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Life in Mexico by Frances Calderon De La Barca

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when he went out against Santa Anna; near it the farm-houses of Posadas and
Zavaleta, one celebrated by a battle, the other by a treaty.

To the east, but at a greater distance than the other mountains, rises the
Peak of Orizava, the Star Mountain; the side now seen, that which rises
over the table land of Mexico; its other side descends rapidly to the
burning plains of Vera Cruz, and is the first distinguishable land
discerned by those who approach these coasts. Even at this distance, its
snowy summit is seen contrasting with its fertile woods and pleasant
villages. It has, what mortals rarely possess united, a warm heart, with a
clear, cold head.

We were awakened at a posada by their bringing us some hot coffee, and a
man with a white nightcap on, having poked his head in at the window, in
defiance of a loaded musket, I concluded he was a lepero, and sleepily told
him I had nothing for him, in the phrase of the country to importunate
beggars; "Perdone V. por Dios!" "Excuse me, for God's sake!"--but he proved
to be a gentleman, who merely came to put himself and his property at our
disposal, at that early hour of the morning.

When we entered the black forest, and passed through the dark pine woods,
then the stories of robbers began, just as people at sea seem to take a
particular pleasure in talking of shipwrecks. Every cross had its tale of
murder, and by the way, it seems to me, that a work written with
_connaissance de cause_, and entitled "History of the Crosses," though it
might not equal the "History of the _Crusades_," would be quite as
interesting, and much more romantic, than the Newgate Calendar. The
difficulty would consist in procuring authentic information concerning
them. There were a lady and two gentlemen in the diligence, and the lady
seemed to be very much _au fait_ as to their purport and history. Under one
her own servant was buried, and she gave rather a graphic account of his
murder. He was sitting outside, on the top of the diligence. The party
within were numerous but unarmed. Suddenly a number of robbers with masks
on came shouting down upon them from amongst the pine trees. They first
took aim at the poor _mozo_, and shot him through the heart. He fell,
calling in piteous tones to a padre who was in the coach, entreating him to
stop and confess him, and groaning out a farewell to his friend the driver.
Mortal fear prevailed over charity both in priest and layman, and the
coachman, whipping up his horses, passed at full gallop over the body of
the murdered man, so that, the robbers being on foot, the remainder of the
party escaped.

Whilst we were listening to tales of blood and murder, our escort took
leave of us, supposing that we should meet another immediately, whereas we
found that we had arrived at the most dangerous part of the road, and that
no soldiers were in sight. We certainly made up our minds to an attack this
time, and got ready our rings and watches, not to hide, but to give, for we
womenkind were clearly of opinion, that in case of an attack, it was much
better to attempt no defence, our party having only two guns amongst them.

There was a diligence some way behind us, full of people, and belonging to
another line; driven by a Yankee coachman, so drunk that he kept his seat
with difficulty, and, in defiance of all remonstrances, persisted in
driving the coach at a gallop close by the brink of the great precipice
along which the road wound; so that the poor passengers were exposed to a
double danger.

Suddenly our escort appeared at the top of the hill, and the officer,
riding up, excused himself to C---n for the delay, which had arisen from
their having been engaged in a skirmish with the robbers in that very
place. Two he said were taken, and he had marched them off to Puebla, where
they will probably be let off in a few days, after a form of trial. Four
had escaped, and had hid themselves amongst the trees and rocks, but could
not, according to his calculations, be very far off. However, we were quite
reassured by the arrival of the soldiers, and the sight of Rio Frio was
very reviving. We got a very tolerable dinner from the Bordelaise in the
forest-valley; and although the next part of the road is reckoned very
insecure, we had no longer any apprehension, as besides having an escort,
the fact that some of the robbers had been taken a few hours before, made
it very unlikely that they would renew their attempts that day.

This pestilence of robbers, which infests the republic, has never been
eradicated. They are in fact the growth of civil war. Sometimes in the
guise of insurgents, taking an active part in the independence, they have
independently laid waste the country, and robbed all whom they met. As
expellers of the Spaniards, these armed bands infested the roads between
Vera Cruz and the capital, ruined all commerce, and without any particular
inquiry into political opinions, robbed and murdered in all directions. In
1824 a law was proposed in congress, which should subject all armed bands
of robbers to military judges, in order to shorten proceedings, for many of
those who had been apprehended and thrown into prison, found some
opportunity to escape, while their trial was pending, and many had been
imprisoned four or five times for the same offence, yet never brought to
justice. In this law were included both robbers by profession and those
bodies of insurgents who were merely extempore amateurs.

But whatever measures have been taken at different times to eradicate this
evil, its causes remain, and the idle and unprincipled will always take
advantage of the disorganized state of the country, to obtain by force what
they might gain by honest labour. Count ----- says gravely, that he cannot
imagine why we complain of Mexican robbers, when the city of London is full
of organized gangs of ruffians, whom the laws cannot reach; and when
English highwaymen and housebreakers are the most celebrated in the world.
Moreover, that Mexican robbers are never unnecessarily cruel, and in fact
are very easily moved to compassion. This last assertion may, occasionally
hold good, but their cruelties to travellers are too well known to bear him
out in it as a general remark.

As a proof of their occasional moderation, I may mention, that the ladies
of the F---a family, at the time of their emigration, were travelling from
Mexico with a _padre_, when they were met by a party of robbers or
insurgents, who stopped the coach, and commenced pillaging. Amongst other
articles of value, they seized a number of silver dishes. The padre
observed to them, that as this plate did not belong to the ladies, but was
lent them by a friend, they would be obliged to replace it, and requested
that one might be left as a pattern. The reasonable creatures instantly
returned a dish and cover!

Another time, having completely stripped an English gentleman and his
servant, and tied them both to a tree, observing that the man appeared
particularly distressed at the loss of his master's spurs, they politely
returned and laid the spurs beside the gentleman.

About four o'clock, though nearly blinded with dust, we once more looked
down upon the valley of Mexico, and at five, during our last change of
horses, we were met by Don M---l del C---o and the English courier Beraza,
who had ridden out to meet us, and accompanied us on their fine horses as
far as the Garita. Here we found our carriage waiting; got in and drove
through Mexico, dusty as we were, and warlike as we seemed, with guns at
the windows. In the Calle San Francisco, the carriage was stopped by
Mr. -----, Secretary to the English Legation, who invited us to a grand
masked and fancy carnival ball to be given on Monday, it being now
Saturday. On our return home, we found everything in good order. Had some
difficulty in procuring ball-dresses in time.

On Sunday we had a number of people to dinner, by chance, it being Spanish
fashion to dine at a friend's house without invitation. This evening we go
to the ball.

26th.--The ball was in the theatre, and very brilliant, but too many of
the first people on these occasions keep their boxes, and do not dance; yet
it was wonderfully select for so large an assembly. When we arrived, we
were led upstairs by some of the commissioners, those who had charge of the
ball, to the E----'s box, whom we found, as usual, elegantly dressed--the
married ladies of the family with diamonds, the younger ones in white crape
and gold. I had a black silk mask, but finding myself universally
recognized, saw no particular advantage in keeping it on, and promptly
discarded it. We took a few turns in the ball-room, and afterwards returned
to the box. There were some capital figures in masks, and some beautiful
ball-dresses, and though there were a number of dominoes and odd figures, I
could not help remarking the great improvement in toilet which had taken
place since the fancy ball of last year. One or two girls, especially the
Senorita M----, wore ball-dresses which could only have proceeded from the
fingers of a Parisian modiste. Madame de -----, dressed as a peasant, and
with a mask, was known everywhere by her small foot and pretty figure. But
it is impossible to look on at a ball very long, not mingling with it,
without growing tired; and not even the numerous visitors to our box could
prevent us from feeling much more sleepy than during many a moonlight ride
through the lovely lanes of _tierra caliente_.

Next night there was a public masked ball, but we did not attend it. We
feel much the better for our journey, and only hope that some day C---n may
have leisure sufficient to enable us to take another ride through some
other part of the country. This being near Lent, we shall have no _soirees_
for six weeks, though balls are occasionally given during that time of
fasting. The house has become very comfortable in the way of servants; our
housekeeper a treasure, the coachman and footman excellent, the cook
tolerable, the soldiers rarely tipsy more than once a week, and generally
only one at a time, the others decent--so that we have nothing to complain
of ----- has established a hen-house near the stable, and any old Indian
woman who brings her a _manojo_ (several hens tied together) is sure to be
received with open arms.

One of our first visits on our return was to Tacubaya, where we were sorry
to find the Countess C---a very much indisposed, and her courtyard filled
with carriages, containing visitors making inquiries. I shall now send off
my letters by the packet, that you may see we are safely re-established in


Distinguished Men-Generals Bustamante, Santa Anna, and
Victoria--Anecdote--Senor Pedraza--Senor Gutierrez Estrada--Count
Cortina--Senor Gorostiza--Don Carlos Bustamante--"Mornings in the
Alameda"--Don Andres Quintana Roo--Don Lucas Alaman--General
Moran--General Almonte--Senor Canedo--Senors Neri del Barrio and
Casaflores--Doctor Valentin--Don Francisco Tagle--Eight Revolutions.


H---- in his last letter asks what distinguished men we have in Mexico? and
with a tone of doubt as to their being very numerous. Distinguished in what
way? As generals, as statesmen, as men of literature? It seems to me that a
country where we have known Bustamante, Santa Anna, General Victoria,
Posada, Gomez Pedraza, Gutierrez Estrada, Count Cortina, Gorostiza, Don
Carlos Bustamante, Quintana Roo, General Moran, Don Lucas Alaman, General
Almonte, Senor Canedo, Don Francisco Tagle, Senor Neri del Barrio, Senor
Fagoaga, Don Jose Valentin, the Count de Casaflores, etc., etc., is not so
destitute of distinguished men as he supposes. The preceding are, I
confess, strung together as they occur to me, without order or regularity;
soldiers, statesmen, and literary men, some on one side of politics, some
on another, but all men of note, and men who have acted, or suffered, or
been distinguished in one way or another in the revolutions of the last
thirty-two years. And there is not one amongst those I have mentioned, who,
if he were to write merely his personal history, would not by so doing
write the history of these civil wars. The three first, as principal
figures in every revolution, are already historical; Bustamante as an
honest man and a brave soldier; Santa Anna as an acute general, active and
aspiring, whose name has a _prestige_, whether for good or for evil, that
no other possesses; General Victoria, a plain, uneducated, well-intentioned
man, brave and enduring. A passage in his life is well known, which ought
to be mentioned as an offset to the doubtful anecdote of the two-headed
eagle. When Yturbide, alone, fallen and a prisoner, was banished from
Mexico, and when General Bravo, who had the charge of conducting him to
Vera Cruz, treated him with every species of indignity, Victoria, the sworn
foe of the emperor during his prosperity, now, when orders were given him
to see Yturbide embarked, surrounded him with attentions, and loaded him
with respectful distinctions; so that Yturbide himself, moved with
gratitude, after expressing his warm esteem for the General's consistent
conduct, presented him with his watch as a memorial of his grateful

As for Don Manuel Gomez Pedraza, he has occupied too distinguished a place
in the political occurrences of this country, not to be generally known. An
officer in the time of the Spanish government, he was distinguished for his
severe discipline and strict moral conduct. In the time of Yturbide he was
military commandant of Huasteca, and supported the emperor, who afterwards
made him commander-general of Mexico. In 1827 he was Minister of war,
during the presidency of Victoria, and was distinguished for his
extraordinary activity, which quality was greatly wanting in that general.
In 1828 he and Guerrero were announced as candidates for the presidency,
and after a terrible political tempest, Gomez Pedraza was elected. The
fermentation that succeeded, the fury of the two parties, the
_Guerreristas_ and _Pedrazistas_, which were mingled with _Yturbidistas_,
was increased by the arrival of Santa Anna at Perote with eight hundred
men, who, having shut himself up in the fortress, declared for Guerrero,
and published a manifesto, which set forth that general as a hero, and his
rival as a hypocrite. Then came the famous revolution of the _Acordada_,
and both Pedraza and Guerrero disappeared. Pedraza left the Republic, and
after another revolution, hearing that "the constitution and laws were
re-established," returned to Vera Cruz; but was met by an order which
prohibited him from disembarking. He then set sail for New Orleans. Another
change brought him back; and at this present juncture he lives in
tranquillity, together with his lady, a person of extraordinary talent and
learning, daughter of the Lizenciado (jurisconsult) Senor Azcarate. Such
are the disturbed lives passed by the "children of the soil."

Of Gutierrez Estrada, now far from his household gods, and languishing
under unjust persecution, I have already spoken. Count Cortina is a
gentleman and a scholar, a man of vast information, and a protector of the
fine arts. His conversation is a series of electric sparks; brilliant as an
ignis fatuus, and bewildering as a will-o'-the-wisp. I have seldom heard
such eloquence even in trifles; and he writes with as much ease as he
speaks. We have seen three clever pieces of his lately, showing his
versatile genius; one upon earthquakes, one upon the _devil_, and one upon
the holy fathers of the church!--the first in the form of a pamphlet,
addressed to a lady, giving a scientific explanation of the causes of these
phenomena, interspersed with compliments to her _beaux yeux_; the second is
a burlesque poem; and the third a grave and learned dissertation.

Don Jose Eduardo Gorostiza, though a native of Vera Cruz, is the son of a
Spanish officer, and when very young went to Spain, where he was known
politically as a liberal. He was distinguished as a writer of theatrical
pieces, which have been and still are very popular; and those which he
merely translated, he had the merit of adapting to the Spanish stage, and
_Castilianizing_ in grace and wit. One of his pieces, which we saw the
other evening at the theatre--"_Con tigo, pan y cebolla_," (With thee,
bread and onions,) is delightful. Besides occupying a place in the Cabinet
of Mexico, he has been Charge d'Affaires in Holland, and Minister at the
Court of St. James. In conversation he is extremely witty and agreeable,
and he has collected some good paintings and valuable books in the course
of his European travels.

The reputation of Don Carlos Bustamante, deputy from Oajaca, is altogether
literary. He has made many researches in Mexican antiquities; and has
published a history of the "Discovery of America," written by Padre Vega,
which was unknown before; also the "Gallery of Mexican Princes;" "Tezcoco
in the last Days of its last Kings," etc. He lately sent me his "Mornings
in the Alameda," a book intended to teach Mexican young ladies the history
of their own country. I have read but a few pages of it, but was struck
with the liberality of his remarks in regard to the Spaniards, which,
coming from such a source, are so much more valuable and worthy of credit
than any that can be made by a foreigner, that I am tempted to translate
the passage to which I allude. "The Spanish government founded colleges and
academies in the reign of the wise Charles the Third; it established that
of fine arts, which it enriched with the most beautiful statues, which you
can still see when you visit it. ("Their transportation," he says in a
note, "cost seventy thousand dollars.") He sent excellent workmen, and
imitated his predecessor Philip the Second, who sent to Mexico whatever
could not find a place in the works of the Escurial. Of his wisdom, we have
proofs in those magnificent temples which attract the attention of
travellers, such as the Cathedral of Mexico, San Agustin, Santo Domingo of
Oaxaca, and others. Spain did no more, because she could do no more, and
Spain gave to this America a constitution, which the Mexicans themselves,
who pride themselves most on their learning, are unacquainted with; and
whose analysis was formed by the learned Padre Mier, in the History of the
Revolution, which he printed in London; a constitution, in which are made
manifest the good intentions of the Austrian monarchs; and their earnest
desire to render the Indians happy; especially in the case of the great
Philip the Fourth, whose autograph law is preserved; and which I have read
with respect and emotion, prohibiting the bad treatment of the Indians. In
short, this America, if it were considered in a state of slavery under the
Spanish dominion, was at least on a level with the peninsula itself. Read
over the frightful list of taxes which oppressed the Spaniards, and compare
it with those that were imposed upon us, and you will find that theirs is
infinitely greater than ours. These truths being granted, remark the
progress which the colonies had made in sciences and arts, and this truth
which escaped from the light pen of the censor Beristain, will be
confirmed. Mexico, he says, was the sunflower of Spain. When in her
principal universities there were no learned men to fill the mathematical
chairs, Mexico could boast of Don Carlos de Siguenza y Gongora: when in
Madrid there was no one who had written a good epic poem, in Mexico the
_Bernardo_ was composed;" etc., etc.

The next on my list is Don Andres Quintana Roo, the best modern poet of
Mexico, a native of Yucatan, and who came to the capital when very young,
to study law. He is said to possess immense learning, and was enthusiastic
to fanaticism in the cause of independence; insomuch that he and his wife,
Dona Leona Vicario, who shared in his ardent love of liberty, braved every
danger in its cause, suffered imprisonment, escaped from the Inquisition,
from the hands of robbers, endured every privation, so that their history
would form a romance. He is now devoted to literature, and though he
occasionally launches forth some political pamphlet, he is probably weaned
of revolutions, and possesses all the calmness of a man whose first years
have been spent in excitement and troubles, and who at length finds
consolation in study alone; the well of science proving to him the waters
of Lethe, in which he drinks the oblivion of all his past sorrows. And it
is very much the case in Mexico at present, that the most distinguished men
are those who live most retired; those who have played their part on the
arena of public life, have seen the inutility of their efforts in favour of
their country, and have now retreated into the bosom of their families,
where they endeavour to forget public evils in domestic retirement and
literary occupation.

Amongst these may be reckoned Don Lucas Alaman, who passed many years in
Europe, and in 1820 was deputy to the Spanish Cortes. Shortly after his
return he became Minister of foreign relations, which high office he has
filled during various seasons of difficulty.[1] He is a man of learning,
and has always been a protector of art and science. In conversation he is
more reserved, less brilliant, and more minute than Count Cortina, always
expressing his opinion with caution, but very ready and able to give
information on anything in this country, unconnected with politics. General
Moran, now infirm, and long since retired from public service, is
universally respected, both as a military man and a gentleman. He is
married to a daughter of the late Marquis de Vivanco, general of division,
who long held out against the independence, and when the colonial system
was dissolved, would never go further than to desire a prince of royal
birth in Mexico. General Moran has been exiled several times, and his
health has not held out against bodily and mental suffering; but he is
ending his days in a tranquil retirement in the midst of his family. Of
General Almonte and of Senor Canedo, who are figuring in public life in our
own day, I have frequently written.

[Footnote 1: He is now, September, 1842, once more filling the same
situation under General Santa Anna.]

Senor Neri del Barrio and the Count de Casaflores, married to sisters,
ladies of high birth, the eldest a countess in her own right, are, as well
as their families, all that is most distinguished in Mexico. Senor Fagoaga,
who is now in bad health, I know only by reputation. He is brother of the
Marquis of Apartado, and of the celebrated Don Jose Maria Fagoaga, with
whose family we have the pleasure of being very intimate. C---n says that
he is a man of great taste and a thorough gentleman, and that his house,
which is one of the handsomest in Mexico, possesses that ornament so rare
in this country--well-chosen paintings. Don Jose Valentin, who has figured
in the political world, and who was curate of Huamautla, is one of the
kindest and best old men I have ever met with; so severe to himself, so
indulgent to others--so simple in worldly matters, so learned in everything
else--so sincere, good, and charitable. He is a universal favourite with
young and old, being cheerful, fond of music, and of gay conversation, in
proportion as he is wise and learned in his observations, and serious in
his conversation when the occasion requires it. Doctor Valentin as an
ecclesiastic, and Padre Leon as a monk, are models.

As for Don Francisco Tagle, he is a gentleman of the old school, and his
name figures in all the political events which have taken place since the
independence, of which he was one of the signers. He is very rich,
possessing, besides a profitable maguey estate near Mexico, enormous
property bounding Texas, and being also the keeper of the Monte Pio,
formerly the house of Cortes, a palace, in which he and his family live. He
is a man of great learning and information, and too distinguished not to
have suffered personally in political convulsions. Whether he would choose
the same path, with his present experience of a Mexican republic, he is too
wise to mention. He and his family are amongst our most intimate friends,
and with a few exceptions all those whom I have mentioned have been here
since our return, which is one of the reasons why their names occurred
first to my memory; for there are still many distinguished persons

Nearly all these, at least all who are married, have had the good fortune
to unite themselves with women who are either their equals or superiors, if
not in education,--in goodness, elevation of sentiment, and natural talent.
They, as well as every Mexican, whether man or woman, not under forty, have
lived under the Spanish government; have seen the revolution of Dolores of
1810, with continuations and variations by Morelos, and paralyzation in
1819; the revolution of Yturbide in 1821; the cry of Liberty (grito de
Libertad) given by those generals "benemeritos de la patria," Santa Anna
and Victoria, in 1822; the establishment of the federal system in 1824; the
horrible revolution of the Acordada, in which Mexico was pillaged, in 1828;
the adoption of the central system in 1836; and the last revolution of the
federalists in 1840. Another is predicted for next month, as if it were an
eclipse of the sun. In nineteen years three forms of government have been
tried, and two constitutions, the reform of one of which is still pending
in the Chambers. "_Dere is notink like trying!_" (as the old _perruquier_
observed, when he set out in a little boat to catch the royal yacht, still
in sight of Scottish shores, with a new wig of his own invention, which he
had trusted to have been permitted to present to his most gracious majesty
George the Fourth!).


New Minister--San Angel--Profitable Pulque Estate--The Village--Surrounding
Scenery--The Indians--The Padre--The Climate--Holy Week in the
Country--Dramatic Representations--Coyohuacan--The Pharisees--Image of the
Saviour--Music and Dresses--Procession--Catholicism amongst the
Indians--Strange Tradition--Paul the Fifth--Contrast between a Mexican and
a New England Village--Love of Fireworks--Ferdinand the Seventh--Military

SAN ANGEL, March 30th.

It is a long while since I last wrote, but this week has been employed in
moving into the country, and making arrangements for the sale of our
furniture, in consequence of our having received official news from Spain
of the nomination of a new envoy extraordinary and Minister plenipotentiary
to the republic of Mexico. As, on account of the yellow fever at Vera Cruz,
we shall not wish to pass through that city later than May, it is necessary
to be in readiness to start when the new Minister arrives. On Thursday last
we came out to this place, within three leagues of Mexico, where Don
Francisco Tagle has kindly lent us his unoccupied country house. As we had
an infinity of arrangements to make, much to bring out, and much to leave,
and _all Mexico_ to see, you will excuse this long silence. Our house in
town we leave to the guardianship of the housekeeper; the other servants
follow us here.

This house is very large, and has a fine garden and orchard full of fruit,
with pretty walks all through it, and a sort of underwood of roses and
sweet peas. It is a great pulque hacienda, and, besides what is sent into
Mexico for sale, the court is constantly filled with the half-naked Indians
from the village, who come to have their _jarros_ filled with that
inspiring beverage. Then there is Dona Barbara (the guardian of the
pulque), a Spanish administrador, a number of good-looking Indian women,
and babies _a discretion_. There is a small chapel, a piazza, with handsome
pillars going all round the interior courtyard of the house, a
billiard-table, and plenty of good rooms. In front of the house are the
maguey-fields, and the azotea commands a beautiful view of the neighbouring
villages, San Angel, Coyohuacan, Miscuaque, etc., with their woods and
gardens, as well as of the city itself, with its lakes and volcanoes.

As C---n's affairs take him to Mexico nearly every day, we feel a little
lonely in this large house, even though perfectly comfortable; and besides
the extreme stillness and solitude, it is not considered safe for us to
walk out alone; consequently the orchard must bound our wishes. And, of
course, being prohibited from going further, we have the greatest desire to
do so! In the evening, however, when our _caballeros_ return, we frequently
walk down to the village, where the English Minister has also a house.

San Angel is pretty in its own way, with its fields of maguey, its
scattered houses, that look like the _beaux restes_ of better days, its
market-place, parish church, church of El Carmen, with the monastery and
high-walled gardens adjoining; with its narrow lanes, Indian huts,
profusion of pink roses, little bridge and avenue, and scattered clusters
of trees; its houses for _temperamento_ (_constitution_, as they call those
where Mexican families come to reside in summer), with their grated
windows, and gardens and orchards; and then the distant view of Mexico,
with the cathedral towers, volcanoes, and lofty mountains, scattered
churches and long lines of trees; and nearer, the pretty villages of
Coyohuacan and Miscuaque; and everywhere the old church, the broken arch,
the ancient cross, with its faded flower-garlands, to commemorate a murder,
or erected as an act of piety--all is so characteristic of Mexico, that the
landscape could belong to no other part of the known world.

There is the Indian with his blanket, extracting the pulque from the
maguey; the ranchero, with her reboso and broad-brimmed hat passing by upon
her ass; the old lepero, in rags, sitting basking in the sun upon the stone
seat in front of the door; the poor Indian woman, with matted hair and
brown baby hanging behind her, refreshing herself by drinking three
_elacos_ (halfpence) worth of pulque from a _jarrito_ (little earthen jar);
the portly and well-looking padre prior del Carden (the Carmelite friar),
sauntering up the lane at a leisurely pace, all the little ragged boys,
down to the merest urchin that can hardly lisp, dragging off their large,
well-holed hats, with a "_Buenos dias, padrecito!_" (Good-morning, little
father!)--the father replying with a benevolent smile, and a slight sound
in his throat intended for a _Benedicite;_ and all that might be dull in
any other climate brightened and made light and gay by the purest
atmosphere, and bluest sky, and softest air, that ever blew or shone upon a
naughty world.

We are now approaching the holy week once more--in Mexico a scene of
variety in the streets and of splendour in the churches; but in the country
a play, a sort of melodrama, in which the sufferings, death, and burial of
our Saviour are represented by living figures in pantomime. We have heard a
great deal of these representations, and are glad to have the opportunity
of seeing them, which we intend to do in the village of Coyohuacan, where
they are particularly curious. Besides this, our friends the A----s have a
house there for the season, and, as the city of Cortes's predilection, it
is classic ground. Meanwhile, for the last few days, the country has been
overrun with Pharisees, Nazarenes, Jews, and figures of the Saviour,
carried about in procession; all this in preparation for the holy week, a
sort of overture to the drama.

The first evening we arrived here there was a representation of the
Pharisees searching for Christ. The Pharisees were very finely dressed,
either in scarlet stuff and gold or in green and silver, with helmets and
feathers, mounted upon horses which are taught to dance and rear to the
sound of music, so that upon the whole they looked like performers at
Astley's. They came on with music, riding up the lanes until they arrived
in front of this house, which being the principal place hereabouts, they
came to first, and where the Indian workmen and servants were all collected
to see them. They rode about for some time, as if in search of Christ,
until a full-length figure of the Saviour appeared, dressed in purple
robes, carried on a platform by four men, and guarded on all sides by
soldiers. It is singular, that after all there is nothing ridiculous in
these exhibitions; on the contrary, something rather terrible. In the first
place, the music is good, which would hardly be the case in any but a
Mexican village; the dresses are really rich, the gold all real, and the
whole has the effect of confusing the imagination into the belief of its
being a true scene.

The next evening the same procession passed, with some additions, always
accompanied by a crowd of Indians from the villages, men, women, and
children. Bonfires were made before the door of the hacienda, which were
lighted whenever the distant music was heard approaching, and all the
figures in the procession carried lighted lamps. The Saviour was then led
up to the door, and all the crowd went up to kiss his feet. The figure
which is carried about this evening is called "Our Saviour of the Column,"
and represents the Saviour tied to a pillar, bleeding, and crowned with
thorns. All this must sound very profane, but the people are so quiet, seem
so devout, and so much in earnest, that it appears much less so than you
would believe....

The cross was planted here in a congenial soil, and as in the Pagan East
the statues of the divinities frequently did no more than change their
names from those of heathen gods to those of Christian saints, and
image-worship apparently continued, though the mind of the Christian was
directed from the being represented to the true and only God who inhabits
eternity, so here the poor Indian still bows before visible representations
of saints and virgins, as he did in former days before the monstrous shapes
representing the unseen powers of the air, the earth, and the water; but
he, it is to be feared, lifts his thoughts no higher than the rude image
which a rude hand has carved. The mysteries of Christianity, to affect his
untutored mind, must be visibly represented to his eyes. He kneels before
the bleeding image of the Saviour who died for him, before the gracious
form of the Virgin who intercedes for him; but he believes that there are
many Virgins, of various gifts, and possessing various degrees of
miraculous power and different degrees of wealth, according to the quality
and number of the diamonds and pearls with which they are endowed--one even
who is the rival of the other--one who will bring rain when there is
drought, and one to whom it is well to pray in seasons of inundation.
Mexico owes much of its peculiar beauty to the religious or superstitious
feelings of its inhabitants. At every step we see a white cross gleaming
amongst the trees, in a solitary path, or on the top of some rugged and
barren rock--a symbol of faith in the desert place; and wherever the
footsteps of man have rested, and some three or four have gathered
together, there, while the ruined huts proclaim the poverty of the inmates,
the temple of God rises in comparative splendour.

It is strange, yet well authenticated, and has given rise to many theories,
that the symbol of the cross was already known to the Indians before the
arrival of Cortes. In the island of Cozumel, near Yucatan, there were
several; and in Yucatan itself, there was a stone cross; and there, an
Indian, considered a prophet among his countrymen, had declared that a
nation bearing the same as a symbol, should arrive from a distant country!
More extraordinary still was a temple dedicated to the Holy Cross by the
Toltec nation in the city of Cholula. Near Tulansingo also, there is a
cross engraved on a rock, with various characters, which the Indians by
tradition attribute to the apostle Saint Thomas. In Oajaca also there
existed a cross which the Indians from time immemorial had been accustomed
to consider as a divine symbol. By order of the Bishop Cervantes, it was
placed in a sumptuous chapel in the cathedral. Information concerning its
discovery, together with a small cross cut out of its wood, was sent to
Rome to Paul the Fifth, who received it on his knees, singing the hymn,
"_Vexilla Regis prodeunt_," etc.

If any one wishes to try the effect of strong contrast, let him come direct
from the United States to this country; but it is in the villages
especially that the contrast is most striking. Travelling in New England,
for example, we arrive at a small and flourishing village. We see four new
churches, proclaiming four different sects; religion suited to all
customers. These wooden churches or meeting-houses are all new, all painted
white, or perhaps a bright red. Hard by is a tavern with a green paling, as
clean and as new as the churches, and there are also various smart _stores_
and neat dwelling-houses; all new, all wooden, all clean, and all
ornamented with slight Grecian pillars. The whole has a cheerful, trim, and
flourishing aspect. Houses, churches, stores, and taverns, all are of a
piece. They are suited to the present emergency, whatever that may be,
though they will never make fine ruins. Everything proclaims prosperity,
equality, consistency; the past forgotten, the present all in all, and the
future taking care of itself. No delicate attentions to posterity, who can
never pay its debts. No beggars. If a man has even a hole in his coat, he
must be lately from the Emerald Isle.

Transport yourself in imagination from this New England village to that
of -----, it matters not which, not far from Mexico. "Look on this picture,
and on that." The Indian huts, with their half-naked inmates, and little
gardens full of flowers; the huts themselves either built of clay, or the
half-ruined _beaux restes_ of some stone building. At a little distance an
hacienda, like a deserted palace, built of solid masonry, with its inner
_patio_ surrounded by thick stone pillars, with great walls and
iron-barred windows that might stand a siege. Here a ruined arch and
cross, so solidly built, that one cannot but wonder how the stones ever
crumbled away. There, rising in the midst of old faithful-looking trees,
the church, gray and ancient, but strong as if designed for eternity; with
its saints and virgins, and martyrs and relics, its gold and silver and
precious stones, whose value would buy up all the spare lots in the New
England village; the lepero with scarce a rag to cover him, kneeling on
that marble pavement. Leave the enclosure of the church, observe the stone
wall that bounds the road for more than a mile; the fruit trees overtopping
it, high though it be, with their loaded branches. This is the convent
orchard. And that great Gothic pile of building, that stands in hoary
majesty, surmounted by the lofty mountains, whose cloud-enveloped summits,
tinged by the evening sun, rise behind it; what could so noble a building
be but the monastery, perhaps of the Carmelites, because of its exceeding
rich garden, and well-chosen site, for they, of all monks, are richest in
this world's goods. Also we may see the reverend old prior riding slowly
from under the arched gate up the village lanes, the Indians coming from
their huts to do him lowly reverence as he passes. Here, everything reminds
us of the past; of the conquering Spaniards, who seemed to build for
eternity; impressing each work with their own solid, grave, and religious
character; of the triumphs of catholicism; and of the Indians when Cortes
first startled them from their repose, and stood before them like the
fulfilment of a half-forgotten prophecy. It is the present that seems like
a dream, a pale reflection of the past. All is decaying and growing
fainter, and men seem trusting to some unknown future which they may never
see. One government has been abandoned, and there is none in its place. One
revolution follows another, yet the remedy is not found. Let them beware
lest half a century later, they be awakened from their delusion, and find
the cathedral turned into a meeting-house, and all painted white; the
_railing_ melted down; the silver transformed into dollars; the Virgin's
jewels sold to the highest bidder; the floor washed (which would do it no
harm), and round the whole, a nice new wooden paling, freshly done in
green--and all this performed by some of the artists from the _wide-awake_
republic farther north.

Just as I wrote these words, a shower of crackers startled me from the
profane ideas in which I was indulging, and the prancing of the horses of
Jews and Pharisees, and the crackling of bonfires, warn me that it is time
to take an evening stroll, that the sun is down, and the air refreshing.
However, as to crackers and rockets, the common people enjoy them by day as
much as by night. It is their favourite method of commemorating any event,
evil or religious. "What do you suppose the Mexicans will be doing now?"
said King Ferdinand to a Mexican who was at the Spanish court, shortly
after the final success of the Revolutionists. "Letting off rockets, your
Majesty," answered the Mexican. "Well--I wonder what they are doing now in
Mexico!" said the King in the afternoon. "_Tirando cohetes_--letting off
rockets, your Majesty." His Majesty chose to repeat the question in the
evening. "What will your countrymen be doing now?" "The same thing, your
Majesty. Still letting off rockets."

Yesterday we drove into Mexico, to see how matters stood in our house, and
received a number of visitors in our deserted apartments. Just before we
left Mexico for this place, three very magnificent aides-de-camp brought us
an invitation from General Valencia, to attend a ball to be given by him
and other officers, in the theatre, to the president, on the occasion of
his excellency's being declared "benemerito de la patria." We did not go,
as we were setting off for the country, but C---n being requested, as were
the other Ministers, to send the colours of his nation, did so, and to-day
there is much talk in Mexico, besides a paragraph in the newspapers,
connected with these matters. It appears that the _drapeaux_ whether by
accident or design, were improperly placed, and these faults in etiquette
are not uncommon here. The English Minister having observed that his
_drapeau_ was placed in a subordinate rank, and finding that his warnings
beforehand on the subject, and his representations on seeing it were
neglected, cut it down and left the ballroom, followed by all the English
who were there.


Holy Thursday at Coyohuacan--Hernan Cortes--His Last Wishes--_Padres
Camilos_--Old Church--Procession--Representation of the taking of
Christ--Curate's Sermon under the Trees--A Religious Drama--Good
Friday--Portable Pulpit--Heat--Booths--Religious Procession--Simon the
Cyrenian--Coutumes--Curate's Sermon--Second Discourse--Sentence Pronounced
by Pontius Pilate--Descent from the Cross--Procession of the
Angels--Funeral Hymn--The _Pesame_ to the Virgin--Sermon--"Sweet Kitty
Clover"--Music in Mexico--Anecdote.

On Holy Thursday we went early in the morning to Coyohuacan (now pronounced
Cuyacan), which is almost a continuation of the village of San Angel; but
there are more trees in it, and every house has its garden, or at least its
inner court, filled with orange-trees. Here, after the total destruction of
the ancient Tenochtitlan, Cortes took up his residence for several months.
Here he founded a convent of nuns, and in his testament he desired to be
buried in this convent, "in whatever part of the world I may finish my
days." The conqueror's last wishes in this respect were not held sacred. At
the time of the conquest, Coyohuacan, together with Tacubaya, etc., stood
upon the margin of the Lake of Tezcuco; most of the houses built within the
water upon stakes, so that the canoes entered by a low door. This was
undoubtedly the favourite retreat of Cortes, and it is now one of the
prettiest villages near Mexico. Its church is wonderfully handsome; one of
the finest village churches we have yet seen.

One of the prettiest places in the village belongs to an order of monks
called the _Padres Camilos_. It consists of a house and garden, where the
monks go by turns to enjoy the country air. Comfortable padres! There is
one room looking into the garden, and opening into a walk bordered by rose-
bushes, which is such a place for a siesta; cool, retired, fragrant. A
hammock with a mattress on it is slung across the room, and here the good
padre may lie, with one eye opened to the roses, and the other closed in
inward meditation. However, its whole merit consists in being cleanly and
neatly kept, for it is a large, empty house, and the garden, so called, is
little more than a pasture-field, with nice gravel-walks cut through it,
bordered with fine rose-bushes, and beautified by a clear fountain.

We went to the A----'s house, which is halfway between San Angel and
Coyohuacan; the Senora A---- driving me herself in an open carratella with
white _frisones_ (northern horses), which, compared with the spirited
little Mexican steeds, look gigantic. We went first to see the church,
which was brilliantly illuminated, and ornamented with loads of flowers and
fruit (especially oranges), and thronged with ragged _leperos_ and
blanketed Indians. We then set off, to endeavour, if possible, to find a
place in the crowd, who had hurried off to see _el prendimiento_ (the
taking of Christ), and to hear the Curate preach an appropriate sermon in a
portable pulpit, amongst the trees.

We made our way through the patient, bronzed and blanketed crowd, not
without sundry misgivings as to the effects of _evil communication_; and at
length reached the procession, all ranged on the grass under the trees, in
a pretty and secluded little grove; in two long rows fronting each other;
each person carrying a lamp surmounted by a plume of coloured feathers,
very ingeniously made of coloured spun glass. They were all dressed in the
costume of Pharisees, Jews, Romans, etc. The image of the Saviour was
shortly after carried through on a platform, to the sound of music,
followed by the eleven disciples, and was placed in a kind of bower amongst
the trees, supposed to give a representation of the garden of Gethsemane. A
portable pulpit, covered with shining stuff, was carried in, and placed
beneath a tree just outside of this enclosure, and soon after, the curate
arrived, and mounted into his place. A number of little ragged boys, who
had climbed up on the very topmost branches of the trees, to have a good
view, were _piked_ down with lances by the Jews, notwithstanding their
seemingly just remonstrances that they were doing no harm; but when the
Jews observed in answer to their "Que hacemos?" "What are we doing?"--"The
Senor Cura will be angry;"--they tumbled down one on the top of the other
like ripe apples, and then stood watching for the first convenient
opportunity of slipping up again.

The curate began his sermon by an account of the sufferings and persecution
of Christ; of the causes and effects of his death; of the sinfulness of the
Jews, etc. He talked for about half an hour, and his sermon was simple
enough and adapted to his audience. He described the agony of Christ when
in the garden to which he often resorted with his disciples, and the
treachery of Judas who knew the place, and who "_having received a band of
men and officers from the chief priests and pharisees, cometh thither with
lanterns and torches and weapons_." As he went on describing the
circumstances minutely, one who represented the spy, with a horrible mask
like a pig's face, was seen looking through the trees where the Saviour was
concealed; and shortly after, Judas, his face covered with a black crape,
and followed by a band of soldiers, glided through stealthily. "Now," said
the curate, "observe what the traitor does. He hath given them a sign,
saying, '_Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he--hold him fast_.' He
goes--he approaches the sacred person of the Lord." Here Judas went forward
and embraced the Saviour. "It is done!" cried the preacher. "The horrible
act of treachery is completed. _And forth-with he came to Jesus, and said,
Hail, Master, and kissed him. But now, Jesus knowing all things that should
come upon him, went forth and said unto them, Whom seek ye? They answered
him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he_." As the curate
said these words, they all fell prostrate on the ground. "Mark," cried he,
"the power of the Word! They came out to take him with swords and with
staves, but at the sound of the Divine Word, they acknowledge the power of
God, and fall at his feet. But it is only for a moment. Behold, now they
bind him, they buffet him, they smite him with the palms of their hands,
they lead him away to the high priest."

All this was enacted in succession, though sometimes the curate was obliged
to repeat the same things several times before they recollected what to do.
"And already, in anticipation of the iniquitous sentence, behold what is
written." This alluded to a paper fastened upon a pole, which a man held
above the heads of the crowd, and on which was written, "Jesus of Nazareth,
King of the Jews, condemned to death by Pontius Pilate, President of Upper

And now, escorted by Judas and the multitude, the Saviour was borne through
the crowd, in conclusion of the _prendimiento._ The curate wound up his
discourse by an exhortation to abstain from sin, which had been the cause
of this awful event. I regret to state that at this very moment, a man
poked his hand into A----'s pocket, who turned very sharply round, and
asked him what he wanted; "Nada, Senorito," (Nothing, sir,) said he, with
an innocent smile, showing two rows of teeth like an ivory railing, but at
the same time disappearing pretty swiftly amongst the crowd, who now all
began to move, and to follow the procession, the band striking up a
_galope._ In the evening we returned to San Angel, and visited the lighted
churches there. As it was late when we entered the _parroquia_ (parish
church), the lights were nearly all extinguished, and a few alone of the
devout were still kneeling before a figure of our Saviour in chains....

On Good Friday we set off early for Coyohuacan, though rather afraid of the
sun, which at present, in the middle of the day, is insupportable, and even
by ten o'clock disagreeable. The whole enclosure round the church, and to a
great distance beyond it, was covered with people, and there were even a
few carriages full of well-dressed persons, who had come from the different
neighbouring haciendas; amongst others, the family of the Marquesa de
Vivanco. The padre Yturalde, who has some reputation for eloquence, was
expected to preach three sermons at Coyohuacan that day, besides one in the
village of Mizcuaque. We found that one sermon was just concluded. By the
time we arrived the sun was pouring down his beams like molten lead. Our
carriage was open, and under every tree was a crowd, so there were small
hopes of finding shade. Women were selling fruit; and booths with ices and
_chia_ were erected all down the lane leading from the church. At last,
however, a little room was made, and seats were placed for us close to the
pulpit, and under a tree.

The image of the Saviour was now carried forwards on a platform, with the
heavy cross appearing to weigh him down; and on the same platform was
Simon, the Cyrenian, assisting him to bear the weight. The Cyrenian was
represented by an old man, with hair white as snow, dressed in scarlet
cloth; who, in a stooping posture, and without once moving his body, was
carried about for hours in the whole force of the sun, the rays pouring
down upon his uncovered head. For a long while we had believed him to be a
wooden figure dressed up, and when he came near he greatly excited our
surprise and compassion. If he survives this day's work it will be a
miracle. I can now almost give faith to -----'s assertion, that in some of
the villages the man who represents Judas actually hangs himself, or is
hanged upon a tree! The Saviour was dressed in crimson velvet, with the
crown of thorns; and a figure of the Virgin, in deep mourning, was carried
after him by Indian women.

The procession consisted of the same men on horseback as we had seen on
foot the preceding day; of the Spy, the Pharisees, the Jews, the Betrayer,
and the mob. Some had helmets and feathers, and armour. Some wore wreaths
of green and gold leaves. One very good-looking man, with long curls and a
gold crown, and a splendid mantle of scarlet and gold, was intended for a
Roman. By his crown he probably meant to personify the Roman Caesar. The
sermon, or rather the discourse of the padre, was very good, and appeared
to be extempore. He made an address to the Virgin, who was carried by and
led up to the pulpit, and another to the Saviour, during which time the
audience was breathlessly attentive, notwithstanding the crying of children
and the barking of dogs. It was supposed that they were now leading Christ
before the judgment-seat of Pilate, and the next scene was to be the
delivery of the sentence.

When the curate's discourse was finished, the procession went on; the
Indian women began to sell their nuts and oranges, and the band struck up
an air in the distance, to which, when last I heard it, Ducrow's horses
were dancing! We, in a fiery sun, which made its way through our mantillas,
now proceeded to search for a convenient place from which to hear the
padre's next sermon, and to see the next scene in the sacred drama. The
padre, who was walking under the shade of a lilac silk parasol, insisted
upon resigning it to me. The Senora ----- did not seem to feel the heat at
all. At last, in order to avoid the crowd, we got up on the low azotea of a
house, beside which the pulpit was placed; but here the sun was
overwhelming. The padre's sermon was really eloquent in some passages, but
lasted nearly an hour, during which time we admired the fortitude of the
unhappy Cyrenian, who was performing a penance of no ordinary kind. The sun
darted down perpendicularly on the back of his exposed head, which he kept
bent downwards, maintaining the same posture the whole time, without
flinching or moving. Before the sermon was over we could stand the heat no
longer, and went in under cover. I felt as if my brains were melted into a
hot jelly. We emerged upon hearing that the procession was again moving
towards the pulpit, where it shortly after formed itself into two lines. In
a few moments a man with a plumed helmet, mounted on a fiery horse,
galloped furiously through the ranks, holding a paper on the point of his
lance, the sentence pronounced by Pontius Pilate.

Arrived at the pulpit, he handed it up to the priest, who received it with
a look of horror, opened it, tried to read it, and threw it on the ground
with an air of indignation. The messenger galloped back more furiously than
he came, and his horse bolting at the end of the lines, occasioned a laugh
amongst the spectators. Then followed the parting address to the Saviour,
whose bearers now brought him up to the pulpit, followed by the mournful
figure of the Virgin. Reflections on the event concluded this act.

We returned in the afternoon, to see the descent from the cross, which was
to be performed within the church. The church was crowded, and a black
curtain hung before the altar. The padre now recapitulated all that had
taken place, and described the Saviour's parting with his mother at the
foot of the cross, addressing the Virgin who stood in her sable robes not
far from the altar, and interrupting his sermon to pray for her
intercession with her Divine Son. I observed all the women in tears as he
described the Virgin's grief, the torments of the crucifixion, the
indignities that the Saviour had suffered. All at once he exclaimed in a
loud voice, "Draw back the veil, and let us behold him!" The curtain was
drawn, and the Saviour crucified appeared. Then the sobs of the women broke
forth. They clasped their hands, beat their breasts and groaned, while the
soldiers who stood below the cross clashed their swords, and one of them
struck the body with a lance. At the same time the Virgin bowed her head,
as if in grief. Unfortunately I was near enough to see how this was
effected, which peep behind the scenes greatly diminished the effect.

Then the soldiers mounted a ladder near the crucifix, and took down the
body, to bear it away. As it came by the pulpit, the priest seized the
hands, and showed the marks of the nails, at the same time breaking out
into exclamations of grief. The soldiers stood below, impatiently clashing
their swords; the women sobbed violently; the procession passed on, and we
returned to the A----'s house.

In the evening the "Procession of the Angels" took place. Figures dressed
in silk and gold, with silver wings, were carried by on platforms to the
sound of music. The body of the Saviour lay in a sort of glass hearse,
carried by men chanting a dirge, and followed by the Virgin. This
procession was really pretty, but had an odd, unnatural effect amongst the
fresh green trees, the smell of incense mingling with the fragrance of the
flowers, and the gaudy silk and gold and plumes of feathers gilded by the
soft setting sun, as they flashed along. I climbed up an old stone cross
near the church, and had a good view. Everything looked gaudy when near;
but as the procession wound along under the broken arches and through the
green lanes, and the music came fainter upon the ear, and the beating of
drums and the tolling of bells and the mournful chant were all blended into
one faint and distant harmony, the effect was beautiful. I thought of the
simple service of the Scottish kirk, and of the country-people coming out
after the sermon, with their best Sunday gowns on, and their serious,
intelligent faces, discussing the merits of their Minister's discourse; and
wondered at the contrasts in the same religion....

As the evening was cool and pleasant we walked through the fields to the
church of La Concepcion, where the procession was to pass, and sat down on
the grass till we heard it coming. As the body was carried by, all went on
their knees. At night commenced the _pesame_, or condolence to the Virgin,
in the church. She stood on her shrine, with her head bowed down; and the
hymns and prayers were all addressed to her, while the sermon, preached by
another _cura_, was also in her honour. I plead guilty to having been too
sleepy to take in more than the general tenour of the discourse. The
musicians seemed to be playing "Sweet Kitty Clover," with variations. If
Sweet Kitty Clover is genuine Irish, as who can doubt, how did these
Indians get hold of it? Did Saint Patrick go round from the Emerald Isle by
way of Tipperary? But, if he had, would he not have killed the _alacrans_,
and _chicaclinos_, and _coralillos_, and _vinagrillos_? This requires

In the _Ora pro nobis_, we were struck with the fineness of the rustic
voices. But music in this country is a sixth sense. It was but a few days
before leaving Mexico, that, sitting alone at the open window, enjoying the
short twilight, I heard a sound of distant music; many voices singing in
parts, and coming gradually nearer. It sounded beautiful, and exactly in
unison with the hour and the scene. At first I concluded it to be a
religious procession; but it was not a hymn--the air was gayer. When the
voices came under the window, and rose in full cadence, I went out on the
balcony to see to whom they belonged. It was the _forcats_, returning from
their work to the Acordada! guarded by soldiers, their chains clanking in
measure to the melody, and accompanied by some miserable-looking women.

We left the church feeling very tired and sleepy, and walked towards the
booths, where, in the midst of flowers and evergreens, they were still
selling ices, and lemonade and _chia_. We sat down to rest in the cleanest
of these leafy bowers, and then returned to Coyohuacan. There was no
drunkenness, or quarrelling, or confusion of any sort. An occasional hymn,
rising in the silence of the air, or the distant flashing of a hundred
lights, alone gave notice that the funeral procession of the Saviour had
not yet halted for the night; but there was no noise, not even mirth.
Everything was conducted with a sobriety befitting the event that was
celebrated. That some of the curate's horses were stolen that night, is
only a proof that bad men were out, and took the opportunity of his absence
from home to plunder his stables. We were told an anecdote concerning Simon
the Cyrenian, which is not bad. A man was taken up in one of the villages
as a vagrant, and desired by the justice to give an account of himself--to
explain why he was always wandering about, and had no employment. The man,
with the greatest indignation, replied, "No employment! I am _substitute
Cyrenian_ at Coyohuacan in the Holy Week!" That is to say, he was to be
substituted in the Cyrenian's place, should anything occur to prevent that
individual from representing the character.


Balloon--San Bartolo--Indian Women--A Beauty--Different
Castes--Indians--Their Character, etc.--Those of Noble Race--Ball at the
French Minister's-_Abecilta_--Danger of Walking Unattended--Shooting
Party--A Murder--Robbery of a Farmhouse--Discomfited Robber Captain--The
"_Zambos_"--Letters and Visitors--Country Life in Mexico.

23rd April.

We went to Mexico yesterday to see a balloon ascend from the Plaza de
Toros, with an aeronaut and his daughter; French people, I believe. The
scene was really beautiful. The plaza was filled with well-dressed people,
and all the boxes crowded with ladies in full toilet. The president was
there with his staff, and there were two bands of music. The day was
perfectly brilliant, and the streets crowded with handsome carriages, many
of them open. The balloon swayed itself up and down in the midst of the
plaza like a living thing. Everything seemed ready for the ascent, when it
was announced that there was a hole in the balloon, and that, consequently,
there could be no ascent that day. The people bore their disappointment
very good-humouredly, although it was conjectured that the _air traveller_
had merely proposed to himself to get their money, without the slightest
intention of performing his voyage. One amusing circumstance was, that some
penny-a-line rhymer had written an account of it in verse beforehand,
giving a most grandiloquent account of the ascent of the balloon; and when
we came out, the plaza was full of men selling these verses, which the
people were all buying and reading with roars of laughter.

The first of May being _San Felipe_, there will be a ball at the French
Minister's, to which we shall probably go.

25th.--We have just returned from a ride to San Bartolo, an Indian village,
four leagues from this, where we went with a large party, some on horses,
some on asses, others on mules, and one adventurous Jehu driving himself in
a four-wheeled carriage, with a pair of horses, over a road formed of ruts,
stones, holes, and rocks, where, I will venture to say, no carriage ever
made its appearance before. Even the horses and asses got along with
difficulty. In spite of large straw hats and green veils, we were burnt the
colour of red Indians. In the middle of the day we find the sun intolerable
at present, and, owing to the badness of the roads, we did not reach our
destination until twelve or one o'clock.

San Bartolo is a small, scattered Indian village, with a church, and is
remarkable for a beautiful spring of water, that jets cold and clear from
the hard rock, as if Moses had but just smote it; for its superb tall
pine-trees; for the good looks and cleanness of the Indian women, who are
for ever washing their long hair in the innumerable clear streamlets formed
by the spring; and for a view of Mexico, which is particularly favourable,
owing to the thick, dark screen of pine wood in the foreground, and the
distinct view of the Laguna. Our dinner was carried by Indians, who had
trotted off with it at day-dawn; but who had taken the wrong road, and did
not arrive till long after us. We dined under the pine-trees by the side of
the stream, but surrounded by crowds of gaping Indians, in too close
vicinity to be agreeable. Some of the young women were remarkably handsome,
with the most beautiful teeth imaginable, laughing and talking in their
native tongue at a great rate, as they were washing in the brooks, some
their hair and others their clothes. The men looked as dirty as Indians
generally do, and by no means on a level with these handsome damsels, who
are so much superior to the common race of Indians near Mexico, that one
would think they had some intermixture of Spanish blood in their veins. A
sister of the woman who takes charge of the hacienda where we live, is one
of the most beautiful creatures I ever beheld. Large eyes, with long dark
lashes, black hair nearly touching the ground, teeth like snow, a dark but
glowing complexion, a superb figure, with fine arms and hands, and small
beautifully-formed feet. All that is best of Indian and Spanish, "of dark
and bright," seems united in her. C---n says he has seen peasant women in
Andalusia in the same style of beauty, and quite as handsome. She is only
nineteen. Such beauties as these startle one every now and then in some
remote village. She belongs, no doubt, to the mestizos--the descendants of
whites and Indians, the handsomest race in Mexico.

You ask if the castes in Mexico are distinct. There are seven supposed to
be so. 1st, the Gachupinos, or Spaniards born in Europe; 2nd, the Creoles,
that is, whites of European family born in America; 3rd, the Mestizos; 4th,
the Mulattoes, descendants of whites and negroes, of whom there are few;
5th, the Zambos, descendants of negroes and Indians, the ugliest race in
Mexico; 6th, the Indians; and 7th, the remains of the African negroes.

Of pure Indians, Humboldt in his day calculated that there existed two
millions and a half in New Spain (without counting mestizos), and they are,
probably, very little altered from the inferior Indians, as Cortes found
them. The principal families perished at the time of the conquest. The
priests, sole depositaries of knowledge, were put to death; the manuscripts
and hieroglyphical paintings were burnt, and the remaining Indians fell
into that state of ignorance and degradation, from which they have never
emerged. The rich Indian women preferred marrying their Spanish conquerors
to allying themselves with the degraded remnant of their countrymen; poor
artisans, workmen, porters, etc., of whom Cortes speaks as filling the
streets of the great cities, and as being considered little better than
beasts of burden; nearly naked in _tierra caliente_, dressed pretty much as
they now are in the temperate parts of the country; and everywhere with
nearly the same manners, and habits, and customs, as they now have, but
especially in the more distant villages where they have little intercourse
with the other classes. Even in their religion, Christianity, as I observed
before, seems to be formed of the ruins of their mythology; and all these
festivities of the church, these fireworks, and images, and gay dresses,
harmonize completely with their childish love of show, and are, in fact,
their greatest source of delight. To buy these they save up all their
money, and when you give a penny to an Indian child, it trots off to buy
crackers, as another would to buy candy. Attempts have been made by their
curates to persuade them to omit the celebration of certain days, and to
expend less in the ceremonies of others, but the indignation and discontent
which such proposals have caused, have induced them to desist in their

Under an appearance of stupid apathy they veil a great depth of cunning.
They are grave and gentle and rather sad in their appearance, when not
under the influence of pulque; but when they return to their villages in
the evening, and have taken a drop of comfort, their white teeth light up
their bronze countenances like lamps, and the girls especially make the air
ring with their laughter, which is very musical. I think it is Humboldt who
says that their smile is extremely gentle, and the expression of their eyes
very severe. As they have no beard, if it were not for a little moustache,
which they frequently wear on the upper lip, there would be scarcely any
difference between the faces of men and women.

The Indians in and near the capital are, according to Humboldt, either the
descendants of the former labourers, or are remains of noble Indian
families, who, disdaining to intermarry with their Spanish conquerors,
preferred themselves to till the ground which their vassals formerly
cultivated for them. It is said that these Indians of noble race, though to
the vulgar eye undistinguishable from their fellows, are held in great
respect by their inferior countrymen. In Cholula, particularly, there are
still caciques with long Indian names; also in Tlascala--and though
barefoot and ragged, they are said to possess great hidden wealth. But it
is neither in or near the capital that we can see the Indians to perfection
in their original state. It is only by travelling through the provinces
that we can accomplish this; and should the lateness of the season oblige
us to remain here any time after another Minister arrives, we may probably
take a longer journey in some different direction from _tierra caliente_,
where we may see some tribes of the indigenous Mexicans. Certainly no
visible improvement has taken place in their condition since the
independence. They are quite as poor and quite as ignorant, and quite as
degraded as they were in 1808, and if they do raise a little grain of their
own, they are so hardly taxed that the privilege is as nought.

May 2nd--We returned from Mexico this morning, having gone in to attend the
ball given at the French Minister's, on the day of Louis Philippe. It was
very pretty, and we stayed till it was very late. We met with such a
cordial reception from all our friends, whom we have not seen for a month,
that we are tempted to believe ourselves as much missed in Mexico as they
say we are. The Senora L---- and the E----s were amongst the best dressed
Mexican ladies last night; the latter in white crape and diamonds, and the
other in black blonde over rose-colour, also with diamonds. The Senora
A----, who went with us, looked very pretty in a white blonde dress, with a
small black velvet turban rolled round with large diamonds and pearls.
There were a great number of small crimson velvet turbans, and an amazing
number of black blonde dresses. There were certainly some very pretty
women. The _corps diplomatique_ went in uniform.

7th--Abecilta, a favourite Spanish actor, died a few days ago, and, as
C---n took several boxes on the night of a play given for the benefit of
his widow, we went in to the theatre on Saturday last. We are now looking
out for another house in Mexico, for when the rainy season begins we shall
find this too far from the city for C----n, who is obliged to be there

We ventured to take a walk alone yesterday morning through the lanes, down
to San Angel and Coyohuacan, for which piece of imprudence we were severely
reprehended, and to-day it appears that two women had been robbed and
ill-treated on the road near here; so we are too ready to subscribe to the
renewal of our sentence of imprisonment in the house and orchard, when we
have no gentlemen with us; but it must be confessed that it takes greatly
from the charms of a country life, not to be able to walk out

The quietness and stillness of this place is incredible. There is actually
not a sound in the air; not a sight but a ragged Indian. The garden is in
great beauty. The apricots are ripe and abundant. The roses are in full
blow; and there is a large pomegranate-tree at the gate of the orchard,
which is one mass of ponceau blossom. It is much warmer in the middle of
the day this summer than it was last.

We spent a pleasant day lately at a great hacienda a few leagues from this,
belonging to a Spanish millionaire, on occasion of a shooting party. We
went there to breakfast, and afterwards set off on horseback, sitting
sideways on _men's_ saddles, to see the sport. It would have been very
agreeable but for the heat. The sportsmen were not very successful;--saw a
flight of rose-coloured flamingoes, who sailed high over their heads,
unhurt; killed some very handsome birds called _trigueros_, with beautiful
yellow plumage, and some ducks. The trigueros are considered a delicacy. We
rode with the administrador all round the estate, which is very productive
and profitable. He told us that they sell in Mexico, annually, fifteen
thousand dollars' worth of corn, and ten thousand dollars' worth of milk,
sending in this produce in canoes, by the canal which passes this way. We
dismounted from our horses in a green meadow covered with daisies and
buttercups, which, from association, I prefer to the tuberoses and
pomegranate blossom, which now adorn the gardens. The Senor ----- gave us
an excellent dinner _a l'Espagnole_; after which I made an attempt to fire
at some birds which shook their tails, and flew away in the most
contemptuous manner....

The new Secretary of Legation, Senor T----, and the new attache, Senor
G----, have just arrived in Mexico.

10th.--The Baron and Madame de -----, with their secretary, the Count de
B----, came out yesterday morning unexpectedly to breakfast, and spent the
day with us.

13th.--We went out with C---n last evening, to take a walk; when a man
rushed by us in a state of great agitation, and on going further we met
some workmen, who told us that an Indian labourer had stabbed a man in the
next field, and that he had died before a padre could be procured. We heard
the cries of his wife and children, and A----, crossing the ditch that
bordered the field, went to see the man. He was a master-workman, or
director, and had found fault with one of the men for his idleness. High
words ensued, and the labourer (probably the man who had passed us) drew
his knife and stabbed him. He was lying stone dead, with his hand half cut
through in his efforts to defend himself. A---- asked an administrador, who
was standing near, what would be done to the guilty man. "Probably
nothing," said he, shrugging his shoulders; "we have no judges to punish
crime." This rencounter, as you may believe, took away from us all
inclination to pursue our rambles.

There is a pretty farmhouse in the village, in which we took shelter the
other day from a shower of rain. The farmers are civil and respectful, a
superior kind of people, with good manners rather above their station. The
daughters are good-looking, and the house clean and neat. One of the girls
gave me an account of a nocturnal visit which the robbers paid them last
winter. She showed me the little room where she was alone and asleep, when
her mother and sister, who slept in the chamber adjoining, being wakened by
the breaking in of their door, sprang out of the window to make their
escape, and she was left in the house alone. She jumped out of bed and
bolted the door (her room had no other egress), and there she held a parley
with these night visitors, promising to unlock every drawer and closet, if
they would wait till she put on her clothes, and would do her no personal
injury. The agreement was made, and they kept their word. They cleared the
house of every article it contained, leaving nothing but the blanket in
which the girl had wrapped herself. All their clothes, household utensils,
money, everything was carried off with astonishing precision; and having
made her swear not to move till they had time to leave the village, they
paid her no further attention. The other women, who had given the alarm,
found no one inclined to move in the middle of the night against a party
whose numbers their fears had probably magnified.

The administrador gave us an amusing account this evening of a visit which
a band of no less than thirty robbers once ventured to pay this strong and
well-defended hacienda. He was living there alone, that is, without the
family, and had just barred and bolted everything for the night, but had
not yet locked the outer gate, when looking out from his window into the
courtyard by moonlight, he saw a band of robbers ride up to the door. He
instantly took his measures, and seizing the great keys, ran up the little
stair that leads to the azotea, locking the gate by which he passed, and,
calling to the captain by name (for the robbers were headed by a noted
chieftain), requested to know what he wanted at that hour of the night. The
captain politely begged him to come downstairs and he would tell him; but
the agent, strong in the possession of his great keys, and well knowing the
solidity of the iron-barred windows, continued his parley in a high tone.
The captain rode round, examined everything with a practised eye, and found
that it would require a regular siege to make good his entry. He
threatened, entreated, observed that he would be content with a small sum
of money, but all in vain. There stood the sturdy administrador on the
housetop, and there sat the captain on his horse below, something like the
fox and the crow; but the agent with the keys was wiser than the crow and
her cheese, for no cajoling would induce him to let them out of his grasp;
and worse than all, shooting him would have done them no good. At last the
captain, finding himself entirely outwitted, took off his hat, politely
wished the agent a very good night, drew off his men and departed.

Another time, being also alone, he was attacked in broad daylight by two
men who came under pretence of buying pulque; but having time to get hold
of a sword, he overpowered one, which frightened the other, upon which they
both began to laugh, and assured him it was mere experiment to see what he
would do--a perfect jest, which he pretended to believe, but advised them
not to try it again, as it was too good a joke to be repeated. Senor -----
pointed out to us the other day a well-known robber captain, who was riding
on the high road with a friend. He had the worst-looking, most vulgar, and
most villainous face I ever saw; a low-lived and most unpoetic-looking
ruffian; fat and sallow.

We saw a horribly ugly man to-day, and were told he was a _lobo_, the name
given here to the _Zambos_; who are the most frightful human beings that
can be seen. La Gueera Rodriguez told us that on an estate of hers, one
woman of that race was in the habit of attending church, and that she was
so fearfully hideous, the priest had been obliged to desire her to remain
at home, because she distracted the attention of the congregation!

We spent yesterday at the house of the ----- Minister at San Angel, where
he gave us and the ----- Minister and his family a beautiful breakfast. How
consistent everything looks in a good English house! so handsome without
being gaudy--the plate so well cleaned, the servants so well trained.

June 8th.--We were sitting under an apple-tree the other day, trying to
tame the fiercest little deer I ever saw, who was butting and kicking with
all his might, when a large packet of letters was brought us, the reading
of which insured us an agreeable afternoon. We continue to lead a very
quiet life here, occasionally taking a short ride in the evening, and
making acquaintance with the neighbouring villages, the prettiest of which
is Tesapan, a most rural and leafy spot, where there are fine fruit trees,
plenty of water, and good-looking peasant-girls. Sometimes we go to San
Antonio to see the V---o family; occasionally to San Agustin, where they
are preparing for the great fete. We are in treaty for a house in Mexico,
having now given up all idea of passing through Vera Cruz this summer. We
are in hopes of having that of the late Marquesa de San Roman, who died
some time ago, but the delays that take place in any transaction connected
with a house in Mexico, and the difficulty of obtaining a decisive answer,
are hard trials of patience.

We generally have a number of visitors from Mexico on Sunday, and those who
come in carriages may be considered as real friends, for they decidedly
risk their necks, not to mention their carriage-springs at a _bad bit_ on
the road, which the owners, who are Indians, will not allow any one to mend
for them, and will not mend themselves. When we reach it, we are obliged
regularly to get out of the carriage, go about a hundred yards on foot, and
then remain in much anxiety at the top of the hill, till we see whether or
not the carriage arrives unbroken, which it rarely does. A few dollars
would make it perfectly safe.

Our chief visitors during the week are from the Carmelite convent of San
Angel. The old _padre guardian_ is about eighty. Each convent has a prior,
but the padre guardian exercises authority over all the convents of his
order as well as over his own.

There are many excellent houses and fine gardens in San Angel, and a number
of families from Mexico are now there for the season. Tacubaya and all the
environs are beginning to be occupied, and Mexico looks warm and deserted.
But there are so few incidents in our quiet life among the magueys, that I
shall write no more till we return from San Agustin after the fete. If you
wish to hear how we pass our time, you must know that we generally rise
about six, and go out into the orchard and stroll about, or sit down with a
book in a pleasant arbour at the end of one of the walks, which is
surrounded by rose-bushes, and has a little stream of water running past
it. Nor do we ever enter the orchard unarmed with a long pole, for its
entrance is guarded by a flock of angry geese, hissing like the many-headed
Hydra that watched over the golden apples of the Hesperides. At eight we
breakfast, and by nine the sun is already powerful enough to prevent us
from leaving the house. We therefore sit down to read or write, and do
occasionally take a game at billiards. C---n generally rides to Mexico, but
if not, goes up to the azotea with a book, or writes in his study until
four o'clock, when we dine.

After dinner we walk into the village, if we have any attendant esquire; if
not, we go to the azotea and see the sun set behind the volcanoes, or walk
in the garden till it is dark, and then sit down in the front of the house,
and look at the lights in Mexico. Then we have tea or chocolate--and the
candles are lighted--and the last Indian workman has gone off to his
village--and the house is barred in, and we sit down to read, or write or
talk, or sometimes we play billiards by lamp-light. And then indeed the
silence and the solitude make us feel as if the world were completely shut
out. I never experienced such perfect stillness. Even the barking of a dog
sounds like an event. Therefore, expect no amusing letters from this place;
for though we are very comfortable, there are no incidents to relate. The
Indians come in the morning to drink pulque, (which, by the way, I now
think excellent, and shall find it very difficult to live without!) a
little child from the village brings us some bouquets of flowers, which the
Indians have a pretty way of arranging in a pineapple or pyramidal form;
the Chinese cook, with his little slits of eyes, passes by with meat and
fruit which he has been buying at the market of San Angel; the prior
saunters in to see how we are--a chance visitor comes on horseback from
Mexico, with a long sword by his side, as if he were going to fight the
Saracens. And excepting that a padre came last Sunday and said mass to us
in the pretty little chapel of the hacienda, which saved us the trouble of
going down to the village, and, moreover, took chocolate with us
afterwards, there has been nothing to vary the usual routine of our country


Gambling--Fete at San Agustin--Breakfast at San Antonio--Report--Cock-
fight--Ladies--Private Gambling--A _Vaca_--The _Calvario_--Bonnets--
Dinner--Evening Ball--Mingling of Classes--Copper Tables--Dresses and
Decorations--Indian Bankers, Male and Female--Decorum-Habit--Holders of
Banks--Female Gambler--Robbery--Anecdote--Bet--_Casa de Moneda_--Leave San
Angel--Celebration--Address--Cross and Diploma--Reply--Presentation of a
Sword--Discourses and Addresses--Reflections.

10th June.

One year since I last wrote of San Agustin! An entire year has fled swiftly
away on rushing pinions, to add its unit to the rolling century. And again,
on a bright morning in June, we set off for the hospitable San Antonio,
where we were invited to breakfast and to pass the night on the second day
of the fete. We found a very brilliant party assembled; the family with all
its branches, the Ex-Minister Cuevas, with his handsome sister-in-law, La
Guera Rodriguez, with one of her beautiful granddaughters (daughter of the
Marquis of G---e), now making her first appearance in Mexico, and various
other agreeable people. The first day of the fete, a rumour was afloat that
an attack was to be made on the banks by the federal party; that they
expected to procure the sinews of war to the extent of a million of
dollars, and then intended to raise a _grito_ in Mexico, taking advantage
of the temporary absence of the president and his officers. The plan seemed
rather feasible, and the report, true or false, was current yesterday; but
if there was any truth in it, the discovery has been made in time, for
nothing has occurred. San Agustin appeared even gayer and more crowded than
it was last year. We spent the day at the E----s, and went with them to a
box in the plaza to see the cock-fight, which I had no particular pleasure,
I must confess, in witnessing again, but went for the sake of those who had
not seen it before. The general _coup d'ceil_ was exceeding gay, and the
improvement in the dress of the ladies since last year very striking. There
were neither diamonds nor pearls among the most fashionable. The bonnets
were chiefly Parisian, as were many of the gowns. One box looked a
veritable parterre of flowers. The ladies of our party wore dresses and
bonnets as simple, fresh, and elegant as could be seen in any part of the
world. A young and titled heiress, newly arrived from her distant estates,
wore pink satin with a white hat and feathers, and we observed, that
according to the ancient San Agustin fashion, she changed her dress four or
five times a day. But the ladies may dress and may smile, and may look
their very best; they are little thought of this day, in comparison with
the one all-powerful, all-pervading object. It is even whispered that one
cause of the more than usual crowd at San Agustin this year, is that many
failures are expected in mercantile houses, and that the heads of these
houses or their agents are here on the desperate hope of retrieving their
falling fortunes.

A good deal of play on a small scale goes on in the private houses, among
those who do not take much part in the regular gambling; but all are
interested more or less; even strangers, even ladies, even ourselves.
Occasional news is brought in, and received with deep interest of the state
of the banks, of the losses or gains of the different individuals, or of
the result of the _vacas_, (a sort of general purse into which each puts in
two or three ounces,) by different stragglers from the gambling-houses, who
have themselves only ventured a few ounces, and who prefer the society of
ladies to that of the Monte players. These are generally foreigners, and
chiefly English.

We found the road to the _Calvario_, where, as usual, there was a ball in
the afternoon, blocked up with carriages, and the hill itself covered with
gay figures; who were dancing as well as the tremendous crowd would permit.
This was really tolerably republican. The women generally were dressed as
the better classes of Mexicans used to be, years ago, and not so many years
neither (and as many in the country, still are) in blonde dresses, with
very short petticoats, open silk stockings and white satin shoes; and such
a collection of queer bonnets has probably never been seen since the days
when _les Anglaises pour rire_ first set foot on Gallic shores. Some were
like small steeples, others resembled helmets, some were like sugar-loaves,
and most seemed to have been set on, for convenience-sake, all the way out.
Amidst these there was a good sprinkling of pretty Herbaults and Paris
dresses, but they belonged to the more fashionable classes. The scene was
amusing from its variety, but we did not remain long, as it threatened
rain. As we looked back, the crowd on the hill presented the appearance of
a bed of butterflies dancing with black ants.

We returned to the -----'s to dinner, which was very handsome, and entirely
French. There were about twenty-eight persons at table, some of them looked
as if they had rather lost than otherwise. After dinner--music and
conversation on the events and probabilities of the day, till it was time
to dress for the ball at the Plaza. We, however, preferred going to a box,
which saves the trouble of dressing, besides being "_de mucho tono_," very
fashionable; but when we arrived, not a box was to be had, the crowd was so
great, and there were so many people of _tono_, besides ourselves, who had
preferred doing the same thing; so we were obliged to content ourselves
with retreating to a third row of benches on the floor, after persuading at
least a dozen of very good-natured women to turn out, in order to let us
in. We were afterwards joined by the ----- Minister and his wife. The ball
looked very gay, and was prodigiously crowded, and exceedingly amusing.

There were people of all classes; _modistes_ and carpenters, shop-boys,
tailors, hatters, and hosiers, mingled with all the _haut ton_ of Mexico.
Every shop-boy considered himself entitled to dance with every lady, and no
lady considered herself as having a right to refuse him, and then to dance
with another person. The Senora de -----, a most high-bred and dignified
person, danced with a stable-boy in a jacket and without gloves, and he
appeared particularly gratified at the extraordinary opportunity thus
afforded him of holding her white gloves in his brown paws. These fellows
naturally select the first ladies as their partners, and, strange as it may
seem, there is nothing in their behaviour that the most fastidious can
complain of. They are perfectly polite, quiet, and well conducted; and what
is more remarkable, go through a quadrille as well as their neighbours. The
ball was quietness itself, until near the end, when the wind-instruments
were suddenly seized with a fit of economy, the time they were paid for
having probably expired, and stopped short in the midst of a waltz; upon
which the gentlemen waltzers shouted "_Viento! Viento!_" at the full extent
of their voices, clapping their hands, refusing to dance, and entirely
drowning the sound of some little jingling guitars, which were patiently
twanging on, until the hired sons of AEolus had to resume their labours.

There were some pretty faces among the secondary class of small
shopkeepers; but their beauty is not striking, and takes a long time to
discover; especially _fagotees_ as they are in their overloaded dresses.
Amongst the handsomest of the higher classes, were the Senora C---s, and a
daughter of the Marquis G---e.

On the third night of the fete, C---n and I having left the ball-room,
about ten o'clock, walked out in the direction of the copper-tables which
filled the middle of the square, and were covered with awnings. It is a
sight that, once seen, can never be forgotten. Nothing but the pencil of
Hogarth, or the pen of Boz, could do justice to the various groups there
assembled. It was a gambling _fete champetre_, conducted on the most
liberal scale.

On each table were great mountains of copper, with an occasional sprinkling
of silver. There was a profusion of evergreens, small tin lamps dripping
with oil, and sloping tallow candles shedding grease upon the board. Little
ragged boys, acting as waiters, were busily engaged in handing round pulque
and chia in cracked tumblers. There was, moreover, an agreeable tinkling
produced from several guitars, and even the bankers condescended to amuse
their guests with soothing strains. The general dress of the company
consisted of a single blanket, gracefully disposed in folds about the
person; so as to show various glimpses of a bronze skin. To this some added
a pair of Mexican pantaloons, and some a shirt of a doubtful colour. There
were many with large hats, most of which had crowns or parts of crowns, but
all affording free entrance to the fresh air. Generally speaking,
how-ever, the head was uncovered, or covered only with its native thatching
of long, bushy, tangled black hair.

This might be out of compliment to the ladies, of whom there were several,
and who ought in politeness to have been mentioned first. Nothing could be
simpler than their costume, consisting of a very dirty and extremely torn
chemise, with short sleeves, a shorter petticoat, and a pair of shoes,
generally of dirty satin: also a reboso, and the long hair hanging down as
Eve's golden locks may have done in Paradise. "They call this place a
Paradise," a Spanish soldier wrote to his father; "and so I think it is, it
is so full of _Adams_."

There was neither fighting, nor swearing, nor high words. I doubt whether
there be as much decorum at Crockford's; indeed, they were scrupulously
polite to each other. At one table, the banker was an enormously fat
gentleman, one half of whose head was bound up with a dirty white
handkerchief, over which a torn piece of hat was stuck, very much to one
side. He had a most roguish eye, and a smile of inviting benignity on his
dirty countenance. In one hand he held and tingled a guitar, while he most
ingeniously swept in the copper with the other. By his side sat two
wretched-looking women, with long matted hair, their elbows on the table,
and their great eyes fixed upon the game with an expression of the most
intense anxiety. At another, the _banker_ was a pretty little Indian woman,
rather clean, comparatively speaking, and who appeared to be doing business
smartly. A man stood near her, leaning against one of the poles that
supported the awning, who attracted all our attention. He was enveloped in
a torn blanket, his head uncovered, and his feet bare, and was glaring upon
the table with his great dark, haggard-looking eyes, his brown face livid,
and his expression bordering on despair. It needed no one to tell us that
on the table was his last stake. What will such a man do but go upon the

I have heard it mentioned as a strong circumstance in favour of the Mexican
character, that there is neither noise nor disturbance in these reunions;
none of that uproar and violence that there would be in an English mob, for
example. The fact is certain, but the inference is doubtful. These people
are degraded, and accustomed to endure. They are gentle and cunning, and
their passions are not easily roused, at least to open display; but once
awakened, it is neither to uproar that these passions will be excited, nor
by fair fight that they will be assuaged. In England, a boxing-match
decides a dispute amongst the lower orders; in Mexico, a knife; and a
broken head is easier mended than a cut throat. Despair must find vent in
some way; and secret murder, or midnight robbery, are the fatal
consequences of this very calmness of countenance, which is but a mask of
Nature's own giving to her Indian offspring.

Another reason for this tranquillity is the _habit_ of gambling, in which
they have indulged from childhood, and which has taught them that neither
high words nor violence will restore a single dollar once fairly lost; and
in point of fairness, everything is carried on with the strictest honour,
as among gamblers of high degree.

While "high life below stairs" is thus enacting, and these people are
courting fortune in the fresh air, the gentlemanly gamblers are seated
before the green cloth-covered tables, with the gravity befitting so many
cabinet councils; but without their mystery, for doors and windows are
thrown open, and both ladies and gentlemen may pass in and out, and look on
at the game, if they please. The heaps of ounces look temptingly, and make
it appear a true El Dorado. Nor is there any lack of creature-comforts to
refresh the flagging spirits. There are supper-spread tables, covered with
savoury meats to appease their hunger, and with generous wines to gladden
their hearts; and the gentlemen who surrounded that board seemed to be
playing, instead of Monte, an excellent knife and fork.

You must not suppose that those who hold gaming-tables are the less
considered on that account; on the contrary, as the banks generally win,
they are amongst the richest, and, consequently, the most respected men in
Mexico. These bankers are frequently Spaniards, who have found gambling the
readiest stepping-stone to fortune. Senor ----- explained to me one plan of
those who hold the banks, a sort of _hedging_, by which it is next to
impossible that they can lose. For example, one of these gentlemen proposes
to his friends to take a share in a _vaca_, each contributing a few ounces.
Having collected several hundred ounces, they go to play at _his bank_. If
they win, he receives his share, of course; and if they lose his bank wins
the whole. It is proceeding upon the principle of "Heads I win, tails you

At the tables, few words are spoken. The heaps of gold change masters; but
the masters do not change countenance. I saw but one person who looked a
little out of humour, and he was a foreigner. The rich man adds to his
store, and the poor man becomes a beggar. He is ruined, but "_makes no

The ladies who have collected ounces and made purses, send their friends
and admirers to the tables to try their luck for them; and in some of the
inferior houses, the Senoras of a lower class occasionally try their
fortune for themselves. I saw one of these, who had probably lost, by no
means "taking it coolly." She looked like an overcharged thunder-cloud; but
whether she broke forth in anger or in tears, thunder or rain, we did not
stay to see.

In short, it is an all-pervading mania, and as man is "a bundle of habits,"
the most moral persons in this country (always excepting one or two ladies
who express their opinions strongly against it) see nothing in it to
condemn, and are surprised at the effect it produces on a stranger; and,
indeed, after a few years' residence here, a foreigner almost becomes
reconciled to these abuses, by the veil of decorum with which they are

We returned to San Antonio by the brightest possible moonlight, and in
perfect safety, it being on the high-road to Mexico, and therefore guarded
by soldiers. We heard the next morning, that a nephew of General B---s, who
had ventured upon going by a cross-road to his house, at _Mizcuaque_, has
been attacked and robbed of his winnings, besides being severely wounded.
This being the natural consequence, the _morale_ to the story can excite no
surprise. The robbers who, in hopes of plunder, flocked down at the time of
the fete, like sopilotes seeking carrion, hide themselves among the barren
rocks of the _Pedregal_, and render all cross-roads insecure, except with a
very strong escort.

An anecdote was related to us this morning, by a member of the cabinet, a
striking one amongst the innumerable instances of fortune's caprices. A
very rich Spaniard, proprietor of several haciendas, attended the fete at
San Agustin, and having won three thousand ounces, ordered the money to be
carried in sacks to his carriage, and prepared to return to Mexico along
with his wife. His carriage was just setting off, when a friend of his came
out of an adjoining house, and requested him to stay to breakfast, to which
he agreed. After breakfast, there being a monte table in the house, at
which some of his acquaintances were playing, he put down two ounces, and
lost. He continued playing and losing, until he had lost his three thousand
ounces, which were sent for and transferred to the winners. He still
continued playing with a terrible infatuation, till he had lost his whole
fortune. He went on blindly, staking one hacienda after another, and
property of all sorts, until the sun, which had risen upon him a rich and
prosperous man, set, leaving him a beggar! It is said that he bore this
extraordinary and sudden reverse with the utmost equanimity. He left a son,
whom we have seen at San Agustin, where he earns his livelihood as
_croupier_ at the gambling-tables.

29th.--No particular occurrence has taken place since the fete; a visit
from the new Secretary of Legation and the Attache, a diplomatic dinner at
the ----- Minister's, much going and coming and writing on the subject of a
house in Mexico, a correspondence concerning the sale of our furniture,
mules, etc., etc., a good deal of interest excited by a bet between two
English gentlemen, as to whether it were possible for one of them to ride
from Mexico to San Angel in twenty minutes, which feat he performed,
starting from the gate called "_El Nino Perdido_," and reaching the old
church of San Angel within the given time; these I think are the most
remarkable circumstances that have taken place. We are now in treaty for
the furnished apartments of the director of the _Casa de Moneda_ (the
mint), a great building next the palace, from which upwards of one thousand
three hundred millions of coined gold and silver have issued since the
beginning of the sixteenth century. The house is a palace in extent and
solidity; and the residence of the director is very spacious and handsome,
besides having the great advantage of being furnished. We expect to return
to Mexico in a few days.


Here we are, re-established in Mexico, for a short time at least, and not
without difficulty has it been accomplished. We left the country with some
regret, as this is the pleasantest time of the year for being there, and
everything was looking green and beautiful. We came in, ourselves, in a
loaded carriage, and in advance, fourteen asses loaded with boxes, four
Indians with ditto, and two enormous loaded carts, one drawn by four, and
another by eight mules. We were a regular _caravan_, as our friend the
alcalde called us. Imagine the days of packing and unpacking consequent

On the 1st of July, the victory gained by the government over the
federalist party was celebrated with great eclat. The president was
presented with a diamond cross, valued at six thousand dollars, and General
Valencia with a splendid jewel-hilted sword of great value. "Yesterday
morning," says the newspaper of the day, "a general pealing of the bells
and the usual salutes announced to the capital that it was a day of rewards
and of universal joy. At twelve o'clock, his Excellency the President of
the Republic went to the palace, to fulfill the formality of closing the
sessions, and to receive from the hands of the President of the Chamber of
Deputies, the diploma and cross of honour mentioned in the decrees of the
second of March and second of May of this year. An immense multitude
occupied the galleries; and the President, Don J. M. Maria Bravo, addressed
his Excellency General Bustamante, in the following speech:

"Citizen General, and illustrious President:--Nations never forget the
distinguished services that are done to them, nor fail to reward those
heroic actions performed for the common good. Sooner or later they show
themselves grateful, and reward as they ought their good and valiant
servants. The Mexican nation has not forgotten yours, and its congress has
ever borne in mind those which you performed for it at that happy period
when the unfortunate hero of Iguala, causing the voice of freedom to
resound to the remotest lands of the Mexican territory, gave a terrible
lesson to those who wish to subdue weak nations, with no other title than
that of strength. You were one of the first and most valiant chiefs, who,
placed by his side, assisted in this important and happy work; you it was
who showed to the tyrant in the fields of Juchi, Aztcapozalco and others,
that the sword of the Mexicans once unsheathed for liberty and justice,
fights without softening or breaking; and knows how to triumph over its
enemies, even when superior forces oppose it; you it was, in short, who
with intrepid valour co-operated in re-establishing a liberty which, torn
from the ancient children of the soil, was converted by their oppressors
into a hard and shameful tyranny. History has already consecrated her pages
to you: she will record to posterity your heroic deeds, and congress has
already busied itself in rewarding such interesting services.

"If some Mexicans, erring in their opinions, by a fatality in this country,
have disowned them, making an attempt against your personal liberty,
notwithstanding the dignity of the first magistrate; trampling upon laws
and overturning order; they have at length been obliged to respect you; and
your valour, firmness, and decision, have made them preserve the
consideration due to an ancient chief of our independence, and to a first
magistrate who has known how to set an example of subordination to the
laws, and to give with dignity lessons of valour and of honourable conduct.

"A diploma and a cross are the rewards which the sovereign congress has
decreed for these services and merits. Do not regard in the one the
effaceable characters in which it is written, nor be dazzled by the
brilliancy of the other. See in both a proof of your country's gratitude,
and engraving it in your soul, continue to give testimonies to your country
that she is the first object of your care; that your watchings, fatigues,
and labours are dedicated only to procure for her those benefits which may
bring about the durable and solid peace that she so much desires, and for
which you would, if necessary, sacrifice yourself on her altars.

"Do not forget that to-day she shows herself grateful, and that this is the
day decreed by the august national representative body, to put you in
possession of the title and insignia which manifests her gratitude. I, in
the name of the congress, congratulate you on this fortunate event, and
having the honour to fulfil the desire of the sovereign power, place in
your hands this diploma of deserving reward from your country, and give you
possession of this cross."

His Excellency having received the diploma and cross above mentioned, with
his native modesty replied thus:

"In hearing, by the organ of the august national representation, the great
encomiums with which it favours me, putting me at the same time in
possession of these precious gifts, my soul overflows with ineffable
pleasure, and is overwhelmed with the deepest gratitude. My satisfaction
and my glory are immense. What could I have done, that thus the generous
hand of the representatives of the Mexican people should load me with
honours? Have my trifling services been able to fix the attention of the
country, on whose altars have been sacrificed so many and such illustrious
heroes of liberty? My glory would have been yet greater, had I, like them,
descended to the sepulchre, when the sun of victory brightened the
existence of this sovereign and independent nation, to the glory of the

"The honours which I receive to-day are certainly great; but I should have
preferred them before the never sufficiently mourned catastrophe of the
immortal Yturbide. Let us throw a thick veil over so irreparable a loss. It
is true that, surviving such great misfortunes, I have been enabled to
consecrate my existence and my vigilance to the peace, order, and felicity
of this beloved country. But how difficult is the conduct of those who
govern in the midst of the conflict of civil dissensions! In these, my
conscience has chosen, and my resolution has never vacillated between
ignominy and honour. Do I, on this account, deserve the national gratitude
and munificence manifested by such distinguished rewards? I return for them
to the representatives of the nation my frankest gratitude; fixing my mind
only on the grandeur and benevolence of the sovereign power which rewards
me in the sacred name of the country. I shall preserve till death these
precious objects which render my name illustrious as a soldier and as a
supreme magistrate. They will stimulate me more and more every day to all
kinds of sacrifices, even to the giving up my life should it be necessary;
that I may not be unworthy of the favourable conception and of the
recompence with which the worthy representatives of so magnanimous a nation
have to-day honoured me. Receive, gentlemen, this frank manifestation of my
sentiments, and of my fervent vows for the felicity of the republic, with
the most sincere protestations of my eternal gratitude."

"The liveliest emotions of satisfaction" (I still quote from the _Diario_)
"followed this expressive discourse. Joy was painted on every countenance.
The frank satisfaction which every one felt gave to this act a solemnity
which words are incapable of describing. His Excellency, accompanied by the
corporations and by a brilliant and numerous concourse, then passed to the
hall of the court-martial, to put in possession of his Excellency General
D. Gabriel Valencia the sword of honour which the august national
representation had granted him, for his loyal and valiant conduct in the
affair of July of 1840. His Excellency the President began this ceremony by
expressing his sentiments to his Excellency the _Gefe de la plana mayor_
(head of the staff), in these terms:

"Citizen General:--In this day, the most flattering of my life, in which
the august representatives of the nation have just put me in possession of
the rewards granted to my small services, I fulfil the law which imposes
upon me the grateful task of presenting you with the sword of honour, with
which their munificence has also chosen to remunerate yours.

"Receive it as the distinguished reward of your loyalty, and of the valour
with which you fought at that memorable period, from the 15th to the 26th
of July, defending with bravery the constitution and supreme powers of the
Republic. I congratulate myself with you, not doubting that you will always
employ the edge of this steel in defence of the honour, of the sacred
rights, and of the laws of this country. Yes, general, of this beloved
country, to whom we owe all kinds of sacrifices; yes, of this beloved
mother, who now more than ever reclaims the fraternal union of all her
children, to conquer the internal and external enemies who oppose her
felicity and aggrandizement, let us pledge ourselves to correspond
thankfully to the generosity with which the representatives of the nation
have rewarded us, and let us march united in the same path which honour and
duty traced out for us, in that day of honourable memory for the defenders
of the laws. Eternal praise to the brave soldiers and citizens who co-
operated with us in the establishment of order!"

To which General Valencia replied:--"That a correspondent reward should
follow an heroic action, nothing more natural; but to remunerate a service
which does not go beyond the sphere of ordinary things, such as mine in the
affair of the 15th to the 26th of July of 1840, by such a noble distinction
as the sword of honour with which your Excellency has deigned to gird me,
in the name of the National Congress, of this the magnanimity of the
sovereignty is alone capable; and so it is that I remain annihilated by a
present worthy of the ages of the Roman Senate and Republic. What did I do,
your Excellency, in those days, that any one of my countrymen would not
have done better? Nothing, sir; so that, in receiving this sword of honour,
my confusion equals my doubt as to my place in the gratitude of the
congress which has given it to me, of your Excellency who has deigned to
present it to me, and of my worthy countrymen who bestowed it that I might
wear it.

"In this condition, your Excellency, of content and satisfaction, I can say
no more, but that I hope your Excellency will manifest to congress my
eternal gratitude; that your Excellency will receive my noble
acknowledgments, and my companions the assurance that every time I put it
on I shall remember the names of all and each of them who accompanied me on
the 15th of July of 1840, together with the pleasure that to them I owe so
great a mark of respect."

Amongst the congratulations given to the president, the following
"congratulation from his Excellency General Valencia to his Excellency the
President, on his receiving the decoration of the cross of honour from
congress," is very remarkable. "God said, the first day of the creation of
the world, when it was in a state of chaos, _'Let there be light, and there
was light.' And God saw his work and pronounced it good!_ With how much
more reason ought the garrison of Mexico to do so every day in which, by
any action, the 15th of July 1840 is celebrated--in which, by their
strength and heroic valour, that passage of Genesis was politically
repeated in this capital. Society arose in chaos. Its president is taken.
Authorities no longer exist, and those who ought to save them are converted
into their oppressors. '_God said let there be light, and there was
light_!' The honourable troops, reunited in the citadel, in the midst of
chaos, said 'Let order be re-established--let the supreme magistrate be set
at liberty, and let things resume their proper march.' Order _was_ re-
established, your Excellency was set free, and the political body followed
the regular path, without which no society exists. So it is that those
worthy troops who thus said, thus undertook, and thus accomplished, now
also resemble the Creator of the world (_hoy tambien se asememejan al
Criador del mundo_) in his content, when satisfied with his work.

"The cross which has been worthily placed on your Excellency's breast this
day, reflects in such a singular manner upon the hearts of the valiant men
of that period (_reflecta de un modo tan singular sobre los corazones de
los valientes de aquella epoca_), that their souls are expanded in
contemplating it, by the honour which results to them from it.

"May your Excellency be happy one and a thousand times, with such a noble
and worthy decoration. Let your Excellency receive in it the sincere
congratulations of the garrison of Mexico, which figures in each stone of
this cross, like the stars in the firmament."

"This ceremony being concluded, the two rewarded generals presented
themselves on the principal balcony of the palace, in front of which passed
the brilliant column of honour; at its head marched the commandant-general,
Don Valentin Canalizo; and the brilliancy, neatness, and elegance, which
all the corps of the garrison displayed, is above all praise. When the
regiment had passed, a sumptuous entertainment was served in one of the
halls of the Minister of War, in which elegance, good taste, and propriety,
rivalled one another; while repeated toasts showed the most sincere joy,
united with the most patriotic and fraternal sentiments. Rain having begun
to fall at about three in the afternoon, the paseo was on this account not
so crowded as might have been expected; nevertheless, the military bands
were present, and at six in the evening their Excellencies Generals
Bustamante and Valencia having presented themselves there, were received
with _vivas_ and universal joy.

"At night the chiefs and officers of the _plana mayor_ gave a ball in the
college of the Mineria; and the theatre of New Mexico dedicated its
entertainment to his Excellency the President. Nothing disturbed the joy of
this day; one sentiment alone of union and cheerfulness overflowed in the
capital, proving to those illustrious generals the unanimous applause with
which Mexicans see their country reward the distinguished services of their
children, who are so deserving of their love and gratitude."

Notwithstanding the ineffable joy which, according to the _Diario_, is
generally felt on this occasion, there are many who doubt the policy of
this celebration, at a time when the troops are unpaid--when the soldiers,
wounded at the last _pronunciamiento_, are refused their pensions, while
the widows and orphans of others are vainly suing for assistance. "At the
best," say those who cavil on the subject, "it was a civil war--a war
between brothers--a subject of regret and not of glory--of sadness and not
of jubilee." As for General Valencia's congratulation to the president, in
which he compares the "honourable troops" to the Supreme Being, the
re-establishment of order in Mexico to the creation of the world from
chaos, it is chiefly incomprehensible. Perhaps he is carried away by his
joy and gratitude, and personal affection for Bustamante--perhaps he has
taken a leaf from a translation of _Bombastes Furioso_.

One thing is certain: the whole affair had a brilliant appearance; and the
handsome carriages, fine horses, gaily-dressed officers and soldiers,
together with the military music and the crowds of people collected,
produced an imposing effect.


Italian Opera--Artists, Male and Female--Prima Donna--Lucia de
Lammermoor--Some Disappointment--Second Representation--Improvement--Romeo
and Giulietta--La Ricci--La Senora Cesari--The Mint--False
Coining--Repetition of Lucia--Procession by Night--A Spanish
Beauty--Discriminating Audience--A little Too Simple--Gold
Embroidery--Santiago--Pilgrims--Old Indian Custom--Soiree--Mexico by
Moonlight--Mysterious Figure--Archbishop--Viceroy.

13th July.

We little expected to be still here at the opening of the new Italian
opera, and had consequently given up our box. Senor Roca, who went to Italy
to bring out the _requisites_, has arrived at the end of a wonderfully
short period, with the singers, male and female, the new dresses,
decorations, etc.; and the first opera, Lucia de Lammermoor, was given last
week. The theatre is the former _Teatro des Gallos_, an octagonal circus,
which has been fitted up as elegantly as circumstances would permit, and as
the transition from the crowing of cocks to the soft notes of _Giulietta_
rendered necessary. The _prima donna assoluta_ is the Signora Anaide
Castellan de Giampietro, born in Paris, bred in Milan. The _prima donna
soprano_ is the Signora de Ricci; and the second _donna_ is called
Branzanti. The first tenor is Signor Giampietro, husband to the prima
donna; and the second tenor is the Signor Alberti Bozetti. The first bass
is Signor Tomassi, and the buffo bass Signor Spontini. They have been so
much _prone_, and public expectation has been so much excited, that we
supposed it probable that the first evening at least would be a failure to
a certain extent. Besides, the Mexican audience, if not very experienced,
is decidedly musical; and they have already had a pretty good opera here,
have heard Madame Albini, la Cesari, Garcia (the father of Malibran) and
the _beux restes_ of Galli; therefore can compare.

The first evening, the Castellan made her appearance as _Lucia_. She is
about twenty; slight and fair, with black hair, graceful, and with a very
sweet, clear, and pure young voice, also very correct. The tenor rests upon
his wife's laurels. He looks well, but little more can be said in his
praise. Tomassi has some good notes, and a fine figure. Of the others who
sang that evening there is little to be said. The theatre is extremely well
got up, the dresses are new and rich, and the decorations and scenery
remarkably good. The public, however, were disappointed. They had prepared
for wonders, and were not satisfied with a fair performance. The applauses
were few and far between. The Castellan was not called for, and the
following day a certain degree of discontent pervaded the aristocracy of
the capital.

At the second representation of the same opera things mended. The voice of
La Castellan was appreciated. Applauses were loud and long, and at the end
of the opera she and the director were called for and received with
enthusiasm. She seems likely to become a favourite.

Last evening we had Romeo and Giulietta, in which La Ricci and La Cesari
made their appearance, the former as Giulietta, the latter as Romeo. The
Ricci is a thin young woman, with a long, pale face, black eyes and hair,
long neck and arms, and large hands; extremely pretty, it is said, off the
stage, but very ineffective on it; but both on and off with a very
distinguished air. Her voice is extensive, but wanting cultivation, and
decidedly _pea-hennish_; besides that, she is apt to go out of tune. Her
style of dress was excessively unbecoming to her style of beauty. She wore
a tight white gown, a tight blue satin-peaked body, with long tight blue
sleeves. The public were indulgent, but it was evident that they were

La Cesari, highly married, and who for the last three years has not
appeared upon the stage, came out as _Romeo_, with tunic and mantle, white
silk stockings, hat, and feathers, etc. She was very much frightened and
ill at ease, and it required all the applause with which the public greeted
the _entree_ of their former favourite to restore her to self-possession.
She looked remarkably well--tall, handsome, beautifully formed, rather
pale, with fine dark eyes, dark hair, and _moustaches_. Her acting was
greatly superior, as much so as was her beauty to any of the others. She
has more knowledge of the theatre, more science, taste, and energy, than
any of them; but her voice, a soft contralto, is out of use and feeble. The
theatre, besides, is ill-constructed for the voice, and must have a bad
effect upon the fulness and tone. On the whole, it seems doubtful whether
the opera will endure long. Were we going to remain here, I should trust
that it might be supported, for, with all its faults and drawbacks, it is
decidedly the best public exhibition in Mexico. The _coup d'oeil_ was
exceedingly pretty, as all the boxes were crowded, and the ladies were in
full dress.

July 20th.--As we are living in the mint, the directors have called on us;
and this morning they came to invite us to descend into the lower regions
to see the silver coined. We went all over this immense establishment, a
fine picture of decayed magnificence, built about one hundred and ten years
ago by the Spaniards. Dirty, ill-kept, the machinery rude, the workmen
discontented; its fine vaulted roofs, that look like the interior of a
cathedral, together with that _grandiose_ style which distinguished the
buildings of the Spaniards in Mexico, form a strong contrast with the

We saw the silver bars stretched out, the dollars cut and whitened and
stamped; and in one place we saw the machines for _coining false money_,
which have been collected in such numbers that there is hardly room for
them! We saw the place where the silver and gold is tested; and the room
with the medals, amongst which are some ancient Roman, Persian, and
English, but especially Spanish, and many of the time of Charles III.; when
we were looking at which, an old gentleman exclaimed, "Would to Heaven
those days would return!" without doubt the general feeling. This old man
had been forty-four years in the Casa de Moneda, and had lived under
several viceroys. He could remember, when a boy, being sent with a
commission to the Viceroy Revillagigedo, and being very much frightened,
but soon reassured by the kind reception of the representative of majesty.
He spoke of the flourishing condition of the mint in those days, which
coined twenty-seven millions annually, and was a royal house. He said that
the viceroys used to praise them and thank them for their exertions; that
the house was then kept in the most perfect order, the principal officers
wearing a uniform, etc.

Hereupon another old gentleman took up the theme, and improved upon it; and
told us, that, on one occasion, they had one million three hundred thousand
dollars' worth of gold in the house; and described the visit of the
vice-queen Yturriguary, who came to see it, and sat down and looked round
her in amazement at the quantity of gold she saw accumulated. This old
gentleman had been thirty years in the mint, and seemed as though he had
never been anywhere else; as if he were part and parcel in it, and had been
coined, and beat out, and clipped there.

Hearing him, another fat man, rather unclipt-looking than otherwise, began
to bewail the state of the times, till it was a chorus universal, where all
sang in one key. One had a very large, underhanging lip, with a kind of
tragi-comic countenance, and was constantly making lugubrious puns.
Another, who seemed bred to the mint, (though by his account the mint was
not _bread_ to him,) was insatiably curious, as a man born in a mint might
be. We passed about three hours in a mixture of admiration of the past and
sorrow for the present, and were reconducted to our domicile by the poor
_employes,_ who seemed to think that a Spanish Minister was the next best
to a Spanish viceroy, or of anything they had seen for some time.

"The Past is nothing; and at last,
The Future will but be the Past,"

says Lord Byron. Here the past is everything; and the future?--Answer it
who can.

We were assured, while wondering at the number of machines for false
coining which had been collected, that there are twice that number now in
full force in Mexico; but that they belong to such distinguished
personages, the government is afraid to interfere with them. Besides this,
there is now no sufficient punishment for this crime, a capital offence in
the days of the Spanish government. A lady here is said to have exclaimed
with much simplicity on hearing her husband accused of false coining, "I
really wonder why they make so much noise about it. It seems to me that my

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