fairly good restaurants in the neighborhood of the plaza. Of
course, one cannot expect New York or Boston fare, nor do we come to
Mexico for what we can obtain in the way of food and drink.

Among the groups observed sitting on the little balconies of the
dwelling-houses, matrons are seen smoking their cigarettes as openly as
do their husbands. Señoritas do the same on the sly. No place is exempt
from the pungent fumes of tobacco. Pipes seem to be very seldom resorted
to, and the chewing of tobacco, we are glad to say, is not indulged in
at all,--a disgusting use of the weed almost solely confined to North
America and ships' forecastles. Smoking, after all, did not seem to be
so universal and incessant as we have seen it in some other countries.
Perhaps this arises, in a measure, from want of means to pay for the
article among the general population, since they are only half clothed
in wretched rags, being mostly bareheaded and barefooted also. The lower
class of Mexico could give the lazzaroni of Naples "points," and then
outdo them vastly in squalor and nakedness. The idle, indolent, and
thriftless outnumber all other classes in the republic, one reason for
which is found in the fact common to all tropical countries, that the
climate is such that the poor can safely sleep out of doors and without
shelter, with nearly as much comfort as those who have an humble
covering in the shape of four adobe walls and a thatched roof. As a
rule, these common people, men and women, are ugly in form and feature,
except that they have superb black eyes and pearl-white teeth. Physical
hardships do not tend to develop comeliness.

Strong contrasts meet the eye,--naturally to be expected in a community
which is slowly becoming revolutionized from a state of semi-barbarism,
as it were, to the broader civilization of its neighbors. This
transition is very obvious as regards the dress of the populace. Silk
stove-pipe hats and Derbys are crowding hard upon the cumbersome
sombrero; the dainty Parisian bonnet is replacing the black lace
mantilla; broadcloth is found to be more acceptable clothing than
leather jackets and pantaloons; close-fitting calico and merino goods
are driving out the rebosas, while woolen garments render the serapes
needless. This, of course, is a city view. Small country communities
still adhere to the simpler and cheaper national costume of the past,
and will probably continue to do so for years to come.

In strolling about the better part of the city, one sees through the
broad, arched entrances to the courtyards of the finest private
residences in Mexico, upon the first or street floor, the stable, the
kitchen, and the coach house, with hostlers grooming the animals, or
washing the harnesses and vehicles, while the family live directly over
all these arrangements, up one flight of broad stone steps. This is a
Spanish custom, which is observable in Havana and continental Spain, as
well as in all the cities of Mexico. Other patios, whose occupants do
not keep private vehicles, adorn these areas with charming plants, small
tropical trees, blooming flowers, statuary, and fountains. Here and
there hang cages containing bright-colored singing birds, parrots, and
paroquets, not forgetting to mention the clear, shrill-voiced
mocking-bird, which is a universal favorite. The Mexican macaw is pretty
sure to be represented by a fine member of his species in these
ornamental patios. He is a gaudy, noisy fellow. The head, breast, and
back are of a deep red, the wings yellow, blue, and green. The tail is
composed of a dozen feathers, six of which are stout, short, and
tapering, while the rest are fourteen inches in length. He passes his
time in screaming, and scrambling about with the aid of his claws and
hooked beak combined, going as far as the tiny chain which is attached
to one foot and fastened to the perch will permit. His favorite attitude
seems to be hanging head downward from his perch like an acrobat, often
remaining thus a distressingly long time, until one would fain coax him
into a normal position with some favorite tidbit of cake, sugar, or
fruit.

Officials and merchants often combine their dwellings and places of
business, so that here and there a patio will exhibit various samples of
merchandise, or the sign of a government official over a room devoted to
office purposes. How people able to do otherwise are willing to sleep,
eat, and live over a stable certainly seems, to us, very strange. At
night these patios are guarded by closing large metal--studded doors, a
concierge always sleeping near at hand either to admit any of the family
or to resist the entrance of any unauthorized persons, very much after
the practice which is common in France and the cities of Northern
Europe.

We used the expression "while strolling about the better part of the
city," etc.; but let us not convey a wrong impression thereby, for there
are no exclusively aristocratic streets or quarters in the city of
Mexico. The houses of both the upper and lower classes are mingled,
scattered here and there, often adjoining each other. Some few of the
better class of houses, like the domes of some of the churches, are
faced with porcelain tiles, giving the effect of mosaic; but this has a
tawdry appearance, and is exceptional in the national capital. At Puebla
it is much more common, that city being the headquarters of
tile-manufacturing.

No matter how many times one may visit the grand cathedral, each fresh
view impresses him with some new feature and also with its vastness. As
to the harmony of its architectural effect, that element does not enter
into the consideration, for there is really no harmony about it.
Everything is vague, so to speak, irregular, and a certain appearance of
incompleteness is apparent. There is at all times a considerable number
of women, and occasionally members of the other sex, to be seen bending
before the several chapels; deformed mendicants and professional beggars
mingle with the kneeling crowd. Rags flutter beside the most costly
laces; youth kneels with crabbed old age; rich and poor meet upon the
same level before the sacred altar. Priests by the half dozen, in
scarlet, blue, gilt, and yellow striped robes officiate hourly before
tall candles which flicker dimly in the daylight, while boys dressed in
long white gowns swing censers of burning incense. The gaudy trappings
have the usual theatrical effect, and no doubt serve, together with the
deep peals of the organ, the dim light of the interior, the monotone of
the priest's voice, in an unknown tongue, profoundly to impress the poor
and ignorant masses. The largest number of devotees, nearly all of whom,
as intimated, are women, were seen kneeling before the small chapel
where rest the remains of Iturbide, first emperor of Mexico, whose tomb
bears the simple legend: "The Liberator." None more appropriate could
have been devised, for through him virtually was Mexican independence
won, though his erratic career finally ended so tragically.

Just outside of the main entrance of the cathedral, a middle-aged woman
was seen importuning the passers, and especially strangers, to purchase
lottery tickets, her voice being nearly drowned by the loud tongue of
the great bell in the western tower. Presently she thrust her budget of
tickets into her bosom and entered the cathedral, where she knelt before
one of the side altars, repeating incessantly the sign of the cross
while she whispered a formula of devotion. A moment later she was to be
seen offering her lottery tickets on the open plaza, no doubt believing
that her business success in their sale would be promoted by her
attendance before the altar. How groveling must be the ignorance which
can be thus blinded!

It may not be generally known that these lotteries are operated, to a
considerable extent, by the church, and form one of its never-failing
sources of income, proving more profitable even than the sale of
indulgences, though the latter is _all_ profit, whereas there is some
trifling expense attendant upon getting up a lottery scheme. A few
prizes must be distributed in order to make the cheat more plausible. As
to the validity of indulgences, one cannot actually test that matter on
this side of Lethe.

As will be seen, all classes of rogues are represented among the
apparently devout worshipers. On the occasion of our second visit to the
cathedral, a gentleman who had his pockets picked by an expert kneeling
devotee hastened for a policeman, and soon returning, pointed out the
culprit, who was promptly arrested; but, much to the disgust of the
complainant, he also was compelled to go with the officer and prisoner
to the police headquarters, where we heard that he recovered his stolen
property, though it cost him three quarters of a day's attendance at
some sort of police court, and about half the amount of the sum which
the rogue had abstracted.

All observant strangers visit the cemetery of San Fernando, which
adjoins the church of the same name. This is the Mount Auburn or Père la
Chaise of Mexico, in a very humble sense, however. Here rest the ashes
of those most illustrious in the history of the country. One is
particularly interested in the tomb and monument of the greatest
statesman Mexico has known, her Indian President, Benito Juarez,
pronounced Hoo-arèz. The design of this elaborate tomb is a little
confusing at first, but the general effect is certainly very fine and
impressive. The group consists of two figures, life size, wrought in the
purest of white marble, showing the late president lying at full length
in his shroud, with his head supported by a mourning female figure
representing Mexico. The name of the sculptor is Manuel Islas, who has
embodied great nobility and touching pathos in the expression of the
combined whole. The base of the monument, as we stood before it, was
half hidden by freshly contributed wreaths of flowers. A small Grecian
temple surrounded by columns incloses this commemorative group, to which
the traveler will be very sure to pay a second visit before leaving the
capital. Many of the monuments in this city of the dead are of the
beautiful native onyx, which has a very grand effect when cut in heavy
slabs. The grounds are circumscribed in extent and overcrowded. No name,
we believe, is held in higher esteem by the general public than that of
Benito Juarez, who died July 18, 1872, after being elected to fill the
presidential chair for a third term.

Juarez was a Zapotec Indian, a hill tribe which had never been fully
under Spanish control. He was thoroughly educated, and followed the law
as a profession. Being fully alive to its character, he always opposed
the machinations of the Catholic Church. His dream and ambition was to
establish a Mexican republic, and the present constitution, which bears
date of 1857, was virtually his gift to the people. He has been very
properly called the prophet and architect of the republic.

In the cemetery of San Fernando were also seen the tombs of Mejia and
Miramon, the two generals who, together with Maximilian, were shot at
Queretaro. Here also are the tombs of Guerrero, Zaragoza, Comonfort, and
others of note in Mexican history. The cemetery as a whole is very
poorly arranged and quite unworthy of such a capital. The bodies of most
persons buried here are placed in coffins which are deposited in the
walls, and even graves are built upon the surface of the ground, because
of the fact that at a few feet below one comes to the great swamp or
lake which underlies all this part of the valley. There is another
Mexican cemetery worthy of mention, which is beautifully laid out and
arranged. It is that of Dolores, on the hillside southwest of Tacubaya,
just beyond Chapultepec. In the American cemetery are buried some four
hundred of our countrymen, soldiers, who died here in 1847. The English
and American cemeteries lie together. The poor people of the city, when
a death occurs in the family, hire a coffin of the dealers for the
purpose of carrying their dead to the burial-place, after which it is
returned to the owner, to be again leased for a similar object by some
other party. The dead bodies of this class are buried in the open earth,
a trench only being dug in the ground. Suitable wood is so scarce and so
valuable in the capital that coffins are very expensive. Those designed
for young children are seen exposed for sale decorated in the most
fantastic manner. One narrow street near the general market and close to
the plaza is almost wholly appropriated, on the street floor, to
coffin-makers' shops. We counted eleven of these doleful establishments
within as many rods of each other. The coffins designed for adults are
universally colored jet black; but those for children are elaborately
ornamented with scroll work of white upon a black ground. One of these
last is hung up as a sign at the entrance of each shop devoted to this
business. When a funeral cortege appears on the street, be it never so
humble, every one faces the same with uncovered head until it has
passed. An episode of this melancholy character is recalled which
occurred on San Francisco Street one morning. A very humble peon was
seen bearing his child's coffin upon his back, followed by the mother,
grandmother, and two children, with downcast eyes, five persons in all
forming the sad procession, if it may be so called. It was observed that
the gayly-dressed and elegantly mounted caballero promptly backed his
horse to the curbstone and raised his sombrero while the mourners moved
by, that other peons bowed their bare heads, and that every hat, either
silk or straw, was respectfully doffed along the street, as the solemn
little cortege wound its way to the last resting-place of humanity.



CHAPTER XI.

The Shrine of Guadalupe.--Priestly Miracles.--A Remarkable Spring.--The
    Chapels about the Hill.--A Singular Votive Offering.--Church of
    Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe.--Costly Decorations.--A Campo Santo.--
    Tomb of Santa Anna.--Strange Contrasts.--Guadalupe-Hidalgo.--The
    Twelve Shrines on the Causeway.--The Viga Canal.--The Floating
    Islands.--Indian Gamblers.--Vegetable Market.--Flower Girls.--The
    "Noche-Triste" Tree.--Ridiculous Signs.--Queer Titles.--Floral
    Festival.


Guadalupe, the sacred Mecca of the Roman Catholics of Mexico, is reached
by a tramway of about two or three miles in length, running in a
northeasterly direction from the city. It appears that in the Aztec
period there was here a native shrine dedicated to some mythological
god, and as the foolish legend runs, a miracle caused this spot to be
changed to a Christian shrine. The story is told with great unction by
"true believers," but to a calm, unbiased mind it is too utterly
ridiculous for repetition. These church miracles were simply chronic
during the Spanish rule. "The religion of Mexico," says Wilson, "is a
religion of priestly miracles, and when the ordinary rules of evidence
are applied to them, they and the religion that rests upon them fall
together." Guadalupe forms a rough, irregular elevation some hundred
feet or more above the level of the surrounding plain. Beside the rude
stairway leading to the top of the hill, there is built a stone column,
in the shape of a ship's mast with the square sails set upon it. This is
said to have been a votive offering by some sailors who were threatened
with shipwreck at Vera Cruz. When in dire distress, the party referred
to vowed that if the Virgin of Guadalupe would save the lives of the
crew, they would bring the ship's mast to her shrine and set it up
there, as a perpetual memento of her protecting power. The mariners were
saved and kept their vow, bringing the mast upon their shoulders all the
way from Vera Cruz. Here they set it up and built around it a covering
of stone, and thus it stands to this day. It is between thirty and forty
feet high, and about twelve feet wide at the base, tapering upwards--a
most unsightly and incongruous monument. On the summit of the hill there
is a small chapel known as the Capilla del Cerrito, and two or three
near its base, one of which has a large dome covered with enameled
tiles. This is known as the Capilla del Pocito, and supports in its
cupola some of the harshest and most ear-piercing bells which we have
ever chanced to hear. This chapel covers a somewhat remarkable spring,
which is abundant and never failing in its supply, for whose waters
great and miraculous power is claimed. It manifestly contains a large
impregnation of iron, and is no doubt a good tonic, beyond which its
virtues are of course mythical. It is held by the surrounding populace
to be an infallible remedy in the instance of unfruitful women, and is
the constant resort of that class from far and near. These chapels at
Guadalupe are decorated in the crudest and most inartistic manner,
entirely unworthy of such belief as is professed in the sacredness of
the place, or of the virtues attributed by the priests to them as a
religious shrine. Money enough has been wasted, but there seems to be an
utter lack of good taste.

Over two million dollars had been expended on the church of Nuestra
Señora de Guadalupe, which stands at the foot of the hill, in supplying
the usual inventory of jewels, gold and silver plate, and other
extravagant church belongings. The church just named is built of brick
and stone combined, with four towers about a central dome, and is also
known as the cathedral of Guadalupe. The solid silver railing extending
from the choir to the high altar is three feet in height. Owing to its
presumed sacredness, this church, unlike the cathedral of the city near
at hand, has never been despoiled. Its interior is very rich in
ornamentation, among the most effective portions of which we remember
its fine onyx columns supporting lofty arches of Moorish architecture.
The costly elegance displayed in this cathedral is exactly suited to a
faith in which there is so little worship and so much form and ceremony.

On coming out of this elaborate edifice, half dazed by its expensive and
gaudy trappings, we step at once into an atmosphere of abject poverty
and want. The surroundings of the chapels and cathedral of Guadalupe are
in strong contrast with the interiors. This is undoubtedly the dirtiest
and most neglected suburb of the capital, where low pulque shops and a
half-naked population of beggars stare one in the face at every turn.
What sort of Christian faith is that which can hoard jewels of fabulous
value, with costly plate of gold and silver, in the sacristy of its
temple, while the poor, crippled, naked people starve on the outside of
its gilded walls? "Ah!" says Shelley, "what a divine religion might be
found out if charity were really made the principle of it instead of
faith!"

The grand view to be obtained from the summit of the hill of Guadalupe
amply repays the visitor for climbing the rude steps and rough roadway,
notwithstanding the terribly offensive odors arising from the dirty
condition of the neglected surroundings. It embraces the city in the
middle foreground, a glimpse of Chapultepec and the two grand mountains
in the distance, together with the surrounding plains dotted with low
adobe villages. The long white roads of the causeways, lined with
verdant trees, divide the spacious plain by artistic lines of beauty,
while between them green fields of alfalfa, and yellow, ripening maize
give delightful bits of light and shade. On the back of the hill, behind
the chapel crowning the summit, is a small cemetery full to repletion of
tombs dedicated to famous persons. Great prices, we were told, are paid
for interments in this sacred spot. Among the most interesting tombs was
that of Santa Anna, the hero of more defeats than any notable soldier
whom we can recall. He is remembered as a traitor by the average Mexican
(just as Bazaine is regarded by the French), although he was five times
President and four times military Dictator of Mexico. It will be
remembered that this eccentric and notorious soldier of fortune was
banished to the West Indies, whence he wrote a congratulatory letter to
the intruder Maximilian, and sought to take command under him. His
proffered aid was coolly declined, whereupon he offered his services to
Juarez, who was fighting against Maximilian, but was repulsed with equal
promptness. In a rage at this treatment, he fitted out an expedition
against both parties, landed in Mexico, was taken prisoner, and in
consideration of the services once rendered his country his life was
spared; but he was again banished, to finish his days in poverty and in
a foreign land. His wooden leg, captured during our war with Mexico, is
in the Smithsonian Institution at Washington. The town which surrounds
the immediate locality of these shrines of Guadalupe has a population of
about three thousand, and is particularly memorable as being the place
where the treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo was signed, February 2, 1848,
between the United States and Mexico. The name of Guadalupe was combined
with that of Hidalgo, the Washington of Mexico as he is called, who in
1810 raised the cry of independence against the Spanish yoke, and though
he was captured and shot, after eleven years of hard fighting, the goal
of independence was reached by those who survived him. He is reported to
have said just before his execution: "I die, but the seeds of liberty
will be watered by my blood. The cause does not die. That still lives
and will surely triumph."

Churches bearing the name of Guadalupe are to be found all over the
country, the Virgin of Guadalupe being the adopted patron saint of
Mexico. Along the main road or causeway leading from the capital to the
hill of Guadalupe,--now given up to the use of the Vera Cruz
Railway,--one sees tall stone shrines which were erected long ago,
before which deluded pilgrims and penitents knelt on their way thither.
These were intended to commemorate the twelve places at which the
Saviour fell down on his journey while bearing the cross to Calvary. It
was called the road of humiliation and prayer, over which devotees crept
on their hands and knees, seeking expiation for their sins, instigated
by priestly suggestions and superstitious fears. Over this causeway,
Maximilian, actuated by his fanatical religious devotion, and by a
desire to impress the popular mind, walked barefooted from the city
walls to the shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe! The hold of the priests
on the Mexican people to-day is confined almost entirely to the peons
and humble laborers. It is a common saying that when a peon earns two
dollars he gives one dollar and forty-five cents to the priest, spends
fifty cents for pulque, and supports his family on the remaining five
cents. Among the educated classes the men are beginning to refuse to
permit their wives and daughters to attend the confessional, the most
subtle and portentous agency for evil that was ever invented, which has
contaminated more innocence and destroyed more domestic happiness than
any other known cause.

The tramway which runs out to the Viga Canal takes one a couple of miles
into an extremely interesting region, exhibiting many novel phases of
native life. The thoroughfare runs beside the canal for a considerable
distance, the banks of which are shaded here and there by drooping
willows and rows of tall Lombardy poplars. How old the canal is, no one
can say; it certainly antedates the period of the Conquest. The
straw-thatched, Indian, African-looking town of Santa Anita is a
curiosity in itself, surrounded by the floating islands, which we are
soberly told did really float centuries ago. "Here they beheld," says
Prescott, "those fairy islands of flowers, overshadowed occasionally by
trees of considerable size, rising and falling with the gentle
undulations of the billows." One does not like to play the _rôle_ of an
iconoclast, but probably these islands were always pretty much as they
are to-day. The "floating" idea is a poetical license, and was born in
the imaginative brain of the Spanish writers. Had Prescott ever seen
them, he would doubtless have come to the same conclusion. "Hanging"
gardens do not necessarily depend from anything, "floating" islands need
not necessarily float. They really have the appearance of buoyancy
to-day, and hence the figure of speech which has been universally
applied to them. "I have not seen any floating gardens," says R. A.
Wilson, author of "Mexico and its Religion," "nor, on diligent inquiry,
have I been able to find a man, woman, or child that ever has seen them,
nor do I believe that such a thing as a floating garden ever existed at
Mexico." They are now anchored to the bottom fast enough, that is
certain, being separated from each other and the main land by little
narrow canals. The soil of which they are constituted is kept always
moist by natural irrigation, and is wonderfully fertile in producing
flowers, fruits, and mammoth vegetables. Seed-time and harvest are
perennial on these peculiar islands. Men are always ready with a rude
sort of boat, which the most poetic imagination cannot dignify into a
gondola, but which is so called. These floats are about fifteen feet
long, four wide, flat bottomed, with low sides, and have no covering.
The boatmen row, or rather pole, the boats through the little canals,
giving the passengers a view of the low, rank vegetation on the islands,
some of which present a pleasing floral picture, rather curious, but not
very interesting. On Sundays and festal days the middle and lower
classes of the capital come hither in large numbers to amuse themselves
with the tall swings, the merry-go-rounds, and the scowlike boats, to
eat dulces at the booths, and to drink inordinate quantities of pulque
at the many stands at which it is dispensed at popular prices. The
pungent liquor permeates the surrounding atmosphere with its sour and
offensive odor. Here one sees numerous groups busy at that besetting sin
of the Indians, gambling. It is practiced on all occasions and in all
places, the prevailing means being "the wheel of fortune." An itinerant
bearing one of these instruments strapped about his shoulders stops here
and there, soon gathering a crowd of the curious about him. The
lottery-ticket vender drowns all other cries in his noisy search after
customers, reaping a large harvest, especially on Sundays, in this
popular resort. The old stone church of Santa Anita is a crumbling mass
of Moorish architecture, with a fine tower, the whole sadly out of
repair, yet plainly speaking of past grandeur.

On the way to these islands by the Paseo de la Viga, we pass through an
out-door vegetable market, which is remarkable for the size of some of
the specimens offered for sale; radishes were displayed which were as
large as beets, also plethoric turnips, overgrown potatoes, ambitious
carrots, and broad spread heads of lettuce as big as a Mexican sombrero.
There were many sorts of greens for making salads, of which the average
Mexican is very fond, besides flowers mingled with tempting fruits, such
as oranges, lemons, melons, and pineapples. The latter, we suspect, must
have come from as far south as Cordova. Young Indian girls, with
garlands of various-colored poppies about their necks, like the natives
of Hawaii, offered us for a trifle tiny bouquets made of rosebuds,
pansies, violets, tube-roses, and scarlet geraniums, all grown close at
hand on these misnamed floating islands. One low, thatched adobe cabin,
between the roadway and the canals, in Santa Anita, was covered with a
mammoth blooming vine, known here as the _copa de oro_. Its great yellow
flowers were indeed like cups of gold, inviting our attention above all
the other floral emblems for which the little Indian village is famous.
Great quantities come daily from this suburb to supply the city demand,
and especially on the occasion of the floral festivals, which have their
headquarters in the plaza and the alameda, as elsewhere described.

There is much to be seen and enjoyed in these brief excursions by
tramway into the environs of the city. One should not forget to take the
cars which start from the west side of the Plaza Mayor, and which pass
through the Riviera de San Cosme out to the village of Popotla, where
the famous "Noche-triste" tree is to be seen. It is situated about three
miles from the plaza. Cortez is said to have sat down under its branches
and wept over his misfortunes when he was obliged to retreat from the
capital, on the night of July 1, 1520, still known as the "Dismal
Night." Whether this story be true or otherwise, it matters very little.
Suffice it that this big gnarled tree is held sacred and historic by the
citizens, and is always visited by strangers who come to the capital. It
is of the cedar family, and its dilapidated condition, together with the
size of the trunk, shows its great antiquity. At present it measures ten
feet in diameter at the base, with a height exceeding forty feet.
Although broken and decayed in many of its parts, it is sufficiently
alive to bear foliage. The gray, drooping moss hangs from its decaying
branches, like a mourner's veil shrouding face and neck, emblematic of
the tears which the daring adventurer is said to have wept in its
shadow. An iron railing protects the tree from careless usage and from
the knives of ruthless relic hunters. A party of so-called ladies and
gentlemen--we are sorry to say they were Americans--broke off some of
the twigs of the tree, in 1885, to bring away with them. For this
vandalism they were promptly arrested, and very properly fined by a
Mexican court. Close by this interesting tree of the "Dismal Night"
stands the ancient church of San Esteban.

The practice prevails in the cities of Mexico that one sees in Cuba and
in continental Spain, as regards the signs which traders place over
their doors. The individual's name is never given, but the merchant
adopts some fancy one to designate his place of business. Seeing the
title "El Congreso Americana," "The American Congress," we were a little
disconcerted, on investigation, to find that it was the sign of a large
and popular bar-room. Near by was another sign reading thus: "El
Diablo," that is, "The Devil." This was over a pulque shop, which seemed
to be appropriately designated. Farther on towards the alameda was "El
Sueño de Amor," signifying "The Dream of Love." This was over a shop
devoted to the sale of serapes and other dry goods. On the Calle de San
Bernardo, over one of the entrances where dry goods were sold, was seen,
in large gold letters, "La Perla," "The Pearl." Again near the plaza we
read, "La Dos Republics," meaning "The Two Republics." This was a hat
store, with gorgeous sombreros displayed for sale. "El Recreo," "The
Retreat," was a billiard hall and bar-room combined, while not far away
"El Opalo," "The Opal," designated a store where dulces were sold. "La
Bomba," "The Bomb," was the sign over a saddle and harness shop. "El
Amor Cantivo," "Captive Love," was the motto of a dry goods store. "La
Coquetta," "The Coquette," was the title of a cigar shop.

These stores are almost all conducted by French or German owners, with
now and then a Jew of uncertain nationality; few are kept by Spaniards,
and none by Americans, or citizens of the United States. American
enterprise seeks expression here in a larger field. Where a trunk line
of railroad a thousand miles or more is demanded, as in the instance of
the Mexican Central, they are sure to be found at the front, with
capital, executive ability, and the energy which commands success. The
surveys for the Mexican railroads demanding the very best ability were
made by Americans, the locomotive drivers are nearly all Americans, and
more than half the conductors upon the regular railway trains are
Americans. The infusion of American spirit among the Mexican people is
perhaps slow, but it is none the less sure and steady.

Each sort of business has its distinctive emblem. The butcher always
hangs out a crimson banner. In some portions of the town there are
painted caricatures on the fronts of certain places to designate their
special business. For instance, in front of a pulque shop is found a
laughable figure of a man with a ponderous stomach, drinking his
favorite tipple. At another, which is the popular drinking resort of the
bull-fighters, is represented a scene where a picadore is being tossed
high in air from the horns of an infuriated bull, and so on. The names
of some of the streets of the capital show how the Roman Catholic Church
has tried to impress itself upon the attention of the populace even in
the titles of large thoroughfares. Thus we have the Crown of Thorns
Street, the Holy Ghost Bridge, Mother of Sorrows Street, Blood of
Christ Street, Holy Ghost Street, Street of the Sacred Heart, and the
like. Protestants of influence have protested against this use of names,
and changes therein have been seriously considered by the local
government. As previously explained, some of these streets have been so
named because there were churches bearing these titles situated in them.

Friday, the 28th of March, the day of Viernes de Dolores, was a floral
festal occasion in and about the city of Mexico. The origin of this
observance we did not exactly understand, except that it is an old
Indian custom, which is carefully honored by all classes, and a very
beautiful one it most certainly is. For several days previous to that
devoted to the exhibition, preparations were made for it by the erection
of frames, tents, canvas roofing, and the like, in the centre of the
alameda and over its approaches. At sunrise on the day designated, the
people resorted in crowds to the broad and beautiful paths, roadways,
and circles of the delightful old park, to find pyramids of flowers
elegantly arranged about the fountains, while the passageways were lined
by flower dealers from the country with beautiful and fragrant bouquets,
for sale at prices and in shapes to suit all comers. Nothing but a true
love of flowers could suggest such attractive combinations. Into some of
the bouquets strawberries with long stems were introduced, in order to
obtain a certain effect of color; in others was seen a handsome red
berry in clusters, like the fruit of the mountain ash. We had observed
the preparations, and were on the spot at the first peep of the day. The
Indians came down the Paseo de la Reforma in the gray light of the dawn,
and stopped beside the entrance to the alameda, men and women laden with
fragrance and bloom from all parts of the valley of Mexico within a
radius of forty miles from the city. One lot of burros, numbering a
score and more, formed a singularly picturesque and novel group. The
animals, except their heads and long ears, were absolutely hidden
beneath masses of radiant color. Groups of women sitting upon the ground
were busy making up bouquets, which were most artistically combined.
These natives love bright colors, and have an instinctive eye for
graceful combinations.

Of course the variety of flowers was infinite. We remember, among them,
red and white roses, pansies, violets, heliotropes, sweet peas,
gardenias, camelias, both calla and tiger lilies, honeysuckles,
forget-me-nots, verbenas, pinks in a variety of colors, larkspur,
jasmine, petunias, morning glories, tulips, scarlet geraniums, and
others. Three military bands placed in central positions added spirit
and interest to the suggestive occasion. The harmony of the music
blended with the perfume of the flowers, completing the charm of such a
scene of floral extravagance as we have never before witnessed. Our
florists might get many bright, new ideas as to the arrangements of
bouquets from these Mexicans.

None of the populace seemed to be too poor to purchase freely of the
flowers, all decking their persons with them. As fast as the bouquets
were disposed of, their places were filled with a fresh supply, the
source being, apparently, inexhaustible. Young and old, rich and poor,
thronged to the flower-embowered alameda on this occasion, and there was
no seeming diminution of demand or of supply up to high noon, when we
left the still enthusiastic and merry crowd. In the afternoon, no matter
in what part of the town we were, the same floral enthusiasm and spirit
possessed the populace. Balcony, doorway, carriage windows, and market
baskets, married women and youthful señoritas, boys and girls, cripples
and beggars, all indulged in floral decoration and display. It appeared
that several carloads of flowers came from far-away Jalapa to supply the
demand in the national capital made upon the kingdom of Flora for this
flower festival.



CHAPTER XII.

Castle of Chapultepec.--"Hill of the Grasshopper."--Montezuma's Retreat.
    --Palace of the Aztec Kings.--West Point of Mexico.--Battles of
    Molino del Rey and Churubusco.--The Mexican White House.--High above
    Sea Level.--Village of Tacubaya.--Antique Carvings.--Ancient Toluca.
    --The Maguey.--Fine Scenery.--Cima.--Snowy Peaks.--Leon d'Oro.--The
    Bull-Ring and Cockpit.--A Literary Institution.--The Coral Tree.--
    Ancient Pyramids.--Pachuca.--Silver Product of the Mines.--A Cornish
    Colony.--Native Cabins.--Indian Endurance.


One of the pleasantest excursions in the environs of the capital is in a
southwesterly direction to the castle of Chapultepec, a name which
signifies the "Hill of the Grasshopper." It is situated at the end of
the long Paseo de la Reforma, the grandest avenue in the country,
running straight away two miles and more between statuary and ornamental
trees to this historic and attractive locality. About Chapultepec are
gathered more of the grand memories of the country than on any other
spot south of the Rio Grande. Here it was intended to establish the most
grand and sumptuous court of the nineteenth century, over which
Maximilian and Carlotta were to preside as emperor and empress. Their
ambition was limitless; but how brief was their day-dream! The fortress
occupies a very commanding position, standing upon a rocky upheaval some
two hundred feet above the surrounding plain, thus rising abruptly out
of the marshy swamp. It is encircled by a beautiful park composed mostly
of old cypress-trees, many of which are draped in gray Spanish moss, as
soft and suggestive an adornment as that of the moss-rose. We ascend the
hill to the castle by a deeply-shaded road, formed by a wood so dense
that the sun scarcely penetrates its darkness. On the side of this
tree-embowered road, about halfway to the summit, one is shown a natural
cave, before the mouth of which is a huge iron gate. Herein, it is said,
the Aztec kings deposited their treasures. Here, also, Cortez is
believed to have placed his stolen wealth, under guard of his most
trusted followers, which was afterward transported to Spain. One
immemorial cypress was pointed out to us in the grove of Chapultepec,
said to have been a favorite resort of Montezuma I., who often enjoyed
its cooling shade. This tree measures about fifty feet in circumference.
We were assured, by good local authority, that some of these trees date
back to more than twice ten hundred years. If there is any truth in the
concentric ring theory, this is easily proved. The best-informed persons
upon this subject have little doubt that these trees are the remains of
a primeval forest which surrounded the burial-place of the Incas. There
is plenty of evidence to show that when Cortez first penetrated the
country and reached this high plain of Anahuac, it was covered with a
noble forest of oaks, cedars, cypresses, and other trees. To one who has
not seen the giant trees of Australia and the grand conifers of the
Yosemite Valley, these mammoths must be indeed a revelation,--trees that
may have been growing before the advent of Christ upon earth. Here and
there a few modern elms and pines have been planted in the Chapultepec
grove; and though they are of respectable or average size, they look
like pigmies beside these gigantic trees. During all the wars and
battles which have taken place around and above them, these grand old
monarchs have remained undisturbed, flourishing quietly amid the
fiercest strife of the elements and the bitter contentions of men.

According to Spanish history, here stood of old the palace of the Aztec
kings; and it seems to have ever been the favorite abiding place of the
Mexican rulers, from the time of Montezuma I. to President Diaz, being a
fortress, a palace, and a charming garden combined, overlooking the
grandest valley on the continent. On Sundays the _élite_ of the city
come here to enjoy the delightful drive, as well as the shady park which
leads to the summit of the hill, welcomed by the fragrance of flowers,
and charmed by the rippling of cooling fountains. At the base of the
elevation on which the castle stands, at its eastern foot, bursts forth
the abundant spring from which the city is in part supplied with water.
Here begins the San Cosme aqueduct, a huge, arched structure of heavy
masonry, which adds picturesqueness to the scenery. Maximilian, upon
taking up his abode here, caused a number of beautiful avenues to be
constructed in various directions, suitable for drives, in addition to
the grand paseo leading to the city, which also owes its construction
to his taste and liberality. The drives about the castle are shaded by
tall, thickly-set trees of various sorts, planted within the last twenty
years.

Chapultepec is now improved in part for a military school, the "West
Point" of Mexico, accommodating a little over three hundred cadets, who,
coming from the best families of the country, here serve a seven years'
apprenticeship in acquiring a sound education and a thorough knowledge
of the art of war. The course of studies, it is understood, is very
comprehensive, and to graduate here is esteemed a high honor from an
educational point of view. Several of the professors who are attached to
the institution came from the best European schools. We were shown
through the dormitories of the cadets and other domestic offices, where
everything was in admirable order, but it was a disappointment to see
the lackadaisical manner of these young gentlemen on parade, quite in
consonance with the undisciplined character of the rank and file of the
army. The pretense of discipline was a mere subterfuge, and would simply
disgust a West Pointer or a European soldier. These cadets were somehow
very diminutive in stature, and their presence was anything but manly.

This is justly regarded as classic ground in the ancient and modern
history of the country. It will be remembered that the steep acclivity,
though bravely defended, was stormed and captured by a mere handful of
Americans under General Pillow during the war of 1847. In the rear of
the hill, to the southward, less than two miles away, is the field
where the battle of Molino del Rey--"the King's Mill"--was fought, and
not far away that of Churubusco, both contests won by the Americans, who
were under the command of General Scott. Lieutenant Grant, afterwards
General Grant and President of the United States, was one of the first
to enter the fortified position at the taking of Chapultepec. Grant, in
his memoirs, pays General Scott due honor as a soldier and a strategist,
but expresses the opinion that both the battles of Chapultepec and
Molino del Rey were needless, as the two positions could have been
turned.

Any civilian can realize the mistake which Scott made. The possession of
the mill at that juncture was of no consequence. Chapultepec was of
course to be carried, and when our troops were in possession of that
fortified height the position at the mill was untenable. A fierce and
unnecessary, though victorious battle on our part was here fought,
wherein the Americans suffered considerable loss, principally from a
masked battery, which was manned by volunteers from the city workshops.
Near to Molino del Rey the Mexicans have erected a monument
commemorating their own valor and defeat, when close to a city of nearly
three hundred thousand inhabitants their redoubtable army was beaten and
driven from the field by about ten thousand Americans. The Mexicans did
not and do not lack for courage, but they required proper leaders which
they had not, and a unity of purpose in which they were equally
deficient.

As intimated, a portion of the spacious castle forms the residence of
the chief of the republic, being thus the "White House," as it is
termed, of Mexico, in which are many spacious halls and galleries, all
of which are handsomely decorated, the outside being surrounded by wide
marble terraces and paved courts. Here Maximilian expended half a
million dollars in gaudy ornamentations and radical alterations to suit
his lavish desires. The interior decorations were copies from Pompeii.
For the brief period which he was permitted to occupy the castle, it was
famous for a succession of _fêtes_, receptions, dinners, and dances. No
European court could surpass the lavish elegance and dissipation which
was indulged in by Maximilian and his very sweet but ambitious wife
Carlotta. Her personal popularity and influence was fully equal to that
of her husband, while her tenacity of purpose and strength of will far
excelled that of the vacillating and conceited emperor.

The view from the lofty ramparts is perhaps the finest in the entire
valley of Mexico, which is in form an elevated plain about thirty by
forty miles in extent, its altitude being a little less than eight
thousand feet above the sea. This view embraces the national capital,
with its countless spires, domes, and public buildings, the magnificent
avenues of trees leading to the city, its widespread environs, the
looming churches of Guadalupe, the village-dotted plain stretching away
in all directions, the distant lakes glowing beneath the sun's rays, and
having for a background at the eastward two of the loftiest,
glacier-crowned mountains on the continent, bold and beautiful in
outline, tranquil and immovable in their grandeur. The steady glow of
the warm sunlight gilded cross and pinnacle, as we gazed on this picture
through the softening haze of approaching twilight,--a view which we
have hardly, if ever, seen surpassed.

In ascending the many steps which lead to the battlements of
Chapultepec, one of our party, a Boston lady, fairly gasped for breath,
declaring that some serious illness threatened her; but when she was
quietly informed that she was about forty times as high above the sea as
the vane on Park Street Church in her native city, she realized what it
was that caused a temporary difficulty in breathing; it was the
extremely rarefied atmosphere, to which she was not accustomed. At such
an elevation, in the latitude of Boston, the temperature would be almost
arctic; but it is to be remembered that this high table-land of the
valley of Mexico is under the Tropic of Cancer, and therefore enjoys
almost a perpetual spring, though it is extremely dry. The atmosphere
is, in fact, so devoid of moisture that food or fresh meat will dry up,
but will not mould or spoil, however long it may be kept.

On the left of Chapultepec lies the attractive suburban village of
Tacubaya, already referred to, where the wealthy citizens of the capital
have summer residences, some of which are really so elegant as to have a
national reputation. These are thrown open to strangers on certain days,
to exhibit their accumulation of rare and beautiful objects of art, and
the luxuries of domestic life.

As we left Chapultepec by a narrow road winding through the remnant of a
once vast forest, attention was called to the ancient inscriptions upon
the rocks at the eastern base of the hill near the roadside. They are in
half relief; and, so far as we could decipher them, they seemed to be
Toltec rather than Aztec. They are engraven on the natural rock, and are
of a character quite unintelligible to the present generation. For years
these were hidden by the dense undergrowth, being on the edge of the
plain, near the spot where the Americans clambered up the steep
acclivity when they stormed the castle. The shrubbery has now been
cleared away so as to render them distinctly visible.

Toluca, the capital of the State of Mexico, is easily reached by a
narrow gauge railway, being less than fifty miles from the national
capital. It is a well-built and thriving town, containing about
twenty-five thousand inhabitants, more or less, and situated at an
elevation of about eight thousand and six hundred feet above the sea.
The municipal buildings and state capitol, all modern, are thought to be
the finest in the republic. They face upon a delightful plaza, the
almost universal arrangement in these cities. Beyond the valley of
Toluca, which is larger than that of Mexico, are others as broad and as
fertile, all of which are watered by the Rio Lerma. The trip hither from
the national capital leads us through some of the grandest scenery in
the country, as well as taking us over some of the most abrupt ascents
in Mexico. The districts through which the road passes nearest to the
city are mostly given up to the cultivation of the pulque-producing
maguey. These plantations are of great extent, being arranged with
mathematical precision, the plants placed ten feet apart in each
direction, in fields of twenty or thirty acres. The very sight of them
sets one to moralizing. Like the beautiful but treacherous poppy fields
which dazzle one in India, they are only too thrifty, too fruitful, too
ready to yield up their heart's blood for the pleasure, delusion, and
ruin of the people. We are all familiar with the broad, long,
bayonet-like leaf of this plant, which is to be seen in most of our
conservatories, known to us by the name of the century plant, and to
botanists as the _Agave Americana_. It rarely blooms except in tropical
climates. Indeed, it is best known with us at the north as the century
plant, a popular fallacy having become attached to it, that it blooms
but once in a hundred years. Hence the name which it bears in New
England. When the juice is first extracted it is sweet like new cider,
and is as harmless; it is believed to possess special curative
properties for some chronic ills that flesh is heir to, but fermentation
sets in soon after it is separated from the plant, and the alcoholic
principle is promptly developed. We were told at the city of Mexico that
the government treasury realizes a thousand dollars each day as a tax
upon the pulque which is brought into the capital from various parts of
the country, and that the railway companies receive an equal sum for the
freight.

There are two kinds of maguey: the cultivated plant from which comes
pulque, and one which grows wild in the desert parts of the country.
From the latter is distilled a coarse liquor which is highly
intoxicating, called mescal. This is a digression. Let us speak of our
journey to Toluca. If this very interesting city did not possess any
special attraction in itself, the unsurpassed scenery to be enjoyed on
the route thither would amply repay the traveler for the brief journey.
At about twenty miles from the city of Mexico, it is found that we have
risen to an elevation of eleven hundred feet above it, from which point
delightful views present themselves, embracing the entire valley, its
various thrifty crops distinguishable by their many hues; here, yellow,
ripening grain; there, the blue-green maguey plant; and yonder, wide
patches of dark, nutritious alfalfa; together with irrigating streams
sparkling in the sunshine, enlivened here and there by groups of grazing
cattle. Now an adobe hamlet comes into view, the low whitewashed cabins
clustering about a gray old stone church. Creeping up the mountain paths
are long lines of toiling burros, laden from hoofs to ears with
ponderous packs, and on the dusty road are straggling natives, men and
women, bearing heavy loads of produce, of wood, pottery, and fruit, to
the nearest market; while not far away a ploughman, driving three mules
abreast, turns the rich black soil with his one-pronged, one-handled
plough. Villages and plantations are passed in rapid succession, where
scores of square, tower-like corn cribs, raised upon four standards, are
seen adjoining the low, picturesque farmhouses.

At Dos Rios (Two Rivers), half-clad, gypsy-looking women and young,
nut-brown girls besiege the passengers to partake of fresh pulque, which
they serve in small earthen mugs. Two stout engines are required to draw
us over the steep grade. The highest point reached is at Cima (The
Summit) twenty-four miles from the city of Mexico, and ten thousand feet
above the level of the sea. This is the most elevated station in the
country, seriously affecting the respiration of many of our party.
Indeed, any considerable exertion puts one quite out of breath at such
an altitude. The conductor of the train was an American, who had been
engaged upon this route for a year and more; but he assured the author
that he was as seriously affected by the great elevation as when he
first took the position. It was observed, however, that the natives did
not seem to experience any such discomfort.

From Cima we descend the western slope of the ridge by a series of
grand, abrupt curves through the valley of San Lazar, after having thus
crossed the range of mountains known as Las Cruces. The white-headed
peak of the Nevada de Toluca, over fifteen thousand feet in height,--the
fourth highest peak in Mexico,--is long in sight from the car windows,
first on one side of the route and then on the other, while we pass over
the twists and turns of the track to the music of rippling waters
escorting us to the plains below. Mountain climbers tell us that from
the apex of this now sleeping volcano the Pacific Ocean, one hundred and
sixty miles away, can be seen. It is also said that with a powerful
field-glass the Gulf of Mexico can be discerned from the same position,
at a much longer distance. Baron von Humboldt tells us that he ascended
this peak in September, 1803, and that the actual summit is scarcely ten
feet wide. It occupied this indefatigable scientist two days to make the
ascent from Toluca and return.

But let us tell the patient reader about Toluca itself. The streets are
spacious, well-paved, and cleanly. A tramway takes us from the depot
through the Calle de la Independencia, on which thoroughfare there is a
statue of Hidalgo, which by its awkward pose and twisted limbs suggests
the idea of a person under the influence of pulque. At the hotel Leon
d'Oro, an excellent and well-served dinner was enjoyed, and it is spoken
of here because such an experience is a _rara avis_ in the republic of
Mexico. Among the numberless churches, a curious one will long be
remembered, namely, the Santa Vera Cruz, the façade of which very much
resembles that of a dime museum, having a lot of grotesquely-colored
figures of saints standing guard.

Toluca, notwithstanding its appearance of newness, is really one of the
oldest settlements in the country, dating from the year 1533. Activity
and growth are manifest on all sides. There is a spacious alameda in the
environs, but it is not kept in very good condition. The town has two
capacious theatres, and a large bull-ring, which is infamously noted for
its many fatal encounters. The bull-ring and the cockpit are two special
blots upon this otherwise attractive place,--attractive, we mean, as
compared with most Mexican towns. Cock-fighting is the favorite resort
of the amusement seekers, and in its way is made extremely cruel. One of
the two birds pitted against each other must die in the ring. This and
the hateful bull-fight were introduced by the Spanish invaders of Mexico
centuries ago, and are still only too popular all over the land. In the
cities one frequently meets a native with a game-cock under each arm,
and at some of the inland railroad stations they are tied in long rows,
each by its leg, and out of reach of the others, so that purchasers can
make their selection. It must be a very small town in Mexico which does
not contain one or more cockpits, not only as a Sunday resort for
amusement, but also as a medium for the inveterate gambling propensities
of the native people.

Here, also, there is the usual profusion of Roman Catholic churches, but
there is nothing remarkable about them. A couple of miles west of the
city is the church of Nuestra Señora de Tecajic, in which is exhibited a
"miraculous" image which is held in great veneration by the credulous
Indians. It is a picture painted on coarse cotton cloth, and
representing the assumption of the Virgin. This is an ancient shrine,
and has been in existence over two hundred years.

Near Toluca is an extinct volcano, the crater of which forms a large
lake of unknown depth, the water being as cold as ice.

The city supported several notable convents previous to the confiscation
of the church properties, which are now utilized for schools,
hospitals, and public offices. One educational establishment, the
Instituto Literario, is perhaps the widest known institution of learning
in Mexico, and has educated most of the distinguished men of the
country. It may be called the Harvard College of the republic. The
edifice devoted to the purpose is a very spacious one, and besides its
various other departments, it contains a fine library and a museum of
natural history, together with a well-arranged gymnasium.

Toluca has the best and largest general market which we saw in Mexico.
It is all under cover, and each article has its appropriate place of
sale, meats, fruits, vegetables, fish, flowers, pottery, baskets, shoes,
and sandals. It was a general market day when we chanced to be upon the
spot, and the throng of country people who had come in to the city to
dispose of their wares could not have numbered less than a couple of
thousand. Such a mingling of colors, of cries, of commodities! The whole
populace of the place seemed to be in the streets.

We chanced to see in the patio of a private dwelling-house at Toluca a
specimen of that little tropical gem, the coral-tree, a curious and
lovely freak of vegetation, its small but graceful stem, six or seven
feet in height, being topped above the pendent, palm-shaped foliage with
a prominent bit of vegetable coral of deepest red, precisely in the form
of the Mediterranean sea-growth from which it takes its name. A pure
white campanile with its inverted hanging flowers, like metallic bells,
which it so much resembles, stood beside the coral-tree.

An excursion of about thirty miles on the Mexican and Vera Cruz Railroad
took us in sight of the two remarkable pyramids erected to the gods
Tonateuh, the sun, and Meztli, the moon, situated near the present
village of San Juan Teotihuacan. With the exception of the pyramid at
Cholula, these are doubtless the most ancient prehistoric remains on the
soil of Mexico. That dedicated to the moon has been so far penetrated as
to discover a long gallery with a couple of wells situated very nearly
in the middle of the mound. The entrance to this is on the southern
side, at about two thirds of the elevation. What the purpose of these
pits could have been, no one can say. There are still some remains on
the pyramid dedicated to the sun which indicate that a temple once
occupied the spot, which is said to have been destroyed by the Spaniards
nearly four hundred years ago. Excavations show that the neighboring
ground is full of ancient tombs. The pyramid dedicated to the sun-god is
a little larger than the other, being about two hundred feet high and
seven hundred feet in length at the base, with a nearly corresponding
width.

Speaking of Teotihuacan, Bancroft says: "Here kings and priests were
elected, ordained, and buried. Hither flocked pilgrims from every
direction to consult the oracles, to worship in the temples of the sun
and moon, and to place sacrificial offerings on the altars of their
deities. The sacred city was ruled by the long-haired priests of the
sun, famous for their austerity and their wisdom. Through the hands of
these priests, as the Spanish writers tell us, yearly offerings were
made of the first fruits of the fields; and each year at harvest-time, a
solemn festival was celebrated, not unattended by human sacrifice." In
the neighborhood of these huge mounds there are traces of a large and
substantially built city having once existed. It is believed to have
been twenty miles in circumference. Obsidian knives, arrowheads, stone
pestles, and broken plaster trowels are often found just below the
surface of the soil. A large number of smaller pyramids stand at various
distances about the two principal ones which we have named. These do not
exceed twenty-five or thirty feet in height, and are thought to have
been dedicated to the stars, and also to have served as sepulchres for
illustrious men. We have mounds of a similar character and size to these
secondary ones in the Western and Middle States of the Union.

After passing through several small cities and towns, by taking a branch
road, the city of Pachuca is reached, at eighty-five miles from the city
of Mexico. It is interesting especially as being a great mining centre
which has been worked long and successfully. It was in this place that
the process of amalgamation was discovered, and a means whereby the
crude ores as dug from the mines are most readily made to yield up the
precious metal which they contain. It will be remembered in this
connection that for more than two centuries Mexico has furnished the
world with its principal supply of silver, and that she probably
exports to-day about two million dollars worth of the precious metal
each month. The production of gold is only incidental, as it were, while
the output of silver might be doubled. The ore of this district is
almost wholly composed of blackish silver sulphides. Mr. Frederick A.
Ober, who has written much and well upon Mexico and her resources, tells
us that the sum total coined by all the mints in the country, so far as
known, was, up to 1884, over three billions of dollars, while the
present annual product is greater than the amount furnished by all the
mines of Europe.

Pachuca is the capital of the State of Hidalgo, lying on a plain at an
altitude of eight thousand feet and more, environed by purple hills, and
is one of the oldest mining districts in the republic, having been
worked long before the Spanish conquest. It has a population of about
twenty thousand, nearly half of whom are Indian miners. The surrounding
hills are scarred all over with the opening of mines. In all, there are
between eighty and a hundred of them grouped near together at Pachuca.
The streets are very irregular and narrow, the houses being mostly one
story in height, and built of stone. The place is said to be healthy as
a residence, though in a sanitary sense it is far from cleanly. A muddy
river makes its way through the town, the dwellings rising terrace upon
terrace on either side. The market-place is little more than a mound of
dirt; cleanliness is totally neglected, and everything seems to be
sacrificed to the one purpose of obtaining silver, which is the one
occupation. The wages of the miners are too often gambled away or
wasted in liquor. There are both English and American miners at work
with fair pecuniary success; and this is almost the only locality where
foreign miners have been introduced. Government supports a school here
for teaching practical mining, established in an imposing structure
which was once a convent.

Quite a colony of Cornish miners emigrated to this place a few years
since, many of whom have acquired considerable means and have become
influential citizens. Here and in the immediate district, including Real
del Monte to the northwest, El Chico to the north, and Santa Rosa to the
west, there are nearly three hundred silver mines, all more or less
valuable. The most famous is named the Trinidad, which has yielded forty
million dollars to its owners in a period of ten years! Real del Monte
stands at an elevation of a little over nine thousand feet above the
sea. The country which surrounds this district is extremely interesting
in point of scenery. It was here that an English mining company came to
grief pecuniarily, under the name of the Real del Monte Mining Company.
At the organization of the enterprise, its shares were a hundred pounds
sterling each; but they sold in one year in the London market for
sixteen hundred pounds a share! The management was of a very reckless
and extravagant character. Economy is certainly more necessary in
conducting a silver mine than in nearly any other business. After a few
years, it was found that sixteen million dollars worth of silver had
been mined and realized upon, while the expenses had amounted to twenty
million dollars,--a deficit of four million dollars in a brief period.
The property was then sold to a Mexican company for a merely nominal
sum, and is now regularly worked at a handsome percentage of profit upon
the final cost. Much of the modern machinery was promptly discarded, and
the new managers returned to the old methods of milling the ore. The
Indians who bring in the supplies from the vicinity for this mining town
are typical of the race all over the country. At their homes, far away
from the city, they live in mud cabins, under a thatched roof, with the
earth for a floor. One room serves for every purpose, and is often
shared with pigs and poultry. These Indians do not eat meat once a
month, nay, scarcely once a year. Some wild fruits are added to their
humble fare, which consists almost wholly of tortillas, or cake made
from maize and half baked over charcoal. A rush mat serves them for a
bed, a serape as an overcoat by day and a blanket at night. The men wear
a coarse, unbleached cotton shirt and cotton drawers reaching to the
knees, leaving legs and feet bare. The women wear a loose cotton chemise
and a colored skirt wrapped about the loins, the legs, feet, and arms
being bare. They supply the town with poultry, charcoal, eggs, pottery,
mats, baskets, and a few vegetables, often trotting thirty miles over
hills and plains with a load of one hundred and twenty pounds or more on
their backs, in order to reach the market, where a dollar, or perhaps
two, is all they can hope to get for the two or three days' journey.

An Indian will cheerfully spend four days in the mountains to burn a
small quantity of charcoal, load it upon his back, and take it
twenty-five miles to market, where it will sell for half a dollar or
seventy-five cents. When he gets home, he has earned from ten to fifteen
cents a day, and traveled fifty or sixty miles on foot to do it! If the
poor native lives anywhere within the influence of a Catholic priest,
the probability is that the priest will get half of this pittance. There
is a local saying here that "Into the open doors of the Roman Catholic
Church goes all the small change of Mexico." This is a sad story, but it
is a true one; and it represents the actual condition of a large class
of the country people known as Indians. The condition of our own Western
tribes of aborigines is, in comparison, one of luxury. And yet these
Mexicans, as a rule, are temperate and industrious. The women, though
doomed to a life of toil and hardship, are not made slaves, nor beaten
by fathers or husbands, as is too often the case among our Western
tribes.

We are speaking of the Aztecs pure and simple, such as have kept their
tribal language, habits, and customs. They form nearly two thirds of the
populace of the republic, and, as a body, are ignorant to the last
degree, complete slaves to superstition of all sorts. The idolatrous
instinct inherited from their Indian ancestors finds satisfaction in
bowing before the hosts of saints, virgins, pictures, and images
generally, which the Catholic Church presents for their adoration; while
their simplicity and ignorance permit them to be dazed and overawed, if
not converted, by a faith which presents itself in such theatrical form
as to captivate both their eyes and ears. "This people have changed
their ceremonies, but not their religious dogmas," says Humboldt,
significantly.



CHAPTER XIII.

Puebla, the Sacred City.--General Forey.--Battle-Ground.--View of the
    City.--Priestly Miracles.--The Cathedral.--Snow-Crowned Mountains.
    --A Cleanly Capital.--The Plaza Mayor.--A Typical Picture.--The Old
    Seller of Rosaries.--Mexican Ladies.--Palm Sunday.--Church Gala Day.
    --Education.--Confiscation of Church Property.--A Curious Arch.--A
    Doll Image.--Use of Glazed Tiles.--Onyx a Staple Production.--Fine
    Work of Native Indian Women.--State of Puebla full of Rich Resources.
    --A Dynamite Bomb.--The Key of the Capital.


Our next objective point is Puebla, situated seventy-five miles, more or
less, southeast of the city of Mexico. It is the capital of the state of
the same name, and in a military point of view is the key to the
national capital. It has often changed hands with the fortunes of war,
both civil and foreign, which have so long distracted this land of the
sun. One of the most desperate fights which took place between the
Mexicans and the French forces occurred here, the event being celebrated
by the people of the republic annually as a national festival. Puebla
cost the intruders a three months' siege and the loss of many lives in
their ranks before it yielded. General Forey, the commander of the
besieging force, increased as far as possible the difficulties of the
conflict, in order to send, with the customary French bombast, brilliant
bulletins to Paris, and thus bind a victor's wreath about his own brow,
and enable him to obtain a much-coveted marshalship. In this he was
successful, as he was promoted to that dignity upon his return to
France. The fact was that an ordinary fighting column of American or
English troops would have taken the place in twenty-four hours, the
defense being totally inadequate, and the Mexican soldiers comparatively
insignificant. The defenders of the place were raw and undisciplined,
and composed of the worst possible material. Many of them were peons who
had been impressed at the point of the bayonet; others were taken from
the prisons and put at once into the ranks. As we have already stated,
this is a common practice in Mexico.

In the environs of the town is what is called the hill of Guadalupe,
famous in the annals of Mexican history, this being the principal
battle-ground of the 5th of May. The Mexican forces were four thousand
strong, defended by earthworks improvised by cutting down the walls of
the church of Guadalupe. The French troops were six thousand strong. The
defenders were under command of General Zaragoza; the French, under
General de Lorencez, who attacked the fort with great dash and vigor.
The Mexicans repulsed them with heavy loss to the attacking party. It
was not a very important battle, but its moral effect upon the Mexicans
was excellent. They realized that they were comparatively raw troops,
and that their enemies were trained soldiers of the much-lauded French
army. Though it was only a gallant repulse, it was heralded all over the
country as being a great victory, and probably had as much effect upon
the popular mind as though it had been. It gave them courage to continue
their warfare against the invaders with increased determination. Five
years later, the position was reversed, when General Porfirio Diaz--now
President--took Puebla by storm and made prisoners of its French
defenders. Between the occurrence of these battles the fortifications on
the hill of Guadalupe had been erected. The view from the fort is one of
extraordinary interest, taking in three snow-capped mountains, and
affording a comprehensive panorama of the city with its myriad domes and
fine public buildings, the tree-decked Plaza Mayor, the alameda, the
stone bridge over the Aloyac, while over the Cerro de San Juan is seen
the church of Los Remedios, which crowns the great earth-pyramid of
Cholula. To the south of the city lies the interesting suburb of Jonaco,
and to the north, on the hill of the Loreto, stands the fort of the
Cinco de Mayo.

Puebla contains between eighty and ninety thousand inhabitants, and is
rated as the fourth city of the republic in point of population and
general importance. It certainly rivals the larger cities in the
character of its principal buildings, which are mostly constructed of
granite, as well as in some other respects. Among the citizens it bears
the fanciful name of La Puebla de los Angeles (The City of the Angels).
One might reasonably think this was on account of its beautiful
situation and salubrious climate; the veracious chroniclers tell us it
was because the walls of the grand cathedral were erected amid the songs
of angels. What would any Roman Catholic institution be in Mexico
without its mystery and miracles? In this instance, the legend runs to
the effect that the angels built as much each night upon the walls of
the church while it was erecting as the terrestrial workmen did each
day. It is of basaltic material, supported by massive buttresses, and as
a whole is surpassingly grand. High up over the central doorway of the
main front is placed in carved stone the insignia of the order of the
Golden Fleece. The interior is as effective and elegant as that of any
church we can recall, having some fine old bronzes and valuable
paintings, the latter well worthy of special attention, and embracing
some thirty examples. The woodwork upon the grand altar shows an
artistic excellence which is rarely excelled. The two organs are
encased, also, in richly carved wood, exhibiting figures of angels
blowing trumpets. The interior adornments, as a whole, are undoubtedly
the finest of any church or cathedral in Mexico. A majority of writers
consider that the cathedral of the national capital is the grandest
church on the continent of America, but with this we cannot agree; to
our mind, the cathedral of Puebla, all things considered, is its
superior.

Puebla might be appropriately called the city of churches, for, at a
short distance, the countless domes and steeples looming above the flat
tops of the houses are the main feature. We believe that it has as many
edifices occupied for religions purposes as the city of Mexico. The twin
towers of its stately cathedral are especially conspicuous and
beautiful. The town was founded three hundred and sixty years ago, and
retains, apparently, more of its ancient Spanish character than most of
its sister cities. From any favorably situated spot in the town, for
instance from the hill of Guadalupe, one beholds rising in the
southwest, twenty-five miles away, the snowy crown of the world-renowned
Popocatepetl, the view of this mountain being much superior to that had
at the national capital, while the two hardly less famous mountains of
Orizaba and Iztaccihuatl are also in sight, though at farther distances.
The rarefied atmosphere makes all these elevations clear to the view
with almost telescopic power.

The nights here are a revelation of calmness and beauty. The stars are
much brighter than they appear to us in the dense atmosphere we inhabit.
The North Star and the Southern Cross are both visible, though only a
portion of the Dipper is to be seen. Within the points of the Southern
Cross there is a brilliant cluster of stars, which are not apparent to
the naked eye, but which are made visible by the use of the telescope,
shining like a group of gems in a choice necklace. How glorious is the
sky on such nights as we experienced at Puebla, so full of repose; no
force can disturb its eternal peacefulness! Below, all about us, rages a
nervous activity; every one is stricken with the fever of living; but we
raise our eyes to that broad, blue, star-spangled expanse, and behold
only the calm, adorable majesty of heaven.

There are extensive manufactories in Puebla, especially in cotton goods,
leather, soap, hats, matches, and earthenware; indeed, it has been
called the Lowell of Mexico. It is also destined to become eventually a
considerable railroad centre, having already established connections
with the capital, Vera Cruz, and other important points. There are six
railroad depots in the city, each representing a more or less important
railway line.

The stranger is agreeably struck with the appearance of Puebla at first
sight, and is confirmed in this impression as he becomes better
acquainted with its mild and healthful climate, tempered by being more
than seven thousand feet above the sea level, its wide, cleanly streets,
running exactly east and west, north and south, its beautiful,
flower-decked Plaza Mayor, its fine public squares, the interesting
Moorish _portales_ nearly surrounding the plaza, its gray old churches,
and its neat stores and houses, having their various-colored fronts
ornamented by iron balconies. The ever-present contrast between wealth
and poverty, so striking in most of the Mexican cities, did not seem so
prominent here. The people were certainly better clothed, and looked
more cleanly and respectable. We saw very few beggars in the streets.
The lame and the blind must have been taken care of by the municipal
authorities, for none were to be seen in public. The city is clean in
all its visible belongings. There are no offensive smells, such as greet
one in the badly-drained capital of the republic. The thoroughfares teem
with a bright, cheerful population, often barefooted and in rags, to be
sure, but still smiling and good natured. True, we first saw the town
under favorable auspices, it being Palm Sunday, and those who had them
probably donned holiday costumes. The Plaza Mayor was radiant with the
brilliant colors of the rebosas and serapes, agreeably relieved by the
black lace mantillas of the more select señoras and señoritas. Many of
these wore marvelously high heels, not infrequently having only Eve's
stockings inside of their gayly-ornamented boots! The Indian women who
had come to town to see the church ceremonials formed an unconscious but
interesting portion of the holiday show in their sky-blue or red
rebosas, and the variegated skirt wound about waists and hips, leaving
the brown limbs and bare feet exposed. They were gathered all about the
square, awaiting their opportunity; and as half a hundred came pouring
down the broad steps, others hastened to take their places inside the
church.

The cathedral already alluded to forms one whole side of the Plaza
Mayor. It is not quite so large as that of the city of Mexico, though it
has the effect of being so. Like that, it stands upon a raised platform,
built of dark porphyritic stone, the surface being five or six feet
above the level of the plaza. The principal front is in the Doric style;
but the two tall side towers are Ionic. The two domes, covered with the
glittering native tiles, throw back the sunlight with a dazzling mottled
effect. The chapels of the interior are perhaps a little tawdry with
their profuse gilding, and the main altar is dazzling with gold, having
cost, it is stated, over a hundred thousand dollars. The pulpit is
especially curious, and was carved by a native artist from onyx, which
came from a neighboring quarry. The floor is of marble, while that of
the more pretentious edifice at the city of Mexico is of wood, a token
indicative of more important matters wherein the Puebla cathedral is
superior in finish. The main roof, with its castellated cornice and many
pinnacles, its broken outlines, and crumbling, gray old stone sides, is
wonderfully picturesque.

Not many years ago there hung from the lofty ceiling a famous and most
beautiful golden lamp of exquisite workmanship, the intrinsic value of
which is said to have been over one hundred thousand dollars. During the
civil war it was ruthlessly broken up and coined into doubloons to aid
General Miramon to keep the field while representing the church party.
The bells attached to the cathedral are of the most costly character and
of superior excellence. These are eighteen in number, the largest of
which weighs about ten tons. One is at a loss to understand why so many
and so expensive bells are required, since they are not arranged as
chimes, and have no apparent connection with each other.

A typical picture is recalled which presented itself as we entered for
the first time the broad portal of the cathedral, where an old,
wrinkled, bare-limbed woman, poor and decrepit, sat upon the stones at
the entrance of the church offering rosaries for sale. She did not
speak, but held up a cross with its attachments, accompanied by a look
so cadaverous, so weak and pitiful, that she got the silver she desired
and kept her beads. The poor creature, so aged, emaciated, and ragged,
had somehow a strangely significant look about her, suggestive of having
known better days. It was a festal occasion, and many bright-eyed
señoritas, casting stolen glances about them while accompanied by their
duennas, were passing into the church. What a contrast of youth and age,
between these fair young creatures so richly clad, so fresh and full of
life, and the faded, hopeless vender of rosaries resting her weary limbs
on the flinty portal!

The Mexican ladies have none of the languor of their continental
sisters, but are overflowing with vivacity and spirit. We remember these
buds of humanity at the church door; they seemed to be "spoiling" for a
chance flirtation, looking out from deep black eyes full of roguishness.
Within the dimly-lighted church the smell of burning incense, the sharp
tinkling of the bell before the distant altar, the responsive kneeling
and bowing of the worshipers, the dull murmur of the officiating priest,
the deep, solemn tones of the great organ,--all combined to impress
themselves upon the memory, if not to challenge an unbeliever's
devotion.

At midday, on the occasion of our second visit, the priests were clad in
the gayest colors, the robes of some being red, some blue, others white,
and all more or less wrought with gold and silver ornamentation. The
attendants and the priests who were not officiating carried tall palm
branches. The marble floor of the nave was covered with kneeling
devotees, among whom every class of the populace was represented; rags
and satins were side by side, bare feet and silken hose were next to
each other. Indians, Spaniards, and foreign visitors mingled
indiscriminately; there were few men, but many women. The choir was
singing to an organ accompaniment, while the military band was playing
in the plaza close at hand, opposite the open church doors, causing
rather an incongruous mingling of sounds, and yet with the remarkable
surroundings it did not strike the ear as inharmonious. Here and there,
along the side of the church, a woman was seen kneeling, with her lips
close to the little grating of the confessional. Now and again the
closely wrapped figure of a man was observed making its way among the
crowd, with a dark and sinister expression upon his face betraying his
lawless character. He was here prompted by no devotional impulse, but to
watch and mark some intended victim. As we came out of the cathedral,
long lines of natives were seen, men, women, and children, sitting on
the edge of the sidewalks, or squatting near the low garden wall of the
church, eating tortillas, while an earthen jar of pulque was
occasionally passed among them, all drinking from the same vessel.
Another group close by these had a lighted cigarette which they were
handing from one to another, men and women alike, each taking a long
whiff, which was swallowed to be slowly emitted at the nostrils. It was
a gala day, a church festival, of which there are something less than
three hundred and sixty-five in the year. These idlers had nothing to do
and plenty of time to do it in. Puebla has always been most loyal to
the Catholic Church, even when directly under the evil influence of the
Inquisition. It is visited to-day by thousands of Roman Catholics from
various parts of the country at periods when church ceremonials are in
progress, because they are more elaborately carried out here than in any
other city of the republic. Indeed, the place is generally known and
spoken of by Mexicans as "The Sacred City."

It seemed on inquiry and from casual observation that more attention was
given to the cause of education here than in some other districts we had
visited, colleges and schools being maintained by the state as well as
by the municipality, however much opposed by the priestly hierarchy. The
fact is, that education is the true panacea for the ills of this people,
and it is the only one. It is the poor man's capital. Freedom can exist
only where popular education is fostered. The soldier and the priest
have been too long abroad in Mexico. When the schoolteacher's turn shall
come, then let tyranny and bigotry beware. The primer, not the bayonet,
should be relied upon to uphold the liberty of a nation. Thirty or forty
years ago illiteracy was the rule in Mexico; but each year sees a larger
and larger percentage of the population able to read and write. This
evidence of real progress is not confined to any locality, but is
widespread among both those of Spanish descent and the half-castes. The
situation of the peons is still one of entire mental darkness.

The episcopal palace, near the cathedral, is a picturesque edifice, with
its red roof tiles faced with white. So late as 1869, the city
contained a dozen nunneries and nine or ten monasteries; but these
institutions are happily of the past, the buildings which they once
occupied having been occupied for various business purposes, as
hospitals, public schools, and libraries. When the confiscation of the
enormous wealth of the church was decreed and carried out by the
government some twenty years since, that organization actually held a
mortgage on two thirds of the real property of the entire country. The
priesthood was completely despoiled of even their churches, which they
now occupy only on sufferance, the legal fee in the same being vested in
the government. To emphasize this fact one sees the national flag waving
on special occasions over the cathedrals as well as other government
properties. Their other real estate has been sold and appropriated to
various uses, as we have shown. The indefatigable priesthood are and
have ever since been steadily at work accumulating from the poor,
overtaxed, and superstitious people money which we were told was hoarded
and so disposed of as not to be again liable to seizure under any
circumstances. It is the boast of the church party that their
confiscated millions shall all be gathered into their coffers again.
They may possibly get back the gold, but their lost power will never be
regained. Intelligence is becoming too broadcast in Mexico, and even the
common people begin to think for themselves.

In the church of San Francisco, erected in 1667, there was pointed out
to us an arch, supporting one of the galleries, so flat that no one
believed it would stand even until the church was dedicated. So
pertinaciously was the architect badgered and criticised at the time of
its construction, that he finally lost faith in his own design, and fled
in despair before the threatening arch was tested. It was therefore left
for the monks to remove the supporting framework at the proper time.
This they ingeniously did without any danger to themselves, by setting
the woodwork on fire and letting the supporting beams slowly burn away!
To the wonder of all, when they had been thus removed, the arch stood
firmly in its place, and there it stands to-day, sound and apparently
safe, after being in use for two hundred years, and having passed
through the severe test of more than one slight earthquake. In this
church, which, after the cathedral, is the most interesting in Puebla,
we were shown by an old, gray-haired priest the little doll representing
the Virgin Mother which Cortez brought with him from Spain to Cuba, and
thence to Vera Cruz, carrying it through all of his campaigns with
apparent religious veneration. It is astonishing to see the reverence
with which this toy is regarded. Adjoining the church is a reconstructed
convent which is now used as a military hospital, and before which
lounged an awkward squad of soldiers belonging to the regular army.
There are several very old churches in the city, on whose eaves and
cornices small trees and tropical bushes, which have planted themselves
in these exposed places, have grown to considerable size, surrounded by
deep-green moss, shaded by the rounded domes and lofty towers.

A feature of the town which is sure to attract the attention of a
stranger is the fanciful manner in which the people adapt richly colored
and highly ornamented glazed tiles for both internal and external
decoration of public and private buildings. The effect of this was
certainly incongruous, not to say tawdry. There are eight or ten tile
factories in Puebla, and one glass manufactory. Some of the work turned
out in both these lines is really very artistic and attractive. Large
quantities are regularly shipped to various parts of the country. In
several shops collections of onyx ornaments are to be seen, besides
handsome baskets and mats of colored straw, all of which are of native
workmanship. Onyx may be said to be the rage of Puebla. We remember an
attractive store solely devoted to the sale of this stone, where the
large and most artistic display formed a veritable museum. Here members
of our party expended considerable sums of money in the purchase of
pretty mementoes to take home with them as souvenirs of Puebla de los
Angeles. Onyx articles are shipped from here in considerable quantities
to London and Paris, where there are agencies for their sale. The
quarries whence these fine specimens come are fifty miles away from the
city, near Mount El Pizarro.

The State of Puebla is remarkable for producing a fine quality of wheat,
and also for its heavy yield of other cereals. One may look in vain
elsewhere for better apples, pears, peaches, and plums than are offered
in the public market of this attractive town, all of which are grown in
its immediate vicinity. Articles of embroidery were offered at one of
the open stands in the market-place fully equal to the Fayal product so
well known in Boston. The very low price demanded for fine linen
handkerchiefs and napkins, representing days of patient labor on each,
showed how cheaply these native women estimate their time. They will
follow the most intricate design which may be given to them as a
pattern, reproducing it with Chinese fidelity, and with as much apparent
ease as though it were their own conception. It seemed to us, as we
examined this delicate product, that art needlework could hardly go
further as to perfection of detail. This work is not that of dainty
fingers and delicate hands, educated and taught embroidery in some
convent school, but the outcome of very humble adobe cabins, and the
instinctive artistic taste of hands accustomed to the severe drudgery of
a semi-barbarous life. It was found that the sales-people, when they
first receive these goods from the natives, are obliged to wash and
bleach them thoroughly, they are so begrimed, but they know very well
how beautifully the work will prove to be executed, and gladly purchase
it even in this soiled condition.

For so restricted a territory, Puebla contains a great aggregate of
valuable resources,--a rich and extensive coal-mine near by on the ranch
of Santa Barbara, inexhaustible stone-quarries on the hill of Guadalupe,
abundant deposits of kaolin close at hand for the manufacture of
porcelain ware, a sufficient supply of material for making lime to last
a hundred years, an iron mine within eight or ten miles which employs a
large foundry, running night and day; while the neighboring foothills
are covered with an almost inexhaustible supply of good merchantable
wood. Certainly, no city in Mexico is better situated as to natural
resources. The state is so located as to embrace a great variety of
climate. In the north it produces wheat, corn, and other cereals, also
affording grazing ground to immense herds of domestic animals, while in
the south it yields liberal crops of cotton, tobacco, sugar, rice, and a
great variety of fruits, together with many rich and beautiful cabinet
and dye woods. Truly, this is a record which few localities can equal in
any zone.

We have said that Puebla is the key to the national capital. This is
proven by the fact that the chief events in its history have been the
battles fought for its possession. A few of those which most readily
occur to the memory are its capture by Iturbide, August 2, 1821; its
occupation by Scott, May 25, 1847; its successful defense against the
French, May 5, 1862; its capture by the French, May 17, 1863; and its
capture _from_ the French, April 2, 1867, by General Diaz, now President
of the republic.

We were told that the thieving populace of Puebla had so provoked the
agent of the company who own the road between Mexico and Vera Cruz, by
abstracting everything they could lay their hands on, whether available
for any purpose of their own or not, that he finally resolved to set a
trap which should teach them a severe lesson. A small dynamite bomb with
its brass screw at the vent was left exposed in the yard at night. One
of the prowling, thieving peons climbed the wall and attempted to
abstract the cap,--not because he was in want of a brass cap to a
dynamite bomb; he would have stolen a railroad spike or an iron tie all
the same. He hadn't fooled with this instrument more than sixty seconds
before it was discharged in his hands with a report like a cannon. The
consequence was, that not enough of that would-be thief could be found
to give the body Christian burial! It was observed thereafter that peons
didn't feel sufficient interest in the company's affairs to climb the
wall which incloses the depot, and meddle with the articles of railroad
property lying about the yard. This was a pretty severe dose of
medicine, but it wrought a radical cure.



CHAPTER XIV.

Ancient Cholula.--A Grand Antiquity.--The Cheops of Mexico.--Traditions
    relating to the Pyramid.--The Toltecs.--Cholula of To-Day.--
    Comprehensive View.--A Modern Tower of Babel.--Multiplicity of Ruins.
    --Cortez's Exaggerations.--Sacrifices of Human Beings.--The Hateful
    Inquisition.--A Wholesale Murderous Scheme.--Unreliable Historians.
    --Spanish Falsification.--Interesting Churches.--Off the Track.--
    Personal Relics of Cortez.--Torturing a Victim.--Aztec Antiquities.
    --Tlaxcala.--Church of San Francisco.--Peon Dwellings.--Cortez and
    the Tlaxcalans.


In leaving Puebla for Cholula, which lies at a distance of only a couple
of leagues to the westward, we first pass on the left the fine
architectural group formed by the church of San Javior and Guadalupe,
with its attractive cluster of domes, spires, and pinnacles. Our course
lies through broad maguey fields and across the Atoyac River, a shallow
stream most of the year; but at times it becomes a rushing torrent. The
country hereabouts is under excellent cultivation, though the awkward
plough introduced by the Spaniards centuries ago still does service
here. Almost as soon as the city disappears from view, there looms in
the distance the grand pyramid of Cholula, crowned by a lofty modern
chapel, its dome of enameled and parti-colored tiles glistening in the
warm sunshine. Far beyond the pyramid the volcanoes are seen in their
lonely grandeur. Cholula lies upon a perfectly level plain, broken only
by the great artificial mound called the pyramid, situated on the
eastern outskirt of the present city. The town, Spanish history tells
us, once contained over two hundred thousand inhabitants; but to-day
there are less than nine thousand, while of its four hundred reputed
temples, scarcely a trace now remains.

When Cortez made his advent here he found Cholula to be the sacred city
of the Aztecs, where their main body of high priests and their most
venerated temples were located. Is it possible that these mud-built
cabins represent a city once so grand and so populous? Can it be that
these half-clad, half-fed peons whom we see about us, exhibiting only a
benighted intelligence, represent Aztecs and Toltecs who are supposed to
have possessed a liberal share of art and culture; a people, whose
astronomers were able to determine for themselves the apparent motion of
the sun and the length of the solar year: who had the art of polishing
the hardest of precious stones; who cast choice and perfect figures of
silver and gold in one piece; and who made delicate filigree ornaments
without solder? These are achievements belonging to quite a high state
of civilization. The cabins consist mostly of one room, in which lives a
whole family, with the bare earth for a floor, the open door often
affording the only light which reaches the interior. There are some
better dwellings here, to be sure; but all are adobe, and this brief
description is applicable to nine tenths of the people and their rude
dwellings.

Cholula has one grand antiquity, which even the ruthless finger of Time
has made little impression upon, being the remains of one of those
remarkable earth-pyramids which was probably built by the Toltecs;
though how they could erect a mountain without beasts of burden is an
endless puzzle. The rains, winds, and storms of ages have opened
crevices in the sides of the artificial hill; but these have only served
to show what labor it must have cost to build the structure in stout
layers of sun-dried brick, so substantially that it has lasted thus
intact for many centuries. It is not at all unreasonable to fix the date
of its completion at a thousand years ago. This peculiar elevation rises
a little over two hundred feet above the plain, and measures about a
thousand feet square at the base, forming one of the most interesting
relics in all Mexico; though its height is less than half that of Cheops
in Egypt, its base is twice as large, covering about as many acres as
Boston Common. In its composition it strongly resembles the pyramids of
Upper Egypt. On its summit is a level space one hundred and sixty feet
square, the view from which is one of vast breadth and beauty, embracing
the entire valley of Puebla. The four sides of the huge mound face the
cardinal points, the whole being composed of alternate strata of adobe
bricks and clay. The sides are mostly overgrown with trees and shrubs;
but a winding road, well paved with stones laid in broad, deep steps,
leads to the top. The constant wear of centuries has thrown the original
shape somewhat out of harmony with the supposed idea; but there is
quite enough extant to establish the original design. One corner has
been excavated to a considerable extent to make room for the railway, an
exposure which has served a double purpose, since it has proven the
whole elevation to be artificial, constructed in layers, and not a
natural hill, as some casual observers have declared it to be. The
material of which the pyramid is composed is earth, sun-dried bricks,
limestone, and lava. It is thought by some that besides having the apex
crowned originally with a temple of worship, the sides were covered by
adobe houses from base to near the summit, accommodating a large
population. That there were once terraces and steps here which would
carry out such an idea is very clear from the portions which have been
laid bare by excavation.

The mounds of our Western and Southwestern States are almost the
counterpart of this grand elevation at Cholula, so far as the idea goes,
except that they are mere pigmies in comparison. The fact is worth
recalling that the same species of domestic implements of stone which
are found from time to time deeply buried in portions of the United
States are also exhumed here. So in the museum of the capital one sees
stone hatchets, pestles, mortars, and arrowheads of the same shapes that
we have been accustomed to find beneath the soil of our Northern States.

The most casual observer will be satisfied that this pyramid dates long
before the time of the Spanish conquest, and that it was not built by
the race of Indians whom Cortez found in possession. It may represent a
race who existed even prior to the Toltecs, to whom the Aztecs were
indebted for all their arts and refinements, and upon which it is
doubted if they much improved. No one can possibly say how many
centuries are looking down upon us from this colossal ruin. We are told
of one tradition, recorded by a Jesuit priest named Torquemada, which
ascribes the origin of this pyramid to a period contemporary with that
of the Tower of Babel, in the land of Shinar. The tradition also speaks
of a great deluge, and says that this artificial mound was originally
designed to reach the clouds; but the gods were angered by the attempt,
and dispersed the workmen with lightning, after it had got to its
present height. With mountains close at hand, so much loftier than any
human agency could achieve, it is a mystery what motive could have
actuated a people to rear this colossal mound except it was for the
foundation of a temple. The pretended legend of aboriginal origin is no
doubt a pure fabrication, like nine tenths of the priestly records
relating to Mexico.

The ancient builders erected a shrine and sacrificial stone on the
summit of the pyramid. This idolatrous temple was promptly destroyed by
Cortez, and the place where it stood is now occupied by a Roman Catholic
chapel dedicated to the Virgin of Remedios. The present edifice is of
quite modern construction, replacing the original chapel erected by the
Spaniards, which was destroyed by fire. It struck us as being more than
usually tawdry in it equipment. Its cupola is decidedly out of
proportion to the small body of the structure. There are traditions
among the natives here, as is usually the case in relation to all
antique remains, telling of interior galleries and chambers of great
extent; but no confidence is placed in such rumors. The excavation
already referred to laid bare a tomb containing two skeletons, with a
couple of idols in basalt, also a small collection of aboriginal
pottery. The sepulchre was square, with stone walls supported by cypress
beams. The discovery of these two skeletons in one corner and at the
base of the pyramid does not indicate that it was reared for the purpose
of a tomb. It would require the discovery of such a burial near the
centre of the immense mound to indicate such a design.

The hoary-headed monarch, Popocatepetl, looms in the distance, proudly
dominating the scene, with Puebla and the hill of Cinco de Mayo on the
right. The exceeding transparency of the atmosphere brings these distant
objects seemingly close to the observer, as though he was looking at
them through a telescope.

The small city of Cholula is spread out at the base of the pyramid, and
beyond it are wide, fertile fields of grain and alfalfa, with gardens of
semi-tropical fruits. One large orchard seemed to be a very garden of
Hesperides, yellow with golden oranges and sweet with fragrant blossoms.
The pyramid originally stood near the centre of the town, the streets
radiating from it; but the dwellings which once lined these
thoroughfares have long since crumbled into dust, leaving standing only
the useless stone churches, of which there are forty dotting the plain
here and there, built without regard to any adjacent population. Two
lesser pyramids are visible near the main elevation. Farther away, small
villages, each with its church tower, add interest to the scene, while
the mellow notes of distant bells mingle and float upon the air. The
multiplicity of these churches shows how dense must have been the
population in the time of Cortez, as it was the practice of the invading
Spaniards to compel the natives not only to demolish their own temples,
but to build a Christian church in place of each one thus destroyed. A
number of the churches are abandoned and are gradually going to decay.
"Why," said a practical individual of our party, "it's all churches and
no town." The site of the ancient city is very evident from the lines of
its regular streets stretching away in all directions.

"I assure your majesty," wrote Cortez from Cholula to his sovereign in
Spain, "that I have counted from a mosque or temple four hundred mosques
and as many towers, all of which were mosques in this city." We have
here an example of this adventurer's style of exaggeration and
hyperbole. If we take three hundred and sixty from the four hundred
"mosques" which he pretends to have seen, there will be forty left,
which is probably about the truth. Cortez not only uses oriental words
to express himself, but is exercised by a truly oriental extravagance in
his stories. There are no "mosques" in Mexico, nor were the native
temples anything like such structures. There are sufficient remains of
Aztec temples left to show that they were plain in construction, of
pyramidal form, without towers, and that their altars were erected on
the summits in the open air, surrounded by broad platforms.

This pyramid was dedicated to the benevolent god Quetzalcoatl, "the
great, good, and fair god of the Aztecs." Yet, it seemed to have been
considered necessary to sacrifice human life to his godship in a most
sanguinary manner, as was the practice at the great temple of the
capital. We are told that twelve thousand lives were laid at the feet of
Quetzalcoatl in a single year! If this is true (which we very much
doubt), one would say that the advent of Cortez with all his cruelty was
a blessing that came none too soon. No matter how low the type of
Christianity which replaced the murderous devotion of these idolaters,
any change, it would seem, must have been for the better. The frightful
barbarity of the Aztecs is apparently shown by the records of Spanish
priests concerning the sacrificial stone, now preserved in the museum at
the national capital, upon which the victims were bound, their hearts
cut out and laid reverentially thereon, while their bodies were cast
down the declivity of the pyramid to the exultant multitude below, who
cooked and ate them at religious banquets. Even the hateful Inquisition
was an improvement upon this ghastly cannibalism covered up by a cloak
of religious rites.

It was Southey who expressed the opinion in poetic lines that heaven
made blind zeal and bloody avarice its ministers of vengeance against
the Aztec idolaters. Still, the Aztec remains and is the governing race
in Mexico, while the Spaniards as a distinct people have virtually
disappeared.

But we must take the record of these events with a degree of caution.
That fable and history have been indiscriminately mingled by the Spanish
authors is plain enough from the fact that ridiculous miracles are
constantly recorded by them as having actually occurred, which were the
pure invention of the priesthood, designed to influence and awe the
ignorant native race. This reduces us to the unfortunate condition of
being obliged to doubt what may have been historically true. The
Inquisition exercised a censorship over everything designed for
publication, and unless it subserved the interest of that fiendish
institution, it was made to do so, or it was suppressed. These facts
caused Prescott to say: "In short, the elements of truth and falsehood
became so blended that history was converted into romance, and romance
received the credit due to history." The confusion of fact and fiction
in the writings of Spanish historians, as they are called, is so grave
and obvious as simply to disgust the honest seeker after truth. This is
the case not only as relating to Mexico, but the past story of Spain
both at home and abroad. "What is history," says the first Napoleon,
"but a fable agreed upon?"

The horrid pictures of human sacrifice as represented by the Spanish
chroniclers, also by the letters and despatches of Cortez, we do not
credit, though undoubtedly they had some foundation in truth. It is the
characteristic of all these records to persistently distort facts so as
to further the purposes of the writers, and as to correctness where
figures are concerned, they are scarcely ever to be relied upon. Though
forced to admit this want of veracity, Prescott has relied almost
entirely upon these sources for the material of his popular work. No
person can calmly survey the field to-day, compare the statements of the
various authors, and visit the country itself, without seeing clearly
how much of absurd exaggeration and monstrous fiction has been foisted
upon the reading public relative to this period of the conquest of
Mexico.

"These chroniclers," says Bancroft, "were swayed like other writers of
their time, and all other times, by the spirit of the age, and by
various religious, political, and personal prejudices."

"I lay little stress upon Spanish testimonies," says Adair, "for time
and ocular proof have convinced us of the labored falsehood of almost
all their historical narrations."

At the advent of the Spaniards, Cholula was doubtless the commercial
centre of the plain; Puebla, the now large and thriving capital of the
state, was then a mere hamlet in comparison. It was also the Mecca of
the Aztecs, who came from far and near to bow down before Quetzalcoatl.
The grand public square or plaza is still extant where Cortez
perpetrated his most outrageous act of butchery, killing, it is said,
three thousand Cholulans who had assembled unarmed and in good faith, in
compliance with his request. Everything in and about this spacious area
seems strangely silent and dilapidated, as though stricken by decay. The
present interest and attraction of the place exists almost solely in
the pyramid and the tragic legends of its vanished people. A few ancient
trees ornament the neglected plaza, about which a score of weary burros
were seen cropping the scanty herbage which springs up naturally here
and there. The spot is said to exhibit some life on market-days, but it
was lonely and deserted when we looked upon it, while the dry earth
seemed on fire under the intense heat of the sun. It was difficult,
while looking upon this gloomy area, to realize that the place was once
conspicuous for its trade and manufactures, for its wealth and splendor.
The social and official life of Cholula is reported at one time to have
even rivaled the court of Montezuma. Here religious processions,
sacrifices, and festivals were of continual occurrence, and no other
city had so great a concourse of priests and so incessant a round of
ceremonies.

The church known as the Royal Chapel, and also as the Church of the
Seven Naves, situated at the northeast corner of the plaza, was of
considerable interest. The last named was closed, undergoing radical
repairs; but our curiosity was aroused, and a small fee soon opened a
side door through which entrance was effected. The repairs going on will
greatly change its original appearance. One could not but regret to see
its ancient and delicate Moorish frescoes ruthlessly obliterated, the
colors and designing of which so completely harmonized with the
architecture and with the dim light which struggled in through the deep,
small, mullioned windows. This chapel, with its sixty-four supporting
columns, forcibly recalled the peculiar interior of the cathedral
mosque at Cordova in Spain, which, indeed, must have suggested to Cortez
so close though diminutive a copy, for it was built by his special
orders and after his specified plans.

It is said that the early dwellers in this region excelled in various
mechanical arts, especially in the working of metals and the manufacture
of cotton and agave cloth, to which may be added a delicate kind of
pottery, rivaling anything of the sort belonging to that period.
Examples of this pottery are often exhumed in the neighborhood, and as
we suspect are quite as often manufactured to order, for the present
generation of Aztecs is not only very shrewd and cunning, but also very
able in imitating all given models in earthenware. This sort of work
forms a remunerative industry at the present time in Cholula. As we pass
the open doors and windows of the dwelling-houses, cotton goods are
weaving on hand looms by members of the families. Another local industry
was observed here, namely, the manufacture of fireworks of a toy
character, which we were told were shipped to all parts of the country.

The engine which had drawn our train from Puebla hither, after doing so,
managed to get derailed, and a Mexican crowd spent hours in an
ineffectual attempt to get the iron horse once more upon the track. As
the day drew to its close our party was prepared to return to Puebla;
but there was the engine stubbornly fixed upon the sleepers of the
track, and the wheels partially buried in the ground. Mexican ingenuity
was not equal to the emergency, so Yankee genius stepped forward. One
of our party conversant with such matters took charge, and by a few
judicious directions and appliances improvised upon the spot, he soon
had the heavy engine once more in its proper position, and we started
back to Puebla amid the cheers of the Mexicans at Yankee skill and
energy, which seemed to them equal to any exigency.

A branch railway takes us from Puebla to Santa Ana, from whence ancient
Tlaxcala is reached by tramway. It is the capital of the state bearing
the same name, and has some four or five thousand inhabitants; it is
credited with having had over fifty thousand three centuries ago. Had it
not been that civil discord reigned at the time of the advent of Cortez
here, he could never have conquered Montezuma; but the Tlaxcalans were
induced by cunning diplomacy to join the Spaniards, and their united
forces accomplished that which neither could have done single-handed.
One is struck by the diminutive size of the native men and women at
Tlaxcala. The latter are especially, short in stature, the never absent
baby lashed to their backs making the mothers look still shorter.

This place is remarkable for the accumulation of Aztec and Spanish
antiquities. The municipal palace, situated on the east side of the
plaza, contains four remarkable oil paintings bearing the date of the
conquest. Here also is preserved the war-worn banner of Spain, which was
carried by Cortez from the time of his first landing at Vera Cruz
throughout all his triumphant career. The material is rich, being of
heavy silk brocade, the color a light maroon, not badly faded
considering its age. Large sums of money have been offered for this
ancient and interesting banner, the object being to take it back to
Spain, from whence it came nearly four hundred years ago; but the
Tlaxcalans refuse to part with it at any price. Despite the lapse of so
many years and its having passed through so many vicissitudes, the flag
is nearly perfect at this writing. It is eight or nine feet long and six
broad, cut in swallow-tail fashion. The iron spearhead bears the
monogram of the sovereigns of Spain, and the original staff, now broken,
is still preserved with the flag. Here one is also shown the arms of
Tlaxcala illuminated on parchment and bearing the signature of Charles
V., together with the standard presented to the local chiefs by Cortez;
the robes which they wore when baptized, and a collection of idols which
have been unearthed from time to time in this immediate neighborhood,
are also shown in the municipal palace. In the corridor stands the great
treasure chest, with departments for silver and gold. This was locked
with four different keys, one being held by each of four officers who
were unitedly responsible for the treasures, the chest thus requiring
the presence of the four when there was occasion to open it.

There are many personal relics of Cortez shown to the visitors at the
municipal palace; but the intelligent observer, aided by the light of
history, finds it difficult to accord much admiration to this man. He is
represented to have been handsome, commanding in person, brave, but far
from reckless, and to have possessed strong magnetic power over his
associates and those whom he desired to influence. He was eloquent and
persuasive, exercising an irresistible control over the half savage
people whom he came to conquer. Another secret of his influence with the
authorities at home, in Spain, was his never-failing fidelity to the
legitimate sovereign, and the shrewd despatch of rich presents and much
gold to his royal master. We know him to have been ambitious, cruel,
heartless, avaricious, and false. He deserted his faithful wife in
Spain, a second in Cuba (whom tradition accuses him of murdering), and
was shamefully unfaithful to the devoted Marina, mother of his
acknowledged son, she who was his native interpreter, and who more than
once saved his life from immediate peril, finally guiding his footsteps
to a victorious consummation of his most ambitious designs. Cortez owed
more of his success to her than to his scanty battalions. If nothing
else would serve to stamp his name with lasting infamy, the infernal
torture which he inflicted upon the ill-fated Guatemozin, for the
purpose of extorting information as to the hiding-place of the imperial
treasures, should do so. The true record of the life of Cortez reads
more like romance than like the truth. This is not perhaps the place to
refer to his private life, which history admits to have been perfidious.
Landing on the continent with a band scarcely more than half the number
of a modern regiment, he prepared to traverse an unknown country
thronged with savage tribes, with whose character, habits, and means of
defense he was wholly unacquainted. We know that this romantic adventure
was finally crowned with success, though meeting with various checks and
stained with bloody episodes, that prove how the threads of courage and
ferocity are inseparably blended in the woof and warp of Spanish
character.

Just above the town, on the hillside, is the ancient convent of San
Francisco, which contains over one hundred paintings more than two
centuries old. The old church of San Francisco, close at hand, dates
from a period, three hundred and seventy years ago, when Mexican history
often fades into fable. The approach is over a paved way, and through a
road bordered by a double row of old trees, which form a gothic
perspective of greenery. The convent now serves in part for the purpose
of a military barrack, before which stand a few small cannon so
diminutive as to have the appearance of toys. A few soldiers lounged
lazily about, and some were asleep upon a bench. Probably they were
doing guard duty after the Mexican style. On the hillside above the
church of San Francisco is a modern church, and beyond it a Campo Santo.

This gray old church, the oldest in Mexico, is certainly very
interesting in its belongings, carrying us in imagination far into the
dim past. "The earliest and longest have still the mastery over us,"
says George Eliot. This was the first church erected by the Spaniards in
Mexico, and was in constant use by Cortez, who, notwithstanding his
heartless cruelty, his unscrupulous and murderous deeds, his gross
selfishness, faithlessness, and ambition, was still a devout Catholic,
never omitting the most minute observances of church ceremonies, and
always accompanying his most questionable deeds with the cant phrases of
religion. The roof of the church of San Francisco is a curiosity in
itself, being upheld by elaborately carved cedar beams, which were
imported from Spain. In a side chapel is preserved the original pulpit
from which the Christian religion according to the tenets of the Church
of Rome was first preached in the New World, and also the stone font in
which the native Tlaxcalan chiefs were baptized. The defacing finger of
Time is visible on all perishable articles. One or two of the mediæval
paintings were scarcely more than tattered, drooping canvas, presenting
here and there a shadowy human figure or a clouded emblem. We were shown
a series of religions vestments, said to have been worn by the first
officiating priests in this ancient church; but we instantly realized
that they could not be so old, for such articles would long ago have
become too frail to hold together, whereas these were exposed upon an
open table, and were freely handled by any one who chose to do so. They
were of a light, thin texture, silk and satin, and elaborately trimmed
with gold and silver lace.

One is shocked on observing the roughly carved figures of bleeding
saints and martyrs, with crucifixion scenes and mangled bodies,
suspended from the walls of the church. "The repulsive and ghostly
images, paintings, and mechanical contrivances, common in the small
towns and villages, are mostly banished from the capital and other large
cities," says Hon. John H. Rice, in "Mexico, Our Neighbor," "in
obedience to the demands of a more decent civilization. They are used,
however, where most practicable (representing the crucifixion and
diverse rites and ceremonies of the church), to hold in awe and
superstitious thralldom the weak and untutored minds of the degenerated
children of the republic; and so to extort from them the last dregs of
their poverty-stricken purses."

The prevailing style of this Tlaxcalan church, as well as that of the
churches generally which we visited throughout the country, is of the
Spanish Renaissance. Puebla, Guadalajara, and the city of Mexico contain
cathedrals which will compare favorably even with those of continental
Spain, where the most elaborate and costly religious edifices in the
world are to be seen to-day. The plans of all these churches came
originally from Spain, and builders from thence superintended their
erection. The parish church of Tlaxcala, situated on a street leading
from the plaza, has a curious façade of stucco, brick, and blue glazed
tiles. In this edifice was seen an interesting picture representing the
baptism of the Tlaxcalan chiefs already referred to. This was an event
which was of local importance, perhaps, at the time, but which is
without a shadow of interest to-day, though it is duly emphasized and
repeated by the guides. The dome of the church was destroyed by an
earthquake so late as 1864. Near this church are the ruins of a chapel,
the façade of which is still standing, and on which are displayed the
royal arms of Spain.

Regarding the dwellings of the poorer classes of this region, as well as
of the country generally, they are of the most miserable character,
wanting in nearly all the requirements of health and comfort. They
consist of adobe-built cabins, wherein the people live, eat, and sleep
upon the bare ground, without light or ventilation, except that which
comes in through the open door, and where drainage of any sort is not
even thought of. Mud cabins on the bogs of Ireland are not poorer places
to live in. In the warmer regions, the common people live in mere huts
of cane, consisting of a few poles covered with dry plantain leaves,
palms, or cornstalks, made into a thatch by braiding and twining them
together. A mat woven of dried husks and laid upon the ground forms the
only bed. Neither chairs, tables, nor benches are seen in these
cabins,--they are unknown luxuries. In the more tropical regions of the
country, the cabins have no sides, the thatched roof coming down to near
the ground, thus forming only a screen from the rain during the season
of the year when it falls. A sort of instinct causes the common people
of the tropics to seek some sort of shelter from the stars when they
sleep; but half the Indian population of Mexico do not see the inside
even of an adobe cabin from one year's end to another. The universal
food depended upon to support life, besides the wild fruits, is the
preparation of corn called tortillas, and a few vegetable roots. The
grain is pulverized by hand between two stones, made into a paste or
dough, and eaten half baked in thin cakes. We are, of course, speaking
of the poor Indian people, but they form probably two thirds of the
population, especially in the rural districts. These natives make their
own fermented liquor. On the coast it is what they call palm wine, and
rum from sugar-cane; on the table-land, it is pulque, from the maguey
plant,--their delight and their curse. After the maguey has yielded its
sap to the last quart, and begins to wilt, there appears in the stalk a
nest of white caterpillars, which the Indians consider to be a great
luxury, and which they eat with avidity, besides which the roots of the
exhausted plant are boiled and eaten, possessing considerable nutritive
properties. The native people of New Zealand exhibit a similar appetite.
When the trunks of the tall kauri trees, which have been uprooted by
storms, have lain so long upon the moist ground that they begin to
decay, a large worm breeds in the decomposing wood; these, when arrived
at maturity, are eagerly grubbed for and devoured by the Maoris. Our
ideas of what constitutes proper food for human beings are governed by
very arbitrary rules. The Chinese consume dogs, cats, and rats; the
Japanese and Africans are fond of monkey flesh; the Parisians often eat
horse-meat from choice; while some of the South Sea Islanders have still
an appetite for human flesh. The London gourmand revels in snails, and
the New Yorker demands frogs upon his bill of fare. Is the New Zealander
so very exceptional in his fancy for wood-worms? Green goose and broiled
chicken are among the delicacies of our table, and yet there is
scarcely any sort of foul garbage which they will not consume as food.
Why is their flesh considered more delicate than any other?

The better dwellings of Tlaxcala are nearly all adobe houses, standing
in a rough, hilly region on the eastern slope of the mountains which
inclose the valley. It is difficult to conjecture what possible industry
keeps the place alive, for, though interesting to the thoughtful
traveler and the scientist, it has no visible business activity beyond
the exhibition of the antiquities to which we have referred, but seems
to smoulder in a sort of moss-grown, picturesque decay. The seats of the
old, half-forgotten, and neglected plaza were occupied by groups of idle
natives, who regarded us with a dull, sleepy interest. A few laden
burros passed through the streets bearing charcoal, wood, or bags of
grain, and others with high panniers of straw lashed in compact form.
They carried their noses close to the ground, picking up any edible
object--banana skins, orange peel, bits of garbage, and similar scraps.
This small creature which carries such enormous loads seems to eat
anything, no matter how little nutriment it contains, and, strange to
say, keeps in good flesh. The single candy shop under the arches beside
the plaza did a lively business with our party while we remained, its
members having suddenly developed a marvelous appetite for dulces.
Bright-eyed boys and girls, with a paucity of clothing and any amount of
good looks, met us at each turn with hands extended, and a cry of
"Centavo, centavo!"

It was to Tlaxcala that Cortez and his small band of followers retreated
when the natives of the valley of Mexico rose and in desperation drove
him from their midst. Here, after some months devoted to recuperation
and being joined by reinforcements from Cuba, he prepared to lay siege
once more to the Aztec capital. Part of this preparation consisted in
building a number of small, flat-bottomed boats in pieces, so that they
could be transported over a mountainous district, and put together on
the shore of Lake Texcoco, thus enabling him to complete the investment
of the water-begirt city. It sounds ludicrous in our times to read of
the force with which the invading Spaniards laid siege to a nation's
capital. His "army" consisted of forty cavalrymen, eighty arquebusiers
and cross-bowmen, and four hundred and fifty foot-soldiers, armed with
swords and lances, to which is to be added a train of nine small cannon,
about the size of those which are carried by our racing yachts of to-day
for the purpose of firing salutes. Of course he had a crowd of
Tlaxcalans with him, the number of which is variously stated, but who
could not be of much actual use. More than one of these veracious
Spanish historians states the number to have been one hundred and twenty
thousand! So large a body of men would have been a hindrance, not a
help, in the undertaking. Cortez neither had nor could he command a
commissariat suitable for such an army, and it must be remembered that
the siege lasted for months. "Whoever has had occasion to consult the
ancient chronicles of Spain," says Prescott, "in relation to its wars
with the infidels, whether Arab or American, will place little
confidence in numbers." We all know how a French imperial bulletin can
lie, but Spanish records are gigantic falsifications in comparison. This
siege lasted for over six months, and finally, on August 13, 1521,
Cortez entered the city in triumph, hoping to enrich himself with
immense spoils; but nearly all valuables, including those of the royal
treasury, had been cast into the lake and thus permanently lost, rather
than permit the avaricious Spaniards to possess them. Cortez's final
success of this invasion caused it to be called a "holy war," under the
patronage of the church! Had he failed, he would have been stigmatized
as a filibuster.

A brief visit was paid to the palace once occupied by Cortez, and now
the residence of the highest city official. It has been so modernized
that nothing was found especially interesting within the walls. The hot
sun of midday made the shade of the ancient trees on the plaza
particularly grateful, and the play of the fountain was at least
suggestive of coolness. Sitting on one of the long stone benches, we
mused as to the scenes which must have taken place upon this spot nearly
four hundred years ago, and watched the tri-colored flags of Mexico
floating gayly over the two palaces. In the mean time, the swarthy,
half-clad natives, regarded curiously and in silence the pale-faced
visitors to their quaint old town, until, by-and-by, we started on our
return to Puebla by tramway, stopping now and then to gather some
tempting wild flowers, or to purchase a bit of native pottery, which
was so like old Egyptian patterns that it would not have looked out of
place in Cairo or Alexandria.

Occasionally, in this section and eastward, towards Vera Cruz, as we
stop at a railway station, a squad of rural police, sometimes mounted,
sometimes on foot, draw up in line and salute the train. They are
usually clad in buff leather uniforms, with a red sash about their
waists, but sometimes are dressed in homespun, light gray woolen cloth,
covered with many buttons. They remind one of the Canadian mounted
police, who guard the frontier; a body of men designed to keep the
Indians in awe, and to perform semi-military and police duty. It is a
fact that most of these men were formerly banditti, who find that
occupation under the government pays them much better, and that it is
also safer, since the present energetic officials are in the habit of
shooting highwaymen at sight, without regard to judge or jury.



CHAPTER XV.

Down into the Hot Lands.--Wonderful Mountain Scenery.--Parasitic Vines.
    --Luscious Fruits.--Orchids.--Orizaba.--State of Vera Cruz.--The
    Kodak.--Churches.--A Native Artist.--Schools.--Climate.--Crystal Peak
    of Orizaba.--Grand Waterfall.--The American Flag.--Disappointed
    Climbers.--A Night Surprise.--The French Invasion.--The Plaza.--
    Indian Characteristics.--Early Morning Sights.--Maximilian in
    Council.--Difficult Engineering.--Wild Flowers.--A Cascade.--Cordova.
    --The Banana.--Coffee Plantations.--Fertile Soil.--Market Scenes.

After returning to Puebla from Tlaxcala, we take the cars which will
convey us eastward from the elevated table-land towards the tropical
region of the coast. The steep descent begins just below Boca del Monte
(Mouth of the Mountain), where the height above the Gulf of Mexico is
about eight thousand feet, and the distance from Vera Cruz a trifle over
one hundred miles. Here also is the dividing line between the states of
Puebla and Vera Cruz. The winding, twisting road built along the rugged
mountain-side is a marvelous triumph of the science of engineering,
presenting obstacles which were at first deemed almost impossible to be
overcome, now crossing deep gulches by spider-web trestles, and now
diving into and out of long, dark tunnels, all the while descending a
grade so steep as to be absolutely startling. The author remembers
nothing more remarkable of the same character, unless it may be
portions of the zigzag railway of the Blue Mountains in Australia, and
some grades among the foothills of the Himalayan range in India. This
road leading from Vera Cruz to the national capital, a distance of two
hundred and sixty miles, ascends seven thousand six hundred feet. The
scenery all the while is so grand and beautiful as to cause the most
timid traveler to forget his nervousness. We were reminded by an officer
of the road of the fact, remarkable if it is true, that no fatal
accident had ever occurred upon the line. The geological formation of
this region is on a most gigantic scale, the rocks of basalt and granite
rising in fantastic shapes, forming ravines and pinnacles unparalleled
for grandeur. Presently we come in full view of the beautiful valley of
La Joya (The Gem), revealing its lovely gardens, beautifully wooded
slopes, and yellow fields of ripening grain. By-and-by the lovely vale
and pretty village of Maltrata is seen, with its saffron-colored domes
and towers, its red-tiled, moss-enameled roofs, its flower-bordered
lanes, and its squares of cultivated fields. These greet the eye far,
far down the dizzy depths, two thousand feet, on our right, while on the
left the mountains rise abruptly hundreds of feet towards the sky. The
mingled rock and soil is here screened by lovely ferns and a perfect
exposition of morning glories, fabulous in size and dazzling in colors.
No artificial display could equal this handiwork of nature, this
exhibition of "April's loveliest coronets." Now and again large trees
are seen on the line of the road withering in the cruel coils of a
parasitic vine, which winds itself about the trunk like a two-inch
hawser, and slowly strangles the stout, columnar tree. Finally the
original trunk will die and fall to the ground, leaving the once small
vine to grow and fatten upon its decay until it shall rival in size the
trunk it has displaced. This is a sight common in tropical regions, and
often observed in the forests of New Zealand, where the author has seen
trees two and three feet in diameter yielding their lives to the fatal
embrace of these parasites.

We descend rapidly; down, down, rushes the train, impelled by its own
impetus, approaching the town first on one side, then on the other,
until we stop at a huge elevated tank, rivaling the famous tun of
Heidelberg in size, to water the thirsty engine. Here, and at most of
the stations along the route, boys and girls offer the travelers
tropical fruits in great variety at merely nominal prices, including
large, yellow pineapples, zapotas, mameys, pomegranates, citrons, limes,
oranges, and the like. Large, ripe oranges are sold two for a penny. One
timid, half-clad, pretty young girl of native blood held up to us
diffidently a bunch of white, fragrant orange blossoms which were
eagerly secured and enjoyed, the child could not know how much. Other
Indians brought roses and various orchids, splendidly developed, which
they sold for a _real_ (twelve cents) each, with the roots bound up in
broad green leaves. Doyle or Galvin would charge ten dollars apiece for
such in Boston. Some of them had marvellous scarlet centres, eccentric
in shape but very beautiful. As to color, there were blue, green,
scarlet, yellow, and purple specimens among them.

Still winding in and out among the mountains, our ears frequently
greeted by the music of tumbling waters, we finally arrive at Orizaba,
in the State of Vera Cruz. The capital of this state was formerly
Jalapa, but it is now Orizaba, which is named after the grand old
mountain whose base is about twenty-five miles away. The State of Vera
Cruz contains something over half a million of inhabitants. Few places
in Mexico have a more fascinating site, or are surrounded by more lovely
scenery. We are here eighty miles from Vera Cruz, and one hundred and
eighty from the city of Mexico. Orizaba, having a little over twenty
thousand inhabitants, is in many respects the quaintest, as it is one of
the oldest, cities in the country. Most of the dwellings are but one
story in height, built with broad, overhanging eaves, and are composed
of rubble-stone, mortar, sun-dried brick, and a variety of other
material; but not including wood. The low, iron-grated windows, so
universal in Spanish towns, are not wanting here, through the bars of
which, dark-eyed señoritas and laughing children watch us as we pass,
often exhibiting pleasant family groups which were photographed as
swiftly and as surely on the brain as a No. 2 Kodak instrument would
depict them. Some of our party, by the way, were very expert with their
Kodaks, and brought away with them illustrated records of their extended
journey which, for interest, would put these pen-and-ink sketches to
utter shame.

The pitched roofs of the low houses of Orizaba are covered with big red
tiles, which afford a sort of ventilation, as well as serving to throw
off the heat of the burning sun, while the dry earth seems to absorb it,
radiating a glimmer of heated air, like the sand dunes of Suez. It is
singular that everything should be so oriental in appearance, while it
would be puzzling to say exactly wherein lies the resemblance.

That there are numerous churches here goes without saying, and we may
add that two or three of them are quite imposing, while all are
suggestive, with a few crippled beggars standing like sentries at their
doors. An Indian artist, Gabriel Barranco, has contributed oil-paintings
of considerable merit to nearly all the churches in his native town. He
is still alive, or was so a couple of months since, and is a most
interesting conversationalist, though he is blind and decrepit. This
locality seems particularly liable to earthquakes in a mild form. The
largest church here has had its steeple overthrown three times, and the
towers on several others have been made to lean by the same agency, so
that they are considerably out of plumb. No earthquake, however, is
likely to make much headway against the low dwellings, which cling to
the ground like one's shoe to his foot. It is pleasant to mention that
several good schools have been established at Orizaba, supported by the
local government. These, we are told on good authority, are in a
flourishing condition in spite of all opposition from the church party.
There are four schools for boys and three exclusively for girls.
Bigotry may make a bold show, but it cannot prosper where a system of
free schools prevails.

A river runs through the city, lending a little life to the sleepy old
place, and affording ample water power for six or eight mills which
manufacture sugar, cotton, and flour. The situation is about midway
between Vera Cruz and Puebla, on one of the two principal routes from
the former port to the city of Mexico. The surrounding valley is quite
fertile, and is mostly devoted to the raising of coffee, sugar, and
tobacco. The climate is said to be very fine all the year round, the
average temperature being 74° Fahr. in summer and rarely falling below
60° at any season, though it seemed to us, who had just come from the
higher table-land, to be about 90°. The scenery is that of Switzerland,
the temperature that of southern Italy. It affords an agreeable medium
between the heat of the lower country towards the Gulf and the almost
too rarefied atmosphere of the high table-lands of Mexico. "In the
course of a few hours," says Prescott, "the traveler may experience
every gradation of climate, embracing torrid heat and glacial cold, and
pass through different zones of vegetation, including wheat and the
sugar-cane, the ash and the palm, apples, olives, and guavas."

In this vicinity one sees the orange, lemon, banana, and almond growing
at their best, while the coffee, sugar, and tobacco plantations rival
those of Cuba, both in extent and in the character of their products.
While Spanish rulers were still masters here, and when all manner of
arbitrary restrictions were put upon trade, the cultivation of tobacco
was confined by law to the districts about Cordova and Orizaba. There is
no such handicapping of rural industry now enforced, and sugar and
tobacco, which are always sure of a ready market where transportation is
to be had, are engaging more and more of the attention of planters. It
was found that the best of sugar-cane land, that is, best suited for a
sugar plantation, could be had here for from thirty to forty dollars per
acre; superior for the purpose to that which is held at one thousand
dollars per acre in Louisiana. Though cotton is grown in about half the
states of Mexico, the states of Vera Cruz and Durango are the most
prolific in this crop. The plant thrives on the table-land up to an
elevation of about five thousand feet above the level of the Gulf, and
according to Mexican statistics the average product is about two
thousand pounds to the acre, which is double the average quantity
produced in the cotton-growing States of this Union. The modes of
cultivation are very crude and imperfect, especially at any distance
from the large and populous centres, but the amazing fertility of the
soil insures good and remunerative returns to the farmer or planter even
under these unfavorable circumstances. Water is the great, we may say
the only, fertilizer--none other is ever used, and irrigating facilities
are excellent. The city is elevated more than four thousand feet above
Vera Cruz, but is also as much below the altitude of the national
capital. As to the climate, one is prepared to agree with its
inhabitants, who declare it to be "perfection." The city is
overshadowed, as it were, by the crystal peak of Orizaba, though it is
some miles away, rising to nearly eighteen thousand feet above the sea.
It is probably the second loftiest mountain in North America south of
the Territory of Alaska, and exceeds the highest point in Europe.
Violent eruptions took place from its crater in 1545 and 1546.

About two miles east of Orizaba, near the hamlet of Jalapilla, is a fine
waterfall, known as the Cascade Rincon Grande; this body of water makes
a daring plunge of fifty feet over precipitous rocks, amid a glorious
growth of tropical vegetation. From here parties are made up to ascend
Orizaba (Mountain of the Star). It has stopped business as a volcano
since the last date named, and is the highest mountain in Mexico with
the exception of Popocatepetl. Until about forty years ago, the summit
was considered to be inaccessible to human feet, but a party of
energetic Americans planted our national flag on the summit at that
time, the tattered remains of which were found to be still there in
1851, by Alexander Doignon, an adventurous Frenchman. We were told by a
resident of the city of the experience of an English party, who came up
from Vera Cruz not long since on their way to the city of Mexico, and
who made a stop at Orizaba, intending to ascend the famous mountain.
There is said to be no very great difficulty to overcome in climbing to
the top if one has experience in such work and is at the same time
strong and well, but the party referred to had just arrived from the
level of the sea. The summit of Orizaba is, as we have stated,
considerably over seventeen thousand feet above the port of Vera Cruz.
This party of confident climbers had to give it up after reaching what
is known as the timber line, simply for want of the necessary breathing
power. One's lungs must become in a degree accustomed to the rarefied
atmosphere of the table-land before attempting to ascend to such a
height. Guides, blankets, and two days' provisions should be taken by
any party designing to climb Orizaba. One must seek a favorable point in
the limits of the town to see this elevation to advantage, because of
the close intervening hills. On the west side of the town is an
elevation known as El Borrego, where five thousand Mexicans were
completely routed by a single company of Zouaves during the
ill-conceived French invasion. To be sure, this was a night surprise,
wherein the French appeared among the sleeping Mexicans and cut them
down as fast as they opened their eyes, until the whole camp took to
flight. The importance of military discipline was never more clearly
demonstrated. Probably the average of the Mexican soldiers were of
nearly as good material as the French, but the former were little better
than a mob, each man for himself. Even to-day, it is observed, in the
few military exhibitions given in public, that the rank and file are
lackadaisical, indifferent, undrilled, evincing a want of nearly every
element of discipline, while their officers lounge along the
avenues,--they do not _march_,--presenting an appearance as far from
true military bearing as the greatest clown in the ranks.

It will be remembered that Orizaba was for a considerable time the
headquarters of General Bazaine's army, and it was here that the French
general finally, in 1866, bade good-by to the ill-fated Maximilian,
whose cause he deserted by order of his royal master, Napoleon the
Little. Stories are told by the residents of the outrages committed by
the French soldiers, who were permitted unlimited license by their
commander. "The whole army," said an aged citizen to us, "was a body of
cutthroats. They stole everything they could carry away, besides which,
cruel and aimless murder was their daily diversion."

The small plaza is a delightful resort, a wilderness of green with an
ornamental fountain in the middle, about which are stone seats among
flowering shrubs, orange and other fruit trees. Indeed, the entire
surroundings of Orizaba are gardenlike in fertility and bloom. The
vegetation, owing to the humidity of the atmosphere rising from the
Gulf, is always intensely green. Huge butterflies flitted in clouds
about the plaza, many-colored, sunshine-loving creatures, with
widespread, yellow wings shot with purple bars, and bearing strongly
contrasting dots of inky-black and lily-white. A tall cluster of the
glorious tulipan, quite by itself, looked like a tree on fire, so
glowing was its scarlet bloom.

The streets of the town are in tolerably good condition, paved with lava
once vomited from the neighboring mountain, now so quiet. The gutters
are in the middle of the thoroughfares, and the sidewalks are only a few
inches in width. Carts or wheeled vehicles of any sort are very little
used, freight being carried almost wholly on the backs of burros and
Indians. All vegetables, charcoal, wood, and country produce come into
town on the backs of sturdy, copper-colored natives, men and women, and
it is really astonishing to see what loads they will carry for long
distances over the mountain roads at the rate of five or six miles an
hour. Humboldt, in his description of these Indians, tells us that they
enjoy one great physical advantage which is undoubtedly owing to the
simplicity in which their ancestors lived for thousands of years. He
referred to the fact that they are subject to hardly any deformity. A
hunchbacked Indian is not to be seen, and it is very rare to meet a
maimed or a lame one. Their hair does not grow gray like that of white
men, nor do their faces grow wrinkled as they become old. The absence of
deformity is also supposed to be owing to their general mode of life,
simple food, living in the open air, and temperate habits. Their
ivory-white teeth contrast strongly with their black hair and bronzed
features. The country people rarely indulge in pulque, never unless when
they come to town, and they have too little money to throw it away in
the purchase of much of even that cheap liquor. It is said that its
injurious effects upon the system are very trifling compared to those of
American whiskey. It seems to be little more than a powerful narcotic to
those who drink of it freely. The strong distilled liquor made from the
roots of the maguey plant is quite another article, and is more like
Scotch whiskey in effect.

If you rise from your couch early enough in the morning, you will see
many Indian men and women coming in to market from the country, all
bending under the weight of provisions, pottery, or some other home
product. You will see the women (industrious creatures) knitting or
netting as they jog along. And near them long trains of burros laden
with grain, alfalfa, straw, or wood. You will see some dark-eyed,
coquettish girls with inviting bouquets for sale; also here and there a
pretty señora or señorita, with a dark lace veil thrown over her jet
black hair, hastening to early mass; but, above all, behold the glorious
sun encircling the frosty brow of Orizaba with a halo of gold and silver
which sparkles like diamonds in the clear, crisp morning atmosphere. How
full of vivid pictures is the memory of these early morning hours in
Mexico!

In a small village known as Jalapilla, situated about a couple of miles
south of the city, is the spot where Maximilian resided for a brief
period after the French army had deserted him. Here he held the famous
council as to whether he should abdicate the Mexican throne or not. He
was more than half inclined to do it. It was really the only
common-sense course which was left open to him. Had he done so, he might
have been living to-day. Vera Cruz was close at hand and easily reached,
a French steamship lay off San Juan d'Ulloa ready to take him across the
sea, but there were three causes working against his abdication. First,
his own pride; second, the pressure of the church party; and, last but
not least, the confident counsels of Carlotta. These influences
prevailed, and decided him to remain. He thus challenged the inevitable
fate which ended his career at Queretaro. That two generals who were on
his personal staff believed in his star and were wedded to his service
under all circumstances, was fully proven in the fact that they made no
attempt to escape, but calmly and devotedly died by his side when the
crisis finally came.

The railroad station at Orizaba adjoined a neat inclosure, which is a
small floral paradise, exhibiting very clearly a woman's taste in the
arrangement and cultivation. Roses white and red, lilies tall and
pearl-colored, the scarlet hibiscus, tube-roses, orange-trees,
coffee-trees full of berries, all are to be seen here, with a few
bananas waving their long, broad green leaves, like pennons, over the
undergrowth, and showing their one pendulous blossom as large as a
pineapple.

The descent from the high elevation of Orizaba is continued, the route
leading through groves of bananas, maize and sugar plantations, and
creeping down the steep sides of a terrific gorge over a thousand feet
deep, where the purple shadows look like shrouded phantoms hastening out
of sight. This abyss is crossed by means of extraordinary engineering
skill, much of the roadway along the nearly perpendicular side of the
ravine having been hewn out of the solid rock. To accomplish this it was
necessary at first to suspend workmen by ropes over the brow of the
cliffs, lowering them down until they were opposite the point to be
operated upon, and, after making fast the ropes which held them, leave
them there to work for hours with hammer and chisel. There was one piece
of roadbed, not more than ten rods in length, where the track seemed to
run on a narrow shelf barely wide enough for the cars to pass, which is
said to have required seven years to render available. We can well
conceive it to have been so, for the whole road from Vera Cruz to Mexico
was about five times seven years in building. The view is at times such
as to incline the experienced traveler to hold his breath, if not to
close his eyes, in a tremor of excitement. In the steepest part of the
route the descent is at the rate of one hundred thirty-three and one
third feet to the mile! Were a wheel to break, an iron nut to give way,
or the trusted brakes fail to operate, what a frightful catastrophe
would instantly follow!

Between Orizaba and Cordova, a few rods off the line of the railway to
the left as we go from the former to the latter place, is a dark,
cavernous passage cut through the hillside a hundred feet or more,
leading to the view of a waterfall of great beauty and of considerable
size. It is closely framed on all sides by dark green foliage, tall and
graceful trees partially overhanging it. Dainty orchids and beautiful
ferns hang upon the damp rocks and the brown tree-trunks. Here the cars
stop for a brief period, to enable us to delight our eyes and ears by
the sight and sound of the riotous waters. A waterfall or cascade in
this climate is enhanced in importance for many reasons; the very sight
of rushing, foaming water has a cooling and refreshing effect when the
thermometer is at 90° Fahr. The rank, tropical verdure, the depth of
the sombre gorge, the tumultuous, sparkling waters, the cool, welcome
shade, and the ceaseless anthem of the falls make the charming spot a
scene long to be remembered. One would have liked to linger there for
hours. Finally, after having passed over a distance of nearly twenty
miles, we cross the bridge of Metlac, built over a river of the same
name, and arrive in sight of Cordova, whose domes and towers are just
far enough away to clothe them in a soft, inviting, amber hue.

Cordova is situated in the fertile valley of the Rio Seco, and in the
midst of a sugar and coffee producing district about seventy miles west
of Vera Cruz, nearly upon the direct line between the Gulf and the city
of Mexico. To be exact, it is sixty-six miles from the former city and
two hundred from the latter. Speaking of coffee, the region wherein it
thrives and is remuneratively productive is very large in Mexico. It
grows down to the coast and far up into the table-lands, but it does
best in an altitude of from one to three thousand feet above the level
of the sea. In this region, as we have already indicated, a berry is
produced which we consider equal to the product of any land. Under
proper conditions the republic could furnish the whole of this country
with the raw material wherewith to produce the favorite beverage,
enormous as is the consumption. The bananas of this region were found to
be especially luscious and appetizing. In growth this is a beautiful,
thrifty, and productive annual, forming a large portion of the food
supply of the humbler classes, and a favorite dessert at the tables of
the rich. From the centre of its large, broad, palm-like leaves, which
gather at the top of the thick stalk, twelve or fifteen inches in
diameter, when it has reached a height of about ten feet, there springs
forth a large purple bud, eight or nine inches long, shaped like a huge
acorn, but a little more pointed. This cone hangs suspended from a
strong stem upon which a leaf unfolds, displaying a cluster of young
fruit. As soon as these have become fairly set, this sheltering leaf
drops off and another unfolds, exposing its little brood of young fruit,
and the process goes on until eight or ten rings of small bananas are
started, forming bunches, when ready to pick, of from seventy-five to a
hundred of the finger-like product. After bearing, the stalk and top
die, but it sprouts up again from the roots, once more to go through the
liberal process of producing a crop of luscious fruit. It is said that
the banana is more productive and requires less care or cultivation than
any other food-producing growth in the tropics or elsewhere.

Neither Florida nor Cuba can furnish finer oranges than are grown in
vast quantities in the region round about Cordova. Peddlers offer them
by the basketful to passing travelers, ripe and delicious, two for a
penny; also, mangoes, bananas, pineapples, and other tropical fruits, at
equally low prices. Great quantities are shipped to other cities by
rail, and passengers carry away hundreds in baskets daily. Coffee and
sugar are, however, the staple products. Among the neighboring planters,
as we were told, are a few enterprising Americans, who have lately
introduced more modern facilities than have been in use heretofore for
planting, cultivating, packing, and the like. A coffee plantation is one
of the most pleasing tropical sights the eye can rest upon, where
twenty-five or thirty acres of level soil are planted thickly with the
deep green shrub, divided into straight lines, which obtains the needed
shade from graceful palms, interspersed with bananas, orange and mango
trees. Coffee will not thrive without partial protection from the ardor
of the sun in the low latitudes, and therefore a certain number of shade
and fruit trees are introduced among the low-growing plants. The shrub
is kept trimmed down to a certain height, thus throwing all the vigor of
the roots into the formation of berries upon the branches which are not
disturbed. So prolific is the low-growing tree thus treated that the
small branches bend nearly to the ground under the weight of the
ripening berries. Conceive of such an arrangement when the whole is in
flower, the milk-white blossoms of the coffee so abundant as to seem as
though a cloud of snow had fallen there and left the rest of the
vegetation in full verdure, while the air is as heavy with perfume as in
an orange grove.

The soil between here and Orizaba is considered to be of the richest and
most fertile in all Mexico. Plantations devoted to the raising of
cinchona have proved quite profitable. Four times each year may the
sower reap his harvest amid perpetual summer. We saw some fine groves of
the plantain, the trees twelve feet high and the leaves six feet long
by two in width. This, together with the banana, forms the chief feature
as regards the low-growing foliage in all the tropical regions about the
Gulf of Mexico, gracefully fanning the undergrowth with broad-spread
leaves, and affording the needed shade. The stem of the plantain
gradually decays, like the banana, when the fruit has ripened, after
which the young shoots spring up from the roots once more to produce the
abundant and nourishing food. It does not seem to have any special
season, but is constantly in bloom and bearing. The accumulation of
sugar and starch in the fruit makes it a most valuable source of food in
the tropics, while the product from a small area of land is enormous
when compared with that of cultivated grains and fruits generally.

The cacao, the source from whence our chocolate comes, was originally
found in Mexico, where its seeds once formed the money, or circulating
medium, of the aboriginal tribes. It grows here in abundance and to
great perfection.

Cordova has between six and eight thousand inhabitants. It is nearly
three thousand feet above sea level, and is rarely troubled with yellow
fever; but ague is common. The streets are very regular and are all
paved. On one side of the plaza is the cathedral, a grand edifice with a
gaudily-finished interior. The central plaza, though small, is
exquisitely kept, full of flowers, and vivid with the large scarlet
tulipan. The ground is well-filled with fruit-trees and palms,
interspersed with smooth paths, and furnished with ornamental iron
seats. On the outside of the plaza is the market, where rows of
country-women sit on their haunches in true Asiatic fashion, beside
their articles for sale. This class of women here affect high colors in
their rude costumes, wearing a profusion of cheap coral and silver
ornaments, besides a peculiar headdress, more Neapolitan than Mexican.
It is quite the thing in speaking of Cordova to remember that it was
here, in 1821, that the treaty was signed between Iturbide and O'Donoju,
which officially recognized the independence of Mexico. The vicinity of
the town abounds in antique remains. An organized party was engaged in
exhuming old pottery and other domestic utensils at the time of our
visit.



CHAPTER XVI.

The City of Vera Cruz.--Defective Harbor.--The Dreaded and also Welcome
    Norther.--San Juan d'Ulloa.--Landing of Cortez.--His Expedition
    Piratical.--View of the City from the Sea.--Cortez's Destruction of
    his Ships.--Anecdote of Charles V.--A Sickly Capital.--Street Scenes.
    --Trade.--The Mantilla.--Plaza de la Constitucion.--Typical
    Characters.--Brilliant Fireflies.--Well-To-Do Beggars.--Principal
    Edifices.--The Campo Santo.--City Dwelling-Houses.--The Dark-Plumed
    Buzzards.--A City Fountain.--A Varied History.--Medillin.--State of
    Vera Cruz.

Vera Cruz, which is at present the principal seaport of the republic,
and which has heretofore been considered as the gateway of Mexico, is
without a harbor worthy of the name, being situated on an open roadstead
and affording no safe anchorage among its shoals, coral reefs, and surf.
It is not safe, in fact, for vessels to moor within half a mile of the
shore. A cluster of dangerous, merciless-looking reefs, together with
the island of San Juan d'Ulloa, form a slight protection from the open
Gulf. A sea-wall shelters the street facing upon the water, and there is
a serviceable mole where boats land from the shipping when a "norther"
is not blowing; but when that prevails no one attempts to land from
vessels in the roadstead. No wonder that underwriters charge double to
insure vessels bound to so inhospitable a shore. Even in ordinary
weather a surf-drenching has sometimes to be endured in landing at the
mole. This is a serious objection to the port where every ton of freight
must be transferred between ship and shore by lighters. Nevertheless,
this difficulty might be easily overcome by the construction of a
substantial breakwater, such as has lately been successfully built at
Colombo, Ceylon, or that which has robbed the roadstead of Madras,
India, of its former terrors. To be sure, such a plan requires
enterprise and the liberal expenditure of money. Unless the citizens
open their purses and pay for the needed improvement, which would
promptly turn their exposed shore into a safe harbor, they will have to
submit to seeing the present commerce of the port diverted to Tampico,
where suitable engineering is about to secure an excellent harbor.
Improvements are of slow growth in this country. The railway between
this city and the national capital was over thirty years in building,
and cost fully forty million dollars.

The captain of a freighting steamer sailing out of New York told the
writer that he had more than once been obliged, at certain seasons of
the year, to sail from Vera Cruz carrying back to his port of departure
a portion of his cargo, as there was no time while the ship remained
here that he dared to risk the landing of valuable goods liable to be
spoiled by exposure to a high-running sea.

When a norther comes on to blow at Vera Cruz, all the vessels remaining
near the city let go an extra anchor and batten down the hatches; or,
wiser still, they let go their ground tackle and hasten to make an
offing. The natives promptly haul their light boats well on shore; the
citizens securely close their doors and windows; while the sky becomes
darkened by clouds of sand driven by fierce gusts of wind. It is a fact
that passengers have been obliged to remain for a whole week upon a
European steamer, unable to land during a protracted norther. These
storms are terrific in violence. It is not a straight out-and-out gale,
an honest tempest, such as one sometimes meets at sea, and with which an
experienced mariner knows how to cope. A norther is an erratic
succession of furious squalls with whirlwinds of sand, the wind blowing
from several points at the same time. When a norther blows, work is
suspended in the city, and the streets are deserted until the fury of
the blast has subsided. This wind, however, like most other serious
annoyances in life, has its bright side. Very true is the saying: "It's
an ill wind that blows nobody good." The norther drives away that fatal
enemy of the city, the yellow fever; and when it fairly sets in to blow,
that surely ends the disease for the season; its germs are swept away as
if by magic. The insect plague is only second to that of the vomito as
regards the danger and discomfort to be encountered in this "City of the
True Cross." But even mosquitoes succumb to the northers. The muslin
bars which surround the beds of the Hotel Diligencia, fronting the
plaza, are effectual, so that one can generally sleep during the two or
three nights that he is likely to stay in the city. A longer sojourn is
simply inviting disease, besides which there is no possible attraction
to keep one here any longer.

The only good harbor in the Gulf of Mexico within a hundred miles of
this point is that of Anton Lizardo, about fifteen miles to the
southward of Vera Cruz, which, in fact, should have been made the
commercial port. This position is now, doubtless to be filled by
Tampico, in connection with the Mexican Central Railroad branch running
from the main trunk of that road to the Gulf, by way of San Luis Potosi.
We heard of another element operating very seriously against the
interests of Vera Cruz. It seems that the sand of the Gulf shore, moved
by various currents, is gradually depositing itself in the shallow
roadstead in such quantities as to seriously imperil navigation. It is
admitted that should this continue for a few years it would close the
port to commerce. The railroad management are already talking of
extending the line southward to Anton Lizardo.

On an island, less than one mile off the shore of Vera Cruz, stands the
grim old fortress of San Juan d'Ulloa, a most conspicuous object with
its blackened and crumbling walls. It has often been declared to be
impregnable, and yet, curious to say, it has never been attacked by a
foe without being compelled to surrender. Here Cortez landed on Mexican
soil, April 21, 1519. He disembarked on a Friday, a day which the Romish
church has set apart for the adoration of the cross; he therefore called
the place Vera Cruz (The True Cross). The mere handful of followers
which he brought with him to conquer and possess a nation consisted of
four hundred and fifteen men at arms, sixteen horses, and seven cannon!
These last were mere howitzers. Was ever a more daring and reckless
scheme conceived of? Fully realizing the peculiar nature of the venture,
and fearing that when his followers should awaken to the extravagant
folly of the invasion, they would mutiny, forcibly seize the ships which
had brought them, and return in them to Cuba, he deliberately destroyed
all the galleys save one, and thus cut off the means of retreat. This
was quite in accordance with the desperate nature of the enterprise and
the reckless spirit of its leader, who had boldly taken upon himself
unauthorized responsibility. In bringing about the destruction of his
vessels, Cortez resorted to a subterfuge so as to deceive the people
about him. He did not "burn" his ships, as has been so commonly
reported, but ordered a marine survey upon them, employing an officer
who had his secret instructions, and when the report was made public it
was to the effect that the galleys were unseaworthy, leaky, and not fit
or safe for service. A certain sea worm had reduced the hulls to mere
shells! So the stores and armament were carried on shore, and the
vessels sunk or wrecked. "His followers murmured at the loss of the
ships," says Chevalier, "but were quieted by Cortez, who promised them
salvation in the next world and fortunes in this." This is one version
of the famous episode which has come down to us, and which we believe to
be the true one. It is certainly the most in accordance with all the
known facts in the case.

There are important circumstances connected with this often repeated
episode which are not always considered in forming an estimate of the
whole affair. The departure of the expedition from Cuba was nothing less
than open rebellion on the part of Cortez. Had it eventuated in failure,
its leader would have been pronounced a pirate and filibuster. It was
Talleyrand who declared that nothing succeeds so well as success. Thus
it is that history makes of the fortunate adventurer a hero, never
pausing to consider the means by which his success was attained. "Cortez
and his companions," says Chevalier, "had incurred the necessity of
signalizing themselves by some great exploit. They had committed a fault
which the laws of all states treated as crime, and one that the leaders
must expiate on the gibbet and their followers at the galleys, unless
atoned for by brilliant deeds. Their departure from Cuba was an act of
flagrant rebellion." In his great haste to get away from Cuba he
embarked in nine small vessels, the largest not over one hundred tons
and some were even undecked boats. Velasquez, the governor of the island
of Cuba, had for some time previously contemplated sending an expedition
to Mexico, and having got it about ready for departure, he was
over-persuaded to give Cortez the command; but after due consideration,
repenting of his decision, he took steps to replace him by a more
trusted officer. Cortez learned of this, and hastily got as many of the
people together who had enlisted for the purpose as he could, and
putting the munitions on board, sailed without taking leave! He had
already been once pardoned out of prison by Velasquez, where he was
confined for gross insubordination, and for the baseness of his private
life, which, though he was thirty-four years of age, exhibited all the
faults of earliest manhood. R. A. Wilson pronounces the expedition to
have been "purely piratical, whose leader could have no hope of royal
pardon but in complete success." Cortez knew that it would not answer
for him to return to Cuba, therefore he unhesitatingly destroyed the
means by which even his comrades could do so. These facts rob the act
which has been so lauded by historians of all heroism. Depend upon it,
all our heroes have feet of clay. He had just made a rough campaign with
the natives of Tabasco, in Yucatan, where he learned that farther up the
Gulf, where he finally landed, there was "a people who had much gold."
That was what he sought. It was not God but gold that drew him onward
from Vera Cruz to Montezuma's capital. He was not seeking to
christianize the natives; that was a plausible subterfuge. His aim was
to enrich himself with native spoils and to acquire empire, nor did he
pause until he had consummated the ruin of a kingdom and his own
aggrandizement.

The traveler should not fail to take a boat across the bay to the
castle, and there visit the dark and dismal dungeons built below the
surrounding waters of the Gulf, like those in the castle of Chillon
beneath the surface of the lake of Geneva. One may obtain an admirable
view of the city and its neighborhood from the cupola of the lofty
lighthouse, which is of the first class, and rises grandly to ninety
feet above the sea. The fortress is now only partially manned, being
used mostly as a place of confinement for political prisoners. As this
island was the first landing-place of the Spaniards, so it was their
last foothold in Mexico. There is a familiar anecdote, which is always
retailed by the guides to the strangers whom they initiate into the
mysteries of the fortress upon which Cortez is said to have expended
uselessly many millions of dollars. Charles V., being asked for more
funds wherewith to add to the defenses of San Juan d'Ulloa, called for a
spyglass, and, seeking a window, pointed it to the west, seeming to gaze
through the glass long and earnestly. When he was asked what he was
looking for, he replied: "San Juan d'Ulloa. I have spent so much money
upon the structure that it seems to me I ought to see it standing on the
western horizon."

The low-lying town--nearly eight thousand feet below the city of
Mexico--is, perhaps, one of the most unhealthy spots on this continent,
where the yellow fever, or _vomito_ as it is called, prevails for six or
seven months of the year, claiming myriads of victims annually, while a
malarial scourge, known as the stranger's fever, lingers about the place
more or less fatally all the year round, according to the number of
persons who are liable to be attacked. The yellow fever, which makes its
appearance in May, is generally at its worst in August and September, at
which periods it is apt to creep upwards towards the higher lands as far
as Jalapa and Orizaba, though it has never been known to exist to any
great extent in either of these places. The dangerous miasma which
prevails seems to be quite harmless to the natives of the locality, or
at least they are rarely attacked by it. When a person has once
contracted yellow fever and recovered from it, as a rule he is presumed
to be exempt from a second attack, but this is not a rule without an
exception. In summer the streets of Vera Cruz are deserted except by the
buzzards and the stray dogs. These quarrel with each other for scraps of
food. The latter by no means always get the best of it. Even the
Mexicans at such times call the place _Una ciudad de los muertos_ (a
city of the dead).

A large share of the business of Vera Cruz is carried on by French or
German residents who have become acclimated, or by those born here of
parents belonging to those nationalities. Many of the merchants of the
city keep up a permanent residence at Jalapa for sanitary reasons. It is
singular that the climate of this port on the Gulf side of the peninsula
should be so fatal to human life, while the Pacific side, in the same
latitude and quite near at hand, is perfectly salubrious. When the
French army landed here in 1863-64, the ranks were decimated by the
epidemic, and the graveyard where the bodies of between three and four
thousand French victims lie buried near the city has been named by their
countrymen, with grim humor, "Le Jardin d'Acclimatation"!

On viewing the town from the castle of San Juan d'Ulloa, one is struck
by the oriental aspect which it presents. Everything is seen through a
lurid atmosphere. The glare of sunshine reflected by the porcelain
domes and the intense blue of the sky are Egyptian. Groups of mottled
church towers surmounted by glittering crosses; square, flat-roofed
houses; rough fortifications; a long reach of hot sandy plain on either
side relieved by a few palm-trees; and scattered groups of low-growing
cactus,--these make up the picture of the flat, miasmatic shore. There
are no suburbs; the dreary, monotonous sand creeps close up to the city.
But if the near foreground thus exhibits a certain repulsive nakedness,
there looms grandly on the far-away horizon the Sierra Madre range of
mountains, the culminating point of which is the bold, aspiring peak of
Orizaba. It must be clear weather, however, to enable the visitor to see
this remarkable elevation, with its hoary crown, to reach whose base
twenty-seven leagues must be traversed.

The long, straight, narrow streets are laid out with great uniformity, a
characteristic of all Mexican cities, and cross each other at right
angles, the monotony being broken by green blinds opening on to the
little balconies which are shaded by awnings. The streets have a sort of
sun-baked hue, though the principal thoroughfares show a fair degree of
life and activity considering that the population is so largely made up
of Mexicans. The area covered by the city cannot much exceed sixty
acres, the town being built in a very compact manner, a bird's-eye view
of which makes it resemble the outspread human hand. The port has seen
its most prosperous days, if we may judge by present appearances. The
aggregate of the imports and exports amounted to about thirty million
dollars annually before the completion of the railroads to the national
capital and thence to El Paso, but, as was anticipated, this new
facility for transportation has diverted a large portion of this amount
northward through the United States. The streets of Vera Cruz are still
crowded in business hours with mule carts, porters, half-naked
water-carriers, Indians, and a few negroes, military officers, and
active civilians. Speaking of negroes, there are a less number in all
Mexico than in any one State of this Union. In the plaza pretty
flower-girls with tempting bouquets mingle with fruit venders,
lottery-ticket sellers, and dashing young Mexican dudes, wearing broad
sombreros heavy with cords of silver braid. Occasionally there passes
some dignified señora, whose head and shoulders are covered with a black
lace mantilla, imparting infinite grace to her handsome figure. How
vastly superior is that soft, drooping veil to the tall hats and absurd
bonnets of northern civilization! Broad contrasts present themselves on
all hands, in groups of men, women, and children, half clad in rags,
perhaps, but gay with brilliant colors, sharing the way with some
sober-clad Europeans, or rollicking, half tipsy seamen on shore-leave
from the shipping at anchor in the roadstead.

The Plaza de la Constitucion is small in extent, about two hundred feet
square, but it is very attractive. It is skillfully arranged, having a
handsome bronze fountain in its centre, the gift of Carlotta, the
unfortunate, energetic wife of Maximilian. In the evening the place is
rendered brilliant by a system of electric lights. The flower plots and
marble walks are ornamented with many lovely tropical flowers, cocoanut
palms, and fragrant roses nodding languidly in the hot summer atmosphere
under a sky intensely blue, and nine tenths of the time perfectly
cloudless. The Australian gum-tree and the Chinese laurel were
conspicuous among other exotic varieties. As the twilight approaches, it
is amusing to watch the _habitués_, consisting of both sexes, especially
in shady corners where there is obviously much love-making on the sly,
but not the legitimate article of the Romeo and Juliet sort which has
already been described. Here and there strolls a dude,--a Mexican dude,
with his dark face shaded by his sombrero, his tight trousers flaring at
the bottom and profusely ornamented at the side with silver buttons. He
is jostled by a fellow-countryman, who gathers his serape across his
left shoulder and breast so adroitly as to partially conceal his shabby
attire, while he puffs his cigarette with assumed nonchalance,
exchanging a careless word in the mean time with the gypsy-like woman
who offers bananas and zapotas for sale. Dainty señoritas trip across
the way in red-heeled slippers of Cinderella-like proportions, while
noisy, laughing, happy children, girls and boys, romp with pet dogs,
trundle ribbon-decked hoops, or spin gaudy humming tops. Flaring posters
catch the eye, heralding the cruel bull-fight or a performance at the
theatre. On Sundays a military band performs here forenoons and
evenings. Under the starlight you may look not only among the low
growing foliage to see the fireflies, which float there like clouds of
phosphorescence, but now and again one will glow, diamond-like, in the
black hair of the fair señoritas, where they are ingeniously fastened to
produce this effect. It is strictly a Spanish idea, which the author has
often seen in Havana. So brilliant are these tropical fireflies that
with three or four placed under an inverted wineglass one can see to
read fine printed matter in the nighttime. It is the common people
mostly who use these insects as evening ornaments on their persons,
though sometimes the most refined ladies wear them. The firefly has a
hook-like integument on its body by which it is easily fastened to the
hair or dress without any harm to itself. It seems as though nature had
anticipated this peculiar use of the "lightning-bug," and so provided
the necessary means for the purpose. The country people bring them to
market in little wicker baskets or cages, and it is curious to see with
what avidity they will consume sugar. As you gaze with interest at the
picture of tropical life, you are quietly asked for a few pennies by a
man so well dressed, and apparently so well to do, that it seems more
like a joke than like real begging. Just so the author has been accosted
in the streets of Granada, in continental Spain, with a request for a
trifling sum of money, by well-dressed people. Comparatively few beggars
importune one in the large cities of Mexico, being deterred by the
watchful police; but in the environs of any large settlement the
poverty-stricken people are sure to descend upon the stranger like an
army with banners.

The architecture of Vera Cruz is of the old Spanish style, with a dash
of Moorish flavor in it, recalling Tangier and other cities of Morocco.
The governor's palace is a building of some pretension, two stories in
height, with a veranda on each, and a tall square tower at one end of
the edifice. Having visited the plaza, the alameda, with its fine array
of cocoa-palms, the municipal palace, the custom-house, the public
library, and the large church fronting the plaza, one has about
exhausted the main features of interest. This latter structure is an
imposing building, but it will in no respect compare with the cathedrals
of the other cities which we have described. There are a fair number of
public schools in the town, two well-endowed hospitals, public baths,
and a few other institutions worthy of a progressive people. A
thoroughfare, called the Street of Christ, leads out to the Campo Santo,
half a mile away. This burial-place is an area surrounded by high walls,
built very thick of rubble-stones and adobe, in which the tombs are made
to receive the bodies instead of placing them in the ground. This
neglected city of the dead has been taken in hand by Nature herself, and
wild flowers are seen amid the sombre and dreary surroundings, rivaling
in beauty and fragrance many cultivated favorites.

The city houses are built of coral limestone, stuccoed. The roofs, when
pitched, are covered with tiles of a dull red color, but they are nearly
all flat. The interior arrangements are like those elsewhere described.
Each house of the better class has its square inner court, or patio,
round which the dwelling is constructed, and this is ornamented more or
less prettily, according to the owner's taste, potted plants always
forming a prominent feature, together with an array of caged singing
birds. The long windows are guarded by significant iron bars, like the
dwelling-houses throughout this country and in Havana. Sometimes on the
better class of houses this iron work is rendered quite ornamental. The
narrow streets are kept scrupulously clean, and are paved with
cobble-stones which we were told were brought by ships from the coast of
New England, and have a gutter running down the middle. There is an
abundance of active, keen-eyed scavengers waddling about, always on the
alert to pick up and devour domestic refuse or garbage of any sort which
is found in the streets. These are the dark-plumed, funereal-looking
buzzard, or vulture, a bird which is protected by law, and depended on
to act in the capacity we have described. They are two feet and over in
length of body, and measure six feet from tip to tip of the wings, or
about the size of a large Rhode Island turkey. Employing these birds for
the removal of refuse is a remedy almost as bad as the disease, since
the habits of the huge, ungainly, ill-omened creatures are extremely
disgusting. Clouds of them roost upon the eaves of the houses, the
church belfries, and all exposed balconies, and would invade the patios
of the dwellings were they not vigorously driven away and thus taught
better manners. The cathedral façade on the plaza is sometimes black
with them, the rays of the bright tropical sun being reflected from
their glossy feathers as from a mirror. It seems there is one mystery
which appertains to these unpleasant birds; namely, as to their breeding
places. No one knows where they go to build their nests and to raise
their young. The imaginative stranger is perhaps inclined to regard them
as tokens of danger to the newcomer. All things considered, many a
northern city has a less efficient street-cleaning department.

For a striking picture of strong local color, we commend the stranger to
watch for a short half-hour the picturesque old fountain at the head of
the Calle Centrale. Here he will find at almost any time of the day
scores of weary burros slaking their thirst; busy water-carriers filling
their red earthen jars; the street gamin wetting his thirsty lips; the
itinerant fruit peddler seeking for customers; the gay caballero pausing
to water the handsome animal he bestrides; while the tramway mules seek
their share of the refreshing liquid. Dark-hued women are coming and
going with earthen jars poised upon their heads, wonderfully like their
Eastern sisters at the fountains of oriental Cairo. Here are men with
curiously trimmed fighting birds in their arms, wending their way to the
cruel cockpit. On the edge of the sidewalk close at hand, women are
cooking dough-cakes of corn-meal over charcoal in tiny earthen
braziers,--the universal tortillas. A sand-covered muleteer, just
arrived, is testing their quality while his burros are drinking at the
fountain.

Though Vera Cruz has suffered more than any other capital with which we
are acquainted from bombardments, change of rulers, ravages of
buccaneers, hurricanes, fevers, and other plagues, yet it is still a
prosperous city, always spoken of with a certain degree of pride by the
people of the republic as Villa Rica de Vera Cruz, that is, "the rich
city of the true cross." A brief glance at its past history shows us
that, in 1568, it was in the hands of pirates, and that it was again
sacked by buccaneers in 1683, having been in the interim, during the
year 1618, swept by a devastating conflagration which nearly obliterated
the place. In 1822-23, it was bombarded by the Spaniards, who still held
the castle of San Juan d'Ulloa. In 1838, it was attacked by a French
fleet, and in 1847, was cannonaded and captured by the American forces.
In 1856, it was nearly destroyed by a hurricane. In 1859, civil war
decimated the fortress and the town. The French and Imperialists took
and held it from 1861 until 1867, when the cause of national
independence triumphed. Since this latter date Vera Cruz has enjoyed a
period of quiet and a large share of commercial prosperity.

About ten or twelve miles southward from the city is the little town of
Medillin, a sort of popular watering-place, the Saratoga of this
neighborhood. It is made up of a few decent houses of brick and wood,
and many very poor ones, having plenty of drinking, dancing, and
gambling saloons. The trip thither is most enjoyable to a stranger, for
the glimpse it gives him of the tropical character and the rank
fertility of this region. On the way one passes through a floral
paradise, where flowers of every hue and teeming with fragrance line the
way. Almond-trees, yielding grateful shade, and the _Ponciana regia_,
blazing with gorgeous flowers, are in strong contrast to each other. The
productive breadfruit-tree and the grapefruit with its yellow product
abound. Here one sees the scarlet hibiscus beside the _galan de noche_
(garland of night), which grows like a young palm to nearly ten feet in
height, throwing out from the centre of its tufted top a group of brown
blossoms daintily tipped with white, the mass of bloom shaped like a
rich cluster of ripe grapes. Truly, the trees and flowers to be seen on
the way to Medillin are a revelation.

The State of Vera Cruz borders the Gulf for a distance of five hundred
miles, averaging in width about seventy-five miles. No other section of
the country is so remarkable for its extreme temperature and for the
fertility of the soil. The variety of its productions is simply
marvelous. The intense heat is tempered by the northers, which usually
occur about the first of December, and from time to time until the first
of April, during which period any part of the state is comparatively
healthy. A list of the native products would surprise one. Among them we
find tobacco, coffee, sugar, cotton, wheat, barley, vanilla, pineapples,
oranges, lemons, bananas, pomegranates, peaches, plums, apricots,
tamarinds, watermelons, citrons, pears, and many other fruits and
vegetables. The natives push a stick into the ground, drop in a kernel
or two of corn, cover them with the soil by a mere brush of their feet,
and ninety days after they pluck the ripe ears. There is no other labor,
no fertilizer is used, nor is there any occasion for consulting the
season, for the seed will ripen and yield its fruit each month of the
year, if planted at suitable intervals.



CHAPTER XVII.

Jalapa.--A Health Resort.--Birds, Flowers, and Fruits.--Cerro Gordo.--
    Cathedral.--Earthquakes.--Local Characteristics.--Vanilla.--Ancient
    Ruins.--Tortillas.--Blondes in a City of Brunettes.--Curiosities of
    Mexican Courtship.--Caged Singing Birds.--Banditti Outwitted.--
    Socialistic Indians.--Traces of a Lost City.--Guadalajara.--On the
    Mexican Plateau.--A Progressive Capital.--Fine Modern Buildings.--
    The Cathedral.--Native Artists.--A Noble Institution.--Amusements.
    --San Pedro.--Evening in the Plaza.--A Ludicrous Carnival.--Judas
    Day.


Jalapa, signifying "the place of water and land,"--pronounced
Halápa,--is situated about sixty miles north-northwest of Vera Cruz, and
is considered to be the sanitarium of the latter city, whither many of
the families who are able to do so resort during the sickly season. Not
a few of the prosperous merchants maintain dwellings in both cities. Its
situation insures salubrity, as it is more than four thousand feet
higher than the seacoast. The yellow fever may terrorize the lowlands
and blockade the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, as it surely does at
certain seasons of the year, from Yucatan to Vera Cruz, but the
atmosphere of the highlands, commencing at Jalapa on the north and
Orizaba on the south, is, as a rule, full of life-invigorating
properties. We do not mean to say that these places are absolutely free
from yellow fever and miasmatic illness, but they are so far superior
to Vera Cruz in this respect as to be considered health-resorts for the
people on the shores of the Gulf. The route to Jalapa from the coast
passes through the old national road by the way of Cerro Gordo. The
hamlet bearing this name, where General Scott outflanked and defeated
Santa Anna, April 18, 1847, consists of a few mud cabins in a
tumble-down condition. It has become a memorable spot, but save its
historical association is possessed of no attractions. It is not a
populous district: there are few haciendas met with, and fewer hamlets,
but the scenery is very grand, and the vegetation is characterized by
all the luxuriance of the tropics. Birds and flowers abound, and wild
fruits are so plenty that they ripen and decay undisturbed by the hands
of the natives. Nature is over-bountiful, over-prolific. There is no
sere and yellow leaf here--fruits and flowers are perennial. If a leaf
falls, another springs into life on the vacant stem. If fruit is
plucked, a blossom quickly appears and another cluster ripens.

Of birds distinguished for beauty of plumage and sweetness of song there
are, according to Clavigero, between fifty and sixty different species.
Of those suitable for food there are over seventy sorts in the republic,
according to the same authority. The rage for brilliant-colored feathers
with which to decorate the bonnets of fashionable ladies in American
cities has led to great destruction among tropical birds of both Mexico
and South America. Here they have also been always in demand for the
purpose of producing what is termed feather pictures, as elsewhere
described in these pages.

The road is very tortuous, winding up long hills and down steep gulches,
with here and there a rude, significant wooden cross, held in place by a
little mound of stones, raised above the burial-place of some murdered
man. This, it seems, is a conscientious service always rendered in
Mexico by any one who is the first to discover such a body. Each native
who afterwards passes the spot adds a small store to the pile, and
kneeling, utters a brief prayer in behalf of the dead man's soul.

Jalapa has a permanent population of some fourteen thousand, which is
considerably increased at certain seasons of the year. It contains a
large, well-appointed cathedral, with a number of other Catholic
churches. Cortez and his followers covered the land with cathedrals and
demi-cathedrals, but the disestablishment of the church and the general
confiscation of ecclesiastical property has rendered it impossible to
sustain them all, together with the crowds of officiating priests. The
consequence is that here, as elsewhere in the republic, many are
crumbling into decay, and when an erratic earthquake, which is no
respecter of sacred buildings, tumbles over some high-reaching dome or
tower, or twists a façade out of plumb, it is left to remain in that
condition, and soon becomes a partial ruin. We saw several thus
dilapidated in different sections of the country. Jalapa enjoys a
commanding situation at the base of the Cofre de Perote, on undulating
ground on the slope of the so-called hill of Macuiltepec; many of the
streets are therefore very steep, and the scenery, which is really
beautiful, is quite Alpine in character.

The low stone houses are perched on the hillsides, and the streets are
irregular. This neighborhood is said to produce the prettiest women and
the loveliest flowers to be found in all Mexico, and it is certain that
in its gardens may be gathered the fruits and flowers of every zone.
Among other special products of this vicinity is the aromatic vanilla
plant, which is indigenous here and grows in wild abundance in the
forests, proving a great source of income to the industrious native
gatherers. The plant requires only shade and moisture. The peculiar soil
and climate do the rest. The harvest is gathered in March and April. The
flowers of the vanilla are of a greenish yellow, touched here and there
with white. It has a climbing stalk. The pods grow in pairs and are
about as large round as one's little finger, and six inches long, though
they vary, and the longer they are the greater is considered their
value. These are green at first, gradually turning to yellow, and then
to brown, as they become fully ripe. They are carefully dried in the
sun, being touched during the process with palm oil, which gives them a
soft, glossy effect when they reach the consumers' hands. Chocolate
perfumed with vanilla was a Mexican dish which Montezuma placed before
Cortez. The quantity shipped from Jalapa is very considerable in the
aggregate, and proves an important source of revenue. We are told that
the vanilla was successfully cultivated here by the Totonacs, ancient
dwellers in this region, the aromatic product being highly appreciated
by the Sybaritic Montezuma and the Aztec nobles generally, and
commanding even in those days a liberal price. Humboldt speaks of "the
vanilla, whose odoriferous fruit is used as a perfume, growing in the
ever-green forests of Papantla." Here also are found ruins left by some
forgotten race who must have reached to a certain degree of high
civilization, judging by these interesting remains. Of this land, lying
far to the south of the Aztec territory, and of its people, even
tradition has nothing to reveal to us. But its ruins are presumed to be
contemporary with those better known in Yucatan, which they resemble in
many important particulars. One other notable plant grows wild
hereabouts, less pleasing to the senses, but well known as an important
drug in our medical practice, namely, jalap, which takes its name from
the locality, or the place is named after the plant.

The atmosphere of Jalapa is always humid, and the city is often
overshadowed by clouds which come up from the Gulf of Mexico, heavy with
moisture to be precipitated in the form of rain. A sort of "drizzling"
prevails most of the time, like that which one encounters at Bergen, in
Norway, or at Sitka, Alaska. In the former place it is said to rain
eight days in the week.

The old convent of San Francisco, vast in extent and once equally so in
influence, is an object of considerable interest, situated in the centre
of the town. It is believed to have been erected by Cortez, and was once
occupied by a powerful community of Franciscans. This was also the
birthplace of General Santa Anna, the most notorious of Mexico's
soldiers of fortune, and whose now neglected hacienda is pointed out to
the visitor. In his checkered career Santa Anna was constantly falling
from position, but this was only the prelude to his rising again and to
a greater elevation, from which he was sure to be ignominiously hurled.

Here the author had a first taste of the universal tortilla, which is to
the people of Mexico what macaroni is to the lazzaroni of Naples, or
bread to a New Englander. It is made from Indian corn, as already
intimated, not ground in a mill to the condition of meal, but after
being soaked in the kernel and softened by potash, it is rolled between
two stones, and water being added a paste or dough is formed, which is
manipulated between the palms of the hands to a thin flat cake and baked
over a charcoal fire in an earthen brazier. It is very palatable and
nutritious to a hungry person. Those who can afford to do so often mix
some appetizing ingredient with the simple cakes, such as sweets,
peppers, or chopped meats. The scores of Indian women who come to market
to offer their grain, baskets, fruits, vegetables, and flowers for sale,
are wrapped in rebosas of various colors, but are barefooted,
bareheaded, and with no covering on their arms or legs, forming striking
and characteristic groups.

Though the natives go about during the day only half clad, both men and
women exposing a large portion of the bare body to the atmosphere, it
was observed that as soon as the evening shadows fell, both sexes
protected their necks and shoulders with wraps; the men winding their
woolen serapes even over the lower part of their faces, and the women
covering theirs with the universal rebosa. The change of temperature
soon after sunset and in the early mornings, as compared with the rest
of the day, is very decided throughout Mexico. Foreigners who observe
these native precautions and follow them avoid taking colds, while
others, more heedless, are liable to pay the penalty.

One peculiarity was observed at Jalapa. While most of the Mexican women
are quite dark-hued, especially those from the rural districts and of
mixed blood, that is of Indian and Spanish descent, yet a large number
of those one meets in Jalapa are decided blondes, having light hair with
blue eyes, and possessing as blooming complexions as the orchids which
so much abound in this district.

There is a rage for caged singing birds in the better class of houses, a
perfect flood of melody floating out of open windows and patios. The
birds are brilliant both in plumage and in song, a combination not
always found in the low latitudes. As a rule, south of the equator, the
gaudily-plumed birds please the eye, and the plain ones delight the ear.
The Mexican parrots are the most voluble to be found this side of
southern Africa. It seems that there are conventional rules relating to
bird-fancying here; the middle and lower classes make pets of the parrot
tribe, while the more pretentious people prefer mocking-birds,
canaries, and the favorite little clarin. Boys walk about the streets of
the national capital with a species of small paroquet for sale, trained
to run all over the owner's arms, neck, and fingers, showing no
inclination to seek liberty by flight. A lady stopping at the Iturbide
purchased a bird of many colors, marvelous to look at, which she had
been assured by the itinerant vender would sing gloriously as soon as it
became acquainted with its new home. It was sufficiently curious,
however, because of its remarkably brilliant and queerly disposed
colors. After petting it for a few days the new mistress gave the bird a
warm bath, out of which the little fellow came all of one hue, namely a
dark ash color. The deceitful bird merchant had ingeniously painted him
from the crown of his head to the very tip of his tail feathers!

Like all these Spanish cities, the windows of the dwellings are secured
by a screen of iron bars, and many fronts where the house is of two
stories in height have also delightful little balconies, answering a
Romeo and Juliet purpose, all courtship being conducted here in a
surreptitious manner. A Mexican never goes about a courtship whereby he
hopes to win a wife in an open, straightforward manner. On the contrary,
he forms cunning schemes for meeting his fair inamorata, and employs
ingenious subterfuges to gain a stolen interview. He tells his passion
not in words, but with profound sighs and significant glances, as he
passes her flower-decked balcony, while she, although perfectly
understanding his pantomime, assumes the most profound innocence and
even indifference. This fires the suitor's ardor; he bows sadly when
passing her balcony, with his right hand pressed vehemently upon his
left breast, where a youthful lover's heart is popularly supposed to be
located. Finally, after a good deal of pretentious pantomime, the fair
señorita appears to realize the purport of all this wooing, and seems
gradually to yield to his silent yet expressive importunities. There is
also a language of the fan, of flowers, of the fingers, all of which are
pressed into the service of the amorous couple. We were shown a small
pocket manual printed in Spanish and sold in the stores and upon the
streets, containing a printed code of the significance of certain
flowers, a "dumb alphabet" for the fingers, and the meaning of the
several motions of the ever-ready fan which, like a gaudy butterfly,
flits before the face of beauty. There is the rapid flirt which
signifies scorn, another motion is the graceful wave of confidence, an
abrupt closing of the fan indicates vexation, and the striking of it
into the palm of the hand expresses anger. The gradual opening of its
folds intimates reluctant forgiveness, and so on. In short, the fan can
be more eloquent than words, if in the hands of a Mexican señorita,
stimulated by the watchful eyes and the adoration of an ardent Romeo.
But this is only preliminary. All parents are presumed to be implacably
and absolutely opposed to all lovers' wishes, and great diplomacy is
consequently required. This ludicrous game often continues for a
twelvemonth before anything is consummated. The charm of the whole
affair with these people consists in its secrecy and difficulties either
real or assumed. Lydia Languish cared nothing for Beverly when all
obstacles to their union vanished; opposition is the spice of love.

A pleasant story is told of the attractiveness of Jalapa. It seems that
an old traveler came here to pass a day, but was so fascinated with the
beauty of the place and its surroundings, the fragrance of its flowers,
the beauty of its women, and the salubrity of the climate, that he never
left it to the day of his death. Every nook and corner has its charming
bit of verdure, its plot of flowers, its broad green banana leaves
overhanging some low, white wall, or a tall palm with its plume-like top
overshadowing a dainty balcony. One often hears Jalapa spoken of among
the Mexicans as a bit of heaven dropped on earth.

The great shame and disgrace of Mexico has been the prevalence of
brigandage in the several states of the republic, and even in the
immediate environs of the national capital. All the efforts of the
government for years have proved ineffectual to suppress this
lawlessness until very lately, when, for reasons not very clear to a
stranger, it has seemed gradually to subside. Brigandage has not only
been a crying shame to the country, but has paralyzed business, kept
visitors away from Mexico, and caused her to lose her national credit
both in Europe and America. People will not invest money in great
enterprises in regions where the persons of their agents are not safe,
and where robbery and kidnapping are every-day occurrences. An
intelligent native attempted to convince the author that these
highwaymen were not composed of native Indians, half-breeds, or
Spaniards, but that they were mostly made up from Italians and other
Europeans who had been induced to leave their own country for their
country's good. Our credulity was not, however, equal to this solution.
Brigandage was long chronic here, and the brigands were Mexicans.

When the French army was here, it is said that General Bazaine had
occasion to be in the city at an opportune moment. Having heard by some
chance that the brigands had been very troublesome hereabouts, and also
that they would probably stop the next mail coach on its way to Vera
Cruz, he resolved to give these outlaws a lesson which they would not
soon forget. When the expected coach arrived, and while the mules were
replaced by fresh ones, the general ordered the passengers, some of whom
were ladies, to remain in the hotel, while he put ten of his most daring
Zouaves inside the coach to fill their places. These men were specially
instructed, and half of them were disguised as women, the others having
their uniforms covered from sight. The driver was sworn to secrecy under
a threat of being shot if he disobeyed orders, and was directed to go on
his way as usual. By-and-by, when the coach had arrived at a certain
point, the driver suddenly drew up his horses, for he saw a row of
muskets in the hands of a dozen men ranged across the road, pointing at
him, and heard the usual order to stop. A moment later the leader of
these men came to the door of the coach, where he saw, apparently, a
lady, and in a peremptory voice ordered the passengers to get out upon
the roadway. The door being thrown open, the pseudo woman who sat next
to it was aided to descend to the ground by the leader of the brigands
on one side and his lieutenant on the other. At the instant this
individual alighted, two simultaneous pistol-shots were heard. The
passenger standing between the two robbers had pressed the triggers of
two pistols, held one in his right and one in left hand, quite
unobserved. The leading brigand together with his lieutenant fell dead
upon the road. In the mean time the opposite door of the coach had been
quickly opened, whence the other nine Zouaves, trained athletes, sprang
like cats to the ground, each one selecting his foe among the robbers,
who, on their part, were taken so completely by surprise that they fired
their muskets at random, while the Zouaves with their keen sword
bayonets literally chopped them to pieces. There were fourteen of these
gentlemen of the road, only one of whom escaped alive, and he was so
severely wounded that he bled to death in a native hut among the hills.
There was no more brigandage, as the reader may well imagine, in the
vicinity where the French troops were stationed.

A small and rather peculiar party of Indians was observed here, some
special occasion having lured them from their agricultural hamlet. They
were not attached to any hacienda, but lived in a primitive manner,
illustrating a communistic idea, a practice, it appears, which is not
uncommon among this class in some parts of the country. Their cabins
are of adobe. Indeed, wooden buildings are almost unknown, wood being
seldom used, even in the cities, for inside finish. These Indians
cultivate the land in common, and when the crop is gathered, it is
divided after recognized laws of their own. Irrigation is the sole means
of fertilizing, and it seems to be all the soil requires. They plough
with oxen, using a crooked stick, which method, several times alluded
to, is not so very surprising when we remember that the Egyptian fellah
uses a similar instrument to-day, and irrigates the soil by means of
buckets worked by hand. The women of the group of whom we are speaking
were bareheaded, and wore their long, straight, black hair in braids
hanging down over their naked shoulders, their arms being bare, and also
their legs to the knee. A loose cotton tunic and short petticoat formed
their dress. The men wore straw hats with tall crowns, their broad brims
throwing their swarthy faces into deep shadow. Unbleached cotton shirts
and drawers of the same reaching to the knees completed the costume.
Some wore leather sandals, but most were barefooted. There were a few
children among them, all slung to the mothers' backs, and quite naked.

Between the lofty peak of Orizaba and the Cofre de Perote, there exists
many traces of a very numerous native population, who must have occupied
the country long previous to the advent of the Spanish conquerors. Not
even tradition tells us anything about this locality, which is
abundantly supplied with water, is fertile to an extraordinary degree,
and possesses a healthy climate. That extensive and intelligent
cultivation of the soil was carried on here at some period of the past
is clearly shown by numberless remains. The fact that oak trees four
feet in diameter are found growing over the stone foundations of ruined
dwellings proves that many centuries have passed since the population
disappeared. The remains of the dwellings are all of stone laid without
mortar, arranged in streets, or in groups. A series of pyramids of stone
are also found here, the largest of which is over fifty feet in height,
and the smallest not over ten or twelve feet, the last seeming to have
been designed for tombs. Several of these have been opened and found to
contain skeletons and elaborately ornamented burial urns. The locality
referred to is the eastern slope of the sierra towards the coast between
Orizaba and Jalapa.

Our next objective point is the city of Mexico, to reach which from
Jalapa we return to Vera Cruz, though not necessarily, taking the
railway from the port through Orizaba and Puebla. As we have been over
this route with the reader, let us pass on to places which we have not
yet spoken of. At the national capital we once more take passage on the
Mexican Central Railway north-northwest to Guadalajara, the capital of
the State of Jalisco. This growing and prosperous city is reached by a
branch road from Irapuato, being that which is designed ultimately to
reach the Pacific at San Blas. One hundred and sixty miles of this
branch road is completed. Guadalajara is three hundred and eighty miles
from the city of Mexico, situated in a pleasant valley six thousand
feet above the sea, with a population of one hundred thousand, stating
it in round numbers. It will be remembered that we are now on what is
called the Mexican plateau. The Indian name of the valley is Alemaxac.
As to temperature, we found that the annual mean was 70° Fahr., but our
thermometer gave us 90° Fahr. nearly all the time during our stay, and
even at midnight it did not fall below 82°. A small river, San Juan de
Dios, runs through the town about its middle, in a charmingly crooked
fashion. In coming hither we pass through the valley of the Rio Lerma,
one of the best developed regions as regards agriculture in the entire
republic. The route takes us through some populous towns and many
interesting villages, also near to the famous Lake Chapala, the largest
body of water in Mexico, sixty miles long and over fifteen in width.

Guadalajara is one of the most progressive cities in the country, and is
the second in point of population, supporting an admirable school system
worthy of all commendation. It has numerous public squares, besides the
Plaza Mayor and a fine alameda. The plaza is about three hundred feet
long and of nearly the same width, one side occupied by the cathedral,
another by the state buildings, and on the two remaining sides is a line
of arches in which are some of the most attractive stores of the town. A
large number of the public buildings are of modern construction,
including the governor's palace, the municipal palace, the mint, and
other edifices, all fronting, as usual, on the Plaza Mayor. The only
Academy of Fine Arts in the country, outside of the city of Mexico, is
to be found here, and it is in a highly flourishing condition, a large
local interest being pledged to its support. It is somewhat difficult to
decide in one's own mind which of the two cities, Puebla or Guadalajara,
should rank next to the city of Mexico in wealth, general interest, and
commercial importance. Both are progressive capitals, remarkably so for
this country.

The grand cathedral was finished in 1618, having a noble façade, a
graceful dome, and two lofty towers partly covered with enameled tiles.
The front is richly carved, and ornamented by fluted pillars. The
interior of the dome is as finely frescoed as the famous church of
Burgos, in Spain, or that of the church of St. John, in the island of
Malta. Of this latter church it strongly reminded us. The great altar is
finished in white and gold. A narrow gallery of gilded metal runs around
the entire building on a level with the capitals of the pillars which
support the roof. It seems that during religious services here a few
years ago, two of the organists were struck by lightning while playing
and instantly killed. The towers of the cathedral show some evidence of
having been disturbed by an earthquake, which occurred in 1818. There
are thirty churches in all in Guadalajara, and, like the other public
buildings, they are unusually fine.

This is quite an ancient city, having been founded in 1541.
Manufacturing is carried on to a considerable extent; among the articles
produced are fine pottery, cotton cloth, silk, rebosas, musical
instruments, and leather goods. The native Indian race hereabouts, and,
indeed, in places further south, are great adepts, as already explained,
in the manufacture of antiquities. We saw here some remarkably fine
examples of pottery, designed and finished by native artists who had
never enjoyed an hour's instruction. It was the result of an inborn
artistic taste. The lace-like drawn-work produced by the Indian women
from fine linen rivals the best work of the kind which comes from South
America, where the natives have long been famous for fine work in this
special line.

The Hospicio San Miguel de Belen is a very comprehensive and
well-conducted establishment, containing a hospital proper, with male
and female wards, a lunatic asylum, and a primary school. Other
evidences of keeping pace with the times were seen in the presence of
the telephone, electric lights, and a good system of tramways. The
environs of the city are justly famous for many beautiful gardens and a
grand paseo shaded by noble trees, mostly elms, with broad, spreading
limbs and of great age. The Campo Santo is not unlike that at Vera Cruz,
the bodies being deposited in niches built in the thick walls about the
grounds. Some of the monumental tombs are of a very impressive and
beautiful character.

Another remarkable and very interesting institution of this city is the
Hospicio de Guadalajara, situated on the eastern side of the small
stream which flows through the town. It is approached by a wide,
handsome avenue lined with orange-trees. The edifice covers eight
acres, being constructed about numerous open areas which are utilized as
gardens, devoted to raising flowers and fruits, each also ornamented by
a cheerful fountain. There are over twenty of these courts within the
grounds, from which broad, high corridors open, which traverse the
several departments of the institution. Mangoes, oranges, and bananas
thrive on the trees in these patios, and such an abundance of red and
white roses, in such mammoth sizes, we have rarely seen. The sister who
acted as our guide through the spacious edifice insisted upon plucking
them freely and presenting them to the ladies of the party. There is a
spacious and fine chapel within the group of buildings, as capacious as
an ordinary church. Its lofty dome is beautifully frescoed, and many
fine oil paintings adorn the walls. Hundreds of children, ranging from
babyhood to twelve years, were seen in the various departments, where
everything was scrupulously neat and clean. This admirable Hospicio is
used as an asylum for foundlings, a home for the blind, and also for the
deaf and dumb, besides which there is here provided a home for the
infirm who are unable to support themselves. This very worthy
institution presents an imposing appearance, with its lofty dome and
pillared portico facing the broad, tree-lined avenue which leads up to
its spacious doors.

There is a bull-ring and two theatres here. The favorite promenade is
the paseo, which runs for over a mile within the city proper,
terminating at the alameda. Gambling, next to the bull-fight, is the
average Mexican's delight, and just outside the thoroughfare of the
alameda all sorts of games of chance prevail. As government legalizes
the lottery-ticket business, it opens the door for much gambling. Ten
per cent, of the gross receipts of all lottery enterprises goes into the
national treasury. Even blind men were seen selling lottery tickets, and
when it was suggested that they were liable to be cheated by
unscrupulous purchasers, the reply was that such an act would surely
bring ill luck, and no ticket bought under such circumstances could
possibly draw a prize! This was repeated to us as being the sentiment
governing the throng of humble purchasers. The Mexicans of the lower
class are very superstitious, and will often pay a young and innocent
child a trifle to select a ticket for them, believing that good luck may
thus be secured.

A short trip by tramway will take the traveler to the suburb of San
Pedro, where the native Indians produce a species of pottery which is
both curious and artistic, each one working independently in his adobe
cabin. One often detects an article which genius alone could originate
and produce. The work is done solely by hand, the workmen employing only
the most primitive methods. Some of the vases and jars are identical
with those one finds in Egypt, finely glazed, and enameled in colors
which are burned in by the maker. These wares are so well appreciated by
strangers that the peons realize good prices for their skill; and
travelers take home with them mementoes worthy of being placed in the
best collections of pottery.

On the evening of Good Friday the spacious plaza of Guadalajara was
thronged with the citizens, men and women, peons as well as the better
classes, the former scrupulously keeping within certain limits, while
the ladies and gentlemen promenaded upon the broad path encircling the
plaza, beneath the shade of orange-trees and amid a rose-scented
atmosphere. The moon was near its full, but the electric lamps rivaled
its serene brilliancy, and the stars were outshone. When the hands on
the illumined clock over the governor's palace pointed to half-past
eight, the military band, placed in the central pagoda, with soldierly
promptness struck up a grand and elaborate anthem. The thirty performers
were skillful musicians, and the effect was admirable. They were all
swarthy natives, descendants of the Aztecs, but fully able to compete
with the average French, German, or American musicians. The throng
passed and repassed each other on the gayly lighted paths, or seated
themselves in a broad circle about the plaza. Merry children, nicely
dressed, romped hither and thither, now and again coming up pleasantly
to greet the strangers, and making the most of the few words of English
at their command, while the big fountain kept up its delightfully-cooling
notes, heard in the intervals of the music. There were thousands of
natives and foreigners promenading hither and thither about the great
square and in the plaza, forming a gay and impressive scene until nearly
midnight. There is a holiday gayety about life in this southern clime
which is quite infectious.

The fascination of the scene; the delights of a land of perpetual
sunshine; the charming surface aspect of everything; the rank, luxuriant
vegetation; the perfume of flowers mingling with the delightful music
that floated upon the air in such an hour as we have described,--all
these did not blind the moral sense, though for the moment the physical
powers were led captive. One pauses to review the aimless lives of these
indolent but beautiful women, and the useless career of the men who form
the upper class. It is natural to contrast the lives of such with that
of the abject poor, the half-starved, half-naked masses who hung about
the outer lines of the assembled throng on the plaza; men and women
living a mere animal existence, and yet who represented such grand and
noble possibilities. Ah! the puzzle of it all! Who can solve the riddle?
Lazarus and Dives jostle each other not alone in Guadalajara, but all
over the world.

In this city, on the Saturday following Good Friday, occurred what is
here termed "Judas Iscariot Day," when the concentrated vengeance of the
Christian world is supposed to be visited upon the vile betrayer of his
Master. The whole object of the occasion is to heap contumely, derision,
and dishonor upon the name of Judas. Extensive preparations are made a
week or more before the special day. The town presented an appearance
similar to the Fourth of July in the United States. The streets were
full of temporary booths, and all the inhabitants were out of doors.
Figures twelve or fifteen inches long, made of paper, rags, or other
combustible material, in various colors, representing Judas, and stuffed
with firecrackers and powder, were sold to men and boys, to be fired at
the proper time. Some of these figures were of life size, containing
rockets and blue lights. Judas was represented with folded hands, arms
akimbo, with legs in a running posture, and, in short, in every
conceivable attitude. Some of the larger figures bore mottoes about
their necks in Spanish, such as "I am a scion of the Devil;" another, "I
am about to die for my treachery;" and a third, "I have no friends, and
deserve none," "Let me give up the ghost," etc. Hundreds of these toy
figures were tied to a rope, and hung across the thoroughfares at the
height of the second story, reaching from one balcony to another. Small
pyramids were raised for them and of them in the open squares. People
carried hoops of Judases elevated on the top of a long pole. Some men
had a single large figure with the conventional Judas face dressed in
harlequin colors. Everybody on the streets had at least one toy Judas,
and some had a dozen.

Finally, at ten o'clock on the forenoon of Judas day, the great bell of
the cathedral sounds, a score of other church bells follow suit, and the
matches are applied to the fuses with which each emblematic figure is
supplied. Young Mexico is almost crazed. Old Mexico approves and
participates. Everybody is elated to the highest point. Sidewalks and
balconies are crowded with both sexes. Señoras and señoritas are
hilarious, and little children clap their hands. The noise of the bells
is great, that of firecrackers, rockets, and fuses is greater, and the
shouts of the excited multitude who swarm about the Plaza Mayor is the
greatest of all. People become mentally intoxicated with intense
excitement. The large Judases in exploding go to pieces, first losing
one arm, then a leg, followed by another arm, until at last the body
bursts into fragments, at which one universal shout rends the air. The
small Judases keep up their snapping and explosions for an hour or more.
At last Judas is utterly demolished, literally done for. Then the bells
cease ringing, and the overwrought people gradually subside. The whole
is a queer, strange piece of ludicrous mockery, ending as a good-natured
annual frolic.



CHAPTER XVIII.

Santa Rosalia.--Mineral Springs.--Chihuahua.--A Peculiar City.--Cathedral.
    --Expensive Bells.--Aqueduct.--Alameda.--Hidalgo's Prison and his
    Fate.--Eulalia.--A Large State.--A Grand Avenue of Trees.--Local
    Artists.--Grotesque Signs.--Influence of Proximity to the United
    States.--Native Villages.--Dangerous Sand-Spouts.--Reflections on
    Approaching the Frontier.--Pleasant Pictures photographed upon the
    Memory.--Juarez, the Border Town of Mexico.--City of El Paso, Texas.
    --Railroad Interests.--Crossing the Rio Grande.--Greeted by the Stars
    and Stripes.


Santa Rosalia is a quiet, quaint old place, with six or seven thousand
inhabitants; but, being on the direct line of the Mexican Central
Railroad, it is sure to rapidly increase in numbers and in material
prosperity. Though it is now scarcely more than a country village, still
it has its plaza and its alameda, in the former of which a military band
performs two evenings in each week. A couple of small but most valuable
rivers, the Rio Conchos and the Rio Florido, flank the town and afford
excellent means for irrigation, which are improved to the utmost, the
effects of which are clearly visible to the most casual observer, in the
delightful verdure and the promise of teeming crops. The place has a
most equable climate, for which reason many northern invalids suffering
from pulmonary troubles have come hither annually. A few miles west of
Santa Rosalia are mineral springs believed to possess great curative
properties, especially in diseases of a rheumatic type. There are yet no
comfortable accommodations for invalids, but we were told that it was
contemplated to build a moderate cost hotel at this point. The ruins of
the fort captured by the American army on its way to join General Taylor
are seen near Santa Rosalia.

Still pursuing our northward course, bearing a little westerly, over an
immense desert tract so devoid of water that the railway train is
obliged to transport large cisterns on freight cars to supply the
necessary article for the use of its locomotive, we finally reach
Chihuahua,--pronounced Chee-waw-waw,--capital of the state of the same
name. One would think this immediate region must be well watered, as we
cross several rivers while in the state. Among them the Florido, at
Jimenez; the Concho, just north of Santa Rosalia; the San Pedro, at
Ortiz, and the Chubisca, near to the city of Chihuahua. This name is
aboriginal, and signifies "The place where things are made." It was
founded in 1539, and lies upon a wide, open plain at the base of the
Sierra Madre, whose undulating heights are exquisitely outlined in
various hues against the sky, and beneath whose surfaces are hidden rich
veins of iron, copper, and silver. The valley extends towards the north
as far as the eye can reach. It is looking southward that we see the
disordered ranks of the mountain range. When we first came upon the
town, it rested beneath a cloudless sky, bathed in a flood of warm,
bright sunlight. We were told that these are the prevailing conditions
for seven months of the year. This is on the main line of the Mexican
Central Railroad, a thousand miles, more or less, north of the city of
Mexico, and has a population of about eighteen or twenty thousand; but,
like most of the Mexican cities, it once contained a much larger number
of inhabitants than it can boast of to-day. It will be remembered that
the American forces, in the year 1847, advanced upon and took possession
of the city after the battle of Sacramento, which occurred February 28
of that year. This was the force commanded by Colonel Doniphan, and from
here it made the celebrated march southward, forming a junction with the
division of General Taylor.

The city presents a pleasing and thrifty aspect, though most of the
houses are but one story in height and constructed of adobe, with low,
flat roofs, very much like an Egyptian town,--a comparison which is
constantly occurring to us in Mexico. The patios of the better class of
houses are ornamented with flowering plants, and pets of all sorts,
especially birds, are numerous, the favorite species being the
mocking-bird. One patio we noticed full to repletion of tame pigeons,
blue, black, white, and mottled fantails. The state and government
buildings, the mint with its low, square tower, and a few other edifices
are large and handsome structures. In the tower of the mint the patriot
Hidalgo was confined, with three of his comrades, previous to their
execution. They were shot here July 31, 1811. In the Plaza de Armas
there stands a fine monument to the memory of Hidalgo. The cathedral,
the shell of which cost over eight hundred thousand dollars, stands on
one side of the plaza, an area ornamented as usual with beautiful trees
and flowers, together with a large fountain in the centre, about which
are winding paths, and benches whereon to enjoy the shade. This is a
delightful resort in the evening, when the music-loving populace are
regaled with the admirable performance of a Mexican military band three
or four times a week. The cathedral is of the Moorish and Gothic orders
combined, and it has considerable architectural merit, bearing upon its
rather crudely ornamented front thirteen statues, representing San
Francisco and the twelve apostles. The interior was found to contain
some interesting and valuable oil-paintings, though we saw them in an
extremely bad light. The towers of this cathedral are remarkable for a
costly collection of bells, and the interior of the church for a series
of magnificent carvings. One of these bells is pointed out to the
visitor as having been broken by a cannon-ball during the bombardment of
the town by the French in 1866. The other sides of the plaza are
bordered by the state buildings and the best stores of the town.

The gray, crumbling line of an arched stone aqueduct, built long ago to
supply the town with water, forms a picturesque feature of the environs.
There is an admirably kept alameda for public enjoyment, divided by four
rows of ancient cottonwood-trees, some of which are five feet in
diameter. The Rio Chubisca flows through the city. Crops are raised
solely by liberal irrigation; water is the one thing most needed on
this high, flat land. Some of the finest grapes in Mexico are raised in
great abundance here, and are shipped both to the south and across the
border into our own country. A very large share of the republic, with
its volcanic soil, is admirably adapted to this industry. Fifteen miles
from Chihuahua are the rich silver mines of Eulalia. The road thither is
a rough one, but many persons enjoy the excursion, over what at first
sight seems to be a plain of lava, though as there is no volcano
visible, one is a little at fault in divining from whence it came. We
were told finally that it was slag from the workings of the mines at
Eulalia, and that more modern processes of disintegration and
amalgamation might extract good pay in silver from these "tailings," now
spread broadcast for many miles on the surface of the plain. Santa
Eulalia is a rude hamlet lying among the mountains, with a very humble
mining population and a small stone church. There are over two hundred
mines in and about these hills, all of which have been worked more or
less successfully.

This state, by the way, is the largest in the republic, being about the
size of New York and Pennsylvania combined. To be exact, the state is
four hundred and thirty miles long from north to south, and three
hundred, thirty-seven miles wide, It is famous for its many sheep and
cattle ranches, affording, as it does, great advantages for
stock-raising. Large herds are driven over the borders into our own
country every season, and sold to American herdsmen, to be driven still
further north and fattened for the eastern and northern markets. There
is a quaint, oriental aspect about the adobe-built town which would
prove very attractive to an artist's eye. One tree-embowered roadway
attracted our attention, which so strikingly resembled the Beacon Street
Mall in Boston as to call forth remarks to that effect from more than
one of our party. It is known as the Calle de Guadalupe. The deep shadow
of the long gothic arch, formed by the entwined branches, was exquisite
in effect. In the busy portion of the town, groups of Indians, wrapped
in bright-colored blankets, added variety to the scene.

Wood carvings and wax figures from the hands of intelligent native
artists,--for artists they are--come so near to one's ideas of
perfection as to be a surprise. This artistic genius was also observed
among the humbler classes further south, and is by no means confined to
the neighborhood of Chihuahua. After a few moments of watchful
observation of even a stranger, some of these Indians will retire, and
in an almost incredibly brief space of time will return with an
excellent likeness of the individual whom they design to represent, not
merely as regards his ordinary physique, but in facial expression.
Practice has made them quite perfect in this impromptu modeling.
Chihuahua, if we may credit the historians, as well as judge by the
remains, once had a population of two hundred thousand.

A singular and most disagreeable custom was observed here which prevails
in some other Mexican cities: that of placing fantastic signs, painted
in gigantic size, on the outside of shops. These are grotesque
representations of the business carried on within. It would seem as
though the object was to ridicule the proprietor's occupation by the
vulgarity of these signs. Be this as it may, the inevitable half dozen
pulque drinkers lean upon the counter all the while, absorbing the
liquid which brings insensibility. As they drop off one by one, their
places are taken by others, who are promptly supplied by the plethoric
bar-tender. In the plaza peons were offering for sale a very small
species of dog indigenous to this district, tiny creatures, peculiarly
marked and evidently stunted by some artificial means. However, some of
our party were captivated, and became purchasers of the delicate little
tremulous creatures. Considerable building was observed to be in
progress here, not structures of adobe, but fine stone edifices, of an
attractive and modern style of architecture, three stories in height.
One of these was designed for a hotel, and would be an ornament to any
city.

Though Chihuahua is two hundred and twenty-five miles south of the Rio
Grande, still it shows many signs of its proximity to this country. Such
buildings as we have just referred to would not be thought of in middle
or southern Mexico. American fashions in many things are obvious; a
large portion of the population speak English; the faces of the common
people evince more intelligence; and the masses are better clothed than
they are a little further south. We found that free schools were
established and other matters of higher civilization were in progress.
Many of the customs prevailing north of the national boundary line have
been adopted here. The universal burro of Mexico begins to disappear,
and strong, shapely mules and large horses take his place. Beggars are
few and far between.

There is very little of interest to engage the traveler's attention on
the route of the Mexican Central Railroad between Chihuahua and Juarez,
formerly known as Paso del Norte. The country is quite sterile, varied
by occasional long, tedious reaches of cactus and mesquite bushes, or a
few cottonwood-trees wherever a water-course is found. The mesquite
grows to the height of ten or twelve feet. The seeds are contained in a
small pod, and are used by the natives to make a sort of bread which is
sweet to the taste. The wood is extremely hard and heavy. At long
distances apart a native village comes into view, composed of low,
square, adobe cabins. The treeless character of this section of country
is not without a depressing influence, while the want of water is only
too manifest everywhere. Sometimes one sees for hours a fairly good
grazing country, and, where water is available, some cereals are raised.
Corn, wheat, and barley occasionally form broad expanses of delightful
green. Still, only the most primitive means of agriculture are in use,
reminding the observer of the unfulfilled possibilities of the really
capable soil. Where these fertile districts are seen, the results are
brought about by the same irrigating ditches that the aborigines used
more than three hundred years ago. The touch of moisture is like the
enchanter's wand. In California, water is conveyed thirty, forty, and
even fifty miles, by means of ditch and flume; here the sources of
supply are not usually half the first-named distance away. Grapes are
grown, as at Chihuahua, in great abundance, the soil seeming to be
particularly adapted to their cultivation. Many tons of the big purple
fruit are regularly converted into wines of different brands, said to be
fully equal to the product of California.

As the sea has its water-spouts, so the land has its sand-spouts,
whereby the whirlwinds, forming on and sweeping over the barren plains,
gather up the soil and rush circling along with it for miles, sustaining
the mass in the air, two hundred feet or more in height. This phenomenon
was often observed while traveling on the Mexican plateau. Sometimes, as
has already been said, half a dozen were seen at a time. Between
Chihuahua and Juarez they were again observed. The course of these dusty
pillars of sand was generally towards the foothills of the high ranges.
The moment any large obstacle is encountered, as is the case with a
water-spout at sea, they are at once broken and disappear. Any ordinary
cabin or other frail building which is struck by a sand-spout is pretty
sure to be demolished. This might not always follow, as they move with
different degrees of force, some being vastly more powerful than others.
Trees are not infrequently broken and destroyed by them. We were told
that horses and cattle exposed upon the plain were sometimes taken up in
the suction of air caused by their progress, carried a hundred rods or
more, and then dropped to the ground lifeless. Other stories were heard
of the erratic performances of sand-spouts on the Mexican plateau, but
they were of a nature requiring too much credulity for us to repeat them
in these pages.

As one approaches the frontier, a feeling of regret steals over the
traveler that he is hourly leaving behind him a country in which so much
delight has been briefly experienced. That discomforts have been
encountered is very true,--withering heat, dust, fatigue, and
indifferent food, but these quickly fade into mere shadows. Not the
pains, but the pleasures, of such a journey remain indelibly fixed in
the memory. No cunningly painted canvas is so retentive as the active
brain. While we roll over the broad cactus plains, closing the eyes in
thought, a panorama moves before us, depicting vivid tableaux from our
two months' experience in Aztec Land. We listen in imagination at the
sunset hour to distant vesper bells, floating softly over the hills, and
see the bowed heads and folded hands of the peons. Once more we gaze
delighted upon lovely valleys, dark shadowy gorges, far-reaching plains
of cacti and yucca palms, bordered by lofty, snow-tipped mountains; we
see again the exuberant fruitfulness of the tropics, and the loveliness
of the floral kingdom in this land of the sun; once more we stroll
through the dimly lighted aisles of grand cathedrals, listening to the
solemn chant of human voices, and the organ's deep reverberating tones;
or view again the suggestive ruins of a vanished race. Groups of the
native population in many colors, long lines of heavily-laden burros,
dashing caballeros and lovely señoritas, pass in turn before the mind's
eye. Now a grand comprehensive scene comes before us, a view from the
battlements of Chapultepec, from the hill of Guadalupe, or the Pyramid
of Cholula, and, above all, that presented from the towers of the superb
cathedral of Mexico. This is not an enchanting dream, but the exquisite
photography of memory, a store of glowing pictures for future mental
enjoyment. It is such experiences and memories which render us never
less alone than when alone.

Juarez is the northern end of the great railway line, the border town
between Mexico and the United States, where we cross the Rio Grande to
enter the city of El Paso, Texas, a town which promises in due course to
become a grand commercial centre. At the present time the most
remunerative business of the thrifty but ugly looking place, seems to be
that of smuggling, which is carried on with a large degree of enterprise
by the people of both nationalities. This arises from the excessive
duties put on both the necessities and luxuries of life by the Mexican
tariff. Juarez is an old settlement, dating from 1585, and is situated
three thousand eight hundred feet above the sea. It is subject to great
extremes of heat and cold, the thermometer showing 105° Fahr. at times
in July, and 5° below zero in January. Snow falls here occasionally to
the depth of two feet, while the Rio Grande freezes hard enough to bear
heavily laden mule wagons. It is difficult for the place to cast off its
former name, El Paso del Norte (Passage of the North), so called
because of the ford on the river and the pass which nature here
constructed between the mountains. The town extends along the west bank
of the river some three miles, and back from it about one mile. The Rio
Grande water is passable for drinking purposes, and good for general
use, though it is somewhat impregnated with alkali.

Juarez possesses many fine old trees and much attractive verdure. It has
numerous modern and handsome edifices, and the place is sure eventually
to be a large distributing railway centre. The Southern Pacific
Company's line, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fé, the Mexican Central,
and the Texas Pacific railways all diverge from this point. There is an
ancient stone church here which will be sure to interest the stranger,
dark and gloomy within, but full of votive contributions and quaint
belongings, recalling the chapel of Notre Dame de la Garde on the hill
which overlooks Marseilles, where the Mediterranean seamen have
deposited so many marine toys, images, and curiosities.

At Juarez the narrow, shallow Rio Grande, with its bare quicksands, was
once more crossed, and the Texas city of El Paso, shadeless and
verdureless, was reached. Its population is what would be expected in a
frontier town of this region, while an air of crudeness permeates
everything. As the vestibule train which had been our home for the past
two months crossed the iron bridge, and as we came once more on to the
soil of our own country, the American flag on the custom-house station
was dipped three times in acknowledgment of our hearty cheers, and to
welcome the party on its successful return from a long, but delightful
journey through the states of the Mexican republic.



_BOOKS BY MATURIN M. BALLOU._


AZTEC LAND. A New Book. Crown 8vo, $1.50.

This fresh book of travel, while extremely interesting as regards the
present aspect of Mexico, also tells some homely truths about the
exaggerations of the Spanish chroniclers.


THE NEW ELDORADO. A Summer Journey to Alaska. Crown 8vo, $1.50.

A charming book of travel, full of information concerning our great
northwestern territory. Few persons are aware of the extent and richness
of Alaska.--_Boston Budget._


DUE WEST; or, ROUND THE WORLD IN TEN MONTHS. Crown 8vo, $1.50.

It is a book of books on foreign travel, and deserves to be in the hands
of all subsequent writers as combining just the qualities to give the
greater information and zest.--_Boston Commonwealth._


DUE SOUTH; or, CUBA PAST AND PRESENT. Crown 8vo, $1.50.

Full of information concerning the Bahama Islands, the Caribbean Sea,
and the island of Cuba. Of the finest and most extensive culture, Mr.
Ballou is the ideal traveler.--_Boston Traveller._


DUE NORTH; or, GLIMPSES OF SCANDINAVIA AND RUSSIA. Crown 8vo,
$1.50.

The author has the tact to travel without an object; he strolls. He sees
things accidentally; you feel that you might have seen the same things,
under the same circumstances. He never lectures; rarely theorizes. It is
as useful to read him as it is enjoyable to travel with him.--_Journal
of Education_ (Boston).


UNDER THE SOUTHERN CROSS; or, TRAVELS IN AUSTRALASIA. Crown
8vo, $1.50.

Few persons have traveled so extensively, and no one more profitably,
both to himself and the public, than Mr. Ballou.--EDWIN P.
WHIPPLE.



_EDITED BY MR. BALLOU._


A TREASURY OF THOUGHT. An Encyclopædia of Quotations from Ancient and
Modern Authors. 8vo, full gilt, $3.50; half calf or half morocco, $6.00.

The most complete and exhaustive volume of the kind with which we are
acquainted. The literature of all times has contributed to it, and the
range of reading necessary to its compilation is the widest.--_Hartford
Courant._


NOTABLE THOUGHTS ABOUT WOMEN. A Literary Mosaic. Crown 8vo, $1.50.

Full of delicious bits from nearly every writer of any celebrity,
English, American, French, or German, early and modern, it is a
fascinating medley. When one takes up the book it is difficult to lay it
down, for one is led on from one brilliant or striking thought to
another, in a way that is quite absorbing.--_Portland Transcript._


PEARLS OF THOUGHT. Choice Sentences from the Wisest Authors. 16mo, full
gilt, $1.25; half morocco, $2.50.

The first noticeable thing about "Pearls of Thought" is that the
"pearls" are offered in a jewel-box of printing and binding. The
selections have the merit of being short and sparkling. Authors ancient
and modern, and of all nations, are represented.--_New York Tribune._


EDGE-TOOLS OF SPEECH. Crown 8vo, $3.50; half calf or half morocco,
$6.00.

A remarkable compilation of brilliant and wise sayings from more than a
thousand various sources, embracing all the notable authors, classic and
modern, who have enriched the pages of history and literature. It might
be termed a whole library in one volume.--_Boston Beacon._


GENIUS IN SUNSHINE AND SHADOW. Crown 8vo, $1.50.

Mr. Ballou displays a broad and thorough knowledge of men of genius in
all ages, and the comprehensive index makes the volume invaluable as a
book of reference, while--a rare thing in reference books--it is
thoroughly interesting for consecutive reading.--_The Journalist_ (New
York).

*** _For sale by all Booksellers. Sent, post-paid, on receipt of price
by the Publishers_,

  _HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY,
  4 Park St., Boston; 11 East 17th St., New York._



    +--------------------------------------------------+
    | Transcriber's Note:                              |
    |                                                  |
    | Inconsistent hyphenation and spelling in the     |
    | original document have been preserved.           |
    |                                                  |
    | Typographical errors corrected in the text:      |
    |                                                  |
    | Page   8  Teotihuachan changed to Teotihuacan    |
    | Page  54  Cohahuila changed to Coahuila          |
    | Page  58  guage changed to gauge                 |
    | Page 107  manaña changed to mañana               |
    | Page 180  earthern changed to earthen            |
    | Page 188  differents changed to different        |
    | Page 205  cabalero changed to caballero          |
    | Page 296  word "is" added after "In growth this" |
    | Page 322  Cope changed to Cofre                  |
    | Page 322  Peroto changed to Perote               |
    | Page 335  Gaudalajara changed to Guadalajara     |
    +--------------------------------------------------+





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