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information; and I consulted at Xalapa and Vera Cruz, persons, who for, thirty years have carried on the commerce in vanilla of Misantla, Colipa, and Papantla. The following is the result of my researches as to the actual state of this interesting branch of national industry.
All the vanilla supplied by Mexico to Europe is produced in the two intendancies of Vera Cruz and Oaxaca. This plant principally abounds on the eastern slope of the Cordillera of Anahuac between 19° and 20° of latitude. The natives early perceived, that notwithstanding the abundance, the harvest was very difficult, on account of the vast extent of ground necessary to be gone over annually, and they collected a great number of the plants into a narrower space. This operation did not demand much care; it was merely necessary to clear a little the soil, and to plant two slips of epidendrum at the foot of a tree, or to fix parts cut from the stalk to the trunk of a Liquidambar, an Ocotea, or an arborescent Piper.
The slips are in general from four to five decimetres in length.* They are tied to the trees up which the new stalk must climb. Each slip yields fruit in the third year. They calculate on fifty pods on each, for thirty or forty years, especially if the vegetation of the vanilla is
* About a foot. Trans.
not checked by the proximity of other claspers which choke it. The baynilla cimarona, or wild vanilla, which has not been planted by the hand of man, and which grows in a soil overgrowa with shrubs and climbing plants, bears in Mexico fruit of a very dry nature, and in exceeding small quantity.
In the intendancy of Vera Cruz, the districts celebrated for the vanilla commerce, are the subdelegacion de Misantla, with the Indian villages Misantla, Colipa, Yacuatla, (near the Sierra de Chicunquiato) and Nautla, all formerly belonging to the Alcaldia mayor de la Antigua; the jurisdiccion de Papantla, and those of Santiago and San Andrés Tuxtla. Misantla is thirty leagues distant from Vera Cruz to the north-west, and twelve leagues from the sea coast. It is a charming place, in which the torment of the Mosquitos and the Gegen, so numerous in the port of Nautla, on the banks of the Rio de Quilate, and at Colipa, is quite unknown.
If the river of Misantla, the mouth of which is near the Barra de Palmas, were rendered navigable, this district would soon reach a high degree of prosperity.
The natives of Misantla, collect the vanilla in the mountains and forests of Quilate. The plant is in flower in the months of February and March.
The harvest is bad, if at this period the north winds are frequent and ac
companied with much rain. The flower drops without yielding fruit, if the humidity is too great. An extreme drought is equally hurtful to the growth of the plant. However, no insect attacks the green fruit on account of the milk it contains. They begin to cut it in the months of March and April, after the sub-delegate has proclaimed that the harvest is permitted to the Indians : it continues to the end of June. The natives, who remain eight successive days in the forests of Quilate, sell the vanilla fresh and yellow to the gente de razon, i. e. the whites, mestizoes and mu. lattos, who alone know the beneficio de la baynilla, namely, the manner of drying it with care, giving it a silvery lustre, and sorting it for transportation into Europe. The yellow fruits are spread out on cloths, and kept exposed to the sun for several hours. When sufficiently heated, they are wrapped up in woollen cloths for evaporation, when the vanilla blackens, and they conclude with exposing it to be dried from the morning to the evening in the heat of the sun.
The method of preparing the vanilla at Colipa, is much. superior to the beneficio employed at Misantla. It is asserted, that on unpacking the vanilla at Cadiz, not more than six per cent. is found to be damaged in that of Colipa ; while in that of Misantla, the quan
tity of rotten or damaged pods amounts to at least the double. This last variety is more difficult to dry, because its fruit is larger and more aqueous than that of Colipa, which is produced in savannahs, and not in the mountains, and is called baynilla de acaguales. When the rainy season does not permit the inhabitants of Misantla and Colipa to expose the vanilla to the rays of the sun, they are obliged to recur to an artificial heat, till it have acquired a blackish colour, and is covered with silvery spots (manchas plateadas). They form, by means of small reeds, a frame, which they suspend by cords, and cover with woollen cloth, and on which they spread the pods. The fire is placed below, but at a considerable distance. The pods are dried by agitating slightly the frame, and gradually heating the reeds and the cloth. Much care,' and long experience, is necessary to succeed in drying sufficiently the vanilla in this way, which is called beneficio de poscoyol. The loss is generally very great when artificial heat is employed.
At Misantla, the fruits of the vanilla are collected into packets, called mazos : contains 50 pods, consequently a thousand (millar) twenty mazos. Although the whole of the vanilla which enters into commerce appears to be the produce of a single species of epidendrum (Tlilzochitl,) yet the fruit is
nevertheless divided into four different classes. The nature of the soil, the humidity of the air, and the heat of the sun, have all a singular influence on the size of the pod, and the quantity of oily and aromatic parts contained in it. The four classes of vanilla are the following, beginning with those of a superior quality : baynilla fina, in which the grande fina and the chica fina
mancuerna are again distinguished; the zacate ; the rezacate, and the basura. Each class is easily recognized in Spain from the manner in which the pacquets are made up.
The grande fina is in general 22 centimetres in length*, and each mazo weighs, at Misantla, ten ounces and a half, and at Colipa, from nine to ten ounces. The chica fina is five centimetres shorter than the former, and is purchased one half cheaper. The zacate is a very long vanilla, extremely slender, and very acqueous.
The basura, of which a pacquet contains a hundred pods, serves only to fill the bottom of the packages sent to Cadiz. The worst quality of the Misantla vanilla is called baynilla cimarona (wild) or baynilla palo; it is very slender and almost destitute of juice. A sixth variety, the baynilla pompona has a very large and beautiful fruit. It has been several times sent to Europe, and by means of the Genoese merchants into