Tunnel On The Route To Tampico.
Railroad To Tampico.
"What is that?" I presently inquired, turning my fieldglass toward a mountain summit far above us, "can a farm be located at such a height?"
Down The Track.
Scenery On The Tampico Route.
"Yes," said our guide, " it is a corn plantation, and a good one too."
"But how can it be cultivated?"
"Well," said the man, with a twinkle in his eye, "no one can really climb there to work it; but the owner plants it from a distance by firing the seed from a shotgun; and, when the corn ripens in the fall, he harvests the crop with a rifle. You see the bullets cut the stalks, and, naturally, the ears of corn at once fall down the perpendicular cliffs!"
Scenery Near Tampico.
Pool And Fountain, Near Las Palmas.
Around and below us, as far as the eye could reach, lay a vast ocean of intensely colored foliage. Sometimes a powerful field-glass separated this into plantations of bananas, coffee, sugar-cane, and cotton; in other places, Nature reigned supreme in jungles tenanted by Mexican tigers, lions, monkeys, and hy-enas. At length our track grew level. This fact alone would have assured us we had reached the Hot Lands, even if the oppressive heat and tropical vegetation had left any room to doubt it. Here, birds of brilliant plumage frequently darted back and forth above our heads in startling numbers and astonishing variety. It is a region marvelously endowed by Nature. Its forests hold choice cabinet woods, in such profusion that mahogany ties are frequently used upon the railroad. The mountains, also, yield a vast amount of onyx, agate, and black marble. The American owner of an onyx mine in the vicinity assured me that although he had employed only fifteen men five years before, he then had a payroll of five hundred, and was sending onyx, not only to the City of Mexico, but to New York, Paris, Berlin, and St. Petersburg. Tobacco, too, is indigenous to this country, and was used in the halls of Montezuma long before the time of Cortez. In fact, as is well known, the tobacco plant derives its name from Tabaco, a place in Yucatan.
Near Las Palmas.
Indian Village, Near Las Palmas.
I doubt if there is anything more primitive and unconventional among the Hottentots than the homes and costumes of the Indians of the Mexican Hot Lands. Their wretched dwellings are not as substantial as the adobe huts of the plateau, but are composed of barrel staves, old railroad ties, sugar-cane stalks, pieces of matting, or even palm leaves. The bare ground usually serves the inmates for a bed, and the amount of clothing visible on the men and women is astonishingly scanty. The children walk about as innocent of dress as Raphael's cherubs. We occasionally saw articles of attire hung upon a line, but they belonged to the "section men" (usually Americans) employed along the railroad; for taking in washing is one way in which these Indians earn a livelihood. Another is the transportation of great burdens on their backs, and what they can accomplish in the way of burden-bearing is almost incredible. Many of them will carry heavy loads forty-five miles in a single day, and as a rule will surpass a horse in endurance. Their hair is usually left thick above their eyes, to serve as a matting for the strap which holds the load, and thus, with bowed heads, they will go as fast as a horse can walk. This is not a new characteristic of the Mexican Indians. Before the Conquest letters were carried through the Aztec empire by swift-footed couriers, the distance between Vera Cruz and Mexico (about two hundred miles), being traversed in twenty-four hours. Such messages were, generally, transmitted in picture writings traced on cloth made from the Maguey plant; and in this manner Montezuma was informed of the landing of Cortez and his warriors on the coast.