Imágenes de páginas

San Luis Potosi, capital of the State of San Luis Potosi, is one of the most important commercial cities in the country, being the natural depot for the trade of Tampico with the northern and western States, some of which it also supplies with various domestic fabrics. In cluding the suburbs, the population amounts to nearly 50,000. It is well built, and contains several convents, remarkable for their extent, a mint, a college, and numerous churches. Tampico, in the State of Tamaulipas, near the mouth of the river of the same name, is a thriving town, and has considerable foreign commerce. Population, 5,000. The old town of Tampico, on the south side of the river, in the State of Vera Cruz, is in an unhealthy situation. Chihuahua, capital of the State of that name, is a large and handsome city, on a branch of

Its principal church is one of the most splendid in the Mexican States; the State house and military academy are also worthy of note. In its neighborhood there are rich silver-mines. According to some travelers, Chihuahua had once a population of 70,000 souls, but it is now very much reduced. The city of Durango, also the capital of a State, and situated in a rich mining-district, contains a mint, a college, and other public buildings. Population, 22,000.* Santa Fé, the capital of the Territory of New Mexico, is a thriving town, remarkable as the emporium of the over-land trade carried on between the United States and the Mexican States, by caravans. It has about 3,000 inhabitants.

Upper California contains a few small towns and missions on the coast, but the interior is wholly occupied by independent Indians. Monterey, the principal town, has 2,500 inhabitants. The harbor of San Francisco is one of the finest in the world, being safe, capacious, and easy of access. The missions are stations in which the converted Indians are collected under the care of a priest.

3. Agriculture. Although the inhabitants are nourished by the soil, yet agriculture is by no means in a flourishing condition. The variety of soil and climate, however, furnishes a corresponding diversity of cultivated as well as indigenous vegetation. The temperate regions are favorable to the cereal grasses, and all the culinary vegetables and fruit trees of Europe thrive. The cultivation of sugar-cane, indigo, cotton, vanilla, cocoa, and tobacco, has been successfully prosecuted.

4. Commerce and Manufactures. The inhabitants are chiefly devoted to agricultural and mining operations, and the commerce is not extensive. The principal articles of export are gold and silver in bullion, coin, or ornamental work, hides, cochineal, vanilla, jalap, &c. The imports are cotton, woolen, silk and linen goods, quicksilver, which is used in the extraction of 'silver from the ore, paper, &c. Commerce is principally carried on by foreigners. The cotton and woolen manufactures, formerly considerable, have declined ; jewelry, and gold and silver ornamental work, leather, soap, and tobacco are the chief productions of manufacturing industry.

5. Inhabitants. The inhabitants of Mexico are generally divided into 7 distinct races, though there are various definable and indefinable intermixtures of all these. In the first class are the Europeans. The word European, once meant in Mexico only a Spaniard, as all others were excluded by the colonial policy of Spain. The recent exasperation of parties, however, has produced a reaction and driven away most of the natives of old Spain. The second race consists of the Creoles, or native whites of the European race. In these were found the titled nobility. They have many of them large estates, and, though the most enlightened class, are not always people of much intelligence or of very strict morals. The third race comprehends the Mestizos, or the offspring of whites and Indians. They are as numerous almost as the Indians. They are nearly white, and have a skin of beautiful delicacy and transparency. They are more gentle than the mulattoes. Quarterons are the offspring of a white man and a mulatto, and the children of a female Quarteron and white man are called Quinterons. The next in descent with a white are considered white. The fourth race is that of the Mulattoes, or the offspring of whites and negroes. They are shrewd and have great volubility. The fifth race is that of the native Indians. The sixth comprehends the African negroes and their descendants. The native negroes are a fine race, having the thick lips of the African, but inheriting the * This city is infested in a singular manner by scorpi- to bed; after which the curtains are secured under the

• They come out of the walls and crevices in May," bed. The bite of these scorpions has been known to prove says Pike," and continue for about a fortnight in such mortal in two hours. But the most extraordinary circumnumbers, that the inhabitants never walk in their hodses stance is, that, by taking them 10 leagues from Durango, after dark without a light, and always shift or examine they become perfectly harmless, and lose all their venothe bed-clothes, and beat the curtains previous to going mous qualities."


ons. "



straight hair of the Mexican. There are but few of them, and all are either free or under the protection of laws whose eventual operation is to liberate them. The seventh is the offspring of negroes and Indians, called Zamboes or Chinese.

The Indians form about two fifths of the whole population. In no other country has the aboriginal race survived the process of civilization, and here their number is on the inThey are hardy, and though subjected to frequent privation, live to a great age,

osten to 100 years.

Their hair seldom turns gray, and they are in the country a well-formed race. Perhaps the only modern giant perfectly well proportioned, was the offspring of an Indian and Mestizo; he was 7 feet and a quarter high. There are now hardly any other classes of people than the rich and poor. The titled nobility were always Creoles, and were the highest. The lawyers, merchants, and shop-keepers are next in influence. The most numerous, and lowest, is the disorderly rabble that infests the cities, especially Mexico, where there are 20,000, who beg, steal, and, as a last resort, work for a subsistence. They resemble the Lazzaroni of Naples, and live much in the open air. They are partially fed by the convents, which have charitable funds for the daily distribution of food to the poor.

6. Dress. The fashion of dress in all the American countries is somewhat unsettled, but generally well adapted to the climate, and to the habits of the people. The European dress is common in Mexico, and has always been worn by the better classes. Still a great many picturesque dresses are seen, more distinguished for finery than simplicity. The equestrian dress is of all the most costly and showy. The horse too is so covered with trappings, that he jingles as he moves. The pummel of the saddle is inlaid with gold, and the whole apparatus often costs 500 dollars. The equestrian dress is surmounted by a low-crowned leather hat, edged with gold or silver lace, and with a brim of 6 inches. The jacket is embroidered with silver or gold, or trimmed with fur. The breeches are of a pea-green or bright blue, open at the knee, and studded at the sides with brilliant buttons. The leg is cased in embroidered leathern boots or hose, attached by a garter to the knee. At the ancle commences the shoe, which at the top swells out 6 inches like a scallop shell. The spurs weigh about a pound and a half, and hrte rowels 12 inches in circumference, together with a small bell attached to the side, so that a Mexican cavalier seldom makes a silent advance.

Over all is worn a rich cloak, which, together with the whole dress, is very expensive. Two hundred dollars are sometimes given for the boots, though 80 is a liberal price ; a jacket, not very fine, costs as much. A gentleman would hardly wear a hat worth less than 20 dollars, and his breeches, if at all respectable, will stand him in at least 60 dollars more. Spurs and embroidered stirrup leathers are sold at 20 dollars, plated bridles at 22 ; an ordinary manga, or cloak, at 100 dollars, and a rich cloak at 300. There is in Europe nothing like this dress ; it is exceedingly showy and picturesque. In the streets men and boys appear in long cloaks ; at home they wear jackets of printed calico. The morning dress of the ladies is generally black; and the females of Spain are not more solicitous than those of Mexico to display a neat shoe and a small foot. On holidays the colors are very gay, and the country ladies wear a profusion of spangles. Shawls, covering the head and bust are often worn. These fashions, though common, are not universal. A traveler who left at Xalapa for a few months Ackerman's book of fashions, found on his return an entire revolution in female dress, founded upon the English model.

The dress of the Indians is slight, and resembles that of the laboring class. It consists in leather breeches and jerkin, with sandals or shoes of hide. Sometimes, however, the Indians have no covering but a tattered petticoat or a blanket, with a hole in it through which to thrust the head. On holidays they deck themselves in gaudy flowers and feathers. They wear sometimes in the ear the glancing feathers of the humming bird. The hair of the Indian is cut close in front, but hangs down in two tails at the side.

7. Language. The general language is the Spanish. The languages spoken throughout Mexico are, however, more than 20 in number. Among the native dialects the Aztec, or Mexican tongue is the most widely diffused. This language is not agreeable to the ear, and some of the words are of 11 syllables.

8. Manner of Building. The city of Mexico is, from its numerous and spacious squares, and its neat and imposing edifices, one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and may be ranked with Philadelphia, Berlin, or Naples. The private as well as public buildings are magnificent. They are of 3 or 4 stories, with terraced roofs and iron balconies. Generally they are of a quadrangular shape, with open courts; the interior piazzas have large china vases of


[ocr errors]

evergreens. Perhaps the most imposing edifice is the cathedral, which is in the Gothic style, and would do honor to any city in Europe. The provincial cities are some of them as well built as the capital, and the haciendas which are scattered over the country are large and substantial edifices of stone, with out-houses of the same. But Mexico is the country of inequality, and this appears in nothing more distinctly than in the dwellings of the rich and of the poor. The houses of the rich are elegant ; the huts of the indigent, hardly comfortable; the latter are of various kinds, generally a mud cottage or a mere wicker of canes, costing about 6 dollars.

9. Food and Drink. Maize or Indian corn is the principal material for food, especially on the table-land. The preparations of it are various ; the most palatable and general are tortillas, a sort of pancakes. These are spread with chile, a kind of pepper ; and they are so much esteemed, that in great houses a woman is kept expressly to make them, who is called, by virtue of her office, Tortillera. The maize is also much used in a sort of gruel, sweetened with honey, while a drink is made from it resembling cider, and another resembling beer. After maize, the fruit of the banana and the flour of the manioc are the most consumed. The banana is eaten fresh and dried. The fruit is often 8 inches long, and a cluster has sometimes 180 fruits, weighing 80 pounds. The plant is cultivated with little care, and produces in a few months after it is planted; 1,000 feet of land will sometimes produce 4,000 lbs. of nutritive substance ; and the root is made into sweetmeats. The root of the igname is also used as food, and it sometimes weighs 60 lbs. The potato and yam are also extensively used, and bread is made also from the juca root, which yields the flour of manioc. From the situation of Mexico, where the land gradually rises to a great altitude, almost every plant used for food in different climates, is successfully cultivated. The number is wonderful. Food is therefore so abundant, that the labor of a man for 2 days will, in most places, supply a family for a week. The olive and vine produce well, though neither are cultivated to a great extent. In the city of Mexico, the consumption of meat is greater to the individual than in Paris. The flesh of animals is often sold in the markets cut up into strips, and measured by the yard ; it is also dried and preserved in the same form. Beef and mutton are general, but there is no veal ; butter is dear and ordinary, and there is little cheese. Milk is at least genuine, for it is sold in the udder, and drawn from the cow before the purchaser. Beef, in the city of Mexico, generally sells at 124 cents for the 28 ounces ; mutton, 124 a pound; eggs, 25 cents the dozen. Small fish from the lake, a dollar the dozen ; turkeys a dollar each, fowls 75 cents the pair ; peaches 5 cents a dozen, pears 75 cents, oranges 33, and pines 12} cents each.

The vegetable and fruit market is a beautiful sight for a foreigner. The Indians, who are generally the gardeners, display fruit in cones and pyramids to the best advantage, and decorate their stalls with gaudy flowers. The stalls have, besides tropical productions, all the usual garden vegetables of Europe. Of drinks, there are in Mexico, unfortunately, too many but intoxicate, and their injurious effects are too apparent upon the Indians and poorer population. The most usual drink, not excepting perhaps even water, is the pulque, a liquor produced from a variety of the Agave Americana. The taste is agreeably acid, and it is, perhaps, of all in

, toxicating liquids, the least hurtful. It is the juice of the plant, obtained by cutting off the shoot just before it is bursting out to flower ; it is so hollowed out, that the juice fills the cavity left; and so abundant is the sap, that it is dipped out several times in the day. A plant, even in a barren soil, produces 150 boules of pulque, though it is about 16 years before it will do to make the incision. Humboldt calls the maguey the vine of the Aztecs, and the natives prefer the pulque to all wines, and their preference is justified by many Europeans. A very intoxicating brandy, called mexical, is distilled from the pulque.' The pulque has, unfortunately, the best flavor when it has the least fragrance, as it has often when in the best state a setid odor, though, as this is not universal, it may perhaps, when the cultivators have more skill, be remedied. The consumption of pulque is enormous in the city ; 44,000,000 of bottles are consumed annually. There is some wine made in Mexico, but not of a good quality ; and the Europeans use the wines of Europe.

10. Diseases. A plague has at different periods swept off the Indians. It is supposed by some to be the black vomit. The smallpox has also committed its ravages. Generally Mexico is salubrious on the high land; but on the coast it is subjected to the fevers that are common in the West Indies.

11. Traveling. Their is little traveling in Mexico, and of course the accommodations for travelers are far below excellence ; they are, perhaps, as bad as in any other civilized country ; and although the exclusion of all Europeans except Spaniards, is no longer enforced (but the



terms of it reversed), there are yet too few of them in Mexico to increase the facilities or comforts of travelers. The natives seldom wander beyond the precincts of their own neighborhood, though there are many inducements to travel. In Mexico nature has been profuse in blessings ; it is a country made up of the beautiful and the grand, and yet it is a service of toil and peril to explore the most frequented parts. It is surrounded by a sickly line of coast, where the gates of death are always open. The malaria that spares the native is fatal to the stranger ; under a beautiful sky, surrounded by the magnificent vegetation of the tropics, the foreigner inhales the airs of fragrance, that are loaded with death. Yet the foreigner explores Mexico, while the native feels no curiosity. The stranger may pass from Vera Cruz to Xalapa, which is elevated to the region of health, and flatter himself that he has escaped the danger, yet the vomito may be in his system, and destroy him in a day.

It is seldom that a mother country expends much treasure in making roads for a' colony ; the relation is too generally that of a stepmother. Nor is it often that a country in the midst of revolutions, can advance internal improvements. Much, however, was done in this way for Mexico by Spain. Roads were begun and more than half completed, which, when finished, would have rivaled the road of the Simplon, and whose bridges would be monuments of art in Europe. Where the roads are imperfect, the vehicles for traveling must have more strength than elegance, as safety is to be consulted before luxury or comfort. It is not always, therefore, that the coaches in Mexico are furnished with springs, as they are of a size to require 8 or 10 mules to draw them. They are like houses in New England, that we sometimes see removed by great animal power.

A traveler who goes from the coast to the city of Mexico, even over the most frequented route, must move like an emigrant in our Western States, taking with him his household goods. The inns afford little but shelter, and that of no enviable kind, and he must carry beds, provisions, and means for defence. The haciendas are substantial farm-houses, and often with a shop and church annexed; yet they furnish little but provender for horses and mules ; few of the proprietors will from motives of interest or hospitality minister much to a traveler's comfort and no intelligent wayfarer expects either neatness or comfort. A posada is often but a shed, open like a bird-cage at the sides, and whatever passes within may be seen without ; beds there are none, and he is most fortunate, in a company of travelers, who secures a bench or table to stretch himself upon. In the haciendas, a single large hall only is given to travelers, and here, as in the inns, there can be no altercation for a choice of beds. În the inns, however, there

. are several small rooms for travelers. The usual price for this shelter is a quarter of a dollar. The Mexicans, however, if of humble pretensions as publicans, are yet excellent traveling servants, faithful, obliging, and of great good-nature. To call them honest, is but to say that they have the national character ; the baggage is often left undefended, under a shed, though the unquiet state of Mexico has been a school to produce robbers, that now infest the broken parts of the country

The Mexican horses are also well adapted to traveling ; they are small but spirited. They have a peculiar gait, called paso, and so little is any other in esteem, that to trot is considered as a defect in a horse, and reduces his price two thirds, or to 50 dollars. A good horse will go in this gait 6 miles an hour, and the motion is so gentle, that the rider is hardly moved in

The fore feet are raised high as in a gallop, while the hindmost feet are drawn along the ground.

The mule, however, is preferable where the roads are steep and rough ; he is more patient, hardy, and sagacious in picking out his way. In roads impassable for wheels, — and in Mexico they are not a few, the mules carry a litter, which is a sort of palanquin, with 2 long poles ; the poles are passed through the saddle of the mules, like the shafts of a carriage, so that 1 mule goes before the other behind the litter. The motion of a litter is very easy.

In Mexico the whole day's journey is commonly performed at one heat ; the muleteers seldom stop to bait. It is thought to be better for the animals to give them a long time for rest and food ; food they cannot take without water, which it is dangerous to give them in the quantities they require, till the labor of the day is done. In the morning it takes nearly 2 hours to finish the preparations for starting. The mules often escape, when they can only be taken with the lasso, or a long rope with a noose, that all Mexican horsemen use dexterously, and generally have attached to the pummel of the saddle. The moment the mule feels the lasso thrown upon him he stands perfectly still, but till then will not suffer himself to be taken In steep places, where the carriage might otherwise lose its balance, the outriders attach the

his seat.


lassos to it, and not only preserve the balance, but aid in drawing it. The mules and horses are never littered ; they sleep on plank or stone ; a curry-comb is unknown, but the animals are frequently washed.

It is to be remarked, that although the horses and mules are generally excellent, yet this description does not always apply to those furnished to travelers. Mr. "Poinsett had occasion thus to describe the progress of dulness ” ; “We set off at a gallop ; this lasted till we

“ cleared the gates ; it was then sobered into a trot, shortly after into a walk, and at the end of 4 miles we stood still.' The same traveler had afterwards to send back for one of his servants, who was found asleep upon his horse, the horse having favored him with a rest of some hours. Man and horse were found motionless as the statue of Charles the Fourth, that stood in the great square of Mexico. The country ladies often ride upon the same horse with a gentleman, though there are no pillions ; the gentleman rides behind, supporting his companion with one arm. It is also a common mark of politeness to put his own wide hat on the lady's head, and tie up his own with a handkerchief.

11. Character, Manners, &c. The character of the Mexicans is as much mixed as the races and colors of the people. They are ardent, generous, and hospitable, but not as the Europeans are hospitable ; the Mexican asks you to his house, and requests you somewhat hyperbolically to consider it and all that it contains as your own, yet he never gives a dinner to welcome the arrival of any stranger. Having introduced him to his house he has done all that he feels it incumbent on him to do ; yet he is never better pleased than when strangers call without ceremony or especial invitation. Every succeeding visit of this kind gives an agreeable insight to Mexican life. It is in social intercourse, that the character of a people may be the best learned.

A Don, even in Mexico, has something of the dignity of his chivalric origin, — with the stately he is stiff, yet he never fails to meet all advances of those who seek his good will. All the ceremony that is to be expended upon him is called for in the outset ; and if Mr. Poinsett's description be exact, the Mexican grandee is easily conciliated. Poinsett remarks, “Sir Archy may have bowed lower but not oftener in a day than I have. Remember, when you take leave of a Spanish grandee, to bow as you leave the room, at the head of the stairs, where the host accompanies you, and, after descending the first light, turn round and you will see him expecting a third salutation, which he returns with great courtesy, and remains till you are out of sight, so that, as you wind down the stairs, if you catch a glimpse of him, kiss your hand, and he will think

you a most accomplished cavalier.” The Mexicans are a cheerful race, and in this respect resemble the French more than any peo

ple of America ; their parties or tertulias are lively and easy. The Mexican is ostentatious in his dress and in his equipage ; his carriage, with 4 large mules, stands harnessed for hours in his court ; not to be used but to be seen. The trappings are not, indeed, in the best taste, for they are overloaded with shining plates of brass, and the tails of the mules are enclosed in stout, leathern bags. The pannels of the coaches are often painted with some classic subject ; the favorite one of late is Guido's Aurora. The gaming spirit, and an indolence natural to the south, has reduced many old families in their circumstances. This has been so grievously and perhaps generally felt, that the laws have provided is a national establishment for 'affording temporary relief 10 persons in pecuniary distress.” This is no other than a pawn-brok

ing institution, which is under the direction of a respectable ecMexican.

clesiastic. The rooms are filled with articles of great value, services of plate, one piled upon another, — gems, jewels, pic

, tures, furniture, statues, crucifixes, and everything that denotes splendor and decay. The court is filled with applicants, of which many come to obtain the means of gaming.

A stranger in Mexico is struck with the appearance of the milliners' shops, where 20 or 30 stout men, in moustaches, are employed in making muslin gowns, caps, and artificial flowers. The foreigner is, however, less tempted to smile at another general custom, which permits the ladies of Mexico to smoke cigars. At home or abroad, in the carriage, at the theatre, at balls, the cigar is always at hand. The demeanor of the Indians is grave and melancholy ; they have some taste for music,

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »