Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/413

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
405
A JOURNEY IN A DILIGENCE.

of golden-fruited mangos and oranges. What a paradise it must have been in the time of its owner, the fortunate miner, and what a delightful retreat for the unctuous padres who subsequently came into possession of it! Above the trees towers the dome of the old church, and alleys covered over by giant roses and grape-vines lead up to the refectory of the convent, where once the good monks regaled themselves.

After the subjugation of its original possessors, Cuernavaca attracted to itself many Spaniards, but none was so successful as the Marquis, Cortés the Conqueror, who here built his country residence,—in fact, established himself here, devoting himself to agricultural pursuits with an ardor only equalled by that with which he had pursued the Indians a few years before. Go down the street leading to the eastern part of the town, and there you will find El Palacio de Cortés, the Castle of Cortés, the veritable building which he built for his own dwelling, and in which he planned the cultivation of his ample estate, and later the discovery of the Gulf of California and the peninsula. To him the planters were indebted for the introduction of Merino sheep, it is said, and for the first sugar-cane that ever lifted its tasselled head beneath the sun of Mexico. It was right here, in this vale of Cuernavaca, that these things transpired, three centuries and a half ago; and not only the old castle, with battlemented roof and arched entrances, remains, yet in good preservation, to remind us of the industry of Cortés, but the valley plains are waving billows of green and succulent cane. The castle itself, now occupied as a municipal building, rises directly above the eastern barranca, and from the upper corridor, where are the halls of justice, is a grand view of the town, with its three large churches, its stone houses, and its gardens. Eastward are many lovely cabins, just peeping out of gardens of fruit trees, a varied carpet of green from which a dome protrudes here and there, and the plains sweep away below. This was a well-chosen spot, for it commands not only the valley and the mountain passes, but views extending away east to Popocatapetl.

There are vast sugar estates below the town, some of the haciendas dating from the period of the conquest, and producing