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metres (1168 toises); the third, or the valley of Actopan, 1966* metres (1009 toises); and the fourth, the valley of Istla, 981 f metres (504 toises) of elevation. These four basins differ as much in their climate as in their elevation above the level of the sea; each exhibits a different cultivation: the first, and least elevated, is adapted for the cultivation of sugary the second, cotton; the third, for European grain; and the fourth, for agava plantations, which may be considered as the vineyards of the Aztec Indians.
The barometrical survey which I executedfrom Mexico toGuanaxuatoproves how much the configuration of the soil is favourable in New Spain for the transport of goods, navigation, and even the construction of canals. It is different in the transversal sections from the Atlanticto the South Sea. These sections show the difficulties opposed by nature to the communication between the interior of the kingdom and the coast. They every where exhibit an enormous difference of level and temperature, while from Mexico to New Biscay the plain preserves an equal elevation, and consequently a climate rather cold than temperate. From the capital of Mexico to Vera Cruz, the descent is shorter and more rapid than from the same point to Acapulco. We might almost say, that the country has a better military defence from nature against the peopleof Europe than against the attack of an Asiatic enemy; but the constancy of the trade winds, and the great current of rotation which never ceases between the tropics, almost annihilate every political influence which China, Japan,or Asiatic Russia, in the succession of ages, might wish to exercise over the New Continent.
* 6447 feet. Trans. + 3247 feet. Trans.
Taking our directionfrom the capital of Mexico towards the east in the road to VeraCruz ,wemust advance sixty marine leagues before arriving at a valley, of which the bottom is less than 1000 * metres (500 toises) higher than the level of the sea, and in which, consequently, oaks cease to grow. In the Acapulco road, descending from Mexico towards the South Sea, we arrive at the same temperate regions in less than seventeen leagues. The eastern declivity of the Cordillera is so rapid, that when once we begin to descend from the great central plain, we continue to descend till we arrive at the eastern coast.
The western coast is furrowed by four very remarkable longitudinal vallies, so regularly disposed, that those which are nearest the ocean are even deeper than those more remote from it. Casting our eyes on the section drawn up by me from exact measurements, we shall observe, that from the plain of Tenochtitlan the traveller first descends into the valley of Istla, then into that of Mascala, then into that of Papagallo, and lastly, into the valley of Peregrine The bottom of these four basins rise 981, 514, 170, and 158 metres* (504,265,98, and 82 toises) above the level of the ocean. The deepest are also the narrowest. A curve drawn over the mountains which separate these vallies, over the Pic of the Marquis (the old camp of Cortes), the summits of Tasco, Chilpansingo, and Posquelitos, would preserve an equally regular progress. We might even be tempted to believe that this regularity is conformable to the type generally followed by nature in the construction of mountains; but the aspect of the Andes of South America will soon destroy these systematic delusions. Many geological considerations prove to us, that at the formation of mountains, causes apparently very trivial have determined the accumulation of matter in colossal summits, sometimes towards the centre, and sometimes on the edges of the Cordilleras.
* 3280 feet. Tram.
Thus the Asiatic road differs very much from the European. For the space of 72,5 leagues, the distance in a straight line from Mexico to Acapulco, we continually ascend and descend, and arrive every instant from a cold climate in regions excessively hot. Yet the road of Acapulco may be made fit for carriages. On the contrary, of the 84,5 leagues from the capital to the port of Vera Cruz, 140* belong to the great plain of Anahuac. The rest of the road is a laborious and continued descent, particularly from the small fortress of Perote to the city of Xalappa, and from this site, one of the most beautiful and picturesque in the known world, to la Rinconada. It is the difficulty of this descent which raises the carriage of flour from Mexico to Vera Cruz, and prevents it to this day from competing in Europe with the flour of Philadelphia. There is actually at present constructing a superb causeway along this eastern descent of the Cordillera. This work, due to the great and praiseworthy activity of the merchants of Vera Cruz, will have the most decided influence on the prosperity of the inhabitants of the whole kingdom of New Spain. The places of thousands of mules will be supplied by carriages fit to transport merchandises from sea to sea, which will connect, as it were, the Asiatic commerce of Acapulco with the European commerce of Vera Cruz.
* 3217, 1685, 557, and 518 feet. Trans.
We have already stated that in the Mexican provinces situated, in the torrid zone, a space of 23,000 square leagues enjoys a cold, rather than a temperate climate. All this great extent of country is traversed by the Cordillera of Mexico, a chain of colossal mountains which may be considered as a prolongation of the Andes of Peru.
* Here is evidently a mistake, J40 cannot be a part of 84,5. Trans.
Notwithstanding their lowness in Choco, and the province of Darien, the Andes traverse the isthmus of Panama, and recover a considerable height in the kingdom of Guatimala. Sometimes their crest approaches the Pacific Ocean, at other times it occupies the centre of the country, and sometimes it approaches the gulf of Mexico. In the kingdom of Guatimala, for example, this crest, jagged with volcanic cones, runs along the western coast from the lake of Nicaragua towards the bay of Tehuantepec; but in the province of Oaxaca, between the sources of the rivers Chimalapa and Guasacualco, it occupies the centre of the Mexican isthmus. From the I8j° to the 21° of latitude, in the intendancies of la Puebla and Mexico, from Misteca to the mines of Zimapan, the Cordillera stretches from south to north, and approaches the eastern coast.
In this part of the great plain of Anahuac, between the capital of Mexico, and the small cities of Xalappa and Cordoba, a groupe of mountains appears which rivals the most elevated summits of the new continent. It is enough to name four of these Colossi* whose heights were unknown
* Excepting the Cofre de Perote, these four measurements are all geometrical; but the bases being from 11 to 1200 toises elevated above the level of the sea, this first part of the total height was calculated according to the barometrical formula of M. Laplace. The word Popocatepetl is derived from popocani smoke, and tepetl mountain; and Iztaccihuatl from