Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/450

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
442
TRAVELS IN MEXICO.

ter and controlled by energetic native capitalists. It runs at first parallel with the old road to Puebla, over which travel has rolled for centuries, and which, even in this age of steam, is crowded with the mules and donkeys of the freighters. Two daily trains leave the gate of San Lazaro for the South, composed of first, second, and third class cars, the fare being two cents per mile for the former, and less than one cent for the latter. At the hacienda of Los Reyes, composed of a few scattered adobe huts, a train connects for the ancient city of Tezcoco, and eventually for Puebla.

The scenery for the most part is dreary, but plains waving with grain, like those of Ameca and Ozumba, and the great volcanoes always in sight, especially from the latter place, make the route one of varied interest. Beyond the Mexican plateau, fifty miles from the capital, the road descends over a forbidding country, known as the mal pais, or "bad lands," fifty miles farther, to the town of Cuautla. This is a place of note, situated in tierra caliente, celebrated for its great sugar plantations and tropical fruits.

On the 18th of June, 1881, the Morelos road was formally opened to this point with a grand banquet, and an assembling here of nearly all the notables of Mexico. A week later a most terrible accident occurred at the barranca of Malpais, caused by the washing away of the foundations of a bridge, by which two hundred persons, principally soldiers, were precipitated down a ravine, and the cars, loaded with lime and rum, took fire, enveloping the victims in flames. Had that accident happened at the opening of the road, when President Gonzalez, Diaz, Romero, and most of the leading men of Mexico were there, the consequences to the republic would have been most disastrous. The whole work, with its sharp and numerous curves, and its insecure bridges, seemed to justify the boast of the native population (before the accident), that the engineer was a Mexican, and had never built a road before. The disaster proved a lesson to the American engineers, especially those who came first in the dry season, when all the ravines and arroyos are bare, and who realized that they must reside here through a rainy season or