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Anahuac by Edward Burnett Tylor

Part 5 out of 6

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supposed to represent the Aztec Venus, who was called _Tlazolteocihua_,
"Goddess of Pleasure." A figure, laboriously cut in hard stone,
representing a man wearing a jackal's head as a mask, was supposed to
be a figurative representation of the celebrated king of Tezcuco,
_Nezahualcoyotl_, "hungry jackal," of whom Mexican history relates that
he walked about the streets of his capital in disguise, after the
manner of the Caliph in the Arabian Nights. The explanation is
plausible, but I think not correct. The _coyote_ or jackal was a sacred
animal among the Aztecs, as the Anubis-jackal was among the Egyptians.
Humboldt found in Mexico the tomb of a coyote, which had been carefully
interred with an earthen vase, and a number of the little cast-bronze
bells which I noticed in the last chapter. The Mexicans used actually
to make a kind of fetish--or charm--of a jackal's skin, prepared in a
peculiar way, and called by the same name, _nezahualcoyotl_, and very
likely they do so still. From this fetish the king's name was, no
doubt, borrowed; and it is not improbable that the whole story of the
king's walking in disguise may have grown up out of his name being the
same as that of the figure we saw, muffled up in a jackal's skin.

It is curious that the jackal, or the human figure in a jackal-mask,
should have been an object of superstitious veneration both in Mexico
and in Egypt. This, the extraordinary serpent-crown of Xochicalco, and
the pyramids, are the three most striking resemblances to be found
between the two countries; all probably accidental, but not the less
noteworthy on that account.

The collection contained a number of spherical beads in green jade,
highly polished, and some as large as pigeon's eggs. They were found in
an alabaster box, of such elaborate and beautiful workmanship that the
owner deemed it worthy to be presented as a sort of peace-offering to
the wife of President Santa Ana.

The word _coyotl_ in the name of the Tezcucan king is the present word
_coyote_--a jackal. Though unknown in English, it has passed, with
several Spanish words, into what we may call the American dialect of
our language. Prairie-hunters and Californians have introduced several
other words in this way, such as _ranch_, _gulch, corral_, &c.

The word _lariat_ one is constantly meeting with in books about
American prairies. A horse-rope, or a lazo, is called in Spanish
_reata_; and, by absorbing the article, _la reata_ is made into lariat,
just as such words as _alligator_, _alcove_, and _pyramid_ were formed.
The flexible leather riding-whip or _cuarta_ is apparently the _quirt_
that some American politicians use in arguing with their opponents.

Our last day at Tezcuco was spent in packing up antiquities to be sent
to England, the express orders of the Government against such
exportation to the contrary notwithstanding. Next morning we rode off
to Miraflores, passing on our way the curious stratum of alluvial soil
containing pottery, &c., which I have described already. Miraflores is
a cotton-factory, in the opening of a picturesque gorge just at the
edge of the plain of Mexico. The machinery is American, for the mill
dates from the time when it was considered expedient to prohibit the
exportation of cotton-mill machinery from England; and having begun
with American work, it naturally suits them to go on with it. It is
driven by a great Barker's mill, which works in a sort of well, having
an outlet into the valley, and roars as though it would tear the place
down. It is not common to see this kind of machine working on a large
scale; but here, with a great fall of water, it does very well.
Otherwise the place was like an ordinary cotton-factory, and one cannot
be surprised at people thinking that such establishments are a source
of prosperity to the country. They see a population hard at work and
getting good wages, masters making great profits, and no end of bales
going off to town; and do not consider that half the price of the cloth
is wasted, and that the protection-duty sets the people to work which
they cannot do to advantage, while it takes them away from occupations
which their country is fit for.

Next morning took us to Amecameca, a town in a little plain at the foot
of Popocatepetl, whose snow-covered top towers high up in the clouds,
like Mont Blanc over Sallanches. We had at one time cherished hopes of
getting to the top of this grand volcano, but had heard such frightful
reports of difficulties and dangers that we had concluded not to do
more than look at it from a distance, the more especially as there had
been a heavy fall of snow upon it a day or two before. We presented our
letter to the Spaniard who kept the great shop at Amecameca, and asked
him, casually, about the mountain. He assured us that the surface of
the snow would be frozen over, and that instead of being a disadvantage
the fall of snow was in our favour, for it was easier to climb over
frozen snow than up a loose heap of volcanic ashes. So we sent for the
guide, a big man, who used to manage the sulphur-workings in the crater
until that undertaking was given up. He set to work to get things ready
for the expedition, and we strolled out for a walk.

Close by the town is a "sacred mount," with little stations, and on one
day in the year numbers of pilgrims come to visit the place. Near the
top, the Indian lad who came with us showed us the mouth of a cavern,
which leads by subterranean passages under the sea to Rome--as caverns
not unfrequently do in Roman Catholic countries! What was more worth
noticing was that here there was a cypress-tree, covered with votive
offerings, like the great ahuchuete in the valley above Chalma; so that
it is likely that the place was sacred long before chapels and stations
were built upon it. Our guide told us that whenever a man touched the
tree, all feeling of weariness left him. How characteristic this
superstition is of a nation of carriers of burdens!

In the afternoon we started--ourselves, our guide, and an Indian to
carry cloaks, &c. up the mountain. We soon left the cultivated region,
and entered upon the pine-forest, which we never left during our
afternoon journey. One of the first showers of the rainy season came
down upon us as we rode through the forest. It only lasted half an
hour, but it was a deluge. In a shower of the same kind at Tezcuco, a
day or two before, rain to the amount of 1-1/10 inches fell in the
hour. By dusk we reached the highest habitation in North America, the
place where the sulphur used to be sublimed from the pumice brought
down from the crater. This place was shut up, for the undertaking has
been abandoned; but in a _rancho_ close by we found some Indian women
and children, and there we took up our quarters. The _rancho_ was a
circular hut, built and thatched with reeds, though in the midst of a
pine-forest; and presently a smart shower began, which came in upon us
as though the roof had been a sieve.

The Indian women were kneeling all the evening round the wood-fire in
the centre of the hut, baking _tortillas_ and boiling beans and coffee
in earthen pots. The wood was green, and the place was full of
suffocating smoke, except within eighteen inches of the ground, where
lay a stratum of purer air. We were obliged to lie down at once, upon
mats and serapes, for we could not exist in the smoke; and as often as
we raised ourselves into a sitting posture, we had to dive down again,
half suffocated. The line of demarcation was so accurately drawn that
it was like the Grotto del Cane, only reversed.

After a primitive supper in earthen bowls, we lay round the fire,
listening to the talk of our men and the Indian women. It was mostly
about adventures with wolves, and about the sulphur-workings, now
discontinued. The weather had cleared, and as we lay we could see the
stars shining in through the roof. About three in the morning I awoke,
feeling bruised all over, as was natural after sleeping on a mat on the
ground. Moreover, the fire had gone out, and it was horribly cold, as
well it might be at 13,000 feet above the sea. I shook some one up to
make up the fire, and went out into the open air. It was nearly full
moon; but the moonlight was very different from what we can see in
England, even on the clearest nights. On the plateau of Mexico, the
rarity and dryness of the air are such that distant objects are seen
far more distinctly than at the level of the sea, and the European
traveller's measurements of distance by the eye are always too small.
The sunlight and moonlight, for the same reason, are more intense than
at lower levels. Here, at about the same elevation as the top of the
Jungfrau, the effect was far more striking, and I shall never forget
the brilliant flood of light that illuminated that grand scene. Far
down below I could see the plain, with houses and fields dimly visible.
At the bottom of the slope began the dark pine-forest, which enveloped
the mountains up to the level at which I stood, and there broke into an
uneven line, with straggling patches running up a few hundred feet
higher in sheltered crevices. Above the forest came a region of bare
volcanic sand, and then began the snow. The highest peak no longer
looked steep and pointed as from below, but seemed to rise from the
darker line of sand in a gentle swelling curve up into the sky. There
did not seem to be a speck or a wrinkle on this smooth snowy dome, the
brilliant whiteness of which contrasted so wonderfully with the dark
pine-forest below.

About seven in the morning we started on horseback, rode up across the
sandy district, and entered upon the snow. After we left the pines,
small bushes and tufts of coarse Alpine grass succeeded. Where rocks of
basaltic lava stood out from the heaps of crumbling ashes, after the
grass had ceased, lichens--the occupants of the highest zone--were
still to be seen. Before we reached the snow, we were in the midst of
utter desolation, where no sign of life was visible. From this point we
sent back the horses, and started for the ascent of the cone. On our
yesterday's ride we had cut young pine-trees in the forest, for
alpenstocks; and we tied silk handkerchiefs completely over our faces,
to keep off the glare of the sun. Our guide did the same; but the
Indian, who had been many times before up to the crater to get sulphur,
had brought no protection for his face. We marched in a line, the guide
first, sounding the depth of the snow with his pole, and keeping as
nearly as he could along ridges just covered with snow, where we did
not sink far. It was from the lower part of the snow that we began to
understand the magnificent proportions of Iztaccihuatl--the "White
Woman," the twin mountain which is connected with Popocatepetl by an
immense col, which stretches across below the snow-line. This mountain
is not conical like Popocatepetl, but its shoulders are broader, and
break into grand peaks, like some of the _Dents_ of Switzerland, and it
has no crater.[22] Indeed, the two mountains, joined together like
Siamese twins, look as though they had been set up, side by side, to
illustrate the two contending theories of the formation of volcanos.
Von Buch and Humboldt might have made Iztaccihuatl on the "upheaval
theory," by a force pushing up from below, without breaking through the
crust to form a crater; while Poulett Scrope was building Popocatepetl
on the "accumulation theory," by throwing up lava and volcanic ashes
out of an open vent, until he had formed a conical heap some five
thousand feet high, with a great crater at the top.

As we toiled slowly up the snow, we took off our veils from time to
time, to look more clearly about us. The glare of the sun upon the snow
was dazzling, and its intense whiteness contrasted wonderfully with the
cloudless dark indigo-blue of the sky. Between twelve and one we
reached the edge of the crater, 17,884 feet above the sea. The ridge
upon which we stood was only a few feet wide, and covered with snow;
but it seemed that there was still heat enough to keep the crater
itself clear, for none lay on the bottom, or in clefts on the steep
sides.

The crater was oval, full a mile in its longest diameter, and perhaps
700 to 800 feet in depth; and its almost perpendicular walls of
basaltic lava are covered with red and yellow patches of sublimed
sulphur. We climbed a little way down into it to get protection from
the wind, but to descend further unassisted was not possible, so we sat
there, with our legs dangling down into the abyss. Part of the
_malacate_, or winder, used by the Indians in descending, was still
there; but it was not complete, and even if it had been, so many months
had elapsed since it was last used that we should not have cared to try
it. It consisted of a rope of hide, descending into the bottom of the
crater in a slanting direction; and the sulphur-collectors were lowered
and drawn up it by a windlass, in a basket to which another rope was
attached. A few years back, the volcano used to send up showers of
ashes, and even large stones; but now it has sunk to the condition of a
mere _solfatara_, sending out, from two crevices in the floor, great
volumes of sulphurous acid and steam, with a loud roaring noise. The
sulphur-working merely consisted in looking for places where the
pumice-stone was fully impregnated with sulphur, and breaking out
pieces, which were hauled up in the basket. The chief risk which the
labourers ran was from the terrific snow-storms, which come on suddenly
and without the slightest notice. Men at work collecting sulphur have
once or twice been caught by such storms in parts of the crater at a
distance from the rope, and buried in the snow.

The appearance of the "White Woman," but little lower than the point
where we stood, was very grand, but all other objects looked small. The
two great plains of Mexico and Puebla, with their lakes and towns, were
laid out like a map; and the ranges of mountains which hem them in made
them look like Roman encampments surrounded by earthworks. Even now
that the lakes have shrunk to a fraction of their former size, we could
see the fitness of the name given in old times to the Valley of Mexico,
_Anahuac_, that is, "By the Water-side." The peaks of Orizaba and
Perote were conspicuous to the east; to the north lay the
silver-mountains of Pachuca; and to the south-west a darker shade of
green indicated the forests and plantations of the _tierra caliente_,
below Cuernavaca.

It was a novel sensation to be at an altitude where the barometer
stands at 15-1/2 inches, so that the pressure on our lungs was hardly
more than one-half what we are accustomed to in England; but we did not
experience much inconvenience from it. The last thousand feet or so had
been very hard work, and we were obliged to stop every few steps, but
on the comparatively level edge of the crater we felt no difficulty in
moving about.

_Popocatepetl_ means "Smoking Mountain." The Indians naturally enough
considered it to be the abode of evil spirits, and told Cortes and his
companions that they could never reach the top. One of the Spaniards,
Diego Ordaz, tried to climb to the summit, and got as far as the snow;
whereupon he returned, and got permission to put a burning mountain in
his coat of arms, in commemoration of the exploit! If, as he declared,
a high wind was blowing, and showers of ashes falling, his turning back
was excusable, though his bragging was not. He seems to have afterwards
told Bernal Diaz that he got to the top, which we know, by Cortes'
letters to Spain, was not true. A few years later, Francesco Montano
went up, and was lowered into the crater to get sulphur. When Humboldt
relates the story, in his _New Spain_, he seems incredulous about this;
but since the _Essai Politique_ was written the same thing has been
regularly done by the Indians, as the merest matter of business, until
the crater has been fairly worked out.

We took our last look at Mexico from the ridge of the crater, and,
descending twenty feet at a stride, soon reached the bottom of the
cone. As far as we could see, the substance of the hill seemed to be of
basaltic lava, which was mostly covered with the _lapilli_ which I have
spoken of before as ashes and volcanic sand. Even before we reached the
pine-forest there was evidence of the action of water, which had
covered the slope of the mountain with beds of thick compact tufa,
composed of these lapilli mixed with fragments of lava. The
water-courses had cut deep channels through these beds, and down into
the rock below; so that the streams from the melted snow rushed down
between walls of lava, in which traces of columnar structure were
observable.

The snow we had travelled over was sometimes dry and powdery, and
sometimes hard and compact. There were no glaciers, and no glacier-ice,
properly so called. It never rains at this elevation; and, though
evaporation goes on rapidly with half the pressure taken off the air,
and a great increase in the intensity of the sun's rays, the snow
either passes directly into vapour, or carries the water off
instantaneously, as it is formed. Only so much water seems to be
produced and re-frozen as suffices to make the snow hard, and in some
favourable places near the rocks to form lumps of ice, and some of
those great icicles which the Spaniards brought down from the mountain
on their first expedition, so greatly astonishing their companions.

When we reached the rancho we thought of passing another night there;
but the Indians who had gone down to the valley for corn had not
returned, and everything was eaten up except beans, which are all very
well as accessories to dinner, but our English digestions could not
stand living upon them; so we started at once for San Nicolas de los
Ranchos. Our ride was down a deep ravine, by the side of a
mountain-torrent coming down from the snows of Popocatepetl; and, when
we stopped now and then to look behind us, we had one of the grandest
views which I have ever witnessed. The elements of the picture were
simple enough. A deep gorge at our feet, with a fierce torrent rushing
down it, dark pine-trees all round us, and above us--on either side--a
snow-covered mountain towering up into the sky. We were just in the
track of the Spanish invaders, who crossed most likely by this very
road between the two volcanos; and they record the amazement which they
felt that in the tropics snow should be unmelted upon the mountains.

A few hours riding down the steep descent, and we were in the flat
plain of Puebla. There were our two mountains behind us, but now they
looked as we had so often seen them before from a distance. The power
of realizing their size was gone, and with it most of their grandeur
and beauty. Nothing was left us but a vivid recollection of the
wonderful scenes that were before us a few hours ago, impressions not
likely to be ever effaced from our minds, where the picture of the
great snowy cone seen in the bright moonlight, and the descent between
the mountains, remain indelibly impressed as the types of all that is
most grand and impressive in the scenery of lofty mountains.

We slept at San Nicolas de los Ranches, "St. Nicholas of the huts,"
where the shopkeeper, to whom we had a letter, insisted upon turning
out of his own room for us, and treated us like princes. The reason of
our often being provided with letters to the shopkeepers in small
places, was, that they are the only people who have houses fit for
entertaining travellers. Many of them are very rich, and in the United
States they would call themselves merchants. Next morning our Indian
carrier, who had ascended the mountain without a veil, was brought in
by our guide, a pitiful object. All the skin of his face was peeling
off, and his eyes were frightfully inflamed, so that he was all but
blind, and had to be led about. Fortunately, this blindness only lasts
for a time, and no doubt he got well in a few days.

We rode through the plain to Cholula. Our number was now four; for,
besides Antonio, we had engaged another servant a few days before. We
wanted some one who knew this district well; and when a friend of ours
mentioned that there was a young man to be had who had a good horse and
was a smuggler by profession, we engaged him directly, and he proved a
great acquisition. Of course, from the nature of his trade, he knew
every bypath between Mexico and the tobacco-districts towards which we
were going; he was always ready with an expedient whenever there was a
difficulty, he was never tired and never out of temper. As for the
morality of his peculiar profession, it probably does harm to the
honesty of the people; but, considering it as a question of abstract
justice, we must remember that almost the whole of the taxes which the
Mexicans are compelled to pay to the general government are utterly
wasted upon paying officials who do nothing but intrigue, and keeping
up armies which--far from being a protection to life and property--are
a permanent and most destructive nuisance. The contract between
government and subject ought to be a two-sided one; and when the
government so entirely misuses the taxes paid by the people, I am quite
inclined to sympathize with the subjects who will not pay them if they
can help it.

We scarcely entered the town of Cholula, which is a poor place now,
though it was a great city at the time of the Spanish Conquest. The
Spanish city of Puebla, only a few miles off, quite ruined it.

We went straight to the great pyramid, which lies close to the town,
and which had been rising before us like a hill during the last miles
of our journey. This extraordinary structure is perhaps the oldest ruin
in Mexico, and certainly the largest. A close examination of its
structure in places where the outline is still to some extent
preserved, and a comparison of it with better preserved structures of
the same kind, make it quite clear that it was a terraced _teocalli_,
resembling the drawing called the "Pyramid of Cholula," in Humboldt's
_Vues des Cordilleres_. But let no one imagine that the well-defined
and symmetrical structure represented in that drawing is in the least
like what we saw, and from which Humboldt made the rough sketch, which
he and his artist afterwards "idealized" for his great work. At the
present day, the appearance of the structure is that of a shapeless
tree-grown hill; and until the traveller comes quite close to it he may
be excused for not believing that it is an artificial mound at all.

The pyramid is built of rows of bricks baked in the sun, and cemented
together with mortar in which had been stuck quantities of small
stones, fragments of pottery, and bits of obsidian knives and weapons.
Between rows of bricks are alternate layers of clay. It was built in
four terraces, of which traces are still to be distinguished; and is
about 200 feet high. Upon the platform at the top stand some trees and
a church. The sides front the four cardinal points, and the base line
is of immense length, over thirteen hundred feet, so that the ascent is
very gradual.

When we reached Cholula we sent the two men to enquire in the
neighbourhood for antiquities, of which numbers are to be found in
every ploughed field round. At the top of the pyramid we held a market,
and got some curious things, all of small size however. Among them was
a mould for making little jackal-heads in the clay, ready for baking;
the little earthen heads which are found in such quantities in the
country being evidently made by wholesale in moulds of this kind, not
modelled separately. We got also several terra-cotta stamps, used in
old times for stamping coloured patterns upon the native cloth, and
perhaps also for ornamenting vases and other articles of earthenware.
Cholula used to be a famous place for making pottery, and its
red-and-black ware was famous at the time of the Conquest, but the
trade now seems to have left it. We were struck by observing that,
though there was plenty of coloured pottery to be found in the
neighbourhood of the pyramid, the pyramid itself had only fragments of
uncoloured ware imbedded in its structure; which seems to prove that it
was built before the art of colouring pottery was invented.

They have cut a road through one corner of the pyramid, and this
cutting exposed a chamber within. Humboldt describes this chamber as
roofed with blocks, each overlapping the one before, till they can be
made to meet by a block of ordinary size. This is the false arch so
common in Egypt and Peru, and in the ruined cities of Central America.
Every child who builds houses with a box of bricks discovers it for
himself. The bridge at Tezcuco, already described, is much more
remarkable in its structure. Whether our inspection was careless, or
whether the chamber has fallen in since Humboldt's time, I cannot say,
but we missed this peculiar roof.

There are several legends about the Pyramid of Cholula. That recorded
by Humboldt on the authority of a certain Dominican friar, Pedro de los
Rios, I mention--not because of its intrinsic value, which is very
slight, but because it will enable us to see the way in which legends
grew up under the hands of the early missionaries, who were delighted
to find fragments of Scripture-history among the traditions of the
Ancient Mexicans, and who seem to have taken down from the lips of
their converts, as native traditions, the very Bible-stories that they
had been teaching them, mixed however with other details, of which it
is hard to say whether they were imagined on purpose to fill up gaps in
the story, or whether they were really of native traditional origin.

Pedro de los Rios' story tells us that the land of Anahuac was
inhabited by giants; that there was a great deluge, which devastated
the earth; that all the inhabitants were turned into fishes, except
seven who took refuge in a cave (apparently with their wives). Years
after the waters had subsided, and the earth had been re-peopled by
these seven men, their leader began to build a vast pyramid, whose top
should reach to heaven. He built it of bricks baked in the sun, which
were brought from a great distance, passing them from hand to hand by a
file of men. The gods were enraged at the presumption of these men, and
they sent down fire from heaven upon the pyramid, which caused its
building to be discontinued. It is stated that at the time of the
Spanish Conquest, the inhabitants of Cholula preserved with great
veneration a large aerolite, which they said was the thunderbolt that
fell upon the top of the pyramid when the fire struck it.

The history of the confusion of tongues seems also to have existed in
the country, not long after the Conquest, having very probably been
learnt from the missionaries; but it does not seem to have been
connected with the Tower-of-Babel legend of Cholula. Something like it
at least appears in the Gemelli table of Mexican migrations, reproduced
in Humboldt, where a bird in a tree is sending down a number of tongues
to a crowd of men standing below.

I think we need not hesitate in condemning the legend of Cholula, which
I have just related, as not genuine, or at least as partly of late
fabrication. But we fortunately possess another version of it, which
shows the legend to have developed itself farther than was quite
discreet. A MS. history, written by Duran in 1579, and quoted by the
Abbe Brasseur de Bourbourg, relates that people built the pyramid to
reach heaven, finding clay or mud _("terre glaise")_ and a very sticky
_bitumen ("bitume fort gluant")_, with which they began at once to
build, &c. This is evidently the slime or bitumen of the Book of
Genesis; but I believe I may safely assert that the Mexicans never used
bitumen for any such purpose, and that it is not found anywhere near
Cholula.

The Aztec historians ascribe the building of the Pyramid of Cholula to
the prophet Quetzalcoatl. The legends which relate to this celebrated
personage are to be found in writers on Mexican history, and, more
fully than elsewhere, in the Abbe Brasseur de Bourbourg's work.

I am inclined to consider Quetzalcoatl a real personage, and not a
mythical one. He is said to have been a white, bearded man, to have
come from the East, to have reigned in Tollan, and to have been driven
out from thence by the votaries of human sacrifices, which he opposed.
He took refuge in Cholollan, now called Cholula (which means the "place
of the fugitive"), and taught the inhabitants to work in metals, to
observe various fasts and festivals, to use the Toltec calendar of days
and years, and to perform penance to appease the gods.

A relic of the father of Quetzalcoatl is said to have been kept until
after the Spanish Conquest, when it was opened, and found to contain a
quantity of fair human hair. The prophet himself departed from Cholula,
and put to sea in a canoe, promising to return. So strong was the
belief in the tradition of these events among the Aztecs, that when the
Spaniards appeared on the coast, they were supposed to be of the race
of the prophet, and the strange conduct of Montezuma to Cortes is to be
ascribed to the influence of this belief.

There is a singular legend, mentioned by the Abbe Brasseur de
Bourbourg, of a white man, with a hooded robe and white beard, bearing
a cross in his hand, who lands at Tehuantepec (on the Pacific coast of
Mexico), and introduces among the Indians auricular confession,
penance, and vows of chastity.

The coming of white, bearded men from the East, centuries before the
Spanish invasion in the 16th century, and the introduction of new arts
and rites by them in Mexico, is as certain as most historical events of
which we have only legendary knowledge. As to who they were I cannot
offer an opinion. There are, however, one or two points connected with
the presence of the Irish and Northmen in America in the 9th and
following centuries--a period not very far from that ascribed to
Quetzalcoatl--which are worthy of notice.

The Scandinavian antiquarians make the "white-man's land"
_(Hvitramannaland)_ extend down as far as Florida, on the very Gulf of
Mexico. It is curious to notice the coincidence between the remark of
Bernal Diaz, that the Mexicans called their priests _papa_ (more
properly _papahua_), and that in the old Norse Chronicle, which tells
of the first colonization of Iceland by the Northmen, and relates that
they found living there "Christian men whom the Northmen call _Papa_."
These latter are shown by the context to have been Irish priests. The
Aztec root _teo (teo-tl, God)_ comes nearer to the Greek and Latin, but
is not unlike the Irish _dia_, and the Norse _ty-r_. The Aztec root
_col_ (charcoal) is exactly the Norse _kol_ (our word _coat_), but not
so near to the Irish _gual_. It is desirable to notice such
coincidences, even when they are too slight to ground an argument upon.

This seems to be the proper place to mention the many Christian
analogies to be found in the customs of the ancient Aztecs.

Children were sprinkled with water when their names were given to them.
This is certainly true, though the statement that they believed that
the process purified them from original sin is probably a monkish
fiction. Water was consecrated by the priests, and was supposed thus to
acquire magical qualities. In the coronation of kings, anointing was
part of the ceremony, as well as the use of holy water. The festival of
All Souls' Day reminds us of the Aztec feasts of the Dead in the autumn
of each year; and in Mexico the Indians still keep up some of their old
rites on that day. There was a singular rite observed by the Aztecs,
which they called the _teoqualo_, that is, "the eating of the god." A
figure of one of their gods was made in dough, and after certain
ceremonies they made a pretence of killing it, and divided it into
morsels, which were eaten by the votaries as a kind of sacred food.

We may add to the list the habitual use of incense in the ceremonies:
the existence of monasteries and nunneries, in which the monks wore
long hair, but the nuns had their hair cut off: and the use of the
cross as a religious emblem in Mexico and Central America.

Less certain is the recorded use of knotted scourges in performing
penance, and the existence of a peculiar kind of auricular confession.

It is difficult to ascribe this mass of coincidences to mere chance,
and not to see in them traces of connexion, more or less remote, with
Christians. Perhaps these peculiar rites came, with the Mexican system
of astronomy, from Asia; or perhaps the white, bearded men from the
East may have brought them. It is true that such a supposition runs
quite counter to the argument founded on the ignorance of the Mexicans
of common arts known in Europe and Asia. We should have expected
Christian missionaries to have brought with them the knowledge of the
use of iron, and the alphabet. Perhaps our increasing knowledge of the
ancient Mexicans may some day allow us to adopt a theory which shall at
least have the merit of being consistent with itself; but at present
this seems impossible.

CHAPTER XI.

PUEBLA. NOPALUCAN. ORIZABA. POTRERO.

[Illustration: VIEW OF THE VOLCANO ORIZABA.]

We reached Puebla in the afternoon, and found it a fine Spanish city,
with straight streets of handsome stone houses, and paved with
flag-stones. We rather wondered at the _pasadizos_, a kind of arched
stone-pavement across the streets at short intervals, very much
impeding the progress of the carriages, which had to go up and down
them upon inclined planes. In the evening we saw the use of them
however, for a shower of rain came down which turned every street into
a furious river within five minutes after the first drop fell. For half
an hour the pasadizos did their duty, letting the water pass through
underneath, while passengers could get across the streets dryshod. At
last, the flood swept clear along, over bridges and all; but this only
lasted a few minutes, and then the way was practicable again. The
moveable iron bridges on wheels, which are to be seen standing in the
streets of Sicilian cities, ready to be wheeled across them for the
benefit of foot-passengers whenever the carriage-way is flooded, are on
the whole a better arrangement.

We should never have thought, from looking at Puebla, that it had just
been undergoing a siege; for, beyond a few patches of whitewash in the
great square, where the cannon-balls had knocked the houses about,
there were no traces of it.

We made many enquiries about the siege, and found nothing to invalidate
our former estimate of twenty-five killed,--one per cent of the number
stated in the government manifestos. Among the casualties we heard of
an Englishman who went out to see the fun, and was wounded in a
particularly ignominious manner as he was going back to his house.

Revolutions and sieges form curious episodes in the life of the foreign
merchants in the Republic. Their trade is flourishing, perhaps,--plenty
of buyers and good prices; and hundreds of mules are on the road,
bringing up their wares from the coast. All at once there is a
pronunciamiento. The street-walls are covered with proclamations. Half
the army takes one side, half the other; and crowds of volunteers and
self-made officers join them, in the hope of present pillage or future
emolument. Barricades appear in the streets; and at intervals there is
to be heard the roaring of cannon, and desultory firing of musketry
from the flat roofs, killing a peaceable citizen now and then, but
doing little execution on the enemy.

Trade comes to a dead stop. Our merchant gets his house well furnished
with provisions, shuts the outer shutters, locks up the great gates,
and retires into seclusion for a week or a fortnight, or a month or
two, as may be. At the time we were there he used to run no great risk,
for neither party was hostile to him; and if a stray cannon-ball did
hit his house, or the insurgents shot his cook going out on an
expedition in search of fresh beef, it was only by accident.

Having no business to do, the counting-house would probably take stock,
and balance the books; but when this is finished there is little to be
done but to practice pistol-shooting and hold tournaments in the
court-yard, and to teach the horses to rayar; while the head of the
house sits moodily smoking in his arm-chair, reckoning up how many of
his debtors would be ruined, and wondering whether the loaded mules
with his goods had got into shelter, or had been seized by one party or
the other.

At last the revolution is over. The new president is inaugurated with
pompous speeches. The newspapers announce that now the glorious reign
of justice, order, and prosperity has begun at last. If the millennium
had come, they could not make much more talk about it. Our unfortunate
friend, coming out of his den only to hear dismal news of runaway
debtors and confiscated bales, has to illuminate his house, and set to
getting his affairs into something like order again.

Since we left the country things have got even worse. Formerly, all
that the foreign merchants had to suffer were the incidental miseries
of a state of civil war. Now, the revolutionary leaders put them in
prison; and, if threats are not sufficient, they get forced loans out
of them, much as King John did out of his Jews.

Even in times of peace, foreign goods must be dear in Mexico. In a
country where they have to be carried nearly three hundred miles on
mules' backs, and where credit is so long that the merchant can never
hope to see his money again in less than two years, he cannot be
expected to sell very cheaply. But the continual revolutions and the
insecurity of property make things far worse, and one almost wonders
how foreign trade can go on at all.

One of our friends in Mexico had three or four hundred mules coming up
the country laden with American cotton for his mill, just when Haro's
revolution began. He got off much better than most people, however;
for, greatly to the disgust of the legitimate authorities, he went down
into the enemy's camp, and gave the revolutionary chief a dollar a bale
to let them go.

As may be supposed, commercial transactions have often very curious
features here. Strange things happen in the eastern states; but people
there say that they are nothing to the doings on the Pacific coast,
where the merchants get up a revolution when their ships appear in the
offing, and turn out the Custom-house officers, who do not enter upon
their functions again until the rich cargos have started for the
interior.

One little incident, which happened---I think--at Vera Cruz, rather
amused us. When the Government is hard-up, a favourite way of raising
ready money is to sell--of course at a very low price--orders upon the
Custom-house, to pass certain quantities of goods, duty-free. Such a
transaction as this was concluded between the Minister of Finance and a
merchant's house who gave hard dollars in exchange for an order to pass
so many hundred bales of cotton, free of duty. When the ship arrived at
port, however, the Yankee captain brought in his manifest with a broad
grin upon his face. The inspectors went down to the ship, and stood
aghast. There were the bales of cotton, but such bales! They had to be
shoved and coaxed to get them up through the hatchways at all. The
Customhouse officials protested in vain. The order was for so many
bales of cotton, and these overgrown monsters were bales of cotton, and
the merchants sent them up to Mexico in triumph.

To us, Puebla was not an interesting city. It was built by the
Spaniards, and called _Puebla de los Angeles_, because angels assisted
in building the cathedral, which does no great credit to their good
taste. Its costly ornaments of gold, silver, jewels, and variegated
marbles, are most extraordinary. One does not know which to wonder at
most, the value and beauty of the materials, or the unmitigated
ugliness of the designs.

We saw the festival of Corpus Christi while we were in Puebla; but were
to a certain extent disappointed in the display of plate and jewelled
vestments for the clergy, whose attempt to overthrow Comonfort's
government had only resulted in themselves being heavily fined, and who
were in consequence keeping their wealth in the background, and making
as little display as possible. The most interesting part of the
ceremonial to us was to see the processions of Indians from the
surrounding villages, walking crowned with flowers, and carrying
Madonnas in bowers of green branches and blossoms.

At the head of each procession walked an Indian beating a drum, _tap,
tap, tap_, without a vestige of time. The other processions with stoles
and canopies, and the officials of the city in dress-coats and yellow
kid gloves, were paltry affairs enough.

Neither during this ceremonial, nor at Easter in the Capital were any
miracles exhibited, like the performances of the Madonna at Palermo,
which the coachmen of the city carry about at Easter, weeping real
tears into a cambric pocket-handkerchief; nor is anything done in the
country like the lighting of the Greek fire, or the melting of the
blood of St. Januarius.

Puebla pretty much belongs to the clergy, who are paramount there. A
population of some sixty thousand has seventy-two churches, some of
them very large. It is the focus of the church-party, whose steady
powerful resistance to reform is one of the causes of the unhappy
political state of the country. As is usual in cathedral-towns, the
morality of the people is rather lower than elsewhere. I have said
already that the revenues of the Mexican Church are very large. Tejada
estimates the income at twenty millions of dollars yearly, more than
the whole revenue of the State; but this calculation far exceeds that
given by any other authority. He remarks that the Church has always
tried as much as possible to conceal its riches, and probably he makes
a very large allowance for this. At any rate, I think we may reasonably
estimate the annual income of the Church at $10,000,000, or L2,000,000,
two-thirds of the income of the State.

There is nothing extraordinary in the Church having become very rich by
the accumulations of three centuries in a Spanish colony, where the
manners and customs remained in the 18th century to a great extent as
they were in the 16th, and the practice of giving and leaving great
properties to the Church was in full vigour--long after it had declined
in Europe. It is considered that half the city of Mexico belongs to the
Church. This seems an extraordinary statement; but, if we remember that
in Philip the Second's time half the freehold property of Spain
belonged to the Church, we shall cease to wonder at this. The
extraordinary feature of the case is that, counting both secular and
regular clergy, there are only 4600 ecclesiastics in the country. The
number has been steadily decreasing for years. In 1826 it was 6,000; in
1844 it had fallen to 5,200, in 1856 to 4,600, giving, on the lowest
reckoning, an average of over L200 a year for each priest and monk. A
great part of this income is probably left to accumulate; but, when we
remember that the pay of the country curas is very small, often not
more than L30 to L50, there must be fine incomes left for the
church-dignitaries and the monks. Now any one would suppose that a
profession with such prizes to give away would become more and more
crowded. Why it is not so I cannot tell. It is true that the lives of
the ecclesiastics are anything but respectable, and that the profession
is in such bad odour that many fathers of families, though good
Catholics, will not let a priest enter their houses; but we do not
generally find Mexicans deterred by a little bad reputation from
occupations where much money and influence are to be had for very
little work.

The ill conduct of the Mexican clergy, especially of the monks, is
matter of common notoriety, and every writer on Mexico mentions it,
from the time of Father Gage--the English friar--who travelled with a
number of Spanish monks through Mexico in 1625, and described the
clergy and the people as he saw them. He was disgusted with their ways,
and, going back to England, turned Protestant, and died Vicar of Deal.

To show what monastic discipline is in Mexico, I will tell one story,
and only one. An English acquaintance of mine was coming down the Calle
San Francisco late one night, and saw a man who had been stabbed in the
street close to the convent-gate. People sent into the convent to fetch
a confessor for the dying man, but none was to be had. There was only
one monk in the place, and he was bed-ridden. The rest were enjoying
themselves in the city, or fast asleep at their lodgings in the bosom
of their families.

In condemning the Mexican clergy, some exception must be made. There
are many of the country curas who lead most exemplary lives, and do
much good. So do the priests of the order of St. Vincent de Paule, and
the Sisters of Charity with whom they are associated; but then, few of
these, either priests or sisters, are Mexicans.

Among the curious odds and ends which we came upon in Puebla, in the
shop of a dealer in old iron and things in general, were two or three
very curious old scourges, made of light iron chains with projecting
points on the links--terrific instruments, once in very general use. Up
to the present time, there are certain nights when penitents assemble
in churches, in total darkness, and kneeling on the pavement, scourge
themselves, while a monk in the pulpit screams out fierce exhortations
to strike harder. The description carries us back at once to the
Egyptian origin of this strange custom; and we think of the annual
festival of Isis, where the multitudes scourged themselves in memory of
the sufferings of Osiris. A story is told of a sceptical individual who
got admission to this ceremony by making great professions of devotion,
and did terrific execution on the backs of his kneeling
fellow-penitents. Before he began, the place was resounding with
doleful cries and groans; but he noticed that the cry which arose when
he struck was not like these other sounds, but had quite a different
accent. The practice of devotional scourging is still kept up in Rome,
but in a very mild form, as it appears that the penitents keep their
coats on, and only use a kind of miniature cat-o'-nine-tails of thin
cord, with a morsel of lead at the end of each tail, and not such
bloodthirsty implements as those we found at Puebla.

It seemed to us that the great influence of the priests in Mexico was
among the women of all classes, the Indians, and the poorer and less
educated half-castes. The men of the higher classes, especially the
younger ones, did not appear to have much respect for the priests or
for religion, and, indeed, seemed to be sceptical, after the manner of
the French school of freethinking. It was quite curious to see the
young dandies, dressed in their finest clothes, at the doors of the
fashionable churches on Sunday morning. None of them seemed to go to
mass, but they simply went to stare at the ladies, who, as they came
out, had to run the gauntlet through a double line of these critical
young gentlemen. As far as we could see, however, they did not mind
being looked at. The poorer mestizos and Indians, on the other hand,
are still zealous churchmen, and spend their time and money on masses
and religious duties so perseveringly that one wishes they had a
religion which was of some use to them. As it is, I cannot ascertain
that Christianity has produced any improvement in the Mexican people.
They no longer sacrifice and eat their enemies, it is true, but against
this we must debit them with a great increase of dishonesty and general
immorality, which will pretty well square the account.

Practically, there is not much difference between the old heathenism
and the new Christianity. We may put the dogmas out of the question.
They hear them and believe in them devoutly, and do not understand them
in the least. They had just received the Immaculate Conception, as they
had received many mysteries before it; and were not a little delighted
to have a new occasion for decorating themselves and their churches
with flowers, marching in procession, dancing, beating drums, and
letting off rockets by daylight, as their manner is. The real essence
of both religions is the same to them. They had gods, to whom they
built temples, and in whose honour they gave offerings, maintained
priests, danced and walked in processions--much as they do now, that
their divinities might be favourable to them, and give them good crops
and success in their enterprises. This is pretty much what their
present Christianity consists of. As a moral influence, working upon
the character of the people, it seems scarcely to have had the
slightest effect, except, as I said, in causing them to leave off human
sacrifices, which were probably not an original feature of their
worship, but were introduced comparatively at a late time, and had
already been almost abolished by one king.

The Indians still show the greatest veneration for a priest; and Heller
well illustrates this feeling when he tells us how he happened to ride
through the country in a long black cloak, and the Indians he met on
the road used to fall on their knees as he passed, and ask for his
blessing, regardless of the deep mud and their white trousers. However,
this was ten years before we were in the country, and I doubt whether
the cloak would get so much veneration now. The best measure of the
influence of the Church is the fact that when Mexico adopted a
republican constitution, in imitation of that of the United States, it
was settled that no Church but that of Rome should be tolerated in the
country; and this law still remains one of the fundamental principles
of the State, in which universal liberty and equality, freedom of the
press, and absolute religious intolerance form rather a strange jumble.
It is curious to observe that, though the Independence confirmed the
authority of the Roman Catholic religion, it considerably reduced the
church-revenues, by making the payment of tithes a matter of mere
option. The Church--of course--diligently preaches the necessity of
paying tithes, putting their obligation in the catechism, between the
ten commandments and the seven sacraments, and they still get a good
deal in this way.

We sent our horses to the bath at Pueblo. This is usually done once a
week in the cities of Mexico. We went once to see the process while we
were in the capital, and were very much amused. The horses had been to
the place before, and turned in of their own accord through a gateway
in a shabby back street; and when they got into the courtyard, began to
dance about in such a frantic manner that the _mozos_ could hardly hold
them in while their saddles and bridles were being taken off. Then they
put their heads down, and bolted into a large shed, with a sort of
floor of dust several inches deep, in which six or eight other horses
were rushing about, kicking, prancing, plunging, and literally
screaming with delight. I will not positively assert that I saw an old
white horse stand upon his head in a corner and kick with all his four
legs at once, but he certainly did something very much like it.
Presently the old _mozo_ walked into the shed, with his lazo over his
arm, and carelessly flung the noose across. Of course it fell over the
right horse's neck, when the animal was quiet in a moment, and walked
out after the old man in quite a subdued frame of mind. One horse came
out after another in the same way, took his swim obediently across a
great tank of water, was rubbed down, and went off home in high
spirits.

Though slavery has long been abolished in the Republic, there still
exists a curious "domestic institution" which is nearly akin to it. It
is not peculiar to the plains of Puebla, but flourishes there more than
elsewhere. It is called "_peonaje_," and its operation is in this wise.
If a debtor owes money and cannot pay it, his creditor is allowed by
law to make a slave or _peon _of him until the debt is liquidated.
Though the name is Spanish, I believe the origin of the custom is to be
found in an Aztec usage which prevailed before the Conquest.

A _peon_ means a man on foot, that is, a labourer, journeyman, or
foot-soldier. We have the word in English as "_pioneer_" and as the
"_pawn_" among chessmen; but I think not with any meaning like that it
has come to bear in Mexico.

On the great haciendas in the neighbourhood of Puebla, the Indian
labourers are very generally in this condition. They owe money to their
masters, and are slaves; nominally till they can work off the sum they
owe, but practically for their whole lives. Even should they earn
enough to be able to pay their debt, the contract cannot be cancelled
so easily. A particular day is fixed for striking a balance, generally,
I believe, Easter Monday, just after a season when the custom of
centuries has made it incumbent upon the Indians to spend all that they
have and all that they can borrow upon church-fees, wax-candles, and
rockets, for the religious ceremonies of the season, and the drunken
debauches which form an essential part of the festival. The masters, or
at least the _administradors_, are accused of mystifying the annual
statement of accounts between the labourer and the estate, and it is
certain that the Indian's feeble knowledge of arithmetic leaves him
quite helpless in the hands of the bookkeeper; but whether this is mere
slander or not, we never had any means of ascertaining.

Long servitude has obliterated every feeling of independence from the
minds of these Indians. Their fathers were slaves, and they are quite
content to be so too. Totally wanting in self-restraint, they cannot
resist the slightest temptation to run into debt; and they are not
insensible to the miserable advantage which a slave enjoys over a free
labourer, that his master, having a pecuniary interest in him, will not
let him starve. They have a cat-like attachment to the places they live
in; and to be expelled from the estate they were born on, and turned
out into the world to get a living, we are told by writers on Mexico,
is the greatest punishment that can be inflicted upon them.

There was nothing that we could see in the appearance of these _peons_
to distinguish them from ordinary free Indians; and our having
travelled hastily through the district where the system prevails does
not give us a right to judge of its working. We can but compare the
opinions of waiters who have studied it, and who speak of it in terms
of the strongest reprobation, as deliberately using the moral weakness
of the Indians as a means of reducing them to slavery. Sartorius,
however, takes the other side, and throws the whole blame upon the
careless improvident character of the brown men, whose masters are
obliged to lend them money to supply their pressing wants, and must
take the only security they can get. He says, and truly enough, that
the system works wretchedly both for masters and labourers. Any one who
knows the working of the common English system of allowing workmen to
run into debt with the view of retaining them permanently in their
master's service may form some faint idea of the way in which this
Mexican debt-slavery destroys the energy and self-reliance of the
people.

But in one essential particular Sartorius mis-states the case. It is
not the money which the masters lend the _peons_ to help them in
distress and sickness that keeps them in slavery. It is the money spent
in wax-candles and rockets, and such like fooleries, for Easter and All
Saints; in the reckless profusion of drunken feasts on the days of
their patron saints, and on the occasion of births, deaths, and
marriages. These feasts are as utterly disproportioned to the means of
the givers as the Irish wakes which reduce whole families to beggary.
The sums of money spent upon them are provided by the owners of the
estates, who know exactly how they are to be spent. If they preferred
that their labourers should be free from debt, they could withhold this
money; and their not doing so proves that it is their desire to keep
the _peons_ in a state of slavery, and throws the whole blame of the
system upon them.

I have spoken of the _peons_ as Indians, and so they are for the most
part in the districts we visited; but travellers who have been in
Chihuahua and other northern states tell stories of creditors
travelling through the country to collect their debts, and, where money
was not forthcoming, collecting their debtors instead,--not merely
brown Indians, but also nearly white mestizos.

Mexico is one of the countries in which the contrast between great
riches and great poverty is most striking. No traveller ever enters the
country without making this remark. The mass of the people are hardly
even with the world; and there are some few capitalists whose incomes
can scarcely be matched in England or Russia. Yet this state of things
has not produced a permanent aristocracy.

The general history of great fortunes repeats itself with monotonous
regularity. Fortunate miners or clever speculators, who have happened
to possess the gift of accumulating in addition to that of getting,
often make colossal fortunes. Miners have made the greatest sums, and
made them most rapidly. Fortunes of two or three millions sterling are
not uncommon now, and we often meet with them in the history of the
last century. They never seem to have lasted many years. Before the
Independence, the capitalist used to buy a patent of nobility, and
leave great sums to his children to maintain the new dignity; but they
hardly ever seem to have done anything but squander away their
inheritance, and we find the family returning to its original poverty
by the third or fourth generation.

Mexico is an easy place to make money in, in spite of the continual
disorders that prevail. In the mining-districts most men make money at
some time or other. The difficulty lies in keeping it. There seems to
be no training better suited for making a capitalist than the life of
the retail shopkeeper, especially in the neighbourhood of a mine. A
good share of all the money that is won and of all that is lost stops
in his till. Whoever makes a lucky hit in a mining-speculation, he has
a share of the profits, and when there is a "good thing" going, he is
on the spot to profit by it.

When once a man becomes a capitalist, there are many very profitable
ways of employing his money. Mines and cotton-factories pay well, so do
cattle-haciendas in the north, when honest administradors can be got to
manage them; and discounting merchants' bills is a lucrative business.
But far better than these ordinary investments are the monopolies, such
as the farming of the tobacco-duty, the mints, and those mysterious
transactions with the government in which ready cash is exchanged for
orders to pass goods at the Custom-house, and the other financial
transactions familiar to those who know the shifts and mystifications
of that astonishing institution, the Finance-department of Mexico.

We rode from Puebla to Orizaba. Amozoque, the first town on the road,
is a famous place for spurs, and we bought some. They are of blue steel
inlaid with strips of silver, and the rowel is a sort of cogged wheel,
from an inch and a half to three inches in diameter. _(See page 220.)_
They look terrific instruments, but really the cogs or points of the
rowels are quite blunt, and they keep the horse going less by hurting
him than by their incessant jingling, which is increased by bits of
steel put on for the purpose. Monstrous as the spurs now used are, they
are small in comparison with those of a century or two ago. One reads
of spurs, of gold and silver, with rowels in the shape of five-pointed
stars six inches in diameter. These have quite gone out now, and seem
to have been melted up, for they are hardly ever to be seen; but we
bought at the _baratillo_ of Mexico spurs of steel quite as large as
this.

My companion sent to the Art-exhibition at Manchester a couple of pairs
of the ordinary spurs of the country, such as we ourselves and
everybody else wore. They were put among the mediaeval armour, and
excited great admiration in that capacity!

We slept at Nopalucan that night, and rode on next day to San Antonio
de Abajo, a little out-of-the-way village at the foot of the mountain
of Orizaba. Our principal adventure in the day's ride was that, finding
that our road made a detour of a mile or so round a beautiful piece of
green turf, we boldly struck across it, and nearly lamed our horses
thereby; for the ground was completely undermined by moles, and at
every third step the horses' feet went into a deep hole. We had to get
off and lead them back to the road.

Orizaba is the great feature in the scenery of this district of Mexico.
It is one point in the line of volcanos which stretches across the
continent from east to west. It is a conical mountain, like
Popocatepetl, and about the same height; measurements vary from twenty
feet higher to sixty feet lower. The crater has fallen in on one side,
leaving a deep notch clearly visible from below. At present, as we hear
from travellers who have ascended it, the crater, like that of
Popocatepetl, is in the condition of a _solfatara_, sending out jets of
steam and sulphurous acid gas. About three centuries ago its eruptions
were frequent; and its Mexican name, _Citlaltepetl_, "Mountain of the
Star," carries us back to the time when it showed in the darkness a
star-like light from its crater, like that of Stromboli at the present
time, when one sees it from a distance.

San Antonio de Abajo is a quaint little village, frequented by
muleteers and smugglers. Tobacco, the principal contraband article, is
grown in the plains just below; and, once carried up into the paths
among the mountains, it is hard for any custom-house officer to catch
sight of it.

When there was a government, there used sometimes to be fighting
between the revenue-officers and the smugglers; but now, if there is a
meeting, a few dollars will settle the disputed question to the
satisfaction of both parties, so that the contraband trade, though
profitable, is by no means so exciting as it used to be.

On the road towards San Antonio we saw ancient remains in the banks by
the road-side, but had no time for a regular examination. We slept on
damp mattresses in a room of the inn, where the fowls roosted on the
rafters above our heads, and walked over our faces in the early morning
in an unpleasant manner. We started before daybreak, and a descent down
a winding road, through a forest of pines and oaks, brought us by seven
in the morning from the region of pines and barley down to the district
where tobacco and the sugar-cane flourish, at the level of 3,000 to
4,000 feet above the sea.

We met a jaunty-looking party in the valley, two women and five or six
men, all on good horses, and dressed in the extreme of fashion which
the Mexican _ranchero_ affects--broad-brimmed hats with costly gold and
silver serpents for hat-bands, and clothes and saddles glittering with
silver. Martin rode up to us as they passed, and said he knew them well
for the boldest highwaymen in Mexico. Had we started an hour or two
later we should have met them in the forest, and have had an adventure
to tell of. As it was, the descent of three thousand feet had brought
us from a land of thieves to a region where highway robbery is never
known, unless when a party from the high lands come down on a marauding
expedition. It is an unquestionable fact that the Mexican robbers,
whose exploits have become a matter of world-wide notoriety, all belong
to the cold region of the plateaus, the _tierra fria_. Once down in the
_tierra templada_, or the _tierra caliente_, the temperate or the hot
regions, you hear no more of them; or at least this is the case in the
parts of Mexico we visited. The reason is clear; it is only on the
plateaus that the whites, preferring a region where the climate was not
unlike that of Castile, settled in large numbers; so that it is there
that Creoles and mestizos predominate, and they are the robbers.

We rode over great beds of gravel, cut up in deep trenches by the
mountain-streams; then along the banks of the river, among plantations
of tobacco, looking like beds of lettuces. As we were riding along the
valley, we saw before us a curious dark cloud, hanging over some fields
near the river. Our men, who had seen the appearance before, recognized
it at once as a flight of locusts, and, turning out of the high-road,
we came upon them just as they had settled on a clump of trees in a
meadow. They covered the branches and foliage until only the outline of
the trees was visible, while the rest of the swarm descended on a green
hedge, and on the grass. As for us, we went and knocked them down with
our riding-whips, and carried away specimens in our hats; but the
survivors took no manner of notice of us, and in about ten minutes they
left the trees mere skeletons, leafless and stripped of their bark, and
moved across the field in a dense mass towards some fruit-trees a
little way off. For days after this, when we met with travellers on the
road, or stopped at the door of a cottage to get a light or something
to drink, and chatted a few minutes with the inhabitants, we found that
our descent of the mountain-pass had brought us into a new set of
interests. News of the government and of the revolutionary party
excited no curiosity,--talk of robbers still less. At every house the
question was, "?_De donde vienen, Senores_?" "Where are you from,
gentlemen?"--and when we told them, "?_Y estaban alli las langostas_?"
"And were the locusts there?" The whole country was being devastated by
them; and the large rewards offered for them to the peasants, though
they caused dead locusts to be brought by tons, seemed hardly to
diminish their numbers. Firing guns had some slight effect in driving
off the swarms of locusts; and in some places the reports of muskets
were to be heard, at short intervals, all day long. Some idea of the
destruction caused by the locusts may be formed from the fact that in
six weeks they doubled the price of grain in the district. Fortunately,
they only appear in such numbers about once in half a century.

We had ridden a hundred miles over a rough country in the last
forty-eight hours, and were glad to get a rest at Orizaba; but on the
morning of the third day we were in the saddle again, accompanied by a
new friend, the English administrador of the cotton-mill at Orizaba.
Until we left the high-road, the country seemed well cultivated, with
plantations of tobacco, coffee, and sugar-cane; but as soon as we
turned into by-paths and struck across country, we found woods and
grassy patches, but little tilled ground, until we arrived at the
Indian village which we had gone out of our way to visit, Amatlan, that
is to say, "_The place of paper_."

In its arrangement this village was like the one that I have already
described, with its scattered huts of canes and palm-leaf thatch; but
the vegetation indicated a more tropical climate. Large fields, the
joint property of the community, were cultivated with pine-apples in
close rows, now just ripening; and bananas, with broad leaves and heavy
clusters of fruit, were growing in the little garden belonging to each
hut. The inhabitants stared at us sulkily, and gave short answers to
our questions. We went to the cottage of the Indian alcalde, who
declared that there was nothing to eat or drink in the village, though
we were standing in his doorway and could see the strings of plantains
hanging to the roof, and the old women were hard at work cooking.
However, when Mr. G. explained who he was, the old man became more
placable; and we were soon sitting on mats and benches inside the hut,
on the best of terms with the whole village. The life of these people
is simple enough, and not unsuited to their beautiful climate. The
white men have never interfered much with them; and it has been their
pride for centuries to keep as much as possible from associating with
Europeans, whom they politely speak of as _coyotes_, jackals. The
priest was a _mestizo_, and, as the Alcalde said, he was the only
_coyote_ in the settlement; but his sacred office neutralized the
dislike that his parishioners felt for his race.

These Indian communities always rejoiced in being able to produce for
themselves almost everything necessary for their simple wants; but of
late years the law of supply and demand has begun to undermine this
principle, and the cotton-cloth, spun and woven at home, is yielding to
the cheaper material supplied by the factories. Though so averse to
receiving Europeans among them, they do not object to go themselves to
work for good wages on the plantations. Those who leave their native
place, however, bring back with them tastes and wants hitherto unknown,
and inconsistent with their primitive way of life.

Another habit of theirs brings them into contact with the "reasonable
people," not to their advantage. They are excessively litigious, and
their continual law-suits take them to the large towns where the courts
of justice are held, and where lawyers' fees swallow up a large
proportion of their savings. There is a natural connexion between
farming and law-suits; and the taste for writs and hard swearing is as
remarkable among this agricultural people as it is among our own small
farmers in England.

Theoretically, the Indians in their villages live under the general
government, like any other citizens; for, since the establishment of
the republic, the civil disabilities which had kept them down for three
centuries were all abolished at a sweep, and the brown people have
their votes, and are eligible for any office. Practically, these
advantages do not come to much at present, for custom, which is
stronger than law, keeps them under the government of their own
aristocracy, composed of certain families whose nobility dates beyond
the Conquest, and was always recognized by the Spaniards. These noble
Indians seem to be pretty much as dirty, as ignorant, and as idle as
the plebeians--the ordinary field-labourers or "_earth-hands_"
(_tlalmaitl_), as they were called in ancient times,--and a stranger
cannot recognize their claims to superiority by anything in their
houses, dress, language, or bearing; nevertheless, they are the
patrician families, and republicanism has not yet deprived them of
their power over the other Indians. In early times, when men of white
or mixed blood were few in the country, it suited the Spanish
government to maintain the authority of these families, who collected
the taxes and managed the estates of the little communities. The common
people were the sufferers by this arrangement, for the Alcaldes of
their own race cheated them without mercy, and were harder upon them
than even their white rulers, just as on slave-estates a black driver
is much severer than a white one.

Near some of the houses we noticed that curious institution--the
_temazcalli_, which corresponds exactly to the Russian vapour-bath. It
is a sort of oven, into which the bather creeps on all fours, and lies
down, and the stones at one end are heated by a fire outside. Upon
these stones the bather sprinkles cold water, which fills the place
with suffocating steam. When he feels himself to have been sufficiently
sweated, he crawls out again, and has jars of cold water poured over
him; whereupon he dresses himself (which is not a long process, as he
only wears a shirt and a pair of drawers), and so goes in to supper,
feeling much refreshed. If he would take the cold bath only, and keep
the hot one for his clothes, which want it sadly, it would be all the
better for him, for the constant indulgence in this enervating luxury
weakens him very much. One would think the bath would make the Indians
cleanly in their persons, but it hardly seems so, for they look rather
dirtier after they have been in the _temazcalli_ than before, just as
the author of _A Journey due North_ says of the Russian peasants.

To us the most interesting question about the Mexican Indians of this
district was this, _Why are there so few of them?_ There are five
thousand square leagues in the State of Vera Cruz, and about fifty
inhabitants to the square league. Now, let us consider half the State,
which is at a low level above the sea, as too hot and unhealthy for men
to flourish in, and suppose the whole population concentrated on the
other half, which lies upon the rising ground from three thousand to
six thousand feet above the sea. This is not very far from the truth,
and gives us one hundred inhabitants to the square league--about
one-sixth of the population of the plains of Puebla, in a climate which
may be compared to that of North Italy, and where the chief products
are maize and European grain.

In the district of the lower temperate region, which we are now
speaking of, nature would seem to have done everything to encourage the
formation of a dense population. In the lower part of this favoured
region the banana grows. This plant requires scarcely any labour in its
cultivation; and, according to the most moderate estimate, taking an
acre of wheat against an acre of bananas, the bananas will support
twenty times as many people as the wheat. Though it is a fruit of
sweet, rather luscious taste, and only acceptable to us Europeans as
one small item of our complicated diet, the Indians who have been
brought up in the districts where it flourishes can live almost
entirely upon it, just as the inhabitants of North Africa live upon
dates.

In the upper portion of this district, where the banana no longer
flourishes, nutritious plants produce an immense yield with easy
cultivation. The _yucca_ which produces cassava, rice, the sweet
potato, yams, all flourish here, and maize produces 200 to 300 fold.
According to the accepted theory among political economists, where the
soil produces with slight labour an abundant nutriment for man, there
we ought to find a teeming population, unless other counteracting
causes are to be found.

The history of the country, as far as we can get at it, indicates a
movement in the opposite direction. Judging from the numerous towns the
Spanish invaders found in the district, the numbers of armed men they
could raise, and the abundance of provisions, we must reckon the
population at that time to have been more dense than at present; and
the numerous ruins of Indian settlements that exist in the upper
temperate region are unquestionable evidence of the former existence of
an agricultural people, perhaps ten times as numerous as at present.
The ruins of their fortifications and temples are still to be seen in
great numbers, and the soil all over large districts is full of the
remains of their pottery and weapons.

How far these settlements were depopulated by wars before the Spanish
Conquest, it is not easy to say. During the Conquest itself they did
not offer much resistance to the European invaders, and consequently
they escaped the wholesale destruction which fell upon the more
patriotic inhabitants of the higher regions. Since that time the
country has been peaceable enough; and even since the Mexican
Independence, the wars and revolutions which have done so much injury
to the inhabitants of the plateaus have not been much felt here.

In reasoning upon Mexican statistics we have to go to a great extent
upon guess-work. A very slight investigation, however, shows that the
calculation made in Mexico, that the population increases between one
and two per cent. annually, is incorrect. The present population of the
country is reckoned at a little under eight millions; and in 1806, it
seems, from the best authorities we can get, to have been a little
under six millions. Even this rate of increase, one-third every
half-century, is far above the rate of increase since the Conquest;
for, at that rate, a population a little over a million and a quarter
would have brought up the number to what it is at present, and we
cannot at the lowest estimation suppose the inhabitants after the siege
of Mexico to have been less than three or four millions. So that, badly
as Mexico is now going on with regard to the increase of its
population, about 1/2 per cent. per annum, while England increases over
1-1/2 per cent., and the United States twice as much, we may still
discern an improvement upon the times of the Spanish dominion, when it
was almost stationary.

Why then has this fertile and beautiful country only a small fraction
of the number of inhabitants that formerly lived in it? That it is not
caused by the climate being unfavourable to man is clear, for this
district is free from the intense heat and the pestilential fevers of
the low lands which lie nearer the sea.

It is a noticeable fact that the remains of the old settlements
generally lie above the district where the banana grows; and the higher
we rise above the sea, the more abundant do we find the signs of
ancient population, until we reach the level of 8,000 feet or a little
higher. The actual inhabitants at the present day are distributed
according to the same rule, increasing in numbers, according to the
elevation, from 3,000 to 8,000 feet, after which the severity of the
climate causes a rapid decrease.

In making these observations, I leave out of the question the hot
unhealthy coast-lands of the _tierra caliente_, and the cold and
comparatively sterile plains of the _tierra fria_, and confine myself
to that part of the country which lies between the altitudes of 3,000
and 8,000 feet, between which limits the European races flourish under
circumstances of climate which also suited the various Mexican races,
who probably came from a colder northern country. Now, if we begin to
descend from the level of the Mexican plateau--say 8,000 feet above the
sea--we find that less and less labour will provide nourishment for the
cultivator of the soil, until we reach the limit of the banana, where
the inhabitants ought to be crowded together like Chinese on their
rice-grounds, or the inhabitants of Egypt in the time of Herodotus.
Exactly the opposite rule takes effect; the banana-country is a mere
wilderness, and the higher the traveller rises the more abundant become
both present population and the remains of ancient settlements.

I suppose the reason of this is to be found in the habits and
constitution of the tribes who colonized the country, and preferred to
settle in a climate resembling that of their native land, without
troubling themselves about the extra labour it would cost them to
obtain their food. The European invaders have acted precisely in the
same way; and the distribution of the white and partly white
inhabitants of the country follows the same rule as that of the
Indians.

So far the matter is intelligible, on the principle that the
constitution and habits of the races which have successively taken up
their residence in the country have been strong enough to prevail over
the rule which regulates the supply of men by the abundance of food;
but this does not explain the fact of an actual diminution of the
inhabitants of the lower temperate districts. They were not mere
migratory tribes, staying for a few years before moving forward. They
had been settled in the country long enough to be perfectly
acclimatized; and yet, under circumstances apparently so favourable to
their increase, they have been diminishing for centuries, and are
perhaps even doing so now.

The only intelligible solution I can find for this problem is that
given by Sartorius, whose work on Mexico is well known in Germany, and
has been translated and published in England. This author's remarks on
the condition of the Indians are very valuable; and, as he was for
years a planter in this very district, he may be taken as an excellent
authority on the subject. He considers the evil to lie principally in
the diet and habits of the people. The children are not weaned till
very late, and then are allowed to feed all day without restriction on
boiled maize, or beans, or whatever other vegetable diet may be eaten
by the family. The climate does not dispose them to take much exercise;
so that this unwholesome cramming with vegetable food has nothing to
counteract its evil effects, and the poor little children get miserably
pot-bellied and scrofulous,--an observation of which we can confirm the
truth. A great proportion of the children die young, and those that
grow up have their constitutions impaired. Then they live in close
communities, and marry "in-and-in," so that the effect of unhealthy
living becomes strengthened into hereditary disease; and habitual
intemperance does its work upon their constitutions, though the
quantities of raw spirits they consume appear to produce scarcely any
immediate effect. Among a race in this bodily condition, the ordinary
epidemics of the country--cholera, small-pox, and dysentery--make
fearful havoc. Whole villages have often been depopulated in a few days
by these diseases; and a deadly fever which used to appear from time to
time among the Indians, until the last century, sometimes carried off
ten thousand and twenty thousand at once. It seemed to me worth while
to make some remarks about this question, with a view of showing that
the theory as to the relation between food and population, though
partly true, is not wholly so; and that in the region of which we have
been speaking it can be clearly shown to fail.

After spending a long morning with the Indians and their _cura_, we
took quite an affectionate leave of them. Their last words were an
apology for making us pay threepence apiece for the pineapples which we
loaded our horses with. In the season, they said, twelve for sixpence
is the price, but the fruit was scarce and dear as yet.

Our companion, besides being engaged in the Orizaba cotton-mill, was
one of the owners of the sugar-hacienda of the Potrero, below Cordova,
and we all rode down there together from the Indian village, and spent
the evening in walking about the plantation, and inspecting the new
machinery and mills. It was a pleasant sight to see the people coming
to the well with their earthen jars, after their work was done, in an
unceasing procession, laughing and chattering. They were partly Indian,
but with a considerable admixture of negro blood, for many black slaves
were brought into the country in old times by the Spanish planters.
Now, of course, they and their descendants are free, and the hotter
parts of Mexico are the paradise of runaway slaves from Louisiana and
Texas; for, so far from their race being despised, the Indian women
seek them as husbands, liking their liveliness and good humour better
than the quieter ways of their own countrymen. Even Europeans settled
in Mexico sometimes take wives of negro blood.

I have never noticed in any country so large a number of mixed races,
whose parentage is indicated by their features and complexion. In
Europe, the parent races are too nearly alike for the children of such
mixed marriages to be strikingly different from either parent. In
America and the West Indies we are familiar with the various mixtures
of white and negro, mulatto, quadroon, &c.; but in Mexico we have three
races, Spanish, pure Mexican, and Negro, which, with their
combinations, make a list of twenty-five varieties of the human race,
distinguishable from one another, and with regular names, which Mayer
gives in his work on Mexico, such as _mulatto, mestizo, zambo, chino_,
and so forth. Here all the brown Mexican Indians are taken as one race,
and the Red Indians of the frontier-states are not included at all. If
we come to dividing out the various tribes which have been or still are
existing in the country, we can count over a hundred and fifty, with
from fifty to a hundred distinct languages among them.

Out of this immense variety of tribes, we can make one great
classification. The men of one race are brown in complexion, and have
been for ages cultivators of the land. It is among them only that the
Mexican civilization sprang up, and they still remain in the country,
having acquiesced in the authority of the Europeans, and to a great
extent mingled with them by marriage. This class includes the Aztecs,
Acolhuans, Chichemecs, Zapotecs, &c., the old Toltecs, the present
Indians of Central America, and, if we may consider them to be the same
race, the nations who huilt the now ruined cities of Palenque, Copan,
Uxmal, and so forth. The other race is that of the Red Indians who
inhabit the prairie-states of North Mexico, such as the Apaches,
Comanches, and Navajos. They are hunters, as they always were, and they
will never preserve their existence by adopting agriculture as their
regular means of subsistence, and settling in peace among the white
men. As it has been with their countrymen further north, so it will be
with them; a few years more, and the Americans will settle Chihuahua
and Sonora, and we shall only know these tribes by specimens of their
flint arrow-heads and their pipes in collections of curiosities, and
their skulls in ethnological cabinets.

One of the strangest races (or varieties, I cannot say which) are the
_Pintos_ of the low lands towards the Pacific coast. A short time
before we were in the country General Alvarez had quartered a whole
regiment of them in the capital; but when we were there they had
returned with their commander into the tierra caliente towards
Acapulco. They are called _"Pintos"_ or painted men, from their faces
and bodies being marked with great daubs of deep blue, like our British
ancestors; but here the decoration is natural and cannot be effaced.

They have the reputation of being a set of most ferocious savages; and,
badly armed as they are with ricketty flint- or match-locks, and sabres
of hoop-iron, they are the terror of the other Mexican soldiery,
especially when the war has to be carried on in the hot pestilential
coast-region, their native country.

CHAR XII.

CHALCHICOMULA. JALAPA. VERA CRUZ. CONCLUSION.

[Illustration: INDIANS OF THE PLATEAU. _(After Nebel.)_]

The mountain-slopes which descend from the Sierra Madre eastward toward
the sea are furrowed by _barrancas_--deep ravines with perpendicular
sides, and with streams flowing at the bottom. But here all these
_barrancas_ run almost due east and west, so that our journey from Vera
Cruz to Mexico was made, as far as I can recollect, without crossing
one. Now, the case was quite different. We had to go from the Potrero
to the city of Jalapa, about fifty miles on the map, nearly northward,
and to get over these fifty miles cost us two days and a half of hard
riding.

By the road it cannot be much less than eighty miles; but people used
to tell us that, during the American war, an Indian went from Orizaba
to Jalapa with despatches within the twenty-four hours, probably by
mountain-paths which made it a little shorter. He came quite easily
into Jalapa at the same shuffling trot which he had kept up almost
without intermission for the whole distance. This is the Indian's
regular pace when he is on a journey, and I believe that the Red
Indians of the north have a similar gait.

We used sometimes to see a village or a house three or four miles off,
and count upon reaching it in half an hour. But a few steps further on
there would be a barranca, invisible till we came close to it, perhaps
not more than a few hundred feet wide, so that it was easy to talk to
people on the other bank. But the bottom of the chasm might be five
hundred or a thousand feet below us; and the only way to cross was to
ride along the bank, often for miles, until we reached a place where it
had been possible to make a steep bridle-path zigzagging down to the
stream below, and up again on the other side. It is only here and there
that even such paths can be made, for the walls of rock are generally
too steep even for any vegetation, except grass and climbing plants in
the crevices. Our half-hour's ride, as we supposed it would be, would
often extend to two or three hours, for on these slopes two or three
barrancas--large and small---have sometimes to be crossed within as
many miles.

If our journey had been even slower and more difficult, we should not
have regretted it; the country through which we were riding was so
beautiful. There were but few inhabitants, and the landscape was much
as nature had left it. The great volcano of Orizaba came into view now
and then with its snowy cone,[23] mountain-streams came rushing along
the ravines, and the forests of oaks were covered with innumerable
species of orchids and creepers, breaking down the branches with their
weight. Many kinds were already in flower, and their great blossoms of
white, purple, blue, and yellow, stood out against the dark green of
the oak-leaves. Wherever a mountain-stream ran down some shady little
valley, there were tree-ferns thirty feet high, with the new fronds
forming a tuft at the top of the old scarred trunk. Round the Indian
cottages were cactuses with splendid crimson flowers, daturas with
brilliant white blossoms, palm- and fruit-trees of fifty kinds. We
stopped at one of the cottages, and bought an armadillo that had just
been caught in the woods close by, while routing among his favourite
ants' nests. He was put into a palm-leaf basket, which held him all but
the tip of his long taper tail, which, like the rest of his body, was
covered with rings of armour fitting beautifully into one another. One
of our men carried him thus in his arms to Jalapa.

The Mexicans call an armadillo "_ayotochtli_," that is,
"tortoise-rabbit," a name which will be appreciated by any one who
knows the appearance of the little animal.

The villages and towns we passed were dismal places enough, and the
population scanty; but that this had not always been the case was
evident from the numerous remains of ancient Indian mound-forts or
temples which we passed on our road, indicating the existence of large
towns at some former period. There is a drawing in Lord Kingsborough's
work of a _teocalli_ or pyramid at San Andres Chalchicomula, which we
seem to have missed on account of the darkness having come on before we
reached the town. We were several times deceived that evening by the
fireflies, which we took for lights moving about in some village just
ahead of us; and we became so incredulous at last that we would not
believe we had reached our journey's end until we could made out the
dim outlines of the houses. At the inn at San Andres we found that we
could have no rooms, as all the little windowless dens were occupied by
people from the country who had come in for a _fiesta_. There were
indeed a good many men loafing about the courtyard, but scarcely any
women, and we could hardly understand a fandango happening without
them. They thought otherwise, however; and presently, hearing the
tinkling of a guitar, we went out and saw two great fellows in broad
hats, jackets, and serapes, solemnly dancing opposite to one another;
while more men looked on, smoking cigarettes, and an old fellow with a
face like a baboon was squatting in one corner and producing the music
we had heard. To do them justice, I must say that we found, on further
enquiry, they had not come from their respective ranchos merely to make
fools of themselves in this way, but that there was to be some
horsefair in the neighbourhood next day, and they were going there.

Our not being able to get any supper but eggs and bread, and having to
sleep on the supper-table afterwards, confirmed us in the theory we
were beginning to adopt, that nature and mankind vary in an inverse
ratio; and we were off at daybreak, delighted to get into the forest
again. We rode over hill and dale for four or five hours, and then
along the edge of a barranca for the rest of the day. This was one of
the grandest chasms we had ever seen, even in Mexico. It was four or
five miles wide, and two or three thousand feet deep, and its floor was
a mass of tropical verdure, with here and there an Indian rancho and a
patch of cultivated ground on the bank of the rapid river, whose sound
we heard when we approached the edge of the barranca. There were more
orchids and epidendrites than ever in the forest. In some places they
had killed every third tree, by forming so and close a covering over
its branches as to destroy its life; they were flourishing unimpaired
on the rotting branches of trees which they had brought down to the
ground years before. The rainy season had not yet set in in this part
of the country; and, though we could hear the rushing of the torrent
below, we looked in vain for water in the forest, until our man Martin
showed us the _bromelias_ in the forks of the branches, in the inside
of whose hollow leaves nature has laid up a supply of water for the
thirsty traveller.

We loaded our horses with the bulbs of such orchids as were still in
the dry state, and would travel safely to Europe. Sometimes we climbed
into the trees for promising specimens, but oftener contented ourselves
with tearing them from the branches as we rode below. When saddle-bags
and pockets were full, we were for a time at fault, for there seemed no
place for new treasures, when suddenly I remembered a pair of old
trousers. We tied up the ends of the legs, which we filled with
orchids; and the garment travelled to Jalapa sitting in its natural
position across my saddle, to the amazement of such Mexican society as
we met. The contents of the two pendant legs are now producing splendid
flowers in several English hothouses.

By evening we reached the _Junta_, a place where the great ravine was
joined by a smaller one, and a long slanting descent brought us to the
edge of the river. There was a ferry here, consisting of a raft of logs
which the Indian ferryman hauled across along a stout rope. The horses
were attached to the raft by their halters, and so swam across. On the
point of land between the two rivers the Indians had their huts, and
there we spent the night. We chose the fattest _guajalote_ of the
turkey-pen, and in ten minutes he was simmering in the great earthen
pot over the fire, having been cut into many pieces for convenience of
cooking, and the women were busy grinding Indian corn to be patted out
into tortillas. While supper was getting ready, and Mr. Christy's day's
collection of plants was being pressed (the country we had been passing
through is so rich that the new specimens gathered that day filled
several quires of paper), we had a good deal of talk with the brown
people, who could all speak a little Spanish. Some years before, the
two old people had settled there, and set up the ferry. Besides this,
they made nets and caught much fish in the river, and cultivated the
little piece of ground which formed the point of the promontory. While
their descendants went no further than grandchildren the colony had
done very well; but now great-grandchildren had begun to arrive, and
they would soon have to divide, and form a settlement up in the woods
across the river, or upon some patch of ground at the bottom of one of
the barrancas.

We were interested in studying the home-life of these people, so
different from what we are accustomed to among our peasants of Northern
Europe, whose hard continuous labour is quite unknown here. For the
men, an occasional pull at the _balsas_ (the rafts of the ferry), a
little fishing, and now and then--when they are in the humour for it--
a little digging in the garden-ground with a wooden spade, or dibbling
with a pointed stick. The women have a harder life of it, with the
eternal grinding and cooking, cotton-spinning, mat-weaving, and tending
of the crowds of babies. Still it is an easy lazy life, without much
trouble for to-day or care for to-morrow. When the simple occupations
of the day are finished, the time does not seem to hang heavy upon
their hands. The men lie about, "thinking of nothing at all;" and the
women--old and young--gossip by the hour, in obedience to that
beneficent law of nature which provides that their talk shall increase
inversely in proportion to what they have to talk about. We find this
law attaining to its most complete fulfilment when they shut themselves
up in nunneries, to escape as much as possible from all sources of
worldly interest, and gossip there more industriously than anywhere
else, as we are informed on very good authority.

Like all the other Mexican Indians whose houses we visited, the people
here showed but little taste in adorning their dwellings, their dresses
and their household implements. Beyond a few calabashes scraped smooth
and ornamented with coloured devices, and the blue patterns on the
women's cotton skirts, there was scarcely anything to be seen in the
way of ornament. How great was the skill of the Mexicans in ornamental
work at the time of the Conquest, we can tell from the carved work in
wood and stone preserved in museums, the graceful designs on the
pottery, the tapestry, and the beautiful feather-work; but this taste
has almost disappeared in the country. Just in the same way, contact
with Europeans has almost destroyed the little decorative arts among
most barbarous people, as, for example, the Red Indians and the natives
of the Pacific Islands; and what little skill in these things is left
among them is employed less for themselves than in making curious
trifles for the white people, and even in these we find that European
patterns have mixed with the old designs, or totally superseded them.

The Indians lodged us in an empty cane-hut, where they spread mats upon
the ground, and we made pillows of our saddles. We were soon tired of
looking up at the stars through the chinks in the roof, and slept till
long after sunrise. Then the Indians rafted us across the second river;
and we rode on to Jalapa, having accomplished our horseback journey of
nearly three hundred miles with but one accident, the death of a horse,
the four-pound one. He had been rather overworked, but would most
likely have got through, had we not stopped the last night at the
Indian _ranchos_, where there was no forage but green maize leaves, a
food our beasts were not accustomed to. It seems our men gave him too
much of this, and then allowed him to drink excessively; and next
morning he grew weaker and weaker, and died not long after we reached
Jalapa. Our other two horses were rather thin, but otherwise in good
condition; and the horse-dealers, after no end of diplomacy on both
sides, knocked under to our threat of sending them back to Mexico in
charge of Antonio, and gave us within a pound or two of what they had
cost us. There, is a good deal of trading in horses done at Jalapa,
where travellers coming down from Mexico sell their beasts, which are
disposed of at great prices to other travellers coming up from the
coast. Between here and Vera Cruz, people prefer travelling in the
Diligence, or in some covered carriage, to exposing themselves to the
sun in the hot and pestilential region of the coast.

Jalapa is a pleasant city among the hills, in a country of forests,
green turf, and running streams. It is the very paradise of botanists;
and its products include a wonderful variety of trees and flowers, from
the apple- and pear-trees of England to the _mameis_ and _zapotes_ of
tropical America, and the brilliant orchids which are the ornament of
our hot-houses. The name of the town itself has a botanical celebrity,
for in the neighbouring forests grows the _Purga de Jalapa_, which we
have shortened into _jalap_.

A day's journey above it, lies the limit of eternal snow, upon the peak
of Orizaba; a day's journey below it is Vera Cruz, the city of the
yellow fever, surrounded by burning sands and poisonous exhalations, in
a district where, during the hot months now commencing, the thermometer
scarcely ever descends below 80 deg., day or night. Jalapa hardly knows
summer or winter, heat or cold. The upper current of hot air from the
Gulf of Mexico, highly charged with aqueous vapour, strikes the
mountains about this level, and forms the belt of clouds that we have
already crossed more than once during our journey. Jalapa is in this
cloudy zone, and the sky is seldom clear there. It is hardly hotter in
summer than in England, and not even hot enough for the mosquitoes,
which are not to be found here though they swarm in the plain below.
This warm damp climate changes but little in the course of the year.
There are no seasons, in our sense of the word, for spring lasts
through the year.

We walked out on the first afternoon of our arrival; and sat on stone
seats on a piece of green turf surrounded by trees, that reminded us
pleasantly of the village-greens of England. There we talked with the
children of an English acquaintance who had been settled for many years
in the town, and had married a Mexican lady. They were fine lads; but,
as very often happens in such cases, they could only speak the language
of the country. Nothing can show more clearly how thoroughly a
foreigner yields to the influences around him, when he settles in a
country and marries among its people. An Englishman's own character,
for instance, may remain to some extent; but his children are scarcely
English in language or in feeling, and in the next generation there is
nothing foreign about his descendants but the name.

When we reached our hotel it was about sunset, and the heavy dew had
wetted us through, as though we had been walking in the rain. This was
no exceptional occurrence. All the year round such dews fall morning
and evening, as well as almost daily showers of rain. The climate is
too warm for this dampness to injure health, as it would in our colder
regions. To us, who had just left the bracing air of the high plateaus,
it seemed close and relaxing; but the inhabitants are certainly strong
and healthy, and one can imagine the enjoyment which the white
inhabitants of Vera Cruz must feel, when they can get away from that
city of pestilence into the pure air of the mountains.

Our quarters were at the _Veracruzana_, where we occupied a great
whitewashed room. A large grated window opened into the garden, where
the armadillo was fastened to a tree by a long string, and had soon dug
a deep hole with his powerful fore-claws, as the manner of the creature
is. The necessity of supplying the "little man in armour" with insects
for his daily food gave us some idea of the amazing abundance and
variety of the insects of the district. We caught creeping things
innumerable in the garden, but narrowly escaped being stung by a small
scorpion; and therefore delegated the task to an old Indian, who walked
out into the fields with an earthen pot, and returned with it full of
insects in about half an hour. We reckoned that there were over fifty
species in the pot.

Many of the houses and Indian huts were adorned with collections of
insects pinned on the walls in patterns, among which figured scorpions
some three inches long; and the centre-ornament was usually a
tarantula, said to be one of the most poisonous creatures of the
tropics, a monstrous spider, whose dark grey body and legs are covered
with hairs. A fine specimen will have a body about as large as a small
hen's egg, and, with his legs in their natural position, will just
stand in a cheese-plate. The Boots of the hotel went out and caught a
fine scorpion for our amusement; he brought it into our room wrapped in
a piece of brown paper, and was on the point of letting it out on our
table for us to see it run. We protested against this, and had it put
into a tumbler and covered it up with a book.

The inner _patio_ of the hotel was surrounded with the usual arcade,
into which the rooms opened. Close to our door was a long table, with a
green cloth, where the Jalapenians were constantly playing _monte_,
from nine in the morning till late at night. All classes were
represented there, from the muleteer who came to lose his hard-earned
dollars, to the rich shopkeepers and planters of the town and
neighbourhood.

I went early one afternoon to the house of the principal agent for the
Vera Cruz carriers, to arrange for sending down our heavy packages to
the coast. There was no one at the office but a girl. I enquired for
the master--"_Esta jugando_,"--"He is playing," she said. I need not
have gone so far to look for him, for he was sitting just outside our
bedroom door, and indeed had been there all day. Before he condescended
to arrange our business, he waited to see the fate of the dollar he had
just put down, and which I was glad to see he lost.

Jalapa was not always the stagnant place it is now. Its pleasant houses
and gardens date from a period when it was a town of some importance.
In old times the only practicable road from Vera Cruz to Mexico passed
this way; and Jalapa was the entrepot where the merchants had their
warehouses, and from whence the trains of mules distributed the
European merchandise from the coast to the different markets of the
country. By this arrangement, the carrying from the coast was done by a
small number of muleteers, who were seasoned to the climate, while the
great mass of traders and carriers were not obliged to descend from the
healthy region. This was of the more importance, because, though the
pure Indians are not liable to the attacks of yellow fever, the disease
is as deadly to the other inhabitants of the high lands as to
Europeans; and even those of the _mestizos_ who have the least
admixture of white blood are subject to it. Of late years, this system
has been given up, and the carriers from the high lands go down to the
coast to fetch their loads, and every year they leave some of their
number in the church-yards of the City of the Dead; while many others,
though they recover from the fever, never regain their former health
and strength. The high-road to Mexico now goes by Orizaba, so that the
importance of Jalapa as a trading-place has almost ceased.

Our Mexican journey was now all but finished, and I left my companion
here, and took the Diligence to Vera Cruz, to meet the West India
Mail-packet. Mr. Christy followed a day or two later, and went to the
United States. We dismissed our two servants, Martin and Antonio.
Martin invested his wages in a package of tobacco, which he proposed to
carry home on his horse, travelling by night along unfrequented
mountain-paths, where custom-house officers seldom penetrate. We never
heard any more of him; but no doubt he got safe home, for he was
perfectly competent to take care of himself, and he probably made a
very good thing of his journey. It was quite with regret that we parted
from him, for he was a most sensible, useful fellow, with a continual
flow of high spirits, and no end of stories of his experiences in
smuggling, and hunting wild cattle in the _tierra caliente_, in which
two adventurous occupations most of his life had been passed. In his
dealings with us, he was honesty itself, notwithstanding his equivocal
profession.

We offered Antonio a cheque on Mexico for his wages, as he was going
back there, but he said he would rather have hard dollars. We paid his
fare to Mexico by the Diligence, and gave him his money, telling him at
the same time, that he was a fool for his pains. He started next
morning; and we heard, a month or two later, that the coach was stopped
the same afternoon in the plains of Perote, and Antonio was robbed not
only of his money but even of his jacket and serape, and reached Mexico
penniless and half-naked. He was always a silly fellow, and his last
exploit was worthy of him.

Mr. Christy sat up till daybreak to see me off, filling up his time by
writing letters and pressing plants. When I was gone, he lay down in
his bed, in rather a dreamy state of mind, looking up at the ceiling.
There was a large beam just above his head, and at one side of it a
hole, which struck him as being a suitable place for a scorpion to come
out of. This idea had come into his head from the sight of the specimen
in the tumbler on the table, who had with great difficulty been drowned
in _aguardiente_. Presently something moved in the hole, and the
spectator below instantly became wide awake. Then came out a claw and a
head, and finally the body and tail of a very fine scorpion, two inches
and a half long. It was rather an awkward moment, for it was not safe
to move suddenly, for fear of startling the creature, whose footing
seemed anything but secure; and if he fell, he would naturally sting
whatever he might come in contact with. However, he met with no
accident on his way, and getting into another hole, about a yard off,
he drew up his tail after him and disappeared. Mr. Christy slipped out
of his bed with a sense of considerable relief; and having ascertained
that there were no holes in the ceiling above the bed on the other side
of the room, he turned in there, and went comfortably to sleep.

My only companion in the Diligence was a German shopman from Vera Cruz,
who was sociable, but not of an instructive turn of conversation. When
we had descended for a few hours, the heat became intolerable. Scarcely
any habitation but a few Indian cane-huts by the way-side, with bananas
and palm-trees. We stopped, about three in the afternoon, at a _rancho_
in a small village, and did not start again until next morning, a
little before day-break. Negroes and people of negro descent began to
abound in this congenial climate. I remember especially the
waiting-maid at the _rancho_, who was a "white negress," as they are
called. Her hair and features showed her African origin; but her hair
was like white wool, and her face and hands were as colourless as those
of a dead body. This animated corpse was healthy enough, however; and
this peculiarity of the skin is, it seems, not very uncommon.

The coast-regions through which I was passing abound in horned cattle,
but they are mostly far away from the high-roads. In spite of the
intense heat of the climate they thrive as well as in the higher lands.
Some are tolerably tame, and are kept within bounds by the _vaqueros_;
but the greater proportion, numbering tens of thousands, roam wild
about the country. In comparison with these cattle of the _tierra
caliente_, the fiercest beasts of the plateaus are safe and quiet
creatures. The only way of bringing them into the _corral_ is by using
tame animals for decoys, just as wild elephants are caught.

Our man Martin, who had once been a _vaquero_ on the Vera Cruz coast,
used to look upon the bulls of the high lands with great contempt. If
you chase them they run away, he said. If you lazo a bull of the hot
country, you have to gallop off with all your might, with the _toro_
close at your heels; and, if the horse falls, it may cost his life or
his rider's.

We thus find the horned cattle flourishing at every elevation, from the
sea-level to the mountain-pastures ten thousand feet above it. Horses
and sheep show less adaptability to this variety of climates. The
horses and mules come mostly from the States of the North, at a level
of from 5,000 to 8,000 feet; that remarkable country of which
Humboldt's observation gives us the best idea, when he says that,
although there are no made roads, wheel-carriages can travel distances
of a thousand miles over gently-undulating prairies, without meeting
any obstruction on the way.

Numbers of sheep are reared in the mountains, principally for the sake
of the tallow, for the consumption of tallow-candles in the mines is
enormous. The owners scarcely care at all for the rest of the animal;
and popular scandal accuses the sheep-farmers of driving their flocks
straight into the melting-coppers, without going through the
preliminary ceremony of killing them. People told us that the tallow
made in the cold regions loses its consistency when brought down into
hotter climates, but we had no means of ascertaining the truth of this.

Artificial lighting by means of tallow was not known to the ancient
Mexicans, who could not indeed have procured tallow except from the fat
of deer and smaller animals.

Bernal Diaz tells how the Spanish invaders used to dress their wounds
with "Indian Ointment." He explains the nature of this preparation in
another place. The Spaniards could get no oil in the country, nor
anything else to make salve with, so they took some fat Indian who had
just been killed in battle, and simply boiled him down.

Our ride next morning was but a few hours, the journey being so divided
in order that the passengers may reach Vera Cruz before the heat of the
day begins. We passed over a dreary district, generally too dry for
anything but cactus and acacias, but now and then, when a little water
was to be found, displaying clumps of bamboos with their elegant
feathery tufts. Then the railway took us through the dismal downs, with
their swamps and sand-hills, and so into Vera Cruz.

The English merchants we had already made acquaintance with were as
kind and hospitable as ever, and I found an Englishman, whom we had
known before, going as far as Havana by the same packet. The yellow
fever was unusually late this year, and, though June had begun, there
were but few cases. We heard afterwards that it set in a week or two
after our departure, and by its extraordinary severity made ample
amends for the lateness of its arrival.

After sunset, the air was alive with mosquitos, and the floors of the
hotel swarmed with cockroaches. The armadillo took quite naturally to
the latter creatures, and crunched them up as fast as we could catch
them for him. I was surprised to find that our word "cockroaches" does
not come from the German stock, like most of our names for insects and
small creatures, but from the Latin side of the house. The Spanish
waiter called them _cucarachas_, and the French ones _coqueraches_. The
history of the armadillo ends unfortunately: for some days he seemed to
take quite kindly to the diet of bits of meat which we had to put him
on, on shipboard, but he fell sick at Havana, and died.

My late companion travelled up into the Northern States, went to the
Indian assembly at Manitoulin Island, paid a visit to various tribes of
Red Men in the Hudson's Bay Territory--as yet unmissionized, carried
away in triumph the big medicine-drum I have already spoken of, and saw
and did many other things not to be related here. One sight that he
saw, some months later, reminded him of the wild country where we had
travelled together. He was in Iowa City, a little town of a year or
two's growth, out in the prairie States of the Far West. As he stood
one morning in the outskirts, among the plank-houses and half-made
roads, there came a solitary horseman riding in. Evidently he had come
from the Mexican frontier, a thousand miles and more away across the
plains; and no doubt, his waggons and the rest of his party were behind
him on the road, beyond the distant horizon of the prairie. By his face
he was American, but his costume was the dress of old Mexico, the
leather jacket and trousers, the broad white hat and huge jingling
spurs. His lazo hung in front of his high-peaked saddle, and his
well-worn serape was rolled up behind him like a trooper's cloak. As he
approached the town, he spurred his jaded beast, who broke into the old
familiar _paso_ of the Mexican plains. "It was my last sight of
Mexico," said my companion. He saluted the horseman in Spanish, and the
well-known words of welcome made the grim man's haggard sunburnt
features relax into a smile as he returned the salutation and rode on.

As for myself, my voyage home was short and unadventurous. From Vera
Cruz to Havana, most of my companions were Mexican refugees who had
been turned out of the country for being mixed up with Haro's
revolution or Santa Ana's intrigues. They were showily got-up men,
elaborately polite, and with much to say for themselves; but every now
and then some casual remark showed what stuff they were made of, and I
pitied more than ever the unfortunate countries whose political
destinies depend on the intrigues of these adventurers.

In the hot land-locked bay of St. Thomas's we, with the contents of
eight or nine more steamers, were shifted into the great steamer bound
homeward. I went ashore with an old German gentleman, and walked about
the streets. St. Thomas's is a Danish island, and a free port, that is,
a smuggling depot for the rest of the West India islands, much as
Gibraltar is for the Mediterranean. It is a stifling place, full of
mosquitos and yellow fever, and the confusion of tongues reigns there
even more than in Gibraltar, for the blacks in the streets all speak
three or four languages, and the shopkeepers six or seven.

We were a strange mixture on board the 'Atrato', over two hundred of
us. Peruvians and Chilians from across the isthmus, Spaniards and
Cubans, black gentlemen from Hayti, French colonists from Martinique,
but English preponderating above all other nationalities. One or two
governors of small islands, with their families, maintaining the
dignity of Government House, at least as far as Southampton, and
unapproachable by common mortals. Army men from West India stations,
who appeared to spend their mornings in ordering the wine for dinner,
and their evenings in abusing it when they had drunk it. West India
planters, who thought it was rather hard that the Anti-slavery Society,
after ruining them and their plantations, should moreover insist on
their believing themselves to be great gainers by the change. We were
all crowded, hot, and uncomfortable, and showed our worst side, but as
we neared England better influences got the ascendant again.

It was pleasant to breathe a cooler air, and to feel that I was getting
back to my own country and my own people; but with this feeling there
was mixed some regret for the beautiful scenes I had left. The evenings
of our latitudes seemed poor when we lost the gorgeous sunsets of the
tropics, and the sea alive with luminous creatures. When I came on deck
one evening and missed the brightest ornament of the sky--the Southern
Cross, I felt that I had left the tropics, and that all my efforts to
realize the life of the last half-year would produce but a vague and
shadowy picture.

Since we left Mexico, I have not cared to follow very accurately even
the newspaper intelligence of what has been and still is going on
there. It is a pitiable history. Continual wars and revolutions, utter
insecurity of life and property, the Indians burning down the haciendas
in the South and turning out the white people, the roads on the plains
impassable on account of deserters and robbers; sometimes no practical
government at all, then two or three at once, who raise armies and
fight a little sometimes, but generally confine themselves to
plundering the peaceable inhabitants. An army besieges the capital for
months, but appears to do nothing but cut the water off from the
aqueducts, shoot stragglers, and levy contributions. One leader raises
a forced loan among the foreign residents, and imprisons or expels
those who do not submit. The leader on the other side does the same in
his part of the country, putting the British merchant in prisons where
a fortnight would be a fair average life for an European, and
threatening him with summary courtmartial and execution if he does not
pay.

London newspapers dwell on these details, and tell us that we may learn
from the condition of this unfortunate country how useless are
democratic forms among a people incapable of liberty, and that very
weak governments can commit all sorts of crimes with impunity, from the
fact that they have no official existence which foreign powers can
recognize; and various other weighty moral lessons, which must be
highly edifying to our countrymen in the Republic, who are meanwhile
left pretty much to shift for themselves.

All this time the United States are steadily advancing; and the destiny
of the country is gradually accomplishing itself. That its total
absorption must come, sooner or later, we can hardly doubt. The chief
difficulty seems to be that the American constitution will not exactly
suit the case. The Republic laid down the right of each citizen to his
share in the government of the country as a universal law, founded on
indefeasible lights of humanity, fundamental laws of nature, and what
not, making, it is true, some slight exceptions with regard to red and
black men. The Mexicans, or at least the white and half-caste Mexicans,
will be a difficulty. Their claims to citizenship are unquestionable,
if Mexico were made a State of the Union; and, as everybody knows, they
are totally incapable of governing themselves, which they must be left
to do under the constitutional system of the United States; moreover,
it is certain that American citizens would never allow even the whitest
of the Mexicans to be placed on a footing of equality with themselves.
Supposing these difficulties got over by a Protectorate, an armed
occupation, or some similar contrivance, Mexico will undergo a great
change. There will be roads and even rail-roads, some security for life
and property, liberty of opinion, a nourishing commerce, a rapidly
increasing population, and a variety of good things. Every intelligent
Mexican must wish for an event so greatly to the advantage of his
country and of the world in general.

Some of our good friends in Mexico have bought land on the American
frontier by the hundred square leagues, and can point out patches upon
the map of the world as large as Scotland or Ireland--as their private
property. What their gains will be when enterprising western men begin
to bring the country under cultivation, it is not an easy matter to
realize.

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