Page:The Story of Mexico.djvu/38

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perate, 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 north-west, 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 Popocatepétl 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