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three leagues from the village, and distributed in the nopaleries, where the young plants receive the semilla. The laying of the mother-cochineal lasts from thirteen to fifteen days. If the situation of the plantation is not very elevated, the first harvest may be expected in less than four months. It is observed, that in a climate more cold than temperate, the colour of the cochineal is equally beautiful, but that the harvest is much later. In the plain, the mother-cochineals grow to a greater size, but they meet with more enemies in the innumerable quantity of insects, (xicaritas, perritos, aradores, agujas, armadillos, culebritas,) lizards, rats, and birds, by which they are devoured. Much care is necessary in cleaning the branches of the nopals. The Indian women make use of a squirrel, or stag's tail, for that purpose ; they squat down for hours together beside one plant; and notwithstanding the excessive price of the cochineal, it is to be doubted if this cultivation would be profitable, in countries where the time and labour of man might be turned to account. At Sola, where very cold rains occasionally fall, and where it even frequently freezes in the month of January, the natives preserve the young cochineals, by covering the nopals with rush mats. The price of the semilla of grana fina, which generally does not amount to more than five francs per pound, frequently rises there to 18 and 20.
: In several districts of the province of Oaxaca, they have three cochineal harvests in the year, of which the first (that which gives the semilla) is not lucrative, because the mother preserves for a very short time the colouring juice, if she dies naturally after having laid. This first harvest furnishes the grana de pastle or nest cochineal ; so called, because the mothers, after laying, are found in the same nests which have been suspended to the nopals. Near the town of Oaxaca, the cochineal is sown in the month of August, but in the districts of Chontale, this operation does not take place till the month of October ; and on the coldest table lands not even till the months of November and December.
The cotton or wild cochineal which gets into the nopaleries, and the male of which, according to the observation of Mr. Alzate, is not much smaller than the male of the mealy or fine cochineal, does much injury to the nopals; and accordingly the Indians kill it wherever they find it, though the colour which it yields is very solid and very beautiful. It appears that not only the fruits, but also the green branches of several species of cactus will dye cotton, violet and red, and that the colour of the cochineal is not entirely owing to a process of animalization of the vegetable juices in the body of the insect.
They reckon at Nexapa that in good years
one pound of semilla of mealy, cochineal placed on nopals in the month of October, in the month of January yields a harvest of 12 pounds of mother cochineals, leaving sufficient semilla on the plant, that is to say beginning the harvest only when the mothers have already produced the half of their young. This new semilla again produces till the month of May, 36 pounds. At Zimatlan and other villages of Misteca and Xicayan they scarcely reap more than three or four times the quantity of cochineal
If the south wind, which is very pernicious to the growth of the insect, has not blown long, and the cochineal is not mixed with tlasole, that is to say, with the spoils of the winged males, it loses only two thirds of its weight when dried in the sun.
The two kinds of cochineal (the fine and the wild) appear to contain more of the colouring principle in temperate climates, especially in regions where the mean temperature of the air is 18 or 20 centigrade degrees. As to the wild cochineal, we found it in abundance in the most opposite climates, in the mountains of Riobamba, at 2900 metres t of absolute elevation, and in the plains of the province of Jaen de Bracamoros, under a burning sky, between the villages of Tomependa and Chamaya.
* 64o and 69° of Fahrenh. Trans.
Around the town of Oaxaca, and especially near Ocotlan, there are plantations (haciendas) which contain from 50 to 60,000 nopals planted in lines like pites or magueys de pulque. The greatest part of the cochineal which is employed in commerce is, however, produced in small nopaleries belonging to Indians of extreme poverty. The nopal is seldom allowed to grow higher than 12 decimetres *, in order that it may be the more easily cleared of the insects which devour the cochineal. The varieties of the cactus, which are roughest and most prickly, are even preferred, because these arms serve to protect the cochineal from flying insects; and the flower and fruit are carefully cut to prevent these insects from depositing their eggs in them.
The Indians, who cultivate the cochineal, and who go by the name of nopaleros, especially those who live round the town of Oaxaca, follow a very ancient and a very extraordinary practice, that of making the cochineal travel. In that part of the torrid zone, it rains in the plains and vallies from May to October, while in the chain of neighbouring mountains called Sierra de Istepeje, the rains are only frequent from December to April. In place of preserying the insect in the rainy season in the interior of their huts, the Indians place the mother
47 inches. Trans.
cochineals, covered with palm-leaves by beds in baskets made of very flexible claspers. These baskets (canastos) are carried by the Indians on their backs as quickly as possible to the mountains of Istépeje, above the village of Santa Catalina, at nine leagues distance from Oaxaca. The mother cochineals produce their young by the way. On opening the canastos they are found full of young coccus, which are distributed on the nopals of the sierra. They remain there till the month of October, when the rains cease in the lower regions. The Indians then return to the mountains in quest of the cochineal, for the
purpose of replacing it in the nopaleries of Oaxaca. The Mexican, in this way, withdraws the insects from the pernicious effects of the humidity, in the same manner as the Spaniard travels with his merinos from the cold.
At the period of the harvests, the Indians kill the mother-cochineals, which are collected on à wooden plate, called chilcalpetl, by throwing them into boiling water, or heaping them up by beds in the sun, or placing them on mats in the same ovens of a circular form (temazcalli) which are used for vapour and hot air baths of which we have already spoken.* The last of
* See vol. ä. p. 349. M. Alzate who has given a good plate of the temazcalli (Gazeta de Literatura de Mexico, t. iii. p. 252.) asserts that the ordinary heat of the vapour in which the Mexican Indian bathes himself, is 66° centigrade. (150° of Fahrenh. Trans.)