Page:Mexico, California and Arizona - 1900.djvu/223

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203
SAN JUAN, ORIZABA, AND CORDOBA REVISITED.

which are then dried five or six weeks, and barked; or ire barked earlier by a machine. The chief labor consists in destroying the weeds, which must be done from two to six times a year. The plants are set in squares, it a distance of about seven feet apart. The trees recommended for shade are the fresno, or ash, cedro (cedar), the huisache, aguacate, maxcatle, cajiniquil, and tepehuajé, the characteristics of which I could hardly explain, more than those of the fruits, except that they are generally dark and glossy-leaved, and many of them as large as our elms. There is a theory, too, in favor of shading by bananas, and plantations are found where the two grow together.

But a native proprietor with whom I talked objects to this. "The platano is a selfish and grasping plant," he says, indignantly. "It draws twice and thrice its proportionate amount of nourishment from the soil. Is it not beaten down, too, in every storm? And the ravaging hedgehog comes in search of it, and, while he is about it, destroys the coffee as well. No, indeed, no combination of platano and coffee for me!"

The poor platano! However, it can stand abuse. How quickly it grows! Its great leaves, more or less tattered by friction, flap and rustle above your head like banners and sails as you walk about in the tropical plantation. It is called the "bread of the tropics." An acre of land will produce enough of it to support fifty people, whereas an acre in wheat will support only two. If the tropics had had a good deal harder time in getting their bread, by-the-way, they would not have been in so down-trodden and slipshod a condition.

I will not say that we had the better coffee at our hotel for being in its own country. It is the old story of "shoe-maker's children " again, I suppose. On the contrary, I