« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
and cattle must all be brought from a distance. Cities situated in plains, where water freezes the whole year round, and where trees never vegetate, can hardly be an attractive abode. Nothing can determine a free-man to abandon the delicious climate of the vallies to insulate himself on the top of the Andes but the hope of amassing wealth. But in Mexico, the richest seams of silver, those of Guanaxuato, Zacatecas, Tasco, and Real del Monte, are in moderate elevations of from 1700 to 2000 metres”. The mines are surrounded with cultivated fields, towns, and villages; the neighbouring summits are crowned with forests; and every thing facilitates the acquisition of this subterraneous wealth. In the midst of so many advantages bestowed by nature on the kingdom of New Spain, it suffers in general, like Old Spain, from the want of water and navigable rivers. The great river of the north (Rio Bravo del Norte) and the Rio Colorado, are the only rivers worthy of fixing the attention of travellers, either for the length of their course, or the mass of water which they pour into the ocean. The Rio del Norte, from the mountains of the Sierra Verde (to the east of the lake of Timpanogos) to its mouth in the province of New Santander, has a course of 512 leagues. The course of the Rio Colorado is 250. But these two rivers, situated in the most uncultivated part of the kingdom, can never be interesting for commerce, till great changes in the social order, and other favourable events, introduce colonization into these fertile and temperate regions. These changes are not perhaps very distant. The banks of the Ohio were even in 1797 so thinly inhabited", that thirty families could hardly be found in a space of 130 leagues, while the habitations are now so multiplied that they are never more than one or two leagues distant from one another. In the whole equinoxial part of Mexico there are only small rivers, the mouths of which are of considerable size. The narrow form of the continent prevents the collection of a great mass of water. The rapid declivity of the Cordillera abounds more properly with torrents than rivers. Mexico is in the same state with Peru, where the Andes approach so near to the coast as to occasion the aridity of the neighbouring plains. Among the small number of rivers in the southern part of New Spain, the only ones which may in time become interesting for interior commerce are, 1. The Rio Guasacualco, and the Rio Alvarado, both to the south-east of Vera Cruz, and adapted for facilitating the communication with the kingdom of Guatimala; 2. The Rio de Moctezuma, which carries the waters of the lakes and valley of
* From 5576 to 6561 feet. Trans,
Tenochtitlan to the Rio de Panuco, and by which, forgetting that Mexico is 2277 metres" elevated above the level of the sea, a navigation has been projected between the capital and the western coast; 3. The Rio de Zacatula; 4. The great river of Santiago, formed by the junction of the rivers Lerma and las Laxas, which might carry the flour of Salamanca, Zelaya, and perhaps the whole intendancy of Guadalaxara, to the port of San Blas, or the coast of the Pacific Ocean. The lakes with which Mexico abounds, and of which the most part appear annually on the decline, are merely the remains of immense basins of water, which appear to have formerly existed on the high and extensive plains of the Cordillera. I shall merely mention in this physical view the great lake of Chapala in New Gallicia, of nearly 160 square leagues, double the size of the lake of Constance; the lakes of the valley of Mexico, which include a fourth part of its surface; the lake of Patzcuaro, in the intendancy of Walladolid, : one of the most picturesque situations which I know in either continent; and the lakes, of Mextitlan and Parras in New Biscay. The interior of New Spain, especially a great part of the high table-land of Anahuac, is destitute of vegetation; its arid aspect brings to mind in some places the plains of the two Castilles. Se
* 7468 feet. Trans.
veral causes concur to produce this extraordinary effect. The evaporation which takes place on great plains is sensibly increased by the great elevation of the Mexican Cordillera. On the other hand, the country is not of sufficient elevation for a great number of summits to penetrate the region of perpetual snow. This region commences under the equator at 4800 metres * (2460 toises), and under the 45° of latitude at 2550f metres (1300 toises) above the level of the sea. In Mexico the eternal snows commence, according to my measurements in the 19° and 20° of latitude, at 4600 ; metres (23.50 toises) of elevation. Hence, of six colossal mountains which nature has ranged in the same line, between the parallels of 19° and 19.", only four, the Pic d'Orizaba, Popocatepetl, Iztaccihuatl, and the Nevado de Toluca, are covered with perpetual snow, while the two others, the Cofre de Perote, and the Volcan de Colima, remain uncovered the greatest part of the year. To the north and south of this parallel of great elevations, beyond this singular zone, in which the new Volcan de Jorullo is also ranged, there are no mountains which exhibit the phenomenon of perpetual snow. These snows, at the period of their minimum, in the month of September, never descend in the parallel of Mexico below 4500 metres". But in the month of January they fall as low as 3700 metres f: this is the period of their maximum. The oscillation of the limits of perpetual snow is, consequently, under the latitude of 19, from one season to the other 800 metres f; while under the equator it never exceeds 60 or 70 metres S. We must not confound these eternal snows with the snows which in winter accidentally fall in much lower regions. Even this phenomenon, like every other in nature, is subject to immutable laws worthy of the investigation of philosophers. This ephemeral snow is never observed under the equator below 3800 or 3900 metres ||; but in Mexico, under the latitude of 18° and 22° it is commonly seen at an elevation of 3000 metres T. Snow has even been seen in the streets of the capital of Mexico at 2277** metres, and 400 metres to lower in the city of Walladolid. In general, in the equinoxial regions of New Spain, the soil, climate, physiognomy of vegetables, all assume the character of the temperate zones. The proximity of Canada, the great breadth of the new continent towards the north, the mass of
* 15747 feet. Trans. + 8365 feet. Trans. : 15091 feet. Trans.