Sidebilder
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

a number of hackney coaches standing, (better I think than the jarvies and fiacres of London and Paris,) to the statue of Charles Fourth ; where seated on the steps of the enclosure we found a class of men called evangelistas. Their business is to indite memorials and epistles for those who cannot write themselves. Wrapped in his blanket, and furnished with pen and ink, and a basket full of paper, the evangelist is ready to furnish letters in verse or prose, to all who apply for them. I listered for some time to one of then, who was writing a letter for a pretty young girl, and was artfully drawing her sentiments from her.

• The facility with which these men write is surprising. Memorials to ministers and judges, letters of condolence and congratulation, and epistles breathing love and friendship, succeed each other rapidly, and appear to cost but little effe Some of them are tolerable improvisatori—a faculty more common among the people of Spanish America, than it is even among the Italians. pp. 77,78.

The state of education in Mexico, amidst all the bars which have been opposed to the progress of knowledge, has never been so low as in many other parts of Spanish America. Books have been printed there in a style of elegance, that would do credit to the art in any country. But this was confined to a single press in the capital ; neither printing nor the sale of books was indiscriminately allowed under the old government. At an early period of the revolution, the enterprising chief Morelos published a gazette at Zultepec, entitled Illustrador Nacional, which was printed with indigo on wooden types, ingeniously cut by a native Indian. A rapid change cannot but take place for the better, when the system of primary schools which the present government is laboring with zeal to establish, shall go into full operation. To this system, introduced as it will be into all the republics, we may look with more confidence than to anything else for the ultimate and permanent regeneration of South America.

Let knowledge go abroad and visit the hut of every peasant, and the triumph of freedom will be secure; the authority of law will be respected in proportion as its principles and utility are understood. Speaking of education in Mexico, Mr Poinsett observes,

"The university was founded in 1551. It is under the government of a rector, who accompanied us in our visit to the different apartments of the building. There have been as many as two hundred students at a time, but the number is now very much

dininished. Besides this university, there are inferior colleges, and several large schools, under the direction of the regular clergy. Most of the people in the cities can read and write. I would not be understood as including the leperos; but I have frequently remarked men, clothed in the garb of extreme poverty, reading the Gazettes in the streets; of these there are three published every other day in the week, which are sold for twelve and a half cents a piece, and pamphlets and loose sheets are hawked about and sold at a reasonable rate. There are several bookseller's shops, which are but scantily supplied wiih books, The booksellers’ have hitherto labored under all the disadvantages of the prohibitory system of the catholic church, but are now endeavouring to furnisin theniselves with the best modern works. The few books to be found in the shops are extravagantly dear. There are several valuable private libaries, and many Creole gentlemen, who have visited Europe, have a taste both for literature and the fine arts. This is certainly more rare among those who have never been out of their country. The means of education were more limited ; and under the colonial system, liberal studies were discouraged. The Latin language, law, theology and philosophy, were taught in the colleges, and only so much of the latter as the clergy thought might be taught with safety. To give you some idea of the influence of this class in the city of Mexico, I will merely observe, that there are five hundred and lifly secular, and sixteen hundred and fortysix regular clergy.

Humboldt says, that in the twentythrce convents of monks in the capital, there are twelve hundred individuals, of whom five hundred and eighty are priests and choristers; and in the fifteen convents of nuns, there are two thousand one hundred individuals, of whom about nine hundred are professed nuns.

pp. 83, 84. Extracts from the author's account of what he saw. and learnt in the city of Mexico might be indefinitely extended with profit to our readers ; but one more must suffiice. This relates to the man of whom posterity will be puzzled to decide, whether ambition or folly was the leading trait of his character. Iturbide was emperor of Mexico when Mr Poinsett was there, and he thus describes bis interview with him.

I was presented to His Majesty this morning. On alighting at the gate of the palace, which is an extensive and handsome building, we were received by a numerous gnard, and then made our way up a large stone staircase, lined with sentinels, to a spacious apartment, where we found a brigadier general stationed to usher us into the presence. The emperor was in his cabinet and received us with great politeness. Two of his favorites were with him.

6

man.

We were all seated, and he conversed with us for half an hour in an easy unembarrassed manner, taking occasion to compliment the United States, and our institutions, and to lament that they were not suited to the circumstances of liis country. He modestly insinuated that he had yielded very reluctantly to the wishes of the people, but had been compelled to suffer them to place the crown npon his head to prevent misrule and anarchy.

“He is about five feet ten or eleven inches high, stoutly made and well proportioned, His face is oval, and his features are very good except his eyes, which are constantly bent on the ground or averted. His hair is brown with red whiskers, and his complexion fair and ruddy, more like that of a German, than of a Spaniard. As

yon will hear his name pronounced differently, let me tell you that you must accent equally every syllable, I-tur-bi-de. I will not repeat the tales I hear daily of the character and conduct of this

Prior to the late successful revolution, he commanded a small force in the service of the Royalists, and is accused of having been the most cruel and blood-thirsty persecutor of the Patriots, and never to have spared a prisoner. His official letters to the viceroy substavitiate this fact. In the interval between the defeat of the patriot cause and the last revolution, he resided in the capital, and in a society not remarkable for strict morals, he was distinguished for his immorality. His usurpation of the chief authority has been the most glaring, and unjustifiable ; and his exercise of power arbitrary aud tyrannical. With a pleasing address and prepossessing exterior, and by lavish profusion, he has attached the officers and soldiers to his person, and so long as he possesses the means of paying and rewarding them, so long he will maintain himself on the throne; when these fail he will be precipitated from it.' pp. 67,

68. This prediction was verified sooner, perhaps, than even the author anticipated. Vanity made Iturbide an emperor', he was a tyrant in his nature ; in his dreans of a crown, a throne, and the other baubles of kings, he forgot the riglits of mankind ; in his love of power and domination he trampled on liberty and justice. The fate of few men has been less lamented than that of Iturbide ; few will be remembered with less regret.

The author spent his time most diligently in Mexico, and has brought together in his journal a great number of valuable and interesting facts pertaining to the present state of the city, which his observation and researches enabled him to collect. From the capital he continued his tour to the north, visiting the mines of Guanaxuato, and passing through San Luis Potosi to Tampico, whence he embarked for the United States. He examined on his way the great canal of Huehuetoca, which has been constructed to drain the waters of the lake Zumpango, and prevent their flowing into the Tezcuco, and thus inundating the city as was often the case formerly. The canal is a work of prodigious labor, cut through a bill to a depth varying from ninetyeight to one hundred and thirty feet. It cost the lives of some thousands of Indians, who were compelled to work in it. They were suspended by cords, and were frequently swept away by the torrents when the waters rose suddenly, or were dashed against the rocks; and many perished from excessive fatigue and bad treatment. The plan, however, succeeded; the waters of the lake now flow into the river Tula, and are carried to the ocean.

On the fourth day after leaving Mexico the author arrived at Queretaro, once famous for its manufactures, as far as this kind of employment was allowed under the old government. The town now contains no less than thirty thousand inhabitants, and is thus described.

• The manufactures of this place have suffered in common with every branch of industry in Mexico. They are still carried on, particularly those of woollen and cotton stuffs, but on a reduced scale. African slaves formerly worked in these manufactories, and Indians, who were held to labor by getting them in debt, and keeping them so by furnishing them the means of gratifying their love of ardent spirits. This subject was frequently discussed during the existence of the late congress, but no adequate remedy was adopted.

• There are upwards of eleven thousand Indians in Queretaro, and many of them are still held in this brutal state of bondage by the manufacturers. We have been amused for some time with the motley assembly in the square. It is Saturday, and on the evening of this day there is a market or rather fair held. They began to assemble about an hour before sun-down, so as to display their wares to advantage, and the business is now going on by candle light. We saw the poor pedlar, carefully spreading out on the pavement, odd pieces of old iron, spurs, bridle bits, nails and screws; the manufacturer hanging up his cotton and woollen goods ; and the jockey dashing about on a gallant steed, and loudly calling on the by-standers to admire its rare qualities and to purchase. I suppose our appearance betokened cullibility, for we have been visited by almost every salesman in market offering their wares at enormous prices. They are accustomed to chaffer, and you may offer them one fourth of their asking price, without risk of offending them, and with a good chance of purchasing the article.' pp. 139, 140.

We next find the author at the mines of Guanaxuato, which he examined with care; and he describes with great minuteness the mode of working the mines, forming the shafts which descend to them, and the whole economy of separating the metal from the ore. His description and remarks on this subject are highly interesting. The great shaft of Valenciana, which is eighteen hundred feet deep, and thirtythree in diameter, and constructed at the expense of more than a million of dollars, was nearly two thirds full of water. The machinery of this mine was burnt by order of Mina, after his attack on Guanaxuato had failed. The owners have not been able since to restore it, and the mine has consequently remained unproductive. Mr Bullock says, that this is one of the mines engaged to be worked by the British company, and that mechanics and steam engines were their way a year and a half ago to commence operations. The want of fuel, as Mr Poinsett suggests, will be a serious bar to the utility of steam engines, unless coal shall be discovered in the neighborhood.*

One or two sketches from the author's animated narrative of his journey from the mines to the seashore, will place in rather a striking light some of the amusements and characteristic traits of the people. The following incident happened at San Luis, which is described as a handsome town, in the midst of a fertile country.

“My fellow travellers arrived about two o'clock, and all my arrangements are made to set out tomorrow. In the afternoon we visited the cockpit, and found a strange, motley group there. A priest was examining one of the birds, and betting largely; and we saw miserable wretches, half naked, or covered with a blanket, put five, and some as much as twenty dollars, into the broker's hands, to stake on their favorite bird. Some Senoras, not, however, the most lady like, but very finely dressed, were smoking cigars and betting. When the bets were all made, and order restored, a noble colonel pitted his own fowl against a lepero, a fellow

on

* An account of these mines, as described by Humboldt and others, may be seen in our number for April, 1822. Vol. XIV. p. 432. VOL. XX.-NO. 46.

13

« ForrigeFortsett »