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The Bois of Mexico is the Paseo de la Reforma, a drive of nearly three miles through an avenue of tall Eucalyptus trees. Down this road passed the heroes of the bull-fight that sunny afternoon, in their quaint and brilliant costumes. Mounted picadors in short coats, with broad sashes of all colours, their hair in a long queue, and Spanish turbans on their heads; matadors, equally brilliant and more odd-looking; and, bringing up the rear, a victoria and pair with cockaded men-servants. In this carriage sat two haughty individuals, the successful toreadors, in costumes glittering with gold and silver embroidery. They received the greetings of the crowd with cold indifference.
The City of Mexico has many amusements to offer its pleasure-loving inhabitants besides the weekly bull-fights. Second in favour to that sport is a Spanish ball game called "Fronton," somewhat resembling "Fives," but much more difficult and scientific. The betting on the different players runs high as the bookies, wearing scarlet
caps, walk up and down selling the players and shouting the odds.
A Polo Club is to be found there, and also a Jockey Club, the latter with charming quarters in a blue and white tiled building, the towers of which were brought from Constantinople. The Monte Carlo of Mexico is in the Tivoli Gardens, a suburban resort, where gambling, especially in baccarat, is indulged in to an enormous extent. Gambling is the national amusement, from the highest in the land to the ragged street arabs who risk their small coins at stalls in the street. All the gaming establishments in the country are controlled by one man, who makes an enormous income from the monopoly.
The Paseo ends at the Park of Chapultepec, where stands the castle on a rocky height in a grove of huge cypresses. Wide marble-flagged terraces surround the castle, and on the top is a roof-garden, where heliotrope, roses and enormous shrubs of pink geranium flourish, and from which can be obtained an unsurpassed view of valley and snow-clad mountains.
The state-rooms are as they were left by Maximilian, the Imperial monogran and crown on all the appointments. A painful illustration of Republican simplicity is afforded by the guide who shows visitors through this lovely place; no liveried menial is he, but a ragged, bare-footed Mexican, apparently suffering from the dry season, and consequent scarcity of water, and looking strangely out of place in the abode of kings.
Driving in the park and Paseo is regulated by the most stringent rules. Mounted soldiers, generously armed, are stationed at brief intervals from each other through the whole length of the drive, to control the movements of the hundreds of carriages and horsemen which are daily to be seen there between the hours of five and seven p.m. A picturesque café stands at the end of the Paseo, where coffee and ices can be enjoyed while listening to the music of a good military band.
In the National Museum is a unique
collection of Aztec monoliths, including the immense sacrificial stone, covered with barbaric carvings, only found within the last few years. Huge stone figures, deities of the Sun, Moon and Water, creatures of Buddha-like appearance, and countless grotesque images are in the same place. The Government has lately taken up the work of excavating on ancient sites, and many additions are constantly being made to the relics of an extinct people.
The Academy of Fine Arts contains some good pictures by native artists and much prized treasures by Murillo, Rubens and Velasquez, presented by Spanish grandees after the Conquest. In one of the galleries, lined with pictures of saints and martyrs of pious memory, hangs a portrait of Byron, looking very Byronic and quite out of his class. And again, in a still more unlikely place was this poet's picture seen, viz., in a dingy stall of the "Thieves' Market," where a motley collection of rubbish as well as some valuable articles are offered for sale every Sunday morning.
The funerals of the poor are conducted on quite original lines in the Capital. The coffin
is carried on a special tram drawn by mules. Another tram follows containing the mourning relations, who, judging by their appearance, regard the whole affair as a very superior kind of picnic.
With the exception of the Hotel Sanz, table d'hote is unknown, but there are numerous cafés and restaurants where the enterprising traveller can order national dishes in which garlic and oil play a
At some of the theatres, of musichall type, a rather good custom prevails of selling tickets for one tanda (act) at a time, so that you need only pay for the turn you wish to The writer was present at the "Principal" the night that a ballet was presented for the first time to a Mexican audience, with some misgivings by the management, as the people are not chary of expressing their candid opinions. The ballet was of the most elementary description; and, as the verdict of the pit and stalls did not agree on this occasion, the nervous première danseuse and her assistants were greeted with a mingled storm of applause and hisses from the crowded house.
Among the many excursions into the environs of Mexico is one to the Viga Canal, on which one can travel for miles in a Mexican edition of a Venetian gondola, flat-bottomed, canopied, and poled by two men. The interest of the trip lies in the procession of market-boats laden with fruits, flowers and vegetables from Santa Anita, whose once celebrated floating gardens have now taken firm root in the shallow water. Santa Anita reminded one of pictures of African villages; the bamboo huts were roofed with straw, and the inhabitants decidedly aboriginal in appearance.
Not far from the Capital are many delightful winter resorts easily reached by those who find the high altitude of Mexico City trying. Only forty-seven miles away, over the mountains, lies Cuernavaca, possessing a climate and surroundings that leave nothing to be desired. Here was the favourite home of Cortes, and in later days Maximilian too built a small villa some distance from the town, to which he used to drive along the good coach road across the mountains that is no longer kept in repair. The scenery on the way alone repays a visit to Cuernavaca. As the train slowly climbs the 10,000 feet the
eyes rest on a glorious panorama of mountain, valley, lake and river. Here and there little villages far below look like painted squares on a map.
The ascent continues through deep cuttings of rock, adorned with festoons of maiden hair fern, and brilliant orchid-like flowers clinging to the walls, whilst the towering snow-clad mountains Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl remain
ever in sight, clear-cut against the turquoise sky. A poetical Indian legend tells us that Popocatepetl, the loftier of the two, is perpetually mourning over and guarding his dead sweetheart, the "White Woman" on her snowy bier. "Races have come and gone, but Popocatepetl has not taken nor forgotten one porphyry wrinkle for them all. His look is high and Indian-stern as it was when the first European came prying into the crater for sulphur to make the gunpowder for the Conquest.'
Cuernavaca itself is the quaintest
place. It is built on a hill between two deep gorges, with red-roofed houses and streets and lanes made shady with oleander and poinsettia trees in blossom. The Borda Gardens are here, whose terraced walks and wide stone steps leading to pools and mountains have an Italian air, the winding paths roofed with climbing roses and jessamine on trellis work. The caretakers of these charming gardens, by way of contrast to their beauty, have, near the entrance, put a decorative frieze of dead wild cats in various stages of dried repul
siveness. The Falls of San Antonio are greatly prized in a country where water is such a luxury, and a steep and rocky climb, 120 feet down to the bottom of the gorge, is rewarded by the setting of the picture, though the amount of water that comes over the rocks is very moderate during the dry
At Orizaba alone the Rincon Grande is always a raging torrent between its narrow banks. This river is fed by the snow-topped volcano that towers over the village. In this vicinity are large plantations of sugar-cane, coffee and
horns of the mountain, and one on the edge of the pit," while thousands of feet below a river rushes through the narrow gorge.
One realizes that this is the veritable tropics when at the stations great bouquets of orchids as well as of roses, narcissus and tuberoses are offered for sale for a mere trifle.
Vera Cruz itself has no intrinsic merits, being chiefly remarkable for its northers, which blow from October to "March," and its bad smells. Most of the scavenger work is done by buzzards which sit in flocks on the housetops or strut about the roads waiting for dainty morsels to float past in the open drains, that run down the sides of the streets. Some distance out in the harbour is the Island and Fort of San Juan de Ulua, now used as a prison, where the convicts, miserably clad and looking illfed, are allowed to crowd about the visitors and offer for sale trifles made from cocoanuts in order to buy tobacco. Their apparent freedom is explained by the fact that any attempts to reach the mainland by swimming are futile as sharks abound in the sea. A small man-of-war, the Zaragossa, part of Mexico's little navy, was lying in the harbour. Visitors were courteously shown over it, and the mechanism of the Maxim and Creuzot guns explained by a young Spaniard in well-meant English.
A huge dredge is constantly at work, taking out sand and making Vera Cruz a safe port for vessels to enter, and the most interesting relics of the Spanish occupation are frequently brought to the surface, such as old coins, silver dishes and odds and ends that have been at the bottom of the sea for many long years.
The return journey from the coast can be made on the Inter-Oceanic Railway. Like the Mexican, it is a narrowgauge line with Birmingham-built carriages, now shaky and old. It has also the proud record of having, at least, one accident a week in the mountain slopes. One official who has three times been hurled with the whole train down the Barranca or gorge, thought
the matter scarcely worth mentioning.
Mexicans are the most imperturbable people, nothing surprises them or makes any impression on their impassive demeanour. Nothing new, nothing true, and it doesn't signify, is distinctly written on their swarthy faces. This attitude may serve to explain the construction of a foot-bridge across a deep ravine near Jalapa, four strands of barbed wire and a few planks loosely placed on the wire being considered an admirable passage way. To any one cursed with an imagination its sketchy appearance suggested hideous possibilities.
A few hours' journey from Vera Cruz is Jalapa, renowned for its pretty women and frequent rains. It has a background of mountain topped by the volcano of Orizaba. This little town, being on the highway from the coast to the Capital, was of some importance to the Spaniards. They maintained large garrisons in the vicinity and regularly patrolled the road from Vera Cruz to Puebla, that city of churches and tiles, whose climate and situation offer small room for improvement. From the Fort of Guadalupe three snow-crowned volcanoes are in plain view, which make the lesser heights around the valley, though only just below the snow line, seem of comparatively modest dimensions.
The lavish use of glazed tiles, blue, yellow, red or white on domes and towers as well as on the entire exterior of houses, has a brilliant and refreshingly clean effect in the clear, sunny atmosphere. Though formerly called the "City of the Angels," the history of Puebla is distinctly military, and no place in Mexico, except the Capital, has seen so much of the fortunes of war. The interior of its Cathedral is imposing, in fact the finest in the country, although the Spanish custom of placing the choir in the centre rather spoils the effect. The floor is of coloured marbles, and the interior of the choir, entered through richly-carved doors, is of marquetry work and contains beautiful gratings of wrought iron. In the domed chapter room are