Six Months In Mexico/Chapter 33
cutting some one in the back. Whittling one forefinger with the other means “you got left." When courting on the balcony and the girl smooths her lip and chin, you are warned to get out; “the old man is coming." In company, when one is so unfortunate as to sneeze, they are greatly insulted, and the company is badly wanting in good manners unless, just as the sneeze is finished, every one ejaculates “Jesu," Jesucristo."
NOCHE TRISTE TREE.
I presume everybody who knows anything about history remembers reading how Cortez, when he thought he was going to lose the fight for Mexico, on July 10th, 1520, retired under a tree and wept.
Since that time the tree has been known to the inhabitants as the Noche Triste (the sad night). It stands before an ancient chapel, in a public square of the little village of Popotla. I don't know why, for I could never think of Cortez except as a thieving murderer, but the Noche Triste receives a great deal of attention from the natives and all the tourists. On the second of May, 1872, the tree was found to be on fire. A citizen of Popotla, Senor Jose Maria Enriquez, who venerated the old relic, followed by hundreds of people, rushed to its rescue.
They did what they could with buckets, and at last two hand pumps were brought from an adjoining college. It is said that fully five thousand people visited the burning tree that day. After burning for twenty-four hours the flames were conquered. Since then Noche Triste has been inclosed by a high, iron fence; despite the fire it is yet a grand old tree.
Everybody visits the cathedral of Mexico. It is a grand old building, of enormous size, and covered with carved figures, facing the zocalo. It is surrounded by well-kept gardens, in which are many beautiful statues and ancient Aztec figures. In the cathedral is the tomb of the Emperor Yturbide, and superb paintings, some by Murillo. The history of the cathedral is interesting; it was the church of Santa Maria de la Asuncion until January 31, 1545, when it was declared the metropolitan cathedral of Mexico.
Philip II. issued a royal decree that the cathedral should correspond to the magnificence of the city, and in 1573 the work was begun. It occupies the very ground on which stood the principal temple of the Aztecs; the site was bought from the Franciscan monks for forty dollars.
A period of forty-two years was consumed in laying the foundations, raising the exterior walls, building the transverse walls of the chapels, working the columns to the height of the capitals, and making some progress upon the domes.
The architecture of this temple pertains to the Doric order. The structure is one hundred and thirty-three Spanish yards in length, and seventy-four in width. In has one hundred and seventy-four windows, and is divided into five naves, the principal one of which measures fifty-three feet in width from column to column. The aisles correspond in number to the thirty-three chapels, formed by twenty pillars, ten on each side; from base to capital the pillars measure fifty-four feet in height, and fourteen in circumference. The roof is composed of fifty-one domes or vaults, resting upon seventy four arches. The church is pyramidal in form, its height diminishing in regular proportion from the main nave to the chapels. There are three entrance-doors on the southern front, two on the northern, and two on each of the sides.
After ninety-five years of continual work, the final solemn dedication was celebrated December 22, 1677.
The cost of the cathedral, exclusive of the external decoration, at least of the Sagrario, amounted to $1,752,000, so that it may well be said that two and a half million dollars were invested in the two churches, whose erection extended over more than a century.
During my six months in Mexico I received hundreds of letters from men asking my advice about their coming to Mexico for business purposes. I never give advice, but if I were a man and had a certain amount of patience I should go to Mexico. If one can get used to the people and their manana movements, the place is perfect. The land, in most localities, is the easiest imaginable to cultivate. A farmer can have as many harvests a year as he has space. He can sow in one place and harvest in another, so perfect is the climate. The only complaint is of the lack of water, but as it is always to be found six feet under the surface of the earth one can have it. Anything will grow if put in the ground. I visited one place that had been barren three years previous, and it was the most beautiful garden spot in Mexico. The trees were equal to any nine year old trees in the States. There is no weather to interfere with their growth.
A great number of Englishmen, Germans and French have settled, in Mexico, and by their thrift are accumulating fortunes rapidly. Barring a little dislike, the Americans have the same chances.
Mexico produces better broom-corn than the United States, and for the smallest possible cost and trouble. Very few farmers interest themselves in broom-corn, so there is a place for Americans to step in and make money.
Silk culture could also be made one of Mexico's principal industries. It can be carried on with little or no capital. Any one who possesses a few mulberry trees can, without abandoning his regular work, care for silkworms. An ounce of silk-worm eggs costs five dollars, and it will produce not less than fifty kilogrammes of cocoons that are worth one dollar per kilogramme.
It is only necessary to buy eggs the first time, for the worms keep producing them. The mulberry tree thrives in all parts of Mexico, and the silk-worm needs no protection of any kind from the climate, nor are they subjected to diseases here which elsewhere cause great loss. It costs less to raise silk-worms in Mexico than in Europe, and a far better quality are produced. Mulberry shoots will produce sufficient foliage to maintain silk-worms within three years after planting.
The eggs, while containing the embryo silk-worm, have a dull lavender color, but after discharging the worm they resembled little sugar pills. The worms were about one-sixteenth of an inch long, but the first week of moulting shows them to be half an inch long and the second week one inch. For the third moulting they are placed on perforated paper, through the holes of which the worms crawl. This relieves the attendant of