Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/523

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to continue the Mexican system southward to Tehuantepec, even perhaps to Guatemala, and beyond, to South America.

It was to investigate the resources of the region to be traversed by the "Mexican Southern" railroad, that my companions and myself undertook a trip, horseback and muleback, that extended eventually over a thousand miles, and through the most fertile portions of the great State of Oaxaca.

It was a Sunday on which we arrived at Tehuacan, and everybody was astir; for a bull-fight was in progress, most of the stores were closed in consequence, and the sermons of the conscientious priests held over till evening. So we stopped for the night at the Hotel Ferrocarril, and there commenced a preliminary skirmish with fleas, that was kept up, with more or less loss of blood on either side, for a month. The next morning, which was clear, cold, and starlit, we sallied forth from the hotel, lighted into the diligence by flaming torches of tarred rope. Daylight showed us a dry, almost barren plain, descending rapidly in the direction we were going, with haciendas and villages in sight far away under the hills. We changed mules, putting on eight fresh animals, at the hacienda of Nopala, and got breakfast, towards noon, at a town of two houses, called Venta Salada. We encountered great crowds of Indians here, all going to work. We met them all day, intent on the same mission—of going to work,—but which they never seemed to reach. In fact, there did not seem to be any to do; no fields to cultivate,—at least within our vision,—and no wood to cut, or charcoal to burn. The road was all the way descending, and most horrible to travel, the coach first on end, then on its side. The whip, with its twenty feet of lash, trailed at the side like a great snake, which now and again leaped forth and stung the mules to active effort. Hills and valleys were covered with thorny acacias and cacti, and no other vegetation occurred for the trip, except where a rare brook was found, or a small canal led the water to a narrow valley. About noon of that hot and stifling day we passed a great stone post that marked the limits of the State of Oaxaca, and entered the town of San Antonio Nanahuantepec, which had nothing in it so alarming as its name.