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MEXICO OR NEW SPAIN.
Situation. This country is bounded N. and N. E. hy the United States ; E. by the Gulf of Mexico; S E. hy Guntimala ; and W. by the Pacific Ocean. It extends from 16° to 420 N. lat. and from 38° to 124° W. lon.
Divisions.) Much of the northern part of the country is inhabited by savage Indians. The remainder is divided into 15 intendencies and provinces, as follows:
Divisions. Sq. Miles. Pop. in 1803. Chief Towns. 1. Old California
55,800 9,000 Loreto 2. New California
16,278 15,600 Monterey 3. Vew Mexico
4?,731 40,200 Santa Fe 4. Sonora
146,635 121,400 Arispe 5. Darango or New Biscay 139,247 159,700 Durango 6. San Luis Potosi
263,109 331,900 St. Luis Potosi 7. Guadalaxara
73,628 630,500 Guadalaxara 8 Zacatecas
18.0~9 153,300 Zacatecas 9. Guanaxuato
6,378 517,300 Guanaxuato 10. Valladolid
26,396 376,400 Valladolid 11. Mexico
45,401 1,511,800 Mexico 12 Puebla
20,651 813,300 Puebla 13. Vera Cruz
31,720 150,000 Vera Cruz 14. Oaxaca
34,061 534,800 Oaxaca 15. Yucatan, or Merida 45,784 465,800 Merida
Sea Coast.] The eastern coast of New Spain, properly speakiing, possesses no port; for Vera Cruz, through which the whole commerce is carried on, is merely a bad anchorage. The cause: of this disadvantage is the Gulf Stream,which, in its passage alors the shore, continually throns up the sands of the ocean, forming bars over which large vessels cannot pass. The sands thus heaped up by the stream are continually adding to the continent, and the ocean is every where retiring. These obstacles do not exo ist on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. San Francisco in New Cale ifornia, San Blas in the intendancy of Guadalasara, near the mouth of the river Santiago, and especially Acapulco are magnificent ports. A very serious inconvenience, however, is common to the eastern coast and the coast of the Pacific Ocean. They are rendered inaccessible for several months of every year by violent tempests, which effectually prevent all navigation.
Face of the Country. The land on both the coasts is low, but rises gradually as you approach the interior, till it has aítained the height of 6 or 8,000 feet above the level of the ocean; it then spreads out into broad plains or table lands, presenting Lhe strange spectacle of an immense level country on the top of
a lofty range of mountains. These plains extend along the range from lat. 18° to lat. 40° N. a distance of 1700 miles.
Mountains. A chain of colossal mountains, called the Cordillera of M-xico, passes through the whole length of this country from southeast to northwest. It may be considered as a prolongation of the Andes of Peru, or a part of the great chain which runs throngh the American continent from Cape Horn to the Frozen Ocean. Its top, as we have already mentioned, consists of extensive plains or table land. From these elevated plains single mountains occasionally shoot up, whose summits are covered with everlasting snow. Several peaks near the city of Mexico are more than 15,000 feet high, and the loftiest are volcanoes.The crest or highest part of the chain sometimes approaches the Pacific Ocean, at other times it occupies the centre of the country, and sometimes it bends towards the Gulf of Mexico. In the province of Oaxaca, for example, it occupies the centre of the Mexican isthmus ; from 18 to 21° N. lat. in the intendancies of Puebla and Mexico, it stretches from soạth to north, and approaches the eastern coast, after which it turns to the northwest towards the city of Guanaxuato To the north of thai city it divides into three branches, of which the most eastern runs into the intendancy of San Luis Potosi, towards the mouth of the Rio Brayo del Norte. The western branch traverses the intendancies of Guadalaxara and Sonora to the banks of the Rio Gila. The third branch, which may be considered as the central chain of the Mexican Andes, occupies the whole extent of the intendancy of Zacatecas, and passing through Durango and New Mexico under various names, joins the Rocky Mountains of the United States.
The highest summits in the Cordillera of Mexico are Popocatepetl, a volcano, 17,720 feet above the level of the ocean; Citlaltepetl or the Pic d'Orizaba, a volcano, 17,371 feet; Iztaccihuatl, 15.700 feet; and Toluca, 15,159 feet. All these are near the parallel of 19° N lat.
Climate.) Almost one third of the territory included in the provinces of New Spain is sitụated in the torrid zone ; and for this reason it might be supposed that the heat would be excessive; but the climate of a country does not depend allogether on its distance from the pole, but also on iis elevation above ihe lev. el of the sea. Hence, of the 50,000 square leagues lying under the torrid zone, more than three fifths enjoy rather a cold or temperate than a burning climate. In the low plains on both coasts, the heat is very oppressive and the climate unhealthy to Europeans; but when you advance into the interior, and begin to ascend the declivity of the Cordillera, it becomes more temper. ate, and at the elevation of 4 or 5,000 feet there reigns perpetually a soft spring temperature, which never varies more than 8 or 9 degrees, and is very healthy, the extremes of heat and cold being equally unknown. As you advance still higher the climate becomes cooler, and at length on the tops of some of the loftiest mountains you come to the region of perpetual snow,
Thus in the course of two or three days, the traveller may enjoy ali the variety of summer, spring and winter.
Soil and Productions. / A considerable part of the country situated to the north of the tropic is rendered barren by the want of moisture; and in many parts aiso of the table land within the tropics, the piains are arid and destitute of wood. Still a great portion of New Spain belongs to the most fertile regions of the earth. On the banks of all the rivers, and wherever there is a supply of moisture, the fertility is extreme. The declivity of the Cordillera is exposed to humid winds and frequent fogs, and the vegetation, nourished by these aqueous vapors, exhibits an uncommon beauty and strength. The humidity of the coasts also, assisted by a burning sun, though it generates some terrible diseases, is favorable to the growth of the richest produce of tropical climates.
The productions of this country are as various as its climate. In the course of a few hundred miles, you may meet with almost all the fruits of the temperate and torrid żones. The fertile regiops on the coast produce in aburidance sugar, indigo arid cotton. The banana also, which supplies the place of bread to the inhabitants of the torrid zone, and which is said to produce a greater quantity of nutritive substance than any other plant on the same space
of ground, flourishes luxuriantly in all the low country. A piece of land which, if planted with wheat, would yield barely sufficient for the snbsistence of two individuals, would be capable of maintaining at least fifty if planted with bananas. Accordingly, a European newly arrived in Mexico; is struck with nothing so much, as the extreme smallness of the spots under cultivation round a cabin which contains a numerous family of Indians. The same region in which the banana flourishes produces also the manioc, which yields a very nutritious bread, and is extensively cultivated along the coasts. But by far the most important agricultural production is maize, and the year in which the maize harvest fails is a year of famine and misery for the inhabitants of Mexico. It grows in the low country, and on all the table land except some of the highest plains, and the produce is most abundanı, being in some places eight hundred fold, and on in average one hundred and fifty fold. In the most warm and humid regions it will yield two or three harvests annually, Wheat, ryc, and other European grains have been successfully in. troduced in the northern provinces, and on the elevated plains within the tropics. All the garden vegetables and fruit trees of Europe are now also possessed by the Mexicans. The central table land produces in the greatest abundance cherries, prunes, peaches, apricots, figs, grapes, melons, apples and pears. The vine and the olive would also flourish in this delightful climate, but through the influence of the merchants in the mother country their cultivation has been prohibited, and the colonists are štill obliged to import their oil and wine from Old Spain.
Rivers.] The Arkansaw forms a part of the northeastern boundary. Red river rises in this country and Hows southeast into the
United States. The Sabine is the eastern boundary. The fio Brate del Norte rises in the Rocky mountains, near the source of the Arkansaw, in about lat 40° N. and running in a southeasterly direction falls into the gulf of Mexico, after a course of nearly 2,000 miles. It cannot in any part be termed a navigable stream. The Colorado de Texas, the Nucces, and several smaller streams fall into the gulf of Mexico between the Sabine and the Rio Brayo. The Colorado of Californic rises on the west side of the great mountain range, near the sources of the Rio Bravo, and running in a southwesterly direction falls into the head of the gulf of California, after a course of about 900 miles, of which it is navigable for the last 300. The Gila is an eastern branch of the Col-orado, and joins it near its mouth, after a course of about 600 miles. All these rivers How through thinly settled and uncivilized regions.
In the equinoxial part of Mexico there are no large rivers. The narrow form of the continent prevents the collection of a great mass of water. The rapid declivity of the Cordillera abounds more properly with torrents than rivers. Among these small streains, the only ones probably which will ever be interesting for interior commerce are, 1. The Rio Guasacualco, which falls into the Gulf of Mexico to the southeast of Vera Cruz. 2 Rio de Moctezuma, which rises from the small
lakes near the city of Mexico, and flowing north falls into the Tampico. 3. The Rio de Zacatulu, which also rises near the city of Mexico and runs west to the Pacific Ocean. 4. . The Santiago, which rises about 20 miles west of the city of Mexico, and running in a northwesterly direction, passes through the great lake Chapala, and enters the Pacific Ocean by a broad mouth, after a course of more than 600 miles.
Lakes. Lake Chapala is by far the largest lake. It lies just above the latitude of 20° about 120 miles west of the city of Mexico, and is 90 miles long and 20 broad, covering an area of 1225
There are four small lakes in the spacious valley in which the city of Mexico is tuated. The waters in these lakes used formerly to rise above their banks and inundate the city and the valley. In 1629 there was a great inundation, which lasted for five years; and during the whole or that time, the streets of Mexico could be passed only in boats. To prevent the recurrence of this evil various means were employed without effect. At first, a huge dike or mound of stones and ciay was erected, 70 miles long and 65 feet broad; but the waters burst through it and tore it away. A subterranean pasage was then dug through the moun'tains which surround the valley, to let off the waters; but the earth caved in and filled up the passage. At length a drain, 12 miles long and in some places 200 feet deep, has been cut through a gap in the mountains, and this proves to be an effec. tual remedy.
Chief Towns. Mexico, the capital of New Spain, and the most populous city in America, is situated below the parallel of 20° N. lat. midway between the gulf of Mexico and ihe Pacific
ocean, in a delightful valley, which is 230 miles in circumference, and elevaied more than 7,000 feet above the level of the ocean. The ancient city was built by the Mexicans in 1325, on a groupe of islands in lake Tezcucn, and was connected with the main land by three principal dikes or causeways, from a mile and an half to six miles long. The modern Mexico was built by the Spaniards on the ruins of the ancient city; but though it occupies exactly the same situation, yet owing to the retreat of the waters, it is now on dry land, about a league distant from the banks of the lake. The city is regularly built in the form of a square, of four miles on each side. The streets are broad, clean, generally paved and well lighted, and intersect each other at right angles. The public bundings are magnificent, and some ot'ihein of the most lieautiful architecture. The mint is the most extensive establishment of the kind in the world, and employs about 400 workmen. Services of plate of the value of £ 7.000 Kave lately been manufactured in Mexico, and the working of gold ani! silver in all its branches is caried to great pertection. This beau. tiful city is supplied with water by two aqueducts, and its vegetables are raised on the elegant floating gardens of the lake of 'Tezcuco. It contains upwards of 100 churches, and 137,000 inhabitants, of whom one half are whites, and the rest Indians, mulattoes and mestizoes. Owing to its exiraordinary elevaiion above the lerel of the ocean, the city, not withstanding its position in i he torrid zone, enjoys a mild and temperate climate. The surrounding country is occupied by gardens and orchards in a high state of cultivation, and during the whole of the year, both fruits and fiowers are produced in abundance.
Guanatuato, about 150 miles N. W. of Mexico, is a large ani! flourishing city, famous for its gold and siker mines. The population within the city amounts to 41,000, and in the neighbouring mines to 29,600; in all, 70,600. The ground on which The city is built is nearly 7,000 feet above the level of the sea.
Puebla, famous for its manufactures of earthen ware, iron and steel, is 70 miles E. S. E. of Mexico. It is one of the most populous cities in Spanish America, containing 67,800 inhabitants. The ground on which the town is built is more than 7,000 feet above the level of the sea.
Zacatecas, one of the most celebrated mining places of New Spain, is more than 300 miles N. N. IV. of Mexico, and contains 33,000 inhabitants.
Vera Cruz, on the Gulf of Mexico, 180 miles E. S. E. of Mexico, is one of the most considerable places for trade in Spanish America, being the port through which the commerce of New Spain is carried on with Europe and the West Indies. The city is regularly and beautifully built, and inhabited by well informed merchants, but is unbealthy, owing in part to ine bad quality of the water. The port is hardly worthy of the name, being rather a dangerous anchorage among shallows. It is defended by the fortress of St. Joan d' Ulua, erected at great espence on an island near the town. Population 16,000.