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Life in Mexico by Frances Calderon De La Barca

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extraordinary," placards were put up, as I understand, on all the corners
of the streets, announcing it, accompanied by a portrait of C---n! Count
C---a came soon after breakfast, accompanied by Bernardo, the first
matador, whom he brought to present to us. I send you the white satin note
of invitation, with its silver lace and tassels, to show you how
beautifully they can get up such things here. The matador is a handsome but
heavy-looking man, though said to be active and skilful. Tomorrow I shall
write you an account of my _first bull-fight_.

7th.--Yesterday, towards the afternoon, there were great fears of rain,
which would have caused a postponement of the combat; however, the day
cleared up, the bulls little knowing how much their fate depended upon the
clouds. A box in the centre, with a carpet and a silver lamp, had been
prepared for us; but we went with our friends, the C---as, into their box
adjoining. The scene, to me especially, who have not seen the magnificence
of the Madrid arena, was animating and brilliant in the highest degree.
Fancy an immense amphitheatre, with four great tiers of boxes, and a range
of uncovered seats in front, the whole crowded almost to suffocation; the
boxes filled with ladies in full dress, and the seats below by
gaily-dressed and most enthusiastic spectators; two military bands of
music, playing beautiful airs from the operas; an extraordinary variety of
brilliant costumes, all lighted up by the eternally deep-blue sky; ladies
and peasants, and officers in full uniform,--and you may conceive that it
must have been altogether a varied and curious spectacle.

About half-past six, a flourish of trumpets announced the president, who
came in uniform with his staff, and took his seat to the music of "Guerra!
Guerra! I bellici trombi." Shortly after the matadors and picadors, the
former on foot, the latter on horseback, made their entry, saluting all
around the arena, and were received with loud cheering.

Bernardo's dress of blue and silver was very superb, and cost him five
hundred dollars. The signal was given--the gates were thrown open, and a
bull sprang into the arena; not a great, fierce-looking animal, as they are
in Spain, but a small, angry, wild-looking beast, with a troubled eye.

"Thrice sounds the clarion; lo! the signal falls,
The den expands, and expectation mute
Gapes round the silent circle's peopled walls.
Bounds with one lashing spring the mighty brute,
And, wildly staring, spurns with sounding foot
The sand, nor blindly rushes on his foe;
Here, there, he points his threatening front, to suit
His first attack, wide waving to and fro
His angry tail; red rolls his eye's dilated glow."

A picture equally correct and poetical. That first _pose_ of the bull is
superb! Pasta, in her Medea, did not surpass it. Meanwhile the matadors and
the _banderilleros_ shook their coloured scarfs at him--the picadors poked
at him with their lances. He rushed at the first, and tossed up the scarfs
which they threw at him, while they sprung over the arena; galloped after
the others, striking the horses, so that along with their riders they
occasionally rolled in the dust; both, however, almost instantly recovering
their equilibrium, in which there is no time to be lost. Then the matadors
would throw fireworks, crackers adorned with streaming ribbons, which stuck
on his horns, as he tossed his head, enveloped him in a blaze of fire.
Occasionally the picador would catch hold of the bull's tail, and passing
it under his own right leg, wheel his horse round, force the bullock to
gallop backwards, and throw him on his face.

Maddened with pain, streaming with blood, stuck full of darts, and covered
with fireworks, the unfortunate beast went galloping round and round,
plunging blindly at man and horse, and frequently trying to leap the
barrier, but driven back by the waving hats and shouting of the crowd. At
last, as he stood at bay, and nearly exhausted, the matador ran up and gave
him the mortal blow, considered a peculiar proof of skill. The bull
stopped, as if he felt that his hour were come, staggered, made a few
plunges at nothing, and fell. A finishing stroke, and the bull expired.

The trumpets sounded, the music played. Four horses galloped in tied to a
yoke, to which the bull was fastened, and swiftly dragged out of the arena.
This last part had a fine effect, reminding one of the Roman sacrifice. In
a similar manner, eight bulls were done to death. The scene is altogether
fine, the address amusing, but the wounding and tormenting of the bull is
sickening, and as here the tips of his horns are blunted, one has more
sympathy with him than with his human adversaries. It cannot be good to
accustom a people to such bloody sights.

Yet let me confess, that though at first I covered my face and could not
look, little by little I grew so much interested in the scene, that I could
not take my eyes off it, and I can easily understand the pleasure taken in
these barbarous diversions by those accustomed to them from childhood.

The bull-fight having terminated amidst loud and prolonged cheering from
the crowd, a tree of fireworks, erected in the midst of the arena, was
lighted, and amidst a blaze of coloured light, appeared, first the Arms of
the Republic, the Eagle and Nopal; and above, a full-length portrait of
C---n! represented by a figure in a blue and silver uniform. Down fell the
Mexican eagle with a crash at his feet, while he remained burning brightly,
and lighted up by fireworks, in the midst of tremendous shouts and cheers.
Thus terminated this "_funcion extraordinaria_;" and when all was over, we
went to dine at Countess C---a's; had some music in the evening, and
afterwards returned home tolerably tired.

10th.--The fancy ball took place last evening in the theatre, and although,
owing either to the change of climate, or to the dampness of the house, I
have been obliged to keep my room since the day of the bull-fight, and to
decline a pleasant dinner at the English Minister's, I thought it advisable
to make my appearance there. Having discarded the costume of the light-
headed Poblamanas, I adopted that of a virtuous Roman Contadina, simple
enough to be run up in one day; a white skirt, red bodice, with blue
ribbons, and lace veil put on square behind; _a propos_ to which
head-dress, it is very common amongst the Indians to wear a piece of stuff
folded square, and laid flat upon the head, in this Italian fashion; and as
it is not fastened, I cannot imagine how they trot along, without letting
it fall.

We went to the theatre about eleven, and found the _entree_, though crowded
with carriages, very quiet and orderly. The _coup d'oeil_ on entering was
extremely gay, and certainly very amusing. The ball, given for the benefit
of the poor, was under the patronage of the ladies C---a, G---a, Guer---a,
and others, but such was the original dirtiness and bad condition of the
theatre, that to make it decent, they had expended nearly all the proceeds.
As it was, and considering the various drawbacks, the arrangements were
very good. Handsome lustres had superseded the lanterns with their tallow
candles, the boxes were hung with bright silk draperies, and a canopy of
the same drawn up in the form of a tent, covered the whole ball-room. The
orchestra also was tolerably good. The boxes were filled with ladies,
presenting an endless succession of China crape shawls of every colour and
variety, and a monotony of diamond earrings; while in the theatre itself,
if ever a ball might be termed a fancy-ball, this was that ball. Of Swiss
peasants, Scotch peasants, and all manner of peasants, there were a goodly
assortment; as also of Turks, Highlanders, and men in plain clothes. But
being public, it was not, of course, select, and amongst many well-dressed
people, there were hundreds who, assuming no particular character, had
exerted their imagination to appear merely fanciful, and had succeeded.
One, for example, would have a scarlet satin petticoat, and over it a pink
satin robe, with scarlet ribbons to match. Another, a short blue satin
dress, beneath which appeared a handsome purple satin petticoat; the whole
trimmed with yellow bows. They looked like the signs of the zodiac. All had
diamonds and pearls; old and young, and middle-aged; including little
children, of whom there were many.

The lady patronesses were very elegant. The Senora de Guer---a, wore a
head-dress in the form of a net, entirely composed of large pearls and
diamonds; in itself a fortune. The Senora de C---a, as Madame de la
Valliere, in black velvet and diamonds, looking pretty as usual, but the
cold of the house obliged her to muffle up in furs and boas, and so to hide
her dress. The Senora de G---a, as Mary, Queen of Scots, in black velvet
and pearls, with a splendid diamond necklace, was extremely handsome; she
wore a cap, introduced by the Albini, in the character of the Scottish
Queen, but which, though pretty in itself, is a complete deviation from the
beautiful simplicity of the real Queen-Mary cap. She certainly looked as if
she had arrived at her prime without knowing Fotheringay.

Various ladies were introduced to me who are only waiting to receive our
cards of _faire part_ before they call. Amongst the girls, the best dresses
that I observed were the Senoritas de F---d, the one handsome, with the
figure and face of a Spanish peasant; the other much more graceful and
intelligent-looking, though with less actual beauty. However, so many of
the most fashionable people were in their boxes, that I am told this is not
a good occasion on which to judge of the beauty or style of toilet of the
Mexican women; besides which, these fancy balls being uncommon, they would
probably look better in their usual costume. Upon the whole, I saw few
striking beauties, little grace, and very little good dancing. There was
too much velvet and satin, and the dresses were too much loaded. The
diamonds, though superb, were frequently ill-set. The dresses, compared
with the actual fashion, were absurdly short, and the feet, naturally
small, were squeezed into shoes still smaller, which is destructive to
grace, whether in walking or dancing.

I saw many superb pairs of eyes, and beautiful hands and arms, perfect
models for a sculptor, the hands especially; and very few good complexions.

There was a young gentleman pointed out to me as being in the costume of a
Highlander! How I wished that Sir William Cumming, Macleod of Macleod, or
some veritable Highland chieftain could suddenly have appeared to
annihilate him, and show the people here what the dress really is! There
were various unfortunate children bundled up in long satin or velvet
dresses, covered with blond and jewels, and with artificial flowers in
their hair.

The room was excessively cold, nor was the ancient odour of the theatre
entirely obliterated; nor indeed do I think that all the perfumes of Arabia
would overpower it. Having walked about, and admired all the varieties of
fancy costumes, I, being nearly frozen, went to the Countess C---a's box on
the pit tier, and enveloped myself in a cloak. They pointed out the most
distinguished persons in the boxes, amongst others the family of the E---s,
who seem very handsome, with brilliant colours and fine teeth. We remained
until three in the morning, and declined all offers of refreshment, though,
after all, a cup of hot chocolate would not have been amiss. There was
supper somewhere, but I believe attended only by gentlemen. I had the
satisfaction in passing out to see numerous ladies on their partners' arms,
and all bedizened as they were with finery, stop under the lamps, and light
their cigars,--cool and pretty.

16th.--I have passed nearly a week in a slight fever; shivering and hot. I
was attended by a doctor of the country, who seems the most harmless
creature imaginable. Every day he felt my pulse, and gave me some little
innocent mixture. But what he especially gave me was a lesson in polite
conversation. Every day we had the following dialogue, as he rose to take

"Madam!" (this by the bedside) "I am at your service."

"Many thanks, sir."

"Madam!" (this at the foot of the bed) "know me for your most humble

"Good morning, sir."

"Madam!" (here he stopped beside a table) "I kiss your feet."

"Sir, I kiss your hand."

"Madam!" (this near the door) "my poor house, and all in it, myself though
useless, all I have, is yours."

"Many thanks, sir."

He turns round and opens the door, again turning round as he does so.

"Adieu, madam! your servant."

"Adieu, sir."

He goes out, partly reopens the door, and puts in his head--"Good morning,

This civility so lengthened out, as if parting were such "sweet sorrow,"
between doctor and patient, seems rather misplaced. It is here considered
more polite to say Senorita than Senora, even to married women, and the
lady of the house is generally called by her servants, "La Nina," the
little girl, even though she be over eighty. This last custom is still more
common in Havana, where the old negresses, who have always lived in the
family, and are accustomed to call their young mistress by this name, never
change, whatever be her age.

I have received a packet of letters which have done me more good than the
old doctor's visits. The captain left us yesterday, and took charge of a
box of chocolate stamped with various figures, and of some curious dulces
for you. Our cards, giving the Mexicans the tardy information of our
arrival, were sent out some days ago. I copy one, that you may have a
specimen of the style, which looks for all the world like that of a shop-
advertisement, purporting that Don ----- makes wigs, dresses hair, and so
forth, while Dona ----- washes lace, and does up fine linen.

"Don A---- C---- de la B----, Enviado Extraordinario y Ministro
Plenipotenciario de H. M. C. cerca de la Republica Mexicana; y su Esposa,
Dona F---- E---- C---- de la B----; Participan a su Llegada a este Capital
y se afrecen a su disposicion, en la Plazuela de Buenavista, No. 2."[1]

[Footnote 1: Don A---- C---- de la B----, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister
Plenipotentiary from H. C. M.; and his Lady, Dona F---- E---- C---- de la
B----; Inform you of their arrival in this capital, and put themselves at
your disposal, in the street of Buenavista, No. 2.]

18th.--For the last few days our rooms have been filled with visitors, and
my eyes are scarcely yet accustomed to the display of diamonds, pearls,
silks, satins, blondes, and velvets, in which the ladies have paid their
first visits of etiquette. A few of the dresses I shall record for your
benefit, not as being richer than the others, but that I happen to
recollect them best.--The Marquesa de San Roman, an old lady who has
travelled a great deal in Europe, and is very distinguished for talents and
information. She has the Grand Cross of Maria Louisa of Spain, is of a
noble Venetian family, and aunt to the Duke of Canizzaro. Her dress was a
very rich black Genoa velvet, black blonde mantilla, and a very splendid
parure of diamonds. She seems in exceedingly delicate health. She and her
contemporaries are fast fading away, the last record of the days of
Viceroyalty. In their place a new race have started up, whose manners and
appearance have little of the _vieille cour_ about them; chiefly. It is
said, wives of military men, sprung from the hotbeds of the revolutions,
ignorant and full of pretensions, as _parvenus_ who have risen by chance
and not by merit must be. I continue my list after the fashion of the Court

Countess de S---o. Under dress of rich violet satin, gown of black blonde,
mantilla of black blonde, diamond earrings, five or six large diamond
brooches fastening the mantilla, necklace of large pearls and diamond
sevigne. The Senora S----. Dress of white satin, gown of white blonde,
white blonde mantilla, pearls, diamonds, and white satin shoes. Madame
S---r. Black velvet dress, white blonde mantilla, pearls, diamonds, short
sleeves, and white satin shoes. The Senora de A---d. Fawn-coloured satin
dress, black blonde mantilla, diamonds, and black satin shoes.

The Senora B---a, the wife of a General, extremely rich, and who has the
handsomest house in Mexico. Dress of purple velvet, embroidered all over
with flowers of white silk, short sleeves, and embroidered corsage; white
satin shoes and has _bas a jour_; a deep flounce of Mechlin appearing below
the velvet dress, which was short. A mantilla of black blonde, fastened by
three diamond aigrettes. Diamond earrings of extraordinary size. A diamond
necklace of immense value, and beautifully set. A necklace of pear pearls,
valued at twenty thousand dollars. A diamond sevigne. A gold chain going
three times round the neck, and touching the knees. On every finger two
diamond rings, like little watches. As no other dress was equally
magnificent, with her I conclude my description, only observing that no
Mexican lady has yet paid me her first morning visit without diamonds. They
have few opportunities for displaying their jewels, so that were it not on
the occasion of some such morning visit of etiquette, the diamonds would
lie in their cases, wasting their serene rays in darkness.

Last night an attempt was made to break into the house, but our fine little
bull-dog Hercules, a present from Senor A---d, kept his ground so well, and
barked so furiously, that the servants were awakened, even the porter, the
soundest slumberer amongst them; and the robbers escaped without doing
further mischief than inflicting a severe wound on the poor animal's paw,
which has made him for the present quite lame.

_A propos_ to which matters, a most cruel murder, of which I have just been
hearing the particulars, was committed not very long ago in this
neighbourhood, upon Mr. M----, the Swiss consul. He was also a
leather-merchant, and one morning having sent out his porter on some
commission, a carriage drove up to the door, and three gentlemen presented
themselves to Mr. M----, requesting to speak to him on business. He begged
them to walk in, and there entered a general in uniform, a young officer,
and a monk. Mr. M---- requested to be informed of their business, when
suddenly the general, seizing hold of him, whilst the others went to secure
the door, exclaimed, "We have not come to hear about your goods, we want
your money." The poor man, astounded at perceiving the nature of his
customers, assured them he kept but little money in the house, but
proceeded instantly to open his private drawers, and empty their contents,
amounting, in fact, to a trifle of some few hundred dollars. Finding that
he had indeed no more to give them they prepared to depart, when the _monk_
said, "We must kill him, or he will recognise us." "No," said the officers,
"leave him and come along. There is no danger." "Go on," said the monk, "I
follow;" and, turning back, stabbed the consul to the heart. The three then
re-entered the carriage, and drove off at full speed. A few minutes
afterwards the porter returning found his master bathed in blood, and
rushing out to a neighbouring gambling-house, gave the alarm. Several
gentlemen ran to his assistance, but he died in an hour after, having given
all the particulars of the dress and appearance of his murderers, and that
of their carriage. By these tokens they were soon afterwards discovered,
and by the energy of the Governor, then Count C---a, they were arrested and
hanged upon the trees in front of our house, together with the _real_
Mexican colonel, who had kindly lent the ruffians his carriage for the
occasion. It is seldom that crime here meets with so prompt a punishment.

Our friend, Count C---a, when Governor of Mexico, was celebrated for his
energy in "_el persiguimiento de los ladrones_," (persecuting the robbers,)
as it is called. It is said upon one occasion his zeal carried him rather
far. Various robberies having been committed in the city, he had received a
hint from the government, that the escape of the perpetrators was
considered by them as a proof that he had grown lukewarm in the public
service. A few days afterwards, riding in the streets, he perceived a
notorious robber, who, the moment he observed himself recognised, darted
down another street with the swiftness of an arrow. The governor pursued
him on horseback; the robber made all speed towards the Square, and rushed
into the sanctuary of the cathedral. The count galloped in after him, and
dragged him from his place of refuge near the altar. This violation of the
church's sanctity was, of course, severely reprimanded, but, as the
governor remarked, they could no longer accuse him of want of zeal in the
discharge of his duty.

He took as his porter the captain of a gang of robbers, ordering him to
stand at the door, and to seize any of his former acquaintances who might
pass, his own pardon depending on his conduct in this respect. Riding out
one day to his country place with his lady, this man accompanying them as a
servant, they were overtaken by a messenger, who desired the return of the
count to the city, upon some urgent and important business. It was already
dusk, yet the count, trusting to the honour of the robber, ordered him to
conduct his lady to the hacienda; and she alone, on horseback, with this
alarming guide, performed her journey in safety.

Before I conclude this letter, I must tell you that I received a visit this
morning from a very remarkable character, well known here by the name of
_La Guera_ (the fair) _Rodriguez_, said to have been many years ago
celebrated by Humboldt as the most beautiful woman he had seen in the whole
course of his travels. Considering the lapse of time which has passed since
that distinguished traveller visited these parts, I was almost astonished
when her card was sent up with a request for admission, and still more so
to find that in spite of years and of the furrows which it pleases Time to
plough in the loveliest faces, La Guera retains a profusion of fair curls
without one gray hair, a set of beautiful white teeth, very fine eyes, and
great vivacity.

Her sister, the Marquesa de Juluapa, lately dead, is said to have been also
a woman of great talent and extraordinary conversational powers; she is
another of the ancient noblesse who has dropped off. The physician who
attended her in her last illness, a Frenchman of the name of Plan, in great
repute here, has sent in a bill to her executors of ten thousand dollars,
which, although it does not excite any great astonishment, the family
refuse to pay, and there is a lawsuit in consequence. The extortions of
medical men in Mexico, especially of foreign physicians, have arrived at
such a height, that a person of moderate fortune must hesitate before
putting himself into their hands.[1] A rich old lady in delicate health,
and with no particular complaint, is a surer fund for them than a silver-

[Footnote 1: The Mexican Government has since taken this matter into
consideration, and is making regulations which render it necessary for a
medical man to possess a certain degree of knowledge, and to have resided a
specified time in the city, before he is permitted to practise; they are
also occupied in fixing a certain sum for medical attendance.]

I found La Guera very agreeable, and a perfect living chronicle. She is
married to her third husband, and had three daughters, all celebrated
beauties; the Countess de Regla, who died in New York, and was buried in
the cathedral there; the Marquesa de Guadalupe, also dead, and the Marquesa
de A---a, now a handsome widow. We spoke of Humboldt, and talking of
herself as of a third person, she related to me all the particulars of his
first visit, and his admiration of her; that she was then very young,
though married, and the mother of two children, and that when he came to
visit her mother, she was sitting sewing in a corner where the baron did
not perceive her; until talking very earnestly on the subject of cochineal,
he inquired if he could visit a certain district where there was a
plantation of nopals. "To be sure," said La Guera from her corner; "we can
take M. de Humboldt there;" whereupon he first perceiving her, stood
amazed, and at length exclaimed, _"Valgame Dios! who is that girl?"_
Afterwards he was constantly with her, and more captivated, it is said, by
her wit than by her beauty, considering her a sort of western Madame de
Stael; all which leads me to suspect that the grave traveller was
considerably under the influence of her fascinations, and that neither
mines nor mountains, geography nor geology, petrified shells nor
_alpenkalkstein_, had occupied him to the exclusion of a slight _stratum_
of flirtation. It is a comfort to think that "sometimes even the great
Humboldt nods."

One of La Guera's stories is too original to be lost. A lady of high rank
having died in Mexico, her relatives undertook to commit her to her last
resting-place, habited according to the then prevailing fashion, in her
most magnificent dress, that which she had worn at her wedding. This dress
was a wonder of luxury, even in Mexico. It was entirely composed of the
finest lace, and the flounces were made of a species of point which cost
fifty dollars a _vara_ (the Mexican yard). Its equal was unknown. It was
also ornamented and looped up at certain intervals with bows of ribbon very
richly embroidered in gold. In this dress, the Condesa de ----- was laid in
her coffin, thousands of dear friends crowding to view her beautiful
_costume de mort_, and at length she was placed in her tomb, the key of
which was intrusted to the sacristan.

From the tomb to the opera is a very abrupt transition; nevertheless, both
have a share in this story. A company of French dancers appeared in Mexico,
a twentieth-rate ballet, and the chief danseuse was a little French damsel,
remarkable for the shortness of her robes, her coquetry, and her
astonishing pirouettes. On the night of a favourite ballet, Mademoiselle
Pauline made her _entree_ in a succession of pirouettes, and poising on her
toe, looked round for approbation, when a sudden thrill of horror,
accompanied by a murmur of indignation, pervaded the assembly. Mademoiselle
Pauline was equipped in the very dress in which the defunct countess had
been buried!

Lace, point flounces, gold ribbons; impossible to mistake it. Hardly had
the curtain dropped, when the little danseuse found herself surrounded by
competent authorities, questioning her as to where and how she had obtained
her dress. She replied that she had bought it at an extravagant price from
a French _modiste_ in the city. She had rifled no tomb, but honestly paid
down golden ounces, in exchange for her lawful property. To the modiste's
went the officers of justice. She also pleaded innocent. She had bought it
of a man who had brought it to her for sale, and had paid him much more
than _a poids d'or_, as indeed it was worth. By dint of further
investigation, the man was identified, and proved to be the sacristan of
San -----. Short-sighted sacristan! He was arrested and thrown into prison,
and one benefit resulted from his cupidity, since in order to avoid
throwing temptation in the way of future sacristans, it became the custom,
after the body had lain in state for some time in magnificent robes, to
substitute a plain dress previous to placing the coffin in the vault. A
poor vanity after all.

I was told by a lady here, that on the death of her grandchild, he was not
only enveloped in rich lace, but the diamonds of three condesas and four
marquesas were collected together and put on him, necklaces, bracelets,
rings, brooches and tiaras, to the value of several hundred thousand
dollars. The street was hung with draperies, and a band of music played,
whilst he was visited by all the titled relatives of the family in his dead
splendour, poor little baby! Yet his mother mourned for him as for all her
blighted hopes, and the last scion of a noble house. Grief shows itself in
different ways; yet one might think that when it seeks consolation in
display, it must be less profound than when it shuns it.


San Fernando--House of Perez de Galvez--A Removal--Size of the Houses--Old
Monastery--View by Sunset--Evening Visits--Mexican Etiquette--A Night-view
from the Azotea--Tacubaya--Magueys--Making of Pulque--Organos and
Nopal--Environs of Mexico--Miracle--Hacienda--View from the Countess
C---a's House--Arzobispado--Anecdote--Comparative View of Beauty--Indians
Rancheritas--Mexican Cordiality--Masses for the Dead--San Augustin--Form of
Invitation--Death of a Senator--A Mistake.

SAN FERNANDO, 25th February.

We have been engaged for some time past in the disagreeable occupations,
first of finding, then of furnishing, and lastly of entering into a new
house. We were very anxious to hire that of the Marquesa de Juluapa, which
is pretty, well situated, and has a garden; but the agent, after making us
wait for his decision more than a fortnight, informed us that he had
determined to sell it. House-rent is extremely high; nothing tolerable to
be had under two thousand five hundred dollars per annum, unfurnished.
There is also an extraordinary custom of paying a sum called _traspaso_,
sometimes to the amount of fourteen thousand dollars, taking your chance of
having the money repaid you by the next person who takes the house. We next
endeavoured to procure a house not far from our present residence,--a
palace in fact, which I mentioned to you before as having been occupied at
one time by Santa Anna, and at another by the English Legation, but the
present proprietor cannot be prevailed upon to let it. It has a beautiful
garden and olive-ground, but is not a very secure abode, except with a
guard of soldiers. We at length came to the determination of taking up our
quarters here. It is a handsome new house, built by General G----, and has
the fault of being only too large. Built in a square, like all Mexican
houses, the ground-floor, which has a stone-paved court with a fountain in
the middle, contains about twenty rooms, besides outhouses, coach-house,
stables, pigeon-house, garden-house, etc. The second storey where the
principal apartments are, the first-floor being chiefly occupied by
servants, has the same number of rooms, with coal-room, wood-room, bath-
room, and water everywhere, in the court below, in the garden, and on the
azotea, which is very spacious, and where, were the house our own, we might
build a _mirador,_ and otherwise ornament it; but to build for another is
too heroic. The great defect in all these houses is their want of finish;
the great doors that will not shut properly, and the great windows down to
the ground, which in the rainy season will certainly admit water, making
these residences appear something like a cross-breed between a palace and a
barn; the splendour of the one, the discomfort of the other. I will not
inflict upon you the details of all our petty annoyances caused by
procrastinating tradesmen. Suffice it to say, that the Mexican _manana_
(to-morrow), if properly translated, means _never_. As to prices, I
conclude we pay for being foreigners and diplomates, and will not believe
in a first experience. However, we are settled at last, and find the air
here much purer than in the heart of the city, while the maladies and
epidemics so common there, are here almost unknown. Behind this house is a
very small garden, bounded on one side by the great wall which encloses the
orchard of the old monastery of San Fernando, within whose vast precincts
only seven or eight monks now linger. It is an immense building, old and
gray, and time-worn, with church adjoining, and spacious lands appertaining
to it. At all times it is picturesque, but by moonlight or sunset it forms
a most olden-time vision.

At that hour, standing alone in the high-walled garden when the convent
bells are tolling, and the convent itself, with its iron-barred, Gothic
windows, and its gray-green olive-trees that look so unreal and lifeless,
is tinged by the last rays of the sun, the whole seems like a vision, or a
half-remembered sketch, or a memory of romance.

Then the sun sets behind the snow-crowned mountains with a bright fiery
red, covering their majestic sides with a rosy glow, while great black
clouds come sailing along like the wings of night; and then is the hour for
remembering that this is Mexico, and in spite of all the evils that have
fallen over it, the memory of the romantic past hovers there still. But the
dark clouds sail on, and envelop the crimson tints yet lingering and
blushing on the lofty mountains, and like monstrous night-birds brood there
in silent watch; and gradually the whole landscape--mountains and sky,
convent and olive-trees, look gray and sad, and seem to melt away in the
dim twilight.

Then the bright moon rises and flings her silver veil over the mountains,
and lights up the plains, glittering and quivering upon the old gray
stones, and a sound of military music is heard in the distance far and
faint. And all the bells are tolling; from old San Fernando that repeats
himself like a sexagenarian; from the towers of the cathedral, from many a
distant church and convent; and above the rumbling of carriages and the hum
of the city, are heard the notes of a hymn, now rising, now falling on the
ear, as a religious procession passes along to some neighbouring temple.
But it grows late--a carriage enters the courtyard--a visit. There is no
romance here. Men and women are the same everywhere, whether enveloped in
the graceful mantilla, or wearing _Herbault's last_, whether wrapped in
Spanish cloak, or Mexican sarape, or Scottish plaid. The manners of the
ladies here are extremely kind, but Spanish etiquette and compliments are
beyond measure tiresome. After having embraced each lady who enters,
according to the fashion, which after all seems cordial, to say the least
of it, and seated the lady of most consequence on the right side of the
sofa, a point of great importance, the following dialogue is _de rigueur_.
"How are you? Are you well?" "At your service, and you?" "Without novelty
(_sin novedad_) at your service." "I am rejoiced, and how are you, Senora?"
"At your disposal, and you?" "A thousand thanks, and the Senor?" "At your
service, without novelty," etc., etc., etc. Besides, before sitting down,
there is, "Pray be seated." "Pass first, Senorita." "No, madam, pray pass
first." "_Vaya_, well, to oblige you, without further ceremony; I dislike
compliments and etiquette." And it is a fact that there is no real
etiquette but the most perfect _laissez aller_ in the world. All these are
mere words, tokens of good will. If it is in the morning, there is the
additional question of "How have you passed the night?" And the answer, "In
your service." Even in Mexico the weather affords a legitimate opening for
a conversation battery, but this chiefly when it rains or looks dull,
which, occasioning surprise, gives rise to observation. Besides a slight
change in the degree of heat or cold which we should not observe, they
comment upon.

The visit over, the ladies re-embrace, the lady of the house following her
guest to the top of the staircase, and again compliments are given and
received. "Madam, you know that my house is at your disposal." "A thousand
thanks, madam. Mine is at yours, and though useless, know me for your
servant, and command me in everything that you may desire." "Adieu, I hope
you may pass a good night," etc., etc., etc. At the bottom of the first
landing-place the visitors again turn round to catch the eye of the lady of
the house, and the adieus are repeated. All this, which struck me at first,
already appears quite natural, and would scarce be worth mentioning, but as
affording a contrast to our slight and indifferent manner of receiving and
taking leave of our guests. All the ladies address each other, and are
addressed by gentlemen, by their Christian names, and those who have paid
me more than one or two visits, use the same familiar mode of address to
me. Amongst women I rather like this, but it somewhat startles my ideas of
the fitness of things to hear a young man address a married woman as Maria,
Antonia, Anita, etc. However, things must be taken as they are meant, and
as no familiarity is intended, none should be supposed....

But these visitors are gone, and into the open court the consolatory moon
is shining. All clouds have passed away, and the blue sky is so blue, as to
dazzle the eyes even in the moonlight. Each star shines out bright, golden,
and distinct, and it seems a sin to sleep and to lose so lovely a night....
But for a true night view, mount upon the Azotea, and see all Mexico
sleeping at your feet; the whole valley and the city itself floating in
moonlight; the blue vault above gemmed with stars, and the mountains all
bathed in silver, the white volcanoes seeming to join earth and sky. Here
even Salvator's genius would fail. We must evoke the ghost of Byron. The
pencil can do nothing. Poetry alone might give a faint idea of a scene so
wondrously beautiful.

26th.--We went yesterday with Mr. M----, his wife and daughter and a padre
to visit the archbishop's palace at Tacubaya, a pretty village about four
miles from Mexico, and a favourite ride of ours in the morning. The country
round Mexico, if not always beautiful, has the merit of being original, and
on the road to Tacubaya, which goes by Chapultepec, you pass large tracts
of country, almost entirely uncultivated, though so near the city, or
covered by the mighty maguey plant, the American agave, which will flourish
on the most arid soil, and, like a fountain in a desert place, furnishes
the poorest Indian with the beverage most grateful to his palate. It seems
to be to them what the reindeer is to the Esquimaux, fitted by nature to
supply all his wants. The maguey and its produce, _pulque_, were known to
the Indians in the most ancient times, and the primitive Aztecs may have
become as intoxicated on their favourite _octli_, as they called it, as the
modern Mexicans do on their beloved pulque.

It is not often that we see the superb flower with its colossal stem, for
the plant that is in blossom is a useless beauty. The moment the
experienced Indian becomes aware that his maguey is about to flower, he
cuts out the heart, covers it over with the side leaves of the plant, and
all the juice which should have gone to the great stem of the flower, runs
into the empty basin thus formed, into which the Indian, thrice a day, and
during several months in succession, inserts his _acojote_ or gourd, a kind
of siphon, and applying his mouth to the other end, draws off the liquor by
suction; a curious-looking process. First it is called honey-water, and is
sweet and scentless; but easily ferments when transferred to the skins or
earthen vases where it is kept. To assist in its fermentation, however, a
little old pulque, _Madre pulque_, as it is called, which has fermented for
many days, is added to it, and in twenty-four hours after it leaves the
plant, you may imbibe it in all its perfection. It is said to be the most
wholesome drink in the world, and remarkably agreeable when one has
overcome the first shock occasioned by its rancid odour. At all events, the
maguey is a source of unfailing profit, the consumption of pulque being
enormous, so that many of the richest families in the capital owe their
fortune entirely to the produce of their magueys. When the owners do not
make the pulque themselves, they frequently sell their plants to the
Indians; and a maguey, which costs a real when first planted, will, when
ready to be cut, sell for twelve or eighteen dollars; a tolerable profit,
considering that it grows in almost any soil, requires little manure, and,
unlike the vine, no very special or periodical care. They are planted in
rows like hedges, and though the individual plant is handsome, the general
effect is monotonous. Of the fibres is made an excellent strong thread
called _pita_, of which pita they make a strong brownish paper, and might
make cloth if they pleased.

There is, however, little improvement made by the Mexicans upon the
ingenuity of their Indian ancestors, in respect to the maguey. Upon paper
made of its fibres, the ancient Mexicans painted their hieroglyphical
figures. The strong and pointed thorns which terminate the gigantic leaves,
they used as nails and pins; and amongst the abuses, not the uses of these,
the ancient sanguinary priests were in the habit of piercing their breasts
and tearing their arms with them, in acts of expiation. Besides, there is a
very strong brandy distilled from pulque, which has the advantage of
producing intoxication in an infinitely shorter period.

Together with the maguey, grows another immense production of nature, the
_organos_, which resembles the barrels or pipes of an organ, and being
covered with prickles, the plants growing close together, and about six
feet high, makes the strongest natural fence imaginable, besides being
covered with beautiful flowers. There is also another species of cactus,
the nopal, which bears the tuna, a most refreshing fruit, but not ripe at
this season. The plant looks like a series of flat green pin-cushions
fastened together, and stuck full of diminutive needles.

But though the environs of Mexico are flat, though there are few trees,
little cultivation, and uninhabited haciendas, and ruined churches in all
directions, still, with its beautiful climate and ever-smiling sky, the
profusion of roses and sweet-peas in the deserted gardens, the occasional
clumps of fine trees, particularly the graceful Arbold de Peru (shinum
molle, the Peruvian pepper-tree), its bending branches loaded with bunches
of coral-coloured berries, the old orchards with their blossoming
fruit-trees, the conviction that everything necessary for the use of man
can be produced with scarcely any labour, all contributes to render the
landscape one which it is impossible to pass through with indifference.

A magnificent ash-tree (the Mexican _fresno_), the pride of Tacubaya; which
throws out its luxuriant branches, covering a large space of ground, was
pointed out to us as having a tradition attached to it. It had nearly
withered away, when the Ylustrisimo Senor Fonti, the last of the Spanish
archbishops, gave it his solemn benediction, and prayed that its vigour
might be restored. Heaven heard his prayer; new buds instantly shot forth,
and the tree has since continued to thrive luxuriantly.

Tacubaya is a scattered village, containing some pretty country-houses, and
some old gardens with stone fountains. The word country-house must not,
however, be understood in the English acceptation of the word. The house,
which is in fact merely used as an occasional retreat during the summer
months, is generally a large empty building, with innumerable lofty rooms,
communicating with each other, and containing the scantiest possible supply
of furniture. One room will have in it a deal table and a few chairs; you
will then pass through five or six quite empty; then you will arrive at two
or three, with green painted bedsteads and a bench; the walls bare, or
ornamented with a few old pictures of Saints and Virgins, and bare floors
ornamented with nothing. To this add a kitchen and outhouses, a garden
running to waste and overrunning with flowers, with stiff stone walks and a
fountain in the middle, an orchard and an olive-ground; such are most of
the haciendas that I have yet seen. That of the Countess C---a, which seems
to be the handsomest in Tacubaya, is remarkable for commanding from its
windows one of the most beautiful views imaginable of Mexico, the volcanoes
and Chapultepec. From her azotea there is also a splendid view of the whole
valley; and as her garden is in good order, that she has an excellent
billiard-table, a piano, but above all, a most agreeable society in her own
family, and that her house is the very centre of hospitality, one may
certainly spend many pleasant hours there, without regretting the absence
of the luxurious furniture, which, in Mexico, seems entirely confined to
the town houses. The countess herself assured us that she had twice
completely furnished the house, but as, in two revolutions, everything was
thrown out of the windows and destroyed, she was resolved in future to
confine herself to _le stricte necessaire._ We went to see a house and
garden which has fallen, in chance succession, to a poor woman, who, not
being able to occupy her unexpected inheritance, is desirous of selling it.
The garden and grounds are a deserted wilderness of sweets. We were joined
by several monks from a neighbouring convent, and with them went to visit
the archbishop's palace. _Chemin faisant_, the padre informed us that he
was formerly a merchant, a married man, and a friend of Yturbide's. He
failed, his wife died, his friend was shot, and he joined a small community
of priests who lived retired in the convent of La Profesa, which, with its
church is one of the richest in Mexico.

The Arzobispado is a large, handsome, but deserted building, commanding the
same fine view as from the house of the countess, and with a garden and
fine olive-ground, of which the trees were brought from Europe. The garden
was filled with large double pink roses, and bunches of the
mille-fleur-rose, which are disposed in arches, a favourite custom here,
also with a profusion of sweet-peas and jessamine, and a few orange-trees.
The gardener gave us some beautiful bouquets, and we lingered here till
sunset, admiring the view. There is no point from which Mexico is seen to
such advantage. It is even a finer prospect than that from Chapultepec,
since it embraces the castle itself, one of the most striking features in
the landscape. But just as the sun sunk behind the mountains, a sudden
change took place in the weather. The wind rose, great masses of dark
clouds came driving over the sky, and the rain fell in torrents, forcing us
to make a hasty retreat to our carriages, and having omitted to take any
precautions, and this road not being particularly safe at night, we were
probably indebted for our safe return more to "good luck than good
guidance;" or, perhaps, we owed it in part to the _padre_, for the robbers
are shy at attacking either soldiers or priests, the first from fear, and
the second from awe.

Talking of robbers and robberies, rather a fertile theme of conversation,
Senor ----- told me the other day that, in the time of a former president,
it came to pass, that a certain gentleman went to take his leave at the
palace, previous to setting off for Vera Cruz. He was received by the
president, who was alone with his aide-de-camp, General -----, and
mentioned to him in confidence that he was about to take a considerable
sum of money with him, but that it was so well concealed in the lining of a
trunk, which he described, that even if attacked by robbers, it was
impossible they should discover it, and that therefore he did not think it
necessary to take an escort with him. The next day this confidential
gentleman left Mexico, in the diligence. Not far from the gates the coach
was attacked, and, strange to say, the robbers singled out the very trunk
which contained the money, opened it, ripped up the lining, and having
possessed themselves of the sum therein concealed, peaceably departed. It
was a singular coincidence that the captain of the robbers, though somewhat
disguised, bore a striking general resemblance to the president's aide-de-
camp! These coincidences will happen....

My chief occupation, lately, has consisted in returning visits; and it is
certain that, according to our views of the case, there is too wide a
distinction between the full-dress style of toilet adopted by the ladies
when they pay visits, and the undress in which they receive their visitors
at home. To this there are some, nay, many exceptions, but _en masse_ this
is the case....

On first arriving from the United States, where an ugly woman is a phoenix,
one cannot fail to be struck at the first glance with the general absence
of beauty in Mexico. It is only by degrees that handsome faces begin to
dawn upon us; but, however, it must be remarked that beauty without colour
is apt to be less striking and to make less impression on us at first. The
brilliant complexion and fine figure of an Englishwoman strike every one.
The beauty of expression and finely-chiselled features of a Spaniard steal
upon us like a soft moonlight, while a Frenchwoman, however plain, has so
graceful a manner of saying agreeable things, so charming a tournure, such
a piquant way of managing her eyes, and even her mouth, that we think her a
beauty after half an hour's acquaintance, and even lose our admiration for
the quiet and high-bred, but less graceful _Anglaise_. The beauty of the
women here consist in superb black eyes, very fine dark hair, a beautiful
arm and hand, and small, well-made feet. The defects are, that they are
frequently too short and too fat, that their teeth are often bad, and their
complexion not the clear olive of the Spaniards, nor the glowing brown of
the Italians, but a bilious-looking yellow. Their notion of inserting the
foot into a shoe half an inch shorter, ruins the foot, and destroys their
grace in walking, and, consequently, in every movement. This fashion is,
fortunately, beginning to fall into disuse.... It is therefore evident that
when a Mexicana is endowed with white teeth and a fine complexion, when she
has not grown too fat, and when she does not torture her small foot to make
it smaller, she must be extremely handsome.... The general carelessness of
their dress in the morning is, however, another great drawback to beauty. A
woman without stays, with uncombed hair and _reboso_, had need to be very
lovely, if she retain any attraction at all. This indolence, indeed, is
going out of fashion, especially among the younger part of the community,
owing, perhaps, to their more frequent intercourse with foreigners, though
it will probably be long before the morning at home is not considered a
privileged time and place for dishabille. Notwithstanding, I have made many
visits where I have found the whole family in a perfect state of order and
neatness, but I have observed that there the fathers, and what is more
important, the mothers, had travelled in Europe, and established a new
order of things on their return.

Upon the whole, the handsomest women here are not Mexicans, that is, not
born in the capital, but in the provinces. From Puebla, and Jalapa and Vera
Cruz, we see many distinguished by their brilliant complexions and fine
teeth, and who are taller and more graceful than those born in the city of
Mexico; precisely as in Spain, where the handsomest women in Madrid are
said to be those born out of it.

The common Indians, whom we see every day bringing in their fruit and
vegetables to market, are, generally speaking, very plain, with an humble,
mild expression of countenance, very gentle, and wonderfully polite in
their manners to each other; but occasionally, in the lower classes, one
sees a face and form so beautiful, that we might suppose such another was
the Indian who enchanted Cortes; with eyes and hair of extraordinary
beauty, a complexion dark but glowing, with the Indian beauty of teeth like
the driven snow, together with small feet and beautifully-shaped hands and
arms, however imbrowned by sun and toil. In these cases it is more than
probable that, however Indian in her appearance, there must have been some
intermarriages in former days between her progenitors and the descendants
of the conquerors. We also occasionally observe very handsome
_Rancheritas_, wives or daughters of the farmers, riding in front of their
farm-servants on the same horse, with the white teeth and fine figures
which are preserved by the constant exercise that country women must
perforce take, whatever be their natural indolence, while the early fading
of beauty in the higher classes, the decay of teeth, and the
over-corpulency so common amongst them, are no doubt the natural
consequences of want of exercise and of injudicious food. There is no
country in the world where so much animal food is consumed, and there is no
country in the world where so little is required. The consumers are not the
Indians, who cannot afford it, but the better classes, who generally eat
meat three times a day. This, with the quantities of chile and sweetmeats,
in a climate which every one complains of as being irritating and
inflammatory, probably produces those nervous complaints which are here so
general, and for which constant hot baths are the universal and agreeable

In point of amiability and warmth of manner, I have met with no women who
can possibly compete with those in Mexico, and it appears to me that women
of all other countries will appear cold and stiff by comparison. To
strangers this is an unfailing charm, and it is to be hoped that whatever
advantages they may derive from their intercourse with foreigners, they may
never lose this graceful cordiality, which forms so agreeable a contrast
with English and American frigidity.

C---n received an invitation some time ago to attend the _honras_ of the
daughter of the Marquis of S---a; that is, the celebration of mass for the
repose of her soul. M---- was observing to-day, that if this Catholic
doctrine be firmly believed, and that the prayers of the Church are indeed
availing to shorten the sufferings of those who have gone before us; to
relieve those whom we love from thousands of years of torture, it is
astonishing how the rich do not become poor, and the poor beggars, in
furtherance of this object; and that if the idea be purely human, it showed
a wonderful knowledge of human nature, on the part of the inventor, as what
source of profit could be more sure?....

Certainly no expense was spared on this occasion. San Augustin, in itself a
beautiful church, was fitted up with extraordinary splendour. The walls and
pillars were covered with draperies of rich crimson velvet. Innumerable wax
candles were lighted, and an invisible band of music played during the
intervals of the deep-rolling organ. All the monks of San Augustin, with
their white hoods and sandalled feet, and carrying lighted tapers, were
ranged near the altar. All the male relatives of the family, dressed in
deep mourning, occupied the high-backed chairs placed along one side of the
church, the floor of which was covered with a carpet, on which various
veiled and mourning figures were kneeling, whom I joined. The whole
service, the chanting, the solemn music, and the prayers, were very
impressive, yet more joyous than sad, perhaps from the pervading feeling
that each note, as it rose to heaven, carried some alleviation to the
spirit of the young and beloved one for whose repose they played, and
brought her nearer to the gates of the Holy City.

She was but twenty when she died; and our first house is close to that of
the Marquis de S---a, her father, so that we were shocked to learn that she
had expired on the night of our great serenade (we, of course, not aware of
her illness), actually to the sound of that gay music, and amidst the
shouting and clapping of hands of the multitude. When the service was over
the procession passed out, every one kissing the hand of the bishop as he
went along, and we found some difficulty in making our way through the
crowds of _leperos_, who, though not allowed to enter the church on this
occasion, were swarming at the gates. Our carriage, as we returned home,
formed one of a file of at least one hundred.

We found on our table another invitation to a very splendid mass, which is
to be performed in San Francisco, on account of the death of a friend of
ours, a senator of a distinguished family. The style of these invitations
is as follows:--A device is engraved on the paper, such as a tomb and
cypress, and below is printed,

"Josd Maria A----, Jose G---- de la C---a, and Basilio G----, brothers and
uncle of the Senator Don Augustin T----, who died on the twenty-eighth of
last month, request you to assist at the suffrage of the funeral honours,
which, by the desire of his wife, Dona J---- A----, will be celebrated in
the church of San Francisco on the morning of the eighth of this month of
February, 1840, at nine o'clock."

Beside this invitation, was a piece of information of a different

"General A---- and Anna R---- beg to inform you that they have contracted
matrimony, and have the honour of offering themselves to your disposal.

"M---- Street, No. 24. Mexico, 1840." Here, as in Spain, a lady, after her
marriage, retains[1] her maiden name; and though she adds to it that of her
husband, she is more commonly known by her own.

[Footnote 1: 664]

From ignorance of another Mexican custom, I made rather an awkward blunder
the other day; though I must observe, in my justification, that I had
lately been in the agonies of searching for servants, and had just filled
all the necessary departments pretty much to my satisfaction. Therefore,
when the porter of the Senora de ----- brought me the compliments of his
mistress, and that she begged to inform me that she had another servant at
my disposal (_otra criada a mi disposicion_), I returned for answer, that I
was greatly obliged, but had just hired a _recamerera_ (chambermaid). At
this the man, stupid as he was, opened his great eyes with a slight
expression of wonder. Fortunately, as he was turning away, I bethought me
of inquiring of the Senora's health, and his reply, that "she and the baby
were coming on very well," brought the truth suddenly before me, that the
message was merely the etiquette used on informing the friends of the
family of the birth of a child--a conviction which induced me slightly to
alter the style of my answer. _Experientia docet!_


Calle de Tacuba--The Leap of Alvarado--The "Noche Triste"--Sale of a
Curate's Goods--Padre Leon--Leprosy--Pictures--The Annunciation--The
Alameda--Paseo de Bucarelli--The Viga--Indians in Canoes--A Murder--A
Country Fete--Visit to the Colegio Vizcaino--The Jota Arragonesa--Old

The street in which we live forms part of the Calle de Tacuba, the ancient
Tlacopan, one of the great causeways by which ancient Mexico communicated
with the continent. The other two were Tepeyayac (now Guadalupe) and
Iztapalapan, by which last the Mexican emperor and his nobles went out to
receive Cortes on his entrance to Tenochtitlan. The ancient city was
divided into four districts, and this division is still preserved, with a
change from the Indian names to those of San Pablo, San Sebastian, San
Juan, and Santa Maria. The streets run in the same direction as they did in
former times. The same street frequently changes its name in each division,
and this part of the Calle de Tacuba is occasionally called the "Plazuela
del Sopilote," "San Fernando," and the "Puente de Alvarado," which is the
more classic of the three, as celebrating the valour of a hero; while a
ditch, crossed by a small bridge near this, still retains the name of "el
Salto de Alvarado," in memory of the famous leap given by the valiant
Spaniard, Pedro de Alvarado, on the memorable night called the "_noche
triste_," of the 1st of July, 1520, when the Spaniards were forced to
retreat from Mexico to the mountains of Tepeyayac.

On that "sad night," the rain falling in torrents, the moon and the stars
refusing their light, the sky covered with thick clouds, Cortes commanded
the silent march of his troops. Sandoval, the unconquerable captain, led
his vanguard; and the stern hero, Pedro de Alvarado, brought up the rear. A
bridge of wood was carried by forty soldiers, to enable the troops to pass
the ditches or canals, which must otherwise have impeded their retreat. It
is said that in choosing the night for this march Cortes was guided by the
counsels of an astrologer.

Be that as it may, the first canal was happily passed by means of the
portable bridge. The sentinels who guarded that point were overcome; but
the noise of the struggle attracted the attention of the vigilant priests,
who in the silence of the night were keeping watch in the temple. They blew
the holy trumpets, cried to arms, and awakened the startled inhabitants
from their slumbers.

In a moment the Spaniards were surrounded by water and by land. At the
second canal, which they had already reached, the combat was terrible. All
was confusion, wounds, groans, and death; and the canal became so choked
with dead bodies, that the rear-guard passed over them as over a bridge. We
are told that Cortes himself swam more than once over the canal, regardless
of danger, cheering on his men, giving out his orders, every blow aimed in
the direction of his voice, yet cool and intrepid as ever, in the midst of
all the clamour and confusion and darkness. But arrived at the third canal,
Alvarado finding himself alone, and surrounded by furious enemies, against
whom it was in vain for his single arm to contend, fixed his lance in the
bottom of the canal, and leaning against it, gave one spring to the
opposite shore.

An Aztec author, and contemporary of Cortes, says that when the Indians
beheld this marvellous leap, and that their enemy was safe, they bit the
dust (_comieron tierra_); and that the children of Alvarado, who was ever
after known as "Alvarado of the leap," proved in the course of a lawsuit
before the judges of Tezcuco, by competent witnesses, the truth of this
prowess of their father.

In a hitherto unpublished manuscript which has come to light this year, in
an annual called the "Mosaico Mexicano," there are some curious particulars
concerning the "_noche triste_." It is said that the alarm was given by an
old woman who kept a stall; and mention is made of the extraordinary valour
of a lady called Maria de Estrada, who performed marvellous deeds with her
sword, and who was afterwards married to Don Pedro Sanchez Farfan. It is
also said that when the Indians beheld the leap they called out, "Truly
this man is the offspring of the sun;" and that this manner of tearing up
the ground, and eating earth by handfuls, was a common Indian mode of
expressing admiration. However, Mexico is so rich in traditions, that when
I particularize this one it is only because we live on the site where the
event took place....

We went a few days ago to see some effects which are for sale, belonging to
a _cura_ who died lately, having heard that he has left some good paintings
amongst them. We went in the evening, and found no one but the agent (an
individual in the Daniel Lambert style), an old woman or two, and the Padre
Leon, a Jesuit, _capellan_ of the Capuchin nuns, and whose face, besides
being handsome, looks the very personification of all that is good, and
mild, and holy. What a fine study for a painter his head would be! The old
priest who died, and who had brought over various valuables from Spain, had
a sister who was a leper, and who died in the hospital of San Lazaro. This
dreadful scourge is by no means wholly unknown here; and though it is
ordained that all who are afflicted by it shall be shut up in this
hospital, I have met two persons, and one of these in society, who have the

For this house, which is very large, the executors ask a preposterous rent.
The goods of the defunct, which were for sale, were ranged on long tables
in a very large apartment. There were virgins and saints, surplices,
candlesticks, and snuffer-trays; boxes of all sorts and sizes; an ill-set
parure of emeralds and diamonds; several good paintings, especially one of
the Annunciation. There was the death of San Jose, various saints, etc.,
all religious subjects, as may be supposed. Two C---n bought; one I greatly
coveted. There were also two pieces of embroidered velvet, on which were
the arms of Castile, said to have been hung on a portrait of Queen Cristina
when she entered Madrid. The agent begged C----n to buy them, asking at the
same time an impossible price therefor.

There was moreover a large box full of relics from Jerusalem, which the
padre told me could not be sold, but that I might choose whatever I liked;
so that I returned home with various Agnus Deis, crucifixes, and rosaries.
The next day a messenger from Padre Leon brought me the painting of the
Annunciation, which I had admired so much, and which is a sketch of Bayeu,
a Valencian painter, from his own painting of the Annunciation in the royal
chapel of Aranjuez; also the embroidered velvet, begging my acceptance of
both. We have since wished to show our sense of the padre's politeness, but
he will neither accept presents, nor will he visit any one but such as in
the hour of need require his spiritual services. In the house of sickness
and by the bed of death he is ever to be found, but chiefly if it is also
the abode of poverty. In the house of the rich man he rarely visits, and
then only when his presence has been requested--when he has been called in
to administer spiritual consolation to the sick or the dying. But in the
dwelling of the lowly, in the meanest and most wretched hovels, he has
never to be sought. The guardian and friend of the poor, his charities are
equally extensive and judicious....

Yesterday being a fete-day, the _Paseo_ was very full of carriages, and
consequently more brilliant and amusing than usual. This Paseo is the
Mexican Prado or Hyde Park, while the _Viga_ may be reckoned the Kensington
Gardens of the metropolis, only however as succeeding to the other, for
there is no walking, which in Mexico is considered wholly unfashionable;
and though a few ladies in black gowns and mantillas do occasionally
venture forth on foot very early to shop or to attend mass, the streets are
so ill kept, the pavements so narrow, the crowd so great, and the multitude
of _leperos_ in rags and blankets so annoying, that all these
inconveniences, added to the heat of the sun in the middle of the day, form
a perfect excuse for their non-appearance in the streets of Mexico.

In the Alameda, however, which is so pretty and shady, it is very agreeable
to walk; but though I have gone there frequently in the morning, I have met
but three ladies on foot, and of these two were foreigners. After all,
every one has feet, but ladies alone have carriages, and it may be a
mixture of aristocracy and indolence which prevents the Mexican Donas from
profaning the soles of their feet by a contact with their mother earth.

The Paseo called _de Bucarelli_, after a viceroy of that name, is a long
and broad avenue bounded by the trees which he planted, and where there is
a large stone fountain, whose sparkling waters look cool and pleasant,
ornamented by a gilded statue of Victory. Here, every evening, but more
especially on Sundays and fete-days, which last are nearly innumerable, may
be seen two long rows of carriages filled with ladies, crowds of gentlemen
on horseback riding down the middle between these carriages, soldiers at
intervals attending to the preservation of public order, and multitudes of
common people and _leperos_, mingled with some well-dressed gentlemen on
foot. The carriages are for the most part extremely handsome--European
coaches with fine horses and odd liveries, mingled with carriages made in
the country, some in the old Mexican fashion, heavy and covered with
gilding, or a modern imitation of an English carriage, strong, but somewhat
clumsy and ill-finished. Various hackney-coaches, drawn by mules, are seen
among the finer equipages, some very tolerable, and others of extraordinary
form and dimensions, which bear tokens of having belonged in former days to
some noble Don.

Horses, as being more showy, are more fashionable in these public
promenades than mules; but the latter animal requires less care, and is
capable of undergoing more fatigue than the horse. Most families have both
mules and horses in their stable, and for those who visit much this is
necessary. The carriages, of which the most fashionable seems to be the
_carratela_, open at the sides, with glass windows, are filled with ladies
in full toilet, without mantillas, their heads uncovered, and, generally,
_coiffees_ with flowers or jewels; but the generality being close coaches,
afford but an indistinct view of the inmates, as they pass along saluting
each other with their fingers or fan. The whole scene, on the evening of a
fete, is exceedingly brilliant, but very monotonous. The equestrians, with
their fine horses and handsome Mexican dresses, apparently take no notice
of the ladies as they pass, rarely salute them, and never venture to enter
into conversation with them. But they are well aware to whom each carriage
belongs, and consequently when it behoves them to make their horses curvet,
and otherwise show off their horsemanship to advantage. Black eyes are upon
them, and they know it. When the carriages have made two or three turns,
they draw up at different stations in a semicircle a little off the road,
and there the inmates sit and view the passers by. Occasional streams of
smoke may be seen issuing from the carriages, but chiefly, it must be
confessed, from the most old-fashioned equipages, and from the hackney-
coaches. Smoking amongst ladies in the higher classes is going very much
out of fashion, and is rarely practised openly except by elderly, or at
least by married ladies. In a secondary class, indeed, young and old inhale
the smoke of their cigaritos without hesitation, but when a custom begins
to be considered _vulgar_, it will hardly subsist another generation.
Unfeminine as it is, I do not think it looks ungraceful to see a pretty
woman smoke.

This Paseo commands a fine view of the mountains, but I greatly prefer the
_Viga_, which now begins to be the fashionable promenade. It is bordered by
a canal shaded by trees, which leads to the _Chinampas_, and is constantly
covered with Indians in their canoes bringing in fruit and flowers and
vegetables to the Mexican market. Early in the morning it is a pretty sight
to see them in these canoes gliding along in a perfect bower of green
branches and flowers.

Yesterday, on returning from an evening drive there, having left C---n and
several gentlemen who had dined with us, taking coffee and smoking upon the
balcony, I found that by good fortune I had escaped being witness of a
murder which took place before our door. These gentlemen had observed, for
some time, a group of persons, male and female, of the lower class, talking
and apparently amusing themselves; sometimes laughing, and at other times
disputing and giving each other blows. Suddenly, one of the number, a man,
darted out from amongst the others, and tried to escape by clambering over
the low wall which supports the arches of the aqueduct. Instantly, and
quite coolly, another man followed him, drew his knife, and stabbed him in
the back. The man fell backwards with a groan, upon which a woman of the
party, probably the murderer's wife, drew out her knife, and stabbed the
man several times to the heart, the others, meanwhile, neither speaking nor
interfering, but looking on with folded arms, and their usual placid smile
of indifference.

At the same time, some soldiers appeared in the distance, riding down the
street; seeing which, the man and woman who had committed the murder,
endeavoured to take shelter in our house. The porter had, fortunately,
barred the doors, and the soldiers riding up, took them both into custody.
No sensation was excited by this, which is an everyday occurrence.
Yesterday I saw a dead man lying near the _Longa_ (the Exchange) and nobody
took any notice of him. "You have been engaged in a disagreeable business,"
said I to Colonel -----, who had come to pay us a visit, and was still _en
grande tenue_, having just returned from the execution of one of his own
soldiers, who had stabbed a comrade. "Yes," said he, with an air of
peculiar gaiety; "we have just been shooting a little _tambour_."... We
were invited, lately, to a "dia de campo" (a day in the country), a very
common amusement here, in which, without any peculiar arrangement or
etiquette, a number of people go out to some country place in the environs,
and spend the day in dancing, breakfasting, walking about, etc. This was
given at Tacubaya by Don B---o G---a, a senator, and was amusing enough.
The music consisted of a band of guitars, from which the performers, common
men, and probably self-taught, contrived to draw wonderfully good music,
and, in the intervals of dancing, played airs from the Straniera and
Puritani. The taste for music is certainly universal, the facilities
wonderful, the science nearly at zero.

The ladies in general wore neither diamonds nor pearls, but a sort of demi-
toilet, which would have been pretty if their dresses had been longer and
their shoes not so tight. Some wore bonnets, which are considered full
dress. The E---- family, and the young Senora de C----, were beautifully
dressed. Mexican women, when they sit, have an air of great dignity, and
the most perfect repose of feature. They are always to be seen to most
advantage on their sofas, in their carriages, or in their boxes at the

There were immensely long tables, covered with Mexican cookery, which I
begin to get accustomed to; and a great many toasts were given and a great
quantity of champagne drank. We danced a great deal, quadrilles, waltzes
and Spanish country-dances, walked about in the garden and orchard in the
evening, and returned to dance again to the music of the indefatigable
guitars, so that it was dusk when all the carriages set off, much about the
same time, to bear each other company....

The following day, the Countess C---a having been kind enough to procure an
order for permission to visit the _Colegio Vizcaino_, which I was anxious
to see, we went there with a large party. This college, founded by the
gratuitous charities of Spaniards, chiefly from the province of Biscay, is
a truly splendid institution. It is an immense building of stone, in the
form of a square, on the model, they say, of the palace of Madrid, and
possesses in the highest degree that air of solidity and magnificence which
distinguishes the Mexican edifices, and which, together with the width and
regularity of the streets, the vastness of the public squares, the total
absence of all paltry ornament, the balconies with their balustrades and
window-gratings of solid iron and bronze, render Mexico, in spite of its
insufficient police, one of the noblest-looking cities in the world. The
object of this college is to provide for the education of the children of
Spaniards, especially for the descendants of Biscayans, in Mexico; a
certain number being admitted upon application to the directors. There are
female teachers in all the necessary branches, such as reading writing,
sewing, arithmetic, etc.; but besides this, there is a part of the building
with a separate entrance, where the children of the poor, of whatever
country, are educated gratis. These spend the day there, and go home in the
evening. The others are kept upon the plan of a convent, and never leave
the institution while they belong to it; but the building is so spacious
and airy, with its great galleries, and vast court and fine fountains,
garden and spacious azotea, that the children are perfectly well off. There
are _portieres_ and sisters, pretty much as in a convent; together with an
old respectable _Rectora_; and the most perfect order and cleanliness
prevails through the whole establishment.

We first visited the poor scholars, passing through the large halls where
they sat with their teachers, divided into classes, sewing, writing,
reading, embroidering, or casting up accounts, which last accomplishment
must, I think, be sorely against the Mexican genius. One of the teachers
made a little girl present me with a hair chain which she had just
completed. Great order and decorum prevailed. Amongst the permanent
scholars in the upper part of the institution, there are some who embroider
astonishingly well--surplices, altar-hangings, in short, all the church
vestments in gold or silk. In the room where these are kept are the
confessionals for the pupils. The priests are in a separate room, and the
penitents kneel before the grating which separates the two apartments. All
the sleeping-rooms are scrupulously neat and clean, with two green painted
beds in each, and a small parlour off it, and frequently ornamented with
flowers and birds. The girls are taught to cook and iron, and make
themselves generally useful, thus being fitted to become excellent wives to
respectable men in their own rank of life.

We visited the chapel, which is extremely rich and handsome, incrusted with
gilding, and very large. The pupils and their teachers attend mass in the
gallery above, which looks down upon the chapel and has a grating before
it. Here they have the organ, and various shrines, saints, _nacimientos_,
etc. We were afterwards shown into a great hall devoted to a different
purpose, containing at one end a small theatre for the pupils to act plays
in. All the walls of the long galleries are covered with old paintings on
holy subjects, but many of them falling to pieces from damp or want of
care. The building seems interminable, and after wandering all through it
for several hours, and visiting everything--from the garden below where
they gave me a large bunch of roses and carnations, to the azotea above,
which looks down upon every street and church and convent in Mexico--we
were not sorry to rest on the antique, high-backed chairs of a handsome
apartment, of which the walls were hung with the portraits of the different
Spanish directors of the college in an ancient court costume. Here we found
that the directors had prepared a beautiful collation for us--fruit, ices,
cakes, custards, jellies, wines, etc., in great profusion.

Rested and refreshed, we proceeded to visit the pupils at their different
classes. At the writing-class various specimens of that polite art were
presented to us. That of the elder girls was generally bad, probably from
their having entered the college late in life. That of the younger ones was
much more tolerable. We saw some really beautiful specimens of embroidery.
Having returned to the hall where there was a piano, some of our party
began to sing and play. The Senora G---o sang an Italian air beautifully.
She is evidently a scientific musician. The Senorita H---s played one of
Herz's most difficult _combinations_ with great execution, and a pretty
girl, who is living in a convent, having been placed there by her _novio,_
to keep her out of harm's way till he is prepared to give her his hand,
sang a duet with another young lady, which I accompanied. Both had fine
voices, but no notion of what they were singing. My friend the Senora
C---- delighted us with some of the innumerable and amusing verses of the
_Jota Arragonesa,_ which seem to have neither end nor beginning, all gay
and all untranslatable, or at least losing their point and wit when put
into an English dress. Such as

A poor man met with a sixpence,
And for joy he gave up the ghost.
And in the troubles of death,
Even his sixpence was lost.


The woman who loves two at once,
Knows what is discreet and right
Since if one of her candles goes out,
Still the other remains alight, etc....

It is impossible to see any building of this size kept more perfectly clean
and neat; generally the case here in all establishments which are under
petticoat government. These old Spanish institutions are certainly on a
magnificent scale, though now for the most part neglected and falling to
ruin; nor has any work of great consequence been attempted since the

After various alarms and rumours in our house concerning robbers, some
true, some exaggerated, and some wholly false, we have at length procured
two old Spanish soldiers of the _Invalidos,_ who have taken up their
quarters downstairs, and spend their time in cleaning their guns, making
shoes, eating and sleeping, but as yet have had no occasion to prove their
valour. Perhaps the fact of there being soldiers in the house will be
sufficient to keep off the more ordinary robbers.


The Viga during the Carnival--Variety of Equipages--The Millionaires--The
Monks--Masked Ball--An Alarming Sight--Medical Students--Dinner at the
Prussian Minister's--Rides on Horseback--Indian Love of Flowers--Santa
Anita--The Chinampas--Their Origin--Indians in Canoes--Song of "El Palomo"
--Fighting--The Great Lakes--The Drain of Huehuetoca--The great Market of

16th March.

We are now in Lent in the midst of prayer, church-going, and fasting. The
carnival was not very gay, with the exception of a few public masked balls
and very brilliant _paseos_. The Viga is one of the most beautiful
promenades imaginable, though it might easily be rendered still more so;
but even as it is, with its fine shady trees and canal, along which the
lazy canoes are constantly gliding, it would be difficult, on a fine
evening, just before sunset, especially on the evening of a fete-day, to
find anywhere a prettier or more characteristic scene. Which rank of
society shows the most taste in their mode of enjoyment, must be left to
the scientific to determine; the Indians, with their flower-garlands and
guitars, lying in their canoes, and dancing and singing after their own
fashion as they glide along the water, inhaling the balmy breezes; or the
ladies, who shut up in their close carriages, promenade along in full dress
and silence for a given space of time, acknowledging by a gentle movement
of their fan, the salutations of their fair friends from the recesses of
their coaches, and seeming to dread lest the air of heaven should visit
them too roughly; though the soft breeze, laden with balm, steals over the
sleepy water, and the last rays of the sun are gilding the branches of the
trees with a broken and flickering light....

Then at certain intervals of time each carriage slowly draws up beside its
neighbour (as in the other paseo); the elegant _carratela_ beside the
plebeian hackney-coach; the splendid equipage of the millionaire beside the
lumbering and antique vehicle whose fashion hath now departed. There sit
the inmates in silence, as if the business of life were over, and it was
now their part to watch the busy world from the loopholes of their retreat,
and see it rolling along whilst they take their rest. The gentlemen also
draw up their prancing steeds, though not within hail of the carriages, but
they in the fresh air and under the green trees have as much advantage over
the Senoras as the wandering friar has over the cloistered nun.

Yet enter the Viga about five o'clock, when freshly watered, and the
soldiers have taken their stand to prevent disturbance, and two long lines
of carriages are to be seen going and returning as far as the eye can
reach, and hundreds of gay plebeians are assembled on the sidewalks with
flowers and fruit and _dulces_ for sale, and innumerable equestrians in
picturesque dresses, and with spirited horses, fill up the interval between
the carriages, and the canoes are covering the canal, the Indians singing
and dancing lazily as the boats steal along, and the whole under a blue and
cloudless sky, and in that pure clear atmosphere: and could you only shut
your eyes to the one disagreeable feature in the picture, the number of
leperos busy in the exercise of their vocation, you would believe that
Mexico must be the most flourishing, most enjoyable, and most peaceful
place in the world, and moreover the wealthiest; not a republic, certainly,
for there is no well-dressed _people_; hardly a connecting link between the
blankets and the satins, the poppies and the diamonds. As for the
carriages, many would not disgrace Hyde Park, though there are some that
would send a shiver all along Bond-street; but the very contrast is
amusing, and upon the whole, both as to horses and equipages, there is much
more to admire than to criticise....

There, for example, is the handsome carriage of the rich -----, who has one
of the finest houses in Mexico; his wife wears a velvet turban twisted with
large pearls, and has at this moment a cigar in her mouth. She is not
pretty, but her jewels are superb. How he made his fortune, partly by
gambling, and partly by even less honourable means, let some abler
chronicler relate. Or look at this elegant _carratela_, with its glass
sides all open, giving to view a constellation of fair ones, and drawn by
handsome gray _frisones_. These ladies are remarkable as having a more
European air than most others, brighter colours, longer and simpler
dresses, and Paris bonnets. Perhaps they have been in Europe. It is
remarkable that the horses of the gentlemen all appear peculiarly
unmanageable every time they pass this carriage. Another handsome, plain
carriage, containing the family of one of the Ministers; mother and
daughters all beautiful, with Spanish eyes and dark glowing complexions,
followed close by a hackney-coach containing women with rebosos, and little
children, with their faces and fingers all bedaubed with candy.... Some of
the coachmen and footmen wear Mexican dresses, and others have liveries....
But here come three carriages _en suite_, all with the same crimson and
gold livery, all luxurious, and all drawn by handsome white horses. It is
the President? Certainly not; it is too ostentatious. Even royalty goes in
simpler guise, when it condescends to mingle in the amusements of its
subjects. In the first carriage appear the great man himself and his
consort, rather withdrawing from the plebeian gaze. There is here much
crimson and gold, much glass and well-stuffed cushions, much comfort and
magnificence combined. Two handsome northern steeds, white and prancing,
draw this commodious equipage. The next is a splendid coach containing the
children and servants, while in the third, equally magnificent, are the
babies and nurses. By the side of the first carriage rides an elderly
gentleman, who, were his seat firmer, might be mistaken for a _picador_. He
wears a rich Mexican dress, all covered with gold embroidery; his hat with
gold rolls is stuck jauntily on one side, contrasting oddly enough with his
uneasy expression of countenance, probably caused by the inward trepidation
of which he cannot wholly repress the outward sign while managing his high-
bred steed, and with his feet pressing his silver stirrups, cautiously
touching him with a whip which has a large diamond in the handle.

But the chief wonder of his equipment, and that which has procured him such
a retinue of little ragged and shouting boys, is his saddle. This
extraordinary piece of furniture, which cost the owner five thousand
dollars, is entirely covered with velvet, richly embossed in massive gold;
he sometimes appears with another, inlaid with pure silver.

His whole appearance is the most singular imaginable, and the perturbation
of spirit in which he must return when it begins to grow dusk, and he
reflects at once upon his own value, and his countrymen's taste for
appropriation, must balance the enjoyment which his vanity receives from
the admiration of the little boys in the Paseo.

Just as these millionaires pass by, an old hackney-coach in their wake,
attracts our attention, exactly the sort of quaint old vehicle in which it
sometimes pleases Lady Morgan to introduce her heroines. In it are six
figures, closely masked, their faces covered with shawls. After many
conjectures, it is impossible to guess whether they are men or women. It
_was_ impossible, but as the carriages return, the wind suddenly blows
aside the shawls of two of the party, and discloses the gowns and hoods of
the--friars! _O tempora! O Mores!_

There were three masked balls at the theatre, of which we only attended
one. We went about ten o'clock to a box on the pit tier, and although a
_pronunciamento_ (a fashionable term here for a revolution) was
prognosticated, we found everything very quiet and orderly, and the ball
very gay and crowded. As we came in, and were giving our tickets, a number
of masks came springing by, shrieking out our names in their unearthly
voices. Captain G----, brother of Lord -----, came to our box; also a scion
of _La jeune France_, M. de C----, who condescendingly kept his hat on
during the whole evening. In a box directly above us were the French
legation who arrived lately. Amongst the women, the dresses were for the
most part dominoes, adopted for greater concealment, as it was not
considered very creditable to be there.

There were also several in men's attire, chiefly French modistes, generally
a most disreputable set here, and numerous men dressed as women. There were
masked Poblanas without stockings, and with very short petticoats; knights
in armour; innumerable dresses probably borrowed from the theatre, and even
more than the usual proportion of odd figures. The music was very good, and
the dancers waltzed and _galloped_, and flew round the room like furies.
There was at least no want of animation. Hundreds of masks spoke to us, but
I discovered no one. One in a domino was particularly anxious to direct my
attention to the Poblana dress, and asked me if it would have done for me
to attend a fancy ball in such a costume. Very angry at his absurdity, I
began to explain how I should have dressed, when I recollected the folly of
explaining anything to a creature whom I did not know. C---n stepped out of
the box, to walk amongst the crowd, at which various masks showed great
signs of joy, surrounding and shaking hands with him. The boxes were filled
with ladies, and the scene was very amusing. Senor M----, whose box we
occupied, ordered in cakes and wine, and about one o'clock we left the
ball-room and returned home, one of our soldiers acting as lackey....

I paid a visit the other day, which merits to be recorded. It was to the
rich Senora -----, whose first visit I had not yet returned. She was at
home, and I was shown into a very large drawing-room, where, to my
surprise, I found the lamps, mirrors, etc., covered with black crape, as in
cases of mourning here. I concluded that some one of the family was dead,
and that I had made a very ill-timed first visit. However I sat down, when
my eyes were instantly attracted by _something awful_, placed directly in
front of the sofa where I sat. There were six chairs ranged together, and
on these lay stretched out a figure, apparently a dead body, about six feet
long, enveloped in black cloth, the feet alone visible, from their pushing
up the cloth. Oh, horror! Here I sat, my eyes fixed upon this mysterious
apparition, and lost in conjecture as to whose body it might be. The master
of the house? He was very tall, and being in bad health might have died
suddenly. My being received, argued nothing against this, since the first
nine days after a death, the house is invariably crowded with friends and
acquaintances, and the widow, or orphan, or childless mother must receive
the condolences of all and sundry, in the midst of her first bitter sorrow.
There seems to be no idea of grief wishing for solitude.

Pending these reflections, I sat uneasily, feeling or fancying a heavy air
in the apartment, and wishing, most sincerely, that some living person
would enter. I thought even of slipping away, but feared to give offence,
and in fact began to grow so nervous, that when the Senora de ----- entered
at length, I started up as if I had heard a pistol. She wore a coloured
muslin gown and a blue shawl; no signs of mourning!

After the complimentary preface, I asked particularly after her husband,
keeping a side glance on the mysterious figure. He was pretty well. Her
family? Just recovered from the smallpox, after being severely ill. "Not
dangerously?" said I, hesitatingly, thinking she might have a _tall son_,
and that she alluded to the recovery of the others. "No;" but her sister's
children had been alarmingly ill. "Not _lost_ any, I hope?"--"None." Well,
so taken up was I, that conversation flagged, and I answered and asked
questions at random, until, at last, I happened to ask the lady if she were
going to the country soon. "Not to remain. But to-morrow we are going to
convey a _Santo Cristo_ (a figure of the Crucifixion) there, which has just
been made for the chapel;" glancing towards the figure; "for which reason
this room is, as you see, hung with black." I never felt so relieved in my
life, and thought of the Mysteries of Udolpho.

The houses being so large, and the servants not drilled to announce
visitors; besides that the entresols are frequently let to other families,
it is a matter of no small difficulty for a stranger to pioneer him or
herself into the presence of the people of the house. The mistakes that I
have made! for not being aware of this fact concerning the entresols, which
are often large and handsome, and the porter having begged me to walk up, I
generally stopped at the first landing-place, and then _walked up_ to the
first door that I saw. I did walk in one morning upon two gentlemen who
seemed marvellously startled by my visit. They looked like two medical
students, and were engaged before a table, Heaven knows how; dissecting, I
imagine. I inquired for the Senora -----, which astonished them still more,
as well it might. However, they were very civil, and rushed downstairs to
call up the carriage. After that adventure I never entered a house
unaccompanied by a footman, until I had learnt my way through it.

We had a pleasant dinner-party a few days ago at the Prussian Minister's,
and met the C---s family there. The Condesa de C---- has been a long while
in Europe, and in the best society, and is now entirely devoted to the
education of her daughters, giving them every advantage that Mexico can
afford in the way of masters, besides having at home a Spanish governess to
assist her, an excellent woman, whom they regard as a second mother.

Though there is very little going on in Mexico at present, I amuse myself
very well; there is so much to see, and the people are so kind and
friendly. Having got riding-horses we have been making excursions all round
the country, especially early in the morning, before the sun is high, when
the air is delightfully cool and refreshing. Sometimes we go to the Viga at
six in the morning, to see the Indians bringing in their flowers and
vegetables by the canal. The profusion of sweet-peas, double poppies,
bluebottles, stock gillyflower, and roses, I never saw equalled. Each
Indian woman in her canoe looks as if seated in a floating flower-garden.
The same love of flowers distinguishes them now as in the time of Cortes;
the same which Humboldt remarked centuries afterwards. In the evening these
Indian women, in their canoes, are constantly crowned with garlands of
roses or poppies. Those who sit in the market, selling their fruit or their
vegetables, appear as if they sat in bowers formed of fresh green branches
and coloured flowers. In the poorest village church the floor is strewed
with flowers, and before the service begins fresh nosegays are brought in
and arranged upon the altar. The baby at its christening, the bride at the
altar, the dead body in its bier, are all adorned with flowers. We are told
that in the days of Cortes a bouquet of rare flowers was the most valuable
gift presented to the ambassadors who visited the court of Montezuma, and
it presents a strange anomaly, this love of flowers having existed along
with their sanguinary worship and barbarous sacrifices.

We went the other evening on the canal, in a large canoe with an awning, as
far as the little village of Santa Anita, and saw, for the first time, the
far-famed Chinampas, or floating gardens, which have now become fixtures,
and are covered with vegetables, intermingled with flowers, with a few poor
huts beside them, occupied by the Indians, who bring these to the city for
sale. There were cauliflowers, chili, tomatoes, cabbages, and other
vegetables, but I was certainly disappointed in their beauty. They are
however curious, on account of their origin. So far back as 1245, it is
said the wandering Aztecs or Mexicans arrived first at Chapultepec, when,
being persecuted by the princes of Taltocan, they took refuge in a group of
islands to the south of the lake of Tezcuco. Falling under the yoke of the
Tezcucan kings, they abandoned their island home and fled to Tezapan,
where, as a reward for assisting the chiefs of that country in a war
against other petty princes, they received their freedom, and established
themselves in a city to which they gave the name of Mexicalsingo, from
Mejitli, their god of war--now a collection of strong barns and poor huts.
But they did not settle there, for to obey an oracle they transported
themselves from this city to the islands east of Chapultepec to the western
side of the lake of Tezcuco. An ancient tradition had long been current
amongst them, that wherever they should behold an eagle seated upon a nopal
whose roots pierced a rock, there they should found a great city. In 1325
they beheld this sign, and on the spot, in an island in the lake, founded
the first house of God--the Teocalli, or Great Temple of Mexico. During all
their wanderings, wherever they stopped, the Aztecs cultivated the earth,
and lived upon what nature gave them. Surrounded by enemies and in the
midst of a lake where there are few fish, necessity and industry compelled
them to form floating fields and gardens on the bosom of the waters.

They weaved together the roots of aquatic plants, intertwined with twigs
and light branches, until they had formed a foundation sufficiently strong
to support a soil formed of the earth which they drew from the bottom of
the lake; and on it they sowed their maize, their chili, and all other
plants necessary for their support. These floating gardens were about a
foot above the water, and in the form of a long square. Afterwards, in
their natural taste for flowers, they not only cultivated the useful but
the ornamental, and these small gardens multiplying were covered with
flowers and aromatic herbs, which were used in the worship of the gods, or
were sent to ornament the palace of the emperor. The Chinampas along the
canal of the Viga are no longer floating gardens, but fixed to the mainland
in the marshy grounds lying between the two great lakes of Chalco and
Tezcuco. A small trench full of water separates each garden; and though now
in this marshy land they give but a faint idea of what they may have been
when they raised their flower-crowned heads above the clear waters of the
lake, and when the Indians, in their barks, wishing to remove their
habitations, could tow along their little islands of roses, it is still a
pretty and a pleasant scene.

We bought numerous garlands of roses and poppies from the Indian children,
both here and at Santa Anita, a little village where we landed, and as we
returned towards evening we were amused by the singing and dancing of the
Indians. One canoe came close up to ours, and kept beside it for some time.
A man was lying lazily at the bottom of the boat tingling his guitar, and
one or two women were dancing monotonously and singing at the same time to
his music. Sundry jars of pulque and earthen dishes with tortillas and
chili and pieces of _tasajo_, long festoons of dried and salted beef,
proved that the party were not without their solid comforts, in spite of
the romantic guitar and the rose and poppy garlands with which the dancing
nymphs were crowned. Amongst others they performed the _Palomo_, the Dove,
one of their most favourite dances. The music is pretty, and I send it to
you with the words, the music from ear; the words are given me by my friend
the Senora A---d, who sings all these little Indian airs in perfection. If
we may form some judgment of a people's civilization by their ballads, none
of the Mexican songs give us a very high idea of theirs. The words are
generally a tissue of absurdities, nor are there any patriotic songs which
their new-born freedom might have called forth from so musical a people. At
least I have as yet only discovered one air of which the words bear
reference to the glorious "Grito de Dolores," and which asserts in rhyme
that on account of that memorable event, the Indian was able to get as
drunk as a Christian! The translation of the Palomo is as follows:

"What are you doing, little dove, there in the wineshop? Waiting for my
love until Tuesday, my life. A dove in flying hurt her little wing.
If you have your dove I have my little dove too. A dove in flying all her
feathers fell off. Women pay badly; not all, but some of them. Little dove
of the barracks, you will tell the drummers when they beat the retreat to
strike up the march of my loves. Little dove, what are you doing there
leaning against that wall? Waiting for my dove till he brings me something
to eat." At the end of each verse the chorus of "Palomita, palomo, palomo."

Yet, monotonous as it is, the air is so pretty, the women sang so softly
and sleepily, the music sounded so soothingly as we glided along the water,
that I felt in a pleasant half-dreamy state of perfect contentment, and was
sorry when, arriving at the landing-place, we had to return to a carriage
and civilized life, with nothing but the garlands of flowers to remind us
of the Chinampas.

Unfortunately these people generally end by too frequent applications to
the jarro of pulque, or what is worse to the pure spirit known by the name
of _chingturite;_ the consequence of which is, that from music and dancing
and rose-becrowning, they proceed to quarrelling and jealousy and
drunkenness, which frequently terminates in their fighting, stabbing each
other, or throwing each other into the canal. "The end crowns the work."

Noble as this present city of Mexico is, one cannot help thinking how much
more picturesque the ancient Tenochtitlan was, and how much more fertile
its valley must have been, on account of the great lakes. Yet even in the
time of Cortes these lakes had no great depth of water, and still further
back, in the time of the Indian Emperors, navigation had been so frequently
interrupted in seasons of drought, that an aqueduct had been constructed in
order to supply the canals with water.

After this, the Spaniards, like all new settlers, hewed down the fine trees
in this beautiful valley, both on plain and mountain, leaving the bare soil
exposed to the vertical rays of the sun. Then their well-founded dread of
inundation caused them to construct the famous _Desague_ of Huehuetoca, the
drain or subterranean conduit or channel in the mountain for drawing off
the waters of the lakes; thus leaving marshy lands or sterile plains
covered with carbonate of soda, where formerly were silver lakes covered
with canoes. This last was a necessary evil, since the Indian emperors
themselves were sensible of its necessity and had formed great works for
draining the lakes, some remains of which works still exist in the vicinity
of the Penon. The great Desague was begun in 1607, when the Marquis of
Salinas was viceroy of Mexico; and the operations were commenced with great
pomp, the viceroy assisting in person, mass being said on a portable altar,
and fifteen hundred workmen assembled, while the marquis himself began the
excavation by giving the first stroke with a spade. From 1607 to 1830,
eight millions of dollars were expended, and yet this great work was not
brought to a conclusion. However, the limits of the two lakes of Zumpango
and San Cristobal, to the north of the valley, were thus greatly reduced,
and the lake of Tezcuco, the most beautiful of all the five, no longer
received their contributions. Thus the danger of inundations has
diminished, but water and vegetation have diminished also, and the suburbs
of the city, which were formerly covered with beautiful gardens, now
present to the eye an arid expanse of efflorescent salt. The plains near
San Lazaro especially, in their arid whiteness, seem characteristic of the
unfortunate victims of leprosy enclosed in the walls of that hospital.

We rode out the other day by the _barrio_, or ward of Santiago, which
occupies part of the ancient Tlatelolco, which once constituted a separate
state, had kings of its own, and was conquered by a Mexican monarch, who
made a communication by bridges between it and Mexico. The great market
mentioned by Cortes was held here, and its boundaries are still pointed
out, whilst the convent chapel stands on the height where Cortes erected a
battering engine, when he was besieging the Indian Venice.


Convent of San Joaquin--Mexico in the Morning--Tacuba--Carmelite Prior--
Convent Garden--Hacienda of Los Morales--El Olivar--A _Huacamaya_--
Humming-birds--Correspondence--Expected Consecration--Visit to the
Mineria--Botanic Garden--Arbol de las Manilas--The Museum--Equestrian
Statue--Academy of Painting and Sculpture--Disappointment.

Early this morning we rode to the convent of San Joaquin, belonging to
friars of the Carmelite order, passing through Tacuba, the ancient
Tlacopan, once the capital of a small kingdom, and whose monarch,
_Tetlepanquetzaltzin_ (short and convenient name), Cortes caused to be hung
on a tree for a supposed or real conspiracy. The number of carts, the
innumerable Indians loaded like beasts of burden, their women with baskets
of vegetables in their hands and children on their backs, the long strings
of _arrieros_ with their loaded mules, the droves of cattle, the flocks of
sheep, the herds of pigs, render it a work of some difficulty to make one's
way on horseback out of the gates of Mexico at an early hour of the
morning, but it must be confessed, that the whole scene is lively and
cheerful enough to make one forget that there is such a thing as care in
the world. There is an indifferent, placid smile on every face, and the
bright blue sky smiling over them all; dogs bark, and asses bray, and the
Indian, with near a mule's load on his back, drags his hat off to salute a
bevy of his bronze-coloured countrymen, nearly equally laden with himself,
and they all show their teeth and talk their liquid Indian and pass on.

These plains of Tacuba, once the theatre of fierce and bloody conflicts,
and where, during the siege of Mexico, Alvarado of the Leap fixed his camp,
now present a very tranquil scene. Tacuba itself is now a small village of
mud huts, with some fine old trees, a few very old ruined houses, a ruined
church, and some traces of a building which--assured us had been the palace
of their last monarch; whilst others declare it to have been the site of
the Spanish encampment.

San Joaquin, also a poor village, contains the fine convent and immense
walled garden and orchard belonging to the rich monks of the Carmelite
order. As C---n knows the prior, he sent in our names, and I was admitted
as far as the sacristy of the convent church. The prior received us with
the utmost kindness: he is a good-looking man, extremely amiable and
well-informed, and still young. The gentlemen were admitted into the
interior of the convent, which they describe as being a very large handsome
building, clean and airy, with a fine old library, chiefly composed of
theological works; to the garden, which is immensely large, and though not
much cultivated, full of flowers; and to the great orchard, celebrated for
the profusion and excellence of its fruit. There is a mirador in the garden
which can be seen from the road, and from which there is a very extensive
view. I was very anxious for admission only to the garden, and pleaded the
_manly_ appearance of my riding-hat, which would prevent all scandal were I
seen from a distance; but the complaisance of the good prior would not go
quite so far as that, so I sat in the sacristy and conversed with a good-
natured old monk with a double chin, whilst the others wandered through the
grounds. They afterwards gave us a very nice breakfast, simple but good;
fish from the lake, different preparations of eggs, _riz-ou-lait_, coffee,
and fruit. The monks did not sit down with us, nor would they partake of
anything themselves.

We went in the evening to see a pretty hacienda called Los Morales (the
mulberry-tree) belonging to a Spaniard, which has a nice garden with a bath
in it, and where they bestowed a quantity of beautiful flowers on us.

The other day we set off early, together with the Belgian and French
Ministers and their families, in carriages, to visit a beautiful deserted
hacienda, called _el Olivar_, belonging to the Marquis of Santiago. The
house is perfectly bare, with nothing but the walls; but the grounds are a
wilderness of tangled flowers and blossoming trees, rose-bushes,
sweet-peas, and all manner of fragrant flowers. We passed an agreeable day,
wandering about, breakfasting on the provisions brought with us, arranging
large bouquets of flowers, and firing at a mark, which must have startled
the birds in this solitary and uncultivated retreat. We had a pleasant
family dinner at the E----'s, and passed the evening at the Baron
de -----'s. The gentlemen returned late, it being the day of a diplomatic
dinner at the English Minister's.

The Countess del V---e has just sent me a beautiful bird with the most
gorgeous plumage of the brightest scarlet and blue. It is called a
_huacamaya_, and is of the parrot species, but three times as large, being
about two feet from the beak to the tip of the tail. It is a superb
creature but very wicked, gnawing not only its own pole, but all the doors,
and committing great havoc amongst the plants, besides trying to bite every
one who approaches it. It pronounces a few words very hoarsely and
indistinctly, and has a most harsh, disagreeable cry. In fact it presumes
upon its beauty to be as unamiable as possible.

I prefer some beautiful little humming-birds (_chupamirtos_ as they are
called here) which have been sent me, and which I am trying to preserve
alive, but I fear the cold will kill them, for though we see them
occasionally here, hanging by their beaks upon the branches of the flowers,
like large butterflies, and shaking their brilliant little wings so rapidly
that they seem to emit sparkles of coloured light; still this is not their
home; properly speaking, they belong to the _tierra caliente_. These little
birds are of a golden green and purple, and are so tame, that whilst I am
writing I have two on my shoulder and one perched on the edge of a glass,
diving out its long tongue for sugar and water. Our live stock is
considerable: we have Guinea fowls, who always remind me of old maiden
ladies in half-mourning, and whose screaming notes match those of the
huacamaya; various little green parrots; a scarlet cardinal, one hundred
and sixty pigeons in the pigeon-house, and three fierce dogs in conspicuous

I received a very polite letter today from the Senora de Santa Anna, and as
it was enclosed in a few lines from Santa Anna himself, I send you his
_autograph_, for I doubt much whether we have seen the last of that
illustrious personage, or whether his philosophic retirement will endure
for ever.

I have been endeavouring lately to procure permission from Senor Posada,
who is shortly to be consecrated archbishop, to visit the convents of nuns
in Mexico. Senor C---o, secretary of state, our particular friend, has been
kind enough to interest himself in the matter, though with indifferent
hopes of success. A few days ago he sent me his correspondence with Senor
Posada, who observes that the vice-queens alone had the privilege of the
_entree_, and seems to hesitate a good deal as to the advisableness of
granting a permission which might be considered a precedent for others.
However, I think he is too amiable to resist our united entreaties. I hold
out as an argument, that C---n, being the _duplicado_ of the queen herself,
my visit is equal to that of the vice-queen, which argument has at least
amused him. His consecration is fixed for the 31st of May.

Don Pedro Fonti, the last archbishop named in the time of the Spanish
dominion, having renounced the mitre, three illustrious churchmen were
proposed to fill the vacant place: this Don Manuel Posada, Don Antonio
Campos, and Dr. Don Jose Maria de Santiago. The first was chosen by the
Mexican government, and was afterwards proclaimed in the Roman Consistory
last December, with the approbation of Gregory XVI. They are now only
waiting for the pontifical bulls, which are daily expected from Rome; and
it is said that the ceremony, which will take place in the cathedral, will
be very magnificent.

April 3rd.--Accompanied by the--Minister, we spent yesterday in visiting
the Mineria, the Botanic Garden, the Museum, etc., all which leave a
certain disagreeable impression on the mind, since, without having the
dignity of ruins, they are fine buildings neglected. The Mineria, or School
of Mines, the work of the famous architect and sculptor Tolsa, is a
magnificent building, a palace whose fine proportions would render it
remarkable amongst the finest edifices of any European country. All is on a
great scale, its noble rows of pillars, great staircases, large apartments
and lofty roofs, but it reminds one of a golden aviary, containing a few
common sparrows. Several rich Spaniards contributed more than six hundred
thousand dollars to its construction. We were shown through the whole of
this admirable building by the director, who occupies a very handsome house
attached to it. But however learned the professors may be,--and amongst
them is the scientific Senor del Rio, now very old, but a man of great
learning and research,--the collection of minerals, the instruments and
models, are all miserable and ill kept.

The Botanic Garden, within the palace, is a small ill-kept enclosure, where
there still remain some rare plants of the immense collection made in the
time of the Spanish government, when great progress was made in all the
natural sciences, four hundred thousand dollars having been expended in
botanical expeditions alone. Courses of botanical lectures were then given
annually by the most learned professors, and the taste for natural history
was universal.

El Arbol de las Manitas (the tree of the small hands) was the most curious
which we saw in the garden. The flower is of a bright scarlet, in the form
of a hand, with five fingers and a thumb; and it is said that there are
only three of these trees in the republic. The gardener is an old Italian,
who came over with one of the viceroys, and though now one hundred and ten
years old, and nearly bent double, possesses all his faculties. The garden
is pretty from the age of the trees, and luxuriance of the flowers, but
melancholy as a proof of the decay of the science in Mexico. The palace
itself, now occupied by the president, formerly belonged to Cortes, and was
ceded by his descendants to the government. In exchange they received the
ground formerly occupied by the palace of the Aztec kings, and built on it
a very splendid edifice, where the state archives are kept, and where the
_Monte Pio_ (the office where money is lent on plate, jewels, etc.) now is,
the director of which is Don Francisco Tagle, whose apartments within the
building are very elegant and spacious.

The Museum within the University, and opposite the palace, in the plaza
called del Volador, contains many rare and valuable works, many curious
Indian antiquities, but they are ill arranged. On the walls are the
portraits of the vice-kings, beginning with Hernan Cortes. We spent a long
while here examining these antiquities; but we have seen nothing in Mexico
to equal the beauty of the colossal equestrian statue in bronze of Charles
IV, placed on a pedestal of Mexican marble, which stands in the court of
the University, but formerly adorned the middle of the square. It is a
magnificent picture of sculpture, the masterpiece of Tolosa, remarkable for
the noble simplicity and purity of its style, and was made at the expense
of an ex-viceroy, the Marquis of Branciforte. We also saw the goddess of
war lying in a corner of the court, beside the stone of sacrifices, which
we had already been shown.

To-day we have been visiting the Academy of painting and sculpture, called
the Academy of Fine Arts, of which I unfortunately recollected having read
Humboldt's brilliant account, in my forcibly prolonged studies on board the
Jason, and that he mentions its having had the most favourable influence in
forming the national taste. He tells us that every night, in these spacious
halls, well illumined by Argand lamps, hundreds of young men were
assembled, some sketching from the plaster-casts, or from life, and others
copying designs of furniture, candelabras and other bronze ornaments; and
that here all classes, colours, and races, were mingled together; the
Indian beside the white boy, and the son of the poorest mechanic beside
that of the richest lord. Teaching was gratis, and not limited to landscape
and figures, one of the principal objects being to propagate amongst the
artists a general taste for elegance and beauty of form, and to enliven the
national industry. Plaster-casts, to the amount of forty thousand dollars,
were sent out by the King of Spain, and as they possess in the academy
various colossal statues of basalt and porphyry, with Aztec hieroglyphics,
it would have been curious, as the same learned traveller remarks, to have
collected these monuments in the courtyard of the Academy, and compared the
remains of Mexican sculpture, monuments of a semi-barbarous people, with
the graceful creations of Greece and Rome.

Let no one visit the Academy with these recollections or anticipations in
his mind.... That the simple and noble taste which distinguishes the
Mexican buildings, their perfection in the cutting and working of their
stones, the chaste ornaments of the capitals and relievoes, are owing to
the progress they made in this very Academy is no doubt the case. The
remains of these beautiful but mutilated plaster-casts, the splendid
engravings which still exist, would alone make it probable; but the present
disorder, the abandoned state of the building, the non-existence of these
excellent classes of sculpture and painting, and, above all, the low state
of the fine arts in Mexico, at the present day, are amongst the sad proofs,
if any were wanting, of the melancholy effects produced by years of civil
war and unsettled government....

The Holy Week is now approaching, and already Indians are to be seen
bringing in the palm-branches and the flowers for the altars, and they are
beginning to erect booths and temporary shops, and to make every
preparation for the concourse of people who will arrive next Sunday from
all the different villages and ranchoes, far and near.


Palm Sunday--Holy Thursday--Variety of Costumes--San Francisco--Santo
Domingo--Santa Teresa--Nuns--Stone Bust--The Academy--Religious
Procession--Pilgrimage to the Churches--Santa Clara--Nun's
Voice--Orange-trees and Rose-bushes--The Cathedral Illuminated--Our Saviour
in Chains--Good Friday--The great Square towards Evening--Dresses of Men,
Women, and Children--Approach of the Host--Judas--Great
Procession--_Miserere_--The Square by Moonlight--A Lonely Walk--_Sabado de
Gloria_--Ball in Contemplation--Weekly Soirees--Embroidered Muslins--A
Tertulia at Home.

21st April.

On the morning of Palm Sunday, I went to the Cathedral, accompanied by
Mademoiselle de -----, daughter of the ----- Minister. We found it no easy
matter to make our way through the crowd; but at last, by dint of patience
and perseverance, and changing our place very often, we contrived to arrive
very near the great altar; and there we had just taken up our position,
when a disinterested man gave us a friendly hint, that as the whole
procession, with their branches, must inevitably squeeze past the spot
where we were, we should probably be crushed or suffocated; consequently we
followed him to a more convenient station, also close to the altar and
defended by the railing, where we found ourselves tolerably well off. Two
ladies, to whom he made the same proposition, and who rejected it, we
afterwards observed in a sad condition, their mantillas nearly torn off and
the palm-branches sweeping across their eyes. In a short time, the whole
cathedral presented the appearance of a forest of palm-trees, (_a la_
Birnam wood) moved by a gentle wind; and under each tree a half-naked
Indian, his rags clinging together with wonderful pertinacity; long,
matted, dirty black hair both in men and women, bronze faces with mild
unspeaking eyes, or all with one expression of eagerness to see the
approach of the priests. Many of them had probably travelled a long way,
and the palms were from _tierra caliente_, dried and plaited into all
manner of ingenious ways. Each palm was about seven feet high, so as far to
overshadow the head of the Indian who carried it; and whenever they are
blessed, they are carried home to adorn the walls of their huts. The
priests arrived, at length, in great pomp; and also carrying
palm-branches. For four mortal hours, we remained kneeling or sitting on
the floor, and thankful we were when it was all over, and we could make our
way once more into the fresh air. From this day, during the whole week, all
business is suspended, and but one train of thought occupies all classes,
from the highest to the lowest. The peasants flock from every quarter,
shops are shut, churches are opened; and the Divine Tragedy enacted in
Syria eighteen hundred years ago, is now celebrated in land then
undiscovered, and by the descendants of nations sunk in Paganism for
centuries after that period. But amongst the lower classes, the worship is
emphatically the worship of Her who Herself predicted, "From henceforth all
nations shall call me blessed." Before her shrines, and at all hours,
thousands are kneeling. With faces expressive of the most intense love and
devotion, and with words of the most passionate adoration, they address the
mild image of the Mother of God. To the Son their feelings seem composed of
respectful pity, of humble but more distant adoration; while to the Virgin
they appear to give all their confidence, and to look up to her as to a
kind and bountiful Queen, who, dressed in her magnificent robes and
jewelled diadem, yet mourning in all the agony of her divine sorrows, has
condescended to admit the poorest beggar to participate in her woe, whilst
in her turn she shares in the afflictions of the lowly, feels for their
privations, and grants them her all-powerful intercession.

On Holy Thursday nothing can be more picturesque than the whole appearance
of Mexico. No carriages are permitted and the ladies, being on foot, take
the opportunity of displaying all the riches of their toilet. On this day
velvets and satins are your only wear. Diamonds and pearls walk the
streets. The mantillas are white or black blonde; the shoes white or
coloured satin. The petticoats are still rather short, but it would be hard
to hide such small feet, and such still smaller shoes. "Il faut souffrir
pour etre belle," but _a quoi bon etre belle?_ if no one sees it. As for
me, I _ventured_ upon a lilac silk of Palmyre's, and a black mantilla.

The whole city was filled with picturesque figures. After the higher
Senoras were to be remarked the common women, chiefly in clear white, very
stiffly starched muslins, some very richly embroidered, and the petticoat
trimmed with lace, white satin shoes, and the dresses extremely short,
which in them looks very well. A reboso is thrown over all. Amongst these
were many handsome faces, but in a still lower and more Indian class, with
their gay-coloured petticoats, the faces were sometimes beautiful, and the
figures more upright and graceful; also they invariably walk well whilst
many of the higher classes, from tight shoes and want of custom, seem to
feel pain in putting their feet to the ground.

But none could vie with the handsome Poblana peasants in their holiday
dresses, some so rich and magnificent, that, remembering the warning of our
Ministerial friends, I am inclined to believe them more showy than
respectable. The pure Indians, with whom the churches and the whole city is
crowded, are as ugly as can be imagined; a gentle, dirty, and
much-enduring race. Still, with their babies at their backs, going along at
their usual gentle trot, they add much to the general effect of the _coup-

We walked to San Francisco about ten o'clock, and the body of the church
being crowded, went upstairs to a private gallery with a gilded grating,
belonging to the Countess de Santiago, and here we had the advantage of
seats, besides a fine view of the whole. This church is very splendid, and
the walls were hung with canvas paintings representing different passages
of our Saviour's life; his entry into Jerusalem, the woman of Samaria at
the well, etc., which, with the palm-trees had a cool and oriental effect.

Before the altar, which was dazzling with jewels, was a representation of
the Lord's Supper, not in painting, but in sculptured figures as large as
life, habited in the Jewish dresses. The bishops and priests were in a
blaze of gold and jewels. They were assisted during the ceremony by the
young Count of Santiago. The music was extremely good, and the whole effect
impressive. We visited several churches in the course of the day, and
continued walking until four o'clock, when we went to dine with our friends
the A---s. After dinner one of their coachmen, a handsome Mexican, in a
superb dress, all embroidered in gold, was called upstairs to dance the
_Jarabe_ to us with a country girl. The dance is monotonous, but they
acquitted themselves to perfection.

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