Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Life in Mexico by Frances Calderon De La Barca

Part 10 out of 11

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 1.4 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

she answered meekly and readily to all the questions we put to her. Poor
little thing! she was shocking to look at; one of the many innocent beings
whose lives are to be rendered sad and joyless by this revolution. The
doctor seemed very kind to her.

A curious accident happened to Senor ----- in this last _pronunciamiento_.
He had already lost his leg in the first one; and was limping along the
street, when he was struck by a ball. He was able to reach his house, and
called to his wife, to tell her what had occurred. Her first impulse was to
call for a doctor, when he said to her very coolly, "Not this time,--a
carpenter will do better." He had been shot in his _wooden leg_!

At the end of the women's apartment in this hospital, there is a small
chapel where mass is said to the invalids. It is only remarkable as having
over the altar an image of the _Purisima_, brought from Spain by Cortes. We
went all through the building, even to the enclosure on the azotea, where
dead bodies are dissected; and on which azotea was a quantity of wool,
taken from the mattresses of those who die in the hospital, and which is
left in the sun during a certain period before it is permitted to be used
again. The whole establishment struck us as being healthy, cleanly, and
well-conducted. We then visited the fine old church, which has but one
broad aisle with a handsome altar, and near it is the small monument, under
which the bones of the conqueror were placed. The sacristy of the church is
remarkable for its ceiling, composed of the most intricately and
beautifully carved mahogany; a work of immense labour and taste, after the
Gothic style. The divisions of the compartments are painted blue and
ornamented with gilding. In the centre of the apartment is an immense
circular table, formed of one piece of mahogany; for which large sums have
been refused.

We went in the evening to visit the _Cuna_, which is not a fine building,
but a large, healthy, airy house. At the door, where there are a porter and
his wife, the babies are now given in. Formerly they were put in at the
_reja_, at the window of the porter's lodge; but this had to be given up,
in consequence of the tricks played by boys or idle persons, who put in
dogs, cats, or dead animals. As we were going upstairs, we heard an old
woman singing a cheerful ditty in an awfully cracked voice, and as we got a
full view of her before she could see us, we saw a clean, old body sitting,
sewing and singing, while a baby rolling on the floor in a state of perfect
ecstasy, was keeping up a sort of crowing duet with her. She seemed
delighted to see these ladies, who belong to the _Junta_, and led us into a
large hall where a score of nurses and babies were performing a symphony of
singing, hushing, crying, lullabying, and other nursery music. All along
the room were little green painted beds, and both nurses and babies looked
clean and healthy. The -----s knew every baby and nurse and directress by
name. Some of the babies were remarkably pretty, and when we had admired
them sufficiently, we were taken into the next hall, occupied by little
girls of two, three, and four years old. They were all seated on little
mats at the foot of their small green beds; a regiment of the finest and
healthiest children possible; a directress in the room sewing. At our
entrance, they all jumped up simultaneously, and surrounded us with the
noisiest expressions of delight. One told me in a confidential whisper,
that "Manuelita had thumped her own head, and had a pain in it;" but I
could not see that Manuelita seemed to be suffering any acute agonies, for
she made more noise than any of them. One little girl sidled up to me, and
said in a most insinuating voice, "_Me llevas tu?_" "Will you take me away
with you?"--for even at this early age they begin to have a glimmering idea
that those whom the ladies choose from amongst them are peculiarly
favoured. We staid some time with them, and admired their healthy, happy,
and well-fed appearance; and then proceeded to the apartment of the boys;
all little things of the same age, sitting ranged in a row like senators in
congress, and, strange to say, much quieter and graver than the female
babies; but this must have been from shyness, for before we came away, we
saw them romping in great style. The directresses seem good respectable
women, and kind to the children, who, as I mentioned before, are almost all
taken away and brought up by rich people, before they have time to know
that there is anything peculiar or unfortunate in their situation. After
this adoption, they are completely on a level with the other children of
the family--an equal portion is left them, and although their condition is
never made a secret of, they frequently marry as well as their adopted
brothers and sisters.

Those who are opposed to this institution, are so on the plea that it
encourages and facilitates vice. That the number of children in the
hospital is a proof that much vice and much poverty do exist, there is no
doubt; that by enabling the vicious to conceal their guilt, or by relieving
the poor from their burden, it encourages either vice or idleness, is
scarcely probable. But even were it so, the certain benefits are so
immense, when laid in the balance with the possible evils, that they cannot
be put in competition. The mother who leaves her child at the _Cuna_, would
she not abandon it to a worse fate, if this institution did not exist? If
she does so to conceal her disgrace is it not seen that a woman will stop
at no cruelty, to obtain this end? as exposure of her infant, even murder?
and that, strong as maternal love is, the dread of the world's scorn has
conquered it? If poverty be the cause, surely the misery must be great
indeed, which induces the poorest beggar or the most destitute of the
Indian women (whose love for their children amounts to a passion) to part
with her child; and though it is suspected that the mother who has left her
infant at the _Cuna_, has occasionally got herself hired as a nurse, that
she may have the pleasure of bringing it up, it seems to me that no great
evil can arise, even from that.

These orphans are thus rescued from the contamination of vice, from
poverty, perhaps from the depths of depravity; perhaps their very lives are
saved, and great sin prevented. Hundreds of innocent children are thus
placed under the care of the first and best ladies in the country, and
brought up to be worthy members of society.

Another day we devoted to visiting a different and more painful scene--the
_Acordada_, or public jail; a great solid building, spacious, and well
ventilated. For this also there is a _Junta_, or society of ladies of the
first families, who devote themselves to teaching the female malefactors.
It is painful and almost startling to see the first ladies in Mexico
familiarly conversing with and embracing women who have been guilty of the
most atrocious crimes; especially of murdering their husbands; which is the
chief crime of the female prisoners. There are no bad faces amongst them;
and probably not one who has committed a premeditated crime. A moment of
jealousy during intoxication, violent passions without any curb, suddenly
aroused and as suddenly extinguished, have led to these frightful results.
We were first shown into a large and tolerably clean apartment, where were
the female prisoners who are kept apart as being of a more _decent family_
than the rest. Some were lying on the floor, others working--some were well
dressed, others dirty and slovenly. Few looked sad; most appeared careless
and happy, and _none_ seemed ashamed. Amongst them were some of the
handsomest faces I have seen in Mexico. One good-looking common woman, with
a most joyous and benevolent countenance, and lame, came up to salute the
ladies. I inquired what she had done. "Murdered her husband, and buried him
under the brick floor!" Shade of Lavater! It is some comfort to hear that
their husbands were generally such brutes, they deserved little better!
Amongst others confined here is the wife, or rather the widow, of a
governor of Mexico, who made away with her husband. We did not see her, and
they say she generally keeps out of the way when strangers come. One very
pretty and coquettish little woman, with a most intellectual face, and very
superior-looking, being in fact a relation of Count -----'s, is in jail on
suspicion of having poisoned her lover. A beautiful young creature,
extremely like Mrs. -----, of Boston, was among the prisoners. I did not
hear what her crime was. We were attended by a woman who has the title of
_Presidenta_, and who, after some years of good conduct, has now the charge
of her fellow-prisoners--but she also murdered her husband! We went
upstairs, accompanied by various of these distinguished criminals, to the
room looking down upon the chapel, in which room the ladies give them
instruction in reading, and in the Christian doctrine. With the time which
they devote to these charitable offices, together with their numerous
devotional exercises, and the care which their houses and families require,
it cannot be said that the life of a Mexican Senora is an idle one; nor, in
such cases, can it be considered a useless one.

We then descended to the lower regions, where, in a great, damp, vaulted
gallery, hundreds of unfortunate women of the lowest class, were occupied
in _travaux forces_--not indeed of a very hard description. These were
employed in baking tortillas for the prisoners. Dirty, ragged, and
miserable-looking creatures there were in these dismal vaults, which looked
like purgatory, and smelt like--Heaven knows what! But, as I have
frequently had occasion to observe in Mexico, the sense of smell is a
doubtful blessing. Another large hall near this, which the prisoners were
employed in cleaning and sweeping, has at least fresh air, opening on one
side into a court, where poor little children, the saddest sight there,
were running about--the children of the prisoners.

Leaving the side of the building devoted to the women, we passed on to
another gallery, looking down upon an immense paved court with a fountain,
where were several hundreds of male prisoners, unfortunately collected
together without any reference to the nature of their crime; the midnight
murderer with the purloiner of a pocket-handkerchief; the branded felon
with the man guilty of some political offence; the debtor with the false
coiner; so that many a young and thoughtless individual whom a trifling
fault, the result of ignorance or of unformed principles, has brought
hither, must leave this place wholly contaminated and hardened by bad
example and vicious conversation. Here there were indeed some ferocious,
hardened-looking ruffians--but there were many mild, good-humoured faces;
and I could see neither sadness nor a trace of shame on any countenance;
indeed they all seemed much amused by seeing so many ladies. Some were
stretched full-length on the ground, doing nothing; others were making
rolls for hats, of different coloured beads, such as they wear here, or
little baskets for sale; whilst others were walking about alone, or
conversing in groups. This is the first prison I ever visited, therefore I
can compare it with no other; but the system must be wrong which makes no
distinctions between different degrees of crime. These men are the same
_forcats_ whom we daily see in chains, watering the Alameda or Paseo, or
mending the streets. Several hundreds of prisoners escaped from the
Acordada in the time of the _pronunciamiento_--probably the worst amongst
them--yet _half the city_ appears to be here now. We were shown the row of
cells for criminals whom it is necessary to keep in solitary confinement,
on account of disorderly behaviour--also the apartments of the directors.

In passing downstairs, we came upon a group of dirty-looking soldiers,
busily engaged in playing at cards. The alcalde, who was showing us through
the jail, dispersed them all in a great rage, which I suspected was partly
assumed for our edification. We then went into the chapel, which we had
seen from above, and which is handsome and well kept. In the sacristy is a
horrid and appropriate image of _the bad thief_. We were also shown a small
room off the chapel, with a confessional, where the criminal condemned to
die spends the three days preceding his execution with a padre chosen for
that purpose. What horrid confessions, what lamentations and despair that
small dark chamber must have witnessed! There is nothing in it but an
altar, a crucifix, and a bench. I think the custom is a very humane one.

We felt glad to leave this palace of crimes, and to return to the fresh

The following day we went to visit _San Hipolito_, the insane hospital for
men, accompanied by the director, a fine old gentleman, who has been a
great deal abroad, and who looks like a French marquis of the _ancien
regime_. I was astonished, on entering, at the sweet and solitary beauty of
the large stone courts, with orange trees and pomegranates now in full
blossom, and the large fountains of beautifully clear water. There must be
something soothing in such a scene to the senses of these most unfortunate
of God's creatures. They were sauntering about, quiet and for the most part
sad; some stretched out under the trees, and others gazing on the fountain;
all apparently very much under the control of the administrador, who was
formerly a monk, this _San Hipolito_ being a dissolved convent of that
order. The system of giving occupation to the insane is not yet introduced

On entering, we saw rather a distinguished-looking, tall and well-dressed
gentleman, whom we concluded to be a stranger who had come to see the
establishment, like ourselves. We were therefore somewhat startled when he
advanced towards us with long strides, and in an authoritative voice
shouted out, "Do you know who I am? I am the Deliverer of Guatemala!" The
_administrador_ told us he had just been taken up, was a Frenchman, and in
a state of furious excitement. He continued making a tremendous noise, and
the other madmen seemed quite ashamed of him. One unhappy-looking creature,
with a pale, melancholy face, and his arms stretched out above his head,
was embracing a pillar, and when asked what he was doing, replied that he
was "making sugar." We were led into the dining-hall, a long airy
apartment, provided with benches and tables, and from thence into a most
splendid kitchen, high, vaulted, and receiving air from above, a kitchen
that might have graced the castle of some feudal baron, and looked as if it
would most surely last as long as men shall eat and cooks endure. Monks of
San Hipolito! how many a smoking dinner, what viands steaming and savoury
must have issued from this noblest of kitchens to your refectory next door.

The food for the present inmates, which two women were preparing, consisted
of meat and vegetables, soup and sweet things; excellent meat, and
well-dressed _frijoles_. A poor little boy, imbecile, deaf and dumb, was
seated there cross-legged, in a sort of wooden box; a pretty child, with a
fine colour, but who has been in this state from his infancy. The women
seemed very kind to him, and he had a placid, contented expression of face;
but took no notice of us when we spoke to him. Strange and unsolvable
problem, what ideas pass through the brain of that child!

When we returned to the dining-hall, the inmates of the asylum, to the
number of ninety or a hundred, were all sitting at dinner, ranged quietly
on the benches, eating with wooden spoons out of wooden bowls. The poor
hero of Guatemala was seated at the lower end of the table, tolerably
tranquil. He started up on seeing us, and was beginning some furious
explanations, but was prevented by his neighbour, who turned round with an
air of great superiority, saying, "He's _mad!_" at which the other smiled
with an air of great contempt, and looking at us said, "He calls _me_ mad!"
The man of the pillar was eyeing his soup, with his arms as before,
extended above his head. The director desired him to eat his soup, upon
which he slowly and reluctantly brought down one arm, and ate a few
spoonfuls. "How much sugar have you made to-day?" asked the director.
"Fifty thousand kingdoms!" said the man.

They showed us two men, of very good family, and one old gentleman who did
not come to dinner with the rest, but stood aloof, in the courtyard, with
an air of great superiority. He had a cross upon his breast, and belongs to
an old family. As we approached, he took off his hat, and spoke to us very
politely; and then turning to the director, "_Y por fin_," said he,
"_Cuando saldre?_" "When shall I leave this place?" "Very soon," said the
director. "You may get your trunks ready." He bowed and appeared satisfied,
but continued standing in the same place, his arms folded, and with the
same wistful gaze as before. The director told us that the two great causes
of madness here are love and drinking, (mental and physical intoxication);
that the insanity caused by the former is almost invariably incurable,
whereas the victims of the latter generally recover, as is natural. The
poor old gentleman with the cross owes the overthrow of his mind to the
desertion of his mistress. We saw the chapel, where a padre says mass to
these poor creatures, "the Innocents," as they are called here. They do not
enter the chapel, for fear of their creating any disturbance, but kneel
outside, in front of the iron grating, and the administrador says it is
astonishing how quiet and serious they appear during divine service.

As we passed through the court, there was a man busily employed in hanging
up various articles of little children's clothes, as if to dry them--little
frocks and trousers; all the time speaking rapidly to himself, and stopping
every two minutes to take an immense draught of water from the fountain.
His dinner was brought out to him (for he could not be prevailed on to sit
down with the others), and he ate it in the same hurried way, dipping his
bread in the fountain, and talking all the time. The poor madman of the
_sugar-kingdoms_ returned from dinner, and resumed his usual place at the
pillar, standing with his arms above his head, and with the same melancholy
and suffering expression of face.

The director then showed us the room where the clothes are kept; the straw
hats and coarse dresses, and the terrible straight waistcoats made of brown
linen, that look like coats with prodigiously long sleeves, and the
_Botica_ where the medicines are kept, and the secretary's room where they
preserve the mournful records of entry and death--though often of exit. All
round the court are strong stone cells, where the furious are confined. He
took us into an empty one, where a Franciscan friar had been lodged. He had
contrived to pull down part of the wall, and to make a large hole into his
neighbour's cell adjoining. Fancy one madman seeing the head of another
appear through a hole in his cell! The whole cell was covered with crosses
of every description, drawn with a piece of coal. They had been obliged to
remove him into another in the gallery above, where he had already begun a
new work of destruction. I was afterwards told by the Padre P---n, the
confessor of condemned criminals, and who is of the same order as this
insane monk, that this poor man had been a merchant, and had collected
together about forty thousand dollars, with which he was travelling to
Mexico, when he was attacked by robbers, who not only deprived him of all
he possessed, but gave him some severe wounds on the head. When somewhat
recovered, he renounced the world, and took his vows in the convent of San
Francisco. Shortly after, he became subject to attacks of insanity, and at
last became so furious, that the superior was obliged to request an order
for his admission to San Hipolito.

The director then led us to the gallery above, where are more cells, and
the terrible "_Cuarto Negro_," the Black Chamber; a dark, round cell, about
twelve feet in circumference, with merely a slit in the wall for the
admission of air. The floor is thickly covered with straw, and the walls
are entirely covered with soft stuffed cushions. Here the most furious
madman is confined on his arrival, and whether he throws himself on the
floor, or dashes his head against the wall, he can do himself no injury. In
a few days, the silence and the darkness soothe his fury, he grows calmer,
and will eat the food that is thrust through the aperture in the wall. From
this he is removed to a common cell, with more light and air; but until he
has become tranquil, he is not admitted into the court amongst the others.

From this horrible, though I suppose necessary den of suffering, we went to
the apartments of the administrador, which have a fine view of the city and
the volcanoes, and saw a virgin, beautifully carved in wood, and dressed in
white satin robes, embroidered with small diamonds. On the ground was a
little dog, dying, having just fallen off from the azotea, an accident
which happens to dogs here not unfrequently. We then went up to the azotea,
which looks into the garden of San Fernando and of our last house, and also
into the barracks of the soldiers, who, as ----- observed, are more
dangerous madmen than those who are confined. Some rolled up in their dirty
yellow cloaks, and others standing in their shirt-sleeves, and many without
either; they were as dirty-looking a set of military heroes as one would
wish to see. When we came downstairs again, and had gone through the court,
and were passing the last cell, each of which is only lighted by an
aperture in the thick stone wall, a pair of great black eyes glaring
through, upon a level with mine, startled me infinitely. The eyes, however,
glared upon vacancy. The face was thin and sallow, the beard long and
matted, and the cheeks sunken. What long years of suffering appeared to
have passed over that furrowed brow! I wish I had not seen it....

We afterwards went to the college of Bizcainos, that K---- might see it--my
third and last visit. What a palace! What courts and fountains! We went
over the whole building as before, from the azotea downwards, and from the
porter's lodge upwards. Many of the scholars, who went out during the
revolution, have not yet returned. K---- was in admiration at the
galleries, which look like long vaulted streets, and at the chapel, which
is certainly remarkably rich....

Having stopped in the carriage on the way home, at a shoemaker's, we saw
_Santa Anna's leg_ lying on the counter, and observed it with due respect,
as the prop of a hero. With this leg, which is fitted with a very handsome
boot, he reviews his troops next Sunday, putting his _best foot foremost;_
for generally he merely wears an unadorned wooden leg. The shoemaker, a
Spaniard, whom I can recommend to all customers as the most impertinent
individual I ever encountered, was arguing, in a blustering manner, with a
gentleman who had brought a message from the general, desiring some
alteration in the boot: and wound up by muttering, as the messenger left
the shop, "He shall either wear it as it is, or review the troops next
Sunday without his leg!"[1]

[Footnote 1: Boston, November, 1842.--_Apropos des bottes,_ I copy the
following paragraph from an Havana newspaper:

"Mexico, 28th September.--Yesterday, was buried with pomp and solemnity in
the cemetery of Saint Paul, the foot which his Excellency, President Santa
Anna, lost in the action of the 5th December, 1838. It was deposited in a
monument erected for that purpose, Don Ignacio Sierra y Roso having
pronounced a funeral discourse appropriate to the subject."]

We have ordered _mangas_ to wear in our intended journey, which is now
nearly decided on--nothing tolerable to be had under seventy or eighty
dollars. They are made of strong cloth, with a hole in the middle for
putting the head through, with black velvet capes, fringed either with silk
or gold, and are universally lined with strong calico. They are warm and
convenient for riding in the country. I have seen some richly embroidered,
which cost five hundred dollars.

It is as I prophesied--now that we are about leaving Mexico, we fancy that
there still remain objects of interest which we have not seen. We have paid
a visit, probably a last visit, to Our Lady of Guadalupe, and certainly
never examined her cathedral with so much attention, or lingered so long
before each painting and shrine, or listened with so much interest to the
particulars of its erection, which were given us by Senor -----, whose
authority in these matters is unimpeachable.

It appears that the present sacristy of the parochial church dates back to
1575, and was then a small chapel, where the miraculous image was kept, and
where it remained until the beginning of the next century, when a new
church was built, to which the image was solemnly transported. Even when
enclosed in the first small sanctuary, its fame must have been great, for,
by orders of the archbishop, six doweries of three hundred dollars each, to
be given to six orphans on their marriage, were annually drawn from the
alms offered at her shrine. But in 1629 Mexico suffered the terrible
inundation which destroyed so large a part of the city, and the excellent
archbishop, D. Francisco Manzo, while devoting his time and fortune to
assist the sufferers, also gave orders that the Virgin of Guadalupe should
be brought into Mexico, and placed in the cathedral there, then of very
different dimensions from the present noble building, occupying, it is
said, the space which is now covered by the principal sacristy. When the
waters retired, and the Virgin was restored to her own sanctuary, her fame
increased to a prodigious extent. Copies of the Divine Image were so
multiplied, that there is probably not an Indian hut throughout the whole
country where one does not exist. Oblations and alms increased a thousand
fold; a silver throne, weighing upwards of three hundred and fifty marks,
and beautifully wrought, chiefly at the expense of the viceroy, Count of
Salvatierra, was presented to her sanctuary, together with a glass case
(for the image), considered at that time a wonder of art. At the end of the
century a new temple, the present sanctuary, was begun; the second church
was thrown down, but not until a provisional building (the actual parish
church) was erected to receive the image. The new temple was concluded in
1709, and is said to have cost from six to eight hundred thousand dollars,
collected from _alms alone_, which were solicited in person by the
viceregal archbishop, D. Juan de Ortega y Montanez. Two private individuals
in Mexico gave, the one thirty, the other fifty thousand dollars, towards
its erection.

The interior is of the Doric order, and has three aisles, divided by eight
pillars, upon which with the walls are placed eighteen arches, the centre
one forming the dome of the edifice. It runs from north to south, has three
great gates, one fronting Mexico, and two others at the sides. Its length
may be two hundred and fifty feet, and its width about one hundred and
thirty. In the four external angles of the church are four lofty towers, in
the midst of which rises the dome. Three altars were at first erected, and
in the middle one, destined for the image, was a sumptuous tabernacle of
silver gilt, in which were more than three thousand two hundred marks of
silver, and which cost nearly eighty thousand dollars. In the centre of
this was a piece of gold, weighing four thousand and fifty _castellanos_
(an old Spanish coin, the fiftieth part of a mark of gold), and here the
image was placed, the linen on which it is painted guarded by a silver
plate of great value. The rest of the temple had riches corresponding. The
candlesticks, vases, railing, etc., contain nearly fourteen thousand marks
of silver, without counting the numerous holy vessels, cups and chalices
adorned with jewels. One golden lamp weighed upwards of two thousand two
hundred _castellanos_--another seven hundred and fifty silver marks.

In 1802 some part of the walls and arches began to give way--and it was
necessary to repair them. But first, under the direction of the celebrated
sculptor Tolsa, a new altar was erected for the image. His first care was
to collect the most beautiful marbles of the country for this purpose--the
black he brought from Puebla, and the white, gray and rose-coloured from
the quarries of San Jose Vizarron. He also began to work at the bronze
ornaments, but from the immense sums of money necessary to its execution,
the work was delayed for nearly twenty years. Then, in 1826, it was
recommenced with fresh vigour. The image was removed meanwhile to the
neighbouring convent of the Capuchinas, and the same year the altar was
concluded, and the Virgin brought back in solemn procession, in the midst
of an innumerable multitude. This great altar, which cost from three to
four hundred thousand dollars, is a concave hexagonal, in the midst of
which rise two white marble pillars, and on each side two columns of
rose-coloured marble, of the composite order, which support the arch.
Between these are two pedestals, on which are the images of San Joaquin and
Santa Anna, and two niches, containing San Jose and St. John the Baptist.
Above the cornices are three other pedestals, supporting the three Saints,
Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael; and above St. Michael, in the midst of
cherubim and seraphim, is a representation of the Eternal Father. The space
between the upper part of the altar and the roof, is covered with a painted
crimson curtain, held by saints and angels. The tabernacle in the centre of
the altar, is of rose-coloured marble, in which the image is deposited, and
all the ornaments of the altar are of gilt bronze and zinc.

Besides the collegiate and the parish church, there are at Guadalupe the
church of the Capuchin Nuns, and the churches of the Hill and the Well; all
in such close conjunction, that the whole village or city, as it calls
itself, seems altogether some religious establishment or confraternity,
belonging to these temples and churches, united in the worship of the
Virgin, and consequent upon the "Miraculous Apparition" manifested to the
chosen Indian, Juan Diego.

I regret not having known till lately, that there exists in Mexico a
convent of _Indian Nuns:_ and that each nun, when she takes the veil, wears
a very superb Indian dress--the costume formerly worn by the _cacicas_, or
ladies of highest rank.

I went some days ago with the Senorita F---a to visit a house for insane
women, in the _Calle de Canoa_, built in 1698, by the rich congregation of
_el Salvador_. The institution is now in great want of funds; and is by no
means to be compared with the establishment of San Hipolito. The directress
seems a good kind-hearted woman, who devoted herself to doing her duty, and
who is very gentle to her patients; using no means but those of kindness
and steadiness to subdue their violence. But what a life of fear and
suffering such a situation must be! The inmates look poor and miserable,
generally speaking, and it is difficult to shake off the melancholy
impression which they produce on the mind. We were particularly struck by
the sight of one unfortunate woman of the better class, who, with her long
hair all dishevelled, and eyes sparkling with a wild light, stood at the
open window of her cell, where for the present they are obliged to confine
her, and who poured forth the most piteous lamentations, and adjured every
one who passed, in the most pathetic terms, to restore her husband and
children to her. One girl was singing cheerfully--one or two women were
sewing, but most of them were sitting crouched on the floor, with a look of
melancholy vacancy. The poor are admitted gratis, and the richer classes
pay a moderate sum for their board....

To turn to a very different theme. We continue to go to the opera,
certainly the most agreeable amusement in Mexico, and generally to the
----- Minister's box, in the centre. Last evening, _Belisario_ was
repeated, but with less splendour than on its representation in honour of
Santa Anna.

We expect to leave this on the sixteenth, going in a diligence as far as
Toluca, where a Mexican officer, Colonel Y----, has kindly promised to meet
us with mules and horses. M. le Comte de B---- and Mr. W----, secretaries
of the French and English Legations, have made arrangements for
accompanying us as far as Valadolid; with which agreeable travelling
companions we may reasonably expect a pleasant journey.

Last Sunday was the festival of All Saints; on the evening of which day, we
walked out under the _portales_, with M. and Madame de -----,
----- Minister and his wife, to look at the illumination, and at the
numerous booths filled with _sugar skulls_, etc.; temptingly ranged in
grinning rows, to the great edification of the children. In general there
are crowds of well-dressed people on the occasion of this fete, but the
evening was cold and disagreeable, and though there were a number of
ladies, they were enveloped in shawls, and dispersed early. The old women
at their booths, with their cracked voices, kept up the constant cry of
"Skulls, _ninas_, skulls!"--but there were also animals done in sugar, of
every species, enough to form specimens for a Noah's ark.

14th.-We leave this the day after to-morrow, and shall write from our first
halting-place; and as on our return we shall do little more than pass
through Mexico, we are _almost_ taking leave of all our friends. Were I to
tell you all the kindness and hospitality, and cordial offers of service
that we receive, and the manner in which our rooms (albeit the rooms of an
inn) are filled from morning till night, it would seem an exaggeration. One
acquaintance we have made lately, whom we like so much, that we have been
vociferously abusing the system of _faire part_ in this city, since, owing
to the mistake of a servant, we have until now been deprived of the
pleasure of knowing her. The mistake is rectified at the eleventh hour. The
lady is the Senora de G---z P---a, one of the most accomplished and
well-informed women in Mexico; and though our friendship has been short, I
trust it may be enduring.

Two evenings since, we went with the Senora de C---s to an amateur concert;
and I question whether in any capital of Europe, so many good amateur
voices could be collected. I do not speak of the science or cultivation,
though the hostess, the Senora A----, has a perfect method. But yesterday
we spent a most agreeable evening in a delightful family reunion, at the
house of Senor N---i del B---o. It was strictly limited to the family
relations, and was, I believe, his _jour de fete_. If all Mexican society
resembled this, we should have too much regret in leaving it. The girls
handsome, well educated, and simple in their manners and tastes--the
Countess a model of virtue and dignity. Then so much true affection and
love of home amongst them all! So much wealth and yet good taste and
perfect simplicity visible in all that surrounds them! Mexico is not _lost_
as long as such families exist, and though they mingle little in society,
the influence of their virtues and charities is widely felt.

This morning C---n had an audience of the new president. He also paid a
visit to General Bustamante, who is still at Guadalupe, and preparing for
his departure. He will probably sail in the Jason, the man-of-war which
brought us to Vera Cruz, and it is probable that we shall leave the
republic at the same period. The Dowager Marquesa de Vivanco, who in
consequence of ill health has not left her house for months, was among our
visitors this morning.

To-day Count C---a dined here, and brought for our inspection the splendid
sword presented by Congress to General Valencia, with its hilt of
brilliants and opals; a beautiful piece of workmanship, which does credit
to the Mexican artificers. He was particularly brilliant and eloquent in
his conversation to-day--whether his theories are right or wrong, they are
certainly _entrainant_.

Our next letters will probably be dated from Toluca


Leave Mexico--Diligence--Indian Padre--Brandy-drinking Female--Bad
Roads--Beautiful View--Escort--Good Breakfast--Crosses--Robber's
Head--Select Party--Lerma--Valley of Toluca--Hacienda--Toluca--Count de
B---- and Mr. W------ The Comandante--Gay Supper--Colonel Y------Day at
Toluca--Journey to La Gabia--Heat and Hunger--Pleasant Quarters--Princely
Estate--El Pilar--A Zorillo--A Wolf--Long Journey--Tortillas--Count de
B------State of Michoacan--Forest Scenery--_Trojes of Angangueo_--Comfort.

TOLUCA, 16th.

In vain would be a description with the hopes of bringing them before you,
of our last few days in Mexico!--of the confusion, the bustle, the visits,
the paying of bills, the packing of trunks, the sending off of heavy
luggage to Vera Cruz, and extracting the necessary articles for our
journey; especially yesterday, when we were surrounded by visitors and
_cargadores_, from half-past seven in the morning till half-past eleven at
night. Our very last visitors were the families of C---a and E---n. The new
president, _on dit_, is turning his sword into a ploughshare. Preferring a
country to a city life, nearly every Sunday he names the house in which he
desires to be _feted_ the following week--now at the villa of
Senor ----- at Tacubaya--now at the hacienda of Senor ----- at San Agustin.
As yet the diplomatic corps do not attend these assemblies, not having been
officially received; but we hear that there is singing and dancing, and
other amusements, and that his excellency is extremely amiable and

By six o'clock this morning several of our friends were assembled to
accompany us to the diligence (Senors C---o, M---e, R---s, A---e, etc.),
which, unfortunately, we had not been able to secure for ourselves; for at
this moment, the whole world is in motion, going to attend the great annual
fair of San Juan de los Lagos; which begins on the fifth of December, and
to which Toluca is the direct road. Fortunately, the diligence had broken
down the preceding evening, and it was necessary to repair it; otherwise we
should have left behind various important articles, for in the confusion of
our departure, every one had left some requisite item at the hotel;--C---n
his gun; K---- her bag; I _everything_--and more especially the book with
which I intended to beguile the weary hours between Mexico and Toluca. Our
servant-boy ran--Senor R---s mounted his horse, and most good-naturedly
galloped between the diligence office and the hotel, until, little by
little, all the missing articles were restored. We climbed into the coach,
which was so crowded that we could but just turn our heads to groan an
adieu to our friends. The coach rattled off through the streets, dashed
through the Alameda, and gradually we began to shake down, and, by a little
arrangement of cloaks and sarapes, to be less crowded. A _padre_ with a
very Indian complexion sat between K---- and me, and a horrible, long,
lean, bird-like female, with immense red goggle-eyes, coal-black teeth,
fingers like claws, a great goitre, and drinking brandy at intervals, sat
opposite to us. There were also various men buried in their sarapes.
Satisfied with a cursory inspection of our companions, I addressed myself
to _Blackwood's Magazine_, but the road which leads towards the Desierto,
and which we before passed on horseback, is dreadful, and the mules could
scarcely drag the loaded coach up the steep hills. We were thrown into
ruts, horribly jolted, and sometimes obliged to get out, which would not
have been disagreeable but for the necessity of getting in again. The day
and the country were beautiful, but impossible to enjoy either in a shut
coach. We were rather thankful when the wheels, sticking in a deep rut, we
were forced to descend, and walk forwards for some time. We had before seen
the view from these heights, but the effect never was more striking than at
this moment. The old city with her towers, lakes, and volcanoes, lay bathed
in the bright sunshine. Not a cloud was in the sky--not an exhalation rose
from the lake--not a shadow was on the mountains. All was bright and
glittering, and flooded in the morning light; while in contrast rose to the
left the dark, pine-covered crags, behind which the Desierto lies.

At Santa Fe we changed horses, and found there an escort which had been
ordered for us by General Tornel; a necessary precaution in these
robber-haunted roads. We stopped to breakfast at _Quajimalpa_, where the
inn is kept by a Frenchman, who is said to be making a large fortune, which
he deserves for the good breakfast he had prepared for us by orders of the
Count de B---- and Mr. W----, who had preceded us early in the morning on
horseback; (enviable fate!). We had white fish from the river of Lerma,
which crosses the plains of Toluca, fresh and well dressed, and without
that taste of _mud_ which those from the Mexican Laguna occasionally have;
also hot cutlets, potatoes, coffee, etc.

After leaving this inn, situated in a country formed of heaps of lava and
volcanic rocks, the landscape becomes more beautiful and wooded. It is,
however, dangerous, on account of the shelter which the wooded mountains
afford to the knights of the road, and to whose predilection for these wild
solitudes, the number of crosses bore witness. In a woody defile there is a
small clear space called "_Las Cruces_," where several wooden crosses point
out the site of the famous battle between the curate Hidalgo and the
Spanish General Truxillo. An object really in keeping with the wild
scenery, was the head of the celebrated robber _MalDonado_, nailed to the
pine-tree beneath which he committed his last murder. It is now quite
black, and grins there, a warning to his comrades and an encouragement to
travellers. From the age of ten to that of fifty, he followed the
honourable profession of free-trader, when he expiated his crimes. The
padre who was in the coach with us, told us that he heard his last
confession. That grinning skull was once the head of a man, and an ugly one
too, they say; but stranger still it is to think, that that man was once a
baby, and sat on his mother's knee, and that his mother may have been
pleased to see him cut his _first tooth_. If she could but see his teeth
now! Under this very head, and as if to show their contempt for law and
justice, the robbers lately eased some travellers of their luggage. Those
who were robbed, however, were false coiners, rather a common class in
Toluca, and two of these ingenious gentlemen were in the coach with us (as
we afterwards learnt), and were returning to that city. These, with the
brandy-drinking female, composed our select little party!

The scenery without was decidedly preferable to that within, and the
leathern sides of the vehicle being rolled up, we had a tolerable view.
What hills covered with noble pines! What beautiful pasture-fields, dotted
with clumps of trees, that looked as if disposed for effect, as in an
English park!--firs, oaks, cedars, and elms. Arrived at the town or village
of Lerma, famous for its manufacture of spurs, and standing in a marshy
country at the entrance of the valley of Toluca, all danger of the robbers
is passed, and with the danger, much of the beauty of the scenery. But we
breathed more freely on another account, for here she of the goggle-eyes
and goitre, descended with her brandy-bottle, relieving us from the
oppressive influence of the sort of _day_-mare, if there be such a thing,
which her presence had been to us.

The valley of Toluca was now before us, its volcano towering in the
distance. The plains around looked cold and dreary, with pools of
transparent water, and swamps filled with various species of water-fowl.
The hacienda of San Nicolas, the property of Senor Mier y Teran, a
Spaniard, was the only object that we saw worthy of notice, before we
reached Toluca. This hacienda, formerly the property of the Carmelite
monks, is a valuable estate. Not a tree is to be seen here, or in the
valley, a great extent of which is included in it; but it is surrounded by
vast fields of maguey and maize; it is traversed by a fine river, and is
one of the most profitable estates in the country. The labourers here are
in general the Ottomie Indians, a poor and degraded tribe. Here we
dismissed our escort, which had been changed every six leagues, and entered
Toluca about four o'clock, passing the _Garrita_ without the troublesome
operation of searching, to which travellers in general are subject. We
found tolerable rooms in an inn; at least there were two or three wooden
chairs in each, and a deal table in one; and Mr. W---- and the Count de
B---- looking out for us. Colonel Y---- had not yet made his appearance.

Toluca, a large and important city, lies at the foot of the mountain of San
Miguel de _Tutucuitlalpico_; and is an old, quiet, good-looking,
respectable-seeming place, about as sad and solitary as Puebla. The
streets, the square, and the churches are clean and handsome. To the south
of the city lie extensive plains covered with rich crops; and about ten
miles in the same direction is the volcano. We walked out in the afternoon
to the Alameda, passing under the _portales_; handsomer and cleaner than
those of Mexico; and sat down on a stone bench beside a fountain, a
position which commanded a beautiful view of the distant hills and of the
volcano, behind which the sun was setting in a sea of liquid flame, making
it look like a great pearl lying amongst melted rubies. The Alameda has not
been much ornamented, and is quite untenanted; but walks are cut through
the grass, and they were making hay. Everything looked quiet and
convent-like, and a fine fresh air passed over the new-mown grass,
inclining to cold, but pleasant. The volcano is scooped out into a natural
basin, containing, in the very midst of its fiery furnace, two lakes of the
purest, coldest and most transparent water. It is said that the view from
its summit, the ascent to which is very fatiguing, but has been
accomplished, is beautiful and extensive. On the largest lake travellers
have embarked in a canoe, but I believe it has never been crossed, on
account of the vulgar prejudice that it is unfathomable, and has a
whirlpool in the centre. The volcano is about fifteen thousand feet above
the level of the sea, and nine thousand above Toluca. It is not so grand as
Popocatepetl, but a _respectable_ volcano for a country town--_muy
decente_(very decent), as a man said in talking of the pyramids that adorn
the wonderful cavern of Cucuhuamilpa.

We ordered supper at the inn, and were joined by the Comandante of Toluca,
Don M---- A----, the officer who came out to meet us when we arrived in
Mexico. I regret to state that such a distinguished party should have sat
down, six in number, to fowl and frijoles, with only three knives and two
forks between them. The provident travellers had, however, brought good
wine; and if our supper was not very elegant, it was at least very gay.
Colonel Y---- arrived about ten o'clock; but it is agreed that the animals
require one day's rest, and we shall consequently spend to-morrow at

17th.--We have spent this day in arranging our route, in which we are
guided not by the most direct, but the most agreeable; in walking through
the city, which, in the time of federalism, was the capital of the state,
in climbing some of the steep roads cut through the hills, at whose base it
lies; and in admiring the churches and convents, and broad, well-paved
streets with their handsome houses, painted white and red. It is decided
that the first night of our pilgrimage, we shall request hospitality at the
hacienda of the ex-Minister Hechavarria--_La Gabia_, which is about ten
leagues of very bad road from Toluca--which is sixteen from Mexico. All
these important arrangements being made, and a sketch of our journey traced
out, we are about retiring to rest, in the agreeable prospect of not
entering any four or two wheeled vehicle, be it a cart, carriage, coach, or
diligence, till we return here.

LA GABIA, 19th.

To get _under weigh_ the first morning was a work of some difficulty. Mules
to be loaded, horses to be fitted with saddles; and one mule lame, and
another to be procured, and the trunks found to be too heavy, and so on. We
rose at five, dressed by candlelight, took chocolate, put on our mangas,
and then planted ourselves in the passage looking down upon the _patio_, to
watch the proceedings and preparations. Colonel A---- arrived at seven with
a trooper, to accompany us part of the way; and we set off while it was
cool, without waiting for the rest of the party. Toluca looked silent and
dignified as we passed through the streets--with its old convents and dark
hills. The road, after leaving the city, was stony and mountainous; and
having reached a small _rancho_ with an old oratorio beside it, we halted
to wait for our travelling companions. Colonel A---- amused us with an
account of his warfare against the Comanches, in which service he had been
terribly wounded. Singular contrast between these ferocious barbarians and
the mild Indians of the interior! He considers them an exceedingly
handsome, fine-looking race; whose resources, both for war and trade, are
so great, that were it not for their natural indolence, the difficulties of
checking their aggression would be formidable indeed. Colonel A---- being
obliged to return to Toluca, left us in charge of his trooper, and we
waited at the rancho for about half an hour, when our party appeared with a
long train of mules and _mozos_; the gentlemen dressed Mexican fashion as
well as their men; the best dress in the world for a long equestrian
journey. Colonel Y---- had staid behind to procure another mule, and there
being two roads, we, as generally happens in these cases, chose the worst;
which led us for leagues over a hilly country, unenlivened by tree, shrub,
bush, or flower. The sun was already high, and the day intensely hot. We
passed an occasional poor hut--a chance Indian passed us--showed his white
teeth, and, in spite of the load on his back, contrived to draw his hat off
his matted locks, and give us a mild good morrow--but for the rest, from
Dan to Beersheba, from Toluca to La Gabia, all was barren. By twelve
o'clock we might have fancied ourselves passing over the burning plains of
Mesopotamia, notwithstanding an occasional cold breeze which swept across
us for a moment, serving only to make us feel the heat with greater force.
Then barranca followed barranca. The horses climbed up one crag, and slid
down another. By two o'clock we were all starving with hunger, but nothing
was to be had. Even Nebuchadnezzar would have found himself at a nonplus.
The Count de B---- contrived to buy some graniditas and parched corn from
an Indian, which kept us quiet for a little while; and we tried to console
ourselves by listening to our arrieros, who struck up some wild songs in
chorus, as they drove the wearied mules up the burning hills. Every Indian
that we met assured us that La Gabia was "_cerquita_," quite near--"_detras
lomita_," behind the little hill; and every little hill that we passed
presented to our view another little hill, but no signs of the
much-wished-for dwelling. A more barren, treeless, and uninteresting
country than this road (on which we have unanimously revenged our-selves by
giving it the name of "the road of the three hundred barrancas") led us
through, I never beheld. However, "it's a long lane that has no turning,"
as we say in Scotland; and between three and four, La Gabia was actually in
sight; a long, low building, whose entrance appeared to us the very gates
of Eden. We were all, but especially me, who had ridden with my veil up,
from a curiosity to see where my horse was going, burnt to the colour of
Pawnee Indians.

We were most cordially welcomed by Senor Hechavarria and his
brothers-in-law, and soon refreshed by rest and an excellent dinner.
Fortunately K---- and I had no mirrors; but each gave such a flattering
description of the other's countenance, that it was quite graphic.

This beautiful hacienda, which formerly belonged to the Count de Regla,
whose possessions must have been royal, is thirty leagues in length and
seventeen in width--containing in this great space the productions of every
climate, from the fir-clad mountains on a level with the volcano of Toluca,
to the fertile plains which produce corn and maize; and lower down, to
fields of sugar-cane and other productions of the tropics.

We retired to rest betimes, and early this morning rode out with these
gentlemen, about five leagues through the hacienda. The morning was bright
and exhilarating, and our animals being tired, we had fresh, strong little
horses belonging to their stud, which carried us delightfully. We rode
through beautiful pine-woods and beside running water, contrasting
agreeably with our yesterday's journey; and were accompanied by three
handsome little boys, children of the family, the finest and manliest
little fellows I ever saw, who, dressed in a complete Mexican costume, like
three miniature rancheros, rode boldly and fearlessly over everything.
There was a great deal of firing at crows and at the wild duck on a
beautiful little lake, but I did not observe that any one was burdened with
too much game. We got off our horses to climb through the wooded hills and
ravines, and passed some hours lying under the pine-trees, listening to the
gurgling of the little brook, whose bright waters make music in the
solitude; and, like the soldiers at the _pronunciamiento_, but with surer
aim, pelting each other from behind the parapets of the tall trees, with
fir tops. About ten o'clock we returned to breakfast; and Colonel
Y---- having arrived, we are now preparing to continue our journey this


We left La Gabia at four o'clock, accompanied by our hospitable hosts for
some leagues, all their own princely property, through great
pasture-fields, woods of fir and oak, hills clothed with trees, and fine
clear streams. We also passed a valuable stone-quarry; and were shown a
hill belonging to the Indians, presented to them by a former proprietor. We
formed a long train, and I pitied the mistress of _El Pilar_, our next
halting-place, upon whom such a regiment was about to be unexpectedly
quartered. There were C---n, K----, and I, and a servant; the Count de
B---- and his servant; Mr. W---- and his servant; Colonel Y---- and his
men; mules, arrieros, spare mules, and led horses; and all the _mozos_
armed, forming altogether a formidable gang. We took leave of the
Hechavarria family when it was already growing dusk, and when the moon had
risen found we had taken a great round; so that it was late at night when
we arrived at _El Pilar_, a small hacienda, situated in a wild-looking,
solitary part of the country. A servant had been sent forward to inform the
lady of the establishment of our approach, and we were most kindly
received. The house is clean and pretty, and, tired as we were, the _sala_,
boasting of an old piano, tempted us to try a waltz while they were
preparing supper. The man who waited at table, before he removed the
things, popped down upon his knees, and recited a long prayer aloud. The
gentlemen had one apartment prepared for them--we another, in which, nay,
even in the large four-posted and well-curtained bed allotted to us, Madame
Yturbide had slept when on her way to Mexico before her coronation. The
Senora M---- also showed us her picture, and spoke of her and the emperor
with great enthusiasm.

This morning we rose by candlelight, at five o'clock, with the prospect of
a long ride, having to reach the _Trojes of Angangueo_, a mining district
(_trojes_ literally mean granaries), fourteen leagues from El Pilar. The
morning was cold and raw, with a dense fog covering the plains, so that we
could scarcely see each other's faces, and found our _mangas_ particularly
agreeable. We were riding quickly across these ugly marshy wastes, when a
curious animal crossed our path, a _zorillo_, or _epatl_, as the Indians
call it, and which Bouffon mentions under the generic name of _mouffetes_.
It looks like a brown and white fox, with an enormous tail, which it holds
up like a great feather in the air. It is known not only for the beauty of
its skin, but for the horrible and pestilential odour with which it defends
itself when attacked, and which poisons the air for miles around.
Notwithstanding the warnings of the _mozos_ as to its peculiar mode of
defence, the gentlemen pursued it with guns and pistols, on horseback and
on foot, but fired in vain. The beast seemed bullet-proof; turning,
doubling, winding, crossing pools, hiding itself, stopping for a moment as
if it were killed, and then trotting off again with its feathery tail much
higher than its head; so that it seemed to be running backwards. The fog
favoured it very much. It was certainly wounded in the paw, and as it
stopped and seemed to hesitate, the sportsmen thought they had caught him;
but a minute afterwards away went the waving tail amongst the pools and the
marshy grass, the zorillo, no doubt, accompanying it, though we could not
see him, and fortunately without resorting to any offensive or defensive
measures. While they were chasing the zorillo, and we had rode a little way
off, that we might not be accidentally shot in the fog, an immense wolf
came looming by in the mist, with its stealthy gallop, close to our horses,
causing us to shout for the sportsmen; but our numbers frightened it;
besides which, it had but just breakfasted on a mule belonging to the
hacienda, as we were told by the son of the proprietress of El Pilar, who,
hearing all this distant firing, had ridden out to inquire into its cause,
supposing that we might have lost our way in the fog, and were firing
signals of distress.

We continued our journey across these plains for about three leagues, when
the sun rose and scattered the mist; and after crossing a river, we entered
the woods and rode between the shadows of the trees, through lovely forest
scenery, interspersed with dells and plains and sparkling rivulets. But by
the time we left these woods, and made our way up amongst the hills, the
sun was riding high in the heavens, the pastures and green trees
disappeared, and, though the country was still fertile and the soil rich,
its beauties lay hid in the valleys below. K----'s horse received a sort of
_coup de soleil_, shivered and trembled, and would not go on; so she
mounted another, and one of the _mozos_ led hers slowly by a different road
to a village, to be watered. About one o'clock we began to wish for
breakfast, but the mules which carried the provisions had taken a different
path, and were not in sight; so that, arriving at an Indian hut close by a
running stream, we were unanimous in dismounting, and at least procuring
some _tortillas_ from the inmates. At the same time, the Count
de ----- very philanthropically hired an old discoloured-looking horse,
which was grazing peaceably outside the hut, and mounting the astonished
quadruped, who had never, in his wildest dreams, calculated upon having so
fine a chevalier on his back, galloped off in search of more solid food,
while we set the Indian women to baking _tortillas_. He returned in about
half an hour, with some bones of boiled mutton, tied up in a handkerchief!
some salt, and thick tortillas, called _gorditas_, and was received with
immense applause. Everything vanished in an incredibly short space of time,
and we resumed our journey with renewed vigour. Towards the afternoon we
entered the state of Michoacan, by a road (destined to be a highway) traced
through great pine-forests, after stopping once more to rest at _Las
Millas_, a few huts, or rather wooden cages, at the outskirts of the wood.
Nothing can be more beautiful or romantic than this road, ascending through
these noble forests, whose lofty oaks and gigantic pines clothe the
mountains to their highest summits; sometimes so high, that, as we look
upwards, the trees seem diminished to shrubs and bushes; the sun darting
his warm, golden light between the dark-green extended branches of these
distant forest pyramids, so that they seem to be basking in the very focus
of his rays. Untrodden and virgin as these forests appear, an occasional
cross, with its withered garland, gives token of life, and also of death;
and green and lonely is the grave which the traveller has found among these
Alpine solitudes, under the shadows of the dark pine, on a bed of fragrant
wild-flowers, fanned by the pure air from the mountain-tops. The flowers
which grow under the shade of the trees are beautiful and gay in their
colours. Everywhere there are blue lupins, marigolds, dahlias, and
innumerable blossoms with Indian names. Sometimes we dismounted and walked
up the steepest parts, to rest our horses and ourselves; but, as it was
impossible to go fast on these stony paths, it became entirely dark before
Angangueo was in sight; and the road, which, for a great part of the way,
is remarkably good, now led us down a perpendicular descent amongst the
trees, covered with rocks and stones, so that the horses stumbled, and one,
which afterwards proved to be blind of one eye, and not to see very clearly
with the other, fell and threw his rider, who was not hurt. It was near
eight o'clock (and we had been on horseback since six in the morning),
when, after crossing a shallow stream, we saw the fires of the furnaces of
Angangueo, a mining village, at the foot of some wild hills. We rode past
the huts, where the blazing fires were shining on the swarthy faces of the
workmen, the road skirting the valley, till we reached the house of Don
Carlos Heimbuerger, a Polish gentleman at the head of the German mining
establishment. This house, the only one of any consequence at Angangueo, is
extremely pretty, with a piazza in front, looking down upon the valley,
which at night seems like the dwelling of the Cyclops, and within a very
picture of comfort. We were welcomed by the master of the house, and by
Madame B---n, a pretty and accomplished German lady, the wife of a
physician who resides there. We had already known her in Mexico, and were
glad to renew our acquaintance in this outlandish spot. One must have
travelled fourteen leagues, from morning till night, to know how
comfortable her little drawing-room appeared, with its well-cushioned red
sofas, bright lights, and vases of flowers, as we came in from the cold and
darkness, and how pretty and _extra_-civilized she looked in her black
satin gown, not to mention the excellent dinner and the large fires, for
they have chimneys in this part of the world. In a nice little bedroom,
with a cheerful fire, the second time I have seen one in two years, I
indite these particulars, and shall continue from our next place of rest.


Leave _Trojes_--Beautiful Territory--Tarrascan Indians--Taximaroa--
Distressed Condition--An Improvement--Cold Morning--Querendaro--Fine Breed
of Horses--San Bartolo--Produce--Country Proprietors--_Colear_--Ride to
Morelia--Wild Ducks--Sunset--Cathedral Bell--Cuincho--Curates Morelos,
Mantamoros and Hidalgo--Warm Baths--Handsome Girls--Starving Travellers--
Lost Mules--Lancers--Night on a Heap of Straw--Mules Found--Tzintzontzan--
King Calsonsi--Pascuaro--Kind Reception--Bishop--Robbers--Curu--Night in a
Barn--Mountain--Uruapa--Enchanting Scenery--Pleasant Family--Jorullo.


As the house was so agreeable, and our next day's journey short, we could
not prevail upon ourselves to leave the _Trojes_ before nine o'clock; and
even then, with the hopes of spending some time there on our return to see
the mining establishment; the mills for grinding ore, the horizontal
water-wheels, etc., etc.; and still more, the beautiful scenery in the

That you may understand our line of march, take a map of Mexico, and you
will see that Michoacan, one of the most beautiful and fertile territories
in the world, is bounded on the north by the river Lerma, afterwards known
by the name of Rio Grande; also by the department of Guanajuato; to the
east and north-east it bounds that of Mexico, and to the west, that of
Guadalajara. It lies on the western slope of the Great Cordillera of
Anahuac. Hills, woods, and beautiful valleys diversify its surface; its
pasture-grounds are watered by numerous streams, that rare advantage under
the torrid zone, and the climate is cool and healthy. The Indians of this
department are the Terascos--the Ottomi and the Chichimeca Indians. The
first are the most civilized of the tribes, and their language the most
harmonious. We are now travelling in a north-westerly direction, towards
the capital of the state, Valladolid, or Morelia, as it has been called
since the independence, in honour of the curate Morelos, its great

We had a pleasant ride of nine leagues through an open pasture-country,
meeting with nothing very remarkable on our journey, but an Indian woman
seated on the ground, her Indian husband standing beside her. Both had
probably been refreshing themselves with pulque--perhaps even with its
homoeopathic extract _mezcal_; but the Indian was sober and sad, and stood
with his arms folded, and the most patient and pitying face, while his
wife, quite overcome with the strength of the potation, and unable to go
any further, looked up at him with the most imploring air, saying
repeatedly--"_Matame, Miguel, matame_" (Kill me, Miguel--kill me)--
apparently considering herself quite unfit to live.

About five o'clock we came in sight of the pretty village and old church of
_Taximaroa_; and riding up to the _meson_, or inn, found two empty dark
rooms with mud floors--without windows, in fact without anything but their
four walls--neither bench, chair, nor table. Although we travel with our
own beds, this looked rather uninviting, especially after the pleasant
quarters we had just left; and we turned our eyes wistfully towards a
pretty small house upon a hill, with a painted portico, thinking how
agreeably situated we should be there! Colonel Y---- thereupon rode up the
hill, and presenting himself to the owner of this house, described our
forlorn prospects, and he kindly consented to permit us all to sup there,
and moreover to receive the ladies for the night. For the gentlemen he had
no room, having but one spare apartment, as one of his family was a great
invalid, and could not be moved. Accordingly, our travelling luggage was
carried up the hill; the horses and mules and servants were quartered in
the village, the gentlemen found lodging for themselves in a bachelor's
house, and we found ourselves in very agreeable quarters, on a pretty
piazza, with an extensive view, and one large room, containing a table and
some benches, at our service. Meanwhile, M. de B---- rushed through the
village, finding eggs and hens and tortillas, and then returning, he and
Mr. W---- produced the travelling stores of beef and tongue, and set about
making mustard and drawing bottles of wine, to the great wonderment and
edification of the honest proprietor. Even a clean tablecloth was produced;
a piece of furniture which he had probably never seen before, and now eyed
wistfully, doubtless taking it for a _sheet_. We had a most amusing supper,
some performing dexterously with penknives, and others using tortillas as
forks. We won the heart of the _bourgeois_ by sending a cup of tea to his
invalid, and inviting him to partake of another, which he seemed to
consider a rare and medicinal beverage. About nine o'clock the gentlemen
departed to their lodgings, and our beds were erected in the large room
where we had supped; the man assuring us that he was quite pleased to have
us under his roof, and liked our company extremely well; adding, "_Me
cuadra mucho la gente decente_" (I am very fond of decent people).

We left Taximaroa at six o'clock, having spent rather a disturbed night, in
consequence of the hollow coughs with which the whole family seemed
afflicted, at least the poor invalid on one side of our room, and the
master of the house on the other. The morning was so cold, that every manga
and sarape was put in requisition. Our ride this day was through superb
scenery, every variety of hill and valley, water and wood, particularly the
most beautiful woods of lofty oaks, the whole with scarcely a trace of
cultivation, and for the most part entirely uninhabited. Our numbers were
augmented by Colonel Y----'s troop, who rode from Morelia to meet him. We
had a long journey, passed by the little village of _San Andres_, and
stopped to eat _tortillas_ in a very dirty hut at Pueblo Viejo, surrounded
by the dirtiest little Indian children. Throughout the whole ride, the
trees and flowering shrubs were beautiful, and the scenery so varied, that
although we rode for eleven hours in a hot sun, we scarcely felt fatigued,
for wherever there are trees and water and fresh green grass, the eye is
rested. In this and in our last few days' journey, we saw a number of blue
birds, called by the common people _guardia-bosques_, wood guardians. About
half-past five we entered a winding road, through a natural shrubbery,
leading to _Querendaro_, the fine hacienda of Senor Pimentel, a senator.
When we arrived the family were at dinner, and we were invited to join
them, after which we went out to see the hacienda, and especially the
handsome and well-kept stables, where the proprietor has a famous breed of
horses, some of which were trotted out for our inspection--beautiful,
spirited creatures--one called "_Hilo de Oro_" (golden thread)--another,
"_Pico Blanco_" (white mouth), etc. In the inner courtyard are many
beautiful and rare flowers, and everything is kept in great order.

At nine o'clock the following morning we left Querendaro, and rode on to
_San Bartolo_, a vast and beautiful property, belonging to Senor Don
Joaquin Gomez, of Valladolid. The family were from home, with the exception
of his son and nephew, who did the honours of the house with such cordial
and genuine hospitality, that we felt perfectly at home before the day was
over. I think the Mexican character is never seen to such advantage as in
the country, amongst these great landed proprietors of old family, who live
on their own estates, engaged in agricultural pursuits, and entirely
removed from all the party feeling and petty interests of a city life. It
is true that the life of a country gentleman here is that of a hermit, in
the total absence of all society, in the nearly unbroken solitude that
surrounds him. For leagues and leagues there is no habitation but his own;
the nearest miserable village may be distant half a day's journey, over an
almost impassable road. He is "monarch of all he surveys," a king amongst
his farm servants and Indian workmen. Nothing can exceed the independence
of his position; but to enjoy this wild country life, he must be born to
it. He must be a first-rate horseman, and addicted to all kinds of country
sport; and if he can spend the day in riding over his estate, in directing
his workmen, watching over his improvements, redressing disputes and
grievances, and can sit down in the evening in his large and lonely halls,
and philosophically bury himself in the pages of some favourite author,
then his time will probably not hang heavy on his hands.

As for the _young master_ here, he was up with the lark--he was on the most
untractable horse in the hacienda, and away across the fields with his
followers, chasing the bulls as he went--he was fishing--he was
shooting--he was making bullets--he was leagues off at a village, seeing a
country bull-fight--he was always in a good humour, and so were all who
surrounded him--he was engaged in the dangerous amusement of _colear_
--and by the evening it would have been a clever writer who had kept _his_
eyes open after such a day's work. Never was there a young lad more
evidently fitted for a free life in the country.

There was a generous, frank liberality apparent in everything in this
hacienda, that it was agreeable to witness; nothing petty or calculating.
Senor -----, lame through an accident, and therefore unable to mount his
horse, or to go far on foot, seemed singularly gentle and kind-hearted. The
house is one of the prettiest and most cheerful we have seen yet; but we
passed a great stone building on the road, which the proprietor of San
Bartolo is having constructed for one of his family, which, if it keep its
promise, will be a palace when finished. The principal produce of this
hacienda is _pimiento_, the capsicum. There is the _pimiento dulce_ and the
_pimiento picante_, the sweet fruit of the common capsicum, and the fruit
of the bird pepper capsicum. The Spaniards gave to all these peppers the
name of _chile_, which they borrowed from the Indian word _quauhchilli_,
and which, to the native Mexicans, is as necessary an ingredient of food as
salt is to us. At dinner we had the greatest variety of fine fruit, and
pulque, which is particularly good in this neighbourhood. They also make
here a quantity of excellent cheese.

After dinner they proceeded to amuse us with the _colear_ of the bulls, of
which amusement the Mexicans throughout the whole republic are passionately
fond. They collect a herd, single out several, gallop after them on
horseback; and he who is most skilful, catches the bull by the tail, passes
it under his own right leg, turns it round the high pummel of his saddle,
and wheeling his horse round at right angles by a sudden movement, the bull
falls on his face. Even boys of ten years old joined in this sport. It is
no wonder that the Mexicans are such _centaurs_, seeming to form part and
parcel of their horses, accustomed as they are from childhood to these
dangerous pastimes. This is very dangerous, since the horses' legs
constantly get entangled with those of the falling bull, which throws both
horse and rider. Manifold are the accidents which result from it, but they
are certainly not received as warnings; and after all, such sports, where
there is nothing bloody, nor even cruel, saving the thump which the bull
gets, and the mortification which he no doubt feels, but from both of which
he soon recovers; and which are mere games of skill, trials of address--are
manly and strengthening, and help to keep up the physical superiority of
that fine race of men--the Mexican _rancheros_.

The next day we parted from our travelling companions, the Count de
B---- and Mr. W----, who are on their way to the fair of San Juan, and are
from thence going to _Tepic_, even to the shores of the Pacific Ocean.
Unfortunately, our time is limited, and we cannot venture on so distant an
expedition; but we greatly regretted separating from such pleasant
_compagnons de voyage_. We spent the morning in walking about the hacienda,
seeing cheese made, and visiting the handsome chapel, the splendid stone
granaries, the great mills, etc. We also hope to spend some time here on
our return. By letters received this morning from Mexico, we find that
Senor Gomez Pedraza has left the ministry.

As we had but six leagues to ride in order to reach Morelia, we did not
leave San Bartolo till four in the afternoon, and enjoyed a pretty ride
through a fertile and well-wooded country, the road good and the evening
delightful. As the sun set, millions and tens of millions of ducks, in
regular ranks and regiments, darkening the air, flew over our heads,
changing their quarters from one lake to another. Morelia is celebrated for
the purity of its atmosphere and the exceeding beauty of its sky; and this
evening upheld its reputation. Toward sunset, the whole western horizon was
covered with myriads of little lilac and gold clouds, floating in every
fantastic form over the bright blue of the heavens. The lilac deepened into
purple, blushed into rose-colour, brightened into crimson. The blue of the
sky assumed that green tint peculiar to an Italian sunset. The sun himself
appeared a globe of living flame. Gradually he sank in a blaze of gold and
crimson, while the horizon remained lighted as by the flame from a volcano.
Then his brilliant retinue of clouds, after blazing for a while in borrowed
splendour, melted gradually into every rainbow hue and tinge; from deep
crimson to rose-colour and pink and pale violet and faint blue, floating in
silvery vapour, until they all blended into one soft gray tinge, which
swept over the whole western sky. But then the full moon rose in cloudless
serenity, and at length we heard, faintly, then more distinctly, and then
in all its deep and sonorous harmony, the tolling of the cathedral bell,
which announced our vicinity to a great city. It has a singular effect,
after travelling for some days through a wild country, seeing nothing but a
solitary hacienda, or an Indian hut, to enter a fine city like Morelia,
which seems to have started up as by magic in the midst of the wilderness,
yet bearing all the traces of a venerable old age. By moonlight, it looked
like a panorama of Mexico; with a fine square, portales, cathedral, broad
streets, and good houses. We rode through the city, to the house of Colonel
Y----, where we now are; but as we intend to continue our journey to its
furthest limits without stopping, we are now, after a night's rest,
preparing to resume our ride. They are saddling the horses, strapping on
the sarapes behind the saddles, taking down and packing up our _lits de
voyage_, and loading the mules, all which is a work of time. On our return
we hope to remain here a few days, to see everything that is worthy of


Accompanied by several gentlemen of Morelia, who came early in the morning
to see C---n, we set off for the warm baths of _Cuincho_; and as we rode
along, the hill of _Las Bateas_ was pointed out to us, where, by order of
the Curate Morelos, two hundred Spaniards were murdered in cold blood, to
revenge the death of his friend, the Curate Matamoros, who was taken
prisoner and shot by orders of Yturbide. Horrible cruelty in a Christian
priest! It is singular, that the great leaders of the independence should
have been ecclesiastics; the Curate Hidalgo its prime mover, the Curates
Morelos and Matamoros the principal chiefs. Hidalgo, it is said, had no
plan, published no manifesto, declared no opinions; but rushed from city to
city at the head of his men, displaying on his colours an image of the
Virgin of Guadalupe, and inciting his troops to massacre the Spaniards.
Morelos was an Indian, uneducated, but brave and enterprising, and
considered the mildest and most merciful of these soldier priests!
Matamoros, equally brave, was better informed. Both were good generals, and
both misused the power which their position gave them over the minds of the
unenlightened populace. When Morelos became generalissimo of the
revolutionary forces, he took a step fatal to his interests, and which led
to his ultimate ruin. He formed a congress, which met at Chilpansingo, and
was composed of lawyers and clergymen; ignorant and ambitious men, who
employed themselves in publishing absurd decrees and impossible laws, in
assigning salaries to themselves, and giving each other the title of
_Excellency_. Disputes and divisions arose amongst them; and, in 1814, they
published an absurd and useless document in the village of Apatzingan, to
which they gave the name of the "Mexican Constitution." The following year,
Morelos was defeated in an engagement which took place in the environs of
Tesmelaca, taken prisoner, led to Mexico, and, after a short trial,
degraded from his ecclesiastical functions, and shot in the village of San
Cristobal Ecatepec, seven leagues from the capital. The revolutionary party
considered him as a martyr in the cause of liberty, and he is said to have
died like a true hero. The appellation of Morelia, given to the city of
Valladolid, keeps his name in remembrance, but her blood-stained mountain
is a more lasting record of his cruelty.

A vile action is recorded of a Spaniard, whose name, which deserves to be
branded with infamy, escapes me at this moment. The soldiers of Morelos
having come in search of him, he, standing at his door, pointed out his
brother, who was in a room inside the house, as the person whom they
sought; and escaped himself, leaving his brother to be massacred in his
place. We contrasted the conduct of this miserable wretch with the noble
action of the Prince de Polignac, under similar circumstances.

At half-past ten, after a pleasant ride of about five leagues, we arrived
at the natural hot springs of Cuincho. The place is quite wild, the scenery
very striking. The building consists of two very large baths, two very damp
rooms, and a kitchen. The baths are kept by a very infirm old man, a martyr
to intermitting fever, and two remarkably handsome girls, his daughters,
who live here completely alone, and, except in summer, when the baths are
resorted to by a number of _canonigos_ and occasional gentlemen from
Morelia, "waste their sweetness on the desert air." The house, such as it
is, lies at the foot of rocky hills, covered with shrubs, and pouring down
streams of hot water from their volcanic bosoms. All the streams that cross
your path are warm. You step by chance into a little streamlet, and find
the water of a most agreeable temperature. They put this water in earthen
jars to cool, in order to render it fit for drinking, but it never becomes
fresh and cold. It contains muriatic acid, without any trace of sulphur or
metallic salt. I think it is Humboldt who supposes that in this part of
Mexico there exists, at a great depth in the interior of the earth, a
fissure running from east to west, for one hundred and thirty-seven
leagues, through which, bursting the external crust of the porphyritic
rocks, the volcanic fire has opened itself a passage at different times,
from the coasts of the Mexican Gulf, as far as the South Sea. The famous
volcano of Jorullo is in this department, and boiling fountains are common
in various parts of it.

We stopped here to take a bath, and found the temperature of the water
delicious, about the ordinary temperature of the human body. The baths are
rather dark, being enclosed in great stone walls, with the light coming
from a very small aperture near the roof. A bird, that looked like a wild
duck, was sailing about in the largest one, having made its entry along
with the water when it was let in. I never bathed in any water which I so
much regretted leaving. After bathing, we waited for the arrival of our
mules, which were to follow us at a gentle pace, that we might have
breakfast, and continue our journey to _Pascuaro_, a city nine leagues

But several hours passed away, and no mules appeared; and at length we came
to the grievous conviction that the arrieros had mistaken the road, and
that we must expect neither food nor beds that night; for it was now too
late to think of reaching Pascuaro. In this extremity, the gentlemen from
Morelia, suffering for their politeness in having escorted us, the two
damsels of the bath, naiads of the boiling spring, pitying our hungry
condition, came to offer their services; one asked me if I should like "to
eat a _burro_ in the mean time?" A _burro_ being an _ass_, I was rather
startled at the proposition, and assured her that I should infinitely
prefer waiting a little longer before resorting to so desperate a measure.
"Some people call them pecadoras," (female sinners!) said her sister. Upon
this, the gentlemen came to our assistance, and burros or pecadoras were
ordered forthwith. They proved to be hot tortillas, with cheese in them,
and we found them particularly good. It grew late, but no mules arrived;
and at length the young ladies and their father rushed out desperately,
caught an old hen that was wandering amongst the hills, killed, skinned,
and put it into a pot to boil, baked some fresh tortillas, and brought us
the spoil in triumph! One penknife was produced--the boiling pan placed on
a deal table in the room off the bath, and every one, surrounding the fowl,
a tough old creature, who must have chuckled through many revolutions, we
ate by turns, and concluded with a comfortable drink of lukewarm water.

We then tried to beguile the time by climbing amongst the hills at the back
of the house--by pushing our way through the tangled briers--by walking to
a little lake, where there were ducks and waterfowl, and close to the
margin a number of fruit trees. We returned to the baths--the mules had not
been heard of--there was no resource but patience. Our Morelian friends
left us to return home before it should grow dusk; and shortly after, an
escort of twenty-three lancers, with a captain, arrived by orders of the
governor, Don Panfilo Galiudo, to accompany us during the remainder of our
journey. They looked very picturesque, with their lances, and little
scarlet flags, and gave a very formidable aspect to the little portico in
front of the baths, where they deposited all their military
accoutrements--their saddles, guns, sarapes, etc. The captain had with him
his wife and daughter, and a baby of about two years old, which, during all
the time they were with us, was constantly carried by one of the soldiers,
with the utmost care, in front of his horse.

Meanwhile, the moon rose, and we walked about disconsolate, in front of the
baths--fearing greatly that some accident might have overtaken our
unescorted mules and servants; that the first might be robbed--and that the
drivers might be killed. But it was as well to try to sleep if it were only
to get over the interminable night; and at length some clean straw was
procured, and spread in a corner of the damp floor. There K---- and I lay
down in our mangas. C---n procured another corner--Colonel Y---- a third,
and then and thus, we addressed ourselves seriously to repose, but in vain.
Between cold and mosquitoes and other animals, we could not close our eyes,
and were thankful to rise betimes, shake the straw off, and resume our

The road was pretty and flowery when the light came in, and we gradually
began to open our eyes, after taking leave of our fair hostesses and their
father. When I say _the road_ you do not, I trust, imagine us riding along
a dusty highway. I am happy to say that we are generally the discoverers of
our own pathways. Every man his own Columbus. Sometimes we take short cuts,
which prove to be long rounds:

"Over hill, over dale,
Through bush, through brier;"

through valley and over stream; and this kind of journey has something in
it so independent and amusing, that with all its fatigues and
inconveniences, we find it delightful--far preferable even to travelling in
the most commodious London-built carriage, bowling along the queen's
highway with four swift posters, at the rate of twelve miles an hour.

Arrived at the huts, we stopped to make inquiries concerning the mules. Two
loaded mules, the peasants said, had been robbed in the night, and the men
tied to a tree on the low road leading to Pascuaro. We rode on uneasy
enough, and at another hut were told that many robbers had been out in the
night, and that amongst others, a woman had been robbed and bound hand and
foot. The road now became bleak and uninteresting, the sun furiously hot,
and we rode forward with various misgivings as to the fate of the party;
when at a cluster of huts called _el Correo_, we came up with the whole
concern. The arrieros had forgotten the name of Cuincho, and not knowing
where to go, had stopped here the previous night, knowing that, we were
bound for Pascuaro, and must pass that way. They had arrived early, and
missed the robbers.

We stopped to breakfast at some huts called La Puerta de Chapultepec, where
we got some tortillas from a halfcaste Indian, who was in great distress,
because his wife had run off from him for the fourth time with "another
gentleman!" He vowed that though he had taken her back three times, he
never would receive her more; yet I venture to say, that when the false
fair one presents herself, she will find him placable; he is evidently in
such distress at having no woman to take care of his house.

After leaving Chapultepec, the scenery improves, and at length we had a
beautiful view of the hills, at the foot of which lies the ancient city of
_Tzintzontsan_, close by the opposite shore of the Lake of Pascuaro;
formerly capital of the independent kingdom of Michoacan, an important
city, called at the time of Cortes, _Hurtzitzila_. It was formerly the
residence of the monarch, King _Calsonsi_, an ally of Cortes, and who, with
his Indian subjects, assisted him in his Mexican war. It is now a poor
Indian village, though it is said that some remains of the monarch's palace
still exist. _Apropos_ to which, we have several times observed, since we
entered this state, large stones lying in fields, or employed in fences,
with strange hieroglyphic characters engraved on them, some of which may be
curious and interesting.

The view as we approach Pascuaro with its beautiful lake studded with
little islands, is very fine. The bells were tolling, and they were letting
off rockets for some Indian festival, and we met parties of the natives who
had been keeping the festival upon _pulque_ or _mezcal_ (a strong spirit)
and were stumbling along in great glee. We came up to an old church, that
looks like a bird's-nest amongst the trees, and stands at the outskirts of
the city. Here, it is said, his Majesty of Michoacan came out to meet his
Spanish ally, when he entered this territory.

Pascuaro is a pretty little city with sloping roofs, situated on the shores
of the lake of the same name, and in front of the little Indian village of
Janicho, built on a beautiful small island in the midst of the lake. C---n
says that Pascuaro resembles a town in Catalonia. It is entirely unlike any
other Mexican city. We made a great sensation as we entered with our
lancers and mules, tired and dust-becovered as we were, and brought all the
_Pascuaranians_ to their balconies. We passed churches bearing the date of
1580! We went to the largest and best house in the town, that of Don Miguel
H---a (a friend of Colonel Y----'s). He was from home, but we were most
hospitably entertained by his wife, who received us without any unnecessary
ceremony or compliments, and made us quite at home. We walked out with her
by moonlight to see the Square and the Portales, which is a promenade in
the evening, and were followed by crowds of little boys; strangers being
rather an uncommon spectacle here. The only foreign lady, Dona ----- says,
whoever was here in her recollection, was a Frenchwoman, to whom she was
very much attached, the daughter of a physician, and whose husband was
murdered by the robbers.

This morning, the weather being cold and rainy, and our quarters too
agreeable to leave in any violent haste, we agreed to remain until
to-morrow, and have spent a pleasant day in this fine large house, with
Dona -----, and her numerous and handsome children. We have not been able
to visit the lake, or the Indian islands on account of the weather, but we
hope to do so on our return from _Uruapa_, our next destination. Our
hostess is a most agreeable person; lively, kind-hearted, and full of
natural talent. We did not expect to meet such a person in this corner of
the world.

The first bishop of Michoacan, Vasco de Quiroga, who died in Uruapa, was
buried in Pascuaro, and the Indians of this state still venerate his
memory. He was the father and benefactor of these Tarrascan Indians, and
went fast to rescue them from their degraded state. He not only preached
morality, but encouraged industry amongst them, by assigning to each
village its particular branch of commerce. Thus one was celebrated for its
manufacture of saddles, another for its shoes, a third for its _bateos_
(painted trays), and so on. Every useful institution, of which some traces
still remain amongst them, is due to this excellent prelate; an example of
what one good and zealous and well-judging man can effect.

We have been taking another stroll by moonlight, the rain having ceased; we
have lingered over a pleasant supper, and have wished Dona ----- goodnight.
Yet let me not forget, before laying down my pen, to celebrate the
excellence of the white fish from the lake! so greatly surpassing in
excellence and flavour those which we occasionally have in Mexico. These no
doubt must have constituted "_the provisions_," which according to
tradition, were carried by regular running posts, from Tzintzontzan to
Montezuma's palace in Mexico, and with such expedition, that though the
distance is about one hundred leagues, they were placed, still smoking, on
the Emperor's table!

URUAPA, 30th.

We went to mass at six o'clock; and then took leave of the Senora H---a,
who gave us a cordial invitation to spend some days with her on our return.
It was about eight o'clock when we left Pascuaro, and mounted the hills
over which our road lay, and stopped to look down on the beautiful lake,
lying like a sheet of silver in the sun, and dotted with green islands.

Two disagreeable personages were added to our party. Early in the morning,
intelligence was brought that a celebrated robber, named _Morales_, captain
of a large band, had been seized along with one of his companions; and
permission was requested to take advantage of our large escort, in order
that they may be safely conducted to Uruapa, where they are to be shot,
being already condemned to death. The punishment of hanging is not in use
in Mexico.

The first thing therefore that we saw, on mounting our horses, was the two
robbers, chained together by the leg, guarded by five of our lancers, and
prepared to accompany us on foot. The companion of Morales was a young,
vulgar-looking ruffian, his face livid, and himself nearly naked; but the
robber-captain himself was equal to any of Salvator's brigands, in his wild
and striking figure and countenance. He wore a dark-coloured blanket, and a
black hat, the broad leaf of which was slouched over his face, which was
the colour of death, while his eyes seemed to belong to a tiger or other
beast of prey. I never saw such a picture of fierce misery. Strange to say,
this man began life as a shepherd; but how he was induced to abandon this
pastoral occupation, we did not hear. For years he has been the scourge of
the country, robbing to an unheard of extent, (so that whatever he may have
done with them, tens of thousands of dollars have passed through his
hands,) carrying off the farmers' daughters to the mountains, and at the
head of eighty ruffians, committing the most horrible disorders. His last
crime was murdering his wife in the mountains, the night before last, under
circumstances of barbarity too shocking to relate, and it is supposed,
assisted by the wretch now with him. After committing the crime, they ran
to hide themselves in an Indian village, as the Indians, probably from
fear, never betray the robbers. However, their horror of this man was so
great, that perfect _hate_ cast out their fear, and collecting together,
they seized the ruffians, bound them, and carried them to Pascuaro, where
they were instantly tried, and condemned to be shot; the sentence to be
executed at Uruapa.

The sight of these miserable wretches, and the idea of what their feelings
must be, occupied us, as they toiled along, each step bringing them nearer
to their place of execution; and we could not help thinking what wild
wishes must have sometimes throbbed within them, of breaking their bonds,
and dashing away from their guards--away through the dark woods, over
mountain and river, down that almost perpendicular precipice, over the
ravine, up that green and smiling hill, and into these gloomy pine woods,
in whose untrod recesses they would be secure from pursuit--and then their
despair when they felt the heavy, clanking chain on their bare feet, and
looked at the lances and guns that surrounded them, and knew that even if
they attempted to fly, could they be insane enough to try it, a dozen
bullets would stop their career for ever. Then horror and disgust at the
recollection of their savage crimes took the place of pity, and not even
-----'s suggestion, that the robber-chief might have killed his wife in a
transport of jealousy, could lessen our indignation at this last most
barbarous murder of a defenceless woman.

But these thoughts took away half the pleasure of this most beautiful
journey, through wild woods, where for leagues and leagues we meet nothing
but the fatal _cross_; while through these woods of larches, cedars, oaks,
and pines, are bright vistas of distant pasture-fields, and of lofty
mountains, covered with forests. Impossible to conceive a greater variety
of beautiful scenery--a greater _waste_ of beauty, if one may say so--for
not even an Indian hut was to be seen, nor did we meet a single passing
human being, nor a trace of cultivation. As we came out of the woods we
heard a gun fired amongst the hills, the first token of human life that had
greeted us since we left Pascuaro. This, Senor ----- told us, was the
signal-gun usually fired by the Indians on the approach of an armed troop,
warning their brethren to hide themselves. Here the Indians rarely speak
Spanish, as those do who live in the neighbourhood of cities. Their
language is chiefly the harmonious Tarrascan.

Towards the afternoon we came to a path which led us into a valley of the
most surpassing beauty, entirely carpeted with the loveliest blue, white,
pink, and scarlet wild flowers, and clothed with natural orchards of peach
and apricot trees in full bloom, the grass strewed with their rich
blossoms. Below ran a sparkling rivulet, its bright gushing waters leaping
over the stones and pebbles that shone in the sun like silver. Near this
are some huts called _Las Palomas_, and it was so charming a spot, that we
got off our horses, and halted for half-an-hour; and while they prepared
breakfast for us, a basket of provisions from Pascuaro having been brought
on by the provident care of Dona -----, we clambered out amongst the rocks
and luxuriant trees that dipped their leafy branches in the stream, and
pulled wild flowers that would grace any European garden.

Having breakfasted in one of the huts, upon fowl and tortillas, on which
memorable occasion two penknives were produced (and I still wonder why we
did not bring some; knives and forks with us, unless it be that we should
never have had them cleaned), we continued our journey: and this mention of
knives leads me to remark, that all common servants in Mexico, and all
common people, eat with their fingers! Those who are rather particular,
roll up two tortillas, and use them as a knife and fork, which, I can
assure you from experience, is a great deal better than nothing, when you
have learnt how to use them.

Our road after this, though even wilder and more picturesque, was very
fatiguing to the horses--up and down steep rocks, among forests of oak and
pine, through which we slowly wended our way; so that it was dark when we
descended a precipitous path, leading to a small Indian village, or rather
encampment, called _Curu_. It was now too late to think of reaching Uruapa,
or of venturing to climb by night the series of precipices called the
_Cuesta de Curu_, over which we should have had to pass. But such a place
as _Curu_ for Christians to pass the night in! A few miserable huts filled
with Indians, and not, so far as we could discern, even an empty shed,
where we might rest under cover. However, there was no remedy. The
_arriero_ had already unloaded his mules, and was endeavouring to find some
provender for them and the poor horses. It was quite dark, but there was a
delicious fragrance of orange-blossoms, and we groped our way up to the
trees, and pulled some branches by way of consolation. At length an old
wooden barn was discovered, and there the beds of the whole party were put
up! We even contrived to get some boiling water and to have some tea
made--an article of luxury which, as well as a teapot, we carry with us. We
sat down upon our trunks, and a piece of candle was procured and lighted,
and, after some difficulty, made to stand upright on the floor. The barn,
made of logs, let the air in on all sides, and the pigs thrust their snouts
in at every crevice, grunting harmoniously. Outside, in the midst of the
encampment, the soldiers lighted a large fire, and sat round it roasting
maize. The robbers sat amongst them, chained, with a soldier mounting guard
beside them. The fire, flashing on the livid face of Morales, who, crouched
in his blanket, looked like a tiger about to spring--the soldiers, some
warming their hands at the blaze, some lying rolled in their sarapes, and
others devouring their primitive supper--together with the Indian women
bringing them hot tortillas from the huts--the whole had a curious and
picturesque effect. As for us, we also rolled ourselves in our mangas, and
lay down in our barn, but passed a miserable night. The pigs grunted, the
mosquitoes sung, a cold air blew in from every corner, and, fortunately, we
were not until morning aware of the horrid fact, that a whole nest of
scorpions, with their tails twisted together, were reposing above our heads
in the log wall. Imagine the condition of the unfortunate slumberer on
whose devoted head they had descended _en masse_! In spite of the fragrant
orange-blossom, we set off early the next morning.


On leaving the fascinating village of Curu, we began to ascend _La Cuesta_;
and travelled slowly four leagues of mountain-road, apparently
inaccessible; but the sure-footed horses, though stepping on loose and
nearly precipitous rocks, rarely stumbled. The mountain of Curu is
volcanic, a chaos of rent rocks, beetling precipices, and masses of lava
that have been disgorged from the burning crater. Yet from every crag and
crevice of the rock spring the most magnificent trees, twisted with
flowering parasites, shrubs of the brightest green, and pale delicate
flowers, whose gentle hues seem all out of place in this savage scene.
Beside the forest oak and the stern pine, the tree of the white blossoms,
the graceful _floripundio_, seems to seek for shelter and support. Creepers
that look like scarlet honeysuckles, and flowering vines of every variety
of colour, hang in bright garlands and festoons, intwining the boughs of
the trees; adorning, but not concealing the masses of bare rock and the
precipitous crag that frowns amidst all this luxury of vegetation. The
whole scene is "horribly beautiful."

As we wound through these picturesque paths, where only one can go at a
time, our train stretched out to an immense distance, and the scarlet
streamers and lances of the soldiers looked very picturesque, appearing and
then vanishing amongst the rocks and trees. At one part, looking back to
see the effect, I caught the eye of the robber Morales, glaring with such a
frightful expression, that, forgetful of his chains, I whipped up my horse
in the greatest consternation, over stones and rocks. He and the scene were
in perfect unison.

At length we came to the end of this extraordinary mountain-forest, and
after resting the tired horses for a little while, in a grove of pines and
yellow acacias, entered the most lovely little wood, a succession of
flowers and shrubs, and bright green grass, with vistas of fertile
cornfields bordered by fruit trees-a peaceful scene, on which the eye rests
with pleasure, after passing through these wild, volcanic regions.

On leaving the woods, the path skirts along by the side of these fields,
and leads to the valley where Uruapa, the gem of the Indian villages, lies
in tranquil beauty. It has indeed some tolerable streets and a few good
houses; but her boast is in the Indian cottages-all so clean and snug, and
tasteful, and buried in fruit trees.

We rode through shady lanes of trees, bending under the weight of oranges,
_chirimoyas, granaditas, platanos_, and every sort of delicious fruit. We
found that, through the kindness of Senor Ysasaga, the principal person
here, the curate's house had been prepared to receive us--an old
unfurnished house next the church, and at present unoccupied, its owner
being absent. We found the whole family extremely kind and agreeable; the
father a well-informed, pleasant old gentleman, the mother still beautiful,
though in bad health; and all the daughters pretty and unaffected. One is
married to a brother of Madame Yturbide's. They made many apologies for not
inviting us to their own house, which is under repair; but as it is but a
few steps off, we shall spend most of our time with them. It seems strange
to meet such people in this secluded spot! Yet, peaceful and solitary as it
appears, it has not escaped the rage of civil war, having been burnt down
four different times by insurgents and by Spaniards. Senor Ysasaga, who
belongs to Valladolid, has taken an active part in all these revolutions,
having been the personal friend and partisan of Hidalgo. His escapes and
adventures would fill a volume.

I could not help taking one last look of the robbers, as we entered this
beautiful place, where Morales at least is to be shot. It seemed to me as
if they had grown perfectly deathlike. The poor wretches must be tired
enough, having come on foot all the way from Pascuaro.

31st.--This place is so charming, we have determined to pitch our tent in
it for a few days. Our intention was to proceed twenty leagues farther, to
see the volcano of Jorullo; but as the road is described to us as being
entirely devoid of shade, and the heat almost insupportable--with various
other difficulties and drawbacks--we have been induced, though with great
regret, to abandon the undertaking, which it is as tantalizing to do, as it
is to reflect that yesterday we were but a short distance from a hill which
is but thirty leagues from the Pacific Ocean.

In 1813, M. de Humboldt and M. Bonpland, ascended to the crater of this
burning mountain, which was formed in September 1759. Its birth was
announced by earthquakes, which put to flight all the inhabitants of the
neighbouring villages; and three months after, a terrible eruption burst
forth, which filled all the inhabitants with astonishment and terror, and
which Humboldt considers one of the most extraordinary physical revolutions
that ever took place on the surface of the globe.

Flames issued from the earth for the space of more than a square league.
Masses of burning rock were thrown to an immense height, and through a
thick cloud of ashes, illuminated by the volcanic fire, the whitened crust
of the earth was gradually seen swelling up. The ashes even covered the
roofs of the houses at Queretaro, forty-eight leagues distance! and the
rivers of San Andres and Cuitumba sank into the burning masses. The flames
were seen from Pascuaro; and from the hills of Agua-Zarca was beheld the
birth of this volcanic mountain, the burning offspring of an earthquake,
which bursting from the bosom of the earth, changed the whole face of the
country for a considerable distance round.

"And now, the glee
Of the loud hills shakes with its mountain mirth,
As if they did rejoice o'er a young earthquake's birth."

Here the earth returned the salutation, and shook, though it was with
fearful mirth, at the birth of the young volcano.

In a letter written at the time of the event to the bishop of Michioacan by
the curate of the neighbouring village, he says, that the eruption finished
by destroying the hacienda of Jorullo, and killing the trees, which were
thrown down and buried in the sand and ashes vomited by the mountain. The
fields and roads were, he says, covered with sand, the crops destroyed, and
the flocks perishing for want of food, unable to drink the pestilential
water of the mountains. The rivulet that ran past his village was swelled
to a mighty river, that threatened to inundate it; and he adds, that the
houses, churches, and hospitals are ready to fall down from the weight of
the sand and the ashes--and that "the very people are so covered with the
sand, that they seem to have come out of some sepulchre." The great
eruptions of the volcano continued till the following year, but have
gradually become rarer, and at present have ceased.

Having now brought our journey to its furthest limits, I shall conclude
this letter.


Indian Dresses--Saints--Music--Union of Tropical and European
Vegetation--Old Customs--Falls of the Sararaqui--Silkworms--Indian
Painting--Beautiful Heroine--Leave Uruapa--Tziracuaratiro--Talkative
Indian--Alcalde's House--Pascuaro--Old Church--Mosaic Work--The Lake--The
Cave--Fried Fish--Rich Indians--Convent--Cuincho--Darkness--Morelia
--Alameda--Cathedral--Silver--Waxworks--College--Wonderful Fleas.

URIMPA, 31st.

The dress of the Indian women of Uruapa is pretty, and they are altogether
a much cleaner and better-looking race than we have yet seen. They wear
"_naguas_," a petticoat of black cotton with a narrow white and blue
stripe, made very full, and rather long; over this, a sort of short chemise
made of coarse white cotton, and embroidered in different coloured silks.
It is called the _sutunacua_--over all is a black reboso, striped with
white and blue, with a handsome silk fringe of the same colours. When they
are married, they add a white embroidered veil, and a remarkably pretty
coloured mantle the _huepilli_, which they seem to pronounce _guipil_. The
hair is divided, and falls down behind in two long plaits, fastened at the
top by a bow of ribbon and a flower. In this dress there is no alteration
from what they wore in former days; saving that the women of a higher class
wore a dress of finer cotton with more embroidery, and a loose garment over
all, resembling a priest's surplice, when the weather was cold. Among the
men, the introduction of trousers is Spanish--but they still wear the
_majtlatl_, a broad belt, with the ends tied before and behind, and the
_tilmatli_ or _tilma_ as they now call it, a sort of square short cloak,
the ends of which are tied across the breast, or over one shoulder. It is
on a coarse _tilma_ of this description that the image of the Virgin of
Guadalupe was found painted.

Yesterday, being the festival of San Andres, the Indians were all in full
costume and procession, and we went into the old church to see them. They
were carrying the saint in very fine robes, the women bearing coloured
flags and lighted tapers, and the men playing on violins, flutes, and
drums. All had garlands of flowers to hang on the altars; and for these
lights and ornaments, and silk and tinsel robes, they save up all their
money. They were playing a pretty air, but I doubt its being original. It
was not melancholy and monotonous, like the generality of Indian music, but
had something wild and gay in it; it was probably Spanish. The organ was
played by an Indian. After mass we went upstairs to try it, and wondered
how, with such miserable means, he had produced anything like music. In the
patio, between the curate's house and the church, are some very brilliant
large scarlet flowers, which they call here "flor del pastor," the
shepherd's flower; a beautiful kind of euphorbia; and in other places,
"flor de noche buena," the flower of Christmas eve.

Last evening we walked out in the environs of this garden of Eden, by the
banks of the river _Marques_, amidst a most extraordinary union of tropical
and European vegetation; the hills covered with firs, and the plains with
sugar-cane. We walked amongst bananas, shaddock, chirimoyas, and orange
trees, and but a few yards higher up, bending over and almost touching
them, were groves of oak and pine. The river pursues its bright unwearied
course through this enchanting landscape, now falling in cascades, now
winding placidly at the foot of the silent hills and among the dark woods,
and in one part forming a most beautiful natural bath, by pouring its
waters into an enclosure of large, smooth, flat stones, overshadowed by
noble trees.

A number of the old Indian customs are still kept up here, modified by the
introduction of Christian doctrines, in their marriages, feasts, burials,
and superstitious practices. They also preserve the same simplicity in
their dress, united with the same vanity and love of show in their
ornaments, which always distinguished them. The poorest Indian woman still
wears a necklace of red coral, or a dozen rows of red beads, and their
dishes are still the _gicalli_, or, as they were called by the Spaniards,
_gicaras_, made of a species of gourd, or rather a fruit resembling it, and
growing on a low tree, which fruit they cut in two, each one furnishing two
dishes; the inside is scooped out, and a durable varnish given it by means
of a mineral earth, of different bright colours, generally red. On the
outside they paint flowers, and some of them are also gilded. They are
extremely pretty, very durable and ingenious. The beautiful colours which
they employ in painting these _gicaras_ are composed not only of various
mineral productions, but of the wood, leaves, and flowers of certain
plants, of whose properties they have no despicable knowledge. Their own
dresses, manufactured by themselves of cotton, are extremely pretty, and
many of them very fine.

December 1st.--We rode out early this morning, and passing through the
lanes bordered with fruit trees, and others covered with blossoms of
extraordinary beauty, of whose names I only know the _floripundio_,
ascended into the pine woods, fragrant and gay with wild thyme, and bright
flowers; the river falling in small cascades among the rocks. After riding
along these heights for about two leagues, we arrived at the edge of a
splendid valley of oaks. Here we were obliged to dismount, and to make our
way on foot down the longest, steepest, and most slippery of paths, winding
in rapid descent through the woods; with the prospect of being repaid for
our toil, by the sight of the celebrated Falls of the _Sararaqui_. After
having descended to the foot of the oak-covered mountain, we came to a
great enclosure of lofty rocks, prodigious natural bulwarks, through a
great cavern in which the river comes thundering and boiling into the
valley, forming the great cascade of the Sararaqui, which in the Tarrascan
language means _sieve_. It is a very fatiguing descent, but it is worth
while to make the whole journey from Mexico, to see anything so wildly
grand. The falls are from fifty to sixty feet high, and of great volume.
The rocks are covered with shrubs and flowers, with small jets of water
issuing from every crevice. One lovely flower, that looks as if it were
formed of small white and rose-coloured shells, springs out of the stones
near the water. There are rattlesnakes among the woods, and wild boars have
occasionally been seen. The Senoritas Y----, when children, two or three
years ago, wandering among these mountain-paths, saw an immense rattlesnake
coiled up, and tempted by its gaudy colours, were about to lift it, when it
suddenly wakened from its slumber, uncoiled itself, and swiftly glided up
the path before them, its rattles sounding all the way up amongst the

We sat beside the falls for a long while, looking at the boiling, hissing,
bubbling, foaming waters, rolling down headlong with such impetuous
velocity that one could hardly believe they form part of the same placid
stream, which flows so gently between its banks, when no obstacles oppose
it; and at all the little silvery threads of water, that formed mimic
cascades among the rocks; but at length we were obliged to recommence our
toilsome march up the slippery mountain. We were accompanied by several
officers--amongst others, by the commandant of Uruapa.

Senor ----- says that they are at present occupied here at the instigation
of a Frenchman, named _Genould_, in planting a large collection of mulberry
trees, (which prosper wonderfully well in this climate) for the propagation
of silkworms. But they have no facilities for transport, and at what market
could the silk be sold? There are a thousand improvements wanting here,
which would be more profitable than this speculation. They have sugar,
corn, maize, minerals, wood, cotton, water for machinery; every valuable
and important produce, all requiring their more immediate attention. We had
a pleasant ride home, and when we got back amongst the lanes leading to the
village, stopped every moment to admire and wonder at the rare and
beautiful blossoms on the trees; and pulled branches of flowers off them,
more delicate and lovely than the rarest exotics in an English hothouse.

This morning, the weather was damp and rainy, but in the afternoon we took
a long walk, and visited several Indian cottages, all clean, and the walls
hung with fresh mats, the floors covered with the same; and all with their
kitchen utensils of baked earth, neatly hung on the wall, from the largest
size in use, to little dishes and _jarritos_ in miniature, which are only
placed there for ornament. We also went to purchase _gicaras_, and to see
the operation of making and painting them, which is very curious. The
flowers are not painted, but inlaid. We were fortunate in procuring a good
supply of the prettiest, which cannot be procured anywhere else. We bought
a very pretty _sutunacua,_ and a black reboso. The women were not at all
anxious to sell their dresses, as they make them with great trouble, and
preserve them with great care.

We had a beautiful walk to the Magdalena, about a mile from the village.
Every day we discover new beauties in the environs. And one beauty we saw
on entering a small rancho, where they were painting gicaras at a table,
while a woman lay in the shaking fever in a bed adjoining, which was quite
consistent with the place. This was a lady, the proprietress of a good
estate some leagues off, who was seated on her own trunk, outside the door
of the rancho. She was a beautiful woman in her prime, the gentlemen said
_passee,_ and perhaps at eighteen she may have been more charming still;
but now she was a model for a Judith-or rather for a Joan of Arc, even
though sitting on her own luggage. She was very fair, with large black
eyes, long eyelashes, and a profusion of hair as black as jet. Her teeth
were literally dazzling--her lips like the reddest coral--her colour
glowing as the down upon a ripe peach. Her figure was tall and full, with
small, beautifully-formed hands, and fine arms. She rose as we came in, and
begged us to be seated on a bench near the door; and with the
unceremoniousness of travellers who meet in outlandish places, we entered
into conversation with her. She told us her name, and her motives for
travelling, and gave us an account of an adventure she had had with the
robbers, of which she was well fitted to be the heroine. It appears that
she was travelling with her two sons, lads of fifteen and sixteen, when
they arrived at this rancho to rest for the night; for by this time you
will understand that those who travel hereabouts must trust to chance or to
hospitality for a night's lodging. To their surprise, they found the
farmers gone, their dogs gone, and the house locked. They had no
alternative but to rest as they could, among their luggage and mules, in
the yard in front of the house. In the middle of the night they were
attacked by robbers. The boys instantly took their guns, and fired, but
without effect. Still, in the darkness, the robbers probably imagined that
there were more people and more arms, and when she, dragging a loaded
musket off one of the horses, prepared to join in the engagement, the
cowardly ruffians took flight--a good half dozen before a woman and two
boys. She was particularly indignant at the farmers, these "_malditos
rancheros_," as she called them, who she said had been bribed or frightened
into withdrawing their dogs and themselves.

We returned home after a long walk in the dark, and in the midst of all the
howling, yelping, snarling, barking dogs, which rushed out as we went by,
from every cottage in Uruapa.

After supper they sent for a clever Indian girl, who understands Spanish as
well as her native idiom, and who translated various Castilian words for us
into the original Tarrascan, which sounds very liquid and harmonious.
To-morrow we shall leave Uruapa and this hospitable family, whose kindness
and attention to us we never can forget. It seems incredible that we have
only known them a few days. We have, however, the hopes of seeing them
again as we pass through Valladolid, where they intend removing in a few

PASCUARO, 4th December.

We left Uruapa yesterday morning at eleven o'clock, accompanied part of the
way by Senor Ysasaga and another gentleman, amongst whom was Madame
Yturbide's brother. We are now returning to Morelia, but avoided _Curu_ and
the rocks, both to save our animals, and for the sake of variety. We rode
through large tracks of land, all belonging to the Indians. The day was
agreeable and cloudy, and the road, as usual, led us through beautiful
scenery, monotonous in description, and full of variety in fact. Though
nearly uninhabited, and almost entirely uncultivated, it has pleased nature
to lavish so much beauty on this part of the country, that there is nothing
melancholy in its aspect; no feeling of dreariness in riding a whole day,
league after league, without seeing a trace of human life. These forest
paths always appear as if they must, in time, lead to some habitation; the
woods, the groves, the clumps of trees, seem as if they had been disposed,
or at least beautified by the hand of art. We cannot look on these smiling
and flowery valleys, and believe that such lovely scenes are always
untenanted--that there are no children occasionally picking up these
apricots--no village girls to pluck these bright, fragrant flowers. We
fancy that they are out in the fields, and will be there in the evening,
and that their hamlet is hid behind the slope of the next hill; and it is
only when we come to some Indian hut, or cluster of poor cabins in the
wilderness, that we are startled by the conviction that this enchanting
variety of hill and plain, wood and water, is for the most part unseen by
human eye, and untrod by human footsteps.

We had no further adventure during this day's journey, than buying bread
and cheese from sheer hunger, at a little wooden tavern by the road-side,
whose shelves were covered with glittering rows of bottles of brandy and
_mezcal_. At some of the Indian huts also we bought various branches of
_platanos_, that most useful of fruits, and basis of the food of the poor
inhabitants of all the tropical climates. It has been said that the banana
is not indigenous in America, and that it was brought over by a friar to
Santo Domingo. If so, its adopted country agrees with it better than its
native land; but I believe there are many traditions which go to prove that
it did already exist in this hemisphere before the sixteenth century, and
that the Spaniards did no more than increase the number of the already
indigenous species. Its nutritive qualities, and the wonderful facility
with which it is propagated, render it at once the most useful of trees,
and the greatest possible incentive to indolence. In less than one year
after it is planted the fruit may be gathered and the proprietor has but to
cut away the old stems and leave a sucker, which will produce fruit three
months after. There are different sorts of bananas, and they are used in
different ways; fresh, dried, fried, etc. The dried plantain, a great
branch of trade in Michoacan, with its black shrivelled skin and flavour of
smoked fish or ham, is exceedingly liked by the natives. It is, of all
Mexican articles of food, my peculiar aversion.

About four o'clock we arrived at the small village of Tziracuaratiro, a
collection of Indian cottages, with little gardens, surrounded by orange
and all manner of fruit trees. As we had still one or two hours of
daylight, and this was our next halting-place, we wandered forth on foot to
explore the environs, and found a beautiful shady spot, a grassy knoll,
sheltered by the surrounding woods, where we sat down to rest and to inhale
the balmy air, fragrant with orange-blossoms. We were amused by a
sly-looking Indian, of whom C---n asked some questions, and who was
exceedingly talkative, giving us an account of his whole _menage_, and
especially praising beyond measure his own exemplary conduct to his wife,
from which I infer that he beats her, as indeed all Indians consider it
their particular privilege to do; and an Indian woman who complained to a
padre of her husband's neglect, mentioned, as the crowning proof of his
utter abandonment of her, that he had not given her a beating for a whole
fortnight. Some one asked him if he allowed his wife to govern him. "Oh!
no," said he, "that would be the mule leading the arriero!"

There was nothing to be seen in the village, of which it hardly deserves
the name, but a good-looking old church, which two old women were sweeping
out; but they told us they rarely had mass there, as the padre lived a long
way off. The alcalde permitted us and our escort to occupy his house,
consisting of three empty rooms with mud floors; and about seven the next
morning we were again on horseback, and again _en route_ for Pascuaro; a
pretty ride of eleven or twelve leagues. We breakfasted at the village of
_Ajuna_, in a clean hut where they gave us quantities of tortillas and
chile, baked by some very handsome _tortilleras_. A number of women were
carrying about a virgin all covered with flowers, to the sound of a little

It was about four o'clock when we arrived at the hills near Pascuaro. Here
we dismounted from our horses, and remained till it was nearly dusk, laying
on the grass, and gazing on the lake, as the shadows of evening stole
slowly over its silver waters. Little by little the green islands became
indistinct; a gray vapour concealed the opposite shores; and like a light
breath spread gradually over the mirrored surface of the lake. Then we
remounted our horses, and rode down into Pascuaro, where we found the
Senora H---a as before, ready to receive us, and where, our mules being
disabled, we proposed remaining one or two days.

5th.--We have been spending a quiet day in Pascuaro, and went to mass in
the old church, which is handsome and rich in gilding. At the door is
printed in large letters--"For the love of God, all good Christians are
requested not to spit in this holy place." If we might judge from the
observation of one morning, I should say that the better classes in
Pascuaro are fairer and have more colour than is general in Mexico; and if
this is so, it may be owing partly to the climate being cooler and damper,
and partly to their taking more exercise (there being no carriages here),
whereas in Mexico no family of any importance can avoid having one.

We were very anxious to see some specimens of that mosaic-work which all
ancient writers upon Mexico have celebrated, and which was nowhere brought
to such perfection as in Pascuaro. It was made with the most beautiful and
delicate feathers, chiefly of the _picaflores_, the humming-birds, which
they called _huitzitailin_. But we are told that it is now upwards of
twenty years since the last artist in this branch lived in Pascuaro; and
though it is imitated by the nuns, the art is no longer in the state of
perfection to which it was brought in the days of Cortes. We are told that
several persons were employed in each painting, and that it was a work
requiring extraordinary patience and nicety, in the blending of the
colours, and in the arrangement of the feathers. The sketch of the figure
was first made, and the proportions being measured, each artist took charge
of one particular part of the figure or of the drapery. When each had
finished his share, all the different parts were reunited, to form the
picture. The feathers were first taken up with some soft substance with the
utmost care, and fastened with a glutinous matter upon a piece of stuff;
then, the different parts being reunited, were placed on a plate of copper,
and gently polished, till the surface became quite equal, when they
appeared like the most beautiful paintings, or, according to these writers,
more beautiful from the splendour and liveliness of the colours, the bright
golden, and blue, and crimson tints, than the paintings which they

Book of the day: