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"less than two months, sixty fanegas of maize "and ten of beans were already sown. Two "thousand cacap trees (cocoa) were also plan"ted, yielding a fruit similar to the almond, "which is sold after being ground. This "fruit is in such estimation, that throughout "all the country it is used as money, and "employed in purchases in the markets and "every where else*." The cocoa is still made use of as a sort of inferior coin in Mexico; and as the smallest coin of the Spanish Colonies is a demi-real (un medio) equal to twelve sous, the common people find the employment of cocoa as a circulating medium, extremely convenient. A sou is represented by six grains. The use of vanilla passed from the Aztecs to the Spaniards. The Mexican chocolate, as we have already observed, was perfumed with several aromatics, among which the pod of the vanilla occupied the first place. At this day the Spaniards deal in this precious production, for the purpose of selling it to the other European nations. The Spanish chocolate contains no vanilla; and there is even a prejudice at Mexico, that this perfume is hurtful to the health, especially to those whose nervous system is very irritable. They say quite gravely that the vanilla occasions ner
* Lorenzana,p. 91. § 26. Clavigero, I. p. 4; II. p. 209; IV. p. 207.
vous disorders (la baynilla da pasmo). A few years ago the same thing was said of the use of coffee, which begins however to spread among the natives.
When we consider the excessive price at which the vanilla has constantly been sold in Europe, we are astonished at the negligence of the inhabitants of Spanish America, who neglect the cultivation of a plant, which nature spontaneously produces between the tropics, almost wherever there is heat, shade, and much humidity. All the vanilla consumed in Europe comes from Mexico, by the way of Vera Cruz alone. It is produced on an extent of ground of a few square leagues. There is not a doubt, however, that the coast of Caracas, and even the Havannah might carry on a very considerable trade. We found in the course of our herborizations very aromatic pods of vanilla, exceedingly aromatic, and of an extraordinary size in the mountains of Caripe, on the coast of Paria; in the fine valley of Bordones near Cumana; in the environs of Portocabello and Guaiguaza; in the forests of Turbaco near Carthagena; in the Province of Jaen on the banks of the river Amazons; and in Guayana at the foot of the granite rocks, which form the great cataracts of the Orinoco. The inhabitants of Xalapa, who carry on the commerce of the fine Mexican vanilla of Misantla, were struck with the excellence of that brought by M. Boupland from the Orinoco, gathered by us in the woods which surround the Raudal de Maypure. Vanilla plants are to be found in the Island of Cuba, (Epidendrum Vanilla) on the coast of Bahia, Honda, and at Mariel. That of St. Domingo has a very long fruit, but is not very odoriferous; for frequently great humidity, while it is favourable to the vegetation, is unfavourable to the developement of the aromatic. However botanical travellers must not judge of the quality of the vanilla, from the odour which it gives out in the forests of America; for this odour is in a great measure owing to the flower, which in the deep and humid vallies of the Andes, is sometimes four or five centimetres in length*.
The author of the Philosophical History of the East and West Indies-\, complains of being unable to procure satisfactory information respecting the cultivation of the vanilla in Mexico. He did not even know the districts where it was produced. Having been on the spots, I was able to obtain more accurate and detailed
* From an inch and a half, to 2 inches. Trans.
t Raynal, T. II. p. 68. § 16. Thiery de Menonville, de la Culture du Nopal, p. 142. A small quantity of vanilla is also cultivated in Jamaica, in the parishes of St. Anne and St. Mary. Brown, p. 326.
information; and I consulted at Xalapa and Vera Cruz persons, who for thirty years have carried on the commerce in vanilla of Misantla, Colipa and Papantla. The following is the result of my researches as to the actual state of this interesting branch of national industry.
All the vanilla supplied by Mexico to Europe is produced in the two intendancies of Vera Cruz and Oaxaca. This plant principally abounds on the eastern slope of the Cordillera of Anahuac between 19° and 20° of latitude. The natives early perceived that notwithstanding the abundance, the harvest was very difficult, on account of the vast extent of ground necessary to to be gone over annually, and they collected a great number of the plants into a narrower space. This operation did not demand much care; it was merely necessary to clear a little the soil, and to plant two slips of epidendrum at the foot of a tree, or to fix parts cut from the stalk to the trunk of a Liquidambar, an Ocotea or an arborescent Piper.
The slips are in general from four to five decimetres in length*. They are tied to the trees up which the new stalk must climb. Each slip yields fruit in the third year. They calculate on fifty pods on each for thirty or forty years, especially if the vegetation of the vanilla is
* About a foot. Trans.
not checked by the proximity of other claspers which choke it. The baynilla cimarona or wild vanilla, which has not been planted by the hand of man, and which grows in a soil overgrown with shrubs and climbing plants, bears in Mexico fruit of a very dry nature, and in exceeding small quantity.
In the intendancy of Vera Cruz, the districts celebrated for the vanilla commerce, are the subdelegacion de Misantla, with the Indian villages Misantla, Colipa, Yacuatla, (near the Sierra de Chicunquiato) and Nautla, all formerly belonging to the Alcaldia mayor de la Antigua; the jurisdiction de Papantla, and those of Santiago and San Andres Tuxtla. Misantla is thirty leagues distant from Vera Cruz to the north west, and twelve leagues from the sea coast. It is a charming place, in which the torment of the Mosquitos and the Gegen, so numerous in the port of Nautla, on the banks of the Rio de Quilate and at Colipa, is quite unknown. If the river of Misantla, the mouth of which is near the Barra de Palmas, were rendered navigable, this district would soon reach a high degree of prosperity.
The natives of Misantla, collect the vanilla in the mountains and forests of Quilate. The plant is in flower in the months of February and March. The harvest is bad, if at this period the north winds are frequent and ac