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lalpan, which is only 1379 metres * (2686 toises #) above the level of the sea, and is consequently less elevated than the city of Quito, though it appears the highest point of the whole road from Mexico to Chihuahua. To the north of this mountainous country the vast plains of S. Juan del Rio, Quere. taro, and Zelaya begin, plains covered with villages and considerable cities. Their mean height equals Puy de Dôme in Auvergne, and they are near thirty leagues in length, extending to the foot of the metaliferous mountains of Guanaxuato. Those who have travelled into New Mexico assert that the rest of the way resembles what I have described and represented in a particular section. Immense plains, appearing like so many basins of old dried up lakes, follow one another, and are only separated by hills which hardly rise 200 or 250 metres at most above the bottom of these basons. I shall exhibit in another work (in the Atlas to the historical account of my travels) the section of the four plains which surround the capital of Mexico. The first, which comprehends the valley of Toluca, 2600 S metres (1340 toises); the second, or the valley of Tenochtitlan, 2274 ||
* 4522 feet. Trans. + This number, which does not correspond with the metres, should evidently be 686. Trans. ! 656 or 820 feet. Trans. § 8529 feet. Trans. | 7459 feet. Trans. - * . l
metres (1168 toises); the third, or the valley of Actopan, 1966 " metres (1009 toises); and the fourth, the valley of Istla, 981 t metres (504 toises) of elevation. - These four basins differ as much in their climate as in their elevation above the level of the sea; each exhibits a different cultivation: the first, and least elevated, is adapted for the cultivation of sugar; the second, cotton; the third, for European grain; and the fourth, for agava pant.tions, which may be considered as the vineyards of the Aztec Indians. The barometrical survey which I executed from Mexico to Guanaxato proves how much the configuration of the soil is favourable in New Spain for the transport of goods, navigation, and even the construction of canals. It is different in the transversal sections from the Atlantic to the South Sea. These sections show the difficulties opposed by nature to the communication between the interior of the kingdom and the coast. They every where exhibit an enormous difference of level and temperature, while from Mexico to New Biscay the plain preserves an equal elevation, and consequently a climate rather cold than temperate. From the capital of Mexico to Vera Cruz, the descent is shorter and more rapid than from the same point to Acapulco. We might almost say, that the country has a better military defence from nature against the people of Europe than against the atttack of an Asiatic enemy; but the constancy of the trade winds, and the great current of rotation which never ceases between the tropics, almost annihilate every political influence which China, Japan, or Asiatic Russia in the succession of ages might wish to exercise over the New Continent. Taking our direction from the capital of Mexico towards the east in the road to Vera Cruz, we must advance sixty marine leagues before arriving at a valley, of which the bottom is less than 1000 * metres (300 toises) higher than the level of the sea, and in which, consequently, oaks cease to grow. In the Acapulco road, descending from Mexico towards the South Sea, we arrive at the same temperate regions in less than seventeen leagues. The eastern declivity of the Cordillera is so rapid, that when once we begin to descend from the great central plain, we continue the descent till we arrive at the eastern coast. The western coast is furrowed by four very remarkable longitudinal vallies, so regularly disposed, that those which are nearest the ocean are even deeper than those more remote from it. Casting our eyes on the section drawn up by me from exact measurements, we shall observe, that from the plain of Tenochtitlan the traveller first descends into the valley of Istla, then into that of Mascala, then into that of Papagallo, and lastly, into the valley of Peregrino. The bottom of these four basins rise 98.1, 514, 170, and 158 metres* (504, 265, 98, and 82 toises) above the level of the ocean. The deepest are also the narrowest. A curve drawn over the mountains which separate these vallies, over the Pic of the Marquis (the old camp of Cortes), the summits of Tasco, Chilpansingo, and Posquelitos, would preserve an equally regular progress. We might even be tempted to believe that this regularity is conformable to the type generally followed by nature in the construction of mountains; but the aspect of the Andes of South America will soon destroy these systematic delusions. Many geological considerations prove to us, that at the formation of mountains, causes apparently very trivial have determined the accumulation of matter in colossal summits, sometimes towards the centre, and sometimes on the edges of the Cordilleras. Thus the Asiatic road differs very much from the European. For the space of 72,5 leagues, the distance in a straight line from Mexico to Acapulco, we continually ascend and descend, and arrive every instant from a cold climate in regions excessively hot. Yet the road of Acapulco may be made fit for carriages. On the contrary, of the 84,5 leagues from the capital to the port of Vera Cruz, 140* belong to the great plain of Anahuac. The rest of the road is a laborious and continued descent, particularly from the small fortress of Perote to the city of Xalappa, and from this site, one of the most beautiful and picturesque in the known world, to la Rinconada. It is the difficulty of this descent which raises the carriage of flour from Mexico to Vera Cruz, and prevents it to this day from competing in Europe with the flour of Philadelphia. There is actually at present constructing a superb causeway along this eastern descent of the Cordillera. This work, due to the great and praiseworthy activity of the merchants of Vera Cruz, will have the most decided influence on the prosperity of the inhabitants of the whole kingdom of New Spain. The places of thousands of mules will be supplied by carriages fit to transport merchandises from sea to sea, which will connect, as it were, the Asiatic commerce of Acapulco with the European commerce of Vera Cruz. We have already stated that in the Mexican provinces situated in the torrid zone, a space of 23,000. square leagues enjoys a cold, rather than a temperate climate. All this great extent of country is traversed by the Cordillera of Mexico, a chain: of colossal mountains which may be considered as a prolongation of the Andes of Peru. Notwith
* 6447 feet. Trans. + 3247 feet. Trans.