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of war, through the kingdom of Mexico, prevail also' on the merchants of Guatimala to send the indigoes of their country, which surpass in richness of colour all other known indigoes, by the way of Tehuantepec and the Rio Huasacualco to Vera Cruz. This is the place to speak more amply than we have already done* of the project of a canal for the union of the two seas in the intendancy of Oaxaca, a plan which is every way worthy of fixing the attention of the government.
Cortez, during his stay at Tenochtitlan had already perceived the great importance of the river of Huasacualcot, as is proved by his third letter to the Emperor Charles V., dated from la Villa Segura de la Frontera; the 30th of October, 1520. Warmly interested in discovering a safer port than that of Vera Cruz, or the passage from one ocean to another, which he calls the secret of a strait, the Spanish General demanded from Montezuma “informa“ tion relative to the state and configuration of " the eastern coast of the empire of Anahuac. “ The monarch answered that he did not “ know that coast himself, but that he would os order all the shore with its bays and rivers
, * Vol. i. p. 23, vol. ii. p. 242.
+ They write in Mexico indistinctly, Huasacualco, Guasacualco and Goazocoalcos. Cortez, who corrupts all the Mexican names calls it, Quacalco.
“ to be painted, and that he would supply the * necessary guides to accompany the Spaniards 5 destined to examine these countries. On 65 the morrow they brought to Cortez a plan 6 of the whole coast represented on cloth. “The pilots recognized in this map the mouth “ of a great river which they supposed to 4 be the same with the opening which they 6 perceived in the coast, on their arrival at 51 Vera Cruz near the mountains of Sanmyn* - in the province of Mazamalco.” Guided by this information, Cortez dispatched in 1520 a small detachment of ten men, under the orders of Diego Ordaz, to reconnoitre this river. The pilots found the depth at the mouth only two fathoms and a half; but on ascending 12 leagues against the current, ther discovered that the river was every where from five to six
* Perhaps these mountains are the chains of San Martin and the Volcan de Tustia. See vol. ii. p. 257, and Cartas de Hernan Cortez, p. 92 and 351. I have already stated that there exists at Mexico in the collection of hieroglyphic manuscripts preserved in the palace of the Viceroys, maps of the valley and lakes of Tenochtitlan, painted or cotton cloth by the Aztecs. I was also assured that the inhabitants of the village of Tetlama near Caerna-vaca, as well as those of Tlascala possess topographical plans executed before the conquest. Gomara quotes an itinerary map from Xicalanco to Nicaragua which was drawn up by the inhabitants of Tabasco, and presented to Cortez. Conquista de Mexico, fol. 100.
fathoms in depth. The banks of the Huasacualco were then much better peopled than at present.
After the taking of Mexico, Gonzalo de Sandoval conquered the province of Tehuantepec in 1521 ; and though Andre Niño the pilot, affirmed that there was no strait from the coast of Nicaragua to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, this Isthmus was nevertheless looked upon as of very great importance, because the proximity of the two seas, and the River Huasacualco afforded the first Spanish conquerors a facility in transporting from Vera Cruz to the coast of the Pacific Ocean, the necessary materials for the construction of vessels. The expedition of Hernando de Grixalva, who set sail for California in 1534, went from Tehuantepec; and in the same manner the vessels in which Cortez embarked at Chametla* were constructed at the mouth of the Rio Chimalapa, of the materials brought by the Rio Huasacualco. One of these vessels was lost in crossing the Bar of St. Francis, on leaving the Laguna de Santa Teresa.
Since the end of the 16th century, the port of Tehuantepec, which hardly deserves the name of road, has been very little frequented; the South Sea commerce has been concentrated
at Acapulco; and the embarcations necessary for communication with the Philippine Islands, have all taken place at Manilla, or the port of San Blas. Besides, the sea is daily withdrawing from the coast of Tehuantepec; the anchorage is yearly becoming worse; and the sand brought down by the river Chimalapa augments both the height and extent of the bar. At present the distance from the Villa de Tehuantepec to the sea, is four leagues by the way of the Hacienda de la Zoleta; and the best anchorage is at the Morro del Carbon, at the salt pits, and in the Laguna de Santa Teresa.
A fortunate accident towards the end of the last century was the means of occasioning the two Viceroys, Buccareli and Revillagegedo, again to turn the attention of government to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and the Rio de Huasacualco. There was discovered in 1771 at Vera Cruz, amongst the artillery of the castle of St. John de Ulua, several pieces of cannon cast at Manilla. As it was known that before the year 1767, the Spaniards neither doubled the Cape of Good Hope nor Cape Horn, in their voyage to the Philippine Islands, and that since the first expeditions of Magellan and Loysa who set out from Spain, all the commerce of Asia was carried on in the Galleon of Acapulco, they could not conceive how these
guns had crossed the continent of Mexico on their way from Manilla to the Castle of Ulua. The extreme difficulty of the road from Acapulco to Mexico, and from thence to Xalapa and Vera Cruz, rendered it, very improbable that they should come by that way. In the course of their investigations, they learned both from the chronicle of Tehuantepec* written by Father Burgoa, and from the traditions preserved among the inhabitants of the Isthmus of Huasacualco, that these guns were cast at the Island of Luzon, and landed at the Bar.. of San Francisco; that they had ascended the bay of Santa Teresa, and the Rio Chimalapa ; that they had been carried by the Farm of Chivela, and the forest of Tarifa to the Rio del Malpasso; and that after having been again embarked, they descended the Rio Huasacualco, to its mouth in the gulph of Mexico.
It was then very reasonably observed that this road which had been frequented in the beginning of the conquest, might still become very useful for the opening a direct communication between the two seas. The viceroy Don Antonio Bucareli gave orders to two able engineers, Don Augustin Cramer and Don Miguel del Corral, to examine, with
* Burgos, Palestra Historial o Cronica de la Villa de Tehuantepec. Mexico 1674.