The oldest gateways of our great republic face the rising sun. Through these our ancestors entered the New World. Up to their portals for two hundred years has swept a ceaseless flood of immigration from an older shore. Through them, to-day, there ebbs and flows a mighty tide of tourists, who every spring go forth to wander in historic Europe, and every fall return through the same gateways to their homes. Within the last few years, however, a portion of this stream of travel has sought other channels, and through the doorways of our western coast, facing the mightiest ocean on our globe, increas-ing thousands annually make their way to Alaska or Japan.
Our Private Car.
But tran sit through the ports of the Atlantic or Pacific implies an ocean voyage, which is to many a serious drawback. There still remains, however, on our southern boundary, a door which has not this objection; for there, divided from us by no ocean barrier, but only by a narrow river called the Rio Grande, lies outstretched beneath the Southern Cross, and not unlike a mighty cornucopia in form, a land of which we know as yet far less than we have learned of Europe, and hardly more than we now know of China and Japan; a country of mysterious origin and vast antiquity; of noble scenery and impressive history; of picturesque costumes, and a life half Spanish and half Oriental; the dwelling-place of Aztecs and of Spaniards; the battleground of Montezuma and of Cortez; the realm of sunshine and of silver, - Mexico.
A Desert View.
It was exactly midnight when we glided through the southern gateway known as "Eagle Pass," and our long line of cars crept out in Indian file upon the bridge that spans the Rio Grande. Below me I could see a silver streak, sharply defined between two parallel lines, which I well knew to be the opposite shores of the United States and Mexico. No matter how extensively one may have traveled, he feels instinctively a thrill of emotion on entering an unknown land. In going to Europe, this feeling comes upon one gradually. The ocean voyage is a preparation for an advent on a foreign shore. Entering Mexico, however, the change is almost instantaneous, and I shall long recall the sensation I experienced, when, poised above the Rio Grande, I saw at the same instant, in the gloom of night, on one side the dim outline of my native land, and on the other the sombre profile of the Mexican republic.
The next morning I awoke to find myself in a foreign country. I saw that we were rolling through a perfectly flat plain, flanked on the east and west by mountain ranges. Apparently this area was once the bed of a gigantic lake, perhaps a portion of the Gulf of Mexico. To-day it is almost as sterile as a desert. Mile after mile, and hour after hour, we looked upon a desolate expanse of sand, arid and blistered by a burning sun. For nine months it had received no rain. Its only vegetation was a stunted growth of prickly pear and cactus plants, occasionally varied by "Spanish bayonet" trees, which look like porcupines on poles. While traveling through this dreary waste we saw, for hours at a time, no signs of life save an occasional buzzard circling in the air, in search of some poor creature stricken by the sun. In certain localities, however, goats are as numerous as on the heights above New York. Their diet is not confined to such dyspeptic articles as sardine boxes and tomato cans; but each to his taste! To Mexican goats the Spanish bayonet spikes are doubtless just as sweet as New York clothes-pins, and prickly cactus leaves replace for them the worn-out hair brushes of Harlem.
Looking upon such cheerless scenery, the traveler at first exclaims, "This is an uninviting route by which to enter Mexico"; and, it must be confessed, the first appearance of the country is exceedingly unattractive. To ride four hundred miles through alkali plains, the dust of which sifts through the windows of the car and lies in spoonfuls on his clothing, is a grim penalty that every tourist who goes to Mexico must pay.