Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/148

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TRAVELS IN MEXICO.

tortillas; and some hundred rods beyond we saw an Indian mound of shells. An hour later I saw a man-of-war bird (Tachypetes aquila), and felt that, from this sign, the sea could not be far off; nor was I mistaken, for we soon struck a sandy plain with small salt ponds, and espied the great lagoon that connects with the sea.

Mangroves and stunted trees had been features of the landscape thus far, but a mound of green coco palms now rose up and relieved the monotony. This was the cerro, or hill, we were looking for, a shell-heap made by the ancient Indians, covered and surrounded with a few hundred coco palms. Here were two small thatched and wattled huts, dilapidated and dirty, within which were two Indian women cooking some fish. They had nothing else except a little corn; but they brought a great fish, called lisa, which had been broiled on the coals in its own fat, and this was delicious. It was, as it lay split open, nearly two inches thick, and we ate and relished exceedingly great flakes of it. These women had never seen a spoon, table-knife, or fork; and, as we had none with us, we used our fingers and tortillas, each one taking his turn at the fish and gravy. Fortunately, we had hundreds of coco nuts at hand, and were not obliged to drink the dirty coffee they boiled for us, but had, instead, the refreshing water of the cocos. A man came along as we finished our cigarettes, and we engaged him to take us in his boat to a point up the lagoon where there were, according to him, "muchos flamingos!" The cerro is at a point where the lagoon meets the sea, called Boca de Ɔilam and Puntas Arenas, or point of sand. There are long sandbars and shoals, and naturally the fish congregate by millions, and the sea-birds by thousands. A wall of mangroves comes down to the border of the lagoon, and beyond the sand point is the open ocean. Flocks of pelicans, sea-gulls, terns, cormorants, peeps, plover, snipe, herons, egrets, and spoonbills were flying, wading, and swimming, in and above the water. Here, it is said, the flamingoes come by hundreds on the bar, about a gunshot from the huts among the palms; but they were not there then,—they would come that night, or mañana.