Page images
PDF
EPUB

mel

ture against the people of Europe than against the atttack 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.

Taking our direction from the capital of Mexico towards the east in the road to Vera Cruz, we must advance sixty marine leagues before arriving at a va ley, of which the bottom is less than 1000 ** metres fão toises) higher than the level of the sea, and in which, con-equently, oaks cease to grow. In the scapulco road, descending from Mexico towards the South Sea, we arrive at the same temperate regions in le s than seventeen leagues. The eastern declivity of the Cordillera is so rapid, that wl en once we begin to descend from the great central plain, we continue the descent till we arrive at the eastern coast.

The western coast is furrowed by four very remarkable lon itudinal vallies, so regularly di posed, tliat 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 hall observe, that from the plain of Tenochtitlan the traveller first descends into the valley of Istla, then into that of

* 3260 feet.

Trans.

Mascala, then into that of Papagallo, and lastly, into the valley of Peregrino. 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, Chilpan. singo, 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 centri, and sometimes on the edges of the Cordilleras. .

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

# 3217, 1685, 557, and 518 feet. Trans.

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.

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. Notwith

* Here is evidently a mistake, 140 cannot be a part of 84,6.

Trans.

standing their lowness in Choco, and the province of Darien, the Andes traverse the isthmus of Pa. nama, 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 Guasacu. alco, it occupies the centre of the Mexican isthmus. From the 18° to the 21° of latitude, in the inten dancies 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, be. tween 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 before my expedition ; Popocatepetl, 5400 m-tres (or 2771 tois's); Iztaccihuat, or the white woman, 4786 metres or 2455 toises); Citlaltepetl, or the Pic d'Orizaba, 5295 metres (or 2717 toises); and Nauhcampatepetl, or the Cofre de Perote, 4089 metres or 2089 toises *. . This groupe of volcanic mountains bears a strong analogy with that of the kingdom of Quito. If the height attributed to Mount St. Elie | be exact, we may admit that it is only under the 19° and 000 of latitude that mountains in the northern hemisphere reach the enormous elevation of 5400 metres above the level of the ocean.

* 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

Farther to the north of the parallel of 19', near the celebrated mines of Zimapan and the Doctor, situated in the intendancy of Mexico, the Cor. dillera takes the name of Sierra Madre; and then

iztac white, and ciuati woman. Citlaltepetl signifies a mountain brilliant as a star, from citlaltine star, and trpeti mountain ; for the Pic d'Orizaba appears at a distance like a star when it emits fire. Nauhcampatepetl is derived from Nuuhcampa, any thing square. It alludes to the form of the small porphyritical rock at the summit of the mountain of l'erote, which the Spaniards compare to a coffer (See ibe Vocabulary of the Aztec Language by Father Alonzo de Molina, published at Mexico in 1571, p. 63).

* 17716, 15700, 17371, and 13414 feet. Trans.

+ The Spanish navigators found, in 1711, by precise means its height above the level of the sea to be 2793 toises (:7875 English feet) while it is said in the account of the voyage of La Perouse to be only 1980 toises (12072 feet).

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »