Edward Burnett Tylor

Part 3 out of 6

matters become interesting when viewed in this light. The last item in
the list comprises translations, principally of French novels, those
being preferred in which the agony is "piled up" to the highest point.
German literature is represented by the "Sorrows of Werter." Of course,
"Uncle Tom's Cabin" is widely circulated here, as it is everywhere in
countries not given to the "particular vanity" attacked in it.

One need hardly say that both literature and education are at a very
low ebb in Mexico. Referring to Tejada again, I find that he reckons
that in the capital, out of a population of 185,000, there are 12,000
scholars at primary schools; but of course, as in other countries, a
large proportion of these children attend so irregularly that they can
hardly learn anything. For the country generally, he estimates one
child receiving instruction out of thirty-seven inhabitants, a very
significant piece of statistics. Efforts are being made, especially in
the capital, to raise the population out of this state. Mr. Christy
took much trouble in investigating the subject, with the assistance of
our friend Don Jose Miguel Cervantes, the head of the Ayuntamiento, or
Municipal Council. This gentleman, with a few others, has been doing
much up-hill work of this kind for years past, establishing schools,
and trying to make head against the opposition of the priests and the
indifference of the people, as yet with but small success.

It seems hard to be always attacking the Roman Catholic clergy, but of
one thing we cannot remain in doubt,--that their influence has had more
to do than anything else with the doleful ignorance which reigns
supreme in Mexico. For centuries they had the education of the country
in their hands, and even at this day they retain the greater share of
it. The training which the priests themselves receive will therefore
give one some idea of what they teach their scholars. Unluckily, their
course of instruction was stereotyped ages ago, when learned men
devoted themselves to writing huge books on divinity, casuistry, logic,
and metaphysics; concealing their ignorance of facts under an
affectation of wisdom and clouds of long words; demonstrating how many
millions of angels could dance on a needle's point; writing treatises
"_de omni re scibili_," and on a good many things unknowable also; and
teaching their admiring scholars the art of building up sham arguments
on any subject, whether they know anything about it or not. This is a
very vicious system of training for a man's mind, the more especially
when it is supposed to set him up with a stock of superior knowledge;
and this is what the Roman Catholic clergy have been learning,
generation after generation, in Mexico and elsewhere. Of course, there
are plenty of exceptions, particularly among the higher clergy; but, so
far as I have been able to ascertain, education in clerical schools has
generally been of this kind. It is instinctive to talk a little, as one
occasionally finds an opportunity of doing, to some youth just out of
these colleges. I recollect speaking to a young man who had just left
the Seminario of Mexico, where he had been through a long course of
theology and philosophy. He was astonished to hear that bull-fighting
and colearing were not universally practised in Europe; and, when his
father began to question me about the Crimean war, the young
gentleman's remarks showed that he had not the faintest idea where
England and France were, nor how far they were from one another.

I happened, not long ago, to visit a celebrated monastic college in
South Italy, where they educated, not ordinary mortals, but only young
men of noble birth; and here I took particular care in inspecting the
library, judging that, though the scholars need not learn all that was
there, yet that no department of knowledge would be taught there that
was not represented on the library-shelves. What I saw fully confirmed
all that I had previously seen and heard about the monastic learning of
the present day. There were to be seen many fine manuscripts, and
black-letter books, and curious old editions of great value, good store
of classics (mostly Latin, however), works of the Fathers by the
hundred-weight, and quartos and folios of canon-law, theology,
metaphysics, and such like, by the ton. But it seemed that, in the
estimation of the librarians, the world had stood still since the time
of Duns Scotus; for, of what we call positive knowledge, except a
little arithmetic and geometry, and a few very poor histories, I saw
nothing. It is easy to see how one result of the clerical monopoly of
education has therefore come about--that the intellectual standard is
very low in Mexico. The Holy Office, too, has had its word to say in
the matter. This institution had not much work to do in burning
Indians, who were anything but sceptical in their turn of mind, and,
indeed, were too much like Theodore Hook, and would believe "forty, if
you pleased." They even went further, and were apt to believe not only
what the missionaries taught them, but to cherish the memory of their
old gods into the bargain. It was three centuries after the Conquest,
that Mr. Bullock got the goddess Teoyaomiqui dug up in Mexico; and the
old Indian remarked to him that it was true the Spaniards had given
them three very good new gods, but it was rather hard to take away all
their old ones. At any rate, the functions of the Inquisition were
mostly confined to working the _Index Expurgatorius_, and suppressing
knowledge generally, which they did with great industry until not long

Here, then, are two causes of Mexican ignorance, and a third may be
this; that Mexico was a colony to which the Spaniards generally came to
make their fortunes, with a view of returning to their own land; and
this state of things was unfavourable to the country as regards the
progress of knowledge, as well as in other things.



Across the lake of Tezcuco is Tezcuco itself, a great city and the
capital of a kingdom at the time of the Conquest, and famous for its
palaces and its learned men. Now it is an insignificant Spanish town,
built, indeed, to a great extent, of the stones of the old buildings.
Mr. Bowring, who has evaporating-works at the edge of the lake, and
lives in the "Casa Grande"--the Great House, just outside Tezcuco, has
invited us to pay him a visit; so we get up early one April morning,
and drive down to the street of the Solitude of Holy Cross (Calle de la
Soledad de Santa Cruz). There we find Mr. Millard, a Frenchman, who is
an _employe_ of Mr. Bowling's, and is going back to Tezcuco with us;
and we walk down to the canal with him, half a dozen Indian porters
with baskets following us, and trotting along in the queer shuffling
way that is habitual to them. At the landing-place we find a number of
canoes, and a crowd of Indians, men and women, in scanty cotton
garments which show the dirt in an unpleasant manner. A canoe is going
to Tezcuco, a sort of regular packet-boat, in fact; and of this canoe
Mr. Millard has retained for us three the stern half, over which is
stretched an awning of aloe-fibre cloth. The canoe itself is merely a
large shallow box, made of rough planks, with sloping prow and stern,
more like a bread-tray in shape than anything else I can think of.
There is no attempt at making the bows taper, and indeed the Indians
stoutly resist this or any other innovation. In the fore part of the
canoe there is already a heap of other passengers, lying like bait in a
box, and when we arrive the voyage begins.

The crew are ten in number; the captain, eight men, and an old woman in
charge of the tortillas and the pulque-jar. All these are brown people;
in fact, the navigation of the lakes is entirely in the hands of the
Indians, and "reasonable people" have nothing to do with it. Reasonable
people--"gente de razon"--being, as I have said before, those who have
any white blood in them; and republican institutions have not in the
least effaced the distinction.

So it comes to pass that the canoe-traffic is carried on in much the
same way as it was in Montezuma's time. There is one curious
difference, however. These canoes are all poled about the lakes and
canals; and I do not think we saw an Indian oar or paddle in the whole
valley of Mexico. In the ancient picture-writings, however, the Indians
are paddling their canoes with a kind of oar, shaped at the end like
one of our fire-shovels. But, as we have seen, the distribution of land
and water has altered since those days; and the lakes, far greater in
extent, were of course several feet deeper all over the present beds;
and even at a short distance from the city poling would have been
impossible. I suspect that the Aztecs originally used both poles and
paddles, and that the latter went out of use when the water became
shallow enough for the pole to serve all purposes. Otherwise, we must
suppose that the Mexicans, since the Spanish Conquest, introduced a new
invention; which is not easy to believe.

We had first to get out of the canal, and fairly out into the lake.
This was the more desirable, as the canal is one of the drains of the
city, an office that it fills badly enough, seeing that there is
scarcely any fall of water from the lower quarters of the city to the
lake. I never saw water-snakes in numbers to compare with those in the
canal, and by the side of it. They were swimming in the water,
wriggling in and out; and on the banks they were writhing in heaps,
like our passengers forward. Two of our crew tow us along, and we are
soon clear of the canal, and of the salt-swamp that extends on both
sides of it, where the bottom of the lake was in old times. Once fairly
out, we look round us. We see Mexico from a new point of view, and
begin to understand why the Spaniards called it the Venice of the New
World. Even now, though the lake is so much smaller than it was then,
the city, with its domes and battlemented roofs, seems to rise from the
water itself, for the intervening flat is soon foreshortened into
nothing. At the present moment it is evident that the level of the lake
is much higher than usual. A little way off, on our right, is the Penon
de los Banos--"the rock of baths"--a porphyritic hill forced up by
volcanic agency, where there are hot springs. It is generally possible
to reach this hill by land, but the water is now so high that the rock
has become an island as it used to be.

When the first two brigantines were launched on the Lake of Tezcuco by
the Spaniards, Cortes took Montezuma with him to sail upon the lake,
soon leaving the Aztec canoes far behind. They went to a Penon or rocky
hill where Montezuma preserved game for his own hunting, and not even
the highest nobility were allowed to hunt there on pain of death. The
Spaniards had a regular battue there; killing deer, hares, and rabbits
till they were tired. This Penon may have been the Penon de los Banos
which we are just passing, but was more probably a similar hill a
little further off, of larger extent, now fortified and known as El
Penon, the Hill. Both were in those days complete islands at some
distance from the shore.

Now that we are out of the canal, our Indians begin to pole us along,
thrusting their long poles to the bottom of the shallow lake, and
walking on two narrow planks which extend along the sides of the canoe
from the prow to the middle point. Four walk on each plank, each man
throwing up his pole as he gets to the end, and running back up the
middle to begin again at the prow. The dexterity with which they swing
the poles about, and keep them out of each other's way, is wonderful;
and, as seen from our end of the canoe, looks like a kind of
exaggerated quarter-staff playing, only nobody is ever hit.

The great peculiarity of the lake of Tezcuco is that it is a salt lake,
containing much salt and carbonate of soda. The water is quite brackish
and undrinkable. How it has come to be so is plain enough. The streams
from the surrounding mountains bring down salt and soda in solution,
derived from the decomposed porphyry; and as the water of the lake is
not drained off into the sea, but evaporates, the solid constituents
are left to accumulate in the lake.

In England, I think, we have no example of this; but the Dead Sea, the
Caspian, the Great Salt Lake of Utah, and even the Mediterranean, have
various salts accumulated in solution in the same way. It seems to me,
that, by taking into account the proportion of soluble material
contained in the water that flows down from the mountains, the probable
quantity of water that flows down in the year, and the proportion of
salt in the lake itself, some vague guess might be made as to the time
this state of things has been lasting. I have no data, unfortunately,
even for such a rough calculation as this, or I should like to try it.

In spite of the splendid climate, a great portion of the Valley of
Mexico is anything but fertile; for the soil is impregnated with salt
and soda, which in many places are so abundant as to form, when the
water evaporates, a white efflorescence on the ground, which is called
_tequesquite_, and regularly collected by the Indians. Some of it is
stopped on its way down from the higher ground, by the evaporation of
the water that was carrying it; and some is left by the lake itself, in
its frequent floodings of the ground in its neighbourhood. So small is
the difference of level between the lake and the plain that surrounds
it, that the slightest rise in the height of the water makes an immense
difference in the size of the lake; and even a strong wind will drive
the water over great tracts of ground, from which it retires when the
gale ceases. It must have been this, or something similar, that set
Cortes upon writing home to Spain that the lakes were like inland seas,
and even had tides like the ocean. Of course, this impregnation with
salts is ruinous to the soil, which will produce nothing in such places
but tufts of coarse grass; and the shores of the lake are the most
dismal districts one can imagine. All the lakes, however, are not so
salt as Tezcuco; Chalco, for instance, is a fresh-water lake, and there
the fertility of the shores is very great, as I have already had
occasion to notice.

As soon as the novelty of this kind of travelling had worn off, we
began to find it dull, and retired under our awning to breakfast and
bitter beer; which latter luxury, thanks to a suitable climate and an
English brewer, is very well understood in Mexico, and is even accepted
as a great institution by the Mexicans themselves.

We were just getting into a drowsy state, when an unusual bustle among
the crew brought us out of our den, and we found that three hours of
assiduous poling had taken us half-way across the lake, just six
miles--a good test of the value of the Aztec system of navigation. Here
was a wooden cross set up in the water; and here, from time out of
mind, the boatmen have been used to sing a little hymn to the Madonna,
by whose favour we had got so far, and hoped to get safe to the end of
our voyage. Very well they sang it too, and the scene was as striking
as it was unexpected to us. It seemed to us, however, to be making a
great matter of crossing a piece of water only a few feet deep; but Mr.
Millard assured us, that when a sudden gale came on, it was a
particularly unpleasant place to be afloat in a Mexican canoe, which,
being flat-bottomed, has no hold at all on the water, and from its
shape is quite unmanageable in a wind. He himself was once caught in
this way, and kept out all night, with a "heavy sea" on the lake, the
boat drifting helplessly, and threatening to overturn every moment, and
that in places where the water was quite deep enough to drown them all.
The Indians lost their heads entirely, and throwing down their poles
fell on their knees, and joined in the chorus with the women and
children and the rest of the helpless brown people, beating their
breasts, and presenting medals and prints of our Lady of Guadalupe to
each wave as it dashed into them. The wind dropped, however, and Mr.
Millard got safe to Tezcuco next morning; but, instead of receiving
sympathy for his misfortunes when he got there, found that the idea of
a tempest on the lake was reckoned a mere joke, and that the
drawing-room of the Casa Grande had been decorated with a fancy
portrait of himself, hanging to the half-way cross, with his legs in
the water, and underneath, a poetical description of his sufferings to
the tune of "_Malbrouke s'en va-t-en guerre, ne sais quand reviendra_."

More poling across the lake, and then another little canal, also
constructed since the diminishing of the water of the lake (which once
came close to the city), and along which our Indians towed us. Then
came a short ride, which brought us to the Casa Grande, where Mrs.
Bowring received us with overflowing hospitality. We went off presently
into the town, to see the glassworks. In a country where all things
imported have to be carried in rough waggons, or on mules' backs, and
over bad roads, it would be hard if it did not pay to make glass; and,
accordingly, we found the works in full operation. The soda is produced
at Mr. Bowling's works close by, the fuel is charcoal from the
mountains, and for sand they have a substitute, which I never heard of
or saw anywhere else. It seems that a short distance from Tezcuco there
is a deposit of hydrated silica, which is brought down in great blocks
by the Indians; and this, when calcined, answers the purpose perfectly,
as there is scarcely any iron in it. In its natural state it resembles
beeswax in colour.

It is worth while to describe the Casa Grande, which is strikingly
different from our European notions of the "great house" of the
village. As we enter by the gate, we find ourselves in a patio--an open
quadrangle surrounded by a covered walk--a cloister in fact, into which
open the rooms inhabited by the family. The second quadrangle, which
opens into the first, is devoted to stables, kitchen, &c. The outer
wall which surrounds the whole is very thick, and the entire building
is built of mud bricks baked in the sun, and has no upper storey at
all. It is a Pompeian house on a large scale, and suits the climate
perfectly. The Aztec palaces we read so much of were built in just the
same way. The roofs slope inwards from the sides of the quadrangle, and
drain into the open space in the middle. One afternoon, a tremendous
tropical rain-storm showed us how necessary it was to have the covered
walk round the quadrangle raised considerably above this open square in
the middle, which a few minutes of such rain converted into a pond.

As for ourselves, we spent many very pleasant days at the Casa Grande,
and thoroughly approved of the arrangement of the house, except that
the four corners of the patio were provokingly alike, and the doors of
the rooms also, so that we were as much bothered as the captain of the
forty thieves to find our own doors, or any door except Mr. Millard's,
whose name was indicated--with more regard to pronunciation than
spelling--with a 1 and nine 0's chalked on it.

In spite of a late evening spent in very pleasant society, we were up
early next morning, ready for an excursion to the Pyramids of
Teotihuacan, some sixteen miles off, or so, under the guidance of one
of Mr. Bowring's men. The road lies through the plain, between great
plantations of magueys, for this is the most renowned district in the
Republic for the size of its aloes, and the quality of the pulque that
is made from them. We stopped sometimes to examine a particularly large
specimen, which might measure 30 feet round, and to see the juice,
which had collected in the night, drawn out of the great hollow that
had been cut to receive it, in the heart of the plant. The Indians have
a great fancy for making crosses, and the aloe lends itself
particularly to this kind of decoration. They have only to cut off six
or eight inches of one leaf, and impale the piece on the sharp point of
another, and the cross is made. Every good-sized aloe has two or three
of these primitive religious emblems upon it.

Several little torrent-beds crossed the road, and over them were thrown
old-fashioned Spanish stone bridges, as steep as the Rialto, or the
bridge on the willow-patterned plates.

Before going to see the pyramids, we visited the caves in the hill-side
not far from them, whence the stone was brought to build them. It is
_tetzontli_, the porous amygdaloid which abounds among the porphyritic
hills, a beautiful building-stone, easily worked, and durable. There
was a large space that seemed to have been quarried out bodily, and
into this opened numerous caves. We left our horses at the entrance,
and spent an hour or two in hunting the place over. The ground was
covered with pieces of obsidian knives and arrow-heads, and fragments
of what seemed to have been larger tools or weapons; and we found
numbers of hammer-heads, large and small, mostly made of greenstone,
some whole, but most broken.

We find two sorts of stone hammers in Europe. Solid hammers belong to
the earliest period. They are made of longish rolled pebbles; some are
shaped a little artificially, and are grooved round to hold the handle,
which was a flexible twig bent double and with the two ends tied
together, so as to keep the stone head in its place. The hammers of a
later period of the "stone age" are shaped more like the iron ones our
smiths use at the present day, and they have a hole bored in the middle
for the handle. In Brittany, where Celtic remains are found in such
abundance, it is not uncommon to see stone hammers of the latter kind
hanging up in the cottages of the peasants, who use them to drive in
nails with. They have an odd way of providing them with handles, by
sticking them tight upon branches of young trees, and when the branch
has grown larger, and has thus rivetted itself tightly on both sides of
the stone head, they cut it off, and carry home the hammer ready for

Though the Mexicans carried the arts of knife and arrow-making and
sculpturing hard stone to such perfection, I do not think they ever
discovered the art of making a hole in a stone hammer. The handles of
the axes shown in the picture-writings are clumsy sticks swelling into
a large knob at one end, and the axe-blade is fixed into a hole in this
knob. Some of the Mexican hammers seem to have had their handles fixed
in this way; while others were made with a groove, in the same manner
as the earlier kind of European stone hammers just described.

When we consider the beauty of the Mexican stonecutter's work, it seems
wonderful that they should have been able to do it without iron tools.
It is quite clear that, at the time of the Spanish Conquest, they used
bronze hatchets, containing that very small proportion of tin which
gives the alloy nearly the hardness of steel. We saw many of these
hatchets in museums, and Mr. Christy bought some good specimens in a
collection of antiquities which had belonged to an old Mexican, who got
them principally from the suburb of Tlatelolco, in the neighbourhood of
the ancient market-place of the city. Such axes were certainly common
among the ancient Mexicans. One of the items of the hieroglyphic
tribute-roll in the Mendoza Codex is eighty bronze hatchets.

A story told by Bernal Diaz is to the point. He says that he and his
companions, noticing that the Indians of the coast generally carried
bright metal axes, the material of which looked like gold of a low
quality, got as many as six hundred such axes from them in the course
of three days' bartering, giving them coloured glass-beads in exchange.
Both sides were highly satisfied with their bargain; but it all came to
nothing, as the chronicler relates with considerable disgust, for the
gold turned out to be copper, and the beads were found to be trash when
the Indians began to understand them better. Such hard copper axes as
these have been found at Mitla, in the State of Oajaca, where the
ruined temples seem to form a connecting link between the monuments of
Teotihuacan and Xochicalco and the ruined cities of Yucatan and

We want one more link in the chain to show the use of the same kind of
tools from Mexico down to Yucatan, and this link we can supply. In Lord
Kingsborough's great work on Mexican Antiquities there is one
picture-writing, the Dresden Codex, which is not of Aztec origin at
all. Its hieroglyphics are those of Palenque and Uxmal; and in this
manuscript we have drawings of hatchets like those of Mexico, and fixed
in the same kind of handles, but of much neater workmanship.

But here we come upon a difficulty. It is supposed that the pyramids of
Teotihuacan, as well as most of the great architectural works of the
country, were the work of the Toltec race, who quitted this part of the
country several centuries before the Spanish Conquest. It seems
incredible that bronze should have been in use in the country for so
long a time, and not have superseded so bad a material as stone for
knives and weapons. We have good evidence to show that in Europe the
introduction of bronze was almost simultaneous with the complete disuse
of stone for such purposes. It is true that Herodotus describes the
embalmers, in his time, as cutting open the bodies with "an Ethiopic
stone" though they were familiar with the use of metal. Indeed the
flint knives which he probably meant may be seen in museums. But this
peculiar usage was most likely kept up for some mystical reason, and
does not affect the general question. Almost as soon as the Spaniards
brought iron to Mexico, it superseded the old material. The "bronze
age" ceased within a year or two, and that of iron began.

The Mexicans called copper or bronze "tepuztli," a word of rather
uncertain etymology. Judging from the analogous words in languages
allied to the Aztec, it seems not unlikely that it meant originally
_hatchet_ or _breaker_, just as "itztli," or obsidian, appears to have
meant originally _knife_.[12]

When the Mexicans saw iron in the hands of the Spaniards, they called
it also "tepuztli," which thus became a general word for metal; and
then they had to distinguish iron from copper, as they do at the
present day, by calling them "_tliltic_ tepuztli," and "_chichiltic_
tepuztli;" that is, "black metal," and "red metal."

When the subject of the use of bronze in stone-cutting is discussed, as
it so often is with special reference to Egypt, one may doubt whether
people have not underrated its capabilities, when the proportion of tin
is accurately adjusted to give the maximum hardness; and especially
when a minute portion of iron enters into its composition. Sir Gardner
Wilkinson relates that he tried the edge of one of the Egyptian mason's
chisels upon the very stone it had evidently been once used to cut, and
found that its edge was turned directly; and therefore he wonders that
such a tool could have been used for the purpose, of course supposing
that the tool as he found it was just as the mason left it. This,
however, is not quite certain. If we bury a brass tool in a damp place
for a few weeks, it will be found to have undergone a curious molecular
change, and to have become quite soft and weak, or, as the workmen call
it, dead. We ought to be quite sure whether lying for centimes under
ground may not have made some similar change in bronze.

I have seen many prickly pears in different places, but never such
specimens as those that were growing among the stones in this old
quarry. They had gnarled and knotted trunks of hard wood, and were as
big as pollard-oaks; their age must have been immense; but,
unfortunately, one could not measure it, or it would have been a good
criterion of the age of the quarry, which had not only been excavated
but abandoned before their time. In one of the caves was a human
skeleton, blanched white and clean, and near it some one has stuck a
cross, made of two bits of stick, in the crevices of a heap of stones.

Returning to the entrance of the quarry, well loaded with stone hammers
and knives, we sat down to breakfast, in a cave, where our man had
established himself with the horses. An attempt on my part to cut
German sausage with an obsidian knife proved a decided failure.

We had already been struck by the appearance of the two pyramids of
Teotihuacan, when we passed by Otumba on our way to Mexico. The hills
which skirt the plain are so near them as to diminish their apparent
size; but even at a distance they are conspicuous objects. Now, when we
came close to them, and began by climbing to their summits, and walking
round their terraces, to measure ourselves against them, we began
gradually to realize their vast bulk; and this feeling continually grew
upon us. Modern architecture strives to unite the greatest possible
effect with the least cost; and the modern churches of southern Europe
and Spanish America, with their fine tall facades fronting the street,
and insignificant little buildings behind, show this idea in its
fullest development. Pyramids are built with no such object, and make
but little show in proportion to their vast mass of material; but then
one gets from them a sense of solid magnitude that no other building
gives, however vast its proportions may be. Neither of us had ever seen
the Egyptian pyramids. Even in Mexico these of Teotihuacan are not the
largest; for, though the pyramid of Cholula is no higher, it covers far
more ground. Were these monuments in Egypt, they would only rank, from
their size, in the second class.

As has often been remarked, such buildings as these can only be raised
under peculiar social conditions. The ruler must be a despotic
sovereign, and the mass of the people slaves, whose subsistence and
whose lives are sacrificed without scruple to execute the fancies of
the monarch, who is not so much the governor as the unrestricted owner
of the country and the people. The population must be very dense, or it
would not bear the loss of so large a proportion of the working class;
and vegetable food must be exceedingly abundant in the country, to feed
them while engaged in this unprofitable labour.

We know how great was the influence of the priestly classes in Egypt,
though the pyramids there, being rather tombs than temples, do not
prove it. In Mexico, however, the pyramids themselves were the temples,
serving only incidentally as tombs; and their size proves that--as
respects priestly influence--the resemblance between the two people is
fully carried out.

Like the Egyptian pyramids, these fronted the four cardinal points.
Their shape was not accurately pyramidal, for the line from base to
summit was broken by three terraces, or perhaps four, running
completely round them; and at the top was a flat square space, where
stood the idols and the sacrificial altars. This construction closely
resembled that of some of the smaller Egyptian pyramids. Flights of
stone steps led straight up from terrace to terrace, and the procession
of priests and victims made the circuit of each before they ascended to
the one above.

The larger of the two teocallis is dedicated to the Sun, has a base of
about 640 feet, and is about 170 feet high. The other, dedicated to the
Moon, is rather smaller.

These monuments were called _teocallis_, not because they were
pyramids, but because they were temples; "Teocalli" means "god's
house"--(_teotl_, god, _calli_, house), a name which the traveller
hears explained for the first time with some wonder; and Humboldt
cannot help adverting to its curious correspondence with [Greek: theou
kalia], _dei cella_. Another odd coincidence is found in the Aztec name
for their priests, _papahua_, the root of which _papa_, (the _hua_, is
merely a termination). In the Old World the word _Papa_, Pope, or
Priest, was connected with the idea of father or grandfather, but the
Aztec word has no such origin.

When the Aztecs abandoned their temples, and began to build Christian
churches, they called them also "teocallis," and perhaps do so to this

The heavy tropical rains have to a great extent broken the sharpness of
the outline of these structures, and brought them more nearly to the
shape of real pyramids than they were originally; but, as we climbed up
their sides, we could trace the terraces without any difficulty, and
even flights of steps.

The pyramids consist of an outer casing of hewn stone, faced and
covered with smooth stucco, which has resisted the effects of time and
bad usage in a wonderful manner. Inside this casing were adobes,
stones, clay, and mortar, as one may see in places where the exterior
has been damaged, and by creeping into the small passage which leads
into the Temple of the Moon. Both pyramids are nearly covered with a
coating of debris, full of bits of obsidian arrows and knives, and
broken pottery. On the teocalli of the moon we found a number of recent
sea-shells, which mystified us extremely; and the only explanation we
could give of their presence there was that they might have been
brought up as offerings. A passage in Humboldt, which I met with long
after, seems to clear up the mystery. Speaking of the great teocalli of
the city of Mexico, he says, quoting an old description, that the Moon
had a little temple in the great courtyard, which was built of shells.
Those that we found may be the remains of a similar structure on the
top of the pyramid.

Prickly pears, aloes, and mesquite bushes have overgrown the pyramids
in all directions, as though they had been mere natural hills. In
Sicily one may see the lava fields of Etna planted with prickly pears:
in the ordinary course of things, it requires several centuries before
even the surface of this hard lava will disintegrate into soil; but the
roots of the cactus soon crack it, and a few years suffice to break it
up to a sufficient depth to allow of vineyards being planted upon it.
Here the same plant has in the same way affected the porous amygdaloid
with which the pyramids are faced, and has cut up the surface sadly;
but the vegetation which covers them will at any rate defend them from
the rains, and now centuries will make but little change in the
appearance of these remarkable buildings.

Near Nice there is a hill which gives a wonderfully correct idea of the
appearance of the terraced teocallis of Mexico, as they must have
looked before time effaced the sharpness of their lines. Where the
valley of the Paglione and that of St. Andre meet, the hill between
them terminates in a half pyramid, the angle of which lies toward the
south; and the inhabitants--as their custom is in southern Europe, have
turned the two slopes to account, by building them up into terraces, to
prevent the soil they have laboriously carried up from being swept down
by the first heavy rain. Seen from the proper point of view the
resemblance is complete.

From the south side of the Temple of the Moon runs an avenue of
burial-mounds, the Micaotli, "the path of the dead." On these mounds,
and round the foot of the pyramids themselves, the whole population of
the once great city of Teotihuacan and its neighbourhood used to
congregate, to see the priests and the victims march round the terraces
and up the stairs in full view of them all. Standing here, one could
imagine the scene that Cortes and his men saw from their camp, outside
Mexico, on that dreadful day when the Mexicans had cut off their
retreat along the causeways, and taken more than sixty Spanish
prisoners. Bernal Diaz was there, and tells the tale how they heard
from the city the great drum of Huitzilopochtli sending forth a strange
and awful sound, that could be heard for miles, and with it many horns
and trumpets; and how, when they had looked towards the great teocalli,
they saw the Mexicans dragging up the prisoners, pushing and beating
them as they went, till they had got them up to the open space at the
top, "where the cursed idols stood." Then they put plumes of feathers
on their heads, and fans in their hands, and made them dance before the
idol; and when they had danced, they threw them on their backs on the
sacrificial stone that stood there, and, sawing open their breasts with
knives of stone, they tore out their hearts, and offered them up in
sacrifice; and the bodies they flung down the stairs to the bottom.
More than this the Spaniards cannot have seen, though Diaz describes
the rest of the proceedings as though they had been done in his sight;
but it was not the first time they had witnessed such things, and they
knew well enough what was happening down below,--how the butchers were
waiting to cut up the carcases as they came down, that they might be
cooked with chile, and eaten in the solemn banquet of the evening.

The day was closing in by this time; and our man was waiting with the
horses at the foot of the great pyramid; and with him an Indian, whom
we had caught half an hour before, and sent off with a real to buy
pulque, and to collect such obsidian arrows and clay heads as were to
be found at the ranchos in the neighbourhood.

Near the place we started from, two or three Indians were diligently at
work at their stone-quarry, that is to say, they were laboriously
bringing out great hewn stones from the side of the pyramid, to build
their walls with; and indeed we could see in every house for miles
round stones that had come from the same source, as was proved by the
stucco still remaining upon them, smoothed like polished marble, and
painted dull red with cinnabar.

As I write this, it brings to my recollection an old Roman trophy in
North Italy, built--like these pyramids--of a shell of hewn stone,
filled with rough stones and cement, now as hard as the rock itself.
There I saw the inhabitants of the town which stands at its foot,
carrying off the great limestone blocks, but first cutting them up into
pieces of a size that they could move about, and build into their
houses. Here and there, in this little Italian town, there were to be
seen in the walls letters of the old inscription which were once upon
the trophy; and the age of the houses shewed that the monument had
served as a quarry for centuries.

As we rode home, we noticed by the sides of the road, and where ditches
had been cut, numbers of old Mexican stone-floors covered with stucco.
The earth has accumulated above them to the depth of two or three feet,
so that their position is like that of the Roman pavements so often
found in Europe; and we may guess, from what we saw exposed, how great
must be the number of such remains still hidden, and how vast a
population must once have inhabited this plain, now almost deserted.

Two days afterwards we came back. In the ploughed fields in the
neighbourhood we made repeated trials whether it was possible to stand
still in any spot where there was no relic of old Mexico within our
reach; but this we could not do. Everywhere the ground was full of
unglazed pottery and obsidian; and we even found arrows and clay
figures that were good enough for a museum. When we left England, we
both doubted the accounts of the historians of the Conquest, believing
that they had exaggerated the numbers of the population, and the size
of the cities, from a natural desire to make the most of their
victories, and to write as wonderful a history as they could, as
historians are prone to do. But our examination of Mexican remains soon
induced us to withdraw this accusation, and even made us inclined to
blame the chroniclers for having had no eyes for the wonderful things
that surrounded them.

I do not mean by this that we felt inclined to swallow the monstrous
exaggerations of Solis and Gomara and other Spanish chroniclers, who
seemed to think that it was as easy to say a thousand as a hundred, and
that it sounded much better. But when this class of writers are set
aside, and the more valuable authorities severely criticised, it does
not seem to us that the history thus extracted from these sources is
much less reliable than European history of the same period. There is,
perhaps, no better way of expressing this opinion than to say that what
we saw of Mexico tended generally to confirm Prescott's History of the
Conquest, and but seldom to make his statements appear to us

There are other mounds near the pyramids, besides the Micaotli. Two
sides of the Pyramid of the Sun are surrounded by them; and there are
two squares of mounds at equal distances, north and south of it,
besides innumerable scattered hillocks. There are some sculptured
blocks of stone lying near the pyramids, and inside the smaller one is
buried what appears to be a female bust of colossal size, with the
mouth like an oval ring, so common in Mexican sculptures.

The same abundance of ancient remains that we found here characterizes
the neighbourhood of all the Mexican monuments in the country, with one
curious exception. Burkart declares that in the vicinity of the
extensive remains of temples known as _Los Edificios_, near Zacatecas,
no traces of pottery or of obsidian were to be found.

Before going away, we held a solemn market of antiquities. We sat
cross-legged on the ground, and the Indian women and children brought
us many curious articles in clay and obsidian, which we bought and
deposited in two great bags of aloe-fibre which our man carried at his
saddle-bow. Among the articles we bought were various pipes or whistles
of pottery, _pitos_, as they are called in Spanish, and just as we were
mounting our horses to ride off, a lad ran to the top of one of the
mounds, and blew on one of these pipes a long dismal note that could be
heard a mile off. Our friends had filled our heads so full of robbers
and ambushes, that we made sure it was a signal for some one who was
waiting for us, and the more so as the boy ran off as soon as he had
blown his blast; and when we looked round for the people whose
antiquities we had been buying, they had all disappeared. But nothing
came of it, and we got safely back to Tezcuco. As usual, we spent a
capital evening, and separated late. The owner of the glass-works, who
had been spending the evening with us, had an adventure on his road
home. He was peaceably riding along, when two men rushed out from
behind the corner of the street, and shouted "_alto ahi_!" (halte-la).
He thought they were robbers, and started at a gallop. His hat flew
off, and the men sent two bullets singing past his head, which sent him
on quicker than ever, till he reached his house. There he got his
pistols, and came back armed to the teeth to fetch the hat, which lay
where it had fallen. The supposed robbers turned out, on enquiry next
day, to have been national guards, patrolling the street; but certainly
their proceedings were rather questionable.

We had an unpleasant visit the same night. The custom of the Casa
Grande was that after dark a watchman patrolled all night, giving a
long blast every quarter of an hour on one of these same doleful
Mexican whistles, to show that ho was not sleeping on his rounds. This
was for the outside. Inside the house, _pour surcroit de precaution_, a
servant came round to see that every one was in his room; and having
satisfied himself of this, let loose in the courtyard two enormous
bulldogs, which were the terror of the household and of the whole
neighbourhood. On this particular night, a noise at our own door woke
me from a sound sleep; and I had the pleasure of seeing a creature walk
deliberately in, looking huge and terrific in the moonlight. The beast
had been into the stable two nights before, and had pinned a cow which
was there, keeping his hold upon her till next morning, when he was got
off by the keeper. With this specimen of the bulldog's abilities fresh
in my recollection, I preferred not making any attempt to resent his
impertinent intrusion, but lay still, till he had satisfied himself
with walking about the room and sniffing at our beds, when he lay down
on my carpet; I soon fell asleep again, and next morning he was gone.
The foreigners in Mexico seem to delight in fierce bull-dogs. The Casa
Grande at Tezcuco is not by any means the only place where they form
part of the garrison. One English acquaintance of ours in the Capital
kept two of these beasts up in his rooms, and not even the servants
dared go up, unless the master was there.

Every one who has read Prescott's 'Mexico' will recollect
Nezahualcoyotl, the king of Tezcuco; and the palaces he built there for
his wives, and his poets, and the rest of his great court. These
palaces were built chiefly of mud bricks; and time and the Spaniards
have dealt so hardly with them, that even their outlines can no longer
be traced. Traces of two large teocallis are just visible, and Mr.
Bowring has some burial mounds in his grounds which will be examined
some day. There is a Mexican calendar built into the wall of one of the
churches; and, as we walked about the streets of the present town, we
noticed stones that must have been sculptured before the Spaniards
brought in their broken-down classic style, and so stopped the
development of native art. As for the rest of old Tezcuco, it has
"become heaps." Wherever they dig ditches or lay the foundations of
houses, you may see the ground full of its remains.

As I said before, when speaking of the stuccoed floors near
Teotihuacan, the accumulation of alluvial soil goes on very rapidly and
very regularly all over the plains of Mexico and Puebla, where
everything favours its deposit; and the human remains preserved in it
are so numerous that its age may readily be seen. We noticed this in
many places, but in no instance so well as between Tezcuco and the
hacienda of Miraflores. There a long ditch, some five feet deep, had
just been cut in anticipation of the rainy season. As yet it was dry,
and, as we walked along it, we found three periods of Mexican history
distinctly traceable from one end to the other. First came mere
alluvium, without human remains. Then, just above, came fragments of
obsidian knives and bits of unglazed pottery. Above this again, a third
layer, in which the obsidian ceased, and much of the pottery was still
unglazed; but many fragments were glazed, and bore the unmistakable
Spanish patterns in black and yellow.

It is a pity that these alluvial deposits, which give such good
evidence as to the order in which different peoples or different states
of society succeeded one another on the earth, should be so valueless
as a means of calculating the time of their duration; but one can
easily see that they must always be so, by considering how the
thickness of the deposits is altered by such accidents as the formation
of a mud-bank, or the opening of a new channel,--things that must be
continually occurring in districts where this very accumulation is
going on. The only place where any calculation can be based upon its
thickness is on the banks of the Nile, where its accumulations round
the ancient monuments may perhaps give a criterion as to the time which
has elapsed since man ceased to clear away the deposits of the

As an instance of the tendency of alluvial deposits to entomb such
monuments of former ages, I must mention the temple of Segeste, which
stands on a gentle slope among the hills of northern Sicily. I had
heard talk of the graceful proportions of this Doric temple, built by
the Greek colonists; and great was my surprise, on first coming in
sight of it, to see a pediment supported by two rows of short squat
columns, without bases, and rising directly from the ground. A nearer
inspection showed the cause of this extraordinary distortion. The whole
slope had risen full six feet during the 2500 years, or so, that have
elapsed since its desertion; and the temple now stands in a large
oblong pit, which has lately been excavated. As we left the spot, and
turned to see it again a few yards off, the beautiful symmetry of the
whole had disappeared again.

To return to Tezcuco. Some three or four miles from the town stands the
hill of Tezcotzinco, where Nezahualcoyotl had his pleasure-gardens; and
to this hill we made an excursion early one morning, with Mr. Bowring
for our guide. We did not go first to Tezcotzinco itself, but to
another hill which is connected with it by an aqueduct of immense size,
along which we walked. The mountains in this part are of porphyry, and
the channel of the aqueduct was made principally of blocks of the same
material, on which the smooth stucco that had once covered the whole,
inside and out, still remained very perfect. The channel was carried,
not on arches, but on a solid embankment, a hundred and fifty or two
hundred feet high, and wide enough for a carriage-road.

The hill itself was overgrown with brushwood, aloes, and prickly pears,
but numerous roads and flights of steps cut in the rock were
distinguishable. Not far below the top of the hill, a terrace runs
completely round it, whence the monarch could survey a great part of
his little kingdom. On the summit itself I saw sculptured blocks of
stone; and on the side of the hill are two little circular baths, cut
in the solid rock. The lower of the two has a flight of steps down to
it; the seat for the bather, and the stone pipe which brought the
water, arc still quite perfect.

His majesty used to spend his afternoons here on the shady side of the
hill, apparently sitting up to his middle in water, like a frog, if one
may judge by the height of the little seat in the bath. If, as some
writers say, these were only tanks with streams of running water, and
not baths at all, why the steps cut in their sides, which are just
large enough and high enough for a man to sit in? No water has come
there for centuries now; and the morning-sun nearly broiled us, till we
got into a sort of cave, excavated in the hill, it is said, with an
idea of finding treasure. It seems there was once a Mexican calendar
cut in the rock at this spot; and some white people who were interested
in such matters, used to come to see it, and poke curiously about in
search of other antiquities. Naturally enough, the Indians thought that
they expected to find treasure; and with a view of getting the first
chance themselves, they cut down the calendar, and made this large
excavation behind it.

Here we sat in the shade, breakfasting, and hearing Mr. Bowring's
stories of the art of medicine as practised in the northern states of
Mexico, where decoction of shirt is considered an invaluable specific
when administered internally; and the recognised remedy for lumbago is
to rub the patient with the drawers of a man named John. No doubt the
latter treatment answers very well!


There is an old Mexican bridge near Tezcuco which seems to be the
original _Puente de las Bergantinas_, the bridge where Cortes had the
brigantines launched on the lake of Tezcuco. This bridge has a span of
about twenty feet, and is curious as showing how nearly the Mexicans
had arrived at the idea of the arch. It is made in the form of a roof
resting on two buttresses, and composed of slabs of stone with the
edges upwards, with mortar in the interstices; the slabs being
sufficiently irregular in shape to admit of their holding together,
like the stones of a real arch. One may now and then see in Europe the
roofs of small stone hovels made in the same way; but twenty feet is an
immense span for such a construction. I have seen such buildings in
North Italy, in places where the limestone is so stratified as to
furnish rough slabs, three or four inches thick, with very little
labour in quarrying them out. In Kerry there are ancient houses and
churches roofed in the same way. What makes the Tezcuco bridge more
curious is that it is set askew, which must have made its construction
more difficult.

The brigantines which the Spaniards made, and transported over the
mountains in such a wonderful manner, fully answered their purpose, for
without them Mexico could hardly have been taken. After the Conquest
they were kept for years, for the good service they had done; but
vessels of such size do not seem to have been used upon the lake since
then; and I believe the only sailing craft at present is Mr. Bowring's
boat, which the Indians look at askance, and decidedly decline to
imitate. It is true that, somewhere near the city, there is moored a
little steamer, looking quite civilized at a distance. It never goes
anywhere, however; and I have a sort of impression of having heard that
when it was first made they got up the steam once, but the conduct of
the machinery under these circumstances was so extraordinary and
frantic that no one has ventured to repeat the experiment.

Before we left Tezcuco, we went in a boat to explore Mr. Bowring's
salt-works, which are rather like the salines of the South of France.
Patches of the lake are walled off, and the water allowed to evaporate,
which it does very rapidly under a hot sun, and with only three-fourths
of the pressure of air upon it that we have at the sea-level. The
lake-water thus concentrated is run into smaller tanks. It contains
carbonate and sesquicarbonate of soda, and common salt. The addition of
lime converts the sesquicarbonate of soda into simple carbonate, and
this is separated from the salt by taking advantage of their different
points of crystallization. The salt is partly consumed, and partly used
in the extraction of silver from the ore, and the soda is bought by the

Humboldt's remarks on the small consumption of salt in Mexico are
curious. The average amount used with food is only a small fraction of
the European average. While the Tlascalans were at war with the Aztecs,
they had to do without salt for many years, as it was not produced in
their district. Humboldt thinks that the chile which the Indians
consume in such quantities acts as a substitute. It is to be remembered
that the soil is impregnated with both salt and natron in many of these
upland districts, and the inhabitants may have eaten earth containing
these ingredients, as they do for the same purpose in several places in
the Old World.

We disembarked after sailing to the end of these great evaporating
pans, and found horses waiting to take us to the Bosque del Contador.
This is a grand square, looking towards the cardinal points, and
composed of ahuehuetes, grand old deciduous cypresses, many of them
forty feet round, and older than the discovery of America. My
companion, not content with buying collections at secondhand, wished to
have some excavations made on his own account, and very judiciously
fixed on this spot, where, though there were no buildings standing, the
appearance of the ground and the mounds in the neighbourhood, together
with the historical notoriety of the place, made it probable that
something would be found to repay a diligent search. This expectation
was fully realized, and some fine idols of hard stone were found, with
an infinitude of pottery and small objects.

When I look through my notes about Tezcuco, I do not find much more to
mention, except that a favourite dish here consists of flies' eggs
fried. These eggs are deposited at the edge of the lake, and the
Indians fish them out and sell them in the market-place. So large is
the quantity of these eggs, that at a spot where a little stream
deposits carbonate of lime, a peculiar kind of travertine is forming
which consists of masses of them imbedded in tho calcareous deposit.

The flies[14] which produce these eggs are called by the Mexicans
"_axayacatl_" or "water-face." There was a celebrated Aztec king who
was called Axayacatl; and his name is indicated in the picture-writings
by a drawing of a man's face covered with water. The eggs themselves
are sold in cakes in the market, pounded and cooked, and also in lumps
_au naturel_, forming a substance like the roe of a fish. This is known
by the characteristic name of "_ahuauhtli_", that is "water-wheat."[15]

The last thing we did at Tezcuco, was to witness the laying down of a
new line of water-pipes for the saltworks. This I mention because of
the pipes, which were exactly those introduced into Spain by the Moors
and brought here by tho Spaniards. These pipes are of glazed
earthenware, taper at one end, and each fitting into the large end of
the next. The cement is a mixture of lime, fat, and hair, which gets
hard and firm when cold, but can be loosened by a very slight
application of heat. A thousand years has made no alteration in the way
of making these pipes. Here, however, the ground is so level that one
great characteristic of Moorish waterworks is not to be seen. I mean
the water-columns which are such a feature in the country round
Palermo, and in other places where the system of irrigation introduced
by the Moorish invaders is still kept up. These are square pillars
twenty or thirty feet high, with a cistern at the top of each, into
which the water from the higher level flowed, and from which other
pipes carried it on; the sole object of the whole apparatus being to
break the column of water, and reduce the pressure to the thirty or
forty feet which the pipes of earthenware would bear.

This subject of irrigation is very interesting with reference to the
future of Mexico. We visited two or three country-houses in the
plateaux, where the gardens are regularly watered by artificial
channels, and the result is a vegetation of wonderful exuberance and
beauty, converting these spots into oases in the desert. On the lower
levels of the tierra templada where the sugar-cane is cultivated, a
costly system of water-supply has been established in the haciendas
with the best results. Even in the plains of Mexico and Puebla, the
grain-fields are irrigated to some small degree. But notwithstanding
this progress in the right direction, the face of the country shows the
most miserable waste of one of the chief elements of the wealth and
prosperity of the country, the water.

In this respect, Spain and the high lands of Mexico may be compared
together. There is no scarcity of rain in either country, and yet both
are dry and parched, while the number and size of their torrent-beds
show with what violence the mountain-streams descend into lakes or
rivers, rather agents of destruction than of benefit to the land.
Strangely enough, both countries have been in possession of races who
understood that water was the very life-blood of the land, and worked
hard to build systems of arteries to distribute it over the surface. In
both countries, the warlike Spaniards overcame these races, and
irrigating works already constructed were allowed to fall to ruin.

When the Moriscos were expelled from their native provinces of
Andalusia and Granada, their places were but slowly filled up with
other settlers, so that a great part of their aqueducts and
watercourses fell into decay within a few years. These new colonists,
moreover, came from the Northern provinces, where the Moorish system of
culture was little understood; and, incredible as it may seem, though
they must have had ocular evidence of the advantages of artificial
irrigation, they even neglected to keep in repair the water-channels on
their own ground. Now the traveller, riding through Southern Spain, may
see in desolate barren valleys remains of the Moorish works which
centimes ago brought fertility to grain-fields and orchards, and made
the country the garden of Europe.

There was another nation who seem to have far surpassed both Moors and
Aztecs in the magnitude of their engineering-works for this purpose.
The Peruvians cut through mountains, filled up valleys, and carried
whole rivers away in artificial channels to irrigate their thirsty
soil. The historians' accounts of these water-works as they were, and
even travellers' descriptions of the ruins that still remain, fill us
with astonishment. It seems almost like some strange fatality that this
nation too should have been conquered by the same race, the ruin of its
great national works following immediately upon the Conquest.

Spain is rising again after long centuries of degradation, and is
developing energies and resources which seem likely to raise it high
among European nations, and the Spaniards are beginning to hold their
own again among the peoples of Europe. But they have had to pay dearly
for the errors of their ancestors in the great days of Charles the

The ancient Mexicans were not, it is true, to be compared with the
Spanish Arabs or the Peruvians in their knowledge of agriculture and
the art of irrigation; but both history and the remains still to be
found in the country prove that in the more densely populated parts of
the plains they had made considerable progress. The ruined aqueduct of
Tetzcotzinco which I have just mentioned was a grand work, serving to
supply the great gardens of Nezahualcoyotl, which covered a large space
of ground and excited the admiration of the Conquerors, who soon
destroyed them, it is said, in order that they might not remain to
remind the conquered inhabitants of their days of heathendom.

Such works as these seem, however, not to have extended over
whole provinces as they did in Spain. In the thinly peopled
mountain-districts, the Indians broke up their little patches of ground
with a hoe, and watered them from earthen jars, as indeed they do to
this day.

The Spaniards improved the agriculture of the country by introducing
European grain, and fruit-trees, and by bringing the old Roman plough,
which is used to this day in Mexico as in Spain, where two thousand
years have not superseded its use or even altered it. Against these
improvements we must set a heavy account of injury done to the country
as regards its cultivation. The Conquest cost the lives of several
hundred thousand of the labouring class; and numbers more were taken
away from the cultivation of the land to work as slaves for the
conquerors in building houses and churches, and in the silver-mines.
When the inhabitants were taken away, the ground went out of
cultivation, and much of it has relapsed into desert. Even before the
Conquest, Mexico had been suffering for many years from incessant wars,
in which not only thousands perished on the field of battle, but the
prisoners sacrificed annually were to be counted by thousands more,
while famine carried off the women and children whose husbands and
fathers had perished. But the slaughter and famine of the first years
of the Spanish Conquest far exceeded anything that the country had
suffered before.

At the time of the Conquest of Mexico the Spaniards let the native
irrigating-works fall into decay; and they took still more active
measures to deprive the land of its necessary water, by their
indiscriminate destruction of the forests on the hills that surround
the plains. When the trees were cut down, the undergrowth soon
perished, and the soil which had served to check the descending waters
in their course was soon swept away. During the four rainy months, each
heavy shower sends down a flood along the torrent-bed which flows into
a river, and so into the ocean, or, as in the Mexican valley, into a
salt lake, where it only serves to injure the surrounding land. In both
cases it runs away in utter waste.

In later years the Spanish owners of the soil had the necessity of the
system impressed upon them by force of circumstances; and large sums
were spent upon the construction of irrigating channels, even in the
outlying states of the North.

In the American territory recently acquired from Mexico history has
repeated itself in a most curious way. We learn from Froebel, the
German traveller, that the new American settlers did not take kindly to
the system of irrigation which they found at work in the country. They
were not used to it, and it interfered with their ideas of liberty by
placing restrictions upon their doing what they pleased on their own
land. So they actually allowed many of the water-canals to fall into
ruins. Of course they soon began to find out their mistake, and are
probably investing heavily in water-supply by this time. We ought not
to be too severe upon the Spaniards of the sixteenth century for an
economical mistake which we find the Americans falling into under
similar circumstances in the nineteenth.




Much too soon, as we thought, the day came when we had arranged to
leave Tezcuco and return to Mexico, to prepare for a journey into the
tierra caliente. On the evening of our return to the capital there was
a little earthquake, but neither of us noticed it; and thus we lost our
one chance, and returned to England without having made acquaintance
with that peculiar sensation.

The purchase of horses and saddles and other equipments for our
journey, gave us an opportunity of poking about into out-of-the-way
corners of the city, and seeing some new phases of Mexican life; and
certainly we made the most of the chance. We made acquaintance with
horse-dealers, who brought us horses to try in the courtyard of the
great house of our friends the English merchants in the Calle
Seminario, and there showed off their paces, walking, pacing, and
galloping. To trot is considered a disgusting vice in a Mexican horse;
and the universal substitute for it here is the _paso_, a queer
shuffling run, first, the two legs on one side together, and then the
other two. You jolt gently up and down without rising in the stirrups;
and when once you are used to it the paso is not disagreeable, and it
is well suited to long mountain-journeys. Horses in the United States
are often trained to this gait, and are known as "pacing" horses.
Another peculiarity in the training of Mexican horses is, that many of
them are taught to "rayar," that is, to put their fore-feet out after
the manner of mules going down a pass; and slide a short distance along
the ground, so as to stop suddenly in the midst of a rapid gallop. To
practise the horses in this feat, the jockey draws a lino ("_raya_") on
the ground, and teaches them to stop exactly as they reach it, and
whirl round in the opposite direction. This performance is often to be
seen on the paseo, and other places, where smart young gentlemen like
to show off themselves and their horses; but it is only a fancy trick,
and they acknowledge that it spoils the animal's fore-legs.

After much bargaining and chaffering we bought three horses for
ourselves and our man Antonio, giving eight, seven, and four pounds for
them. This does not seem much to give for good hackneys, as these were;
but they were not particularly cheap for Mexico. While we were at
Tezcuco, Mr. Christy used to ride one of Mr. Bowring's horses, a pretty
little chestnut, which carried him beautifully, and had cost just
eleven dollars, or forty-six shillings. It had been bought of the
horse-dealers who come down every year from the almost uninhabited
states of Chihuahua, Durango, and Cohahuila, on the American frontier,
where innumerable herds of horses, all but wild, roam over boundless
prairies, feeding on the tall coarse grass. Their keep costs so little,
that the breeders are not compelled, as in England, to break them in
and sell them at the earliest possible moment, and they let the young
colts roam untamed till they are five or six years old. Their great
strength and power of endurance in proportion to their size is in great
measure to be ascribed to this early indulgence.

It is very clear that when a horse is to be sold for somewhere between
two and six pounds, the breeder cannot afford to spend much time in
breaking him in. The rough-rider lazos him, puts on the bridle with its
severe bit, and springs upon his back in spite of kicking and plunging.
The horse gallops furiously off across country of his own accord, but
when his pace begins to flag, the great vaquero spurs come into
requisition, and in an hour or two he comes back to the corral dead
beat and conquered once for all. It is easy to teach him his paces
afterwards. The anquera--as it is called--is put on his haunches, to
cure him of trotting, and to teach him the paso instead. It is a
leather covering fringed with iron tags, which is put on behind the
saddle, and allows the horse to pace without annoying him; but the
least approach to a trot brings the pointed tags rattling upon his
haunches. We bought one of these anqueras at Puebla. It was very old,
and curiously ornamented with carved patterns. In the last century,
these anqueras were a regular part of Mexican horse-equipment; but now,
except in horse-breaking yards or old curiosity-shops, they are seldom
to be seen.

Almost all the Mexican horses descend from the Arab breed--the gentlest
and yet the most spirited in the world, which have not degenerated
since the Spaniards brought them over in the early days of the
Conquest, but retain unchanged their small graceful shape, their
swiftness, and their power of bearing fatigue. There seem really to be
no large horses bred in the country. Instead of jolting about in a
carriage drawn by eight or ten mules, with harness covered with silver
and gold--as rich Mexicans used to do, the proper thing now is to have
a pair of tall carriage-horses, like ours in England; and these are
brought at great expense from the United States, and by the side of the
graceful little Mexicans they look as big and as clumsy as elephants.

Our saddles were of the old Moorish pattern, of monstrous size and
weight, very comfortable for the rider, but, I fear, much less so for
the horse, whose back often gets sadly galled, in spite of the thick
padding and the two or three blankets that are put on underneath. These
saddles run into high peaks behind and before, so that you can hardly
fall out of them, even when you go to sleep in the saddle on a long
journey, as many people habitually do. In front, the saddle rises into
a pummel which is made of hard wood, and is something like a large
mushroom with its stalk. Round this the end of the lazo is wound, after
the noose has been thrown. All Mexican saddles are provided with these
heads in front, and have, moreover, several pairs of little thongs
attached to them on each side, which serve to tie on bags, whips,
water-gourds, and other odds and ends. Behind the seat of the saddle
are more straps, where cloaks and serapes are fastened; and in case of
need even a carpet-bag will travel there. We were in the habit of
returning from our expeditions with our horses so covered with the
plants and curiosities we had collected, that it became no easy matter
to get our legs safely over the horses' backs, into their proper places
among the clusters of miscellanea. Our acquaintances used to compare us
to the perambulating butchers' shops, which are a feature in Mexican
streets, and consist of a horse with a long saddle covered with hooks,
and on every hook a joint.

The flaps of our saddles, the great spatterdashes that protected our
feet from the mud, and the broad stirrup-straps were covered with
carved and embossed patterns; indeed almost all leather-work is
decorated in this way, and the saddle-makers delight in ornamenting
their wares with silver plates and bosses; so that it was not
surprising that our saddles and bridles should have cost, though
second-hand, nearly as much as the horses.

In books of travels in Mexico up to the beginning of the present
century, one of the staple articles of wondering description was the
gorgeous trappings of the horses, and the spurs, bits, and stirrups of
gold and silver. The costumes have not changed much, but the taste for
such costly ornaments has abated; and it is now hardly respectable to
have more than a few pounds worth of bullion on one's saddle or around
one's hat, or to wear a hundred or so of buttons of solid gold down the
sides of one's leather trousers, with a very questionable cotton
calzoncillo underneath.

The horses' bits are made with a ring, which pinches the under-lip when
the bridle is tightened, and causes great pain when it is pulled at all
hard. At first sight it seems cruel to use such bits, but the system
works very well; and the horses, knowing the power their rider has over
them, rarely misbehave themselves. One rides along with the loop at the
end of the twisted horse-hair bridle hanging loose on one finger, so
that the horse's mouth is much less pulled about than with the bridles
we are accustomed to in England. When it is necessary to guide the
horse, the least pressure is enough; but, as a general rule, the little
fellow can find his way as well as his rider can. We used continually
to let our reins drop on our horses' necks, and jog on careless of pits
and stumbling-blocks. I have even seen my companion take out his
pocket-book, and improve the occasion by making notes and sketches as
he went.


The distance from Mexico to Vera Cruz is about two hundred and fifty
miles, and what the roads are I have in some measure described. Rafael
Beraza, the courier of the English Mission at Mexico, used to ride this
with despatches regularly once a month in forty hours, and occasionally
in thirty-five. He changed horses about every ten or fifteen miles; and
now and then, when, overcome by sleep, he would let the boy who
accompanied him to the next stage ride first, his own horse following,
and the rider comfortably dozing as he went along.

As for our own equipment, Mr. Christy adopted the attributes of the
eastern traveller when he came into the country, the great umbrella,
the veil, and the felt hat with a white handkerchief over it. As for
me, my wardrobe was scanty; so, when my travelling coat wore out at the
elbows and my trousers were sat through--like the little bear's chair
in the story, I replaced the garments with a jacket of chamois leather,
and a pair of loose trousers made of the same, after the manner of the
country. Then came a grey felt hat, as stiff as a boiler-plate, and of
more than quakerish lowness of crown and broadness of brim, but
secularized by a silver serpent for a hatband; also, a red silk sash,
which--fastening round the waist--held up my trousers, and interfered
with my digestion; lastly, a woollen serape to sleep under, and to wear
in the mornings and evenings. This is the genuine ranchero costume, and
it did me good service. Indeed, ever since my Mexican journey I have
considered that George Fox decidedly showed his good sense by dressing
himself in a suit of leather; much more so than the people who laughed
at him for it.

In the country, all Mexicans--high and low--wear this national dress;
and in this they are distinguished from the Indians, who keep to the
cotton shirts and drawers, and the straw hats of their ancestors. In
the towns, it is only the lower classes who dress in the ranchero
costume, for "nous autres" wear European garments and follow the last
Paris fashion, with these exceptions--that for riding, people wear
jackets and calzoneras of the national cut, though made of cloth, and
that the Mexican hat is often worn even by people who adopt no other
parts of the costume. There never were such hats as these for
awkwardness. The flat sharp brims of passers-by are always threatening
to cut your head off in the streets. You cannot get into a carriage
with your hat on, nor sit there when you are in. But for walking and
riding under a fierce sun, they are perhaps better than anything else
that can be used.

The Mexican blanket--the serape--is a national institution; It is wider
than a Scotch plaid, and nearly as long, with a slit in the middle; and
it is woven in the same gaudy Oriental patterns which are to be seen on
the prayer-carpets of Turkey and Palestine to this day. It is worn as a
cloak, with the end flung over the left shoulder, like the Spanish
_capa_, and muffling up half the face when its owner is chilly or does
not wish to be recognized. When a heavy rain comes down, and he is on
horseback, he puts his head through the slit in the middle, and becomes
a moving tent. At night he rolls himself up in it, and sleeps on a mat
or a board, or on the stones in the open air.

Convenient as it is, the serape is as much tabooed among the
"respectable" classes in the cities as the rest of the national
costume. I recollect going one evening after dark to the house of our
friends in the Calle Seminario with my serape on, and nearly having to
fight it out with the great dog Nelson, who was taking charge of his
master's room. Nelson knew me perfectly well, and had sat that very
morning at the hotel-gate for half an hour, holding my horse, while a
crowd of leperos stood round, admiring his size and the gravity of his
demeanour as he sat on the pavement, with the bridle in his mouth. But
that a man in a serape should come into his master's room at dusk was a
thing he could not tolerate, till the master himself came in, and
satisfied his mind on the subject.

As I said, the equipment of ourselves and our three horses took us into
a variety of strange places, for we bought the things we wanted piece
by piece, when we saw anything that suited us. Among other places we
went to the Baratillo, which is the Rag-Fair and Petticoat Lane of
Mexico, and moreover the emporium for whips, bridles, bits, old spurs,
old iron, and odds and ends generally. The little shops are arranged in
long lines, after the manner of the eastern bazaar; and the
shopkeepers, when they are not smoking cigarettes outside, are sitting
in their little dens, within arms-length of all the wares they have to
sell. Here we found what we had come for, and much more too, in the way
of wonderful old spurs, combs, boxes, and ornaments; so that we came
several times more before we left the country, and never without
carrying away some curious old relic.

Mexico, as everybody knows, is decidedly a thievish place. The shops
are all shut at dark, after the _Oracion_, for fear of thieves. Ladies
used to wear immense tortoise-shell combs at the back of their heads,
where the mantilla is fastened on; but, when it became a regular trade
for thieves to ride on horseback through the streets, and pull out the
combs as they went, the fashion had to be given up. These curiously
carved and ornamented combs are still preserved as curiosities, and we
bought several of them.

While we were in Mexico, they knocked a man down in the great square at
noon-day, robbed him, and left him there for dead. The square is so
large, and the sun was so hot, that the police--whose head-quarters are
under the arches in that very square--could not possibly walk across to
see what was going on!--_moral_, if you will have the distinction of
having the largest square in the world, you must take the consequences.

Of course, where thieving is so general, the market for stolen goods
must be a place of considerable trade, and this Baratillo is one of the
principal depots for such wares. One may realize here the story of the
citizen, in the old book, who had his wig stolen at the beginning of
his walk through London, and found it hanging up for sale a little
further on. Here the deserter comes to sell his uniform and his
ricketty old flintlock. Small blame to him. I would do the same myself
if I were in his place, and were compelled to serve under one rascally
political adventurer against another rascally political adventurer--to
say nothing of being treated like a dog, half-starved, and not paid at
all, except by a sort of half license to plunder. "Those poor soldiers!
we can't pay them, you know, and they must live somehow."

I have abused the Mexicans for being thieves, and not without reason,
though, as regards ourselves personally, we never lost anything except
a great brand-new waterproof coat which my companion had brought with
him, promising to himself that under its shelter he should bid defiance
to the daily rain-storms of the wet season. As we dismounted from the
Diligence in Mexico, in the courtyard of the hotel, some one relieved
him of it. We did not know of the Baratillo in those days, or would
have gone to look for it there. At the time of our visit it was too
late, for if it ever had been there, the Mexicans understand too well
the value of an English "ulli," as they call them, to let it hang long
for sale. "Ulli" is not a borrowed word, but the genuine Aztec name for
India-rubber, which was used to make playing-balls with, long before
the time of Columbus.

I mentioned the water-bottles as part of our equipment. They are
gourds, which are throttled with bandages while young, so as to make
them grow into the shape of bottles with necks. Then they are hung up
to dry; and the inside being cleaned out through a small hole near the
stalk, they are ready for use, holding two or three pints of water. A
couple of inches of a corn-cob (the inside of a ear of Indian corn)
makes a capital cork; and the bottle is hung by a loop of string to the
pummel of the saddle, where it swings about without fear of breaking.
One may see gourds, prepared in just the same way, in Italy, hanging up
under the eaves of the little farm-houses, among the festoons of red
and yellow ears of Indian corn; and indeed the gourd-bottle is a
regular institution of Southern Europe.

We sent Antonio on with the horses to Cuernavaca, and started by the
Diligence early one morning, accompanied by one of our English friends,
whom I will call--as every-one else did--Don Guillermo. It is the
regular thing here, as in Spain, to call everybody by his or her
Christian name. You may have known Don Antonio or Don Felipe for weeks
before you happen to hear their surnames.

The road ran at first over the plain, among great water-meadows, with
herds of cattle pasturing, and fields of wheat and maize. Ploughing was
going on, after the primitive fashion of the country, with two oxen
yoked to each plough. The yoke is fastened to the horns of the oxen,
and to the centre of the yoke a pole is attached. At the other end of
this pole is the plough itself, which consists of a wooden stake with
an iron point and a handle. The driver holds the handle in one hand and
his goad in the other (a long reed with an iron point), and so they
toil along, making a long scratch as they go. A man follows the plough,
and drops in single grains of Indian corn, about three feet apart. The
furrows are three feet from one another, so that each stalk occupies
some nine square feet of ground. When the plants are growing up they
dig between them, and heap up round each stalk a little mound of earth.

We passed many little houses consisting of one square room, built of
mud-bricks, with mud-mortar stuck full of little stones; without
windows, but generally possessing the luxury of a chimney, with a
couple of bricks forming an arch over it to keep out the rain. Glimpses
of men smoking cigarettes at the doors, half-naked brown children
rolling in the dirt, and women on their knees inside, hard at work
grinding the corn for those eternal tortillas.

At San Juan de Dios Mr. Christy climbed to the top of the Diligence,
behind the conductor, who sat with a large black leather bag full of
stones on the footboard before him. Whenever one of the nine mules
showed a disposition to shirk his work, a heavy stone came flying at
him, always hitting him in a tender place, for long practice had made
the conductor almost as good a shot as the goat-herds in the mountains,
who are said to be able to hit their goats on whichever horn they
please, and so to steer them straight when they seem inclined to stray.
But our conductor simply threw the stones, whereas the goat-herd uses
the aloe-fibre honda, or sling, that one sees hanging by dozens in the
Mexican shops.

We pass near Churubusco, and along the line by which the American army
reached Mexico. The field of lava which they crossed is close at our
right hand; and just on the other side of it lie Tisapan and our friend
Don Alejandro's cotton-factory. On our left are the freshwater-lakes of
Xochimilco and Chalco, which had risen several feet, and flooded the
valley in their neighbourhood. Between us and the great mountain-chain
that forms the rim of the valley, lies a group of extinct volcanos,
from one of which descends the great lava-field.

Passing in full view of these picturesque craters, now mostly covered
with trees and brushwood, we begin to ascend, and are soon among the
porphyritic range that forms a wall between us and the land of
sugar-canes and palms. Along the road towards Mexico came long files of
Indians, dressed in the national white cotton shirts and short drawers
and sandals, made like Montezuma's, though not with plates of gold on
the soles, such as that monarch's sandals had. Some of these Indians
are bringing on their backs wood and charcoal from the pine-forest
higher up among the mountains, and some have fastened to their backs
light crates full of live fowls or vegetables; others are carrying up
tropical fruits from the tierra caliente below, zapotes and mameis,
nisperos and granaditas, tamarinds and fresh sugar-canes. These people
are walking with their loads thirty or forty miles to market: but their
race have been used as beasts of burden for ages, and they don't mind

Bright blue and red birds, and larger and more brilliant butterflies
than are seen in Europe, show that, though we are among fields of wheat
and maize, we are in the tropics after all. As the road rises we get
views of the broad valley, with its lakes and green meadows, and the
great white haciendas with their clumps of willows, their
church-towers, and the clusters of adobe huts surrounding them--like
the peasants' cottages in feudal Europe, crowding up to the baron's

Our mules begin to flag as we toil up the steep ascent; but the
conductor rattles the stones in his black bag, and as the ominous sound
reaches their ears, they start off again with renewed vigour. We pass
San Mateo, a village of charcoal-burners, where a large and splendid
stone church, with its tall dark cypresses, stands among the huts of
reeds and pine-shingles that form the village.


Trains of mules are continually passing with their heavy loads of wood
and charcoal, bales of goods and barrels of aguardiente de cana, which
is rum made from the sugar-cane, but not coloured like that which comes
to England. The men are continually rushing backwards and forwards
among their beasts, which are not content with kicking and biting, and
banging against one another, but are always trying to lie down in the
road; and one of the principal duties of the arriero is constantly to
keep an eye on all his beasts at once, and, when he sees one preparing
to lie down, to be beforehand with him, and drive him on by a furious
shower of blows, kicks, and curses. Certainly, the Mexican mules are
the finest and strongest in the world; and, though they are just as
obstinate here as elsewhere, they are worth two or three times as much
as horses.

Our road lies through a forest of pines and oaks, which reaches to the
summit of the pass, where stands a wretched little village, La Guarda.
There we had a thoroughly Mexican breakfast, with pulque in tall
tumblers, and endless successions of tortillas, coming in hot and hot
from the kitchen, where we could see brown women with bare arms, and
black hair plaited in long tails, kneeling by the charcoal fire, and
industriously patting out fresh supplies, and baking them rapidly on a
hot plate. The _piece de resistance_ was a stew, bright red with
tomatas, and hot as fire with chile; and then came the _frijoles_--the
black beans--without which no Mexican, high or low, considers a meal
complete. The walls of the room were decorated with highly coloured
engravings, one of which represented an engagement between a Spanish
and an English fleet, in which the English ships are being boarded by
the victorious Spaniards, or are being blown up in the background.
Where the engagement was I cannot recollect. People in Mexico, to whom
I mentioned this remarkable historical event, assured me that there are
still to be seen pictures of the destruction of the English fleet by
the French and Spaniards in the Bay of Trafalgar!

Mexico was always, until the establishment of the republic, profoundly
ignorant of European affairs. In the old times, when the intercourse
with the mother-country was by the great ship, "el nao," which came
once a year, the government at home could have just such news
circulated through the country as seemed proper and convenient to them.
We see in our own times how despotic governments can mystify their
subjects, and distort contemporary history into what shape they please.
But in Spanish America the system was worked to a greater extent than
in any other country I have heard of; and the undercurrent of popular
talk, which spreads in France and Russia things and opinions not to be
found in the newspapers, had in Mexico but little influence. Scarcely
any Mexican travelled, scarcely any foreigner visited the country, and
the Spaniards who came to hold offices and make fortunes were all in
the interest of the old country; so the Mexicans went on, until the
beginning of this century, believing that Spain still occupied the same
position among the nations of Europe that it had held in the days of
Charles the Fifth.

While my companion was outside the Diligence, Don Guillermo and I were
left to the conversation of an Italian fellow-passenger. One finds such
characters in books, but never before or since have I seen the reality.
He might have been the original of the great Braggadoccio. His
conversation was like a chapter out of the autobiography of his
countryman Alfieri.

He had accompanied the Italian nobleman who was killed in an affray
with the Mexican robbers, some years ago, and on that occasion his
defence had been most heroic. He himself had shot several of the
robbers; till at last, his friend being killed, the rest of the party
yielded to the overwhelming numbers of the brigands, and he ran off to
fetch assistance!

Whenever he was riding along a Mexican road, and any suspicious-looking
person asked him for a light, his habit was to hand him his cigar stuck
in the muzzle of a pistol; "and they always take the hint," he said,
"and see that it won't do to interfere with us." Alone, he had been
attacked by three armed men, but with a pistol in each hand he had
compelled them to retreat. But this was not all; our champion was
victorious in love as well as in arms. Like the great Alfieri, to whom
I have compared him, in every country where he travelled, the most
beautiful and distinguished ladies hardly waited for him to ask before
they cast themselves at his feet. Refusing the rich jewels that he
offered them, they declared that they loved him for himself alone.

Weeks after, we were talking to our friend Mr. Del Pozzo, the Italian
apothecary in the Calle Plateros, and happened to ask him if he were
acquainted with his heroic countryman. Whereupon the apothecary went
off into fits of unextinguishable laughter, and told us how our friend
really had been in the skirmish he described, and had nobly run away
almost before a shot was fired, leaving his friends to fight it out. An
hour or two after, he was found shaking with terror in a ditch.

To return to our road. The forest is on both sides of the Sierra; but
it is on the southern slope, over which we look down from the pass,
that the pines attain their fullest size and beauty; for here they are
as grand as in the Scandinavian forests, with all the beauty of the
pine-trees on the Italian hills. The pass, with its deep forest
skirting the road, has been a resort of robbers for many years; and the
driver pointed out to my companion a little grassy dell by the
road-side, from which forty men had rushed out and plundered the
Diligence just ten days before. With his mind just prepared, one may
imagine his feelings when he caught sight of some twenty wild-looking
fellows in all sorts of strange garments, with the bright sunshine
gleaming on the barrels of their muskets. A man was riding a little in
front of us, and as he approached the others they descended, and ranged
themselves by the side of the road. They were only the guard, after
all, and such a guard! Their thick matted black hair hung about over
their low foreheads and wild brown faces. Some had shoes, some had
none, and some had sandals. They had straw hats, glazed hats, no hats,
leather jackets and trousers, cotton shirts and drawers, or drawers
without any shirt at all; and--what looked worst of all--some had
ragged old uniforms on, like deserters from the army, and there are no
worse robbers than they. When the Diligence reached them, the guard
joined us; some galloping on before, some following behind, whooping
and yelling, brandishing their arms, and dashing in among the trees and
out into the road again. Every now and then my friend outside got a
glimpse down the muzzle of a musket, which did not add to his peace of
mind. At last we got through the dangerous pass, and then we made a
subscription for the guard, who departed making the forest ring again
with war-whoops, and firing off their muskets in our honour until we
were out of hearing.

The top of the pass is 12,000 feet above the sea, but the clouds seemed
as high as ever above us, and the swallows were flying far up in the
air. Three thousand feet lower we were in a warmer region, among oaks
and arbutus; and here, as in our higher latitudes, the climate is far
hotter than on the northern slope at the same height. Bananas are to be
found at an elevation of 9,000 feet, three times the height at which
they ceased on the eastern slope, as we came up from Vera Cruz. This
difference between the two slopes depends, in part, on the different
quantity of sunshine they receive, which is of some importance,
although we are within the tropics. But the sheltering of the southern
sides from the chilling winds from the north still further contributes
to give their vegetation a really tropical character.

We felt the heat becoming more and more intense as we descended, and
when we reached Cuernavaca we lay down in the beautiful garden of the
inn, among orange-trees and cocoanut-palms, listening to the pleasant
cool sound of running water, and looking down into the great barranca
with its perpendicular walls of rock, and the luxuriant vegetation of
the tierra caliente covering the banks of the stream that flowed far
below us. We could easily shout to the people on the other edge of the
ravine, but it would have taken hours of toiling down the steep paths
and up again before we could have reached them.

Here our horses were waiting for us; and an hour or two's ride brought
us to the great sugar-hacienda of Temisco, where we were to pass the
night, for towns and inns are few and far between in Mexico when one
leaves the more populous mountain-plateaus. So much the better, for my
companion had provided himself with letters of introduction, and we had
already seen something of hacienda life, and liked it.

As we approached Temisco, we saw upon the slopes, immense fields of
sugar-cane, now grown into a dense mass, five or six feet high, most
pleasant to look upon for the delicate green tint of the leaves that
belongs to no other plant. The colour of our English turf is beautiful,
and so are the tints of our English woods in spring, but our fields of
grain have a dull and dingy green compared to the sugar-cane and the
young Indian corn. In this beautiful valley we cannot charge the
inhabitants with entirely neglecting the irrigation of the land.
Indeed, the culture of the sugar-cane cannot be carried on without it,
and the cost of the watercourses on the large estates has been very
great. Unfortunately, even here agriculture is not flourishing. The
small number of the white inhabitants, and the distracted state of the
country make both life and property very insecure; and the brown people
are becoming less and less disposed to labour on the plantations.

It is true that most of these channels were made in old times; little
new is done now, and I could make a long list of estates that were once
busy and prosperous, giving employment to thousands of the Indian
inhabitants, and that are now over-grown with weeds and falling to

Entering the iron gate of the hacienda, we found ourselves in an
immense courtyard, into which open all the principal buildings of the
estate, the house of the proprietor, the church--which forms a
necessary part of every hacienda--the crushing-mill, and the
boiling-houses. Into the same great patio open the immense stables for
the many riding-horses and the many hundreds of mules that carry the
sugar and rum over the mountains to market, and the tienda, the shop of
the estate, through which almost all the money paid to the labourers
comes back to the proprietor in exchange for goods. A mountain of
fresh-cut canes stood near the door of the trapiche (the
crushing-mill); and a gang of Indians were constantly going backwards
and forwards carrying them in by armfuls; while a succession of mules
were continually bringing in fresh supplies from the plantation to
replenish the great heap. The court-yard was littered all over,
knee-deep, with dry cane-trash; and mules, just freed from their
galling saddles, were rolling on their backs in it, kicking with all
their legs at once, and evidently in a state of high enjoyment. Part of
one side of the square was a sort of wide cloister, and in it stood
chairs and tables.

Here the business of the place was transacted, and the Administrador
could look up from his ledger, and see pretty well what was going on
all over the establishment.

It is very common for the owners of these haciendas to be absentees,
and to leave the entire control of their estates to the administradors;
but at Temisco, which is much better managed than most others, this is
not the case, and the son of the proprietor generally lives there. He
was out riding, so we sent our horses to the stable, and lounged about
eating sugar-canes till he should return. Presently he came, a young
man in a broad Mexican hat and white jacket and trousers, mounted on a
splendid little horse, with his saddle glittering with silver, every
inch a planter. He welcomed us hospitably, and we sat down together in
the cloister looking out on the courtyard. Evening was closing in, and
all at once the church-bell rang. Crowds of Indian labourers in their
white dresses came flocking in, hardly distinguishable in the twilight,
and the sound of their footsteps deadened as they walked over the dry
stubble that covered the ground. All work ceased, every one uncovered
and knelt down; while, through the open church-doors, we heard the
Indian choir chanting the vesper hymn. In the haciendas of Mexico every
day ends thus. Many times I heard the Oracion chanted at nightfall, but
its effect never diminished by repetition, and to my mind it has always
seemed the most impressive of religious services.

Then the Administrador seated himself behind a great book, and the
calling over the "raya" began. Every man in turn was called by name,
and answered in a loud voice, "I praise God!;" then saying how much he
had earned in the day, for the Administrador to write down. "Juan
Fernandez!"--"_Alabo a Dios, tres reales y medio_:" "I praise God, one
and ninepence." "Jose Valdes!"--"I praise God, eighteen pence, and
sixpence for the boy;" and so on, through a couple of hundred names.

Then came, not unacceptably, a little cup of pasty chocolate and a long
roll for each of us. Then Don Guillermo and our host talked about their
mutual acquaintances in Mexico, and we asked questions about
sugar-planting, and walked about the boiling-house, where the
night-gang of brown men were hard at work stirring and skimming at the
boiling-pans, and ladling out coarse unrefined sugar into little
earthen bowls to cool. This common sugar in bowls is very generally
used by the poorer Mexicans. The sugar-boilers were naked excepting a
cotton girdle. These men were very strong, and with great powers of
endurance, but they did not at all resemble the strong men of Europe
with their great muscles standing up under their skin, the men in
Michael Angelo's pictures, or the Farnese Hercules. They are equally
unlike the thin wiry Arabs, whose strength seems so disproportionate to
their lean little bodies.

The pure Mexican Indian is short and sturdy; and, until you have
observed the peculiarities of the race, you would say he was too stout
and flabby to be strong. But this appearance is caused by the immense
thickness of his skin, which conceals the play of his muscles; and in
reality his strength is very great, especially in the legs and thighs,
and in the muscles that are brought into action in carrying burdens.
Sartorius used to observe the Indian miners bringing loads of above
five-hundred-weight up a hundred fathoms of mine-ladders, which consist
of trunks of trees fixed slanting across the shaft, with notches cut in
them for steps.

As I have said before, it is not the mere training of the individual
that has produced this remarkable development of the power of carrying
loads. The centuries before the Conquest, when there were no beasts of
burden, had gradually produced a race whose bodies were admirably
fitted for such work; and the persistency with which they have clung to
their old habits has done much to prevent their losing this

To complete the description of the Indians which I have been led into
by speaking of the sugar-boilers,--they are chocolate-brown in colour,
with curved noses, straight black hair hanging flat round their heads
and covering their wonderfully low foreheads, and occasionally a scanty
black beard. Their faces are broadly oval, their eyes far apart, and
they have wide mouths with coarse lips. Not bad faces on the whole, but
heavy and unexpressive.

At ten o'clock came a heavy supper, the substantial meal of the day,
and immediately afterwards we went to bed, and dreamt such dreams as
may be imagined. We were off early in the morning with a wizened old
mestizo to guide us to the ruins of Xochicalco, which are on this very
estate of Temisco. The estate is forty miles across, however, and it is
a long ride to the ruins. After we leave the fields of sugar-cane, we
see scarcely a hut, nor a patch of cultivated ground. At last we get to
Xochicalco, and find ourselves at the foot of a hill, some four hundred
feet in height, extraordinarily regular in its conical shape, more so
than any natural hill could be, unless it were the cone of a volcano.
At different heights upon this hill, we could see from below broad
terraces running round and round it. A little nearer we came upon a
great ditch. The sides had fallen in, in many places; sometimes it was
quite filled up, and everywhere it was overgrown with thick brushwood,
as was the hill itself. It seems that this ditch runs quite round the
base of the hill, and is three miles long. Climbing up through the
thicket of thorny bushes and out upon the terraces, it became quite
evident that the hill had been artificially shaped. The terraces were
built up with blocks of solid stone, and paved with the same. On the
neighbouring hills we could discern traces of more terrace-roads of the
same kind; there must be many miles of them still remaining.

But it was when we reached the summit, that we found the most
remarkable part of the structure. The top has been cut away so as to
form a large level space, which was surrounded by a stone wall, now in
ruins. Inside the inclosure are several mounds of stone, doubtless
burial-places, and all that is left of the pyramid. Ruined and defaced
as it is, I shall never forget our feelings of astonishment and
admiration as we pushed our way through the bushes, and suddenly came
upon it. We were quite unprepared for anything of the kind; all we knew
of the place when we started that morning being that there were some
curious old ruins there.

The pyramid was composed of blocks of hewn stone, so accurately fitted
together as hardly to show the joints, and the carving goes on without
interruption from one block to another. Some of these blocks are eight
feet long, and nearly three feet wide. They were laid together without
mortar, and indeed, from the construction of the building, none was
required. The first storey is about sixteen feet high, including the
plinth at the bottom. Above the plinth comes a sculptured group of
figures, which is repeated in panels all round the pyramid, twice on
each side. Each panel occupies a space thirty feet long by ten in
height, and the bas-reliefs project three or four inches. There is a
chief, dressed in a girdle, and with a head-dress of feathers just like
those of the Red Indians of the north. Below the girdle he terminates
in a scroll. In the middle of the group is what may perhaps be a
palm-tree, with a rabbit at its foot. Close to the tree, and reaching
nearly to the same height, is a figure with a crocodile's head wearing
a crown, and with drapery in parallel lines, like the wings of the
creatures in the Assyrian bas-reliefs. Indeed this may very likely be a
conventional representation of the robes of feather-work so
characteristic of Mexico.

[Illustration: SCULPTURED PANEL. From the ruined Pyramid of Xochicalco.
(After Nebel.)]

Above these bas-reliefs is a frieze between three and four feet high,
with another sculptured panel repeated eight times on each side of the
pyramid. This remarkable sculpture represents a man sitting barefoot
and crosslegged. On his head is a kind of crown or helmet, with a plume
of feathers; and from the front of this helmet there protrudes a
serpent, just where in the Egyptian sculptures the royal basilisk is
fixed on the crowns of kings and queens. The eyes of this personage are
protected by round plates with holes in the middle, held on by a strap
round the head, like the coloured glasses used in the United States to
keep off the glare of the sun, and known as "goggles." In front of this
figure are sculptured a rabbit and some unintelligible ornaments or
weapons. "Rabbit" may have been his name.

The frieze is surmounted by a cornice; and above the cornice of the
second storey enough remains to show that it was covered with reliefs,
in the same way as the first There were five storeys originally: the
others have only been destroyed about a century. The former proprietor
of the hacienda of Temisco pulled down the upper storeys, and carried
away the blocks of stone to build walls and dams with.

The perfect execution of the details in the bas-reliefs and the
accuracy with which they are repeated show clearly that it was not so
much want of skill as the necessity of keeping to the conventional mode
of representing objects that has given so grotesque a character to the
Mexican scriptures. Certain figures became associated with religion and
astrology in Mexico, as in many other countries; and the sculptor,
though his facility in details shows that he could have made far better
figures if he had had a chance, never had the opportunity, for he was
not allowed to depart from the original rude type of the sacred object.
Humboldt remarks that the same undeviating reproduction of fixed models
is as striking in the Mexican sculptures done since the Conquest. The
clumsy outlines of the rude figures of saints brought from Europe in
the 16th century were adopted as models by the native sculptors, and
have lasted without change to this day.

It is evident that Xochicalco answered several purposes. It was a
fortified hill of great strength, also a sacred shrine, and a
burial-place for men of note, whose bodies, no doubt, still lie under
the ruined cairns near the pyramid. The magnitude of the ditch and the
terraces, as well as the great size of the blocks of stone brought up
the hill without the aid of beasts of burden, indicate a large
population and a despotic government. The beauty of the masonry and
sculpture show that the people who erected this monument had made no
small progress in the arts. We must remember, too, that they had no
iron, but laboriously cut and polished the hardest granite and porphyry
with instruments of stone and bronze; we can hardly tell how.

The resemblances which people find between Assyrian and Egyptian
sculptures and the American monuments are of little value, and do not
seem sufficient to ground any argument upon. When slightly civilized
races copy men, trees, and animals in their rude way, it would be hard
if there were not some resemblance among the figures they produce. With
reference to their ornamentation, it is true that what is called the
"key-border" is quite common in Mexico and Yucatan, and that on this
very pyramid the panels are divided by a twisted border, which would
not be noticed as peculiar in a "renaissance" building. But the model
of this border may have been suggested--on either side of the globe--by
creepers twined together in the forest, or by a cord doubled and
twisted, such as is represented in one of the commonest Egyptian

The cornice which finishes the first storey of the pyramid is a
familiar pattern, but nothing can be concluded from these simple
geometrical designs, which might be invented over and over again by
different races when they began to find pleasure in tracing ornamental
devices upon their buildings. Upon the tattooed skins of savages such
designs may be seen, and the patterns were certainly in use among them
before they had any intercourse with white men. This is the view
Humboldt takes of these coincidences. That both the Egyptian king and
the Mexican chief should wear a helmet with a serpent standing out from
it just above the forehead, is somewhat extraordinary.

Now, who built Xochicalco? Writers on Mexico are quite ready with their
answer. They tell us that, according to the Mexican tradition, the
country was formerly inhabited by another race, who were called
_Tolteca_, or, as we say, _Toltecs_, from the name of their city,
_Tollan_, "the Reed-swamp;" and that they were of the same race as the
Aztecs, as shown by the names of their cities and their kings being
Aztec words; that they were a highly civilized people, and brought into
the country the arts of sculpture, hieroglyphic painting, great
improvements in agriculture, many of the peculiar religious rites since
practised by other nations who settled after them in Mexico, and the
famous astronomical calendar, of which I shall speak afterwards. The
particular Toltec king to whom the Mexican historians ascribe the
building of Xochicalco was called Nauhyotl, that is to say, "Four
Bells," and died A.D. 945.

We are further told that just about the time of our Norman Conquest,
the Toltecs were driven out from the Mexican plateau by famine and
pestilence, and migrated again southward. Only a few families remained,
and from them the Aztecs, Chichemecs, and other barbarous tribes by
whom the country was re-peopled, derived that knowledge of the arts and
sciences upon which their own civilization was founded. It was by this
Toltec nation--say the Mexican writers--that the monuments of
Xochichalco, Teotihuacan, and Cholula were built. In their architecture
the Aztecs did little more than copy the works left by their
predecessors; and, to this day, the Mexican Indians call a builder a
_toltecatl_ or _Toltec_.

If we consider this circumstantial account to be anything but a mere
tissue of fables, the question naturally arises--what became of the
remains of the Toltecs when they left the high plains of Mexico? A
theory has been propounded to answer this question, that they settled
in Chiapas and Yucatan, and built Palenque, Copan, and Uxmal, and the
other cities, the ruins of which lie imbedded in the tropical forest.

At the time that Prescott wrote his History of the Conquest, such a
theory was quite tenable; but the new historic matter lately made known
by the Abbe Brasseur de Bourbourg has given a different aspect to the
question. Without attempting to maintain the credibility of this
writer's history as a whole, I cannot but think that he has given us
satisfactory grounds for believing that the ruined cities of Central
America were built by a race which flourished long before the Toltecs;
that they were already declining in power and civilization in the
seventh century, when the Toltecs began to flourish in Mexico; and that
the present Mayas of Yucatan are their degenerate descendants.

What I have seen of Central American and Mexican antiquities, and of
drawings of them in books, tends to support the Abbe Brasseur de
Bourbourg's view of the history of these countries. Traces of
communication between the two peoples are to be found in abundance, but
nothing to warrant our holding that either people took its civilization
bodily from the other. My excuse for entering into these details must
be that some of the facts I have to offer are new.

A bas-relief at Kabah, described in Mr. Stephens' account of his second
journey, bears considerable resemblance to that on the so-called
"sacrificial stone" of Mexico; and the warrior has the characteristic
Mexican _maquahuitl_, or "Hand-wood," a mace set with rows of obsidian

A curious ornament is met with in the Central American sculptures,
representing a serpent with a man's face looking out from between its
distended jaws; and we find a similar design in the Aztec
picture-writings, sculptures, and pottery.

A remarkable peculiarity in the Aztec picture-writings is that the
personages represented often have one or more figures of tongues
suspended in mid-air near their mouths, indicating that they are
speaking, or that they are persons in authority. Such tongues are to be
seen on the Yucatan sculptures.

One of the panels on the Pyramid of Xochicalco seems to have a bearing
upon this subject, I mean that of the cross-legged chief, of which I
have just spoken.

In the first place, sitting cross-legged is not an Aztec custom. I do
not think we ever saw an Indian in Mexico sitting cross-legged. In the
picture-writings of the Aztecs, the men sit doubled up, with their
chins almost touching their knees; while the women have their legs
tucked under them, and their feet sticking out on the left side. On the
other hand, this attitude is quite characteristic of the Yucatan
sculptures. At Copan there is an altar, with sixteen chiefs sitting
cross-legged round it; and, moreover, one of them has a head-dress very
much like that of the Xochicalco chief (except that it has no serpent),
and others are more or less similar; while I do not recollect anything
like it in the Mexican picture-writings. The curious perforated
eye-plates of the Xochicalco chief, which he wore--apparently--to keep
arrows and javelins out of his eyes, are part of the equipment of the
Aztec warrior in the picture-writings, while Palenque and Copan seemed
to afford no instance of them; so that in two peculiarities the
remarkable sculpture before us seems to belong rather to Yucatan than
to Mexico, and in one to Mexico rather than to Yucatan.

It is not even possible in all cases to distinguish Central American
sculptures from those of Mexican origin. Among the numerous stone
figures in Mr. Christy's museum, some are unmistakably of Central
American origin, and some as certainly Mexican; but beside these, there
are many which both their owner and myself, though we had handled
hundreds of such things, were obliged to leave on the debatable ground
between the two classes.

So much for the resemblances. But the differences are of much greater
weight. The pear-shaped heads of most of the Central American figures,
whose peculiar configuration is only approached by the wildest
caricatures of Louis Philippe, are perfectly distinctive. So are the
hieroglyphics arranged in squares, found on the sculptures of Central
America and in the Dresden Codex. So is the general character of the
architecture and sculpture, as any one may see at a glance.

It is quite true that the so-called Aztec Astronomical Calendar was in
use in Central America, and that many of the religious observances in
both countries, such as the method of sacrificing the human victims,
and the practice of the worshippers drawing blood from themselves in
honour of the gods, are identical. But there were several ways in which
this might have been brought about, and it is no real proof that the
civilization of either country was an offshoot from that of the other.
To consider it as such would be like arguing that the negroes of Cuba
and the Indians of Yucatan had derived their civilization one from the
other, because both peoples are Roman Catholics, and use the same
almanac. On the whole I am disposed to conclude that the civilizations
of Mexico and Central America were originally independent, but that
they came much into contact, and thus modified one another to no small

At the risk of being prosy, I will mention the _a priori_ grounds upon
which we may argue that the civilization of Central America did not
grow up there, but was brought ready-made by a people who emigrated
there from some other country. There is a theory afloat, that it is
only in temperate climates that barbarous nations make much progress in
civilizing themselves. In tropical countries the intensity of the heat
makes man little disposed for exertion, and the luxuriance of the
vegetation supplies him with the little he requires. In such
climates--say the advocates of this theory--man acknowledges the
supremacy of nature over himself, and gives up the attempt to shape her
to his own purposes; and thus, in these countries, the inhabitants go
on from generation to generation, lazily enjoying their existence,
making no effort, and indeed feeling no desire to raise themselves in
the social scale. Upon this theory, therefore, when we find a high
civilization in hot countries, as in the plains of India, we have to
account for it by supposing an immigration of races bringing their
civilization with them from more temperate climates. This theory of
civilization favours the idea of the Central American cities having
been built by a people from Mexico. The climate of the Mexican
highlands, which may be taken in a rough way to correspond with that of
North Italy, is well suited to a nation's development. But the cities
of Yucatan and Chiapas, though geographically not far removed from the
Mexican plateau, are brought by their small elevation above the sea
into a very different climate. They are in the land of tropical heat
and the rankest vegetation, in the midst of dense forests where
pestilential fevers and overwhelming lassitude make it almost
impossible for Europeans to live, and where the Indians who still
inhabit the neighbourhood of the ruined cities are the merest savages
sunk in the lowest depths of lazy ignorance.

If this climate-theory of progress have any truth in it, no barbarous
tribe could have raised itself in such a country to the social state
which is indicated by the ruins of such temples and cities. They must
have been settlers from some more temperate region.

While wandering about the hill of Xochicalco we came upon a spot that
strongly excited our curiosity. It was simply a small paved oval space
with a little altar at one end, and, lying round about it, some
fragments of what seemed to have been a hideous grotesque idol of baked
clay. Perhaps it was a shrine dedicated to one of the inferior deities,
such as often surrounded the greater temples; for, in Mexico,
astronomy, astrology, and religion had become mixed up together, as
they have been in other quarters of the globe, and even the
astronomical signs of days and months had temples of their own.

Xochicalco means "In the House of Flowers." The word
"flower,"--_xochitl_,--is often a part of the names of Mexican places
and people, such as the lake of Xochimilco--"In the Flower-plantation."
_Tlilxochitl_, literally "black flower," is the Aztec name for vanilla,
so that the name of that famous Mexican historian, Ixtlilxochitl, whose
name sticks in the throats of readers of Prescott, means
"Vanilla-face." Why the place was called "In the House of Flowers" is
not clear. The usual explanation seems not unlikely, that it was
because offerings of flowers and first-fruits were made upon its
shrines. The Toltecs, say the Mexican chroniclers, did not sacrifice
human victims; and it was not until long after other tribes had taken
possession of their deserted temples, that the Aztecs introduced the
custom by sacrificing their prisoners of war. It seems odd, however,
that one of the Toltec kings should have been called Topiltzin, which


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