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Page:The despatches of Hernando Cortes.djvu/48

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30 INTRODUCTION. iztlan] where he intended to found the new colony. This was the country of the Totonacs, who had a small town situated near the site of the proposed settlement, ahout twelve miles from Cempoal. These Indians were eager to throw off the Mexican yoke, refusing to pay the customary tribute, and even imprisoning the Mexican nobles who had been sent to collect it. They also assisted the Spaniards in building a sufficient num- ber of houses in the new town, and constructing a small for- tress. Before finally leaving his quarters on the sea coast where he had landed, Cortes had caused the officers of the proposed town to be elected in the manner customary in Spain.* It was also determined that the new town should receive the name of La Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz, which was ac- cordingly given to the settlement at Chiahuitztla. This town is sometimes mentioned in the following letters under the name of Villa Rica, but more frequently of Vera Cruz.t It was the first Spanish colony on the continent of North America. After the organization ofthe town, Cortes resigned his command to the municipal authorities, on the ground that Diego Velas- quez from whom he, had originally received it, and the royal

  • According to Gomara, these officers were appointed by Cortes ; but Bemal

Diaz, who was present, is a better authority in a matter of this nature. See Ward's Mexico, 1. 73. t It seems there have been three places called Vera Cruz ; first. Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz ; second. Vera Cruz Antigua, founded in 1523 or 4 ; and third, the present ciiy of that name, whit-.h was not settled until near the close of the 16th, or the beginning of the 17th century. But the harbor at the latter place was well known from the first under the name of San Juan, to which the Mexi- can name of Chalchiuhecan was sometimes added. Gage, who visited Mexico in 1625, styles this place " St. John de Ulhua, otherwise Vera Crux;" but the name of S. Juan de Ulua belongs to the island opposite the city, on which stands the celebrated fortress erected by the Spanish government at the enormous ex- pense (it is said) of more than forty millions of dollars, which was the last foot- hold of Spanish power in Mexico, having held out several years longer than the rest of the country. Its fall was announced by the President of the Republic in a proclamation dated November 23d, 1825, in which he said — " The standard of the Republic waves on the castle of Ulua ! I announce to you, fellow citi- zens, with indescribable pleasure, that now, after the lapse of 304 years, the flag of Castile has disappeared from our coast" Clavigero. Humboldt. G^age's New Survey ofthe West Indias. " Mexico in 1842," &c.