Immagini della pagina

rous flowers, containing reservoirs of water, terraces, porticos, and shady walks. These reservoirs are full of fish, and covered with wild ducks, teal, and all kinds of aquatic birds.

I left this city the next day, and after a journey of half a league, came to a causeway, extending for two leagues into a lake, in the midst of which stands Temixtitlan. This causeway is two lances length in breadth, and will admit eight horses abreast. It is extremely well built, and bordered by three cities. The first, called Mesicalsingo, contains about a thousand inhabitants; the second is named Huchilohuchico; and the third, Nyciaca, which has upwards of six thousand. The towers, temples, oratories, and houses of the principal inhabitants, are of very solid architecture. This city car

kings of Tourca cultivated also trees strangers to that part of Mexico." Humboldt's New Spain, vol. 2, p. 130.

The translator of the above work, in a note to page 49, vol. 1, says, that the collection of rare plants in the garden of Iztapalapa, was made by king Cuitlahuatzen, the brother and successor of Montezuma, who died of the small pox, after the expulsion of the Spaniards from Mexico, and was succeeded by Quauhtemotzin.

" The taste for flowers undoubtedly indicates a relish for the beautiful; and we are astonished at finding it in a nation in which a sanguinary worship, and the frequency of sacrifices, appeared to have extiuguished whatever related to the sensibility of the soul, and kindness of affection. In the great market-place of Mexico, the native sells no peaches, nor apunas, nor roots, nor pulque (the fermented juice of the agave), without having his shop ornamented with flowers, which are every day renewed. The Indian merchant appears seated in an intrenchment of verdure. A hedge, of three and a quarter feet in height, formed of fresh herbs, particularly of gramina, with delicate leaves, surrounds, like a semicircular wall, the fruits offered to public sale. The bottom, of a smooth green, is divided by garlands of flowers, which run parallel to one another. Small nosegays, placed symmetrically between the festoons, give this enclosure the appearance of a carpet strewn with flowers. The European, who delights in studying the customs of the lower people, cannot help being struck with the care and elegance the natives display, in distributing the fruits which they sell, in small cages of very light wood. The sapotilles, the mammea, pears, and raisins, occupy the bottom, while the top is ornamented with odoriferous flowers. This art of entwining fruits and flowers had its origin, perhaps, in that happy period when, long before the introduction of inhuman rites, the first inhabitants of Aanahuac, like the Peruvians, offered up to the great spirit, Teotl, the first fruits of their harvest.” Humboldt, vol. 1, p. 130– 131.

“ The first botanical garden in Europe (says count Corli) was that of Padua, established by a decree of the Venetian republic, on the 30th of June, 1545. Diaz, Herrera, and Jolis, relate, that the emperor of Mexico, and the great lords, bad gardens, in which they cultivated medicinal herbs for public use, and that they were very vain of that prodigious quantity of plants, which they bad divided into classes, and into beds, with great intelligence. These gardens were much antecedent to those of Europe, which were destined to the same purposes; they were perhaps the model of them.” Lettere Americane.

ries on a great trade in loaf salt, which is obtained by boiling the water of the lake.

At half a league's distance from Temixtitlan, we came to a dou. ble wall, like a bulwark, furnished with an indented parapet, form. ing two enclosures to the city, and on the other side joining a causeway extending to the main land. This wall has but two gates, which open on the two causeways already mentioned.

More than a thousand persons of distinction, belonging to the city, dressed perfectly alike, came as far as this enclosure to meet me. As they approached to speak to me, they saluted me according to the custom of Mexico, by putting the hand to the ground and kissing it. I waited more than an hour to give time to each one to go through with this ceremony.

At the entrance of the city, between the causeway and the gate, is a wooden bridge, ten feet wide, for the purpose of allowing the water a free circulation. This bridge is constructed of beams and joists, and can be drawn up at pleasure. In the interior of the city are a great number of the same kind, to facilitate the communication. When I had passed the bridge, * Montezuma, attended by two hundred of his nobles, barefooted, and dressed in superb uniforms, came to receive me. This suite, which was arranged in two files, walked as close as possible to the houses, through a very strait street, three quarters of a league in length, handsomely intersected, and adorned with temples and large and beautiful houses. Montezuma himself, accompanied by his brother, and the nobleman he had sent 10 meet me, walked in the middle of the street. They were all dressed in the same manner, but Montezuma alone had sandals on, and was supported under his arms by the others. When I saw him approach, I alighted from my horse, and stepped forward to embrace him; but the two nobles who were with him stopped me, and prevented me from touching him. They, and

* Diaz thus describes the approach of Montezuma on this occasion: “When we arrived at a place where a small causeway turns off, which, goes to the city of Cuyoacan, we were met by a great number of the lords of the court; in their rich dresses, sent to bid us welcome. After some time, the nephew of Montezuma, and other noblemen, went back to meet their monarch, who approached, carried in a most magnificent litter, which was supported by his principal nobility. When we came near certain towers, which are almost close to the city, Montezuma quitted his litter, and was borne in the arms of the princes of Jezcuco, Iztapalapa, Jacuba, and Cuynacan, under a capopy of the richest materials, ornamented with green feathers, gold and precious stones, that hung in the manner of fringe; he was most richly dressed and adorned, and wore buskins of pure gold, ornamented with jewels. The princes, who supported bim, were dressed in rich habits, different from those in which they came to meet us, and others who preceded the monarch, spread mantles on the ground, lest his feet should touch it. All who attended him, except the four princes, kept their eyes fixed upon the earth, not daring to look him in the face.” B. Diaz,

p. 133.

Montezuma, then performed the ceremony of kissing their hands after having touched the ground. This ceremony being finished, Montezuma ordered his brother to accompany me, and support me under the arm. After he had accosted me, Montezuma walked slowly before me, with his attendant, and all the other nobles came forward regularly, in their turn, to speak to me, and then returned to their places.

When I addressed Montezuma, I took a collar of pearl from my neck, which I put upon his. Some time after, one of his servants brought me a piece of cloth which contained two necklaces made of snail shells, of a colour held in the highest estimation by these people. To each necklace was suspended eight golden trinkets, about six inches in length of very fine workmanship. Montezuma came himself, and put them around my neck; after wbich he continued his march, in the order I have described, till we came to a very large and beautiful house, made ready for our reception. He then took me by the hand, and leading we into a large hall, facing the court by which we had entered, seated me on a very rich carpet, which he had ordered for his own use, and, desiring me to wait his return, went out.

I had hardly disposed of my men when Montezuma returned, bringing with him, a great number of gold and silver ornaments, five or six thousand pieces of cotton richly wrought in a variety of figures, and plumes; after ordering these presents to be given to me, he seated himself on a carpot, by the side of mine, and addressed me in the following terms.

We have long known from the records left us by our ancestors, that we are not originally of this country. Our ancestors were strangers, who came hither from a great distance under the conduct of a certain king, who, after having subjugated this country, returned to his own. After a long absence, this monarch came back to Mexico, and found that his subjects had become very numerous. He wanted to persuade them to return with him, but they would not consent, and still less receive him as their mas. ter. He then departed alone, assuring them that at some future period one of his descendants would come and subdue this country. Considering the eastern* quarter from whence you say you

* The Tlusculans had also, according to B. Diaz a tradition or prediction, that they would be subdued by men from the east. “ They said that their ancestors had told them, that in former times the country was inhabited by men and women of great stature and wicked manners, whom their ancestors had at length extirpated, and in order that we might judge of the bulk of these people, they brought us a bone which had belonged to one of them, so large, that when it was placed upright it was as high as a middling sized man; it was the bone between the knee and the hip. The cbiefs also told us how their idols had predicted, that men should come from distant parts where the sun rises to subjugate the country, and that they believed us to be those of whom their gods had spoken."

came, and from what you have told us of the king who sent you here, we are strongly induced to believe that he is our natural king, more especially as you say it is a long time since he has heard any mention made of us. As we are convinced that you do not deceive us, you may be assured that we will acknowledge you for our master, and will obey you as the representative of that great monarch whom you have told us of. You may therefore command absolutely throughout my dominions, and whatever I have is at your disposal. Seeing then that you are in your own country, and among your subjects, amuse and repose yourselves after the fatigues you have undergone in your journey and the battles you have fought, for I am well acquainted with all the inconveniences and difficulties you have had to surmount. Neither am I ignorant how much the people of Zempoalla and of Tascalteca have prejudiced you against me; but trust only to what you see yourself, and particularly be cautious how you believe those people, who are my natural enemies, or rebellious subjects. I also know that they have told you that the walls of my palace are of gold, that my carpets and every thing which I use are so likewise. As to the houses, you have seen that they are built of stone, lime and sand. Then drawing aside his garments and showing me his body, he added-you perceive too, that like yourself I am formed of flesh and bone, and as well as the rest of mankind am mortal and palpable. It is true that I have some articles of gold left me by my ancestors; but whatever I have shall be yours whenever you desire it. I shall now return to the house where I reside; but be under no uneasiness, for you will receive here all that will be wanted for yourself and your attendants; for you are with your friends, and in your own country.

I replied to these civilities of Montezuma, in the best manner I was able, making such further remarks as appeared to me best suited to existing circumstances, and concluded with telling him that he might expect every favour from your majesty.

Immediately after Montezuma left me, a great quantity of bread, fowls, fruit and eatables of various kinds were sent us, together with all the furniture necessary for our house. I was thus supplied for six days, and received the visits of the principal caciques.

I have already, in commencing this letter, had the honour of informing your majesty, that I left behind me at Vera Cruz one hundred and fifty men, in order to finish the fort which I had begun, and that a great number of cities, towns, and inhabitants of the country had submitted to your government. I had likewise left at Cholula, some trusty men under the command of a captain whom I had appointed to the command of the place.

Some time after I received letters from the latter, informing me that Qualpopoca, cacique of Almeria, which the Mexicans

call Nauthla; had sent a deputation to him, tendering his hommage and submission to your majesty, and excusing himself for nut coining in person, as he should be obliged to pass through the country of his enemies, who would most certainly ill-treat him. He at the same time sent word to the commander, that if he would send him four Spaniards he would come on immediately, as his enemies would not dare to insult him when thus accompanied. The officer confiding in his promise, from other similar examples, sent him the four men as he requested. Qualpopoca, however, gave orders to assassinate them, so as not to have it suspected: two of them were killed; the others, though severely wounded, had the good fortune to make their escape among the woods. On the discovery of this treachery the commander of Cholula, with two horsemen, fifty Spanish soldiers, and from eight to ten thousand Indian allies marched for Almeria. After several battles in which great numbers of the enemy were killed, they were at length driven out of the city, notwithstanding the exertions of Qualpopoca and his party, and the city itself burned through the animosity of our Indians. The prisoners taken on this occasion were carefully examined in order to discover the authors of this perfidious plot. They all agreed in ascribing it to Montezuma, and said that at the time of my leaving Vera Cruz, he had sent orders to Qualpopoca and his other vassals, to make use of every possible means to destroy the Spaniards whom I had left there to favour my retreat.

After I had been six days at Temixtitlan, and seen whatever was most remarkable, I thought, especially after the discovery of Qualpopoca's treachery, that I ought to secure the person of Montezuma, in order to fix his wavering determination, and attach him firmly to your majesty's service, from which, in consequence of the naturally unstable disposition of man, he might be disposed to withdraw himself. With a view to provide for our security, acquire a fuller knowledge of the countries under his dominion, and subject them wich more facility, I resolved to have Montezuma brought to my quarters which were very strong. In order to accomplish this undertaking without noise or commotion, I placed guards at the corners of the streets, and went to visit him as usual.

Our conversation at first turned on indifferent subjects; after which he made me a present of some golden ornaments and of one of his daughters, and at the same time gave some of the daughters of his caciques to my people. I soon, however, changed the theme, and informed him of the affair of Almeria, the treachery and cruelty of Qualpopoca, who pretended to have acted conforınably to his orders, which as his subject, he was bound to obey. I observed that I did not believe a word of it, and was persuaded that those traitors attributed it to him to exculpate themselves, as I had every reason to be satisfied with his con

« IndietroContinua »