Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/567

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BY RAIL TO NORTHERN MEXICO.

mate that, though healthy, is most discouraging and appalling, alike to resident and new arrival. It is hot, but that is nothing; it is windy, but that does not signify; yet when heat and wind combine, and the one scorches the Rio Grande sand until it is fine grit, and the other hurls it into the air in whirlwinds of dust, then the dweller in Laredo muffles his head and curses his unhappy lot, while the temporary sojourner curses likewise, but departs. But for the heat, and the sand, and the fleas, and the Border Mexican, it would be pleasant to live in Laredo, if one were not obliged to gaze continuously upon its joyless scenery. But as Laredo is the "gateway" to the promised land of Mexico, one need not remain here if he choose to go farther, for here two great international lines cross the Border and invade Mexican territory. One hundred and sixty-seven miles west is Corpus Christi, the Gulf terminus of the "Mexican National" railroad, while to the north is San Antonio, connected with Laredo by the "International and Great Northern." Here the "Oriental," the southern courier of the vast "Gould System" of railroads, leaps straight across the river, penetrates the tierra caliente, or hot coast region, and draws a direct line for Mexico City. Thence it will be continued southward by the "Mexican Southern," a concession controlled by General Grant, and eventually may penetrate the confines of Guatemala, and even Central and South America. Who knows? With a management presided over by the greatest general of our armies, and the skilful organizer of our railways, it is possible that within a decade of years one may obtain, over the "Gould System" of roads, a through ticket from New York to Panama, or from St. Louis to Quito. All possibilities seem limitless, after an inspection of the great lines of the Southwest, thrown into Mexico through the force of genius and enterprise.

The muddy Rio Grande was bridged by the railways but little over a year ago, until which time it had always been crossed by ferries. It was in the dry season; at that time it was but a gentle stream, meandering sluggishly between its sandy banks, and which a man could almost wade across. It endured the ignominy of being spanned, without remonstrance; but as the melt-