Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/40

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TRAVELS IN MEXICO.

mound once covered the space now occupied by the Plaza Mayor, and on and around it, in 1540, a terrible battle was fought,—forty thousand Indians against two hundred Spaniards, says the old historian. The mound was razed, and from its materials and the many pyramids of stone erected by the Indians in ages past, the city of Merida was built. The last of these mounds, an immense artificial elevation containing an aboriginal arch, has just been dug away for the building-stone composing it.

There are fifteen plazas in the city, and each one has facing it a church; like the cathedral, erected in 1667, on the great plaza, of ancient date and most attractive and quaint architecture. Though these churches are now impoverished, and some of them in decay, the number of the faithful is sufficient to maintain a suggestion of former grandeur. Since the expulsion of the Jesuits, some twenty years ago, religious processions have been forbidden, the various streets and plazas have changed names, and many large colleges and monasteries have changed owners. One of the pleasantest of the squares is the Parque Hidalgo, formerly known as the Plaza de Jesus. The largest of all had a fountain, which is soon to be replaced by a fine statue of marble, in its centre, smooth walks, an abundance of flowers, and is shaded by trees. The streets of the city cross each other at right angles; they were formerly designated by figures of birds and beasts, as the bulk of the Indian population could not read. On each corner was painted the figure representing the street, or an image was perched on the wall. Few of these objects remain, but one may yet find the "Street of the Elephant," of the "Flamingo," and the "Street of the Two Faces." The elephant is large as an ox, with a body big as a barrel, and curved trunk and tusks. Nearly all the streets of the city terminate in ancient gateways, high arching above the pavement, with niches and spaces in them, containing some saint, the Virgin, or a cross.

Though under the federal government of Mexico, the State of Yucatan has its separate governor and legislature. The Governor is generally an efficient man, and interested in the welfare and