Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/202

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XI.

 

FROM COAST TO CAPITAL.

 

MEXICO lies at the meeting-place of two zones,—the temperate and the torrid; and from its geographical position, combined with its varying altitudes, possesses a greater variety of soil, surface, and vegetation than any equal extent of contiguous territory in the world. Basking in the sunshine of the tropics, her head pillowed in the lap of the North, her feet resting at the gateway of the continents, her snowy bosom rising to the clouds, she rests serene in the majesty of her might. She guards vast treasures of gold and silver, emeralds and opals adorn her brow, while the hem of her royal robe, dipped in the seas of two hemispheres, is embroidered with pearls and the riches of ocean.

Mother of Western civilization! cradle of the American race! a thousand years have been gathered into the sheaf of time since her first cities were built. When the Norsemen coasted our Northern shores, she had towns and villages, and white-walled temples and palaces. When the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock, a hundred years had already passed since the soldiers of Cortes had battled with the hosts of Montezuma. Three centuries, and more, have rolled by since her conquest, and into the treasury of Spain, through this same city of the True Cross, she has poured golden streams and silver floods of royal revenue. Her ten millions of people occupy one million square miles of territory, having a length of 1,800, a breadth of 800, and a coast line of 5,500 miles.

While yet upon her coast, let us glance at the country we have come to visit. Rising above the limit of her mountains clothed in snow, let us take a bird's-eye view of this great "central continent."