Imágenes de páginas

which under the different names of Rocky mountains, Sierra Madre, and Andes are the backbone of the American continent. This system is not a continuous chain like the first ridge. It is formed by a series of high hills or peaks called Uitzes, which are separated by narrow valleys the surface of which is at least as high as that of the first Sierra, and they are covered by a thick bed of vegetable soil, proper for the cultivation of corn, sugar-cane, tobacco and most tropical plants.

The plain that we mentioned as stretching from the north coast to the foot of the first Sierra, and as being of calcareous formation comprises several zones or belts. The first one extends over a great part of the peninsula from the village of Buctzotz in the district of Temax, about fiftyfour miles to the northeast of Merida, to the district of Hecelchakan in the state of Campeche. This belt rests on a bed of limestone covered by a thin layer of vegetable soil and comprises the district of Merida, Acamceh, Yzamal, Maxcanu and part of Hecelchakan. Here corn, beans, and other articles of food, cattle and horses were raised to some extent, but now hemp, for which the soil is very well adapted, is raised on a great scale, and that has not only saved this state from poverty, but it has made of it one of the most prosperous of the Mexican confederacy. From Buctzotz eastward to Yalahau and from Hecelchakan to Campeche, the ground though still stony is good for the cultivation of sugar-cane, rice, etc., and improves as we advance, the soil becomes more moist and the woods are thicker and higher.

On all sides of these tracks, that is, from Yalahau on the northeastern coast to Bacalar on the southeast, and from Campechc to Champoton in the west and to the Sierras in the south, the soil attains all the luxuriance and richness of the tropics, and while all the produce of those regions can be got there, magnificent forests of a great variety of trees cover also those extensive grounds.

The lands around Ticul are of an intermediate quality, between these and those of the north, and they are still better from Tekax and Peto to Chichankanab and Saban.

If we draw a cross section or profile from the port of Progreso through Merida, Ticul, and Tzibalchen to the southern boundaries of the peninsula and Guatemala, we find first a very narrow strip of sand along the shore, then a belt of moving monticules of sand from three to eight hundred yards wide covered by a thin coating of thorny weeds and small palm trees, bordered by long patches of salt beds. Next comes the Cienega, a marshy kind of stream with a bottom of white mud, full of water weeds, two or three miles wide, dry in the dry season, with a narrow thread of water in the centre, and overflowed in the rainy season, where some islets called Petenes are found here and there, and also interrupted now and then by a peculiar kind of stream called Ojo-de-agua (water-holes). Next comes the Savana or prairie from a mile to a mile and one-half wide, which gradually disappears, giving place to a very stony formation called Tzekel, poorly covered by thorny shrubs, some lonely palm trees and wild hemp plants. This rough stony bed extends for about eight miles changing then to a better soil upon which Merida stands over 28 feet above the sea level and 28 miles from Progreso. The ground goes on rising with a smooth grading for eighteen miles more, at the end of which the surface becomes more and more rugged, so that in the railroad lines, cuts fifteen feet high are formed. For six miles before getting to Ticul, the approach to the Sierra is known, the layer of earth growing thicker and the color of it changing to a darkish red.

Two miles from the city of Ticul, the foot of the Puc is reached, the ascent to the summit of which is a mile long, its height being four hundred feet above the level of the plain. The descent on the opposite side is at most onefourth the ascent, coming down then to a high table land

that stretches from the west of Santa Helena to the borders of Chichankanab Lake over an area twenty-five miles wide from north to south. Here the most magnificent ruins of the country are found: Uxmal, Santana Tabi, San Francisco, etc., which afford a wide field of study to the scientific man and interest to the mere tourist. Bordering this section on the south the broken chain of hills called Uitzes within the limits of the inhabited sections of the peninsula, the line of which may be traced through the villages of Tzibalchen, Yturbide Xul Becanchen.

Beyond this line an extent of land supposed to be of no less than eight thousand square miles, stretches to the province of Peten in Guatemala, covered by a thick and uninhabited forest only crossed by three paths that start from Campeche and Bacalar to the Lake of Peten, through stations placed far from each other.

Now if we examine a map of Yucatan, we see that from the Champoton River that empties into the Campeche Bay, on the south end of the western coast to the Manatin river that empties into the Ascension Bay, about the middle of the opposite coast, there is no river or stream whatever worth the name, they are only small inlets of the sea or cuts made by the heavy showers of the rainy season. The Champoton River has a course seventy-five miles long, from Lake Jobonochac and is navigable by small craft of from 10 to 15 tons for the distance of 15 miles inland. The water courses of the eastern coast are of little importance, even those of San Jose and Hondo that water the extreme southern portion. As for the Nohbecan (the great stream in Maya) the Pocayxun, the Palizada and some brooks, they are only profitable to a small section of the southwestern corner of the peninsula.

Yucatan is very poor in lakes, those only that deserve that name are the Laguna de Chechankanab (small sea) about 20 miles in length by less than three wide; that called Ocon from which the Manatin River takes its course

seventy-two miles from Ascension Bay, and that of Jobonochac.

We will finish this notice of the physical conditions of Yucatan with some remarks on its climate.

From the observations taken in the observatory of the State Literary Institute, I find that in 1903, the lowest temperature taken was 7o. 2 Centegrade=44o. 96 F. on several days in December, and the highest 39° C. =102o.2F. on the 19 of April, though on the very first of that month the minimum registered was 130.3C.=550.5 F. The highest monthly average was 29o.1 C.=80°.38 F. in June; and the lowest, 21°.6 C.=70°.08 F. in December. The average of the minimum noted in the whole year was 170.60 C.=62o. 69 F. and the average of the maximum 320.9 C. =91o.22 F.

In 1904, the lowest temperature was that of 70, 2 C. on the 15th and 16th of January and February=44°, 96 F. and the highest on the sixth day of May, 38° 4 C.=101o. 12 F., though the thermometer went down several times that month to 23°, O C.=750, 8 F. The highest average was 28°, C.=82°, 4 F., both in May and June; and the lowest in February 22°, 9 C.=730, 22 F. The average of minimum temperature registered the whole year was 17°, 8 C.=68o.1F; and the average maximum 97°, 34 F. These differences between the highest and the lowest temperatures are explained by the fact that the heat always diminshes in the night and the early morn.

An idea of the mortality of the country can be had by these numbers: on an average of 315,000 inhabitants, 3,768 deaths were registered in one quarter of a year from the first of July to the 30th of December, 1903; 2,975 from the first of October to the 31st of September; 2,470 for the first quarter of 1904, and 2,960 in the second, up to the 30th of June. The lowest number of deaths registered was that of 808 in March, and the highest 1,348 in July and August.

The cases of yellow fever we have are generally from importation, and they are fatal mostly to Mexicans of the high

table lands of the interior and to Europeans. From the first of January to the 31st of March, 1904, we had 24 cases, of which 14 were cured and 10 fatal. In the second quarter of the year those numbers were 38, 17, and 21 respectively; and in the third they were 17, 9, and 8. As a consequence of the strong sanitary measures taken by our present administrations both local and federal, that scourge has almost wholly disappeared, and to such an extent that during the worst months of this year from May to August we did not have a single case in a period of a hundred days.

We only have two seasons: the rainy season begins about the end of May and laşts till the end of November. Showers are very frequent and heavy during the first three months and go on slacking in number and intensity toward the end. The dry season lasts the rest of the year, March and April being commonly the driest months, during which all vegetation is laid waste and the air is suffocating, not only on account of the natural heat of the season but also because during those months they burn the cornfields that are to be sown at the beginning of the rainy season. The scene then changes rapidly, the leaves renew their verdant hue, and the wild flowers balm the air.

We have no earthquakes as our ground is not volcanic; but we felt something like it two years ago in Merida and Progreso.

From the general description and notice of the physical conditions of Yucatan and such as I have been able to give in a condensed form, it is easily understood that the water supply, not only for the common needs of life but for those of agriculture and all kinds of industries, is a question of paramount importance in the country. I will now try to show how this sine qua non desideratum of life and work has been provided by a merciful nature. But before going further into the bottom of the subject, I must state that I agree with Stephens and other explorers who think that at least the northeastern portion of the peninsula was, in a

« AnteriorContinuar »