So let the sun behind me pour its rays!
The cataract, through rocky cleft that roars,
I view, with growing rapture and amaze.
The sun himself is purest gold; for pay
And favor serves the herald, Mercury;
Dame Venus hath bewitched you from above,
Early and late, she looks on you with love;
Chaste Luna's humor varies hour by hour;
Mars, though he strike not, threats you with his power;
And Jupiter is still the fairest star;
Saturn is great small to the eye and far;
As metal him we slightly venerate,
Little in worth, though ponderous in weight.
Now when with Sol fair Luna doth unite,
Silver with gold, cheerful the world and bright!
Then easy 'tis to gain whate'er one seeks;
Parks, gardens, palaces, and rosy checks.
Yet can I not enough declare,
What wealth unowned lies waiting everywhere;
The countryman, who ploughs the land,
Gold-crocks upturneth with the mould;
Niter he seeks in lime-walls old,
And findeth, in his meager hand,
Scared, yet rejoiced, rouleaus of gold.
How many a vault upblown must be,
Into what clefts what shafts, must he
Who doth of hidden treasure know,
Descend, to reach the world below!
In cellars vast, impervious made,
Goblets of gold he sees displayed,
Dishes and plates, row after row;
There beakers, rich with rubies stand.
Now is the time the treasure to set free!
The lock I strike, thus with the herald's rod;
'Tis opened now! In blazing caldrons, see,
It bubbles up, and shows like golden blood;
Next crowns, and chains, and rings a precious dower;
It swells and fusing threats the jewels to devour.
Whatever if any intercourse there had been between Asia and America in ages gone by, is certain that the occupants of the Mexican and Central American tablelands had made no inconsiderable strides toward wealth and civilization before the coming of the Spaniards. Nor was the culture of the Aztecs, that is to say of the people inhabiting the valley of Anahuac with the city of Mexico as their capital, by any means the highest or the oldest, and on the lowlands toward In the mountains which separate Guatemala from Tabasco and Chiapas, the east and west, a people lived, their superior in culture if we may judge by their architectural remains, of whom they knew nothing. The Toltecs it is said, 500 or 1,000 years before the downfall of Montezuma , came in from the north, paused for a time in the valley of Anahuac, then proceeded to the southeast, finally passing out of sight.
Montezuma II was emperor of the Aztecs. His rule was absolute from sea to sea, extending southward to the Mayan boundary and northward indefinitely. He was god as well as man, priest as well as king. There was none greater than he in heaven or earth, the emperor being ever the most potential of men, while the gods themselves were but dead emperors. His capital city was called Mexico Tenochtitlan, and stood in the marshes of the valley of Anahuac, where in 1325, hard pressed by the Culhuas, the Aztecs had taken refuge. Beholding there the divine symbol on a nopal an eagle holding in his beak a serpent, they knew that their wanderings were over. Gathering stones and driving in piles they prepared a foundation, first for a temple, then for houses of stone and adobe, with tile or thatched roofs; likewise palaces and gardens, and finally causeways from their island home to the firm land, with floating gardens on the surrounding waters.
So the city grew, each succeeding ruler adding to its comforts and beauties, until 60,000 houses with 300,000 people covered a circumference of twelve miles of this marshland. From the great temple court, east, west, north, and south ran a broad avenue, covered with cement, three of them connecting with the causeways. Ten horsemen might ride abreast on these causeways, which were made with piles filled in with dirt and stone, haying drawbridges and breastworks, and paved with stones laid in mortar. The fourth causeway led to Chapultepec, and supported the aqueduct which supplied the city with water. The four parts into which the city was thus divided was traversed by canals, bordered by quays, and provided with basins, locks, customs offices, and drawbridges, on which was conducted the traffic of city and country. A levee encircled the southern part of the city, which was a place of resort for the people, as well as a great business mart, merchants bustling about over cargoes of merchandise during the day, and promenaders enjoying the fresh evening breezes from the lake. There were many markets, the largest being twice the size of the square of Salamanca, and surrounded by porticos in which 60,000 persons found room to sell and buy. And larger than this was the marketplace at Tlatelulco, in the middle of which was a square stone terraced structure, thirty feet long and fifteen feet high, which served as a theater. Many fountains in various parts of the city were fed by the Chapultepec aqueduct, which consisted of two pipes of masonry, resting on a solid support five feet high and five feet broad, and each carrying a volume of water equal in bulk to a man's body. Two stone statues with lances and shields, representing Montezuma and his father, guarded the spring on mount Chapultepec whence the water for the aqueduct was obtained. Along the city border were lighthouses to guide the canoes which brought supplies to the metropolis; the city streets were lighted by burning braziers and from turret and tower flamed beacons equal in strength and brilliancy to any electric light of modern times. The temples and public edifices were cleansed at intervals, and 1,000 men kept the canals in order and swept and sprinkled the streets all the day.
In the valley of Anahuac were fifty other towns and cities, scattered about the borders of the lakes, while beyond this sacred center were a thousand other places and peoples who bowed the head to the Aztec monarch and paid him tribute. Next in fame and rank to Mexico Tenochtitlan was Tezcuco, which, if the pious Torquemada may be believed, contained 140,000 houses within an area of four leagues round. Fine straight streets lined with elegant buildings intersected the six divisions, while on the border of the lake, on a triple terrace, stood the old palace as it had stood for a century guarding the city, the new palace, a magnificent building containing 300 rooms, and which had employed 200,000 men in the construction, occupied the ground about the northern end of the lake. The little republic of Tlaxcala, where dwelt the only people who for hundreds of leagues around dared defy the great Montezuma, had thrown a wall of stone and mortar along their boundary from mountain to mountain, the other side of their small domain being defended by breastworks and ditches. In one of their several temples, 400 Spaniards with their attendants found ample room.
I might mention many other Nahua cities of repute, but must pass on with general description only. There was little variety in the style of architecture, one story adobe being the rule, or perhaps of the more pretentious two stories all or part of stone; exteriors all plain, adornment for the display of the wealth and taste of the owner being lavished on the interior alone. The dwellings of the nobility frequently stood on terraced heights in spacious grounds, two great halls and several reception rooms being in front with household and sleeping rooms in the rear. The courts of which there were several, were surrounded by porticos with porphyry, jasper, and alabaster decorations. The temple which the emperor Ahuitzotl erected to the god Huitzilopochtli over the stone whereon grew the sacred nochtli which had been pointed out by the oracle, and from whose summit Cortes looked down upon the scenes of his conquest, stood in the great central square of the city. In form it was an oblong parallelogramic pyramid 375 by 300 feet at the base, and 250 by 25 feet at the top, rising in five superimposed perpendicular terraces to the height of 86 feet. A square thick wall eight feet high and 4,800 feet in circumference, of stone and lime, plastered and polished, crowned with battlements in form of snails and turreted and adorned with stone serpents, enclosed the temple yard, flagged with large flat stones plastered and polished. The lower part was of masonry, the upper part of wood, with windows to which access was had by means of moving ladders. In the lower part were sanctuaries, dedicated, one to Huitzilopochtli and one to Tezcatlipoca. Shielded from vulgar gaze by rich curtains hung with tassels having golden pellets which rang like bells with every movement, the gigantic images of the gods stood on large stone altars in all their monstrous grandeur.
Walls and ceilings were painted and stuccoed, while the carved woodwork and gold and jewel decorations of the interior, if the bishop Las Casas speaks truly, exceeded Thebes' famed temple in beauty and grandeur. Ascent was made by stone steps, and at the eastern end of the summit were two three-story towers 56 feet in height, while a painted wooden cupola adorned the roof. In the upper rooms were stored the ashes of departed kings and nobles; here also were idols, and instruments used in the service of the temple, including the great snakeskin drum whose somber note was heard two miles away as it struck the death-knell of some victim of war or religion. Here also were chapels on whose stone hearths the perpetual fires were tended by virgins and priests. Within the temple's enclosures were some seventy small edifices, for various religious services, having 600 stone receptacles for the everlasting fires which flared before gods day and night. There Tlaloc had his temple, and the good Quetzalcoatl, and many others. Outside of these sacred precincts were many more temples and chapels devoted to the worship of the gods, Torquemada says 360, while Clavigero is willing to testify to 2,000. And all over the land they were scattered as later were those of the Spaniards which took their place. Some were larger even than the great temple of Mexico Tenochtitlan, as those of Cholula and Tezcuco, the latter being three steps higher.
Among the great palaces of Anahuac were the royal palace in Mexico, the palace of Chapultepec, the palaces of Netzahualcoyotl, king of Tezcuco, and the Toltec palaces. Montezuma's palace was an extensive pile of low irregular buildings and enclosing three plazas, made of huge blocks of tetzontli cemented with mortar. Fountains played incessantly in the squares, on which opened twenty doors, each having above it sculptured in stone the arms of the Mexican kings, an eagle holding in his talons a jaguar. Besides the great hall where 3,000 men might comfortably meet, and on whose terrace-roof thirty horsemen might go through the spear exercise, were 100 other halls and apartments, with gardens, fountains, baths, ponds, and basins; a harem of 3,000 women, armory, granaries, storehouses, menageries, and aviaries, the walls and floors of the rooms many of them faced with polished slabs of marble, porphyry, jasper, obsidian, and white tecali, lofty columns of the same fine stones supporting marble balconies and porticos covered with fine carvings and holding a grotesque head. The beams and casings were of carved cedar and cypress put together without nails. The roofs were a series of terraces; mats of fine workmanship covered the marble floors, while the tapestry and curtains were of delicate texture, elegant design and brilliant colors. In 1,000 golden censers which hung in halls and corridors burned spices and perfumes.
In some respects the palace of the Tezcucan king surpassed that of Montezuma. The buildings of the royal residence, law courts, and public offices covered an area of 3,700 by 2,900 feet, and around all was thrown a strongly cemented adobe wall, from twenty to thirty feet high standing on a concrete foundation six feet wide. In the palace yard was a tennis court, and without the wall a large market; leading from the royal apartments were pleasure gardens with labyrinthian walks, and filled with birds of every hue and species throughout the land, ponds of fishes and cages of animals. The favorite country residence of King Netzahualcoyotl was at Tezcozinco, on a conical hill, ascent being by a winding road between high hedges, and also by 520 steps cut in the natural rock. But all this magnificence had been before surpassed by the Toltec monarchs who preceded the Aztecs in their occupation of Anahuac, as witness the sacred palace of that mysterious personage, the Toltec priest-king, Quetzalcoatl, which had four great halls, facing the four cardinal points,—the hall of gold, the hall of emeralds and turquoises, the hall of silver and sea-shells, and the hall of red jasper—so they were called because the several apartments comprising these main divisions were lined with plates of gold, or of silver, or their rich carvings adorned with the jewels and precious stones whose names they bore. Even yet another palace had the great god Quetzalcoatl, feather-work tapestry taking the place of gold and jewels in the respective divisions, one being yellow, one white, one red, and one, rarest of all, blue, the feathers being taken from the bird xiuhtototl.
And now woe to this people because of their deity! Well had he wrought out for them civilization and the blessings of peace, and well had they repaid him in faith and good works, in the adoration of the heart and the labor of the hands. Long, long ago Quetzalcoatl, the Christ of the Aztecs, had said to his people, “I go away, but I shall come again;" and he came not.
Many weary cycles they had waited, and still they believed on him, confident of his coming. And when they saw approaching their shore white sails upon the water, harbinger of their hopes, winged messengers from the east, in hushed breath they said "Behold, he comes! he comes!” Then opened they their hearts and doors to him, and received alas! not their own good god, but the demons of Christian civilization. They were led by Hernan Cortes, an adventurer from Estremadura, Spain, who had tricked the governor of Cuba into giving him command of the expedition, and then tricked him out of the profits arising from it; tricking the monarch of Mexico by the vilest perfidy out of his kingdom, and all the while tricking himself in the belief that he was serving the God of heaven, in the name and through the intercession of our Lord Jesus Christ. This was before Pizarro had ever thought of Peru; indeed the Conquest of the Inca was but a vulgar imitation of the conquest of Mexico. The latter may have been as great an infamy, and indeed was so, but it was not planned and consummated in quite so beastly a manner. It had, moreover, the merit of originality; Cortes was in every way a better man than Pizarro the swineherd, and that is not saying much for him.
With twelve ships and 617 men, besides 200 Indians and sixteen horses, Cortes sailed from Cuba on the 18th of November, 1518, escaping the now suspicious governor. Velazquez, who had advanced a portion of the 20,000 ducats necessary to fitting out the expedition, and who too late began to distrust the commander whom he had appointed. Crossing to Yucatan, Cortes sailed northward along the coast of Mexico, as Juan de Grijalva had done shortly before, and came to Vera Cruz, where after he had looked about him somewhat, he sunk his ships, that none of his followers might turn back, and plunged into the interior.
Meanwhile Montezuma from his capital had seen through the eyes of his messengers the strange sight upon his seas, and doubted not that it betokened the return of the long-absent Quetzalcoatl, come to claim his own. Through this superstition the ingress of Cortes to the heart of the empire was made easy. For Montezuma was a mighty monarch, and could as easily have crushed this handful of interlopers as he could have killed a fly, had not the gods willed it otherwise. Behold him as he sits at table! He is alone, reclining on a leathern cushion covered with furs, in the large dining-hall of the palace. If the weather is cool, behind a screen of carved gold burns a charcoal of bark emitting a pleasant perfume. The dinner-service is of the fine ware of Cholula, with goblets of gold and silver and certain dishes of shells. Nothing can twice be used by the king; therefore the solid gold service is not brought out on all occasions. From every kind of food that land and water can supply the monarch may choose; fish fresh from the ocean, 200 miles distant, are brought every day by relays of runners, and there are cunning cooks among the Aztecs. Three hundred dishes are brought in at every meal by pages of noble birth, and placed in silence on the floor beside the sovereign, who thereupon indicates of which he will partake and the others are removed. Women likewise attend, and aged lords, wise counselors, and jugglers, and jesters, and all the folly and paraphernalia of royalty elsewhere. After dinner smoke and siesta. And so the story of grandeur continues until one tires of it.
Passing for our present purpose the government, aristocracy, laws, land tenure, priesthood, science, art, literature, industries, social relations, and the rest, let us pause and see how taxes and tribute are paid, for here we can best learn their ideas of wealth. Twenty-nine cities were appointed to provide the household of the king of Tezcuco with every requisite of food and furniture, and hence were exempt from other taxes. Manufacturers paid tax with what they made; merchants with what they dealt in; tillers of the soil paid taxes in labor or in kind. The towns contributed cotton garments, bundles of fine colored feathers, sacks of cocoa, tiger-skins, birds of certain kind, gold, cochineal, emeralds, liquid amber, loads of India-rubber, lime, reeds, honey, yellow ochre, turquoises, leaves of paper, gourds, mats, stools, firewood, building-stone, copal-gum, live eagles, in fact whatever "was of value which the person or state possessed. The people of Tlateluco," says Purchas, "were charged for tribute alwayes to repair to the Church called Huiznahuca. Item, fortie great Baskets (of the bignesse of half a Bushel) of coccoas ground, with the Meale of Maiz (which they call Chianpinoli) and euery Basket had sixteene hundred Almonds of Chianpinoli. Item, eight hundred burdens of great Mantels. Item, eightie pieces of Armour, of slight Feathers, and as many Targets of the same Feathers, of the deuices and colours as they are pictured. All the which tribute, except the said armes and targets, they gaue euery 24 dayes.” Among the Mayas, the civilized aborigines of Central America, the system and the articles paid in were much the same.
Montezuma had no desire to see Cortes, even though he were the true Quetzalcoatl, of which the Aztec king persuaded himself he was in doubt, hoping against hope, hating to receive, fearing to deny; and If indeed this were not the fair god himself but some interloping alien, peradventure he might be bought off with gifts; so he sent him word, and begged him to be gone, and laid presents at his feet, thirty bales of cotton fabrics, from gauzy curtains to heavy robes, white colored plain and figured, interwoven with feathers or embroidered with gold and silver thread; feathers and plumes of all colors, embroidered sandals and marasite mirrors. All these however, were trifles beside the gold, the beautiful glittering gold which was disclosed, and likewise the silver. First there was a disk of the yellow metal, representing the sun with its rays as large as a carriage wheel, ten spans in diameter, ornamented in demi-relief and valued at 3,800 pesos de oro.
A companion disk of silver, of the same size and equally ornamented, represented the moon. Then there were thirty golden ducks, golden dogs, lions, monkeys and other animals; ten collars, a necklace with over a hundred pendant rubies and emeralds, twelve arrows, a bow with cord stretched, two staves each five palms in length; fans, bracelets, and other pieces, all these of fine gold besides others of silver. To a previous messenger from Montezuma, Cortes had said when he handed him a soldiers helmet, "Take it and bring it back filled with gold-dust, that we may show our emperor what kind of metal you have;" and now behold it here! the crowning gift of all, the gilt helmet returned full of virgin gold, fine dust and coarse, with a plentiful mixture of nuggets of various sizes and shapes, all fresh from the placers; 3,000 pesos the value, not so very much, but as Torquemada remarked "it was the gift which cost Montezuma his head."
As Cortes approached the capital, a personage representing himself as the emperor came forward with a present of 3,000 pesos, and a promise of four loads of gold, and for each of his officers and men one load, if the strangers would depart. It was a pathetic struggle on the part of Montezuma between self-love and duty, absolutism and religion, but it was impossible for him to shift the responsibility upon another. Cortes soon learned that this was not the true emperor, and for obvious reasons he was determined on a meeting with Montezuma. On the morning of the 9th of November, 1519, the Spaniards mustered for the entry into Mexico. Not far from Iztapalapan they came upon the longest causeway, two leagues in extent. About half a league from the city the causeway formed a junction with the road from Xochimilco, where a stout battlemented wall, ten feet in height and surmounted by two towers, guarded the two gates for entry and exit. Entering here the Spaniards were met by a procession of over 1,000 representative personages from the city, richly arrayed in embroidered robes ornamented with precious stones and gold, who passed before the visitors, touching with their hand the ground and then the lips in token of reverence. This ceremony occupied an hour after which the procession moved forward. At the junction of the causeway with the main avenue of the city was a wooden bridge ten paces wide, easily removable, passing which Cortes halted to await the emperor, then approaching. The street was clear of all obstruction, save that on the emperor occupying it alone, either side, close against the houses, was a procession of nobles, headed by lords and court dignitaries, all marching with bare feet and bowed heads. The emperor was borne in a luxurious and richly ornamented litter on the shoulders of his favorite courtiers, and followed by a few princes and leading officials. Three princes preceded him, one of whom bore aloft three wands, significant of the presence of the imperial head of the tripartite alliance.
On nearing the Spaniards the litter was lowered, and the monarch stepped forth, supported on either side by King Cacama and Cuitlahuatzin, his nephew and brother, and followed by the king of Tlacopan and others. Four prominent caciques held over the royal head a canopy covered with green feathers set with gold silver and gems, both fixed and pendent. Before them attendants swept the road and spread carpets. The king and his supporters were dressed much alike in blue tilmatlis which, embroidered with gold and jewels, hung in loose folds from the neck, where they were secured by a knot. On their heads were mitered crowns of gold with quetzal plumes, and on their feet sandals with golden soles and fastenings embossed with precious stones.
With a step full of dignity the king advanced toward Cortes, who had dismounted to meet him. As they saluted, Montezuma tendered a bouquet in token of welcome, while the Spaniard took from his own person and placed round the neck of the emperor a necklace of glass beads. After interchange of friendly assurances between the captains of Cortes and the nobles of Montezuma, all entered the city in stately procession.
At the plaza, where stood the great pyramidal temple surrounded by palatial edifices, they turned to the right, and Cortes was led up the steps of an extensive range of buildings, known as the Axayacatl palace, which faced the eastern side of the temple enclosure. Here Montezuma, who had withdrawn himself for a time, again appeared, and through a courtyard shaded by colored awnings and cooled by a playing fountain, he conducted Cortes by the hand into a large hall. An attendant came forward with a basket of flowers , wherein lay "two necklaces made of the shells of a species of red crawfish, much esteemed by the natives, from each of which hung eight crawfish of gold, wrought with great perfection, and nearly as large as the span of a hand." These the emperor placed round the neck of the adventurer, and at the same time presented wreaths to his officers. Then, seating him on a gilt and jeweled dais, he announced that everything there was at the disposal of the guest, and every want would be supplied. The monarch retired with graceful courtesy, and the Spaniards were left to refresh themselves and arrange their quarters. Everything about the place was neat and of dazzling whiteness, relieved by green branches and festoons. The finer rooms were furnished with cotton tapestry, and adorned with figures in stucco and colors, and with feather and other ornaments set with gold and silver fastenings. In the afternoon the king appeared with a large following. Seating himself beside Cortes he expressed his delight at meeting with such valiant men, related to him the myth of Quetzalcoatl, expressed the belief that his visitors were the people whose coming had been predicted, and whom he and all his people were ready to serve. Cortes made suitable reply, and at a sign from Montezuma attendants came forward with a rich collection of gold silver and feather ornaments, and some 5,000 pieces of cloth of fine texture and embroidered. Later, while on a visit to his palace, Montezuma said "As for your great king. I hold myself as his lieutenant, and will give him of what I possess.” Wherefore he again distributed presents, twenty packs of fine robes and some gold ware.
The conquest of Mexico, while full of romance, was so attended by base treachery and fierce fanaticism as to make the recital not altogether pleasing. But here we have to do only with what illustrates the riches of the country and the power and magnificence of its monarch. Believing, yet half doubting, that the fair-featured strangers were akin to that supernatural being who was the rightful possessor of the land, if indeed their leader was not the very same, the poor deluded monarch fell an easy prey to the wily invaders, who from the beginning, as a matter of course, were determined on having the life of the king and possession of his country with all the wealth it contained. To this end they spoke the monarch fair at first, then on the vilest pretext seized and held him prisoner, until they forced from him what gold they could, then basely slew him. Once during the manipulation of his vile project Cortes caught such a glimpse of the wealth at hand as to urge him on with all the more unscrupulous determination. A room of the temple, while undergoing some changes to make it a fit place for Christian worship, was accidentally opened through the wall, and Aladdin on entering the cave was not more surprised than were these Spaniards on beholding the contents. The interior fairly blazed with treasures; bars of gold were there, nuggets large and small, figures, implements, and ornaments; stacks of silver; jeweled and embroidered fabrics; the prized chalchinite and other precious stones not omitted. Cortes allowed the favored beholders to revel in the ecstasy created by the sight, then, the time not having yet come, he gave orders to restore the wall.
When the capture of the king was consummated, and the whole empire was at his feet, fearful lest harm should happen to the sacred person of the monarch, Cortes spake, "Give us gold and we will go, leaving you at liberty. Send forth your vassals and gather it in from every quarter, that you may the more quickly sec the end." In answer to this appeal, Montezuma with alacrity emptied his palace and his treasure-house to the invaders, so that gold poured in upon them, and silver, in dust and quoits, and leaves, besides great piles of manufactured articles. "More!" the vultures demanded, "More!" Again and again the collectors were sent out, and treasure brought in and piled up before the conquerors. "When you transmit it to your king," said the captive monarch with touching pathos, "tell him that it comes from his good vassal, Montezuma.” He requested that certain fine chalchinite stones, each valued at two loads of gold, and some finely chased and inlaid blow-pipes, should be given to the king of Spain. The treasure brought in by the collectors was stored in a hall and two smaller chambers of the aviary building, and consisted of gold silver and precious stones, with feathers robes and other articles. Smiths were called in to separate from the jewels the gold and silver settings, which were melted into bars, three fingers in breadth, and stamped with the royal arms. The melted gold amounted to something over 162,000 pesos de oro; silver, 500 marcos; unbroken jewels and other effects, 500,000 ducats. Fashioned chiefly in animal forms, "so perfect as to appear natural,” were gold and silver set with precious stones and pearls and feathers. Designs were furnished to native artisans by the Spaniards of images, crucifixes, bracelets, and chains, which were executed with wonderful fidelity to the pattern. Silver was made into plates, spoons, and goblets. The feather work presented a brilliant variety of colors and forms; the cotton, some of delicate texture and color, both plain and embroidered, was made into robes, tapestry, and covers. Trinkets of turquoise and pearl were also among the treasures.
Compare this barbaric splendor with the resources and products of Mexico today. Thirty states and territories, with a population of 12,000,000, produce besides the many indigenous plants, all that are valuable brought from abroad. Large areas are under cultivation, and other large areas are devoted to stock-raising. Mines and manufactures have been developed until they are numbered by the thousand; towns and cities built, the larger ones having beautiful cathedrals; schools and colleges are in every part, and the whole country is intersected by railways. At the opening of the nineteenth century, the mines of Guanajuato alone numbered 1,816, employing 116 mills, 1,898 arrastras, and had 366 establishments for the reduction of the metal. There were crushed daily 11,500 quintals of ore, and 9,000 operatives were employed. Population of the city 66,000. The agricultural interests of the province were likewise flourishing, 1,750 square leagues being covered with grain and rich pastures. But at the outbreak of the revolutionary war the flail of destruction struck here its first heavy blow in the capture of the Alhondiga de granaditas, or government granary, as famous in the history of Mexico as is the Bastille in that of France. The building, a massive two-story structure, 80 by 54 varas, was a fortress as well as a storehouse and thither on the approach of the insurgents under Hidalgo in 1810 was conveyed the royal and municipal treasure, amounting to $620,000 in silver bars and gold ounces, besides the money and valuables of private persons amounting to 3,000,000 pesos, all of which, together with the city fell into the hands of the revolutionary rabble midst horrible butchery and drunken riot. During half a century of revolution, many cities and haciendas were taken churches sacked, and so-called loans enforced, and treasure trains captured aggregating hundreds of millions of dollars.
Scarcely was the conquest completed when the work of ecclesiastical establishment began, and the clergy soon became rich and powerful in the New World. Indeed at one time two-thirds of the property of the country was in the hands of the church. Throughout South and North America, in the larger cities and centers of European population, cathedrals and churches were erected, while to the benighted natives of more distant parts missionaries were sent, and mission establishments set up, some of which became wealthy. In Central America and southern Mexico there were fewer missions than in the unexplored regions northward, from lower California to Texas, and along the seaboard of Upper California from San Diego to San Francisco. These mission establishments erected churches and other buildings controlled vast tracts of land, raised livestock, grew grain, and made cloth, leather, and wine, the labor being performed mostly by the natives.
As representatives of the king of Spain the viceroys of Mexico and Peru, from the time of Cortes and Pizarro to the revolution, lived in state; their households and dependencies in imitation of royalty, many of them acquiring wealth; some of them honestly. There were a hundred or more of these imitation kings in each of the two Americas during the period of vice-regal rule, some two centuries, frequent change being necessary—so thought the sovereigns of Spain—lest the servant should become greater than the master. A vast amount of treasure wrung from the people was forwarded by the viceroys to Spain, but however much was sent the Spanish monarch was ever crying for more. One viceroy, Marquina, in 1802, sent six millions to Havana and eighteen millions to Spain. Another viceroy, Garibay, sent eleven millions at one time. During the period from 1690 to 1807, $1,052,579,000 of coined gold and silver were shipped from Mexico, $767,000,000 of which found its way into the royal treasury of Spain. In Peru financial matters and treasure shipments were much the same. A great work was the construction of a canal to drain the valley of Mexico of its superfluous waters; it was participated in by several of the viceroys, but was brought forward more particularly by President Diaz.
Since 1564, when Manila was founded by Miguel Gomez de Legazpi, a profitable trade had sprung up with New Spain, and from that time forward merchants trembled for the safety of the richly laden galleons plying between the Philippine islands and Acapulco. Cavendish, in 1587, with three ships on a voyage of circumnavigation and plunder, ravaged the Pacific coast off the two Americas. Among other exploits he captured near Acapulco the Santa Ana, 700 tons, with 122,000 pesos in gold and a rich cargo of silks and other Asiatic goods. With rare humanity he spared the lives of those on board, 190 in number, allowing them to go ashore while he set fire to the ship, haying still on board 500 tons of merchandise which the pirate could not carry away. Both on sea and land convoys were required for the most part to guard goods and treasure in transit, and even with the utmost precaution robberies to the extent of millions were perpetrated in Peru and Mexico.
They had a way in Mexico in years gone by of executing inexpensive justice on the highway, which as the English he say was not half bad. A noted robber is captured; but he who takes him would do well to go slowly before presenting him before the authorities lest he be asked, "You captured a robber? Yes; that is well; very well; did he attempt to escape, and did you kill him? If not, why not?" In conveying bullion from the mines and coin back, often there were 1,000 loaded mules in a train. In times of revolution and at other times forced loans were often made by the military or political power from merchants and ecclesiastics. This practice was common in the time of Iturbide, and before and since, when a forced loan of from two to five millions was frequently ordered. In 1823, when revenue was required immediately, all government cigars and tobacco were ordered sold. Sixteen millions of dollars were once borrowed of an English house, while negotiations were pending for a government loan. Often a treasure-fleet was wrecked or captured; one was wrecked on the Florida reef in 1553 when 700 lives were lost, and one in 1628 with over $12,000,000 on board was sunk by the Dutch admiral Pieter Heyne. On one occasion while the vice-admiral of the treasure-fleet was at dinner in his cabin, his ship was boarded by a boats crew of twenty-eight men under command of the pirate Pierre, surnamed le Grand. So sudden and daring was the attack that the vice-admiral and a number of officials who sat at table with him found themselves prisoners before they were able to gain the deck. The captives were put on shore at Cape Tiburon, and a few weeks later Pierre entered the port of Dieppe with his prize, which contained a rich freight of treasure and merchandise.
The sack of Vera Cruz in 1683 by the famous sea-rovers Lorencillo and Van Horn was a brilliant feat of piracy. Toward sunset on the 17th of May two large ships flying Spanish colors were seen to the leeward of Vera Cruz crowding all sail to make port and escape what seemed to be pursuit by a strong squadron a league or two further out at sea. At nightfall the Spaniards on shore made fires to guide into the harbor the ships, supposed to be two vessels laden with cocoa which were expected from Caracas. But alas! the ships were filled with pirates, 800 of whom landed at midnight; and the morning sun rose on the great commercial city only to behold it wholly in the power of robbers. The doors of the houses were battered in and the inmates dragged forth and lodged in the churches, where were soon confined 6,000 persons. There they were kept for three days and nights while their captors plundered the city. Besides the property of the inhabitants the altars and sacred images of the churches were stripped, and a large amount of specie, bullion and merchandise secured which had arrived at Vera Cruz in transit for Spain. Among the plunder were quantities of jewelry and three tons of cochineal. Then the wealthy citizens were put to torture to make them disclose hidden treasure and ransoms were in order, which yielded further large returns, the governor paying for himself 70,000 pesos. This game being finished, all the chief people, ransomed or unransomed were driven aside, and $150,000 demanded for the lot, which was finally paid. Passing the usual chapter of horrors, I will only add that the pirates then withdrew, having quite enjoyed their picnic at Vera Cruz. Their plunder amounted to $960,000. Later Lorencillo captured Campeche after a five days' siege, and thence marched on Merida, but was driven back with heavy loss.
At the opening of the eighteenth century the oceans were scoured by cruisers ever on the alert to pounce on Spain’s treasure ships, and no vessel carrying treasure was dispatched without the escort of several men of war. At Vera Cruz at one time, a vast amount of gold and silver was stored, awaiting convoy, and on the arrival of a French squadron under Count de Chateau Renaud, was placed on board the fleet. Eluding an English squadron that lay in wait in Tortuguilla sound, the flotilla arrived in safety of Cadiz; but finding that harbor closely blockaded by the enemy, sailed for the port of Vigo. There the Spaniards were attacked by a powerful squadron; several vessels were captured; the remainder were sunk, and treasure amounting to $17,000,000 lies buried to this day at that point on the coast of Galicia.
Woodes Rogers, another English free-rover appeared on the western seaboard in 1709, in another of those voyages of circumnavigation and robbery. Picking up Alexander Selkirk, the primogenitor of Robinson Crusoe, at the island of Juan Fernandez, he sailed for Peru, taking several prizes, and capturing the town of Guayaquil, for and on to Lower California, which a moderate ransom was received; thence creeping along the coast to Panama, and turning west and southward from Cape St. Lucas, after cruising for a few weeks he met and captured a large and well-manned twenty-gun ship bound from Manila to Acapulco. An encounter with another Spanish ship shortly afterward, the Vigonia, 450 men and mounting sixty guns, proved less fortunate. After a seven hours' fight the English were driven off with heavy loss; and with numbers greatly reduced the expedition sailed homeward. The cost of this voyage did not exceed $75,000 and the returns were $850,000. Thus did the merchants of Bristol grow rich by licensed piracy, and learn to despise the slow gains of legitimate commerce. Again in 1712 the buccaneers mustered for a raid on Vera Cruz. Entering the city at night, the alarmed fortress of San Juan de Ulua began firing on them. Cutting off the heads of some of the friars, the pirates sent them to the commander of the fortress, saying they would cut off the heads of all the priests if he did not stop his guns. The firing continued with redoubled fury. What mattered it to the priests if their heads were on or off, the next world being better for them than this! Such logic was beyond the buccaneers; so they took ransom for captured citizens, and went their way. There was a buccaneer settlement in Yucatan, and the honest freebooters when not engaged in raids on Spanish settlers or in cruising for Spanish ships, occupied themselves with cutting dye-woods and mahogany. In 1708 the newly appointed governor, Saravia, was taken captive with his wife and children, in the bay of Campeche by the pirate Barbillas, who demanded and received $14,000 ransom.
Robberies and revolutions, pronunciamentos and plans followed independence. Forced loans were frequent and informal. Mining fell off and many of the most important industries declined, for the worst of governments is better than anarchy. But there were always at hand in an emergency patriots enough to save the country, even from those pretenders to patriotism, like Iturbide and Santa Anna, whose ambition and selfishness brought upon their country greater disaster than any acts of open foes. It was to such of her own people, and to certain political demagogues in the United States in no wise better, that Mexico is indebted to war with her northern neighbor, and large loss of territory, first Texas, and later California and the vast region thence to the Rocky mountains.
It is safe to say that as a rule the occasion brings out the men. When the time was ripe for independence, a crop of patriots was gathered, Hidalgo, Morelos, and others giving their lives to their country. The next of note to truly serve their country were Lerdo de Tejada, Juarez, and Diaz, under whose influence and rule intellectual emancipation and material progress were achieved to a degree never before surpassed in the annals of nations. When Benito Juarez, an American Indian of pure blood, came out of the wilderness at the age of twelve years, into the city of Oaxaca, being then unable to speak the Spanish language, or to read or write any language, the country was bowed into the dust under the heavy loads of political anarchy and ecclesiastical domination. After living to see his country in a great measure free from both of these inflictions, largely through his influence, he died president of the republic; and yet, not until he had rendered his country other signal service in maintaining the integrity of the republic through a most trying ordeal, and teaching the scions of royalty in Europe a lesson which they will not soon forget. Thus three centuries after the coming of Cortes we find the Spaniards deposed, and to a certain extent driven out, and one of the race of the much abused Montezuma occupying the place of chief ruler over the land. Maximilian cost France as well as Mexico many millions, but great good and great wealth unfolded under the benignant rules of Juarez and Diaz which followed.
The Mexican plateau derives its characteristics from the configuration of the country, which rises on either side from the heated and malarious coast at a distance of 50 or 100 miles from the sea into cool healthful airs 3,000 to 8,000 feet above the ocean, the altitude being higher in the south dropping down somewhat and broadening toward the north. From the plateau rise ranges of mountains and volcanic peaks, the cordillera of Anahuac enclosing the valleys of Mexico and Puebla being among the former, and among the latter Popocatepetl, 17,798 feet above the sea. Ixtaccihuatl 16,076 feet, Orizaba 17,176 feet, and Colima 12,800 feet.
In northern Mexico, comprising the states of Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, and most of Tamaulipas, the soil is valuable chiefly for grazing purposes. There are millions of acres which at present are only fit for cattle, horses, sheep, or goats. The states above named, together with lower California, have an area of 355,000 square miles, about one-half of the estimated area of the whole nation; one-third of that area is mountainous and barren; portions of the rest would be extremely productive had they an adequate supply of water. There are large tracts where water-holes are so few that in a dry season all grass will disappear, and stock must perish. The portion of land now used for cultivation is small; the largest body being in the valley of the lower Rio Grande from near Camargo to Bagdad, about 1,000 square miles. Properly cultivated and irrigated it would yield abundant crops. Maize, wheat, tobacco, grapes, and coffee, as well as palms, evergreens, mango, olive, orange, lemon, yucca, and an unlimited variety of the cactus family, are found in abundance.
In the highest zone, or tierras frias, the maguey, common also to the temperate region has its home; its fruit is edible, and its fermented juice supplies the famous pulque and mescal. The henequen, an allied species, is likewise produced here. The silk industry in the Mexican republic has been gaining ground. The silk-worm is raised in Oaxaca, Puebla, and Hidalgo. The culture has also been introduced in Vera Cruz, Tlaxcala, Michoacán, Queretaro, Jalisco, and Chihuahua.
The value of farms and other agricultural property, including cacao has and palm gardens, been set down for 1887 at $600,000,000. There are probably 54,000 square miles of mountain land, and about 15,000 square miles of uncultivated soil.
Agricultural implements are still exceedingly crude, in many places but little better than the original article; a wooden plough, with the point occasionally armed with iron; a wooden harrow, or large rake, the points of which were sometimes of iron; and a kind of hoe, of various sizes, similar to the rake-harrow, but with a narrow iron knife edge in lieu of prongs. Reaping is often done with the sickle.
Among the Nahuas and Mayas, from the earliest times of their history, only three farming implements were known—at least the early Spanish records do not mention any more; the coatl, serpent-shaped, a copper implement with a wooden handle used as a hoe to break the surface of the soil; another copper tool, like a sickle, with a wooden handle, used for pruning fruit-trees. But the instrument in most common use was a sharp stick with the point hardened in the fire, or occasionally tipped with copper. Irrigation and fertilizers were well known and applied.
Vegetable life is regulated by latitude and altitude. From the base of Popocatepetl down to the tropical lowlands is a dense growth of exuberant verdure, while a beautiful picture of Mexican flora is found in the tierra fria, where as ascent is made the weeds and pines give place to the mosses which mingle with the perpetual snow. Below upon the mountain sides are found the white cedar and the ahuehuete, specimens of which may be seen at Chapultepec. Evergreen and dwarf oaks overspread vast areas, mingled with tercote and cacti. The pitahays Oaxaca grows fifty feet high. The home of the maguey is on the mountain sides and valleys of Hidalgo Puebla, and Tlaxcala, where the plant is largely cultivated for pulque, in the manufacture of which many thousand people are employed and much capital invested. Speaking generally, all the fruits and grains are easily raised, each in its own climatic zone, corn barley wheat beans and kindred plants in the temperate belt, oranges bananas pineapples and the like in the tropics. Going from Vera Cruz to Mexico, the hot dusty plain is passed and the ascent to the tableland is begun. Vegetation changes and becomes luxuriant, all kinds of tropical fruits and flowering vines are abundant, the orange, lemon, and lime, the olive pineapple and banana, and orchids and roses without end. Cordova is soon reached, and then Orizaba, the king volcano of these lowlands, keeping its feet warm and its head cool in a nightcap of snow. The ascent is steep and the scenery grand, the rise to over 8,000 feet being most of it made within a distance of 40 miles. After the rich verdure of the mesa-side, the tableland, with its fields of wheat and rye seem almost barren. The maguey plantations, however, relieve the landscape with their broad patches of brilliant green.
On the plains of Apam, which spread over 10,000 square miles of the driest part of the republic, and extend into the three states of Hidalgo, Tlaxcala, and Puebla, where the altitude is 6,000 to 8,000 feet, and it may be in places 11,000; where the atmospheric pressure is light and evaporation constant and rapid; where the temperature is mild and ozonification strong,—there thrives the pulque plant, reaching a height of from six to twelve feet throwing broadly out its heavy prickly leaves, giving to the most populous part of Mexico larger and surer wealth than any mines of metals or fields of grain. In several districts the agave grows wild; elsewhere it is extensively cultivated. Every part of the plant is utilized. The fiber is valuable for many purposes; the begass in most varieties is fed to stock; from the sap which rises to sustain the stalk is fermented pulque; from the juice of the stalk and roots of another variety are distilled mescal and tequila, and the roots are often used as soap. Another fiber plant, the lechuguilla, is found almost everywhere; tobacco and many fruits grow wild in many places; limitless are the weeds from which paper can be made; pita is plentiful in Oaxaca; all along the gulf side the conditions are good for cotton, in the southwest likewise, the product of the republic being 45,000,000 tons annually.
Jute, ramie, and hemp grow well. The best tobacco is raised in Vera Cruz and Tabasco, but the plant grows spontaneously in Yucatan, Tamaulipas, and in most of the seaboard states. In San Luis Potosi, Morelos, Sonora and elsewhere the mango and plantain grow side by side with the peach, apple, plum, and apricot. Cacao flourishes among many other places in Oaxaca and Soconusco, and fine woods are plentiful in the tropical and temperate belts—mahogany, fir, ebony, oak, rosewood, brazilwood, and a score of other kinds. Textile plants are abundant almost everywhere; Morelos has many sugar plantations; in the south and west are scores of medicinal plants, and flowers flourish everywhere. Insects of commercial value are the cochineal and the bee; native here also were the bison and elk, the wolf, bear, and coyote, the tiger, armadillo, and puma; domestic animals and fowls are of course raised everywhere; nor is it necessary to mention fish, crocodiles, turtles, serpents, and the rest.
The cochineal insect, in size 70,000 to the pound, which for its coloring properties has been a staple article of agriculture commerce and manufacture since the conquest by Cortes, lives on the leaves of the nopal plant, clinging to it so thickly as from its whiteness at that time to give the plant the appearance of having been stricken with hoar-frost. At the proper time the plant is cut and hung up in a shed with all the bugs upon it, which however are soon scraped into a hot oven or boiling water, the method of death being determined by the color desired the former causing the insect to turn black, so that it can be used for blue and purple dyes, the latter brown for crimson or scarlet dye. Dried cochineal sell for certain dollars a pound; when put into their little casks for shipment they look like coarse gunpowder. The cochineal is indigenous to both Mexico and Peru. The natives utilized an insect which the Mayas called Ni-in, a harmless insignificant creature, which likes the plum-tree for a home. A shining shell of varying shades of yellow covers its little body, which is filled with a kind of grease, so durable when used as a varnish as to be affected neither by heat nor moisture.
Nearly all the surface of Mexico is capable of production with or without cultivation. While some sections have been made barren by the destruction of forests, yet larger areas have been reclaimed by irrigation. In the Puebla museum are over 100 specimens of woods susceptible of a high polish.
Hidalgo and San Luis Potosi produce odorous cedar and mahogany; Nuevo Leon, pine, oak, Sabine, poplar, mulberry, and walnut; Tabasco, ebony, rosewood, sandalwood, and twenty other fine varieties. Quinquina, or Peruvian bark, is conspicuous in Vera Cruz. The rubber-tree grows spontaneously in twelve states, giving forth 2,500,000 pounds annually. The vanilla flourishes in the extreme southern states; palms grow wild in many places. The vanilla orchid may be planted in a field or in a forest; if in the latter cuttings are set out at the foot of saplings, which afford shade and support to the climbing stem, old trees and underbrush being cleared away. The dark brown pods of the vanilla planifolia, six or eight inches long, are filled with a dark oily and fragrant pulp. The pods are picked in December, not all at one time but as they mature, and when not too ripe.
We hear of the wealth of woods, but in none of earth's forests is there such wealth as in the woods of Campeche and Tabasco. And little wonder it is that the king of Spain sometimes felt that he could afford to be generous with what he had come by so easily and so villainously. To one man, one lazy, ignorant, bigoted, and most egotistic Spaniard was given some 170 square leagues. on the Usumacinta river of fine logwood and mahogany forests, groves of various precious woods and medicinal plants, and vast stretches of savannahs interspersed with lakes rivers and lagoons,—all this we are to understand, from the acts of the king of Spain, that God had made for the special benefit of this one good-for-nothing gentleman of his majesty’s service, together with some 10,000 natives, which by a system of peonage under the laws of the country he could hold in a bondage as firm as ever West India planter held an African negro. It is thus that civilization proves the truth of its maxim, that the lands of savages must be put to better use than a game preserve.
Thus we see that with soils and climates suitable for the growth, each in its proper sphere, of all the plants useful to man; with an average rainfall of 59 inches and irrigation by no means difficult; with rivers, lakes, and canals intersecting forests and open plains, it is impossible to tell what man can here accomplish for man. A cursory glance shows that the 130,000,000 bushels of corn and 17,000,000 bushels of beans raised every year in the republic may be divided among about one half of the states, among which are Jalisco, Guanajuato, Puebla, and Hidalgo. In all the temperate zone wheat and other grains flourish; henequen to the value of $9,000,000 is raised, one of the largest plantations being part of an estate of 120 square miles near Merida, and yielding 4,500,000 pounds of fiber a year. In a school adapted to the purpose children are brought up to the business; irrigating canals intersect the entire plantation; a plant of modern machinery run by powerful steam engines separate the fiber from the leaf, in all of which work 350 men are employed.
While Mexico can scarcely compete with South America in cattle, it will always be a stock raising country, owing to its many districts which are fit for nothing else. Pastures in the main are good, grass being always green in places, and elsewhere uncut hay curing on the ground during the dry season. Here are all the domestic animals raised in temperate climes; ostriches and camels have been tried and failed, but the silk-worm and the bee are propagated. There are in all 1,250,000 horses, most of which are bred in the northern part of the republic. That common drudge, the ass, is everywhere attendant, and everywhere overworked and underfed. Of these unfortunates there are 600,000, and of mules, 900,000. There are of sheep and cattle, each 9,000,000, of swine 5,000,000, and of goats 4,000,000, one third of the whole being in Coahuila, Chihuahua, and Sonora. Of live stock $1,000,000 worth are annually exported, and of skins $2,000,000, and this on a capital of $700,000,000. Horse hair to the value of $60,000 or more is annually exported.
It is safe to affirm that the mineral wealth of Mexico is greater than that of any other country, without excepting Peru or Bolivia, and that there is good reason for the belief that there are richer undiscovered deposits remaining than any which have thus far been brought to light. The mountains in the extreme south-east contain extensive veins of silver, copper, and lead. Oaxaca possesses a wealth of precious metals in her central tableland. The Cerro del Mercado is one vast mass of iron.
The Nahuas or Aztecs were acquainted with gold, silver, copper, tin, and lead. The latter is merely mentioned, nothing being known as to where they procured it, or to what uses it was put. Our information on the manner they obtained any of the metals is very meager. It is known that gold was brought to the valley of Anahuac from the southern provinces; that silver and tin were obtained in the mines of Taxco and Tzompanco; that copper came from the mountains of Zacatollan, the province of the Cohuixcas, and from Michoacán. In certain regions were found on the surface of the ground gold nuggets and masses of native copper. Gold was mainly taken, however, by divers from the beds of rivers. It was kept either in the form of dust, in small tubes or quills, or cast into small bars after being melted in small pots with the aid of hollow bamboo blowpipes, made to answer for bellows. These metals were also obtained from the solid rock, to which end extensive galleries were opened. In their time silver was more scarce than gold. Quicksilver, sulfur, alum, ochre, and other minerals were collected to some extent, and applied to various purposes, one of them being the preparation of colors. It is a well established fact that, previous to the Spanish conquest, the Aztecs were ignorant of the uses of iron though the metal was abundant.
The Spaniards opened mines in Mexico as early as 1526, and worked them till 1700 to some extent. The discovery of the famous lodes of San Luis Potosi and Zacatecas, and later of Pachuca, Guanajuato, and others, wrought a complete change. The government, while desirous of developing this industry, hindered it by means of restrictive ordinances, with the object of securing the crown's share. Miners were obliged to barter their metal for money coined in the city of Mexico; restrictions were placed on the exploitation of the scanty deposits of cinnabar, while the crown assumed the exclusive right of selling quicksilver.
In silver, Mexico has until recently produced more than any other country in the north. She eclipsed her South American rival by giving to the world the grand process of amalgamating with quicksilver, which was discovered by a miner of Pachuca about the middle of the sixteenth century. The largest development in mining took place in the second half of the eighteenth century. The result of the creation of the Junta de Mineria was an increase of 25 percent in the production; at the commencement of the present century the average yield was of $23,000,000 a year, against less than $10,000,000 in the years preceding 1750, somewhat less than $5,000,000 a year prior to 1700, and $2,000,000 in the latter part of the sixteenth century; while the whole yield before 1548 had only reached $1,500,000, most of which consisted of presents and tributes. Something should also be added for metal used in manufactures; also smuggled out.
There are metals on lands of Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, and Nuevo Leon, and thence all the way to Tehuantepec, Oaxaca and Chiapas. The two Cordilleras enclosing the great plateau are mostly of granite, the bed of the tablelands being of metaliferous, porphyry, basalt, and lava, the formations being mostly metamorphic, raised and sometimes penetrated by igneous rocks of all the geological periods, with diorites clay, silicious schists, and calcareous nonfossiliferous formations, all rich in gold and silver ores and argentiferous, galena, copper, and iron. Feldspars and micous schist predominate in Oaxaca, while in the high Cordilleras metaliferous trachytic rocks porphyry basalt obsidian pumice-stone and sulfur are plentiful. In Hidalgo are obsidian and opals; there is quite a traffic in opals in Queretaro; in Durango and lower California are found rubies; emeralds in Hidalgo and Queretaro; the red garnet in Chihuahua and Jalisco; and agates in the same region.
Popocatepetl yields from its crater pure sulfur which may be profitably gathered. Coal and coal oil obtain in Puebla, Hidalgo, Coahuila, and many other parts of the republic. Except magnetic iron, silver is the most abundant metal in the country and has been mined extensively from the time of the conquest. At Pachuca, in Hidalgo, are famous mines, and large returns have come from Guanajuato, Zacatecas, and other northern states; there are extensive reduction works at Pachuca Real del Monte and El Chico in Hidalgo, and also in Guanajuato. Gold frequently occurs in argentiferous ores, but seldom pays for the reduction. In nearly all the upland states are good gold mines, placers being conspicuous in Sonora, Lower California, and Guerrero.
Among the famous deposits special mention may be made of Real del Monte, one of the twenty leading mines of Pachuca, which gave net returns of $10,000,000 in thirteen years. El Chico has a main shaft 2,500 feet deep, and most of the mines here have steam pumping and hoisting machinery. Guanajuato has yielded largely for centuries, and will yield for centuries more; the Veta Madre is eight miles long. For sixty years the average annual yield of the Valenciana was $4,000,000; the San Juan ores average 140 ounces to the ton, which returned $130,000,000. The Guanajuato and Zacatecas mines have each given to the world nearly $1,000,000,000. The Catorce, Penon Blanco, Ramos, and Guadalcazar are among the rich districts of San Luis Potosi; 100 mines in Chihuahua put out about $5,000,000 annually; Batopilas district, where have been found masses of silver weighing over 400 pounds, has yielded $300,000,000. Two silver mines in Sinaloa, the Rosario and the Guadalupe, have each put out nearly $100,000,000. In Durango the Candelaria mine has given forth from ores assaying from $70 to S140 a ton, $100,000,000. There are hundreds of districts and thousands of mines in Mexico of which the history and description would be interesting. Gold is likewise everywhere, but not in paying quantities, the richest districts being in the states of Sonora, Sinaloa, Michoacán, Aguascalientes, besides in all the silver regions, where also is a plentiful supply of quicksilver.
The methods of reduction of argentiferous ores in Mexico are patio amalgamation by the cold process, or by the de cazo or heating process, or by the Freyberg system; also by smelting and lixiviation, the last mentioned one, sometimes called the hyposulphate or leaching process, being usually preferred. Oaxaca has forty reduction works, handling annually 7,000 tons of silver ore, 1,000 tons of gold ore, and 1,200 tons of iron ore, with an aggregate value of $2,000,000. Chihuahua has fifty mills, half of them employing the smelting process, and half reducing by amalgamation and lixiviation. The several reduction works of Michoacán give preference to the patio system. The fourteen mills in the state of Mexico use amalgamation; twice that number of mills in Queretaro prefer Leaching; the several mills of Coahuila and Sonora incline to smelting, while in Monterey, San Luis Potosi, Jalisco, and Lower California all the various methods are employed.
In Durango is the iron mountain, cerro del Mercado, discovered by Gines Vasquez in 1562, 4,800 by 1,100 feet and 640 feet high, averaging 70 percent of metal, and in which there are 300,000,000 tons of metal above the surface of the ground. Two mills have been set up in the vicinity, but both inadequate for purposes of reduction. In Oaxaca, where coal and iron come together, mines are worked at Cahuacua, Peras, Elotepec, and Zaniza. There are vast beds of iron in Jalisco, Hidalgo, Tehuantepec, Guerrero, and Nuevo Leon, at some of which are foundries.
From the San Felipe coal fields in Coahuila, purchased by C. P. Huntington, some 300,000 or 400,000 tons are taken annually. There is an oblong basin filled with coal and rimmed with mountains, 100 miles from miles in extent. Carboniferous fields are plentiful in Michoacán, the Yaqui River, in Sonora, and 7,000 square Oaxaca, Puebla, and Vera Cruz. There are large quantities of asphaltum and petroleum in Tabasco and Vera Cruz, as well as in nearly a dozen states of the high plateau. The principal sulfur beds are in Michoacán. San Luis Potosi, Puebla, and Vera Cruz. Mexico has large quarries of limestone; Nuevo Leon, marble and alabaster; Puebla, onyx; Guanajuato, topaz and sapphire; Durango, rubies; Chihuahua, garnets; Hidalgo, emeralds.
The Nahuas and Mayas of Mexico and Central America had attained a high degree of perfection in certain branches of manufactures. They excelled in the ornamental working of the precious metals and stones, and also of shells and carved woods. Their pottery was excellent. They made cups and bowls from the hollow shells of gourds, and also fine baskets. They manufactured very fine cloth of cotton, rabbit-hair, of the two mixed, or of cotton mixed with feathers. The rabbit-hair fabrics were equal in finish and texture to silk. The palm and maguey fibers were prepared in the same manner as flax in other countries. From the same material were made cords, ropes, and mats. All the work of spinning and weaving was done by women. The spindle used in spinning was like a top which was set whirling in a shallow vessel, the fiber being applied to its pointed or upper extremity until the impetus gave out. Paper was mostly made of maguey fiber, although some of the other fibers used in the manufacture of cloths were occasionally mixed with those of the maguey. The skins of animals were tanned both with and without the hair; the old authorities praise the results of the process employed without explaining what it was. In preparing dyes and paints, mineral, animal, and vegetable colors were used, the latter being extracted from woods, barks, leaves, flowers and fruits. The Aztecs probably knew more of the art of dyeing than the Europeans, and many of their dyes were, after the conquest, introduced throughout the world; among them were those of cochineal, indigo, and ochre.
The skill displayed by the natives in the branches of manufactures above referred to created no little astonishment, even among their conquerors; nor was less surprise caused among the conquered by the first examples of European skill in manufactures. The natives were not slow to discern the advantages they could derive in this line from their Spanish masters and seized every opportunity to learn. They not only succeeded in imitating the Spanish artisans but exhibited some ingenuity as inventors. I have spoken of the knowledge the Nahuas possessed in working the precious metals. They could, indeed, work them in certain forms which were absolutely unknown in Europe; this art was lost, owing to the selfishness of the Spaniards, who issued regulations forbidding, under severe penalties, that native jewelers should be employed in making ornaments either of gold or silver. After the conquest the production of cotton goods decreased in consequence of the competition with European commodities, though the latter never could supplant the fabrics of the natives. There were a few large factories in later years but looms were to be found, all over Cholula, Puebla, Tlaxcala, Queretaro, and Guadalajara. In 1792 the viceroy founded a weaving school at Tixtla. Whenever Spain was at war with a European power, and the importation of fabrics became interrupted, the native industry had its opportunity to flourish for awhile, but only to relapse into its former dormant state as soon as peace was restored. The day arrived at last when Spain's foreign wars and the struggle for national sovereignty threw the people of Mexico upon their own resources, and the selfish policy of the mother country became inoperative. Under the republican government the Mexican people have been encouraged, through protective tariffs, vigorous laws, and industrial schools, to develop manufactures. The first efforts made toward this end early in the thirties, did not meet with the desired results, but they were by no means fruitless, several companies having been organized which laid the foundation of manufacturing industries of Mexico.
Cotton manufactures, though subject to occasional checks , owing to political disturbances , and repeated changes of administrative policy, continued to assume a healthful tone and in 1843, were considered as permanently established. But the efforts to develop the industry had a set-back in 1848 through the discontinuance of the protective, or rather prohibitive system under which it had been gaining strength, and foreign fabrics were admitted into the country by paying duties.
After the fall of Santa Anna's dictatorship, the new rulers showed a disposition to restore protection to this industry, but their measures did not satisfy the manufacturers who clamored for a re- , turn to the prohibitive system, stating that manufactures had not been flourishing since 1856. The opponents of that system claimed that the industry had reached the point where profit was secured. The manufacturers denied that assertion, and we find the same denial still being made in 1879. The cotton manufacturing industry has been growing since, but the fabrics made are on the whole, calculated for the consumption of the poorer classes, the Indians in particular. American and English goods have, therefore. a good field, notwithstanding the high import duty they are subjected to.
The states of Michoacán and Querctaro were, during the viceregal period, noted for their woolen fabrics. The capital of Michoacán had at the beginning of the present century about 300 factories, producing 5600,000 a year. Woolen mills were established in Michoacán in 1844, and their number had greatly increased in 1845-6, the texture was improving, and the demand growing larger. Early in the next decade the production had increased so much that the price of wool was greatly enhanced, and that of foreign woolen goods declined in proportion.
Mexico has all the requisites for manufacturing, which is the true foundation of wealth everywhere,-raw material cheap fuel and labor, water power and transportation facilities. If anything is lacking it is stability of government or intelligence or enterprise on the part of capitalists. This industry is sure to grow. There are cotton factories in Puebla, Jalisco, Vera Cruz, Tlaxcala, Coahuila, and elsewhere, employing 25,000 operatives, and making annually 4,000,000 pieces of cotton goods worth §15,000,000. There are also factories for making cloths and carpets, silk paper and hats, and many mills for making flour, sugar, liquors, leather, cigars, pottery, furniture, brick, glass, and jewelry. The growing and manufacture of cotton are constantly increasing, the coasts of Spanish America being now supplied largely from Mexico. Woolen goods of superior quality are likewise made, and there are large shoe. hat. and other factories. Salamanca makes scrapes, rebozos, and mantas; Celaya, articles in leather, particularly saddles and harness.
After the discovery of America, the Canary Islands were for a long time of greater value to Spain, commercially, than the new continent, except as regarded the precious metals. But the time came when the Spaniards gave their exclusive attention to the old and silver mines of America. The necessaries of life rose in price, first in Spain, and afterwards throughout Europe.
America was less a trading than a mining possession of Spain. It is not the province of this book to give a history of that nation; but as a point connected with American interests during her domination, it will not be out of place to say here that her peculiar policy brought about her decadence. Scarcely had a century elapsed since the establishment of Spain’s empire in America, when in spite of her fine coasts and harbors, her rich soil, and splendid climate, she sank into poverty, ignorance, and helplessness. Early in the seventeenth century, her population was reduced one half, her livestock to a third of her previous quantity. Finally she lost the greater part of her American colonies.
The policy of the Spanish crown, at this period, has no parallel in the history of mankind. To drain the American colonies of their wealth, and draw it to Spain was the whole aim of its legislation; and a prohibitive system of trade was practiced which clearly showed its indifference to colonial prosperity. Articles of necessity or luxury called for by the Americans had to be brought exclusively from Spain, and trading with foreigners was made a heinous offense. One only port of Spain—Seville first, and Cadiz afterward—was permitted to trade with America. The immense influx into the peninsula of precious metals, by making labor almost unnecessary, caused a general decline in all kinds of industries; and Spain, which had formerly been a great industrial nation, had to resort to foreign markets, not only to supply home consumption, but also the needs of the colonies. This naturally increased the drainage of wealth from America. The foreign merchandise reached the colonies at greater cost because of additional duties and traders profits. Such a system developed smuggling as a regular industry, with the usual accompaniment of corruption of officials. The contraband trade flourished, especially when the mother country was at war with one or more foreign powers, and her commerce was reduced to the lowest ebb. Indeed, smuggling became so firmly grafted that it could not be suppressed. It is true that there were occasional intervals of animation perceptible in Spanish commerce during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but they were merely spasmodic.
The regulations governing intercolonial traffic were no better devised. The same spirit was at the bottom, producing similar evils to those regarding trade with foreign nations. A direct trade was allowed, however, between New Spain and the Philippines, through Acapulco, subject to many restrictions. Under a new franchise with increased privileges granted in 1734, the Philippine trade flourished till near the end of the century, the imports into New Spain consisting chiefly of raw silk, colored cotton fabrics, and Chinese earthenware. By 1794 the trade, however, had so much decreased that no fairs were held in Acapulco for lack of attendance. In 1792 and 1793, and in the following year no fleet came. The trade afterward revived somewhat; according to Humboldt the amount of bullion annually shipped averaged $1,000,000, and sometimes reached $1,300,000.
Besides the Philippines trade at Acapulco, there was some trading carried on between New Spain and Peru at the same port, but under such restrictions as to reduce it to a very limited scale. Two vessels of 200 tons burden each were permitted annually to visit Acapulco, and the goods they took paid an export duty of two and a half percent. Later only one vessel was permitted under still greater restrictions, and in 1654 even this petty concession was withdrawn. The clamps were thus tightened for the benefit of the Seville monopolist. During the eighteenth century the trade was somewhat revived, but it was only in 1794 that Spain understood how wrong had been the policy till then pursued, and free trade between the colonies was decreed. The wise and true-hearted Carlos III had begun since 1765 somewhat to relax the prohibitions, opening a number of ports of Spain to trade with certain colonies, and in 1778 the privilege was extended to all the Indies. These liberal measures gave much impulse to commerce. Finally, the system of fleets under convoy was abolished, and in 1799, owing to war between England and Spain, neutral vessels were permitted to trade directly between the peninsula and the colonies. That permission was followed by a still more liberal law, which remained in force from 1805 to the middle of 1809. After this, occasional permits were given to parties residing in the colonies to bring cargoes from foreign ports. About the same time, and later on, other measures were adopted to remove all impediments to trade. The latest one, of 1820, opening several ports on the two seas to commerce, was not carried out. Illicit trade continued, however, at Vera Cruz and Acapulco.
The routes of intercommunication and travel to Spanish America are as follows: To the ports of Mexico on the gulf of Mexico, the islands of St. Domingo, Cuba, and Porto Rico, and the ports of Central and South America on the Atlantic coast, by sailing vessels or steamers from the United States or Europe; the ports of Mexico and Central America on the Pacific are usually reached by steam or sailing vessels from Panama, or from the ports of the United States situated on the same ocean. Sailing vessels from Atlantic ports, visiting those in the Pacific, go and come round Cape Horn. The ports of South America, on the west or Pacific coast, are reached by steamships sailing from Panama, or by steamers crossing the straits of Magellan. The facility of communication across the isthmus of Panama by railway has existed since 1855, from which time several steamship lines under various flags, have conveyed mails, merchandise, and passengers on the Atlantic sea to and from Colon, and on the Pacific, to and from Panama. Most of the steamers on the Atlantic side touch at the ports of the West Indies in going and coming. Communication by steamship between the island of Cuba and Europe, and between Cuba and the United States is quite frequent. The other Antilles are also regularly visited by mail steamers.
Accounts are kept in Mexico in dollars and cents. The republic has mints at Alamos, Culiacan, Chihuahua, Durango, Guadalajara, Guanajuato, Hermosillo, Mexico, Oaxaca, San Luis Potosi, and Zacatecas; and coins at present gold pieces of $20, $10, $5, $2.50, and $1; silver pieces of $1, 50 cents, 25 cents, 10 cents, and 5 cents; and 1 cent pieces of copper. Gold coins are rarely seen, but they are mentioned to denominate value. The metric system of coinage was adopted several years ago; a few 5 and 10 cent pieces are found sometimes, but in general transactions of buying and selling in shops, and everywhere among the people the old system is still in vogue. The quarter and half dollars in common use are respectively called dos reales, and cuatro reales, and occasionally peseta and toston. In small dealings the real is the unit of value; thus it is that a commodity is worth un real, dos reales, cuatro reales, etc. In bartering with small dealers the word centavo may at times be heard, but such transactions are usually made for tlacos, which is the smallest coin of the old system, and worth 1 1/2 cents. The nickel pieces of 1, 2, 3, and 5 centavos, coined in 1883, having caused popular riots, were withdrawn from circulation.
Though the blood intermixtures are many and varied, there are three well-defined classes, the aboriginal, the European, and the meztizo, or cross between the two. Of the first there are left in round numbers some 4,000,000, of the second there are about 3,000,000, and of the third 5,000,000. The Indians and meztizoes are physically strong, and prefer agriculture and stock-raising to any other kind of work. Commerce and manufactures are largely in the hands of foreigners. The country is capable of supporting a population of 100,000,000 without the slightest difficulty. In society class distinctions are definitely drawn, and may be called the upper, middle, and lower; the first comprising the wealthy and educated, or those who affect wealth and intelligence, and will not work; the third, the poor, who are very poor, and ignorant, and hard-worked, who are often hungry and cold, and who have no hope for anything better; the second, or middle class, who are comfortable and happy, not above work, and strive earnestly to educate and improve their children. Of such as these last are republics made; but it will be long before any great intelligent and progressive middle class will be found in Spanish America, or before the governments there will be republics save in name.
The present constitution of Mexico, or under its full name Estados Unidos de Mexico, was adopted on the 5th of February, 1857, and afterward received several amendments until October, 1887, when the clause was repealed which forbade the reelection of the president for the next immediate term. By the provisions of that fundamental law Mexico is a federative republic, composed of twenty-seven states, besides the federal district and two territories. Each of the states is self-governing as regards its own local affairs while together they form one body politic. The federal district and the territories are under the immediate control of the general government.
The functions of government are divided, as elsewhere, into three departments, namely, the legislative, executive, and judicial. The legislative power is vested in a congress composed of two chambers, the senate with 56 members, and the house of deputies, with 227 members. The executive authority rests with a president elected for a term of four years, and who may be reelected. The judicial power is centered in a supreme court of eleven proprietary members, named ministros, four supernumeraries, one fiscal, and one solicitor-general. There are, besides, eight circuit courts and thirty-seven district courts.
Though a complete census of the Mexican population has never been taken, I adopt an estimate for 1882, which makes the number of males 5,072,054, and of females 5 , 375.930; total 10.447.984. These figures do not differ much from Correa, Geografia de Mexico, who gives 10,500,000, nor from Garcia Cubas, who in his Cuadro, Geognifico, etc., has it 10,451,974. The government of the republic has adopted liberal measures to invite foreign immigration, which proved measurably successful, a number of foreigners, especially Italians and Spaniards, having come to settle. But it has been asserted that owing to difficulties in the way of successful colonizations, many of the immigrants have in recent years abandoned the country.
The hopes of America, both Anglo-Saxon and Spanish, rest on the education of the masses as well as on their material progress. The development of intelligence, and of true independence, will necessarily be slow; but governments do not lose sight of the fact that an ignorant people is at all times a dangerous element. In the United States there are more than six millions of persons, of the age of ten and upward, who can neither read nor write. Many of that number are, it is true, of foreign birth; but in some sections especially in the southern states , this ignorant class amounts to about 40 percent of the inhabitants.
In the republic of Mexico the proportion of illiteracy is unfortunately much larger. The case in other Spanish-American countries is by no means better. However, it must be conceded that all men of prominence, both in and out of government circles, are alive to the importance of the subject, and use their best endeavors to promote the increase of schools both for primary and superior instruction. The female sex also take a deep interest in the subject. The study of the English language is generally promoted in the Spanish-American countries. On the other hand, the people of the northern republic already understand the advantages of possessing the Spanish language. For the rapid development of the two Americas it is of vital importance that every intelligent and progressive person should be conversant with these two languages.
Mexico has from the earliest times produced men entitled to distinction for their scientific and literary attainments, made apparent in their writings. The early chronicles have preserved a few of the lofty, really poetic sentiments of Netzahualcoyotl, king of Texcoco, which go to prove that the poet-monarch was the product of a high order of civilization. The Mexican race certainly possesses literary qualities, which manifest themselves on every favorable opportunity. This became evident in the works of native Mexicans soon after the conquest, such as those of the two Ixtlilxochitls, the Tovars, Tezozomoc , Niza, Camargo, Zapata, Mendoza, Pomar, Aguero, and the brothers Ortega, to whom is due most of the knowledge we now have of Mexican primitive history. They all lacked embellishment, however, resulting from poverty of language. This defect disappeared as soon the Mexican Indian mastered the Spanish language, when he used it with as much fluency and ease as his European fellow-subject. After the first short period following the conquest, when Spanish jealousy discouraged literature of any kind, there was an absolute prostration, the only efforts made to record passing events being those of the religious chroniclers, whose productions were valuable, but verbose, involved, and far from entertaining, with only an exception here and there. Bishop Zumarraga's fanatical vandalism in destroying the Aztec writings was in a measure redeemed by the labors of Father Sahagun. This man's work was mutilated by narrow-mindedness, but Father Juan de Torquemada, in his Monarquia, saved much of it.
Among the religious orders the Franciscans may first be mentioned. Upon the grounds formerly occupied as Montezuma's zoological garden, with funds furnished by Cortes, was built at an early day a monastery for the Franciscan friars, the stones from the steps of the great Aztec temple being used in the construction. Thence to the north and west, and thence to the northeast were sent forth missionaries to instruct the heathen k and in the wily ways of Christian civilization, to seize their lands and by their aid to cultivate them, raise stock, build churches. Wealth flowed in on this and other orders, whose vow of poverty was set aside as unbefitting the occasion. As the Franciscans increased in numbers wealth and power, their buildings were enlarged and new ones added, until, three centuries after their beginning in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, their city property covered a wide area and enclosed within a substantial wall magnificent monastic and ecclesiastical structures, garden, cemetery, cloisters, sacristy, sala de profundis, chapels, and a refectory where 500 might sit at table at one time.
Even after the great accounting, wherein they had been forced to give up the larger part of their gains, they had left to them the church which they had built in 1716, 230 feet in length, with dome and lantern 114 feet high, the interior adorned with lavish splendor. The chapel of Purisima Concepcion, built in 1629, still exists, these two with five others constituting in the days of their glory the seven churches of San Francisco famous throughout Christendom.
The church of Santo Domingo, belonging to the order of Dominicans, is an imposing structure, with rich interior adornments, and a chapel on the west side of Santo Domingo plaza as a dependency. Porta Coeli is a small church formerly part of the Dominican college which no longer exists. The Jesuit church of Loreto cost over half a million dollars. The Inquisition at first occupied a small Dominican church, but later reared a formidable structure, which upon the abolition of the holy office became the property of the school of medicine. For every religious house now standing in the city of Mexico, ten have been built and torn down.
Education, at first in the hands of the clergy but later secularized, has been making rapid strides during the latter part of the century. Since the viceroy Mendoza inaugurated the first college, many institutions of learning, universities, colleges, conservatories, and professional and common schools have been established, thousands of which are now in operation. Schools under the viceroys were mainly for the aristocracy; after independence public education was looked after by the national and state governments, and by no one more earnestly and efficiently than President Diaz. At Puebla, Guanajuato, and Guadalajara are schools of mechanic arts and trades; at Oaxaca is a reformatory school, and in Zacatecas and some other states are asylum schools; there are commercial, normal, law, and medical schools at nearly all the capitals, and in various places schools for the blind, the deaf and dumb for in engineering and agriculture, for mining and many branches of manufacture. At Chapultepec is a national military school, with observatory and laboratories; Campeche and Mazatlan have naval schools. In Mexico are a medical institute, school of jurisprudence, art academy and conservatory of music; also many libraries, museums, and treasures of art and antiquities, and various institutes of technical learning.
Among the treasures of the National Museum are many Aztec remains, the sacrificial stone, of many tons weight and covered with carvings the hollow in the center to which a canal conveys the blood of the victim. Behind this stands the old war god, as if regarding with contempt this method of making away with good soldiers. And, indeed, if bloodletting be as good for a nation as it was once thought to be for the individual, perhaps wars and sacrifices both might be praiseworthy institutions in certain quarters. It is safe to say that the Spaniards sacrificed to their religion during the seventeenth century the lives of more Indians than ever the Aztecs did to theirs in any century previous. Here are likewise specimens of the mineral and agricultural wealth of the country. Alvarado's armor, Aztec idols, long rows of rulers, viceroys, and presidents. Maximilian's gilded coach and some of his silver plate, and many fine paintings and engravings.
The massive structure now used for the national library was formerly the church of San Augustin. The grounds on the north and west sides are enclosed by a high iron fence, on the posts of which are busts of Ramirez, Alaman, Veytia, Clavijero, IxtlilxochitI, Tezozomoc, Navarrete, and other historical and scientific celebrities. There are about 160,000 volumes in the collection which runs largely to religious books. The Cinco de Mayo, a free library in the old Betlemitas church, has 10,000 volumes; there is a law library of 14,000 volumes and other collections of various degrees of importance. The national school of fine arts occupies what was formerly the Amor de Dios hospital. The conservatory of music is in the building once occupied by the University of Mexico. Many of the scientific and other institutions as the schools of mines, agriculture, medicine, commerce, and law are housed in what were once convents monasteries, or churches.
Railways and telegraphs have done a great work for Mexico, and the postal system has of late become very efficient. Several lines of roads, completed or in course of construction, traverse the continent from ocean to ocean, and cut the country into longitudinal sections, while communication is had by steamships with Inland various parts of the world. Inland waters are not so available for transportation purposes as are those in South America and the United States. Chief among them are the rio Bravo the rio de las Conchas, the Soto de la Marina, Grijalva, Usumacinta, Tabasco, Verde, Panuco, Tamesi, and others on the east and west coasts. Canals have been cut or projected in several places, as from Tampico to Tuxpan, in the valley of Mexico, and elsewhere.
One of the greatest works of man is the drainage of the valley of Mexico, begun early in the viceregal period, if not indeed in Aztec times, but brought to a successful termination only by President Diaz, who has expended on it $30,000,000, not to mention the millions laid out to little or no advantage by his predecessors. The famous Mochistongo cutting was attempted by Enrico Martinez in 1607. During the present century the engineers Simon Mendez and Miguel Iglesias, the latter under the auspices of Maximilian, have given the subject some study, but the engineers who bring forward the present achievement are Luis Espinosa and I Diaz Lombardo. The commission directing the work is composed of Pedro Rincon L. Gallardo. Jose Ives Limantour, Francisco Rivas Gongora, and others. The works consist of three parts, and include a main canal lining extending from San Lazaro gate along the eastern side of the Guadalupe sierra through or near the several lakes to the Tequixquiac tunnel, thirty-five miles in length. Another portion of the works is a tunnel over sixty-three miles, with four arches and twenty-five perpendicular shafts. More miles of cutting have here been done, though not everywhere so wide or deep, as would dig the Nicaragua canal, over which our railway and politics manipulators in Washington so successfully manage to defeat wise and honest legislation.
Other public works are a breakwater at Vera Cruz; wharf and breakwater at Coatzacoalcos, the terminus of the Tehuantepec railway; a breakwater also at Salinas Cruz, on the Pacific side, at a cost of $5,000,000; and improvements in the ports of Frontera, Laguna de Terminos. There are about a dozen mints, before mentioned, which coin $25,000,000 a year. The national bank is capitalized at $20,000,000, and issues notes, as do also several smaller institutions.
Doubly impregnable San Juan de Ulua was once regarded, with its dripping dungeons within and guard of sharks without. Vera Cruz was then encircled by a strong wall, and the expense of it all caused Philip II to groan.
“What is your majesty gazing at?" asked the archbishop of the king as one day on the seashore he stood peering across the ocean to the westward.
"I am looking for San Juan de Ulua,” replied the king. "It has cost me so many millions that I thought it surely large enough to be seen from here.”
Aside from historic interest and internal beauties, the situation and environment of the city of Mexico make it different from any other capital in the world. In and beyond the suburbs are many charming spots and points of interest, while in the distant borders of the valley with their rolling hills and higher snowy peaks, awe-compelling Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl, there is a solemn majesty which makes itself felt upon the least sensitive observer.
The three causeways which connected Tenochtitlan, the island capital of Anahuac, with the mainland, were widened by the Spaniards, and are now used for street cars and general traffic. The two open aqueducts, which for the most part follow the lines of the ancient Aztec structures, help to supply the city with water, one four and the other two miles in length. The streets of the modern city are well laid out in regular lines and angles, and for the most part well paved and sewered. The trouble about drainage, arising from the level of one of the lakes which is higher than that of the city, is being obviated as rapidly as possible; it certainly is not to the sanitary advantage of the city that water is anywhere reached by digging two or three feet. Along the better streets the houses are substantially built of stone, three or four stories in height, with paved patios and corridors, and tile or tin roofs. The altitude is so high as not to be pleasant to all, but on the whole the climate is agreeable and healthy; temperature 65 degrees to 85 degrees; always warm at noon where the sun shines and cool at night. Puebla is a cleaner sugar manipulation and healthier city than Mexico, the air being fresh and pure, and the ground not so saturated with moisture or overlaid with dead Aztecs.
The primary object of interest in the present city of Mexico is the Palacio Nacional, on the east side of the Plaza Mayor, where once stood Montezuma’s palace, which Cortes reconstructed with additional inner courts and towers. It is now a large and mainly two story series of edifices, fronting 675 feet on the plaza, and containing the offices of the federal government, the army, post office, national archives, and astronomical bureau. In the hall of the ambassadors are portraits of Hidalgo, Morelos, Guerrero, Iturbide, Juarez, and others. On the south side of the plaza is the Palacio del Ayuntamiento, or city hall, where are the offices of the municipal and state governments. Though the first story has massive arcades, the architecture is not as imposing as that upon the east side. In one of the halls are hung portraits of all the rulers of Mexico, viceregal and presidential, from Cortes to Diaz.
The archiepiscopal palace at the corner of Arzobispado and Seminario streets was begun by Zumarraga in 1530, rebuilt in part in 1730, and completed in 1800. The edifice was secularized in 1861, and is now occupied by the internal revenue and other federal offices. When that part of the palace which was occupied by the chamber of deputies, was burned in 1872, the lower house of congress moved into the old Iturbide theater; the ancient Ensenada convent is occupied by the federal court; while the church of Santiago Tlaltelolco, adjoining the custom house is used as a bonded warehouse. In the calle del Apartado is the Casa de Moneda, or mint, completed in 1782 at a cost of half a million dollars; it was one of the three mints established in America by cedula of the king in 1535, the other two being at Santa Fe, and Potosi, South America. These institutions were at first little more than assay offices, the bars and ingots stamped therein passing as money. In the mint of Mexico City has been coined $2,500,000,000, of which $85,000,000 was gold.
On or near the spot where stood the Aztec temple is the cathedral. The small church erected there by Cortes in 1523 was removed to make room for a larger one later, which in turn was torn down to give space to the present building, which is about 400 by 180 feet, and 185 feet high. It was begun under arrangement between Philip II and Clement VII in 1573, and completed in 1791 at a cost of some $2,000,000, the principal architect being Alonzo Peres Casteneda.
The bell in the western tower, named Santa Mana de Guadalupe, is 19 feet high; the Dona Maria bell in the eastern tower is smaller. The facade is of gray stone and marked off by buttresses into three divisions, which are separated into two parts by cornices, one doric and the other ionic. The bases, friezes, capitals, basso-relievos, and statues are of white marble. Stone statues of colossal size representing actual ecclesiastics and abstract piety, occupy the cornices beneath the domes and under the clock serving as pedestals. The interior is mixed doric and gothic; twenty fluted columns support the roof and separate the nave from the aisles. Over the central arches, which form a cross, rises the dome, and on every side are chapels, altars, statues, and paintings. Conspicuous among the fifty other churches in this city are the Sagrario Metropolitano, adjoining the cathedral on the east, with highly ornate exterior decorations; the structure standing between the two above named, and called the Capilla de la Soledad; and the churches of San Cosme, San Jose, San Miguel, Santa Ana, Santa Catarina, Santo Tomas, San Pablo, and San Sebastian.
Thus we see that few places in the old world or the new are more alive with historic interest than this plaza mayor of the city of Mexico. It was here that the Montezumas lived and reigned, masters alike of the lives and souls of men. Here stood the palaces of the aboriginal nobility, allied to the long line of kings and emperors, and here rose the great pyramid on whose summit the high priest of a bloody religion slaughtered the thousands of victims, which every faith at some period of its history seems to demand. Then came the conquerors, strange men with strange weapons and a new religion, which said peace and good will, but which practiced robbery, treachery, and assassination. For three hundred years thereafter the viceroys of Spain, puppets of old-world monarchy, came and departed, strutting around this square and parading their master's power and glory for a brief period, master and man soon to be swept from the stage by time's relentless hand and lie forever forgotten. Iturbide and Maximilian, widely separated as they were in their attempts, flaunted here their brief spasms of imperialism. Three hundred years of this royal Spanish mummery the people of Mexico thought to be enough; and so they rose up and put a stop to it, and a long line of presidents succeeded to the viceregal epoch, and the voice of liberty was heard in the zocalo, but for a time not unaccompanied by the voice of war. The church would not part with its wealth and power without a struggle, and Juarez was determined that the minds of his countrymen should be free as well as their bodies. All past efforts for good seem consummated under the firm and benignant rule of Diaz, when for the first time since independence from Spain peace and progress have been allowed to prevail. In place of the palace of the Montezumas and the viceroys, we have the palace of the presidents and officials of free institutions, and in place of the great sacrificial pyramid of the Aztecs there is the cathedral of the Christians with its imposing exterior and twenty-five chapels within.
Forty priests can officiate here at one time. Tens of thousands of people crowd the place on the great feast days, when indeed the whole square is gay with flowers, and merchandise, and men women and children in bright apparel. The cathedral was erected largely by volunteer or semi-enforced labor, and during the palmy days of the priests, when the church owned the greater part of the country, the wealth contained within its walls was immense, golden candlesticks, crosses, and censers, bediamonded chalices, images with rare and costly adornments, paintings, and gold and silver statues studded with gems. Though much has been carried away there is still left many valuable paintings, frescoes, and statues. The zocalo in the center of the square is a garden of flowers and trees, where from a grand stand a good band discourses music to the throng of promenaders.
By the strange irony of fate Mexico's great castle, Chapultepec, likewise is handed down through the long line of Spain's viceroys from the Montezumas to their own people, chief among whom was Benito Juarez, the liberator and ruler, the statesman and patriot equal in purity of heart and enlightenment of mind to any who ever lived, the native American, his blood uncontaminated by any European intermixture. Not that the many changes made in the castle of Chapultepec from first to last have left much of the aboriginal structure, but the great forested rock is there, arrayed in rich foliage and with the aboriginal work performed upon it still plainly visible. The broad boulevard, Paseo de la Reforma, bordered by trees and fine residences, runs straight from the palace in the plaza mayor to the palace of Chapultepec, now adorned with frescoes paintings and statuary, and used as well for the purposes of federal schools as an occasional residence for the president.
The little that is left of the floating gardens of the Aztecs and their surroundings may be now found on the Viga canal, and its banks, the great highway for fruits and flowers from the lakes of Chalco and Xochimilco. When all around the city was water, and city land was scarce, the lovers of flowers and fruits sought to make more land by binding reeds and bushes into rafts, on which lake sediment and soil were laid, which would grow vegetables as well as fruit-trees and flowers. Several of these rafts could be united, and the floating island made as large as desired. They could be moved from place to place, tied up at a bank, or anchored out in the water by means of poles driven into the bottom. Excursions are made on the canal to Xochimilco Lake and town, and intermediate places, Mexicalcinco, Santa Anita, and the chinampas, as the floating gardens were aboriginally called, and Ixtacalco. The houses in this vicinity are mostly thatched adobe, and the land teems with fruits and flowers; pulque is plentiful, and a happier people than those who here swarm in dirt and rags would be hard to find. Yet this paseo de la Viga was at one time the fashionable promenade, and even now so used during lent. The statue of Guatimotzin, last of the Aztec sovereigns, is seen; it was erected in 1869. The paseo de Bucareli, called the new paseo though now likewise old, is in the southwestern quarter of the city, a statue of victory in honor of Guerrero having been erected, in 1829, in the glorieta, or central circular space of that street. But the most beautiful and fashionable promenade and drive at present are the Alameda and paseo de la Reforma, as before mentioned, on a direct line from the palace to Chapultepec, the former a small park shaded by trees and adorned with flowers, fountains, and statues, the latter a wide drive two miles in length, surpassed by few in Europe or America, having six glorietas, of 400 feet in diameter with stone benches and statues of Carlos IV, Juarez, and others.
Among the still existing buildings of historic interest may be mentioned the Iturbide palace, on San Francisco street, since 1855 a hotel, built on land where formerly stood the convent of Santa Brigida by the wealthy marquera de San Mateo Valparaiso a century and more ago,—a large edifice having several courts and occupied for a brief period by the so-called emperor Iturbide.
Near the Hospital de Jesus is a house of three stories with carved doors, stone waterspouts, and ornate patio, once the property of the condes de Santiago. On the Tacuba causeway, near San Cosme, is a building with grotesque stone masks, on which Jose de Mendoza spent $100,000 and then abandoned it. Then there are the Escandon residence, on the plazuela de Guardiola, the national bank building and others of greater or less distinction. The Monte de Piedad, or government pawn shop, occupies the old palace of Cortes, which stands on the ground where once stood one of the palaces of Montezuma, on the plaza mayor. It was intended by its founder, the conde de Regla, a rich mine owner who endowed it with $300,000, as a benevolent institution , where the poor and distressed might obtain money on their pledges at a small rate of interest, and not be ever at the mercy of rapacious money-lenders. Doubtless the intention was good; but a savings bank, and someone to instruct the people how to use it, would have been better. Since its beginning in 1775 it has loaned $33,000,000 to 2,250,000 persons, and has given $150,000 in charity; the amount outstanding in loans is usually about $1,000,000. There are many hospitals and charitable institutions in Mexico, as the hospitals de Jesus Nazareno, de San Hipolito, Morelos, Salvador, Juarez, casa de Maternidad, and La Cuna. The Colegio de la Paz is a charity school, founded in 1732 by three wealthy merchants, and on which has been expended $2,000,000.
Just outside of the city of Mexico is the shrine of Guadalupe, where shortly after the conquest the virgin appeared in a vision to the Indian Juan Diego. The religious pulse of the natives was faint in those days, and often the poor priest became discouraged in his work of proselytizing. Difficult of eradication from the ignorant mind were the old superstitions, to which with great tenacity the native clung. And furthermore, ''What cares the blessed virgin for the poor Indian?" they said. "The Spaniards have their saints and intercessors, their feast days and fast days, but not one have we." Then said the religious men among themselves, if the virgin would only speak to the Indian, what a revival there would be among them. And she did appear, there was a great revival; never after that lacked the Indian a saint and intercessor. Thrice she appeared to Juan Diego on the hill of Guadalupe, and told him to build her a church there, miraculously stamping her image on his blanket as a token. This he showed to the bishop, and the church was built, and a chapel on the hill, the church costing $800,000, and in it an altar rail of silver. Indeed several churches and chapels were built here, and the place became a great resort for pilgrims and gamblers. The Guadalupe church proper is 122 by 184 feet in size, with vaulted roof resting on Corinthian columns, and supporting a dome the top of which is 125 feet high, the towers rising from the facade being 110 feet in height. The interior is gorgeous in white and gold, onyx tables, altars and rich carvings, the cost of the whole being nearly $1,200,000, not to mention $2,000,000 worth of plate and jewels taken away by the government. From this and the chapel of the well, and the chapel on the hill, no small revenue is derived from worshippers and tourists.
Tacubaya, near the capital, contains many charming villas and country houses of wealthy Mexicans. It was not so very long ago when it was not deemed safe for a rich man to wander about alone, even so short a distance from the city, lest robbers should seize and bear him away, and hold him for a ransom. Here such men as Barron. Bardet, Miery Celis, and Escandon spend the whole or part of their time, amid the most lovely surroundings, elegant and ornate residences standing in small well-shaded parks filled with flowers.
Cuernavaca, where stands the ancient palace of Cortes and the famous garden of La Borda, on which over $1,000,000 were spent by Jose de la Borda, who had made $40,000,000 in the mines of Zacatecas, Tlalpujahua, and Tasco, has an ideal climate, a dry delicious air of uniform temperature, with an altitude less than that of Mexico, being but 4,900 feet. From the plains of Ajusco, 9.000 feet high, a land of pines and potatoes, is a fine panoramic view of the valley of Mexico, 7,000 square miles in extent, cities lakes and snowcapped volcanoes mingling in the perspective. Cuernavaca was a favorite resort of Maximilian, as indeed it has been of many before and after him.
Twenty-five miles from the city of Mexico is Tezcuco, with its ancient fame and interesting historic church. Here lived the learned men of the Nahua nation; hither came their spoiler, and here he afterward dwelt while resting under the cloud of disfavor of his too jealous royal master. Tetxcotzinco has its aqueduct, and still shows the remains of Netzahualcoyotl’s terraced hill. Molino de Florez is the country place of the Cervantez family. Tlalnepantla with its quaint Misericordia chapel is a famous place for bullfights.
Puebla is one of the most beautiful cities in the world where the Spanish language is spoken. Its architecture is more than ordinarily pretentious, being at once to some extent original and chaste. The streets are wide and regular, with a water channel in the center, and are kept clean. It is a city of churches, hundreds of spires domes and towers rising high into the transparent air, while the country round is one great garden of aromatic foliage watered by intersecting streams. Hundreds of clanging bells constantly call men to the worship of their maker, whose awful presence may be felt by the devout in the two great fire-mountains, Popocatepetl and Ixtaccihuatl, standing forth as emblems of divine wrath, and brought near by reason of the thin moistureless air. The Puebla cathedral is considered in some respects superior even to that of Mexico City. Zumarraga laid the corner stone of the first Puebla cathedral in 1536; the present edifice was built a century later. It stands on the south side of the principal plaza, upon a slightly elevated stone sub-structure. Statues of the twelve apostles are worked into the iron fence, a memorial to Pius IX, with effigies of church dignitaries, arms of the republic, angels, and basso-relievios on the gate emblematical of the city's beginning. The building is of dark stone, of imposing proportions; in one of the two great towers is a bell weighing nine tons. The interior, particularly, surpasses all other houses of worship in beauty and grandeur, a variety of Mexican marbles and onyx being used in the finish, with figures in bronze and elaborately carved wood, besides large wall spaces covered with valuable paintings, not to mention the highly ornamented altars and chapels. Other important churches are those of the Franciscans and Jesuits. A house in Mercaderes has a mosaic tile front; the church of la Luz and the insane asylum once the convent of Santa Rosa, are similarly conspicuous. The principal plaza blooms as a garden, while the market is brilliant in manufactures of colored straw and other Indian work. In the botanical garden is a distributing reservoir of city water. The country round Puebla, as well as the city swarms with churches. The town of Cholula is little else than a group of religious houses, on the summit of the pyramid stands one as sentinel over the others. Not far distant from Puebla is Tlaxcala, with its one-story adobe houses, and its town hall of two stories with an imposing antique statue at the entrance.
Vera Cruz, as the chief seaport of Mexico, is an important place, though laboring under disadvantages with regard to harbor and climate. The alameda pants under a covering of verdure, while the marketplace blossoms in tropical beauty. Besides the churches there are the penal presidio, the fortifications, town hall, and the historic island fort of San Juan de Ulua, before mentioned. Jalapa has a government building of which it may be proud; also a cartographical institute.
Orizaba as well as Jalapa dates its beginning long before the conquest, and in the former city the Spaniards had a flouring mill as early as 1550. There are here the usual churches, theater, market, alameda, and educational institutions, not to mention the picturesque surroundings, sparkling streams, glistening verdure, and snow-capped volcano.
The famous mining town of Pachuca stands high above the sea, while two or three hundred gangs of men are tearing up the country round for metal. So with regard to other mining places, notably Zacatecas, some 8,000 feet above the level of the ocean. From the long line of ravine which it fills, the well punctured mountains rise abruptly on either side, preventing that free circulation of air so necessary to health. Besides reduction works there is here an extensive pottery, and by way of religious edification several houses for penitential pilgrims.
Aguascalientes has a beautiful plaza and garden, government and municipal houses, annual fair buildings and scientific institute. Leon is a manufacturing city, tanning and working in leather, working in cotton and woolen cloths, and making hats, soap, and cutlery. Guanajuato, with narrow winding streets, lies in a ravine inviting floods and breeding pestilence while giving to the world new millions of money. Here is the famous Alhondiga seized by Hidalgo at the outbreak of the revolution and where later were displayed the heads of the patriots. The building is now occupied as an industrial prison, and before it is a bronze statue of Hidalgo. The Jesuits have here the best church, nearly half of its cost being expended in blasting a site out of the mountain side. In the plaza mayor of Queretaro, where Maximilian used to walk and ponder amid the palm and banana trees while undergoing the siege which resulted in his death, is a fountain and a statue of Aguila. In the legislative building, which has a fine garden, are portraits of governors, and belonging to the city is a valuable stone aqueduct. Cotton cloth and leather are made here. It was indeed a beautiful city before the revolution, having had for nearly a century its aqueduct two leagues in length the arches, supported on 72 pillars of hewn stone 18 varas apart and 27 varas high. In 1793 the cloth and tobacco factories each employed 3,000 workmen, the latter making yearly cigars and cigarettes to the value of $2,200,000.
Guadalajara is a fine city, 5,200 feet above the ocean, with a sapphire sky and altogether delightful climate. The cathedral, painted in blue and gold, attracts the attention of beholders, as do also the bullfight amphitheater and opera house. Then there is Colima, as is the case with many Mexican towns, a sprout of civilization grafted on to aboriginal stock. It sits well up among the hills with a show volcano rising high in the air and sending forth destructive fires, if not often yet with a certainty of recurrence.
Lower California is a poor country, though possessing some minerals, gold silver copper and lead, and some grazing lands of a rather dry and thin variety. The silver mines near La Paz help that town to develop its points of merit, which may be seen in the broad straight shaded streets, bordered by white-washed stone and adobe houses of one story with green Venetian blinds.
Far away to the southeast is Merida, the capital of Yucatan, standing upon the site of an Indian village, where used to dwell Simon Peon, owner of Uxmal, once greater than Merida, or even Yucatan. But the aboriginal town where Merida is must have been something, for there are in it even now remains of Indian buildings which were there before the conquest; this upon the authority of John L. Stephens and others. Fifty years ago the bishop was the greatest and richest man in Merida; but it is not so today. Once the church was over all and above all, but it will never wield such power again. Like the pope of Rome, the bishop of Merida had his palace adjoining the cathedral, all imparting the air of a new world Vatican. Here lived luxuriously Christ’s vicegerent, in stately halls with elegant furnishings; at his table he and brethren fared sumptuously every day, and slept the sleep of the just. Simon Peon had a fine hacienda between Merida and Uxmal.
The main building was of stone, a high arcade running along the whole of the 150 feet of front, under which was a long stone trough in which the cattle found water. There was also a large reservoir of water in the hacienda yards. Among other factories was a rope walk for the working of hemp raised on the place. To the place, by a kind of peonage, were bound 1,500 Indian retainers. Haciendas are the farm-houses of Spanish America. They are farms only on a large scale, with thousands of acres and thousands of live stock, and of retainers; every hacienda is in charge of a major domo, who manages the estate, and is master absolute in the absence of the owner.
Miscellany—In India the ruined cities of Cambodia, with temples and palaces as grand as any, remained until recently undiscovered, since the relapse of that country into barbarism. Beside a lake bordered with lotus stands a long row of columned galleries, behind which rising out of groves of palms are three great pagodas. And as nearly as we can judge it was during about the same period of ancient Nahua rule in Mexico, from the second to the fourteenth centuries, that Cambodia ruled the Indo-Chinese peninsula, having an army of 600,000 foot soldiers, 70,000 elephants, 200,000 horse, twenty kings being tributary.
The tierras templadas, which overspread the tablelands, are more valuable for grazing purposes than for cultivation, but the tierras calientes of the hot border are extremely prolific. Vast areas on the plateaus and slopes grow all the grains and fruits with irrigation. Agricultural implements are crude, the native plough being of wood with iron point.
Before the conquest, the Aztecs were well advanced in mining and agriculture. They had large cities, and skilled artisans and well-tilled fields, so that when the raid of Cortes was achieved they were, as compared with other aboriginals, a wealthy people. They had plantations of maize and cocoa which the Spaniards were only too glad to take from them, but not unless they could enslave the native laborers under their encomienda system. So with the mines, and the slavery there practiced in the name of peonage. It was an old and simple trick; pass a law that no laborer in debt can leave the mine, then open a store and give him rum, tobacco, and whatever else he wants, on credit, and you have him bound to you forever, for he will never pay his debt as long as he is at liberty to increase it. Maize and maguey were the two great crops of the central plateau in times past as in times present, which supplied the food and drink of Mexican gods and Mexican men. A failure of the corn meant famine; 17,000,000 fanegas was the total crop at the beginning of the present century. Both of these plants were utilized wholly. Corn supported animals as well as men; the liquor chica was made from it; sugar was made from the stalks, and cigarette and tamale wrappers, and beds, and other things, from the leaves. To the Indian the maguey plant gave not only food and drink, but shelter and clothes, and all that he required; its leaves covered his hut; from the fibers he wove cloth and of the pulp made paper; the pulque from the plant was his beer and the fermented juice of the root his brandy; if sick there was medicine and sugar in it, if well, much comfort. Nothing that Europe could give him, wheat, barley, horses, cattle, Christianity, and small-pox, could make up for the maguey, had he to give it in exchange. Back in the middle of the last century the government derived an annual profit of a million of dollars from pulque. Native imitation and ingenuity in manufacturing has ever forced the admiration of Europeans. In feather-work the Aztecs at the time of the conquest were superior to any people in the world, and in cotton fabrics they were but little if any behind the foremost. In gold and silver work, in the manipulation of precious stones and pearls, and in the manufacture of fine jewelry they were not surpassed by any European artisan. And when they were called upon to do the leather, stone, iron, and wood work of the European, they were not found wanting.
The Nahuas brought to Anahuac gold from the south, silver and tin from the mines of Taxco and Tzompanco, and copper from Zacatollan, Cohuixcas, and Michoacán. Gold was found in larger or smaller pieces on the ground, in the crevices of rocks, and in the beds of streams; the fine dust was kept in tubes or quills, the nuggets were melted into bars or wedges. The Aztecs knew not iron, but quicksilver, sulfur, alum, and ochre they applied to various purposes.
In the states of Guerrero, Oaxaca, Chiapas, Tobasco, Campeche, Yucatan, Vera Cruz, and Tamaulipas, which cover nearly two-thirds of the republic, the products of both temperate and tropical regions can be raised; as of the former, cereals, fruits, and woods, and of the latter coffee, cocoa, vanilla, dye-woods, rice, and cotton. On the table land maguey and maize are still the staples. The wealth of raw material for manufacturing purposes is incalculable, much of it growing wild. Cortes was the first to make sugar; there are now over thirty plantations in Morelos alone. Of textile plants there are over twenty kinds of agave, several species of palm, and many varieties of others. Endless are the minerals abounding all over the great central plateau; coal and coal oil, salt, sulfur, lime, gypsum; precious and base metals; and precious stones,—opals, agates, emeralds diamonds, and the rest.
In 1800 the mining region of New Spain covered over 12, 000 square leagues. One single mine the Valenciana, in five years yielded $14,000,000, as much as all Peru put out in silver during that period. Hidalgo is a rich mining state and the mines of Pachuca are now for the most part provided with good hoisting works. One mine, the Viscaina, on which was spent in 1760 $2,000,000, has yielded in 300 years $200,000,000. Chihuahua has some rich mining districts, one, the Eulalia, producing in 37 years $344,000,000. In Mexico, as in the Taquil mines of Chile, and nearly everywhere in Spanish America, the ore was in early times brought up from hundreds of feet underground by natives who climbed notched poles with 200 pounds on their back. The Coquimbo mines used formerly to yield 2,000 pounds of silver yearly.
The feather-work art of the Nahuas is still extensively practiced by their descendants. Very beautiful are the pictures made by the use of the feathers of the bird they wish to portray, gluing them on a card in their proper place to make the representation natural and perfect.
His position assured, Cortes was broad-minded in laying the foundations of government, and liberal to the church, as he could well afford to be. He was very pious, though with little thought of applying the ideal to the incidents of life, a missing link in religion which neither Christianity nor mohammedism has yet supplied. Ungrateful and contemptible were the sovereigns of Spain, who treated so outrageously their discoverers and conquerors. "Who are you?" cried Charles V to Cortes on one occasion. "One who has given your majesty more countries than he had cities before,” was the reply.
Cacao beans and measures of maize were used as currency by the natives. In 1526 the cabildo of the city of Mexico permitted the converting of tepuzque gold, at the smelting works, into pieces of one, two, and four tomines, and of one, two, and four pesos de oro. In 1535 a mint was established.
Mexico has yielded since the conquest $5,000,000,000 of gold and silver, of which the larger part has been coined.
The aggregate capital invested in mining in Mexico approaches $1,000,000,000, with a yearly production averaging $10,000,000 for a period of 370 years, but which has risen during the latter part of the century to an annual production of gold and silver of $42,000,000. Copper to the value of $2,500,000 is annually produced in Lower California, Chiapas, Michoacán, and Jalisco. Coahuila exports 500,000 tons of coal, worth $4,000,000. Add to these amounts other minerals and metals from all the states, say $28,000,000, and the mining production of Mexico is brought up to $70,000,000 per annum.
I find the following estimates of total outputs: Guanajuato, $1,000,000,000; Zacatecas, $800,000,000; Chihuahua, $650,000,000; Durango, $200,000,000; Sonora, $200,000,000; Hidalgo, $300,000,000.
Before the Spaniards came Guanajuato was famous for its mines, and before the Valenciena, 2,000 feet deep, was flooded, the total annual output of all the mines was $8,000,000. The city, under Spanish regime, dates its beginning 1554 and, as building ground was scarce the houses were made three and four stories high.
Hidalgo has large deposits of galena; there are valuable lead mines in Queretaro, Oaxaca, and several other states. So it is with regard to copper, zinc, platinum, tin, and other metals, to the elucidation of which subject I devoted a volume in 1892 entitled, Resources of Mexico.
There is a large body of good iron ore on the seaboard of Lower California, upon the very verge of the ocean; the Tepustete Iron Company forfeited their charter for failing to build a pier at Ensenada.
Losses by shipwrecks and pirates for the ten years preceding 1640 were estimated by Palafox at $30,000,000.
Under the rule of Viceroy Alva, 1,000,000 pesos belonging to private persons were seized by order of the king and sent to Spain in 1649.
The great cathedrals and other churches and religious buildings of Spanish America were erected for the most part during the three centuries of viceregal rule, and might safely be estimated as costing not less than $4,000,000,000.
Some few of the king's representatives were men of probity, and commanded the confidence of the people. Bucareli, for example, 46th viceroy, being in need of funds for mint purposes, the merchants lent him $2,500,000 without interest or security.
Smuggling under the viceroys assumed gigantic proportions, the operations of the South Sea Company, slavers, and private adventurers for a period of 28 years, in the early part of the 18th century, amounting to no less than 100,000,000 pesos.
In the palmy days of Spanish rule when the richly laden galleons arrived from the Philippines, an annual fair was held at Acapulco in February, when traders flocked in from every part of New Spain, and even merchants coming from Peru with two or three millions of pesos with which to purchase Chinese goods. The customs duties on a single ship sometimes amounted to $100,000, not to speak of smuggled goods or bribery.
Jose de Iturrigaray, 56th viceroy of Mexico, upon the occasion of a state visit to the mines of Guanajuato was presented with 1,000 ounces of gold. Though the expenses of this imitation of royalty far exceeded his salary of $60,000 a year, he managed to make himself rich while in office.
The crown rentals which drew money from the people of New Spain into the royal coffers numbered more than sixty, and yielded from 1522 to 1804 $1,940,000,000 or $6,830,986 a year.
Viceroy Revilla Gigedo the Younger, who came hither in 1789, did much to purify and improve the capital, both morally and materially.
The viceroy Galvez, in 1790, spent a large amount in building for himself a palace on the heights of Chapultepec, to which expenditure the crown too late interposed objections.
At the close of the 18th century 5,000 persons were employed in the tobacco factory of the city of Mexico.
Branciforte was a name rendered infamous by a viceroy who in 1797 carried back with him $5,000,000 which he wrung illegally from the people, and which even his sovereign failed to get away from him.
When Iturbide had himself crowned as emperor, the country was too poor to bejewel him as he desired, and the national pawnshop refused to lend him diamonds and pearls for that purpose; hence he was obliged to put up with regalia glittering with fictitious splendor. Once safely seated on his throne as he fancied, he ordered a forced loan of $2,800,000, and at the same time seized $1,300,000 in transit for Vera Cruz, which arbitrary proceedings hastened his downfall.
The old inquisition building in the city of Mexico is now used for a medical college, the covered way through which victims were conducted being in ruins.
Mexico's first great railway, from the capital to Vera Cruz, 263 miles main line and 30 miles branch to Puebla, cost a little over $36,300,000, not far from $125,000 a mile; average net income $1,500,000 per annum.
The largest market in Mexico city is the Volador, in the plaza de la Universidad, south of the federal buildings, ground rent for the same being paid to the heirs of Cortes for two centuries. There is a flower market west of the cathedral.
For an actual indebtedness of less than $3,000,000, persons in the United States put in claims against Mexico for $12,000,000, while demagogues desirous of more slave territory set on foot the war which made Zachary Taylor president.
The Mexican war cost the United States 25,000 lives and $166,500,000. Add to this $15,000,000 as the nominal price of territory, and $3,500,000 for claims, and we have the cost of the California country.
For their brief play at imperialism in Mexico, Napoleon III and Maximilian I must account for the loss on both sides of 20,000 lives and $100,000,000 in money, aside from $200,000,000 liabilities of the empire at the end of 1866.
On assuming the purple in America, Maximilian was assigned a civil list of $1,500,000, as in the case of his imperial predecessor Augustin I.
Ever since Eads set rolling his project of a ship railway across Tehuantepec nearly half a century ago, there have not been lacking men who professed to believe in it. Meanwhile Diaz has made the freight and passenger railway a reality, which is better than many visionary schemes.
Not long ago, Mexico City and country, had a coin surplus of $100,000,000,which was something unusual.
The 3,000,000 beautiful dollars coined in the mint of Mexico by Maximilian were for the most part afterward recoined by the republic.
The bullfight obtains only in certain places in Mexico; theaters are everywhere. In the larger cities are some fine opera-houses. There is no lack of newspapers in the more settled parts. In common with progress in other matters, penal establishments have undergone many needed reforms.
The Spanish American countries possess libraries which are greatly valued. In Mexico there are public libraries in only sixteen states of the republic; and but a small proportion of the contents consist of modern literature. A large number of the books and papers in the collections contain important matter for the historian and bibliographer, having come out of the suppressed convents, etc. The aggregate of books existing in all the public libraries probably exceeds 250,000 volumes. There are between seventy and eighty scientific societies in the republic—the chief of which is the Sociedad de Geografia y Estadistica—each one having a collection. The above named society possesses an excellent library. After the liberal regime became triumphant the government undertook to form a national library with the collections existing in the cathedral, university, and convents. This project was carried out in 1867. Two copies printed in Mexico must be presented to the library. The only other library existing in the city of Mexico is that belonging to the Lancastrian society, known as the Cinco de Mayo.