« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
Plants supplying rata materials for manufactures and commerce.—Rearing of cattle.—Fisheries.—Agricultural produce estimated from the value of the tithes.
Although the Mexican agriculture, like the agriculture of every country which supplies the wants of its own population, is principally directed towards alimentary plants, New Spain however is not less rich in those commodities exclusively called Colonial; that is to say in the productions which supply raw materials for the commerce and manufacturing industry of Europe., That vast kingdom unites, in this point of view, the advantages of New England with those of the West India Islands. It is beginning in a particular manner to enter into competition with these islands, now that the civil war of St. Domingo and the devastation of the French sugar colonies have rendered the cultivation of colonial commodities more profitable on the continent of Ame- VOL. III. B
rica. It is even observable that in Mexico this species of cultivation has made a much more considerable progress than that of corn. In these climates, the same extent of ground, for example an acre of 5368 square metres*, yields to the cultivator from 80 to 100 francs in wheat, 250 francs in cotton, and 450 francs in sugarf. The difference in the value of the produce being then so enormous, we ought by no means to wonder that the Mexican colonist gives to colonial commodities a preference over barley and wheat. But this predilection will never disturb the equilibrium which has hitherto existed between the different branches of agriculture, because, fortunately a great part of New Spain, situated under a climate more cold than temperate, is unfit for the production of sugar, coffee, cocoa, indigo and cotton.
The cultivation of the sugar cane has made such rapid progress within these last years, that the exportation of sugar at the port of Vera Cruz actually amounts to more than
* 57780 square feet. Trans.
f This estimate is looked upon as the most exact by the colonists of Louisiana near New Orleans. They calculate on 20 bushels of wheat, 250 pounds of cotton, and 1000 pounds of sugar per acre. This is the mean produce; but it may be easily conceived that these results must be modified by a number of local circumstances.
half a million of arrobas, or 6,250,000 kilogrammes*, which at three piastres the arroba, is equal to seven millions and a half of francsf. We have already observed that the ancient Mexicans were only acquainted with the sirop of honey, that of the metl (agave) and the sugar of maize cane. The sugar cane, cultivated from the remotest antiquity in the East Indies, in ChinaJ, and in the South Sea Islands, was imported by the Spaniards, from the Canary Islands into the Island of St. Domingo, from whence it was successively introduced into the Island of Cuba and New Spain. Peter D'Atienza planted the first sugar canes about the year 1520§ in the environs of the town of Conception de la Vega. Gonzalo de Velosa constructed the first cylinders; and in 1535 more than 30 sugar works were already established in the Island of St. Domingo, of which many were served by a hundred Negro slaves,
* 13,793,750 lb. avoird. Trans. f £ 312,525 sterling. Trans.
% I am even tempted to believe that the process used by us in the making of sugar, has been brought from Oriental Asia. I recognized at Lima in Chinese paintings representing the arts and trades, cylinders placed horizontally and put in motion by a mill, cauldrons and purifying apparatus such as are now to be seen in the West Indies.
§ Not in 1506 as is generally said.—Oviedo, who came to America, in 1513, says expressly, that he saw the first sugar works established at St. Domingo. (Historic natural de Indias, Lib. IV. c. 8.)
and cost from 10 to 12 thousand ducats in expense of erection. It is remarkable enough that among the first sugar mills (trapirhes) constructed by the Spaniards in the beginning of the 16th century, some of them were already put in motion not by horses but by hydraulical wheels, although these same water mills (trapiches) or molinos de agua, have been introduced in our days into the Island of Cuba, as a foreign invention, by refugees from Cape Francois.
In 1553 the abundance of sugar was already so great in Mexico, that it was exported from Vera Cruz and Acapulco into Spain and Peru*. This last exportation has long ceased, as Peru produces now more sugar than is necessary
* "Besides gold and silver, Mexico furnishes also much sugar and cochineal, two very precious commodities, feathers and cotton.—Few Spanish vessels return without a cargo, which is not the case in Peru, that has however falsely the reputation of being richer than Mexico. This last country has also preserved a much greater number of its inhabitants.—It is a very fine and very populous country, to which nothing is wanting but more frequent rains—New Spain exports to Peru, horses, beef, and sugar." —This remarkable passage of Lopez de Gomara, who describes so well the state of the Spanish Colonies towards the middle of the 16th century, is only to be found in the edition de la conquista de Mexico, published at Medina del Campo, 1553, fol. 139. It is wanting in the French translation printed at Paris in 1587, p. 191.
for its own. consumption. As the population of New Spain is concentrated in the interior of the country, we find fewer sugar works along the coast, where the great heats and abundant rains are favourable to the cultivation of the sugar, than on the ascent of the Cordilleras, and in the more elevated parts of the central table land. The principal plantations are in the intendancy of Vera Cruz, near the towns of Orizaba and Cordova; in the intendancy of Puebla, near Guautla de las Amilpas, at the foot of the Volcan de Popocatepetl; in the intendancy of Mexico, to the westward of the Nevado de Toluca, and to the south of Cuernavacca, in the plains of San _ Gabriel; in the intendancy of Guanaxuato, near Celaya, Salvatierra and Penjamo, and in the valley of Santiago; in the intendancies of Valladolid and Guadalaxara, to the southwest of Pazcuaro and Tecolotlan. Although the mean temperature most suitable to the sugar cane is 24° or 25° of the centigrade Thermometer*, this plant may however be successfully cultivated in places where the mean annual heat does not exceed 19° or 20°f. Now the decrease of the caloric being nearly a degree of the Centigrade Thermometer for every 200 metres;}; of elevation, we find in general,
* From 75° to 77° of Fahrenheit. Tram. f From 66° to 68° of Fahrenheit. Trans. \ 200 metres = 656 English feet Trans.