Page:Face to Face With the Mexicans.djvu/302

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FACE TO FACE WITH THE MEXICANS.

that feminine product, the crazy quilt. The observer wonders in which representative of the two civilizations is the geometrical instinct most highly developed—the crude Indian, unaided by a modern thought, or our "ladye faire," with every stimulus from her neighbors' ingenuity and an inexhaustible supply of gay materials from well-filled storehouses near by.

A simple placard on which we read "Crina," informs us that we have reached the highest point on the road, and the highest station in Mexico—at 10,000 feet above sea level, and at a distance of forty miles from the capital. Here respiration becomes difficult, and overcoats and wraps are in demand.

After this, we enter the beautiful Valley of Toluca, which is well covered with haciendas, on which corn and beans are chiefly cultivated. For the first time we see the bright red-tiled roofs that here cover every house, large and small. The haciendas have numerous ranchitas (little houses), in size about five by seven feet, mounted on poles ten feet high. They are entered only by means of a slender ladder. In these strange appurtenances of farm life a watchman takes his station at night, armed with his rifle, and guards a certain number of acres from the molestation of robbers. The road passes near the famous battle-field of Monte de las Cruces, where was fought one of the most sanguinary battles of the War of Independence. A monument now marks the spot. The Valley of Toluca is larger than that of Mexico, and is more generally cultivated, being well supplied with water for irrigating purposes.

Toluca, the capital of the State of Mexico, is about 1,000 feet lower than the high point before described, and 1,000 feet higher than the City of Mexico. The climate is delightfully cool; in fact, for most constitutions, far too cool to be comfortable. The high altitude, together with the coolness, often affects with nervous prostration strangers, especially ladies, requiring days to overcome. The city has a population of about 25,000, is neatly paved, and rejoices in an abundance of clear, fresh water, flowing at all times through the streets. It has many fine old convents, now used as hospitals or