Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/459

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A RIDE THROUGH A MINING REGION.

headquarters of the Real del Monte company, which works the greatest number of mines in this district. Its building is a perfect fortress, built, like all Mexican houses of the better class, with stone walls, square, and surrounding an open court in the centre, into which all the rooms look; but flanked at every corner with towers, loop holed and slit for musketry. When I first saw this structure I did not understand the full significance of those towers, supposing that they were added for ornament; but I subsequently learned that they were made for a purpose, and that many a man has been shot from them. Bullet-holes may yet be seen in the walls, though many have been effaced by mortar and paint. It is only eight or nine years since this castle withstood the attack of a horde of bandits. As related by an eyewitness, the affair was something like this. There was a large quantity of silver stored in the vaults of the building; for all the treasure of the various mines is first collected here, and then sent, in steel wagons, well guarded, to the mint in Mexico. It was, I think, in revolutionary times, and the country was overrun with lawless men, who collected in Pachuca in great numbers. The commander of the little army maintained by this great company had two hundred picked men. Leaving a small guard in the castle, he returned to Real del Monte, two leagues distant, there formed and collected his forces, and then marched again upon Pachuca. Soon as the guard within the fort saw their comrades appear upon the hilltops, they opened fire upon the rascals outside, while the commandant charged through the narrow streets, with great slaughter.

The few windows opening on the street are defended by iron bars, and the massive doors are guarded by men armed with rifle and revolver. Above this are the extensive mills and works, called haciendas, of the company, and the apartado, an immense establishment, in which the silver is assayed and the residue of gold extracted after the silver has been run into bricks. Here everything needful is made, even to the sulphuric acid used in the operation. The sulphur comes from Sicily, though old Popocatapetl has a vast store yet in his vitals; and the quick-