Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/349

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THE MARKETS AND FLOATING GARDENS.

pared stimulating and refreshing drinks from various plants, seeds, and fruits. This beverage, pulque, has been so long in use on the Mexican table-land that its origin is involved in the obscurity of fable. It cannot be told when it was first drank, nor whence it derived its present appellation. The Aztecs gave it the name of neutli and octli, while the plant itself, the maguey, was called metl. One interpreter of the Mexican hieroglyphics asserts that the god Izquitecatl first extracted the life-giving juice of the maguey, while the Toltec annals, as usually interpreted, ascribe its discovery to a prince of the royal blood of that line. A pretty fable is related of its discovery in connection with their somewhat mythical chronicles. A noble Toltec, named Papantzin, found out the method of extracting the juice from the maguey, and sent some of it to his sovereign, Tecpancaltzin, as a present, by his daughter, the beautiful XochitI, the flower of Tollan. Enamored alike of the drink and the maiden, the king, wishing to monopolize both, retained the lovely XochitI a willing prisoner, and in after years placed their illegitimate son upon the throne. This was the beginning of the troubles of the Toltecs, who had then enjoyed peace for many years, in about the year 1000; it led to their eventual dispersion and extinction, brought about by the hand of woman, and through the means of drink. Through all his disasters, however, the Indian clung to his pulque, each generation adding to the acres of maguey planted by its ancestors, and at the present time its consumption has reached enormous proportions.

The maguey, from which the pulque is produced, though native to Mexico, is found growing in our own country, yet not in any great abundance. But on the great Mexican uplands—those high plains that stretch from mountain to mountain at an elevation of more than seven thousand feet above the sea—is the dwelling-place of the maguey. You see it first in abundance when about one hundred miles from the valley of Mexico, on the plains of Apam. When the Spaniards first came here, in 1519, the native Mexicans had the maguey, of which they made almost as many uses as the South-Sea Islander does of the coco-palm, namely, a hundred.