Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/448

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
440
TRAVELS IN MEXICO.

robbed two engineers just above this point. This proves the accuracy of our information, and shows how uncertain is travel as yet in this region. San Franciscito, a small town twenty-five miles from Mexico, was our destination, and after dinner, with some engineers living in the company's house, we proceeded to pay the men. There were about a thousand of them, ranged in long rows in the streets, a motley crowd, clad only in cotton shirts and pantaloons, with a sarape added, or a cape of palm leaves. This cloak, called capote de palma, is much worn by the shepherds; it makes the wearer look like the roof of a thatched hut; but it turns the rain, and is cheap. The silver was counted out in piles upon a table, and each man paid as his name was called and checked upon a duplicate list. They were not allowed inside the room, of course, but took their money through a small aperture in the window, it being thrown into their hats, each man departing with a "Gracias, seƱor." It took three hours to pay away about four thousand dollars, during which time the rain was falling in torrents. At four o'clock we mounted for our return trip of twenty-five miles, every man protected by his sarape, and by a rubber poncho that fell from his shoulders and covered his saddle and a good portion of his horse. The rain had swollen the rivers and the "bad lands" were slippery as soap, so that three of our party suffered severe falls, and the paymaster's horse fell upon him, inflicting such injuries as to confine him to his bed for a week afterward.

The section between Mexico and Toluca is probably the roughest on the whole line, being through the mountain wall around the valley of Anahuac, while the region is almost entirely worthless; but beyond is one of the most fertile valleys in the republic, where we find Toluca, a city doing much business, celebrated for its manufactures and its great trade with Mexico, and with a population of 11,000.

The road runs through the lovely valley of Lerma, tapping the mining region of Tlalpujahua and El Oro, and penetrating the renowned forest belt, which contains great supplies of lumber, more precious to Mexico than silver or gold.