Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans/Chapter 2






A BIT of history might be quoted here, to the better understanding of the country, the people, and their institutions; and without further parley we will turn to the description given by Ferdinand Columbus of the first Indians from Yucatan that the eye of Spaniard ever looked on. It was on the fourth and last voyage of the Great Admiral, in 1502, when, driven by currents out of his southerly course from San Domingo, he sighted a group of islands off Honduras, and captured a canoe, formed of the trunk of a single tree, eight feet wide and as long as a galley. "In the middle was an awning of palm leaves, not unlike those of the Venetian gondolas, under which were the women, children, and all the goods. The canoe was under the direction of twenty-five Indians. They had cotton coverlets and tunics without sleeves, curiously worked and dyed of various colors [exactly the same as are worn in Yucatan at the present day], covering for the loins of similar material, large mantles, in which the Indian women wrapped themselves, like the Moorish women of Grenada; long swords with channels on each side the blade, edged with sharp flints that cut the body as well as steel; hatchets of copper for cutting wood, bells of the same material, and crucibles in which to melt it. For provisions they had such roots and grains as the natives of Hispaniola (Haiti) eat, a sort of wine made of maize and great quantities of almonds (cacao)[1] of the kind used by the people of New Spain for money. The Spaniards were also struck with the personal modesty of these Indians, in which they greatly excelled the natives of the islands." Columbus sailed to the south; how much better would it have been for him had he sailed west! "Within a day or two," says Irving, "he would have arrived at Yucatan; the discovery of Mexico and the other opulent countries of New Spain would have necessarily followed; the Southern Ocean would have been disclosed to him, and a succession of splendid discoveries would have shed fresh glory on his declining age, instead of its sinking amidst gloom, neglect, and disappointment."

Four years later, in 1506, Juan Diaz de Solis, afterwards discoverer of the Rio de la Plata, and Vicente Yanez Pinzon, who commanded a ship in the first voyage of Columbus, and was so unfairly treated by him, entered the Gulf of Honduras and saw the east coast of Yucatan. They departed, however, without any attempt at exploration, lured by vague reports of gold in the south, and to Cordova and his companions must be awarded the glory of bringing Yucatan to the notice of the world, and of opening the way for its acquisition by the Spaniards.

This venture of Hernandez de Cordova, in 1517, though it yielded him and his comrades scarcely any reward save the consciousness of having found a new country, (all of his company being wounded and many of them killed in encounters with the natives,) yet first made known the existence of a land whose inhabitants were decently clothed, and built houses of stone and lime.

Following in the wake of that stout old soldier and chronicler, Bernal Diaz, who was with Cordova, we shall need no other guide through the historic portion of Mexico, for he attended its christening and was in at the death.[2] Undaunted by his wounds of the previous year, he sailed with Juan de Grijalva, in 1518, in which memorable voyage he coasted the entire northern and western shores of Yucatan, and reached under this commander the site of the present city of Vera Cruz. In 1519 this intrepid soul again set sail for Yucatan, in the service of Hernando Cortes, whom he followed through all his wanderings; and in this manner unconsciously collected the material for the best and most truthful history of the conquest of Mexico that has been given to the world.

The richer country of Mexico attracted all the captains and soldiers thither, and Yucatan remained comparatively unnoticed for a decade of years after its discovery. In the year 1527 the gallant Don Francisco de Montejo obtained a grant from the king of Spain for its conquest and colonization. Landing first at the island of Cozumel, off the east coast of Yucatan, he attempted to march into the interior from the shore of the peninsula opposite, but everywhere met with determined opposition from the Indians. It was not until the year 1537 that, Don Francisco having been driven from the territory, his son again effected a landing near Campeche. From that date to the great battle at T'ho (Merida), in 1540, the Spaniards were constantly fighting; but they finally triumphed—only to find that this country, which they had so desperately battled for and which its native inhabitants had so bravely defended, contained not a single mine of gold or silver, nor anything to reward them for their conquest.

Since this period, the history of Yucatan has been mainly uneventful to the world at large. The people, the first shedders of European blood in New Spain, and apparently ferocious and sanguinary, readily yielded to the Spaniards, quickly embraced the religion of the usurpers, and settled down to the cultivation of the arts of peace. In the year 1761 occurred a great uprising of the raza indigena, or aborigines; and again in 1847 a numerous body revolted and fled to the southeastern portion of the peninsula, which they still occupy. For thirty years and more there have been Indians with their war-paint on, rebels against the authority of the government. Though living in the eastern portion of the country, they now and then make raids in the direction of Merida, causing great excitement; they have depopulated a large extent of country, and caused towns and even cities to be abandoned. A notable example is the city of Valladolid, once a large and flourishing centre of trade, noted for its manufactures of cotton, but now nearly abandoned and in ruins.

In numbers, these Indians are not strong, the largest estimates being no higher than seven thousand; in fact, there are not probably more than two thousand. They are, however, fierce and revengeful,—a different people, seemingly, from the timorous Indians of Merida, whose ancestors probably built the magnificent temples that now lie in ruins throughout Yucatan. They are more like the Caribs, the people that once possessed the southern West Indies, the Spanish Main, and the Mesquita Coast. Though few in number, they have succeeded in completely terrorizing the entire country, and are as difficult to find as were the Seminoles of Florida forty years ago. The wildest stories circulate about them, and the people of the city tremble at their very name. If a stranger penetrate to their country, they seize him at once and hack him in pieces with their machetes without listening to a word of explanation; or they reserve him for torture, tying him by a long line to a stake by a ring through the nose.

Though so atrociously cruel, yet who can blame them, when he remembers the torments inflicted upon the ancestors of these people by the early Spaniards? To them, every man with a pale face is a Spaniard, whose abhorred presence is to be rid of by death. They hold guarded intercourse with the English in Belize, but allow no white man to penetrate to their city. This city, whose inhabitants must yet retain much of their aboriginal simplicity, much of ancient cunning in the arts of their progenitors,—what traveller would not like to visit and describe it?

Annually, their territory is increasing in extent, and that of the whites and agricultural Indians becoming restricted; rancho and hacienda, farm and plantation, village and town,—one by one they are destroyed, and the land they covered added to that of the dreaded sublevados, or insurgents. It was rumored in 1881 that all the Indians of Yucatan, Central America, and Honduras were to unite in one general uprising, and it was well known that the Indians of Chan Santa Cruz had sent invitations for a grand council of all the tribes; but the latest advices report that they have buried the hatchet. Every year they send a threatening message to the capital, promising to make its streets run with blood, and to massacre the last inhabitant; and every year the people quake and turn pale, but do nothing to prevent their advance. That advance, if it is ever made, will be along the ridge of the hills that lie south of Merida, commencing at Uxmal and running into the interior, towards the capital of these insurgents, Chan Santa Cruz. Yucatan is incompletely garrisoned by a few Mexican and Federal troops, who once in a while march out into the country in search of the Indians, who retire to their fastnesses; and the troops then triumphantly return, with a great flourish of trumpets—but without any Indians.

From fifty to fifty-five thousand people reside in this city of Merida, the greater portion of whom are Indians, or people directly descended from them, who show in their swarthy skins their native blood. From a union of the two races, Spanish and Indian, result the Mestizos,—feminine, Mestizas,—or mixed people, who are the handsomest in all Mexico. They are a gentle, docile race, loving pleasure, not always avoiding labor, cleanly in habit, and perfectly honest. Though three centuries have passed away since this territory was subjugated, the Indians and Mestizos yet retain many of their ancient customs and dances, and especially the style of dress of the period antecedent to the conquest.

As a servant, the Indian is slothful, but humble, never impudent, always reliable; and a dirty one is indeed a phenomenon. In hiring laborers, whether to work on a plantation or as house servants, you must always advance them money, retaining a percentage from their wages as they come due, to reimburse you. No matter how long a servant may stay, with you, he or she will surely leave in your debt; even the washerwoman is no exception. When they desire to go, they do so, previously informing you of their intention. This is generally when they have got a little money ahead; and they lie idle so long as it lasts. The person next employing them is supposed to assume the debts of the Indian. Imprisonment for debt has been abolished; you cannot force a laborer to work out a debt, and at death all obligation of estate or family ceases. Wages are not high; a good cook gets but two dollars per month, and her assistants even less. A day-laborer gets two reales (twenty-five cents) a day, a good mason from sixty-two cents to one dollar and a half, TLM D052 Tortilla seller.jpgTORTILLA SELLER. and his attendants fifty cents; carpenters and blacksmiths, about the same.

The economy of the cuisine is something wonderful in its simplicity, even in the houses of the rich. Starting upon first principles, the Indian and Mestiza women who rule the kitchen prepare the farinaceous food in the same manner as they did a thousand years ago. For hundreds of years, the Indian women of the South have ground the corn for their daily bread, as at the present day, between two stones. They know no other way. One of them, being told that the women of the North had no such employment, exclaimed, in surprise, "Why, what do they find to do with themselves?" Night and day, these poor women labor at the mill. The smooth stone at which they work is called a metáte, from the Aztec metatl, and has long been in common use among the Indians all over our continent, specimens having been found in New Jersey, in Mexico, Yucatan, and the West Indies. Upon this metate the corn, previously softened in alkaline water, is ground to a fine paste, then patted into thin cakes and baked over a quick fire on a thin iron plate or flat stone. The accompanying engraving represents one of the tortilla-makers; the girl herself is a fair type of the Mestiza of the serving class of Yucatan.

These cakes of Indian corn, called tortillas constitute, with frijoles (pronounced free-ho-les), the chief food of the poorer classes of all Mexico. Frijoles, it may be well to explain, are beans,—nothing more, nothing less; and these good people eat them twice every day, fourteen times a week, and seven or eight hundred times a year. They are always accompanied with chile, a kind of red pepper that delights the Mexican stomach, but which is so very hot that few strangers dare approach within a foot of it.

It was to the credit of the United States, and my good fortune, that we had as Consul in Yucatan, at the time of my arrival, a gentleman every way fitted for the position. Consul Aymé, though of French extraction, was a true American. He had twice circled the globe, was with our transit of Venus expedition as mineralogist, in 1874, and possessed rare accomplishments as an educated gentleman and devotee of science. Strangers at that time were rare in Merida, and the good Consul sought me out at the Hotel Mexico, and, with Spanish politeness and more than Spanish sincerity, offered me his house during the period of my stay. To him I am indebted for forty happy days in Yucatan, and for the best disposition of the time at my command. The building occupied by him as the consulate was on the south side of the Plaza, near the antique structure previously mentioned as having been erected by the first Adelantado of Yucatan. From it the various excursions projected for my benefit by my hospitable friend were carried out, embracing not only the interesting portions of the city, but remote points in the country, noted for their ruins or as being the resorts of rare birds.

An interesting place to visit, always, was the market, held in a large court enclosed on every side by high buildings. The entrance was nearly always obstructed by women with fruit to sell, whose presence was tolerable from the fact that they sold it extremely cheap. For a medio (six cents) one could buy a dozen oranges, a bunch of bananas, or a large lot of mangoes. The court was filled with little shelters made by planting a pole in the ground, and making a framework on it like the ribs of an umbrella, and covering it with matting. Beneath each one sat a woman or girl, with her articles for sale spread about and before her,—a little fruit, cabbage, lettuce, or cooked meat. Upon a square of cloth, spread on the pavement, would be half a dozen eggs, right out where everybody was passing, or a few peppers, a bunch of flowers, or a pint of beans. Some of these market-women wore elegantly embroidered uipils; some were pretty, all were modest, and all were peaceable. During the time I was in that country I did not see one quarrelsome or disorderly person, hardly heard a baby cry, or any one raise his voice to another above a tone of polite conversation; the place was crowded, but there was no jostling or confusion.

In a circular space in the Calle de Hidalgo is a market devoted entirely to the sale of hats and hammocks, the handiwork of Indians, who squat there all day in the blazing sun. Near this place is the corn-market, a long line of arcades beneath which the merchants sit with corn and beans emptied in heaps on the pavement. There are sold here, also, pottery and fancy wares. Under the castle walls, the mule teams that have come in the night before from the interior are grouped, resting, or waiting for return loads. Above all, the ruined cupolas of the monastery peer over the castle walls that surround it, and the cries and the drumming of the guard occasionally ring out from within. This monastery was built on the ruins of an artificial mound, was of vast proportions, and covered that mysterious arch mentioned by Stephens, which has so long been a puzzle and a stumbling-block to archaeologists.

The air of morning is so sweet, so cool, that a walk into the suburbs is almost imperative. The first noises are just preceding daybreak, when the soldiers change guard at the "palace"; then the bells of the cathedral strike up, and shortly after appear dawn and sunrise. Passing through one of the quaint and

TLM D055 City gate.jpg


ancient gates, you enter at once pleasant and winding lanes, grass-grown and with protruding limestone rocks, with trees thick on either side, and half-wild gardens; but in all this tropic shrubbery there are few birds save the mocking-bird, blackbird, and cardinal.

The few people you meet are unobtrusive, and you may wander on for hours among the peculiar oblong huts,—deeply thatched with grass, so picturesque and so vermin-suggestive,—with women in négligé garbs cooking in the yards, and children contentedly playing about them, without hearing a harsh or discordant voice. Here indeed the softness of the climate makes itself felt. Returning at perhaps nine or ten o'clock, you will experience great discomfort from the glare of the sun on the yellow, dust-covered streets. A wise ordinance of the city prohibits the painting of a house white, for this very reason, glare. If such a law were in force in other cities within the region of heat, as in Bermuda or Barbados, for instance, how beneficial it would prove to the people! In those islands everything is white, except the plants,—houses, streets, and sand-hills; and, as if the white stone they build of were not glaring enough, they whitewash the roofs, and wear blue spectacles to mitigate the intensity of the reflected rays of the sun.

Rarely does a visitor to Merida, or indeed to any portion of Mexico, obtain an inside view of life there; but, fortunately for me, while there, society was turned inside out by the occurrence of the carnival. It was near the middle of that memorable sixteenth century that witnessed the conquests of Cuba, of Mexico, and of Peru, that the Spanish invaders founded, upon the ruins of the Indian city of T'ho, this now ancient metropolis, the capital city of Yucatan. Probably no one of the old cities of Mexico has so faithfully preserved its old-time characteristics as this. Though Roman Catholic in their faith, many of its citizens yet cling to their ancient religious rites, practising them, however, only in secret. But there have been also deeply engrafted upon the minds of the people many customs of times more modern than that of the conquest. A city of fifty thousand inhabitants cannot exist in a Catholic country—even one in which the power of the Church has been so curtailed as in Mexico—without observing the feast-days and the carnival. This latter celebration, thanks to the readily accepted invitation of the United States Consul, I had an excellent opportunity for witnessing.

Four days were devoted to the carnival, and five nights to the balls which form a part of it. Sunday, the 27th of February, was properly the day of opening, though the ball of Saturday night was a brilliant affair. The first indications of the carnival on Sunday morning were from a band of Indians, who personated the wild men of the country in songs and dances, and exhibited for the amusement of themselves and spectators the costumes of their ancestors. These were of the lower classes, who had not attended the ball of the previous night. Soon the streets were alive with people, after the morning mass, and the fun commenced. Though fun-loving and innocent in their amusements, these people have not the fertility of invention necessary to secure artistic effect, or to more than broadly burlesque the customs of their own country. Their best groups were the Indians, who excelled in dancing, and the estudiantes, or bands of Spanish students, who went about in costume, singing songs of their own composition.

Let one day in my description suffice as a specimen of all the rest, and let that day be Sunday because everybody was fresh, excited, and animated. After the Indians had passed, and a great crowd of the ordinary "tag-rag and bobtail" of such processions, came the estudiantes, a picturesque band, happy, careless, tuneful. Down the street they came, around the corner of the Plaza, in sight of the great cathedral, and halted opposite the consulate. At a signal from their leader, they burst forth into wild, sweet melody, from guitars thrummed by practised hands, flutes, violins, and violoncellos. They handed us some printed songs, and we saw that they were the work of some of Merida's sons,—for they have poets here of no mean rank. Their music was lively and pleasing, and they were so well drilled as to render all their pieces most effectively; the impression left as they passed on was as though one had listened to an opera, without the fatigue of going to hear it. There were two bands of students, one wearing dark cloaks and sombreros, and the other the Mexican colors, flags draped as cloaks, and hats with cockades. They were true students, and patterned after those famous ones of Salamanca, wearing in their hats the traditional spoon, knife and fork, or corkscrew, and with the devil-may-care air of contented and light-hearted youth.

They pass on, and the road is for a moment empty; another shout from the gamins, a hubbub of drum and cornet, and another body of curiously attired men comes along. These are the military, a burlesque on the Indian soldiers that assume to defend this peaceful country. They are dressed in uniform,—Mexican uniform: white pants and shirt, the latter outside and overshadowing the former,—and some of them drag along a wooden cannon.

Another crowd rushes around the corner, bearing a different flag. These are Cubans, and a fight is at once in progress, a sham fight, in which no blood is shed, but many prisoners are taken. The Cubans are routed, of course, and pursued down the street with great pretended slaughter. The Yucatecos return with several prisoners, and at once institute a mock trial, the prisoners, three in number, being chained with strings of spools to the cannon. The captain asks the corporal of the guard where he found these men, and is told that he found them in the country; that they had no arms, so his men surrounded and took them prisoners.

"Did you not find any other prisoners?"
"Si, Señor Capitan, a jug of aguardiente."
"And where is it?"
"The prisoners drank it."
"Then take them out to be shot."

A detachment marched off with the prisoners, and the ragged brigade went off in search of more glory. In the afternoon, at five, was the great paseo, when everybody who could hire a carriage joined in the procession that drove through the principal streets. Not all the carriages were elegant, being, most of them, of the country; but on this account they were all the more interesting, especially the calezas,—two-wheeled vehicles, built somewhat after the pattern of the Cuban volante. These calezas, each drawn by a single horse or mule, on whose back was perched the driver, contained some of the prettiest girls in Merida, dark-skinned as a rule, but with beautiful black hair and eyes, and milk-white teeth.

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The group at the consulate could not resist joining in the procession, and a caleza was obtained at once. The prescribed route, from which no one ever varied, was around the Plaza and through the two principal streets. At the corner of one is the famous nunnery, built many years ago, now partially in ruins, since the banishment of the fair inmates. It is said that there exists a secret tunnel leading under the city from the monastery (now likewise in ruins) to this abode of peace and purity. The starting-place for the grand paseo is at the square of Santiago, where is a most holy church, in front of which is a great ceiba tree, the centre of the bull-ring. It is one of the oldest in the city, its façade is adorned with numerous statues, and its cupola with many bells. In the opinion of the early builders of churches, the sanctuary that could crowd the most bells into its turrets, and raise the loudest clangor, possessed the strongest odor of sanctity.

Every time you pass acquaintances, it is considered proper to salute them. The ladies do this sort of thing very gracefully, but at the same time in such a way that you are puzzled to know whether they are merely giving you recognition or beckoning to you. They raise the hand till the tips of the fingers are on a level with their eyes, then they flutter them backwards and forwards, seeming to invite approach rather than to give an ordinary salutation; and their bright, beaming eyes add to the illusion.

The most interesting feature of the day was a group of Indians representing the costumes and dances of the aborigines. The people found in possession of Yucatan, who fought the early Spaniards and were finally subjugated by them, who probably built the cities that have been nothing but ruins for centuries, were the Mayas (pronounced Mý-yahs), and were sun-worshippers. It has been stated that no traditions regarding them exist among the present inhabitants of Yucatan. The dance that I witnessed at the carnival completely refuted this, as will now appear. The first thing these Indians did was to spread a banner in the centre of the room, on which was painted a figure of the sun, with two people kneeling in adoration of that luminary. The chief of this band of about twenty Indians then suspended from his neck a bright-colored representation of the sun stamped on tin. At the foot of the banner-staff crouched an old man, with a drum made by stretching the skin of a calf or goat over one end of a hollow log. At the side of the drum hung a shell of a land tortoise, and the old man beat the drum and rattled the shell in unison. The object with which he beat the drum attracted my attention, and I examined it and found it to be the gilded horn of a deer. This hollow drum, with turtle-shell and deer's antler, fully confirms the statement that the music is aboriginal; for one of the old chroniclers, in an account of a terrible battle with the Indians of Campeche,—writing not long after the event,—says that they made a most horrible and deafening noise with these instruments: "They had flutes and large sea-shells for trumpets, and turtle-shells, which they struck with deers' horns."

After the banner was spread, the band ran around it in a crouching attitude; in one hand each held a rattle, and in the other a fan of turkey feathers, with a handle formed by the foot and claw of the bird. Each one wore a wire mask, with a handkerchief over his head, and a mantle embroidered with figures of animals and hung with small sea-shells. The costume was that of the Mestiza women,—a skirt from the waist to the ankles, with their peculiar dress over it,—just such a one as was worn by their ancestors centuries ago, and by the ancient Egyptians. On their feet they wore sandals, tied on with hempen rope. The chief was distinguished by a high crown of peacock feathers. He chanted something in the Maya language, and they replied; and then the music struck up a weird strain and they danced furiously, assuming ludicrous postures, yet all having seeming significance, shaking their rattles and fans to right and left, and all keeping perfect time. After nearly half an hour of dancing they stopped, at a signal from the chief, and gathered about the banner, gazing upon the image of the sun with looks of adoration.

This was the dance of sorrow, or supplication; after it came the dance of joy, an Indian fandango; then the flag was furled, and the floor occupied by two couples. After this dance was finished they all adjourned to the court-yard, where the Consul had provided a large jug of aguardiente. Of this they imbibed through small tubes of the size of a pipe-stem, which all carried. These people kept this thing up four days and nights, dancing and drinking all day, yet not one seemed weary and not one was drunk. At dark they took their leave, politely thanking us for our attention, and we soon heard them dancing and drumming in another house near us.

Those moving in the higher circles of society took their enjoyment at night in dancing, and there were two grand balls in progress at once. The entrance into the club-room from the street was at once into a spacious court, where great bananas and plantains lifted their broad leaves, and these were hung with Chinese lanterns. About this court were broad corridors, with doors opening into the main ballroom. The orchestra was at one end, under the high stone arches, conveniently near to the bar. As the ladies entered, they were escorted to seats in the main saloon, a long and high, though narrow room, where they sat ranged on both sides. They wore every variety of dress, from silk to calico, and, while some of the costumes were gorgeous, the majority were neat, fresh, and tasteful. The faces of the young ladies were sweet, pensive, and very pretty; the blooming complexions, though perhaps short-lived, soft and mellow-tinted.

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The prevailing characteristics, glancing down the line of beauties, are large, black, liquid eyes, bright brunette skins, and abundant black hair. Notwithstanding a prevailing belief to the contrary, I think the girls of tropical climates fully as modest in their appearance as their Northern sisters. Their training in seclusion has not counted for nothing. Whatever their inmost desires may be, outwardly they are as pure as the firmest Quaker. They look at the young men demurely, but if gazed at they drop their eyes, yet not without showing the delight

TLM D064 Yucatecan caleza and Cuban volante.jpg


a young man's presence causes them. Yet their nature is not intense, but warm and indolent.

Everything here is for the enjoyment of the men,—the parks, the promenades, the drives, the cafes, the social life. Poor woman is looked upon merely as the Turk regards his mistress,—as an object to be kept jealously out of sight of the stranger, as a toy for the moment's enjoyment. That she rebels and repines at her harsh treatment is evident to the observer. But heartily do they enjoy the exquisite pleasures of the carnival. Here they can meet their lovers, and most zealously do they improve the fleeting hours in the ball-room. It is said that all the engagements are made at this season, and the poor lovers have little chance for meeting again, before another carnival, except in the watchful presence of the lady's mother. They yield themselves to the sweet abandon of the hour, and float through the dances; but they quake inwardly at the thought of the scoldings they will get from the lynx-eyed duennas, who—now old and ugly—enviously begrudge their daughters these little pleasures.

No people in the world are pleasanter, or possessed of more delightful manners, than the Yucatecos, and they might be taken as models to be studied with advantage. The Yucatan dance is slow and measured, simply a walk-around, and so no one gets warm and perspiring. Dance follows dance, until twelve o'clock, when the ladies begin to lessen in number, and by one the hall is empty.

Five nights they kept the ball in motion, improving every precious hour of the carnival; and at its ending there were, doubtless, many souls made happy with the thought that they twain should some time be one; while a great many more were disappointed, and were relegated to another year's imprisonment.

To the great regret of the people, the carnival finally ended, the noise of revelry ceased, all the fair señoritas were safely housed in their respective prisons, the lights of the ball-room extinguished; and we walked home to our hammocks beneath the glimmer of the serenest of stars, and through an atmosphere delicious in its coolness.

  1. The seeds of the Cacao—Theobroma cacao—are still used as small change in barter amongst the poorer classes of Southern Mexico.
  2. "Bernal Diaz del Castillo is the best that ever writ of the Conquest of Mexico, as having been an Eye Witness to all the principal Actions there; and has an air of Sincerity; writing in a plain Style, and sparing none where he could see any Fault.

    "Cortes' Letters cannot be contradicted, he having been the chief Agent in the Conquest of Mexico, but he being more taken up with Acting than Writing, could not give them all their Perfection."—Herrera, Stevens's translation, 1740.