Page images
PDF
EPUB

the same principles are perpetuated, have ever wished the mother country to oppose the cultivation of flax, the vine, the olive, and the mulberry. Unenlightened as to its true interests, the government has always preferred seeing the Mexican people clothed with cotton purchased at Manilla and Canton, or imported at Cadiz by English vessels, to the protection of the manufactures of New Spain. It is to be hoped that the mountainous part of Sonora, the intendancy of Durango and New Mexico, will one day rival Galicia and the Asturias in the production of flax. As to hemp, it would be of importance not to introduce into Mexico the European species, but that which is cultivated in China (cannabis indica), of which the stalk grows to the height of five or six metres*. We have every reason to presume, however, that the cultivation of flax and hemp will spread with great difficulty in that region of Mexico abounding with cotton. The steeping requires more care and labour than the separation of cotton from the seed; and in a country where there are few hands, and much laziness, the preference is naturally given to a cultivation of which the the produce is much more promptly and easily managed.

The cultivation of coffee in the island of Cuba

* 16 or 19 feet. Trans.

and the Spanish colonies on the continent, commenced only since the destruction of the plantations of Saint Domingo*. In 1804 the island of Cuba produced already 12,000 and the province of Caracas nearly 5000 quintals. New Spain possesses sugar plantations in greater number, and more considerable than Terra Firma possesses; but the production of coffee amounts yet to nothing, though it can hardly be doubted that this species of cultivation would succeed perfectly well in the temperate regions, particularly at the elevation of the towns of Xalapa and Chilpansingo. The use of coffee is still so rare in Mexico, that the whole country does not consume annually more than four or five hundred quintals; while the consumption of France, where the population is scarcely five times

* The French part of St. Domingo produced in 1783 only 445,734 quintals of coffee; but five years afterwards it produced 762,865. And yet the price in 1783 was 50 francs the quintal, and 94 francs in 1788; which proves how much the use of coffee has been spreading in Europe notwithstanding the advanced price. Yemen furnishes annually according to Raynal 130,000, and according to Mr. Page 150,000 quintals, which are almost all exported to Turkey, Persia, and India. The Isles of France and Bourbon yield 45,000 quintals. It appears to me, from what information I have been able to procure, that all Europe actually consumes annually, nearly 53 millions of kilogrammes of coffee (116,971,000 lbs. avoird. Trans.) The coffee-tree yields in a good soil one kilogramme of coffee, and 960 of them may be planted on a hectare of ground.

greater than that of New Spain, amounts to nearly 230,000 quintals.

The cultivation of the cocoa-tree (cacari or cacava quahuitl) had already made considerable progress in Mexico in the time of Montezuma ; and it was there where the Spaniards obtained a knowledge of that precious tree which they afterwards transplanted into the Canary and Philippine Islands. The Mexicans prepared a beverage called by them chocolatl, in which a little maize flour, vanilla (tlilxochitl) and the fruit of a species of spice (mecaxochitl). were mixed with the co.oa (cacahuatl)*. They could even reduce the chocolate to cakes, and this art, the instruments used in grinding the cocoa, as well as the word chocolatl, have been transferred from Mexico to Europe. This is so much the more astonishing, as the cultivation of the cocoa is now almost totally

* Hernandez, Lib. II. c. 15; Lib. III. c. 46; Lib. V. c. 13. In the time of Hernandez, they distinguished four varieties of cocoa, called quauhcahuatl, mecacahuatl, cochicucahuatl, and tlalcacahuatl. This last variety had a very small seed: the tree which produced it bore an analogy undoubtedly to the cocoa, which we found growing wild on the banks of the Orinoco, to the east of the mouth of the Yao. The cocoa tree cultivated for cen. turies, has a larger, sweeter, and more oily seed. We must not confound with the Theobroma Cacao the T. bicolor, of which I have given a drawing in our Plantes equinoc. iales (T. I. PL. xxx a. et b. p. 104.) and which is peculiar to the Province of Choco.

neglected. With difficulty we can find a few of these trees in the environs of Colima, and on the banks of the Guasacualco. The cocoa plantations in the Province of Tabasco are very inconsiderable; and Mexico draws all the cocoa necessary for its consumption from the Kingdom of Guatimala, Maracaybo, Caracas, and Guayaquil. This consumption appears to amount annually to 30,000 fanegas, of the weight of 50 kilogrammes each*. The Abbe Hervas maintains that the whole of Spain consumes 90,000 fanegast. The result of this estimate, which appears to me too low, is that Spain only consumes the third part of the coffee annually imported into Europe. ' But according to the enquiries made by me on the spot, from 1799 to 1803, I found the annual exportation of coffee to be,

Fanegas. In the Provinces of Venezuela and Maracaybo 145,000 In the Province of New Andalusia (Cumana) 18,000 In the Province of New Barcelona

5,000 In the Kingdom of Quito, from the Port of

of} 60,000 Guayaquil The value of these eleven millions and a half of kilogrammes of cocoa, amounts in Europe in time of peace, estimating the fanega at only 40 piastres, to the sum of 45,600,000

[ocr errors]

* 110 lb. avoird. Trans. + Idea del Universo, T. I. p. 174.

livres tournois*. In the Spanish Colonies, chocolate is not considered an object of luxury, but of prime necessity. It is in fact, a very healthy and nutritive aliment, and is of particular assistance to travellers. The chocolate prepared at Mexico is of a superior quality, because the commerce of Vera Cruz and Acapulco, brings into New Spain the famous cocoa of Soconusco, (Xoconochco) from the coast of Guatimala; the cocoa of Gualan" from the golph of Honduras near Omoa; of Uritucu near St. Sebastian in the province of Caracas; of Capiriqual in the province of New Barcelona; and of Esmeralda in the Kingdom of Quito.

In the time of the Aztec kings, cocoa seeds were made use of as money in the great market of Tlatelolco, as shells were in the Maldivian Islands. The cocoa of Soconusco, cultivated at the eastern extremity of the Mexican Empire, was used for chocolate, and the small seed called Tlalcacahuatl. The kinds of inferior quality were used for money. “ Knowing," says Cortez in his first letter to the Emperor Charles the V., “ that in the province of “ Malinaltebeque, there was gold in abundance, “I engaged the Lord Montezuma to esta“blish there a farm for your Majesty. He " went to work with so much zeal, that in

* £1,900,152 Sterling. Trans.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »