Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/348

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TRAVELS IN MEXICO.

these bundles are removed from the water, shaken over a sheet, and replaced for a fresh deposit. Paxi are the larvæ of the axayacatl, yellowish-white worms, which are also eaten, being prepared for the table in various ways. Axayacatl, by the way, signifies "water-face," and is the symbol and name of the sixth king of Mexico, who entered upon his reign about the year 1464, and continued in power thirteen years.

There is one more denizen of these waters which we should not pass by without a reference. Though there are no fish in the great salt lake, TLM D348 Axolotl.jpgAXOLOTL. Tezcoco, a compensation for their absence is obtained by the presence there of a most remarkable reptile, the axolotl (Siredon lichenoides). It is a water lizard, a batrachian of the "amblystoma type of salamanders," resembling a fish in shape, but with four legs with webbed feet, and a long, compressed tail. The gills form three feather-like processes on either side the neck, and the tongue is broad and cartilaginous. In color it is of a mixed black and white, and is about ten inches in length.

This most hideous protean is eaten by the Indians of Mexico, as its flesh is white and resembles that of an eel, and is quite savory and wholesome. Its Aztec name, axolotl, is pronounced áh-ho-lotl, and is to-day called ajolote.[1]

It is by a devious path that we have reached the next subject of which I would write; but as it was one of the favorite beverages of the most ancient Aztecs, and valued by them even above the toothsome axolotl, I am constrained in this connection to describe the Mexican national drink, pulque, and the maguey of the great plateaux.

From the earliest times, the inhabitants of earth have pre-

  1. In the "Smithsonian Report" for 1877 is a paper on the "Change of the Mexican Axolotl to an Amblystoma,"—a valuable contribution.