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We may conceive that, in a country like Mexico, the variety of indigenous productions must be iminense, and that there hardly exists a plant on the rest of the globe which is not capable of being cultivated in some part of New Spain.
In general, in the equinoctial regions of New Spain, the soil, climate, physiognomy of vegetables, all assume the character of the temperate zones.
The riches of the harvests are surprising in lands carefully cultivated, especially in those which are watered, or properly separated by different courses of labour. The most fertile part of the table-land is that which extends from Queretaro to the town of Leon. These elevated plains are 90 miles in length by 20 or 30 in breadth. The wheat harvest is 35 and 40 for 1, and several great farms can even reckon on 50 or 60 to 1. I found the same fertility in the fields which extend from the village of Santiago to Yurirapundaro in the intendancy of Valladolid. In the environs of Puebla, Atlisco, and Zelaya, in a great part of the bishopricks of Michoacan and Guadalaxara, the produce is from 20 to 30 for 1. A field is considered there as far from fertile when a fanega* of wheat yields only, communibus annis, 16 fanegas. At Cholula the common harvest is from 30 to 40, but it frequently exceeds from 70 to 80, for ). In the valley of Mexico the maize yields 200 and the wheat 18 or 20.
* About a hundred weight.
In good years the kingdom of New Spain produces much more maize than it can consume. As the country unites in a small space a great variety of climates, and as maize rarely succeeds at the same time in the warm region (tierras calientas) and on the central table-land in the terras frias, the interior commerce is greatly animated by the transport of this grain. Maize compared with European grain has the disadvantage of containing a smaller quantity of nutritive substance in a greater volume. This circumstance, and the difficulty of the roads on the declivities of the mountains, present obstacles to its exportation, which will be in a great degree removed by the construction of the fine causeway from Vera Cruz to Xalapa and Perote.
The Mexican wheat is of the very best quality ; it may be compared with the finest Andalusian grain. The grain is very large, white, and nutritive, especially in farms where watering is employed.
The interior of New Spain is infinitely productive in nutritive gramina, wherever the industry of man has corrected the natural dryness of the soil and the air. No where does the proprietor of a large farm more frequently feel the necessity of employing engineers skilled in surveying ground and in the principles of hydraulic constructions. At Mexico however, as elsewhere, those arts which please the imagination have been preferred to those which are indispensable to the wants of domestic life. They possess architects, who judge scientifically of the beauty
and symmetry of an edifice; but nothing is still so rare there, as to find persons capable of constructing machines, dikes, and canals. Fortunately, the feeling of their want has excited the national industry; and a certian sagacity peculiar to all mountainous people supplies in soine degree the want of instruction.
Mexico is extremely rich in vegetables with nutritive roots. The plants which are cultivated in the highest and coldest part of the Andes and Mexican Cordilleras are the potatoe, the tropæolum esculentum, and the chenopodium quinoa, the grain of which is an aliment equally agreeable and healthy. In New Spain the first of these becomes an object of cultivation, of so much the greater importance and extent, as it does not require any great humidity of soil. The Mexicans, like the Peruvians, can preserve potatoes for years by exposing them to the frost and drying them in the sun.
The Mexicans now possess all the garden-stuffs and fruit-trees of Europe. The central table-land of New Spain produces in the greatest abundance cherries, plums, peaches, apricots, figs, grapes, melons, apples, and pears. In the environs of Mexico, the villages of San Augustin de las Cuevas and Tacubaya, the famous garden of the Convent of Carmelites at San Angel, and that of the family of Fagoaga at Tanepantla, yield in the months of June, July, and August, an immense quantity of fruit, for the most part of an exquisite taste, although
the trees are in general very ill taken care of. The traveller is astonished to see in Mexico, Peru, and New Grenada, the tables of the wealthy inhabitants loaded at once with the fruits of temperate Europe, ananas, different species of passiflora and tacsonia, sapotes, mameis, goyavas, anonas, chilimoyas, and other valuable productions of the torrid zone.
There is a great abundance of horned cattle all along the eastern coast of Mexico, especially at the mouths of the rivers of Alvarado, Guasacualco, and Panuco, where numerous flocks feed on pastures of perpetual verdure. Since the middle of the sixteenth century, the most useful animals of the old continent, oxen, horses, sheep, and hogs, have multiplied surprisingly in all parts of New Spain, and especially in the vast plains of the Provincias Internas.
The horses of the northern provinces, and particularly those of New Mexico, are as celebrated for their excellent qualities as the horses of Chili; both descend, as it is pretended, from the Arab race; they wander wild in herds, in the savannahs of the Provincias Internas. The exportation of these horses to Natchez and New Orleans, becomes every year of greater importance. Many Mexican families possess in their Hatos de ganado, from thirty to forty thousand head of horses and oxen. The mules would be still more numerous, if so many of them did not perish on the highways from the excessive fatigues of journeys of several months. It is reckoned that the commerce of Vera Cruz
alone, employs annually nearly 70,000 mules. More than 5,000 are employed for purposes of luxury in the carriages of the city of Mexico.
The cultivation of the soil, notwithstanding the fetters with which it is every where shackled, has lately made a more considerable progress, on account of the immense capitals laid out in land, by families enriched either by the commerce of Vera Cruz and Acapulco, or by the working of the mines.
Those who only know the interior of the Spanish colonies from the vague and uncertain notions hitherto published, will have some difficulty in believing that the principal sources of the Mexican riches are by no means the mines, but an agriculture which has been gradually ameliorating since the end of the last century. Without reflecting on the immense extent of the country, and especially the great number of provinces which appear totally destitute of precious metals, we generally imagine that all the activity of the Mexican population is directed to the working of mines.
The best cultivated fields of Mexico, those which recall to the mind of the traveller the beautiful plains of France, are those which extend from Salamanca towards Silao, Guanaxuato, and the Villa de Leon, and which surround the richest mines of the known world. Wherever metallic veins have been discovered in the most uncultivated parts of the Cordilleras, on the insulated and desert table