Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/410

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TRAVELS IN MEXICO.

smaller, and hence I was never without a "brother,"—un buen hermano,—to guide me to the haunts of the denizens of the fields.

Fair Cuernavaca! It well merits the ancient name, Cuauhnahuac, or Flower-surrounded. The casual visitor sees few of its charms, for they lie concealed in the suburbs, and in gardens enclosed by formidable walls; its architecture is not of the finest, and only the convents and churches are in any wise remarkable. The town lies about four thousand feet above the sea, built on a spur of land jutting out from the mountains, between two barrancas, or ravines, of great length and dizzy depth. With heat and water at command, its vegetation is luxuriant, and its suburbs are one continuous garden.

At five in the morning of the 31st of May, I was awakened by the singing of the wrens in the roof, and shortly after Pastor Pastrana, with two of the ever-faithful brothers, guided me to the southern barranca. It cannot be less than two hundred feet deep, and between its narrow walls a thread of a stream tumbles to the gravelly bottom, which we reached by cautiously stealing along the cliff, and looked out through the fleecy veil from a deep cave worn by the water behind it. Empress Carlotta has been here, and astonished the natives by walking along a narrow shelf of rock beyond, where it was very risky; above were the towering walls of basalt, below the gravelly bowl, fifty feet across, into which the stream fell. We wandered through corn-fields, and along a side-hill covered with plantains and guava trees, their roots watered by gentle streams, and peered up through their branches at the blue sky beyond, but without getting many birds, or even moths or butterflies.

Two great barrancas, as I have said, run down from the mountain, and, meeting below Cuernavaca, enclose it in their embrace. It thus occupies an almost impregnable position, so far as danger from assault is concerned, and was one of the most difficult of captures during the Spanish invasion. Coming up from the lake of Chalco, in the spring of 1521, while preparations were going on for the investment of Mexico, the Spanish army attacked Cuernavaca. For a long time they could make no head-