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Title: Mexico

Author: Susan Hale

Release Date: June 18, 2012 [eBook #40032]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1



E-text prepared by Steven Gibbs, Josephine Paolucci,
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team



The Story of the Nations.



Large Crown 8vo, Cloth, Illustrated, 5s.

1. ROME. Arthur Gilman, M.A.
2. THE JEWS. Prof. J. K. Hosmer.
3. GERMANY. Rev. S. Baring-Gould, M.A.
4. CARTHAGE. Prof. A. J. Church.
5. ALEXANDER'S EMPIRE. Prof J. P. Mahaffy.
6. THE MOORS IN SPAIN. Stanley Lane-Poole.
7. ANCIENT EGYPT. Canon Rawlinson.
8. HUNGARY. Prof. A. Vambéry.
9. THE SARACENS. A. Gilman, M.A.
10. IRELAND. Hon. Emily Lawless.
11. CHALDÆA. Z. A. Ragozin.
12. THE GOTHS. Henry Bradley.
13. ASSYRIA. Z. A. Ragozin.
14. TURKEY. Stanley Lane-Poole.
15. HOLLAND. Prof. J. E. Thorold Rogers.
16. MEDIÆVAL FRANCE. Prof. Gustave Masson.
17. PERSIA. S. G. W. Benjamin.
18. PHŒNICIA. Canon Rawlinson.
19. MEDIA. Z. A. Ragozin.
20. THE HANSA TOWNS. Helen Zimmern.
21. EARLY BRITAIN. Prof. A. J. Church.
22. THE BARBARY CORSAIRS. Stanley Lane-Poole.
23. RUSSIA. W. R. Morfill, M.A.
25. SCOTLAND. John Mackintosh, LL.D.
26. SWITZERLAND. Mrs. Lina Hug and Richard Stead.
27. MEXICO. Susan Hale.

London: T. FISHER UNWIN, Paternoster Square, E.C.









Entered at Stationers' Hall

Copyright by G. P. Putnam's Sons
(For the United States of America).

[Pg vii]




The Subject 1-11

View from a steamer, 1—Seen by Fernando Cortés, 2; his ambition, 3—Inhospitable coast, 3—Vera Cruz, 4—Departure, 4—Climate we leave, 5—Climate we are seeking, 5—Three climates of Mexico, 6—Anahuac, 6; Tierra templada, 7—Scenery of the plateau, 7—Its early inhabitants, 8—Destroyed by Cortés, 8—Traditions of Anahuac, 9Teocallis changed to cathedrals, 9—The Conquistadores, 10—Spanish rulers, 10—Two emperors, 10—Mexico a republic, 11; its past and future, 11.


Shadowy Tribes 12-23

Meaning of Anahuac, 12—Tula, formerly Tollan, 13—The Toltecs, 13—Cholula: its legends, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20—Mound builders, 21—Legends of the Nahuas, 21—Huehue-Tlapallan, 22—Atlantis, 22—Noah of the Mexican tribes, 22—Universal fable of the deluge, 23.


Traditions of the Toltecs 24-37

Their wanderings, 24; ruins of their capital, 26; their resources, 26; language, 27; early faith, 27—Cuernavaca, 28—Toluca, 28—Power of their ruler, 29—Quetzalcoatl, The Shining Snake, 29; legends of his career, 30; possible facts, 32; mystery of his departure, 32; image in the museum, 33; his attributes, 33—Evil days of the Toltecs, 34—The Agave Americana, 34; its properties, 35—Maguey, 35—Xochitl, 36; her beverage, 36—Deterioration of the [Pg viii] Toltecs, 37; dates of their wanderings, 37.


Chichimecs 38-44

A new dynasty, 38—The Chichimecs, 39; occupations and customs, 39—The mark of a warrior, 39—The Serpent of the Clouds, 40—The invasion of Xolotl, 40—Fall of Tollan, 41—Territory of Xolotl, 41—New waves of emigration, 42—Wise rulers, 42—Texcuco, 42—The Aztecs, 43—War with Atzcapotzalco, 44—Kingdom of Texcuco, 44.


Nezahualcoyotl 45-52

The young prince, 45; in captivity, 45; a faithful friend, 46—Tlaxcaza, 46—The plateau to-day, 46—The Malinche, 46—The Land of Bread, 47—A wise tutor, 47—Maxtla, 48—The homage of Nezahualcoyotl, 48—Maxtla's plot, 48—Open enmity, 49—Nezahualcoyotl's escape, 49; his hiding, 50—Tyranny of Maxtla, 50—The true prince triumphant, 51—Maxtla defeated and killed, 51—The kingdom of Texcuco Acolhuacan, 52.


Texcuco 53-61

The Golden Age, 53—The government, 53—Council of Music, 53—Texcucan literature, 54—Lost treasures, 54—A royal poet, 55—The Laughing Hill, 56—Artificial lakes, 56—Ruins of Tezcotzinco, 56—Baths of Montezuma, 57—A blot on Nezahualcoyotl's fame, 57; a Mexican Haroun al Raschid, 58; his religion, 59—From anarchy to civilization, 59—Nezahualpilli, 59—Decline of Texcuco, 60—A Texcucan historian, 60—Legend or fact? 61.


Michoacan 62-69

The Land of Fish, 62—Lonely lakes, 62—Patzcuaro, 63—The Place of Delights, 64—The first settlers, 64—Iré Titatacamé, 65—A dusky princess, 65—Tixiacurí, the first king of Michoacan, 66—The kingdom divided, 66—Tzintzuntzan, 67—The glorious reign of Zovanga, 67—A city of [Pg ix] birds, 67—Fruitless excavations, 68—The Tarascans, 68.


Mayas 70-82

The first wave of migration, 70—Traces of Mayas in Yucatan, 70—A great empire, 71—Nachan, the town of serpents, 72; its ruins discovered, 72—Palace at Palenque, 72—Lofty chambers and strange bas-reliefs, 73—The Temple of the Cross, 74—An emblem of Christian faith, 75—Meaning of the tablets, 75—Chichen-Itza, 76—A religious centre, 77—Paintings and bas-reliefs, 78—Chaak Mool, the tiger-chief, 78—The beautiful Kinich, 78—Tomb of Chaak Mool, 78—Paved roads of Yucatan, 79—Votan and Zamna, 80—Mayan legends, 80—Weapons and armor, 81—War with the Toltecs, 82.


Aztecs 83-95

Best known of the Anahuac tribes, 83—Aztlan, 83—The migration, 84—Six centuries of wanderings, 84—The name Mexican, 84,—Their adopted home, 84—Chapultepec, 86—Driven to the islands, 87—A wretched life, 87—Valor of the slaves, 87—An abiding city, 87—Tenochtitlan, or Mexico, 88—Advances in civilization, 88—Results of modern research, 89—A king chosen, 90—Early years of the kingdom, 91—The Princess of Cloth, 92Canoas, 92—Chimalpopoca, 94—The usurpation, 94—Maxtla, 95.


Mexicans 96-110

Itzcoatl, 96—Alliance with Texcuco, 96—War with Maxtla, 96—Victory of the allies, 97—Fall of the Tepanec monarchy, 97—"The Valley Confederates," 98—Reign of Motecuhzoma, 98—Height of the Mexican power, 98—Conquest of the Chalcas, 99—Inundation and famine, 99—Raid upon neighboring provinces, 100—Laws of Motecuhzoma, 100; his successor, 101—Tizoc, 101—The Drinking-cup of the Eagle, 101—Human sacrifice, 102—Temple built by Tizoc, 105—Dikes, 105—A despot, 106—Extent of the kingdom, 106—Religious fanaticism, 108—Doubtful [Pg x] records, 109.


Aztec Character 111-123

Unreliable testimony, 111—Hieroglyphics, 111—Paintings, 112—"Wanderings of the Aztecs," 112—Religion, 114—A future life, 114—Funeral customs, 114—Domestic life, 115—Laws, 115—Music, 115—The Aztec calendar, 115—Divisions of time, 116—Names of days, etc., 117—Opinions of antiquarians, 117—The cycle, 118—Unlucky days, 118—Agriculture, 119—Irrigation, 119—A gentle race, 120—The Priestesses, 121—Coatlicue, the goddess of the earth, 122—Source of Aztec greatness, 122—A fatal policy, 123.


The Last of the Montezumas 124-134

Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin, 124; his character, 124—A coronation festival, 125—Royal robes, 125—The life of an Aztec king, 126; his capital, 126—Diaz's description, 127—A life of pleasure, 128—State correspondence, 128—Chapultepec, 129—Montezuma's cypress, 129—Clouds on the horizon, 130—Sinister predictions, 130—The coming of the white men, 131—An unhappy monarch, 131—Landing of the strangers, 132—Velasquez de Léon, 132; his expedition to Yucatan, 133—Grijalva visits Mexico, 133—Montezuma's embassy, 133.


Cortés 135-144

Birth, 135; enters the army, 135; visits Cuba, 135—An attractive portrait, 135—Defects of character, 136—Velasquez and Grijalva's expedition, 136—A love story, 137—Cortés receives a commission, 137; his companions, 137—Jealousy of Velasquez, 137—The squadron, 138—Jérome d' Aguilar, 138—First conflict with the Aztecs, 139—Palm Sunday, 139—A happy people, 140—Rumors of danger, 140—Presents to the strangers, 141—Cortés as Quetzalcoatl, 141—Easter, 141—A perplexed council, 142—Mistaken policy, 142—Vera Cruz, 142—Cortés visits Cempoallan, [Pg xi] 143—Tlaxcalla, 143—The ships destroyed, 144.


Malintzi 145-150

Her birthplace, 145—The little duchess is made a slave, 145—Life in Tabasco, 146—Arrival of Cortés, 146—Treaty of alliance, 146—The heiress-slave becomes a Christian, 146—Marina or Malinche, 146—A new interpreter, 147—A beautiful picture, 147—Splendid gifts, 148—Malintzi's beauty, 149; her devotion to Cortés, 149; its result, 149.


Tlaxcalla 151-157

An isolated province, 151—Exaggerated reports, 151—Efforts for the friendship of the Tlaxcallans, 152—A trap for the Spaniards, 152—A battle, 152—Defeat of the Tlaxcallans, 153—Peace concluded, 153—Christianity introduced, 153—Cholula, 154—Slaughter of the Cholultecas, 154—Alliance with Ixtlilxochitl, 154—Cacamatzin imprisoned, 155—Cortés reaches Mexico, 156—Cortés and Montezuma, 157—A lesson and a vow, 157.


La Noche Triste 158-165

Overtures of friendship, 158—Bold measures, 159—Montezuma in the power of the Spaniards, 159—A rival in the field, 159—Alvarado, 160—The feast of Huitzilopochtli, 160—The Spaniards in danger, 160—Death of Montezuma, 161—Mexican traditions, 162—Cortés abandons the city, 163—A desperate struggle, 163La Noche Triste, 164—The scene of the battle, 164; the losses, 165.


Conquest 166-179

An interval of peace, 166—The new emperor, 166—A legacy of the Spaniards, 167—Cortés in extremis, 167—The Aztec army, 168—Battle at Otumba, 170—The Spaniards victorious, 170—Preparations for defence, 171—The Spaniards in Tlaxcalla, 171—Ixtlilxochitl, 171—Cortés at Texcuco, 172—A new army and a new fleet, 172—The [Pg xii] campaign against Mexico, 173—Suffering in the city, 174—Surrender, 174—The city destroyed, 175—Cortés at Coyoacán, 175—Search for treasures, 175—The kings tortured, 175—Military rule, 176—Subjugation of Michoacan, 176—Later conquests, 177—Death of the Aztec kings, 178—Later life of Cortés, 178; return to Spain, 178; death, 178; burial in Mexico, 179.


Doña Marina 180-183

Her position in the camp, 180—After the victory, 180—Life at Coyoacán, 180—Arrival of Doña Catalina, 181; her death, 182—Insurrection in Honduras, 182—Marriage of Marina, 183; her later life and her death, 183—Cortés visits Spain, 183—A second marriage, 183.


Indians 184-190

The conquest complete, 184—The name Indian, 184—Origin of the Nahuatl tribes, 185—Distinguished from the North American Indian, 186—Military government, 188—The Ayuntamiento, 188—The Audiencia, 188—Nuño de Guzman, 189; his cruelty to the natives, 189—Guadalajara founded, 189—A second Audiencia, 189—A viceroy appointed, 190—Extent of New Spain, 190.


The First of the Viceroys 191-202

Antonio de Mendoza, 191; his family and character, 191—Reforms instituted, 191—Industries encouraged, 192—The Franciscans, 192—Fray Pedro, 192—Foundation of schools and colleges, 193—Guadalajara and Valladolid, 193—Michoacan and its people, 194—The founding of a city, 195—Spanish families in Mexico, 196—Jews and Moors banished, 196—Vasco de Quiroga, 197; his life in Tarasco, 197; his church at Tzintzuntzan, 198—A wonderful picture, 198—The cathedral at Morelia, 199—Cortés goes to Spain, 200—Popularity of the viceroy, 200—First Mexican book, [Pg xiii] 202—Departure of Mendoza, 202.


Fray Martin de Valencia 203-213

Don Luis de Velasco, second viceroy, 203—New institutions and industries, 203—Puebla de los Angeles, 204; the tradition of its founding, 204; the situation, 206—The early ecclesiastics, 207—The worship of the Virgin, 207—The "twelve apostles of Mexico," 208—Fray Martin of Valencia, 208; his life in Amecameca, 209; his death, 210—Relics of Fray Martin, 211—An object of reverence, 212—Death of Velasco, 212—A well-regulated government, 213.


Other Viceroys 214-223

Events in Spain, 214—Philip II., 214—The character of the viceroys, 215—The Inquisition, 216—The Quemadero, 216—Death of Philip, 217—Inundations, 217—Martinez and his canal, 218—Successors of Philip, 219—Wars of succession, 220—Revillagigedo, 220; anecdotes of his administration, 221.


Humboldt 224-232

A distinguished visitor, 224; he arrives in Mexico, 225—Remarks on the carving, 225—Academy of fine arts, 226; its later history, 227—The cathedral, 227—Humboldt at Chapultepec, 228; The market, 228—Teotihuacan, 229—Mexican mines, 229—Valenciana, 229—At Patzcuaro, 230—The birth of a volcano, 231.


Revolutions 233-237

Charles III. of Spain, 233; his successor, 233—Branciforte and the statue of Charles IV., 234—Napoleon invades Spain, 235—A change of government, 235Juntas, 235—The Bourbons restored, 235—Iturrigaray and his administration, 236—Revolt in the air, 237—The policy of Spain, [Pg xiv] 237—Venegas, 237.


Hidalgo 238-249

Birth and education, 238—Colegio de San Nicholas, 238—He takes orders, 238; life at Dolores, 240; bold schemes, 240—Ignacio Allende, 241; An important step, 241—The Grito de Dolores, 242—A new army, 242—Attack on Guanajuato, 243—A brave boy, 243—The new viceroy, 243—Hidalgo excommunicated, 244—Valladolid taken, 245—Monte de la Cruces, 245—The insurgents defeated at Aculco, 246—Hidalgo declared Generalissimo, 246—Battle of Calderon, 247—Capture and death of the chiefs, 248—End of the struggle for independence, 248.


Morelos 250-257

Birth and family, 250—Morelia, 251—Muleteer and student, 251—Morelos joins Hidalgo, 251—Siege of Cuautla, 252—Acapulco, 252—First Mexican Congress, 252—Declaration of independence, 253—Attack on Valladolid, 253—Mishaps, 254—Morelos a prisoner, 254—Death of Morelos, 255; his character and aims, 255; his object achieved, 256.


Yturbide 258-271

The close of Calleja's administration, 258—The insurgents dispersed, 258—Apodaca and Guerrero, 259—Affairs in Spain, 259—Agustin de Yturbide, 260; early services, 260; meets Guerrero, 261—"Plan of Iguala," 261—The "three guaranties," 261—Advance of the insurgents, 262—The viceroy deposed, 262—A successful campaign, 263—O'Donojú, 263—Treaty of Cordova, 264—Yturbide enters the capital, 264—The Regency, 264—The Mexican Empire founded, 265—Work of the new government, 265—Second Mexican Congress, 265—Yturbide proclaimed Emperor, 266—Signs of dissatisfaction, 267—Santa Anna, 267—The Casa-Mata, 268—Yturbide banished, 268; his return to Mexico, 270; his execution, 270; character of Yturbide, 271. [Pg xv]


Santa Anna 272-280

A confused story, 272—Santa Anna, 273; his connection with Yturbide, 273—The Constitution, 273—"Guadalupe" Victoria, 273—Expulsion of the Spanish, 274—A presidential election, 274—Mutiny in the capital, 275—Colonization of Texas, 276—Pedraza, 276—A Spanish invasion, 277—Santa Anna made Commander-in-Chief, 277—Bustamente, 278—Guerrero betrayed and shot, 278—Santa Anna becomes President, 278—Farías, 279—Insurrection in Texas, 279.


Still Santa Anna 281-289

Louis Philippe, 281Reclamacion de los pasteles, 281—The French repelled, 281—Santa Anna's home, 282—Bustamente recalled, 282—Trouble again, 283—Mejia, 283—A revolution described, 284—Bustamente resigns, 288—Santa Anna triumphant, 288.


Society 290-300

Madame Calderon's journal, 290—An ambassador from Spain, 290—State of society, 291—The Paséo, 291—The Viga, 292—Women in Mexico, 292—Good-Friday in Mexico, 294—Robbers, 297Guardias Rurales, 298—A monarchy proposed, 299.


Rumors of War 301-310

Results of the Spanish rule, 301—Playing at independence, 301—The appeal to arms, 302—The country exhausted, 302—Misfortunes, 304—The United States, 304—Spread of its territory, 304—Colonization of Texas, 305—Moses Austin, 304—Revolt against Mexico, 305—Houston and Santa Anna, 305—Texas independent, 305—Annexed to the United States, 306—Herrera, Farías, and Paredes, 307—The [Pg xvi] Mexican army, 308.


War Begun 311-322

The beginning of hostilities, 311—Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma, 311—The war carried into Mexico, 312—Difficulty of negotiation, 312—"Indemnity for the past," 313—California, 313—Policy of the United States, 313—Monterey taken, 314—Fremont enters the capital, 316—Taylor's campaign, 316—Siege of Monterey, 318—Ampudia's proclamation, 319,—Paredes and his "Plan," 319—Santa Anna again, 320—Fall of Paredes, 321—Santa Anna at the capital, 321—A new army, 321.


Puebla Lost 323-332

Scott before Vera Cruz, 323—Buena Vista, 323—Raising money, 323—The religious orders and their influence, 324—Wealth of the Church, 326—Ecclesiastical property seized, 327—Bombardment of Vera Cruz, 328—The city surrenders, 328—Cerro Gordo, 330—Santa Anna at Puebla, 330—Puebla occupied by the Americans, 331—Guadalupe and its surroundings, 331—Santa Anna as Dictator, 332—Patriotism aroused, 332.


Chapultepec Taken 333-341

The approach to the capital, 333—Churubusco, 333—Docile Indians, 333—Another victory for the Americans, 334—Molino de Rey, 334—Chapultepec taken, 336—Occupation of the capital, 336—Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, 338—Discovery of gold, 338—Effects of the war, 339—Attempts to capture Santa Anna, 340—Santa Anna retires to Jamaica, 341—Grant in the Mexican war, 341.


Benito Juarez 342-347

Peace restored, 342—Herrera and his administration, 342—Santa Anna again Dictator, 344—An epoch of reform, 344Clerigos and liberales, 344—Benito Juarez, 344; his early life, 345; governor and exile, 345; restored to office, 346—A new Constitution, 346—Juarez becomes President, 346—Foreign [Pg xvii] intervention, 347.


French Intervention 348-356

A foreign squadron, 348—The pretext and the cause, 348—Spain and England withdraw, 349—The policy of Napoleon III., 349—A proposed empire, 349—Maximilian, 350; dreams of "the right divine," 352—The French troops advance on the capital, 353—Divisions in Mexico 353—The Cinco de Mayo, 354—A bold attack, 355—Defence of Puebla, 356.


The Empire under Protection 357-364

The sovereigns arrive, 357—The imperialist party, 357—Reception of Maximilian, 358—Relics of royalty, 359—Military affairs, 360—The new government, 362—Chapultepec restored, 363—Society at the capital, 363—Apparent prosperity, 364.


The Unprotected Empire 365-372

Action of the United States, 365—Responsibility for the intervention, 366—The final word of Napoleon, 367—Carlotta goes to Europe, 368—Her interview with Napoleon, 369—Maximilian leaves the capital, 370—At Orizaba, 371—Father Fischer, 371—The Emperor's manifesto, 372.


Maximilian 373-382

The French army withdrawn, 373—Advance of Juarez, 374—The Emperor and his attendants, 374—Investment of Querétaro, 375—Márquez and Diaz, 375—Personal appearance of the Emperor, 376—The treachery of Lopez, 377—Maximilian a prisoner, 378; his death, 380.


End of the Episode 383-385

General Vidaurri, 383—The escape of Márquez, 384—General Diaz, 384—Puebla, 385—Vigor of the liberal government, [Pg xviii]385.


The Last of Santa Anna 386-391

Juarez enters the capital, 386—Peace established, 387—Santa Anna in retirement, 387; his exile and death, 388—Character of Juarez, 389—Civil war again, 390—Death of Juarez, 390—Lerdo becomes President, 391.


Porfirio Diaz 392-401

A new "Plan," 392—Birthplace of Diaz, 392—Scenery of Oaxaca, 393—The Zapotecas, 393—Ruins of Mitla, 394—Early life of Diaz, 394; his military achievements, 395—An escape from hostile troops, 396—Triumph of the opposition, 396—Diaz proclaimed President, 397—Presidency of Gonsalez, 398—Policy of Diaz, 399—Chapultepec at the present day, 399—Hope for the Indian, 400—Prospects of development, 401.


Physical Advantages 402-411

Climate and vegetation, 402—Mexican flora, 403—The market-place, 404—A family group, 404—Native pottery, 405—The cargador, 405—Wearing apparel, 406Serape and rebozo, 406, 407—The cotton industry, 408—The source of Mexican wealth, 409.


Future 412-419

Influence of the Catholic Fathers, 412—Extinction of monasteries, 412—The parish priest, 413—The Mozarabic liturgy, 413—A missionary field, 414—The policy of the government, 414—Schools, 415—Literature in modern Mexico, 416—The Mexican-Spaniard, 417—Railways, 418—Brighter days to come, 419.

Index 421

[Pg xix]



The Convent of Capuchinas Frontispiece.
Valley of Tula 15
Column from Tula 24
Ruins found at Tula 25
Quetzalcoatl 31
Portico at Kaboh 43
Vase in the National Museum, Washington 63
Casa del Gobernador, Uxmal 71
Statue from Palenque 73
Tablet of Cross at Palenque 74
Mayan Bas-Relief 77
Statue of Chaak Mool 79
Zamna 81
Organ Cactus 85
Idol in Terra-Cotta 89
Canal outside the City of Mexico 93
Stone of Tizoc 103
Sculpture Representing Human Sacrifice 107
Court of the Museum at Mexico 113
Vase. Museum at Mexico 120
Pyramid at Teotihuacan 169
Early Pottery 187
Cathedral at Morelia 201
Puebla de Los Angeles 205
Temple of Xochicalco 225
[Pg xx]Cactus Hedge 239
Panorama of Puebla 269
Indian Hut in the Tierra Caliente 283
Cathedral, City of Mexico 289
The Viga 293
Valley of Mexico 303
Monterey, Mexico 315
General Taylor 317
General Scott 325
Siege of Vera Cruz 329
Battle of Molino del Rey 335
Storming of Chapultepec 337
Benito Juarez 343
Archduke Maximilian[A] 351
San Luis Potosi 359
Chapultepec in the Time of Maximilian 361
Head-quarters of Juarez at San Luis de Potosi 379
The Convent of Capuchinas 381
Zapotec Ornament 393
Image of a Zapotec Chief 394
President Porfirio Diaz 397
Aqueduct in the City of Mexico 410

[A] From "The Fall of Maximilian's Empire." By permission of the author, Seaton Schroeder, Lieut. U. S. N.

For a number of these illustrations the publishers are indebted to the courtesy of Messrs. Hochette & Co., publishers of "Le Voyage au Mexique," by Jules Leclercq.

[Pg 1]




The steamer stops, and we are lying off Vera Cruz, in the Gulf of Mexico. Half a mile off, the long, low shore stretches north and south, with the white town upon it, flat roofs making level lines on the houses glaring in the morning sunlight, domes and church towers rising above the rest; glimpses of bright green tree-tops are to be seen, but outside the city all is barren and waste. The plain behind rolls up, however, and the background is the peak of snow-capped Orizaba, silent, lofty, 17,356 feet above our level.

This is what we see to-day, leaning over the bulwark of our large luxurious steamer which has brought us, easily, from Havana in a few days, over the smooth, green waters of the Gulf. Our only anxiety has been the possible chance of a "Norther," which may break loose at any time in that region, sweeping over the waters with fury and driving the Stoutest vessels away from the coast they would approach.[Pg 2] Our only exertion has been to keep cool upon the pleasant deck, and to take enough exercise to be able to enjoy the frequent food provided by the admirable chef of the steamer.

The scenery is the same that Fernando Cortés looked upon, some three hundred years ago, when he, too, cast anchor about half a mile from the coast, and scanned the shore with an anxious eye, to find a suitable landing. Orizaba rose before him, as now we see it, stately, majestic, cold and forbidding, under its mantle of snow.

We must envy the adventurer, in spite of our advantages in the way of ease and comfort. He stood upon the cramped deck of his little vessel, surrounded by a handful of men, with a limited amount of provisions, and great uncertainty about the next supply. No town stretched out its sheltering walls before him; there was scarcely harborage for his ships. Yet he had the advantage of absolute novelty in his undertaking from the moment he himself, with his little band, led the way up the steep slope to Anahuac.

Every true traveller has some of the instincts of the explorer in him, and these instincts must make us envy the prospect which lay before Cortés as he approached in the Bay of Vera Cruz the real beginning of his enterprise. There was the shore of the new country, where he might plant his "rich city of the true cross." There was the cold mountain which might contain in its depths the treasure he was seeking, and beyond it was the rumored Empire he longed to conquer. At that moment, no fear, no[Pg 3] discouragement, held back the eager steps with which he sprang into his boat, and beckoned his companions to follow him.

Cortés fulfilled his ambition, achieved his task, with what difficulties, through what straits and failures, we shall have later to see. He scaled the sides of Orizaba, reached the lofty plateau, and seized the ancient citadel of the Montezumas. Civilization has trodden smooth the rough path he first opened, and railroads now make it easy to climb the pass so arduous for him. If our journey lacks the element of constant discovery which belonged to his, we have gained that of wonder and amazement at the difficulties he surmounted. Moreover, he came in ignorance of what he was to find, with a blind desire for conquest, investing the region he approached with imaginary attractions. We know beforehand, as we begin to explore the country, that its legends and romances are as fascinating as its mines are deep; that its story is as picturesque as the lofty ranges and deep rolling valleys which make the charm of its scenery.

An inhospitable coast borders the treacherous, though beautiful, Gulf of Mexico. Its waters look smiling and placid, but at any season the furious "Norther" may break loose, sweeping with fearful suddenness over its surface, lashing its lately smiling waves into fury, threatening every vessel with destruction. Low sand-bars offer little shelter from the blast. Ships must stand off the coast until the tempest shall be past.

The country offers nothing better to its landed[Pg 4] guests. Vomito lurks in the streets of Vera Cruz to seize upon strangers and hurry them off to a wretched grave. All the pests of a tropical region infest the low lands running back from the sea. Splendid vegetation hides unpleasant animals, and snakes are lurking among the beautiful blue morning-glories that festoon the tangled forests. Let us hasten away from these dangers, and climb the slope that leads to a purer air.

We have escaped the terrors of the custom-house at Vera Cruz, from which, by the way, Cortés was exempt, and after a doubtful night in the hotel, serenaded by swarms of Vera Cruz mosquitoes, at early dawn we creep stealthily from our chambers, not to disturb the few misguided guests who mean to stay a little longer, and follow the dusky cargadores, bearing our baggage on their backs, down into the silent street. In Mexico there is no effort on the part of an hotel proprietor to speed the parting guest. He signs the bill overnight and betakes himself to repose, undisturbed by the exodus in early morning. The cargadores who have agreed to attend to the luggage rouse their sleeping prey and lead them through a wide, straight street to the railroad station. There is no sign of breakfast at the hotel. Nobody is stirring but one sleepy innkeeper. Hard by the station, as in every Mexican town, is a café, where excellent hot coffee is furnished, with plenty of boiled milk and good bread in many and various forms. Here we may sit and refresh ourselves with cup after cup, if we like, until the short, sharp whistle of the steam-engine warns[Pg 5] us to take the train. Heavy baggage was, or should have been, weighed and registered overnight.

It is but six o'clock as we move out of the station. A big sun is slowly rising over the dry, hot chapparral outside the city. Although it is early April, all is parched like midsummer. Soon, however, we begin to climb, and, as we ascend, pass through forests of wonderful growth. Sugar-cane and coffee plantations now appear; and the trees are hung with orchids, tangled with vines bright with blossoms, many of them fruit-trees now in flower, one mass of white or pink. The road crosses water-falls, winds round ravines, under mountains, through tunnels, climbing ever higher and higher, until Córdoba is reached at an elevation of over 2,000 feet. This town is surrounded and invaded by coffee plantations and orange groves. At the station baskets of delicious fruits are offered us—oranges, bananas, grenaditas, mangoes. Here we bid farewell to the tropics, and forget the snakes and the fear of vomito.

The climate we are seeking is not a tropical one. Whoever associates Mexico with the characteristics of heat, malaria, venomous reptiles, has received a wrong impression of it. Such places, with their drawbacks, exist within the geographical limits of the country, but it is wholly unnecessary to seek them; for the towns of historical and picturesque interest are above the reach of tropical dangers, for the most part, while there are seasons of the year when even the warmer portions can be visited with safety and delight. At Orizaba the climate is temperate,[Pg 6] fresh, and cool, beginning to have the elements of mountain altitudes. It is well to stop here for a day or two to become accustomed to the rarer air. It is a summer place of recreation for the inhabitants of Vera Cruz, while in winter it is a favorite excursion from the places higher up on the plateau.

As we are travelling only in imagination, we may safely, without pause, press upward to the great plateau where most of the scene is laid of our story. For Mexico, with the exception of the narrow border of sea-coast we have just crossed, is a lofty table-land between two oceans, a mountain ridge continued up from the Andes in South America, contracted at the Isthmus of Panama to a narrow chain of granite, to grow broad in Mexico as it stretches to the northwest, until it spreads, at an elevation from 4,000 to 8,000 feet, almost from ocean to gulf. This is Anahuac, the so-called table-land of Mexico, a broad plateau upon which the picturesque romantic drama of Mexican history has been played. Upon this high plateau, which is by no means level, rise the crests of the great volcanic ridges, of which the highest are Popocatepetl and Istaccíhuatl. The table-land rolls off northward at first, keeping its high level, growing narrower, gradually sinking as it approaches the Rio Grande, until at the boundary line of the United States it has fallen to 3,000 feet.

Thus Mexico possesses three well defined climates, due to variation in altitude: the tierra caliente, or hot lands of the coast; the tierra templada, or temperate region; and the tierra fria, the cold regions[Pg 7] of the mountain tops, more than 6,000 feet above the level of the sea. These climates, moreover, are modified by the latitude, so that between the cold altitudes of the northern portions, and the warm tropical levels of the south, there is a vast range of atmospheric change.

Our story has its stage, for the most part in the tierra templada, where the year is divided into two seasons: the dry season, from November to May; the rainy one, from June to October. The pleasanter one is the rainy one, in spite of its name. The rains are not continuous, but fall usually late in the afternoon and during the night, leaving the morning bright and clear, and the air deliciously fresh and cool. All the year roses bloom in the city of Mexico, and there are places where you may eat strawberries every day in the three hundred and sixty five.

Spreading over the greater part of this lofty region, there are broad, level plains of rich verdure, bright with all imaginable wild-flowers growing in profusion; large lakes, as picturesque as those of Northern Italy, surrounded by hills that are mountains, reckoning from the sea level; lofty mountain peaks, eternally snow-covered, barren and rocky below their snow-summits, then clothed with pine, and nearer at hand with fine oaks and other trees of temperate climates. Brawling streams water the valleys, and at the edge of the plateau make deep barrancas, whose depths reach to the lower level, their dangerous chasms hidden by rich growths.

On this elevated plateau, which with all its variety[Pg 8] seems a world of its own, until within the period of modern inventions all but inaccessible to the lower country and the ocean beyond, we find the traces of an ancient civilization, reaching backward until it is lost in legend. Long before the invasion of Anahuac by Cortés, it was inhabited by intelligent races of men. The mystery which hangs about these people makes the search for their history full of interest. In the present native population, we seek to find some clue to the manners and customs of the first inhabitants, by which to read the meaning of the monuments they have left. They are gone, their institutions overthrown by a power stronger than they were, by reason of the resources of advancing civilization, their idols and temples overturned by the zealots of another belief.

Outraged by the human sacrifices of the Mexican tribes, Cortés destroyed, with a reckless hand, all the evidences of what he regarded heathen worship. In so doing, the records of the race were lost, together with carved images of gods. It is unfortunate that his zeal was not tempered with discrimination, for it is now difficult, through the clouds of exaggeration surrounding the Spanish Conquistadores, to find out what sort of people they were, who preceded them on Anahuac.

Empires and palaces, luxury and splendor fill the accounts of the Spaniards, and imagination loves to adorn the halls of the Montezumas with the glories of an Oriental tale. Later explorers, with the fatal penetration of our time, destroy the splendid vision, reducing the emperor to a chieftain, the glittering[Pg 9] retinue to a horde of savages, the magnificent capital of palaces to a pueblo of adobe. The discouraged enthusiast sees his magnificent civilization devoted to art, literature, and luxury, reduced to a few handfuls of pitiful Indians, quarrelling with one another for supremacy, and sighs to think his sympathies may have been wasted on the sufferings of an Aztec sovereign dethroned by the invading Spaniard.

Yet perseverence, after brushing away the sparkling cobwebs of exaggerated report, finds enough fact left to build up a respectable case for the early races of Mexico. Visible proofs of their importance exist in the monuments, picture writings, and, above all, their traditions, which, at all events, remain a pretty story, with a sediment of facts the student may precipitate for himself. These traditions make of the early settlers of Anahuac a very interesting study, all the more from their shadowy nature, leaving still much margin for fancy.

They were overwhelmed by the Spaniards, but not destroyed, for the descendants of the conquered races still form a large proportion of the population of Mexico. Their teocallis and hideous carved gods gave way to Roman Catholic cathedrals and images of the Holy Virgin. Spanish viceroys, after the first atrocities of military discipline, ruled the gentle descendants of the Aztecs with a control for the most part mild and beneficent. The Catholic fathers who crossed the ocean to labor for the spiritual welfare of the natives, wisely engrafted upon the mysteries of their own faith the legends and superstitions of the older belief. Thus we find in many of the religious[Pg 10] ceremonies in Mexico, a wild, picturesque element, which is lacking in the church festivals of the Old World.

When the Conquistadores took possession of the New Spain in the name of their royal master, the Emperor Charles V., he was one of the most powerful of earthly monarchs. His son, Philip II., received the country as a part of his inheritance, along with realms which made him even greater than his father. But the successors of Philip II. knew not how to hold the possessions their fathers had won. Piece by piece their distant provinces were lost to them. Mexico, after two hundred years of neglect and mismanagement, shook herself free from Spanish rule; since the early part of this century she has called herself independent, with the exception of the two brief periods when the ambition of two men, differing widely from each other in their antecedents and aims, caused them to attempt the rôle of "Emperor of Mexico." Iturbide was the former of these; the latter, the ill-advised Maximilian. For the last twenty years, since the fall of Maximilian, Mexico has been a republic, with all the varying fortunes that attend a young institution struggling with inexperience and difficulty. A native population with an inheritance of superstition, prejudice, and oppression, mixed with a race whose traditions are all in favor of arbitrary government, supplemented by immigrants from every other nation who have come, often with lawless intent, seldom with disinterested motives, and never inspired by any feeling that could be called patriotism, must wait long for that[Pg 11] unanimity of public opinion and harmony of interest which ensure good government.

At times it has seemed that no good could emerge from such opposing elements; yet nature has furnished to Mexico material for a long siege; broad territory with a faultless climate, mountains rich in every mineral resource, valleys well adapted for cultivation and grazing, a land where every industry may, under a stable government, be pursued with success. The character of the descendant of the Aztecs is mild and docile, capable, as many people think, of high development by education; such bad qualities as Mexicans have developed from Spanish inheritance are, it is hoped, giving way before the progress of civilization and education.

The past of the people who live upon Anahuac is wrapped in mystery. So is their future. Both are interesting problems, to be worked out from the legends of old time, and the narrative of the present.

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Anahuac means "by the water." It is the ancient name for the great tract of land surrounding the lakes in the lofty valley of Mexico,—Chalco and Xochimilco, which are but one lake, properly speaking, the large Lake of Texcuco, and the smaller ones Zumpango and San Christobal. At first the name Anahuac was applied only to the neighborhood of the lakes, but later it came to be applied to the whole plateau.

The Conquistadores, according to their own glowing account, found upon the shores of these lakes a busy population, with all the evidences of industry and prosperity. Temples, erected for worship, containing the images of strange gods, stood in the lofty places. Their monarch lived in a palace of luxury, surrounded by his guards; he controlled a large army, which did battle for him against his enemies. His swift-footed messengers, without steam, without even horses, did his bidding even to the shores of the distant sea. Without printing, or telegraph, he received prompt information of distant events by pictures made on the spot by his special artist. Here was a civilization which had received[Pg 13] nothing from the courts of Europe, whose forms and ceremonies, while as rigid and as grand, borrowed nothing from the traditions of the royal house of Spain.

Whence came this proud people which had conquered for itself a place in that valley of the perfect climate?

About fifty miles from the city of Mexico is a town named Tula, formerly Tollan, which means perhaps "the place of many people." A road, shaded by great ash-trees leads across the river Tula, through a narrow pass to some ruins of an ancient civilization, ruins already when the city of Montezuma, which Cortés found flourishing, arose. A building of ancient stone is still there, laid in mud and covered with hard cement of a ruddy tint, with which the floors are also covered. The largest room in the building is not more than fifteen feet square. Another building farther on, larger than the first, is called the Casa Grande; it contains about thirty small rooms, connected by stairways, as their height above the ground varies. The plaza of the little town Tula contains the portion of a column and the lower half of a colossal statue, which belong, as well as the buildings just described, to the period of the Toltecs, whose capital was the ancient Tollan. Their city was abandoned a hundred years before the Aztecs entered it, and its founders scattered. Whence came the shadowy race whose history vaguely underlies that of later Mexican races?

The great mound which since Humboldt's time has[Pg 14] been called the pyramid of Cholula, of which every child has seen a picture in his geography, has now all the appearance of a natural hill. It is overgrown with verdure and trees; torrents of water in the rainy seasons have cut crevices in its sides, and laid bare wide spaces. A good paved road now leads to the summit, where a pretty modern church looks down upon the little town of Cholula huddled round the base of the pyramid. The church and the road leading to it are the work of the Spaniards, but examination proves the whole mound to be built by men out of earth, broken limestone, little pebbles, and small bits of lava. Sun-dried bricks were employed, of varying sizes and different make, which aids the idea that the mound was built slowly and by differing methods. On the platform at the top, which was reached by five successive terraces, Cortés found a temple, which he caused to be destroyed. The dates fixed for the erection of this pyramid vary from the seventh to the tenth century of our era. Conjecture only offers explanation of the purpose for which it was erected. Legends which the neighboring Indians preserve say that it was built in preparation for a second deluge. Another version is that men dazzled by the splendor of the scene sought to erect a tower which should reach the firmament; the heavenly powers, wroth with their audacity, destroyed the edifice and dispersed the builders. Cholula was one of the important cities of the Toltecs, but its construction is attributed to an earlier people.

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Another monument of the ancient civilization is Xochicalco, seventy-five miles southwest of the city of Mexico. In the middle of a plain rises a cone-shaped height from three to four hundred feet high, whose base has an oval form two miles in circumference. Two tunnels piercing the side of the mound open towards the north; the first has been explored only eighty-two feet. The second penetrates the calcareous hill by a large gallery nine feet and a half high, with several branches in different directions. The ground is paved. The walls are supported by mason-work cemented and covered with red ochre. The principal gallery leads to a hall eighty feet long, whose ceiling is kept in place by the aid of two pilasters. In one corner of this hall is a little recess, excavated like the rest out of the solid rock, with an ogival dome of Gothic aspect.

So much for the interior. Outside are five successive terraces of mason-work sustained by walls surmounted by parapets. At the summit stand upon a broad platform the ruins of the temple for which the mound was apparently destined; it is a rectangular building constructed of blocks of porphyritic granite placed on each other without the aid of mortar, with such skill that the joinings were scarcely visible. In 1755 the temple still preserved five stories; at the top was a stone, which might have served as a seat, covered like the rest of the building with strange ornaments carved in the stone.

Works evidently for defence testify to the constant fighting which must have been waged over Anahuac. In the province of Vera Cruz, at Huatusco, there are traces of fortifications stretching towards[Pg 17] the north. Ceutla seems to have been one of the chief points chosen for defence. The plain is covered with ruins. A forest conceals and at the same time protects several pyramids of stone bound with mortar. These pyramids are the most striking feature of this ancient architecture. The teocallis or palaces at Palenque and Copan, ruins found in Yucatan and Honduras, are erected on truncated pyramids like those of Anahuac. They are all of one primitive type, although differing in details of material and form.

These ruins, still left to attest the power of the great vanished nations who erected them, are rapidly disappearing. The Spanish conquerors were amazed at their size and importance—so much so that in their description they often exaggerated their splendor. Some of them Cortés destroyed; whatever he spared, gradually falls away, through neglect, theft, or other ravage of time. Forests of tropical growth have hidden the wonders of Palenque from destruction. Other such places may yet exist all undiscovered; and it is probable that the researches of scientific explorers will in time bring to light much information about the builders of these monuments. Meanwhile we must again turn to conjecture, and in the absence of facts to keep it within bound, we may indulge our imagination, and play with legend.

Far away from some distant home, early in the dim traditional annals of Anahuac, men came to settle upon its plains. They found there a race of giants—strange, fierce men, of immense strength,—whose ancestors perhaps had struggled with prehistoric[Pg 18] beasts, of which the bones lie buried deep below the present surface. This race of giants was wild and rude; they lived by hunting, and devoured raw the flesh of the game they secured with bows and arrows; they were brave, daring, and agile, but were given over to the vice of drunkenness.

We cannot stop to be very much interested in this rudimentary people, called Quinames, who have left us scarcely more than a name, and little even of legend to charm us. The pyramid of Cholula and that of Teotihuacan are ascribed to them, rather by way of pushing back these monuments to an ancient period. Their conception and execution show ambition, perhaps veneration, as well as determination and perseverance.

Whence they came, therefore, it is vain to speculate: how long they were there, what manner of men they were. A wave of life more civilized swept down upon them from the north and exterminated the whole race, so that we have nothing more to tell about them. The tribes which have the credit of destroying the giants bear the names of Xicalancas and Ulmecas. They paused a while upon the plateau, and passed on to people the coasts of the Gulf of Mexico.

Next came the Mayas, still always from the north. Although they left some traces upon Anahuac, they too moved farther on, to establish in Yucatan and the territory between Chiapas and Central America their greatly advanced civilization. Of this great family the many different branches speak dialects varying from the mother tongue, but allied to each other.

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The Otomis, still with the same northern origin, spread themselves very early over the territory which is now occupied by the states of San Luis, Potosi, Guanajuato, and Querétaro, reaching Michoacan, and spreading still farther. These were a rough people who lurked among the mountains, avoiding the life of large communities. They have left no record of progressive civilization. Their descendants are still traced in the regions which they chiefly occupied, by peculiarities of dialect. Mixtecas and Zapotecas are names of other peoples who came to occupy Anahuac, but the Toltecs are the first of these ancient tribes distinguished for the advancement of their arts and civilization, of which their monuments and the results of excavation give abundant proof.

The legends of those tribes who came to Mexico over the broad path leading down from the north refer to an ancient home, of which they retained a sad, vague longing, as the Moor still dreams of the glories of Granada. They preserved the tradition of their long migrations in their hieroglyphics and pictured writings. These traditions bear a strong resemblance to each other, and the dialects of the successive races which appeared in Mexico are so similar that it is probable they all belong to the same language, which is called Nahuatl. All these races are generalized as the Nahuas.

One of the traditions relates that seven families alone were saved from the Deluge. Their descendants, after long and weary wanderings, fixed themselves at Huehue-Tlapallan (the Old, Old, Red Rock), a fertile country and agreeable to live in, near a broad[Pg 20] and endless river, flowing from mountains far away to an ever distant sea. On the shore of the river were broad plains where cattle grazed. The mountains, with summits reaching to the heavens, were full of game. The winters were long, but the summers mild and agreeable. There the parents of the Nahuas dwelt long and happily, but at last enemies, whose attacks they had been obliged from time to time to resist, overcame them, and drove them from their homes. It was then they descended towards the south, seeking a land which should remind them of their favored home. Only when they reached the plateau of Anahuac, near the great lakes which reminded them of their mighty river, could they rest.

Such legends as these, and the forms of the pyramids found in Mexico and Yucatan, lead naturally to the guess that these races were the descendants of the Mound Builders of the Mississippi Valley, Ohio, and Missouri. The monuments of these prehistoric men are not unlike the teocallis and pyramids of the Nahuas. The "mounds" are artificial hills of earth, constructed with mathematical regularity, round, oval, or square. They are finished at the top by platforms, destined, apparently, to religious rites. Like those in Mexico, the Mounds, in their form and the great number of them, bear evidence to the prolonged existence of the race who built them, to long years of labor, and thousands of workmen employed in their construction. Excavation has brought to light implements of war and household use, which show both taste and skill, and these objects are much alike in their general aspect, whether found in[Pg 21] the valley of the Mississippi or of Mexico. Such conjectures are full of attraction; but they have, as yet, no solid foundation. As for the Mound Builders, their name, by which we now designate them, is but a modern label. Their own is effaced from the memory of men. Their origin is equally lost, and the time of their existence, the date of their monuments, are vanished in a vague past.

To associate, then, these Mound Builders with the early wandering tribes who descended to the plateau of Anahuac, is no help, at present, to the student of Mexican antiquity. Yet the idea is pleasing to the imagination; and it is even reason to hope that future discoveries in either region may throw light upon the early stay of the other.

Had we sure knowledge that the Mound Builders and the Nahuas were of the same race, we should still have to inquire whence came they all before they settled in the Mississippi valley, were driven out by their enemies, and migrated to the Mexican plateau? Such speculations are the pastime of the student of lost races. For him to dream of the possible homes of a set of people where traces are but faintly to be discerned, is as fascinating as building airy castles in Spain.

The theory of a submerged continent beneath the Azores, opposite the mouth of the Mediterranean, which might be the island described by Plato, Atlantis, the region where man first emerged from a condition like that of beasts to a constantly advancing state of civilization, plays a part in the fancies of those who are wondering about the origin of the Nahuatl tribes of Anahuac.

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The distant home of which they all preserved the legend under one name or another, one of which was Aztlan, the musical title given it by the Mexicans, was, perhaps, Atlantis, the broad and mighty realm where mankind in its childhood lived for generations in tranquillity and happiness. Huehue-Tlapallan, Aztlan, Atlantis, these names represent the universal tradition of this early home. The world before the Deluge, the Garden of Eden, the Garden of the Hesperides, the Elysian Fields, Olympus, Asgard,—all these are but different terms to express the vague vision in men's minds of a happy past. If the theory of Atlantis could be true, these were not mere visions but traditions preserving a consistent recollection of real historical events, of a populous and mighty cradle of nations which peopled the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi, the Amazon, and the Pacific coasts of South America, as well as the older world.

Atlantis, according to the story, perished in a terrible convulsion of nature, in which the whole island sank into the ocean with nearly all its inhabitants. Only a few persons escaped in ships and rafts to lands east and west of the catastrophe. Each of these separate survivors became, in the legend of his descendants, the solitary Noah or Coxcox of a tradition representing the destruction of an entire world. The Nahuatl legend helps out the theory of Atlantis to willing minds. The Noah of the Mexican tribes was Coxcox, who, with his wife Xochiquetzal, alone escaped the deluge. They took refuge in the hollow trunk of a cypress (ahuehuete),[Pg 23] which floated upon the water, and stopped at last on top of a mountain of Culhuacan. They had many children, but all of them were dumb. The great spirit took pity on them, and sent a dove, who hastened to teach them to speak. Fifteen of the children succeeded in grasping the power of speech, and from these the Toltecs and Aztecs are descended.

Another account describes a deluge in which men perished and were changed to fish; the earth disappeared, and the highest mountain tops were covered with water. But before this happened, one of the Nahua gods, called Tezcatlipoca, spoke to a man named Nata and his wife Nana, saying: "Do not busy yourselves any longer making pulque, but hollow out for yourselves a large boat of an ahuehuete tree, and make your home in it when you see the waters rising to the sky." The Mexican historian, Ixtlilxochitl, has conceived that after the dispersion of the human race, which succeeded the attempt to build the Tower of Babel, seven Toltecs reached America, and became the parents of that race. Thus having learned of the Tower of Babel from his Catholic instructors, Ixtlilxochitl skilfully pieces the Hebrew legend upon the Toltec fabric.

The friends of the Atlantis theory in like manner seize upon the universal fable of the deluge to weave into their tissue. It remains for every reader to decide for himself whether to regard these theories as the airy fabric of a vision, or made up out of the whole cloth.

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A somewhat connected chain of events begins with the traditions of the Toltecs upon the plateau of Anahuac. Their farthest ancestors, they supposed, founded the city of Huehue-Tlapallan far to the north, perhaps on the shores of the Colorado River. There they lived from generation to generation, nobody knows how long, until great civil wars broke out in their nation, and a part, deserting their ancient homes, wandered down towards the south. This was in the year 544 of our era.


Guided by their great chief Huematzin, the Toltecs wandered over the sandy plains in the north of Mexico till they came to the land "near the water," fertile and promising, and finally settled in a place they called Tollanzinco. Not far off, in the course of time, they founded their great city of Tollan, now Tula, which became the centre of the Toltec nation.

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These people built so well and so much that the name became the word to mean builders. The few ruins left of their capital attest their skill. They felt themselves to be a superior race to that they found in their new home. The Toltecs were tall, robust, and well-formed, of light-sallow complexion, with but little hair on their face. They were wonderful for running, and could run at the greatest speed for hours. Their manners were gentle and refined, as well as their tastes. Yet they were cruel in war as well as brave.

Arrived in their new country, they set themselves to work to till the ground and plant it with all the crops the favorite climate permits. They had Indian corn, chile, frijoles, the beans so beloved to this day by the Mexicans, and other vegetables; these they cultivated with better processes than the former inhabitants had known. Nevertheless, and although the proud Toltecas must have looked down on the native tribes, they took a step dictated by a wise diplomacy, in order to preserve harmony and good-fellowship with their neighbors. They invited the ruler of the Chichemecs, a tribe to the north of them, to provide them a chief from his family, and, much flattered, he sent them his second son.

Some Toltec Richelieu must have planned this scheme, with the intention of keeping the real power in his own hands.

Precious-stone-who-shines (Chalchiuhtlatonac), well pleased to sparkle in a new setting, came to them from the powerful neighboring tribe of the Chichemecs, and governed peacefully for the space of fifty-two years, while the Toltecs planted and reaped, and pursued their gentle way.

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They spoke the tongue Nahuatl, giving to it their own dialect. They wrote, and studied the stars, by which they regulated their division of time. It is said they were the first in all Anahuac who knew geography. How much they knew we never shall know, still less how little those before them knew. They knew the properties of plants, how to heal the sick by using them, how to keep well. They were excellent carpenters; they worked precious stones with skill; they wove their garments out of strong or delicate fabrics in many colors and designs, demanding and creating for themselves not only the necessities of life, but the adornments of art and taste. In fact, the Toltecs were a worthy people, averse to war, allied to virtue, to cleanliness, courtesy, and good manners. They detested falsehood and treachery, and held their gods in reverence.

The early faith of the Toltecs was the adoration of the sun, moon, and stars. Especially the power (tecuhtli) which warmed the earth and made it fruitful, giving them thus their chief blessings, they worshipped under the name Tonacatecuhtli, to whom they offered flowers, fruits, and sacrifices of small animals. Polytheism, and the sacrifice of human beings, which was later engrafted on this simple belief by other tribes, had no part in the early religion of the Toltecs.

At the end of the tenth century, when in England the Danes were beginning to trouble the Anglo-Saxons, and Ethelreds and Edreds were retreating before Canutes and Hardicanutes; when across the channel Hugh Capet had put an end to the feeble dynasties of the Carlovingian kings, and was taking for himself[Pg 28] the crown of France, began to rule Tecpancaltzin, the eighth of the Toltec chiefs. We cannot tell what manner of court he held, whether rude or splendid. His territory stretched over large distances, and counted many flourishing cities, among them Teotihuacan, Cholollan, Cuernavaca, and Toluca.

Cuernavaca, "where the eagle stops," at an elevation of nearly five thousand feet above the sea, is built upon a headland projecting into a valley between two sharp barrancas. The region is richly watered, and produces now, as in the time of the Toltecs, abundant crops. Fruits also abound there. The winter climate is delightful. The place was captured by Cortés before he laid siege to the city of Mexico. It became his favorite resort, and the valley was included in the royal reward he received for his Mexican conquests. It was here that he began in Mexico the cultivation of the sugar-cane, and here the Conquistador passed the last years of his life. Traces of the ancient civilization are still to be seen. Behind a house in the town called the Casa de Cortés is a solitary rock upon which are prehistoric carvings; on the crest of a little hill near by is a lizard about eight feet long carved in stone. Eighteen miles from Cuernavaca are the ruins of Xochicalco, before mentioned.

Toluca is forty-five miles west of the city of Mexico, at an elevation of 8,600 feet above the level of the sea. The scenery all the way from Mexico is of the finest description. The two volcanoes which dominate the valley, covered with snow, are behind, and[Pg 29] before us is the equally beautiful Nevada de Toluca, nearly as high as they. It is an extinct volcano, the crater of which is now a lake with a whirlpool in the middle of it. Here the Toltecs had a palace of stone decorated with hieroglyphics. Such was the broad territory over which ruled Tecpancaltzin. The lakes in the valley, much larger than they are now, were his, and all the fertile valleys around them, which his people knew well how to cultivate. His swift runners brought him from sunny Cuernavaca fruits of the tropics. Snow from the Nevadas, even in the hot days of summer, was at his disposition. His warriors kept his neighbors in proper awe, and he lived at peace with all men.

It was then, according to some reckonings, that the mysterious Quetzalcoatl appeared in Tollan. He must have been a real personage, for the tale is deeply rooted in the traditions of the country, of the white man with a long beard who came from the East, and disappeared as mysteriously as he had come, over the Atlantic Ocean. The Toltecs were dark, with scanty beards and short; this stranger was absolutely unlike them. He remained with them twenty years, teaching them the arts of a better civilization. Recent study has busied itself with extinguishing the beams which surround the bright image of this wonderful being. Before the traditions of his greatness are thus swept away, we will preserve them for a little longer.

Quetzalcoatl (The Shining Snake) is sometimes described as one of the four principal gods who shared with the terrible Huitzilopochtli the work of the first creation. Elsewhere he is represented as a man who[Pg 30] came to live among the Toltecs, and who disappeared as mysteriously as he came. Between the two accounts of him, then, is every shade of matter-of-fact and miraculous in the tales that are preserved of him. One, shown in an ancient painted writing, now lost, depicted him a youth, fasting seven years alone among the hills, and drawing his blood, because the gods made of him a great warrior, showed how he became chief of Tula, selected by the inhabitants on account of his bravery, and how he built them a great temple. "While he was doing this, Tezcatlipoca came to him, and said that towards Honduras, in a place called Tlapalla, he was to establish his home, and that he must leave Tula and go thither to live and die, and there he should be held to be a god. To this he replied that the heavens and the stars had told him to go within four years. So, after four years were past, he left, taking along with him all the able-bodied men of Tula. Some of these he left in the City of Cholula, and from those the inhabitants are descended. Reaching Tlapalla, he fell sick the same day, and died the following one. Tula remained waste and without a chief nine years."

A legend adds that "his ashes were carried to heaven by handsome birds; the heart followed, and became the morning star."

[Pg 31]


[Pg 32]

Baudelier concludes him to have been a prominent gifted Indian leader, perhaps of Toltec origin, perhaps Olmec. He suggests that his career began in the present state of Hidalgo, in which are the ruins of ancient Tula, and that his first stay was there, after which he left that people and moved farther south, and settled at Cholula; perhaps founding there the first settlement, perhaps elevating the tone of the village Indians already settled there. The beneficial effects of the coming of Quetzalcoatl were the introduction, or improvement, of the arts of pottery, weaving, stonework, and feather-work; the organization of government of a higher type, and the introduction of a mode of worship free from human sacrifice. Perhaps his aversion to this bloody custom made him withdraw to the mythical Tlapalla, a place on no map and only known to tradition, which puts it on the sea-coast, and generally on the Gulf of Mexico.

The mystery of his departure and death led to his deification, and the worship of his person became the leading feature of the religion at Cholula.

It is likely that The Shining Serpent developed, if he did not originate, many of the gentle and graceful forms of worship, which still have a great part of the religion of the simple Indians of Mexico, of sacrificing the fruits and flowers of each season to its appropriate divinity and festival.

In Holy Week, now, in the city of Mexico, the shores of the canal leading to the town are decorated with flowers. Native boats float over the water heaped with bright blossoms, and the dark heads of the Indian girls are crowned with wreaths of poppies. They bring these blossoms in masses to decorate the altars of Nuestra Señora in the churches. Her image is the symbol of their divinity transferred from the earlier idols their remote ancestors worshipped.

[Pg 33]

In the National Museum in Mexico is an image in the form of a coiled serpent in pyramidal form—its body covered with feathers—carved of basaltic porphyry. This model, which appears in many of the old monuments, is regarded as the symbol of the mysterious Shining Serpent.

Whatever were his serious claims to distinction, his worshippers invested him with wonderful attributes. His sojourn in their land marked its most prosperous period. In his time the seasons were the fairest, the earth the most productive. Flowers blossomed, fruits ripened without the toil of the gardener. The cotton in its pod turned blue, red, or yellow without the trouble of the dyer, so that the fabrics lightly woven and without fatigue took on rich and harmonious tints. The air was continually filled with perfumes and the songs of sweet birds. Every man loved his neighbor, and all dwelt in peace and harmony together. These were the halcyon days of Anahuac. For twenty years the Toltecs knew no disaster, but flourished and spread under the influence of their strange protector. And then, one day the strange god disappeared from among them, descending to the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, where he bade farewell to the crowd that had followed him, promising, as he did so, that in the fulness of time his descendants, white men like himself, with full beards, should return and instruct them. Then he stepped into a magic bark made of the skins of serpents, and sailed away over an ocean unknown to these simple men towards the fabled land of Tlapalla.

[Pg 34]

So Lohengrin vanished to the upper air, and as with those he left behind, all their good luck was over for the Toltecs.

They did their best to preserve the memory of Quetzalcoatl. On the top of the pyramid of Cholula, which perhaps their fathers found standing when they reached the haven of their pilgrimage, the Toltecs raised an image of their deity, with features of ebony, although he was white; with a mitre on its head waving with plumes of fire; with a resplendent collar of gold around its neck, turquoise ear-rings, a sceptre all jewelled in one hand, and in the other a strange shield. Such is the description of the Conquistadores, who saw it; and as they destroyed it, and tumbled it down from its lofty site, they should know.

Evil days were coming to the Toltecs.

The traveller in Mexico to-day sees growing all along the sides of the railway huge stiff bunches of the Agave Americana. The leaves are long and pointed with prickles along the edge, growing in a tuft like huge artichokes. Their blue, rather than green, surface has a whitish bloom over it, which makes the plants look as if they had been made of tin and painted some time ago. Sometimes the leaves are very large, and the bunches enormous. When the time comes a stem shoots up from the heart of the tuft to a great height, putting out branches at the top, which blossom in a cluster of yellowish flowers. These branches are symmetrical, and the effect is like a lofty branched candlestick, sometimes forty feet high. The blossoms fade; the[Pg 35] dying stalk, like the framework of last year's fireworks, remains a long time; and when these plants, as they often are, are set along the railways, the line of tall bare stems looks not unlike a row of telegraph poles. The blue tin leaves are ever green, and last through many a year.

This agave, or American aloe, is the century-plant, so called from the popular error that it blossoms only once in a hundred years. It is only true so far that each plant blossoms only once and then dies. In tropical regions this process proceeds rapidly; in colder countries, where it is raised artificially, it takes a long time to complete its perfect growth.

The agave is native in the whole region between the tropics of America, where it flourishes from the sandy soil by the sea to table-lands and mountain altitudes. From its natural region it has been transplanted everywhere, and even in cold climates it is cultivated as a green-house plant. In Spain, where it was early transplanted, among the other novelties which the Conquistadores introduced from their new land, it is absolutely at home. Its lofty candelabra are an ornament to Andalusian roadsides, and a barrier for wandering cattle. In Spain it is called pita, which must be a different variety, if not a totally distinct genus from the common plant of Mexico, for the use of its juices for a beverage is totally unknown in the old country, and this certainly would have been discovered there if such properties had not been wanting in the Spanish plant.

For the agave of the Mexicans is their maguey, from which they extract pulque, the national beverage.[Pg 36] The agave has served them for many other purposes, from the earliest times. Its bruised leaves, properly dressed and polished, make a sort of paper; its leaves furnish a strong protecting thatch for the roofs of houses; thread can be drawn from its long fibrous texture; the thorns furnish a fair substitute for the pin and needle; and the root, well prepared, is nutritious and palatable as food.

Of all these properties of the agave the Toltecs were cognizant. If their wise friend, The Shining Serpent, knew of other attributes it had, he kept silent. It was reserved for a woman to reveal to her race the fatal gift which lay hidden in the blue-green stubborn leaves of the prickly plant.

Xochitl was the name of the woman who showed to the king, Tecpancaltzin, how to extract from the heart of the maguey a sweet honey to drink, which, from that time to this, has been the delight and the curse of Mexicans. The plains of Apan are celebrated for the production of the finest pulque, in itself a thoroughly wholesome drink, suited to the climate of high regions, and beneficial when taken in moderation. From the root of the maguey, however, strong distilled liquors can be made, called mezcal and tequila, and of these it is best not to drink too much.

The new beverage found favor with the chief of the Toltec tribe, and spread its cheerful influence over his people. He married Xochitl, the woman who had offered him honey extracted from maguey.

The result of this discovery, and the consequence of the marriage, were ruin and dispersion for the proud race of the Toltecs. Meconetzin, (Son of[Pg 37] Maguey) ruled at first with prudence and practical wisdom, but his habits deteriorated little by little; he became vicious, and revealed himself to be an insupportable tyrant. The honey in the maguey had begun to ferment.

The Toltecs thenceforth deteriorated in the most disastrous manner. Famines and pests fell upon the land, and invasions of strange peoples. The population was thinned, harried, scattered. Its last chieftain was Topiltzin-Meconetzin (Son of Maguey), who, with his wife, Xochitl, was slain in a sanguinary battle against overpowering enemies. And this was the end of the Toltecs. This may have been in the year 1116 of our era, after a duration of about five hundred and fifty years.

Some historians consider that the Toltecs were not a great race, but simply a tribe of sedentary Indians, more advanced than their neighbors, whose traditions have become with time exaggerated into the tale of a great and powerful nation. How this may be, the tourist at Tula may judge, according to his disposition, romantic or prosaic, by the importance of the ruins left by the vanished race.

The excellent compendios of history written by Payne and Zarate for the use of schools in Mexico still give the dynasties of the kings of Tula, as well as of the other early tribes, as if they were sovereigns of a well-established monarchy, accompanied by a list of the royal succession. According to this, the kingdom of the Toltecs lasted from 720 a.d., the date fixed for the end of their wanderings from Huehue-Tlapallan to Tollan, until 1116 a.d., when their destruction was accomplished and their people dispersed.

[Pg 38]



According to the old version of Anahuac story, the proud, brilliant dynasty of the Toltecs shone like a jewel upon the background of the savage tribes surrounding it, who remained during the period it flourished in the same condition as when the Toltecs came. It was from one of these less cultivated races that the Toltecs took their first chief, Chalchiuhtlatonac, son of the so-called Emperor of the Chichimecs, to whose account is attributed a line of fourteen monarchs, and a duration of over two hundred years, but all this is very uncertain and vague; on the other hand, Baudelier is of opinion that there was no Chichimecan period in Mexico. The word Chichimecatl signifies indiscriminately a savage, a good hunter, or a brave warrior. The far-off region from which they immigrated like the other tribes upon Anahuac, called by them Amaquemecan, like the Huehue-Tlapallan of the Toltecs, was a fertile country of their dreams, pleasant to work in, and free from earthly disasters.

Probably they came from the same region as the Toltecs; their language is classed with the Nahuatl, though their dialect was their own. They called[Pg 39] themselves the Eagles. They not only had no culture, but scorned it, preferring the advantages of barbarism. Their occupation was hunting, which was fully furnished them by the game in the mountain regions, which they found unclaimed, and took possession of. They lived upon the flesh of wolves and pumas,—their smaller dishes were weasels, moles, and mice, without objecting to lizards, snakes, grasshoppers, and earthworms.

The Chichimecs seem to have wandered about completely naked, with skins of beasts to protect them from the occasional cold of their mild climate. Their houses were, for the most part, caves or cracks in the rocks, but they knew how to build rude huts, roofed with palm leaves. Gourds were their drinking vessels, and they could make a rude sort of pottery, out of which they fashioned jugs, and also little balls used for bullets in war, which could make dangerous wounds. They were always at war with their neighbors, and protected their own territory from incursions with their bows and arrows, and clubs, which they handled with great vigor.

Each warrior of the Chichimecs wore a bone at his waist, which carried a mark for every enemy he had killed. Competition was sure to keep these bones well marked, as it was a distinction to bear the record of the most victims. Their battles were bloodthirsty. Prisoners were scalped upon the field of battle, and their heads carried in triumph back to camp, while dances of victory were performed. They had the reputation of eating the flesh and drinking the blood of their victims.

[Pg 40]

The several tribes of the Chichimecs acknowledged no authority, other than obedience to the warrior they themselves selected to lead them to battle. Their wives were their slaves; and though they limited themselves to one wife at a time, they reserved to themselves the liberty of changing one for another at any moment. The women prepared the food, cut down trees, brought wood and water, and made the pottery—bullets as well as pots and pans. The Chichimecs feared and worshipped the sun as a supreme deity, and the spirit of the thunder and lightning, whom they rudely depicted with bolts in his hands, like Jupiter, and called Nixcoatl, (the Serpent of the Clouds).

These were the people who lived side by side with the Toltecs, their better-behaved neighbors, despised as inferiors, and regarded with disgust for their coarseness and horror for their bloody practices. By these, the Toltecs were conquered and destroyed.

Xolotl, the leader of the Chichimecs, to use the greatly exaggerated reports gathered from historic paintings, which depicted these things, came to invade the realm of the Toltecs with a million warriors under six great chiefs, and twenty thousand or so of inferior officers. He had under his command more than three million men and women, not counting the children who came along with their mothers. The Toltecs were much deteriorated since their proud days. Allies whom they had oppressed had deserted them; a religious sect which differed from the prevailing belief had sought elsewhere a place of independent worship; the sovereign and his favorites[Pg 41] were delivered over to dissipation. But even the royal family gave proof of energy and resolution when the hour of danger came.

An old chief, named Ayaxitl, called the country to arms, inspiring them with tales of the deeds of their ancestors. Old men and young boys took up arms; and old Xochitl herself, the mother of the inefficient king, led forth to battle a legion of Amazons, and was slain at their front. But all this show of bravery came too late. The Toltecs were entirely defeated after a prolonged conflict, which was renewed for several days. Tollan was taken, the whole country surrendered, and its ruling race entirely exterminated.

The Toltecs were no more, and the Chichimecs ruled in their stead. But these people, recovering from their barbarism in a measure, took on the advanced customs of their conquered enemies, entered into their palaces, and enjoyed the fruits of their civilization.

Xolotl took the title of Chichimecatl Tecuhtli, the great chief of the Chichimecs; and his descendants added to this the name Huactlatohani (Lord of the Whole World). The territory claimed for him included a large part of the present Mexico, the states Morelos and Puebla, a portion of Vera Cruz, the greater part of Hidalgo, the whole of Tlaxcalla, and the valley of Mexico. He strengthened his power by marrying his son to a daughter of the late Toltec sovereign, saved from the destruction of the race, and altogether showed wisdom and judgment not to be expected from the antecedents of his people. Such conduct inclines students of this remote[Pg 42] period to think that these Chichimecs were not the barbarous tribe who lived in caves and ate lizards, but a later arrival from the mysterious north.

During the reign of Xolotl new tribes came wandering down from these remote regions. These successive waves of emigration give the idea of a constantly renewed struggle for supremacy far off in the unknown Amaquemecan, resulting in the migration of the conquered side. Xolotl received these new arrivals with benign hospitality, gave them lands to plant, and encouraged them to settle in his realm. Among these were the Aculhuas and Tepanecs, who founded the kingdoms, afterwards important, of Atzcapotzalco and Tlacopan.

Xolotl had the credit of reigning from 1120 to 1232, when he died. This would make him at least one hundred and twenty years old at his death. And some people from this imagine that there were several Xolotls that succeeded one another. Let us believe that he lived to this great age. The name means "Eye of great vigilance."

For three generations his immediate successors ruled the kingdom with firmness and judgment, compelling their people to cultivate the land, thus protecting agriculture, which was their chief source of wealth, and building towns to put an end to wandering habits inherited from the men who lived in caves on the mountain side.

[Pg 43]


Quinatzin, in the beginning of the thirteenth century, established the capital of the kingdom of the Chichimecs in Texcuco. It was during his reign that the Aztecs, or Mexicans, whom we now hear of for the first time, established themselves in Tenochtitlan, which was on the site of what is now the city of Mexico, though their arrival made but little stir in the neighborhood. The Chichimecs were troubled by quarrels with the new kingdom of Atzcapotzalco, but for a century they maintained their good standing, always advancing in civilization and the arts of peace, and it was not until 1409 that[Pg 44] one of their kings, Ixtlilxochitl, found these rising neighbors too strong for him. The Tepanecs and the Aztecs united, and swore together a conspiracy to overwhelm him. He was assassinated, and his throne was usurped by Tezozomoc, the king of Atzcapotzalco.

The Chichimecs may be said to come to an end here; for, after the return of the legitimate line, their realm was called the kingdom of Texcuco, where their capital was already established. This city was occupied by the invaders, who made it their principal seat. The usurper at his death was succeeded upon his stolen throne by his wicked son Maxtla. The adventures of Nezahualcoyotl, the rightful heir, are told by a native historian descended in a direct line from the sovereigns of Texcuco, Ixtlilxochitl, whose writings, though probably not over accurate, are more tangible evidence than the faint reports of previous legends.

[Pg 45]



When the city of Texcuco was seized, the young prince Nezahualcoyotl, the heir to the crown, was but fifteen years old. He fled before the turbulent crowd of Tepanecs as they rushed into the palace gardens, and hid himself in the branches of a tree which most luckily happened to come in his way. From his hiding-place among its thick leaves he saw his father, Ixtlilxochitl, left alone for the moment, turn and face his furious enemies. They seized and killed him on the spot, and the frightened boy saw the bleeding body carried off, a victim, as he well knew, for future sacrifice. Filled with horror and burning with thoughts of vengeance, he fled from the spot, seeking safety for the moment, with the firm resolve of turning later upon the assassins of his father and the usurpers of his inheritance.

As the country was full of the triumphant army, in a few days the young prince fell into the hands of his pursuers, who knew too much to leave him at large. He was seized and imprisoned temporarily, until some decision should be taken as to his fate. The prison was a strong place guarded by the same governor who had held it in the previous reign, for[Pg 46] the new government had not yet had time to change such offices. This old man knew the prince well, and was devoted to his line. He helped him to escape and took his place in the dungeon cell. It was long enough before the change was discovered for the prince to be far out of reach of pursuit. The good old governor lost his head, but Nezahualcoyotl found shelter in the neighboring province of Tlaxcalla, whose rulers were for the moment friendly to his family.

This is the place which later offered to Cortés protection and aid in his enterprise of conquest. Prescott calls it a republic in the midst of many small monarchies, dwelling apart on a system of government wholly independent.

Climbing by rail the ascent from Vera Cruz, the modern traveller, after reaching the barren plateau of the cold region, and crossing a dreary, dismal country, strikes an insensibly downward grade, which gradually leads him to the central basin of Mexico. The Malinche presides over the landscape, an isolated peak, which all the year conceals beds of snow in the crevices of its summit, though unseen below, rising more than thirteen thousand feet above the level of the sea. Less majestic than the two great volcanoes, it yet has wonderful beauty of outline, and from its solitary position gains importance.

This mountain was long the object of worship for the tribes who lived around its base, among them the Tlaxcallans, whose home lies to the northwest of it, in a deep valley surrounded by barren ridges.[Pg 47] Their so-called social organization and mode of government, which have given their country the name of a kind of Mexican Switzerland, is now thought to have differed little from those of their neighbors. Their chiefs were elected from an hereditary house of rulers, and two of them formed the nominal head of the tribe, while the true power lay in a council. Their territory consisted of narrow valleys spreading into fertile fields, where they maintained long their independence, subject to the attacks of neighboring tribes. Tlaxcalla means "the land of bread." Its rich products naturally were tempting to the neighboring tribes, whose limits included land not so good for cultivation. Their next neighbors were the Cholulans, who dwelt under the great pyramid. The Tlaxcallans had the reputation of triumphing over their foes in battle, for they were both bold and strong.

It was with the friendly Tlaxcallans that the wandering prince lived, unmolested in the companionship of a brave man who followed the fortunes of his young master. He had been the family preceptor ever since the birth of the prince. This tutor was wise as well as learned; although he was strongly prejudiced in favor of the legitimate family and against the usurpation of the fierce Tepanec, he counselled restraint and patience, and caused his pupil to lead a quiet life without attracting attention, while he was giving him lessons in the art of governing and training in all the qualities good for a monarch to possess.

Meanwhile, the son of the usurper grew up untrained[Pg 48] and indulged in the royal palace, humored but feared by all who surrounded him. Maxtla was born of a race of no gentle attributes; he cared little for study, and knew no discipline. He knew the rightful prince, and hated him on account of his better claim to the throne, while he despised his reserve and modesty, which he set down to weakness, knowing nothing of the qualities of self-restraint and reserved force. When Tezozomoc died, he bequeathed his empire to his son Maxtla. On the accession of the new sovereign, all the great families hastened to do him homage, and among them came Nezahualcoyotl, then twenty-three years old, with a present of flowers, which he laid at the feet of the young king. Maxtla sprang up and spurned the flowers with his foot, and then turned his back upon the true prince, who had self-control enough to withdraw quietly, admonished by signs from all the royal attendants, with whom he was a favorite. He lost no time in leaving the royal palace, and hastened back to the deserted one at Texcuco.

But Maxtla could not fail to see that the sympathies even of his own followers were with his rival, whose manners, indeed, were those to win, while his own repelled the affection of courtiers and inferiors. He resolved to do away with him, and formed a plan which failed through the vigilance of the wily old tutor. When the prince was invited to an evening entertainment by Maxtla, the tutor was sure that more was meant than a friendly attention. He could not permit his pupil to go, but accepted the invitation for him, and sent in his stead a young man[Pg 49] he had at hand who singularly resembled Nezahualcoyotl. This youth, perhaps, was pleased to attend a royal feast, dressed in the rich robes which the son of a king, even if lacking a throne, might wear; but there must have been a moment, just as he felt the deadly iztli weapon at his throat, when he perceived the game was not worth the candle; for the guest was assassinated as he came to the table, before the substitution could be perceived; and thus the true prince escaped. His descendant, who tells us the story, does not let us know whether Nezahualcoyotl was a party to the deception. We will leave the blame on the shoulders of the wily old tutor, in order to preserve the honor of our hero unsullied.

When Maxtla found that his rival was not dead, like a prince in a fairy tale, he gave up secret plots, and boldly sent a band of armed soldiers to the old palace at Texcuco, to seize the young man whose popularity he feared. The tutor, always on the watch, arranged everything as usual, and when the emissaries of Maxtla arrived, they found the prince playing ball in the court of the palace. He received them courteously, as if he thought they came on a friendly visit, and invited them to come in, while he stepped into a room which opened on the court, as if to give orders for refreshments for them. They seemed to be seeing him all the time, but, by the directions of the old tutor, a censer which stood in the passage was so fed and stirred by the servants that it threw up clouds of incense between the guests and their host, between which Nezahualcoyotl disappeared into a secret passage which communicated with a great[Pg 50] pipe made of pottery, formerly used to carry water into the palace. He stayed there till after dark, when he could escape without being seen, and found safety in a cottage belonging to an old subject loyal to his father's name. A price was set upon his head, and a reward offered to him who should take him dead or alive, in the shape of a marriage with some lady of birth and broad possessions. This bride never came to her wedding, for the prince was not found. Too many faithful vassals watched over him, in spite of the temptation of such a brilliant match; they hid him under heaps of magueys, and furnished him with every means of escape. They turned their heads away when they saw him pass, lest they should be forced to betray the knowledge; they put food for him in places where he might steal forth and find it. They hid him once in a large thing like a drum, around which they were dancing as if to amuse themselves. In fact, no one would give him up; the whole population connived to protect him and hide him from his half-hearted pursuers, forced to the task by their sovereign. It was a poor sort of life he led, and his own sufferings were increased by his tender heart for the difficulties these caused his loyal protectors.

Most of the chiefs of the regions round about were, from policy, allied to the usurper, but the dethroned prince had friends, and the party on his side grew large as the tyranny of Maxtla and his oppressions caused defections among his followers. When the time came for a general rising, Nezahualcoyotl found himself at the head of a courageous[Pg 51] band which gained in size and strength, until it seemed safe to attack the regular forces of Maxtla. In the battle which took place the tyrant was routed, and the true prince triumphant. As soon as this was known all the chiefs flocked to do him homage, and he entered his capital in triumph, crossing to the sound of military music the spot where he had passed an evening under a drum, and entering by the royal gates the palace he had left through a water-pipe. Horses were not known in Anahuac until after the advent of the Conquistadores. The young victor was borne in a sort of palanquin by four of the chief nobles of the kingdom.

Thus did Nezahualcoyotl return to the throne of his fathers. The Mexicans, who had helped his former enemies to overthrow the rule of his father, now joined forces with him, abandoning without hesitation Maxtla, whose oppression and exaction made him an uncomfortable ally. A league of the other neighboring tribes, combining with the Mexicans, under the lead of the true prince of Texcuco, utterly routed the forces of Maxtla, and this tyrant who himself assassinated the father was slain by the hand of the son.

Maxtla was killed in 1428. The usurpation of the throne of the Chichimecs by Tezozomoc first, and afterwards by Maxtla, his son, had lasted ten years. By this event the kingdom of Atzcapotzalco came to an end, having lasted not more than two hundred and sixty years.

The kingdom which Nezahualcoyotl regained from the usurpers, whose kings traced their lineage[Pg 52] back to the Chichimec Xolotl (Eye of great Vigilance), now became the kingdom of Texcuco Aculhuacan, by which it was known when Cortés, with his conquering legions, appeared on the plains of Anahuac.

[Pg 53]



Now followed the Golden Age of Texcuco. The Fox, no longer hungry nor hunted, proved himself a very Lion, a King of Beasts; he ruled his kingdom with wisdom, as he had fought with bravery, and endured adversity with patience.

On coming to the throne, he proclaimed a general amnesty, pardoned the rebels, and even gave some of them posts of honor. He repaired the ruin wrought by the usurper, and revived what was worth revival in the old form of government. He made a code of laws well suited to the demands of his time, which was written in blood. It was accepted by the two other powers with whom he now entered into alliances, Mexico and Tlacopan. His adjustment of the different departments of government was remarkable for the time, or indeed for any time, providing councils for every emergency; of these the most peculiar was the Council of Music, devoted to the interests of all arts and science. Its members were selected from the best instructed persons of the kingdom, without much reference to their ranks. They had the supervision of all works of art, all writings, pictorial or hieroglyphic, and had[Pg 54] an eye on all professors to keep them up to their work. This Council of Music had sessions when it listened to poems and historical compositions recited by their authors, who received prizes according to the merit of their work.

The literary men of Texcuco became celebrated throughout the country, and its archives were preserved with the greatest care in the palace. These records, which would have told us all we want to know of the early story of the people of Anahuac, were, for the most part, inscribed upon a fine fabric, made of the leaves of the American aloe, the maguey which also gave them their favorite beverage. The sheets made from it were something like the Egyptian papyrus, and furnished a smooth surface like parchment, upon which the picture-writings were laid in the most brilliant tints. These manuscripts were done up in rolls sometimes, but were often folded like a screen, and enclosed in wooden covers, not very unlike our books. Quantities of such manuscripts were stored up in the country, not only by the Texcucans, but by all the inhabitants of the different kingdoms. Probably no race has made better provision for handing down its traditions and history than these people who wandered from the mysterious North. All this is lost to us by the infatuation of the Spanish Conquistadores, as we shall see later on.

As if barbarians, ignorant of types and bindings, should descend upon the British Museum or Bibliotèque Nationale, and, perceiving therein countless parallelograms of calf containing wicked little dots[Pg 55] upon countless white leaves, should order them to be destroyed, as foolishness or blasphemy. So the first priests of the Christian religion arriving in New Spain destroyed these playthings of the idolaters, which they conceived to be probably precious, but at all events useless.

Only chance specimens of these wonderful picture-writings escaped the general destruction, and from which is gleaned whatever is surmised of the earliest life of the tribes of Anahuac.

Texcuco led all the other nations in its literary culture, or rather pictorial skill, since letters were unknown. The Texcucan idiom was the purest of all the many dialects from the Nahuatl root. Among its poets, the king himself, Nezahualcoyotl, was distinguished. He not only belonged to the Council of Music, but appeared before it with other competitors. Perhaps some folded screen enclosing an ode by his hand lies hidden yet somewhere in Mexico, or even among the dusty archives of Old Spain. Some few have come to light, and one of them exists in Spanish, translated by a Mexican. It is hard to be sure of the import of the original through the change of expression inevitable in translating, but we may guess something of it.

"Rejoice," he says, "O Nezahualcoyotl, in the enjoyable, which now you grasp. With the flowers of this lovely garden crown thy illustrious brows, and draw pleasure from those things from which pleasure is to be drawn."

This garden of the no longer hungry Fox was a[Pg 56] wonderful Place of Delights, and the remains of it may be seen to this day. About three miles from the capital rises the Laughing Hill of Tezcotzinco. Here are left the remains of terraced walls, and stairways wind around the hill from the bottom to the top. In shady nooks among the rocks seats are hollowed out of the stone, and ingenious contrivances can be traced on all sides for enhancing the natural advantages of the situation. The most curious of all the vestiges of Nezahualcoyotl's garden is a round reservoir for water at an elevation of eighty or one hundred feet. It is about five feet across and three feet deep. Channels led from it in all directions to water and refresh the terrace-gardens below.

The country all about is full of artificial embankments, reservoirs and aqueducts for leading water about, and developing the attractions of the place. A magnificent grove of lofty ahuehuetes, at some distance from the central part of the grounds, surrounds a large quadrangle, now dry, which was probably an artificial lake in the time of the great king, for whose pleasure these things were planned. He was rich enough to pay for all the costly works he commanded, by reason of successful wars and judicious management of domestic industry, and so was justified in indulging his taste for magnificence in architecture. The ruins of Tezcotzinco faintly attest the truth of the descriptions of this royal residence, which tell of hanging gardens approached by steps of porphyry, reservoirs sculptured with the achievements of the monarch, and adorned with marble[Pg 57] statues. There stood a lion of solid stone more than twelve feet long, with wings and feathers carved upon them. He was placed to face the east, and in his mouth he held a stone face, which was the very likeness of the king himself. This was his favorite portrait, although many other representations of him had been made in gold, wood, or feather-work. On the summit of the hill was the carved representation of a coyotl, the hungry fox which gave to the monarch his name so tedious to us to pronounce.

The remains of Tezcotzinco are now shown as the Baths of Montezuma; but this is a purely modern application of the title of a chief more commonly known. The baths belonged to Nezahualcoyotl, and if by chance any Montezuma made use of them, it was only as a passing guest.

Nezahualcoyotl, this wise, good, æsthetic king, committed a deed which his descendant and historian regards as a great blot upon his fame. He remained unmarried for a long time, on account of an early disappointment in love, and was no longer young when he conceived a violent passion for a noble maiden whom he met at the house of one of his vassals. This vassal wished the fair lady for his own bride; he had in fact brought her up with that intent, but the king, regardless of the laws of honor, caused the old man to be killed by his own men in a battle with the Tlaxcallans, which he set on foot chiefly for this purpose. The young princess was then invited to the royal palace, where she received in due form and time an offer of marriage from the monarch.[Pg 58] The wedding was celebrated with great pomp, not long after the funeral of the vassal.

This is the only anecdote that reflects discredit on the monarch, and there are many which tell to his advantage. It was his custom, as with the Eastern Khalif, to go about in disguise among his people to find out their wants in order to alleviate them.

One day as he was walking through a field with one of his friends he met a small boy picking up sticks here and there. "There are many more in the forest yonder," he said; "why do not you go there to get them?"

"The forest belongs to the king," said the boy, "and it would be worth my life to take his property."

The king advised him to disregard the law and go and take what wood he wanted, as nobody would find him out, but the boy was too honest or too cautious to follow the advice, and steadily went a gleaning as he could in the open field.

When the king returned to the palace he sent for the boy and his parents. The parents were praised for bringing up such a boy, the boy was praised and rewarded, and the king passed a law allowing unlimited picking up chips.

In short, Nezahualcoyotl was a model monarch. He pardoned all his enemies, was humane and clement; he formed a code of wise and just laws, and instituted tribunals for the prompt administration of justice; he established schools and academies for the diffusion of all sorts of knowledge, and generously encouraged science and art. As for his religious belief, he abjured the barbarous creed which prevailed[Pg 59] at the time, and announced his conviction of the existence of one God, author of the universe. He erected a superb temple to this deity, and composed hymns in his praise.

Nezahualcoyotl died in 1472. It was nearly half a century since he had rescued his throne from the usurper. He had raised his kingdom from the anarchy in which he found it to a brilliant station, and saw it, at the close of his life, growing stronger and going farther in the path of advanced civilization. He had brought this about by his wise and judicious rule and might well contemplate with satisfaction the results of his wisdom and judgment.

His only legitimate son was about eight years old at the time of his father's death. His name was Nezahualpilli. He became as learned as his father, was liberal and charitable; even more severe in the administration of justice, going so far as to condemn to death two of his own sons who had infringed the law. In his time he was held to be the wisest monarch of the epoch, and amongst his subjects he had moreover the reputation of being a magician.

He reigned forty-four years, and died in 1516, leaving the kingdom to the oldest of his four legitimate sons.

The reign of Nezahualcoyotl is the most glorious period of the kingdom of Texcuco, and of all the kingdoms of Anahuac.

Its splendors have been confounded with those of the Aztec Court, and, as we see in the names now given to the ruins of the king's garden, even the name of the Montezumas is mixed up with the Texcucan[Pg 60] annals. It is well, however, to keep the different dynasties distinct, in order to understand, when we come to the Conquest, the various parts these distinct peoples played in that exciting drama.

Texcuco maintained for some time its place and distinction, but never surpassed the height it reached in the fifteenth century. After that it began to diminish; family dissensions in the royal house, and external warfare, together with too much prosperity and the relaxation that comes with it, were preparing this nation for the tempest and change already gathering afar off.

This glowing account of the splendors of Texcuco is gathered by Prescott from the writings of Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl, who traced his descent, in direct line, from the royal house of Texcuco. He lived in the sixteenth century, occupying the position of interpreter to the Viceroy, being familiar with the Indian dialects, and of course with the Spanish language.

He was in other respects a man of cultivation and learning, had a library of his own, and pursued diligently the study of the picture-writings, hieroglyphics, and legends of his ancestors, with the object of throwing light on the obscure places of their story. He wrote, in Spanish, various books about the primitive races of Anahuac, among them the "Historia Chichimeca," which has been used as a source of authority since it was first written.

As a Christian, Ixtlilxochitl has given to the legends of the Quetzalcoatl and other mysteries of the early Mexican races, a color evidently borrowed from the light of Christian traditions, and the author[Pg 61] has cast over his picture of the Golden Age a glow which is hardly justified by the cold light of modern research. His story is now regarded as unreliable in many particulars. Yet as a legend it retains its charm; and as history the graceful fabric need not be utterly destroyed while the monuments at Texcuco and the manuscripts of Nezahualcoyotl attest the existence of such a king and such a court. Until the diligent research of those explorers who are now busy in searching for the facts of early Mexican history, have fully established them, we may enjoy the tale of past magnificence upon the plateau of Anahuac.

The period of the Golden Age of Texcuco is ascribed to the fifteenth century; the date assigned to Nezahualcoyotl's accession being 1430. The Spanish invasion took place in 1516 A. D.

During that century the red rose of Lancaster was warring with the white rose of York; Joan of Arc, in France, grew up in her village home, to win back for the French king his lost provinces. Isabella and Ferdinand, by uniting the two houses of Castile and Aragon, made Spain the powerful kingdom, which was to discover the New World.

All these princes and potentates, busy with their own wars and marriages, lived their lives without thought of any form of high civilization across an untravelled ocean. Even Columbus, as he urged upon the queen his longing to cross that ocean to find out what was beyond it, did not suggest to her the vision of a cultivated court with a king who wrote poetry in an unknown tongue, and had carved lions upon his marble stairways.

[Pg 62]



West of the city of Mexico and the state of the same name lies Michoacan, one of the largest of the present divisions of the country. It begins on the plateau, but stretches down the steep western slope to the shores of the Pacific Ocean, seamed with deep barrancas between the upper and the lower portions, so steep and impassable that the railway which is already engineered to connect the capital with Colima on the western coast, waits long to gather courage for the leap. On the higher land mountain-peaks divide fertile lofty valleys, in which large lakes sparkle in the soft light of the climate. Michoacan signifies in Tarascan Land of Fish. These broad sheets of water are even now as still and lonely as when the early wanderers from the unknown North settled upon their borders, except when the shriek of a modern steam-engine disturbs their silence, and frightens the many birds who live there. As the train passes along the edge of Lake Cuitzao, eighteen miles long, clouds of winged creatures start up surprised, but not much frightened from the rushes by the water. Perhaps a rose-colored flamingo may be seen standing on one leg,[Pg 63] undisturbed by the noise, because he is unaccustomed to fear. Across the lake glows a brilliant scarlet behind graceful mountain outlines. By the many curves of the road these forms appear, vanish, and recur, till the day has faded.


Farther from the capital, Patzcuaro and its lake have hidden their charms still longer. It was only in 1886 that the railroad penetrated to them. They are nearer the middle of the upper part of Michoacan, at an elevation of seven thousand feet above[Pg 64] the sea. The heights in this region, though they seem hills, because their base is on so high a level, attain to numbers of measurement belonging to mountains. The Place of Delights, as the name of Patzcuaro is translated from the Tarascan language of its old inhabitants, is a lonely little city now, containing no more than eight thousand natives, many of whom are descended from the first inhabitants, and speak the Tarascan tongue. The town is built on hilly broken ground, with narrow crooked streets, from which glimpses are constantly to be had of the beautiful lake stretching out below. Abundant springs water the town and flow through the fountains in the market-place, an open square surrounded by noble ash-trees. Just outside the town stone seats have been placed at a point overlooking a lovely view of the clustering town, the long irregular lake with jutting points clothed throughout the year with verdure, and dotting islands upon its surface.

This place of delights was long the seat of the native chiefs of Michoacan, who, though they did not attain such a reputation for learning and cultivation as Ixtlilxochitl the Texcucan narrator has given his ancestors, had yet taste and intelligence enough to enjoy the beauty of their home.

In the beginning, wandering tribes may have settled on the borders of the lake for the mere casual advantages of satisfying their hunger, for the lake abounds with fish, and feathered game frequent its shores from time immemorial. The first have been supposed to be Chichimecs, either before or after their dealings with the Toltecs. The region was[Pg 65] too attractive for one tribe to possess it unmolested. Other men, perhaps fresh from the same mysterious North, perhaps driven out by force or discontent from former homes upon Anahuac, came to dispute the fruitful territory. Such contests were decided by the triumph of the stronger; intermarriages healed the wound, and brief peace settled on the shore of the lake, to be broken by and by with similar incursions, followed by similar results. Out of such sequence, a name and date emerge as pegs to hang some facts on, in the hitherto accepted story.

Iré-Titatacamé was this first chief of this first people with a name which could last. He made friends with a neighboring chief, and married his daughter, the Princess of Naranjan. We may imagine her, like her remote descendants, a dusky maiden, rather small, with straight black hair, which she knew how to braid in two long tresses to hang along her back. Did her grandmother learn the art from the same coiffeur that prepared the mother of Ramses for her morning care? Her eyes were intelligent, piercing, but soft, two rows of brilliant white teeth lighted her face when she smiled, as she gathered herself poppies for a wreath on the borders of the Lake of Delights.

This princess became the mother of Sicuiracha, who was born in 1202, they say, about the time that the little English prince, Arthur, was being murdered at Rouen by the order of his wicked uncle. The little prince of Naranjan-Chichimeca was not ten years old when a tribe of Tarascans assaulted his father's city, and slew that monarch. He grew[Pg 66] up to console his mother, avenge the deed, and to control his own subjects and the conquered tribe, which however impressed its language and dialect upon the nation, so that in that region, Tarascan survived.

Sicuiracha lived to a good old age, and in peace. He died at the close of the thirteenth century, leaving two sons.

One of these married an island woman of the lake, and her son preserved the royal line; for his father and uncle were put to death by a chieftain of the neighborhood who desired the fair Place of Delights for his own. But Tixiacurí was hidden by priests, who taught him the great art of war, so that in due time he came forth at the head of armies, destroyed his enemies, took to himself all the territory of the king who slew his father, and extended his own even beyond these, thus first really governing the wide kingdom of Michoacan, which goes down to the sea.

Tixiacurí, at his death, divided the territory, giving parts of it to two nephews, one of whom, Hicuxaxé, got Patzcuaro, and called himself king of it. Tangoxoan, the son of the late king summoned his court to Tzintzuntzan, fifteen miles up the lake. He is counted the fifth of the chiefs of Michoacan, and leaves no other record but that all his sons died violent deaths.

In the next period the provinces given to Tixiacurí's nephews came together again under one head, and the tribes thus united grew and prospered. Zovanga, the seventh ruler, held sway over the whole[Pg 67] extent of Michoacan. Its capital was Tzintzuntzan, and its fullest limit touched the waters of the western ocean. This king constructed the celebrated walls of Michoacan to shut in his territories; he advanced agriculture, and brought his army to such excellence that it triumphed over his enemies, even the Mexicans, who, by this time powerful rivals, undertook an expedition into Michoacan in 1481. In a bloody battle which lasted two whole days the Mexicans were utterly routed.

The reign of Zovanga is described as long and glorious, and he left his country in a state of peace and prosperity when he died, near the beginning of the sixteenth century. The eighth and last Tarascan monarch of Michoacan, Tangoxoan II., was the contemporary of Montezuma; like him, unfortunate enough to live to see the invasion of the Conquistadores. He was called by them Calzonzi, which is only the Tarascan word for any chief or leader.

His capital was at Tzintzuntzan, a city with a population of forty thousand inhabitants, it is said, at the time of the conquest. Its name is an imitation of the noise of humming birds, which, in the Tarascan days, as now, darted in multitudes over the gay flowers that border the lake in profusion. This people loved birds as they did flowers, and excelled in the delicate feather-work still practised in Mexico, in which bright-colored plumage is daintily made to serve instead of paints. The monarch of Michoacan held court at Tzintzuntzan, but his pleasure-house[Pg 68] was at Patzcuaro, eighteen miles away. Legend says that when he chose to have a collation there, a line of servants was stationed all along the way between the two palaces, to pass the dishes from the royal kitchen to the royal table. However this may be, there are traces of a subterranean passage which perhaps connected the capital with the other town. Some years ago an excavation was attempted at Tzintzuntzan, with the hope of discovering this passage, but the natives quietly resisted this work by always filling up the place as soon as it was dug out. From generation to generation these people transmit the traditions of the ancient grandeur of their race, and silently preserve what they can of its traces. They have no written language of their own, and no orators. What they know of the past they do not wish to tell to outsiders; but their villages are full of legends, which the old people hand down to the younger ones in their strange Tarascan speech. They are tenacious of their manners and customs, and preserve in their church festivals the forms and rites which the early priests allowed them to transfer from their old religion to the ceremonials of the newly acquired Catholic faith. The Tarascans are skilful in carving in bone. They make tiny boxes, neatly fitted with lock and key, of wood. Their canoes are dug out of tree-trunks, and they kill the wild fowl which swarm and herd in quantities upon their lake, with a long wooden javelin hurled with skill. Their pottery, like that of all the Mexicans, is simple in design, graceful in form, and tasteful in color. From time immemorial they have[Pg 69] possessed the knowledge of handling clay and making their utensils of it.

Such are the descendants of the old Tarascan tribes, little changed as yet by the changes of government that have swept over their country since the invasion of the Conquistadores.

[Pg 70]



There is another race of which something must be said before we begin upon the Aztecs, that branch of the Nahuatl family which took the leading part in the struggle with the Conquistadores.

Although the Mayan civilization was established outside the limits of the present Mexico, it is necessary to know something of it in connection with the other tribes who built up the civilization of Anahuac.

The Mayas are thought to have been the earliest of the Nahuatl family to migrate from their northern home. Their language differs from the other Nahua dialects, and so do their traditions, monuments, and hieroglyphics, but these differences were probably caused by the difference in time in the departure of these races from their common starting-point. The resemblance outweighs the disparity, and we can only imagine that the deviations were caused by a long separation from the original stock. Their descendants live in Yucatan, and the early monuments of the Mayas are found in that country and its neighborhood.

[Pg 71]


They are supposed to have migrated from the shores of the Atlantic to the region now the state of Chiapas, the farthest south of all the states, adjoining Guatemala, in the midst of a rich and fertile country. Their empire grew to be one of great importance, so that at one time even the proud Tula was tributary to it. It extended over the greater part of Central America. Mayapan and Copan were the other chief tribes of their confederacy, of which[Pg 72] Nachan, or Town of Serpents, was the capital or chief.

This great city was already in ruins, buried in the thick wilderness, its site and very existence forgotten before the arrival of the Conquistadores. Cortés must have marched close to it once when he was on his way to Honduras, but he probably had no notion of its existence. The ruins were discovered by chance in the middle of the eighteenth century, by a curate of the little town Palenque in the neighborhood.

In 1764, the Spanish government sent explorers to visit these ruins, and since then they have been carefully studied. The importance and extent of the buildings seem to show that the ancient city was once the capital and centre of the ancient state of Mayapan. Traces of streets extend for a length of six leagues or more, following the course of mountain streams, which doubtless furnished the inhabitants with water.

The most important building at Palenque is the Palace. It rests on a truncated pyramid about fifty feet high, of which the base measures three hundred and ten feet by two hundred and sixty. Subterranean galleries penetrated the interior of the pyramid. It is made of earth, with external faces of large slabs; steps lead up to the top, on which is the chief building, a quadrilateral of two hundred and twenty-eight feet by one hundred and eighty; the walls are from two to three feet thick, ornamented with a frieze between two double cornices, covered with painted stucco, either red, blue, black, or white. There are fourteen entrances in the eastern front, which is the[Pg 73] principal one, separated by pillars ornamented with figures more than six feet in height. Over their heads are hieroglyphics which contain the key to their meaning, still hidden to us.

The inside of the palace corresponds with the outside, galleries run all round the court, and the lofty chambers are decorated with strange bas-reliefs in granite thirteen feet high or more, strange and grotesque to us, but full of meaning and expression to the race which understood them.


Over the palace rises a tower of three stories, thirty feet square at the base, decorated profusely with symbols no longer suggestive. A strange thing about the palace is that the staircases look new, the steps whole and unworn, as if the people who built it had suddenly taken flight soon after they erected their chief buildings.

[Pg 74]

One other of the monuments of Palenque should be mentioned, the Temple of the Cross. It rises from a truncated pyramid, and forms a quadrilateral separated by pilasters, ornamented with hieroglyphics and human figures. The openings lead through an inside gallery to three little rooms, of which the middle one contains an altar, ornamented with a frieze. Above this altar until recently stood three marble slabs, of which one is now in the Smithsonian Institute at Washington, the central stone at the National Museum in the city of Mexico, and the third still remains at Palenque. They are six feet four inches in height, four feet wide, and six inches thick, of cream-colored stone of a fine grain. The central stone now in Mexico gives a striking representation of the Christian cross on a pedestal in the midst of a tangle of hieroglyphics, with a priestly figure, nearly life size, which in the stone still at Palenque is continued by another figure of a priest and six rows of hieroglyphics running from top to bottom. The piece at Washington is covered with similar rows of hieroglyphics, and contains ornaments to match the human figure on the left of the central stone. The startling resemblance to a cross on this tablet has excited much discussion; it is said that the presence of the emblem of the Christian faith caused it to be torn down and cast forth into the forest, which crowds around the ruins of the ancient city. But such representations of the symbol of an earlier date than the Christian era, have been found elsewhere in America. The cross was looked upon by the Mayas as the sign of the creative and fertilizing

[Pg 75]


powers of nature, and has no affinity with the Christian one. Some attempts have been made to decipher the meaning of the Palenque tablets, considering the three pieces as a whole. The figure on the left (still at Palenque) is said to be the Sun with his grand mitre. He presents an offering in his hand,[Pg 76] and appears to be blowing with his mouth or breathing incense. At his back are two astronomical signs, representing, one the four phases of the moon, and the other the great Period of the Sun. The figure at the right (in the museum at Mexico) is larger than the other. It stands erect with outstretched arms offering a child before the cross. This priest differs from the other in being without the sacred mask and the robe of ocelotl skin. Both figures open their lips in prayer to the deity, the cross, here united with the sign Acatl, an arrow thrust through the upper half making another smaller cross. At the right of the cross are the signs of the four seasons of the year, vernal equinox, summer solstice, autumnal equinox, and winter solstice. The bird above the cross is the star of the morning, and the strange figure below may be a skull, to represent the star of the evening. According to this explanation the famous tablet of Palenque, with its accidental likeness to the Christian cross, was dedicated to the Sun as the great creative power, and to the Year with its four seasons, and change of morning and evening. Palenque is by no means the only monument of the ancient people in this region. Yucatan is covered with interesting ruins, the remains of different branches of the mighty Mayan race. It can hardly be doubted, moreover, that extensive ruins lie yet hidden in the unexplored regions of the peninsula. Chichen-Itza is one of the few towns which has preserved its ancient Mayan name, from chichen, opening of a well, and Itza, one of the chief branches of Mayapan confederacy. Itza maintained its independence,[Pg 77] after the destruction of the confederacy, for two centuries after the Conquest. It was then taken by the Spaniards and completely destroyed.


Over an extent of several miles are seen masses of rubbish, broken sculptures, overturned columns, of which nearly five hundred bases have been counted. Chichen was one of the religious centres of Yucatan, which accounts for the number and magnificence of its temples. The walls, in many cases, are covered with paintings, in black, red, yellow, and white; they represent processions of warriors or priests, with black heads, strange head-dresses, and wide tunics on their shoulders. The faces on the bas-reliefs are remarkable as giving a different type[Pg 78] from the pointed heads and retreating foreheads of those at Palenque. The heads on the Yucatan monuments as those of the present inhabitants are better developed. The sculpture is rich; the bas-reliefs give an idea of the head-dress of the natives.

A flight of steps is ornamented with a balustrade of interlaced serpents.

Chaak Mool, also known under the name of Balam, the tiger-chief, was one of three brothers who shared between them the government of Yucatan. He was married to Kinich Katmò, a woman of marvellous beauty.

Now Aak, the brother of Chaak Mool, fell in love with the fair Kinich, the wife of his brother. In order to possess her, he caused her husband to be assassinated, hoping thus to win the hand of the widow. But Kinich, far from yielding to the persuasions of Aak, remained faithful to the memory of Chaak, and out of conjugal devotion caused his statue to be made. Moreover she caused her palace to be adorned with paintings representing the chief events in the life of her departed spouse, and the sad scene of his death. In one of these paintings we may see the wicked Aak, holding in his hand three spears, to symbolize the three wounds, by means of which his brother was despatched.

The painting is accompanied by hieroglyphics, which an explorer in 1875, Dr. Le Plongeon, succeeded in deciphering far enough to learn that the tomb of Chaak Mool was to be found at a place some four hundred yards from the palace. He at once set about excavations at this spot. At first were[Pg 79] found several bas-reliefs representing cats and birds of prey; about twenty feet lower down was an urn of stone containing ashes, and last of all the statue of a man reclining upon a slab of stone. This statue is now in the National Museum of Mexico, under the title of Chaak Mool, as if it were the image made by order of the devoted Kinich Katmò; but the type of the face, the costume, head-dress, and sandals are altogether different from the usual Yucatan models, and moreover other little Chaak Mools have been found in different parts of Mexico, so that the wise are led to suppose that it represents some unknown divinity rather than a king of Yucatan.


The Spaniards found throughout Yucatan roads made for the convenience of travellers, probably to the religious centres of the country. Some of these[Pg 80] roads are calzadas, like those of which traces exist in many parts of Mexico, dating far beyond the Spaniards. The remains of one of these were used in building the modern city of Merida in Yucatan. This highway measured from between seven and eight yards in width; it was made of blocks of stone covered with mortar, and a layer of cement about two inches thick. Solid bridges of masonry spanned the rivers of Mexico and Yucatan, of which the massive piers have been seen standing during the last century.

Such are the monuments of the Mayan people, of whom not many facts are to be disentangled from the early legends. Like the traditions of the Mexican tribes, the Mayas tell of a supernatural being, who came from the other side of the Caribbean seas, from a land of shadows. His name was Votan, in the Mayan tradition. He found a people in the extreme of barbarism living in caves, feeding upon the bloody flesh of animals they killed in hunting; he taught them many things, so that by his example, and for generations after he left them by his precepts, they advanced to high civilization. According to his instructions, the only sacrifices offered to the gods were the flowers and incense, sometimes birds and animals. Votan is described as a great warrior, leading his people to one triumph after another. Votan, it would seem, had a companion and disciple called Zamna, to whom also the inhabitants of Yucatan ascribe their ancient progress. It was he, they say, who invented hieroglyphics, and he was the first to attach names to men and[Pg 81] things. He was buried, according to the account of the natives, at Izamal, one of the sacred towns of Yucatan, beneath three different pyramids. Under one is his right hand, the head under another, and the heart is beneath the third. A huge head carved in stone has been found at Izamal, which perhaps represents the Prophet Zamna.


The Mayas used copper and gold. Their weapons were slings, spears, and arrows with points made of obsidian or bone. Their warriors wore armor of well-padded cotton, their shields were round and decorated with feathers, or the skins of animals. They made boats by hollowing out the trunks of trees, large enough to hold fifty people, which they guided with great skill. Votan was regarded[Pg 82] as a god after his death, like Quetzalcoatl, with the Toltecs. Fierce wars waged between votaries of the two as time went on. The Mayan legends and the few manuscripts preserved tell of nothing but wars and conquests, struggles and defeats. The confederation invaded by other tribes who triumphed over it declined. Their religion deteriorated, as the traditions of Votan and his precepts faded away, and the people returned to the custom of human sacrifice, as bloody and terrible with them as with the other American races.

In their monuments we can trace these evidences of their civilization; they are remarkable for number and dimension, and the taste and skill shown in their ornamentation implies a condition above that of savage tribes warring against each other to defend the necessities of mere existence.

[Pg 83]



We now come to the tribe best known among those who lived on the great plateau of Anahuac, the Aztecs, also called Mexicans. The latter name has come so generally to include the inhabitants of the whole country, that a distinction must be made.

This people was one of those which formed the great family of the Nahuas; its emigration from the mysterious regions of the northeast towards Anahuac, like that of the other tribes which recognize the same traditions, rests on the same authority. Their origin is no clearer than that of the rest. It seems certain that previous to migrating they dwelt in a land far to the northeast of Lake Chapala. This region, hallowed in their traditions with all the memories and all the attractions of a far-off, long-lost home, they called Aztlan, and from this name were they called Aztecs.

Why they abandoned this delightful home is entirely unknown, except to conjecture and the probabilities of human life; the date is equally uncertain, but to it has been assigned the middle of the seventh century, and even the year 648 of our era is given.

The Aztecs having left their old habitations wandered[Pg 84] vaguely off towards the southwest, guided by the inspirations or indications of their priests. They paused whole years in different places, building in each houses and temples, of which traces are still found to mark their path. They left behind them, indeed, settlements which still exist. But the great body of these emigrants had not yet found a permanent resting-place. They continued to move on, with intervals of pause, from generation to generation, always impelled by the restlessness which caused their first fathers, and the priests, their guides, to leave Aztlan. It was six hundred years after the date commonly given for their exodus that the Aztecs came to their final resting-place in 1243. The tribe was already called Mexicas as well as Aztec, because the priests received an order from one of their gods, Mexitli, that they should receive a name like his. From Mexi or Mexicas was derived the word Mexican. This name has attached itself, not only to the town they founded, but to the broad valley in which it lies, and to the whole country stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific; yet when they came there the ancient tribe of the Toltecs already possessed the land, and farther south the Mayas had attained a high degree of civilization. They themselves were but a handful of men, despised by surrounding races for the customs of their religion, even then regarded as barbarous and horrible by the older inhabitants. They gained and maintained a foothold in the place they had chosen against many enemies and countless difficulties, triumphed over all these, and established themselves so firmly as to imprint a name upon the whole region.

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It is no wonder that the broad, lofty valley where they found themselves made so strong an impression upon them that they at once decided to adopt it; though the exact spot they selected for their capital has been often condemned by posterity.

They saw a vast oval of more than forty leagues' circumference, surrounded, like an amphitheatre, with a girdle of mountains. On the east rose the two proud volcanoes, Popocatepetl and Iztaccíhuatl, covered with perpetual snow, their sides clothed with forests. When the Aztecs came, one vast lake occupied the basin of the broad plateau, too wide to be called a valley, as well as too elevated, for the lowest part is more than six thousand feet above the level of the sea.

They saw a rocky height rising above the wet soil near the lake, out of which were doubtless even then growing huge cypress-trees, ahuehuetl, making a dense and pleasant shade; a large spring of water flowed constantly from the rock. Here they stopped and named the place Chapultepec, which means the Hill of the Grasshopper. In the picture-writings of the Aztecs it is depicted as a small hill with a huge grasshopper standing all over it.

Here the Mexicans, or Aztecs, remained for a few years, but their place was contested by the neighboring tribes, who also all of them saw the merits of the site, and valued as much as the new-comers the spring of sparkling water. The Mexicans made themselves odious by their religious practices, and a[Pg 87] combined array of Chichimecs and other tribes dispossessed them of the Grasshopper Hill. They betook themselves to a group of low islands in the lake, and there led a miserable existence for many years, covered with rags, living on such fishes and insects as they could lay hold of from the lake, and dwelling in wretched huts made out of reeds and rushes. They were nothing more than the slaves of the Tepanecs and Culhuas, surrounding tribes, and it is extraordinary that from such a life they roused themselves to any thing better. In the course of a battle between two of their tyrant tribes, they, the miserable slaves, the despised eaters of insects, gave such proof of unconquerable valor on the side of their masters, that these were terrified and gave them their liberty. This was nearly one hundred years after they had been driven from Chapultepec. They now shook off the yoke of their oppressors, gathered themselves together, and leaving the wretched island where they had languished so long, set forth once more in search of a permanent dwelling-place.

The story has often been told of the way in which they fixed upon its position. The priests declared that their great god, Huitzilopochtli, had decreed for the situation of their abiding city, a nopal growing from a rock, upon which should be sitting an eagle with a snake in his beak. The nopal is one kind of cactus. When they suddenly came upon this very combination of objects, the priests declared it to be the preordained spot, and there they settled themselves after all the long wanderings of their race, far from the shadowy Aztlan. The situation is low, and too[Pg 88] near the lake, which in those early days extended much farther than at present. It has now been made to subside, leaving much territory formerly under water spread out as barren marsh-land. Several lakes, divided by low lands have taken the place of the broad inland sea overlooked by the Mexican capital.

Here the Mexicans built their capital city, which in time grew to be the centre of a great confederacy. They called it Tenochtitlan, which means Place of the Stone and the Nopal. Its name was also Mexico early in its history, from the old god Huitzilopochtli, who was also called Mexitli.

Tenochtitlan covered about one fourth of the ground now occupied by the city of Mexico. Its founders divided it into four quarters or divisions, to which were given the names of Cuepopan, Atzacualco, Moyotla, and Zoquipan. In the centre rose the great teocalli dedicated to the god Huitzilopochtli. The cathedral of the present city of Mexico stands on the site of this ancient temple, but not a trace of the Aztec town is now visible. The names of the quarters above given remain in those of the suburbs of the modern town.

Little by little smaller islands were united to the larger ones by means of stone- and earth-works. From a life of misery, by industry and energy the Mexicans advanced their condition. They devoted themselves to fishing and hunting, and exchanged the product of these labors with the neighboring people for wood, stone and such things as they wanted.

Up to this time they had obeyed their priests, or[Pg 89] certain chiefs who controlled them. The last of these was Tenoch.


The rulers who followed have been called kings, their government a monarchy, their homes palaces, their places of worship, temples. The Conquistadores described the civilization they found upon Anahuac with such wealth of words, that the Halls of the Montezumas have been ever since the type of all that is rich and magnificent. Their realm was an empire, their sway was absolute, their lives were one of luxury and ease.

Later investigations take away from the early Aztec dynasty all its splendors, one by one, until the poor Mexican kings have scarcely a shred of regal dignity left them. Even their warfare is reduced to[Pg 90] the pitiful raids of one savage tribe against another, their title of Emperor, no longer hereditary, although, it is admitted, kept in one family, is reduced to that of chief; their capital city is a pueblo, their palaces as low buildings of adobe, their teocallis are mounds.

For the sake of preserving the succession hitherto accepted, and to avoid confusion in the mind of the reader, we will continue the narration of the kings of Mexico, as if they still retained that title, shorn as it is of its rays.

Tenoch died in 1363, thirty-eight years after the foundation of the city. As his name forms part of the word Tenochtitlan, some authorities give, as explanation, that the city was named after the chief, rather than for reason of the nopal, the eagle, and the snake. But the valuable legend remains, and is preserved on the national banner of the Mexicans to-day.

Mexitzin succeeded Tenoch in command, who, as by this time the people had greatly grown in importance, counselled them to follow the example of the nations round about them, and choose a ruler to rule over them, after the manner of their neighbors, the Tepanecs, and those of Texcuco, across the lake. The proposal was favorably accepted, and Acamapichtli was made king—the first monarch of the Mexican dynasty, in Tenochtitlan, in 1376, fifty years after the foundation of the city. He was Mexican upon his father's side, Chichimec, through his mother's family. He was, according to the account of his chroniclers, one of the most prudent and illustrious personages of his time. He married[Pg 91] a daughter of a most noble Aculhuan, and as all the monarchs of the valley practised polygamy, allowed himself two other wives. Of one of these wives the son Huitzilihuitl was the immediate successor to the throne, and his half-brother, son of another wife, reigned next, named Chimalpopoca. A third son, born of a slave to the king, lived to reign in his stead after the death of the half-brothers. But the father of these sons lived himself to reign for twenty years, if reigning it can be called, to keep in hand a handful of poor Indians just escaping from barbarism and degeneration of the lowest sort. Their one city was but fifty years old. They had no capital, no resources beyond the toil of their hands in fishing and hunting. They were regarded as interlopers by the petty kingdoms which surrounded them, and their lives were made miserable by the tyranny of any one of their neighbors who felt himself strong enough to exact tribute. Yet some great vital force was in them to hold them together and bring them increase.

Their belief in their old god, Huitzilopochtli, was strong as ever; probably their fortunes rose and fell with the intelligence or the lack of it in the priests who transmitted to the people the will of this deity. Through them it was decreed that the tribute demanded by the Tepanecs should be paid. These neighbors were pacified, and the Mexicans could go on unmolested in their work of improving their city, which they did by building temples and houses, and cutting canals through their island that the water of the lake might circulate freely.

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In the next reign, Huitzilihuitl, son of the first king, not only followed but improved upon the example of his father in marrying a daughter of some rival monarch. He sent ambassadors to various courts asking the hand of each princess in marriage. The result was good. By marrying a daughter of the king of the Tepanecs he relieved his people of the heavy tribute they had been forced to pay. His other wife, Cuauhnahuac, brought with her the knowledge of cotton for making wearing apparel, for the district she came from produced it in abundance, and her people understood the use of it. It is due to her, therefore, that the Mexicans became well clothed. Specimens of the wearing of their early times are preserved in the National Museum at Mexico. Her son was the famous Motecuhzoma Ilhuicamina, better known to us as Montezuma I. This king, who married the Princess of Cloth, greatly advanced his nation. He compiled laws, regulated religious ceremonies, systematized the army, with his brother at its head, thus establishing a custom which was always afterwards followed, that a brother of the monarch should be general-in-chief. In his day canoas, hollowed from trunks of trees, were put into general use for war as well as for traffic. The system thus introduced made his army a valuable accession to his neighbors when they went to battle. By the service they rendered to the Aculhuans in such a case, the Mexicans gained a high reputation as dangerous warriors. They were still tributary to the Tepanecs of Atzcapotzalco, then in the hands of the tyrant Maxtla, whom careful readers will remember. This usurper, jealous of the growing power of his vassal, and afraid of its results, caused the death of the little son and daughter of the Mexican monarch. "The king, Huitzilihuitl," says the authority, "dissimulated this cruel offence, considering that this was no time to expose his people to open war with the Tepanecs, thus giving proof of a patriotism equal to personal sacrifice."

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This was however not the end of the matter for after the death of his father, Chimalpopoca, who reigned in his stead became implicated in a conspiracy against Maxtla. It was discovered, and the punishment that the young king had to endure was to assume certain garments of the style worn by women sent him by Maxtla, as signs of effeminacy and cowardice, while Maxtla carried off and took to himself one of his wives. Chimalpopoca waited to avenge these insults, and life being insupportable to him, resolved to sacrifice himself to the great god of his fathers, Huitzilopochtli; but Maxtla anticipated his intention, and seizing him, shut him up in a wooden case, such as was used for common criminals. The Mexican king, however, succeeded in his intent, by hanging himself from a bar of his disgraceful prison.

This chief had reigned but ten years; during this time he had an aqueduct constructed to bring clear water from Chapultepec to the city, and built a fine calzada, or paved road, to make direct communication between Tenochtitlan and Tlacopan.

This was the period of the usurpation of Tezozomoc, king of Atzcapotzalco, who wrested the throne of the Chichimecs from Ixtlilxochitl, and[Pg 95] killed this brave but unfortunate prince. Maxtla, the tyrant, was the son and heir of Tezozomoc, and as we have seen he poured his wrath upon Nezahualcoyotl, the legitimate heir to the throne of the Chichimecs, the monarchy of Texcuco or Aculhuacan.

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After the death in prison of their king Chimalpopoca, the Mexicans did not hesitate to elect as his successor, Itzcoatl, the third son of their first sovereign, brother to their last, and general-in-chief of their armies, in which capacity he had shown himself of great force and valor.

When Maxtla heard of this he was full of wrath, having vainly imagined that the murder of the late king's children would have put an end to that line forever. He immediately began to make preparations to destroy utterly the Mexicans, still nominally his vassals.

Itzcoatl at once sent messengers to Nezahualcoyotl, the rightful heir of the Texcucans, proposing an alliance for the overthrow of the tyrant. Nezahualcoyotl, as we have seen, had already recovered a part of his inheritance, and feeling himself strong enough for the effort, he accepted the proposals of the Mexican sovereign.

Maxtla, to anticipate this step, sent open commands to his vassals, the Mexicans, that they should hold themselves in readiness to join his whole army in an attack upon Texcuco, since, as he announced,[Pg 97] he was determined now to possess himself of the whole of the ancient kingdom of the Chichimecs.

The chronicles say that the Mexicans were greatly terrified, so intense was the terror inspired by Maxtla and his cruel warriors. The people burst into tears and lamentations at being forced into so unwelcome a war.

Itzcoatl, with the greatest skill, calmed their agitation, and summoned them to another combat, which should decide the fate of the still youthful monarchy of the Mexicans.

A great battle was fought against the Tepanecs with Maxtla at their head. Opposite him were arranged the united forces of the Mexicans, the Chichimecs, and their allies, of the neighboring little state of Tlatelolco, as well as a great body of auxiliary troops, which ranged themselves on the side of justice and against the terrible tyrant. The allied army sallied forth to the encounter, but was driven back, and the city of Tenochtitlan was about to fall into the hands of Maxtla, when the three chiefs, Nezahualcoyotl, Itzcoatl and Motecuhzoma, followed by their bravest warriors, plunged into the thickest of the fray, and by the fury of their attack caused the Tepanecs to flee with all haste.

The battle was continued the next day, victory declaring itself for the allies, who pursued the Tepanecs even into their own capital Atzcapotzalco, where they set fire to the houses, sacking them first, and killing the inhabitants. The king Maxtla himself fell under the stroke of Nezahualcoyotl, who thus avenged the murder of his father. The[Pg 98] taking of the capital city was the end of the kingdom of the Tepanecs. This took place in 1428.

By the downfall of this monarchy, Nezahualcoyotl was reinstated upon the throne of his ancestors, at Texcuco, henceforth called the kingdom of Acolhuacan; a small new kingdom arose, upon the ruins of the old, called that of the Tepanecs of Tlacopan; these two formed with the Mexicans a triple alliance which lasted for more than a century.

This alliance is called that of the "Valley Confederates," who by their united strength could crush the surrounding isolated tribes with perfect success.

Itzcoatl died in 1440, much lamented by his people. His obsequies were performed with great solemnity. He was justly celebrated for his great gifts, and the services he rendered his country. An old author says of him that he was "a man so excellent that there is no language sufficient for his praises."

On the death of this ruler, the Mexicans again came together to choose a king, and unanimously selected Motecuhzoma Ilhuicamina, brother of the late king, and son of the first one. His election was received with enthusiasm, because he was a great general, who had filled the minds of the people with his brilliant deeds in emancipating them from the tyrant control of the Tepanecs.

Under this king the fortunes of the Mexicans reached their height. He was a great warrior, and by force of arms he subdued many surrounding tribes, and extended the power of his kingdom. He was an intense fanatic in religion, and a true despot, and carried his convictions to an extreme which,[Pg 99] while it extended his power, alienated the other peoples of Anahuac, so that in the dark days of the future, they were ready rather to be against the Mexicans than for them.

His first act, having resolved to erect a great temple to the god Huitzilopochtli, in gratitude for the success of the recent conflicts, was to send messages to all the country round about, summoning the neighbors to come and lend their aid in bringing the great work to an end. All obeyed with alacrity, except the Chalcas, a little tribe upon the lake, who entirely refused to contribute aid. The king instantly made war upon these people, and after bloody contests took possession of Amecameca, their capital, an ancient town at the very base of the volcanoes. Other towns fell into the hands of the Mexicans. Meanwhile, the influence of the Texcucan court, aided by the natural development that comes with success, had much advanced the Aztec from the pitiful state of squalor in which his race made their entrance into the Valley of Anahuac only a century before. Without believing the exaggerated accounts of the Spaniards describing the splendors they found in Mexico, we may at least allow the Aztecs a degree of intelligence and cultivation on a level with the civilization of their time.

In the middle of the fifteenth century, the Mexicans suffered from an infliction which has since many a time caused trouble to their capital. Abundant rains so swelled the lake that the city was inundated, many buildings destroyed, and inhabitants drowned.[Pg 100] The king of Texcuco advised the building of a great dike, so thick and strong as to keep out the water. The next year the chronicles relate that a heavy snow fell for six days and nights, destroying all vegetation, and a great number of human beings and animals. The loss of crops for these years caused such a famine, that in spite of the great liberality of the king and his grandees, many people emigrated to the south.

These disasters furnish but a poor excuse for the human sacrifice with which the Aztecs sought to appease the wrath of their god. The Mexican king used to sally forth at fixed intervals to battle with the sole object of seizing prisoners for sacrifice, without laying any claim to lands or kingdoms. He extended these raids as far as the valley of Tlaxcalla, and the neighboring city of Cholula, carrying off victims, but leaving the government of these provinces as he found them. This explains the cause of the continued independence of these provinces, in spite of their constant warfare with Mexico, and also shows what reason these people had for hating a neighbor who made himself so disagreeable. Motecuhzoma made the power of his arm felt even to the shores of the Gulf, and enlarged his territory in all directions. He framed a code for repressing crime, made laws regulating the dress and ornaments of his subjects, invented any number of new religious rites and sacrifices hitherto unheard of, built many temples, and strove to establish the principles of his religion throughout Anahuac. Thus the poor and miserable little tribe of a century before, at the death of Motecuhzoma[Pg 101] Ilhuicamina had greatly gained in strength and extent.

Three sovereigns followed Motecuhzoma, in due course, and in practice of the same methods of government. They extended their depredations all over the country, sometimes meeting with resistance, as in the case of Michoacan, in 1479, when the Mexicans were utterly routed by the Tarascos in a bloody battle which lasted two days. The king at that time was Axayacatl, who died soon after his disastrous defeat. He left two sons destined to play a part in the last scene of the history of Mexican monarchy—Motecuhzoma the Second and Cuitlahuac.

The immediate successor of Axayacatl was his brother, Tizoc, who, as was the custom, left the position of general-in-chief to become king. He was a brave warrior, stern and uncompromising in character, zealous in gathering victims to sacrifice to his gods.

In the museum of Mexico is a monument which preserves the name and deeds of this great warrior king. It is a large carved stone, which was found in the course of excavation for a sewer, almost a hundred years ago in the principal plaza of the city of Mexico. It is called the Cuauhxicalli of Tizoc, which means the Drinking cup of the Eagle. On its upper face is carved an image of the sun. On the carved sides are fifteen groups, each group of two persons, the conquering warrior grasping by the hair a prisoner. The warrior is in each the same figure repeated. The fifteen prisoners represent fifteen conquered tribes. The conqueror is Tizoc, seventh king of Mexico, who[Pg 102] occupied the throne from 1481 to 1486. There is a theory that these carvings have a further allegorical meaning. The evening star and the moon are represented as two warriors engaged in a struggle, in which the former makes the attack, and the latter defends himself. Tizoc is intended by the morning star, and the moon represents the conquered nations. The evening star wears the sacred mask; the part of his face left uncovered, as well as his hands and feet, are smeared with a black ointment peculiar to priests and gods. His body is covered with a tiger skin, which is always an attribute with the natives of the morning star, which draws captive after it all the other stars, so that the sky spotted with light seemed to them typified by the spotted skin of the tiger. The warrior has in one hand a sword of obsidian, and in the other a shield bearing the symbols of the planet. The face and garments of the vanquished warrior are white like the rays of the moon. His feet are bound, but in one hand he holds high his sword of obsidian, while the other grasps the standard and mirror of the moon.

The use to which the stone was applied by Tizoc was less purely fanciful. In his time, among the Aztecs, there existed an order of nobles whose title was the eagles. The sun was their patron saint. During certain ceremonies they sacrificed to the sun a human victim, upon this stone, the drinking-cup of the Eagles. This victim was chosen from the prisoners taken in war. He was brought forward, at the sound of music, surrounded by illustrious noblemen. His legs were painted with red and white stripes, and half his face was painted red; a white plume was stuck in his hair. In one hand he carried a walking-stick, gay with ribbons and plumes; in the other, a shield covered with cotton. His thighs were bound round with little bundles containing gifts. He was led to the bottom of the grand staircase of the temple and thus addressed:

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"Sir, what we desire is that thou goest before our god, the sun, to salute him for us. Tell him that his sons and chief gentlemen here supplicate him to remember them, hoping he will accept the small recuerdo we send him. Give him the walking-stick, the shield, and the other things in the little bundle."

The victim then went slowly up the steps, receiving fresh instructions as to what he should say to the sun. At the top was the drinking-cup, and towards this he advanced. In a loud voice, addressing at once the real sun and its image carved upon the stone, he delivered the message just given him. Then came four attendants, who seized him by hands and feet, and having taken away the cane, the shield, and little bundles, they ascended with him the four steps of the stone, where the high-priest cut his throat, commanding him thus to go with his message to the real sun in the other life. The blood flowed down the basin in the stone through a canal to the side where the image of the sun was carved, so that this was quenched with blood. Meantime, the sacrificador opened the breast of the victim and plucked out the heart, holding it aloft until it became cold, thereby offering it to the sun. Thus went on his way the luckless messenger.

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Tizoc began the construction of a great temple in honor of Huitzilopochtli, a superb edifice, according to the chronicles, the most lofty in the city, covering all the site of the present cathedral, and moreover extending over much of the ground now occupied by the Plaza Mayor. Tizoc was poisoned, at the instigation of some neighboring kings, by women who brought him a fatal drink. He died suddenly, after a brief reign of four years.

Ahuitzotl, his brother and successor, hastened to bring the great teocalli to completion, and its dedication was the occasion of a great feast and celebration. Kings and caciques of the allied people came, bringing rich offerings to the Mexican monarch, who displayed the greatest magnificence in receiving his guests. The chief feature of the occasion was the great slaughter of four days of victims made prisoners of war on purpose for the sacrifice to the god to whom the temple was reared.

Ahuitzotl was troubled with inundations of the lake, and by the advice of Nezahualpilli the Wise, he caused huge dikes to be constructed, which averted the danger. The monarch himself was overtaken by water bursting into one of the lower chambers of his palace. As he rushed suddenly out of the room to avoid the flood, he received a blow on the head by striking a beam, which caused his death a few years after.

This monarch was passionately devoted to war, and by his conquests he extended widely the dominions of the crown. He was violent, vengeful, and cruel, the terror of the people he conquered, jealous[Pg 106] to preserve untouched his authority, pitiless in exacting tribute and collecting taxes; in a word, a despot, holding absolute control over the lives and actions of his subjects. In compensation for these unattractive characteristics his historians give him credit for greatly embellishing his capital city. He was fond of music, liberal to the needy, and generous to such soldiers as distinguished themselves in his wars.

At the death of Ahuitzotl the kingdom ruled of his ancestors had reached the height of its extent, splendor, and power. On the north, its frontier extended to the 21st degree of latitude. On the east, with the exception of the kingdom of Texcuco, and the independent tribes of Cholula, Tlaxcalla, and Huexotzinco, it reached the Gulf of Mexico, including all the shore, from the semi-independent Cuextecas to the border of the Coatzacoalco River. On the southeast the kingdom extended to Xoconochco, towards the south its boundary touched Mexcalla, and on the west its barrier was the haughty kingdom of Michoacan, against which the armies of the Mexicans fought always in vain.

Such a point of power had reached the Aztec tribe in the course of one hundred years. From their small beginning as a handful of hunted creatures, hiding in the rushes of a swamp, they had grown to be an all-powerful nation, carrying a triumphant warfare throughout the land, and enlarging their boundaries with every triumph. The shocking features of their sanguinary religion make them odious to our minds. It is difficult to accommodate it to the gentle traits of the Aztec character, which shows them to be of domestic tastes, affectionate and mild in temper. Such a stain upon the nation is only to be explained, not excused, by the power of religious fanaticism. Other religions in other parts of the world, were exercising a control as arbitrary, with results the same in quality though not in degree. In 1480, in Spain, the Holy Inquisition was established against apostates, that is, persons converted from any other religion to that of the Roman Catholic Church, who, after baptism, reverted to Judaism or the faith of Islam. The tribunal of Seville, alone, between 1480 and 1520, consigned four thousand victims to the flames.

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Louis XI. of France wore little images of saints and angels in his cap, while he did not hesitate to shut up his enemies for life in a wooden cage. As his death drew near in 1483, he shuddered at the thought of the victims, more than five thousand, whom he had caused to be put to death, for his own ends, without the plea of religious ardor.

Richard III., in England, during a short reign of two years from 1483 to 1485, not only murdered his young nephews, but put to death his brother, the Duke of Clarence, Lord Hastings, Jane Shore, and his own friend and ally the Duke of Buckingham.

It is of course idle to compare the civilization of the two continents at that period; widely separated as they were, and each ignorant of the very existence of the other. European society emerged from the barbarism of the dark ages was, according to its interpretation of them, based upon the teachings of the[Pg 109] faith of Christ. No such advantages, as yet, had reached the plateau of Anahuac. The most elevating influence shed over its people was from the traditional Quetzalcoatl, whose teachings of mild and gentle manners left a deep and pervading impression. Otherwise, the struggle for life, rude contact with the lower instincts of the less developed with the better informed, gave an always downward tendency to the institutions of their society.

It is all very obscure, now more than ever, because new information is disturbing the accepted theory of Aztec culture given by writers of Mexican history up to nearly the present time. For a true knowledge of early life in Mexico, we must wait till explorers and archæologists have fully established their discoveries by facts. Such an exposition, which is pretty sure to come, will be of great importance to those interested in the future, as well as the past, of the native races of Mexico.

Meanwhile, in a book like this, which is permitted to gather up legend as well as fact, in order to present the attractive, even romantic, side of its subject, it would be a pity to wholly set aside the accounts of the Aztecs, as they have hitherto been given in current history, as worthless and superseded. This would be to leave a gap at the very beginning of authentic story, to take away the lowest step of the ladder we wish to climb. If the "Last of the Montezumas" is to be reduced to a chieftain of a sedentary tribe, we, in this story of Mexico, may regard him as one once invested with the glories of an empire. Our chief object in examining the early periods[Pg 110] written of in the preceding chapters, is to gather clear impressions of the character of the people we are reading about. For this end it is of vast importance to know whether the native races now forming a large part of the population of Mexico, are descended from a cultivated line of kings, or whether they merely inherit the manners and customs of illiterate tribes. The reader must for himself create from the stories drawn from Spanish accounts, and evidences given by picture-writings, and the description of monuments and ruins, his own idea of the Aztec character, giving due weight to the substance of the legends about Mexican greatness, while he brushes off with modern ruthlessness the cobwebs which obscure the truth of the story, however brightly they may sparkle, and adorn the tale.

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It is impossible with our present knowledge to form an estimate of the civilization of the Aztecs at their highest point. The reports given by the Spaniards at the time of the conquests are not to be relied upon, as they paint in the exaggerated colors they thought most likely to give glory to their own achievements. Unfortunately they felt called upon to destroy most of the picture-writings they found, which would have been as valuable in forming an opinion of the manners and customs of the race they depicted, as the volumes we find in European libraries are to enlighten us upon the manners and customs of contemporary races in Europe.

The Aztecs knew no alphabet, but instead of letters they used certain signs or hieroglyphics by which they wrote on every subject—religion, history, geography, poetry, feasts, famines, wars, and the arts of peace. This fashion of writing was handed down from father to son, and taught in colleges or by the priests. The artists who executed the manuscripts were treated with general consideration, and the sovereign even paid them honor. They worked on paper made of the fibre of the maguey, or on[Pg 112] linen cloth, with a sort of pen like the stylus of the Romans. The colors were procured from vegetable dyes, in general. They had little variety of tint, but were vivid and permanent.

These paintings, of which several of the small remnant in existence of the great quantity destroyed by the Conquistadores are in the museum at Mexico, are extremely interesting, both as works of art from a point of view entirely different from our European prejudices, and also as recording events with wonderful simplicity and directness.

The one called the Wanderings of the Aztecs, is absolutely authentic, and is wholly interpreted. It is forty-eight feet long and nine inches wide done on maguey paper, all in black, with no other colors, except that the line of travel is marked in red. This painting gives the route of the Aztecs, from their departure from Aztlan until their arrival in the valley of Mexico. On an island, in the land of Aztlan, stands a teocalli, like the temples of worship in Mexico. The chronology year by year is given, and the various halts made by the wanderers, with the principal events that befell them. A short piece at the end is torn off and missing, which probably depicted the founding of Tenochtitlan.

Another painting depicts a range of mountains among which is one pouring forth smoke from its summit. On the left is a city entirely surrounded by water, with the cactus growing on the rock, which always signifies Tenochtitlan. The mountain doubtless in Popocatepetl, which by its name signifies Hill that gives Smoke. Another painting gives the chronology of the kings of Mexico and Texcuco; it is long, stretching half across the large room of the museum in which it is exhibited.

[Pg 113]


[Pg 114]

If we only had more of these paintings, the daily life of the Aztecs would be before us, just as we can read on the Egyptian monuments every detail of such remote living.

In the usual accounts of the religion of the Aztecs, more stress is laid upon the horror of their human sacrifice than upon its other features, which, however, deserve notice. They firmly believed in a future life. While some of the Nahuatl races imagined that after death the common people would be transformed into insects, the chiefs into birds, the Aztecs conceived of graduated stages of happiness for mankind. Warriors slain in battle were immediately to dwell in the house of the sun; less distinguished souls went to live in the various planets. But these starry houses were only temporary. For four years after the death of a relative the friends offered meat, wines, flowers, and perfumes to the dead in certain months of the year, one of which was dedicated to dead children, and the other to warriors killed in battle.

When a chief died among the Aztecs great care was taken in ornamenting the body, as if preparing it for a long journey. Several papers are presented to the corpse: one as a passport across the defile between the two mountains; one with which to avoid the great serpent; the third was to put to flight the alligator; the fourth would give a safe crossing over the eight great deserts and the eight hills. A little[Pg 115] red-haired dog was killed, a leash put about his neck, and he was buried near the corpse. Always the little dog, for rich or poor, warrior or slave, to guide his master across the nine great torrents which every departed soul must encounter.

Domestic life, we may infer, was happy with the Aztecs. Every man was bound to marry when he reached the age of twenty years. Polygamy was not forbidden; a man could have as many wives as he could afford to support. There were no patronymic names. Mothers chose names for their children as soon as they were born; these names were generally connected with the month in which the child was born, or some circumstance connected with the event. When each boy grew up, he was given a name by the medicine man, and by an act of especial bravery he might gain a third name.

The laws against stealing and other crimes were strictly enforced, although unwritten, the penalties probably assigned in accordance with ancient customs.

The Aztecs were essentially musical, as their descendants are now. Their songs and hymns transmitted the traditions of their race, and are carefully taught in the schools. They had a sort of theatrical exhibition, in which the faces of the actors were hid with masks representing birds or animals.

The relic which gives the best testimony of the mental powers of the Aztecs is their calendar, preserved for centuries from destruction, and now built into the cathedral of the city of Mexico. It was carved in the year 1512 a.d., and brought to the[Pg 116] ancient Tenochtitlan from the spot where it was made. When it had nearly reached its destination, it broke down the floating bridge on which it was loaded, and was precipitated into the lake. The priest superintending the moving, and many of his assistants, were drowned, but it was raised with great difficulty from the water, and brought to the great temple located by Tizoc and Ahuitzotl, where it was inaugurated with human sacrifices.

Not many years later this temple, like many others, was destroyed, and the huge calendar with other objects of heathen worship were buried in the surrounding marshes as the best way to get rid of them, by the order of the Christian priests. It lay hidden for two centuries, until the 17th of December, 1790, when the grade of the pavement in front of the cathedral was lowered, and it came to light. The Spanish Viceroy then controlling Mexican affairs allowed the commissioners of the cathedral to build it into their sacred edifice, on condition that it should be always preserved and exposed in a public place. It is now, however, considered as the property of the National Museum.

This zodiac or calendar is twelve feet in diameter, made of a piece of basalt of immense weight. It gives a clear exposition of the division of time understood by the Aztecs, into cycles, years, and days. Fifty-two years constituted a cycle, the year had three hundred and sixty-five days, with five very unlucky intercalary days, wholly devoted to human sacrifice. Each year had eighteen months of twenty days each, and these months four weeks of five days[Pg 117] each. The days had delightful names, such as "Sea Animal," "Small Bird," "Monkey," "Rain,"; not recurring every week, but different for the twenty different days of the month. The cardinal points were named "Reed," "House," "Flint," "Rabbit," for east, west, north, and south. Thus an Aztec might say, "I am going House on Sea-Animal," which would merely mean that he was starting for the west on Monday. The months likewise had descriptive names: thus the third month, which might correspond to our March, was called "Victims flayed alive," while the more agreeable title for the sixth month, which we call July, was "Garlands of corn on the necks of idols." As their writing was by pictures instead of by combinations of letters selected from an alphabet, they could give a long name in brief space with a few adroit turns of their writing instrument.

The Mexican archæologist, Leony Gama, considers the stone not only to be a calendar, but a solar clock, which by means of shadows cast in a certain manner gave eight intervals of the day between the rising and setting sun. He adds that the stone clearly shows the dates of the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, summer and winter solstice. On the other hand, the antiquarian Chavero is of opinion that the stone could not have been used as a calendar on account of lacking certain indispensable elements for the computation of time. He considers it a gigantic votive monument to the sun, above which sacrifices were offered. Whatever was the original intention of the sculptures of this great stone, it has survived[Pg 118] them to bear testimony to their attentive notice of the movements of the earth and heavenly bodies, of their interest in astronomy, and their accuracy in arithmetical calculation, as well as their skill in carving and design, and their power to overcome the mechanical difficulty of moving so huge a mass of stone.

The cycle of the Aztecs was a period of fifty-two years. They believed that some great catastrophe would occur at the end of one of these cycles, and therefore approached the termination of each one, at the interval of fifty-two years, with terror and dismay. On the arrival of the five unlucky days at the close of the year when the end of the cycle recurred, they abandoned themselves to despair. They broke in pieces the little images of their household gods, lighted no fires in their dwellings, and allowed the holy fires in the temples to burn out. They destroyed every thing they possessed, and tore their garments, as if there was to be no further use for earthly comforts.

On the evening of the fifth day a procession moved from the city to the top of a hill six miles south of the city. There, at midnight, just as the constellation of the Pleiades reached the zenith, a new fire was kindled by rubbing sticks over the breast of a human victim. The body of this victim was thrown to the flames which sprang up from the new-born fire. Shouts of joy and delight burst forth from the surrounding hills, the housetops, and terraces, which were crowded with the populace watching for the result. Torches lighted at the blazing[Pg 119] pile were carried to every home, and kindled with fresh flame every hearthstone. The sun rose, the new cycle commenced, and the Aztecs felt safe for fifty-two years more.

Then came the house-cleaning. All the destroyed pots and pans were replaced by new ones. New clothes, prepared, we must fear, beforehand, took the place of the old ones. The people, gayly dressed and crowned with flowers, thronged to the temples to offer up their thanksgiving. All was joy and merriment; dances and songs were the order of the day, gifts exchanged. The last celebration of this festival was in 1506.

While the warriors of the Mexicans were engaged in ceaseless raids upon neighboring tribes, the true occupation of the people was agriculture, which in their delightful climate well repaid their toil and skill. All the inhabitants, even in the cities, cultivated the soil, except the soldiers and the great nobles. The men did all the heavy work, the women helping them by scattering seed, husking maize, and such light matters. Canals were cut through sterile lands, for they fully understood the importance of artificial irrigation, to aid the influence of their rainy season. The forests which covered the country were preserved by severe penalties. Ample granaries were provided to contain their harvests.

Such crops, etc., as were available for their lands were known to the Aztecs, and developed to their full extent. They thoroughly appreciated and enjoyed the wealth of flowers which nature scattered over the soil. Flowers were to them an important[Pg 120] part of their religious ceremonies; their soft, brilliant, or gaudy colors had each its peculiar significance. Out of them the women wove wreaths for the head, and long festoons for decoration, heaping blossoms in greatest profusion wherever was festivity and rejoicing. In fact in the Aztec disposition is found an inheritance of gentleness and mildness, brought with them from Aztlan, shown in their consideration for women, their industry, their taste in ornament, and their devotion to flowers. The ferocity of their religious sacrifices has nothing in common with these other traits of character. It is as if this dismal feature of their creed were picked up somewhere on the way during their long wanderings, a dark, bloody thread interwoven in the soft, tender fabric of their composition. The women were not oppressed, but ruled their homes peaceably, assisting in the lighter work of the field, and taking care of the children, preparing food, and all household requirements.


[Pg 121]

Among the Aztecs was an order of priestesses, who withdrew from the world for one or more years at the age of twelve or thirteen, and went to live shut up within the inner courts of the teocalli. Their hair was cut in a set fashion, common to all, but they were allowed to let it grow again after one cutting; they were draped in white, without any decoration or ornament, and always slept in their clothes, "in order to be ready for work in the morning." The life was one of abstinence and toil; they carried their eyes always cast down, and bore themselves with great modesty of deportment, always watched by the sharp eye of a lady-superior within the walls of their retreat, and outside by vigilant old men who stood guard by day and night. Their food was plain and sparing, only at feast-time were they allowed meat, and then because their accustomed routine was interrupted by unusual exertion. They assisted at the religious dances of these festivals, their feet and hands adorned with feathers, and their cheeks painted red. On days of penance they pricked their ears, and put the blood on their cheeks "as a religious rouge," says the account; washing it off in a particular basin destined for that purpose. The slightest variation from the path prescribed to them was punished by death. Some of the Nahuatl deities are goddesses, which shows that the sexes were not unequally reverenced. An important goddess, Coatlicue, or She of the Skirt of Serpents, has a statue in the court of the museum at Mexico,[Pg 122] which is regarded as one of the best specimens of Aztec workmanship. Like the calendar, it was found buried in the Plaza Mayor, not far from the cathedral, doubtless tumbled there by the Spaniards when they destroyed the great teocalli. It is not beautiful according to ideas of symmetry formed from the Venus of Milo; it is strange and interesting on account of the quantity of symbols by which it is overwhelmed. Coatlicue, or Cihuatcotl, or Cihuacoatl, is the serpent woman, mother of the first human pair in the world; she is the goddess of the earth, in the night-time, after sunset. She is, therefore, the mistress of the dead. And then she is the mother of Quetzalcoatl, the god and hero of the early Nahuatl. This sounds better than it looks. The upper part is the head of a serpent, whose body is entwined with that of a woman. The skirt is a web of snakes, adorned with tassels and feathers. The figure has many hands, as a symbol of the production-giving power of the earth. The skull at the girdle shows that on her breast repose her children after death in eternal slumber.

Such were the Aztecs in 1500, after little more than a century of life in their new land. Much of their civilization, many of their customs, they must have caught from the older, longer established, refined court of the Texcucans, their neighbors at the other end of the lake, whose dynasty was much older, and whose traditions came down unimpaired from the cultivated Toltecs, whose remote ancestors, if they came from the same stem as the Aztecs and wandered to Anahuac from the same shadowy Aztlan[Pg 123] or Huehue-Tlapallan, had yet the advantage of a couple of centuries of development, and a longer abstinence from the bloody rites of a savage religion.

The Mexicans were in some sort parvenus on the plateau. They won their way by their valor in battle, and insisted on recognition by the other tribes, by superior force or ferocity conquering to themselves a large portion of the happy land. The neighboring people made way for them, a few to be their allies; but their ferocious warfare had made them detested by those who feared them in all the surrounding country, so that these other kingdoms, republics, or sedentary races saw not unwillingly the downfall of the haughty Aztec house, even if they did not actively help its invaders.

In the end, this policy was fatal to all. Once they had gained a foothold on the plateau, the Conquistadores stopped not until the whole country was within their grasp.

[Pg 124]



Ahuitzotl died in 1502. His successor was Motecuhzoma II., the son of the famous warrior King Axayacatl. Motecuhzoma took the surname of Xocoyotzin to distinguish him from the first king with his name.

He was thirty-four years old when he came to the throne. He had been general-in-chief of the armies, as was usual with the heir-apparent to the throne, and when he was elected king he was fulfilling the office of high-priest, which was unusual. His demeanor was grave, calm, and taciturn. He was inflexible in his determination, and admitted no contradiction, stern and cruel in exacting obedience to his commands; but extremely credulous and timid to cowardice when his superstitious fears were aroused.

He is said to have been handsome, of a fine form, slight rather than robust, with great dignity of manner. His well-formed features wore an habitual expression of sadness or gloom, even in the early days of his reign, when the shadow of his destiny had not to all appearance yet fallen upon him.

When his election was announced to him, he was[Pg 125] found sweeping down the stairs in the great teocalli. He received the message with assured humility, as one unfit for so high a station. The usual great preparations were made for his coronation, which was more splendid than those of his predecessors, graced by the sacrifice of a horde of captives, won by the young monarch in battle for this purpose. Nezahualpilli, the wise king of Texcuco, the valued relative and adviser of the Aztec royal house, made an address at the coronation which has been preserved.

"Who can doubt," he exclaimed at the close, "that the Aztec empire has reached the zenith of its greatness! Rejoice, happy people, and thou, happy youth, doubt not that our Great Deity will keep thee safe upon thy throne through many long and glorious years."

Now let us try to imagine this young heir to a splendid kingdom, just ascending the steps of the throne, clothed in all the majesty which the customs of his country allowed. Soft robes of well chosen colors hung about him, and over all the beautiful mantle of feather-work which the Aztecs knew how to make out of the plumage of all the brilliant tropical birds within their reach. There was no stint of splendor in his ornaments, neck, wrists, ankles enclasped with gold, and set with precious stones. A superb head-dress, over which waved a bunch of feathers, stuck with sparkling jewels, added dignity to his haughty carriage and grave features.

One hundred years of successful government had made the Aztecs proud. Their enemies feared them.[Pg 126] Surrounding nations sought their friendship for the sake of peace. The great house of Texcuco had allied itself with their king in marriage. Mingled in the veins of Montezuma with the savage blood of the worshippers of Huitzilopochtli, the terrible god of war, was a gentler strain of the delicate culture of the family of Nezahualcoyotl. The career of the young monarch seemed clear before him; it was to be a life of stirring excitement in battle,—a warfare not for conquest or slaughter on the field, but a holy enterprise to bring back the necessary material for sacrifice to the gods, in whom he believed so firmly that the horror of such wholesale destruction of life made not the slightest impression. In the Aztec wars their enemies were seldom killed in battle; the great object was to save prisoners alive, in order to lay them upon their altars.

But these fearful raids upon surrounding populations were only episodes in the life he proposed to himself. He inherited a splendid palace in a great city; for although we are now taught to consider the accounts of Tenochtitlan given by the Spaniards as grossly exaggerated, we must accept the assumption that in the estimation of himself and his people his palace was splendid, and that the city was great, and upon this foundation, since the Spanish statements are unreliable, and accurate information is lacking, we may draw upon fancy to fill up the picture.

All splendor is comparative; the halls of the Montezumas, never in contact with the palaces of the Old World, were to be judged upon a scale of[Pg 127] their own. Tenochtitlan was, undoubtedly, the richest city upon Anahuac. It was built, like Venice, in the midst of waters, upon an island intersected with canals, and communicating with the mainland by means of four broad causeways. An aqueduct from Chapultepec brought fresh water, as the lake was brackish. The streets were laid out in straight lines and at right angles, following the direction of the causeways; some of them were the intersecting canals themselves, with houses facing at once upon the water, and on the other side the street. Upon the canals floated canoas for pleasure or business, coming from the suburbs laden with food, vegetables, and fruit, the cargo heaped always with a profusion of flowers, bright-hued poppies, sweet peas, and the deep-red blossoms of clover. Above the houses, which were not high, with flat roofs, or azoteas, rose the lofty teocalli, and the walls of the royal palace which dominated the other buildings.

Bernal Diaz, the companion of Cortés, who is charged with much garrulity and exaggeration, says that when the Spaniards arrived at the great causeway leading to the capital they paused, struck with admiration on seeing so many cities and villages rising from the soil, with the splendid highway, perfectly level, stretching on to Mexico. They compared the scene to the enchanted castles described in "Amadis of Gaul," and as they gazed at the lofty towers, the great temples, and the white buildings gleaming in the sun and reflected in the waters of the lake, they asked each other if it was not all a dream. The old chronicler ends his account with this brief remark:[Pg 128] "Now, the whole of this city is destroyed and not a bit of it left standing."

The life that Montezuma proposed to himself was one of enjoyment and pleasure. Upon his people he wasted little thought. The country was prosperous and they were happy, always a docile and domestic population busy with agriculture, their crops, and their families. It is said that he used to go out among them like the Sultan in the "Arabian Nights," disguised, to see what the occupations of his subjects were, and hear what they talked about. But this must have been chiefly to fill up his time, for there was no danger of sedition or conspiracy among the citizens of his capital. A walk incognito outside its walls, through the lanes of any one of the surrounding pueblos would have revealed to him a state of hostility and a longing for his overthrow which might have taught him something for the future.

In the palace was luxurious living; fruits of the warmer climate, and even fresh fish from the Gulf, it is said, were brought by swift-footed runners up the steep path that the steam-engine now requires fourteen hours to climb; music and the enjoyment of society, occupied leisure hours. The state correspondence of the Aztec court consisted in picture writings brought by messengers from all parts of the country, depicting in realistic forms the events requiring attention. Montezuma could go to the lovely Grasshopper Hill over the fine causeway under the aqueduct built by his ancestors; not as the gay, fashionable world now makes the excursion on horseback[Pg 129] before breakfast, for air and exercise, but carried in a palanquin by four strong bearers. It has been thought that the Aztec kings had a royal villa at Chapultepec; but the wise men have given that up now, because they find no traces of any. Lately, however, have been discovered fragments of the effigy of Ahuitzotl, Montezuma's uncle and predecessor, who was doubtless buried there. It was carved in half-relief, a full-length figure life-size, stretched out on a ledge of natural rock. The carving is much mutilated, the top having been blasted off apparently, but beneath, distinctly visible, is the date corresponding to 1507, with the name, Ahuitzotl.

This chieftain died in 1502. The monument was erected therefore by the direction of his successor, Montezuma, in the spot well-beloved by all generations of Aztecs, under the trees protected and guarded by them.

There is now standing an ancient cypress, or ahuehuete, huge among the other great trees of the grove, which goes by the name of Montezuma's cypress. Its gnarled trunk must measure more than ten feet across, and its branches themselves are as big as trees. The leaves of this great tree are small and delicate, like those of the acacia; they hang from slender stems drooping over the great limbs down to the ground. Long trailing gray moss now droops from the branches, which, with the dense foliage, shuts out the rays of the sun, so that a gloomy half-light pervades the place. Perhaps it was more cheerful in the heyday of Mexico, or did coming[Pg 130] events cast their shadows before, as Montezuma paced those silent alleys?

It may well have been, for misfortunes began to obscure the sky of his prosperity like little clouds coming up on the horizon. His almost constant wars were not always successful. Each victory left behind it bitterness and discontent, so that the same field had soon to be fought over again. In 1516, Nezahualpilli, the wise sovereign of Texcuco, who had always been a safe and strong adviser of the Aztec king, during his long reign of forty-four years, left the kingdom to the eldest of four sons, Cacamatzin; the honor was coveted by another son, Ixtlilxochitl, who contested the throne. Montezuma took the side of Cacamatzin, as rightful heir, in a civil war. The matter was settled by a division. Cacamatzin kept that part of the kingdom of the Aculhuas which stretched south of the capital Texcuco; while his rebellious brother obtained the part towards the north, among the mountains. This division of the kingdom becomes important to us by and by.

About this time all minds in Anahuac were occupied by sinister presages, constantly repeated, of dreadful events soon to occur. Temples were in flames, comets appeared unexpectedly; there were inundations, earthquakes all over the land, and the people dreamed strange dreams.

Above all hovered the rumor that men of great stature, white and with beards, were on their way to subjugate all the nations of the earth. This rumor was perfectly in accordance with the universal tradition[Pg 131] about Quetzalcoatl (the Bright Shining Serpent), the bearded white man, clothed in raiment covered with crosses, who had taught the Toltecs awe, industry, and skill. He predicted with supreme authority before he disappeared from them, the arrival of men white and bearded as he was, who would take possession of the country, and destroy their temples and their gods.

This event was a part of the Mexican belief, a something in the future to be hoped for in a certain way, yet dreaded as the inception of great changes in the manners of the people. The races subjugated by the power of Montezuma might look forward to the coming of the strangers as to deliverance; but that monarch himself became penetrated with the conviction that his wealth and prosperity were to disappear in the course of his lifetime.

This foreboding took possession of his mind and undermined its peace; he became unhappy and brooded over his fate as he wandered among the gloomy cypresses of Chapultepec. He had consulted the wise Nezahualpilli before his death upon the meaning of the portents which pervaded the air, but from him he had received no consolation. The sage shook his head gravely, and when urged, confirmed his fears by translating these prodigies as warnings of the downfall of empires.

It might well be that these things pervaded the air, for it was twenty-five years at the time of Nezahualpilli's death since Columbus had set foot on American soil. The strange apparition of white men armed with thunder and lightning, would be[Pg 132] sure to spread from mouth to mouth and from nation to nation. The fleet-footed messengers of the Mexican king would be sure to bring such news along with fresh fish and fruit up from the shores of the Gulf. And while these things were more and more weighing upon the king's mind, there came the report, swift, certain, and not to be denied, that men in boats had landed by the river Tabasco.

Twenty years after the discovery of the Antilles by Columbus, these islands were fully under the control of the Spanish. Cuba, the most important of them, was a flourishing colony, under the administration of Diégo Velasquez de Léon.

In 1517, three Spanish adventurers armed three vessels of discovery at Cuba. The governor Velasquez joined himself to this enterprise. These explorers discovered the eastern point of Yucatan, which they named Cape Catoche, after a wood which they heard spoken of by one of the natives. They were filled with amazement at the civilization of the buildings and the costumes, and hastened to land, but being received by a shower of arrows they as quickly went back to their boats. At Campeche they were received more kindly, and exchanged gifts with the natives. Later, Cordova, the leader of this expedition, was wounded in an encounter with the natives, and returning to Havana died ten days after. Velasquez heard from the others such an account of the wealth and resources of Yucatan, that he resolved to take possession of it.

He sent out a little squadron in the charge of Juan de Grijalva, one of his relatives, to make[Pg 133] further explorations. They coasted along the shore of Yucatan, admiring its fertile fields and the cities and villages in the midst of them, soon arriving at the mouth of the Tabasco River. At first the natives seemed inclined to give them a rough reception, but Grijalva propitiated them by friendly messages, and on disembarking met a brilliant reception. Green copal was burnt before him, in the way of incense, and the natives brought him game, fish, and corn-bread. The prince made him a present of some gold necklaces and ornaments carved in the shape of birds and lizards.

Grijalva and his followers came next into the country belonging to the Mexican crown, and saw for the first time the royal standard of Montezuma, with the nopal and the eagle. They now for the first time began to hear of this great prince, and of the riches of Anahuac.

Such were the tidings brought to the poor Montezuma, already depressed by vague forebodings. He received the news with positive anguish, as he contemplated the evidences of their power. Reporters at Tabasco had already prepared on great maguey canvasses graphic pictures of the ship of the strangers, their costumes and arms, which were hurried with telegraphic promptness to the great sovereign in his capital.

The council was assembled. It met in dismay. Finally they decided to send to the shore an embassy laden with gifts of gold, feathers, and splendid stuffs, but bearing messages urging them not to penetrate farther into the country, where they would be exposed[Pg 134] to constant danger. The messengers were charged to lay great stress on the difficulties and perils of travel in these regions. Thus, while they tempted with one hand full of gifts, they repulsed with the other. Temptation and warning were for the moment unheeded. When they reached the coast, Grijalva, who had no authority from Velasquez to involve him in negotiations with the Aztec monarch, had sailed away.

[Pg 135]



Fernando Cortés was born in 1485 at Medellin, the principal town of the province of Estramadura, in Spain. His father was a gentleman of old blood, but poor. He sent his son to the University of Salamanca, but Fernando had no taste for study, and of his own will entered the army, with the intention of serving under the great captain Gonsalvo of Cordova in the campaign of Naples, but an injury caused by falling from a roof prevented his starting with the fleet. As soon as he was well enough he set off in quest of adventure for the West Indies, then a new and tempting discovery, and joined a relative in St. Domingo, who happened to be governor there. This was in 1504. He passed several years there, and in 1511 accompanied Diégo Velasquez to Cuba when the latter was appointed to colonize that island.

The contemporaries of Fernando Cortés draw an attractive portrait of him. He was well built and skilful in all manly exercises. The wonderful beauty of his glance enhanced the charm to his fine and regular features. With unequalled bravery he combined wonderful penetration which never failed him. He was eloquent and persuasive, with the faculty of[Pg 136] making himself beloved and respected by all who surrounded him, over whom he exercised an irresistible influence. His conceptions were vast; he never renounced a project after he had recognized it as practicable, but he tempered his audacity of design with an extreme prudence in execution. Reverses he endured with heroism, while he never suffered himself to be made giddy by his successes. The inviolable fidelity which Cortés preserved towards his legitimate sovereigns tempered his personal ambition, great as it was, and his love of money though great did not prevent his showing liberality when the interest of his glory demanded it.

This is the bright side of the picture: great defects of character tarnish it. His acts of cruelty towards his enemies, and his greed of plunder are not to be overlooked in forming an estimate of this wonderful man.

Velasquez had already sent an expedition of discovery towards the west, and Grijalva, its leader, had entered the river of Tabasco, where he disembarked, but, feeling he had no authority to treat with the natives, he returned to report what he had seen and ask further instructions.

Velasquez was displeased with Grijalva for this moderation, without appreciating a loyalty which he regarded as stupidity; and excited by the accounts of the new country, he resolved upon another undertaking in the same direction. He sent to Spain to ask for wider powers, and to obtain for himself the government of the lands he expected to conquer. He offered the command of this expedition to several[Pg 137] of his relatives. They all refused it. It was then that he addressed himself to Fernando Cortés.

There is a story that Cortés was in love with a young lady named Doña Catalina Juarez, who afterwards became his wife, and that the governor, Velasquez, also devoted to the Doña, subjected his brilliant rival to a terrible persecution, and even had him seized and put in prison, that Cortés escaped and took refuge in the church, a few days afterwards he was again seized, and then incarcerated in a ship with a chain about his foot. Escaping in a skiff and afterwards by swimming he reached the shore and again hid himself in a sanctuary. In the end he married Doña Catalina, goes this tale, was reconciled with the governor, and made Alcalde of Santiago de Cuba.

However this may have been, Cortés received and accepted the commission now offered. His reputation for bravery and great popularity gathered about him young and old, the bold spirits of Cuba, some among them former companions of Grijalva in his expedition; Bernal Diaz, the first historian of the Conquest, Olid, Alvarado, and other men of the greatest bravery, destined to play great parts in the epic of the New World.

Velasquez, even before the departure of his commander, began to distrust him, jealous again of his great powers, but they parted on good terms, and Cortés embarked at San Jago de Cuba on the 18th November, 1518. He had not gone far when an emissary of Velasquez was sent after the expedition to arrest Cortés, but encouraged by his companions,[Pg 138] who urged him to remain at their head, he sent off the messenger and started without taking any further notice of the jealousy of his chief.

The squadron of Cortés was composed of eleven small vessels. There were 110 sailors, 553 soldiers, of which thirteen were armed with muskets, and thirty-two with arquebuses, the others with swords and pikes only. There were ten little field-pieces, and sixteen horses. Such were the forces with which the bold adventurer set forth to conquer a vast empire, defended by large armies, not without courage, according to the report of Grijalva. But the companions of Cortés were unfamiliar with fear. Cortés followed the same route as Grijalva. At Cozumel, an island off Yucatan, he learned by signs from the natives that white captives, with beards, had been lately seen by them. Cortés left a letter for these men with a boat and some soldiers, and the result was their finding a white man named Jérome d' Aguilar, whom they restored to liberty. He told them that he was a native of Ecija, in Spain, ship-wrecked in 1511, seven years before. Thirteen of his companions escaped drowning and starvation, only to be exposed to the danger of being eaten by Mayas, from which also they escaped by the toleration of a cacique, who treated them well. All the rest died but one, and this one refused to join Cortés, having a wife and children, his face tattoed, and wearing ear-rings. He preferred to continue in the way of life first forced upon him, but Aguilar gladly joined the adventurers, and proved a valuable acquisition, for though he knew but little of the country,[Pg 139] he had much to tell of the manners and customs of the people, and moreover served as interpreter, of which the commander was in sore need. During his long captivity, Aguilar had acquired the language of the country, and could now bring Cortés into communication with its inhabitants.

At the Tabasco River, which the Spanish called Rio de Grijalva, because that explorer had discovered it, they had a fight with some natives who resisted their approach. These natives fought bravely, but the fire-arms, and above all the horses, which they conceived to be of one piece with their riders, caused them extreme terror, and the rout was complete. According to Spanish tradition, the Christian soldiers saw at the opening of the battle their patron, Saint James, mounted on a white horse, and fighting for them. This not only inspired them with bravery, but their adversaries with fear, so that they fled in alarm. The native prince, overcome, sent gifts to the conqueror, and, without much knowing the extent of his agreement, acknowledged himself as vassal of the king of Spain, the most powerful monarch of the world.

Cortés passed in this place Palm Sunday, urging Aguilar, who called himself a deacon of the church, to explain to the prince and the lords of the land the mysteries of religion, and to make them comprehend the vanity of worshipping idols. The anniversary was then solemnized, with high mass, received with grave reverence by the natives, much impressed by the ceremonies of the strange religion.

Meanwhile a brief calm had settled over the court[Pg 140] and capital of Mexico. The white-faced strangers had left the coast, and it was to be hoped they might never come back. The nobles took up their train of pleasure and the common people went on with their peaceable, happy lives, floating over the canals with their produce-laden, flower-heaped boats, singing low chants of the past in a melancholy, minor key, peculiar to the Mexican music.

But one day, in the end of March, 1519, swift messengers came up the steep ascent between the tropical flat shore and the cool plateau of Anahuac, and demanded instant audience with the king. Montezuma knew well what was coming. During the interval since the departure of the white men, he had felt that it was only a respite, and that the terror of their presence was only a premonition of worse things to come. So he received the messengers with a calm smile, and simply said to them: "Speak." These messengers were wonderfully well informed. Without giving the precise details we now know, they could describe the conflict, the terror of the Tabascans, and above all the strange animals, unlike any thing they had seen before, which bore their riders into battle, perhaps, in fact, a part of the same machinery, turning, plunging, advancing as if by magic, and, as they thought, invulnerable to all weapons. Also the thunder and lightning of the new-comers was something supernatural, destructive flashes of fire under their control, accompanied by a bursting sound, and followed by instant death.

These tidings appeared incredible, yet must be believed, and, what was more, acted upon. The[Pg 141] king, after due counsel with his advisers, resolved to send envoys, as before, to the strangers. The presents prepared for Grijalva, which had reached the shore too late, were, alas! all ready. To these were now added the ornaments used in the decoration of the image of Quetzalcoatl, on days of solemnity, regarded as the most sacred among all the possessions of the royal house of Mexico.

Cortés accepted the rôle of Quetzalcoatl and allowed himself to be decorated with the ornaments belonging to that god without hesitation. The populace were convinced that it was their deity really returned to them. A feast was served to the envoys, with the accompaniment of some European wine which they found delicious.

The adventurers landed on Good Friday, and celebrated Easter on shore with great pomp and solemnity. The intendant of the province brought offerings to the great stranger, and presents were exchanged. Cortés sent to Montezuma a gilt helmet with the message that he hoped to see it back again filled with gold. During the feast native painters were busy depicting every thing they saw to be shown to their royal master. The bearer of this gift and communication, returning swiftly to the court, reported to the monarch that the intention of the stranger was to come at once to the capital of the empire. Montezuma at once assembled a new council of all his great vassals, some of whom urged the reception of Cortés, others his immediate dismissal. The latter view prevailed, and the monarch sent, with more presents to the unknown invader,[Pg 142] benevolent but peremptory commands that he should go away immediately. Having sent off the messenger, poor Montezuma retreated to the depths of his palace and refused to be comforted, foreseeing that the great empire of Anahuac was about to fall.

Meanwhile the Spanish camp was feasting and reposing in huts of cane, with fresh provisions, in great joy after the weariness of their voyage. They accepted with enthusiasm the presents of the emperor, but the treasures which were sent had an entirely different effect from that hoped for by Montezuma; they only inflamed the desire of the Spaniard to have all within his grasp, of which this was but a specimen.

It was now that the great mistake in policy was apparent, by which the Aztec chieftain had for years been making enemies all over the country, invading surrounding states, and carrying off prisoners for a horrible death by sacrifice. These welcomed the strangers, and encouraged their presence, thinking they might be valuable allies against the oppressive power of the tyrant. They made a dreadful mistake of course, for Cortés ruined all the native populations of Mexico, while he grasped at the wealth of Montezuma; but the extent of his daring and powers were little imagined at his first coming.

Cortés made himself captain-general of his forces, and established the site of Vera Cruz, the rich city of the True Cross. While reposing here, he was delighted to receive an invitation from the cacique of Cempoallan, "a very fat man, and an enemy of Montezuma," says the chronicle, to enter his domains as a friend, and visit his capital city.

[Pg 143]

The site of this city, a pueblo, is now unknown, one or two places being attributed to it. In fact, the route of Cortés from the coast to the interior has never been thoroughly traced. The account of the place and his reception in it by Cortés, is now thought to be greatly exaggerated; doubtless the satisfaction of finding himself in a place of any comfort, and in hospitable hands, led him to depict the place with glowing colors. He accepted the invitation with alacrity, set forth for Cempoallan, delighted as well as were his men to leave the hot and sandy shores of the Gulf of Mexico for higher ground, fresher air, and finer climate. The next day they entered the city, where they were received as the avengers and liberators of an oppressed country. The first lords of the court, richly dressed, bearing superb bunches of flowers in their hands, came to meet them outside the town, begging Cortés to accept the excuses of their sovereign's health, who would receive them at home, being obliged to give up the pleasure of coming out on account of his extreme fatness.

The reporters of the time of the conquest describe Cempoallan as they do every thing else, with the glow of enthusiasm. They represent themselves amazed at the beauty of the streets, the dazzling whiteness of the houses, and the magnificence of the gardens. All the population came forth to await them, throwing flowers at their feet, presenting garlands and sometimes more valuable gifts.

At Cempoallan, during his visit, Cortés learned of the existence of the republic of Tlaxcalla, hostile to[Pg 144] Mexico, and immediately resolved to avail himself of these people if necessary. He determined, in spite of the repeated requests of Montezuma that he should go away, to march to Anahuac, and personally visit the monarch, and he set forth from Cempoallan on the 16th of August, 1519, on his way to Tlaxcalla,—probably taking the road to Jalapa. Jalapa is an old town, over four thousand feet above the level of the sea, with a superb view of the lofty peaks of Orizaba and the Cofre di Perote, covered always with snow, rising behind hills and valleys and lesser mountains; it is probable that the Spaniards regarded less the splendor of the prospect than the difficulties it presented to their passage.

Before leaving the sea-coast, Cortés with great resolution destroyed the greater part of his ships by beaching them. This was to put an end to any scheme of retreat which might have sprung up in the breasts of discontented members of his party. Three months had now passed since he arrived in Mexico. The ships, with the exception of one of the smallest, were destroyed. There was no chance to turn back; and the conqueror boldly prepared for his enterprise.

The body of men which he called his army was composed of 415 infantry, and 16 horses; they took with them 7 cannon. With this handful of men he risked himself in a hostile country, inhabited by people wholly unknown to him in manner and language. He began by destroying his only means of escape, in case of defeat; relying only on his own courage, and the devoted bravery of his little band.

[Pg 145]



While Cortés and his followers are resting themselves at Cempoallan, while Montezuma is awaiting their approach with superstitious dread, we will stop to make the acquaintance of the gentle woman who was so important to the daring invader of the heights of Anahuac.

She was born at Païnala, now a picturesque village buried in forests on the borders of the Coatzacoalco River, about 1502. This pueblo, as well as others in its neighborhood, belonged, it is said, to her father, one of the great vassals to the crown, then worn by Montezuma II. Thus the little duchess, for so she might be called, lived until her eleventh year, in ease and comfort. Then her father died, and her mother, marrying again, transferred all her maternal care and affection to a boy, the child of the new union. In order that this boy should inherit the family wealth and estates, reports were spread of the death of the other child. The body of a slave who had just died was substituted for the heiress, and the funeral celebrated with pomp. Meanwhile the disinherited girl was given over or[Pg 146] sold to travelling merchants, who in their turn transferred her to the chief of the Tabascans, to whom she became a slave. In the Tabascan kingdom she grew up, and with her great intelligence acquired readily the Mayan language used at Tabasco without forfeiting her native tongue, that spoken at the Aztec court.

Like the Aztec maidens of good birth, she had been carefully trained up to the time when she was abandoned to slavery. Her new position did not reduce her to humiliating tasks, or forced labor, and she probably led a happy life in the soft climate of her new home, surrounded by trees always blossoming, rich vegetation, and new friends, who, although her keepers, were gentle and indulgent after the manner of the Mayan tribes.

In 1519, just as the pretty maiden was reaching her seventeenth year, Cortés arrived at Tabasco. After the first fright of their coming was over, followed by futile efforts at resistance, the Tabascans were willing to make peace. A treaty of alliance was concluded, as we have seen, and with the gifts of the chief to the conqueror, came twenty young slave-girls, whose business it was to grind the corn to make bread for their new masters. Cortés at once ordered that these women should be taught the truths of the Christian religion, and among the rest the heiress of Païnala was converted by Aguilar, and baptized by her new name, Marina. Marina, for the Indians became Malina, as their tongues do not accept the R. Afterwards Cortés himself acquired the nickname of Malintzin, that is, the master of[Pg 147] Malina, and with them the word Malintzi, or Malinche, has attached itself to her as well.

When the Spaniards again landed, a grave difficulty presented itself. Aguilar, the interpreter, knew Mayan, but not one word did he understand of the Aztec dialect now spoken. Suddenly one of the young women presented by the Tabascan chief was seen conversing fluently with the visitors who crowded round the boats of the new-comers. She was instantly summoned by the commander, and at once became very important as interpreter, translating for Aguilar what he could easily render into Spanish. Through her was transmitted the first message of Montezuma to the dreaded white woman. It makes a pretty picture—this graceful Aztec girl standing between the two parties: on one side the Indians, richly dressed, to impress the stranger, in robes of gay colors, adorned with feathers and ornaments; on the other Cortés, in the armor of the time, assuming all the haughtiness of demeanor possible; grouped about him his band of stalwart followers, curiosity on their features, making up by their eyes for the uselessness of their ears, which were of no use to them for understanding what was going on. The Aztecs speak and announce the will of their monarch. Marina, with intelligence in her glance, listens attentively, then with her grave smile reports the matter to Aguilar. Aguilar must have been in rags, for his long sojourn with the Indians had brought him to a low estate. He gathers the Mayan message from the lips of Marina translated from Nahuatl, and gives it in good sound Spanish to[Pg 148] the captain. His reply is conveyed by the same double interpreting back to the messengers. The substance of the colloquy is, on the part of Montezuma, a welcome, and lavish offering of gifts, through which appears his unconcealed anxiety to speed the parting guest. From Cortés the reply of scanty thanks for benefits received, and the determination to press on to the plateau.

If we were allowed to believe good old Bernal Diaz, the visible testimonials of the conference needed no interpreter. The gifts of the messengers are described as splendid—shields, helmets, cuirasses embossed with pure gold ornaments, sandals, fans, crests of gaudy feathers interwoven with gold and silver threads, and strewed with pearls and precious stones. The helmet sent back by Cortés had come again filled to the brim with grains of gold.

Two round plates of gold and silver, as big as carriage wheels, excited the most delight. The gold one represented the sun, and was richly carved with plants and animals. Where are all these things now? So utterly disappeared that many people believe they only existed in the imagination of the chronicler of the Conquest.

No wonder that such startling treasures proved an invitation more potent than the twice translated prayer to go away which accompanied them.

The Spaniards were impatient to move at once. Cortés, charmed with the grace and intelligence of the young interpreter, encouraged her by every sign of favor, and she, young, forlorn, deserted, expanded under the warmth of his kindness and flattery. In[Pg 149] a very short time she acquired enough Spanish to interpret directly for her lord and master, who became the object of her intense adoration.

Marina was very beautiful, according to the description of the Spanish chroniclers. If she were at all like the descendants of her race, she wore, doubtless, a white loose garment, embroidered in the square neck and sleeves with red; her black hair was braided in two long tresses interwoven with pearls and coral. Her slightly copper-colored tint was clear enough for a soft play of rose in her cheeks; her large soft eyes beamed, and her white teeth flashed as she smiled; while, for the most part, her oval face remained grave, almost sad, in its expression. She was slight, graceful, with small hands and feet.

From this time forward Malintzi was always at the side of the conqueror, aiding him not only as interpreter, but with her surprising vigilance, and perception of the tendency of events due to the knowledge of the natives. She was always full of courage, and had the endurance of a man, sharing all the sufferings of the little army with patience and even gayety. In fact, she had never been so happy before, and the hardships of the camp were nothing compared with the trials of her earlier life. She witnessed the slaughter of her countrymen with grief, and interceded always in favor of the conquered; but no thought of patriotism troubled her mind as she deliberately surrendered the land to the hands of its enemies.

Later, Malintzi lived to contemplate the ruin she[Pg 150] had helped to make, in a time when she had outlived the brief happiness of her sojourn with the Conquistadores. But we will leave her now, full of joy, affection, courage, the proudest, most useful of petted interpreters, in order not to anticipate the current of the story.

[Pg 151]



As we have seen, the little province of Tlaxcalla was situated in an isolated position among the mountains, holding itself independent, and always hostile to the Confederates of the Valley, as the Mexicans and their allies are now called. The Conquistadores describe it as a formidable state, bearing the name of a republic, of ancient origin and advanced civilization. They speak of its capital as a splendid city, divided into four quarters, each governed by an hereditary chieftain, who exercised his authority over a number of dependent villages assigned to him. They give to the little republic, which contained scarcely fifty square miles, the dignity of a confederacy of four separate states with one common head.

In this constant exaggeration we must remember that Cortés was in the hands of the interpreters, one of them Malintzi, who may have used the word for republic when she meant tribe, and splendid city instead of pueblo. We may allow ourselves to think that.

The Tlaxcallans were an orderly, excellent people; to gain the friendship of such a tribe was highly important to the Spanish conqueror. To their[Pg 152] loyalty and good faith he applied the arts of his eloquence and bravery, and awaited at a distance the results of an embassy which he sent forward. There was a stormy discussion in the councils of Tlaxcalla, between the chiefs who welcomed allies against their great enemy, Montezuma, and those who feared the intervention of unknown warriors, come from afar, of whose intentions they had no means of judging. Those which prevailed were for a third course, by which a trap was laid for the Spaniards without implicating at first the Tlaxcallans.

Cortés, impatient of delay, pressed forward without waiting for his answer, and found himself, September 2, 1519, before an army of Otomis, a tribe friendly to the Tlaxcallans, whom they had persuaded to attack the strangers, without mixing in the fight themselves. Cortés easily repulsed this savage band, and without pressing his advantage, again attempted negotiations with the republic; but by this time a haughty message was returned to him that "the strangers which the sea had thrown up could come if they chose to the great city, to become sacrifices to the gods and served up at a sacred festival." Cortés, of course, was firm, and on the 5th of September, 1519, took place the first real struggle between the army of the old world, which in this case appeared the new one, and the brave descendants of an ancient race.

The Tlaxcallans, led by the young and brave General Xicotencatl, fought bravely, but the result was in favor of the little band of Spaniards, after a hot contest of but four hours. The Tlaxcallans returned[Pg 153] to their city, and consulted their oracle. The head priest pronounced that their enemies were children of the sun, and invincible during the day, while their father was shining in the sky, but that by night they would lose their strength and be like other mortals.

The next night, encouraged by this divine decree, an attack was made, but Cortés was on his guard. The enemy, who, relying on their priests, had imagined they were marching to certain victory, took flight, in abject terror.

After this, the Tlaxcallans made no further resistance. Peace was solemnly concluded, and the republic recognized as a vassal to the crown of Castile, pledging itself to sustain Cortés in all his expeditions. Mass was celebrated, and the conclusion of the treaty was an occasion of great joy. This alliance was absolutely important to Cortés. The Tlaxcallans remained to the end faithful to it; later on, without their support, and their chief city to fall back upon, the conqueror must have inevitably failed in his enterprise.

The Tlaxcallans consented to accept the God of the Christians, but were unwilling to give up their old protecting divinities for fear of appearing ungrateful to them. Cortés insisted upon the abolition of human sacrifices, and himself made a chapel in the palace assigned to him and erected in it the cross. The first mass celebrated there attracted immense crowds, and many natives, especially young girls of good birth, were voluntarily baptized.

The Conquistadores entered Tlaxcalla the 22d of September, receiving demonstrations of the greatest[Pg 154] friendship. Here Cortés rested awhile, but only in order to cement his good relations, and to obtain information how best to proceed. He himself is said to have been so ill from fever that he could hardly keep his seat in the saddle, but this man of iron habitually disregarded the troubles of the flesh.

His next step was to Cholula, where he was received with apparent cordiality; but Malintzi's vigilance discovered a plot for the destruction of the Spanish army. Cortés resolved to punish this treachery by an example. He collected all the principal Cholultecas in a large court, accused them of perfidy, and, without listening to explanations, put them to general slaughter, so that "in two hours," according to the letter of Cortés describing the affair, "perished more than three thousand natives." The body of the Tlaxcallans who had joined themselves to this expedition, gathered rich booty from it, and returned home well content with the prowess of their new ally.

Cortés then issued a general pardon. Calm returned to the streets of Cholula, and the people of the surrounding villages poured in to do honor to the terrible conqueror. Emissaries from Mexico, who witnessed this bloody triumph, were not slow to describe it to their sovereign, who became more and more frightened and despairing.

Cortés stayed two weeks in Cholula, before setting out again for Mexico. It was thus early that he received overtures of alliance from Ixtlilxochitl, king of a portion of Texcuco, who was in constant warfare with his brother Cacamatzin. These young men,[Pg 155] it will be remembered, were nephews of Montezuma, who, in the quarrel between them had defended the cause of Cacamatzin, so that the neglected brother detested him. Like all the rest of Montezuma's kindred who played into the hands of his enemy, Ixtlilxochitl had later reason to regret his hasty recognition of the stranger, who came to seize and adopt for his own every thing, regardless of small quarrels and petty animosities. This early alliance with one of the neighboring chiefs was of great advantage to Cortés though he scarcely understood then its importance.

Ixtlilxochitl sent ambassadors as far as Tlaxcalla to invite Cortés to pass through his territory on his way to Mexico. Cacamatzin, on the other hand, indignant at the disregard shown to the wishes of his royal uncle by the Europeans, hastened to Texcuco, resolved to collect an army and declare war against them, but Montezuma, with a faithlessness not to be excused by his terror, himself set an ambuscade for his nephew, and handed him over to Cortés, who had him loaded with chains and imprisoned.

Through the influence of Montezuma, Cortés allowed a third son of the late King Nezahualpilli to occupy his throne. This was Cuicuicatzin, twelfth king at Texcuco. He was loyal to the Spaniards. It would seem that he stayed by them even through the terrors of the noche triste; and that returning to Mexico after that sad night, being considered, with some reason, to be a spy of the Spaniards, he was killed by the order of the successor of Montezuma.

[Pg 156]

Followed by a horde of Cholulans and Tlaxcallans, Cortés set out on his difficult journey across the plateau, impeded by tempests and sandstorms. The view they got of the fair valley of Mexico made them forget all their fatigues. At their feet were noble forests; farther on they saw cultivated fields, and in the centre of an immense fertile basin the lakes, bordered with cities and villages; in the middle of the panorama was the city, Mexico the Proud, resting upon its waters, and crowned with towers and pyramidal temples. Above the capital rose, on the hill Chapultepec, the favorite resort of the Mexican monarch, surrounded by its great cypresses. Farther off was seen Texcuco, not less fair than Tenochtitlan, and, round about all, the girdle of irregular mountains which enclose and form this incomparable picture.

Cortés was seized with enthusiasm at the sight. This was his promised land. Boldly he pressed onward to success, in spite of his feeble means.

At Ayotzinco, Cacama came forth to meet the strangers, King of Texcuco, loyal to Montezuma, a splendid young man of twenty-five, richly dressed. He brought presents for the invaders, but urged them even then to turn back. Cortés replied with courtesy but firmness that nothing would deter him from entering Mexico. "In that case," replied Cacama, "I will return to the court"; and without any thing which could be considered an invitation, he withdrew with his suite.

On the 8th of November the Spaniards found themselves on the great avenue leading to the capital.[Pg 157] Here Montezuma came to meet them with the greatest splendor, of costume and retinue. Magnificent carpets were spread on the ground, the monarch descended from his palanquin with a bouquet in his hand, supported on either side by his brother and nephew. Cortés approached him with respect and put about his neck a chain of gold ornamented with paltry colored beads.

Montezuma, calm and dignified at this critical moment, welcomed Fernando to his capital, where the gods had long announced his coming. Then he entered his palanquin again, leaving the two princes to escort the Spaniards to the palace he destined to receive them.

The adventurers followed with their eyes the royal cortége as it vanished along a wide street which they describe as lined with sumptuous palaces. No one was looking on in the streets, and the silence of death reigned in the city. By royal command the whole population abstained from coming out to welcome these audacious intruders.

Cortés understood the lesson, and it is said that he then and there made a vow, that if he should escape safely from this enterprise he would erect a church upon that very spot.

He built in fact later the hospice and church of Jesu-Nazareno—in compliance with this vow.

[Pg 158]



The ancient palace of Axayacatl was prepared to receive the strangers, within whose walls were ample accommodations for the leaders of the little host.

Cortés proceeded at once to explore the capital, its paved causeways and lagoons. He devoted himself to gaining the friendship of Montezuma, and strove to incline him to embrace the Catholic religion and become a subject of the king of Spain. The bewildered king listened to these persuasions, transmitted to him through the lips of Malintzi-Marina, with amazement and dread. He scarcely understood the import of the words, and the doctrine of the Cross, thus suddenly presented to him, was only a puzzle. Cortés had but little patience with his pupil. His own situation was full of peril, in the midst of a large population who showed no cordiality towards the Spaniards. He resolved upon the bold measure of seizing the person of Montezuma.

Having found a pretext for a visit, Cortés waited on the monarch in his palace. An audience was readily granted. He was graciously received by Montezuma, who entered into light conversation through the interpreters, and gave little presents[Pg 159] to the Spanish general and his attendants. He readily listened to the complaints brought by Cortés against certain caciques who had killed some Spaniards. Cortés then coolly suggested that it would be better for Montezuma to transfer his residence to the palace occupied by the Spaniards, as a sign to his people of his perfect confidence, as well as a proof to the king and master of Cortés that he was loyal to the strangers.

Montezuma listened to this proposal with looks of profound amazement. He became pale under his dark skin, but in a moment his face flushed with resentment; and he utterly declined the proposal. The visit was prolonged in discussion and persuasion, always gentle on the part of Cortés, but one of his companions, Velasquez de Léon, to cut short the matter, proposed seizing the king, with such fierce note and gesture, that Montezuma, alarmed, asked Marina what had been said. She strove to explain the exclamation in a gentle fashion, and besought him so tenderly to yield, that the poor king finally consented to quit his own palace and allowed himself to be led away. With their sovereign thus in his power, Cortés, with his wonderful tact and resource, might have succeeded in his plan of peaceably subjugating the Mexicans, but unfortunately at that time he had to leave the capital for Vera Cruz, where Narvaez, an emissary from the governor of Cuba, had just landed, with directions to dispossess Cortés of his command. The affair took only a little while, for Cortés surprised the new-comer in his own quarters at Cempoallan, routed him entirely, and carried[Pg 160] off to join his own troops the forces sent against him from Cuba, a very timely addition, especially the horses, of which he was greatly in need.

This despatched, he returned in all haste to Mexico, which he had left in the hands of Don Pedro de Alvarado, whose unflinching bravery was spoiled by his cruel and sanguinary temper. Entirely lacking the good judgment of Cortés, he had in his absence involved the Spaniards in ruin. The month of May had arrived, in which the Mexicans were accustomed to hold a great festival in honor of Huitzilopochtli. By this time, the supremacy of the Spaniards had become so established, through the weakness of Montezuma that they asked the permission of Alvarado to have it. He consented, but in the middle of the night, when they were all assembled in the temple, unarmed and carelessly engaged in dancing and the festive ceremonies of the occasion, Alvarado entered with fifty Spaniards and in wholesale destruction killed them all. The population arose, and when Cortés came back he found Alvarado and the army besieged in their quarters and at the point of being overcome by the enraged populace.

Cortés, in dismay, disgusted with the folly of his lieutenant, knew not how to escape from its result. For several days the Mexicans attacked the Spaniards in their head-quarters. Cortés made several sallies and engaged in terrible combats with compact masses of the natives, but always had to retreat to his quarters, with losses that daily diminished his small army.

At last he persuaded Montezuma to ascend to the azotea, a flat roof of the palace, in order there to address[Pg 161] his subjects and exhort them to suspend the attack. With repugnance the humbled monarch yielded, and emerged on the parapet. Opposite to him, he could easily discern animating the crowd who surged below, Cuitlahuatzin, his own brother, according to custom the general in chief, and probable successor to the throne.

Montezuma was clothed in his imperial robes; his mantle of white and blue flowed over his shoulders, held together by a rich clasp of green stone. Emeralds set in gold profusely ornamented his dress. The royal diadem was on his brow, and golden sandals on his feet. He was preceded by the golden wand of office, and surrounded by a few Aztec nobles. His presence was instantly recognized by the people, and a sudden change came over the scene. A death-like stillness pervaded the whole assembly, so that the voice of the monarch was distinctly heard. He addressed the people mildly, but when they found that he was urging mercy toward the stranger, the calm was turned to fury, the populace redoubled its cries and threats, and arrows and stones were aimed even at the Emperor, one of which wounded him fatally in the head.

The unhappy prince was borne to his apartment below. He had tasted the bitter cup of degradation. It may have been the simple effect of the wound, or his despair, which determined him to tear off the bandages, or, as the Aztecs think, a Spanish dagger which finally despatched him. Not many days after this supreme insult by his people, he died on the 30th of June, 1520.

[Pg 162]

Due respect was shown to his memory; his body was committed to the charge of his subjects, and borne by nobles, it is said, to Chapultepec, to be laid among the tombs of his ancestors, under the sad ahuehuetes. At least, this is the received account. A Mexican story says that on the night of the departure of the Spaniards the corpse of the monarch was dashed to pieces, by his enraged people, upon a tortoise of stone which stood in a corner of the palace of Axayacatl. And here, say the indios, wanders the melancholy spirit of Montezuma, under the gloomy cypress, restless and unable to sleep the sleep of death, lamenting the lost Tenochtitlan and the happy days of the Aztecs. Here comes also Malintzi, whom, when she meets him, the sad shade accosts: "Why, Malintzi, didst thou betray me to the stranger why didst thou plead with me for his cause?"

And the other sighs and wrings her hands and asks herself the same vain question.

There are other shadows, too, that frequent the moss-hung alleys of Chapultepec, but these are creatures of a later day and unheeded by the sorrowful phantoms of the victims of the Conquest.

As this is the story of the Mexicans, and not of the Conquest only, and as moreover that period of Mexican history is fully elsewhere described, we must pass slightly over the continued adventures of Cortés.

When the adventurer saw that the presence of the monarch had produced no good effect upon his subjects, he withdrew to head-quarters, and after a consultation[Pg 163] with his captains, resolved to abandon the city and to cut a passage for himself and his army, through the enraged assemblage of his enemies. This difficult and dangerous task was effected on the night of July 1, 1520.

It was impossible to conceal so great a movement from the Mexicans. As soon as they became aware of it, they attacked the little army on its march, destroyed bridges before them, while suddenly the lagoons were covered with canoas from which showered arrows upon the Spaniards. Many soldiers were killed or drowned. They set out loaded with booty which they had seized in their palace, and their treasures impeded their progress, so that every Spaniard had to choose between abandoning these precious objects or saving his life. Quantities of gold and precious things according to the report, were thrown into the canals.

Cortés, himself under a thousand dangers, succeeded in effecting his escape from the city to a spot where, under a large tree, he threw himself down to rest, and there reviewed the whole extent of his misfortune, recognized the loss of his most faithful and bravest companions, and faced the maimed condition of the last of his army. Tears came to the eyes of the bold commander, and for a moment all his vigor and energy abandoned him.

Some few of his companions, however, were left to him. Alvarado, on whom rests the real blame in this disaster, had escaped by a miraculous leap across a breach in the causeway which it was necessary to pass. Pressing his long lance firmly on the bottom[Pg 164] of the shallow lake, strewed with wrecks of every sort, he sprang across the chasm to the amazement of the beholders. Several others were there, and above all, Marina was safe in the hands of some Tlaxcallans who had faithfully protected her.

This fearful escape is called universally the Noche triste. The tree under which Cortés sat and wept is a venerable cypress still alive. It has been in perfect health until a few years ago, when a fire was lighted underneath it, by some foolish pic-nic party, which burned into its huge trunk. Since then an iron railing has been put up to protect it. The picturesque old Church of San Esteban stands near it. It is at Popotla, a suburb of the modern city easily attained by tram-cars, through crowded modern streets, where nothing is to be recognized of the calzadas of the Aztecs. The line of houses is broken in one place on the way to Popotla by a space shut in with a low wall and iron grating. Here, says tradition, is the very point in the causeway where Alvarado leaped the breach. As there is no indication nor tradition of the actual width of the chasm, our wonder is without any limit.

Cortés did not allow himself time to repose or despair. As the dawn broke he mounted his horse, and gathering together such stragglers as he could find, he led them out into the country to the Cerro of Otoncalpolco, now the Sanctuary de los Remedios. Here, weary and discouraged as he was, he attacked with his little band the natives who were defending the teocalli there was there, and drove them out. In this shelter he took care of his wounds and those of[Pg 165] his men, and united the dispersed remnants of his army.

This sanctuary is now the abode of an image of the Holy Virgin, of which the legend is that it was brought to Mexico by one of the soldiers of Cortés, and that during the first stay of the Spaniards in Tenochtitlan it was permitted to be set up in a shrine of the great teocalli among the Aztec gods. It was carried thence on the fatal Noche triste, by its possessor, when he sought shelter in this very temple with the rest of the shattered Spanish army. And there he left it hidden under a maguey, being too sorely wounded to carry it farther, where it was found and made an object of veneration.

The accounts of losses in this conflict are varying. According to our present authority, the Spaniards lost four hundred and fifty men, twenty-six horses, and about four thousand allied Indians. On the Mexican losses it is impossible to speculate, but the artillery and fire-arms of their enemies must have made frightful havoc in the crowds of people who swarmed through the streets during the night.

[Pg 166]



The Mexicans drew a long breath after the departure of the enemy. It is true their emperor was ignominiously slain, covered with the contempt and scorn of his own subjects. His two sons, whom Cortés carried with him as prisoners, perished in the flight. The streets ran with blood and were strewn with corpses. The beautiful city was defaced, the causeways shattered, the bridges destroyed, and many of the houses burnt down. But it was freed from the odius presence of the stranger, who they imagined would never return. In fact the Aztecs conceived him and his army to be absolutely annihilated. They set about restoring their tumbled down gods to their places, and contemplated appeasing Huitzilopochtli for the indignity with which he had been treated, by a new course of sacrifices.

Cuitlahuatzin, brother of Montezuma, was elected emperor. He had fought valiantly in the struggle, and shown heroic courage in driving Cortés from the capital, which it was his determination to enforce. He began the slow task of gathering the army together, and bringing order out of confusion, but a few days only after the great battle, he was attacked[Pg 167] by small-pox. This disease, never before known among the Aztecs, was one of the misfortunes bequeathed to them by the Spaniards. A negro, who had just come up with Cortés, on his return from Vera Cruz, one of his recruits belonging to Narvaez, had the malady, and died of it, spreading contagion in the capital.

Cuahtemoc succeeded, the thirteenth and last king. He was of a different stock, the sons of Axayacatl all being destroyed, of the family of the friendly kings of the little neighboring state of Tlaltelolco. He embraced with enthusiasm the cause of his country, and attacked vigorously the work of restoration. He was but little more than twenty years old.

The tranquillity of the capital was but brief. In less than a week rumors came that the terrible white warrior was not killed, but alive, strong and determined as ever. Many of the Aztecs conceived him to be immortal, and it is scarcely to be wondered at. Cortés had gathered together the little remnant of his army, who crept along a winding route north of the city absolutely ignorant of their way, and what they might encounter. When light came, so that they were observed, stones and arrows were aimed at them by chance natives from above. For several days and nights they slowly advanced, living on the few ears of maize they found; for all provision was carried off from the deserted villages they passed through by the inhabitants as soon as they saw them approach. Cortés was always brave, cheerful, and even encouraging in these dark days. In this toilsome[Pg 168] march seven days were passed, and then they came upon the strange pyramid of the sun and moon, at San Juan Teotihuacan, supposed to be the work of the earliest dwellers upon Anahuac, older than the Toltecs. These they make no mention of in their narrative, and we may well suppose they scarcely noticed them, for a sight more impressive and awe-inspiring soon after met their eyes, as they turned the crest of a ridge they had been climbing,—a full-fledged army stretched out before them, filling up the valley of Otumba, and giving it the appearance of being covered with snow, for the warriors were dressed in white cotton mail.

Cuitlahua had lost no time. As soon as he heard of the survival of the invader's army, he wasted not a moment. No puerile fear, no fatalistic paralysis restrained his understanding. Ably seconded by the warriors of the army, now roused to the importance of the occasion, he gathered a noble army. Every chief took the field with his whole force, and in a wonderfully short space of time a large army was collected and marched against the fugitives, having learned their course among the mountains.

[Pg 169]


[Pg 170]

The Spaniards were but a handful, and the few Tlaxcallans who were with them increased the force but little. Gathering themselves together, they dashed directly into the midst of the Aztec army, on their horses, with the intention of cutting themselves a path through the ranks. Flight, and not conquest, was their only thought. They were soon surrounded, but defended themselves desperately. Several hours had passed, when the chief of the army was seen advancing on a litter, richly dressed, with plumes upon his head, a mantle of feather-work, and the banner of Tenochtitlan floating from his shoulders. Around him, to protect his sacred person, were a body of young warriors, richly dressed. It was a shining mark, and Cortés sprang towards it on his charger. Coming down upon the prince, and overturning his bearers, he struck him through with his lance and threw him to the ground. One of his men sprang from the saddle, seized the banner, and gave it to Cortés quick as a flash. It was all over in a moment. A panic ensued. The whole Mexican army fled in confusion, convinced that they fought against odds too great, human skill against the power of the immortals.

The Spaniards followed up the flying army, killing right and left, and then returned to the battle-field to gather up booty from the rich costumes of the dead and wounded left upon the field. This was the famous battle of Otumba, one of the most extraordinary in history, fought on the 8th of July, 1520. This encounter at Otumba is regarded by Baudelier as grossly exaggerated. He reduces the number of the attacking army to a much smaller proportion, but does credit to the bravery of Cortés and his men. He considers the episode, the fall of the standard-bearer deciding the fight, as completely in accordance with Indian modes of warfare.

Whatever remained to tell the melancholy tale came back to the capital. The inhabitants were filled with their old terror, but Cuahtemoc retained his courage, and only made more vigorous exertions[Pg 171] than before, seeing that his work was not only to restore the capital, but to prepare the country for another conflict. He collected great stores of corn in the warehouses, fortified all the places he considered exposed to attack, shattered the calzadas, or causeways, and got ready a large fleet of canoas. He worked with all diligence, for he was kept well informed of the proceedings of the enemy, and knew that Cortés had arrived safe within the boundaries of Tlaxcalla. And, indeed, before the end of the year the renewed attack began.

The distance from Otumba to Tlaxcalla was short, and the Spaniards were not further interrupted. The returned Tlaxcallans were received at home with great honors, and in spite of the disasters of the Spaniards, they remained faithful to the stranger. Cortés reposed among them, recovering from his own wounds, and giving his companions time to rest and refresh themselves. Meanwhile, he was forming new projects and drawing closer the bond of friendship with his hosts. The wise old Maxixcatzin, his first friend and constant supporter, died at that time, but the other Tlaxcallans continued their favor.

By December, only six months from his return to Tlaxcalla, Cortés had succeeded in making a new army of respectable proportion. Ixtlilxochitl now ruled undisturbed over the whole of Texcuco, after the death of his brothers, who had resisted the cause of the invaders. He was the fourteenth and last monarch of his country, of which he was the greatest enemy, fatal to it as well as to his own race and[Pg 172] family. From the beginning a prudent ally of Cortés, after the retreat of the Spanish army to Texcuco, he sent him renewed offers of aid, and raised a large troop of soldiers for the invading army. Without them and other indigenous bands Cortés would have been badly off. Thus increased, his new army reached the reputed number of two hundred thousand men. With these he came to Texcuco, by two days' march, halting at a little village at the base of Iztaccíhuatl, the companion volcano of Popocatepetl, which, stretched like a corpse in its shroud of everlasting snow, bears the name of the White Woman. The Spanish army entered Texcuco on the last day of the year, December 31, 1520, and here was conducted to the palace of Nezahualpilli, a building spacious enough to accommodate all the Spaniards. The town, as on his first entrance at Tenochtitlan, was deserted, and Cortés learned that whole families were leaving in boats and by the mountain paths. A weaker heart might have sunk at the repetition of such intimations of dislike, but the Spanish conqueror's heart was inflexible. Ixtlilxochitl received him with all cordiality, and presented to him the body of fifty thousand men he had raised, a substantial gift, which was in itself encouraging.

It was a great advantage to Cortés to have Texcuco for his head-quarters. He had caused to be made in Tlaxcalla thirteen brigantines for crossing the lake. These were put together after his arrival and launched upon the water, through a little stream which had to be enlarged by the work of thousands of Indians, which led from the gardens of Nezahualcoyotl[Pg 173] to the lake. These brigantines, constructed in part of the timbers of his own ships which he had left scuttled at Vera Cruz, supplemented by quantities of native canoas, made a respectable fleet. During these preparations Cortés was bringing the whole neighborhood into his control, either by conquest or negotiation. As we have seen, the Mexicans were by no means beloved by the smaller powers. It was not until the latter part of May, 1521, that the regular siege of the city of Mexico began. The first division of the army was given to the formidable Pedro de Alvarado, called by the Mexicans Tonatiah, which means the sun, or all powerful. The second division was assigned to Christobal de Olid, and the third to Gonzalo de Sandoval. These three were all his trusty companions, who had shown themselves from the first as daring, as enduring, as invincible as himself. Only in the characteristics of superior forethought, judgment, and tact did Cortés exceed them. To himself he reserved the conduct of the brigantines upon the lake.

The whole campaign against Mexico lasted eight months, while the siege proper was maintained for eighty days. The Spaniards attacked time and again with their artillery, and slew thousands of Mexicans. They penetrated even to the heart of the capital but were driven back. Cortés himself, and all his captains, ran several times great risk of being slain or taken prisoners. The native allies could not be, or were not, restrained from plundering and burning houses and killing men, women, and children.

Upon the lake the brigantines besides assisting[Pg 174] the land attack, mastered and sank the canoes of the enemy in great numbers. The temples were burned; the new images of the gods, put in place since the first sack of the teocalli, were thrown down and hustled into the lake; whole streets were demolished, and with their ruins the canals were filled up.

Cortés made various propositions of peace to Cuahtemoc, but the brave young monarch, in spite of the hunger which reigned in the besieged city, the multitude of corpses heaped in the streets, although he saw before him the inevitable ruin of his kingdom, was unwilling to surrender until the supreme moment came when further resistance was impossible. On the 13th of August, 1521, Cuahtemoc was concealed in a piragua, or boat, leaving the attack, in order to command elsewhere. His presence there was suspected and the boat followed. Just as the pursuers were aiming their cross-bows, a young warrior, fully armed, rose and said, "I am Cuahtemoc, lead me to your chief." On landing, he was escorted to the presence of Cortés, who was stationed on an azotca where he could survey the combat. Marina was by his side as interpreter. Cuahtemoc approached with a calm bearing and firm step, a noble, well-proportioned youth, it is said, with a complexion fair for one of his race. Without waiting to be addressed he said: "I have done my best to defend my people. Deal with me as you will," and touching the dagger in Cortés' belt, he added, "Despatch me at once, I beseech you."

The wife of the captive king was now sent for; she was one of the daughters of Montezuma, and of[Pg 175] wonderful beauty it is said. The captive pair were treated with kindness, rest and refreshment offered to them.

It was the hour of vespers when the Aztec monarch surrendered. This was the end of the contest. During that night a tremendous tempest burst on the fallen city of Tenochtitlan. Thunder and lightning shook the shattered teocallis and levelled them to the ground. The elements finished what the Conquistadores had begun,—the ancient city of the Aztecs was in ruins.

After the surrender of Tenochtitlan, Cortés withdrew to Coyoacán, still a picturesque old town in the suburbs of the modern city. There he remained while the capital was rebuilt. It is said that he gave a banquet to his captains in honor of the victory they had achieved, an occasion made genial by some good wine which opportunely arrived just then at Vera Cruz. The house he occupied with Marina, is still to be seen on the northern side of the plaza of the little town. Over the doorway are carved the arms of the conqueror, much obscured by repeated coats of whitewash. In the church-yard is a stone cross set up on a little mound, said to have been placed there by Cortés himself. His first labor was to cleanse the city and dispose of the dead, then to clear away the ruins in order to erect new buildings. The Spaniards were greatly disappointed not to find vast treasures belonging to the Aztec crown, which they were convinced were somewhere concealed. To his everlasting dishonor Cortés allowed Cuahtemoc to be tortured by putting his feet in boiling oil, in[Pg 176] order that he might reveal where such treasure was to be found. The king of Tlacopan was tortured also for the same object, but with no result. Both victims were of opinion that the precious objects so coveted by the Spaniards, if they existed at all, must have been thrown into the lake, but the Spaniards explored in vain the bottom of the shallow expanse and found nothing. If such treasures were there, there they still remain.

The country was put under military rule, although the Mexican chiefs were allowed to retain their titles and nominal authority. Cortés assumed the titles of Governor, Captain General, and Chief-Justice, in all of which he was later confirmed by the King of Spain. He had next to make sure of the subjugation of the other tribes of Anahuac. He organized expeditions and embassies to all the peoples thereabouts, and among others to Michoacan, where, as we have seen, was a kingdom of strength and power, which had never surrendered to the Aztecs. Tangaxoan II., when he heard of the conquest of Mexico, awaited his own turn with terror. Cortés at first sent a peaceful ambassador, led by a soldier named Montaño, who returned after some dangers with a detailed account of the wonders of Calzonzi—the name given this monarch by the Spaniards. Shortly afterwards Christobal de Olid was sent out with seventy horses and two hundred foot soldiers; this force was sufficient to subjugate the monarch and make him swear allegiance to the King of Spain. Afterwards Calzonzi came to Mexico on a visit to Cortés; he beheld with amazement the ruins of the[Pg 177] great city which he had never seen in the days of its splendor. The destruction of his hereditary rival gave him much to reflect upon, and hastened his willingness to accept the religion of the Conquistadores. In his ancient capital of Tzintzuntzan there is a pathetic picture, crude and of course not ancient, which depicts the Tarascan king accepting the cross.

During the rule of Cortés, Tangaxoan lived peacefully, enjoying the nominal control of his vast kingdom. In the course of three years, Cortés greatly extended the dominion of Castile in New Spain, as it was then called; for all his conquests were of course referred to his sovereign, Charles V. of Spain, to whom from time to time he sent presents of gold, specimens of the wealth of the new possessions. His power extended as far as Honduras, where Christobal de Olid was put in power. At a safe distance from his chief, Olid conceived the foolish idea of asserting his personal control, and made himself king of the colony. Olid lost his life in this attempt; and Cortés determined to go himself to Honduras. It was on this expedition that, without knowing it, he passed close to the ruins of the serpent city, Nachan, now Palenque. But, as we have seen, Cortés was more in the way of making ruins on his own account, than of regarding the mighty ones wrought by time; and had he known of the existence of the city, it is doubtful whether he would have stopped to cut away the massive growth in which it was concealed. In Izancapac, a Tabascan town, Cortés suddenly ordered the death of the three royal captives of Anahuac, whom he had brought thus far with him, perhaps for this[Pg 178] purpose. On the charge of a conspiracy to restore the Aztec rule, they were hung upon a ceyba tree,—Cuahtemoc, and the kings of Tacuba and Texcuco,—all denying any thought of conspiracy.

This was the sad end of the life of Cuahtemoc, the last of the Aztec kings. The rest of the native chiefs died off gradually, so that in a few years, all the old governments of the country were obliterated. Few of the other states discovered by the Spaniards made resistance, and none of them any thing like that of the Mexican. Remains of various uncivilized tribes retreated to the sierras or the deserts of the north, where they continued for generations in perpetual war with the white race.

During the remainder of his life, Cortés made several voyages to Spain to defend his interests and arrange his affairs. In Mexico he employed the greater part of his time and fortune in the discovery of new lands in the neighborhood of Jalisco and the western coast. Finally, considering himself neglected and overlooked, he returned to Spain to make one more attempt at recognition at court. He was but coldly received by his sovereign. His time had gone by. The wonders of Peru had eclipsed the glory of the Mexican Conquest. He was taken ill, perhaps as much of disappointment as disease, and withdrew to Seville; afterwards to a small town in that neighborhood, Castilleja de la Cuesta, where he died on the 2d of December, 1547. His body was carried thence in great state and buried in the chapel of the Dukes of Medina Sidonia. But Cortés had ordered in his will that his bones should be brought[Pg 179] in ten years time from his death to Mexico, and this wish was fulfilled, and the remains were interred at Texcuco. On the 2d of July, 1794, the bones of the great Conquistador were placed in a marble sepulchre which had been prepared for them in the church of Jesu-Nazareno, which he had founded himself. Even then they did not rest, for in the first years of the revolution, so great was the popular hatred of everything Spanish, safety required that they should be hidden; they were secretly removed, by the orders of the heirs of Cortés, and by last advices, they are now at rest in Italy, in the vaults of the Dukes of Monteleone, his descendants.

[Pg 180]



During the two years occupied, with varying fortunes, in the conquest of Mexico, Cortés was always accompanied by Malintzi, who was indeed indispensable to him as interpreter. Her tent was always near that of the commander. His lieutenants treated her with consideration and respect, always giving her the title of Doña.

Through his reverses, and on the terrible Noche triste, it is said, that Malintzi never lost her courage. She was put in charge of some brave Tlaxcallans, by Cortés, who could not have her with him at the head of the fray, and their devotion brought her through the wild confusion of flight.

The long struggle over, Cortés, as we have seen, went to live at Coyoacán. Doña Marina was with him.

Now she is happy. Her hero rules triumphant over millions of men. She lives in a palace, with her guards, her maids of honor, her pages, and esquires. The long, sad days of her youth of slavery are at an end, she has resumed her rank. She has a son, baptized under the name of Martin Cortés, whom she tenderly loves, and with this child and[Pg 181] his father, now at peace with all the vast empire he has conquered for his sovereign, she passes a tranquil, happy life.

Suddenly, to break in upon this dream, comes the news that Doña Catalina Juarez Cortés has landed at Vera Cruz, and is approaching the capital.

Very likely Cortés had forgotten to mention his marriage to Marina. Perhaps he had forgotten it himself. But the reader will remember Doña Catalina, the cause of the jealousy of Velasquez in the early days of Fernando's career. It is said that his first ardor for her cooled off after a time, and that the marriage would never have taken place but for the persistence of the Doña. It was not happy, and the adventurer sailed away, without regret for the cheerless home he left behind in Cuba.

Her name was never mentioned during the long period which passed between the landing of the Spaniards and their successful establishment in Mexico. But the deeds of Fernando Cortés were known to all the world, and especially sounded about in the island whence he set out. Doña Catalina, with every right on her side, set out to join her recusant spouse, encouraged by Diégo Velasquez, who saw with no pleasure the continued triumphs of Cortés.

Bernal Diaz says that Cortés hated his wife, but he dared not bring down upon himself the wrath of the Church by ignoring her, and Doña Catalina was received on her arrival with all the honors due to the wife of the great conqueror. She made a splendid entrance into the capital, and at once stepped into[Pg 182] the position of head of his household, and succeeded to the homage of maids of honor, pages, and esquires.

Malintzi withdrew, persuaded of the necessity by the good father Olmedo, who baptized her, trained her in the Christian faith, and now, in the hour of trial, stood by her side.

Doña Catalina was not destined to enjoy long her new state. The air of the lofty plateau did not suit her constitution, accustomed to the lower atmosphere of Cuba. She died suddenly.

At Coyoacán there is a tale that Doña Catalina was drowned by her husband, and the well is even shown to tourists into which she is supposed to have been thrown. This legend is probably of later date than the time of her death, but even then rumors arose that it had been a violent one, and reports were rapidly circulated about Cortés likely to injure his reputation and, moreover, that of the Malintzi.

At that time Cortés was thinking of a return to Spain. He was thirty-five, still young enough to thirst for a full recognition at home of his great deeds. While making his preparation for departure, he heard of the insurrection of his lieutenant Olid in Honduras, who had declared himself independent. It was necessary for him to hasten at once to chastise his boldness. Aguilar, the interpreter, was dead, and Cortés, who had never troubled himself to acquire the Mexican dialects, had to send for Marina to accompany him, as interpreter only. This caused the rumors about the death of his wife to circulate more[Pg 183] than before. Cortés, warned of the danger, took a decisive step to silence all such insinuations. At Orizaba, he caused the sudden marriage of Marina with one of his officers, Don Juan de Jaramillo.

Poor Marina was required to carry her devotion, her absolute obedience to her chief, to the extreme point of marrying a man she scarcely knew. She yielded. It is said that she never lived with her husband, but withdrew at once to her birthplace, at Païnala, where her own family still lived; that her guilty relatives threw themselves at her feet, afraid that she would have them destroyed by the Spaniard. She forgave them, and passed the rest of her life far away from the capital, in obscurity. She died young, when Cortés was yet at the height of his fame, before he had suffered the mortification of seeing himself overlooked by the court of Spain.

Not long after the expedition to Honduras, Cortés carried out his intention of crossing to Spain. On this first visit he was, as we have seen, received with acclamations, and loaded with praise and honors. When he again entered Mexico, with the title of Marquess of the Valley of Oaxaca, he brought with him a Spanish bride, Doña Juana de Zuñiga, daughter of the second Count of Aguilar, and niece of the Duke de Bejar.

So Malintzi, if her shade returns to wander under the ahuehuetes of Chapultepec, has her own grief to mourn, in addition to the ruin she helped to bring upon her people.

[Pg 184]



The Conquest was complete. Tenochtitlan was no more, and the Aztec kings with their dynasty were blotted out. So were all the other independent states of Anahuac, for if here and there a petty chieftain were allowed still to call himself lord of his domains, it was a mere form, to keep him and his people contented, while in reality the Spaniard controlled every thing throughout the conquered land. The terrible war gods were overthrown, their temples and images thrown down and hidden under ground. Even the annals of the country, the picture-writings, which the Spaniards imagined to be impious scrolls connected with the heathen belief of the savages, were destroyed. Before long distinctive names of the separate tribes were wiped out, as details of no importance, and all the native races of the country went by the common title of Indios.

This of course is the Spanish word for Indians, with the same source. Columbus in seeking a new world believed that when found it would be India, little thinking that the earth he had rightly guessed to be round, was big enough to contain a whole continent between the western shore of Europe and the Indies,[Pg 185] a remote land almost fabulous for its riches and precious stones.

The first natives Columbus encountered in the Western World, he therefore naturally called Indios, and this name attaches to all the indigenous tribes of America. So the first settlers farther north, on the shores of the Atlantic, called the red men who came to meet them Indians. But the Red Men of the north are a distinctive race from the Indios of Anahuac. If allied at all, they are but distant relatives. Their color, their skulls, their brains, their manners and customs are all different. As we have seen, the Nahuatl tribes that migrated from Aztlan belonged, with scarce a doubt, to a people antecedent to the Red Indians of North America.

Nevertheless, the word Indian is so fixed in the minds of most of the people of the United States, as belonging to the savage of the tomahawk and war-whoop, that it is rather common to fancy the Mexican Indios to be of the same stock. Many a reader of Prescott's "Conquest" has been surprised to find that the natives who were terrified at the approach of Cortés on his war-horse, were not first cousins to the Mohawks and Algonquins whom Parkman has described.

It is necessary to dwell on this, in order that any fair opinion should be formed of the native races of Anahuac, belonging to the different tribes of Indios, descendants of Tarascans, Otomies, Zapotecs, Mextecs, Mazahuans, Popolocs, Zotzils, Mayas, etc., which now form a large part of the population of Mexico.

[Pg 186]

Whatever are or have been their virtues, they are wholly different from those of the North American Red Man. Whatever their vices, they are equally so, or if similar, similar on account of like conditions of life. Climate, inheritance, and the vicissitudes of their fortunes, would have caused them to be somewhat different by this time, even if they had come from a common stock, but this is absolutely not the case, and long before the time of the Conquest, the characteristics of the Nahuatl race, which still cling to their present descendants, were as strongly marked as those of the Red Man, while they were widely remote from them.

The indigenous inhabitants of Mexico, however, have as good a right to the name, wholly unappropriate in either case, of Indian, as the "North American Savage" has. This latter title would be totally misapplied in connection with the native Mexicans, because for long generations, these have been above the level of wild men. After the Conquest, for years the Spaniards were disturbed by remaining savage tribes who, resisting civilization, had retreated to the woods and mountains; but these tribes have been long exterminated. Their successor, the highway robber of roads and mountain passes, was of another breed, imported, with other products of civilization, from old Spain.

The Aztec dynasty, then, was extinct, but the Aztec nation, a large population, even after the great diminution in the wars of the Conquest, remained on the plateau to begin a new life under the influences of Christian rulers. The horrid rites of their old religion were utterly done away with, relinquished, it would seem, with no great regret, by the common people. To them there had been no glory, no gratification, in the wholesale slaughter of the sacrifices to Huitzilopochtli. The part of their ceremonies which appealed to their source of enjoyment was the feasting and dancing, and general rejoicing on such occasions.

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The first government of the Spaniards was a military one, whose chief was Fernando Cortés. He had wisely surrounded himself by a body of advisers or approvers, in the early time of founding Vera Cruz when he established the Ayuntamiento, composed of his companions of the voyage. This organization was maintained during the time of Cortés' administration. Its duties were to found new cities, parcel out lands and farms among the colonists, establish markets, regulate sanitary conditions, and enforce the laws; thus standing between the natives and new settlers, who began to enter the country. Many of the rules and ordinances of the early Ayuntamientos are still in force.

On account of complaints which reached the court of Spain, against the rule thus established by Cortés, the king resolved to put the new country in the hands of a body of magistrates who should be obeyed by all the governors of provinces, representing the person of the monarch and enforcing his authority. The members of the first Audiencia arrived in Vera Cruz on the 6th of December, 1528. There were five of them; their president was Nuño de Guzman, a cruel and sanguinary man, whose despotism left the most bitter recollections throughout the country.[Pg 189] With his oidores, as the other members were called, he displayed the greatest cruelty toward the Indians, in direct disobedience to his instructions, which were to treat them with the greatest gentleness; he continued the traffic in slaves, by which he and his Audiencia expected to enrich themselves. They quarrelled with the ecclesiastics and religious orders, so that they were excommunicated by the bishop, in return for which they broke up by force a religious procession in the streets of the capital. In short, they made themselves intolerable alike to natives and colonists. Nuño de Guzman, finding himself thus unpopular, went away from Mexico in 1529, and paid a visit to Michoacan, where he strove to extort quantities of gold from Calzonzi, who, as we know, had hitherto escaped the violence of the invaders, and was living happily in his palaces of Tzintzuntzan and Patzcuaro, nominal sovereign of his Tarascans.

Calzonzi could not or would not satisfy the greed of the cruel Guzman, whereupon he was burned alive, as is shown in the same picture where he embraces the cross, in the town-hall of Tzintzuntzan. Nuño went away without any treasures or precious stones, and made war upon the natives of Jalisco, founding in that country a town which he called the Holy Ghost. This afterwards became Guadalajara, now one of the finest cities in the whole of Mexico.

This career of destruction and tyranny came to an end by the arrival of the second Audiencia, sent in response to the volume of complaints which reached the court of Spain. This second body had for its task to undo all that the first had done.

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It published a royal decree which declared all the Indians free, and condemned to death all those who had made slaves of them. It had the care of diffusing instruction among the natives, and establishing the teaching of Latin in a college founded for the education of the natives. Its authority was used only for beneficial ends, and was of good effect in calming the agitation caused by its predecessors. The archbishops and bishops, by their religious character, also exercised a great influence over both colonists and Indians, with whom they were objects of veneration and respect.

Complaints, however, still reached the court of Spain, which, weary of so much dissension, resolved to send a viceroy as the supreme head of the colony, to represent in every thing the person of the king, subject only to the orders received from home, and controlling all affairs, civil and military, connected with the government. Difficulties often arose from quarrels between the viceroy and the Audiencia, and in extreme cases the will of the latter prevailed, while advices from the parent government were on their way from Spain; but in general the functions of the Audiencias were from this time limited to the simple administration of justice.

The country of New Spain, at the time of the the arrival of the first viceroy, had a wide extent; large tracts at that time unknown, were afterwards explored and included in its territory, through colonization by settlers. These lands extended over the immense prairies of the north, and included Texas, Alta California, Louisiana, and New Mexico, which now belong to the United States.

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Antonio de Mendoza, Conde de Tendilla, was the first viceroy sent by Charles V. to New Spain. He arrived in the autumn of 1535.

He belonged to the great Spanish family of Mendoza, which counted twenty-three generations, and claimed descent from the Cid himself. Better than this, he had a well-balanced and moderate character, and governed the country with justice and generosity combined. He had no intention of enriching himself by his position, but at heart put the interests of the Spanish colonists before every other consideration, except those of the Indians, for whose welfare he had from the first a genuine regard. It would seem that Charles V., harassed as he was with the intrigues and difficulties of his own empire, already revolving the design which he put in practice later, of retiring from the world, had himself selected for his first representative in the new country a man whom he knew personally to be equal to the task, one not only of noble blood, but honorable character.

Mendoza set himself to reform the abuses which had already appeared, protected the Indians from the[Pg 192] humiliations which the newly arrived Spaniards were disposed to put upon them; he stimulated all branches of agriculture, and finding the natives were already well informed in the cultivation of land, he encouraged them in this pursuit by all possible efforts.

In order to develop the growth and manufacture of wool he caused sheep of fine breed to be brought from Spain; he encouraged the silk industry, and all employments coming from the productions of the earth, which the climate of Mexico greatly favors.

Before his arrival the Franciscan brotherhood had founded several convents. As early as 1521 Cortés, after the conquest of Tenochtitlan, had sent home an urgent request that priests should be sent from Spain to convert the heathen in the new province. For Cortés, through all his undertaking, earnestly regarded his mission as a crusade against the unbeliever; he never hesitated to destroy the temples and gods of the Aztecs, and his first step after victory was to forcibly baptize all his prisoners and the inhabitants of conquered cities into the Christian religion.

As soon as the knowledge of so wide a field was noised abroad, five missionaries of the Franciscan order started for New Spain. One of them was Fray Pedro, of Ghent, a nation of Flanders, who of all the early missionaries in Mexico was the most able and zealous. He was especially endeared to the Emperor Charles V. on account of the holiness and usefulness of his life, and from him he was greatly aided in his work by grants of land and sums of[Pg 193] money. Later twelve missionaries were sent out by order of the Emperor, and protected by a Bull from the Pope. These "twelve apostles of Mexico," as they are usually called, arrived in 1524. Their leader was Fray Martin de Valencia, who bore the title of Vicar of New Spain.

To the religious orders in Mexico is due in great measure the firm base upon which the government of Spain was established there. The new viceroy fully recognized this, and encouraged the foundations of colleges and schools already undertaken by them.

In every way he promoted the prosperity and growth of the country, and had the satisfaction in the course of his government, which lasted fifteen years, to see every thing bear the marks of his judgment and enterprise.

It was he who founded two cities which have reached great importance. The first was Guadalajara, near the site where Nuño de Guzman had established a town under the name Espiritu Santo, in the state of Jalisco. Mendoza removed it from its first situation to the one it now occupies. It has become one of the largest and most flourishing cities in Mexico, and at the present time it is one of the most interesting, because, as it has been until very lately remote from railroad communication, it has preserved all the early characteristics of Spanish-Mexican civilization which attended its foundation and first growth. There may still be seen many customs and peculiarities of old Spanish life, which are fast disappearing from the Peninsula. The citizens[Pg 194] are well educated, highly cultivated, with the manners of the pure hidalgo, and the houses contain relics and mementos of the past of Mexico, such as are nowhere else to be found.

Mendoza also founded the city of Valladolid, in the late kingdom of Michoacan, of which the poor King Calzonzi had lately been sacrificed to the greed of Nuño de Guzman. This latter received the just punishment for his cruelty. He was imprisoned in 1537, and shortly after died, "in misery and oblivion," says the chronicle.

The large province of Michoacan, now one of the states of Mexico, called by the same name, stretches from the state of Mexico to the Pacific ocean. It contains some of the most beautiful scenery to be found in the whole country, now revealed by the National Railway, which runs from the city of Mexico to Morelia, the capital of Michoacan, and farther on to Patzcuaro. The ultimate destination of the road is Colima, near the Pacific coast. The country of Michoacan was peopled by Tarascans, who, as we have seen, preserved their kingdom until after the Conquest. They have always been known for their sturdy independence, like other mountaineers, for their state is traversed by ridges of lofty hills, making picturesque effects of scenery. It was in suppressing the Indians of Michoacan and the neighboring Jalisco that the ferocious Pedro de Alvarado received a blow, from which he died in 1541.

Mendoza the better to civilize these turbulent tribes, chose a site for a city in the midst of their population. The royal parchment exists, sent from[Pg 195] Spain by Queen Juana, under the date of October 27, 1537, in which permission is given to the viceroy—"Insomuch as I am informed by the relation you have made to me, that in these lands you have found or discovered a most beautiful site towards the part of the Chichimecas, in the Province of Michoacan, in which, as it is a place both attractive and convenient, you wish to establish and found a city with more than sixty Spanish families and nine religious advisers, for this purpose acknowledging the service of God and of the Royal Crown, we give and concede faculty and license to the viceroy, Don Antonio de Mendoza, to establish and people the said city."

The day being fixed for the ceremonial of founding the city, all the pueblos in the neighborhood were summoned, and a great conference of people, both Indians and Spaniards, assembled to listen to the royal mandate, which was read aloud. Then the commissioners and the governors of the Indios kissed the parchment in sign of obedience; a mass was celebrated upon an altar, which had been improvised for the occasion under a canopy made of the branches of trees, for the ceremony took place in the open air. Thereupon followed festivities, which lasted several days; the plan of the city was laid out, and lots assigned to the "more than sixty families," who took possession at once.

Among the lists of these families, of which the names remain, is Don Diego Hurtado de Mendoza, a connection, we may assume, of the viceroy. Other noble families were later sent to occupy the new[Pg 196] city, so that Valladolid had every reason to hold itself high as a town of distinction.

It was named Valladolid after the birthplace of Mendoza in Spain, and called always Valladolid de Michoacan, in distinction from the town in the old country, until the name was changed, in this century, to Morelia, for reasons we shall understand better further on in the story.

It is hard to account for the presence in Mexico of the "more than sixty families," and many, many more which served as nucleus for all the cities founded by the Spaniards. In the prosperous condition of Spain at that time, when the empire of Charles V. was at the greatest period of glory, it is a question to solve why any noble families took the trouble to risk a perilous voyage, in those days long and, to say the least, uncomfortable, in order to make a new life in the recently conquered colony. Doubtless the reports given by the Conquistadores of the great wealth of the new land attracted many adventurers, who left their country for their country's good, thus seizing a short cut to wealth; but this does not account for whole families, in numbers sufficient to settle city after city over the newly grasped possessions in the hands of the viceroy. Religious liberty was not the motive, for here the strong arm of the Church was stretched as firmly as at home. As early as 1527 a royal order was issued, by which all Jews and Moors were banished from New Spain. The Inquisition was established in 1570, but although the auto da fé was of frequent occurrence during two centuries, the institution never[Pg 197] flourished with the vigor it acquired in the old country.

The city of Valladolid flourished exceedingly. Its native population to this day has the reputation of being industrious, docile, and self-restrained. While moderate, at the same time true to heroism, jealous of independence and liberty, restless under oppression, but easily led by gentleness and reason. The character of the Spanish families is hospitable, their manners open and attractive, while at the same time they are exclusive and tenacious of their birth, position, and religious belief.

The church of Michoacan was created by a bull of the Pope Paul III. in 1536. The queen of Spain decreed that a cathedral should be constructed in a suitable place, to be selected by the viceroy and the good Bishop Vasco de Quiroga, who was known as a friend of the Tarascans.

Among the members of the second Audiencia, which retrieved by its wisdom the evil deeds of Nuño and his assistants, was an eminent lawyer, the Licenciado Vasco de Quiroga. As the proceedings of Guzman were fresh in everybody's mind, he heard of them, and at once went into the neighborhood of Tzintzuntzan to relieve, if possible, the condition of the people of Calzonzi. They had fled in terror from their homes, deserting the towns and hiding in the mountains. Quiroga, with great perseverance and gentleness, found them out, and prevailed at last upon the poor Tarascans, who came to love him with passionate devotion. He lived among them until 1536, when he was made their bishop,[Pg 198] having been quickly passed through the successive grades of promotion necessary for that purpose, for he was, to begin with, a layman and not under orders. While still oidor of the Audiencia he assumed the cares of his office; by the end of the same year he had received all the necessary orders, from the tonsure to the priesthood.

The city of Tzintzuntzan was first selected for the foundation of the cathedral, as the pueblo of the largest population thereabout. It is now a forlorn Indian village, with straggling rows of adobe huts running down a slope towards the lonely Lake Patzcuaro. Pottery is made there by the simplest methods from clay which abounds in the neighborhood; the people are ignorant, gentle Indians, pursuing their humble lives with the content which characterizes the native Mexican. But behind an orchard of large old olive-trees neglected and decaying, is the parish church, which contains a wonderful picture, so wonderful as to be startling among such incongruous surroundings. In the sacristy, and lighted by one little window with small panes of glass, is a large and impressive canvas, representing the entombment of our Saviour. Surrounding the dead Christ are the Virgin, the Magdalen, St. John, and other figures, all life size. One of the figures in the background is said to be the bishop of Philip II., and tradition asserts positively that the picture is by Titian. The composition, grouping, and treatment are certainly like Titian, especially the introduction of a bit of landscape in the upper left-hand corner. It is possible that the picture is by the great master;[Pg 199] even if not, the interest attaching to it is great, for it is beautiful, whoever painted it, and far beyond, as well as utterly different from, many of the altar pieces and "old masters" which abound in Mexico without any value whatever. It is possible that Philip II. sent the picture, or more likely that before his time Charles V., who personally knew Quiroga, and possibly loved him, caused the picture to be sent him for his Indians by reason of his devotion to them, and the eloquence with which he reported their cause to his royal master. This would account for its being in the little church at Tzintzuntzan, where the documents say Quiroga was bishop only for one year. If Charles sent the picture, the likeness of Philip was taken before he had come to the throne, and was only Prince Imperial. As for its remaining at Tzintzuntzan, instead of finding a fit place in the cathedral of Morelia, the Indians have in every generation absolutely refused to have it removed. It would be a brave archbishop, or secular authority who should endeavor now to take it away from them. Unguarded, it hangs in the bare little sacristy, safe and uninjured by irreverent touch.

The cathedral was begun at Patzcuaro, and was to be, says the account, "so magnificent that it has entirely filled the imagination of all those who can remember it." But it was decided that the ground it was on was too near the lake to support so great a structure. In 1550 the king of Spain sent to command a suspension of the works, and it was finally built at Valladolid, where it now stands, a beautiful building, superior to the cathedral in the city of[Pg 200] Mexico. It was only completed in 1744. It stands in an open space between two plazas, where the effect of the two lofty well-proportioned towers is uninterrupted by other buildings. The Mexicans delight in church bells, and the towers of the Morelia cathedral are well provided with them, great and small, for all occasions. On a feast-day of the Church these bells are ringing continuously, filling the air of the town with their joyous clangor.

Cortés was away when the Viceroy Mendoza arrived in Mexico. He still retained his title of governor, with the same powers always conferred upon him; but his long absences from the capital made it necessary, as he fully recognized, that some other strong authority should be established there. Nevertheless, he never got on very well with such other authorities, and on his return soon became at odds with Mendoza, who, in his opinion, interfered with his prerogatives. It was then that Cortés bade farewell to his family, and taking with him his eldest son and heir, Don Martin, then eight years old, he embarked for Spain, leaving Mendoza undisturbed in the execution of his office.

It is evident that the rule of the viceroy was judicious and well adapted to grafting a new civilization upon the old. The native tribes were made peaceable without a great deal of contention, and by the adroit and gentle management of the viceroy, ably helped by the religious orders who came to his assistance, readily transferred their old beliefs to the mysteries and miracles of the Roman Catholic faith.

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There was genuine enthusiasm for the viceroy on the part of the Indians. On the Central Railway, about five hours out from the city of Mexico, is a station called Cazadero, which means "place for pursuing game." The name clings to it since 1540, when an immense hunt took place there upon the broad plain which stretches out in all directions. This hunt was a pleasant attention from the Indians to the viceroy to express their approval of his ways with them.

In 1536 was issued the first book printed in Mexico, on a press imported by Mendoza, and put into the hands of one Juan Pablos. In the same year both silver and copper coins were stamped, the latter in the form of an irregular polygon. In 1550 this good ruler sailed away from Mexico, where he had done so much to advance the interests of his royal master. He passed on to take charge of the government of Peru, by a practice which came to be quite common—a sort of diplomatic succession by which the viceroys of New Spain were promoted to the post at Peru.

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Don Luis de Velasco, second viceroy of New Spain, made his entrance into the capital with great pomp, at the end of the year 1550. He, like his predecessor, had been selected with care by the orders of Charles V., if not from his personal knowledge, and he brought to his new position qualities as admirable. His first decree was one liberating one hundred and fifty Indians from slavery, who were working chiefly in the mines, and when the objection was raised that this industry would be paralyzed by the step, he stated that the liberty of the Indians was of more importance than all the mines in the world, and that the rents due to the crown were not of such a nature that for them must be interrupted laws human and divine.

He established in Mexico, for the security of travellers upon the highway, the tribunal of the Holy Brotherhood, instituted in Spain for the same purpose in the time of Isabella. He founded the Royal University of Mexico, and the Royal Hospital for the exclusive use of the natives. He recognized the capacity of these Indians for developing lands hitherto uncultivated, and, in fact, favored them[Pg 204] by every means in his power, while he encouraged the development of all the resources of the country, especially the mines, of which some important discoveries were made in his time.

The building of the cathedral at Puebla was pushed with great activity under this viceroy, although the building was not finished until the middle of the next century.

Puebla de los Angeles, second in importance in all Mexico to Guadalajara only, receives its name from the tradition that before the light of Christianity was shed on New Spain, the heathen used to see visions of angels marshalled in mighty hosts in the heavens above the spot where the city stands. It is in the Province of Tlaxcalla, where Cortés found his first friends and stanch allies, on the highway between the coast and the capital.

Of the founding of the city a local chronicler writes that the illustrious Fray Julian Garces, the first bishop who came to Tlaxcalla, fully shared the project for establishing a town somewhere in these parts that might be a resting-place in the long and weary walk from the coast to the city of Mexico; yet he was uncertain in his mind as to where the town had best be, until one night in a vision he beheld a most lovely vega, a plain, bounded by the slope of the great volcanoes on the west, broken by two little hills, and dotted by many springs, and cut by two rivers which gave abundant water, and made all things fresh and green. And as he gazed in pleased amazement, the dream revealed two angels, who with line and rod were measuring boundaries on the ground, as if they were marking out the place for streets and squares, and for the founding of great buildings.

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Upon this the bishop awoke, and luckily coming in his search upon the very site that his vision had shown him, chose it for the place of Puebla de los Angeles.

The city is beautifully situated with fine views of the volcanoes; the pyramid of Cholula is eight miles from it. It is a purely Spanish town, founded at the earnest request of the Franciscan friars, who entreated to be allowed to make a town of Spaniards, who should cultivate the earth in the manner and fashion of Spain, without the assistance of Indian labor or the unworthy practice of Indian slavery, thus giving employment to many Spanish good-for-nothings who were going about the country without finding any thing for their hands to do.

The second Audiencia, in whose time the request was made, readily granted it, and the city was founded in 1532. Forty families of Spanish birth assembled, and the plan of the city was marked out, accompanied by the celebration of mass, as at Valladolid. The Indians of the surrounding towns willingly helped the Spaniards in great multitudes, bringing them materials for the first houses, and singing joyfully as they gave their assistance.

Puebla is so placed with regard to the capital that in the frequent battles of the country it has been time and again fought for or invested. During these periods it is to be feared that its angels have been sometimes compelled to avert their faces. Its[Pg 207] present name is Puebla de Zaragoza, in honor of the brave general who defended it against the French, on the 5th of May, 1862.

Thus the efforts of the viceroys were ably seconded by the zeal of the first ecclesiastics of the church of Mexico. Fray Juan de Zumárraga was the first bishop presented by the emperor to Pope Clement VII., in 1527. The next year he arrived at Vera Cruz, bearing the titles of bishop-elect and protector of the Indians, honors which he fairly earned by his interest in them and his devotion to their cause.

These holy men worked zealously with the natives and by adroitly substituting for their heathen superstitions, the legends and miracles of the Catholic Church succeeded in engrafting the new faith upon the old without violence. The Indians accepted readily the narration of the life of the Saviour, his miraculous power, his spotless life, his death upon the cross, but their favorite object of worship and reverence was from the first the Holy Virgin, the mother of Jesus. To her they transferred all the fervor of their idolatry. Her image has always been to them most sacred, her shrine the constant place for votive offerings of flowers, ribbons, and all small objects of familiar use. To the superstitious minds of these people, it was possible to introduce every form of miracle without danger of incredulity; they were soon closely bound to the Church by their faith in the supernatural interference of the heavenly powers, and above all of the Virgin. These superstitions still remain in Mexico, and are so closely held[Pg 208] by the Indians, that no government, however "advanced" in religious thought, has dared to interfere with certain rites and ceremonials, pieced upon their ancient garment of faith, in the earliest time of the first viceroys and bishops. The "twelve apostles," godly men who devoted their lives to Christianizing the Indians, have themselves become objects of tradition, and their deeds, as handed down from generation to generation, are as miraculous as any of those they revealed in their day to the simple and credulous Aztecs.

Of all the Apostles the memory of good Fray Martin de Valencia is most highly valued, and many are the traditions concerning his life and works.

An early history of the Indians of New Spain, written in 1541, tells of his life in Amecameca, an Indian village several hours by rail south of the capital, which still preserves all the simplicity of its earliest days. It was in existence long before the Conquest. The Spanish army stopped there a couple of days on their first approach to the city, kindly received by the Cacique in "large commodious stone buildings." Of these latter we must doubt. Near here, Fray Martin loved to dwell "because," as the narrative relates, "it is a very quiet place, most appropriate to prayer, for it is in the side of a little mountain, and is a devout hermitage. Close to this house is a cave devoted to and very suitable for the service of God. In this he used at times to give himself to prayer; and at times he used to go out of the cave into a grove, and amongst those trees there was one which was very large, under which he went to[Pg 209] pray early in the morning; and it is asserted that as soon as he placed himself there to pray, the tree swarmed with birds which by their songs made sweet harmony, through which he felt much consolation, and praised and blessed the Lord; and when he went away from there the birds went also; and so, after the death of this servant of God nevermore gathered there in this manner. Both these things were noted by many who used to hold converse there with the servant of God, as well seeing them come and go before him, as their not appearing after his death. I have been informed by a monk of good life that in this hermitage of Amecameca, there appeared to the man of God Saint Francisco and Saint Antonio, who leaving him much comforted departed from his presence."

"Just outside Amecameca, is a hill, rising abruptly from the plain and closely covered with a growth of ancient trees, some of them ahuehuetes which rival those at Chapultepec in size and venerable aspect. This hill is called the Sacro Monte; there is room for thinking that it was sacred to the Aztec deities even before the coming of the Spanish priests, and that they adopted it to carry on the traditions belonging to it. However, this may be, it was one of Fray Martin's favorite retreats for retiring sometimes to an oratory which he had made in a cave on the mountain, to give himself to special exercises of the highest contemplation and rigorous penance. He continued to labor in teaching the Indios, especially boys, for whom he manifested singular love; he remained there but little[Pg 210] time, because in the following year, 1533, he was attacked with the pneumonia which caused his death. This was accompanied by very particular circumstances. A few days before he fell ill, with a few brief words, being in Amecameca, he manifested to his companion that now had arrived the term of his life; and he not having understood this, very soon believed it by seeing the calentura of the servant of God. As the illness increased he was forced to conduct him to the convent of Tlalmanalco, where the evil having declared itself, the holy sacraments were administered. The holy man seeing this case, resolved to bear him to the infirmary of Mexico; and, in fact, upon shoulders of Indians, with much toil, they bore him to the shore at Ayotzinco, two leagues from the pueblo, and laid him in a canoa to carry him by the lake. Scarcely had he entered it when, feeling his hour arriving, he begged them to bring him to land. Yielding to his entreaties, they disembarked, although he was in a dying state, and putting himself upon his knees and causing them to recommend his soul to God, his spirit joined the Lord, falling into the arms of his companion, St. Antonio Ortiz, verifying the prophecy he had made many years before, in Spain, that he was to die in his arms in the middle of a field. As soon as the monks had notice of his death they took his corpse, and with millions of tears of their own and the Indians, gave it sepulture in the church in bare ground, without any precaution to preserve relics so precious. After some time the custodian learned this, and hastening to Tlalmanalco, had him exhumed,[Pg 211] and finding him in as good condition as when alive, putting the corpse in a box and separate sepulchre, had a great stone put over it with a corresponding epitaph.

"The body was afterwards secretly moved to the Cave of Amecameca, where it awaits the glorious day of triumph for saints and confusion to reprobates. Many miracles are related of the saint, but more than for these his name will be forever glorious in our country for his great virtues, and above all for the grand services which the order he founded for the glory of God had given to the Mexicans during more than three hundred years."

A further account confirms the devotion with which the Indians, encouraged by the padres, preserved the relics of the holy father.

"In this cave are guarded, night and day, by the Dominican monks, certain relics of this friar: a leather celicio, a coarse and rough tunic, and two chasubles of native linen cloth, in which the servant of God said mass; and on the other side is a great box, locked, which serves as the sepulchre of a wooden Christ.... This sainted man died in the year 1534 and was buried in the convent of Tlalmanalco, where his body remained untouched for the space of more than thirty years, since when it has not appeared, nor does any one know where it is nor who disturbed it." In fact, for fifty years the Indians of Amecameca guarded the relics with great devotion, but in secret, passing them from hand to hand, but without giving them up either to Franciscans or Dominicans, until in 1884 they were discovered by[Pg 212] the vicar, who collected them and put them in this chapel of the Sacro Monte.

The Indians of Amecameca and of all the surrounding pueblos greatly reverenced, with strange ceremonies, an image of Christ made by the Indians of Amecameca, and carefully preserved by them year after year. A legend states that long ago certain muleteers who were carrying this image to a southern town, missed the mule upon whose pack it had been placed. When the mule was discovered he was standing quietly in the cave upon the sacred mountain, surrounded by all the people of the town, who, conceiving the Christ had chosen their cave for his abode, purchased the image from the muleteers, and constructed for it in that spot a shrine, where it still remains after three centuries. A great pilgrimage is made to the shrine on the top of the sacred Mount. Every year, in Holy Week and on Ash Wednesday, the image is brought down to the parish church. The annual fair is held at this time in the Market Place, doubtless a continuation of some ancient Aztec festival in honor of the return of the Sun. All the country around assembles, and the culmination of the feast is on Good Friday, when the Christ is returned to his shrine on the mountain.

The good Viceroy Velasco died in 1564, having governed the country for fourteen years. Both Mexicans and Spaniards sincerely mourned his loss, giving him the affectionate title of the Father of the country.

During the government of this ruler and his predecessor all the administration of New Spain, political,[Pg 213] civil, and religious was established upon so firm a foundation that it could go on in daily action like a well regulated machine. An interregnum occurred, owing to the death of Velasco, which was filled by the government of the Audiencia, always on hand to come to the surface on such occasions. There were two years in which they had the management, but they did not succeed in very much deranging the harmony so well inaugurated by the two viceroys.

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Events in Spain underwent great changes during these years. On the 25th of October, 1555, Charles V., executed an instrument by which he ceded to his son, Philip II., the sovereignty of Flanders. It was in Brussels that the ceremony took place, with all the pomp and solemnity suited to it. On the following 16th of January, in the presence of such of the Spanish nobility as were at the court, the emperor gave up also the sovereignty of Castile and Aragon, and then retired to the Convent of Yuste, weary of the cares of government.

By this act, Philip became master of the most widely extended and powerful monarchy in Europe. He was king of Spain, comprehending under that name Castile, Aragon, and Granada, which, for centuries independent states, had been brought under one sceptre in the reign of his father, Charles V. He was king of Naples and Sicily, duke of Milan, lord of Franche Comté and the Low Countries; he had important possessions in Africa; in the true Indias he owned the Philippine and Spice Islands; and in America, besides his possessions in the West Indies, he was master of Mexico and Peru.

In all this multiplicity of affairs entailed upon the[Pg 215] sovereign, Philip II. has maintained the reputation for admirable management, constant attention to public affairs, and the strictest sense of justice. It may well be believed, however, that he had not the same interest in the remote acquisition to his territories which his father had. Charles knew Cortés personally; received the first exciting reports of the discovery of the new country and the rich gifts which were sent him as trophies and specimens of the advantages to be derived from the conquests. Philip had had no part in these things. Much of his early life was passed elsewhere, absorbed in other more closely personal events.

By the time he became king the exciting days of the Conquest were over. Cortés was dead. The government of New Spain was established. The vital interest to the monarch of Spain in his American colonies was to secure the large sums of gold and silver that were expected from them, and the mines of Peru by that time so far exceeded those of Mexico, that the latter had to take a second place.

Rumors of discontent that rose to him from the distant colony sounded to him "like a tale of little meaning, though the words were strong."

Under these circumstances, the character of the viceroys was lowered from the high standard adhered to when Charles the Emperor selected them himself. To follow the long list of them would be most tedious and useless, as they passed in rotation, governing according to the best of their lights for several years in Mexico, and then passing on, either by death or by promotion to Peru.

[Pg 216]

In 1571 the Inquisition was fully established, the period marked, by the way, with a formidable eruption of Popocatepetl, and the next year the Jesuits arrived.

The matter of the Inquisition had been under discussion for many years, a council, as early as the year 1529, having solemnly declared it to be "most necessary that the Holy Office of the Inquisition shall be extended to this land, because of the commerce with strangers here carried on, and because of the many corsairs abounding upon our coasts, which strangers may bring their evil customs among both natives and Castilians, who, by the grace of God, should be kept free from heresy."

The full fruit of the declaration ripened only in 1570, when Don Pedro Moya de Contreras was appointed Inquisitor-General, with head-quarters in the city of Mexico. The Indians were especially exempted from its jurisdiction, only heretics from other nations falling under the ban.

The Quemadero, a burning place in the city of Mexico, upon land since included in the Alameda, was a square platform in a large open space, where the spectacle could be witnessed by the population. The first auto-da-fé was celebrated in the year 1574, when, as its chronicler mentions cheerfully, "there perished twenty-one pestilent Lutherans."

From this time such ceremonies were of frequent occurrence, but the Inquisition never reached the point it did in Old Spain. Although large numbers undoubtedly perished in these, autos-da-fé, the number[Pg 217] of those actually burned to death was comparatively small and insignificant compared to that of the victims to this religious fury in Europe. Early in the present century the Holy Office was suppressed throughout Spain and all Spanish dependencies, and, although the Inquisition was again established, it was only for a short time.

Philip II. died just before the end of the century. With him ends the greatness of Spain, which from that time declined rapidly. Naturally the remote provinces felt the loosening of the firm hand which had controlled them, yet it is to be observed that the viceroys of New Spain under Philip III. were, for the most part, men of judgment and moderation. While the government at home, in the hands of profligate favorites, was growing weaker and weaker, that of Mexico was becoming more firmly established. Spanish blood had descended into a new generation, with Mexican habits, thoughts, and impressions. The national character, as always happens with colonists remote from their origin, was becoming modified into a new shape by change of climate and environment. Meanwhile the Indians were undoubtedly greatly improved by the genial influence of their new religion. They were like children, for it was not the intention of the Church to teach them to think, as they were only too ready to acquire the knowledge of how to obey.

In the beginning of the sixteenth century the city of Mexico was overwhelmed by inundations such as had from time to time caused the Aztecs great trouble. Their works were quite ineffectual against[Pg 218] the floods which invaded the city, and it was evident that some vigorous measure must be taken. There was question, once more, of removing the whole city to the solid ground of Tacubaya; but this plan was open to great objections.

The engineer Enrico Martinez offered a plan for the rescue of the city which was accepted. It was to reduce the highest of the several lakes belonging to the network in the valley of Mexico, by diverting its waters elsewhere, and thus prevent its overflow. Work was begun in 1607. Fifteen thousand Indians were set to sinking shafts at intervals in order to bore a tunnel, to lead off the water, more than four miles long, and eleven feet wide by thirteen in height. It was completed in eleven months, and the event was celebrated by the presence of the viceroy himself with great pomp, who gave the first stroke with his spade. Mass was said, and there were great rejoicings. This cut was call the desaguë of Huehuetoca, a small village near the hills of Nochistongo.

The canal proved too small, and several schemes were tried for enlarging and strengthening it, with varying and moderate success. The novelty of the enterprise having worn out, people began to think, during a series of dry years, that the peril from the lakes after all was not so great. The engineer Adrian Boot was sent from Spain to visit the canal of Huehuetoca; having done so, he qualified it as insufficient, in which he shared the opinion of those who had not come so far. He failed in making it more efficacious, for, in 1629, came another inundation.[Pg 219] In 1614, the rainy season having set in with unusual violence, Martinez, the engineer, himself gave orders to close the mouth of the tunnel, perhaps to rouse the people to its importance, and the importance of not neglecting it. The result was frightful. The whole city was instantly under water, and for five years it was converted into an unwilling Venice, during which the streets were passable only in boats.

Martinez, who was put in prison for blocking the tunnel, was released in order to open it again. This he did, and erected a strong dyke which afforded some relief, but inundations were always recurring at intervals, until the whole plan of the work was altered by an open cut to replace the tunnel. This work was undertaken vigorously in 1767, and pressed to a conclusion by 1789. The tajo of Nochistongo, as it is called, can be seen from the Central Railway, whose track runs through it, at an elevation of fifty feet or more above the stream.

Owing to such drainage, and the process of evaporation, the large lake of Texcuco has greatly subsided, and the waters which surrounded Tenochtitlan have given place to nothing more than a marsh.

The lovely river Lerma, which winds through the valley of Toluca, with fine views of a beautiful mountain, the Nevada de Toluca, bears the name of the worthless favorite of Philip III.

This Philip died, and his son, Philip IV., succeeded him, continuing the line of royal favorites, and spending the imported wealth of Mexico and Peru in the extravagances of his court, and the exhausting[Pg 220] demands of frequent wars with England, Holland, and France. He left the crown to his son, Charles II., who died without an heir in 1700; and then began the troublous wars of the Succession, which involved the whole of Europe. This ended the reign of the house of Austria. The king whose cause triumphed was a Bourbon, Philip V., and Bourbons continued to reign in Spain until the latter half of the present century.

Mexico took no part in the war of succession. When Charles II. died, the ruling viceroy was the Conde de Moctezuma, whose title was from his wife, the great-great-great-granddaughter of the last emperor of the name. Events in Europe caused no disturbance in his mind; he quietly went on ruling, and awaited the result. It has been said that Philip the Bourbon at one time thought of running away from his difficulties at home, and taking refuge in Mexico.

Only one more of the viceroys need be mentioned, the Conde de Revillagigedo, Don Juan Vicente de Güemes Pacheco de Padilla, whose deeds are worth remembering. He found the city in 1787 in a wretched condition, unlighted, undrained, unpaved. Even a part of the viceregal palace was useless, being occupied by the stalls of Indian women selling things to eat, such as tortillas, and mole. The viceroy corrected all these disorders, both in the accounts and the morality of the metropolis.

Revillagigedo was honored for his justice, renowned for his energy, and feared for his severity; at the same time he was extremely eccentric, and[Pg 221] many anecdotes survive of his day. It is said he had the habit, like Montezuma and Haroun al Raschid, of going about incognito, with one or two aides-de-camp, to detect abuses in order to correct them. Walking one evening in the Calle San Francisco, he met a monk taking his pleasure much after the hour permitted for monks to be abroad. The viceroy went directly to the convent, where, on making himself known, he was received by the abbot with all due respect.

"How many monks, father, have you in your convent?" he asked.

"Fifty, your Excellency."

"There are now only forty-nine. Call them over and see which is the missing brother, that his name may be struck out."

The list was produced, the roll was called, and only forty-five monks presented themselves. By the order of the viceroy, when the five appeared they were refused admission to the convent, and never permitted to return.

A poor Indian came to the viceroy and told him he was in difficulty, reproached with stealing some money. He said he had found a bag full of golden ounces in the street, and seeing an advertisement containing the promise of a handsome reward for the finder, he carried them to the person therein mentioned as the owner. The Don received the bag, and counted the ounces. In doing so, not unobserved by the Indian, he slipped two into his pocket, and then accused the poor man of having stolen a part of the money, and turned him out of the house as a thief and a rascal.

[Pg 222]

The viceroy kept the Indian while he immediately sent for the Don, and asked him to relate the circumstances.

"May it please your Excellency, I lost a bag of gold. This Indian brought it to me in hopes of a reward, but he first stole part of the contents, and I drove him from my house."

"Stay," said the viceroy, "there is some mistake here. How many ounces did you have in your bag?"


"And how many are there here?"


"Count them down. I see it is as you say. The case is clear, we have all been mistaken. Had the Indian been a thief he would never have brought back the bag and kept two ounces; he would have kept the whole. It is evident this is not your bag, but another which this poor man has found. Continue to search for yours. Good-morning."

And sweeping up the gold pieces he gave them to the Indian to keep for himself.

Many such tales are still current of this kind, eccentric viceroy. He rendered substantial services to the country, and especially to the city of Mexico, which continued to maintain the better standard for cleanliness and order he introduced. Revillagigedo was calumniated and persecuted by certain enemies, and withdrew to Spain in 1794.

Mexico during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries offers no picturesque situations to describe at length. In fact, the history of the country is like some pictures with admirable background and sky[Pg 223] full of clouds and light, the foreground crowded with emotional detail, all of great interest, but absolutely lacking in middle distance.

The early study of Mexico is, to those who can view it from its romantic side, and put up with its troublesome, unpronounceable names, as attractive as the landscape of the plateau, where the two lofty volcanoes, snow-capped, are enhanced by the movement of heavy clouds, and the play of sunshine on their lineaments. In the foreground may be seen well-built cities, with the domes and towers of many a church, regular streets, pleasant plazuelas shaded with trees, bright and perfumed with flowers. Between, there is nothing but a level plain, its monotony scarcely relieved by rows of maguey with stiff, bristling leaves. We will hasten over the uninteresting plain, and come to the emotional foreground.

There were in all sixty-four viceroys, beginning with Don Antonio de Mendoza, 1535, and ending with Juan O'Donojú in 1822. For nearly three centuries they ruled New Spain, and ruled it pretty well, according to their lights and those from whom they received their authority.

[Pg 224]



In the time of Iturrigaray, very near the close of the viceregal period, a little while before Napoleon invaded Spain, Alexander von Humboldt visited Mexico. He was a close observer of men and customs, as well as of the natural phenomena belonging to his scientific explorations. His account of the country gives a good idea of the state of society in Mexico at the time he was there, and records the progress it had reached under Spanish rule, in the hands of the viceroys. The revolutions, then so soon about to begin, destroyed much of this civilization; from the ruin brought by many a battle and riot, the country is yet but slowly recovering. We may study the description of Humboldt as we might an old daguerreotype, somewhat faded, but preserving forms and images in reality passed away.

[Pg 225]


Humboldt and his friend, Bonpland, a botanist, left Europe in the early summer of 1799, armed with all sorts of scientific instruments, with letters and passports to admit them everywhere, for an extended journey of scientific exploration in America. After nearly three years in South America, they left it for Mexico, arriving by water at Acapulco at the beginning of 1803. Acapulco is on the Pacific Coast in the state of Guerrero. Humboldt had letters from the court of Spain, which gave him every facility then accessible for travelling in Mexico. They passed through Cuernavaca, stopping to see the monument of Xochicalco in its vicinity. Humboldt notes the heads of crocodiles spouting water carved among the ornaments of this temple, with the comment that it was strange to find such figures employed on a plain four thousand feet[Pg 226] above the sea and away from the haunts of these creatures, instead of the plants and animals belonging to the neighborhood.

Without delay Humboldt and his companion reached the capital, where they were delighted with all they saw. The Academy of Fine Arts was then in a flourishing condition. Government had assigned it a spacious building, and it had a collection of casts, finer, Humboldt says, than was at that time to be found in Germany.

A small school of engraving was opened in the Mint, as early as 1779, by royal order. General interest in this school became so great as to lead the Viceroy Mayorga to project an academy of the three fine arts, painting, sculpture, and architecture. In 1783, under the rule of the good Galvez, royal approval was granted, and license was given for the existing institution under the name of: "Academia de las Nobles Artes de San Carlos de la Nueva España."

The academy was formally opened with suitable ceremony in 1785, removed a few years later to the building it still occupies. Charles III. himself sent the collection of casts admired by Humboldt. For twenty years it flourished in the hands of competent artists sent from the mother country. Then the end of that protection, and the turbulent days of civil war, disturbed its even tenor.

Humboldt says that every night in its spacious halls, well illumined by Argand lamps, hundreds of young men were assembled, some sketching from plaster-casts or from life, others copying designs of[Pg 227] furniture, candelabra, and bronze ornaments; admission was free to all; class, colors, and races were mingled together; the Indian beside the white boy, the son of the poorest mechanic beside that of the richest lord. In 1839 all this was changed. Madame Calderon described the casts as mutilated, the engravings injured, and the building in disorder and abandoned. In this state it remained until the return to power of Juarez, since when, with an annual allowance of $35,000, the institution is doing fairly well. The name is changed to the "National School of Fine Arts"; prizes are given for good work; all teaching is free.

The equestrian statue of Charles IV. was completed just at the time of Humboldt's visit. He was present when it was cast, and saw it on its way to the plaza.

The Cathedral was then new, and its massive towers, with the fine plaza in front of it, excited the admiration of the enthusiastic traveller. A few years only before his visit, the great idol, Teoyamiqui, had been discovered, in the time of the eccentric Viceroy Revillagigedo; he would have placed it in the University, but the professors there were unwilling to have it seen by Mexican youths, and they buried it again in one of the corridors of the Colegio. They were persuaded to dig it up in order that Humboldt should see and make a sketch of it.

The Aztec calendar, the stone of sacrifice, and the manuscripts in hieroglyph much interested the great man, but more the natural attractions of the city.[Pg 228] One of his favorite haunts was Chapultepec, then in good order, as it was left by the Viceroy Galvez, who first made a pleasure-house there, where Humboldt delighted in the broad view of plain and volcano. He loved to go, as every one does now, to the market-place, to see the stalls of the Indians all hung with verdure. No matter what they sell—fruit, roots, pulque—their booths are ornamented with flowers. He describes the hedge a yard high of fresh herbs and delicate leaves built around the fruit-stalls, and the garlands of flowers, which divided the alleys of the market, spread upon the ground with little nosegays stuck at intervals, making a sort of carpet of flowers. The fruit, in small cages of wood, was ornamented on top with flowers. He describes the pretty sight, at sunrise, of the Indians coming along the Viga Canal in boats loaded with fruits and flowers, from Istacalco and Chalco; and gives an account of the chinampas, or floating gardens, on the marshy banks of these lakes. This invention is attributed to the early Aztecs, who cultivated the ground on loose tracts of earth, bound together by roots which were either driven about by the winds or moored to the shore. Similar ones, he says, are to be met with in all the zones. In our day the chinampas do not float, but have the appearance of low, wet gardens, intersected by many channels of water; they are, however, pretty patches of gay flowers cultivated, with vegetables, for the city market, and a trip to Santa Anita, over the still waters of the Viga, must not be omitted from the excursions around Mexico; the scene is charming in itself, and haunted moreover[Pg 229] by the long succession of gentle Indians, who for centuries have heaped their boats with flowers, and floated over the dark water chanting low songs.

Humboldt went to inspect the pyramids of the sun and moon at Teotihuacan, and afterwards gave a prolonged study to mines, visiting first Moran and Real del Monte, northeast of the capital, and afterwards Guanajuato. Long before the arrival of the Spaniards, the natives of Mexico were acquainted with the working of subterranean veins to find metal. Cortés says that gold, silver, copper, lead, and tin were all sold in the markets of Tenochtitlan. They either collected grains of native gold in small baskets of slender rushes, or melted the metal into bars, like those now used in trade, represented in Mexican paintings. Humboldt found the methods of mining not advanced from the sixteenth century, without any of the improvements known in his time. The hard work was performed by Indians, the beasts of burden of the mines. They carried out the metal in bags on their backs, going up and down thousands of steps, in long files of fifty or sixty, men of seventy years old, and children of ten or twelve.

The mine of Valenciana, in Humboldt's time the most celebrated of Guanajuato, and the richest then known in Mexico, was not much wrought until the end of the eighteenth century, although it had been somewhat worked by the early Indians and the first Spanish settlers. In 1760, a poor man named Obregon, a Spaniard, began to explore a new vein. As he was a worthy man, he found friends willing to advance small sums from time to time to carry on his[Pg 230] work. For several years the cost was much greater than the produce, but the pit grew rich as it became deep, and at last yielded quantities of sulphuretted silver. When Obregon, or, as he came to be called, the Count of Valenciana, began to work the vein, goats were browsing over the hill-tops all about the ravine of San Xavier. Ten years after, on the same spot, the climbing streets of Guanajuato sheltered a large population; and at present it is a flourishing city, surrounded by a region all rich in minerals. The produce from the mine at Valenciana has fallen behind that of other later veins, and scarcely covers the outlay.

Humboldt went from Guanajuato to Valladolid, which had not yet changed its name in honor of the mule-driver, Morelos, who had, however, already begun to study in the Colegio of San Nicholas. Valladolid was a small city of eighteen thousand inhabitants. Humboldt says it contained nothing worthy of notice, but an aqueduct and a bishop's palace. He could not fail to admire the lofty picturesque arches of that aqueduct of warm yellow stone, whose long lines vanish in perspective, shaded by great ash trees. He does full justice to the beauty of Patzcuaro, which he declares would alone have repaid him for his voyage across the ocean. Humboldt spent some time there, and his memory of his visit is still preserved in the name of a lofty hill overlooking the lake, named Humboldt's mountain. The hospitable, courteous citizens of Patzcuaro still point out with pride his favorite points of view. They fully appreciate, as he did, the attractions of their lovely lakes.

[Pg 231]

The volcano Jorullo, twenty leagues south of Patzcuaro, was first made known to men of science in Europe by Humboldt's account of it.

In the middle of the eighteenth century the site of this volcano was covered with peaceful fields of sugar-cane, cotton, and indigo, watered by artificial means, belonging to the plantation of San Pedro de Jorullo. In June, 1759, for the first time, hollow noises from under the ground began to make themselves heard, and in September a tract of ground three or four square miles in extent humped up like a bubble. Thick vapors, smoke, and flames were seen to issue from this area, which rose and fell like the ocean. Large masses of rock and earth sprung up as if from a chasm, and the highest of these developed into a volcano, which burned steadily, throwing up lava and hot ashes for several months.

The Indians were greatly terrified by such a spectacle, as well they might be. Flames were seen at Patzcuaro, and even at Querétaro, many miles away. The roofs of houses were covered with ashes, and the rich plantations of San Pedro reduced to a barren plain. They believed that some missionary monks who were ill received at the plantation poured out horrid imprecations upon the fertile spot, and prophesied that it should be swallowed up by flames rising out of the earth. Whether these vindictive monks had anything to do with it or no, the hacienda of Jorullo was destroyed, all the trees thrown down and buried in sand and ashes from the volcano. The field and roads were covered with sand, crops destroyed, and flocks perished, unable to drink the infected water.

[Pg 232]

The eruptions grew gradually less and ceased during the following year, but the mountain, with its extinct crater, remains in the place of the once fertile hacienda.

Humboldt and his companion inspected also the great volcano, the pyramid of Cholula, and the picturesque town of Jalapa. They left Mexico by the port of Vera Cruz, and went to Havana, spending nearly a year in the United States.

[Pg 233]



Mexico could not always remain indifferent to the current of events in Spain. Changes which shook Europe to its uttermost limit raised a tempest whose waves broke with violence even on the remote shores of the province.

Spain, after Philip V., was governed by three of his sons in succession, the last of whom, Charles III., held the throne until 1788. He was a prince of excellent intentions and blameless morals, and through his ministers he brought the country to a degree of prosperity to which it was little accustomed since the days of Philip II.

His good works extended as far as Mexico, where he caused to be founded, in the capital, the Academy of Fine Arts, still in existence. His memory in the days of the viceroys was preserved in New Spain as that of the greatest and wisest of monarchs. His son, Charles IV., succeeded him. It must not be forgotten that the Emperor Charles V. was Charles I. of Spain—fifth Charles only of those of Austria.

Charles IV., in no sense a relative of Charles V., being a Bourbon with instincts and traditions wholly[Pg 234] different, was a weak and pitiful sovereign. During his reign came the French Revolution, following close upon the Declaration of Independence of the United States of North America, events which gave cause for reflection to all vassals of crowned heads, and especially to all colonized provinces remote from their heads. Yet Mexico remained loyal in spite of the petty tyranny of the viceroy sent from the court of Charles, Branciforte, an Italian adventurer of low bearing and reputation, who obtained his appointment through the interest of the royal favorite Godoy, "Prince of Peace." This viceroy requested permission to erect a statue of his royal master in the Plaza Mayor of the Mexican capital, nominally himself assuming the charges of the work, though nearly the whole expense finally came upon the city and private individuals. It is an equestrian statue cast in bronze. The king is dressed in classic style, wearing a laurel wreath, and in his hand he holds a raised sceptre. Thus a pretentious statue of a sovereign for whom they cared nothing was forced upon the Mexicans, while his predecessor, Charles III., was left without such honor.

In 1822 the statue was inclosed in a great wooden globe painted blue, so that the sight of a tyrant in his robes need not offend the new-born patriotism of the city. But such feelings have now passed away, and it stands in the plazuela for the observation of loyalist or rebel.

Charles had a son, Ferdinand, with whom, as is frequent in the history of crown princes, he could not agree. Thus when Napoleon Bonaparte, who, passing[Pg 235] from conquest to conquest, turned his attention to Spain, both father and son sought the aid, or at least sympathy, of the great conqueror in their family quarrel. Accepting this pretext for intervention, Napoleon carried his armies into the peninsula in 1808. The king and court fled from Madrid, with the intention, very decided for a short time, of seeking refuge in Mexico. This project fell through. Charles abdicated in favor of his son, Prince Ferdinand, who became Ferdinand VII. But Napoleon wanted no Ferdinand VII., and made him renounce the crown. French troops took possession of the capital, and Joseph Bonaparte governed Spain under the title of king until 1813. But the Spanish people resisted the French invasion. Councils were assembled, assuming royal authority, to govern in the name of Ferdinand. This was the beginning of the Juntas which have since played so important a part in Spanish affairs at home and in her colonies.

We will not follow the matter in Spain further than to add that she was freed from the burden of the Bonapartes by the aid of the English in 1814. A year after, the power of Napoleon was at an end.

The Bourbon dynasty was restored in Spain, as well as in France, and Ferdinand VII. was reinstated, with limited powers, however, for in the course of this period of agitation the Spanish people had tasted the cup of independence, and the ancient arbitrary rule of monarch and favorite was no longer tolerated by them. The Marquis of Branciforte, no longer viceroy, declared himself in favor of Joseph Bonaparte, and emigrated to France. His Mexican[Pg 236] property was confiscated later and handed over to the authorities.

Here we must leave Spain to fight her own battles.

In the beginning of the new century, Don José de Iturrigaray took possession of the viceregal seat. He was a man of public spirit, and an excellent ruler. He greatly improved the highroad from Vera Cruz to the capital, built the Puente del Rey, since called the National Bridge, protected commerce, and encouraged home industry. He organized a militia, greatly developed the army, and showed himself devoted to the interests of his charge.

But the audiencia then existing, and many Spaniards, as soon as the news of Napoleon's invasion of Spain reached them, imagined that Iturrigaray, who had thus brought the army to an available condition, had conceived the idea of seizing Mexico, and assuming an independent crown for himself. Acting upon this idea, they rose in revolt, took possession of the palace and seized Iturrigaray and all his family, shutting him up in the fortress of San Juan de Ulóa, until opportunity offered to send him back to Spain. An old marshal of the army, Garibay, was made viceroy in his place, but he ruled but a few months, when the central Junta of Spain ordered him superseded by the Archbishop of Mexico. Whatever were the rights of this question, the act of revolt set an example persistently followed in Mexico through the first half of this century. In this experience it was discovered how easy it was to overturn a government; the Mexicans, delighted with their success, wondered why they had never done it before. In[Pg 237] this first case, it was the Spaniards, of pure blood, who took the matter into their own hands.

Revolt, independence, were in the air. The policy of Spain had been rigorous in the extreme. Enormous taxes oppressed the people, the colonists had no voice in the making of the laws, which were arbitrary; and their exaction depended on the cruelty or generosity of the reigning viceroy. These rulers, constantly changing, had no opportunity to incorporate themselves with the people. At the best, it was a rule of strangers, in which the individuality of the colony had no chance. Pure Spaniards alone constituted society in Mexico; those of mixed blood were regarded with contempt; while the Indians, native to the soil, counted for nothing.

It was inevitable, then, that revolutions in Mexico should follow those in the rest of the civilized world, but it was hard upon the public-spirited Iturrigaray that its first outburst should fall upon his head. Great agitation followed, and the Archbishop of Mexico had hard work to make good his title received from the Junta Central. He was superseded by the Regency established at home, and Don Francisco Venegas entered the capital as viceroy in 1810.

[Pg 238]



Miguel Hidalgo was born in the rancho of San Vicente, between the eastern shore of the river Turbio and the hacienda of Cuitzeo de los Naranjos, in the jurisdiction of Penjamo in Guanajuato, on the 8th of May, 1753, the day of the archangel Miguel, whom we call Saint Michael. His father was a well-to-do farmer, Christobal Hidalgo y Costilla, and his mother, Ana Maria Gallega. Miguel was baptized on the 16th of the same month of the year, in the chapel of Cuitzeo de los Naranjos, and passed his childhood at home with his parents. At a proper age he was sent to school in Valladolid, at the Colegio de San Nicholas, where he pursued his studies until he came to be head of the institution. This school was founded by the good Bishop Quiroga, at the time the Cathedral was transferred from Tzintzuntzan, and was therefore one of the first in the country. This fact, and the greater one, that the Benemérito cura Hidalgo not only taught but lived within the walls, where no doubt he first formed his ideas of independence, makes Morelia very proud of its seminary.

[Pg 239]


[Pg 240]

Miguel went to Mexico in 1779 to take sacerdotal orders and the degree of bachelor in theology. This was but three years after the declaration of independence in the United States. He served as curate in several places, and on the death of his brother Joaquin received the curacy of the little pueblo of Dolores.

He was a man of intellectual gifts, and good instruction. He knew French, which was uncommon at that time in his class, and his opinions on all subjects were advanced beyond the average of the period.

His predilection was the pursuit of agriculture, and at Dolores it was his pleasure to cultivate the vine and the mulberry. He established a manufacture of bricks and earthenware in the place, and made himself generally beloved by his gentle and affable deportment, notwithstanding his radical ideas, which were regarded as extreme by his people. In the year 1800, he was denounced before the Committee of the Inquisition for maintaining dangerous opinions, without, however, any serious result. Bold schemes he formed for the rescue of his country from the bondage in which she was held by Spain. In the solitude of his pueblo his strong, well-trained glance fixed itself upon the light which was flooding the world from the rising republic on his own continent. This man, sprung from the people, dared to think of a government by the people. He longed to throw off the yoke, not only of an alien government, but of a haughty class. He wanted Mexico to be Mexico, and not a helpless dependency of a rapidly deteriorating Spain.

[Pg 241]

Such dreams and ideas Hidalgo imparted to a few other persons, and they became plans. Those who talked these things fell under suspicion, and in Querétaro, an attempt was made to seize a small knot of such men. They were warned, and fled or concealed themselves. Hidalgo, hearing of this, instead of following their example, determined to delay no longer, but to declare independence at once. In this resolve he was supported by another patriotic spirit.

Ignacio Allende was born in San Miguel el Grande the 20th of January, 1779. His father was a Spaniard, Narciso Allende, his mother, Mariana Uraga. Of a noble family, with wealth and good position, he was destined for a soldier, and reached the grade of captain of dragoons.

Fired by the ideas of independence which were smouldering everywhere, Allende made frequent visits to Hidalgo, and with him planned the details for the important step they were meditating. Two officers in the regiment of Allende were of his opinion, and became confidants of the plan.

On the night of the 15th of September, 1810, roused by Allende or Aldama, another of the plotters, Hidalgo rose from his bed, dressed himself quietly, and calling his brother to his aid, with ten armed men, besides their few friends, went straight to the prison and liberated certain men, arming them with swords. This was Saturday night, or rather the dawn of Sunday. At early mass, all the parish were informed of what had happened, and every countryman in the neighborhood took the[Pg 242] side of Hidalgo, who thus became the leader, if not of an army, at least of a respectable force of Mexicans. The little band hastened to San Miguel el Grande, which they reached before nightfall the same day.

This movement, started by Hidalgo, is called the Grito de Dolores. The little body of eighty men, which soon increased to three hundred, bore for a banner a picture of the Holy Virgin of Guadalupe, belonging to a little village church. Their cry, the Grito, was "Up with True Religion, and Down with False Government."

Nothing like this had happened ever before in Mexico. That common men, not appointed by the court of Spain, should dare to have an opinion about letters, religion, or government was a thing unheard of. For a while amazement prevented any vigorous steps against them. At San Miguel, the regiment of Allende joined the little band, and a crowd of laborers from the field, armed with slings, sticks, and spades. Out of this raw material Hidalgo organized an army, with himself at its head under the title of general, and Allende as his lieutenant.

At Celaya, their numbers had increased to fifty thousand men—some say more. With such a force and supported by the enthusiasm which prevailed, Hidalgo resolved to march upon Guanajuato, an already rich and flourishing city, the capital of the second largest mining state in Mexico. It is built in a deep, narrow ravine, the houses crowded in steep streets like stairways.

Its inhabitants saw with terror and astonishment[Pg 243] a mass of men advancing towards it, armed with strange weapons, but holding the order and discipline of an organized army. The Spaniards, that is the representatives of government, resolved to defend the town, and prepared for the attack.

The Independents were driven back several times. The besieged had entrenched themselves in the strong place, Alhóndiga de Grenaditas, used for storing grain, with the governor of the town at their head; and there defended themselves so well that things were going badly for their opponents, until a little boy, called Pipita, on all fours, with a lighted brand in his hand, shielding himself with a flat tile torn up from the pavement, succeeded in reaching the great gate and setting fire to it, in spite of the bullets which fell about him. Amidst the blaze, the insurgents seized the stronghold by force of arms, and killed or made prisoners all within it. The populace of Guanajuato rose, rushing about the streets and sacking houses and shops. Hidalgo, however, succeeded in restoring order by severe edicts. He established himself in this his first stronghold, to collect supplies of arms and money for his volunteer host. The whole province of Guanajuato declared in his favor, and three squadrons of the regiment del Principe swelled the numbers of his troops.

Just before, on the 13th of September, a new viceroy had arrived in the city of Mexico, little thinking what the nature of his new duties were to be, or that he should be so soon called upon to execute them. Don Francisco Javier Venegas, lieutenant-general of[Pg 244] the Spanish forces, had distinguished himself in the war between the armies of Spain and Napoleon. He sailed away from confusion at home, and imagined, very likely, that he was going to settle down to the peaceable monotony of a life in the provinces. He began by calling a Junta of prominent persons in the capital, and among other things proclaimed to them that the Regency of Spain begged the aid of money from their loyal Americans to sustain the war against Napoleon.

Three days afterwards independence was declared in the Grito de Dolores. The viceroy learned that Mexico was not behind the age in revolutions, and that he must call upon his military skill to suppress a formidable rising in its cradle. He ordered all the troops then in garrison at Mexico to Querétaro, increased these forces with rural troops, and sent for marines to Vera Cruz, while he summoned forces from San Luis Potosi, at the north, and even those of Guadalajara, in the west, to hold themselves in readiness.

He further published a decree of the Regency, liberating all Indians from taxation, and put a price upon the heads of Hidalgo, Allende, and Aldama of ten thousand dollars, promising also indulgence to such Independents as should at once lay down arms.

The Mexican clergy allied themselves with the civil authorities on this issue; the bishops excommunicated Hidalgo and his companions, and furious sermons were preached against them in the churches. The Inquisition renewed all the charges against[Pg 245] Hidalgo which they had found in 1800, and cited him to appear before them. Yet his cry was not against religion, but bad government. The Bishop of Michoacan also excommunicated him, and set at once upon preparing the defence of Valladolid as soon as he heard the echo of the Grito de Dolores.

In fact, excomunication from various dioceses rattled round the heads of the insurgents, who kept on their way little heeding so much mighty sound.

On the 17th of October the Independent troops entered Valladolid without resistance, the valiant bishop having fled to Mexico at the first sign of his approach, together with the civil and military authorities, and many Europeans settled in that hitherto peaceful town. Hidalgo compelled the canons in the absence of the bishop to remove the excommunication fulminated against him and his companions. He established his authority in the place, and in ten days, with his ever-swelling army, took the bold step of advancing upon the capital.

As this terrible band approached, the inhabitants of Mexico, remembering Guanajuato, were filled with fear. Some hid their plate in the convents; others hid themselves; many fled the city. The brave and military viceroy sent his army forward, commanded by Trujillo. Upon the Monte de la Cruces, outside of the city, the forces met, and a terrible battle ensued. The insurgents were swept by the fire of their opponents' artillery; but their immense numbers bore up against all resistance, inspired by enthusiasm in the cause, and triumphed completely, the soldiers of the viceroy abandoning the field with many losses.[Pg 246] The commanding general, Trujillo, owed his life to his excellent horse, which bore him swiftly back to Mexico. Had Hidalgo marched immediately upon Mexico, then in a state of panic and confusion most advantageous to his cause, it might have been for him the victorious end of the struggle. Unfortunately, he decided to withdraw towards Querétaro, fearing the approach of reinforcements from the capital.

In fact, at Aculco he was vigorously attacked by the division of Calleja arriving from the north, and, after a hot combat, the insurgents were overcome, losing all their artillery and many men. The huge army melted, and Hidalgo went back to Valladolid with but a handful of men.

Calleja followed Allende to Guanajuato, where he attacked him with the same vigor, so that he was obliged to abandon the city and retreat to Zacatecas, which had already proclaimed independence. A cruel retaliation was taken by Calleja upon the inhabitants of Guanajuato.

Hidalgo again assembled an army, and went to Guadalajara, where the Independents had already declared themselves. No sooner had he left Valladolid than it was again occupied by royalist troops.

In Guadalajara Hidalgo organized a government, taking for himself the title of Generalissimo, and appointing ministers. He sent immediately a commissioner to the United States Government; but this emissary had not gone far before he was seized and made prisoner by the Spaniards. Hidalgo exerted himself vigorously to collect arms and[Pg 247] means for reorganizing his army. But the royalists, with equal energy and resources far better, had their forces ready to advance under the orders of Calleja, while Hidalgo's army were still in the rough. Nevertheless he resolved to attack without waiting for the royalists, against the opinion of Allende and others, who thought the risk too great. He sallied from Guadalajara with his large but undisciplined force on the 16th of January, to the Puente de Calderon, whence at the fall of evening could be discerned the regular troops of Calleja, to the number of ten thousand men, in the best discipline, and perfectly armed and equipped. The next day was fought the battle of Calderon.

The result was a foregone conclusion. The insurgents fought bravely; the battle was undecided for some hours, but the rout was complete, the vanquished Independents retreating in all directions.

Calleja entered Guadalajara. The insurgents were put down in various places, and the revolution for the time was suppressed.

Hidalgo set forward towards Zacatecas. On the way, he encountered Allende, Jimenez, and other chiefs of the insurrection, who had escaped with many perils from the fatal Puente de Calderon. It is said that their differences of opinion concerning the plan of campaign caused dissatisfaction among them. They agreed, however, to hasten towards the United States with such troops and money as they had left, there to recruit and discipline an army with which to return and conquer.

With a large convoy of mules and baggage, some[Pg 248] pieces of artillery, and a considerable escort, they were overtaken and surprised by the Spanish troops not far from the frontier they longed to cross, and were made prisoners in a dismal desert spot called Las Norias de Bajan, in the state of Coahuila which borders upon the Rio Grande. The chiefs of conspiracy were secured and conducted under a strong escort to Chihuahua, where they were tried and condemned to death.

On the 26th day of June, 1811, Allende, Aldama, and Jimenez were shot in Chihuahua, and upon the 31st of July perished Hidalgo, showing in his last moments great bravery and self-possession.

The heads of these four illustrious chiefs were carried to Guanajuato, and nailed upon the four corners of the Alhóndiga de Grenaditas, where they remained for ten years. Later the remains, as those of martyrs, received solemn burial beneath the altar of the sovereigns in the grand cathedral of Mexico.

The execution of these men closed the first period of the struggle for independence in Mexico. The royalist troops had everywhere triumphed; the voices which had uttered the Grito de Dolores were silent. Order might now resume its course, and Venegas, the viceroy, settle into that quiet living he had proposed for himself in the provinces.

It is interesting to wonder what would have happened if the insurgent chief had succeeded in crossing the frontier into the vague regions of the West, under the protection of the American flag. The Government of the United States in 1811 was scarcely in a condition to render efficient aid to[Pg 249] straggling patriots from other countries. Moreover, the lands between the Rio Grande and the new republic were but a wilderness, in which a little handful of men, however brave, however independent, might easily have perished by starvation or cold. The death that came upon them was martyrdom to their cause, more efficient as an incentive to future patriotism than lives of prolonged incomplete effort.

The Alhóndiga de Grenaditas is now used for a prison. In its walls is still to be seen the spike from which for ten years hung the head of Hidalgo. Before the entrance stands a bronze statue of the first liberator of his country.

[Pg 250]



The Independents were not all destroyed. Before the end of the year which witnessed the execution of the three chiefs, the name of Morelos began to be noised abroad.

The father of Morelos was a carpenter living in Valladolid with his wife Juana Pavon. They were of low birth and poor. On the 30th of September Juana Pavon, on her way to the market-place, was obliged to enter a house on the corner of the street where she chanced to be, in order that her son should be born immediately. This house now has a stone inserted over the doorway thus inscribed:

The immortal
José M. Morelos was born in this house
on the 30th of September 1765.
16th of September 1881.

In 1801, this son, then a curate in the neighborhood, bought another house in the town, which he rebuilt and made comfortable. This house remains in the hands of the relatives of the hero, who also possess his portrait and a piece of the cloth with[Pg 251] which his eyes were bandaged on the 22d of December, 1815. Over the door is inscribed:

Morelos the illustrious!
Immortal Hero.
In this house, honored by thy presence,
Salute you the grateful people of Morelia.

For the grateful people of his birthplace changed the time-honored name of their city to Morelia in honor of their patriotic citizen, thus paying a worthy tribute to his memory, although slighting that of the good viceroy who established its foundations.

The parents of Morelos dedicated him to the career of a muleteer, as the local history expresses it, and a muleteer he remained until he was thirty years old. At that advanced age he had the courage to enter the Colegio de San Nicholas, where Hidalgo was then superintendent. It is easy to see that other lessons were taught there besides those of the school curriculum; Morelos made rapid progress in all branches of education, was ordained to the church, and obtained several successive curacies. Thus employed, when the Grito de Dolores sounded over Anahuac, he offered his services to the Generalissimo Hidalgo on the side of independence. He was sent to raise the standard of liberty on the Pacific coast, and starting from his village with twenty-five men, arrived at Acapulco with a thousand.

In various encounters with the royalists, Morelos and his men were successful. He showed great perception in the management of troops, and marched[Pg 252] from one triumph to another as far as Cuautla, a picturesque town eighty-five miles southeast of the city of Mexico. Its lower level makes it tropical and picturesque, with lanes winding about among the adobe huts of the Indians, hedged with banana and orange trees, and hung with all manner of wandering vines and brilliant blossoms. Water trickles everywhere, and across the broad valley rises toward the north the peak of Popocatepetl.

Here Morelos sustained a siege against the well trained army of Calleja, still in the field, and ripe with the honors of victory in the campaigns at Hidalgo. The Independents held out from the 19th of February to the 2d of May, with great valor and endurance, repulsing three assaults, and sustaining daily attacks, while their sufferings were great from lack of food and water. The fame of Morelos, heroic defender of Cuautla, spread far and wide. After sixty-two days of steady resistance, Morelos, recognizing that he must abandon the place, succeeded in coming out at night without molestation, retiring in order towards the north.

Until the end of the year 1812, Morelos was engaged in leading his army from one victory to another, and gathering everywhere additions to his forces. The next year he ventured as far as Acapulco, scene of his first expedition. The garrison there capitulated, and he took possession of the fortress of San Diego in August, 1813.

On the 14th of September, Morelos called together the first Mexican Congress, at Chilpantzingo, not very far from the Pacific coast. Among its members[Pg 253] were many whose names have since been repeatedly before the Mexicans as liberals. The first act of this Congress was to nominate Morelos Captain-General of the Independent forces. It was thought significant that on the same date, September 15th, three years before, Hidalgo had placed himself in the same post of honor and difficulty.

The declaration of independence issued by this Congress was as follows:

"The Congress of Anahuac, lawfully installed in the city of Chilpantzingo, of North America, solemnly declares, in the presence of God, arbitrator of kingdoms and author of society, who gives and takes away according to the inscrutable designs of his providence, that, through the present circumstances of Europe, it has recovered the exercise of its sovereignty, hitherto usurped, its dependence upon the throne of Spain being thus forever disrupted and dissolved."

During this year the viceroy, Venegas, was recalled by the regency, and the office conferred upon Calleja, who had so valiantly defended the royalist cause.

The plan of Morelos was to take Valladolid, and establish there the seat of Congress. Bringing together all his forces, he approached the capital of Michoacan on the 23d December, and demanded its surrender. But the city was now occupied by the royalist forces of two commanders, one of whom was Agustin de Yturbide, already renowned for his repeated victories over the insurgents and the unrelenting vigor with which he pursued them. These forces[Pg 254] attacked the army of Morelos, and completely routed it on Christmas eve.

Morelos escaped, and with a few soldiers returned to Acapulco. The prestige of his army was lost; apparently his star was declining. One mishap after another followed, and the royal forces pursued him with unrelenting vigilance, which he evaded several times with very narrow escapes. The campaign of Yturbide was vigorous; several of the best captains of the Independents were captured, and paid with their lives for their devotion to the cause of liberty. Among them was Matamoras. Meanwhile the first Mexican Congress, like many another, was not harmonious; divisions arose between its deputies and its general. The patriot was learning that it is harder to keep a government well in hand than it is to seize it by force.

In 1815 this Congress decided it would like to move to Tehuacan, and assigned to Morelos the task of escorting it thither with all the troops he held at his disposition. This strange march set forth in mystery and concealment on the 29th of September; but in spite of the stratagems of Morelos, the royalist forces discovered its route, and intercepted it. Morelos gave front to the enemy, that the honorable deputies and members of his Congress might have a chance to escape. His force was routed, he himself betrayed by a deserter.

Morelos was taken to Mexico; the ecclesiastical tribunes covered him with ignominy, and he was handed over to the military authorities. By them he was at once sentenced to death, and on the 22d[Pg 255] of December, 1815, he was shot in the small town San Cristóbal Ecatepec, dying with the bravery of a hero.

This was the end of the dark period, called the second, of Mexican independence. Its life was in its chief, the daring, patriotic Morelos.

There is no doubt that Morelos had many of the great qualities for a successful leader of men. He was born in poverty, with no antecedents of greatness; untaught, even in the rudiments of learning, until he was thirty; up to that time patiently driving mules along the steep paths of his native state. Whoever has watched the slow, though sure, progress of these animals, and the enforced loitering in the pace of him who accompanies them, must be impressed with the idea that patience is a virtue likely to be developed in such training.

Great ideas then pervaded society. It is probable that Morelos was more than dazzled by the brilliancy of Napoleon's career. Military success inflamed many hearts and turned many heads in those days. There was the making of a military commander in the stuff of which Morelos was compounded. With the opportunities of Napoleon for creating large armies, well equipped with all the appurtenances of warfare developed by the skill and science of the time, Morelos might have arrived at his object, the liberty of his country.

There is no reason to suppose that a personal ambition animated him. He made himself general-in-chief of his army, but that was a necessary step for the furtherance of his designs. His fixed idea[Pg 256] was that of an independent Mexico. So little was he tempted by the trials of prosperity, it is impossible to say whether success, the sparkling foam of flattery, would have turned his head, as they did so many others, in the supreme hours of attainment.

As it was, he died the death of a hero, leaving behind him a reputation pure and unsullied by the taint of personal ambition.

His career was in no sense a failure. The object of his sacrifice was achieved in effect; the independence of Mexico, although not within his own grasp, was sure. Another idea of great importance was impressed upon the Spanish in Mexico, the Spaniards in the mother country and the world looking on: that the blood of the native Mexican was capable of great deeds, that the descendants of the Aztecs were something better than peones, slaves without the name. The lower class of the population of Anahuac raised their heads and listened. Low murmurs, as of a distant ocean, told them that the tide of their destiny was turned, that the day was coming when it would break with force against the bulwarks built up against it.

Morelos could die content. He had achieved for himself no proud seat on the throne of the Montezumas; he asked no such reward.

He had forcibly impressed upon his country the ideas first given to him and them by the Curate Hidalgo. The impression was not washed out, but made fast by the blood he caused to be shed, and his own.

If glory was his aim, that he has attained. The[Pg 257] Mexicans adore Morelos. His native town is baptized anew with his name, and the state bears the name of Morelos, which contains Cuautla, the town he defended for sixty-two days with the patience of the muleteer and the obstinacy of his animals.

If the subsequent leaders of Mexican independence have not been always true to the example he gave them, of unselfish devotion to his cause, the great population has never wavered in its devotion to his memory.

In the public square of Morelos, capital of the state which also bears his name, is a marble statue of the hero, set up during the French occupation, on September 30, 1865, the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Morelos. The Emperor Maximilian presided on the occasion.

[Pg 258]



Calleja remained several months at the head of government and then returned to Spain, having taken vigorous measures to extinguish forever, as he thought, the flames of insurrection. In the last days of his administration he arrested and sent to a convent two women distinguished for their devotion to the cause of independence; one of them, Doña Josefa Dominguez, the wife of the man who began with Hidalgo the agitation of the subject.

Calleja returned to Spain, where he was made Conde de Calderon. He was cruel and despotic, and has left in Mexico a name much detested.

The struggle for independence continued in several parts of the country, but the Spanish government, with good troops and ample resources, either dispersed or routed the rebellious forces. Some of the chiefs of the insurrection abandoned the cause, accepting the indulgence offered them by the viceroy, while others retired to the mountains, like Pelayo in the early days of Spain, when the Moors swept over the Peninsula, to keep active for happier days the sacred fire of liberty.

The successor of Calleja, Apodaca, by his conciliatory[Pg 259] and humane conduct, did much to tranquillize society near the capital, but ideas of independence were still working all over the country. Guerrero, who must be counted among the heroes of the movement, showed an unwearying activity in the campaign. Many times his forces were routed; many times they triumphed; neither success nor defeat made him waver. He was covered with wounds, but heeded them not; he was deaf to proposals of clemency from the royalists. In the mountains of the south, to which he retired, he kept up constant warfare upon the Spanish troops, and even set up a new national government. This he continued without falling into the hands of the royalists until 1820, when the course of Yturbide put a stop to a warfare which had lasted ten years and soaked in blood the soil of Anahuac.

The French had been driven from Spain in 1814, and Ferdinand VII. was again upon the throne, but there was a revolution in 1820, by which he was compelled to surrender much of the authority which he had taken upon himself in spite of his oaths and promises. He was obliged to convoke the Cortés, to change his ministers for liberals, to abolish the Inquisition, free the press, and re-establish the national militia.

Such events awoke again the demand for a liberal government in Mexico. It was then that an officer in the royalist army, a native Mexican, who had hitherto distinguished himself on that side, now changed his allegiance, and took up the cause of independence.

[Pg 260]

The concessions forced on King Ferdinand were celebrated in Mexico on the 31st of May, 1820, the suppression of the Inquisition and the liberty of the press being subjects of great rejoicings. The independent party saw in these reforms an opportunity to avail themselves of the new element to realize their most ardent visions. A great division was produced among the resident Spaniards of the country, for while some of these declared in favor of the constitution, the greater part showed themselves hostile to it, still clinging to ideas of absolute power, and foreseeing that so great a political change would hasten the independence of Mexico.

Agustin de Yturbide was born in the city of Valladolid, not then re-named Morelia, on the 27th of September, 1783. His parents were of native Mexican blood, Joaquin de Yturbide, born in Pamplona, and Ana Arámburu.

He had entered a royalist regiment before he was sixteen years old, and until 1808 he showed himself a vigorous opponent of the liberal party, serving with his troops in different parts of the country, always signalizing himself by his valor, his activity, and his adroit combinations to bring about the defeat of the cause opposed to his own. Through the intervening grades he passed to be colonel, and held commands of importance at Guanajuato and Valladolid.

In the diversity of opinions of 1820, Yturbide was among those who accepted the idea of a complete separation for Mexico from the Peninsula. Just at that time the viceroy conferred upon him the grade of brigadier, and gave him command of a body of[Pg 261] troops destined to operate against the insurgents of Guerrero in the south.

Yturbide left the capital in November, and a month later found himself confronted by an enemy of something like three thousand men. After several encounters unfavorable to his command, Yturbide entered into an active correspondence with the opposing chief, the result of which was an interview for friendly conference. Both generals found themselves in accord, for, to the surprise of Guerrero, his opponent revealed an ardent desire to proclaim independence. Guerrero, without personal ambition, willingly handed over the command to the renegade, who announced, on February 24th, the so-called "Plan of Iguala."

Three essential articles made up this proposal: (1) the preservation of the Roman Catholic Church, with the exclusion of other forms of religion; (2) the absolute independence of Mexico under the government of a moderate monarchy with some member of the reigning house of Spain upon the throne; and (3) the amicable union of Spaniards and Mexicans. These three clauses were called the "three guaranties." When the national Mexican flag was devised later, its colors represented these three articles of the national faith—white for religious purity, green for union, and red for independence. The army of Yturbide was known as the army of the three guaranties.

Upon this basis the contest was resumed. It found favor in many parts of Mexico, and the independent troops, with their chiefs, very generally gave in their adherence at once to the Plan of Iguala.

[Pg 262]

As soon as the viceroy could recover from his surprise on waking up one day to find a brigadier of his own troops concerting a revolution, he issued manifestoes against the undertaking, and at once set about raising an army of six thousand men, which advanced but slowly to the field of action in the south, where the troops of the late brigadier had joined the insurgent forces. This gave time for the Independents to collect together the various forces of Bustamente and other chiefs of their way of thinking. Valladolid was compelled to capitulate for the third or fourth time in twenty years; afterwards Querétaro, and, finally, Puebla, which, besieged by the troops of Bravo and Herrera, surrendered to Yturbide, who made a triumphal entry into the city on the 2d of August, 1821. This was the first of the sieges which the City of the Angels has sustained, its position with regard to the capital exposing it to every ill wind that blows in that direction.

The viceroy, Apodaca, hearing of the rapid triumphs of the insurgents, adopted defensive measures. He established a permanent Junta of war, stopped the liberty of the press, and decreed the enforced enlistment of all men between sixteen and sixty. But desertions were constant, the public spirit was aroused against government, and except that the pure Spaniards were in favor of it, all social classes were decided to overthrow the old regime. Even the garrison of Mexico, losing faith in the viceroy, conspired against him. A meeting inspired by these discontented troops invaded the viceregal palace, and informed Apodaca that his[Pg 263] charge was at an end. Francisco Novella, sub-inspector of artillery, was hastily set up into his place; the deposed viceroy left the capital next day with his family, and returned, with such haste as they could bring to pass, to Spain.

The sub-inspector of artillery went to bed in the palace of the royal viceroy; when he rose the next morning he found little or nothing to do. Like his deposed predecessor, he went on dictating measures, which nobody noticed, to check the revolution; but this had advanced too far for sub-inspectors to lay hands upon.

Not only the old insurgents came to the front, but the greater part of the chiefs of the royalists, Spanish as well as Mexican, declared for independence, Santa Anna, at Vera Cruz, among others. Yturbide placed himself at the head of all, and with such resources the campaign was swift and successful. Thus passed the month of July. On the 30th arrived at Vera Cruz a new viceroy, sent in advance, before insurrection was dreamed of at home, to replace Apodaca, the last governor ever sent from Spain, Juan O'Donojú, sixty-fourth viceroy since the coming of Mendoza.

He disembarked, took the oath of office before the governor of Vera Cruz, and assumed the position of governor and captain-general.

Yturbide hastened to meet him at Cordova on his way to the capital, and convinced him by the eloquence of his arguments and the proof of his power, visible in the ample number of troops within his control, that discretion was the better part of valor.[Pg 264] The Treaty of Cordova, then and there settled between these two men, declared the independence of Mexico, with Ferdinand VII. or some other for its independent sovereign, establishing a Junta of government, to which O'Donojú stipulated to belong, provisional until a king should be found.

These things settled, Yturbide and O'Donojú, hand in hand, as Yturbide and Guerrero had come before, approached the capital. Sub-inspector Novella was summoned outside the city to a conference, and not unwillingly surrendered his brief authority to the two harmonious chieftains.

Yturbide paused at Toluca to collect all his forces and to draw in such Spanish troops as were now ready to accept him. On the 27th of September, his birthday, he made a triumphal entry into the capital with the army of the Independents, consisting of some sixteen thousand men, with sixty-eight pieces of artillery. They were received with immense enthusiasm, and great demonstrations of rejoicing signalized the end of Spanish domination, which had lasted three hundred years.

On the next day, the 28th of September, the provisional Junta met, and declared itself installed under the presidency of Yturbide. Its thirty-eight members accepted by oath the Plan of Iguala and the Treaty of Cordova, and further issued an Act of Independence of the Mexican Empire, subscribed to by all the Junta. A government was formed, called the Regency, composed of Don Agustin de Yturbide, president, and five other members, among them Don Juan O'Donojú. The latter died the next[Pg 265] month, and thus ended his very brief career in Mexico; his place was taken by the Bishop of Puebla.

Thus was formed, at a stroke, the Mexican Empire, whose wide territory extended from Guatemala on the south, over lands now included in Texas, the two Californias, and New Mexico at the north.

Many Spaniards, disgusted with this turn of affairs, returned to Europe with their families. Others concluded to accept the situation, and remained to watch the course of events.

The new government set to work in good earnest to strengthen its foundations and extend its influence. The province of Chiapas, on the Pacific coast, declared its emancipation from Spain, and of its own accord withdrew from Guatemala and incorporated itself with Mexico. It still remains a Mexican state. Guatemala also declared its wish to join the Mexican Empire, and the Guatemalian representatives accordingly took their seats in the first Mexican Congress; but the next year this province concluded to become an independent nation on its own account, and took itself away from the empire.

The solemn installation of this second Mexican Congress took place in February, 1822. Its first act was to interfere with the proceedings of the Regency. Ill-feeling, produced by want of harmony, increased daily, forming parties which strongly adhered either to one side or the other. Of these, the original Independents, and such Spaniards as sincerely desired the fulfilment of the Plan of Iguala, by which a[Pg 266] Spanish prince was to be chosen their ruler, manifested more and more their disapproval of the President of the Regency; while the other party, composed of the army, the clergy, and some Spaniards, had already accepted the idea of elevating Yturbide to a throne.

A ferment of discordant opinions, conflicting interests, and personal ambitions arose, in the midst of which came the news, naturally to be expected, that the Cortés of Spain declared null and void the Treaty of Cordova, concerted by Yturbide and O'Donojú.

This gave Yturbide his opportunity. On the night of the 18th of May, a movement was begun by a sergeant of one of the regiments, echoed immediately by various garrison corps, proclaiming Yturbide Emperor. The leader modestly referred these applicants to the decision of Congress, and this body, the next day, with soldiers all around, in the highest state of impatient excitement, declared, by a vote of sixty-seven against a minority of fifteen, the Emperor, under the title of Agustin I.

Thus by rapid steps had Yturbide climbed from the position of a simple soldier without rank to the throne of the Montezumas. Wholly different from Morelos, he cannot be called a patriot in the highest sense. Probably his motive from the very beginning was personal ambition, in which loyalty to a king or to a cause had no part. He too, doubtless, had watched the career of Napoleon Bonaparte, at that time a dangerous light shining in the eyes of all men. Yet it must not be forgotten that if Yturbide worked for himself, he yet achieved, at the same[Pg 267] time, the independence of his country. His throne was an unsteady one, but the dais erected for it to rest upon became the solid platform of liberty.

Agustin I. took the oath of office before the Mexican Congress, which proceeded to pass decrees establishing the succession to the throne, the titles and forms of address to be held toward the members of the imperial family, as well as their endowments, corresponding to their rank, details which turned out to be of no permanent value.

On the 21st of July, Yturbide and his wife were anointed and crowned in the Cathedral, with all the solemnities and forms which have been observed in Europe on such occasions for centuries.

But the Emperor was not firmly established upon his throne. As soon as they had recovered from their fright and surprise, many of the deputies, who had voted unwillingly with the majority, began to impede the course of Yturbide. All parties who had any reason for discontent made common cause against the Emperor. Signs of dissatisfaction reached Yturbide, who invited the struggle by dissolving Congress. In place of this assembly he established a Junta more under his own control; and, rid of the troublesome Congress, proceeded to issue edicts, and make forced loans to carry on his empire.

Suddenly, on the 6th of December, the Republic was proclaimed at Vera Cruz. Yturbide happened to be in Puebla at the time. He hastened to Mexico, and sent a division of troops to Vera Cruz to defend his title and put down the insurrection.

Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was at the head of[Pg 268] this movement, a general in the Spanish army, who had lately come into the views of the revolutionists. At Vera Cruz a plan was formed called the Casa-Mata, approved of by Bravo, Guerrero, and other generals, which, in substance, proclaimed the deposition of Yturbide; everywhere it was accepted by the generals of armies throughout the country, so that, by the end of a month, Yturbide found himself alone in the city of Mexico. Unwilling to light the fires of civil war, he acknowledged himself vanquished, and abdicated, retiring from the capital with his family. Congress closed in behind him, pronounced the whole episode of the Empire a work of violence and force, so that the hereditary succession was null. Yturbide was declared banished from the country, while, at the same time, a life annuity was voted to him of $25,000 in recognition of his services to the nation.

Thus disappeared, as suddenly as it had risen, the phantom of a second Empire in the realm of the Aztecs.

Yturbide left the country with his family upon an English vessel bound for Leghorn. A few months later he wrote from London to the home government, warning them of European schemes to restore Spanish rule in Mexico, and offering his services to his country should such an attempt be made.

The ruling powers were afraid of a popular revulsion in his favor, and regarded it as altogether safest to keep him at a distance. The reply of Congress to this letter was to pass a decree declaring Yturbide a traitor to his country, as such to be put to death whenever he should return to Mexico.

[Pg 269]


[Pg 270]

Wholly in ignorance of this decree, and sanguine of the good effect his letter might produce, the unsuspecting ex-Emperor did return to Mexico with the intention of fulfilling his offer of usefulness—it may be in the hope of a return to favor. On the 14th of July, 1824, Yturbide, with all his family, arrived at the little port of Soto la Marina in an English sailing-vessel. He was recognized by the general of the troops of Tamaulipas, the state in which he was, and disembarked. A few moments afterwards an official presented himself, with hesitation, saying it was his duty to inform him that he must prepare to die, in conformity with the decree issued against him in the month of April.

In vain Yturbide protested he was utterly ignorant of the decree. He was taken to Padilla, where the Congress of the state of Tamaulipas was summoned to an extraordinary session to deliberate upon his case. A hot discussion resulted in the decision that Yturbide must be shot, and without the slightest delay this decree was executed close to the church in the streets of Padilla.

His last words were: "Mexicans! in the very moment of my execution I recommend to you the love of our country and devotion to our holy religion, that thus we shall be led to glory. I die because I came to help you. I die gladly, because I die among you. I die with honor, not as a traitor. I leave no stain of treason to my children. No. I am not a traitor!"

It is impossible not to pity the hard fate of Yturbide and his violent death. He was not a[Pg 271] traitor to his country in the worst sense of the term, and deserves the title less than many another of his contemporaries who have met a milder judgment. Although he turned the government into an Empire for the sake of his own personal ambition, he had in his short career as Emperor done it no harm; on the other hand, he resigned quietly for the sake of peace. Doubtless a little delay would have averted the tragedy, as those who wished him out of the way were well aware. His life might have promoted the future welfare of his country; his death certainly produced no good result. Too many hands were grasping at the prize he had coveted for his to be missed when it was forcibly beaten off.

He was personally brave and active, handsome, fond of display, and full of vanity, which caused him to delight in the splendor of state. He was at the height of his ambition when he was proclaimed Emperor, the horses taken from his carriage, and the crowd, drawing him along the streets, shouting vivas for the new Emperor. He forgot, at a time when it is easiest to forget, how cheap are such manifestations of enthusiasm from an easily excited and mobile population. He forgot that as he had conspired against others, others in their turn not only could, but would, seek to pull him down.

Whatever his faults or failings, it is nevertheless true that his act freed the country from the control of Spain. This is fully recognized in his birthplace, Morelia, where the house of his birth bears the inscription:


[Pg 272]



The story of Mexico becomes so confused after the fall of the Empire of Agustin I. that it is difficult to understand. "Plans," pronunciamentos, revolutions, restorations, followed each other in quick succession. Generals, dictators, presidents, sprang from the soil ready-made, to exercise for a few days their brief authority, and vanish as quickly.

A few prominent names constantly recur, clinging to the wheel of fortune, which turned at that time in Mexico with singular swiftness. Each of these went down one day and the next up. Still with pertinacity they held on, each rejoicing in his own turn at the top, not only on his own account, but in the satisfaction of seeing the others beneath him. In their wild merry-go-round they seem to have lost sight of the value of the position itself, which made the object of their revolutions. Was it a crown, a dictator's chair, the simple dignity of a president's wand of office, they heeded little. The thought of establishing a genuine republic was far enough from anybody's mind in the early days of the century. To guide us through the puzzling labyrinth at this period in Mexican affairs, we will follow the thread of one[Pg 273] career—the life of a man who, without the highest characteristics of a real hero, was mixed up in every event which took place on the plateau of Anahuac, from the beginning of the struggle to the end.

Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was born in Jalapa, Feb. 21, 1798, sixty-six years to a day after the birth of George Washington, whose footsteps, if he followed at all, it was in an erring manner. He first made his appearance in public, as we have seen, fighting in the war of independence; it was he who, in 1821, expelled the royalists from Vera Cruz, and took possession of the city. Yturbide thus owed to him, in part, his success, but it was no intention of Santa Anna's to make an emperor of him, and he applied the same vigor in pulling him down from the throne, that he had to smooth the way to it. This effected, he withdrew to his estates in Jalapa, accepting the federal government decreed by Congress the 4th of October, 1824.

This Constitution, wisely drawn up in accordance with the best models, provided an excellent system of government, if it could be adhered to. Don Felix Fernandez Victoria, an army general, called by the people Guadalupe Victoria, on account of the intervention in his favor against the Spanish, as they believed, of the patron saint of Mexico, Our Lady of Guadalupe, assumed office in 1824, and kept it for two years without any commotion. He is described by Madame Calderon as a plain, uneducated, well-intentioned man, brave and enduring. She gives an anecdote to his credit. When Yturbide, alone, fallen, and a prisoner, was banished from Mexico,[Pg 274] General Bravo, who had the charge of conducting him to Vera Cruz, treated him with every species of indignity. Victoria, on the other hand, who had been the sworn foe of the Emperor during his prosperity, now, when orders were given him to see Yturbide embarked, surrounded him with respectful attentions; so that Yturbide himself, after expressing his warm esteem for the General's generous conduct, presented him with his watch, as a memorial of his gratitude.

During his term, the legislature decreed the expulsion of the Spanish from Mexico. Many military chiefs were violently anxious for this measure, and it became a law before the end of the year. In consequence of this arbitrary decision, worthy of an earlier century and of Philip III., who drove out of Spain the Moriscoes to the lasting injury of the country, many families left Mexico, taking with them their wealth, and the source of income caused by their requirements. It is said that a great many Spaniards settled in Bordeaux which thus increased in size and prosperity. Between two countries, of which neither claimed them, although to each they had a claim, these exiles are to be regarded as victims of the injudicious legislation of the first republican Congress of Mexico.

The close of Victoria's term was disturbed by one or two conspiracies, civil wars, pronunciamentos, and "Plans." The presidential election of 1828 was marked by formidable divisions. The extreme liberals and the conservatives formed two great political powers, which, with others representing every[Pg 275] shade of possible opinion, kept the country in a state of disturbance. The unfortunate precedent of appealing to arms after an election, instead of submitting to the result of the ballot, became so established that the elections were little more than a farce. Pedraza, the conservative candidate, was chosen against Guerrero, liberal, by a majority of two. Santa Anna upon this pronounced in Perote, declaring the election of Guerrero valid. Attacked by the troops of the regular army, if such it may be called, he entrenched himself in Oaxaca, in the Convent of St. Domingo, where he defended himself with the greatest bravery and ingenuity, until events made it useless to contest him any longer, and he was released.

A mutiny broke out in the capital, Pedraza fled to Vera Cruz and thence to New Orleans; flames burst forth all over the city, threatening its destruction, while the populace ran about crying "Viva la Libertad!" The Parian, where great wealth of gold, jewels, and rich stuff were stored, was utterly destroyed. From December 3d for several days the town was given over to pillage, the doors of the warehouses were driven in, and every thing seized. The greatest confusion, anarchy in fact, reigned in the capital, beyond any effort on the part of the revolutionary leaders to restrain the disorder. For more than a month afterward stolen goods from the Parian were openly sold in the public squares. The desolation of the city on the night after the first outburst is described by one of the principal actors. The sack, which had begun in the morning[Pg 276] of the 3d, had ceased for the night. Sepulchral silence reigned in the vast city. In the palace was General Victoria, alone, abandoned even by his servants. The shops and warehouses stood open and empty, with shattered doors, their contents carried off and strewn about the streets. Not a voice was to be heard but the sound of the hour announced by the sereno, from time to time breaking the silence which had fallen upon the inhabitants of the capital.

Thus closed the year 1828, and the government of the first President. During his term Texas was colonized by Austin, with three hundred families, an event to be remembered on account of its connection with the war of the United States. In the same year the government of the United States recognized the independence of Mexico.

Manuel Gomez Pedraza, by virtue of his majority of two, assumed the office of President. As an officer in the Spanish army he was distinguished for his severe discipline and strict moral conduct. He had supported Yturbide, who made him Commander-General of Mexico. He was Minister of War under Victoria, in which office he was distinguished for his great activity.

The ferment which succeeded the election was increased by the reports of Santa Anna's conduct at Oaxaca. The army besieging him melted and ran off. Both Pedraza and Guerrero disappeared.

Pedraza left the Republic. After another revolution, hearing that "the Constitution and laws were established," he returned to Vera Cruz, but was met[Pg 277] by an order which forbade him to enter the country, and he withdrew to New Orleans, to bide his time, while Congress declared in favor of Guerrero, who ventured to return and try his hand as President.

Santa Anna distinguished himself by resisting the troops sent by Spain, somewhat late, after the mañana methods of both countries, to resent the secession of their dependent colony. A Spanish force from Cuba, by royal mandate of King Ferdinand, landed at Tampico. This invasion aroused the patriotism of the country. Santa Anna, without waiting for any orders, fitted out a force in Vera Cruz and advanced against the invaders, combining on his way with the troops of government. Their action was vigorous, and the Spanish commander, Barradas, capitulated after two days, and returned to Cuba with what was left of his army. This was the only attempt made by Spain to win back her lost province. The wealth which Cortés had poured into her coffers had long ceased to flow with regularity, and its source was now shut off from her.

In reward for this good service, Santa Anna was made Minister of War and Commander-in-Chief by President Guerrero, but instead of being grateful, he turned his powers against him, and with the army overthrew his government and put Bustamente in his place. This general was already Vice-President; he and Santa Anna pronounced the Plan of Jalapa, at that place. Guerrero set out at the head of a few troops, but scarcely had he left the city when the garrison there pronounced in favor of one Bocanegro. Between two pronunciamentos, Guerrero[Pg 278] once more withdrew to the mountains of the south, where he took arms against his enemies, and Bustamente became President. It was under his government that a disgraceful method was taken to get rid of Guerrero. Persuaded that they could not conquer him in open field, the ruling party bribed a Genoese sailor to decoy Guerrero on board his little bark, Colombo, in the bay of Acapulco. The General was invited to dinner as a guest, and accepted in good faith. No sooner was the meal over than he was told of the plot. Without power to resist, he saw the sails set, and was carried forcibly to the little bark, on which he was forcibly detained, heading towards another port, where he was handed over to his enemies. A few officials went through the form of a military trial and condemned him to death. He was shot, in the pueblo of Cuilapa, on the 15th of February, 1831. Guerrero is regarded as one of the martyrs of the country, and two monuments in his honor adorn the city of Mexico.

Bustamente did not long enjoy his repose. Santa Anna pronounced again in favor of his former opponent, Pedraza, who, in the opinion of many, had never stopped being President. But early in 1833 our Mexican Warwick, yielding to popular pressure, consented to be President himself. He now left the radical party and, like many another reformer in office, became conservative and joined the Centralists. He was a favorite with the army, who after a time made him Dictator, in spite of the distrust of the nation, who believed that he aimed at imperial dignities.

[Pg 279]

The Vice-President at this time was Valentin Gomez Farías, whose merits deserve notice. He was a native of Guadalajara, born in February, 1781. He studied medicine, and made good advances in the scientific discoveries of his time. He was appointed to the Cortés of Spain; but organized instead a battalion in aid of Hidalgo in the cause of independence, sacrificing to it his career and his personal fortune. He was elected deputy to the Congress of Morelos, and afterwards made governor of the state of Zacatecas. In 1833 he was chosen Vice-President, and, events afterwards bringing him to occupy the first place in the government, he displayed great capacity for business and the cares of office, repressing pronunciamentos, unmasking intrigues, and preserving always an honorable reputation. Forced to abandon the presidency, he escaped to the United States to avoid assassination, selling his ample library to raise funds, thus leaving Santa Anna in full possession of the field. The Federal Constitution was done away with, state legislatures abolished, and the governors of the states became dependent upon central power.

The insurrection in Texas now broke out into open rebellion. Santa Anna took the field in person, reaching the Rio Grande del Norte with an army of six thousand men in February, 1836. He at first was successful, but after one or two triumphs his army was completely routed, and he himself made prisoner by the Texan army under Houston. Santa Anna was taken to the United States by his conquerors. During his captivity he made a treaty[Pg 280] with the Texans, which amounted to nothing at all, as his functions were suspended by the Mexican government. The next year he was set at liberty and returned to his native country. He was coldly received, and at the presidential election that year received only two electoral votes out of sixty-nine.

He again retired to his estate near Jalapa, twenty-seven miles from Vera Cruz; and, we may suppose, contemplated with content a period of repose after action, and an opportunity to renew the acquaintance of his family, from which a life of such variety had separated him.

[Pg 281]



The Bourbons had regained possession of the government of France, and Louis Philippe, under the title of King of the French, was upon the throne. He was the head of the younger branch of the Bourbons, Duke of Orleans. Military glory was a requisite to his security upon the throne; among other enterprises the government sent an expedition to Mexico to settle by force a long-pending discussion of demands due them since their civil wars, as damages incurred by French citizens. One of the items of this claim was sixty thousand dollars demanded by a French cook for pastry stolen from him by revolutionists. The claim received the name of the reclamacion de los pasteles, a claim for pie. It was denied in toto by the Mexican government. The French squadron, commanded by the Prince de Joinville, captured the fortress of San Juan de Ulóa, and occupied Vera Cruz on the 5th of December.

Out came Santa Anna and offered his services, and taking command after the fall of the castle, he repelled the French from the city and forced them to return to their ships. In this encounter he received[Pg 282] a wound in the leg, which made it necessary to amputate it, and afterwards he always wore a wooden leg. Mexico in the end consented to make a treaty of peace by paying the sum demanded,—and the French fleet sailed away.

Madame Calderon describes the home of Santa Anna at Manga la Clava, twenty-seven miles from Vera Cruz, approached through a wilderness of trees and flowers, the growth of the tierra caliente, and passing over leagues of natural garden, the property of Santa Anna.

The house was pretty and in nice order. General Santa Anna was a gentlemanly, good-looking, quietly dressed, rather melancholy-looking person, with a wooden leg. Knowing nothing of his past history, he might have been thought a philosopher, living in dignified retirement, one who had tried the world and found it all vanity, one who had suffered ingratitude, and who, if he were ever persuaded to emerge from his retreat, would only do so, like Cincinnatus, for the benefit of his country.

It was only now and then in conversation that the expression of his eye was startling, especially when he spoke of his leg, which was cut off below the knee. He gave an account of the wound, and in alluding to the French his countenance assumed an alarming appearance of bitterness.

[Pg 283]


In 1837 Bustamente was recalled. On the succession of Pedraza to the presidency, he had been banished, and went away to pursue his medical studies in France; for he, like Farías, had received a diploma as doctor of medicine, and had been the family physician of the viceroy Calleja. He returned to Mexico on the outbreak of the Texan revolution, was made President, and filled the office with dignity and respectability, whenever he was allowed to, by his untiring enemy, or rival, Santa Anna, who, however, was sometimes on his side. In 1840 there was trouble again, with Santa Anna at the head of the government forces. Against him was arrayed General Mejia, a Mexican known for his valor, which amounted to rashness. He was a rival and personal enemy to Santa Anna, and the struggle between them was[Pg 284] a duel à la mort. Fate was against Mejia and he perished. Taken prisoner on the field of battle at the hacienda La Blanca, he was shot. It is said that, being informed of the sentence of death passed upon him, he asked when he was to be shot.

"In three hours," answered the official.

"If Santa Anna had fallen into my power, I should have given him only three minutes," was his reply.

There have been other generals of the same name and family who have shown equal bravery in death.

In September, 1841, occurred another brief revolution, so fully described by Madame Calderon, that it may serve as a specimen. She says:

"This revolution is like a game of chess, in which kings, castles, knights, and bishops are making different moves, while the pawns are looking on and taking no part whatever.

"To understand the state of the board, it is necessary to explain the position of the four principal pieces,—Santa Anna, Bustamente, Paredes, and Valencia. The first move was made by Paredes, who published his 'Plan,' and pronounced on the 8th of August, at Guadalajara. Shortly after a newspaper of Vera Cruz, entirely devoted to Santa Anna, pronounced in favor of the 'Plan' of Paredes, and Santa Anna, with a few miserable troops, and a handful of cavalry, arrived at Perote. Here he remains for the present, kept in check by the government forces. Meanwhile Paredes, with about six hundred men, left Guadalajara and marched upon Guanajuato, and there a blow was given to the[Pg 285] government party through the defection of General Cortazar, who thought fit thus to show his grateful sense of having just received the rank of general of brigade, with the insignia of this new grade, which the President put on with his own hands. Another check to the President. Once begun, defection spread rapidly, and Paredes and Cortazar, having advanced upon Querétaro, found that the General there had pronounced just at the moment he was expected in Mexico to assist the government.

"Meanwhile General Valencia, pressed to declare his 'Plan,' has replied that he awaits the announcement of the intention of the Generals Paredes and Santa Anna, and for his own part he only desires the dismissal of Bustamente.

"This, then, is the position of the three pronounced chiefs, on this second day of September of the year of our Lord, 1841: Santa Anna in Perote, hesitating whether to advance or retreat, and in fact prevented from doing either; Paredes in Querétaro, with the other revolted generals; Valencia in the citadel of Mexico with his pronunciados; while Bustamente, the mark against which all these hostile operations are directed, is determined, it is said, to fight to the last.

"Mexico looks as if it had got a general holiday. Shops shut up and all business at a stand. The people with the utmost apathy are collected in groups talking quietly; officers are galloping about, generals in a somewhat party-colored dress, with large gray hats (sombreros), striped pantaloons, old coats, and generals' belts, fine horses, and crimson[Pg 286] velvet saddles. The shopkeepers in the square have been removing their goods and money. An occasional shot is heard, sometimes a volley, followed by a dead silence. The archbishop shows his reverend face now and then upon the balcony of his palace, looks out a little while, and then retires. The chief effect so far is universal idleness for man and beast, the soldiers and their quadrupeds excepted.

"It is said that the Federalists are very much elated, hoping for the eventual triumph of their party in consequence of a proclamation by Valencia which appeared two days ago. Since then the revolution has taken the name of liberal and is supported by men of name, the Pedrazas, Belderas, Riva Palacio, which is of great importance to Valencia. Besides this it is said that certain rich bankers, on the side of the pronunciados are constantly supplying the citadel with cart-loads of copper.

"The conduct of the people is a constant source of surprise. Left entirely uncurbed, no one to direct them, thousands out of employment, many without bread, they do not complain, and scarcely seem to feel any interest in the result. How easily might such a people be directed for their good! It is said that all their apathetic sympathies are in favor of Bustamente."

Several days later she describes the army of the pronunciados on their way to the capital: "The infantry, it must be confessed, was in a ragged and rather drunken condition; the cavalry, better clad, have borrowed fresh horses as they went along, which, with their high saddles, bronzed faces, and[Pg 287] picturesque attire, had a fine effect as they passed along under the burning sun. The sick followed on asses, and amongst them various masculine women, with serapes and large straw hats, tied down with colored handkerchiefs, mounted on mules or horses. The sumpter-mules followed, carrying provisions, camp-beds, etc., and Indian women trotted on foot in the rear, carrying their husbands' boots and clothes. The game is nearly up now. Check from two knights and a castle—Santa Anna and Paredes in Tacubaya, and Valencia in the citadel.

"The end of this, after some little firing on both sides, was a capitulation. Bustamente renounced the presidency, and Santa Anna was triumphant. He made his solemn entry into the capital, with the Generals Valencia and Canalizo at the head of the forces. Not a solitary viva was heard as they passed along the streets, nor afterwards, during his speech in Congress. Immediately after the ceremony Santa Anna retired to the archbishop's palace, in Tacubaya, in a splendid coach, drawn by four beautiful white horses, a retinue of other carriages, brilliant aides-de-camp, and an immense escort of cavalry.

"Thus ended the revolution of 1841: but no one felt that its results were going to be permanent.

"On the 4th of November a great function was given in the opera of the capital in honor of his Excellency. The theatre was brilliantly illuminated with wax lights. Two principal boxes were thrown into one for the President and his suite, and lined with crimson and gold, with draperies of the same. The[Pg 288] staircase leading to the box was lighted by rows of footmen all the way up, in crimson and gold livery. A crowd of gentlemen stood waiting in the lobby for the arrival of the hero of the fête. He came at last, in regal state, carriages and outriders at full gallop, himself, staff, and suite in splendid uniforms. As he entered, the libretto of the opera was presented to him, bound in red and gold. His expression was resigned and rather melancholy, his manner grave but agreeable; surrounded by pompous officers, he alone looked quiet, gentlemanly, and high-bred.

"The theatre was crowded to suffocation—boxes, pit, and galleries. There was no applause as he entered. One solitary voice in the pit said: 'Viva Santa Anna!' but it seemed checked by a slight movement of disapprobation, scarcely amounting to a murmur.

"The generals, in their scarlet and gold uniforms, sat, like peacocks, surrounding Santa Anna, who looked modest and retiring, as if quite unaccustomed to public gaze."

General Bustamente, as usual, resigned his power to Santa Anna without further struggle, and withdrew to Europe, where he remained several years. After the fall of Santa Anna in 1845, he returned to his country, establishing his residence in the interior. He died a natural death in San Miguel de Allende in 1853.

We will leave Santa Anna in his opera-box, surrounded by brilliant officers and fair ladies sparkling with diamonds until the time comes to take up his story again.

[Pg 289]


[Pg 290]



A clear picture of the state of society in Mexico, at this period is given in the journal, before quoted, of Madame Calderon de la Barca, published without her name in 1843, with a preface by Prescott, the historian.

For some time after the violent separation of the colony from the mother country, Spain made no effort to recognize her truant, grown-up Mexico. It was not until 1839 that its independence was finally acknowledged, and its right to be regarded as a friendly state, by Spain. In that year Señor Don Calderon de la Barca was sent by Ferdinand VII. as accredited Ambassador to the Republic of Mexico where Bustamente was then President. The occasion was hailed with satisfaction by all parties as a signal of peace between the two countries; the remaining Mexicans of Spanish blood especially hailed the arrival of such an agreeable accession to society as Madame Calderon, a very accomplished woman, whose lively letters, not at all intended for publication, give an account of Mexican scenery and manners, useful to help us in our knowledge of them at that time, a sort of interregnum between the old[Pg 291] Spanish influences and the present full-fledged condition of the Republic. Civil war had already much disturbed the old Spanish landmarks, but much remained of the customs of provincial society, especially among the higher class in the capital. Balls, receptions, the opera, were kept up with something of the splendor of viceregal days, their revival stimulated by this fresh arrival from a European court.

Madame Calderon loved to wander under the cypresses of Chapultepec. In her day the viceregal apartments were lonely and abandoned, for the governor, in whose hands they then were, did not care to live there. The walls were falling to ruin, the glass of the windows and the carved work of the doors had been sold, so that the interior was exposed to every wind that blew around the lofty height.

She describes the gayety of the Paséo, a long, broad avenue planted with trees, with a large stone fountain, whose sparkling waters were cool and pleasant, ornamented by a gilt statue of Victory. Here, every evening, but more especially Sundays and fête days, were to be seen two long rows of carriages filled with ladies, crowds of gentlemen on horseback riding down the middle between them, soldiers at intervals keeping order, and multitudes of common people and beggars on foot. The carriages were for the most part extremely handsome—European coaches with fine horses and odd liveries, others in the old Mexican fashion, heavy and covered with gilding. Hackney-coaches drawn by mules were seen among the finer equipages. Most families had both horses and mules in their stables, the latter animal requiring[Pg 292] less care than a horse, and capable of enduring more fatigue. Carratelas, open at the sides, with glass windows, were filled with ladies in full toilet, without mantillas, their heads uncovered and generally coiffées with flowers as jewels. Equestrians, on fine horses and handsome Mexican asses, passed and repassed the carriages without stopping for conversation. Her favorite promenade was the Viga, where, as in Montezuma's time and long before, in Humboldt's, in our own, the Indians, early in the morning, brought flowers and vegetables to market by the canal. There was profusion of sweet peas, double poppies, blue-bottles, stock gilly-flowers and roses. Each Indian woman in her canoa looked as if seated in a floating flower-garden, crowned with garlands of roses or poppies. "Those who sit in the market," she says, "selling their fruit or vegetables, appear as if in bowers formed of fresh green branches and many-colored flowers. In the poorest village church the floor is strewed with flowers, and with flowers are adorned the baby at its christening, the bride at the altar, the dead body upon the bier."

In answer to questions about the society women of Mexico, Madame Calderon writes: "I must put aside exceptions, which are always rising up before me, and write en masse. Generally speaking, the Mexican señoras and señoritas write, read, and play a little; sew, and take care of their houses and children. When I say they read, I mean they know how to read; when I say they write, I do not mean that they can always spell, and when I say they play, I do not assert that they have a general knowledge of music. The climate inclines every one to indolence, both physical and moral. One cannot pore over a book when the blue sky is constantly smiling in at the open windows." She says that there are no women in the world more affectionate in their manners than the Mexicans, and that they invariably make excellent wives, if they are settled at home with their husbands.

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Madame Calderon describes the appearance of the Plaza on Good-Friday:

"The most beautiful and original scene was presented towards sunset in the great square, and it is doubtful whether any other city in the world could present a coup d'œil of equal brilliancy. The Plaza itself, even on ordinary days, is a noble square, and but for its one fault, a row of shops called the Parian, which breaks its uniformity, would be nearly unrivalled. Every object is interesting. The eye wanders from the Cathedral to the house of Cortés (the Monte de Piedad), and from thence to a range of fine buildings, with lofty arcades to the west. From a balcony we could see all the different streets that branch out from the square covered with gay crowds pouring in that direction to see a great procession which was expected to pass in front of the palace. Booths, filled with refreshments and covered with green branches and garlands of flowers, were to be seen in all directions, surrounded by a crowd quenching their thirst with orgeat, lemonade, or pulque. The whole square, from the Cathedral to the portales, was covered with thousands and tens of thousands of figures, all in their gayest dresses,[Pg 295] and as the sun poured his rays down upon their gaudy colors, they looked like armies of living tulips. Here was to be seen a group of ladies, some with black gowns and mantillas, others, now that their church-going duty was over, equipped in velvet or satin, with their hair dressed—and beautiful hair they have; some leading their children by the hand, dressed—alas, how they were dressed! Long, velvet gowns trimmed with blonde, diamond ear-rings, high French caps befurbelowed with lace and flowers, or turbans with plumes of feathers. Now and then, the head of a little thing that could hardly waddle alone, might have belonged to an English dowager-duchess in her opera-box. Some had extraordinary bonnets, and as they toddled along, top-heavy, one would have thought they were little old women, without a glimpse caught of their lovely little brown faces and blue eyes. The children here are very beautiful; they have little color, with swimming black or hazel eyes, and long lashes resting on the clear pale cheek, and a mass of fine dark hair plaited down behind.

"As a contrast to the señoras, with their over-dressed beauties, were the poor Indian women, trotting across the square, their black hair plaited with dirty red ribbon, a piece of woollen cloth wrapped round them, and a little mahogany baby hanging behind, its face upturned to the sky, and its head jerking along, somehow, without its neck being dislocated. The most resigned expression on earth is that of an Indian baby. All these groups are collected by hundreds, the women of the shop-keeper class in their small white embroidered gowns, with[Pg 296] white satin shoes and neat feet and ankles, rebozos, or bright shawls, thrown over their heads; the peasants and countrywomen, with short petticoats of two colors, generally scarlet and yellow, thin satin shoes and lace-trimmed chemises, or bronze-colored damsels, all crowned with flowers, strolling along, tingling light guitars.

"Add to this motley crowd, men dressed à la Mexicaine, with large ornamented hats and serapes, or embroidered jackets, sauntering along, smoking their cigars; léperos, in rags, Indians in blankets, officers in uniform, priests in their shovel hats, monks of every order; Frenchmen exercising their wit upon the passers-by; Englishmen looking on, cold and philosophical; Germans gazing through their spectacles, mild and mystical; Spaniards, seeming pretty much at home, abstaining from remarks; and it may be conceived that the scene, at least, presents variety.

"Suddenly the tinkling of a bell announces the approach of Nuestro Amo (the Host). Instantly the whole crowd are on their knees, crossing themselves devoutly. Disputes are hushed, flirtations arrested, and to the busy hum of voices succeeds a profound silence, filled only by the rolling of coach-wheels and the sound of the little bell."

This scene is almost the same to-day in the public square on Good-Friday. The costumes of the higher class have now surrendered to conventional Paris models, but there is a tendency to gaudiness and display, defying fashion, which makes a Mexican crowd bright with variegated color.

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Madame Calderon's accounts of the unsettled state of the country are comforting, as showing the immense advance in this respect, in the forty years since she was in Mexico.

Describing an hacienda not far from the capital, she says: "It is under the charge of an administrador, who receives from its owner a large annual sum, and whose place is by no means a sinecure, as he lives in perpetual danger from robbers. He is captain of a troop of soldiers, and as his life has been spent in persecuting robbers, he is an object of intense hatred to that free and independent body. He gave us a terrible account of night attacks from these men and of his ineffectual attempts to bring them to justice. He lately told the President that he thought of joining the robbers himself, as they were the only persons in the Republic protected by government."

"This pestilence of robbers," she says, "which infests the Republic, has never been eradicated. They are, in fact, the outgrowth of the civil war. Sometimes, in the guise of insurgents, taking an active part in the independence, they have independently laid waste the country, robbing all they met. As expellers of the Spaniards, these armed bands infested the roads between Vera Cruz and the capital, ruined all commerce, and without any particular inquiry into political opinions, robbed and murdered in all directions. Whatever measures have been from time to time taken to eradicate this evil, its causes remain, and the idle and unprincipled will always take advantage of the disorganized[Pg 298] state of the country to obtain by force what they might gain by honest labor."

Frequent crosses by the roadside were marks of murders committed by these highwaymen, yet the Mexican robbers had the reputation of being kind and considerate bandits. She relates, as a proof of their occasional moderation, that some ladies "were travelling from Mexico with a padre, when they were met by a party of robbers, who stopped the coach, and seized every thing, amongst other articles of value, a number of silver dishes. The padre observed to them that as the plate did not belong to the ladies, but was lent them by a friend, they would be obliged to replace it, and requested that one might be left as a pattern. The reasonable creatures instantly returned one dish and a cover.

"Another time, having completely stripped an English gentleman and his servant, and tied them both to a tree, observing that the man appeared distressed at the loss of his master's shoes, they politely returned and laid the shoes beside the gentleman."

This drawback to Mexican travel, the terrible bug-bear which still deters many timid people from venturing themselves in the country, has ceased to exist since the establishment of real law and order in the Republic, and especially since railroads have penetrated all the important parts of the country. The Guardias Rurales, a mounted troop of patrols, is now one of the finest military organizations in the world. It is said that General Diaz sent for the chiefs of brigandage, notorious leaders of pillaging[Pg 299] bands, and after inquiring how much they earned on an average by their profession, asked them if they had any objection to receiving that sum honestly, in a settled income. The result was the organization, out of this material, of a body of guards to protect the rural districts. They are stalwart men, with splendid leather suits and gray sombreros, all ornamented with silver. Their horses are beautiful animals, all of the same color in one band, handsomely caparisoned. The men ride well, and the effect of this strong body, united in the defence of order, instead of lurking apart in defiance of it, is in the highest degree reassuring. The result is satisfactory. Tales of highway robbery are relegated to the same shadowy region as the legends of Aztec atrocities. In the northern, desolate regions of Mexico, murders and robberies are still perpetrated. It is often the case that these are committed by other races than Mexicans, and very seldom, in proportion, can they be charged upon Indians.

Elsewhere is quoted Madame Calderon's observation of a pronunciamento. The following note has an importance further on in our story, of which she was at the time unconscious:

"The whole world is talking of a pamphlet written by Señor Gutierrez Estrada, which has just appeared, and seems likely to create a greater sensation in Mexico than the discovery of the gunpowder plot in England. Its sum and substance is the proposal of a constitutional monarchy in Mexico, with a foreign prince (not named) at its head, as the only remedy for the evils by which it is afflicted. The[Pg 300] pamphlet is written merely in a speculative form, inculcating no sanguinary measures, or sudden revolution; but the consequences are likely to be most disastrous to the fearless and public-spirited author."

[Pg 301]



We now come to the disastrous period of the war with the United States. Nothing more unfortunate could have befallen the struggling Republic of Mexico than to become involved in a foreign quarrel.

For three centuries the country had been under the hands of the Spanish government which though arbitrary, oppressive, and sometimes tyrannical, was in general firm and equable, and above all, safe. Laws, such as they were, were enforced. Personal property, perhaps ill-gotten, was respected. In spite of plenty of abuses and defects, the daily life of the inhabitants of Anahuac under the viceroys was comfortable and secure.

Suddenly, imbued with the ideas of the centuries, the Mexicans began to play at independence, like children lighting matches. At the instigation of a few leaders, some of them it is true with high aims, actuated by the desire of doing good for their country, they drove away their viceroys, rejected the strong arm of the Spanish authority, and undertook the difficult task of governing themselves. The trouble was, not one of them understood the rudiments of the art. There were plenty of applicants[Pg 302] for the highest post of office. Many were tried, but all were found wanting. Some gave it up themselves; others returned again and again to the futile task of making stable the shifting sands of popular opinion.

The only appeal was to arms. Blood was shed, powder and ball were spent, and a crop of military heroes sprung up, full of ardor, ready to pronounce at the slightest occasion, and bring an army to the field at a moment's notice. The sound of rolling cannon was familiar to every ear in Mexico. The smell of powder had nothing alarming about it. The very children were satiated with the sight of soldiery, and scarcely troubled themselves to run to the door to see a regiment go by.

But this was not warfare, real and serious. These armies were not thoroughly trained to the discipline of battle, and the generals were not educated in the science of war. Brave they undoubtedly were, and familiar with scenes of danger and bloodshed; too familiar, it may be, to value at its proper cost the waste of life and property caused by so much fighting. Exaggerated ideas of honor and glory, inherent to the Latin race, pervaded society, and the impression prevailed throughout the country that the Mexican arms were invincible, because every regiment and every general had, in turn, put to rout every other in the country.

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In this game of independence, the Mexican peoples had exhausted their resources, destroyed in a great measure the industries of the country, spent their money, and wasted rivers of blood. Many of their best generals were either driven from the country, or dead upon the field. They might have gone on, it is true, pronouncing and killing each other indefinitely, but for the sharp lesson that was taught them by the cruel exigencies of a foreign war.

That some lesson should come was perhaps inevitable, like a quick, sharp box on the ears, to bring such naughty children to their senses, and stop their foolish trifling with life and reputation. But it was hard that the blow should come from the hand of a nation which ought to have taken the place of an elder brother to these foolish and heedless children,—a hand which should have gently led them to peace and reconciliation instead of promoting discord.

The Mexicans, undoubtedly, helped to bring upon themselves the misfortunes that came swiftly upon them. Like all people whose own folly has put them on the wrong track, they were sure to do the wrong thing. They were heavily punished accordingly.

The United States had in a hundred years spread over the great western lands of North America with surprising rapidity, and now approached the regions which Cortés had laid claim to three centuries before. This claim was but vague, for the deserts and plains of the north were not accessible or inviting; still some posts were established, while the boundary line which should put a stop to the encroachments of either country was still unsettled. The territory west of the Sabine River and east of the Rio Grande came under discussion.

Moses Austin, born in Durham, Connecticut, a[Pg 305] southwestern pioneer, applied to the Mexican Commandant-General in Monterey in 1820 for permission to colonize three hundred families in Texas. Without waiting for his answer, he set out towards the Sabine River, was robbed and abandoned in that deserted waste, and died of the disease he caught by exposure soon after finding his way back to Louisiana. The grant was made, and given to his son, who had it confirmed in the city of Mexico, and it was he who founded the colony which has since become the capital of Texas, named Austin after him. More grants of land were willingly made by the Mexican government, who thought well of encouraging settlers as protectors against the savage hordes that infested the northern part of their country; and colonization went on, chiefly by people of the United States, until these emigrants to Texas far outnumbered the Mexicans. The difference of race and education was strongly marked between these sturdy settlers of Anglo-Saxon origin, and the chance stragglers from Mexico, not the best specimens of the Latin race. This population had no sympathy with the pronunciamentos and jealousies of the capital, and the result, as we have seen, was a revolt against Mexican rule in 1835, in consequence of the acts of the Federal government.

Santa Anna hastened to the scene with his army, but the rebellious forces, under the brilliant command of "Sam" Houston, General, Governor, and afterward President, were everywhere triumphant, and Texas declared herself an independent Republic, which maintained its separate existence between[Pg 306] the two great powers on each side of it till 1844, recognized not only by these, but by the European states.

The subject of the annexation of Texas to the United States began to be spoken of and strongly urged by the Texans themselves, but the movement was wholly disapproved by the party in that country opposed to the extension of slavery, since by the agreement then existing, all new territory south of a certain line permitted slavery, while the States north of it abjured it. In spite of the opposition of the North, however, Texas was admitted into the American Union by an act ratified in Congress in March 1845.

This act was regarded by the Mexicans as an act of aggression. As Texas was at the time wholly independent of Mexico, its right was undoubted to annex itself to another country; but on the part of the United States the act is scarcely to be justified according to the laws of honor and international good faith. It was at any rate approved only by one section of the country, the other regarding every additional step leading to a foreign war with a neighboring government hitherto friendly, with regret and displeasure.

The party which favored the measure began to make preparations for hostile demonstrations with alacrity. The American Republic had now long been at peace. Prosperous, safe from enemies abroad, peaceful at home, with plenty of money in her treasury, her military schools training a small body of officers in the latest science of the art of war,[Pg 307] she was in perfectly good condition to resist an attack, and had the cause been a popular one, every State in the Union would have offered with alacrity volunteer troops for the field.

The correspondence between the two countries grew embittered, and as time went on more and more unfriendly. During the negotiation of the treaty for annexation, war was permitted to go on in Texas; the government of the United States protested. In the war of words which followed, the Mexicans made and unfortunately reiterated the declaration that they should consider the ratification of the treaty as equivalent to a declaration of war.

During this period of agitation and irritation, the Mexicans went on with "Plans" and pronunciamentos. Herrera was President during 1844, during which short period Congress decreed the destruction of Santa Anna. Farías returned to the Republic from a voluntary exile abroad. General Paredes on his way to the north with an army to check the approach of United States forces pronounced a revolution and "Plan" at San Luis, and returned to Mexico to enforce it. He was made President, and remained in office six months, giving way then to a pronunciamento against him which resulted in putting General Don Nicholas Bravo at the head of government.

In all this confusion, hurrying to and fro to find a government, there was no true leader of affairs to dictate wise and moderate steps in such an emergency. Santa Anna, the military genius of the country, was ready to serve it in his own way, by placing himself at the head of an army.

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Troops were not wanting, for popular indignation was roused, and popular vanity stimulated by the idea of a war with the powerful neighboring Republic. It was pretty generally thought in the cities and towns that the result of the combat would be an easy victory. The one thing Mexicans were sure of about themselves was that they could fight, and the popular impression about the United States on the other hand, was that they could not. They had long been at peace, and without practice in arms, while it was well known that the war was unpopular in the Northern States.

The Mexicans therefore rushed to arms with their usual alacrity, little fearing the result. The Indians, all unconscious of the horrors of an invading army swarming over their villages and devastating the country, saw armies marching towards the north through their pueblos with indifference. Their eyes and ears were but too familiar with the sound of drum and the flying colors of the national flag. Their interests, their liberty, had little to do with the tempests that raged over them.

The Mexican army was characterized by many of the necessary qualities of good soldiery. Patient and suffering, requiring but little subsistence, with great capacity for enduring fatigue, and with enough physical courage to enable them to encounter danger without fear, the Mexican soldiers when properly led compared well with the troops of other nations. But corruption existed among their officers from the highest to the lowest grade; commissions were sometimes given by the functionaries of government as rewards[Pg 309] for private services, discreditable to the giver and recipient. The army included, besides the troops of the line, the active battalions of the different states and the local national guards of the cities.

The cavalry had a high reputation, both at home and abroad. Many other corps were well disciplined, and the men were expert in all feats of horsemanship, since riding is now a universal accomplishment in the country where, three hundred years ago, the horses of the Conquistadores were regarded as supernatural creatures. Those of Mexico are considered inferior in speed and power, though possessing endurance in a remarkable degree. The carbines with which the cavalry were armed were, for the most part, of a model behind the times, and useless when accuracy of aim was necessary.

The Mexican artillery contained many foreigners among its officers; its juniors were the pupils of the Military College at Chapultepec, where they were well taught the theory of arms. Mexican revolutions had given them plenty of practice, and in gunnery they were exceedingly proficient. Their guns were fine, but clumsily mounted, and therefore hard to move. Light artillery, as practised by modern troops, was but little known or used among the Mexicans until it was taught them by the enemy.

The infantry was in many respects tolerably well drilled, and severe discipline was enforced with the privates. Ceremonious etiquette and detail duties were punctiliously observed. The muskets of the infantry were inferior, and the men were by no means proficient in their accurate use.

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The organization of the staff depended much on the general who happened to be in command. There existed an enormous disproportion of generals, and their number was so great that it was said at the time they had rather a brigade of generals than generals of brigade. The country was full of arms and munitions of war, such as they were, of ancient manufacture; but for replenishing the supply, Mexico had no resources, beyond the repair of partial damages. Such an establishment as a national armory was unknown in the country.

Of maritime power Mexico was and is utterly destitute. A few steamers and sailing vessels were on her list at the beginning of hostilities, but they were not put upon a war footing, and no attempt was made at naval warfare.

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In the spring of 1846, General Taylor of the regular army of the United States was sent to the mouth of the Rio Grande, or Rio Bravo del Norte, as it is also called, with a small force. Mexican troops also assembled there, and a conflict was precipitated by a Mexican ambuscade on the Texas side of the river, which attacked a small party of dragoons, reconnoitering. In this skirmish sixteen Americans were killed or wounded, and the whole force was captured. This was the beginning of hostilities. The Mexican army crossed the Rio Grande, and on the 8th of May the battle of Palo Alto was fought, and that of Resaca de la Palma on the next day. Both of these places are on the Texas side of the river. The Mexicans were defeated in each engagement, and they left the field with a better opinion of the capacity of American troops than the one they held before. The rout of the Mexicans was complete; their pieces of light artillery, their camp, and five hundred pack-mules and saddles remained in the hands of their enemies. General Arista, the commander of the Mexican force, lost his personal baggage, plate, and public correspondence. The number[Pg 312] of killed and wounded was estimated at more than a thousand.

After this action, both parties crossed the river, and Mexico became the theatre of warfare. The Mexican army withdrew at first to Matamoras, at the mouth of the Rio Grande, and afterward to San Luis de Potosi; Arista was deprived of his command, and brought to trial before a council of war.

This was the opening of the conflict, and this might well have been the end, if Mexico had been capable of rational negotiation. But there was no government long enough in place to be negotiated with. The special envoy sent from Washington, agreeably to an intimation on the part of one President, that negotiations would be cordially entered upon, was refused an audience by the new President who had usurped the place of the other one. Such weakness in Mexican high places furnished an excuse to the American government for continuing the war, while this same weakness on the part of their antagonist made it almost discreditable for the United States to continue an aggressive warfare upon forces so unequal.

However, the war was begun. Hostilities had been opened by Mexico, and the American people of all parties were aroused. Bills were promptly passed in Washington providing men, money, and munitions with alacrity, as if there were but one opinion of the justice of the cause. The President was authorized to call for volunteers, in any number not exceeding fifty thousand, to serve for the period of one year, or during the war, and volunteers readily answered the appeal to arms.

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"Indemnity for the past and security for the future," is the watchword of the United States in its wars with foreign nations. As indemnity for the wrongs inflicted by Mexico,—that is, her objection to the admission of Texas to the Union, it was determined to cross her boundary line and seize upon her territory.

California, then sparsely settled, and comparatively unknown, at a long distance from the central and civilized part of Mexico, had been explored already by American travellers, who brought back accounts of its climate, fertile soil, and mineral resources that showed it to be worth having. The harbors on its coasts were known to be the only good ones on the shores of the Northern Pacific Ocean. California lay immediately south of the United States territory of Oregon, with no defined natural boundary between them. Many Americans were already settled there, and altogether it seemed well to transfer this goodly region to the keeping of the United States. New Mexico, another department of the Mexican Republic, lying upon the direct route to California, and in great part included in the boundaries claimed by Texas upon her admission to the Union, was also another territory that claimed attention.

It would be too much to say that the United States began hostilities with a neighboring republic, shaken by internal discord, its government little better than anarchy, and weak from continuous civil war, for the sake of snatching from that country a large part of its territory to enlarge its own already[Pg 314] wide proportions. But since the Mexicans, foolishly and wickedly, had given fair pretext for quarrel, and afterwards, with the obstinacy of naughty children, refused to recede, and persisted in resorting to arms, actually making the first attack, it seemed well to the United States government to call this the inevitable, and accept it with all the benefits arising from such a course.

Their general plan of operations was to seize and occupy the coveted territories as "indemnity for the expenses of war," while an army invading the heart of Mexico should force an agreement to terms of peace.

In pursuance of this plan, an American squadron appeared before the fort of Monterey, on the Pacific, in Alta California, on the 7th of July, two months after the first shots of warfare on the Rio Grande. This Monterey must not be confounded with the other Mexican town of the same name. The Mexicans evacuated the place with the few soldiers who constituted the garrison. On the same day two hundred and fifty seamen landed, and took possession, and hoisted the American flag. This course was in pursuance of instructions from the Secretary of the Navy to the commander of the Pacific squadron, thus expressed in a letter, written as early as June 24, 1845: "It is the earnest desire of the President to pursue the policy of peace, and he is anxious that you, and every part of your squadron, should be assiduously careful to avoid any act which could be construed into an act of aggression. Should Mexico, however, be resolutely bent on hostilities, you will be mindful to protect the persons and interests of citizens of the United States, and should you ascertain beyond a doubt that the Mexican government has declared war against us, you will employ the force under your command to the best advantage. The Mexican ports on the Pacific are said to be open and defenceless. If you ascertain with certainty that Mexico has declared war against the United States, you will at once blockade or occupy such ports as your force may admit."

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[Pg 316]

Other ports were taken with equal ease; and the navy having joined forces with the army of Colonel Fremont, the Americans entered the capital of Alta California, on the 13th of August, and took possession of the government house without a show of opposition, issuing at once a proclamation announcing the conquest of the department.

Meanwhile General Taylor, greatly reinforced by volunteer troops sent from the United States, advanced into the interior of the country though the state of Nueva Leon, bordering upon the Rio Grande and the Gulf of Mexico, and approached its capital, the other Monterey. It lies at the eastern base of a range of hills, in a valley of great fertility, which is capable of supporting a large population. The main road from the Rio Grande to the city of Mexico leads from the east through a cultivated country, directly through the city, and continues by a pass through the Sierra, by Saltillo, and on to a desert region between Saltillo and San Luis de Potosi. A rivulet, the San Juan de Monterey, rises in this pass and crosses the valley. Monterey stands on the northern bank of this rivulet, and extends along the stream. At the time of the battle it contained about two thousand inhabitants. A spur of the mountain Sierra juts out above the city to the west, and on this is perched the picturesque Obispado Viejo, or Old Palace, built by a bishop of the last century for his pleasure-seat.

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General Ampudia had the charge of the defence of the place, with over ten thousand men. The town was plentifully supplied with ammunition, and in the various batteries forty-two guns were mounted. Subsistence for some days, beef, cattle, and sheep, had been introduced into the city. The attacking force was known to be too small to completely invest the town.

The American army made a vigorous onslaught which was bravely resisted by the Mexicans. The siege lasted for four days, during which the position of the bishop's palace was keenly contested by both parties. This was stormed on the morning of the 22d, and carried by a brilliant attack; but the fate of the siege was not decided until the 25th, when the Mexican garrison evacuated the citadel, and retreated to Saltillo.

The force with which General Taylor had marched on Monterey was about six thousand five hundred men. The loss to the American army was twelve officers and one hundred and eight men killed, and thirty-one officers and three hundred and thirty-seven men wounded. The number of Mexicans who fell was probably over one thousand.

Both sides fought with great bravery, and the[Pg 319] Mexicans contested the occupation of their town with determination, during the long and unceasing conflict. The result was terribly discouraging to the soldiers of the Mexican army, who were discovering, with every new essay, that the United States soldiers could fight.

General Ampudia, after the defeat, issued a proclamation announcing it frankly, with humble apologies for his capacity. He gave a short account of the operations, highly extolling the valor of his troops, and attributing the defeat to a series of accidents, concluding with the assurance to his countrymen that the loss of Monterey was of little importance, and would soon be forgotten in fresh triumphs of the Mexican arms.

He soon received orders to march his troops to San Luis de Potosi, on the backward way towards the capital.

The operations at Monterey, in spite of the opinion of the Mexican general, had nevertheless a great effect on the progress of the war. It must have been discouraging to the Mexican people; on the other hand, it made the war more popular in the United States, where the bravery of the troops was a subject of national congratulation.

The officers in the army of General Taylor became heroes, and their military glory was everywhere sounded.

During these events Don Maria Paredes was President of Mexico. His "Plan" for his country was a monarchy, and apparently heedless, or at any rate indifferent, to the approach of hostile troops[Pg 320] toward his capital, he occupied himself with forming a ministry favorable to his scheme, with the intent of making sooner or later a radical change in the political institutions of the country.

Such intentions had aroused a violent opposition to his administration. Santa Anna, apparently amusing himself at Havana, but always well informed by his partisans of what was going on at home, sent home letters declaring himself in favor of the Constitution of 1824, and ready, as usual, to serve his country. The American government, hearing of this, thought it well to encourage Santa Anna, in opposition to Paredes, for they looked with no favor on the idea of a monarchy in Mexico, and moreover saw that all negotiations for peace were futile during the stay of Paredes in power. The Gulf of Mexico was already blockaded by an American squadron, but orders were issued to permit Santa Anna to come in, if he wanted to. This order was given before the battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma, and must be taken as a sign of willingness on the part of the United States for a pacific accommodation.

But Santa Anna's gifts were those of a military nature, not for peaceful solutions. If he was to serve his country, it must be by waving the battle flag and not the olive branch.

The defeats of the army reminded Paredes of the need of regaining his prestige. He began to put forth some energy in raising men and money, and gave out that he should repair to the field of action himself to conduct operations against the invaders[Pg 321] in person. Raising money with great difficulty, and assembling a large army, he made ready to leave the capital on the 31st of July. On that day the garrison of Vera Cruz pronounced in favor of Santa Anna, the whole garrison of the city of Mexico joined in the pronunciamento and seized upon the citadel. Farías, whom we have known as a patriotic man, lent all his influence to support this rebellion. The Vice-President, Bravo, and the old ministry, made some opposition on paper, but it was fruitless, and Paredes was made prisoner. He was soon liberated and left the country.

Jack-in-the-box Santa Anna was still at Havana, whence he popped up at once and sailed for Mexico with his suite. He landed at Vera Cruz on the 16th of August, having passed the blockading squadron without question or delay. Of course he issued a manifesto denouncing the monarchical schemes of Paredes and the course of the United States, and explaining the merit of his own conduct. He then retired to his box to await the course of events, while he sent interested allies to the capital for the purpose of controlling them. State after state declared in favor of Santa Anna.

Every nerve was now strained to raise money and troops for the war. Santa Anna approached the capital, and was met by offers of the supreme power from the provisional government. They were declined on the ground that Santa Anna willed to serve his country in the army. He declared that he would not abandon the post of danger for the post of power, and closed his answer with assurances[Pg 322] of his disinterested patriotism. This paved the way for his reception at the capital. He was received with a show of enthusiasm worthy of the regeneration of his country.

This parade of military ardor took place on the 15th of September, while General Ampudia was strengthening Monterey for the attack. A week later it had come, and on the 25th the city had capitulated.

On the 8th of October General Santa Anna arrived at San Luis de Potosi with the troops which had marched from Mexico. He at once set about organizing the large army called into the field, pledging a part of his private property as one means of raising money, which was sorely needed and hard to get.

[Pg 323]



On the 18th of February, 1847, General Winfield Scott presented himself before Vera Cruz with a formidable army of American troops. On the 22d Santa Anna lost the battle of Angostura, or Buena Vista as it is better known by Americans, and was forced to retire with his troops upon San Luis. On the 28th the American forces in the north met the Mexicans at Sacramento and beat them, soon after occupying the important town of Chihuahua. These events following close upon one another filled the Mexicans with alarm, but their determination held out, and all the opportunities for peace offered them by the American government were waived as an indignity to their national honor.

To raise money was the great difficulty. Calls were made upon the separate states and upon individuals. The government journals adopted the motto Ser o no ser ("to be or not to be," literally rendered), and were filled with articles urging the hearty support of the war. One plan for raising money was the sequestration of Church property.

As the various religious orders came over to New Spain from the old country they built churches,[Pg 324] monasteries, convents, and hospitals; in the early period after the Conquest their work and influence, as we have seen, were most favorable to the establishment of the colony. To the Franciscans, in great part, belongs the honor of establishing the power of Spain on a firm basis in the new country. Their wise course with the Indians, establishing a cordial and even affectionate intercourse with them, engrafting gently the tenets of the new religion upon whatever was good and healthy of the old stock, gave them a strong hold upon their converts, and thus confirmed by love and reason the position won in the first place by arms and superior force. The several orders of Hospitallers established all over the country houses of shelter for the sick, admirably appointed and administered conscientiously with the greatest zeal.

The Jesuits encouraged learning in Mexico, founded colleges and schools, and inspired even the lowest class with the possibility of raising themselves by developing their mental faculties. The Dominicans, by their furious zeal for the Inquisition, doubtless hastened the end of the Spanish rule, for the soil of the New World has never been favorable for the taking root of this institution.

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"Broadly speaking," Mr. Janvier says, in his admirable "Mexican Guide," "the influence of the religious orders upon the colony was beneficial during its first century, neutral during its second, harmful during its third." It must always be remembered that Cortés, with all his personal ambition and greed of gold, was deeply religious, and that he never lost sight of his highest aim in conquering New Spain, which was in all sincerity to plant the cross upon its soil. The impulse given by his determination lasted a long time, but in another century this had lost its force, while with the decline of the power of the Church at home, the ambassadors from Spain had less religious fervor. In the last century all institutions of the Church had deteriorated to a degree fatal to her interests, as well as to those of the country.

By this time so much of the wealth of Mexico had come into the possession of the Church that this locking up of capital really blocked the channels of trade. Money accepted, or extorted, by the priests stopped circulating, and was lost in the coffers of churches, or converted into superb ornaments for altars. The practical thought of the time, in the stress for money required to pursue the war, turned to the scheme of converting all this splendor into funds for the equipment of armies.

The clergy became alarmed at the first sound of such proposals, and used all their powerful influence against them. For this course they were accused by the government journals of want of patriotism, of aiding and abetting the monarchists, and fomenting the discords which were daily becoming more dangerous.

This was not without reason, for although the priests feared and hated the "Northern heretics," as they called the enemy, they feared and hated still more the loss of their property. The monarchical preferences of the great dignitaries of the Church[Pg 327] are well known. They have never favored the innovation of the Republic in Mexico.

In spite of the strong opposition of the priests, an attempt was made to carry the plan into effect. Government required a contribution from the property of the clergy to the amount of two millions of dollars, and issued drafts amounting to that sum on the different bishops of the country. These prelates really were not able to pay immediately in ready money, even if they had inclination; they begged for delay, and meantime incited the clergy to defeat further measures in Congress. Nevertheless a bill was passed in January, 1847, "to hypothecate or sell in mortmain Church property" in amounts necessary to obtain fifteen millions for the support of the national war against the United States. Government, determined to carry the matter through, took the first step by seizing a priest who was stirring up an insurrection in the capital, and casting him into prison. Such acts stifled the general outcry, and the clergy were compelled to work in secret. But the property consisted almost entirely of real estate, and, even when seized or mortgaged, it was difficult to raise money on it, for the clergy made it unsafe for individuals to encourage the government by purchase. No great quantity of money was raised at that time, and Congress was induced to consider ways of making the law less obnoxious. In the middle of their conference they broke up, and left government to obtain resources as it might.

Thus the first great blow was struck at the accumulation[Pg 328] of Church wealth; the wedge admitted which must weaken the structure in time.

On the 22d of March General Scott, having landed his troops, began to bombard the city of Vera Cruz. At the time of the attack the city was but scantily supplied with subsistence. The governor of the state had endeavored to provide it with provisions, in the little time he had after the appearance of American vessels in the harbor, but amid the clamor at the capital his small voice was unheeded. General Morales, the Commandant, with good courage resolved to keep up the defence as long as possible, trusting for aid to the coming of the vomito, which early every spring makes Vera Cruz unhealthy, rather than to any hope of a relieving army.

On the day General Scott summoned the city to surrender, General Morales returned a peremptory refusal, saying that he would make good his defence to the last, informing his Excellency that he could commence operations in the manner which he might consider most advantageous. Soon after, the bombardment began. For four days a shower of shells poured upon the city, and the violence instead of diminishing daily increased. The inhabitants for protection crowded upon the mole, and into the northern part of the town. For twelve days the place was closely invested. Many poor people who, without the necessaries of life, were prowling about the streets in search of food, fell before the American fire, as well as women and children, who were not safe even in their houses. On the 28th the city surrendered. The Mexican troops were permitted to march out of the city with the honors of war, to the field where the surrender of arms was to take place, and to salute their flag when it was struck. The civil and religious rights of Vera Cruz were guaranteed to its inhabitants. The troops laid down their arms, and General Worth's command entered and took possession of the city and the neighboring Castle of San Juan d' Ulóa.

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By this capture, General Scott obtained a base of operations for direct advance upon the city of Mexico, and, moreover, inflicted another blow upon the courage of the Mexican nation.

Santa Anna, who, by the way, had been made President, leaving political affairs in the hands of Governor Farías, Vice-President, hastened from the defeat at Buena Vista to the encounter of another American army, met General Scott between Jalapa and Vera Cruz, and sustained a new defeat at Cerro Gordo. He himself escaped and fled to Orizaba, where he made strenuous efforts to assemble anew an army, for his troops were utterly dispersed, and not a barrier remained between the enemy and the capital. The Americans, in fact, slowly advanced, occupying the country as they went towards the capital. Santa Anna arrived first at Puebla with all the force which he had collected at Orizaba. He found the Poblanos indifferent, and tried to rouse their patriotism, telling them, with good reason, that he knew they could fight if they chose, for not three years before they had beaten him, Santa Anna, off the town although he was backed by an army of 12,000 men. Notwithstanding his eloquence, the American army[Pg 331] marched into Puebla without any fighting at all. The Ayuntamiento of the city met General Worth outside the city, and favorable terms were agreed upon.

The American troops arriving in Puebla were quartered at first in the Plaza Mayor, where they stacked their arms, and laid themselves down to rest. They had passed the night in the open air in a pouring rain, and were tired and dirty with a long march all the morning. The Poblanos could not understand that these ill-conditioned soldiers were the terrible conquerors who were invading their homes. Some one expressed the belief that five hundred good men could cut them down, as they lay at their ease in the Plaza, but the attempt was not made.

Puebla was thus quietly occupied, but the inhabitants showed no good-will to the invaders.

Fort Loreto, on the hill of Guadalupe, was occupied by a part of the American command. This hill is famous in the annals of Mexican history. In the old times when it was crowned by the Church of Guadalupe, religious processions used to go up and down on the days of sacred ceremony. The fort was destined to a glorious triumph later, but at the time of the American investment it had not yet won its reputation. Then, as now, from the heights was to be seen one of the great views of the world: three snow-covered volcanoes, with Malintzi rising 13,000 feet above the level of the sea, and the lofty crest of Orizaba, and nearer at hand the pyramid of Cholula. The city of Puebla spreads out below like a map. It is very pretty, built like all the Mexican cities, with streets running at accurate[Pg 332] right angles, straight and regular. Many churches are scattered over the city; the frequent use of colored tiles in building furnishes a great many colors, for red, yellow, and blue are employed in the domes, which glow with bright tints or glitter in the reflection of the sun.

The American troops had full opportunity to enjoy this scene while they occupied Puebla, awaiting at first the arrival of General Scott, and afterwards reinforcements sufficient to warrant an advance. Santa Anna returned to Mexico, where, as usual with beaten generals, his reception was the reverse of cordial. He took what measures he could to win back popularity, and as one step towards this, resigned the presidency. Pending a new election, Congress created him Dictator until the next year, and armed with this authority he began the work of fortifying the capital, since this was evidently the next and last point of attack for the enemy, General Taylor's army finding no hindrance in coming from the north, and General Scott close at hand in the City of the Angels.

Patriotism, the desire to defend the capital, was fully aroused, and battalions poured in from the different cities and states of the Republic; each sent its guns to contribute to the defence, and by the end of June the Mexican Dictator had at his disposal over 25,000 men and sixty pieces of artillery. Pronunciamentos ceased for the time, and the spirits of the Mexicans again rose, leading them to hope that the final struggle would be successful, and that the troops of the United States would meet with an overwhelming defeat at the gates of their capital.

[Pg 333]



Early in August the American army left Puebla and took up its quarters outside the capital, having approached by a route south of Lake Chalco.

Santa Anna, having learned these movements, began fortifications at the Bridge and Church of Churubusco, four miles south of the city. There is no town here, only a few little scattered houses; in the time of the Aztecs, however, it was an important place, which clustered round the temple of their old god of war, Huitzilopochtli, of which the modern name is a derivation, having come a long way from its root. "The place," says an old chronicler, "was the dwelling and diabolical habitation of infernal spirits" until the priests of the Church cast them out. When the artillery of the American army rattled about their ears, the poor inhabitants may have fancied there had entered in devils worse than the first.

The Mexican general ordered a barricade to be erected in the road over which the American army must pass. This was done, but when Worth arrived he set the same Indians who had thrown up the barricade to level it again. These docile natives saw[Pg 334] but little difference between one army and another, and they set to work with the same patient alacrity they had used to build the barricade, on the business of tearing it down again.

On the 18th the battle of Churubusco was fought, the Mexicans defending with great bravery a convent to which they had retreated. In this battle, lost by the Mexicans, many of their distinguished men perished. Gorostiza, a poet and dramatist, some of whose plays still hold the stage, lost his life valiantly commanding his battalion, although he was old and infirm.

It was all in vain. The Americans gained the convent and the town, in spite of the valor of the defenders and the bravery of General Anaya, who was in command. The Mexicans left alive were taken prisoners, and the Americans triumphed. The day of Churubusco is regarded by the Mexicans as a glorious one, in spite of their defeat. A monument stands in the Plaza in memory of the heroes who died there defending their country.

Closer and closer drew the lines of the hostile force. There was an armistice after the battle of Churubusco; fighting began again at Molino del Rey, a range of stone buildings under the fire of the heavy guns of the Castle of Chapultepec. General Scott was informed that a foundry was in operation at that place, and that bells from the steeples of the city had lately been dismounted, probably to be recast there for cannon. This turned his attention to the place. It was attacked on the night of September 8th, and taken the next day after furious resistance. Inside the Molino were some few old cannon moulds, but no evidence of recent founding. The Americans were now close under the fortifications of Chapultepec, whose guns had played incessantly upon them from daylight throughout the action.

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This also is regarded by the Mexicans as a brilliant action, as it undoubtedly was on their part, as well as that of the daring invaders. During the battle, the bells of the city were ringing a continuous joyful peal, as if to assert a victory beforehand. The city was wholly confident in the impregnability of its stronghold, the Castle of Chapultepec.

Yet on the 13th this difficult fortress was attacked by General Pillow, scaled and taken by the American troops. General Bravo was in command of the castle, while Santa Anna was occupied with other exposed places. Under him were eight hundred men, among them the pupils of the Military College established there. The General was taken prisoner; many of the brave young fellows, before they had gone beyond the first lessons of military science, were taught its last and most bitter one,—death, in the defence of their citadel. The American soldiers rushed in at the many different doors of the college; it is said that they showed unusual ferocity, made savages by the custom of slaughter among the Mexicans in former engagements. Quarter was rarely given, a practice learned of the Spaniards themselves; for a few moments the struggle was fearful, and the bloodshed unrestrained. Parties of American officers found their way to the Azotea, and tore down the Mexican colors, while the standards of two United States regiments were displayed. The shouts of the victors announced to the city that her stronghold had fallen.

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The taking of Chapultepec was practically the end of the war. The city of Mexico was shortly after occupied, and although the negotiations for peace were long and tiresome, the end was obvious.

On the 2d of February, 1848, a treaty was confirmed, called that of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, from the name of the little suburb city where it was signed. Mexico received fifteen millions of dollars, by way of indemnity; but lost the territory of Alta California, New Mexico, Texas, and a part of her state of Coahuila, by the agreement to consider the windings of the Rio Bravo del Norte, or Rio Grande, as the boundary between the two nations, as far as it goes; that is, to a direct line parallel with San Diego on the coast of California.

No sooner had California fallen into the hands of the Americans, than it turned out to be full of gold. In that very year, 1848, began the gold fever of California, and emigration poured in from all parts of the States, so that rapidly the territory, unknown and neglected by the Mexicans, grew to be a most important State. San Francisco, then a little straggling Mexican port, is now a large and flourishing city.

This is a result of the war which must be viewed with impatience, to say the least, by the Mexicans, who saw themselves, at the time, forced to relinquish this large amount of territory without the power of refusal. On the other hand, there is room for thinking that California, left in the hands of that people,[Pg 339] might have remained to this day undiscovered, with its wealth still hidden in the earth. Whatever comfort this may be, is open to the losing side.

The war left them disgraced and humiliated, with ruined cities and desolated homes scattered over the land. It is probable, however, that the permanent effect of the war was beneficial. It taught the Mexicans, for one thing, to distrust the prestige of their army, and humbled the pretensions of a crowd of military men, who, while they aspired to the highest offices of government, proved themselves not only incapable of serving their country thus, but incompetent in the field. High praise, however, is always to be assigned to the courage and bravery of the army, its commanders, and private soldiers, especially in the defence of their capital when the struggle reached its last agony.

The United States by the war acquired an immense extent of territory, by many of its citizens, however, even at the time, regarded as a questionable good. The acquisition of so much slave territory without doubt hastened the crisis which called for the civil war of 1861. The experiences of the American army in the Mexican war, and the glory, exaggerated perhaps, which attached to their feats of arms, stimulated the taste for military pursuits, before very moderate in a peaceful and industrious land. The heroes of the campaign of Anahuac were transferred to the field of politics. General Taylor became President of the United States, and General Scott narrowly escaped it. The defects of the army were recognized and in great measure remedied, so[Pg 340] that when the civil war did come, both armies, on the two contending sides of that unfortunate conflict, were in a state of readiness much in advance of the condition of the national troops before the campaign in Mexico, while a crop of officers, heroes of the so-called glorious victories of Palo Alto, Buena Vista, and the rest, responded to the call of loyalty, or rebellion, with the alacrity of experience.

After the evacuation of Mexico an attempt was made by the Americans to capture Santa Anna. General Lane, who with a small force was engaged in driving guerrillas from the roads, received information that this general was at Tehuacan, not very far from Puebla. After marching all night in that direction, he occupied two large haciendas in that neighborhood, where his men and horses were concealed during daylight, and the Mexican residents held close prisoners. When evening arrived the command marched on towards Tehuacan. About five miles out they met a carriage with an escort of ten or twelve armed men. They were stopped, but the occupant of the carriage produced a written safeguard over the signature of an American general, and upon this the whole party was allowed to proceed. General Lane arrived at Tehuacan just at daylight, and entered it at once. But the bird had flown. Santa Anna had been there; but, warned by a breathless messenger on horseback, who rode back from the carriage the soldiers had met, to give him news of the approach of the soldiers, had just time enough to make his escape, with his family, leaving all his effects, which were quickly plundered by the troops of Lane's command.

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On Friday 1st, before the treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, Santa Anna informed the Minister of War and the American Commander-in-Chief that he desired to leave Mexico and seek an asylum on a foreign soil, where he "might pass his last days in that tranquillity which he could never find in the land of his birth." This permission was granted, and he went to Jamaica, leaving his country at peace, but not forever.

Ulysses S. Grant, then a young soldier in the army of the United States, took part in the Mexican war. He went into the battle of Palo Alto as second lieutenant, at the age of twenty-six, and entered the city of Mexico sixteen months later with the conquering army.

In his personal memoirs General Grant expresses his opinion that the Mexican war was one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation. "It was an instance," he says, "of a republic following the bad example of European monarchies, in not considering justice in their desire to acquire additional territory."

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Peace was restored, and with it revived commerce and industry; the coffers of government were full, thanks to the fifteen millions of pesos received from the United States to heal the wounds of war.

General Herrera took possession of the presidential chair, and Mexico, after twenty years of warfare, civil and foreign, took a respite of as many months.

Herrera became President on the 3d of June, 1848, and fulfilled the appointed time of office until January, 1851, when he handed over the control to his successor, when for the first time in the history of the Republic this change was effected without violence.

His administration was economical and moral, and so was that of his successor, General Arista, who continued the reform of the army, bringing order into the financial condition of the country. These two terms may be regarded as models of good government.

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Before the close of Arista's term the Mexicans took up their old practice of pronouncing, and rather than create a disturbance, the President, finding himself unpopular, secretly retired from the capital. Resolutions began, and Santa Anna, hearing their echo afar, returned to the country once more, to be made Dictator.

But Mexico was not to fall back into the hopeless anarchy of the period before the American war. The better class had learned to desire peace, and there were leaders among them strong enough to restrain the mobile desires of the multitude, and lead them to better things. The epoch of the reform began; and although this reform was signalized by bloodshed, it was a war for definite objects and principles, and not a squabble, setting up and putting down incompetent presidents, which used to prevail.

The great struggle arose over the question of the sequestration of Church property, begun during the United States war, but then, as we have seen, treated injudiciously, hastily dealt with, with but temporary and inefficient results. Later the disagreement between the clerigos, or Church party, and the liberales, or those demanding the surrender of the property of the Church, became wider and wider, until two great parties divided the country. For half a century these parties have disputed the power under their two political standards. It must not be inferred that the party opposed to the clerigos has been opposed to religion. The liberals have been as good Christians, and not only this, as devout Catholics, as the so-called Church party. The question has not turned upon matters of doctrine, but upon those pertaining to the goods of the Church.

Benito Juarez was of pure Aztec birth. It has even been said that the blood of the Montezumas[Pg 345] was in his veins. Be that as it may, his family was of the lowest order of the Indians, living in a village of the state of Oaxaca. They were poor, and it is said that at twelve Benito knew neither how to read nor write.

He found a protector in Don Antonio Salanueva, head of a rich family of Oaxaca, who became interested in him, and kindly helped him to an education. In him, as in many other cases less known, the facility of the Indian intelligence to acquire knowledge was shown. He learned rapidly to read and write, and advanced so far as to study law, in which he afterwards distinguished himself, elected first a member of the legislature of Oaxaca, and afterwards climbing all the steps to legal fame until he became the presiding judge of the courts there.

During the war with the United States, Juarez was at the capital, as deputy to Congress. He took a vigorous part in the demand for the loan upon Church property to supply money for the war, and thus ranged himself with the opponents to the Church party, although himself preserving the devout faith of the Catholic religion, which the Indians almost invariably cling to.

He was made Governor of Oaxaca, and devoted himself to establishing schools for the Indians, to benefit his race, while he managed affairs wisely and economically for all.

During Santa Anna's dictatorship, he was banished from the country, and stayed in New Orleans until the turn of the wheel brought his way of thinking to the top, when among other offices he resumed[Pg 346] that of Governor of Oaxaca. He became afterwards Secretary of State, and President of the Supreme Court of Justice.

On the 17th of February, 1857, a new Constitution was promulgated by the enlightened Congress. It declared that national sovereignty resides essentially in the people, and adopted the republican form of government, representative, democratic, and federal. It proclaimed each state free and sovereign within its limits, and introduced many reforms and improvements in the old code. It was received with great applause by the liberal party, but with little disguised disapproval by the army and clergy, who set themselves from its birth to combating its success. Great disturbance arose, excommunication of the liberals, promulgations, pronunciamentos, arrests, uprisings. From the midst of all the confusion Juarez took possession of the presidency by right of his position as head of the Supreme Court, since Comonfort, the legitimate President, had pronounced, been condemned, and forced to leave the country. Juarez and his party held their own through much adverse circumstance. On his side were ranged, in the defence of the Constitution of 1857, Doblado, Ortega, Zaragoza, Guillermo, Prieto, and other important men; on the side of the clerigos were the Generals Miramon and Márquez, and the greater part of the chiefs of the regular army. Civil war waged over the land; there is reason to believe that moderate principles and the Constitution of 1857 would have triumphed, had it not been for the strange and certainly unexpected events of the foreign[Pg 347] intervention, which occasioned an episode in Mexican affairs as cruel and unnecessary as it was dramatic. So foreign indeed was it to the national life of the Mexican people, that it in reality scarcely formed a part of their history. The Indian in his hut of adobe saw the princely pageant pass, he scarce knew why.

[Pg 348]



IN 1861, four years after the declaration of the Constitution of 1857, on the 8th of December, there appeared in the waters of Vera Cruz a foreign squadron, over which floated the colors of three European powers. It was a combined expedition from the governments of Spain, England, and France. The commissioners from these three powers were accompanied by a body of Spanish troops, a smaller force of French ones, and some English sailors. Why were they there? Did they come to demand something? Had they an ultimatum to present?

The three powers had signed a treaty in London by which they agreed to send this threefold expedition to Mexico to demand guaranties for the safety of their subjects living there, and further to urge their claim to sums borrowed by the Mexicans during their difficulties, on which a law had been lately passed suspending payment. This was the pretext for the expedition; its real cause was below the surface.

The commissioners took possession easily of Vera Cruz, and then proceeded to Orizaba, where a conference[Pg 349] was opened with Juarez. The demand for payment was readily acknowledged, and the commissioners for Spain and England at once withdrew their troops. But the French remained. The proclamation issued by the commissioners, declaring their presence in Mexico was for no other purpose than that of settling vexed questions, had served as a reason for introducing their troops. The expedition was undertaken in good faith by the English and Spanish governments, but when their commissioners found that a deeper question was involved, they extricated themselves and their governments from the affair and went away.

A plan had been formed in the court of the Tuileries, by Napoleon III., encouraged and even instigated by Mexican refugees who had sought the court of France, disgusted with the liberal turn of affairs in their own country. Among these were Gutierrez de Estrada, the ex-President Miramon, and others of the clergy party, who were opposed entirely to the supremacy of Juarez, and wanted above all things to bring back a monarchy to Mexico. At the same time the Archbishop of Mexico, robbed as he said of the property of his Church, warmly advocated the same cause at Rome.

The plan was to select a prince of some European house, and place him upon the throne left vacant since the abdication of Agustin I. in the capital of the Aztec Emperors. Estrada, indeed, was living in exile, on account of his pamphlet proposing this scheme. Napoleon III. accepted these overtures with alacrity, and at once furnished troops, money, and[Pg 350] influence to the alluring idea of "opposing the Latin race to the invasion of Anglo-Saxons" in the New World—that is, to check the supremacy of the United States upon the western continent, and establish an Empire in Mexico, which, nominally independent, would be under his own control, and thus add to the glory of the French nation.

The time was opportune, for the United States were then engrossed in a civil war, which absorbed all their resources. The government at Washington could not give its attention to affairs in Mexico, and Napoleon hoped, in the not improbable event of the success of the Southern States, that there would be no danger of interference from that quarter.

The demands of the commissioners, therefore, were but an excuse for entering the country. Relying on the representatives of the Mexican émigrés, which promised cordial support from the clerical party at home, the French advanced towards the capital of Mexico.

Meanwhile, the future Emperor had been found. Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph, Archduke of Austria, of the house of Hapsburg Lorraine, accepted the proposition secretly made him by Napoleon, to become Emperor of Mexico.

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[Pg 352]

He was brother of the reigning Emperor of Austria, and they were descended from the royal house of Charles V. of Germany and I. of Spain. Maximilian was born in 1832; in 1857 he had married the daughter of the King of Belgium, Carlotta Maria Amalia. These two young persons, for the prince was but little over thirty, were at Miramar, their palace near Trieste, where they received the overtures of the Mexican conspirators. For many months the Archduke hesitated over so startling a proposal; finally he decided to accept the crown which was offered him, but "on the condition that France and England should sustain him with their guaranty, moral and material, both on land and sea." England, as we have seen, early withdrew from the alliance, with a loyalty to honorable principles greatly to its credit, well aware that the United States would look upon the scheme with no favor, and less confident than the French Emperor in the success of the Southern Confederacy.

Maximilian was a dreamer. The scion of the stock of kings, he believed firmly in the "right divine," which he persuaded himself to fancy, by tortuous ways might now be hovering over him. Ardently religious, he attached the highest importance to the preservation of the Church, and believed that he was an instrument to this end. The vision of Mexico snatched from the hands of impious rebels and restored to the prestige of an ancient Empire, fascinated him, and with a vivid imagination, he pictured himself, and his Carlotta, whom he dearly loved, as the central figures of the great restoration. His expression of this thought at Naples, in 1857, so often quoted, proves how far he was carried by the vividness of his dreams.

"The monumental stairway of the palace of Caserta is worthy of majesty. What can be finer than to imagine the sovereign placed at its head, resplendent in the midst of those marble pillars,—to fancy[Pg 353] this monarch like a god graciously permitting the approach of human beings. The crowd surges upward. The king vouchsafes a gracious glance, but from a lofty elevation. All powerful, imperial, he makes one step towards them with a smile of infinite condescension.

"Could Charles V., could Maria Theresa appear thus at the head of this ascending stair, who would not bow the head before that majestic power God-given! I too, poor fluttering insect of a day, have felt such pride throb in my veins, when I have been standing in the palace of the Doges of Venice, as to think how agreeable it would be, not too often, but in rare solemn moments, to stand thus at the height of such an ascent, and glancing downward over all the world, to feel myself the First, like the sun in the firmament."

All this had been arranged, as is now known by the dates of the preliminary correspondence, before the French commissioners were sent to Vera Cruz. The conciliating attitude of Juarez towards them took away the pretext under which they had entered the country, but they had no orders to retire. On the contrary, reinforcements soon arrived, and the Mexican President found himself obliged to put an army in their way.

The expedition, whose object, no longer concealed, was "the triumph of the Latin race on American soil," advanced towards the capital. Mexico was divided by its two great parties for and against the invasion. The ultra-clerigos, secretly aware of the action of their party abroad, encouraged it; but[Pg 354] there were many amongst them who paused before the innovation of a foreign ruler on Mexican soil.

French troops under the command of General Lorencez advanced upon Puebla, joined before they arrived there by a strong Mexican force of the clerical party under Márques, so that they had a large and effective army. The resisting force in Puebla was much smaller, not more than two thousand strong, but the defence under General Zaragoza was brilliant against a vigorous attack. The French were driven off and had to retire to Orizaba.

This is the victory of the Cinco de Mayo, or 5th of May, which the Mexicans celebrate as one of their best holidays. The battle was not in itself very important, but its moral effect upon the Mexicans was great, encouraging them to continue their gallant defence of their country. They fought to resist foreign intrusion. At that time they scarcely knew why it was thrust upon them, and could not have dreamed of the extent to which imperial audacity on the other side of the ocean had dared to go. To impose upon a free and able-bodied people a sovereign of foreign birth, without the slightest sign of inclination on their part, was hardly justified by the argument that this party constituted an important minority. The extent of the enterprise dawned upon the people gradually, as the scheme of the French Emperor unfolded itself. Meanwhile, there was fighting in Puebla, and the long-suffering Mexicans again took up arms.

The Indians, over whose villages peace for a few years had stretched her fostering wing, once more[Pg 355] heard the noise of cannon and the call to arms. The old troubled life had come back again. Repose was only a dream.

On the 5th of May, every year, there are great rejoicings all over Mexico, but especially in the capital, where a broad handsome street, well paved and lighted, is called the Cinco de Mayo. All the troops are reviewed on that day by the President. The buildings are hung deep with flags and decorations, and the streets crowded with a joyous population swarming to and fro, crying Vivas! over the long procession of regiments marching through the city to the stirring sound of the Mexican national march.

An adventure of which the French are very proud occurred in the following month. After retreating from Puebla, the army of Lorencez was quartered in Orizaba where they were closely watched by Zaragoza's men. A body of four or five thousand Mexican troops placed themselves upon the Cerro de Borrego, high above the town, whence they threatened to bombard it. The condition of the French within the town grew more and more uncomfortable, food was giving out, and the presence of the overlooking enemy was, to say the least, annoying.

A young captain, lately promoted, watched and followed a Mexican woman whom he saw day by day, as she climbed a steep path to the height, carrying a water jar upon her head to supply the Mexican army. The French officer entreated permission of his general to attempt the dislodgement of the enemy. This granted, in the deep darkness of night one hundred and fifty soldiers crept cautiously up the narrow path, unconsciously betrayed by the Indian woman, close[Pg 356] to the edge of the cliff. Suddenly, as they arrived at the top, the officer called out "A moi les Zouaves!" "A moi la Légion!" giving such a volley of directions that the Mexicans imagined the whole French army was upon their traces. Startled from secure slumber, they were easily overcome. The French claim the destruction of three hundred men, a general, three colonels, and two lieutenant-colonels, with all the arms and the colors of the Mexicans, who, if they survived the weapons of the small attacking party, fled and were lost in the steep slopes of the precipice.

Fresh troops came from France, and by the beginning of another year the army of invasion, commanded by Marshal Forey, numbered forty thousand men, not counting the Mexicans on that side, whose numbers increased as the magnitude of the enterprise became known.

Puebla again was the scene of the struggle. For two months General Ortega defended it obstinately, but food became scarce. A convoy bringing provisions, under charge of General Comonfort, was seized by the French under Marshal Bazaine, and on the 17th of May the besieged army was obliged to succumb, without capitulating. The French advanced towards the capital, and the Mexicans abandoned it, Juarez withdrawing towards the north, where he re-organized his government at San Luis de Potosi. He never relinquished his office during the whole of the French intervention, and remained all the time, in the minds of loyal Mexicans, and also in the language and opinion of the government of the United States, President of the still existing Mexican Republic.

[Pg 357]



On the 28th of May, 1864, to the great joy of the Cabinet of the Tuileries, who had been much in fear that their scheme might fall through, the new sovereigns arrived at Vera Cruz. They were but coolly received by the merchants of that port, and passed through it without ceremony, followed by the large suite they brought with them. But the priests had aroused the Indians en masse to welcome new rulers, who would, they were promised, restore their liberties and raise their condition. Crowds of these people in serapes and rebozos, with dark eyes full of questions, stood along the route of the imperial cortége as it left Vera Cruz.

Nor was enthusiasm elsewhere wanting; a real imperialist party sprang up from the soil, spontaneously, on the appearance of the young prince and his consort. Had they known how to secure this popularity and make it permanent, these imported sovereigns might have reared for themselves a realm in the hearts of the impressionable people of Anahuac. Maximilian formed his idea of sovereignty upon the absolute rule of the Middle Ages. He would not stoop to make popularity; he expected[Pg 358] it to be freely offered. Indeed, he had assented to come only when he was summoned by the voice of the whole Mexican people. This voice was the reluctant vote of a Junta got together by the clerical party on purpose to satisfy his demand. But the charm of his presence, which was dignified and princely, and the winning manner of Carlotta, well fitted to play the part of gracious sovereign to an adoring people, won all hearts for the moment.

A splendid reception was prepared in the capital. Triumphal arches spanned the principal avenues to the city, inscribed with the names of the personages who had brought about the glorious intervention. The streets, especially San Francisco and Plateros, were hung with banners of every color, set with exquisite flowers and plants. Rows of citizens and troops, dressed in their best, lined the way through which the open carriage of Maximilian and Carlotta made its way, preceded by the officers of state, and followed by a long retinue of public functionaries and persons of the highest aristocracy. Balconies and azoteas were crowded with curious gazers, and vivas were not wanting; yet it is said that the populace kept away from the solemnity, or looked on coldly, at the advent of the foreign intruders.

Maximilian was accompanied by a crowd of followers,—his escort, household servants, and retinue; and brought with him all the material for establishing in a new country a throne of the "right divine." Quantities of these things, for want of lumber-room, are now stored at the National Museum at Mexico, where one may see in glass cases much heavy silver plate with the imperial arms, destined for the feasts of this descendant of Charles V.; the decorations of the Emperor; and below in the courtway stands the great glass coach in which he sat with the Empress, as once sat Cinderella in a similar one. All these insignia of royalty they brought to impose upon their new thralls.

[Pg 359]


[Pg 360]

And so the young sovereigns set about organizing their ideal court. All society was at their feet, and the society in Mexico at that time, if more provincial than that of Paris or Vienna, yet had for Maximilian and Carlotta the merit of being their own domain. They were monarchs of all they surveyed. It was indeed a romance. All their debts paid by a generous Napoleon in the background, a French army full-fledged to protect them, a throne, a court, a people ready-made to order,—all they had to do was to enter in and enjoy them.

Marshal Bazaine, at the head of military affairs, set about the restoration of the arsenal, and repairing the damages made by the United States war. On his arrival he found the service of artillery entirely disorganized. Molino del Rey he restored to its functions of a foundry, so that it could furnish arms and munitions for the country.

Napoleon had promised that the French troops should remain about Maximilian for six years, or until his own national army should be on such a footing as to be a proper protection to its Emperor. Bazaine was therefore occupied with the reconstruction of the army, with an eye to the distant day when he and his force might be recalled.

[Pg 361]


[Pg 362]

Meanwhile, Maximilian began to govern, according to his lights, which were liberal as far as the limit of absolute monarchy allowed. He sought to gain the friendship of the party allied to Juarez, holding the idea that this native chief of a half-civilized people had been driven off the field for good, and that it was to be an easy task to replace his crude government with one based on loftier planes. He paid no attention to the new code of the reform, but began to impose his own regulations, and to legislate on all matters as if Mexico were still in its natural and primitive state. He readily listened to all sorts of plans for the construction of telegraphs, railways, and other enterprises for the improvement of the country, with little heed to their vast expense.

Among these was the restoration of the palace at Chapultepec, then in dismal ruin since the attack of the Americans. From their first glimpse of it the new sovereigns decided that here should be their home, the chosen dwelling which should recall the delights of Miramar; recognizing it as the loveliest spot in all the broad valley of Anahuac. So thought the Aztec chiefs who sought its shade in their leisure moments; so thought the viceroy, Galvez; and so thinks every one now who drives from the city over the broad Paseo, built in the time of Maximilian, as a fit approach to the charmed palace.

It stands on a height of two hundred feet above the valley; a winding road from the avenue below, shaded by huge trees, leads to a platform where are the great stone buildings of the lower terrace belonging[Pg 363] to the Military Academy. On these buildings, which form its basement, is all the range of Maximilian's palace, including not only a suite of state apartments and smaller rooms, but, planted on soil brought up from below, a series of hanging gardens, surrounded by galleries with marble columns. From the tangle of shrubbery and climbing masses of neglected roses, can be seen below, stretching far and wide, the extensive landscape, and from the terrace the incomparable view of the volcanoes, with the broad interval between.

The interior decoration of Maximilian's palace was in imitation of Pompeii. It was furnished in the French taste with light stuffs and gold, very well suited to its sunny height and the pure atmosphere of the valley of Mexico.

Fêtes, receptions, dinners, and dances, every form of gay life, ruled the home at Chapultepec. The young Empress, animated and brilliant, was the centre of her court. For a time no shadow fell upon the bright prospect of the new Empire.

The capital presented an unusually lively aspect. The French garrison filled the city with well-dressed regiments; business received a new impulse from foreign merchants of all sorts, who came, attracted by the demands of a court for luxury; the rich families of the capital displayed their wealth in all the splendor of luxurious living. After many years of discord and depression, the reaction brought about by this burst of prosperity pervaded the capital. It was true that this satisfaction was felt only by high society. There was no real improvement[Pg 364] as yet in the resources of the country; the middle class, with no greater facilities for living than before the new order of things, were poor and discontented, and murmured at the sight of rejoicing and luxury they could not share. Carlotta, with an open hand, distributed alms, drawn from the fortunate purse at her disposition; but this, without method or definite aim, had no great effect upon the general prosperity.

In fact it was by no means the purse of a benevolent French Emperor that furnished funds for so much expenditure. A heavy loan was negotiated by the crown in 1864, in Paris and London, which brought to its use plenty of ready money, but entailed upon the nation a debt, of which it is not yet free. The cities and separate states of Mexico, at first readily surrendered to the troops of Maximilian, small foreign garrisons being left in each of the principal ones to maintain his authority by their presence. It was necessary to maintain military rule, however, for fear of relapse towards the Republic, and on account of vast guerrilla bands, espousing the liberal cause, which infested roads and small villages, where constant encounters and actions took place with imperial troops.

But the gay court of Maximilian little heeded these things. They left the army to Bazaine, and the government to the ministers. Never was Mexico so brilliant, so triumphant, so apparently at the zenith of prosperity, as during the brief time of the French intervention.

[Pg 365]



But there came a day which put an end to all these festivities.

The civil war in the United States was over, leaving the government at Washington at leisure to attend to outside affairs; moreover, leaving at its disposition an army of well-trained troops, and a treasury well-filled, in spite of the drain on both of these through a protracted and destructive war.

On the 7th of April, 1864, the Secretary of State wrote thus to the United States Minister in Paris:

"Sir:—I send you herewith the copy of the unanimous resolution passed in the House of Representatives the 4th instant. It comprises the opposition of this body to any recognition of a monarchy in Mexico.... It is scarcely necessary, after what I have previously written you, to say that this resolution sincerely expresses the unanimous sentiment of the people of the United States."

The will of the United States government settled the question, and this will was most distinctly made manifest. The French Emperor could not involve his people in a war with the United States, nor did[Pg 366] he himself, already somewhat weary of his own scheme for establishing the supremacy of the Latin race upon the western continent, regard it as worth the risk of such a war. He readily assented to any proposition of the government at Washington, whose imperative demand was the withdrawal of French troops from the continent of North America.

Louis Napoleon has been much blamed for his conduct in the matter of the French intervention, even execrated. It is not easy to defend it, but it may be said that from the European point of view, the plan of intervention was not such a bad one. Undoubtedly it originated in the minds of the royalist refugees from Mexico, who sincerely saw no better way of serving their country, torn in pieces with internal dissensions and civil wars, than to furnish her with a ready-made crown from the continent where such articles are furnished.

The Church party, which saw with genuine horror the sequestration of their property, ascribed it to the progress of so-called liberal ideas. They were warmly encouraged by good Roman Catholics in Europe, and among them by the Emperor at Versailles, who professed himself an ardent adherent of the Pope.

The scheme was possible, because the powerful neighbors of Mexico were occupied in quarrelling among themselves. That quarrel might last until the Latin race had firmly taken root. Napoleon never intended a permanent French occupation of the country. It was his whim to plant the little monarchy, water it and dig about its roots, and then go away to attend to other affairs.

[Pg 367]

The American quarrel did not last, nor did the monarchy take root. The French troops were withdrawn before the government of the Empire was in any sense fully established. The national army which Bazaine sought to establish on a firm footing was not strong enough or loyal enough to uphold the Emperor, and he was sacrificed.

Everybody wished him to abdicate. Napoleon sent a special messenger to Mexico to urge this course; Bazaine urged it, and it seems now as if Maximilian himself must have perceived that there was nothing else left for him. But he was very slow to admit such an idea. Neither he nor the Empress in any sense realized their perilous position.

At the end of June, 1866, came the final word of Napoleon, in reply to an appeal sent to him from Maximilian, upon which he, and still more Carlotta, had founded great hopes. The message of the French Emperor was short, its tenor distinct, hard, making it clear that no further support was to be furnished by the Tuileries to the Mexican project; the conditions were hard, asserting that the troops must be immediately withdrawn. Maximilian at last understood that but one course was left to him—abdication. On the 7th of July he took up his pen to sign away the Mexican monarchy; but the Empress stayed his hand. Carlotta, of a will stronger than that of her husband, with a determined ambition, offered to go herself to Europe to make a personal appeal to Napoleon and another at Rome. On the very next day she left the capital in haste, never to return.

[Pg 368]

It is said that on arriving at Vera Cruz the Empress could find nothing at the quay but a small French boat to carry her out to the great steamer in the offing. She absolutely refused to place herself under the French colors which floated at the stern of the boat, so bitterly she felt the insult offered to her interests by the French nation.

She arrived at Saint-Nazaire early in August, to the surprise of the local authorities, and, still more, of the court of the Tuileries. The report of the arrival of the Empress of Mexico produced a sensation at Paris, for public opinion there was already interested in the Mexican drama. When Carlotta landed she was the object of a large crowd assembled on the docks. She appeared dressed in deep mourning, with great sadness of demeanor. Her face was pale and haggard, and her eyes burned with fever. She was accompanied only by a few ladies and gentlemen of her house. No preparation, of course, had been made for her; a common voiture de place took her to the hotel. Her Mexican servants, with their large sombreros trimmed with gold braid, made a sensation in the French port.

The next day she arrived in Paris, and went to the Grand Hotel, refusing to ask hospitality at the Tuileries. The imperial family was at Saint Cloud. She at once sent to request an immediate interview with Napoleon III.

The Minister of State paid her a visit immediately, and she passed part of the day in conversing with him. The next morning she went to the palace, although the Emperor had sent word that he was[Pg 369] indisposed. Finally he concluded to see her. She eloquently demanded, on the part of Maximilian, continued aid, in money and troops. The interview was long and violent, it is said, and full of recrimination. The Empress, as all the fair structure of hopes she had raised since her departure from Chapultepec crumbled before her, gave way to bitter emotion. She declared that she, a king's daughter, of the blood of Orleans, had made a terrible mistake to accept a throne from the self-made Emperor of the French, a Bonaparte.

From this scene at Saint Cloud the madness of the new Empress is thought to have begun. She had scarcely the force left to continue her course to the Vatican, where she found no more redress than she had done at the Tuileries. The whole of Europe had soon to shudder at the news that she had lost her reason. She never returned to Mexico.

It was by way of the United States that Maximilian first heard of the failure of the interview at Saint Cloud. He kept silent, still hoping better success from the negotiations of the Empress with the Pope; but meanwhile he quietly made preparations for his departure from Mexico, giving out that it was his intention to meet the Empress at Vera Cruz on her return. Much household baggage had been already transferred thither, and the rumor spread abroad, of the probable departure of the royal household, producing a lively sensation throughout the country.

The time was drawing near. Maximilian, at Chapultepec, under the melancholy boughs of the[Pg 370] cypresses, gloomily paced the alleys, dreaming of his shattered hopes. A telegraphic despatch was put in his hands, sent through the United States. It announced that the Empress Carlotta was mad. Maximilian at once gave orders for departure, and wrote to Bazaine that he was about to leave Mexico.

The society of the capital was struck with grief at the news of Carlotta's state, for they had an ardent adoration of their brilliant Empress.

The Emperor went first to Orizaba, where he was obliged to delay the many necessary final arrangements. There was no railway then, and the journey was made in a carriage. Maximilian preserved a gloomy silence all the way. As the little party approached Orizaba early in the morning, having passed a night in a little village on the way, Maximilian alighted to walk down the zig-zag way which leads from the plateau towards the tierra caliente. He walked swiftly and silently, wrapped in a long gray coat, a broad-brimmed sombrero on his head, sometimes turning to glance back at the heights he might never see again. While they were stopping at noon for rest and refreshment, the eleven white mules which drew their carriages were stolen; it was a long time before other animals could be found to take their places. Finally, the sun was setting as they reached the pretty village of Ingenio, outside of Orizaba. There awaited the little party a group of horsemen, inhabitants of Orizaba, and several curates, who had come out to greet the Emperor, followed by a crowd of Indians. Bells were rung, guns fired, and his welcome was universal.

[Pg 371]

The Emperor stayed a week in Orizaba, during which Bazaine impatiently awaited in Mexico his final announcement of departure. But Maximilian was still hesitating. He was approached and surrounded by certain members of the clerical party, who felt sure that the fall of the monarchy would be their ruin. Among these was Father Fischer, to whom Maximilian accorded the greatest confidence.

This man, of German origin, emigrated to Texas about 1845, and afterwards, in search of gold, to California. He was at first a Protestant, but converted, received orders somewhere in Mexico, and obtained the post of secretary to the Bishop of Durango. He was introduced to Maximilian, who was attracted by his appearance, which betrayed great intelligence; he became one of the most trusted advisers of the Emperor. He succeeded in surrounding Maximilian with agents of the reactionary, or clerical party, who urged him not to abandon them at this dark hour, at the same time assuring him of the hidden force of the party, and its resources. At this very time the city of Oaxaca, defended by Mexican imperial troops, was obliged to capitulate and open its doors to Porfirio Diaz, the general of liberal forces. Yet Maximilian wavered. It was difficult, even yet, for him to renounce the crown of his visions. Moreover, honor, fidelity to the Church, prompted him to remain, even to perish for that cause. Just then, to reinforce the eloquence of Father Fischer, two generals, devoted to the clerical cause, who had been in exile in Europe for two years, disembarked at Vera Cruz, and instantly offered their[Pg 372] services to the Emperor; these were Miramon and Márquez, eager, as they declared, to open the campaign again under the imperial banner. Maximilian, inspired by their discourse and their promises of arms and money, hesitated no longer, but pledged his word to the clerical party to return to his station, and resume its dignities. Miramon hastened to Mexico to rouse the ardor of all the partisans of the Church, and to set on foot a new army.

The Emperor issued a manifesto to the Mexican people, and returning to Mexico, instead of going back to the palace of Chapultepec, took up quarters in a modest hacienda outside the capital, called La Teja.

[Pg 373]



General-in-Chief Bazaine, the envoy from the Tuileries, and all true friends of the Emperor, heard with dismay his resolution to remain. His peaceful abdication had been hoped for by all parties. Bazaine sought to withdraw his troops, since withdraw they must, in as orderly a manner as possible. Overtures had even been made with the liberals, in regard to a successor to Maximilian, that all parties might be harmonized if possible, so that the country should find itself under firm hands, just as if there had been no French intervention, as soon as the Republic was clear of French troops. But the manifesto of the Emperor rendered all such hopes vain. The insistance of the United States and repeated orders from France made it necessary to remove the French troops without delay. French steamers awaited them off the coast of Vera Cruz, and the hour of departure was fixed.

At the end of the month of January, 1867, the French army, in full retreat, rolled out its long course "like a ribbon of steel" over the dusty route between the capital and Vera Cruz. Cannons were broken up, horses were sold for almost nothing, to reappear[Pg 374] later in the ranks of the liberal army. On the 5th of February the tri-colored flag of France, which had floated over French head-quarters, was lowered; the capital was freed from the occupation of the French. Moreover, the Belgian and Austrian troops went too, for the Emperor was unwilling to retain them, resolving to trust himself wholly to the arms of his Mexican subjects.

Meantime Juarez, much encouraged by the aspect of things and by intimations of approval from the government of the United States, had advanced from the north, where he had been lying in wait for better times, and fixed his residence, with his Cabinet, which he always kept about him, in Zacatecas. General Escobedo, chief of his armies in the north, had reconquered that portion of the country as far as San Luis de Potosi, and the greater part of the cities and states, abandoned by the French, fell at once into the hands of the liberals.

It was thought best by the imperialists to advance towards the enemy as far as Querétaro, and there the army established itself, Maximilian with it, while Miramon advanced towards Zacatecas and surprised it, almost taking Juarez prisoner with his whole government.

The Emperor was accompanied almost wholly by Mexicans, only a few Europeans being about him. He was determined to excite no jealousy in the minds of his subjects by apparent preference for those of his own country. As for the French, they were no longer desired by him. General Márquez was his quartermaster-general; his aides-de-camp were Mexican;[Pg 375] his physician accompanied him, Dr. Basch, who was a worthy and devoted friend up to his last moments. Personally attached to the Emperor was the young Prince Felix of Salm-Salm, who had been fighting in the civil war of the United States, and came to Mexico, for want of other occupation. He attached himself to the cause of Maximilian with a devotion which became ardent before the end. Besides these gentlemen, the Emperor had with him a Hungarian cook and four Mexican servants.

Thanks to the vigorous measures of Miramon and the clerical party, Maximilian found himself at the head of an army of more than eight thousand men. Among these were found the most active and valiant chiefs of the old regular army, who showed great bravery, as did their trained soldiers, but nearly half the troops were raw Mexican recruits, ready to run away at a moment's notice.

Querétaro was soon invested by the army of the north under General Escobedo. Daily skirmishes took place, which showed great daring on both sides. The troops of the Emperor sallied out for provisions, of which there was soon sore need within the besieged city, returning after each attack to their quarters, around which the liberals were drawing their lines closer and closer. The investment lasted two months, during which General Márquez was sent by Maximilian to the capital for those forces and funds which had been so confidently promised him by the clergy. Márquez succeeded in avoiding the liberal army, but never returned, and no reinforcements whatever were sent to Querétaro. He[Pg 376] made use of the troops and funds he was able to raise in the capital in order to attack General Diaz who was advancing upon Puebla. Diaz captured Puebla, after a siege of twenty-five days, and then turned round and utterly routed Márquez, who, taking refuge in flight, returned almost alone to the capital under cover of the night. Had he brought back his troops to the succor of Querétaro, the immediate result might have been different, but the fall of the Empire could not be long delayed. During this long and trying siege, the conduct of Maximilian was admirable. He won everybody by the gentleness and cheerfulness of his bearing, brave to a fault, and exposing himself fearlessly to the fire of the enemy. Several plans of escape were formed, by which the Emperor, with a few guards, was to disappear from the city and place himself at the head of his troops elsewhere, but these were generally frustrated at the last moment by the unwillingness of Maximilian to abandon his brave companions, from a delicate sense of honor.

Maximilian, at Querétaro, is described by the Prince of Salm-Salm, as generally in citizen's dress; but when he stood at the head of his troops he wore the uniform of a general of division.

He was about six feet high, of a slender figure. His movements and gait were light and graceful, his greeting especially genial. He had fair hair, not very thick, which he wore carefully parted in the middle. His beard was fair and very long, and he nursed it with great care, parting it in the middle, and frequently stroking it with his hand. His skin[Pg 377] was pure and clear, and his eyes were blue. His mouth had the unmistakable stamp of the Hapsburg house, but not so strongly marked as with some of his illustrious family. The expression of his face was kind and friendly, and so was his bearing; even with his intimate friends he was never familiar, but preserved a certain dignity of manner. He was true to his friends and loyal to a fault, for he never could suspect treachery in those who surrounded him. His love of beauty and harmony was so great that he was easily captivated by handsome people with pleasing manners, and he could not divest himself of the idea that a fine human form must contain a noble soul. The strength of mind and moral dignity he displayed when his misfortunes came upon him, and the sadness of his fate, silence whatever criticisms of his course may be suggested by the events of his brief career in Mexico.

The condition of the foreign army shut up in Querétaro became more and more painful. Provisions grew scarce. Maximilian, with the greatest serenity, accepted the coarse, tough food which was all that could be had. The only hope of the garrison was in Márquez, and day after day brought only disappointment, as no troops appeared from the capital.

On the night of the 14th of May, Gen. Lopez, who had the charge of the most important point in Querétaro, the Convent de la Cruz, betrayed his trust and admitted two battalions of the enemy into the citadel. From this point they advanced to other parts of the city, where all became at once terror[Pg 378] and confusion. Lopez had been won by the liberals, but he had not intended that the Emperor should be captured, and indeed gave him ample warning that he might escape. With his aides-de-camp Maximilian passed, untouched, by some liberal soldiers and gained a little hill just outside the town. Here he surrendered to a detachment of the victorious army and delivered up his sword. The horse of the Emperor was brought to him, and the little party rode to meet Escobedo, the victorious general. Generals Miramon and Mejia were also then taken prisoners. Mendez, another imperialist, succeeded in lying concealed for a few days, but being found, he was shot at once.

For a month Maximilian and his generals remained prisoners in Querétaro, while their fate hung undecided in the hands of Juarez. Even then there were propositions for the escape of the Emperor, boldly planned and helped by ample funds; but he always failed at the last moment to avail himself of them.

The Princess of Salm-Salm, an American by birth, was as devoted to the cause of the unfortunate Emperor as her husband. She showed great energy and courage at Querétaro, visiting Maximilian and carrying messages between him and the Prince, from whom he was separated. She even went to San Luis de Potosi to beseech the clemency of the liberal chief, Juarez, or at least obtain a delay, but her pleading was in vain.

The decision of the President, which nothing could shake, was, that the traitors, as they were called, should be tried by court-martial. The trial was but a farce, the result a foregone conclusion, although the cause of Maximilian was eloquently urged by his counsel, Mariano Riva Palacios and Rafael Martinez de la Torre.

[Pg 379]


[Pg 380]

Maximilian met his death with great composure and heroism. He rose early on the fatal morning, and at five o'clock mass was celebrated. With the stroke of six o'clock a liberal officer came to take him. He said "I am ready," and came from his cell, where he was surrounded by his few servants, who wept and kissed his hands. He said to them: "Be calm; you see that I am so. It is the will of God that I should die; against that we cannot strive."

Miramon and Mejia came forward, and he embraced them both. On arriving in the street he looked round him, and drawing a deep breath, said: "What a beautiful day! On such a one I have always wished to die."

The streets were crowded; every one greeted the condemned Archduke with respect; the women wept aloud. He responded to these greetings with his usual gentle smile.

He made a short address to the Mexicans, of which these were the last words:

"Mexicans! May my blood be the last spilt for the welfare of the country, and if more should be shed, may it flow for its good, and not by treason. Viva Independencia! Viva Mexico!"

Maximilian, Miramon, and Mejia were all shot at the same moment.

[Pg 381]

(Last prison of Maximilian.)

[Pg 382]

Thus really closed the episode of the French intervention in Mexico. The foreign intruder, encouraged by the short-lived intention of a European potentate to plant the Latin race upon the soil of the New World, abandoned by his instigator, betrayed by his few remaining troops, was dead. There was no longer question of a foreign prince upon the Aztec throne.

[Pg 383]



The city of Mexico, after the departure of Maximilian for Querétaro, had remained tranquil awaiting events. The Emperor sent back immediately General Santiago Vidaurri, who had accompanied him out of the capital, with full powers to govern the city.

This man had been one of the chiefs of the liberal party, and had often fought, on the opposite side, both Márquez and Miramon. As governor of the state of Nueva Leon, he had brought its administration into such good order that it was an example to the rest of Mexico. Disgusted with anarchy, and disliking Juarez personally, he espoused the cause of Maximilian as the best chance for his country of regular government; yet he always remained a liberal, not joining the clerical party, and thus was distrusted by Miramon and the rest, who kept him away from the Emperor as much as they could. Nevertheless Maximilian, recognizing his worth and his capacity for organization, entrusted him with the charge of the capital. But Márquez, when he reached Mexico, after successfully evading the enemy around Querétaro, instead of sending back[Pg 384] money and troops to succor that besieged place, assumed the position of lieutenant of the Empire, and proceeded to govern the capital. Vidaurri withdrew from the scene, and from that time was allowed no part in the affairs of the imperialists; yet he did not escape judgment from the liberals, and was shot, among the first examples of their government restored to power.

Márquez was intended for the same fate, but he kept in hiding, and succeeded later in escaping to the coast, where he embarked for Havana. He then returned to Mexico, after travelling abroad under an assumed name. He is described as a lively little man with black hair and sharp black eyes. He wore a full beard, which concealed a disfiguring scar on his cheek caused by a bullet wound. His cruelty in war won him the name of the "Mexican Alva," but that stern old campaigner better deserves the respect of posterity than such a namesake. Alva would not have left a besieged city to fall a prey to one enemy, while he led his troops to a futile encounter with another one more powerful than his own force.

The brilliant capture of Puebla by General Porfirio Diaz brought into prominence this name, which has since been of the greatest importance in the story of Mexico.

Puebla, after the departure of the French troops from the country, was left in the hands of General Noriega. It had been in the possession of the imperialists scarcely five years, and the courageous repulse of the French troops on the 5th of May,[Pg 385] 1862, was still fresh in every Mexican mind, as indeed it is to-day, an inspiring example of their capacity for defending their homes. Yet the imperialists held the city for twenty-five days, in spite of the vigorous attack, at five separate points, by the liberals. Diaz himself, with two companions, was buried for a time underneath a falling roof, and thought to be lost, but they were rescued after a few moments without injury. It was General Diaz, with his troops, who took possession of the capital for the liberals on the 21st of June, 1867. Assuming military command, he at once introduced order into the city, providing corn and food for the hungry population, who stood in great need of it. No persecution visited the conquered imperialists, with the exception of the active leaders, who were condemned to be shot or imprisoned.

The vigorous action of the liberal government towards Maximilian and the imperialist generals, however, impressed the country with its inflexible determination, as well as its power to execute its intent. The Republic reinstated upon the ruins of so brief an attempt at monarchy, Mexican rule, after the bold effort to ingraft upon the country a foreign potentate, proved to have a firmer grasp upon the country than in all its previous essays.

[Pg 386]



On the 15th of July, Juarez made a solemn entry into the capital. Many good citizens of Mexico, who had watched gloomily the whole episode of the French intervention, now emerged to light and rejoiced conspicuously in the return of their legitimate chief. Juarez, all this time, had never relinquished his title of President, but wherever he found himself had kept up the state due to the office, and retained his Cabinet. He was received with genuine acclamations by the populace, while high society remained within doors, curtains close-drawn, except that the women took pride in showing their deep mourning for the death of the Emperor. The reign of French fashions and frivolity was over when the troops of Bazaine marched from the town. There are still lurking in the capital descendants of French pastry-cooks and barbers, who shake their heads mournfully over the good old days, all too brief, of the imperial court. A French flavor still lingers about the capital; it is welcome in the excellent cuisine of the Café Anglais, and is evident in the handiwork of certain Parisian modistes.

Peace now came back to the country. A general[Pg 387] election established Juarez as President, and order and progress once more consented to test the good resolutions of the Republic. The first days of the new era were tranquil, and all went well, in spite of the restlessness of generals of the liberals themselves, who could ill bear to forego their inherent tendency to disputing and wrangling. Above all, Santa Anna was still alive, and it was not to be hoped that he would hold himself aloof from a share in the prosperity of the nation.

He had retired to the Island of St. Thomas, and was growing old. Yet he watched from afar every turn of affairs in Mexico. No sooner had Maximilian landed at Vera Cruz, than he received a letter of congratulation from Santa Anna, expressing his entire approval of the French scheme, and his wish to further it. He even came to Vera Cruz to lend his services to the Emperor, but as no notice whatever was taken of these overtures, he became indignant and withdrew his countenance from the new government. He went to New York, and fixed his residence in Elizabethport, New Jersey, where he published manifestoes against the Empire and the French, and sought an alliance with Juarez. The President, like the Emperor, ignored all overtures from the Mexican king-maker, who instantly turned his superabundant energies to conspiring against the Republic, just as it was struggling to take up, once more, the threads of order.

On the 12th of July, 1867, he was seized on board a steamboat he had fitted out, charged with conspiring against government, and narrowly escaped[Pg 388] being shot on the spot; but more moderate measures prevailed, and he was allowed a legal trial by a council of war. Doubtless influenced by all his real services at the head of the national army, which in time past he had conferred upon his country, and through untiring efforts in his behalf by his friends and family, this council did not condemn him to death, but a sentence was passed upon him of exile for eight years. He returned to St. Thomas, much impoverished by this last attempt against good government, and broken with years and failure.

At the end of his time of exile, or perhaps, indeed, before its expiration, he returned quietly to the city of Mexico, and died there on the 20th of June, 1876, in his house in the Calle de Vergaza. He was over eighty years old, blind, lame, poor. His last days were embittered by his sensitive conviction that his great deeds were not appreciated by his country. He was buried in the city of Guadalupe, without honors or recognition by government, who, naturally, it may be supposed, retained their fear of rousing the populace even by so dead a lion.

A family connection of Santa Anna has written a life of him, in which fulsome justice is done to his good qualities. He says, and perhaps with reason, that had he died immediately after the loss of his leg in driving the French from Vera Cruz "this benemerito mutilado had surely left not one single personal enemy."

With great gifts of bravery and military skill, and with a love of his country it is but fair to allow[Pg 389] him, probably not possessing the black characteristics ascribed to him by his enemies, he was at the best a turbulent, troublesome creature, an exponent in his own person of all the dangerous qualities of the Mexican character, which for so long a time have kept the country far away from the true path to prosperity.

The character of Juarez, on the other hand, represents precisely the opposite qualities of the Mexican race, inherited from his Indian parentage,—endurance, patience, imperturbability. Calm in the midst of exciting elements, he knew how to stand and wait for his turn. These qualities, so useful to him in adversity were supplemented by executive ability, good sense, and prompt action, which, when he returned to power, enabled him to rule wisely without losing his balance on the giddy height of success, like many of his predecessors.

His seat was not secure, and peace was not confirmed in emotional Mexico. The restless population, untrained to any permanent government, wearied of his rule, and early in his administration began to clamor that he had been President long enough. This people, scarcely yet freed from three hundred years of foreign control, found four years of one liberal leader enough to convert him in their eyes into a tyrant. As the period of election approached, in 1871, party lines became sharply divided, and the question of his return to power was warmly contested. A large body still advocated the re-election of Juarez, as of the greatest importance to the consolidation of the Constitution and reform, but the[Pg 390] admirers of military glory claimed the honors of President for General Diaz, who had done so much, at the head of the army, to restore the Republic. A third party represented the interests of Lerdo, minister of Juarez all through the epoch of the intervention, a man of great strength of character and capacity for government. The argument of the Lerdistas was that re-election was contrary to the principles of democratic government; of the Porfiristas that their idol, Diaz, deserved the reward of the highest gift of his fellow-citizens; of the Juaristas, that things were very well as they were, and had better so remain.

The campaign was vigorous throughout the country. The press, the tribune, personal influence, were all at work in every state for each of the great parties. The election took place; the Juaristas were triumphant. Their party had a fair majority, and Juarez was re-elected. But the Mexicans not yet had learned to accept the ballot, and a rebellion followed. The two defeated parties combined, and civil war began again.

Government defended itself with vigor and resolution, and in spite of the popularity of General Diaz as a commander, held its own during a campaign of more than a year. Its opponents were still undaunted, and the struggle might have long continued but for the sudden death of Juarez, on the 19th of July, 1872. At dawn of that day, the sound of cannon from the citadel fired at slow intervals awoke the population, who learned on inquiry that their President had died during the night.

[Pg 391]

Juarez had a singularly robust constitution; he habitually worked eight or ten hours a day without fatigue, but, unconsciously to himself, some organic infirmity was affecting him. He was seized during the night with great pain at the heart, and died very soon in much suffering.

All society was deeply moved by the death of this their faithful servant, who had given his life to their service. Every party joined in the solemn ceremony of his burial, which took place attended by an immense concourse of citizens.

Don Sebastian Lerdo de Tejada, then President of the Supreme Court, assumed the government, was elected President, and the late agitation of parties was at an end.

[Pg 392]



For three years peace reigned in Mexico, and then began another revolution. Towards the end of 1875, rumors of dissatisfaction were afloat; in spite of the present quiet, which seemed solid and durable, distrust reigned, yet no one voice proclaimed the nature of the malady. Early in the next year, a "Plan" was started, one of those fatal propositions for change which have always spread like wildfire through the Mexican community. By midsummer, the Republic was once more plunged in civil war.

Although he had apparently no hand in the "Plan" of Tuxtepec, General Porfirio Diaz appeared at the head of the army of the revolutionists. He had been living quietly in the neighborhood of Vera Cruz, but now he emerged to take an active part in the general disturbance.

Porfirio Diaz was born in Oaxaca, on the 15th of September, 1830. This state, the farthest of all the states to the south, and except Chiapas, the limit of the Mexican Republic, has many claims to distinction. Its northern part formed the Marquezado, or grant, given in 1529 to Cortés, with the title of Márqués del Valle de Oaxaca.

The scenery of Oaxaca is of the wildest and grandest[Pg 393] in Mexico. The Pass of Saloméa, leading to the city, recalls those of Switzerland. Wild animals, not only deer, but pumas and even the jaguar, roam over its slopes, covered with fan-palms and other tropical growths, while higher up is a forest of palms and oaks growing together. At the summit is a grand view of the valley of Oaxaca.


The city, like Puebla, is of Spanish foundation, but at no very great distance from it are the ancient ruins of Mitla, still a puzzle to archæologists, since nothing certain is known even of the tribes found in that region by the Conquistadores,—the Zapotecas, or the traditions of their origin. Their customs seem to have been like those of the Mexicans, but their language resembled that of the Mayas. They were subject to long struggles with the Aztecs, and at the end of the 15th century their capital city, Mitla, was taken and given over to pillage, and the prisoners taken to Mexico to be offered up on the altars of Huitzilopochtli.

[Pg 394]

The ruins stand in the midst of a gloomy, cheerless landscape, of stunted vegetation, sandy soil, from which project dull gray rocks. No singing birds or even insects frequent the place; the turkey-buzzard soars over the lonely tract under a gloomy sky, and dismal silence reigns around the abandoned architecture of a forgotten race. Even the carvings of geometric ornaments, without any human or animal forms, add to the gloom of this solitary spot.


The present generations of Oaxaca have the reputation of being the steady, independent mountaineers of Mexico; like the Swiss, always ready to defend their rights. Among them, Porfirio Diaz has been involved in every contest for his view of the right, since he was old enough to bear arms. He was, like many other of the Mexican generals, intended for the bar, and studied with that object, concluding the usual course in the seminary at Oaxaca; but in 1854 he served a campaign, returning[Pg 395] again to his studies only for a time. In the so called war of the reform he distinguished himself, and during the intervention was conspicuous as a military leader. In the disaster of Puebla, when, after the brilliant repulse of the Cinco de Mayo, the Mexicans had to give up the city to the French, Diaz escaped being taken prisoner, and hastened to Oaxaca, the city of his birth, which, with forces raised by his own efforts, he succeeded in putting in a state of defence. Bazaine himself marched against the resisting city, and it was obliged to capitulate. Porfirio was carried a prisoner to Puebla, and there held; but he managed to escape after some months by letting himself down from his window with a rope in the middle of the night. This was in September. The next month, returning with a new army, Diaz besieged his own town, now in the hands of those who were lately its besiegers. While his brother Felix held the siege, Porfirio routed a column of French coming to the aid of the troops within the city, and after two weeks he compelled a surrender and entered it in triumph. Porfirio, always successful in his contests with the French, continued so after their support was withdrawn from the imperialists. His military fame reached its height after the taking of Puebla, which was the last act in the French intervention, and the peaceful occupation of the city of Mexico.

All these feats of arms gave to the general who accomplished them a military prestige of great importance in a country where military prowess means so much as with the Mexicans. The revolution of[Pg 396] the summer of 1876 gained importance from the arrival of Diaz at Vera Cruz. It is said that, alone and disguised, he was hastening thither from New Orleans in a steamer which, touching at Tampico, took on board a body of government troops destined for the same port. The favorite chief of the liberals, seeing that he was recognized by one of the Federal officers, and convinced he should be arrested by him, jumped overboard and swam away. He was seen and brought back to the steamer by friends, under cover of the dark, and so well concealed that his hiding-place was not discovered, and the impression was encouraged that he had either reached the shore by swimming, or been drowned. Disguised as a workman, he left the steamer among the boxes and bales of its cargo, and landed at Vera Cruz. Speedily furnished with horses and guards he made his way to Oaxaca, where he took command of the forces of the rebellion, hitherto scattered and insufficient for lack of a head.

During the summer there was fighting and much confusion, in the midst of which the election took place for the choice of President for another term of four years. The result was in favor of Lerdo de Tejada, but he was so unpopular that he was obliged soon after to leave the capital, on the 20th of November, accompanied by his ministers and a few other persons. The other Lerdistas hid themselves, Congress dissolved, and the opposition triumphed.

Thus ended the government of the Lerdistas, but a few days before the expiration of its legal term. On the 24th of November, General Porfirio Diaz made his solemn entry into the capital, and was proclaimed Provisional President.

[Pg 397]


[Pg 398]

After a good deal of fighting all over the country, Congress declared him, in May 1877, to be Constitutional President for a term to last until November 30, 1880.

It was just after this successful general grasped the prize, that Santa Anna, forgotten, neglected, old, and blind, died close by, in his house in the Calle de Vergaza.

But little more remains to be said of the government of Mexico up to the present time. President Diaz was able to consolidate his power, and to retain his seat without civil war, although this has been imminent at times, especially towards the end of his term. In 1880 General Manuel Gonsalez was elected, and on the 1st of December of that year, for the second time only in the history of the Republic, the retiring President gave over his office to his legally elected successor. That this was possible, is proof of great improvement in stability and the growth of steadiness and good judgment among the Mexicans. The administration of Gonsalez passed through its four years without any important outbreak, in spite of the difficult questions there were to deal with, chief among them the huge debt to England, contracted in the early days of the Republic, and ever increasing by reason of unpaid interest.

At the end of that term, General Diaz was re-elected and became President December 1, 1884. The treasury of the country was empty, the Republic[Pg 399] without credit, yet he has, by heroic measures, succeeded in placing his government upon a tolerably stable financial basis, and done much to restore the foreign credit of the Republic. President Diaz is disposed and able to serve his country by an advanced and liberal policy. The result of his firmness and judgment is already seen in the returning confidence of nations and foreigners alike in Mexican affairs, and with it the rapid development of the resources of the country.

President Diaz, with his handsome wife, the daughter of his Minister of the Interior, Manuel Romero Rubio, has not been able to resist the charm of Chapultepec, in spite of the melancholy associations hanging about the spot Carlotta loved and Maximilian adorned for her enjoyment. The Pompeiian apartments are restored, and the hanging gardens bloom with roses all the year, while fountains sparkle in the sunlight. From the broad terrace gleam in the distance the cold peaks of the volcanoes, while Mexico spreads wide in the valley its rectangular lines, every year stretching out farther in all directions, a practical proof to the wise chief of the administration, as he looks down upon them from the now peaceful height of his terrace, of the success of his schemes of improvement and progress.

Let us hope that the tranquillity is permanent and that a long season of peace and prosperity has come to settle upon the long tormented, much enduring valley of Mexico, and the broad plateau of Anahuac.

[Pg 400]

Now, at last, may the Indians, descendants of the Aztec chief, look up and hope for the development of their race. For the first time in history they have a chance to show whether they are capable of taking a leading place among the races of the earth. Poor fugitives, hiding among the rushes of the lake, some centuries ago, their leaders knew how to build up a powerful, warlike nation, but the people were oppressed by the horrors of a bloody religion, degraded and kept down by the practice of human sacrifice. The Spanish conquest brought them other rulers, and priests who gave to them a kindlier faith; but their minds were little cared for, and they were still oppressed, like slaves, by the new race which came to govern them.

Spanish domination civilized the Indians, but scarcely developed the powers which may exist in their natures. That yoke thrown off, they have seen their day of real freedom once and again postponed, through the personal ambition of their own leaders, or the audacious interference of foreign powers, while their own blood has been made to flow freely for causes not really their own. In spite of all this, the native character has asserted itself with vigor wherever it has had a chance. Juarez, the first successful ruler of Mexico of real Mexican blood, by a true Indian trait of tenacity, held the government through the dark period of the intervention. Diaz, also of native descent, has kept the country in a progressive path.

The true native character of Mexico has now a chance to assert itself. The future will look on with[Pg 401] interest to see whether it has the capacity of self-government which its friends fully ascribe to it. If the Mexicans can profit by the sharp lessons taught them by the events of the present century; if they can root out of their nature the savage instincts which have given the national character its reputation for cruelty—instincts, not only inherited from the bloody practices of the Aztec, but fortified by the dark streak of ferocity which belongs to the Spanish race; if they can prove that the development of intellectual powers is possible to the race as well as to those individuals, then their country has before it the prospect of taking an honorable place among the peoples of the western continent.

[Pg 402]



The physical advantages of Mexico are favorable to its future prosperity. Of its great range of climate, the temperate one of the plateau may be said to be almost perfect. By descending towards the coast all the delights of the tropics may be enjoyed, while its lofty peaks afford adventure for the enterprising climber, ice for lower regions, and all the attractions of mountain scenery. Large lakes enhance the beauty of the landscape; rivers, though not large, answer the purposes of irrigation and boundary lines; an extended coast-line on the Pacific and that of the Gulf of Mexico offer opportunities, not yet much developed, for admirable harbors.

There is every variety of vegetation in this varied climate. Forests of valuable woods, such as mahogany, ebony, and rosewoods, extend over the tierra caliente; higher up, oak and pine in abundance furnish supply for any demand. It is safe to say that any thing may be cultivated somewhere in Mexico. Corn, beans, wheat, rice, sugar-cane, tobacco, cotton, cocoa, indigo, vanilla, are at present raised; above all, coffee, which has a high reputation—that of Cordova and of Uruápam especially. The latter is considered[Pg 403] by experts to be not only equal to the best Mocha, but similar to it in flavor. It is possible that it belongs to the same variety, brought from Arabia by unknown hands. The medicinal plants of Mexico have long been well known. Spanish historians at the time of the conquest all speak of the knowledge of herbs possessed by the native doctors. They believed that all the ills that flesh is heir to, might be cured by proper use of the herbs of the field; and they acquired in the course of generations great skill in adapting the remedy to the disease. Many of the drugs in general use all over the world were made known by Mexican research, such as sarsaparilla, jalap, and rhubarb; the number of emetics, antidotes, infusions, decoctions, ointments, balsams, known to the Aztecs, was enormous. To be sure, they attributed much of the power of these drugs to the prayers and ceremonies they offered up while they were applying them.

The flora of Mexico is equally varied and beautiful. Growing by the roadside as common weeds, are to be recognized blossoms which are the pride of northern green-houses. Many ornamental Mexican plants became first known in the United States, after the war of 1848. Humboldt, half a century before, had described the wealth and profusion of Mexican vegetation. As for fruits, every variety may be cultivated, in the hot lands; many tropical kinds grow wild. Any market in any Mexican town is a delight by reason of the display of various fruits, heaped up, to tempt the customer, in little pyramids, and made bright with flowers.

[Pg 404]

Not only in the large cities, but even smaller towns, travellers should be sure to visit the market-place. Generally one day in the week is market-day, when all the population swarms to the plaza, either to sell or buy, or both. It is the same in many towns in Europe; but Mexico, at present, surpasses Europe in the picturesque costumes of the common people, the primitive fashion in which they display their simple wares, and the entertaining activity of the busy population.

Each booth is a small enclosure, built of low tables, shaded by a huge rectangular umbrella made of matting with four sticks only. A whole Indian family sits within at the receipt of custom. The old grandmother, her white hair smoothed down over her wrinkled old brown cheeks, with skinny trembling hands, but a glance like a hawk's, is taking pay or making change. Her daughter, the efficient business woman of the establishment, is young and active. Her long black hair is braided down her back, her eyes are bright, her teeth flash white when you make her smile by a joke about her prices. The father of the family lolls against the central post of the booth, tipping up his chair, after a custom not inherited from the Aztecs, but borrowed from a neighboring nation. The tables are heaped with little piles, like cannon-balls, of red ciruelas, yellow apricots, or green abogatos; in their season, delicious grenaditas, whose cup-like rind contains a juicy draught of luscious flavor. Oranges and bananas are on the table, under the table, over the table, everywhere. If you are very friendly, the old lady selects you as a gift[Pg 405] the very best of all the bananas. Let not the wanderer from the north be surprised to find it is, according to his estimation, far gone in decay. The natives eat bananas only dead ripe, when they are beginning to grow soft,—not as they are found in the northern market, hard and indigestible after a long voyage without ripening influences. Hens and chickens are straying about, and a tough old rooster, tied by the leg, awaits the pot, after his purchaser shall have been found.

You select such little heaps of fruit as please your inexperienced eye; a small cargador, all eyes and teeth, springs up from the earth at your feet, with a big loose basket on his back. Every thing you buy is tumbled into it; he follows you from stall to stall, accumulating such treasures as you select. You will not be able to resist several specimens of native pottery. This is generally spread out on the ground, while the vendor sits behind it. Manufacture of coarse pottery is carried on everywhere, and different regions have their distinctive varieties, influenced by different colored clays and methods of treatment. The ware of Guadalajara is perhaps the most esteemed; it is of a soft gray in tint, polished but not glazed, and often delicately decorated with color and gold. But every village has its characteristic pottery, simple in form, pleasing in color, and although the pots and jugs are so fragile that it is hopeless to think of packing them securely, it is impossible to resist their attractions compared with the trifling sum demanded for them.

The basket of your cargador, well filled with fruit[Pg 406] and figs, and heaped high with sweet peas and poppies, the little fellow runs before you to the hotel where he deposits his burden, and goes away fully content with a medio in his hand—6-1/4 cents.

A Mexican market is interesting, apart from such simple purchases as the traveller may be inclined to make on his own account, because the people are all so absorbed in their own affairs. They scarcely give a thought to the few foreigners with European clothes and staring manners poking about among them. This good Indian mother has come to buy the daily food of her family. Some dreadful viand is dipped for her out of a deep dish, and transferred to her little pottery bowl. A violent discussion ensues about the price to be paid, and neighbors gather round to offer their opinions. The rebozos of the women slip off their heads and show their white shirts—not always white—and their brown well-formed arms. The men look on idly and let their better halves fight it out. A compromise is effected, and the excitement subsides as suddenly as it rose. The contested sum was probably a tlaco—small, but much-beloved coin, worth one cent and a half.

Besides the manufacture of pottery, the Indians make themselves all the wearing apparel they use, such as cotton and woollen cloth, including serapes and rebozos, the two picturesque garments in constant use. The serape is a woollen blanket which every man winds about him whenever the air is a little chilly. It serves him many a time for not only blanket, but sheet and bed as well, since his sleeping-place is often a sheltered doorway, and no more.[Pg 407] Certain towns are famous for their serapes—those of San Miguel are especially good, and some of them are very pretty. Travellers buy them and carry them off to serve as portières or afghans at home. The Indian taste for colors, though gaudy, is naturally controlled by a good perception of harmonious effects. Unluckily in late years, the aniline dyes of recent discovery have brought into the country a facility for making intense purples, magentas, and violent blues, which have dazzled their untrained eyes. For this reason, many modern serapes are too violent in coloring; and æsthetic collectors must seek for old fabrics, among which some examples are lovely in tone. The rebozo is a long broad scarf, generally blue, worn by every woman over her head, instead of hat or bonnet. It protects her shoulders also, and conceals whatever deficiency of style or cleanliness may exist underneath. It is made of cotton, but has some warmth in its soft folds. The dexterity is wonderful with which even little girls wind these wraps around their heads, in such a way as to keep firm, while the ends fall in not ungraceful lines over one arm laden with a basket, a bundle, or a baby, while the other arm and hand are free. A large quantity of cotton is grown in Mexico, and upwards of fifty thousand families, Mr. Janvier says, are supported in its manufacture. The cotton mills are provided with English machinery of approved type, and the business is carried on by a few operators upon a large scale. The Indians show ready intelligence in understanding their work in the mills, and remarkable aptitude in acquiring methods of handling whatever[Pg 408] improvements in machinery may be from time to time introduced.

A large establishment for the manufacture of cotton cloth not far from the city of Mexico, which has been in operation for years in the hands of an English house, is like a little city in itself. Its large enclosure is surrounded by strong walls, upon which are still the cannon necessary in the troublous times of the young Republic to protect the place. Paved streets within the great gate of entrance lead to the extensive buildings, the home of the families of the proprietors, hung with vines and possessing a beautiful garden, where superb roses blossom all the year round, while from beneath the shade of ancient trees one may look through a gate-way over fields of alfalfa to the snow-peaks of the two volcanoes. More than two hundred workmen are employed in this establishment. They are all natives of Mexico, and, for the most part, the superintendents as well as the operators are of Indian blood. Every means is taken to educate and improve the condition of these people and their families, who lead happy, intelligent lives, encouraged by the favor of their employers to do their best for the success of the mill and the mutual well-being of all. It is a little community of interests.

Of late, a large unoccupied room, by permission of the owner, has been converted into a theatre; and here, wholly by the exertions of the operatives themselves, a stage has been erected, where plays are acted once a week—the men themselves taking all the parts. Among the audience are the families of the employers, readily giving encouragement to the exhibition,[Pg 409] for whom a large box is reserved. The Indians of the neighborhood, on the opening night of the new entertainment, flocked to see what it was like, had free admission, and the house was crowded with an amazed and delighted audience. Enthusiasm was great, especially when the national banner was waved to the stirring strains of the fine national march of Mexico.

It is to such influences as these that Mexico will owe her success. The native race requires good masters, good examples, and the opportunity of good intellectual training, to enable it, in future, to walk alone up the steep path of national progress.

The great source of wealth in Mexico is her mineral productions, which have been renowned from the early period when they allured Cortés and his companions to endure hardship and risk defeat on their difficult passage up to Anahuac. The most sanguine dreams of the Spanish conquerors have yet to be realized in the possible amounts to be yielded from these mines in the future, when stable government shall have increased the population of the widespread mining districts to an extent capable of developing all the riches they contain.

[Pg 410]


[Pg 411]

The mines of Guanajuato, which have been the most worked, and which have already yielded enormously, as yet give no signs of being exhausted. The soil of the state of Guerrero has been pronounced to be one extensive crust of silver and gold. The northern states of the Republic contain inexhaustible veins of gold and silver in their mountain ranges. Silver and gold are the metals most worked, while other metals and mineral substances are almost neglected, although present in proportion. The volcano Popocatepetl is said to be one vast pile of sulphur. In every state there are quarries of white and colored marbles—those of Puebla especially remarkable for their rich veins of variegated colors, which, properly worked, would make beautiful decorative columns and other architectural ornaments. At present, the specimens of this "Puebla onyx" are limited to paper-weights, pen-handles, and other small articles, which, without any solid value, serve to show the variety and beauty of the material. Precious stones are not unknown in Mexico; opals, with fickle rainbow hues, now brilliant, now vanished, are found in many places, and counterfeited in many others. Turquoise, garnet, topaz, and amethyst are among the native jewels of the Mexican mines.

[Pg 412]



If it be conceded that the native races of Mexico are capable of development, it is evident that what is needed for their elevation from their present low estate, is good religion, good government, and good education.

The remnant of the Aztecs and other Indian tribes owed every thing to the judicious treatment of the first Roman Catholic priests. The wise teachings of these men, as we have seen, changed, without violence, a barbarous superstition into a gentle belief in the truths, and especially the miracles, of the Catholic religion; which through the epoch of Spanish domination retained its good effect. But as time went on, the Church became so powerful and so rich, that the suppression of the religious orders became a necessity; and finally Juarez, although under much resistance, was able to institute this radical reform. The final extinction of these orders, the suppression of monasteries and nunneries, was not achieved until 1874; since when many of these deserted buildings have been appropriated to other uses. Others remain standing, sad monuments of a picturesque past; but many of them, interesting on account of[Pg 413] their historic associations, have disappeared, torn to the ground, to make way for modern improvements.

But the suppression of the orders was not accompanied, except in the case of the Jesuits in 1856, by the expulsion of their members from the country. On the other hand, these were still permitted to remain as individuals; and to the present time, the priests ministering to the churches formerly connected with convents, are usually members of those orders by which such churches were founded.

In any one of the smaller cities and towns the parish priest, almost without exception, is a worthy and faithful cura, of devout and godly reputation, leading among his flock a simple life, wholly occupied in ministering to his charge according to the best of his abilities. Since the enactment of the laws of the reform there is nothing to tempt men to adopt their calling but their love of God and genuine interest in the welfare of their parish, often composed, for the most part, of ignorant Indians. These men are entitled to honor and reverence; their ample reward is the unwavering devotion of their congregations, and the satisfaction they may receive from observing the development of their simple minds.

In the year 1770, the Bishop of Puebla published there his form of the Mozarabic liturgy, the most ancient religious service of the Church of Spain, which flourished there until the eleventh century, when it was supplanted by the Roman liturgy. Even at the present time a chapel exists in the cathedral at Toledo, in Spain, where this service is[Pg 414] habitually used, although in presence of but few if any worshippers.

The revival of Mozarabic rites in Mexico met with little attention; but its introduction alone shows a tendency towards independence of thought, very manifest later in the action of Juarez in the sequestration of Church property. Since 1868 a movement in favor of the Protestant Episcopal Church has increased to one of importance. Other Protestant denominations maintain missions in various parts of the country,—the Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptist missions.

There is still a wide field open in Mexico for teaching the impressionable native of Anahuac the simple tenets of the religion of Christ. Purity, honesty, charity, the love of his neighbor, duty to himself, the knowledge of God,—these sure foundations of life are only needed by him as his first foothold in upward progress. As for the government, its present action, its promises for the future, are for the good of the native races. All persons born in the Republic are free; and freedom of education, freedom to exercise the liberal professions, freedom of thought, and the freedom of the press are guaranteed. That this government should prove itself able to carry out its intentions, and thus encourage in the vast area under its control the presence of order-loving immigrants from other countries, who, instead of creating and promoting disorder, as is often the case, shall set the example of industry and domestic living, is the result desired by all true friends of Mexico. Although among the many Germans, English, and Americans who have settled[Pg 415] in the different cities and states of Mexico, there are many who have done so in the intention of earning honest livelihoods, without interfering with their neighbors, and even with the higher motive of improving the condition of those around them, it is not yet possible to say that the example of the foreigners settling in Mexico has been an advantage to its natives. Many of the acts of violence ascribed to Mexicans might be traced to men of other blood, who have sought that territory because they were not tolerated elsewhere. The general testimony of such observers as civil engineers, telegraph men, and others who in the development of the resources of the country have penetrated remote parts of it, is that the native Mexican is peaceful and quiet in disposition, leading a domestic life with his faithful wife, fond of his children, and diligently toiling to support his family. Of course there are exceptions to this, especially when the pulque habit has brutalized its victims; but it is asserted that the drunken quarrels in obscure places, often reported in newspapers, resulting in pistol-shot or dagger stroke, frequently arise less through the fault of the native than of the adventurers from other lands.

Testimony to the good intentions of the government of Mexico is in the improved condition of education there. The system of public instruction is by no means perfect, but it is certainly growing better and better. Free schools, sustained by city or state, are found in most towns and villages, even the smallest. Moreover, private schools are numerous in all the large towns and cities, and colleges and[Pg 416] professional schools are found. All of the Mexican states (for such matters are left to the jurisdiction of each separately) compel free primary instruction, and appropriate annual sums to support it.

While these institutions promise much for the future, Mexico is not without her living writers who, in spite of the unfavorable atmosphere of disturbed politics, have found time to devote themselves to literature. Guillermo Prieto has a well deserved fame in his own country, and outside of it wherever he is known. He was born in 1810, and has passed his life in devotion to the liberal cause, which owes much of its success, to his personal bravery, the boldness of his writings, and his sagacious management of affairs. He has served in the higher offices of government, and written upon political economy and finance, but it is as a poet that he is honored and beloved. Prieto is not alone as a writer of prominence, but of others there is not room to speak. It would be a mistake to suppose that Mexico was lacking in the possession of fine minds, cultivated intellects, and eloquent pens.

It will, of course, have been perceived by this time that the Mexicans from whom so much is expected in the future are the descendants of the Aztec and other native tribes. These form a large part of the population of the country,—the portion which their remote origin, and the vicissitudes of their stay upon Anahuac, make the most interesting to the romantic lover of picturesque history.

The country is occupied also by those descendants of Spanish families who avoided the decree of exile issued in the early days of independence. Inter-marriages[Pg 417] with Indian blood have crossed this stock, so that many good families in Mexico have Indian ancestors among their Spanish ones, and it would probably be rare to find a family wholly unmixed with this strain. What effect this grafting of Castilian character has had upon the native stock, is a subject interesting to students of national characteristics. Cruelty upon cruelty, superstition upon bigotry, might be pronounced a dangerous repetition likely to result from the mixture of the two races which established the Inquisition and revelled in the custom of human sacrifice. On the other hand, the lofty pride of the traditional Spaniard might find its match in the inherited love of splendor of the descendant of the Aztecs. However these things might be, the Mexican-Spaniard has not attained a high reputation among other nations for honesty, generosity, or elevation of character. Whatever may be the fairness of the prejudices against him, partly due to the disadvantages he has been under by being judged always by enemies who have invaded his country for his destruction and their own profit, it is less to this race than to that of the pure Indian blood of the country, that Mexico looks for the regeneration of her future history.

Vast tracts of profitable land in Mexico are still unsettled. As the government becomes more and more stable, it is probable that these will be occupied with emigrants from all other nations, eager to develop the great natural resources. There are at present many Germans engaged in all the branches of industry; and Englishmen, attracted by the great mining and other capabilities of the country, are[Pg 418] yearly investing more and more capital in these enterprises. To the skill of English engineers is due the successful achievement of the Mexican railway, the first built of the great lines that now mark up the map in all directions. Many a Mexican company had faced the chasm between the capital and the gulf, but baulked before the leap. No government lasted long enough to ensure the success of the enterprise, until, in 1868 republican stability and English capital combined to push it forward, and in 1873 the road was opened to the public.

Two great lines connecting Mexico with the United States—the Mexican Central and the National Railway—are essentially American enterprises. The Yankee pervades Mexico—not, as many of its inhabitants fear, with the deep design of absorbing all its territory into the already large domain of the United States, but with his characteristic instinct for doing a good thing for himself. He finds a perfect climate, a productive soil, a land rich in metals and minerals, unlimited space for future railroads, telegraphs, towns, shops, business. There are instances, no doubt, where he thinks he has found a simple native population, easily imposed upon, whose ignorance he may work to his own advantage. But there is no doubt that Yankee liberality, intelligence, conscience, and capital have already done much, and will do far more, to advance the civilization of the country, and lift the spirit of the Aztec, kept low down by centuries of life at the very base of the social pyramid, so that it may ascend higher and higher towards its apex.

[Pg 419]

The darkest days of the Mexican Republic are over. Its members have learned sharp lessons from adversity; they have suffered every thing that their own headstrong conduct, their vain-glorious ambition could bring upon them—civil war, anarchy, invasion by the army of a neighboring government—their natural friend perverted to an enemy partly by their own folly,—the unwarranted intervention of a foreign potentate, the difficulties of debt, want of public faith, a low state of public honesty.

Out of all these troubles they have bravely emerged, and now take their stand, heavily weighted still, indeed, with the burdens of past mistakes, among them the lingering distrust of other nations, but young, full of promise, with all the elements surrounding them of a possible great future. This future must depend for the most part on their own exertions. The children of to-day must be reared in such enlightened fashion that they may avoid the mistakes and crimes of the generation before them; they must learn to long for honorable peace, and must resist the pull there is to their blood for change and military renown. They must seek glory in the permanence of their institutions and the development of their great resources, thus slowly winning the confidence of other nations.

Then they will find these other nations, and especially the powerful one next them on their own continent, ready to perform the neighborly part of protecting their interests, sympathizing in their prosperity, generously willing to share with them the growing fame of the civilization of America.

[Pg 421]



Aak, 78

Academy of Fine Arts, 226

Acamapichtli, 90

Acapulco, 225

Acatl, 76

Acolhuacan, 93

Aculco, 246

Aculhuas, 42

Agave, 34

Aguilar, Jérome de, 138

Agustin I., see Yturbide

Ahuehuete, 22, 56

Ahuitzotl, 105

Aldama, 248

Allende, Ignacio, joins Hidalgo, 241;
denounced, 244;
attacked by Calleja, 246;
forced to retreat, 247;
captured and shot, 248

Alta California, 190; see also California

Alvarado, 137, 160, 163, 173, 194

Amaquemecan, 38, 42

Amecameca, 99, 208

Ampudia, General, 318, 319, 322

Anahuac, 6, 8, 12, 17, 33

Anaya, General, 334

Angostura, 323

Apan, 36

Apodaca, Viceroy, 259, 262

Arista, General, 311, 342

Atlantis, 21

Atzacualco, 83

Atzcapotzalco, 42, 43, 51

Audiencia, 184

Austin, Moses, 304

Axayacatl, 101, 158

Ayaxzitl, 41

Ayotzinco, 156

Ayuntamiento, 184

Azoteas, 127

Aztecs, 43;
emigration of, 83;
wanderings of, 84;
settlement at Chapultepec, 86;
driven to the islands, 87;
found Tenochtitlan, 88;
their civilization, 89;
extent of the kingdom, 106;
religion of, 107;
hieroglyphics, 111;
paintings, 112;
religion, 114;
domestic life, 115;
laws, 115;
calendar, 116;
cycle, 118;
agriculture, 119;
character, 120;
priestesses, 121;
policy of the nation, 123

Aztlan, 22


Bajan, Las Norias de, 248

Balam, 78

Barradas, 277

Basch, Dr., 375

"Baths of Montezuma,", 57

Baudelier, quoted, 30, 38, 170

Bazaine, Marshal, 356, 360, 367, 371, 373

Bocanegro, 277

Bonaparte, Joseph, 235

Bonpland, 224

Boot, Adrian, 218

Branciforte, Marquis of, 234, 235

[Pg 422]Bravo, General Don Nicholas, 262, 268, 274, 307, 321

Buena Vista, 323

Bustamente, 262, 277, 278, 285, 287, 288


Cacamatzin, 130, 154, 156

Calderon, battle of, 247

Calderon, Conde de, see Calleja

Calderon, Madame, 290;
quoted, 227, 273, 282, 284, 293

Calderon, Señor, 290

California, 313, 316, 338

Calleja, General, 246, 247, 252, 258

Calzadas, 80

Calzonzi, 67, 176, 189

Campeche, 132

Canoas, 92, 127

Cargadores, 4, 405

Carlotta, Empress of Mexico, 350;
her character, 358, 364;
goes to Europe, 367;
interview with Napoleon, 368;
her madness, 369

Carratelas, 292

Casa de Cortés, 28

Casa Grande, 13

Casa-Mata, 268

Catholic Fathers, 9, 412

Cazadero, 202

Cempoallan, 143

Cerro de Borrego, battle at, 355

Cerro Gordo, 330

Ceutla, ruins at, 17

Chaak Mool, 78

Chalcas, 66

Chalchiuhtlatonac, 26, 38

Chalco, Lake, 12, 333

Chapparral, 5

Chapultepec, 86, 127, 156, 291, 338, 362, 399

Charles V., 10, 177, 214

Charles II., 220

Charles III., 226, 233

Charles IV., 227, 233

Chavero, quoted, 117

Chiapas, 18, 71, 265

Chichimecatl Tecuhtli, 41

Chichen-Itza, 76

Chichimecs, 26, 38-44, 64, 87

Chihuahua, 323

Chilpantzingo, 252

Chimalpopoca, 91, 94

Chinampas, 228

Cholollan, 28

Cholula, pyramid of, 14, 100, 106, 206

Cholultecas, massacre of, 154

Churubusco, 333, 334

Cinco de Mayo, 354

Clerigos, 344

Coahuila, 338

Coatlicue, 121

Coatzacoalco River, 106

Colima, 62

Colorado River, 24

Columbus, 131

Comonfort, General, 356

Conquistadores, 8, 12, 89

Contreras, Don Pedro Moya de, 216

Copan, 17, 71

Córdoba, 5

Cordova, 132

Cordova, treaty of, 264, 266

Cortazar, General, 285

Cortés, Fernando, alluded to, 2, 3;
birth of, 135;
character of, 136;
commissioned by Velasquez, 127;
his squadron, 138;
at the Tabasco River, 139;
worshipped as Quetzalcoatl, 141;
sends gifts to Montezuma, 141;
visits Cempoallan, 143;
destroys the ships, 144;
interview with Montezuma, 147;
conquers Tlaxcalla, 152;
at Cholula, 154;
arrives in Mexico, 156;
meeting with Montezuma, 157;
seizes Montezuma, 159;
expedition to Vera Cruz, 160;
abandons Mexico, 163;
retreat from the city, 164;
gathers a new army, 171;
campaign against Mexico, 173;
at Coyoacán, 175;
conquers Michoacan, 176;
expedition to Honduras, 177;
[Pg 423]voyages to Spain, 178;
death of, 178;
burial in Mexico, 179

Cortés, Martin, 180

Cotton, 92, 406

Council of Music, 53

Coxcox, 22

Coyoacán, 175

Cozumel, 138

Cuahtemoc, 167, 170, 174, 175, 178

Cuauhnahuac, 92

Cuautla, 252

Cuba, 132

Cuepopan, 88

Cuernavaca, 28, 225

Cuextecas, 106

Cuicuicatzin, 155

Cuitlahuac, 101

Cuitlahuatzin, 161, 166

Cuitzao, Lake, 62

Culhuacan, 23

Culhuas, 87


Diaz, Bernal, 137;
quoted, 127, 148, 181

Diaz, Porfirio, takes Oaxaca, 371;
takes Puebla, 376, 384;
a candidate for the presidency, 390;
at the head of the revolutionists again, 392;
his earlier life, 394;
in the war of the reform, 395;
campaign against Oaxaca, 395;
an escape from government troops, 396;
president, 398;
re-elected, 398;
his home, 399

Doblado, 346

Dolores, 240

Dominicans, 324

Dominiguez, Doña Josefa, 258

"Drinking cup of the Eagle," 101


Escobedo, General, 374, 375, 378

Estrada, Gutierrez, 299, 349


Farías, Valentine Gomez, 279, 282, 307, 321, 330

Ferdinand VII., 234, 259

Fischer, Father, 371

Forey, Marshal, 356

Franciscans, 324

Fremont, Colonel, 316

Frijoles, 26


Galves, Viceroy, 226, 228

Garces, Fray Julian, 204

Garibay, Viceroy, 236

Ghent, Fray Pedro de, 192

Gonsalez, General Manuel, 398

Good-Friday in Mexico, 294

Gorostiza, 334

Grant, Ulysses, quoted, 341

Grenaditas, Alhóndiga de, 243, 248

Grijalva, Juan de, 132-134

Grito de Dolores, 242

Guadalajara, 193, 246

Guadalupe-Hidalgo, treaty of, 338

Guanajuato, 19, 243, 409

Guardias Rurales, 298

Guatemala, 71, 265

Guerrero, 259;
joins Yturbide, 261;
joins in the Casa-Mata, 268;
a candidate for the presidency, 275;
president, 277;
his government overthrown, 277;
captured and shot, 278

Guillermo, 346

Guzman, Nuño de, 184, 185-194


Herrara, General, 262, 307, 342

Hicuxaxé, 66

Hidalgo, Manuel, birth and education, 238;
life at Dolores, 240;
declares independence, 241;
Grito de Dolores, 242;
takes Guanahuato, 243;
takes Valladolid, 245;
[Pg 424]defeated at Aculco, 246;
defeated at Calderon, 247;
captured and shot, 248

Hidalgo, state of, 41

Historia Chichimeca, 60

Holy Brotherhood, tribunal of, 203

Houston, General, 305

Huactlatohani, 41

Huatusco, ruins at, 16

Huehue-Tlapallan, 19, 24

Huehuetoca, 218

Huematzin, 24

Huexotzinco, 106

Huitzilihuitl, 91, 92, 94

Huitzilopochtli, 29, 87, 88, 99, 105

Human sacrifices, 102

Humboldt, Alexander von, visits Mexico, 224-232


"Iguala, Plan of," 261

Indian, the name, 184

Indios, 184

Inquisition, 196, 216

Iré-Titatacamé, 65

Istaccíhuatl, 6

Iturrigaray, Don José de, 224, 236

Itzcoatl, 96, 97, 98

Ixtlilxochitl, Fernando de Alva, 23, 44, 60, 64

Ixtlilxochitl, king of the Chichimecs, 44, 45, 94

Ixtlilxochitl, of Texcuco, 130, 154, 155, 171

Izamal, 81


Jaramillo, Don Juan de, 183

Jesuits, 324

Jimenez, 247, 248

Joinville, Prince de, 281

Jorullo, 231

Juarez, Benito, his descent, 344;
governor of Oaxaca, 345;
president, 346;
withdraws from the capital, 356;
advances to Zacatecas, 374;
enters the capital, 386;
president, 387;
character of, 389;
re-elected, 390;
death of, 390

Juarez, Doña Catalina, 137, 181, 182

Juntas, 235


Kinich-Katmo, 78


Lane, General, 340

Leon, Diégo Velasquez de, 132, 135, 137

Leon y Gama, quoted, 117

Le Plongeon, Dr., quoted, 78

Lerdo, Don Sebastian de Tejada, 391, 396

Lerma, River, 219

Le Teja, 372

Liberales, 344

Lopez, General, 377

Lorencez, General, 354

Loreto, Fort, 331

Louis Philippe, 281


Maguey, 35

Malinche, mountain of, 46

Malintzi, birth and early life, 145;
in slavery, 146;
given to Cortés, 146;
becomes interpreter, 147;
appearance of, 149;
escape of, 164;
life with Cortés, 180;
marriage of, 183;
death of, 183

Marina, see Malintzi

Markets in Mexico, 228

Márques, General, joins the clerigos, 346;
joins Maximilian, 372;
becomes quartermaster-general, 375;
sent to the capital, 375;
his escape, 384

Martin de Valencia, Fray, 208, 211

[Pg 425]Martinez, Enrico, 218, 219

Maximilian, emperor of Mexico, 350;
his character and aims, 352;
arrives in Mexico, 357;
his reception, 358;
life at court, 360;
policy of, 362;
appeals to Napoleon, 367;
prepares to leave Mexico, 369;
goes to Orizaba, 370;
influence of the clerical party, 371;
returns to Mexico, 372;
at Querétaro, 374;
his appearance described, 376;
a prisoner, 378;
death of, 380

Maxixcatzin, 171

Maxtla, 44, 48-51, 92-97

Mayapan, 71, 72

Mayas, 18, 70-82

Mayorga, Viceroy, 226

Meconetzin, 36

Meija, General, 373, 378, 380

Mendez, 378

Mendoza, Antonio de, character of, 191;
his administration, 192-202

Merida, 80

Mexcalla, 106

Mexicans, 51

Mexico, climate of, 5;
relief of, 6;
early races of, 9;
government of, 10;
natural resources of, 11, 402;
roads in, 80;
natives of, 185;
mines of, 229, 409;
society in, 290;
women of, 292;
soldiers, 308;
vegetation, 402;
flowers, 403;
market-place, 404;
schools of, 415;
literature of, 416;
railways in, 418

Mexitli, 84

Mexitzin, 90

Mezcal, 36

Michoacan, 19, 62-69, 106, 176, 194

Mines of Mexico, 229, 409

Miramon, General, joins the clerigos, 346, 349;
joins Maximilian, 372;
advances to Zacatecas, 374;
raises troops for Maximilian, 375;
taken prisoner, 373;
shot, 380

Mitla, 393

Mixcoatl, 40

Mixtecas, 19

Molino del Rey, 334, 360

Monasteries, suppression of, 412

Montaño, 176

Monte de la Cruces, 245

Monteleone, Dukes of, 179

Monterey, 317

Monterey (in California), 314

Montezuma I., 92, 98, 100

Montezuma II., 101, 124;
coronation of, 125;
court of, 128;
interview with Cortés, 147, 157;
a prisoner, 159;
death of, 161

Montezuma, Conde de, 220

Montezuma's Cypress, 129

Morales, General, 328

Morelia, 194, 251

Morelos, José Manuel, birth of, 250;
education of, 251;
joins the Independents, 251;
defends Cuautla, 252;
calls first Mexican congress, 252;
appointed captain-general, 253;
defeated at Valladolid, 254;
captured, 254;
shot, 254;
his character, 255

Morelos, state of, 41

Mound Builders, 20

Moyotla, 88

Mozarabic liturgy, 413


Nachan, 71

Nahuas, 19, 20

Nahuatl, language, 19, 27;
legends, 22;
family, 70

Napoleon I., 235

Napoleon III., 349, 360, 366, 368

Naranjan, Princess of, 65

Nata and Nana, legend of, 23

National Museum of Mexico, 33

Nevada de Toluca, 29

New Mexico, 313, 338

New Spain, extent of, 190

[Pg 426]Nezahualcoyotl, 44-61, 96, 98

Nezahualpilli, 105, 125, 130

Noche Triste, La, 163

Nopal, 87

Noriega, General, 384

Northers, 1, 3

Novella, Francisco, 263, 264

Nueva Leon, 316


Oaxaca, 275, 392

Obregon, 229

O'Donojú, Don Juan, 223, 263-266

Oidores, 185

Olid, Christobal de, 137, 173, 176, 177

Olmedo, Father, 182

Orizaba, 1

Ortega, General, 346, 356

Otomis, tribe of, 19, 152

Otoncapolco, 164

Otumba, battle of, 168, 170


Païnala, 145, 183

Palenque, ruins at, 17, 72-76

Palo Alto, battle at, 311

Paredes, Don Maria, 284, 285, 307, 319

Parian, The, 275

Paseo, 291

Patzcuaro, 63, 68, 194, 230

Payne and Zarate, quoted, 37

Pedraza, Manuel Gomez, 275, 276, 278, 282

Peones, 256

Philip II., 9, 199, 214, 219

Philip III., 219

Philip IV., 219

Philip V., 233

Pillow, General, 336

Pita, 35

Popocatapetl, 6

Popotla, 164

Pottery of Mexico, 405

Prieto, Guillermo, 346, 416

Princess of Cloth, 92

Puebla, 204, 206, 262, 330, 333, 354, 356

Puebla, state of, 41

Pulque, 23, 35


Quemadero, 216

Querétaro, 19, 246, 262, 374, 375

Quetzalcoatl, 29;
legends of, 30, 33, 131;
influence of, 32;
statue of, 34

Quinames, 18

Quinatzin, 42

Quiroga, Vasco de, 197, 238


Railways in Mexico, 418

Rebozos, 296, 406

Reclamacion de los Pasteles, 281

Revillagigedo, Don Juan Vicente de Güemes Pacheco de Padilla, Conde de, 220-222

Robbers, 297

Royal University, founded, 203

Rubio, Manuel Romero, 399


Sabine River, 305

Sacramento, 323

Salanueva, Don Antonio, 345

Salm-Salm, Prince of, 375;
Princess of, 378

Saloméa, Pass of, 393

Saltillo, 316

San Christobal, Lake, 12

San Diego, 252

San Juan de Ulóa, 137, 236, 281, 330

San Juan Teotihuacan, 168

San Luis, 19

San Nicholas, Colegio de, 230, 238, 251

Sandoval, Gonzalo de, 173

Santa Anna, Antonio Lopez de, 267;
his connection with Yturbide, 273;
at Oaxaca, 275;
defeats a Spanish force, 277;
becomes president, 278;
in Texas, 279;
[Pg 427]a prisoner, 280;
defeats a French squadron, 281;
his home at Manga la Clava, 282;
rivalry with Pedraza, 283;
with Meija, 284;
president again, 287;
at the head of the army, 308;
returns from Cuba, 320;
in the war with the United States, 330-338;
retires to Jamaica, 340;
made Dictator, 344;
conspires against the government, 387;
banished, 388;
death of, 388, 398

Schools of Mexico, 415

Scott, Winfield, 323, 324, 328, 330, 337, 339

Serape, 406

Shining Serpent, see Quetzalcoatl

Sicuiracha, 65

Small-pox among the Aztecs, 167

Spanish, expelled from Mexico, 274

St. Domingo, 135

Sun, sacrifices to, 102


Tabasco River, 133, 139

Tamaulipas, 270

Tangoxoan II., 67, 176

Tarascans, 65;
customs of, 68

Taylor, General, 312, 316, 337, 339

Tecpancaltzin, 28, 36

Tehuacan, 254

"Temple of the Cross," 74

Tenoch, 89, 90

Tenochtitlan, 43, 88, 126, 175

Teocallis, 9

Teotihuacan, pyramid of, 18;
city of, 28;
visited by Humboldt, 229

Tepanecas, tribe of, 43, 44, 87, 91.

Tequila, 36

Texas, revolts against Mexico, 305;
annexed to the United States, 306;
in the treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, 338

Texcuco, Lake, 12, 219

Texcuco, kingdom of, 44;
golden age of, 53;
literature of, 54;
decline of, 60;
the kingdom divided, 130

Tezcatlipoca, 23, 30

Tezcotzinco, 56

Tezozomoc, king of Azcapotzalco, 44, 94

"Three Guaranties, The," 261

Tierra caliente, 402

Tixiacurí, 66

Tizoc, reign of, 101

Tlacopan, kingdom of, 42

Tlatelolca, 97, 167

Tlaxcalla, subject to the Chichimecs, 41;
the name, 46, 47;
Cortés goes to, 144;
position of, 151;
resists the Spaniards, 152;
forced to make peace, 153;
head-quarters of Cortés, 172

Tollan, see Tula

Tollanzinco, 24

Toltecs, legend of their origin, 23;
traditions of, 24;
appearance of, 26;
customs of, 27;
duration of the kingdom, 37;
wars, 40;
defeated, 41

Toluca, 28

Tonacatecuhtli, 27

Topiltzin-Meconetzin, 37

Trujillo, 245

Tula, 17, 24, 41, 71

Tzintzuntzan, 66, 67, 198


Ulmecas, tribe of, 18

United States, result of the war with Mexico, 339;
action of, regarding the Mexican Empire, 365


Valencia, Fray Martin de, 193

Valencia, General, 284, 287

[Pg 428]Valenciana, Count of, see Obregon

Valenciana, mines of, 229

Valladolid, 194, 196, 230, 245, 246, 253, 262

"Valley Confederates," 98

Velasco, Luis de, second viceroy, 203

Velasquez de Léon, Diégo, governor of Cuba, 135;
sends Grijalva to Mexico, 136;
is jealous of Cortés, 137

Venegas, Don Francisco, 237, 243, 248, 253

Vera Cruz, 1, 4, 41, 142, 321, 328

Viceroys, 9;
number of, 223

Victoria, Don Felix Fernandez, 273, 274

Vidaurri, General Santiago, 383, 384

Viga Canal, 228, 292

Votan, 80


"Wanderings of the Aztecs," picture of, 112

Worth, General, 323, 330, 331


Xicalancas, tribe of, 18

Xicotencatl, 152

Xochicalco, pyramid of, 16, 28, 225

Xochimilco, 12

Xochiquetzal, 22

Xochitl, 36, 41

Xoconochco, 106

Xolotl, chief of the Chichimecs, 40, 42


Yturbide, Agustin de, 260;
announces "Plan of Iguala," 261;
takes Valladolid, 262;
enters the capital, 264;
made president, 265;
proclaimed emperor, 266;
crowned, 267;
deposed, 268;
leaves the country, 268;
declared a traitor, 268;
returns and is executed, 270;
his character, 271

Yucatan, 18, 70, 132


Zamna, 80

Zapotecas, tribe of, 19, 393

Zaragoza, General, 346, 354

Zoquipan, 88

Zovanga, 67

Zumárraga, Fray Juan de, 207

Zumpango, Lake, 12

Zuñiga, Doña Juana de, 183





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