Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans/Chapter 10

 
 

X.

 

VERA CRUZ AND JALAPA.

 

PERHAPS I have sufficiently indicated the position of Palenque, and the way there, my object being merely to direct attention to this region so long forgotten; for it has not been half explored. As it is far from our purpose to penetrate the wilds of Central America in search of somewhat mythical cities, but more in accordance with the times to jog along in the beaten track of travel, we will return to the coast, to Tabasco.

Taking with him Marina, the Tabascan princess, as his mistress, (who soon became valuable as an interpreter, and subsequently saved the Spanish army from destruction,) and a number of other captives, Cortes sailed westward and northward. Over the same route, though perhaps a little farther off shore, the steamers to-day take their course to Vera Cruz. About midway between Frontera and the port of Vera Cruz, the river Coatzcoalcos flows into the Gulf. This in itself were of no consequence, but that it indicates the narrowest portion of the continent north of Panama. Regarding this isthmus of Tehuantepec, it would be difficult to write anything new at the present day, for it has been before the public for many years as a claimant for a canal. Long before the days of Humboldt, this narrowing of the continent had drawn to it the eyes of the world. Though surveys have demonstrated the impracticability of a ship canal, they have shown the feasibility, even necessity, for a railroad. The distance across the isthmus is but little over one hundred miles, and a depression in the Cordilleras renders the grades next to nothing. This road is one that assumes more than sectional importance, and rises to the dignity of an international highway. Although it is also one of the few roads that would seem likely to benefit the builders, yet the American company engaged in the task failed, and it has reverted to the Mexican government.

It is the region above described that is passed by on the way from Progreso to Vera Cruz; a land richer in recollections of the past than possibilities for the future, but which will doubtless share in the returning tide of prosperity that is now deluging Mexico.

Another morning finds us before another port, La Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz,—the Rich City of the True Cross,—gateway to the Mexican capital, through which, in times past, have poured those tides of wealth that have filled the coffers of Spain. It is a lovely picture this city presents from the sea,—the line of walls lying above and in front of stretches of sand dunes, capped here and there with verdure, but mostly bare and gray. These walls are tinted, red, yellow, blue, green, but are never allowed to glare out in ghastly white. And then its domes and turrets: twenty-two can be counted from the steamer's deck, some of shining porcelain, that glisten like polished marble in the sunshine. The suburbs to the south seem even more attractive than the city, with low, red-roofed houses, groups of palms, and ruined forts. Down the coast stretch the wind-blown sandhills,—the medanos,—yellow, flecked with green, with coral reefs tossing the foam above the blue water, and the Island of Sacrifices—Isla de los Sacrificios—lying low to the eastward.

Under the walls of the castle fortress, San Juan de Ulua, the steamer drops anchor, half a mile from the mole, where seems concentrated the life of the city. This castle is built upon a small barren island, upon which Juan de Grijalva landed, in June, 1518. It being the day of the feast of St. John, the island was called San Juan de Ulua, The Spaniards found idols here, and vestiges of human sacrifices, offered, the Indians told them, by the natives of Culchua, or Ulua (Mexico). The construction of the fortress is believed to have been begun in 1662, though spoken of in 1625, but not finished till 1796, when a light-tower (still standing) was added. Several inscriptions.

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San Juan de Ulua VERA CRUZ Isla de los Sacrificios
(Before its fortifications were levelled)

bearing date respectively 1633, 1700, 1707, and 1778, attest the progress of various portions of the work. It is in shape a rather irregular parallelogram, with a small watch-tower, or rampart, on each one of its angles. Besides the guns of the structure proper, it has water batteries, and was considered at one time impregnable. It is half a mile from shore, and commands the city, which it has several times nearly reduced to ruins. It was held by the Spaniards until 1825, and remained loyal to the king of Spain for nearly four years after their expulsion from the mainland. At present used as a prison for political offenders, it is especially dreaded by prisoners from the interior of the country, as incarceration there is almost sure to end in death, from disease engendered in its damp dungeons.

If the coast is approached in clear weather, there may be seen that glorious apparition, the volcano of Orizaba, its profile sharply cut against the blue sky full sixty miles inland. Known to the ancient Aztecs as Ciltlaltpetl, or the Mountain of the Star, it was called by the Spanish sailors La Estrella de la Mar,—the Star of the Sea. And well it merits this latter title, since its crystal peak, borne on high 17,500 feet, is visible more than one hundred miles away.

The half-mile or so between steamer and quay is soon gone over, in boats shaded by awnings and propelled by boatmen clad in immaculate garments of white, and you are soon ashore and inspecting the city.

One of the hottest cities of the republic, Vera Cruz is also the unhealthiest, TLM D185 A Zopilote.jpgA ZOPILOTE. and by some strange anomaly it is likewise one of the cleanest. Streets white and clean are drained by gutters equally free from filth; and if any refuse escapes the eye of the sanitary authorities, those other members of the board of health, the vultures, are sure to snatch it up and bear it away, or devour it on the spot. These valued birds are seen by hundreds, perched on every roof-top, and waddling through all the streets. They are called zopilotes, from the Aztec word zopilotl, and belong to the genus Cathartes,—two species, aura, or the turkey buzzard, and atratus, the black vulture.

The Plaza is the only attractive point in the city; and though it is small, it has marble walks and some wind-blown trees. The architecture is the same as that of all these cities of New Spain transplanted from the mother country,—a combination of Spanish and Moorish that redeems the city from sameness and makes it interesting to a stranger. That the hotels are clean and fairly served, that there is a tramway with a single track traversing the city, that you run the risk of catching the vomito, or yellow fever, if you pass a night on shore,—all these items of information are given in the guide-books, and have become familiar to every traveller.

There need be no exaggeration regarding the vomito, for there is scarcely room for any, in a city which has for many years been known as la ciudad de los muertos,—the city of the dead. The Vera-Cruzians claim that the death-rates are overestimated, yet people enough succumb to "Yellow Jack," for all that, to make a stranger cautious how he exposes himself. Periodical visits from this dread visitor are as sure as taxes and death in its ordinary shape. In June, 1881, for instance, people were dying at the rate of one hundred a week.

A clipping from a Mexican newspaper, of the date of my residence in the city of Mexico, will illustrate the extent to which this evil had spread, and was raging at that time:—

"Pandora's box was not a circumstance to the evils which Vera Cruz contains. Advices from there state that the yellow fever prevails to an extent unknown in other years.

"Old residents are dead and dying, and medical aid is pronounced of no avail. Whole families are leaving for Jalapa and Orizaba. In addition, the city has the typhoid and bilious fevers, small-pox, and several other pleasant adjuncts to agreeable living. The panic is very great."

From my note-book of that date I extract the following:—

"Forty deaths a day are reported from yellow fever and small-pox in Vera Cruz. It would seem as though no one would be left to carry on business in that ancient city; yet it goes on the same, in spite of the dead and dying. A friend just up from the coast tells me that he saw eight bodies carried out the morning he arrived. Yet the residents there treat the matter lightly. The late American Consul, Dr. Trowbridge, who has had a successor appointed, after twelve years of service, retires in health, and laughing at the reports of fever. He is waiting for his successor. If I were that man I should let him wait,—at least till cooler weather came. Dr. Trowbridge and his family had yellow fever the first week they came to Vera Cruz, while his predecessor, who had held the office many years, and had resigned, died before he could leave the city. It is strange, yet I hear there were hundreds of applicants for that precarious consulship at Vera Cruz, where an escape from the clutches of 'Yellow Jack' is an exception. Are offices, then, so scarce up North? "

A week later the paper quoted from above contained this item:—

"Hon. E. H. Rogers, of Nebraska, who was recently appointed Consul at Vera Cruz, died last Monday from the fatal effects of the climate.

"Mr. Rogers had but just arrived, and had not entered upon the discharge of his duties when his death occurred. Much sorrow is felt in this city over the sad news. The funeral rites of the deceased were observed at the Evangelical Church of Vera Cruz."

I was in the city of Mexico when the news of the appointment of the new Consul reached us there, and remember that we all speculated as to the probable length of his stay, expecting he would soon be taken with the vomito, but little dreaming of such a fatal termination. Again, in returning through Vera Cruz in September, on my way back to the United States, I experienced the welcome hospitality of the Trowbridges, and under date of that visit find the following entry in my notebook:—

"At the United States consulate, all the old family who have been there so long, and have made Americans so welcome, were residing, except Dr. Trowbridge, the head of it, who was absent in the United States. The sad ending of the recent attempt to replace him, by the death of his successor after but thirteen days' residence, should read a lesson to those in office in Washington, who appoint men to foreign stations for which they are not qualified nor acclimated. The twelve years' residence of Dr. Trowbridge here as our Consul, during which he has discharged the duties of the office faithfully, and won respect from every body, should entitle him to a reappointment. It is impossible for one not acclimated to reside in this city long without receiving a visit from the vomito, which may prove fatal. The Doctor and his family have passed through many bad seasons, they have all had the fever, and it is to be hoped they may be spared yet many years to live in a place they seem to like."

Though Vera-Cruzians deny that the vomito is endemic here, it has existed too long in this place to have their assertion believed. The oldest description of yellow fever is that of a Portuguese physician, who observed it in Brazil, between 1687 and 1694; and its first appearance in Mexico is said by the historian Clavigero to have been in 1725. Even the best of our physicians disagree as to the origin, and even the contagious character, of the vomito; hence, we will not discuss this vexed question. But it would seem that the latest theory, that of a South American physician, that it is propagated by germs from the soil in which fever victims have been buried, and thus rendered endemic, was more nearly correct than any other yet advanced. It has been noted that it rages more violently in some seasons than in others; and Humboldt stated that an intimate connection was always observed between the march of diseases and the variations of atmospheric temperature. "Two seasons only are known at Vera Cruz,—that of the north winds (los nortes), from the autumnal to the vernal equinox, and that of the south winds, or breezes (brisas), between March and September, The month of January is the coldest in the year, because it is farthest from the two periods in which the sun passes through the zenith of Vera Cruz (the 16th of May and the 27th of July). The vomito generally begins to rage in that term when the mean temperature of the month reaches 75° Fahrenheit. In December, January, and February, the heat remains below this limit; and, accordingly, it seldom happens that the yellow fever does not entirely disappear in that season, when a very sensible cold is frequently felt."

The last and the first months of the year, then, are the safest in which to pass through Vera Cruz, and the midsummer months the most dangerous. Although the fever commences in May, it is generally at its worst in August and September, as it requires a certain time for the germs of the disease to develop. The disease first attacks strangers in the country, especially those from a colder climate, where frost occurs; and it has been observed by Humboldt that among people from the table-lands of Mexico the mortality is relatively greater than among visitors coming from over the sea.

A stay in Vera Cruz even of a few hours is sufficient for one to contract the contagion, during the season of fever, and the greatest precautions must be taken by those who are compelled to run the gantlet in the summer months. We have had many lamentable examples of late years, one of the most to be deplored being that of General Ord, our brave army officer, whose business and family interests took him to Mexico, and who died in Havana, of fever contracted at Vera Cruz. I have purposely digressed from our line of march to repeat the warning to would-be visitors to Mexico, not to pass through Vera Cruz in the summer season.

Once a person has had the fever, he generally has immunity from further attack, and the old residents of Vera Cruz laugh at its approach, and pursue their avocations without seriously regarding it. This is why they cling so strongly to this pestilential seaport, since the transfer of its business to a new and more healthy locality has often been urged, and always by them strenuously resisted.

General Grant, President of the Mexican Southern Railroad, has encountered great opposition from them because he proposed having the Gulf terminus of his line at Anton Lizardo. a healthy locality, with a comparatively good harbor, some distance down the coast. His improvements are now going on at that place, and when they are finished, and railway connection is made with the table-land, Vera Cruz will be left to occupy the position it richly deserves, as a forsaken charnel-house of mouldering bones. Its roadstead is notoriously poor, affording no protection to the vessels coming there, although the famous island of Ulua, containing a fortress costing $16,000,000, lies to windward. Nearly all the business is conducted by French and German merchants, who have risked their lives in their attempts at acclimatization, and are now richly rewarded by large and increasing fortunes.

Another thing to encounter, equally dreadful in its way with the fever, is the customs duty. Though it is an undeniable fact that the merchants of the country are robbed by wholesale, sometimes paying duties on goods to the amount of twice their original cost, yet the traveller is rarely molested. One should not fail to pay a deserved tribute to the Mexican customs official, who is ever courteous and attentive. He does not seem to bear that surly antipathy towards travellers which his brother official of the United States almost invariably displays. At the very ports of this country, before you have fairly made the acquaintance of the people, you will perceive in them a demeanor in most refreshing contrast to that of the habitués of the docks of New York. The traveller is permitted to enter all his personal apparel free of duty, as well as two watches, two revolvers,—in fact, everything that he really needs. A great many things he does not need may be taken in also, for the official's pay is meagre, and he loves to gaze upon the portraits of American worthies as depicted on the faces of our national currency Remember, however, that cinco pesos (five dollars) is sufficient to provide said official with many luxuries, as the rate of exchange is sometimes as high as twenty per cent in our favor. At the verge of the voyage, also, it would be well to caution the traveller that he must, if requested, state to the proper authorities his name and profession. This done, he may be at liberty to wander at his own sweet will. Vaya con Dios!—Go, and the Lord be with you!

The reader hardly needs to be reminded that Vera Cruz was virtually founded by Cortes; that his landing-place was on the city's site; that he here disembarked his troops, destroyed his ships, and entered upon the march inland that has made his name as famous as that of Alexander and from which he returned only when he had conquered the country.

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VERA CRUZ

"It was on Holy Thursday, of the year 1519," says the stout old chronicler, Bernal Diaz, whom we shall encounter at intervals throughout our journey, "that we arrived at the port of San Juan de Ulua, and Cortes hoisted the royal standard." He first landed on the island now crowned by the castle, where Grijalva had preceded him by a year. Though the first buildings erected by the Spaniards were upon this spot, yet the site was changed several times, before it was finally fixed at the present location in the year 1600.

Though Vera Cruz has suffered probably above every other city in Mexico, from the combined influences of plagues, pirates, and hurricanes, yet to-day it exists as a prosperous and well conditioned city. As the only port on the eastern coast with any semblance of a harbor, it has monopolized Mexican commerce with foreign nations, and has always been opulent and animated. In olden times, like Havana and Cartagena, it was exposed to the assaults of pirates and buccaneers, into whose hands it fell in 1568, and again in 1683, when the pirates Agramont and Lorencillo sacked the city, and destroyed more than three hundred of the inhabitants. In 1618 a terrible fire swept over it.

In 1803 the first great road was commenced to the city of Mexico, there having been till that time little more than the footpaths worn by mules and asses coming down from the mountains. In the war for independence Vera Cruz was the theatre of strife between the opposing factions on many occasions, and in 1822 and 1823 was terribly bombarded by the Spaniards in the fortress of San Juan. The city bears the distinguishing title of "heroic," especially granted it by Congress, in honor of the many sieges it has gallantly sustained. In 1838 city and castle were attacked by the French without any provocation; and in March, 1847, suffered from a cannonade by the American fleet, the effects of which may be seen to-day. In 1856 a hurricane destroyed nearly all the shipping in the harbor; in 1859 Juarez, the republican President, landed here after his circular voyage around Mexico, and here he was besieged by General Miramon. In 1861 the "intervention" fleet made its appearance, and the city was in possession of the French and Imperialists until 1867, when the cause of freedom triumphed, and nothing has since occurred to interrupt its career of commercial prosperity.

The great State of Vera Cruz, of which this city is the commercial emporium, comprises the central portion of the Gulf coast of Mexico, and lies mainly in the hot country producing the fruits and vines of the tropics. Throughout its whole extent bordering the coast, it maintains a reputation for insalubrity, and is undesirable to live in. As a place of refuge from the heat and vomito, and the insect plagues that sometimes annoy the inhabitants of the coast, the town of Jalapa—pronounced Halápa—has an extensive reputation. Situated at a height above the sea of over four thousand feet, it is yet only seventy miles from Vera Cruz, and is reached in one day.

Having a few days to spare before leaving for the capital, I resolved to look upon this town in the mountains, celebrated for the beauty of its scenery, its women, and its flowers. At three in the morning the porter of the hotel drew me forth from the cell which the proprietor had assigned me as a bedroom, the night before, and led the way to the station, through streets that were dark and cool, but heavy with vile odors. We went by steam to San Juan, sixteen miles, over flat plains, and then changed for a tramway, which does the remaining sixty miles or so to Jalapa. At first we passed through a section of rich land; but as the ascent commenced, vegetation was parched and dry; yet there was everywhere a blossom, though few birds, and no butterflies. Three cars composed our train, divided respectively into first, second, and third class, and each one drawn by four mules. We made but one stop before reaching the Puente Nacional,—the National Bridge,—a magnificent viaduct, under which flowed a large river, where a stone fort commanded the approach for half a mile or so on either side. The old Spanish road, paved and curbed, over which General Scott marched from Vera Cruz to Jalapa, on his way to Mexico, is the same one we now take; but it is well-nigh abandoned by teams, nearly all freight passing over the tramway Near this bridge are the ruins of Santa Anna's hacienda, and along the road beyond on both sides of it, we passed numerous black crosses, erected over the graves of murdered men, buried where they fell. Forty miles on our journey brought us to Rinconada, where the mules were changed for the second time, and where a good breakfast was served.

In this small, out-of-the-way place, a sight greeted my eyes that rendered me for the moment speechless. I have already spoken of the great influx of engineers into this country; they crowded every steamer, and worried the lives out of every officer on board by criticisms of the management of the machinery. Having seen these knights of the theodolite on board ship,

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EL PUENTE NACIONAL.

dressed in fine clothes, groaning under the weight of massive gold chains and chronometers,—men who shaved once every other day, got their boots blacked by the porter, and constantly threw out such like evidences of familiarity with a bank account,—having witnessed all this, I was not prepared for what I saw at that small station, where the mules kindly halted to allow us dusty travellers a chance to wash the dust out of our throats. It was this: a young man leaning against the doorpost.

Stalwart young men and doorposts are not uncommonly met with together, as many a young woman can testify; but it was not the young man especially, nor the doorpost, that riveted my gaze, but his costume. Beneath a great sombrero, with a brim little less than a yard wide, stood a woollen shirt and leather breeches, girt about with a pistol-belt full of cartridges, and stuck around with revolvers; a rifle leaned against the left arm, while the right hand of the owner of all this furniture was stroking a beard belonging to a countenance not at all unfamiliar. While I was beating my brains to recall where I had met this handsome ruffian before, summoning up Buffalo Bill, Davy Crockett, the ghost of Texas Jack, and all the rangers of the prairie that had crossed my track, this formidable being hailed me. He called me by name, and extended a palm horny with the blisters of two weeks in the field with compass and line. It was Smith, fellow-passenger on a previous steamer, who had exchanged a spick-and-span New York suit for the garb of the Mexican, and who wore girt about his loins the implements of warfare peculiar to the land of the Mexican; his countenance, which he was so careful to keep from being sun-burnt when on board steamer, was now a flaring red, and his hair, which he was wont to anoint with oil and part in the middle, was frowzy, and proclaimed by stray hairs from another species of animal, here and there, the color of the blanket he last slept in. As soon as I had discovered my friend in this disguise, and became convinced that it was not a highwayman lying in wait for my gold, we went in and cemented our friendship in the usual manner. Fifty-five miles from the coast is Cerro Gordo, famous in the annals of the Mexican war,—a narrow pass between very high hills. Regarding the passage of Cerro Gordo, an English traveller reluctantly yields to our troops the following praise: "That ten thousand Americans should have been able to get through the mountain passes, and to reach the capital at all, is an astonishing thing; and after that, their successes in the valley of Mexico follow as a matter of course. They could never have crossed the mountains but for a combination of circumstances."

The road is everywhere commanded; there was no other trail,—hills and mountains on every side; so General Scott had to throw skirmishers along all these ridges before his army could pass. It is a long distance through, and must have been a perilous pass, with just width enough between high cliffs for the road to run. Not far from the narrowest portion, a trail leads off to the left, up to a ridge where cannon are yet found, and behind which Santa Anna lost his leg,—his wooden one. A few tile-covered, tumble-down shanties constitute the hamlet of Cerro Gordo, half a mile farther on.

The land is now of the uplands. Cerro Gordo guards the passage from the hot lowlands to the salubrious temperate region; streams now run by the track, good pasturage commences, and the way is all up hill. Some four miles farther we entered rolling upland pastures, where corn was growing, and a straggling hacienda was visible now and again. Beyond this the ridges are covered with hard woods, corn and sugar-cane grow side by side in the vales, fields of barley are spread invitingly about, and, as we gallop into Jalapa, we cannot but notice the groves of coffee trees by which the houses are surrounded.

At the Hotel Vera-Cruzana, a low building about an open court with fountains and flowers, we obtained good accommodation, at the termination of our ride of nearly twelve hours. Though generally surrounded by clouds of mist, Jalapa possesses a superior situation, with grand mountain views, and the combined vegetation of the high and the low country. Possessing also a temperate climate, it produces, it is said, the prettiest women and loveliest flowers in Mexico proper. Its architecture is not remarkable, if we except the old convent, said to have been built in the time of Cortes, and unless we consider the manner in which the houses—all of stone—are perched on the hillsides. The gardens of Jalapa are noted all over Mexico, because in them are gathered fruits and flowers of every zone. Coffee is the staple product, but bananas and plantains, as well as corn, fraternize with it, and serve to give a character to these gardens that impresses one strongly with the possibilities of this climate.

In the forests, out of sight, on the eastern declivity of the Cordilleras of Vera Cruz, flourishes that aromatic-fruited plant, the vanilla,—Vanilla planifolia. It is TLM D198 Vanilla.jpgVANILLA indigenous to the humid forests, and is carefully sought out and gathered by the Indians of the tierra caliente. The plant requires little care, but shade and moisture are necessary to its existence. The Indians, who yet reside in their primitive villages, are restricted in the harvest season by the alcalde who apportions to each his share of the labor. The harvest begins in March and April, and continues two or three months. The pods are carefully dried in the sun, and packed for shipment with equal solicitude.

Vanilla was assiduously cultivated by the Totonacs, who anciently dwelt in the coast region of Vera Cruz, and who supplied the article to Montezuma and the Aztec nobles. Ruins of the structures erected by these Totonacs lie thick throughout the vast forests, in a line between Jalapa and the coast, going northward. Some of them have names, such as Misantla, Mapilca, and Papantla. The first named lies within thirty miles of Jalapa; but little is known of any of these groups, though the pyramid of Papantla was described eighty years ago. The base of this pyramid is an exact square, each side twenty-five metres in length, and its perpendicular height about twenty metres. It is composed of six successive stages, like the true teocallis of Mexico, and a great staircase of fifty-seven steps leads to the truncated summit. Hieroglyphics and strange figures, such as serpents and alligators, are carved in relief on the faced stones of each story, while a multitude of square niches, 366 in number, have given rise to the conjecture that they, in some occult sense, had connection with the ancient Toltec calendar; twelve additional niches in the stair toward the east may have stood for the "useless" or intercalated days at the end of their cycle.

To revert again to the charms of Jalapa; it is not my own unsupported testimony that I would offer. All travellers who have recorded their impressions of this city concur in praising its scenery and its doncellas. Says the Mexican adage, "Las Jalapeñas son muy halagüeñas"—"The women of Jalapa are very bewitching." And Mr. Ward (1827): "It is impossible that any words should convey an adequate idea of the country about Jalapa. It stands in the centre of some of the finest mountain scenery which any country can boast of." Humboldt was in love with it, and perhaps with the doncellas as well, for he had a very susceptible nature, this grand old man,—not old when he visited Mexico, but young and handsome.

The only drawback to perpetual enjoyment here is the drizzling rain, which the clouds from the Gulf, their burdens of moisture condensed by the cool mountain-tops, precipitate upon Jalapa. This drizzle is called the chipi-chipi. "Then," says the traveller Ruxton, "the sun is for days obscured, and the Jalapeño, muffled in his sarape, smokes his cigarro, and mutters. 'Ave Maria Purissima, que salga el sol.' Liberally, 'Holy Mary, let the sun come out!' "Jalapa was formerly on the great highway between Vera Cruz and Mexico (the city), which, both below and beyond, was infested by the salteadores, or

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RUINS OF PAPANTLA.

"gentlemen of the road." Of the past, however, are these tales, for the railway has superseded the diligence, and the poor highwayman must now labor with his hands.

Xalapa was a town existing when the first Spaniards marched up these mountains, as is stated in their reports. Beyond it is the famous mountain of Perote, called by an Aztec name signifying casket, in Spanish cofre, from its rectangular shape, and near its base the town of Perote, where American prisoners were confined in 1847. Though we had looked anxiously for that plant from which the town derived its name, that tried friend of old-school physicians, jalap,—Ipomoea Jalapa,—we had not been successful. Only the name remains, though the plant may still be hidden in some dark ravine, or in the deep forest, like the vanilla, for which the coast country below was formerly celebrated.

My companions on the way up were the celebrated artist, Church, painter of "The Heart of the Andes," and his lovely wife, who were then on their return trip towards the United States, and who expressed themselves as delighted with the mountain scenery of the plateau. It was early morning as we left Jalapa on the downward trip, left it still crouching beneath the clouds that hovered over it, and scampered—or our mules did—down the hills. The mules were whipped into a gallop, and changed every three leagues, so that the journey to the coast was half accomplished ere the sun made it very hot.

"The worse the road, the harder ply the whip," is the motto of all Mexican drivers; so we sped through the pass of Cerro Gordo at an awful rate, taking sharp curves and spinning over its tortuous road at top speed. Beyond Rinconada, we descended the steep grades in a cloud of dust, racing with the second and third class cars, the heat growing more and more oppressive every mile; and in this manner we ran into the hot country again, and on the morrow took the train for the capital.