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

Life in Mexico by Frances Calderon De La Barca

Part 4 out of 11

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

We then continued our pilgrimage through the city, though, as the sun
had not yet set, we reserved our chief admiration until the churches
should be illuminated. One, however, we entered at sunset, which is
worthy of remark--Santo Domingo. It looked like a little Paradise, or
a story in the Arabian Nights. All the steps up the altar were covered
with pots of beautiful flowers; orange-trees, loaded with fruit and
blossom, and rose-bushes in full bloom, glasses of coloured water, and
all kinds of fruit. Cages full of birds, singing delightfully, hung from
the wall, and really fine paintings filled up the intervals. A gay
carpet covered the floor, and in front of the altar, instead of the
usual representation of the Saviour crucified, a little infant Jesus,
beautifully done in wax, was lying amidst flowers with little angels
surrounding him. Add to this, the music of Romeo and Juliet, and you may
imagine that it was more like a scene in an opera, than anything in a
church. But certainly, as the rays of the setting sun streamed in with a
rosy light through the stained windows, throwing a glow over the whole;
birds, and flowers, and fruit, paintings and angels, it was the
prettiest and most fantastic scene I ever beheld, like something
expressly got up for the benefit of children.

We did not kneel before each altar for more than three minutes, otherwise
we should never have had time even to enter the innumerable churches which
we visited in the course of the night. We next went to Santa Teresa la
Nueva, a handsome church, belonging to a convent of strict nuns, which was
now brilliantly illuminated; and here, as in all the churches, we made our
way through the crowd with extreme difficulty. The number of _leperos_ was
astonishing, greatly exceeding that of well-dressed people. Before each
altar was a figure, dreadful in the extreme, of the Saviour, as large as
life, dressed in purple robe and crown of thorns, seated on the steps of
the altar, the blood trickling from his wounds; each person, before leaving
the church, devoutly kneeling to kiss his hands and feet. The nuns, amongst
whom is a sister of Senor A----, sung behind the grating of the gallery
above, but were not visible.

One of the churches we visited, that of Santa Teresa, called the _Antigua_,
stands upon the site formerly occupied by the palace of the father of the
unfortunate Montezuma. It was here that the Spaniards were quartered when
they took Montezuma prisoner, and here Cortes found and appropriated the
treasures of that family. In 1830 a bust of stone was found in the yard of
the convent, which the workmen were digging up. Don Lucas Alaman, then
Minister of Exterior Relations, offered a compensation to the nuns for the
curious piece of antiquity which they gladly gave up to the government, on
whose account he acted. It is said to be the idol goddess of the Indians,
_Centeotl_, the goddess of medicine and medicinal herbs, also known by the
name of _Temaz calteci_, or the "Grandmother of the Baths." A full account
is given of her in one of the numbers of the "Mosaico Megicano," as also of
a square stone found in the same place, beautifully carved, and covered
with hieroglyphical characters.

In the evening, towards the hour when the great procession was expected, we
went to the balconies of the Academia, which command a fine view of the
streets by which it was to pass. Till it arrived we amused ourselves by
looking over the _beaux restes_ of former days, the collections of painting
and sculpture, the fine plaster-casts that still remain, and the great
volumes of fine engravings. It was dark when the procession made its
appearance, which rendered the effect less gaudy and more striking. The
Virgin, the Saints, the Holy Trinity, the Saviour in different passages of
his life, imprisonment and crucifixion, were carried past in succession,
represented by figures magnificently dressed, placed on lofty scaffoldings
of immense weight, supported by different bodies of men. One is carried by
the coachmen, another by the aguadores (water-carriers), a third by the
cargadores (porters), a Herculean race.

First arrived the favourite protectress of all classes, the Virgin of
Dolores, surmounted by a velvet canopy, seated on a glittering throne,
attired in her sable robes, her brow surmounted by glittering rays, and
contracted with an expression of agony; of all representations of the
Virgin, the only one which is always lovely, however rudely carved, with
that invariably beautiful face of terrible anguish. Then followed the
Saviour bearing the cross; the Saviour crucified, the Virgin supporting the
head of her dying son; the Trinity (the Holy Spirit represented by a dove);
all the apostles, from St. Peter with the keys to Judas with the money-bag;
and a long train of saints, all brilliantly illuminated and attended by an
amazing crowd of priests, monks, and laymen. However childish and
superstitious all this may seem, I doubt whether it be not as well thus to
impress certain religious truths on the minds of a people too ignorant to
understand them by any other process. By the time the last saint and angel
had vanished, the hour was advanced, and we had still to visit the
illuminated churches. Being recommended to divest ourselves of our
ornaments before wandering forth amongst the crowd, a matter of some moment
to the Senora A----, who wore all her diamonds, we left our earrings,
brooches, etc., in charge of the person who keeps the Academia, and
recommenced our pilgrimage.

Innumerable were the churches we visited that evening; the Cathedral, La
Ensenanza, Jesus Maria, Santa Clara, Santa Brigida, San Hipolito, La
Encarnacion, the five churches of San Francisco, etc., etc., a list without
an end, kneeling for a short space of time before each blazing altar, for
the more churches one visits, the more meritorious is the devotion. The
cathedral was the first we entered, and its magnificence struck us with
amazement. Its gold and silver and jewels, its innumerable ornaments and
holy vessels, the rich dresses of the priests, all seemed burning in almost
intolerable brightness. The high altar was the most magnificent; the
second, with its pure white marble pillars, the most imposing.

The crowd was immense, but we made our way slowly through it to the foot of
each altar, where the people were devoutly kissing the Saviour's hand or
the hem of his garment; or beating their breasts before the mild image of
Our Lady of Grief. Each church had vied with the other in putting forth all
its splendour of jewellery, of lights, of dresses, and of music.

In the church of Santa Clara, attached to the convent of the same name,
small but elegant, with its pillars of white marble and gold, one voice of
angelic sweetness was singing behind the grating alone, and in the midst of
a most deathlike stillness. It sounded like the notes of a nightingale in a
cage. I could have listened for hours, but our time was limited, and we set
off anew. Fortunately the evening was delightful, and the moon shining
brightly. We visited about twenty churches in succession. In all the organ
was pealing, the blaze of light overpowering, the magnificence of jewels
and crimson velvet and silver and gold dazzling, the crowd suffocating, the
incense blinding.

The prettiest effect in every church was caused by the orange-trees and
rose-bushes, which covered the steps of the altars, up to where the
magnificence of the altar itself blazed out; and the most picturesque
effect was produced by the different orders of monks in their gowns and
hoods, either lying on their faces or standing ranged with torches like
figures carved in stone.

In the passage leading to most of the churches was a table, at which
several ladies of the highest rank sat collecting alms for the poor. The
fair _queteuses_ had not been very successful, and that chiefly amongst the
lower classes. The fatigue was terrible, walking for so many hours on that
bad pavement with thin satin shoes, so that at length our feet seemed to
move mechanically, and we dropped on our knees before each altar like
machines touched by a spring, and rose again with no small effort. Of all
the churches we entered that night, the cathedral was the most magnificent,
but the most beautiful and tasteful was San Francisco. The crowd there was
so dense, that we were almost carried off our feet, and were obliged, in
defiance of all rule, to take the arms of our _caballeros_. Still it was
worth the trouble of making our way through it to see such a superbly
illuminated altar. It was now eleven o'clock, and the crowd were breaking
up as the churches are shut before midnight. In one corner of the middle
aisle, near the door, was the representation of a prison from which issued
a stream of soft music, and at the window was a figure of Christ in chains,
his eyes bandaged, and a Jew on each side; the chains hanging from his
hands, and clanking as if with the motion of his arms. The rush here was
immense. Numbers of people were kneeling before the window of the prison,
and kissing the chains and beating their breasts with every appearance of
contrition and devotion. This was the night before the Crucifixion, and the
last scene of the Holy Thursday.

We reached home hardly able to stand. I never felt more dazzled,
bewildered, and sleepy; but I was wakened by finding a packet of letters
from home, which brought back my thoughts, or rather carried them away to
very different lands.

On Good Friday, a day of sorrow and humiliation, the scene in the morning
is very different. The great sacrifice is complete--the Immortal has died a
mortal death. The ladies all issue forth in mourning, and the churches look
sad and wan after their last night's brilliancy. The heat was intense. We
went to San Francisco, again to the Tribuna of the Countess de Santiago, to
see the Adoration and Procession of the Cross, which was very fine.

But the most beautiful and original scene was presented towards sunset in
the great square, and it is doubtful whether any other city in the world
could present a _coup-d'oeil_ of equal brilliancy. Having been offered the
_entree_ to some apartments in the palace, we took our seats on the
balconies, which commanded a view of the whole. The Plaza itself, even on
ordinary days, is a noble square, and but for its one fault, a row of shops
called the Parian, which breaks its uniformity, would be nearly unrivalled.
Every object is interesting. The eye wanders from the cathedral to the
house of Cortes (the Monte Pio), and from thence to a range of fine
buildings with lofty arcades to the west. From our elevated situation, we
could see all the different streets that branch out from the square,
covered with gay crowds pouring in that direction to see another great
procession, which was expected to pass in front of the palace. Booths
filled with refreshments, and covered with green branches and garlands of
flowers, were to be seen in all directions, surrounded by a crowd who were
quenching their thirst with orgeat, _chia_,[1] lemonade, or pulque. The
whole square, from the cathedral to the Portales, and from the Monte Pio to
the palace, was covered with thousands and tens of thousands of figures,
all in their gayest dresses, and as the sun poured his rays down upon their
gaudy colours, they looked like armies of living tulips. Here was to be
seen a group of ladies, some with black gowns and mantillas; others, now
that their church-going duty was over, equipped in velvet or satin, with
their hair dressed,--and beautiful hair they have; some leading their
children by the hand, dressed... alas! how they were dressed! Long velvet
gowns trimmed with blonde, diamond earrings, high French caps befurbelowed
with lace and flowers, or turbans with plumes of feathers. Now and then the
head of a little thing that could hardly waddle alone, might have belonged
to an English dowager-duchess in her opera-box. Some had extraordinary
bonnets, also with flowers and feathers, and as they toddled along, top
heavy, one would have thought they were little old women, till a glimpse
was caught of their lovely little brown faces and black eyes. Now and then
a little girl, simply dressed with a short frock, and long black hair
plaited down and uncovered, would trip along, a very model of grace amongst
the small caricatures. The children here are generally beautiful, their
features only too perfect and regular for the face "to fulfil the promise
of its spring." They have little colour, with swimming black or hazel eyes,
and long lashes resting on the clear pale cheek, and a perfect mass of fine
dark hair of the straight Spanish or Indian kind plaited down behind.
[Footnote 1: A drink made of the seed of the plant of that name.]

As a contrast to the Senoras, with their over-dressed beauties, were the
poor Indian women, trotting across the square, their black hair plaited
with dirty red ribbon, a piece of woollen cloth wrapped about them, and a
little mahogany baby hanging behind, its face upturned to the sky, and its
head going jerking along, somehow without its neck being dislocated. The
most resigned expression on earth is that of an Indian baby. All the groups
we had seen promenading the streets the day before were here collected by
hundreds; the women of the shopkeeper class, or it may be lower, in their
smart white embroidered gowns, with their white satin shoes, and neat feet
and ankles, and rebosos or bright shawls thrown over their heads; the
peasants and countrywomen, with their short petticoats of two colours,
generally scarlet and yellow (for they are most anti-quakerish in their
attire), thin satin shoes and lace-trimmed chemises, or bronze-coloured
damsels, all crowned with flowers, strolling along with their admirers, and
tingling their light guitars. And above all, here and there a flashing
Poblana, with a dress of real value and much taste, and often with a face
and figure of extraordinary beauty, especially the figure; large and yet
_elancee_, with a bold coquettish eye, and a beautiful little brown foot,
shown off by the white satin shoe; the petticoat of her dress frequently
fringed and embroidered in real massive gold, and a reboso either shot with
gold, or a bright-coloured China crape shawl, coquettishly thrown over her
head. We saw several whose dresses could not have cost less than five
hundred dollars.

Add to this motley crowd, men dressed _a la Mexicaine_, with their large
ornamented hats and serapes, or embroidered jackets, sauntering along,
smoking their cigars, _leperos_ in rags, Indians in blankets, officers in
uniform, priests in their shovel hats, monks of every order; Frenchmen
exercising their wit upon the passers-by; Englishmen looking cold and
philosophical; Germans gazing through their spectacles, mild and mystical;
Spaniards seeming pretty much at home, and abstaining from remarks; and it
may be conceived that the scene at least presented variety. Sometimes the
tinkling of the bell announced the approach of _Nuestro Amo_. Instantly the
whole crowd are on their knees, crossing themselves devoutly. Two men who
were fighting below the window suddenly dropped down side by side. Disputes
were hushed, flirtations arrested, and to the busy hum of voices succeeded
a profound silence. Only the rolling of the coach-wheels and the sound of
the little bell were heard.

No sooner had it passed than the talkers and the criers recommenced with
fresh vigour. The venders of hot chestnuts and cooling beverages plied
their trade more briskly than ever. A military band struck up an air from
Semiramis: and the noise of the innumerable _matracas_ (rattles), some of
wood and some of silver, with which every one is armed during the last days
of the holy week, broke forth again as if by magic, while again commenced
the sale of the _Judases_, fireworks in the form of that arch-traitor,
which are sold on the evening of Good Friday, and let off on Saturday
morning. Hundreds of these hideous figures were held above the crowd, by
men who carried them tied together on long poles. An ugly misshapen monster
they represent the betrayer to have been. When he sold his master for
thirty pieces of silver, did he dream that in the lapse of ages his
effigies should be held up to the execration of a Mexican mob, of an
unknown people in undiscovered countries beyond the seas?--A secret
bargain, perhaps made whisperingly in a darkened chamber with the fierce
Jewish rulers; but now shouted forth in the ears of the descendants of
Montezuma and Cortes!

But the sound of a distant hymn rose on the air, and shortly after there
appeared, advancing towards the square, a long and pompous retinue of
mitred priests, with banners and crucifixes and gorgeous imagery,
conducting a procession in which figures representing scenes concerning the
death of our Saviour, were carried by on platforms, as they were the
preceding evening. There was the Virgin in mourning at the foot of the
cross--the Virgin in glory--and more saints and more angels--St. Michael
and the dragon, etc., etc., a glittering and innumerable train. Not a sound
was heard as the figures were carried slowly onwards in their splendid
robes, lighted by thousands of tapers, which mingled their unnatural glare
with the fading light of day.

As the _Miserere_ was to be performed in the cathedral late in the evening,
we went there, though with small hopes of making our way through the
tremendous crowd. Having at length been admitted through a private
entrance, _per favour_, we made our way into the body of the church; but
the crowd was so intolerable, that we thought of abandoning our position,
when we were seen and recognised by some of the priests, and conducted to a
railed-off enclosure near the shrine of the Virgin, with the luxury of a
Turkey carpet. Here, separated from the crowd, we sat down in peace on the
ground. The gentlemen were accommodated with high-backed chairs, beside
some ecclesiastics; for men may sit on chairs or benches in church, but
women must kneel or sit on the ground. Why? "_Quien sabe?_" (Who knows?) is
all the satisfaction I have ever obtained on that point.

A Lonely Walk

The _music_ began with a crash that wakened me out of an agreeable slumber
into which I had gradually fallen; and such discordance of instruments and
voices, such confusion worse confounded, such inharmonious harmony, never
before deafened mortal ears. The very spheres seemed out of tune, and
rolling and crashing over each other. I could have cried _Miserere!_ with
the loudest; and in the midst of all the undrilled band was a
_music-master,_ with violin-stick uplifted, rushing desperately from one to
the other, in vain endeavouring to keep time, and frightened at the clamour
he himself had been instrumental in raising, like Phaeton intrusted with
his unmanageable coursers. The noise was so great as to be really alarming;
and the heat was severe in proportion. The calm face of the Virgin seemed
to look reproachfully down. We were thankful when, at the conclusion of
this stormy appeal for mercy, we were able to make our way into the fresh
air and soft moonlight, through the confusion and squeezing at the doors,
where it was rumoured that a soldier had killed a baby with his bayonet. A
bad place for poor little babies--decidedly.

Outside, in the square, it was cool and agreeable. A military band was
playing airs from Norma, and the womankind were sitting on the stones of
the railing, or wandering about and finishing their day's work by a quiet
flirtation _au clair de la lune_.

It was now eleven o'clock, and the pulquerias were thrown open for the
refreshment of the faithful, and though hitherto much order had prevailed,
it was not likely to endure much longer; notwithstanding which, we had the
imprudence to walk unattended to our own house, at San Fernando. In the
centre of the city there seemed no danger. People were still walking, and a
few still drinking at the lighted booths; but when arrived at the lower
part of the Alameda, all was still, and as we walked outside, under the
long shadows of the trees, I expected every moment to be attacked, and
wished we were anywhere, even on the silvery top of Popocatepetl! We passed
several crowded pulquerias, where some were drinking and others drunk.
Arrived at the arches, we saw from time to time a suspicious blanketed
figure half hid by the shadow of the wall. A few doors from our own
domicile was a pulque-shop filled with leperos, of whom some were standing
at the door, shrouded in their blankets. It seemed to me we should never
pass them, but we walked fast, and reached our door in safety. Here we
thundered in vain. The porter was asleep, and for nearly ten minutes we
heard voices within, male and female, ineffectually endeavouring to
persuade the heavy-headed Cerberus to relinquish his keys. It would have
been a choice moment for our friends, had any of them wished to accost us;
but either they had not observed us, or perhaps they thought that C---n
walking so late must have been armed; or perhaps, more charitable
construction, they had profited by the solemnities of the day.

We got in at last, and I felt thankful enough for shelter and safety, and
as wearied of the day's performances as you may be in reading a description
of them.

Next morning, Sabado de Gloria, I could not persuade myself to go as far as
the Plaza, to see the Iscariots explode. At a distance we listened to the
hissing and crackling of the fireworks, the ringing of all the bells, and
the thundering of artillery; and knew by the hum of busy voices, and the
rolling of carriages, that the Holy Week was numbered with the past....

We hear that it is in contemplation amongst the English here, headed by
their Minister, to give a ball in the Mineria, to celebrate the Marriage of
Queen Victoria, which will be turning these splendid halls to some account.

I have some intention of giving a series of weekly soirees, but am assured
that they will not succeed, because hitherto such parties have failed. As a
reason, is given the extravagant notions of the ladies in point of dress,
and it is said that nothing but a ball where they can wear jewels, and a
toilet therewith consistent, will please them; that a lady of high rank who
had been in Madrid, having proposed simple tertulias and white muslin
dresses, half the men in Mexico were ruined that year by the embroidered
French and India muslins bought by their wives during this reign of
simplicity; the idea of a plain white muslin, a dress worn by any _lepera_,
never having struck them as possible. Nevertheless we can but make the

We propose going next week to Tulansingo, where our friends the ----- have
a country place, from thence we proceed to visit the mines of Real del

23rd.--On Monday we gave a Tertulia, which, notwithstanding all
predictions, went off remarkably well, and consisted of nearly all the
pleasantest people in Mexico. We had music, dancing, and cards, and at
three in the morning the German cotillon was still in full vigour. Every
one was disposed to be amused, and, moreover, the young ladies were dressed
very simply; most of them in plain white muslins. There was but a small
sprinkling of diamonds, and that chiefly among the elderly part of the
community. Still it is said that the novelty alone induced them to come,
and that weekly soirees will not succeed. We shall try. Besides which, the
Lady of the ----- Minister proposes being At Home on Wednesday evenings;
the Lady of the ----- Minister takes another evening; I, a third, and we
shall see what can be effected.


Letter from the Archbishop-Visit to the
Novices--Convent-supper--Picturesque Scene--Sonata on the Organ--Attempt at
Robbery--Alarms of the Household--Visit to San Agustin--Anonymous
Letter--The Virgin de los Remedios--Visit to the Chapel--The Padre--The
Image--Anecdote of the large Pearl-A Mine.


The Archbishop has not only granted me permission to visit the convents,
but permits me to take two ladies along with me, of which I have been
informed by the Minister, Senor C---o, in a very amiable note just
received, enclosing one from Senor Posada, which I translate for your

To His Excellency, Senor Don J. de D. C---o.

April 24th, 1842.

My dear Friend and Companion:

The Abbess and Nuns of the Convent of the Encarnacion are now prepared to
receive the visit of our three pilgrims, next Sunday, at half-past four in
the afternoon, and should that day not suit them, let them mention what day
will be convenient.

Afterwards we shall arrange their visit to the Concepcion, Ensenanza
Antigua, and Jesus Maria, which are the best, and I shall let you know, and
we shall agree upon the days and hours most suitable. I remain your
affectionate friend and Capellan,


Accordingly, on Sunday afternoon, we drove to the _Encarnacion_, the most
splendid and richest convent in Mexico, excepting perhaps la Concepcion. If
it were in any other country, I might mention the surpassing beauty of the
evening, but as except in the rainy season, which has not yet begun, the
evenings are always beautiful, the weather leaves no room for description.
The sky always blue, the air always soft, the flowers always blossoming,
the birds always singing; Thomson never could have written his "Seasons"
here. We descended at the convent gate, were admitted by the portress, and
received by several nuns, their faces closely covered with a double crape
veil. We were then led into a spacious hall, hung with handsome lustres,
and adorned with various Virgins and Saints magnificently dressed; and here
the eldest, a very dignified old lady, lifted her veil, the others
following her example, and introduced herself as the _Madre Vicaria_;
bringing us many excuses from the old abbess, who having an inflammation in
her eyes, was confined to her cell. She and another reverend mother, and a
group of elderly dames, tall, thin, and stately, then proceeded to inform
us, that the archbishop had, in person, given orders for our reception, and
that they were prepared to show us the whole establishment.

The dress is a long robe of very fine white casimere, a thick black crape
veil, and long rosary. The dress of the novices is the same, only that the
veil is white. For the first half-hour or so, I fancied, that along with
their politeness, was mingled a good deal of restraint, caused perhaps by
the presence of a foreigner, and especially of an Englishwoman. My
companions they knew well; the Senorita having even passed some months
there. However this may have been, the feeling seemed gradually to wear
away. Kindness or curiosity triumphed; their questions became unceasing;
and before the visit was concluded, I was addressed as "_mi vida_" (my
life), by the whole establishment. Where was I born? Where had I lived?
What convents had I seen? Which did I prefer, the convents in France, or
those in Mexico? Which were largest? Which had the best garden? etc., etc.
Fortunately, I could, with truth, give the preference to their convent, as
to spaciousness and magnificence, over any I ever saw.

The Mexican style of building is peculiarly advantageous for recluses; the
great galleries and courts affording them a constant supply of fresh air,
while the fountains sound so cheerfully, and the garden in this climate of
perpetual spring affords them such a constant source of enjoyment all the
year round, that one pities their secluded state much less here than in any
other country.

This convent is in fact a palace. The garden, into which they led us first,
is kept in good order, with its stone walks, stone benches, and an ever-
playing and sparkling fountain. The trees were bending with fruit, and they
pulled quantities of the most beautiful flowers for us; sweet-peas and
roses, with which all gardens here abound, carnations, jasmine, and
heliotrope. It was a pretty picture to see them wandering about, or
standing in groups in this high-walled garden, while the sun was setting
behind the hills, and the noise of the city was completely excluded,
everything breathing repose and contentment. Most of the halls in the
convent are noble rooms. We visited the whole, from the refectory to the
_botica_, and admired the extreme cleanness of everything, especially of
the immense kitchen, which seems hallowed from the approach even of a
particle of dust; this circumstance is partly accounted for by the fact
that each nun has a servant, and some have two; for this is not one of the
strictest orders. The convent is rich; each novice at her entrance pays
five thousand dollars into the common stock. There are about thirty nuns
and ten novices.

The prevailing sin in a convent generally seems to be pride;

"The pride that apes humility;"

and it is perhaps nearly inseparable from the conventual state. Set apart
from the rest of the world, they, from their little world, are too apt to
look down with contempt which may be mingled with envy, or modified by
pity, but must be unsuited to a true Christian spirit.

The novices were presented to us--poor little entrapped things! who really
believe they will be let out at the end of the year if they should grow
tired, as if they would ever be permitted to grow tired! The two eldest and
most reverend ladies are sisters, thin, tall, and stately, with high noses,
and remains of beauty. They have been in the convent since they were eight
years old (which is remarkable, as sisters are rarely allowed to profess in
the same establishment), and consider _La Encarnacion_ as a small piece of
heaven upon earth. There were some handsome faces amongst them, and one
whose expression and eyes were singularly lovely, but truth to say, these
were rather exceptions to the general rule.

Having visited the whole building, and admired one virgin's blue satin and
pearls, and another's black velvet and diamonds, sleeping holy infants,
saints, paintings, shrines, and confessionals,--having even climbed up the
Azotea, which commands a magnificent view, we came at length to a large
hall, decorated with paintings and furnished with antique high-backed
arm-chairs, where a very elegant supper, lighted up and ornamented, greeted
our astonished eyes; cakes, chocolate, ices, creams, custards, tarts,
jellies, blancmangers, orange and lemonade, and other profane dainties,
ornamented with gilt paper cut into little flags, etc. I was placed in a
chair that might have served for a pope under a holy family; the
Senora ----- and the Senorita ----- on either side. The elder nuns in
stately array, occupied the other arm-chairs, and looked like statues
carved in stone. A young girl, a sort of pensionnaire, brought in a little
harp without pedals, and while we discussed cakes and ices, sung different
ballads with a good deal of taste. The elder nuns helped us to everything,
but tasted nothing themselves. The younger nuns and the novices were
grouped upon a mat a la Turque, and a more picturesque scene altogether one
could scarcely see.

The young novices in their white robes, white veils, and black eyes, the
severe and dignified madres with their long dresses and mournful-looking
black veils and rosaries, the veiled figures occasionally flitting along
the corridor;--ourselves in contrast, with our worldly dresses and coloured
ribbons; and the great hall lighted by one immense lamp that hung from the
ceiling--I felt transported three centuries back, and half afraid that the
whole would flit away, and prove a mere vision, a waking dream.

A gossiping old nun, who hospitably filled my plate with everything, gave
me the enclosed flag cut in gilt paper, which, together with her custards
and jellies, looked less unreal. They asked many questions in regard to
Spanish affairs, and were not to be consoled for the defeat of Don Carlos,
which they feared would be an end of the true religion in Spain.

Attempt at Robbery

After supper we proceeded upstairs to the choir (where the nuns attend
public worship, and which looks down upon the handsome convent church) to
try the organ. I was set down to a Sonata of Mozart's, the servants blowing
the bellows. It seems to me that I made more noise than music, for the
organ is very old, perhaps as old as the convent, which dates three
centuries back. However, the nuns were pleased, and after they had sung a
hymn, we returned below. I was rather sorry to leave them, and I felt as if
I could have passed some time there very contentedly; but it was near nine
o'clock, and we were obliged to take our departure; so having been embraced
very cordially by the whole community, we left the hospitable walls of the

28th.--Last evening we were sitting at home very quietly about ten o'clock,
C---n, Monsieur de -----, of the ----- Legation, and I, when A---- rushed
into the room all dishevelled. "Come quickly, sir! Robbers are breaking
open the kitchen-door!" A succession of feminine shrieks in the distance,
added effect to her words. C---n jumped up, ran for his pistols, gave one
to Monsieur de -----, called up the soldiers, but no robbers appeared. The
kitchen-door was indeed open, and the trembling galopina attested, that
being in the kitchen alone, dimly lighted by one small lamp, three men, all
armed, had entered, and had rushed out again on hearing her give the alarm.
We somewhat doubted her assertions, but the next morning found that the men
had in fact escaped by the Azotea, a great assistance to all Mexican
depredators. At the end of this row of houses the people ran out and fired
upon them, but without effect. The house of the old Countess of S---- F----
had been broken into, her porter wounded, report says killed, and her plate
carried off. In the mean time our soldiers watch in the kitchen, a pair of
loaded pistols adorn the table, a double-barrelled gun stands in the
corner, and a bull-dog growls in the gallery. This little passing visit to
us was probably caused by the arrival of some large boxes from London,
especially of a very fine harp and piano, both _Erard's_, which I had the
pleasure of seeing unpacked this morning, and which, in spite of jolting
and bad roads, have arrived in perfect condition....

Thus far I had written, it being now the evening, and I sitting alone, when
a succession of shrieks arose, even more awful than those which alarmed us
last night. At the same time the old _galopina,_ her daughter, and a French
girl who lives here, rushed shouting along the gallery; not a word they
said comprehensible, but something concerning "a robber in black, with men
at his back, who had burst open the door." At the noise the whole household
had assembled. One ran this way, one ran that. A little French
_teinturier,_ who it appeared had been paying the maids a polite visit,
seized the loaded gun; the footman took a pistol and hid himself behind the
porter; A----, like a second Joan of Arc, appeared, with a rusty sabre; the
soldiers rushed up with their bayonets; the coachman stood aloof with
nothing; the porter led up the rear, holding a large dog by the collar; but
no robber appears; and the girls are all sobbing and crying because we
doubt their having seen one. Galopina the younger shedding tears in
torrents, swears to the man. Galopina the elder, enveloped in her reboso,
swears to any number of men; and the _recamerera_ has cried herself into a
fit between fear and indignation.

Such is the agreeable state of things about nine o'clock this evening, for
one real attempt to enter the house, invariably gives rise to a thousand
imaginary attacks and fanciful alarms....

After many attempts at walking, I have very nearly abandoned it, but take a
great deal of exercise both on horseback and in the carriage; which last,
on account of the ill-paved condition of the streets, affords rather more
exercise than the former. I drove out this morning in an open carriage with
the Senorita E---- to her country-house at San Agustin, the gambling
emporium. But the famous annual fete does not take place till Whitsunday,
and the pretty country villas there are at present abandoned. We walked in
the garden till the sun became insupportable. The fragrance of the roses
and jasmine was almost overpowering. There are trees of millefleur roses;
heliotrope and honeysuckle cover every pillar, and yellow jasmine trails
over everything....

Found on my return an anonymous letter, begging me to "beware of my cook!"
and signed _Fernandez_. Having shown it to some gentlemen who dined here,
one thought it might be a plan of the robbers to get rid of the cook, whom
they considered in their way; another, with more probability, that it was
merely a plan of the attentive Senor Fernandez to get the cook's place for

We went lately to pay a visit to the celebrated Virgen de los Remedies, the
_Gachupina_, the Spanish patroness, and rival of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
This Virgin was brought over by Cortes, and when he displaced the Indian
idols in the great Temple of Mexico, caused them to be broken in pieces,
and the sanctuary to be purified, he solemnly placed there a crucifix and
this image of the Virgin; then kneeling before it, gave solemn thanks to
Heaven, which had permitted him thus to adore the Most High in a place so
long profaned by the most cruel idolatries.

It is said that this image was brought to Mexico by a soldier of Cortes's
army called Villafuerte, and that the day succeeding the terrible _Noche
Triste_, it was concealed by him in the place where it was afterwards
discovered. At all events, the image disappeared, and nothing further was
known of it until, on the top of a barren and treeless mountain, in the
heart of a large maguey, she was found by a fortunate Indian. Her
restoration was joyfully hailed by the Spaniards. A church was erected on
the spot. A priest was appointed to take charge of the miraculous image.
Her fame spread abroad. Gifts of immense value were brought to her shrine.
A treasurer was appointed to take care of her jewels; a camarista to
superintend her rich wardrobe. No rich dowager died in peace until she had
bequeathed to Our Lady of Los Remedios her largest diamond, or her richest
pearl. In seasons of drought she is brought in from her dwelling in the
mountain, and carried in procession through the streets. The viceroy
himself on foot used to lead the holy train. One of the highest rank drives
the chariot in which she is seated. In succession she visits the principal
convents, and as she is carried through the cloistered precincts, the nuns
are ranged on their knees in humble adoration. Plentiful rains immediately
follow her arrival. -----, who accompanied us, has on several occasions
filled the office of her coachman, by which means he has seen the interior
of most of the convents in Mexico. It is true that there came a time when
the famous curate Hidalgo, the prime mover of the Revolution, having taken
as his standard an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, a rivalry arose
between her and the Spanish Virgin; and Hidalgo having been defeated and
forced to fly, the image of the Virgen de los Remedios was conducted to
Mexico dressed as a general, and invoked as the patroness of Spain. Later
still, the Virgin herself was denounced as a Gachupina! her general's sash
boldly torn from her by the valiant General -----, who also signed her
passport, with an order for her to leave the republic. However, she was
again restored to her honours, and still retains her treasurers, her
camarista, and sanctum sanctorum.

Being desirous of seeing this celebrated image, we set off one fine
afternoon in a carriage of -----'s, drawn by six unbroken horses,
accompanied by him and his lady, and performed four leagues of bad road in
an incredibly short space of time. The horses themselves were in an evident
state of astonishment, for after kicking and plunging, and, as they
imagined, running away, they found themselves driven much faster than they
had the slightest intention of going: so after a little while they
acknowledged, in -----'s capital coachman, _une main de maitre_.

The mountain is barren and lonely, but the view from its summit is
beautiful, commanding the whole plain. The church is old and not very
remarkable, yet a picturesque object, as it stands in its gay solitariness,
with one or two trees beside it, of which one without leaves was entirely
covered with the most brilliant scarlet flowers. Senor ----- having been the
Virgin's coachman, the Senora ----- being the daughter of her camarista,
and C---n the Minister from the land of her predilection, we were not
astonished at the distinguished reception which we met with from the
reverend padre, the guardian of the mountain. The church within is
handsome; and above the altar is a copy of the original Virgin. After we
had remained there a little while, we were admitted into the Sanctum, where
the identical Virgin of Cortes, with a large silver maguey, occupies her
splendid shrine. The priest retired and put on his robes, and then
returning, and all kneeling before the altar, he recited the _credo_. This
over, he mounted the steps, and opening the shrine where the Virgin was
encased, knelt down and removed her in his arms. He then presented her to
each of us in succession, every one kissing the hem of her satin robe. She
was afterwards replaced with the same ceremony.

The image is a wooden doll about a foot high, holding in its arms an infant
Jesus, both faces evidently carved with a rude penknife; two holes for the
eyes and another for the mouth. This doll was dressed in blue satin and
pearls with a crown upon her head and a quantity of hair fastened on to the
crown. No Indian idol could be much uglier. As she has been a good deal
scratched and destroyed in the lapse of ages, C---n observed that he was
astonished they had not tried to restore her a little. To this the padre
replied, that the attempt had been made by several artists, each one of
whom had sickened and died. He also mentioned as one of her miracles, that
living on a solitary mountain she had never been robbed; but I fear the
good padre is somewhat _oblivious_, as this sacrilege has happened more
than once. On one occasion a crowd of leperos being collected, and the
image carried round to be kissed, one of them, affecting intense devotion,
bit off the large pearl that adorned her dress in front, and before the
theft was discovered, he had mingled with the crowd and escaped. When
reminded of the circumstance, the padre said it was true, but that the
thief was a _Frenchman_. After taking leave of the Virgin, we visited the
padre in his own old house, attached to the church, where his only
attendant, as usual among padres, is an old woman.

We then made our way on foot down a steep hill, stopping to admire some
noble stone arches, the remains of an aqueduct built by the Spaniards for
conveying water from one mountain to the other; and with an Indian for our
guide, visited a newly-discovered, though anciently-opened mine, said to be
of silver, and which had until lately been covered with rubbish. We groped
through it, and found vaults and excavations and a deep pit of water. C---n
got some Indians to break off pieces of stone for him, which were put into
a sack and sent home for examination. We were so tired of our walk down
this steep and mountainous path, that on our return, I mounted a horse with
a man's saddle, belonging to one of the servants, and contrived to keep on,
while it climbed up the perpendicular ascent. As this seemed rather a
selfish proceeding while the others walked, I invited the Senora ----- to
mount also in front; which she did, and the path being almost
perpendicular, my head nearly touched the ground, which certainly made the
seat not over safe or easy. However, we reached the top of the mountain in
safety, though somewhat exhausted with laughing, and were driven home with
the speed of a rail-car.


Mexico in May--Leave Mexico for Santiago--Coach of Charles X--Mexican
Travelling--General Aspect of the Country--Village of Santa Clara--
Robbers' House--Temples of the Sun and Moon--San Juan--Mexican Posada--
School-house--Skulls--Hard Fare--Travelling Dress--Sopayuca--Military
Administrador--Santiago--Matadors and Picadors--Evenings in the Country-
Dances--Mexican Songs--Cempoala--Plaza de Toros--Skill of the Horsemen--
Omatusco--Accident--Tulansingo--Beautiful Garden--Mexican Dishes--Fruits--
Horses--Games of Forfeits--Ranchera's Dress--Young Girls and their
Admirers--Verses--Knowledge of Simple Medicine--Indian Baths--Hidden

SANTIAGO, May 6th.

Before the setting in of the rainy season, we accepted of the invitation of
our friends the -----s, to visit the different haciendas, as in a short
time the roads will become nearly impassable. The country in May is perhaps
at its highest beauty, or even a little earlier, as already the great blow
of roses is nearly over; _au reste_ there are roses all the year round,
though more in December than in July. And this, by the way, is rather a
source of disappointment to the unwary traveller. He arrives in December,
and finds the gardens full of flowers. "If this be the case in December,"
says he to himself, "what will it be in May?" May comes--the roses are
over, and the chief flowers in the gardens are dahlias and marigolds, our
autumnal flowers--September, and these autumnal flowers still bloom, and
with them you have mignonette and roses, and then pinks and jasmine, and
other flowers. In fact there seems to be no particular season for anything.

The weather at present is neither warm nor cold, but colder here than in
Mexico, and when it does not rain it is lovely. Already there has been much
rain, and the torrents are so swelled, that there was some doubt as to
whether our carriages could pass them.

Yesterday, at five in the morning we left Mexico, in a coach once the
property of Charles X. "Sic transit," etc.; and a most luxurious
travelling-carriage is that of his ex-majesty, entirely covered with
gilding, save where the lilies of France surmount the crown, (sad emblems
of the fallen dynasty!) lined with white satin with violet-coloured
binding, the satin cushions most excellently stuffed: large, commodious,
and with a movement as soft as that of a gondola.

A Frenchman bought it on a speculation, and brought it here for sale. In
former days, from its gilded and showy appearance, it would have brought
any price; but the taste for gaudy equipages has gone by since the
introduction of foreign, and especially of English carriages; and the
present proprietor, who bought it for its intrinsic good qualities, paid
but a moderate sum for it. In this carriage, drawn by six strong horses,
with two first-rate coachmen and several outriders well-armed, we went
along at great speed. The drivers, dressed Mexican fashion, with all their
accoutrements smart and new, looked very picturesque. Jackets and trousers
of deerskin, and jackets embroidered in green, with hanging silver buttons,
the trousers also embroidered and slit up the side of the leg, trimmed with
silver buttons, and showing an under pair of unbleached linen; these, with
the postilions' boots, and great hats with gold rolls, form a dress which
would _faire fureur_, if some adventurous Mexican would venture to display
it on the streets of London.

We left the city by the gate of Guadalupe, and passed by the great
cathedral, our road lying over the marshy plains once covered by the waters
of Lake Tezcuco.

To the east lay the great lake, its broad waters shining like a sheet of
molten silver, and the two great volcanoes: the rising sun forming a crown
of rays on the white brow of Popocatepetl.

To describe once for all the general aspect of the country on this side of
the valley of Mexico, suffice it to say, that there is a universal air of
dreariness, vastiness, and desolation. The country is flat, but always
enlivened by the surrounding mountains, like an uninteresting painting in a
diamond frame; and yet it is not wholly uninteresting. It has a character
peculiar to itself, great plains of maguey, with its huts with uncultivated
patches, that have once been gardens, still filled with flowers and choked
with weeds; the huts themselves, generally of mud, yet not unfrequently of
solid stone, roofless and windowless, with traces of having been fine
buildings in former days; the complete solitude, unbroken except by the
passing Indian, certainly as much in a state of savage nature as the lower
class of Mexicans were when Cortes first traversed these plains--with the
same character, gentle and cowardly, false and cunning, as weak animals are
apt to be by nature, and indolent and improvident as men are in a fine
climate; ruins everywhere--here a viceroy's country palace serving as a
tavern, where the mules stop to rest, and the drivers to drink pulque--
there, a whole village crumbling to pieces; roofless houses, broken down
walls and arches, an old church--the remains of a convent.... For leagues
scarcely a tree to be seen; then a clump of the graceful Arbol de Peru, or
one great cypress--long strings of mules and asses, with their drivers--
pasture-fields with cattle--then again whole tracts of maguey, as far as
the eye can reach; no roads worthy of the name, but a passage made between
fields of maguey, bordered by crumbling-down low stone walls, causing a
jolting from which not even the easy movement of Charles X's coach can save
us. But the horses go at full gallop, accustomed to go through and over

The first village we saw was Santa Clara, to our left, lying at the foot of
some dark hills, with its white church and flat-roofed or no-roofed houses.
There being no shade, frequently not a tree for leagues, the sun and dust
very disagreeable, and became more so as the day advanced. Here it came to
pass, that, travelling rapidly over the hot and dusty plains, the wheels of
our carriage began to smoke. No house was in sight--no water within ken. It
was a case of difficulty; when suddenly ----- recollected that not far from
thence was an old rancho, a deserted farmhouse at present occupied by
robbers; and having ordered the coachman to drive to within a few hundred
yards of this house, he sent a servant on horse- back with a _medio_
(fourpence) to bring some water, which was treating the robbers like
honourable men. The man galloped off, and shortly returned with a can full
of water, which he carried back when the fire was extinguished.

Meanwhile we examined, as well as we could, the external appearance of the
robbers' domicile, which was an old half-ruined house, standing alone on
the plain, with no tree near it. Several men, with guns, were walking up
and down before the house--sporting-looking characters, but rather
dirty--apparently either waiting for some expected _game_, or going in
search of it. Women with rebosos, were carrying water, and walking amongst
them. There were also a number of dogs. The well-armed men who accompanied
us, and the name of -----, so well known in these parts, that once when his
carriage was surrounded by robbers, he merely mentioned who he was, and
they retreated with many apologies for their mistake, precluded all danger
of an attack; but woe to the solitary horseman or the escorted carriage
that should pass thereby! Nor, indeed, are they always in the same mood,
for Senor -----'s houses have been frequently attacked in his absence, and
his hacienda at Santiago once stood a regular siege, the robbers being at
length repulsed by the bravery of his servants.

We set off again _au grand galop_, drivers and outriders giving, from time
to time, the most extraordinary shrieks to encourage the horses and to
amuse themselves, wild and shrill enough to frighten any civilized
quadruped. The road grew more picturesque as we advanced, and at length our
attention was arrested by the sight of the two great pyramids, which rise
to the east of the town of San Juan Teotihuacan, which are mentioned by
Humboldt, and have excited the curiosity and attention of every succeeding
traveller. The huge masses were consecrated to the sun and moon, which, in
the time of Cortes, were there represented by two vast stone idols, covered
with gold. The conquerors made use of the gold, and broke the idols in
pieces, by order of the first bishop of Mexico. Unfortunately, our time was
too limited to give them more than a passing observation. Fragments of
obsidian, in the form of knives and of arrows, with which the priests
opened the breasts of their human victims, are still to be found there; and
numerous small idols, made of baked clay, are to be seen both there and in
the plains adjoining. The Indians rather dislike to guide travellers to
these pyramids, and their reluctance to do so has increased the popular
belief of the existence of great concealed treasures near or in them.

The whole plain on which these great pyramids stand was formerly called
Micoatl, or the Pathway of the Dead; and the hundreds of smaller pyramids
which surround the larger ones (the Temples of the Sun and Moon) are
symmetrically disposed in wide streets, forming a great burial-plain,
composed perhaps of the dust of their ancient warriors, an Aztec or Toltec
Pere-la-Chaise, or rather a roofless Westminster Abbey. So few of the
ancient _teocallis_ now remain, and these being nearly the only traces now
existing of that extraordinary race, we regretted the more not being able
to devote some time to their examination. Fanaticism and policy induced the
Spanish conquerors to destroy these heathen temples; and when we recollect
that at the time of the Reformation in civilized England, the most splendid
Catholic edifices were made level with the ground, in compliance with the
ferocious edict of John Knox, "Ding down the nests, and the rooks will fly
off," we can have little wonder or blame to bestow upon Cortes, who, in the
excitement of the siege, gave orders for the destruction of these blood-
stained sanctuaries. In the afternoon we arrived at San Juan, a pretty
village, boasting of an inn, a school-house, an avenue of fine trees, and a
stream of clear water. It is true that the inn is a Mexican posada, bearing
as much resemblance to what is generally called an inn, as an hacienda does
to an English country-house; the school-house, a room with a mud floor and
a few dirty benches, occupied by little ragged boys and girls; but the
avenue is pretty, the grass as green as emeralds, and the water crystal. We
walked out while they changed horses, of which Senor ----- had fresh relays
of his own prepared all along the road; and entered the school-house,
attracted by the noise and the invitingly open door. The master was a poor,
ragged, pale, careworn looking young man, seemingly half-dinned with the
noise, but very earnest in his work. The children, all speaking at once,
were learning to spell out of some old bills of Congress. Several moral
sentences were written on the wall in very independent orthography. C---n
having remarked to the master that they were ill-spelt, he seemed very much
astonished, and even inclined to doubt the fact. I thought it was one of
those cases where ignorance is bliss, and fear the observation may have
cost the young man a night's rest.

A row of grinning skulls was ranged round the wall of the churchyard, and
the sexton, who gave us admittance to the church, taking up one to show it
off, it all crumbled into dust, which filled the air like a cloud.

At the posada they gave us rancid sheep's milk, cheese, and biscuits so
hard, that C---n asked the host if they were made in the same year with the
church; at which he seemed mightily pleased, and could not stop laughing
till we got into the carriage.

Soon after leaving San Juan we were met by the Senora de -----, in an open
carriage, coming with her children to meet us; and though she had travelled
since sunrise from her hacienda, she appeared as if freshly dressed for an
evening party; her dress, amber-coloured crape, trimmed with white blonde,
short sleeves and _decolletee_; a set of beautiful Neapolitan strawberry-
coral, set in gold, straw-coloured satin shoes, and a little China crape
shawl, embroidered in bright flowers; her hair dressed and uncovered.

We stopped at their hacienda of Sopayuca, an old house, standing solitary
in the midst of great fields of maguey. It has a small deserted garden
adjoining, amongst whose tangled bushes a pretty little tame deer was
playing, with its half-startled look and full wild eye. We found an
excellent breakfast prepared, and here, for the first time, I conceived the
possibility of not disliking _pulque_. We visited the large buildings where
it is kept, and found it rather refreshing, with a sweet taste and a creamy
froth upon it, and with a much less decided odour than that which is sold
in Mexico.

This hacienda is under the charge of an administrador, to whom ----- pays a
large annual sum, and whose place is by no means a sinecure, as he lives in
perpetual danger from robbers. He is captain of a troop of soldiers, and as
his life has been spent in "persecuting robbers," he is an object of
intense hatred to that free and independent body, and has some thoughts of
removing to another part of the country, where he may be more tranquil. He
gave us a terrible account of these night attacks, of the ineffectual
protection afforded him by the government, and of the nearly insuperable
difficulties thrown in the way of any attempt to bring these men to
justice. He lately told the president that he had some thoughts of joining
the robbers himself, as they were the only persons in the republic
protected by the government. The president, however, is not to blame in
this matter. He has used every endeavour to check these abuses; and
difficulties have been thrown in his way from very unexpected sources....

_A propos_ to which, the ----- consul told us the other day, that some time
ago, having occasion to consult Judge ----- upon an affair of importance,
he was shown into an apartment where that functionary was engaged with some
suspicious-looking individuals, or rather who were above suspicion, their
appearance plainly indicating their calling. On the table before him lay a
number of guns, swords, pistols, and all sorts of arms. The Judge requested
Monsieur de ----- to be seated, observing that he was investigating a case
of robbery committed by these persons. The robbers were seated, smoking
very much at their ease, and the Judge was enjoying the same innocent
recreation; when his cigar becoming extinguished, one of these gentlemen
taking his from his mouth, handed it to the magistrate, who relighted his
_puro_ (cigar) at it, and returned it with a polite bow. In short, they
were completely _hand in glove_.

In the evening we reached Santiago, where we now are, about eighteen
leagues from Mexico, a large house in a wild-looking country, standing in
solitary state, with hills behind, and rocks before it, and surrounded by
great uncultivated plains and pasture-fields. Everything is _en grande_ in
this domain. There is a handsome chapel and sacristy; a plaza de toros;
hundreds of horses and mules; and between _dependientes_ and hangers-on, we
sat down, thirty or forty people, to dinner.

7th.--The very day of our arrival, Bernardo the Matador, with his men,
arrived from Mexico, bringing their superb dresses with them, for the
purpose of giving us a country bull-fight. As an hacienda of this kind is
an immense empty house, without furniture or books, all the amusement is to
be found either out of doors, or in large parties in the house; and the
unostentatious hospitality which exists in this and some other of the old
families, is a pleasing remnant of Spanish manners and habits, now falling
into disuse, and succeeded by more pretension to refinement, and less of
either real wealth or sociability.

In the evening here, all assemble in a large hall; the Senora de -----
playing the piano; while the whole party, agents, dependientes,
major-domo, coachmen, matadors, picadors, and women-servants, assemble and
perform the dances of the country; _jarabes, aforrados, enanos, palomos,
zapateros,_ etc., etc. It must not be supposed that in this apparent
mingling of ranks between masters and servants, there is the slightest want
of respect on the part of the latter; on the contrary, they seem to exert
themselves, as in duty bound, for the amusement of their master and his
guests. There is nothing republican in it; no feeling of equality; as far
as I have seen, that feeling does not exist here, except between people of
the same rank. It is more like some remains of the feudal system, where the
retainers sat at the same table with their chief, but below the salt. The
dances are monotonous, with small steps and a great deal of shuffling, but
the music is rather pretty, and some of the dancers were very graceful and
agile; and if it were not invidious to make distinctions, we _might_
particularize Bernardo the Matador, the head coachman, and a handsome
peasant-girl, with a short scarlet and yellow petticoat, and a foot and
ankle _a la Vestris_. They were all very quiet, but seemed in a state of
intense enjoyment; and some of the men accompanied the dancers on the

First the player strikes up in quick time, and the dancer performs a quick
movement; then the musician accompanies the music with his voice, and the
dancer goes through some slow steps. Such is the case in the _Aforrado_ or
_Lining_, a _curious nom de tendresse_, expressive, I suppose, of something
soft and well wadded. The words are as follow:


Aforrado de mi vida!
Come estas, como te va?
Como has pasado la noche,
No has tenido novedad?


Aforrado de mi vida!
Yo te quisiera cantar,
Pero mis ojos son tiernos,
Y empazaran a llorar.


De Guadalajara vengo,
Lideando con un soldado,
Solo por venir a ver
A mi jarabe aforrado.


Y vente conmigo,
Y yo te dare
Zapatos de raso
Color de cafe.

Of these poetical sublimities, a translation at once literal and metrical,
would, we think, damp the spirit of a Coleridge.


Lining of my life!
How are you? how do you do?
How have you passed the night?
Have you met with nothing new?


Lining of my life!
To you I should like to sing;
But that my eyes are weak,
And tears might begin to spring.


From Guadalajara fighting,
With a soldier I came on,
My well-lined _sweet syrup_!
I came to see you alone.


And come then with me,
And I will give thee
Such fine shoes of satin,
The colour of _tea_.

It is _coffee_, but you will excuse the poetical licence. The music married
to this "immortal verse," I have learned by ear, and shall send you. In the
"_enanos_" (the dwarfs) the dancer _makes himself little_, every time the
chorus is sung.


Ah! que bonitos
Son los enanos,
Los chiquititos
Y Mejicanos.


Sale la linda,
Sale la fea,
Sale el enano,
Con su zalea.


Los enanitos
Se enojaron,
Porque a las enanas
Les pellizcaron.

There are many more verses, but I think you will find these quite
satisfactory, "Ah! how pretty are the dwarfs, the little ones, the
Mexicans! Out comes the pretty one, out comes the ugly one, out comes the
dwarf with his jacket of skin. The little he-dwarfs were angry, because
some one pinched the she-dwarfs." There is another called the _Toro_, of
which the words are not very interesting; and the _Zapatero_, or shoemaker,
was very well danced by a gentleman who accompanied himself, at the same
time, on the guitar.

Yesterday morning we set off in a burning sun, over a perfect Egyptian
desert, to visit the famous arches of Cempoala, a magnificent work, which
we are told had greatly excited the admiration of Mr. Poinsett when in this
country. This aqueduct, the object of whose construction was to supply
these arid plains with water, was the work of a Spanish Franciscan friar,
and has never been entirely concluded. We travelled about six leagues, and
sat there for hours, looking up at the great stone arches, which seem like
a work of giants.

In the afternoon we all rode to the Plaza de Toros. The evening was cool,
and our horses good, the road pretty and shady, and the plaza itself a most
picturesque enclosure, surrounded by lofty trees. Chairs were placed for us
on a raised platform; and the bright green of the trees, the flashing
dresses of the _toreadors_, the roaring of the fierce bulls, the spirited
horses, the music and the cries; the Indians shouting from the trees up
which they had climbed; all formed a scene of savage grandeur, which for a
short time at least is interesting. Bernardo was dressed in blue satin and
gold; the picadors in black and silver; the others in maroon-coloured satin
and gold; all those on foot wear knee-breeches and white silk stockings, a
little black cap with ribbons, and a plait of hair streaming down behind.
The horses were generally good, and as each new adversary appeared, seemed
to participate in the enthusiasm of their riders. One bull after another
was driven in roaring, and as here they are generally fierce, and their
horns not blunted as in Mexico, it is a much more dangerous affair. The
bulls were not killed, but were sufficiently tormented. One stuck full of
arrows and fireworks, all adorned with ribbons and coloured paper, made a
sudden spring over an immensely high wall, and dashed into the woods. I
thought afterwards of this unfortunate animal, how it must have been
wandering about all night, bellowing with pain, the concealed arrows
piercing its flesh, and looking like gay ornaments;

"So, when the watchful shepherd, from the blind,
Wounds with a random shaft the careless hind,
Distracted with her pain, she flies the woods,
Bounds o'er the lawn, and seeks the silent floods--
With fruitless care; for still the fatal dart
Sticks in her side, and rankles in her heart."

If the arrows had stuck too deep, and that the bull could not rub them off
against the trees, he must have bled to death. Had he remained, his fate
would have been better, for when the animal is entirely exhausted they
throw him down with a laso, and pulling out the arrows put ointment on the

The skill of the men is surprising; but the most curious part of the
exhibition was when a coachman of -----'s, a strong, handsome Mexican,
mounted on the back of a fierce bull, which plunged and flung himself about
as if possessed by a legion of demons, and forced the animal to gallop
round and round the arena. The bull is first caught by the laso, and thrown
on his side, struggling furiously. The man mounts while he is still on the
ground. At the same moment the laso is withdrawn, and the bull starts up,
maddened by feeling the weight of his unusual burden. The rider must
dismount in the same way, the bull being first thrown down, otherwise he
would be gored in a moment. It is terribly dangerous, for if the man were
to lose his seat, his death is nearly certain; but these Mexicans are
superb riders. A monk, who is attached to the establishment, seems an
ardent admirer of these sports, and his presence is useful, in case of a
dangerous accident occurring, which is not unfrequent.

The amusement was suddenly interrupted by sudden darkness, and a tremendous
storm of rain and thunder, in the midst of which we mounted our horses, and
galloped home.

TULANSINGO----, 8th.

Another bull-fight last evening! It is like pulque; one makes wry faces at
it at first, and then begins to like it. One thing we soon discovered;
which was, that the bulls, if so inclined, could leap upon our platform, as
they occasionally sprang over a wall twice as high. There was a part of the
spectacle rather too horrible. The horse of one of the picadors was gored,
his side torn up by the bull's horns, and in this state, streaming with
blood, he was forced to gallop round the circle.

We spent one day in visiting Omatusco, an hacienda belonging to the Senora
T---a, situated in the plains of Apan, and famous for the superior
excellence of its pulque. The organas, the nopal, and great fields of
maguey, constitute the chief vegetation for many miles round. The hacienda
itself, a fine large building, stands lonely and bleak in the midst of
magueys. A fine chapel, left unfinished since her husband's death,
attracted our attention by its simple architecture and unpretending
elegance. It is nearly impossible to conceive anything more lonely than a
residence here must be; or in fact in any of the haciendas situated on
these great plains of Otumha and Apan.

This morning we set off for Tulansingo, in four carriages-and-six,
containing the whole family, ourselves, maids, and children, padre and
nursery governess; relays being placed all along the road, which we
traversed at full gallop. But in crossing some great pasture-fields, the
drivers of two of the carriages began to race; one of the horses fell and
threw the postilion; the carriage itself was overturned, and though none of
the inmates was injured, the poor _mozo_ was terribly wounded in his head
and legs. No assistance being near, he changed places with one of the men
on horseback, and was brought on slowly.

About three in the afternoon we arrived at Tulansingo, rather an important
city in its way, and which has been the theatre of many revolutionary
events; with various streets and shops, a handsome church; alcaldes, a
prefect, etc. There appear to be some few good houses and decent families,
and clean, small shops, and there are pretty, shady walks in the environs;
and though there are also plenty of miserable dwellings and dirty people,
it is altogether rather a civilized place. The house of -----, which stands
within a courtyard, and is the house par excellence, is very handsome, with
little furniture, but with some remnants of luxury. The dining-hall is a
noble room, with beautiful Chinese paper, opening into a garden, which is
the boast of the republic, and is indeed singularly pretty, and kept in
beautiful order, with gravel walks and fine trees, clear tanks and
sparkling fountains, and an extraordinary profusion of the most beautiful
flowers, roses especially. There is something extremely oriental in its
appearance, and the fountains are ornamented with China vases and Chinese
figures of great value. Walking along under arches formed by rose-bushes, a
small column of water spouted forth from each bush, sprinkling us all over
with its showers. But the prettiest thing in the garden is a great tank of
clear water, enclosed on three sides by a Chinese building, round which
runs a piazza with stone pillars, shaded by a drapery of white curtains.
Comfortable well-cushioned sofas are arranged along the piazza, which opens
into a large room, where one may dress after bathing. It is the prettiest
and coolest retreat possible, and entirely surrounded by trees and roses.
Here one may lie at noonday, with the sun and the world completely shut
out. They call this an English garden, than which it rather resembles the
summer retreat of a sultan.

When we arrived, we found dinner laid for forty persons, and the table
ornamented by the taste of the gardener, with pyramids of beautiful

I have now formed acquaintance with many Mexican dishes; _mole_ (meat
stewed in red chile), boiled nopal, fried bananas, green chile, etc. Then
we invariably have _frijoles_ (brown beans stewed), hot tortillas--and this
being in the country, pulque is the universal beverage. In Mexico,
tortillas and pulque are considered unfashionable, though both are to be
met with occasionally, in some of the best old houses. They have here a
most delicious species of cream cheese made by the Indians, and ate with
virgin honey. I believe there is an intermixture of goats' milk in it; but
the Indian families who make it, and who have been offered large sums for
the receipt, find it more profitable to keep their secret.

Every dinner has _puchero_ immediately following the soup; consisting of
boiled mutton, beef, bacon, fowls, garbanzos (a white bean), small gourds,
potatoes, boiled pears, greens, and any other vegetables; a piece of each
put on your plate at the same time, and accompanied by a sauce of herbs or

As for fruits, we have mameys, chirimoyas, granaditas, white and black
zapotes; the black, sweet, with a green skin and black pulp, and with black
stones in it; the white resembling it in outward appearance and form, but
with a white pulp, and the kernel, which is said to be poisonous, is very
large, round, and white. It belongs to a larger and more leafy tree than
the black zapote, and grows in cold or temperate climates; whereas the
other is a native of _tierra caliente_. Then there is the chicozapote, of
the same family, with a whitish skin, and a white or rose-tinged pulp; this
also belongs to the warm regions. The capulin, or Mexican cherry; the
mango, of which the best come from Orizaba and Cordova; the cayote, etc. Of
these I prefer the chirimoya, zapote blanco, granadita, and mango; but this
is a matter of taste.

12th.--We have spent some days here very pleasantly; riding amongst the
hills in the neighbourhood, exploring caves, viewing waterfalls, and
climbing on foot or on horseback, wherever foot or horse could penetrate.
No habits to be worn in these parts, as I found from experience, after
being caught upon a gigantic maguey, and my gown torn in two. It is
certainly always the wisest plan to adopt the customs of the country one
lives in. A dress either of stuff, such as merino, or of muslin, as short
as it is usually worn, a reboso tied over one shoulder, and a large straw
hat, is about the most convenient costume that can be adopted. The horses
are small, but strong, spirited, and well-made; generally unshod, which
they say makes the motion more agreeable; and almost all, at least all
ladies' horses, are taught the _paso_, which I find tiresome for a
continuance, though a good paso-horse will keep up with others that gallop,
and for a longer time.

The great amusement here in the evening is playing at _juegos de prendas_,
games with forfeits, which I recommend to all who wish to make a rapid
improvement in the Spanish tongue. Last night, being desired to name a
forfeit for the padre, I condemned him to dance the _jarabe_, of which he
performed a few steps in his long gown and girdle, with equal awkwardness
and good nature. We met to-day the prettiest little ranchera, a farmer's
wife or daughter, riding in front of a _mozo_ on the same horse, their
usual mode, dressed in a short embroidered muslin petticoat, white satin
shoes, a pearl necklace, and earrings, a reboso, and a large round straw
hat. The ladies sit their horse on a contrary side to our fashion. They
have generally adopted English saddles, but the farmers' wives frequently
sit in a sort of chair, which they find much more commodious.

Some country ladies, who attended mass in the chapel this morning, were
dressed in very short clear white muslin gowns, very much starched, and so
disposed as to show two under-petticoats, also stiffly starched, and
trimmed with lace, their shoes coloured satin. Considered as a costume of
their own, I begin to think it rather pretty. The oldest women here or in
Mexico never wear caps; nothing but their own gray hair, sometimes cut
short, sometimes turned up with a comb, and not unusually tied behind in a
pigtail. There is no attempt to conceal the ravages of time....

It appears to me, that amongst the young girls here there is not that
desire to enter upon the cares of matrimony, which is to be observed in
many other countries. The opprobious epithet of "old maid" is unknown. A
girl is not the less admired because she has been ten or a dozen years in
society; the most severe remark made on her is that she is "hard to
please." No one calls her _passee_, or looks out for a new face to admire.
I have seen no courting of the young men either in mothers or daughters; no
match-making mammas, or daughters looking out for their own interests. In
fact, young people have so few opportunities of being together, that
Mexican marriages must be made in heaven; for I see no opportunity of
bringing them about upon earth! The young men when they do meet with young
ladies in society, appear devoted to and very much afraid of them. I know
but one lady in Mexico who has the reputation of having manoeuvred all her
daughters into great marriages; but she is so clever, and her daughters
were such beauties, that it can have cost her no trouble; as for
flirtation, the name is unknown, and the thing.

I have been taking lessons in the Indian dances from Dona R---a; they are
not ungraceful, but lazy and monotonous....

On every door in this house there is a printed paper to the following

"Quien a esta casa da luz? Jesus.
Quien la llena de alegria? Maria.
Y quien la abraza en la fe? Jose.
Luego bien claro se ve
Que siempre habra contricion,
Teniendo en la corazon,
A Jesus, Maria, y Jose."

"Who gives light to this house? Jesus.
Who fills it with joy? Mary.
Who kindles faith in it? Joseph.
Then we see very clearly
That there will always be contrition,
Keeping in our hearts,
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph."

These are written in verse, and below: "The most illustrious Bishop of
Monte-Rey, Don Fray Jose de Jesus Maria Balaunzaran, hereby ordains and
grants, along with the Bishops of Puebla, Durango, Valladolid and
Guadalajara, two hundred days of indulgence to all those who devoutly
repeat the above ejaculation, and invoke the sweet names of Mary, Jesus,
and Joseph."... The people here have certainly a poetical vein in their
composition. Everything is put into verse--sometimes doggerel, like the
above (in which _luz_ rhyming with _Jesus_, shows that the _z_ is
pronounced here like an _s_), occasionally a little better, but always in

We went this evening to visit the Countess del -----, who has a house in
the village. Found her in bed, feverish, and making use of simple remedies,
such as herbs, the knowledge and use of which have descended from the
ancient Indians to the present lords of the soil. The Spanish historians
who have written upon the conquest of Mexico, all mention the knowledge
which the Mexican physicians had of herbs. It was supposed by these last,
that for every infirmity there was a remedy in the herbs of the field; and
to apply them according to the nature of the malady, was the chief science
of these primitive professors of medicine. Much which is now used in
European pharmacy is due to the research of Mexican doctors; such as
sarsaparilla, jalap, friars' rhubarb, _mechoacan_, etc.; also various
emetics, antidotes to poison, remedies against fever, and an infinite
number of plants, minerals, gums, and simple medicines. As for their
infusions, decoctions, ointments, plasters, oils, etc., Cortes himself
mentions the wonderful number of these which he saw in the Mexican market
for sale. From certain trees they distilled balsams; and drew a balsamic
liquid both from a decoction of the branches, and from the bark steeped in
water. Bleeding and bathing were their other favourite remedies. The
country-people breathed a vein with a maguey-point, and when they could not
find leeches, substituted the prickles of the American-hedgehog.

Besides bathing in the rivers, lakes, tanks, and fountains, they used a
bath which is still to be seen in many Indian villages, and which they call
the temezcalli. It is made of unbaked bricks; its form is that of a baker's
oven, about eight feet wide and six high; the pavement rather convex, and
lower than the surface of the soil. A person can enter this bath only on
his knees. Opposite the entry is a stone or brick stove, its opening
towards the exterior of the bath, with a hole to let out the smoke. Before
the bath is prepared, the floor inside is covered with a mat, on which is
placed a jar of water, some herbs and leaves of corn. The stove is then
heated until the stones which unite it with the bath become red-hot. When
the bather enters the entry is closed, and the only opening left is a hole
at the top of the vault, which, when the smoke of the oven has passed
through, is also shut. They then pour water upon the red-hot stones, from
which a thick vapour arises, which fills the temezcalli. The bather then
throws himself on the mat, and drawing down the steam with the herbs and
maize, wets them in the tepid water of the jar, and if he has any pain,
applies them to the part affected. This having produced perspiration, the
door is opened and the well-baked patient comes out and dresses. For
fevers, for bad colds, for the bite of a poisonous animal, this is said to
be a certain cure; also for acute rheumatism.

For the cure of wounds, the Spaniards found the Mexican remedies most
efficacious. Cortes himself was cured by one of their doctors of a severe
wound in the head, received at Otumba, through which we lately passed. For
fractures, for humours, for everything they had their remedy; sometimes
pulverizing the seeds of plants, and attributing much of their efficacy to
the superstitious ceremonies and prayers which they used while applying
them, especially those which they offered up to _Tzapotlatenan_, the
goddess of medicine.

A great deal of this knowledge is still preserved amongst their
descendants, and considered efficacious. For every illness there is an
herb, for every accident a remedy. Baths are in constant use, although
these temezcallis are confined to the Indians. In every family there is
some knowledge of simple medicine, very necessary, in _haciendas_
especially, where no physician can possibly be procured.

There is a hill upon----'s property, said to contain much buried treasure.
There are many traditions here of this concealed Indian wealth, but very
little gold has been actually recovered from these mountain-tombs. Buried
gold has occasionally come to light; not by researches in the mountains,
for few are rash enough to throw away their money in search of what would
probably prove an imaginary treasure; but by accident--in the ruins of old
houses, where the proprietors had deposited it for safety in some period of
revolution; perhaps no later than at the time of the Spanish expulsion.

Some years ago, an old and very poor woman rented a house in the environs
of Mexico, as old and wretched as herself, for four reals a week. It had an
old broken-up stone _patio_ (inner courtyard), which she used occasionally
to sweep with a little old broom. One day she observed two or three stones
in this patio larger and more carefully put together than the others, and
the little old woman, being a daughter of Eve by some collateral branch,
poked down and worked at the stones until she was able to raise them up-
when lo and behold, she discovered a can full of treasure; no less than
five thousand dollars in gold! Her delight and her fright were unbounded;
and, being a prudent old lady, she determined, in the first place, to leave
the house, and next to bring in her treasure, _poquito a poquito_ (little
by little), to a room in Mexico, keeping the old house as a sort of bank.
She did so; took a nice room, and instead of sleeping on a _petate_ (mat),
as she had hitherto done, bought herself a little bedstead, and even a
mattress; treated herself not only to chocolate, but a few bottles of good
wine! Such extraordinary luxury could not fail to create suspicion. She was
questioned by her neighbours, and at length intrusted her secret to their
keeping. History says, that notwithstanding this, she was not robbed, and
was allowed to enjoy her good fortune in peace. It is difficult to credit
such a miracle in this land of picking and stealing, but rny authority is
beyond impeachment.

... Whilst I write on these irrelevant matters, I am warned that the
coaches are at the door, and that we are about setting off for Tepenacasco,
another hacienda of Senor---'s, a few leagues from this.


Arrival at Tepenacasco--Lake with Wild-duck--Ruined Hacienda--Sunset on the
Plains--Troop of Asses--Ride by Moonlight--Leave Tepenacasco--San
Miguel--Description--Thunderstorm--Guasco--Journey to Real del
Monte--English Road--Scenery--Village of Real--Count de Regla--Director's
House--English Breakfast--Visit to the Mines--The Cascade--The
Storm--Loneliness--A Journey in Storm and Darkness--Return to
Tepenacasco--Journey to Sopayuca--Narrow Escape--Famous Bull--Return to


This is a fine wild scene. The house stands entirely alone; not a tree near
it. Great mountains rise behind it, and in every other direction, as far as
the eye can reach, are vast plains, over which the wind comes whistling
fresh and free, with nothing to impede its triumphant progress. In front of
the house is a clear sheet of water, a great deep square basin for
collecting the rain. These _jagueys_, as they are called, are very common
in Mexico, where there are few rivers, and where the use of machines for
raising water is by no means general as yet. There is no garden here, but
there are a few shrubs and flowers in the inner courtyard. The house inside
is handsome, with a chapel and a patio, which is occasionally used as a
plaza de toros. The rooms are well fitted up, and the bedroom walls covered
with a pretty French paper, representing scenes of Swiss rural life. There
are great outhouses, stables for the mules and horses, and stone barns for
the wheat and barley, which, together with pulque, form the produce of this

We took a long ride this morning to visit a fine lake where there are
plenty of wild-duck and turtle. The gentlemen took their guns and had
tolerable sport. The lake is very deep, so that boats have sailed on it,
and several miles in circumference, with a rivulet flowing from it. Yet
with all this water the surrounding land, not more than twenty feet higher,
is dry and sterile, and the lake is turned to no account, either from want
of means, or of hydraulic knowledge. However, C---n having made some
observation on this subject, the proprietor of the lake and of a ruined
house standing near, which is the very picture of loneliness and
desolation, remarked in reply, that from this estate to Mexico, the
distance is thirty-six leagues; that a load of wheat costs one real a
league, and moreover the _alcaba_, the duty which has to be paid at the
gates of Mexico, so that it would bring no profit if sent there; while in
the surrounding district there is not sufficient population to consume the
produce; so that these unnecessary and burdensome taxes, the thinness of
the population, and the want of proper means of transport, impede the
prosperity of the people, and check the progress of agriculture....

I had a beautiful horse, but half-broke, and which took fright and ran off
with me. I got great credit for keeping my seat so well, which I must
confess was more through good fortune than skill. The day was delightful,
the air exhilarating, and the blue sky perfectly cloudless as we galloped
over the plains; but at length the wind rose so high that we dismounted,
and got into the carriage. We sat by the shores of the lake, and walked
along its pebbly margin, watching the wild-duck as they skimmed over its
glassy surface, and returned home in a magnificent sunset; the glorious god
himself a blood-red globe, surrounded by blazing clouds of gold and

In the evening a troop of asses were driven across the plain, and led round
to the back of the house; and we were all called out in haste, and each
desired to choose one of the long-eared fraternity for our particular use.
Some had saddles and some had none, but we mounted to the number of thirty
persons, followed by a cavalcade of little ragged boys armed with sticks
and whips. My ass was an obstinate brute, whom I had mistakenly chosen for
his sleek coat and open countenance; but by dint of being lashed up, he
suddenly set off at full gallop, and distanced all the others. Such
screaming and laughing and confusion! and so much difficulty in keeping the
party together? It was nearly dark when we set off; but the moon rose, the
silver disc lighting up the hills and the plains; the wind fell, and the
night was calm and delightful. We rode about six miles to a pretty little
chapel with a cross, that gleamed amongst the trees in the moonlight, by
the side of a running stream. Here we dismounted, and sat by the brink of
the little sparkling rivulet, while the deep shadows came stealing over the
mountains, and all around was still, and cool, and silent; all but the
merry laughter of our noisy cavalcade. We returned about eleven o'clock,
few accidents having occurred. Dona R---a had fallen once. Dona M---- had
crushed her foot against her neighbour's ass. The padre was shaken to a
jelly, and the learned senator, who was of the party, declared he should
never recover from that night's jolting. To-morrow we shall set off for
Real del Monte.

17th.-After mass in the chapel we left Tepenacasco about seven o'clock, and
travelled (I believe by a short cut) over rocks and walls, torrents and
fields of maguey, all in a heavy carriage with six horses. Arriving in
sight of walls, the mozos gallop on and tear them down. Over the mountain-
torrents or _barrancas_, they dash boldly, encouraging the horses by the
wildest shrieks.

We stopped at San Miguel, a country-house belonging to the Count de Regla,
the former proprietor of the mines which we were about to visit; the most
picturesque and lovely place imaginable, but entirely abandoned; the house
comfortless and out of repair. We wandered through paths cut in the
beautiful woods, and by the side of a rivulet that seems to fertilize
everything through which it winds. We climbed the hills, and made our way
through the tangled luxuriance of trees and flowers, and in the midst of
hundreds of gaudy blossoms, I neglected them all upon coming to a grassy
slope covered with daisies and buttercups. We even found some hawthorn-
bushes. It might be English scenery, were it not that there is a richness
in the vegetation unknown in England. But all these beautiful solitudes are
abandoned to the deer that wander fearlessly amongst the woods, and the
birds that sing in their branches. While we were still far from the house,
a thunderstorm came on. When it rains here, the windows of heaven seem
opened, and the clouds pour down water in floods; the lightning also
appears to me peculiarly vivid, and many more accidents occur from it here
than in the north. We were drenched in five minutes, and in this plight
resumed our seats in the carriage, and set off for _Guasco_ (a village
where we were to pass the night) in the midst of the pelting storm. In an
hour or two the horses were wading up to their knees in water, and we
arrived at the pretty village of Guasco in a most comfortless condition.
There are no inns in these parts, but we were hospitably received by a
widow-lady, a friend of -----'s.

The Senora de -----, in clear muslin and lace, with satin shoes, was worse
than I in mousseline-de-laine and brode-quins; nevertheless, I mean to
adopt the fashion of the country to-morrow, when we are to rise at four to
go on to Real del Monte, and try the effect of travelling with clear gown,
satin petticoat, and shoes ditto; because "when one is in Rome," etc. The
storm continues with such unabated violence, that we must content ourselves
with contemplating the watery landscape from the windows.


Rose in Guasco at tour o'clock; dressed by candle-light, took chocolate,
and set off for Real del Monte. After we had travelled a few leagues,
tolerably cold, we rejoiced when the sun rose, and dispelling the mist,
threw his cheerful light over mountain and wood. The trees looked green and
refreshing after their last night's bath; the very rocks were sparkling
with silver. The morning was perfectly brillia'nt, and every leaf and
flower was glittering with the rain-drops not yet dried. The carriage
ascended slowly the road cut through the mountains by the English company;
a fine and useful enterprise; the first broad and smooth road I have seen
as yet in the republic. Until it was made, hundreds of mules daily conveyed
the ore from the mines over a dangerous mountain-path, to the hacienda of
Regla, a distance of six or seven leagues. We overtook wagons conveying
timber to the mines of Real, nine thousand feet above the level of the sea.

The scenery was magnificent. On one side mountains covered with oak and
pine, and carpeted by the brightest-coloured flowers; goats climbing up
the perpendicular rocks, and looking down upon us from their
vantage-ground; fresh clear rivulets, flinging themselves from rock to
rock, and here and there little Indian huts perched amongst the cliffs; on
the other, the deep valley with its bending forests and gushing river;
while far above, we caught a glimpse of Real itself, with its sloping
roofs and large church, standing in the very midst of forests and
mountains. We began to see people with fair hair and blue eyes, and one
individual, with a shock of fiery red hair and an undeniable Scotch
twang, I felt the greatest inclination to claim as a countryman.
The Indians here looked cleaner than those in or near Mexico, and
were not more than half naked. The whole country here, as well as
the mines, formerly belonged to the Count de Regla, who was so wealthy,
that when his son, the present count, was christened, the whole party
walked from his house to the church upon ingots of silver. The countess
having quarrelled with the vice-queen, sent her, in token of
reconciliation, a white satin slipper, entirely covered with large
diamonds. The count invited the King of Spain to visit his Mexican
territories, assuring him that the hoofs of his majesty's horse should
touch nothing but solid silver from Vera Cruz to the capital. This might be
a bravado; but a more certain proof of his wealth exists in the fact, that
he caused two ships of the line, of the largest size, to be constructed in
Havana at his expense, made of mahogany and cedar, and presented them to
the king. The present count was, as I already told you, married to the
beautiful daughter of the _Guerra Rodriguez._

We arrived at Real del Monte about nine o'clock, and drove to the
director's house, which is extremely pretty, commanding a most beautiful
and extensive view, and where we found a large fire burning in the grate--
very agreeable, as the morning was still somewhat chill, and which had a
look of home and comfort that made it still more acceptable. We were
received with the greatest cordiality by the director, Mr. Rule, and his
lady, and invited to partake of the most delicious breakfast that I have
seen for a long while; a happy _melange_ of English and Mexican. The snow-
white table-cloth, smoking tea-urn, hot rolls, fresh eggs, coffee, tea, and
toast looked very much _a l'Anglaise,_ while there were numbers of
substantial dishes _a l'Espagnole_, and delicious fresh cream-cheeses, to
all which our party did ample justice.

After breakfast, we went out to visit the mines, and it was curious to see
English children, clean and pretty, with their white hair and rosy cheeks,
and neat straw bonnets, mingled with the little copper-coloured Indians. We
visited all the different works; the apparatus for sawing, the turning-
lathe, foundry, etc.; but I regretted to find that we could not descend
into the mines. We went to the mouth of the shaft called the Dolores, which
has a narrow opening, and is entered by perpendicular ladders. The men go
down with conical caps on their heads, in which is stuck a lighted tallow
candle. In the great shaft, called Terreros, they descend, by means of
these ladders, to the depth of a thousand feet, there being platforms at
certain distances, on which they can rest. We were obliged to content
ourselves with seeing them go down, and with viewing and admiring all the
great works which English energy has established here; the various steam-
engines, the buildings for the separation and washing of the ore; the great
stores, workshops, offices, etc. Nearly all the workmen are British, and of
these the Scotch are preferred. Most of the miners are Indians, who work in
companies, and receive in payment the eighth part of the proceeds. The
director gave us some specimens of silver from the great heaps where they
lie, sparkling like genii's treasure.

Although I have not descended into these mines, I might give you a
description of them by what I have heard, and fill my paper with
arithmetical figures, by which you might judge of the former and the
present produce. I might tell you how Don Lucas Alaman went to England, and
raised, as if by magic, the enthusiasm of the English; how one fortune
after another has been swallowed up in the dark, deep gulf of speculation;
how expectations have been disappointed; and how the great cause of this is
the scarcity of quicksilver, which has been paid at the rate of one hundred
and fifty dollars per quintal in real cash, when the same quantity was
given at credit by the Spanish government for fifty dollars; how heaps of
silver lie abandoned, because the expense of acquiring quicksilver renders
it wholly unprofitable to extract it; and I might repeat the opinion of
those persons by whom I have heard the subject discussed, who express their
astonishment that, such being the case, an arrangement is not made with the
country which is the almost exclusive possessor of the quicksilver-mines,
by which it might be procured at a lower rate, and this great source of
wealth not thrown away. But for all these matters I refer you to _Humboldt
and Ward_, by whom they are scientifically treated, and will not trouble
you with superficial remarks on so important a subject. In fact, I must
confess that my attention was frequently attracted from the mines, and the
engines, and the works of man, and the discussions arising therefrom, to
the stupendous natural scenery by which we were surrounded; the unexplored
forests that clothe the mountains to their very summits, the torrents that
leaped and sparkled in the sunshine, the deep ravines, the many-tinted
foliage, the bold and jutting rocks. All combine to increase our admiration
of the bounties of nature to this favoured land, to which she has given
"every herb bearing seed, and every tree that is pleasant to the sight and
good for food," while her veins are rich with precious metals; the useful
and the beautiful offered with unsparing hand.

We were obliged to leave Real about two o'clock, having a long journey to
perform before night, as we had the intention of returning to sleep at
Tepenacasco. We took leave of our hospitable entertainers, and again
resumed our journey over these fine roads, many parts of which are blasted
from the great rocks of porphyry; and as we looked back at the picturesque
colony glistening in the sun, could hardly believe the prophecies of our
more experienced drivers, that a storm was brewing in the sky, which would
burst forth before evening. We were determined not to believe it, as it was
impossible to pass by the famous hacienda and ravine of Regla without
paying them at least a short visit.

This stupendous work of the Mexican miners in former days, is some leagues
to the south of Real del Monte, and is said to have cost many millions of
dollars. One should view it as we did, in a thunderstorm, for it has an air
of vastness and desolation, and at the same time of grandeur, that shows
well amidst a war of the elements. Down in a steep barranca, encircled by
basaltic cliffs, it lies; a mighty pile of building, which seems as if it
might have been constructed by some philosophical giant or necromancer;--so
that one is not prepared to find there an English director and his wife,
and the unpoetic comforts of roast mutton and potatoes!

All is on a gigantic scale: the immense vaulted store-houses for the silver
ore; the great smelting-furnaces and covered buildings where we saw the
process of amalgamation going on; the water-wheels; in short, all the
necessary machinery for the smelting and amalgamation of the metal. We
walked to see the great cascade, with its row of basaltic columns, and
found a seat on a piece of broken pillar beside the rushing river, where we
had a fine view of the lofty cliffs, covered with the wildest and most
luxuriant vegetation: vines trailing themselves over every broken shaft;
moss creeping over the huge disjointed masses of rock; and trees
overhanging the precipitous ravine. The columns look as if they might have
been the work of those who, on the plains of Shinar, began to build the
city, and the tower whose top was to reach to heaven.

But, as we sat here, the sky suddenly became overcast; great black masses
of cloud collected over our heads, and the rumbling of thunder in the
distance gave notice of an approaching storm. We had scarcely time to get
under shelter of the director's roof, when the thunder began to echo loudly
amongst the rocks, and was speedily followed by torrents of rain. It was a
superb storm: the lightning flashed amongst the trees, the wind howled
furiously, while

"Far along From peak to peak, the rattling crags among,
Leapt the live thunder."

After resting and dining amidst a running accompaniment of plashing rain,
roaring wind, and deep-toned thunder, we found that it was in vain to wait
for a favourable change in the weather; and certainly, with less
experienced drivers, it would have been anything but safe to have set off
amidst the darkness of the storm, down precipitous descents and over
torrents swelled by the rain. The Count de Regla, who, attracted by the
plentiful supply of water in this ravine, conceived the idea of employing
part of his enormous fortune in the construction of these colossal works,
must have had an imagination on a large scale. The English directors, whose
wives bury themselves in such abysses, ought to feel more grateful to them
than any other husbands towards their sacrificing better halves. For the
men, occupied all day amongst their workmen and machinery, and returning
late in the evening to dine and sleep, there is no great self-immolation;
but a poor woman, living all alone, in a house fenced in by gigantic rocks;
with no other sound in her ears from morning till night but the roar of
thunder or the clang of machinery, had need for her personal comfort, to
have either a most romantic imagination, so that she may console herself
with feeling like an enchanted princess in a giant's castle, or a most
commonplace spirit, so that she may darn stockings to the sound of the
waterfall, and feel no other inconvenience from the storm, but that her
husband will require dry linen when he comes home.

As for us, we were drenched before we reached the carriage, into which the
water was pouring, and when we set off once more amidst the rapidly-
increasing darkness, and over these precipitous roads, we thought that our
chance of reaching the proposed haven that night was very small. After much
toil to the horses, we got out of the ravines and found ourselves once more
on the great plains, where the tired animals ploughed their way over fields
and ditches and great stones, and among trees and tangled bushes; an
occasional flash of lightning our only guide. Great was our joy, when,
about eleven o'clock, a man riding on in advance shouted out that the
lights of Tepenacasco were in sight; and still more complete our
satisfaction when we drove round the tank into the courtyard of the
hacienda. We were received with great applause by the inmates, and were not
sorry to rest after a very fatiguing yet agreeable day.

MEXICO, 21st.

We left Tepenacasco the day before yesterday. Our journey was very
dangerous, in consequence of the great rains, which had swelled the
torrents; especially as we set off late, and most of it was performed by
night. In these barrancas, carriages and horsemen have been frequently
swept away and dashed in pieces over the precipices. But to make our
situation more disagreeable, we had scarcely set off, before a terrible
storm of thunder and rain again came on with more violence than the night
preceding. It grew perfectly dark, and we listened with some alarm to the
roaring torrents, over which, especially over one, not many leagues from
Sopayuca, where we were to spend the night, it was extremely doubtful
whether we could pass. The carriage was full of water, but we were too much
alarmed to be uneasy about trifles. Amidst the howling of the wind and the
pealing of thunder, no one could hear the other speak. Suddenly, by a vivid
flash of lightning, the dreaded barranca appeared in sight for a moment,
and almost before the drivers could stop them, the horses had plunged in.

It was a moment of mortal fear such as I shall never forget. The shrieks of
the drivers to encourage the horses, the loud cries of Ave Maria! the
uncertainty as to whether our heavy carriage could be dragged across, the
horses struggling and splashing in the boiling torrent, and the horrible
fate that awaited us should one of them fall or falter!... The Senora
----- and I shut our eyes and held each other's hands, and certainly no one
breathed till we were safe on the other side. We were then told that we had
crossed within a few feet of a precipice over which a coach had been dashed
into fifty pieces during one of these swells, and of course every one
killed; and that if instead of horses we had travelled with mules, we must
have been lost. You may imagine that we were not sorry to reach Sopayuca;
where the people ran out to the door at the sound of carriage-wheels, and
could not believe that we had passed the barranca that night; as two or
three horsemen who had rode in that direction had turned back, and
pronounced it impassable.

Lights and supper were soon procured, and by way of interlude a monstrous
bull, of great fame in these parts, was led up to the supper-table for our
inspection with a rope through his nose, a fierce brute, but familiarly
called "el chato" (the flatnose), from the shortness of his horns. The
lightning continued very vivid, and they told us that a woman had been
struck there some time before, while in the chapel by night.

We rose at four o'clock the next morning and set off for Mexico. The
morning, as usual after these storms, was peculiarly fresh and beautiful;
but the sun soon grew oppressive on the great plains. About two o'clock we
entered Mexico by the Guadalupe gate. We found our house _in statu quo_,
--agreeable letters from Europe,--great preparations making for the English
ball, to assist at which we have returned sooner than we otherwise should,
and for which my _femme-de-chambre_ has just completed a dress for me,
very much to her own satisfaction.


English Ball--Dresses--Diamonds--Mineria--Arrival of the Pope's
Bull--Consecration of the Archbishop--Foreign Ministers--Splendour of
the Cathedral--Description of the Ceremony.


The English ball at the Mineria has passed off with great _eclat_. Nothing
could be more splendid than the general effect of this noble building,
brilliantly illuminated and filled with a well-dressed crowd. The president
and corps diplomatique were in full uniform, and the display of diamonds
was extraordinary. We ladies of the corps diplomatique tried to flatter
ourselves that we made up in elegance what we wanted in magnificence! for
in jewels no foreign ladies could attempt to compete with those of the
country. The daughter of Countess -----, just arrived from Paris, and whose
acquaintance I made for the first time, wore pale blue, with garlands of
pale pink roses, and a parure of most superb brilliants. The Senora de
A----'s head reminded me of that of the Marchioness of Londonderry, in
her opera-box. The Marquesa de Vivanco had a riviere of brilliants of
extraordinary size and beauty, and perfectly well set. Madame S---r wore a
very rich blonde dress, _garnie_ with plumes of ostrich feathers, a large
diamond fastening each plume. One lady wore a diadem which ----- said could
not be worth less than a hundred thousand dollars. Diamonds are always worn
plain or with pearls; coloured stones are considered trash, which is a
pity, as I think rubies and emeralds set in diamonds would give more
variety and splendour to their jewels. There were a profusion of large
pearls, generally of a pear shape. The finest and roundest were those worn
by the Senora B---a. There were many blonde dresses, a great fashion here.
I know no lady without one. Amongst the prettiest and most tastefully-
dressed girls were the E---s, as usual. Many dresses were overloaded, a
common fault in Mexico; and many of the dresses, though rich, were old-
fashioned; but the _coup d'oeil_ was not the less brilliant, and it was
somewhat astonishing, in such a multitude, not to see a single
objectionable person. To be sure the company were all invited.

On entering the noble court, which was brilliantly illuminated with
coloured lamps, hung from pillar to pillar, and passing up the great
staircase, we were met at the first landing by Mr. P----, in full uniform,
and other English gentlemen, the directors of the ball, who stood there to
receive the ladies. His excellency led me upstairs to the top of the
ball-room, where chairs were placed for the president, ladies of the
_diplomaties_, cabinet Ministers, etc. The music was excellent, and dancing
was already in full force. And though there were assembled what is called
_all Mexico_, the rooms are so large, that the crowd was not disagreeable,
nor the heat oppressive. Pictures of Queen Victoria were hung in the
different large halls. The supper-tables were very handsome; and in fact
the ball altogether was worthy of its object; for Messieurs les Anglais
always do these things well when they attempt them.

The president took me to supper. The company walked in to the music of "God
save the Queen." After we had sat a little while the president demanded
silence, and, in a short speech, proposed the health of Her Majesty Queen
Victoria, which was drank by all the company standing. After supper we
continued dancing till nearly six in the morning; and when we got into the
carriage it was broad daylight, and all the bells were ringing for mass.

This is the best ball we have seen here, without any exception; and it is
said to have cost eleven thousand dollars. There were certainly a great
number of pretty faces at this fete, many pretty girls whom we had not seen
before, and whom the English secretaries have contrived to _unearth_. Fine
eyes are a mere _drug_--every one has them; large, dark, full orbs, with
long silken lashes. As for diamonds, no man above the rank of a _lepero_
marries in this country without presenting his bride with at least a pair
of diamond earrings, or a pearl necklace with a diamond clasp. They are not
always a proof of wealth, though they constitute it in themselves. Their
owners may be very poor in other respects. They are considered a necessary
of life; quite as much so as shoes and stockings.

June 2nd.--On the 15th of April, the pontifical bulls arrived from Rome,
confirming the election of the Senor Posada to the Archiepiscopal dignity;
and on Saturday last, the 31st of May, the consecration took place in the
cathedral with the greatest pomp. The presiding bishop was the Senor
Belaunzaran, the old Bishop of Linares; the two assistant bishops were the
Senor Madrid, a young, good-looking man, who having been banished from
Mexico during the revolution, took refuge in Rome, where he obtained the
favour of the Pope, who afterwards recommended him to an episcopal see in
Mexico; and the Doctor Morales, formerly Bishop of Sonora. His _padrino_
was the President, General Bustamante, who in his capacity presented his
godson with the splendid pastoral ring, a solitary diamond of immense size.
All the diplomatic body and the cabinet went in full uniform; chairs being
placed for them on each side of the _crugia_ (the passage leading to the
altar). A dispute upon the subject of precedence arose between an
excellency of the diplomatic corps, and the secretary of state, which seems
likely to have disagreeable consequences. I had the pleasure of kneeling
beside these illustrious persons for the space of three or four hours, for
no seats were placed for the wives either of the diplomates or of the

But the ceremony, though long, was very superb, the music fine, the
quantity of jewels on the dresses of the bishops and priests, and on the
holy vessels, etc., enormous. The bishops were arrayed in white velvet and
gold, and their mitres were literally covered with diamonds. The gold
candlesticks and golden basins for holy water, and golden incensories,
reminded me of the description of the ornaments of the Jewish tabernacle in
the days of Moses; of the "candlesticks of pure gold, with golden
branches;" and "the tongs and snuff-dishes of pure gold:" or of the temple
of Solomon, where the altar was of gold, and the table of gold, and the
candlesticks and the snuffers, and the basins, and the spoons, and the
censors were of pure gold. The pontifical vestments destined for the
elected primate, were all prepared;--sandals, amice, surplice, girdle,
pectoral cross, stole, gown, vestment, with open sleeves (the dalmatica),
crosier, mitre, pontifical ring, etc. Magnificent chairs were prepared for
the bishops near the altar, and the president in uniform took his place
amongst them. The presiding bishop took his seat alone, with his back to
the altar, and the Senor Posada was led in by the assisting bishops, they
with their mitres, he with his priest's cap on. Arrived before the
presiding bishop, he uncovered his head, and made a profound obeisance.
These three then took their places on chairs placed in front; and the
ceremony having begun, in case you should wish to have some idea of it, I
shall endeavour to give it you, for I was so situated, that although the
cathedral was crowded to excess, I could see and hear all that passed. Let
me premise, however, that there was not one _lepero_, as they are always
excluded on such occasions.

Posada and his assisting bishops rose, and uncovered their heads; and the
Bishop Morales turning to the presiding bishop, said, "Most reverend
father, the holy Catholic Mother Church requests you to raise this
Presbyter to the charge of the archbishopric."

"Have you an apostolical mandate?"

"We have."

"Read it."

An assistant priest then read the mandate in a loud voice; upon which they
all sat down, and the consecrator saying, "Thanks be to God!" Then the
Posada kneeling before him, took an oath, upon the Bible, which the bishop
held, concluding with these words--"So may God help me, and these his holy
gospels." Then sitting down, and resuming their mitres, the examination of
the future archbishop took place. It was very long, and at its conclusion,
Posada knelt before the presiding bishop and kissed his hand. To this
succeeded the confession, every one standing uncovered before the altar,
which was then sprinkled with incense. Then followed the mass, chanted.

The assisting bishops then led out the Senor Posada to the chapel, where
they put on his sandals, and where he assumed the pectoral cross, amice,
surplice, etc.; and arriving at the altar read the office of the mass. He
was then conducted again before the consecrating bishop, who was seated
with his mitre, and after saluting him reverently, he sat down. Then the
bishop, addressing him said: "It is the duty of the bishop to judge,
interpret, consecrate, ordain, offer, baptize, and confirm."

All then rose, and the bishop prayed that the newly-elected primate might
receive the grace of heaven. All the bishops and priests then prostrated
themselves while the Litanies were sung. The presiding bishop, rising took
the crosier, and prayed three times for a blessing on the Chosen One;
thrice making on him the sign of the cross; and they continued to sing the
Litanies; at the conclusion of which they all arose, took their seats and
resumed their mitres, Posada alone kneeling before the bishop.

The Bible was then placed upon his shoulders, while he remained prostrated,
and the bishop rising up, pronounced a solemn benediction upon him, while
the hymn of "Veni Creator Spiritus," was sung in full chorus. Then the
bishop, dipping his hand in the holy chrism, anointed the primate's head,
making on it the sign of the cross, saying, "Let thy head be anointed and
consecrated with the celestial benediction, according to the pontifical
mandate." The bishop then anointed his hands, making in the same manner the
sign of the cross, and saying, "May these hands be anointed with holy oil;
and as Samuel anointed David a king and a prophet, so be thou anointed and
consecrated." This was followed by a solemn prayer.

Then the crosier was blessed, and presented to the elected archbishop with
these words. "Receive the pastoral crosier, that thou mayest be humanely
severe in correcting vices, exercising judgment without wrath," etc. The
blessing of the ring followed with solemn prayer, and being sprinkled with
holy water, it was placed on the third finger of the right hand, the bishop
saying, "Receive the ring, which is a sign of faith; that, adorned with
incorruptible faith, thou mayest guard inviolably the spouse of God, his
Holy Church."

The Bible being then taken off the shoulders of the prostrate prelate, was
presented to him with an injunction to receive and to preach the gospel.
Finally, the bishop bestowed on him the kiss of peace; and all the other
bishops did so in their turn. Posada then retired, and his head and hands
being washed, he soon after returned with the assistant bishops, carrying
two lighted wax tapers, which he presented to the presiding bishop,
together with two loaves and two small barrels of wine, reverently kissing
his hand. After this, the presiding bishop washed his hands and mounted the
steps of the altar, and the new primate received the sacrament.

The mitre was then blessed and placed upon his head, with a prayer by the
bishop, that thus, with his head armed and with the staff of the gospels,
he might appear terrible to the adversaries of the True Faith. The gloves
were next consecrated and drawn on his hands, the bishop praying that his
hands might be surrounded by the purity of the new man; and that as Jacob,
when he covered his hands with goat-skins, offered agreeable meats to his
father, and received his paternal benediction, so he, in offering the Holy
Sacrament, might obtain the benediction of his Heavenly Father. The
archbishop was then seated by the consecrating bishop on his pontifical
throne, and at the same moment, the hymn "Te Deum Iaudamus" was chanted.
During the hymn, the bishops, with their jewelled mitres, rose, and passing
through the church, blessed the whole congregation, the new archbishop
still remaining near the altar, and without his mitre. When he returned to
his seat, the assistant bishops, including the consecrator, remained
standing till the hymn was concluded. The presiding bishop then advancing,
without his mitre, to the right hand of the archbishop, said, "May thy hand
be strengthened! May thy right hand be exalted! May justice and judgment be
the preparation of thy see!" Then the organ pealed forth, and they chanted

Facebook Google Reddit Twitter Pinterest