Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/194

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ance, and the city was in possession of the French and Imperialists until 1867, when the cause of freedom triumphed, and nothing has since occurred to interrupt its career of commercial prosperity.

The great State of Vera Cruz, of which this city is the commercial emporium, comprises the central portion of the Gulf coast of Mexico, and lies mainly in the hot country producing the fruits and vines of the tropics. Throughout its whole extent bordering the coast, it maintains a reputation for insalubrity, and is undesirable to live in. As a place of refuge from the heat and vomito, and the insect plagues that sometimes annoy the inhabitants of the coast, the town of Jalapa—pronounced Halápa—has an extensive reputation. Situated at a height above the sea of over four thousand feet, it is yet only seventy miles from Vera Cruz, and is reached in one day.

Having a few days to spare before leaving for the capital, I resolved to look upon this town in the mountains, celebrated for the beauty of its scenery, its women, and its flowers. At three in the morning the porter of the hotel drew me forth from the cell which the proprietor had assigned me as a bedroom, the night before, and led the way to the station, through streets that were dark and cool, but heavy with vile odors. We went by steam to San Juan, sixteen miles, over flat plains, and then changed for a tramway, which does the remaining sixty miles or so to Jalapa. At first we passed through a section of rich land; but as the ascent commenced, vegetation was parched and dry; yet there was everywhere a blossom, though few birds, and no butterflies. Three cars composed our train, divided respectively into first, second, and third class, and each one drawn by four mules. We made but one stop before reaching the Puente Nacional,—the National Bridge,—a magnificent viaduct, under which flowed a large river, where a stone fort commanded the approach for half a mile or so on either side. The old Spanish road, paved and curbed, over which General Scott marched from Vera Cruz to Jalapa, on his way to Mexico, is the same one we now take; but it is well-nigh abandoned by teams, nearly all freight passing over the tramway Near this