1902 Encyclopedia > Mexico > The Republic of Mexico

(Part 2)


Mexico, Aztec Mexitli1 (Estados Unidos de Mexico), is a federal republic in North America, bounded N. by the United States (California, Arizona, and New Mexico), E. by Texas and the Gulf of Mexico, S. by Guatemala and British Honduras, where the boundary lines are still partly undetermined, W. by the Pacific Ocean. Lying between 33º and 15º N. lat. and 87º and 117º W. long., Mexico stretches about 1950 miles north-north-west and South--south-east, with a mean breadth of 400 miles, varying from about 1000 in 26º N. to 130 at the narrowest part of the Tehuantepec isthmus. It has a coast-line of nearly 6000 miles,—about 4200 on the Pacific and 1600 on the Atlantic. The seaboard is little varied either by deep inlets, bold headlands, broad estuaries, or large islands. On the west side are the vast Gulf of California, in outline somewhat resembling the Red Sea, and so named by some of the early navigators, and the open Bay of Tehuantepec, besides the smaller inlets of Acapulco and San Blas, forming two of the finest harbours in the world, and almost the only safe ones in the republic. On the east side the coast is mostly beset by lagoons and sandbanks, with no good havens, Campéche, Vera Cruz, Tampico, and Matamoras being all little better than open roadsteads exposed to the fierce "nortes," or north-easterly gales, that sweep the Gulf of Mexico for a great part of the year. Of headlands the most prominent are Capes S. Lucas and Palmas at the south extremity of Lower California, Cor-rientes south from San Blas, and Catoche in the north-east of Yucatan. Besides this peninsula, which projects north-north-east, the only other is that of Lower California, which projects south-south-east parallel to the mainland. The islands are few in number, and all of insignificant size, the most noteworthy being Tiburon and Angel de la Guarda in the Gulf of California, the uninhabited Revillagigedo group in the Pacific, and Cozumel off the Yucatan coast. Mexico comprises altogether twenty-seven confederate states, one territory, and the Federal District, with areas, populations, and chief towns as under:—2


Since the appearance of A. von Humboldt’s classic work on New Spain, as Mexico was called in the colonial featur times, this region has continued to be regarded as forming a main link in the vast chain supposed to stretch across the entire length of the American continent from Cape Horn to Behring’s Strait. But more recent research, and especially the surveys made by the French staff during the military operations between 1861-67,2 have shown that this grand generalization must be abandoned, In remote geological epochs a marine channel seems to have flowed between the northern and southern sections of the New World at the isthmus of Panama, while Mexico itself appears to be mainly a distinct geographical region of relatively recent upheaval. Here there nowhere exists a continuous mountain range, to which might properly be applied the designation "Cordillera of the Andes," an expression which in any case is not current north of the isthmus of Tehuantepec. Mexico forms, on the contrary, a vast table-land, somewhat in the shape of a cornucopia, with its narrow end tapering to the south-south-east, its convex and concave sides facing the Pacific and Atlantic respectively, and with a general inclination northwards. Most of the so-called Cordilleras are merely the "cumbres" or escarpments of this plateau, which falls abruptly towards the Atlantic, and through a series of well-marked terraces (formerly lacustrine basins) towards the Pacific. Thus the carriage road from the capital runs in tolerably easy stages successively through the Tetla (8000 feet), Mescala (5500), Papagallo (1800), and Peregrino (1600) valleys down to Tepes within 40 miles of the seaport of San Blas. But the southern central plateau of Anahuac maintains its mean elevation of 7000 to 8000 feet almost everywhere to within 35 or 40 miles of the Atlantic. Hence the railway opened in 1872 between Vera Cruz and the capital has had to be carried by tremendously steep gradients to a height of nearly 8000 feet within a total distance of 263 Miles.2 The general but gradual northerly tilt of the table-land is shown by the altitudes of the capital, Durango, Chihuahua, and Paso del Norte on the United States frontier, which are respectively 7600, 6630, 4600, and 3800 feet.

At the same time the scarps rise in many places con-siderably above the mean level of the plateau, which is itself intersected and broken into a number of secondary valleys by several short cross ridges, generally following the normal direction from north-north-west to south-south--east. The most continuous range is the Sierra Madre of the Pacific, which may be traced at a mean elevation of over 10,000 feet from Oajaca to Arizona, and which from Guadalajara to the northern frontier is crossed by no carriage route. Parallel to this is the Lower Californian range (Sierra de la Giganta, 3000 feet), which, however, falls abruptly eastwards, like the Atlantic escarpments. The Californian peninsula seems to have been detached from the mainland when the general upheaval took place which produced the vast chasm now flooded by the Gulf of California. Corresponding with the Sierra Madre of the Pacific on the west are the more interrupted eastern scarps of the central plateau, which sweep round the Gulf of Mexico as the Sierras Madres of Nuevo-Leon and Tamaulipas at an elevation of about 6000 feet. These are crossed by the carriage routes from Tula to Tampico (highest pass 4820 feet), from Saltillo to Monterey (3400), and at several other points.

Of the central cross ridges the most important orogra-phically and historically is the Cordillera de Anahuae,3 which surrounds the Mexican (Tenochtitlan) and Puebla valleys, and which is supposed to culminate with Popo-catepetl (17,853 feet) and Ixtaccihuatl (15,705).4 But these giants belong to a different or rather a more recent system of igneous upheaval, running from sea to sea between 18º 59' and 19º 12' N. in almost a straight line east and west, consequently nearly at right angles to the main axis of the central plateau. The line is clearly marked by several extinct cones and by five active or quiescent volcanoes, of which the highest is Popocatepetl, lying south of the capital nearly midway between the Pacific and Atlantic. East of this central point of the system are Citlaltepetl, better known as the Peak of Orizaba (17,176 feet), 70 miles inland, and San Martin or Tuxtla (9708 feet) on the coast south of Vera Cruz, to which correspond on the west the recently upheaved Jorullo (4000 feet) in Michoacan, Colima (12,800) near the coast in Jalisco, and the volcanic Revillagigedo group in the Pacific. South of this line, and nearly parallel, are the Sierras of Guerrero, and south of the Tehuantepec isthmus those of Oajaca and Soconusco towards the Guatemala frontier. In the same direction run the islands of Cuba and Hayti, which probably belong to the same Central--American system.

Mexico is thus physically connected through its older plateau formations with the North-American table-lands, And through its more recent volcanic upheavals with the Central-American igneous region. But as it advances northwards this region loses in underground energy; hence, notwithstanding the remarkable upheaval of Jorullo in 1759, the Mexican cones show little signs of activity,5 and the land is now scarcely ever wasted by violent earth-quakes. Such phenomena are most frequent in the Puebla valley; but, although often accompanied by the peculiar underground rumblings known as bramidos, they are seldom of a destructive character. The natives speak of them rather as temblores, or "tremblings," than true terremotos.6

In a region where lofty ranges and plateau formations with steep escarpments approach almost everywhere to within a few miles of the coast, little space is left for the development of large river basins. Most of the streams are little more than mountain torrents rushing impetuously from terrace to terrace seawards. Many also flow through the profound rocky gorges or barrancas, as they are here, called, which form a characteristic feature of the Mexican table-lands.1 On the east side some of these barrancas, here running mostly west and east, attain depths of 800 to 1000 feet in the unfossiliferous limestones of that region; and even on the west coast the De Beltran cañon is flanked by sheer rocky walls over 500 feet high. Hence the rivers are almost useless for irrigation purposes, and available as means of communication only for short distances in their lower reaches, where they flow through the narrow alluvial strips of level coast-lands to the sea. Even the Rio Grande del Norte, which is by far the largest, and which forms the frontier line between Mexico and Texas, is navigable by large vessels only for a few miles above its port of Matamoras. The Rio Grande de Santiago, the largest on the Pacific side, is almost every-where obstructed by falls and rapids. On this coast the next in importance is the Mercala, or Rio de las Balsas, which, like the Panuco, Alvaredo, Coatzacoalas, Grijalva, and Usumacinta flowing to the Gulf of Mexico, is subject to sudden freshets during the rains.

At this season the waters which find no seaward outlet are collected in the depressions of the plateaus, where extensive tracts remain flooded for several months at a time. But these lacustrine basins of the Anahuac and Chihuahua table-lands, standing at elevations of from 4000 to 7000 feet, are, by evaporation under semi-tropical suns, rapidly reduced to their normal level. The diminished size of the Anahuac lakes shows that since the conquest a steady process of desiccation has been going on, due prob-ably to the reckless destruction of the upland forests by the European settlers. None of these lakes are of great size except Lake Chapala, which is traversed by the Rio Grande de Santiago, and has a reputed area of about 1300 square miles. Amongst those of the plateau especially noteworthy for their magnificent scenery are Tezcuco and Chalco, in whose sparkling waters are reflected the sur-rounding volcanic peaks and extinct craters of the Anahuac table-land, with a background formed by the Cordilleras, whose snowy summits rise here and there high above the dark pine forests of the lower slopes.

In the higher ranges the prevailing formations are granites, which seem also to form the foundation of the plateaus, above which rise the traps, basalts, mineral--bearing porphyries, and more recent lavas. Hence Lyell’s theory that Mexico consisted originally of granitic ranges with intervening valleys subsequently filled up to the level of the plateaus by Subterranean eruptions. Igneous rocks of every geologic epoch certainly to a large extent form the superstructure of the central plateau. But the Mexican table-land seems to consist mainly of metamorphic forma-tions, which have been partly upheaved, partly inter-penetrated and overlaid by igneous masses of all epochs, and which are chiefly represented by shales, greywacke, greenstones, silicious schists, and especially unfossiliferous limestone. All these formations are alike, remarkable for the abundance and variety of their metalliferous ores, such as silver, silver-glance, copper, and gold. Gneiss and micaceous schists prevail in Oajaca and on all the southern slopes facing both oceans. But the highest ranges are formed mainly of plutonic and volcanic rocks, such as granites, syenites, diorites, mineral-bearing trachytes, basalts, porphyries, obsidian, pearlstone, sulphur, pumice, lavas, tufa, and other recent volcanic discharges. Obsidian (itztli) was the chief material formerly used by the natives in the manufacture of their cutting implements, as shown by the quarries of the Cerro do las Navajas ("Knife Cliff") near Zimapan. Vast deposits of pumice and the purest sulphur are found at Huichapa and in many of the craters. But immeasurably the most valuable rocks are the argentiferous porphyries and schists of the central plateau and in Sinaloa, unless they are destined to be rivalled by the auriferous deposits of Sonora.2 Horizontal and stratified rocks, of extremely limited extent in the south, are largely developed in the northern states, and chalk becomes very prevalent towards the Rio Grande and Rio Gila valleys. To this chalk and to the sandstones are probably to be referred the sandy plains which cover vast tracts in North Mexico, stretching thence far into New Mexico and Texas. Here the Bolson de Mapimi, a vast rocky wilderness inhabited only by wild tribes, occupies a space of perhaps 50,000 square miles in Coahuila and parts of the surround-ing states.

None of the horizontal layers seem to be very rich in ores, which are found mainly in the metamorphic, palaeozoic, and hypogene rocks of Durango, Chihuahua, and the south. Apart from Sinaloa and Sonora, which are now known to contain vast stores of the precious metals, nearly all the historical mines lie on the south central plateau at elevations of from 5500 to 9500 feet. A line drawn from the capital to Guanajuato, and thence northwards to the mining town of Guadalupe y Calvo in Chihuahua, and southwards to Oajaca, thus cutting the main axis of upheaval at an angle of 45º, will intersect probably the richest known argentiferous region in the whole world. The central group of mines in the three mineral districts of Guanajuato, Zacatecas, and Catorze (San Luis Potosi), .which have yielded more than half of all the silver hitherto found in Mexico lie between 21º and 24º 30' N., within an area of about 13,000 square miles. Here the Veta Madre lode of Guanajuato alone produced £504,000 between 1556 and 1803, besides £10,000 of gold. This metal, however, occurs chiefly, not on the plateau in association with silver, but on the slopes facing the Pacific, and apparently in greatest abundance in Sonora, near the auriferous region of New California. In recent times over half of the silver produced in the whole world has been supplied by Mexico, and the total yield of the precious metals between 1537 and 1880 was as under:—3


Of other minerals the most important are copper, found in a pure state near the city of Guanajuato, and associ-ated with gold in Chihuahua, Sonora, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacan, and elsewhere; iron in immense masses in Michoacan and Jalisco, and in Durango, where the Cerro del Mercado is a solid mountain of magnetic iron ore; lead associated with silver, especially in Oajaca; tin in Michoacan and Jalisco; sulphur in many craters; platinum recently found in Tlaxcala and Hidalgo; cinnabar also recently in Morelos and Guerrero; "steppe salt" in the sandy districts of the north; "bitter salt" at Tepeyac; coal in limited quantities at various points; bismuth in many parts; marble, alabaster, gypsum, and rock-salt in great abundance throughout the plateau and the sierras. In 1882 there were open altogether 569 mines:—541 silver, 14 gold, 4 copper, 4 lead, 3 salt, 2 coal, and 1 mercury.1

Intersected about midway by the Tropic of Cancer, and stretching across seventeen parallels of latitude, Mexico, from its position alone, necessarily enjoys a great diversity of climate. But from its peculiar configuration this feature is affected far more by the relief of the land than by its distance from pole or equator. This is especi-ally true of the more fertile and populous section lying within the torrid zone, where three distinct climatic regions are distinguished, not according to their horizontal, but according to their vertical position. The temperature falling steadily with the elevation of the land, which here rises rapidly from sea-level to nearly 18,000 feet above the surrounding waters, the low-lying coast-lands, up to about 3000 feet on the scarps and terraces of the central plateau, are comprised within the first zone of tierras calientes, or "hot lands." Within this zone are included all the sandy and marshy tracts fringing the Gulf of Mexico, the lower slopes facing eastwards and exposed to the hot and moist winds from the Caribbean Sea, and most of Yucatan and the Tehuantepec isthmus, besides the narrow strip between the uplands and the Pacific which broadens northwards alono, the east side of the Gulf of California. Here the mean temperature varies from 77º to 82º Fahr., seldom falling below 60º, but often rising to 105º, and in the sultry districts of Vera Cruz and Acapulco to 110º. The extreme north-western parts of this region come almost within the rainless zone, and the Californian peninsula itself is subject to excessive droughts, rendering it almost uninhabitable. But farther south the climate on both seaboards may be described as humid, hot, and extremely unhealthy, especially for Europeans. Yellow fever and black vomit are here endemic. But these scourges are at least compensated by a magnificent tropical vegetation and extensive virgin forests abounding in valuable, timbers, dyewoods, and medicinal and other useful plants. Of the 114 species of trees and cabinet woods, 17 of oil-bearing plants, and over 60 of medicinal plants and dyewoods indigenous to Mexico, and often differing specifically from kindred varieties in Central and South America, by far the larger part are repre-sented in the tierras calientes. Amongst the most im-portant of these forest plants are mahogany, rosewood, copal, caucho (india-rubber), jalap, sarsaparilla, and vanilla, Here also maize, supplying the staple food of the people, yields prodigious returns, multiplying from two hundred to four hundred fold, and affording two, three, and even four successive crops within the year. Rice, indigo, cotton, tobacco, and coffee all thrive well, while sugar, cocoa, the banana, and several varieties of beans are largely cultivated, The tobacco of Vera Cruz and Tabasco, the coffee of Colima, and the cocoa of Oajaca and Chiapas are of unrivalled excellence.

To the "hot lands" succeed in vertical position the tierras templadas, or "temperate lands," which comprise all the higher terraces and the central plateaus themselves between about 3000 and 8000 feet. With a mean tempera-ture of from 62º to 70º Fahr., and oscillating between such moderate extremes as 50º and 86º, this region enjoys one of the very finest climates on the globe. The Puebla and Anahuac table-lands are described by enthusiastic travellers as "terrestrial Edens," with a perennial spring symbolized by the evergreen oak, cedars, and many analogous plants, which here attain their greatest perfection. The transition from the lower zone is often very gradual; and, while endemic fevers cease altogether at altitudes of 2700 and 2800 feet, the tropical flora invades many parts of the terrace lands, and even of the plateaus to heights of 4000 and 5000 feet.2 A certain uniformity is thus imparted to the Mexican landscape by the wide range of the maize, wheat, tobacco, vine, coffee, and other plantations, as well as by the palms, evergreens, mango, olive, orange, lemon, yucca, and an endless variety of the cactus family, one species of which forms hedges 20 feet high on the Anahuac uplands. The central zone is on the whole drier than the southern lowlands, although the scarps facing seawards are often wrapped in the fogs and mists of the intercepted moisture-charged atmospheric currents. . The heaviest recorded rainfall (90 to 100 inches) occurs in the healthy Huatusco district of Vera Cruz, at an altitude of 4380 feet.

In the highest zone of tierras frias, or "cold lands," embracingall the highlands from about 8000 feet upwards, the rainfall is five times less than en the tierras templadas. Hence snow rests throughout the year only on the four most elevated peaks of Popocatepetl, Orizaba, Nevada de Toluca (15,000 feet), and Ixtaccihuatl. Characteristic both of the tierras frias and templadas is the maguey (Agave mexicana), whose fruit is edible, and whose fermented juice has from time immemorial supplied the famous pulque, or national beverage of the Mexicans. From the fibre of the heniquen, an allied species, is pro-duced the "Sisal hemp" of commerce, which has in recent years become the staple export of Yucatan.

Speaking generally, the four seasons are clearly marked north of 28º N. lat. only. South of that parallel they merge in the estacion de las aguas, or rainy season, from May to October, and the estacion seca, or dry season, which prevails for the rest of the year. The rains generally begin on the east coast, gradually moving westwards. In the Pacific the moist atmospheric currents are deflected northwards, whence the striking contrast between the wooded slopes of British Columbia and the treeless crests of the and Lower Californian peninsula.

In its fauna no less than in its flora Mexico forms a land of transition between North and Central America. In common with the north it has several varieties of the bear, the wolf, coyote, skunk, bison, squirrel, beaver, marten, otter, rattlesnake, heloderm,1 mocking-bird, and many wild fowl; while its monkeys (five species), puma, jaguar, ocelot, sloth, tapir, alligators (two species), iguana, boa, scorpions, tarantulas, and numerous brilliantly coloured parrots, trogons, and humming-birds connect it with the southern regions. Peculiar to Mexico, and distinguishing it from most tropical and subtropical lands, are its song-sters, of which, besides the mocking-bird (zeuzontl), as many as twenty species have been enumerated. The coasts are well supplied with fish and turtles, while the pearl fisheries of the Gulf of California continue to be a source of wealth to that otherwise unproductive territory, yielding in 1875 pearls to the value of £16,000, and £28,000 worth of shells. All the European domestic animals thrive well, and vast herds of cattle, horses, and sheep are found on the well-stocked ranchos of the northern states. Here some of the more prosperous breeders own from twenty to thirty thousand head of oxen, and next to the precious metals hides and cattle are among the chief articles of export.

But in the south stock-breeding yields everywhere to agriculture as the chief occupation of the people. Being largely volcanic, the soil is here extremely fertile wherever water can be had in sufficient quantities for irrigation purposes. Next to maize, which with beans and chilli forms the almost exclusive food of the Indians, the most important crop is probably sugar, of which over 60 million pounds are annually produced in the state of Morelos alone. Coffee is extensively cultivated on the lower slopes, and now exported in considerable quantities, especially to the United States. The tobacco and cotton crops are yearly increasing in importance, while from the maguey is extracted, besides pulque, a spirit called mezcal to the annual value of about £750,000. The aborigines are partly employed as free labourers on the plantations, and partly hold small plots liable to a light Government tax. The food crops thus raised were valued in 1873 at £14,500,000, the agricultural produce at £30,000,000, and the landed property at £85,000,000, but the last item was estimated by the minister of finance at fully three times that sum. The value of arable freehold land was stated in 1882 to be from £1 to £3 per acre, accord-ing to its proximity to or remoteness from rivers.

Of the industries strictly so called, those directly connected with agricultural interests have alone acquired any considerable development. Such are sugar refining, carried on on a vast scale, especially in Morelos; brewing and distilling, chiefly from magney; papermaking from various pulps and fibres ; grist-mills and saw-mills, especially in Puebla, Querétaro, Guadalajara, and Saltillo. A few iron foundries have been at work for some years, and stout hand-woven cotton and woollen fabrics are produced in many of the large towns. The rebozos (shawls) of Leon and Salvatierra have a wide repute, while Texcoco and Puebla are noted for their porcelain and glass-ware. Among the petty industries are clay and rag figures, atficial flowers, wooden toys, and gold filigree work, in the producation of which the natives often display remarkable taste and skill.

But all these manufactured wares are solely intended to supply the local wants, so that the exports have hitherto been restricted almost exclusively to the produce of the land and of the mines. Of the former the chief items are coffee, Sisal hemp, tobacco, hides, lumber, cochineal, indigo, and other dyes, sarsaparilla, vanilla, orchil, india-rubber. But the precious metals still continue to constitute fully two-thirds of all the exports, which in 1882 had a total estimated value of about £6,000,000. In the same year equal sum represented the imports, the leading items of which were cotton, linen, silk, and woollen goods, metals, hardware, machinery, and provisions. Although diplomatic and consular relations with Great Britain have been suspended since 1867, that country still continues to enjoy by far the largest share of the foreign trade, taking about £2,000,000 of the exports, and sending in return about two-thirds of all the imports, for 1882, Next in importance, in descending order, is the trade with the United States, Francet Germany, Spain, and Columbia.

Probably four-fifths of the exchanges now pass through Vera Cruz, which, since the opening of the railway to the Anahuac plateau, has become the natural out-port of the capital and all the central states. It is connected by several lines of ocean steamers with Liverpool, Southampton, St Nazaire, and the Atlantic States of North America. On the Pacific seaboard, where the trade is largely in German hands, Acapulco and the other ports also enjoy regular steam communication with San Francisco and Panama. No accurate returns are available of the shipping; but the yearly arrivals in all the Mexican ports are stated to average about five thousand,—not more than one-fifth under the national flag.

Till recently the means of internal locomotion were mainly -limited to the wretched bridle-paths from the central plateau over the sierras and terrace-lands down to a few points on both coasts, and to twenty-four regular lines of diligences under one management. But since the completion of the line from Vera Cruz to the capital, with a branch to Puebla, the Mexican railway system has acquired a considerable development. The Inter-Oceanic line across the Tehuantepec isthmus is in progress; the Great Central Trunk line running northwards through Chihuahua will ere long effect a junction with the North-American net-work; and at the end of 1882 there had been opened to traffic altogether 2219 miles. For that year the number of passengers carried was 8,250,000, and of mer-chandise 273 million tons, with net earnings £940,000, or £800 per mile. Still more developed is the telegraph system, which is now extended to all the state capitals, and through the Mexico-Mata-moras line to the United States and the rest of the world. The 8150 miles open in 1882 forwarded 750,000 messages, or in the proportion of 8 per 100 inhabitants.

For the same year the estimated revenue was £6,140,000, -and expenditure £6,300,000. The foreign debt is stated to be £19,600,000, aud the internal about £10,000,000, or altogether at the rate of £3 pew head of the population. Most of the foreign debt is owned in England, but the British claims had long been practically repudiated by the Mexican Government. At the end of 1882, however, a semi-official suggestion was made that a settlemnent might be effected by Mexico paying 1 per cent. on the capital for the first ten years, 2 for the second, and 3 there-after, the whole sum, amounting to £16,000,000, to be liquidated in fifty years.2 The revenue is chiefly derived from the customs, and about £1,750,000 of the expenditure is absorbed by the army, the peace footing of which is 22,500 men of all arms. Beyond a few coastguard steamers maintained mainly for revenue purposes, there is no navy. An indication of financial improvement is afforded by the establishment in 1882 of the Mexican National Bank by a French company with a capital of £4,000, 000~ This bank is privileged to issue paper money up to £12,000,000, in return allow-ing the supreme executive to overdraw their account up to £2,000,000. A further symptom of revival is presented by the increasing business of the general post-office, which in 1880 forwarded 4,406,000 letters and packages through 873 offices.

Education also has made marked progress since the final separation of church and state in 1857. In that year the old university of Mexico, a purely ecclesiastical institution after the model of Salamanca and the Sorbonne, was abolished, or rather was re-placed by special schools of law, medicine, letters, agriculture, mines, sciences, fine arts, and commerce, and a military college. These, as well as numerous lower schools, including two hundred in the capital alone, are all maintained by the state, while national schools are supported by public grants in all the large towns, and higher institutions in the capitals of the several states. There are in all nearly five thousand public schools, besides establishments for the deaf and dumb, the blind, and juvenile delinquents, and numerous charitable foundations maintained by voluntary contributions.

Roman Catholicism, which under the Spanish rule was alone tolerated, continued after the separation to be the state religion till 1857. Since then, while all churches enjoy equal protection, none are officially recognized. The great majority of the Indios fideles, mestizoes, and creoles still adhere at least outwardly to the Roman Church, which is administered by a hierarchy of three arch- bishops (Mexico, Morelia, and Guadalajara) and twelve bishops. But by the organic laws of 1856 and 1859 all ecclesiastical estates, at one time comprising over one-third of the soil, were nationalized, the regular clergy suppressed, and their monasteries, together with all other superfluous ecclesiastical structures, appropriated by the state. During the last few years American Protestant missions have claimed some partial success, and the so-called "Church of Jesus," an undenominational body of a somewhat original type, has found a number of adherents, especially on the Anahuac table-land. But the Indios bravos, or uncivilized aborigines, everywhere follow the old spirit worship, while the Christianity of the Fideles is little more than a cloak for the continuous practice of the former Aztec heathenism. The pomp of the Roman ritual is supplemented by the feasts of the national worship, and the Pagan deities of the old cult are still represented by the saints of the Roman calendar.1

Mexico constitutes at present a confederation of states modelled on that of the North-American Union, and administered according to the constitution of 1857 as amended in 1873-71. By popular suffrage are chosen the president, the upper house (fifty-two members), and the supreme judiciary for four years, and the lower house (two hundred and twenty-seven members) for two years. The senate, abolished in 1853, was restored in 1874, and the chief justice is ex officio vice-president. The federal states, which are divided into a number of administrative districts, enjoy full autonomy in all local matters. The several constitutions are modelled on that of the central government, and like it comprise three departments—-legislative, executive, and judicial. Each state is repre-sented in the federal congress in the proportion of one member for every 80,000 inhabitants, and in the federal senate by two members elected by suffrage in the local congress. All external affairs and questions of general interest are reserved for the central government. The constitution as now established thus represents in theory the complete overthrow of mediaevalism, and the absolute triumph of the new ideas which in the Old World are still in so many places struggling for the ascendency.

It is this struggle between privilege and popular rights that lends its human interest to the otherwise monotonous record of unresisted oppression and apparently aimless revolutions which characterize the early and the later periods of Mexican history, from the overthrow of the native rule down to the present day. The early or colonial period covers exactly three hundred years,—from the death in 1521 of Guatemozin, last of the Aztec emperors, to the withdrawal of the last Spanish viceroy, Don Juan O’Donoju, in 1821. During these three centuries the attitude of the masses was one rather of sullen submission than of active resistance to grinding oppression. By the Spanish Govern-ment Mexico was looked on merely as a vast metalliferous region, to be jealously guarded against foreign intrusion and worked exclusively for the benefit of the crown. The natives were evangelized chiefly for the purpose of being employed as slaves above and below ground, and thus was introduced from the West Indies the system of reparti-mientos, or distribution of the aborigines on the plantations and in the mines. But, while this system proved fatal to the natives of Cuba and Hayti, where it had to be replaced by negro labour, the hardier populations of the Anahuac plateau successfully resisted its blighting influences. It proved in fact more disastrous to the oppressor than to the oppressed. In those days Spain was commonly compared to a sieve, never the richer for all the boundless wealth drawn from the New World. But the aborigines derived at least some advantage from contact and partial fusion with a people of superior culture. This fusion, which may be regarded as the chief outcome of the colonial admini-stration, has contributed to the formation of the present exceedingly complex Mexican nationality, in which the Indian continues to be the predominating element. Taking the whole population at less than ten millions, its ethnical distribution appears to be at present as under:—-

1. Full-blood Indians…………………………………….5,000,000

2. Mestizoes (half-caste Indians and whites)……………3,000,000

3. Creoles (whites of Spanish descent)………………….1,500,000

4. Gachupines2 (Spaniards by birth)……………………. 50,000

5. Other Europeans and Americans…………………….. 100,000

6. Full-blood negroes…………………………………… 10,000

7. Zambos or "Chinos" (Indo -Africans)……………….. 45,000

8. Mulattoes (Eurafricans)……………………………… 5,000

Under the Spanish administration, which was marked on the surface by few stirring events, such as warlike expedi-tions, civil strife, or serious internal troubles, Mexico, or New Spain, formed a viceroyalty at one time stretching from the isthmus of Panama to Vancouver’s Island. Antonio de Mendoza, appointed in 1535 after government by audiencias had proved a signal failure, was the first of sixty-four viceroys who ruled with almost autocratic power, but scarcely any of whom has left a name in history. Don Juan de Acuña (1722-34) is mentioned as having been the only native American among them, and Don Juan V. G. Pacheco (1789-94) had at least the merit of betraying some regard for the social welfare of his subjects. Under him a regular police, the lighting and draining of towns, and other municipal improvements were introduced.

But down to the early years of the present century all emoluments in church and state, most of the large planta-tions, of the mines, and of the commerce of the country, continued to be monopolized by the privileged gachupines, whom the creoles and mestizoes had already begun to regard as aliens. Hence the first reactionary movements, stimulated by Napoleon’s deposition of King Ferdinand and arrest of the viceroy Hurrigaray in 1808, were aimed rather against odious class distinctions and the intolerable oppression of these aliens than against the abstract rights of the Spanish crown. The long smouldering spirit of discontent at last broke into open revolt in 1810 at Guanajuato, under the leadership of Don Miguel Hidalgo. After his defeat and execution in 1811, the struggle was continued by Morelos, who, like Hidalgo, was a priest, and shared his fate in 1815. But he had already called a national assembly at Chilpanzinco, and by this body Mexican independence was for the first time proclaimed in 1813. A guerilla warfare kept the national spirit alive till a fresh stimulus was given to it by the Spanish revolution of 1820. Under the leadership of the "Liberator" Iturbide, Mexican inde-pendence was again proclaimed on February 24, 1821, and the same year the capital was surrendered by O’Donoju, the last of the viceroys. But even after the revolt had thus been crowned with success a change of personnel rather than of system was contemplated ; nor was Iturbide proclaimed emperor until the Mexican crown had been declined by a royal prince of Spain.

Almost simultaneously with this event the republican standard had been raised by Santa Anna at Vera Cruz (December 1822). Thus the nation had no sooner got rid of foreign rule than it became torn by internal dissension. But henceforth the struggle is not so much against the privileged classes as between Conservative and Liberal principles,—the former represented chiefly by the church and the superstitious populace, the latter by the more enlightened but not less unscrupulous sections of the com-munity. From both the Indies Bravos, that is, about a third of the whole population, hold entirely aloof, and take advantage of the public disorders to continue their aggressive warfare against all alike.1 Events now follow in quick succession, and as many as three hundred successful or abortive revolutions are recorded during the brief but stormy life of Mexican national independence.2 But amid the confusion of empires, republics, dictatorships, and military usurpations, succeeding each other with bewildering rapidity, the thoughtful student will still detect a steady progress towards the ultimate triumph of those Liberal ideas which he at the base of true national freedom. A brief tabulated summary of the more salient incidents in this eventful struggle must here suffice:—

1821-23. Mexican independence acknowledged by Spain ; regency under Iturbide, who (1822) is elected hereditary constitu-tional emperor; in December Santa Anna proclaims the republic in Vera Cruz.

1823-24. Provisional Government; Iturbide abdicates ; exiled, withdraws to London, but returning is shot (1824).

1824. First Liberal constitution.—"Acta Constitutiva de la Federa-cion Mexicana," then comprising nineteen states and five territories; first president D. Felix Victoria, known as "Guadalupe Victoria."

1828-30. Contested presidencies of Pedraza, Guerrero, and Busta-mente.

1835. Reaction of the church party; constitution of 1824 abolished; the confederate states fused in a consolidated republic under Santa Anna as president, but practically dictator.

1836, Texas refusing to submit secedes, defeats and captures Santa Anna.

1837. Santa Anna returning resumes office.

1839, Bravo’s brief presidency followed by much anarchy.

1841-44. Santa Anna's first dictatorship with two others.

1844. Constitution restored with Santa Anna president; banished same year, he is succeeded by Canalizo.

1845. Herrera president; disastrous war with United States to recover Texas.

1846. Santa Anna again president.

1848. Treaty of Guadalupe; California and New Mexico ceded to United States.

1853. Santa Anna’s second dictatorship; treaty of Mesilla (negotiated by Gadsden) ceding extensive territory to United States and reducing Mexico to its present limits; great financial embar-rassment; "Plan of Ayutla"; fliglit of Santa Anna followed by universal chaos.

1855. Provisional Government under President Comonfort.

1856, Constitutional convention ; radical reforms; rupture with Spain.

1857. Liberal constitution of March 11 ; suspended December 1; Comonfort dictator; the reaction supported by the church, large part of the army, and all Conservatives; opposed at Vera Cruz by Vice-president Benito Juarez at the head of the "Puros," or advanced Liberals ; the "War of Reform" begins, and lasts till 1860.

1858-59. In the capital Comonfort is deposed by Zuloaga, who abdicates in favour of Miramon, general of the Conservative forces; but, declining the presidency, Miramon restores Zuloaga; British legation violated; in Vera Cruz the United States envoy MacLean acknowledges Juarez, who introduces further Liberal measures.

1860. Capitulation of Guadalajara; flight of Miramon from the capital; triumph of the Liberals.

1861. Triumphal entry of Juarez into the capital; further radical reforms; marriage declared a civil contract ; celibacy and ecclesiastical tribunals suppressed ; confiscation of church property valued at £75,000,000 and over a third of the soil; final separation of church and state; Spain, France, and England urge claims for losses of their subjects resident in Mexico; convention of London ; intervention of the allies, who occupy Vera Cruz in December.

1862. England and Spain withdraw, their claims having been settled by negotiation ; war continued by France.

1863-64. The capital occupied by the French; Louis Napoleon dreams of a universal fusion of the Latin races; offers the Mexican imperial crown to the Austrian archduke Ferdinand Maximilian, who accepts, and arrives in June 1864.

1867. After diverse issues the French withdraw; Maximilian, abandoned to his fate, is captured and shot at Querétaro (June 19).

1867-69. Various pronunciamientos by Santa Anna and others.

1871-72. Juarez president; he dies in office July 1872; succeeded by his secretary Lerdo de Tejada.

1873-74. The Liberal constitution of 1857, which had been twice suspended (1858-60 and 1863-67), is now largely amended, and continues to be henceforth the organic law of Mexico.

1876. Tejada succeeded by Porfirio Diaz.

1880. Manuel Gonzalez, reigning president

Since 1869 the Liberal party has succeeded in preserving peace at home and abroad, while establishing democratic institutions on a firm basis. A. v. Humboldt’s gloomy anticipations3 have not been realized, and for the first time in its chequered history Mexico may look forward with some confidence to a bright future. The plague spot is the uncivilized Indian element. But with boundless natural resources at its disposal, a wise administration may hope to over- come that difficulty, and gradually effect a complete fusion of the antagoilistic racial elements.

Literature.—J. Frost, History of Mexico and its Wars, with addenda by A. Hawkins, New Orleans, 1882; T. U. Brocklehurst, Mexico To-day, London, 1882; Lorenzo Castro, Mexico in 1882, New York, 1882; Anbertiu, A Flight to Mexico, 1882; E. Busto, Estadistica de la Republica Mexicana, Mexico, 1880; Don Lucas Alaman, Historia de Mexico, Mexico, 1849-52; J. M. L. Mora, Mexico y sus Revoluciones, Paris, 1836; E. K. H. von Richthofen, Die politischen Zustände der Republik Mexico, Berlin, 1854-59; W. H. Prescott, History of the Conquest of Mexico, New York, 1847; E. Müilhlenpfordt, Schilderung der Rep. Mexico, besonders in Beziehung auf Geographie, Ethnographie, und Statistik, Hanover, 1844; A. R. Thümmel, Mexico und die Mexicaner in physischer, socialer, und politischer Beziehung, Erlangen, 1848; Brantz Mayer, Mexico as it was and as it is, New York, 1844, and Mexico, Aztec, Spanish, and Republican, Hartford, 1853; F. W. von Egloffstein, Contributions to the Geology and the Physical Geography of Mexico, New York, 1864; J. C. Beltrami, Le Mexique, Paris, 1830; Madame C. [Calderon] de la B. (Barca], Life in Mexico, &c., with proface by W. H. Prescott, London, 1843; A. M. Gilliam, Travels over the Table-lands and Cordilleras of Mexico, Philadelphia, 1846; A. von Humboldt, Vues, des Cordillères et monuments des peuples indigènes de l’Amérique, Paris, 1810, and Versuch über den politischen Zustand des Königreichs Neu-Spanien, Tübingen, 1809-13 (French ed., Paris, 1811); Miguel Lerdo de Tejada, Comercio exterior de Mexico desde la Conquista hasta hoy, Mexico, 1853; John Macgregor, States of Mexico (commercial tariffs, &c.), London, 1846; Anales del Ministerio de fomento, colonizacion, industria, y comercio de la Republica Mexicana y reperlorio de noticias sobre ciencias, artes, y estadistica nacional y estrajera, Mexico, 1851-55; Memoria sobre el estado de la agricultura y industria de la Republica, que la direccion general de estos ramos presenta al Gobierno Supremo, &c., Mexico, 1843-46; Don Mariano Galvez.,ludustria Nacional, Mexico, 1845, and Estatuto organico de la Republica Mexicana, Mexico, 1857; H. W. Bates, Central America, &c., with ethnological appendix by A. H. Keane, London, 1878; Surveys of the French Corps Expéditionnaire embodied in the Carte du Mexique, with accompanying monograph by M. Niox, Paris, 1873. Other large and more or less trustworthy maps are—A. G. Cuba, Carta Geografica, Mexico, 1874; The Library Map of Mexico, Chicago, 1882; Humboldt, Atlas Geographique et phytique du Royaume de la Nouvelle Espagne, Pails, 1811; Mapa de los Estados Unidos de Mexico, &c., published by J. Disturnell, New York, 1847; Brué, Carte générale des États-Unis Mexicains, Paris, 1825; H. Kiepert, Mexico, Texas, und Californien, Weimar, 1847; F. de Gerolt y C. de Berghes, Carta geognostica de los, principales distritos minerales del Estado de Mexico formada sobre observaciones astron., barometr., y mineral., Mexico, 1827; the large physical and geological maps accompanying Von Egloffstein’s above-quoted work; and a good relief map in F. Ratzel’s Aus Mexico, Breslau, 1878. (A. H. K.)


FOOTNOTES (page 214)

(1) In this, as in allother Aztec names, the x (or j) represents the English sound sh; hence Mexitli and Mexico should be properly pronounced Meshitli, Meshico. But they do not appear to have ever been so pro-nounced by the Spaniards, who naturally gave to the x its ordinary Spanish sound of the German ch.

(2) These figures, in the absence of scientific surveys and a trust-worthy census, are necessarily more or less approximate, The areas are those of Ripley and Dana, based on A. Garcia Cuba’s Carta geografica (Mexico, 1874); the populations of the states and capitals are the estimates of Emiliano Busto in his Estadistica de la Republica Mexicana (Mexico, 1880). A writer in the Times of December 7, 1882, estimates the whole population at 12,000,000, much too high a figure. I

FOOTNOTES (page 215)

(1) The results of these surveys are embodied in the Carte du Mexique, scale 1 :3,000,000, published at Paris in 1873.

(2) In the steepest parts the mean is 2·51 in 100, or 133 1/3 feet to the mile. The exact elevation of the capital above the sea at Vera Cruz appears to be 7550 feet, or 80 more than Humboldt’s estimate.

(3) The term Anahuac, meaning in Aztec "near the water," seems to have been originally restricted to the central lacustrine basin of Tenochtitlan. But when the Aztecs reached both oceans they extended it to the Pacific coast between Tututepec and Guatemala (Anahuac-Ayotlan), and to the Atlantic coast between the Alvarado and Tabasco rivers (Anahuac-Xicalanco). The original use of the word is still current amongst the natives as practically synonymous with Central Mexico. As a strictly geographical expression it is vaguely and often incorrectly used by modern writers.

(4) This elevation is based on the calculations of Humboldt, Glennie, and Gerolt ; but in 1857 Sonntag assigned an extreme height of over 17,000 feet to the highest peak of Ixtaccihuatl. Popocatepetl is usually supposed to be the highest point of North America ; but the recent United States surveys have transferred this hononr to Mount Elias on the Alaska coast, which appears to be certainly over 19,000 feet high.

(5) Popocatepetl emits smoke, whence its name, meaning in Aztec "Smoking Mountain," from popoca "to smoke," and tepetl "moun-tain." Since the conquest three eruptions have been reported (1519, 1539, 1540) ; but the geological evidence seems to indicate that there has been no volcanic action for thousands of years. Orizaba, whose native name means "Star Mountain," has been quiescent since 1566. Colima still frequently ejects ashes and smoke; but both Jorullo and Tuxtla are quiescent, the last having been silent since the violent eruption of March 2, 1793. Even the Mal-pays, or hot dis-trict round Jorullo, has cooled down, and is now again clothed with vegetation.

(6) It is noteworthy that the seismic waves flow normally along the indicated line from east to west, thereby confirming Humboldt’s view that under about 19º N. there is a deep rent in the earth’s crust, through which at different periods the underground fires have broken at various points between the Gulf of Mexico and the Revilla -gigedo group. "Only on the supposition that these volcanoes, which are on the surface connected by a skeleton of volcanic rocks, are also united under the surface by a chain of volcanic elements in continual activity, may we account for the earthquakes which in the direction mentioned cause the American continent, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean, to oscillate at the same time" (Egloffstein, p. 37).

FOOTNOTES (page 216)

(1) "Near the mountain ranges, from which the water after heavy rains rushes down in innumerable forest streams, these ravines are filled with incredible rapidity as high as 30 feet,— the torrent importing (sic) trees and bearing away rocks with a thundering noise and irresistible power" (Egloffstein, p. 22).

(2) On the general character and distribution of the igneous formations Von Egloffstein remarks: "Intimate relations exist between the metalliferous and non-metalliferous porphyries. The metalliferous por-phyry is less frequent, but constitutes the most important formation, bearing the precious metals, . . . embracing the rich lodes of Real-del-Monte, Pachuca, Chico, Capula, and Santa Rosa, all of great richness and magnitude. They fnrther form the mineral districts of Augan-gueo, Oro, Huantla, &c., and part of the mountains of Zimapan and Istapa-del-Oro. The lodes found in this porphyry are characterized by their magnitude and the consistency of the ores they contain. . . . The richest ores of native silver and sulphuret, chloride, and oxide of silver are found in the lodes of Real-del~Monte, Pachuca, and Santa Rosa. . . . The gold seems to exist in small particles in the meta-raorphic porphyry mountains, whence it is carried by the rains to the valleys as the rocks become disintegrated" (pp. 6-8).

(3) Times correspondent, December 7, 1882. Guanajuato seems to be still the greatest producer, yielding from £1,500,000 to £1,750,000 yearly, although the great Valenciana mine is flooded, and of the hun-dred opened only fifty-two are now worked (Geiger).

FOOTNOTES (page 217)

(1) Lorenzo Castro, Mexico in 1882. According to this authority the total yield of the Mexican mines between 1537 and 1880 was £776,276,000, while another estimate based on a report of the Mexican mint gives it at £930,786,000. Of this a large amount has been coined in Mexico, where there were eleven mints at work in 1876, with a total annual yield of about £5,000,000. The total coinage since the conquest has been estimated as high as £600,000,000, not more than 5 per cent. of this being gold. With regard to coal, the existence of which in Mexico has been recently denied by Mr Bigelow in Harper’s Magazine, official returns for 1882 give a list of over twenty places where it has been found, though nowhere as yet in large quan-tities. Petroleum also appears to be very abundant in several localities. Amongst other natural products mention should be made of amber, found on the Yucatan coast. Mineral springs are very numerous everywhere on the plateaus and terrace-lands. The most famous are El Peñon and N. Señora de Guadelupe near the capital, and Aguas Calientes farther north.

(2) On the Amilpas plateau, which stretches south of Popocatepetl at a mean height of 5000 to 5400 feet, "coffee, sugar, and indigo are culti-vated, and most of the tropical fruits grow luxuriantly" (Egloffstein, p. 17). The same authority gives the limits of vegetation in this region at 12,614 feet, and the snow-line at 14,960 feet. He observes that "nothing is more surprising to the traveller than the varieties of climate under this zone, which vary according to the different elevations above the sea, In a few hours we descended from the cold regions of the fir and the oak, on the heights of Ozumba, to a hot climate, tierra caliente, where we found the most luxuriant vegetation, passing in that short time through successive changes of the most diversified species of trees, plants, birds, insects" (p. 22).

FOOTNOTES (page 218)

(1) A specimen of this curious creature, the only known venomous lizard (Heloderma suspectum), reached the London Zoological Gardens in 1882; its habitat is the north of Mexico, and New Mexico, and Texas. I

(2) This advance towards a settlement was put forward in the Two Repulics of December 5, 1882, a Mexican journal which reflects the views of the Government on all matters of foreign policy.

FOOTNOTES (page 219)

(1) On the general state of religion in Mexico Bates well remarks:—"-The educated classes conform to the outward ceremonies and ordinances of the church, while inwardly believing little or nothing of its dogmas, The lower grades of society are, on the other hand, steeped in the most grovelling superstition, intensified by many traditional Indian reminiscences. This section of the community yields a blind obedience to the clergy, notwithstanding the severe laws with which the Government has endeavoured to counteract the influence of the priests. Even so recently as 1874 a genuine case of witch-burning occurred in Mexico." Central America, p. 34.

(2) From the Aztec Gatzopin, centaur; also known as Chapetones.

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Mexico - Table of Contents

The above section on the Republic of Mexixo was written by
Augustus Henry Keane, F.R.G.S., Emeritus Professor of Hindustani, University College, London; late Vice President, Anthropological Institute; author of Stanford's Asia, Africa, Ethnology; Man, Past and Present; etc.

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