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the greatest minuteness, the country between the Bar of Huasacualco and the road of Tehuantepec; and he instructed them at the same time to verify whether as' was vaguely supposed, among the small rivers of Ostuta, Chicapa, or Chimalapa, there was none which in any of its branches communicated with the two seas. From the itinerary journals of these two engineers, of whom the former was lieutenant of the castle of Ulua, I drew up my map of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. They found that no river discharged at the same time its waters into the South Sea and Atlantic Ocean ; that the Rio Huasacualco did not take its rise as the viceroy had been informed near the town of Tehuantepec; and that on ascending it beyond the cataract, even as far as the old desembarcadero de Malpasso, they were still more than 26 leagues distant from the shores of the South Sea. They observed that a chain of mountains of very inconsiderable height, divides the waters between the gulf of Mexico, and the gulf of Tehuantepec. This small cordillera stretches from east to west, from the Cerros de los Mixes, formerly inhabited by a wild and warlike tribe* towards the elevated table land of Portillo de Petapa. The engineer, Cramer, affirms however, that to the south of the village of Santa Maria de Chimalapa, the mountains form
* Cartas de Cortez, p. 372.
rather a group than an uninterrupted chain and “that there exists a transversal valley, in 66 which a canal of communication might be “ cut between the two seas.” This canal which would unite the Rio de Chimalapa with the Rio del Passo (or Malpasso) would only be six leagues in length; the boats would ascend the Rio Chimalapa, which affords a very easy - navigation from Tehuantepec to the village of San Miguel; and from thence they would pass by the canal projected in the time of Count Revillagigedo to the Rio del Passo. This river discharges itself into the Rio de Huasacualco near the Bodegas de la Fabrica ; but its navigation is extremely difficult on account of the seven pyramids (raudales) which are counted between its source and the mouth of the Rio de Saravia.
It would be of infinite importance again to order this ground to be examined by intelligent engineers, to determine whether, as was believed by M. Cramer, the canal between the two seas, can be executed without locks or without inclined planes, and whether by blowing up the rocks with powder, the beds of the rivers Passo and Chimalapa can be deepened. The Isthmus is rich in cattle, and would, from its great fertility, supply valuable productions for the commerce of Vera Cruz. The fine plains of Tehuantepec would be susceptible of
irrigation from the Rio de Chimalapa : in their present state they produce a little indigo and cochineal of a superior quality.
Before setting on foot in the islands of Cuba and Pinos, the felling of cedar and acajou wood (cedrela odorata and swietenia mahogany) the dock-yards of the Havannah drew their wood for ship building from the thick forest which covers the northern slope of the Cerros de Petapa and Tarifa. The Isthmus of Tehuantepec was at that time very much frequented, and the ruins of several houses which are still to be seen on the two banks of the river Huasacualco are to be dated back to that period. The cedar and acajou wood was embarked at the Bodegas de Malpasso.
To avoid the seven rapids of the Rio del Passo, a new port (desembarcadero) was established in 1798, at the mouth of the Rio Saravia : the salt provisions (tasajo) of Tehuantepec, the indigo of Guatimala, and the cochineal of Oaxaca, were conveyed by this way to Vera Cruz and the Havannah. A road has been opened from Tehuantepec by Chihuitan, Llano Grande, Santa Maria Petapa and Guchicovi to the new port of la Cruz. They reckon this road 34 leagues. The productions destined for the Havannah, do not descend to the mouth of the Rio Huasacualco, or to the small fort of that name, because they
are afraid of exposing their canoes to the north winds, during the long passage from the bar of Huasacualco to the port of Vera Cruz. They disembark the goods at the Passo de la Fabrica; and from thence they are conveyed on the backs of mules, by the village of Acayucan to the banks of the river San Juan, where they are again embarked in large canoes and transported by the bar of Tlacatalpan to the port of Vera Cruz.
For some years the roads from Tarifa and Petapan, have been encumbered by trunks of cedar trees, needlessly cut down by order of some commissaries of the royal marine. These trunks, the finest in the forest, are rotting, and no person thinks of transporting them to the Havannah. The inhabitants of the Spanish colonies are accustomed to measures like these without any result; and they attribute them to the facility with which all projects are undertaken and abandoned by the ministry. A short time before my residence on the banks of the Orinoco, commissados del rey ascended the river to the mouth of the Rio Carony, for the purpose of cutting down all the trees which might be useful in ship-building. They measured their diameter and height, and marked so great a number of trunks of Cedrela, Laurus, and Caesalpinia, that all the dock-yards of Europe could not have not made use of
them in ten years; but no tree was ever cut down; and this long and laborious labour.produced no other effect than an increase of expence to government.
If it should be proved by new investigation, that the cutting of a canal in the isthmus of Tehuantepec would not be advantageous, the government should at least encourage the inhabitants of that province to improve the road by the Portillo de Petapa, to the new port of la Cruz. Part of the productions of the kingdom of Guatimala, those of the intendancy of Oaxaca and Tehuantepec might come at all times by this way to Vera Cruz. In 1804 at my departure from New Spain the carriage of goods on the backs of mules from Tehuantepec to Vera Cruz by Oaxaca, amounted to 30 piastres per load*; and the muleteers took three months in going a road which is not 75 leagues in a straight line. In conveying the productions by the way of the Isthmus and the river of Huasacualco, the load would only coast 16 piastrest of carriage; and as they take only ten days from the Passo de la Fabrica to Vera Cruz, nearly 70 days are gained on the whole passage. The consulado of Vera Cruz which has displayed the most praiseworthy zeal for the opening of this new road for internal commerce, abolished in 1803, the duty of 5 per cent. to which all goods