Mexico, as it was and as it is

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Mexico, as it was and as it is  (1847) 
by Brantz Mayer
Mayer was twice secretary of the United States legation to Mexico. This work covers his first term in that office.

NB: This, the third edition of the work, lists appendix four as Meteorological Observations and appendix five as Prices of Provisions in the Table of Contents. However, the actual appendix four is Prices of Provisions and the third edition does does not actually contain a Meteorological Observations appendix.

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PYRAMID OF PAPANTLA.

MEXICO,


AS IT WAS AND AS IT IS:


BY


BRANTZ MAYER,

SECRETARY OF THE UNITED STATES LEGATION TO THAT COUNTRY IN 1841 AND 1842.


THIRD EDITION,


REVISED AND CORRECTED, WITH THE HISTORICAL PORTION

BROUGHT DOWN TO THE PRESENT TIME.





PHILADELPHIA:

G. B. ZIEBER & COMPANY.
. . . . . . .
1847.



Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1847, by

G. B. Z I E B E R & C O M P A N Y,

in the office of the Clerk of the District Court of the United States, in and
for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.



TO THE

HONORABLE POWHATAN ELLIS,

LATE

ENVOY EXTRAORDINARY AND MINISTER PLENIPOTENTIARY TO MEXICO,

THIS VOLUME IS RESPECTFULLY INSCRIBED

BY HIS SINCERE FRIEND,

BRANTZ MAYER.

PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION.

The public was kind enough to purchase the two first editions of this book within a few months after their publication. The work has, consequently, been out of print for more than a year, and I would not have ventured to offer a third edition, if the relations between Mexico and our Union had not seemed to indicate that a new interest has been aroused as to the condition and destiny of that distracted Republic.

Since the year 1843, several revolts against the existing government have taken place in Mexico, and the diplomatic intercourse between us has been of increasing importance, not only on account of the Texan dispute, but in consequence of a growing anxiety as to what is likely to be hereafter our Southern boundary, and along what parallel of latitude it is to run westwardly towards the Pacific.

These considerations have induced me to revise a work, which, three years ago, I prepared for the press in the brief space of thirty days; and,—whilst I crave pardon for that act of indiscretion, and am thankful for the favor with which it, nevertheless, was welcomed—I must frankly declare that I have found no cause to alter the statement of a single fact or opinion. My aim was to present an unprejudiced picture of Mexico, and I hope I may be permitted to declare without vanity, that I have the satisfaction to know from Mexicans whose good esteem is worthy of all respect, that my views of their country and their character were received as the most just and favorable that had been published.

The kind feelings with which I left Mexico in the winter of 1842 remain unchanged towards her true patriots, and towards the magnificent country which has been so convulsed and torn by the broils, the ambition and the avarice of contending factionists. With Religious Toleration, General Education, and entire Domestic Tranquillity, what might not Mexico become in a few years under the hand of a strong and virtuous Government! During my residence there and my travels throughout the Republic, I had often to recognize fine talents, good personal qualities, and vast natural resources, but all, generally neglected or denied the opportunity of advancement. I never saw a moden plough on a Mexican farm, a rake in a husbandman's hand, a wheelbarrow in a laborer's grasp, a cart bearing the ordinary burthens of trade, or a Bible in a Mexican house! That strange race of antique men in which Celti-Gallic, Celt-Iberian, Carthagenian, Roman, Vandalic, Visigothic and Moorish blood had mingled, was, again, crossed in Mexico by the Indian, and even dashed, in some instances, with the African. It is a mosaic blood and furnishes a curious matter for the study of physiologists. It is a race striving for new things, yet regretting to quit its grasp on the old. In speculation it looks forward; yet, in the Superstitions of Religion and in the crude primitiveness of Art and Trade, it cleaves to the past. Mexico is a graft rather of the wild Arab on the base Indian, than of the Spanish Don on the noble Aztec. From the bondage of superstitious custom. Mexico requires disenthralment. But, to effect this delivery she must have Peace imposed on her by a firm hand. Since 1823, no less than seventeen revolutions have succeeded her rejection of the Spanish yoke. Can it be said that such a nation is competent to govern itself? Has it ever governed itself? Nay, has it done so, peacefully, even for a single year? Can such a miscalled democracy have an effective public opinion? With rulers shifting like the winds, what permanent policy can such a government pursue. Indeed, in all her vicissitudes, in what has Mexico exhibited the slightest symptom of constancy, save in her deep, immedicable hostility to our Union?

If this were a mere abstract, sapless dislike,—a sort of hereditary hatred like that between France and England or between the Genoese, the Tuscans and the Neapolitans—we might pass it over and trust to Time to make us better friends; but this animosity is growing into an active, untiring, energetic, agent of annoyance, until we see no possible termination to our difficulties but such authoritative interposition as will convince Mexico that this Union means to maintain its station as head of the American governments, and is resolved to put an end forever to the idea of European interference in the affairs of our Continent. This is a policy that should be adopted, and, if successfully pursued, would unquestionably terminate in a firm alliance between the two Republics and the formation of a treaty, offensive and defensive, which would secure our perpetual amity.

In regard to the domestic peace of Mexico, I have great hesitation in speaking with any certainty as to a mode by which it might be secured. The notion, broached in European and American papers, that Mexico is willing to establish a monarchy and receive a royal scion of some European house to grace her throne, is only one of the thousand ridiculous surmises that are hazarded by blundering paragraphists. Nothing can be more unpopular in Mexico with all classes than the hint of monarchy, save perhaps, a suggestion to fill the throne with a French or Spanish Prince. No one would venture on so perilous an eminence. The Church and the Military would oppose the scheme as inimical to their present power:—the People would oppose it as at variance with the spirit of their Revolution. The throne would soon be hewn to a block. Despotism in Mexico must be masked, as it is wherever it exists in this century.

I may be told that this is surely a very bad state of things and that humanity must mourn over the misfortunes of the race, but, that the people of the United States have no more right to interfere in the matter than they have to settle the domestic differences in the family of a neighbor who lives unhappily with his wife. I beg leave, however, to dissent from this opinion. Mexico is not merely a social neighbor whose rights are guarded and whose offences are punished by municipal laws, but she is one of the great family of nations on this Continent, striving to free herself from the tutelage under which she groaned for three centuries, while the Spanish yoke hung round her neck. She is bound by international ties, pledged in international treaties, burthened with international contracts, and, above all, loaded with debts to foreigners, growing not only out of regular loans, but forced from individuals by exactions, wrongs, personal injury and enormous injustice. The whole foreign world, is therefore, directly interested in this distracted realm independently of the concern that all Christian men must feel in the progress of nations;—but, of all parts of Christendom, none has so deep a stake in it as these United States.

If, as in France, since the fearful revolution of '98, each popular outbreak had been but a feebler swing of the great democratic pendulum, bringing it nearer and nearer to repose and tranquillity, we should bid these people "God speed," and hail them heartily on their way to republican greatness. But, instead of approaches to peace and happiness, the pendulum of Mexican revolutions has swung, with each vibration, further and further from the centre of gravity; so that, instead of poising at length like a plummet above the Truth and the Right, it is now converted into a vast weapon, whose terrific gyrations threaten with ruin everything within the scope of its tremendous whirl.

There is, however, another view of the matter, which should have weight in the consideration of Mexican affairs.

A recent letter from Yucatan, received at New Orleans, by way of Mexico, says:

"The people of Yucatan are in daily expectation of declaring the independence of that province. Offences on the part of the Mexican Congress towards Yucatan have dictated this step. Two assemblies, composed of the most distinguished personages, have already met to discuss the measure of separation, and much is said of seeking assistance, should it be necessary, from the cabinet at Washington."

Nearly four years ago, I took occasion, in a private interview with a distinguished statesman then in power, to indicate the probable disruption of the soi-disant Republic, of which this seems to be the premonitory symptom. The people of the Mexican Provinces will no longer consent to be the prey of the central chiefs, who make a Paris of the city of Mexico, and control the nation when they hold the key of the capital. Distracted, dissatisfied, divided, fragmentary, each one will, perhaps, set up for itself—Zacetecas, Durango, Coahuila, California, and the rest, going off in separate discontent and establishing themselves as petty principalities. Each of these, in the course of a few years, will grow into little Mexicos. The concentrated venom of the whole Republic will be diffused in weakened virus among the lopped members. Every clipped head of the original hydra will sprout into mimic serpenthood, and, although the hiss of the rattlesnake may not be as dangerous as the fang of the monster, yet the ultimate task of the Eagle, in controlling the dangerous brood, will be infinitely multiplied.

I beg leave in writing thus of Mexican matters to be distinctly understood as not encouraging the conquest of that country or endeavouring to cherish the war and plunder spirit that would eagerly prey on the fair domain of the invaded Republic. No such idea is seriously mine for a moment; but it is time that Mexico should be aroused to a sense of her own position, and it is still more important to have her future policy distinctly defined in relation to the affairs of this Continent and Europe.

It has recently been asserted by an American writer that the Province of Rio de la Plata has been decimated during the administration of the celebrated Rosas, and the allegation is enforced by an extract from the "Tables of Blood," of which the following resumé is given by Don José Rivera Indarte

Poisoned, 4
Throats cut, 3,765
Shot, 1393
Assassinated, 722
Slain in battle, 14,920
Killed in skirmishes, Military punishments, &c., %c., 1,600
22,404

"During the frightful massacres of October, 1840, and April, 1842, the heads of well known citizens were paraded through the streets in carts, accompanied by indecent music and followed by the cries of 'who'll buy peaches? Who'll buy oranges?' The bodies of other victims were exposed, naked, in the public market place, the severed heads adorned with blue ribbons—labeled, 'Beef with the hide on—Carne con cuero!' One of the ornaments of the drawing-room of Rosas, which has been seen again and again by foreigners visiting at his house, is a glass case ing the salted ears of Colonel Borda, which were sent to the daughter of Rosas."[1]

These and similar outrages are alleged as the cause of the recent intervention of England and France. The interference is said to be one of merciful humanity, and we trust that the continued succession of mobs and revolutions with which Mexico has been scourged for the last twenty years will not reduce her to the sway of some tyrant like Rosas who will deluge her with native blood and compel us to be no longer indifferent spectators of her misrule.

In such a juncture the course of this country will be perfectly clear. True statesmanship looks steadily to the advancement of mankind—to the eradication of all brutality from our race—to the assertion of the omnipotence of Peace and Reason in modern government. If it be the will of God that Christian civilization and refinement are to be spread over this world, I shall hail the day as a blessed one for the Mexican people when perfect peace and perfect alliance shall be established between us as Independent Nations. But if it be the Divine fiat that we are to interfere in Mexican politics, and that the various bloods of the Mexican race are finally to mingle with the mighty stream of the Anglo-Saxon, which seems destined to fill every vein and artery of this mighty Continent, then, assuredly, will our distracted neighbors, at length, secure to their country tranquillity, progress, and glory.


Baltimore, 1846.

CONTENTS.


PAGE.
LETTER I.
Voyage out, 1
LETTER II.
Vera Cruz, 3
LETTER III.
Ride to Xalapa, and the Robbers on the road, 9
LETTER IV.
Xalapa and Perote, 15
LETTER V.
Puebla, 23
LETTER VI.
Pyramid of Cholula, 26
LETTER VII.
Last day's ride to Mexico, 33
LETTER VIII.
The City of Mexico, 38
LETTER IX.
The City of Mexico, 48
LETTER X.
The City of Mexico, 54
LETTER XI.
A Bull Fight, 58
LETTER XII.
Virgin of Guadalupe, and Festival, 63
LETTER XIII.
Court Ceremonies—General Santa Anna—Diplomatic Dinner, 70
LETTER XIV.
San Agustin de las Cuevas, and the Feast of San Agustin— Gambling and Cock Fighting, 76
LETTER XV.
Revolution— Wax-figures—Museum— Antiquities, 81
LETTER XVI.
Museum and Antiquities, 90
LETTER XVII.
Teoyaomiqui— Mexican Mythology, 109
LETTER XVIII.
Priests—Temples—Sacrifices, 115
LETTER XIX.
Mexican Calendar, 126
LETTER XX.
City of Mexico as it was at the conquest, 131
LETTER XXI.
Murders—Tacuba—Festival of Remedios, 140
LETTER XXII.
Carnival—Lent—Holy-Week, 149
LETTER XXIII.
Neighborhood of Mexico—Chapultepec—Tacubaya, and the murder of Mr. Egerton—San Angel—Desierto, 156
JOURNAL.
Of a Journey in the Tierra-Caliente, being an account of a Visit to Cuernavaca, the Ruins of Xochicalco, Cavern of Cacahuawamilpa, Cuautla de Amilpas, and Mexican Haciendas, 161
LETTER XXIV.
Ascent to the summit of the Volcano Popocatepetl, 208
JOURNAL.
Of a Journey to Tezcoco—the Pyramids of Teotihuacan—the Hill of Tezcosingo, &c. &c., and Account of American Antiquities, 217
LETTER XXV.
Whence came the ancient Population? Who built the Ancient Cities? Who worshipped the Idols? 254
LETTER XXVI.
City of Mexico—Public Institutions—Prisons, and Prison Statistics— Academy—Private Collections, 265
LETTER XXVII.
Desagua—Carriages—Mules—Troops—Music—Opera—Recruits—Theaters—Mexican Thieves—The Judge and Turkey, 282
LETTER XXVIII.
Mexican Character, 292
LETTER XXIX.
Territory— Population and Departments—Rates of Castes and Education—Schools and Colleges—Periodicals, 299
LETTER XXX.
Commerce and Manufacture of Mexico, 305
LETTER XXXI.
Revenue and Resources of Mexico—Army—Navy—Produce of Mines—Total amount of Coinage—The Church—In Wealth and Influence, 317
LETTER XXXII.
Political History 328
LETTER XXXIII.
Political Prospects of Mexico, 350
Conclusion, 355
APPENDIX NO. I.
A Supplementary Letter on the Sandwich Islands, the Californias, and the foreign policy of the United States, in regard to the encroachments of England, 357
APPENDIX NO. II.
Letters from H. R. Colcraft, Esq., on American Antiquities, 379
APPENDIX NO. III.
Letter from Horatio Hale, Esq., on the Origin of the Mexican Tribes, 382
APPENDIX NO. IV.
Meteorological Observations in the City of Mexico, 384
APPENDIX NO. V.
Prices of Provisions, &c., &c. 385


  1. "Buenos Ayres and the Republic of the Banda Oriental," by Mrs. S. P. Jenkins—in the American Review, vol. 3d, pp. 161, 163.
This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.