Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/414

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a million pounds each of sugar annually, it is said, besides coffee and cacao. These haciendas have great mills equipped with the best machinery known for crushing the cane, evaporating and crystallizing the juice, and distilling rum therefrom. In themselves, they do not cover a great stretch of territory, but monopolize all the fertile land in the entire region. What I would say is, that there is not the faintest show of an opportunity for foreign capital or energy to work to advantage in or near the valley of Cuernavaca. And this statement will apply in a measure to nearly every portion of Mexico, especially as regards operations in agriculture.

One morning—it was the 1st of June—my clerical friend and myself went down among the coffee groves, and were directed to search for birds in a near plantation, to reach which we passed through a nicely cultivated field of sweet potatoes, and then followed a wall and an irrigating ditch to the banana and plantain forest. Ah, the beauty of these gardens of plantains, which fully realize one's idea of an Eden in the tropics! Nothing else grows beneath them,—nothing there but their great silken, banana-like leaves, hanging from the smooth stems, arching over you, and perhaps trailing on the ground.

We crossed, later, a deep barranca, and came to a village hidden in trees, where streamlets gurgled through the streets, and the gardens were full of flowers. In the yard of one of the cabins we beheld a phenomenon which we could not account for,—a tree with bare limbs ejecting fine streams of water which fell in spray. I wondered at it, but accepted the fact that the tree did it, and was about putting it down in my notebook,—"Great discovery; wonderful weeping-tree of Cuernavaca." But just as we were going away, I thought I saw something move, and by attentive examination made out an insect called there the chicharra (Cicada spumaria, or harvest-fly). The tree was covered with them, squirting in all directions, and giving to it the strange appearance that had attracted our attention. There was something that might have been published as a botanical curiosity changed into merely an insect phenomenon! These insects were old acquaintances, after all,