Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/244

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TRAVELS IN MEXICO.

Tzapalilqui-Xochitl of the ancient Aztecs, one of whose kings went to war with another petty monarch to obtain possession of it. It bears a beautiful red flower, the centre of which is in the form of a hand, with the fingers a little bent inward. Only three trees of the kind are said to exist in all Mexico, two in the botanical garden, and one (the mother plant) in the mountains of Toluca.

Directly opposite the cathedral, at the southern side of the plaza, is the municipal palace, supported, like the buildings bounding the greater portion of the western, upon the picturesque portales, or arcades,—a feature in the architecture of the public buildings of this country, as we have seen in Yucatan. Here the tide of human life flows at the full; every available corner is occupied by some huckster, beggar, or pedler, and all the native products of the land are displayed for sale outside and in the adjacent shops. Everything manufactured in Mexico is before us here, from a sombrero, with a brim a yard wide, loaded with silver, and costing fifty dollars, to a sarape, or Mexican blanket, of gay colors, and equally expensive.

Lifting our eyes from the scene of animation spread below, and letting them wander over the stone walls that surround us on every side, like a coral plain rent into chasms, we note another verdant square to the westward. This is the alameda the forest garden of Mexico, which is older than the zocalo, and has larger trees, finer flowers, grander fountains, and more elaborate walks and garden plots. Here the good citizen of Mexico resorts at least once a day for a walk, the nurse with her charge, and the omnipresent policeman, the student with his book, and the lawyer with his client. This most charming spot, where once apostates were punished with fire,—for heretics were burned here by the Inquisition,—is but the beginning of the city westward and southwestward, towards the hills that approach the valley from that direction.

Letting our gaze wander on, we look beyond the brown plains and green fields, intersected by lines of trees, roads, and aqueducts, and dotted with the white walls of scattered villages,—beyond all these, to the hills that enclose us on every side. It