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A NOTICE OF YUCATAN WITH SOME REMARKS ON ITS WATER SUPPLY.
BY DAVID CASARES.
As I do not pretend to offer these remarks as the result of serious scientific research of my own, but rather as more or less well compiled information gathered from such sources as I have had within my reach, to which I will try to add something of my own observation, I deem it necessary to precede them by a short notice of the country they refer to.
The peninsula of Yucatan is the most southern country of North America, projecting northward from its extreme point and forming the eastern side of the Mexican Gulf, which is barred on all sides but this one, where two outlets are found, the northern one between Florida and Cuba, and the southern between this island and Yucatan, the extreme point of which at the northeast is Cape Catoche, only a hundred and fifty-three miles from Cape San Antonio on the opposite coast of Cuba. This narrow passage, Humboldt presumes was made by the eruption of the sea into the Gulf. It is situated between 18° and 21° 32' North latitude and 6° 37' and 12° 5' longitude east of Mexico. The situation of Yucatan gives it great advantages to communicate with other countries, its extensive coasts being bathed on the north and west by the Mexican Gulf, and on the east by the Carribean Sea, while on the south it is bounded by Guatemala. These advantages are greatly dimished, however, by our want of good ports. Campeche on the bay of the same name has a very shallow bottom, and so is the case with Celestun and Puerto de la Asension. Sisal, our port for foreign commerce until 1871, and Pro
greso, our present port, besides being but a little better off in that respect, are without protection from storms.
The area of the peninsula according to the most accepted computations is 8,3631 square leagues, equal to 146,825 square kilometers=56,739 miles. This land to which historians have ascribed different names as those of Ulumilkutz and Ulumilceh, the land of wild turkies and deer, and Yucalpeten (the neck of the peninsula), was most probably called Mayab, land of the Mayas. The Spaniards on their first arrival in 1517 called it Yucatan, and from that date, through the conquest, and through the colonial government, and for thirty-seven years after our independence, that name was applied to the whole peninsula as one community; but in 1858, the district of Campeche towards the southwest, became a state under that name, and very lately in 1903 the general government declared the eastern section which had just been wrested from the Indian rebels who possessed it for over fifty years, a federal territory under the name of Quintana Roo, one of the most illustrious founders of the Mexican Independence, born in this state. The English colony of Belice fills the southwestern corner of the peninsula.
This is now politically divided thus: the state of Yucatan covers an area of about 18,018 square miles and has a population of about 315,000 inhabitants, that dwell in seven cities, 14 villas, which may be called towns, 157 villages, and 2493 rural establishments spread over 16 partidos, which may be called districts; Merida, Progreso, Tixcocob, Motul, Hunucma, and Acanceh, first group; Yzamal, Temax and Sotuta, the centre group; Maxcanu, Ticul, Tekax and Peto, the southwestern group; and Espita, Valladolid and Tizimun, the eastern.
The state of Campechc comprises the five partidos of Campeche, Carmen, Hecelchakan, Champoton and Chenes, that contain two cities, 8 villas, 25 villages and 350 haciendas, ranchos and small plantations, spread over 19 sq. miles. The Quintana Roo territory was formed by sections of the partidos of Walladolid, Tizimun, Sotuta, Tekax and Peto, and it has about 8,000 inhabitants, the capital of which is Chan Santa Cruz, the old headquarters of the rebels for half a century, at the distance of 220 miles from Merida, with a few small seaports. The colony of British Honduras, the boundary lines of which were definitely settled by the Spenser-Mariscal treaty, has about 5,000 inhabitants dwelling in the capital Belize and in a few towns and rural establishments. The aspect of the country is that of a long extended plain that goes on rising gradually from the water's edge to the foot of a ridge called the Sierra, which begins seven miles from the town of Maxcunu, in the western part of the state, and follows a winding course to the east and the southeast for the distance of ninety miles, and after leaving on its northern slope the picturesque towns of Muna, Ticul, Oxkutzcab and Tecax disappears near Kambul in the district of Peto. This Sierra is called Puc in Maya; its maximum height is 500 feet above the sea level, and is a rocky and barren structure from its beginning to about six miles before Tecax, where a stratum of rich vegetable soil begins to appear. There is another branch of hills forming a broken chain that starts at a short distance from the coast, below the small town of Seybaplaya in the bay of Campeche, some of the peaks of which attain a considerable height. This runs parallel to the sea-side for a short distance, then it turns round forming a sort of amphitheatre where the city of Campeche is beautifully situated, after which, following a northern direction by the sea-side for two miles beyond, it turns to the northeast, goes on crossing the district of Hecelchakan and after following its course to the east and southeast, it approaches the lake of Chichankannab, near the end of the first ridge. From this point this range takes a southern course in a broken line, and goes to join the great chain