Page images

these methods, which is least in use, preserves the whitish powder on the body of the insect, which raises its price at Vera Cruz and Cadiz. Purchasers prefer the white cochineal, because it is less subject to be fraudulently mixed with parcels of gum, wood, maize, and red earth. There exist, in Mexico, very ancient laws (of the years 1592 and 1594) for the prevention of the falsification of cochineal. Since 1760, they have even been under the necessity of establishing, in the town of Oaxaca, a jury of veadores, who examine the bags (zurrones) previous to their being sent out of the province. They appoint the cochineal exposed to sale to have the grain separated, that the Indians may not introduce extraneous matter in those aggluti. nated masses, called bodoques. But all these means are insufficient for the prevention of fraud. However, that which is practised in Mexico, by the tiangueros or zanganos (falcificadores) is inconsiderable in comparison of that which is practised on this commodity in the ports of the Peninsula, and in the rest of Europe.

To complete the view of the animals of New Spain, we must bestow a rapid glance on the pearl and whale fisheries. It is probable, that these two branches of fishery will one day become an object of the very highest import, ance to a country possessed of a length of coast of more than 1700 marine leagues. Long before

the discovery of America, pearls were in great estimation among the natives. Hernando de Soto found an immense quantity in Florida, particularly in the provinces of Ichiaca and Confachiqui, where the tombs of their princes were ornamented with them. *

Among the presents made by Montezuma to Cortez, before his entry into Mexico, which were sent by Cortez to the emperor Charles V., there were necklaces set with rubies, emeralds, and pearls. t We know not whether the Aztec kings received any part of these pearls by means of trade with the barbarous and wandering tribes who frequented the gulf of California. It is better ascertained, that pearls were fished by their orders, on the coast which extends from Colima, the northern boundary of their empire, to the province of Xoconochcoor Soconusco, and particularly near Tototepec, between Acapulco and the gulf of Tchuantepec and in Cuitlatecapan. The Incas of Peru set a great value on pearls; but the laws of Manco-capa prohibited the Peruvians from exercising the calling of diver, as not very beneficial to the state and dangerous to those who follow it. #

The situations, which since the discovery of

* La Florida del Inca, Madrid, 1723, p. 129, 135, and 140.

+ Gomara, Conquista de Mexico (Medina del Campo, 1533), fol. 25.

# Garcilasso, lib, viii. c. 23.

; the New Continent, have furnished the greatest abundance of pearls to the Spaniards, are the following: the arm of the sea between the islands of Cubagua and Coche, and the coast of Cumana; the mouth of the Rio de la Hacha ; the gulf of Panama, near the Islas de las Perlas ; and the eastern coast of California. In 1587, 316 kilogrammes * of pearls were imported into Seville, among which there were 5 kilogrammes t of the greatest beauty, destined for king Phillip II.

The pearl fishery of Cubagua and Rio de la Hacha have been very productive, but of short duration. After the commencement of the 17th century, and especially after the navigations of Yturbi and Piñadero, the pearls of California began to rival in trade those of the gulf of Panama. At that period, the most able divers were sent to the shores of the sea of Cortez. The fishery, however, was immediately neglected again ; and though at the time of the expedition of Galvez, endeavours were used to restore it, these endeavours were rendered fruitless from the causes already detailed by us in the description of California. I In 1803 only, a Spanish ecclesiastic, residing at Mexico, again turned the attention of govern

* 697 lb. avoird. Trans.
+ Acosta, lib. iv. c. 15.

I See vol. ii. chap. viii. p. 329.


ment to the pearls of the coast of Ceralvo in California, As the divers (buzos) lose much of their time in rising to breathe on the surface of the water, and fatigue themselves to no purpose in descending several times to the bottom of the sea, this ecclesiastic proposed to employ in the pearl fishery, a diving bell, which should serve as a reservoir of atmospheric air, and in which the diver might take refuge whenever he felt the necessity of respiration. Furnished with a mask and a flexible tube he would be enabled to explore the bottom of the ocean, breathing the oxygen supplied by this bell at which the tube terminates.

During my residence in New Spain, I saw a series of very curious experiments, made in a small pond, near the castle of Chopoltepec, in the execution of this project. It was certainly the first time that a diver's bell was ever constructed at a height of 2300 metres * equal to that of the pass of the Simplon. I know not whether the experiments made in the valley of Mexico were ever repeated in the gulf of California, and whether the pearl fishery has been renewed there after an interruption of more than thirty years, for hitherto almost all the pearls supplied by the colonies come from the gulf of Panama.

7545 feet. Trans.

Among the marine shells of New Spain, I ought also to mention here the murer of the coast of Tehuantepec, in the province of Oaxaca, of which the cloak exudes a purple colouring liquor, and the famous shell of Monterey, which resembles the most beautiful haliotis of New Zealand. This shell is to be found on the coast of New California, and particularly between the ports of Monterey and San Francisco. It is employed, as we have already observed, in the fur trade with the inhabitants of Noutka. As to the gasteropode of Tehuantepec, the Indian women collect the purple liquor, following the course of the shore, and rubbing the cloak of the murex, with cotton stript of its seed.

The western coast of Mexico, especially that part of the great ocean situated between the gulf of Bayonna, the three Mary islands, and Cape Saint Lucas, abound in spermaceti-whales or cachalots, of which the fishery is one of the most important objects of mercantile speculation on account of the extremely high prices given for spermaceti (adipocire) by the English and the inhabitants of the United States. The Spanish Mexicans see the cachalot fishers arrive on their coast, after a navigation of more than 5000 marine leagues, to whom they incorrectly enough give the appellation of balleñeros (whalers); but they never endeavour to share in the pursuit of these great mammiferous whales. M. Schneider,

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »