Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/541

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Two leagues out, we entered the Indian town of Tule, which is famous all over Mexico for its giant savin-tree, more celebrated, however, for its breadth than height. It is no mean rival of the gigantic baobab of Africa (Adansonia digitata), which Humboldt considered the oldest organic monument on the globe, but the largest examples of which, as near as I can ascertain, measured but thirty-four feet in diameter. This tree of Tule—tulé is the Aztec name for bulrush—measured around its trunk, at five feet from the ground, 146 feet, following its irregularities; longer diameter of the elliptical trunk, 40 feet; diameter of its spreading bulk of branches, 141 feet; height, about 160 feet. This grand old arbol is in the centre of the village, in the enclosure containing the parish church, which it completely overtops. Its vast bulk can be seen rising above the plain at a long distance from the village, and it is said to have sheltered the army of Cortés, when on its terrible march to Honduras, three hundred and sixty years ago.

Our road beyond lay over a fertile plain to Tlacolula, a fine town with many good buildings, in a region of aboriginal mounds. In the outskirts, the houses were surrounded by hedges of cactus, with gates made of canes, enclosing fields of corn. The main road to Tehuantepec branches off here, and we left it and bore more to the east, through a lateral valley, where the soil was poorer, though bearing thin crops of cane and corn. We rode under high cliffs full of caves and holes, in which a miserable people found shelter, and great rocks were set up on the ridge, as though the milestones of the Cyclops, to guide one to the valley of Mitla. After rounding these cliffs, the semicircular valley opened out, with an Indian town lying at the bottom, and the ruins hidden behind it surrounded by hills on three sides. Two great trees stand in the centre of the town, landmarks visible miles away, and beneath these some dozen or so of women were holding market in the open air as we drove up. The only good house in the village was that of Don Felix Quero, this being of stone, and all the rest of mud or adobe. We were surprised at the neatness of the house, which surrounded a great square yard, containing orange and