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Title: Spanish America

Author: Richard Henry Bonnycastle

Release Date: June 22, 2015 [EBook #49255]

Language: English

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Spanish North America

Engraved by Sid^y. Hall 14, Dury Str^t. Blooms^y.
Published as the Act directs, Aug^t. 20, 1818, by Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme & Brown, Paternoster Row, London.









Western Hemisphere,






“Such of late
Columbus found the American, so girt
With feathered cincture, naked else and wild
Among the trees, on iles and woody shores—
---- In spirit perhaps he also saw
Rich Mexico the seat of Montezume,
And Cusco in Peru, the richer seat
Of Atabalipa, and yet unspoilʼd
Guiana, whose great city Geryonʼs sons
Call El Dorado”—Paradise Lost.





Printed by A. Strahan,
New-Street-Square, London.





C.B., K.M.T., K.St.W.,







&c. &c. &c.








A variety of estimable works have appeared on the subject of America, which have certainly, in a great degree, extended the geographical knowledge of the New World. Many of them, however, were written long ago; the political face of the country has changed; the journals of recent travellers have opened new sources of knowledge; and we find, among other things, that North America, which was supposed to contain mountains only of inferior altitude, has now been discovered to possess summits of superior elevation to those of the Alps, or the Peak of Teneriffe.

The publications of the most celebrated writers, as well as those of recent travellers, on that country, are in general bulky and expensive, and the mixture of political and abstruse scientific subjects, renders many of[vi] them uninteresting to the generality of readers.

This work has therefore been undertaken, with the object of forming a useful and amusing compendium of historical and geographical information, with respect to the acquisitions of Spain on the continent and in the islands of America, unmixed with political suggestions or reflections, and including a simple record of events, without comment. The Authorʼs inducements to this undertaking have been principally his fondness for the Spanish language, and the idea, that the little knowledge he possesses of it might be usefully employed in giving form to a work on the Spanish colonies.

Authorities of the first eminence have been carefully consulted for this purpose, it is therefore hoped that the matter contained in the work will be found correct and interesting: to the labours of the enterprising M. de Humboldt, it is highly indebted; his researches and indefatigable efforts have recently thrown so much light on the obscure geography of America, that the existence of a great part of the Spanish colonies would have been still unknown but for that able and scientific traveller, the most zealous, as well as the most interesting, of any that ever appeared on the shores of the western world.


The situation of remarkable places has been laid down with the greatest possible accuracy, and a copious index at the conclusion affords an easy reference.

The History of the Invasion and Conquests is only touched upon, so far as it is deemed generally interesting; to have given extended details on this head, would have required volumes; such abridgements have therefore been made as will render all its remarkable points sufficiently known.

The work is divided into two parts; the First comprehends the Spanish dominions in North America, including the West India Islands subject to the crown of Spain.

The Second Part relates to Spanish South America, and the islands on its coasts.

Each part is illustrated by a map, on both of which the Author has bestowed great pains, to render them as correct and as useful to the Reader as possible. The French, the English and M. de Humboldtʼs maps, which are universally acknowledged to be the best, have been consulted; from the united positions of which, these have been constructed.

An engraving, representing the relative heights of the mountains in Spanish North and South America, accompanies the Work; in which plate, some of the principal cities, volcanoes and extraordinary features of those countries are designated upon a new plan.


With these assistances, and from the consideration that no work of a similar nature exists in the English language, on the Trans-atlantic colonies of Spain, it is conceived that this will prove both instructive and useful to those who have not leisure to consult more voluminous writers on the subject.

Previous to proceeding into the body of the work, it will be necessary to make some observations on the plan. The possessions of the Spanish Crown in the Americas being naturally, as well as geographically, divided from each other by the Isthmus of Darien, and the two great portions of the New Continent being usually styled (according to this natural and geographical separation) North and South America, we have judged it proper to adopt this rational and clearly defined distinction, in undertaking to give an account of the territories of a nation, which extend through the greater part of both divisions; accordingly in the following pages, our plan will be found to be, that all the Colonies of Spain in North America will have been described before any thing shall have been advanced concerning the colonies in South America belonging to that Power.

The maps are also divided according to this plan, and accompany their respective portions; thus affording an easy reference to either. In[ix] these maps, the latest subdivisions of territories, the towns, rivers and objects of most importance are alone marked; for, as the scale must of necessity be small, too great a confusion would exist if the names of all the minor towns and rivers were laid down. The colonies of European powers, and the territories of the United States, which surround the Spanish dominions in America, are merely traced out, with the names of a few of their most remarkable positions.

It not being the intention of this work to give a dull and uninteresting recapitulation of all the circumstances attending the various discoveries and conquests of the Spaniards in different parts of America, which have been detailed by numerous Authors at much length, and in so many different ways, those events will only be noticed as eras, occasionally illustrated by a summary of such circumstances as may be deemed the most interesting and remarkable.

The longitudes of places throughout the work are invariably reckoned west of the Royal Observatory of Greenwich; and the principal positions are collected in a table of latitudes and longitudes which concludes the whole.




In this enlightened age, Geography has assumed a form so new and interesting, that it has become the study, as well as, the amusement of all ranks of society; the philosopher peruses with admiring attention, the details of the localities of distant climes; and the mere reader instructs as well as amuses himself in turning over the pages of a geographical performance.

This science, which till very lately, bore so low a rank in the scale of intellectual attainment, has arisen by the exertions of men of genius, and the increasing commerce of the Atlantic states of Europe to a proud elevation, amid the numerous objects of scientific research; in fact, it blends itself so minutely with almost all of them, that in order to acquire a thorough knowledge of it, it is necessary to study the whole circle of the arts and sciences.


Philosophy enables the geographic traveller to account for the ever varying appearances of nature which meet his wondering sight.

Mathematical knowledge gives him the means of calculating with accuracy the positions and forms of the places which arrest his attention in his progress; and, with his apparatus of Astronomical instruments, whether he be in distant Inde, on the snow-capped summits of the Cordillera of the Andes, or in the frozen regions of the north, he is still able to fix the exact route which he intends to follow.

Painting, or rather its twin sister, Drawing, is also an acquirement absolutely necessary for the man of research in this science, as by its assistance, he can point out to his brethren, the surprising features of those distant regions, which it is their lot to hear of, but never to see; and by this delightful art, which may well be ranked among the first of gifts to man, he can bring home to the imagination the forms of things unknown.

Poetry is not without its share in assisting to give just notions of geographic details, as by its fascinating aid, the ideas which we form of distant objects are heightened and impressed on our memories; and without the fellowship of History, Geography would prove the most uninteresting of studies.

But there are other branches of philosophy,[xiii] which have of late given a form and stability to the pursuit of knowledge in this science, and by whose powerful co-operation the march of geographical acquisition is daily spreading over a wider and more noble field.

Chemistry has within the last century, assumed a character so widely different from its ancient bounds, that the world is as it were a new region. We have become acquainted with phenomena, which were not before imagined to exist, and we can trace the causes, and consequently the effects of many of the operations of nature, which had hitherto baffled all the efforts of man.

Geology, Mineralogy, and Oryctology, have also, as a consequence of the advanced state of chemical knowledge, become so universally studied, that no modern writer of travels ought to be unacquainted with, at least, their leading principles, and to render his labours very acceptable to the public, he should possess an accurate and extended knowledge of these branches of science.

Zoography has a close connection with the details of Modern Geography, as without a description of the properties and forms of the various races of animals, which all-bounteous Providence has placed on the Earth, for the sustenance or the use of man, a mere outline of the features of kingdoms and states would be, though not useless, yet uninteresting.


Botany also takes an active part in the formation of works of this nature, and perhaps, no other science has a more pleasing share in such undertakings, for every day, and almost every hour, discloses to the phytologist some new and singular variety of Natureʼs performance.

It is not our intention to enter into a disquisition on the Origin and Progress of Geography; this has been so ably performed in several very recent works, that it would be useless to attempt it, nor in fact could any thing more be said, to the purpose, on the subject than what has been already advanced; but instead of considering the different periods in which the science became more clearly illustrated, from the early ages; we shall content ourselves with looking only to its actual state, and to its connections with the subject of the present work.

Notwithstanding all the assistances which Geography derives from the maturity to which the sciences have arrived, yet it is still miserably deficient with respect to descriptions of some of the countries immediately surrounding us; the vast extent of European and Asiatic Russia, is also imperfectly known, Africa is yet unexplored, Tartary and the Chinese empire, have a veil of darkness drawn over them; New Holland is untraversed, and by far the greater portion of[xv] America remains to be visited by the European traveller.

To other nations it is a matter of little consequence, excepting as a source of curiosity, whether Englishmen have a thorough knowledge of the various little groups that surround their isle: but to a Briton there is no corner of his land, with which he does not wish to have a minute acquaintance.

Although we possess such an accurate knowledge of England, yet there are many parts of Scotland, and almost the whole of the western coast of Ireland, to which we are as much strangers as though they were situated beyond the Desert of Zahara.

Of Shetland scarcely any thing more than the mere outline of its coast is known to the British geographer, although it offers some of the most singular scenes, both natural and artificial, that can be found in the Northern Ocean.

These scenes consist, in the natural part, of the most fantastic and exuberant workings of Natureʼs ever varying pencil. Here she has grouped assemblages of the most extraordinarily formed islets, twisted and split in every direction; some reaching above the regions of the clouds, and showing, in their pointed or overhanging heads, the most dreadful precipices that can be imagined; such is the island of Foula, between the[xvi] Orkneys and Shetland. In another place, a large island, which rises gradually on all sides from the sea to a great height, in the form of a parabolic conoid, has its body severed from the apex to the base, as regularly as if it had been the work of art; such is the islet Eglesha, on the west coast of Shetland. A third form is that of an immense islet rising perpendicularly on every side from the subjacent ocean to a great elevation, having its whole body perforated with an arch, of such dimensions that a large vessel could sail under it without lowering her topgallant sails. In short it would require a volume to detail the astonishing operations of nature in these islands.

The artificial scenery of Shetland consists in the numerous remains of ancient fortresses, hollow towers, castles, &c.

Some of these scenes have been drawn by the author of this work; others which he had not an opportunity of visiting, he was furnished with sketches of, by a gentleman resident in Unst, and the whole he has consigned to the author of a work on Shetland, who intends publishing them.

But to recur to the primary object of this publication; although the recent travels of Humboldt, Depons, Helms, &c., have considerably enlarged the circle of our knowledge of Spanish American Geography, yet[xvii] there still remains a wide field for inquiry in those regions.

When M. de Humboldt shall publish the remaining parts of his Personal Narrative, we shall certainly, from what he has already said on the subject, be better acquainted with a very interesting portion of the Trans-atlantic colonies of Spain, the kingdom of New Granada, and the province of Guiana, as his route was through the latter in his exploratory voyage down the Apure to the Rio Negro, and along the Cassiquiari, down the vast stream of the Orinoco. The viceroyalty of New Granada was nearly traversed by that illustrious savan, as he passed through the cities of Bogota and Guayaquil to the capital of Peru.

Peru is, however, still imperfectly known on its eastern frontier; and the volcanoes, mountains and other striking features of that government remain yet to be explored and described.

Chili is also very little known; the immense barrier of the Andean chain, offers, with the difficulty of crossing the Pampas of La Plata, many almost insurmountable obstacles to the European traveller from Buenos Ayres, and the great length of the navigation round Tierra del Fuego affords a considerable drawback to the adventurer[xviii] who should wish to arrive in the Chilian regions by a sea voyage.

The interior of the vast government of La Plata and the Savannah of the Amazons is nearly involved in as much obscurity as the central parts of Africa; inhabited by a tribe of fierce and untameable Indians, the European traveller cannot hope to make his way; and we must in all probability remain unacquainted with those countries, till the increasing stride of colonial population from the governments of Brazil on the one hand, and from those of Peru and La Plata on the other, clears the forest of its ancient tenants.

In North America, the kingdom of Guatimala, may be said to be unknown. A few ports on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts are faintly described; but of the interior, of the inhabitants, and of the country itself we are in total ignorance.

It is a curious circumstance to remark, in attentively observing the present system of government, of population, and of colonization in Spanish America, how nearly it resembles the same circumstances in the times when the sceptres of that country were swayed by their ancient and native kings.

With the exception of Caraccas and Buenos Ayres, every thing remains in nearly the same state, and Power has universally confined itself to the western region, seeming as if it[xix] wished to verify the assertion, that Empire constantly verges to the quarter of the setting sun.

In South America, the Peruvians of old, were undoubtedly the most civilized of the tribes who inhabited the country, but their empire extended only to the verge of the eastern declivity of the Andes, and was bounded in the strip of territory which stretches between those mountains and the Pacific Ocean.

In Chili, the Chilese had advanced with rapid strides towards that degree of intellectual attainment which was manifested in their Peruvian neighbours, they were an independent people, forming a sort of Federal Republic acknowledging a supreme chief, but this Republic did not include the tribes who wandered over the vast steppes of Patagonia, it was confined, as in Peru, to the country between the Andes and the sea.

In New Granada, the Puruays and the Muyscas were also advancing with a gradual, though certain step, towards the refinement of the People of the Sun, but they were also, until a very short period before the conquest, independent governments, acknowledging kings, and resembling Monarchical States in their dispensation of the laws, and in the form of their political constitutions; these races were however unmixed; and, in fact[xx] unknown to the people on the Savannahs of the Maranon and the Orinoco; and also occupied the country stretching between the Cordillera of the Andes and the great Pacific Ocean.

In Mexico, empire likewise verged towards the west; the different states and governments lay mostly to the west of the capital, which was itself to the west of the highest summits of the Northern Andes.

No towns or kingdoms of any importance were discovered on the shore of the gulf of Mexico by Cortez or his followers, and it was not till after a painful march of many days from the coast, that he saw the symptoms of that extraordinary degree of civilization at which the Mexicans had arrived.

In our days, the Spanish empire in Peru is confined to the country intercepted between the Andes and the Ocean of the South. To the east of the great Cordillera the tribes still wander over the vast Savannahs of the Maranon in the same state of untutored nature.

In Chili, the European sway is also confined to the same region over which the ancient Chilese toquis reigned, and the Patagonians of Terra Magellanica are yet in a barbarous condition; but in Chili itself, is offered the singular spectacle of a remnant of the aboriginal race, who have preserved the manners, the customs, the dress, the language,[xxi] and the independence of their forefathers; these people having, hitherto, resisted every attempt which the Colonists have made to subdue them, and form with the surrounding tribes the same kind of Republican Government which existed before the white and bearded strangers appeared amongst them.

In New Granada, the Spaniards occupy nearly the same positions which the tribes of old held, and what is still more singular, the two capitals of the Spanish colonies in that kingdom are precisely in the same situations which the Puruays and the Muyscas had chosen as the seats of their Conchocandos and Xaques, or Kings.

In Mexico, the Empire of the Whites is precisely within the same bounds as those in which it was discovered by Cortez and his followers; and the capital is seated on the same spot on which the ancient Tenochtitlan stood.

The Spanish acquisitions in the eastern parts of America, though we have held them up as forming an exception to the general rule, cannot certainly be said to stand out as very forcible arguments against it; for the colonies in Florida have never flourished, and Caraccas has only a trifling population considering its great extent, whilst the whole of the vast country of Guiana is nearly untenanted by Europeans.


America certainly offers very singular facts towards the support of this mystical doctrine, in which, though we have no faith, yet there is considerable pleasure in tracing the analogy of events in the Continent, partially described in the ensuing pages; for not only has the circumstance of Spanish power extending solely towards the western shores of the New World, a strong shade of likelihood to bear out the colouring which has been thrown on the assertion by those who strenuously advocate it, yet there is probably a much stronger, and more recent event to give a deeper tone to the picture.

This event which comes more home to our knowledge, is the actual migration of the Colonists of North America, towards the shores of the Pacific, for according to details which are recently published, it is placed almost beyond a doubt that the Government of the United States of America is shifting its local habitation over the lengthened summits of the Alleghany mountains.

In Spanish America, a good and indeed an unanswerable reason may be given why the sway both of the aboriginal chieftains, and of their white successors has uniformly pointed towards the west; climate in that country is modified according to the situations of the States on the higher or lower regions of the[xxiii] immense chain of mountains which traverses its vast extent.

On the elevated plains of Peru, the atmosphere is not charged with that excessive heat which reigns in the low Savannahs of the Maranon, hence man is more capable of exertion, and his mental faculties become enlarged, in the same proportion as his physical powers; and we accordingly find the Spaniard or the Indian of the higher region of the Andes, a very different being from his compatriot on the plains of Guiana, or Vera Cruz.

It is an acknowledged maxim, that, in all countries in which the cold predominates over the heat, or in which they bear equal proportions to each other, civilization, knowledge, and freedom universally spread themselves; whilst on the contrary, in those climes where the heat is continual and excessive, or where cold constantly prevails, man is in a perpetual state of barbarism, subjection, and ignorance; the reasons are evident; unwilling to use any considerable exertion for fear of being parched or frozen to death, he suffers things to proceed always in the same train, and will allow his government or even his religion to follow the dictates of those who with the strong arm of power, or of intellectual attainment bend him to their will.

It is for the former reason that the modern[xxiv] Chilese, or Araucanians, resist the efforts of the Spanish colonists to subdue them; living in a country where the climate is always equable and mild, their bodily and mental faculties required only a strong motive to bring their full power into display and exertion, this motive was first given them by the Peruvian Emperor Yupanqui, who, marching with a powerful army into their territories, from the north, endeavoured to enslave them; the first action overthrew two or three of the weakest tribes who inhabited the warmest parts of the country, but it stimulated the rest, and they became from that moment the warlike nation they have ever since remained.

New Mexico offers the same picture, the Cumanches of that country, are yet an unconquered race, holding an eternal war against their Spanish neighbours, and though from the uncultivated state of their country, and the constant exertion they are obliged to make to secure their independence, they are not so far advanced in the arts of civilized life as the Araucanians, yet the Cumanches are a race far beyond their neighbours who are enslaved in the missions.

From the latter cause, the tribes of Guiana, of Amazonia, of La Plata, and of Patagonia, have hitherto remained in the state of barbarism in which they existed when first discovered,[xxv] and will in all probability long continue the only tenants of their scorching plains and humid forests, unless gold, or some equally powerful motive induces the European to enlarge his settlements in their country.

This subject would lead us to a discussion which might occupy a volume; it will therefore be necessary to close it, at the same time hoping that it may be resumed and enlarged upon by some abler hand.

July 15th, 1818.







General Description, Era of Discovery and ColonizationPage   1
Extent and Boundaries4
Political Divisions6
Territorial Divisions6
Florida (East and West)6
Extent and Boundaries6
Discovery and History7
New Spain20
Political and Territorial Divisions32
Features of the Country, Productions, &c.35
New Mexico68
California (New and Old)76
Intendancy of Sonora86
Hiaqui and Mayo, or Ostimuri89
Sinaloa, or Cinaloa90
Intendancy of New Biscay, or Durango92
—— San Luis Potosi95
New Leon97
New Santander and Texas, and Panuco, or Potosi97
Intendancy of Zacatecas99
—— Guadalaxara99
—— Guanaxuato 102
—— Mexico103
—— Valladolid, or Mechoacan134
—— Tlascala, or Puebla138
—— Vera Cruz143
Province of Tabasco147
Intendancy of Guaxaca, or Oaxaca151
Yucatan, or the Intendancy of Merida155
Guatimala Proper161
Province of Vera Paz165
—— Nicaragua166
—— Honduras169
—— Costa Rica176
—— Veragua177
West India Islands belonging to the Crown of Spain179
Political Divisions180
Puerto Rico180
Islands near the Coasts of New Spain and Guatimala192




General DescriptionPage 207
Political Divisions208
Era of Discovery209
Viceroyalty of New Granada209
Boundaries and Extent209
Territorial and Political Divisions210
Features of the Country, &c.219
Tierra Firme.229
Province of Veragua229
—— Panama229
—— Darien239
Province of Carthagena241
—— Santa Marta252
—— Merida261
—— San Juan de los Llanos 263
—— Santa Fé264
—— —— de Antioquia271
—— Choco273
Government of Popayan275
Government of Atacames282
Presidency of Quito283
San Miguel de Ibarra303
Jurisdiction of Guayaquil310
Government of Jaen de Bracamoros321
—— Maynas324
—— Quixos334



Page 4,line 10,for voyage read voyages.
5,10 from bottom, for Sierro read Sierra.
7,19,for fairo read fair.
9,22,after among insert the.
11,12,for coup read loup.
16,13,for Lasson read Lagoon.
from bottom, for Ekanfanska read Ekanfanoga.
48,15 from bottom, for Montezey read Monterey.
lastafter coasts substitute a comma for the semicolon, and after ports substitute a semicolon for the comma.
54,from bottom, for wine read vine.
104,7,for basis read bases.
108,from bottom, for chieftain read chieftains.
111,13 from bottom, for Euatlachtlan read Cuetlachtlan.
129,13,after Mexico substitute a comma for the period, and after Popocatepetl insert a period.
141,2,read “province, as the Popocatepetl is more elevated.”
163,3,for Choletuca read Choluteca.
166,3,for Saine read same.
238,14 from bottom, for John Morgan, read Henry Morgan.
247,4,for Lorzaro read Lazaro.









The discovery of the New World, has caused more discussion, arising from interest, curiosity and scientific motives, during a period of nearly three centuries, than any anterior extension of geographical knowledge, in the annals of mankind. Numberless have been the disputes concerning the probable duration, formation and population of that vast continent; as well as on the identity of the individual, who fortuitously opened that immeasurable region and wonderful country to the admiring eyes of his brethren of the eastern hemisphere.

This work professing solely to relate, from authentic documents, what regards that portion of the New World which is claimed by Spain, either by right of conquest or discovery, we shall, consequently, not touch upon any of those indeterminate questions: therefore, whatever may be the notions respecting voyages prior to those of Columbus, having[2] been performed by European navigators, it is universally admitted that Cristoval Colon, or as he is usually called Christopher Columbus, was the first who made the existence of America generally known; accordingly we shall take our dates from the era of his discovery of the western world.

In the year 1492, on the 3d of August, being Friday, Columbus sailed from Spain, in a small vessel called the Santa Maria, having with her two others, and, after meeting with difficulties which no one but a man possessed of the most extraordinary mind could have overcome, he made the land of the New World, at ten oʼclock on the night of the 11th of October, in the same year; having himself first observed a light moving about on the shore; although the land itself was not visible until two oʼclock, on the morning of Friday the 12th, when it was seen by Roderic de Triana in the ship Pinta: so that an interval of sixty-nine days, passed in the greatest anxiety, elapsed, from the time of quitting the Old to the arrival in sight of the New Hemisphere.

The joy of the Europeans at this discovery, knew no bounds; they lavished encomiums on their leader, whom they had hitherto looked on as a visionary; they solicited his pardon for their infidelity, and pressed him to land: he set his foot on the shore, amid the exultation of his companions, and the prostrations and astonishment of the natives, who regarded their unexpected visitors as a celestial people, and, accordingly, paid them divine honours.

Columbus took formal possession of the land in the name of the King of Spain, hoisting the royal standard, displaying a flag with a large green cross, and naming it San Salvador (The Holy Saviour); but it is now known by the native name Guanahani, and is the Cat Island of the British charts, one of the outermost of the Lucayos or Bahamas Group. He afterward discovered Cuba and St. Domingo, or Hispaniola, where he built a fort out of the timbers of his ship which was cast ashore, and then returned to[3] Spain. This fort was afterwards destroyed, as well as its garrison, by the natives.

His next voyage lasted during the years 1493, 94, 95, when he founded a town in Hispaniola, or St. Domingo, which town he called Isabella. The natives styled this island Hayti (the Land of Mountains); but Columbus chose to name it Hispaniola (little Spain). This town, which Columbus founded about the 10th December, 1493, was the commencement of Spanish enterprize and colonization in the New World, as it was a permanent settlement. Columbus arrived in Europe in 1496, having spent the intermediate time in researches amongst the Caribbean Islands.

The third voyage of Columbus in 1498, was the means of discovering the island of Trinidad, and observing near it the mouth of a large river, he proceeded farther; when, to his astonished view, the continent presented itself. He landed on that part of the South American coast, called Paria, which took place in the month of August in the same year.

A person named Americo Vespucci, a Florentine, accompanied one of the officers of Columbus to the New World, in 1499, (this officer had been with Columbus during the second voyage), when they visited those places which the Admiral had previously explored, and returned to Europe.

Vespucci being a man of some science, published an account of the New Countries, which being the first description that had been given to the world at large, ungrateful Europe has decreed to him the honour of allowing the New World to bear his name; neglecting the genius whose daring imagination had dictated the Discovery, and whose arduous exertion had completed it; he, receiving for his reward, the disgraceful punishment of being conveyed to Spain, in the year 1500, in fetters. An affecting proof of his sense of this indignity[4] is related by his son, who says, “These fetters Columbus ever after kept with him, and on his death-bed, ordered them to be deposited in the grave with his body!”

In 1502, Columbus, having discomfited his enemies, made a fourth voyage, in which he discovered and explored a vast extent of the continent of America; particularly the coast of Honduras, Verapaz, and Veragua, with the harbour of Porto Bello.

Having thus briefly stated the voyage of Columbus, which has been done with the view of fixing the epoch of Spanish colonization in the New World, we shall not enter into the discoveries of parts of the Spanish American colonies by other navigators or adventurers, at present; but reserving these subjects for the particular provincial descriptions, we shall proceed to relate what extent of territory is claimed by the Spanish Crown in North America.


In North America, the northern and eastern boundary of the Spanish territory is situated in north latitude 31°, where an ideal line, running through St. Maryʼs River, separates the United States from the Floridas. The Atlantic Ocean on the east, the Gulf of Mexico on the south, and the river Perdido on the west, complete the limit of that division which comprises the tract of territory known by the name of Florida.

The northern and western boundary is much disputed, but according to the best information, it extends from Port St. Francisco on the Pacific Ocean in 37° 48ʹ 30ʺ north latitude, and 122° 36ʹ 45ʺ west longitude, (according to Vancouver); between which and Port Sir Francis Drake, there is a wild country. Port Sir Francis Drake is in about 39° north latitude, and to this port the British claims on the western coast of America extend.


The Spanish government have set up an inadmissible claim to the whole western coast, but, as much doubt has existed on the claims of the two nations, 39° north latitude, has been usually taken as the boundary of Spanish acquisitions in the New World; because they have some settlements in that latitude to the north of the town of Santa Fé, in New Mexico, as well as because the sources of the Rio Bravo are situated thereabouts. Therefore, commencing from the coast of the Pacific in 39° north latitude, we draw an ideal line from that parallel across the country, until we have passed the province of New Mexico; thence the line bends southward and eastward, until it meets the River Mexicano, or Mermento, which it follows to the Gulf of Mexico; where, in this quarter, the boundaries are again disputed by the government of the United States; who, since Louisiana has been ceded to them, lay claim to the whole country, up to the eastern bank of the Rio Bravo del Norte; the Spaniards, however, do not admit this, and fix their boundaries at the estuary of the Mexicano, or Mermento. A reference to the accompanying map will better explain those disputed limits than any verbal account.

The western barrier of Spanish territory in North America, is the Pacific Ocean; on the south east, the Gulf of Mexico, the Bay of Honduras, and the Caribbean Sea, are the boundaries established by nature; and on the south, a chain of mountains called the Sierro de Canatagua, which run across the extremities of the two provinces of Veragua and Panama, in about 80° 50ʹ west longitude. This chain divides the northern from the southern continent of America, and the country is here known by the geographical name of the Isthmus of Darien.

The extent of these possessions may be computed, by taking 7° north latitude, as the southern extremity, and 39° as the northern, which will[6] give about 1900 miles in length, whilst from the varying form of the country in the Isthmus of Darien, the cutting out of Louisiana, the singular figure of the Floridas, and the immense inlet of the Californian Gulf, it may be computed at about 450 miles in mean breadth.


THIS vast extent of continent, including the two West India islands of Porto Rico, and Cuba, is divided into four great governments. The viceroyalty of New Spain, or Mexico, the Capitania general of Guatimala, and the two Capitanerias Generales of Porto Rico and Cuba, which last includes the Floridas.


THE face of the Spanish dominions in the North American Continent, is divided into three great sections; on the east, Florida; in the centre, north and west, New Spain; and on the south, Guitamala; we shall therefore proceed to give a separate description of each division, and its local divisions; commencing on the east with the government of the Floridas.


Florida is bounded on the north by the United States, an ideal line, commencing at the centre of the estuary of St. Maryʼs River, in the Atlantic Ocean, extending thence along the coast of that river, and across the Ekanfanega Swamp up to the junction of the Flint and Apalachicola rivers; thence up the eastern bank of the Apalachicola,[7] until it meets the 31° of north latitude, when it crosses the river, and follows the parallel of 31° to the river Perdido, which separates the Floridas from the United States; on the west, the line follows the river Perdido down into the Mexican Gulf; on the south, the Gulf of Mexico, and on the east, the Atlantic Ocean, complete the boundaries of Florida.

Discovery. The Floridas were originally not restricted to the small tract of country now bearing, that name, but extended over an immense region, which was discovered by Sebastian Cabot, in 1496; they certainly however, had their designation from Juan Ponce de Leon, a Spanish navigator, who landed in Florida from Porto Rico, on Saturday, 2d April, 1512; when the country being in full verdure, and its appearance highly beautiful and picturesque, he gave it the name of Florida, or Fairo.

The British were masters of this country till the termination of the American war; when it was included in the Charter, granted by Charles II. to Carolina, together with Georgia. The English founded their right to Florida on the discoveries of Cabot, who was a Venetian in the English service.

In 1564, the French occupied several parts of this country, but being neglected by their government, the Spaniards, sent out an expedition to dispossess them; in which they succeeded, and such prisoners as were taken, were hung with labels attached to them, bearing the inscription, “Not as Frenchmen, but as Heretics.” However, these unfortunate colonists were revenged soon after by their countryman Dominic de Gourges, an intrepid adventurer, who, having disposed of his property in Gascony, built some vessels, and choosing a band of restless spirits to assist him, sailed for Florida. He defeated the Spaniards at all points, and after acting with the most determined valour, to revenge the treatment of his compatriots,[8] he hung his prisoners, with this sentence attached to their necks, “Not as Spaniards, but as Assassins!” This affair had not the least effect towards resettling the Floridas by the French, who unnoticed by their government, destroyed the fortified places, and left the country.

The settlement by the Spaniards, after much bloodshed, on account of the opposition of the natives, who were of a very warlike disposition, did not finally succeed until the year 1665; when they fortified the capital, Saint Augustine. This place suffered repeated attacks from the neighbouring English colonists in Georgia, and by the buccaneers; in 1702, Colonel More, the governor of Carolina, besieged it with a body of five hundred troops, and seven hundred Indians; the siege lasted three months, but they were forced to raise it, by the arrival of a reinforcement of ships and stores to the garrison.

In 1740, it was again besieged by General Oglethorpe, but he also was forced to retire with some loss; so that the Floridas continued under the domination of Spain, until the year 1763, when they were ceded to Great Britain, in exchange for the Havannah, which Lord Albermarle had taken from Spain.

Whilst the British possessed the country, they first divided it into east and west Florida, separating them from each other, by the great river Apalachicola. East Florida extends much further to the south than West Florida, and is washed by the waters of the Mexican Gulf, in the 25th degree of north latitude; while the southernmost point of West Florida, is only in 29° 30ʹ north latitude.

The figure of East Florida is nearly that of a triangle; the base towards Georgia being an imaginary line, as before described, of more than 160 miles in breadth; the perpendicular being about 350 in length. West Florida has the figure of a parallelogram, and is about 120 miles in length[9] from east to west, and from 40 to 80 in breadth. The river Perdido being its western, and the Apalachicola its eastern limit.

The capital of East Florida is St. Augustin; that of West Florida, Pensacola.

During the struggle of Great Britain with her American colonies in 1781; Spain took forcible possession of Florida, and it was confirmed to that crown by the treaty of peace in 1783.

The climate of the Floridas, is for the most part tolerably good; in the summer it is very hot; the winters cold, and the rivers are frequently frozen during that season. Inland, and on the mountains, the air is very pure and salubrious.

The soil of the Floridas is sandy and barren on the coast; but in the interior, and on the banks of the rivers, very fertile and good; so rich indeed was the land thought to be by the first explorers, and the climate so good, that the voyage of Ponce de Leon was undertaken, in the hopes of conquering, and making his fortune in this part of the New World. A tradition which existed among Caribs had also some weight; they reported that on the southern part of the eastern continent, existed a spring, of which any person, advanced in life, tasting, they would become renovated, and enjoy eternal youth. The Spaniards, ever fond of romance, greedily swallowed the miraculous tale, and undertook voyages to discover this invaluable fountain. Many Indians had embarked from time to time, but as they never returned, they were supposed to be so charmed with the country, and the all-healing water, that they preferred living there, allured by all the bounties of Nature, and the supreme bliss of perpetual youth. Ponce de Leon at last set out; actuated by the motives before mentioned, as well as by these, he explored Florida, and returning with increasing years, and an increase of wisdom, made that country known to the Spanish nation; who however neglected it,[10] until the massacre of the French settlers happened, excepting that in 1539, Ferdinand de Soto, had many actions with the native tribes, who were not however finally quelled until the year 1665. Luke Vasquez de Ayllon, and Pamphilo de Narvaez (the same who had been routed in Mexico by Cortez) made attempts to conquer Florida, and both lost their lives; and the adventurers who accompanied them, as well as those who were with Soto, suffered incredible hardships, after the death of their commanders.

Rice and indigo are the chief productions of West Florida; and in the eastern province the land is so fertile, that the inhabitants have sometimes three crops of Indian corn a year. The interior of this province is very hilly, a chain of mountains traversing it from north to south, the sides of which are covered with forests, and the valleys they form afford the richest pasturage. Oranges and lemons grow without the assistance of cultivation, and are finer than the European fruits of those kinds. Immense trees of the white and red oak, the splendid and beautiful magniola, the cypress, red and white cedar, the crab-oak, mulberry, pine, hickory, &c., are here observed in grand masses, and form the most delightful shades in the heats of summer.

Vines flourish and produce excellent fruit. They have also in these provinces the best sassafras in America, palms, Indian figs, chesnuts, walnuts, peaches, plums, cocoa nuts, and melons, in abundance. Olives, which are indigenous, thrive exceedingly, and are in great plenty. The cabbage tree affords the principal nutriment to the native Indians, and constitutes a food, at once pleasant and wholesome. Flax, hemp, and cotton, are produced in abundance; cochineal forms a valuable article of the exports.

The coasts and rivers furnish fish of every description known in these latitudes. Shell fish are[11] found in the shallows, (which are so numerous along the shores); particularly large and small oysters, of excellent quality; along the southern beach, amber is also occasionally found.

Numerous flocks of sheep and herds of cattle are fed in Florida; swine are had here in great perfection; for as they feed chiefly on the chesnuts and acorns of the forests, their flesh is supposed to have a peculiar delicate flavour. In the woods and desert places, are wild animals of various descriptions, amongst which are the American tiger, the panther, coup cervier, racoon, buffalo, with the fox, hare, rabbit, goat, otter, flying squirrel, opossum, guano, armadillo, &c.; with many species of snakes and serpents.

The bird tribes are very extensive in Florida; among which, the heron, crane, wild-goose, and duck, partridge, pigeon, macaw, hawk, thrush, jay, &c. are a few of the most noted.

The alligator, or American crocodile, frequents the large rivers and lakes; and the tribe of reptiles is also very numerous.

The interior of the Floridas has not been explored by scientific travellers; it is chiefly inhabited by the native Indians, the Europeans confining themselves mostly to the towns. The country in general is not very thickly populated, and requires much exertion to clear the forests, and drain the swamps, which, if done, would render it a salubrious and desirable residence, where the wants of man might be easily satisfied; and where he would rest secure from some of those tremendous convulsions of Nature, which terrify and destroy his fellow-creatures, in most other parts of the Spanish colonies in the western world.

The capital of East Florida, St. Augustine, is situated on the east coast of Florida, in St. Augustine Bay, west longitude 81° 10ʹ and 30° north latitude, and contains a population of about 4000 souls.

This city was founded originally by the Spaniards,[12] in 1586, and fortified in 1665. Sir Francis Drake reduced the fort, and pillaged both it and the town; Captain Davies also, and a body of buccaneers, treated the place in a similar manner afterwards. Also, as has been before stated, the British and Indians attacked it under Colonel More, but were forced to retire, leaving their vessels and stores behind them; in their retreat, they burnt the houses in the neighbourhood, and ravaged the country to a great extent; General Oglethorpe, in 1740, also bombarded the fort, but was obliged to retreat.

The situation of this city, on the coast of the Atlantic, renders it healthy, as it has all the advantage of the sea breezes; it is 316 miles south-west of Charlestown, in South Carolina, 180 miles east of St. Markʼs, in East Florida; and 240 miles from the entrance of the gulf or straits of Florida. The figure of the town is an oblong, and it is built at the bottom of an eminence, along the beach.

There are four principal streets, running parallel to each other; these are wide and perfectly straight, and intersected by others of a smaller size, at right angles. The church of St. Augustine, is a well built edifice, and with the monastery, forms the principal ornament of the place. The fortress which protects the town, is called the Castle of St. Juan; it is built of stone, having four bastions, the curtains between which are 180 feet in length, and the rampart is twenty feet in height. The buildings are very good, and the greater part are bomb-proof, and partly casemated; so that this fortification is reckoned strong.

The other most noted towns of East Florida, are St. Markʼs, a sea-port, situated on St. Markʼs river, near where it falls into Apalachia Bay, 180 miles west of the capital, in 30° 10ʹ north latitude, and 84° 36ʹ west longitude.

Apalachia, is also a sea-port on a bay of the same name, into which the Apalachia river empties itself. In the environs of this town, is a country[13] inhabited by the Apalachia Indians; it is 130 miles east of Pensacola, the capital of West Florida, and 90 miles west of the river del Espiritu Santo, and situated in 29° 48ʹ north latitude, and 84° 28ʹ west longitude.

St. Juan, twelve miles north of St. Markʼs.

St. Francisco, fifty-six miles east south-east of St. Markʼs.

St. Pedro, forty-four miles east south-east of St. Markʼs.

Apalachicola, on the Apalachicola river, 100 miles north-east of Pensacola in West Florida.

Neuvilla, fifty-four miles south south-east of St. Markʼs; and—

Talahosochete, an Indian town, 30 miles north of St. Markʼs.

In West Florida, the capital, Pensacola, is situated on the west side of Pensacola Bay; this harbour is one of the finest in the Floridas, safe from every wind, and having from seven to eight fathom water, so that vessels drawing 21 feet may enter.

Pensacola, is in 30° 28ʹ north latitude, and 87° 12ʹ west longitude. The city is of an oblong form, about a mile in length and a quarter of a mile in breadth, delightfully placed, and accounted a very healthy place. The entrance into the bay is fortified by a small fort on Rosa Island, and a battery on the opposite shore.

The Spaniards took this town on the 11th of May, 1781.

When it was in the hands of the English, the houses were elegant and spacious; it exported, in skins, furs, logwood, and dyeing stuffs to England, to the amount of 68,000l. annually, and its imports from England were valued at 97,000l. for the same period. The town and forts were not surrendered to the Spanish troops, until the English garrison had made a most determined and protracted resistance. The whole province fell at[14] the same time into their hands, since which, Pensacola has been on the decline.

A river called the Escambia Coenecah runs near the town, and supplies it with water; it falls into the bay, and is navigable for boats for fifty miles, and for sloops for twenty.

The other towns of most importance in West Florida are, St. Josef, or the bay of St. Josef, near Cape St. Blaz, in the Gulf of Mexico, situated in 85° 34ʹ west longitude, and 29° 45ʹ north latitude.

Wells, a sea-port on the west-side of St. Andrewʼs Bay, and in 30° 25ʹ north latitude, and 85° 50ʹ west longitude, and—

Campbeltown, in Pensacola Bay, is seven miles north north-east of Pensacola.

The rivers of East Florida are chiefly the Apalachicola, which rises in the United States, and as before stated, forms the boundary between the two Floridas; it is a considerable river, and falls into the Mexican Gulf near Cape St. Blaz. The mouth of the Apalachicola is encircled with a number of small islands, named St. Georgeʼs Isles.

Nassau River; a small stream, which joins the ocean in 81° 42ʹ west longitude, 30° 49ʹ north latitude.

St. Maryʼs River, famous only for its being a part of the northern boundary between Georgia and Florida; it rises in a small lake in the great Ekanfanoga Swamp, and after a short course, runs into the Atlantic in St. Maryʼs Bay, in 81° 41ʹ west longitude, and 30° 35ʹ north latitude. The Americans have a town called St. Maryʼs, on their side of the mouth of the river.

St. Johnʼs River, which rises in a swamp in the southern part of East Florida, and after running northerly for a short distance, forms several lakes; the largest of which is Lake George; it then again pursues its course to the northward, and[15] turning to the east, joins the Atlantic in 81° 42ʹ west longitude, and 30° 22ʹ north latitude; its mouth is encumbered with a bar, otherwise it is a broad and fine river, and being situated within ten leagues of the capital is very serviceable.

Apalachia River, or Apalache, a small river which empties itself into the Bay of Apalachia, in the Mexican Gulf, in 84° 28ʹ west longitude, and 29° 43ʹ north latitude.

St. Johnʼs River, rises in Ekanfanoga Swamp, and after a winding course of two hundred miles, falls into Apalachia Bay, to the east of Apalachia River. This is said to be the purest of American rivers, receiving in its course no tributary streams, but being fed solely by the springs which exist in its banks; it is two hundred yards broad, and twenty feet deep at the Indian town of Talahosochete in East Florida.

There are a few other rivers in East Florida, the names of which are, the Assilla, St. Markʼs river, St. Matheoʼs river, which falls into Apalachia Bay, the Amajura, the Tampa and the Manatte; the two latter of which fall into the Bay del Espirtu Santo, and the Romano, which falls into Carlos harbour; but of these so little is known, as indeed is the case with respect to every thing relating to the Floridas, that a particular description is impracticable. The latitudes and longitudes of many of the above places and rivers, are variously laid down in the maps, and different accounts are given of them by different authors; so that it is not probable that they are exact; the most correct sources of information have been sought, and as no late observations have been made in the country we have been describing, the reader must unfortunately remain satisfied with the imperfect account we are enabled to give of a colony which belonged within the memory of the present generation to Great Britain, but of which, no British author has given an explicit account.


The rivers of West Florida, are the boundary stream, the Rio Perdido, or Lost River, so called by the Spaniards, because it loses itself for a short distance under ground, and then appears again and empties itself into the Mexican Gulf, in Perdido Bay, which is a large basin, though at its entrance not very wide, yet gradually enlarging till it meets the mouth of the river, which joins it in 87° 26ʹ west longitude, and 30° 26ʹ north latitude, ten leagues east of Mobile Point, and four leagues west of the line of Pensacola. This river stretches to the north-east, and in one place comes within a mile of the Great Lasson, that is to the west of Pensacola harbour.

The Rio Perdido, was formerly the boundary between the French and Spanish dominions, and is now considered by the treaty of 1783, as the limit between Mississippi territory and West Florida. By this treaty, the eastern and southern boundaries of Louisiania were fixed, and thus defined; “south on the Gulf of Mexico, from the Bay of St. Bernard, south-west of the Mississippi River, to the mouth of the Rio Perdido, up the Perdido to its source, and thence, (if it rise not north of the 31° of north latitude,) in a straight line north to that parallel, (31° north latitude,) thence along the southern boundary of the United States, west to the Mississipi, then up this river to its source.” The northern and western boundary of Louisiania will be spoken of under the head of New Mexico.

The St. Andrewʼs River runs into a bay of the same name in the Gulf of Mexico, in 85° 40ʹ west longitude, and 30° 17ʹ north latitude.

Swamps.—The great swamp of Ekanfanska, called by the natives Ouaquaphenogaw, forms a striking feature of East Florida; through which the boundary of this province runs by an imaginary line. The swamp is half in Georgia and half in Florida; it is 300 miles in circumference, and in the rainy season, bears the appearance of a vast lake, with several large spots of firm land, which[17] may be denominated islands, as they are nearly always surrounded with water; one of these the American tribes call a heavenly dwelling, which is peopled by a peculiarly gifted race, who enjoy all the pleasures and luxuries of the savage life in perfection; whose women are very lovely, and supposed to be the children of the Sun. These people, who are conjectured to exist there, have been said, though with less of the marvellous, to be a tribe of Indians, who in some wars with the Creeks, had been nearly exterminated and fled here for shelter. The islands in the swamp are fertile; in it rises the river St. Mary and some others. There are several large tracts of marshy ground in both the Floridas, which are extremely fertile.

Lakes.—The lakes of Florida are more numerous than large, the principal one is Lake George, or the Great Lake, and Mayaco, a large expanse of water and swampy land, in which, or near which, the river St. John rises. Lake George is formed by the river St. Juan, filling a large valley with its waters; it is about fifteen miles in breadth, adorned with many beautiful and fertile islands, the largest of which is two miles long, commanding an extensive prospect; on this island are the remains of an Indian town of considerable size. The waters of Lake George, are from fifteen to twenty feet deep; the river St. John, forms in its course many other lakes, but none of them so large as are laid down in early maps, which are all, and even those of a later period, miserably defective with respect to Florida, although that country has been long in the possession of Great Britain. Another lake of some extent is laid down in the best maps near Apalachia Bay; but of it little information has been given; what is called Hillsborough River, may with equal propriety be termed a lake; it cuts off a long slip of land parallel to the east coast, reaching from St. Augustine southwards.


Islands.—The islands on the coast of Florida are numerous, but not of any very great consequence. The chief ones are Amelia Island near the north-west boundary of East Florida in the Atlantic; extending from the mouth of the river St. Mary to the mouth of the Nassau River, and on which is a town called Fernandina, with a small fort.

Corne Island, on the coast of West Florida, ten miles long and one broad, in 82° 32ʹ west longitude, and 30° 11ʹ north latitude.

Roebuck Island, near the same coast, in 84° 45ʹ west longitude, 30° 17ʹ north latitude.

St. Anastasia Island, on the east coast of East Florida, eighteen miles in length, and from one to three wide, in 81° 36ʹ west longitude, and 29° 48ʹ north latitude.

Cluster of the Espiritu Santo Islands, in a bay of the same name, on the west coast of East Florida.

Santa Rosa Island, on the south coast of West Florida, thirty-six miles in length, and two wide, in 86° 50ʹ west longitude, and 30° 26ʹ north latitude.

Talbot Island, on the coast of East Florida, eight miles long and two wide, in 84° 42ʹ west longitude, and 30° 26ʹ north latitude; and some others.

Bays.—The bays of Florida are chiefly the following.

Espiritu Santo, or Nassau Bay, in East Florida or the west coast, a large and fine bay full of islands, which reaches from 82° 35ʹ to 83° west longitude, and 27° 45ʹ to 28° 10ʹ north latitude.

Santa Rosa Bay, on the coast of West Florida, in 86° 5ʹ to 86° 32ʹ west longitude, and 30° 33ʹ north latitude.

Pensacola Bay and the Bay of St. Josef, in West Florida.

The great bay Apalachia, Carlos Bay, St. Maryʼs Bay, and Bay of St. Augustine, in East Florida.

Capes.—The most remarkable capes or headlands are,—


Cape St. Blaz or St. Blas, near the mouth of the Apallachicola River, and situated in 85° 35ʹ west longitude, and 35° 44ʹ north latitude.

Sandy Point, the north part of Santa Rosa Bay in West Florida.

Cape Cross, in 84° 80ʹ west longitude, 46° 25ʹ north latitude, coast of West Florida.

Cape Florida, the most easterly point of East Florida, on the west side of the Gulf or Straits of Florida, in 80° 37ʹ west longitude, 25° 44ʹ north, latitude.

Cape Roman, in 82° 25ʹ west longitude, and 25° 40ʹ north latitude.

Cape Sable, the most southerly point of East Florida, in 81° 49ʹ west longitude, and 24° 57ʹ north latitude, and—

Cape Carnaveral, Punta Larga, and the Promontory in East Florida.

We shall close this account with some circumstances relating to the government, the late events which have taken place on the coast of Florida, and the funds allotted for the support of the administration.

The Floridas are usually included under the government of the Capitania-general of the Havannah, forming, with Cuba, one of the great governments of the Spanish American colonies. So little is known of the subdivisions of this captain-generalship, that it would be futile to attempt an enumeration of them; as errors must inevitably occur, so thus it will be better not to state the uncertain knowledge we possess of them, than to run the risk of misleading the reader.

The insurgents of Spanish America have lately been carrying on some operations in this quarter, and have established themselves in Amelia Island, at a town called Fernandina, where they have built batteries for their defence, and to whose port they carry many of the prizes they make of the Spanish merchant vessels in the West Indian seas. They[20] are principally European adventurers, who have raised a flag in Amelia Island, which they display occasionally in their predatory incursions on the neighbouring continent; on this flag is a green cross, designated by them the green cross of the Floridas; they have hitherto been unsuccessful in their efforts, and have not been assisted by the Colonists. The government of the United States, have lately taken forcible possession of this port.

The expences of the administration of Florida are disbursed from the treasury of Mexico, the situado or annual remittance for this purpose being sent by way of the Havannah to Pensacola, and amounting in general to the sum of 62,700l. sterling. This sum is usually remitted to the intendant or governor of Pensacola.


The most important of all the kingdoms of Spanish America, is New Spain; therefore, before commencing with a detailed description of its boundaries and situation, we shall give a concise view of those circumstances which are of most importance, with respect to its history, colonization, &c.

Under the title of Viceroy of New Spain, a Spanish officer of the highest rank governs a territory, which, in Europe, would be designated as an empire; for it comprehends a surface extending from the thirty-ninth to the sixteenth degree of north latitude; in its broadest part, occupying 22 degrees of longitude, and is washed by the waters of the Great Pacific on its western, and by those of the Mexican Gulf, or Atlantic Ocean, on its eastern shores; having unknown lands to its north; the republic of the United States of America to its east; and the government of Guatimala, as its southern limit; thus occupying one of the most[21] advantageously situated positions in the political world, whether for the facilities afforded to its commerce, by the vicinity of two oceans, or by its stretching through part of the Torrid and Temperate Zones, affording from the heat of the one, the luxuries of the East, and from the mildness of the other, the necessaries of human existence in the most profuse abundance; here too exist more mines of silver and gold, of copper, tin, &c., than in any other part of America; whilst its western shores afford the pearl muscle, equal, if not superior, to the celebrated produce of Ormus and Ceylon.

That enterprizing and enlightened traveller, M. le Baron de Humboldt, states the population of this viceroyalty of Mexico, or New Spain, to have exceeded, in the year 1806, six millions five hundred thousand souls; and its surface to extend over a space equal to 118,748 square leagues, at twenty-five leagues for each degree.

Discovery, &c.—The person who made the greatest figure in discovering and subjugating this extensive region, was Fernando Cortez, a native of Old Spain, born at a town called Medellin, in Estremadura, about thirteen miles south-east of Merida, in the year 1485, of a noble family whose fortune had declined. He was intended for the law, and studied at Salamanca; but his restless disposition caused him to quit all prospects in this pursuit, and to follow the adventurers of the day in America; he went accordingly to Hispaniola, where he obtained lucrative posts; but, still dissatisfied, quitted the island in 1511, under the command of Velasquez, in an expedition to the island of Cuba. Here he distinguished himself by his bravery, and was chosen to undertake a voyage of discovery to the coasts of Mexico; he spent the greater part of his fortune in equipping his army and fleet; and on the 18th of November 1518, set sail from Cuba, but anchored again, and sailed for the Havannah, to complete his stores; here he suffered much delay[22] and vexation from the jealousy of Velasquez, and having secured the fidelity of his followers, by the promises of immense wealth, and his engaging qualities (for he was a man of the most insinuating address, and of great personal endowments, a robust and soldier-like appearance, and a dauntless mind), he completed by his own exertions, and those of his officers, amongst whom was Pizarro, then a youth, who afterwards rendered himself so famous in Peru, his armament, which consisted of eleven small vessels, containing 617 men, 508 being soldiers, and 109 sailors or workmen, with ample stores of provision.

Cortez once more set sail from Cuba, in the year 1519, on the 10th day of February, and steered for the Isle of Cozumel, on which he landed, and then proceeded to the River Tabasco; where he forced the natives to acknowledge the Spanish king. His standard bore a cross with this motto, “Follow we this sign, for beneath it we shall conquer.” Procuring provisions, a present of gold, some cotton clothing; and 20 female slaves, he sailed to the west, and landed at the place now called St. Juan de Ullua, where he fortified himself, disembarked all his men, horses, and guns, having previously conciliated the natives.

The Emperor of Mexico hearing of the arrival of the Spanish ships at this place, sent two embassadors to meet the strangers, to inquire their intentions, and to offer his assistance in furthering their voyage. They received from Cortez a haughty reply, that “he would confer with no other person than the emperor.” The silly Mexicans, alarmed at the unusual appearance of the troops, the horses, the ships, and the artillery, endeavoured to conciliate the commander by rich presents. The embassadors had painters in their train, who were busily employed in tracing these wonderful objects, during the interviews; and Cortez, observing the circumstance, to give a greater effect to his warlike show, made his troops go through their manœuvres, and[23] fired his cannon at some trees. The poor Mexicans, astonished at this display, fell with their faces to the earth, being unable to withstand the alarm caused by the report of the guns. They returned to Mexico, and with incredible dispatch, some presents which Cortez had given them, were transported to the capital, a distance of 180 miles; and other messengers returned, accompanied by a train of one hundred Indians, bearing the most costly gifts of silver, gold, &c. An emblem of the sun, in massive gold, and another of the moon, worth 5000l. in silver, were amongst the articles. These magnificent gifts, it was hoped would conciliate the Spaniards, and make them consent to relinquish their idea of marching into the interior; Montezuma, the emperor, declaring he would not permit their staying longer in his dominions; but instead of attempting to eject them, he sent another and more costly present.

The natives however discontinued supplying the troops with provision, and the embassadors of Montezuma left the camp in resentment; the soldiers imagining that they should be attacked, came to open mutiny; but Cortez, by promises, threats and presents, gained their affections, and offered to lead them to the attack of the capital; after having punished the ringleaders, he assembled a council, and laid his warrant before them, telling them he would only be chosen as their leader, by their united consent. This experiment succeeded; they unanimously elected him commander in chief and president of the new Colony, and then formed a corporation to govern the town they were about to found. This they immediately commenced, and called it Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz. “The rich City of the true Cross.”

Whilst employed in this work, Cortez received overtures from the Indian town of Zempoalla, to assist him in his enterprise against Montezuma; he accordingly matched thither, and assisted by its[24] inhabitants, founded another settlement, about 100 miles to the northward of Vera Cruz; this was at the Indian town of Quiabaslan. The caciques or chiefs of Zempoalla and Quiabaslan, placed themselves under his protection; and their example was followed by the Totonaques, a powerful and warlike tribe, who inhabited the mountain country.

Whilst engaged in fortifying his new acquisition, and rendering it habitable, a second conspiracy was plotted against him; to counteract this, he proposed two methods, the latter of which was the most extraordinary that ever entered the mind of man. In the first place, he proposed to the council, to send an account of the riches, fertility, &c. of the country, to Don Carlos of Austria, the Spanish monarch, and to request him to ratify their proceedings, and to appoint Cortez, by the sign manual, as they had already done, in the name and on the behalf of His Majesty; this they consented to, and a vessel was dispatched for Spain, with orders not to touch at Cuba, for fear of the intention being thwarted by Velasquez. The second proposal was “To burn the fleet.” This, after great persuasion, and exhausting all his arts, he obtained their consent to do, and it was accordingly performed; thus leaving between five and six hundred men, at the mercy of a powerful and populous empire.

After obtaining this triumph over the adherents of Velasquez, who had no resource but in the capacity of their leader, and in their own courage, marched from Zempoalla, on the 16th of August, 1519, with five hundred soldiers, fifteen horses, and six cannon; the cacique of Zempoalla gave him four hundred warriors and two hundred slaves. The rest of the troops were left as a garrison, to defend Villa Rica. With this force, he entered the state of Tlascala, where he met with great opposition for fourteen days; but after having beaten the Tlascalans at all points, without losing a man, these people made overtures for[25] peace: he accepted their proposals, and they ever after acted as his best allies. He halted twenty days in Tlascala, where he endeavoured, as he had before done at Zempoalla, to convert the natives; but succeeded only in abolishing the immolation of human victims on the altars of their deities. It was by the intervention of a priest, Bartolomeo de Olvedo, his chaplain, whose name deserves to be recorded, that Cortez was restrained from converting the natives by the sword, when he found he could not otherwise attain that object.

He next advanced against the state of Cholula, where he was treacherously received; and to avenge himself, massacred six thousand of the Cholulans. Cholula was only sixty miles march from Mexico. In the course of his advance, he was aided by the rebellious state of the surrounding country; and after a march of some days, saw the capital of the empire from the Chalco mountain. His troops were invigorated at the sight; and beholding such a rich and fertile country, such an immense city, and so beautiful a landscape, they conceived their fortunes to be made, and that their toils would now be soon ended. They marched until they arrived within a very short distance of the entrance to the city; when Montezuma, preceded by a train of a thousand nobles, himself sitting on a chair richly adorned with gold, and borne by men, surrounded with his guards and courtiers, advanced to meet the Spaniards; Cortez dismounting from his horse, saluted the emperor in an humble manner; cloths of cotton were then spread along the road, and Montezuma, quitting his chair of state, walked to meet and salute the Spanish commander; after much ceremony, the emperor conducted the general to a house prepared for the reception of himself and followers. No sooner had Cortez taken possession of his new habitation; than he set to work, and fortified it in the strongest manner he was able. The emperor[26] shortly renewed his visit, accompanied by people bearing rich presents to the troops. It was at this interview, that Cortez learnt, from the unguarded expressions of the Mexican ruler, the reason why he had not been attacked. It appeared, that the Mexicans had traditions and prophecies, that a powerful race would come from the regions towards the East, where their deity, the Sun, rose, and that these people would overturn and chastise their country for the punishment of their sins; in this, Montezuma was a firm believer; and it was from the motive of religion alone, supposing that the Sun would exterminate his people if violence was offered to his children, that the monarch was persuaded to act in the way he did.

Cortez immediately seized the idea, and by his artful conduct was received as a child of the same universal Parent, the Sun, by the emperor and by his people. He spent several successive days in viewing the city, and making his observations; at the same time assuring Montezuma, that he was the embassador of the greatest monarch amongst the children of the Sun; and that his master had sent him with the most friendly designs to his brethren the Mexicans. Having fortified his house, which was surrounded by a stone wall and turrets, and keeping a large body of his men constantly on the alert, he came to the resolute determination of seizing Montezuma in his palace, and confining him in the Spanish quarters. He entered the palace, thirty men waiting outside of the audience hall, whilst Cortez, five officers, and five soldiers, placed themselves in the presence. He addressed Montezuma, and complaining of several things which he affected to dread, he requested the emperor would condescend to live in the Spanish quarters, until the alarm excited by some unusual appearances, had subsided. Montezuma reluctantly consented, and was escorted thither by the men. He was at first treated with all the attention and respect due to a mighty sovereign;[27] but, after a short interval, Cortez, with a soldier bearing fetters, came to his apartment, and told him that his garrison at Villa Rica had been attacked, and that he was the instigator of the insult; that he had ordered the guilty to be executed, and that the emperor himself must feel the weight of his anger. Turning fiercely to the soldier, he commanded him to fetter the legs of Montezuma. The unfortunate monarch and his attendants were sunk in grief and affliction, and Cortez left the room to attend at the execution of the sentence on the culprits. After this was ended, he repaired to the Emperorʼs chamber, and with his own hands, took off the shackles.

For six months Montezuma remained a prisoner, and Cortez during this time was employed in reconnoitring the country, preparing to build vessels on the lake, and dividing the spoils amongst his soldiers. In attempting to establish the Catholic faith, by throwing down the Mexican idols, he nearly ruined all his schemes, as the whole people were about to rise. At this juncture Montezuma requested he might be liberated, and declared that his power of saving the Spaniards was at an end, as his people would inevitably revenge the insult offered their Gods; he concluded by requesting that the embassy would withdraw from his territories, as he could no longer answer for their safety: previously however to this communication, the Emperor had acknowledged himself a vassal of the Spanish King, and had sent to Cortez his tokens of homage, executed in all the prescribed forms, with a magnificent present, accompanied by others from his subjects. The Spanish commander had therefore good reason for not listening to the request of Montezuma; he replied, that he intended to send to his master the presents, and in time to return himself, but that he must build new ships first.

Whilst these discussions were going on, Velasquez, who had heard of the success of Cortez by the vessel[28] which had touched at Cuba, (contrary to express command), had fitted out a fleet of eighteen vessels, with 800 infantry, eighty horse soldiers, twelve pieces of ordnance, and 120 arquebusiers, or crossbow men. Pamphilo de Narvaez, was appointed commander of the force, with instructions to seize Cortez and his staff, to conquer the empire in the name of Velasquez, and send the general and his officers prisoners to Cuba. Cortez hearing of the arrival of this armament, and that the troops under Narvaez, had marched to Zempoalla, determined to quit Mexico, leaving 150 men to guard Montezuma, and the capital; arriving at Zempoalla, he sent bribes to the officers of Narvaez army, many of whom were seduced, and attacking his enemy in the night with only 250 men, completely defeated him, and was joined by his followers the next day; receiving notice however, soon after the combat, that his little garrison in the capital had been attacked by the Mexicans, he returned to that city with two thousand Tlascalan warriors, who joined him in his march. He entered the city without resistance, but was soon after attacked in his fortress in the most resolute manner, and having made a sally in which he lost twelve men, and sixty wounded, he was forced to retreat; he again sallied, and was wounded in the hand. He then had recourse to the stratagem of placing the Emperor in the view of his enraged subjects. Montezuma endeavoured to pacify them; they listened with attention, but directly he had finished his speech, they again renewed the assault, and the forlorn monarch was wounded by an arrow.

He refused all aid from the Spaniards, and tearing open his wounds, expired, frantic with rage and despair. After the death of the Emperor, Cortez found that he could no longer maintain his position; he according quitted it secretly in the night, and marched for the Tlascalan territories. On viewing his troops after several hot assaults,[29] which they experienced on the march, he is reported to have shed tears. Having recruited the spirits of his followers, and mustering the remainder of his forces, he again bent his course towards the capital, determined to perish or conquer. His infantry amounted to 550 men, his cavalry to 40, and he had 9 pieces of cannon; with this force of Spaniards, there marched 10,000 Indian allies, mostly Tlascalans, and on the 28th of December, 1520, the whole army were in motion exactly six months after the evacuation of Mexico.

He fixed his head-quarters at Tezcuco, on the banks of the lake 20 miles from the capital. In this city, the natives adhered to his cause, and assisted him in building thirteen small ships, which he launched on the lake. At this juncture, four vessels, fitted out by his friends in Hispaniola arrived with two hundred infantry, eight horses, and supplies of arms and ammunition. He therefore immediately attacked the city on the east, west and south. It was defended by Guatimozin, the new Emperor, with undaunted courage, and Cortez himself was once taken prisoner, but fortunately rescued, though wounded in the attempt. His soldiers who fell into the hands of the Mexicans, were immolated with horrid barbarity on the altars of the god of war. His allies, the Indians, now amounted to 150,000, and his vessels kept possession of the lakes Tezcuco and Chalco. This siege continued with vigour for 75 days, and the town capitulated on the 21st August, 1521, when Guatimozin, the Emperor, was taken prisoner; but the Spaniards had ruined three-fourths of the city in their attempts to take it; they had, therefore, a barren triumph. Cortez stained his victory by ordering the Emperor to be put to the torture, in order to make him confess where he had hid his treasure; which, in fact, he had caused to be thrown into the lake. It would be useless to detail the other proceedings of the army in the conquest[30] of the provinces of the Mexican empire; suffice it to say, that they all yielded without much opposition to the Spanish conquerors.

Cortez now projected other discoveries, and named the country he had taken possession of, New Spain; in his views of aggrandizement, he was much impeded by cabal both at home and abroad; even an edict was issued by the King of Spain, to seize his person; this was, however, revoked, and he was appointed Captain-General of New Spain, by the Emperor Charles the Fifth. Other cabals being formed against him, and a fresh order of seizure made out, which was only prevented being put into effect by the death of the commissioner, Ponce de Leon. Cortez, after settling his affairs in the New World, returned to Spain, where his address and manners gained him the affections of Charles, who conferred on him the order of St. Jago, and the title of Marques del Valle de Guaxaca (still held by his descendants) together with the grant of a large district of New Spain. His unabated ardour for discovery caused him to return to the New World, which he did in 1530.

Long previous to this event, the Spanish government determined that he should have only the situation of commander in chief, and hence arose the division of power which afterwards embittered his whole life. An audienza real, or royal audience, was appointed for New Spain; through the hands of this Court, all the civil affairs of the country were administered. Having now, therefore, neither the authority nor the influence he before held, he determined to remove himself from the scene of his disgusts; and accordingly, finding that the plans of discovery which he had prepared and sent people to put in execution, in 1522, had all failed, he determined, in 1536, to undertake them himself, and having fitted out some vessels, he discovered the vast Californian Gulf and part of its shores, when, after enduring incredible hardships, he returned[31] to Mexico; here his distresses were renewed, and once more to obtain justice, he sailed for his native country, where he arrived in 1540; not being able to obtain his wishes, his vexation had so much effect upon his health, that his constitution, robust and vigorous as it had ever been, was unable to withstand the shock, and this extraordinary man quitted this transitory existence on the 2d of December, 1547, in the sixty-second year of his age.

During the absence of Cortez in California, in 1535, after the new kingdom of Spain had been governed by Luis Ponce de Leon, Nuno de Gusman and Ramirez de Fuenleal, a viceroy arrived from the Mother Country; this was the first viceroy of New Spain, and the government has descended from one to another ever since: the enumeration of them would be uninteresting, and tedious; we shall therefore pass them over, with the exception only of mentioning that there have been fifty (up to the year 1808), and that of these only one was an American, the Marquess de Casa Fuerte, who was a native of Peru; a descendant of the unfortunate Montezuma, Don Josef Sarmiento Valladares, Conde de Montezuma governed New Spain from the year 1697 to the year 1701; and of the descendants of that monarch, there are still three branches remaining, all of whom are Spanish nobles. A descendant of Columbus, Don Pedro Nuno Colon, Duke of Veragua, also held the viceroyalty of New Spain for six days, dying, suddenly after he was invested.

It is requisite for the nobleman who is advanced to this dignity to possess a large fortune, or there must be considerable emoluments attached to the vice-regal office sub rosa; for the salary of an American viceroy is only 12,600l. per annum, and with this he has to observe the state of a king; he has his body guards, who precede him whenever he goes out; he is served by pages, and[32] allowed to eat only with the members of his own family, it being too great a condescension in the viceroy, to permit any inferior to sit at the same table with him.

The nobles of New Spain are represented as extremely numerous; the creoles seeking with great avidity after Spanish honours; the government have also ennobled the caciques or heads of the Indian tribes, who are extremely proud of their distinction. It is a singular circumstance, that the descendants of the kings and great chiefs who were in alliance with Montezuma at the time of the conquest, should many of them at present hold the chief authority by consent of the Spaniards over the tribes, which their ancestors governed, and which they now oppress still more than their forefathers did; the caciques being generally very proud, ignorant and vain of their fancied superiority.

In describing the natives of this country, we shall relate the manner in which they have been and are still governed; at present it will be necessary to recur to the political divisions of the territory of New Spain.


The viceroyalty of New Spain is divided into three provinces and twelve intendancies; which again suffer also some other minute subdivisions, which the enumerations will hereafter be given.

The three provinces and twelve intendancies are as follow:—The province of New Mexico; two provinces of California, or Old and New California. The intendancies of New Biscay, or Durango, Sonora, San Luis Potosi, Zacatecas, Guadalaxara, Guanaxuato, Valladolid or Mechoacan, Mexico, Puebla or Tlascala, Vera Cruz, Oaxaca, or Guaxaca, and Merida or Yucatan. The civil[33] affairs of these great territories are under the control of two supreme councils, called Audienzas Reales, which govern the districts situated to the north and south of a certain line beginning thirty miles to the northward of the Panuco river, or Rio Tampico, in the Gulf of Mexico, and thence to St. Luis Potosi, along the southern boundary of the intendancy of Zacatecas and west side of the intendancy of the Guanaxuato, through the intendancy of Guadalaxara to Guatlan, a port on the Pacific.

To the north of this line, the audienza of Guadalaxara exerts its authority, and the southern part, till New Spain is bounded by the kingdom of Guatimala, is subject to the audienza of Mexico.

This immense viceroyalty is situated partly in the northern temperate, and partly in the torrid zone; and is politically governed by a viceroy nominated by the Court of Spain, and two captain-generals or comandantes generales, who are in some measure under his authority. These last named governors have authority over,—Sonora, New Biscay, New Mexico, and the two Californias, which comprise the western captain-generalship; and Coaguila, Texas, the colony of New Santander, and New Leon, in the Intendancy of St. Luis Potosi; which comprise the eastern captain-generalship: part of these are, however, only subject to their authority as military commands, and to name those would afford no satisfaction, as the minute subdivisions of the governments of so vast a country are liable to constant changes.


New Spain is bounded on the north by an imaginary line the 39° of north latitude, reaching to Port San Francisco on the Pacific; the Pacific Ocean and Gulf of California bounds it on the west; on the east the United States Territory of[34] Louisiana, the Mexican Gulf and Bay of Honduras; and on the south the kingdom of Guatimala completes its boundaries.


The extent of this viceroyalty occupies a space equal to 118,478 square leagues, of twenty-five to a degree.


The climate of New Spain may be looked upon as the most extraordinary in the world, varying from the tropical heats to the mild and healthful climate of middle Europe, and to the frosts and snows of Siberia; this phenomenon being observable in a journey of a few hours across the ridge of the Cordilleras.

The sea coasts are hot and insalubrious in general; the port of Vera Cruz, on the east, and that of Acapulco, on the west, the two great emporiums of Mexican commerce, being amongst the most unhealthy places in the world. The southern parts of this kingdom, which are not on elevated land, are, during the whole year, subject to excessive heats; even in December the heat exceeding that of the English summer. The plains which extend along the ridges of the Cordillera are in general healthy, and their climate temperate, and the yellow fever extends its ravages only to a small distance from the coast to the interior; as soon as the land begins to rise this pestilence ceases.

The whole province of Mexico is crossed by a vast plain at the height of from 2000 to 2700 yards above the level of the sea; here the inhabitants enjoy a perpetual spring; and, although they live under the Torrid Zone, they occasionally feel a considerable degree of cold in the northern districts. The climate in the interior is so delightful[35] that the natives sleep, with little covering, under the canopy of heaven.


The great Mexican plain above mentioned, may be said to extend through the whole of New Spain. Carriages traverse a distance of five hundred leagues on it from Mexico to Santa Fé in the north; the whole road being made with little labour, and nearly level. This enormous plain, or table land, as well as several others of less dimensions, forms the ridge of the Cordilleras, which goes by the names of Anahuac, Sierra Madre, Topia, &c. and is of great breadth. On its bosom repose the summits of gigantic mountains, which reach the region of perpetual snow. On the east coast the land is generally flat and swampy; and on the west, the descent of the central chain has four parallel valleys of great depth, which are richly cultivated.

The Cordillera of New Spain is evidently a continuation of the Andes; it traverses the captain-generalship of Guatimala, along its western coast, throwing out arms into the province of Honduras; it then turns eastward, for a short distance, on entering the kingdom of New Spain, and sends an arm into the province of Yucatan; rising afterwards gradually to the north, and occupying the middle of the continent; it then, in the province of Mexico, goes off to the east, where, forming the vast plain of Anahuac, it has its greatest elevation, and is here called Sierra Madre; the Popocatepetl, Iztaccihuatl, Pico de Orizaba, and Cofre de Perote being either in or on the borders of this province; the Popocatepetl, the highest summit of New Spain is 17,716 feet above the level of the sea.


The Cordillera then passes on to the north-west, and throws out three branches, one into New Leon, one into Guadalaxara, and one to the province of Zacatecas; it then continues northward, being of great breadth, till it passes the kingdom of New Spain, and on the borders assumes the names of Sierra de las Grullas, and Sierra Verde, after which it joins the Blue Mountains, and Stoney Mountains of north-west America. Amongst the lofty masses we have mentioned are some volcanoes, which constitute a magnificent part of the scenery; no less than five existing in the provinces of Mexico, Puebla, and Vera Cruz, some of which are enveloped in perpetual snows.

The sides of this great chain are covered with immense forests of every species of trees, which luxuriate according to their position; the hardy pine and fir occupying the upper, and the tropical productions the lower regions.

In the valleys, on the plains, sides, and at the foot of the chain, are observed beautiful cities, villages, and romantically situated farms, forests, interspersed with rivers, cataracts, and extraordinarily formed rocks. It is here that the painter might mature his taste for the wonderful, the rude, and the majestic features of nature. The soil, adapted to cultivation, is mostly a deep clay, which requires nothing more than irrigation to render it fertile in the extreme. The agricultural objects are principally wheat, maize, cotton, indigo, pimento, sugar, tobacco, the agave and cochineal plant. This applies chiefly to the southern portion, the more northerly being nearly in a state of nature. Sugar, cotton, cocoa and indigo flourish between 19° and 22° of north latitude, and are only abundantly produced at an elevation of from 1900 to 2600 feet; as also European grains at the height of from between 4550 to 9750 feet.

The oaks of Mexico grow to maturity only at from 2600 to 9750 feet of elevation; pines reach,[37] toward the lower term of congelation, to a height of 13,000 feet, and descend on the east coast as low as 6000 feet above the level of the sea.

The banana, the great support of the natives, is found no higher than 4600 in a state of perfection. This fruit forms the principal food of the natives; when gathered green they cut it into slices, and lay them in the sun to dry, and pound it into meal, which they use for the same purposes that flour is generally put to; the fruit is also eaten.

The plantations of the banana are kept up by suckers. The same region which matures the banana, is also favourable to the manioc, which is powdered and made into bread. Of this root there are two kinds, one sweet, the other bitter; the latter is poisonous, unless carefully made into bread by separating the noxious juice. The bread of the manioc is called cassava, and is extremely nutritive; forming, when made up in a particular manner, by being smoked and grated, a substance which resists the attacks of insects, making one of the chief articles of provision on long journeys. They also make of the poisonous juice a sort of soy; but it is sometimes dangerous to use this sauce.

Manioc is cultivated by slips, and they have one harvest a-year, the whole process being nearly similar to that of potato planting. Maize occupies the same region, and reaches to maturity at the same elevation as the two former plants. This plant is of the utmost importance to the colonies, and, being indigenous, thrives better here than anywhere. It grows to the height of nine feet, and yields a hundred-and-fifty fold. It succeeds better in the southern provinces than in the northern, and forms a principal article of food to the inhabitants, to the mules employed in the mines, and in conveying goods from one province to another, and to the poultry, &c. When the harvest of maize fails, the unfortunate natives are reduced to the greatest straits.[38] It yields, in the most favourable situations, three crops annually. This maize, or Indian corn, is eaten boiled and roasted, and, when ground, is made into bread. The meal is used for soups, under which form it is principally consumed. The Indians, also, by fermentation, make several intoxicating liquors from this plant, as well as a sort of beer; and, before the arrival of the Spaniards, the Mexicans made sugar of the stalks.

Wheat was first introduced by the Spaniards, and promises to become, with the other European grains, when the great roads are completed, one of the most abundant articles of the commerce of New Spain, as it already enters into competition, at the Havannah, with the flour of the United States; but the means of transport are at present so bad in the interior, that no great quantity is cultivated for exportation. The potato which was introduced by the Europeans thrives very well; for although it originally came from America, it was known only in the southern part at the time of the conquest. The capsicum, or pimento, the tomatas, rice, turnips, cabbages, sallads of all sorts, onions, and every kind of European vegetable are successfully cultivated. The table land produces all sorts of European fruits in great plenty; plums, apricots, figs, cherries, peaches, melons, pears, apples, &c. The vine and olive also flourish equally well, but are not frequently to be seen, on account of the Spanish Government discouraging the culture of these plants, as the commerce of the Peninsula, in oils and wine, would cease, if they were allowed to be reared; the climate of New Spain being more favourable for their production than that of Europe; however they are found in California, and some of the northern provinces, in great abundance. The tropical fruits, of every species, are met with in New Spain, guavas, ananas, sapotes, mameis, &c; and the Europeans appear to take great delight in their gardens. The orange and[39] lemon plants, of almost every species, grow in these delightful regions, where animal food forms the secondary article of human nourishment.

The principal vegetable decoction which supplies the place of the brandies and strong liquors of Europe, is that produced from the agave, or maguey. The natives and Spaniards have large plantations of agave, for the purpose of forming from it their favourite beverage, called pulque, which is procured by wounding the plant at a particular season, from which there flows a ropy liquor, which they collect and ferment. Pulque, from being the great beverage of the Indians, and lower orders of Mexican Spaniards, yields an immense revenue to the government. The sugar cane is successfully cultivated, and sugar already forms one of the principal articles of export. Cotton is also an article of commerce, as is likewise coffee, but neither of them to a great amount. Their cocoa and chocolate have long been famous; the name of the latter being originally Mexican, but the best chocolate comes from Guatimala.

Vanilla, of the finest quality, is imported into Spain from Mexico. Sarsaparilla and jalap, which takes its name from the town of Xalapa, near which it is found, are celebrated articles of its export trade. Of tobacco, it does not grow enough for its own consumption, not owing to the soil, but to its culture being discouraged. The indigo from the Spanish colonies is raised chiefly in Guatimala. Odoriferous, gums, medicinal plants, and drugs; the dying woods, particularly logwood; the valuable woods used in making articles of furniture; are the produce of this Viceroyalty; which is as rich in the productions of the vegetable as of the mineral kingdom. Cochineal, and the plant on which the insect feeds and comes to maturity, are amongst the most singular of its products; they are principally managed by the Indians, who are[40] most skilful in the mode of collecting the harvests of this extraordinary dye.

The animals wild and domestic, are chiefly the horse, mules, of which thousands are employed in carrying goods over the crests of the mountains separating the two oceans, and in drawing the metals from the mines, &c., sheep, goats, and cattle; the cougar, or American tiger; the puma, the tiger-cat, loupcervier, wild-boar, swine, buffalo bison, tapir, marmadillo, and immense tribes of apes and monkeys, with birds of every variety and beauty, amongst which are wild and tame turkeys, ducks, domestic fowls, &c.

The insects are as numerous as singular, and the serpents and reptiles thrive under the vertical sun, and amid the humid exhalations of the low-lands. The alligator is found in its rivers and swamps, and is nearly as formidable as the Egyptian crocodile.

In the northern part of New Spain, horses, cattle, sheep and goats, are found in a state of nature, having multiplied to an extraordinary degree in the wide spread plains and Savannahs.

The silk-worm is reared in some of the provinces; but as the growing of silk would interfere with the commerce of the East Indian possessions of Spain, this article is not much attended to.

Honey and wax are procured in the greatest plenty, as may reasonably be imagined in a country abounding with aromatic herbs and flowers; wax forms a great article of its home consumption, which is the case in all Catholic countries, where such immense quantities of it are burnt in processions and the churches.

The pearl fisheries of the Californian Gulf, are not at present carried on with much activity, but pearls of great value have been found on its coasts.

In the description of the different provinces of this kingdom, we shall occasionally give more particular relations of the animal and vegetable productions of New Spain.


The gulf of Mexico, the bay of Honduras on the eastern side, the Pacific on the western, with the immense inlet or sea of California, afford to this rich and fertile viceroyalty the favourable opportunities for the most extensive commerce, were it not that it is greatly impeded by the want of numerous roads across the elevated land of the interior; these, however, are gradually opening; and in proportion as the Spaniards exert themselves in forming them, so will the commerce of Mexico increase in value above that of the neighbouring continental states, with whom, at present, it is, for this cause alone, unable to enter into competition. The distance in some parts of New Spain, from ocean to ocean is very inconsiderable; and some rivers which run from opposite sides of the same mountain approach so near, at their sources, to each other, as to offer to an enterprising people every facility for internal navigation; at present, the commerce of these colonies is tardily carried on from the coasts of the Pacific, to those of the Atlantic by means of mules, which travel in cavalcades along the roads crossing the chain, or by Indians carrying burdens on their backs.

The commerce of New Spain centres chiefly at the port of Acapulco in the Pacific, to which the vessels from Manilla bring the productions of the East Indies, which, with the commercial articles of the country itself, are transported over the mountains to Vera Cruz, the Atlantic port, from whence they proceed to the Havannah, and to Europe. We have related what the vegetable and animal kingdoms chiefly furnish towards this trade; it now remains to state the share which the mineral kingdom affords. New Spain is probably richer in productions of this nature than any other country of the world; but for want of the mechanical means which are so extensively employed in raising the metals of Europe, the produce of the Mexican mines, as well as of all those of the New[42] World, is not so great as has been usually imagined, many of the richest veins having been abandoned (after enormous expences and labour employed in opening them), on account of water gaining on the operations of the miners. That useful and surprising instrument the steam-engine, requires to be introduced generally into the mining system of the Americans, before any great accumulations of the precious and useful metals can be had on that continent; then also will the terrible labour of those unfortunate people, who carry on their backs, in baskets, from the depths of these heated caverns, the ores which are there discovered, to the surface, be discontinued; the human race will sensibly increase, and the sterile wastes and thick forests will give way to the arts of agriculture.

The mining stations of gold and silver in New Spain amount to more than 450. They are divided into thirty-seven districts, each governed by a council of the mines. Humboldt supposes that near three thousand actual mines exist in these 450 stations. The principal and most valuable are those of the provinces of Guanaxuato, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi, Mexico, Guadalaxara, Durango, Sonora, Valladolid, Oaxaca, Puebla, Vera Cruz, and Old California. The veins exist mostly in primitive and transition rocks, and the richest silver veins, which are single, run to an amazing breadth and length; the poorest are those in which the silver is dispersed in small and numerous ramifications. The best and most productive of the silver mines of New Spain, are situated at a height of from 5900 to 9840 feet above the level of the sea, and there are three which supply more than half as much again as all the rest put together; these are the mines of Guanaxuato, Catorce, and Zacatecas. The quantity of silver exported from New Spain to Europe and India, per annum, is about one million six hundred and fifty thousand[43] pounds in weight. After the three above mentioned, the mines of Real del Monte, Tasco, and Zimapan in Mexico; Guarisamez, Batopilas, and Parral in Durango; Bolaños in Guadalaxara; Sombrerete and Fresnillo in Zacatecas and Ramos in San Luis Potosi, are those which afford the greatest quantity of ore.

Gold is generally procured in the sands of torrents by washings. It is produced abundantly in Sonora, where it is found in the alluvious grounds; in the sands of Hiaqui and in Pimeria, where grains of very large size have been discovered. It is also procured from the mines of Oaxaca in veins, as well as in most of the silver mines, mixed with the silver, crystallized, in plates, &c. The produce of gold in New Spain is stated to amount, in the most favourable seasons, to a million of piastres, or 218,333l. sterling; the produce of silver at twenty-two millions of piastres, is 4,812,500l. sterling.

Native silver is sometimes found in great masses in the mines of Batopilas, as well as in some others.

The mines of Guanaxuato, of which the most celebrated is the one named Valenciana, are said to produce double the quantity of gold and silver to that of the celebrated Potosi in South America. In this mine the great vein is twenty-two feet in breadth; and, as the chasm is entirely dry, it is easier worked than almost any other American mine. The pits extend to the breadth of 4900 feet, and the lowest is 1640 feet in depth. The undertaking employs upwards of 900 men in carrying the ores to the surface up the stairs on their backs, 1800 workmen in procuring and sorting the ore, with 400 women and children, carrying the minerals to the sorters; the total expences of the materials, workmen, overseers, &c., is above 187,500l. sterling per annum, and the net profit, during the same period, to the proprietors, after deductions of the[44] kingʼs fifth, and all expences, is from 82,500l. to 123,759l. per annum.

The mine of Sombrerete in Zacatecas yielded in one year a profit of above 833,400l. sterling to its proprietor. In San Luis Potosi, the mine of La Purissima Catorce yields annually to its owners a profit of upwards of 43,700l. sterling. The others we have mentioned, as being the richest, yield immense revenues to their holders and to the government.

In these rich mines the miners and labourers contrive occasionally to steal the valuable metals. They, however, undergo a very rigorous search on leaving the pit; nevertheless, like the Indians in the diamond mines of Golconda, they frequently are adroit enough to secrete the ores, notwithstanding many of them go nearly naked. The greater part of the silver is procured by the means of mercury from the ores, smelting being not much used for want of fuel: the quantity of mercury used in the process of amalgamation is estimated at upwards of two millions one hundred pounds troy weight.

Copper, of which the ancient Mexicans made their tools, is found both native and in the mines of Valladolid; as well as in those of New Mexico.

Tin is found in grains and in wood tin in the clayey soil of Guanaxuato and Zacatecas.

The quantity of these metals which is brought to market is very trifling, as they are not much sought after; as is also the case with iron, which exists in various parts of New Spain in great abundance, and under every form. Lead is chiefly found in New Leon, and New Santander; and in Mexico, antimony, zinc, and arsenic. Mercury is procured in Mexico and Guanaxuato, particularly at Chica, Celaya, and Zimapan: but the mines are insufficiently worked, the mercury for amalgamation coming entirely through Spain to the northern colonies of Spanish America. Coal exists[45] in New Mexico; and salt is yielded from the lakes of the Mexican plains; diamonds, topazes, emeralds, and other gems; asphalt, amber, jasper, alabaster, and the magnet, are produced in New Spain. The affairs of the mining interest are directed by a council-general; on this council, which has a president, the thirty-seven districts depend. The mines are wholly the property of individuals; their councils are only erected to judge of the affairs relating to the payment of the duties, and to the general ordering of the undertakings. At Mexico there is a college of mining, where young men are educated by the government, to instruct them in all the branches of science necessary to be attained, in order that the mines may be worked in the best manner. The council-general receives a tithe on all metals, and with this, the salaries of the members, the expences of the college, and advances to undertakers, are paid.

Rivers.—New Spain does not contain such extensive and majestic rivers as are to be found in her sister colonies of the south; nevertheless some of the streams are by no means inconsiderable; the Rio Bravo del Norte, and the Rio Colorado, roll a vast body of water to the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The Rio Bravo rises in the Sierra Verde, near the northern boundaries of the kingdom; this noble river, after various intricate windings, and watering a tract of country, inhabited principally by the aborigines, loses itself in the Gulf of Mexico, having performed a course of nearly two thousand miles; which immense length of river is obstructed by cataracts in the mountainous country of the interior, and by bars of sand in the flat and marshy lands towards the sea coast; canoes navigate, however, a surprising distance up the stream. The Rio Colorado rises in the same mountains, and nearly in the same latitude; but on the opposite side to the sources[46] of the Rio del Norte, and running through a country either waste or inhabited only by the Indians, empties itself into the upper extremity of the Gulf of California, by a large estuary, after a course of a thousand miles; canoes navigate this river for three hundred miles from its mouth. The other rivers of New Spain which are of the greatest importance, are the Mexicana, Arighitas, Flores, Trinidad, Colorado de Texas, Medina or San Josef, Magdalena or Rio Guadalupe, the Nueces, the Gila near the Great Colorado, and almost equalling it in length; the Hiaqui, Mayo, Nasas, Rio Grande de St. Jago, Panuco, Zacatula, Yopez, Alvarado, Tula, or Moetesuema, with many others of smaller note, the names of which will be mentioned under the heads of the several provinces in which they are situated.

Lakes.—The lakes of New Spain are chiefly the lakes of Mexico, near which the capital is built. Lake Chapala in New Gallicia, a large sheet of water, the dimensions of which have not been accurately obtained; it contains several islands, in one of which, some of the insurgents who had been routed by the Spanish troops, shut themselves up. Also Lake Cayman in New Biscay, in a desert country, called the Bolson de Mapimi, not so large as that of Chapala; and lake Pascuaro near Valladolid. The lakes of this part of the American continent, are neither large nor very numerous; the whole country descending rapidly from the central Cordillera, towards the east and west, throws off the deposits which may commence from the springs, into the form of rivers.

The bays and coasts, cities, towns, &c. will be described in following the provincial relations.

The islands of Spanish North America, are described at the end of the First Part.

Temperature.—In order to give some notion of different regions inhabited by man in this extraordinary[47] country, we shall adduce the temperatures of the coast and of the higher lands.

On the coast and at the foot of the mountains under the tropical sun, the heat is excessive, and the temperature of the air is as great as in the hottest of the West India islands. This is called the hot region; and above it is the temperate region which enjoys a perpetual spring, and a temperature of from 60° to 70° Fahrenheit, at an elevation of from 3930 to 4920 feet above the sea; they are, however subject to thick fogs, as it is the height at which clouds usually float in the atmosphere. Above this and to the height of 7200 feet, is the cold region, where the mean heat is 62° Fahrenheit; beyond which the cold becomes greater and greater till the region of perpetual snow commences, at the height in the 19° and 20° of north latitude of nearly 15,050, above the ocean.

Population.—The extent of the population of New Spain may be said to be about six millions and a half, of which the Indians are conjectured to amount to nearly three millions; the remainder consists of European Spaniards, Creoles, or people of Spanish extraction; Mestizoes, from the Spaniards and Indians; Mulattoes, from whites and negroes; Zambos, from negroes and Indians; negroes, and the aboriginal race, or Indians, which are totally unmixed, and are the descendants of the people who inhabited the country at the conquest. The European Spaniards hold the chief offices, civil, military and ecclesiastical; but the Creoles view with great jealousy this assumption of power, which causes these two casts to look with very little complacency on each other; and as, by the cultivation of their minds, they hold the first rank in the colony, it has been observed by a late Spanish writer, that the struggle which unfortunately exists against the mother country, has been materially favoured by the latter class. Humboldt relates, that the expression of “I am not a Spaniard, I am an American,” had[48] been frequently heard during the time he was on the continent.

The Europeans and Creoles, or whites, are computed to amount to 1,200,000; of whom, about 80,000 are European Spaniards.

The whites in New Spain possess the greatest property, both in the mines and the land; a descendant of Cortez, the Duke of Monteleone, a Neapolitan and non-resident, is amongst the richest who derive no advantage from mining operations; the whites are those who principally cultivate their minds, though instances of scientific attainments are not uncommon in the other classes. New Spain can boast of several learned men of Creolian birth, who have considerably advanced the arts and mathematical sciences in their country; many painters also of considerable talent exist in this portion of the New World. The manners and customs of the whites are nearly the same as those of their European brethren.

The religion is Roman Catholic, and the clergy of New Spain are a mixture of all the casts, excepting the negroes; the beneficed and dignified clergy, being chiefly whites; they consist of an archbishop of Mexico, and eight bishops of Puebla, Guadalaxara, Valladolid. Durango, Monterey, Oaxaca, Sonora, and Yucatan or Merida, with about 14,000 dignitaries, parish priests, missionaries, monks, lay brothers, and servants.

The revenues of the archbishop and bishops amount to about 118,000l., out of which the archbishop has 27,000l., per annum.

The negroes and slaves of New Spain form a very inconsiderable part of the population; of the negroes, there are only about 6000, and many of them are free; of slaves, about 10,000, who are negroes, and the Indians who are taken on the frontiers by the missionariesʼ troops; these slaves are to be found only at Vera Cruz, Acapulco, and on the coasts; employed in the ports, the culture of[49] sugar, indigo, &c. being almost entirely the work of the free people. The slaves are, with the exception of the Indian prisoners, treated mildly, and gain their freedom by amassing, if they are of an active turn, a small sum which they give to their owner, who is forced to emancipate them; this sum is from sixty to eighty pounds.

The mestizoes, mulattoes, zambos, and people of mixed blood, amount to about 2,400,000. The mestizoes, are represented as a mild and well conducted people, differing in hardly any thing from the whites.

The mulattoes have that revengeful disposition, versatility of conduct and voluble tongue, which they possess in all other quarters of the world.

The aboriginal race form a large section of the Mexican population; their number, as before stated, amounts to about three millions; they inhabit, chiefly the central and southern part of New Spain, and in these regions they are mostly to be found concentrated in towns and villages. Towards the north the Indians are, with the exception of a few, who have been converted by the missionaries, wandering tribes who subsist by the chace, and by the plunder of the Spanish settlers. The military stations are in constant activity against these people, they frequently capture numbers, who are sent to Mexico, as slaves. For the history of the migration of the Mexican race we must refer to the description of the province of Mexico, under which head will be found some interesting details of the principal events which have taken place in respect to these people, up to the period at which they were subjugated by the Spaniards.

The Indians of New Spain are of a copper colour, and in general well made, with very little beard, but long smooth, shining dark hair, prominent cheek bones, and thick lips. Their temperament is melancholic, and their physiognomy indicating a great share of moroseness, strangely intermingled[50] with gentleness. The Mexican Indians generally wear some hair on the upper lip, no doubt in imitation of the Spaniards; they are extremely fond of an intoxicating liquor, made of the juice of the agave, and those who addict themselves to this practice, by taking very little solid food, greatly weaken their constitutions; otherwise they are a robust race, and attain in general a healthy old age. They are in their common demeanour, silent and reserved, and appear to entertain for the Spaniards a constant sort of distrust. In the Indian towns and villages, few whites settle, and they are governed by magistrates, elected from their own tribes, who are represented to be more severe, and fond of punishing their brethren, than the Spaniards themselves. Very few of the Indians who are subject to Spanish power, are in any other situations than those of small cultivators, labourers, or artisans, and are a hard working people when urged by interested motives; otherwise they are idly disposed, as is the case with most people who live in a warm climate; they are however free, and receive for their labour, when employed in the mines or other work, very good wages. They are, in some instances, forced to supply a certain number of labourers for particular operations, but these are always paid.

The women are more lively, and of a less reserved disposition than the men, and are kept by them in a state of much subjection.

Carving on wood, and rough paintings, or rather designs, with the fabrication of pottery and cotton cloths, are the principal arts in which they excel, and they are represented as equalling the Chinese in their taste and ability in imitating objects of European workmanship. Flowers are a part of the household goods of the Mexican Indians; their shops for the display of fruit, &c. in Mexico, being completely lined with the most beautiful productions[51] of the flower garden, in which they take great delight.

The Indian tribes who inhabit the northern part of New Spain, are mostly free from the domination of the Spaniards; they are a warlike people, and are a more noble race than their subjugated brethren, carrying on a constant warfare against the settlers, and only trading with them, when in absolute want of some articles of finery, or nourishment. This trade never takes place personally; the Indian leaves his goods, at a stated place, and the Spaniard takes them, and deposits in return the articles the Indians are known to be in need of; this commerce is said to be carried on with a rectitude of principle highly honourable to both parties.

The whole of the Indians are styled tributary by the Spanish laws, excepting only such as are descended from the ancient kings and nobles of the country; these are called Caciques, who levy the tribute, and are appointed to the magisterial functions in the Indian towns and villages; but are not a jot better informed than their brethren. Many of them have embraced the rigid rules of the monastery, and their daughters are often devoted to the veil; in most of their towns or villages, the curate is an Indian.

At the conquest, these unfortunate people suffered very much, they were used as beasts of burden, in the working of the mines, the erection of buildings, and as slaves, in fact, in every thing where labour was required; their conquerors disdaining to work. They were divided as spoil among the soldiers and the new settlers, particularly the monks; thus they languished for some time under the pressure of this burden, and it was not until the eighteenth century, that these poor people were in some measure freed from slavery. Charles III. abolished the right of possession, which had been granted over the Indians to the Spanish settlers; intendancies[52] were established, to watch over the welfare of the natives, and since that period they have gradually enjoyed a milder form of government, and, comparatively speaking, are very little oppressed.

Many of the Indian families possess considerable wealth from their plantations. M. de Humboldt mentions Indian families at Cholula, where there are no Caciques, who possess from these sources, capitals from 33,000 to 50,000l. sterling; but they live nevertheless very wretched, at least in exterior appearance. The Indian tribute levied on all individuals, amounts to about 9s. each per annum; by paying which, they are exempted from all other taxes; they are, however, looked upon by the law, as a sort of irrational beings, and consequently, great impediments to their advancement in the arts of civilisation, and intermixture with Europeans takes place; they can enter into no contracts above a very small sum, and the whites are forbidden to settle in Indian towns, or to intermarry with that people.

The laws are still more severe with respect to the blacks and their descendants.

Antiquities, &c.—The ancient monuments of the Mexicans, at present remaining, are chiefly their teocallies or temples of a pyramidal form; these are generally divided into steps or separate platforms with a square top, on which the priests officiated; the greatest and most striking of them, are those of Cholula, Mitla and Papantla, which will be spoken of in describing the provinces.

The Mexican paintings are extremely singular, being on stags skins prepared for the purpose; on paper made of the agave, and on other substances. These people preserved by symbolical paintings, the memory of former events relating to their general and particular history; the colours are extremely bright, and the designs, though rude, are well executed.

Manufactures.—The manufactured articles of[53] New Spain, consist chiefly in cottons, woollens, soap, and soda, plate, coin, powder, cigars, and snuff. The manufacture of tobacco is a royal monopoly, and carried on by the government; the others are principally carried on by individuals, (coin and powder excepted,) who employ the Indians, mulattoes, negroes, &c., and are (in large establishments) allowed a certain number of slaves. There are some trifling manufactories of crockery-ware and glass in the cities near the capital.

The silver and gold taken from the mines, is either wrought into services of plate for the table, for the churches, in ornamental works, or is coined at the royal mint of Mexico, which was established by Antonio de Mendoza, first viceroy of Mexico, fourteen years after the conquest; it is estimated that upwards of four hundred and eight millions of money has issued from this mint since that period.

The Indians manufacture beautiful toys of bone, wood, &c. Cabinet-ware and turnery are executed with great skill by the white artisans, the woods they are able to employ being cheap and beautiful; carriages are also made in New Spain, but most of those which are in use in the capital and great cities, by the nobility and gentry of fashion, are the productions of the London workshops.

Commerce.—The commerce of New Spain has been of late years considerably augmented, both by the great additions made to agriculture, and by the formation of good roads from the interior; when these shall become sufficiently finished to admit of the conveyance of merchandise by means of waggons instead of on the backs of horses, mules, and Indians, the commercial relations of New Spain, will embrace the most remote countries of the Old World. The internal traffic consists chiefly in maize, ingots of metal carried from the mines of the capital to be coined or assayed, hides, flour,[54] tallow, woollens, European goods, of which iron and mercury form the most prominent articles; cocoa, chocolate, copper, woods for the cabinet-makers, cottons, wines, tobacco, sugar, rum, pulque, wax, powder for the mines, &c.

The exterior traffic consists in coin, plate, ingots of the precious metals, cochineal, sugar, flour, indigo, provisions, hides, pimento, vanilla, jalap, sarsaparilla, mahogany, logwood, cabinet-woods, soap, cocoa, &c.; these are exported from Vera Cruz and Campeachy. The imports from Europe, are cottons, linens, woollens, silks, paper, brandy, mercury, steel, iron, wines, wax, vinegar, raisins, almonds, olives, oil, saffron, corks, thread, crockery-ware, and cordage, with a variety of minor articles, such as fruits, medicines, toys, &c. The imports from the East Indies, at the port of Acapulco, are calicoes, silks, muslins, cottons, spices, gums, and jewellery, which trade is carried on by armed vessels, under the orders of officers of the Spanish royal navy; New Spain returns to the East Indies, coined silver, iron, cochineal, cocoa, wine, oil, wool and hats.

The imports from the other Spanish American colonies to Acapulco are chiefly in cinchona, or Jesuits bark, Chili, or long-pepper, oil, Chili-wine, copper, sugar and cocoa; for which New Spain returns woollens of her own manufacture, cochineal, tea and some East Indian articles.

The commerce of New Spain has suffered much since the war, from the heavy duties exacted at Vera Cruz, for articles the produce of European soil, manufactured in the mother country, and by the want of encouragement to the introduction of goods manufactured in countries which have carried the arts to a greater height than they have hitherto reached in Spain, as well as to the restrictions put upon the cultivation of tobacco, the olive, and the wine. We shall not examine here the value of the export and import trade of this viceroyalty. It[55] is well known, that the duties do very little more than support the administration, and that having subsidies to make annually to the islands of Cuba, Porto Rico, and to other of the Spanish colonies, Mexico affords very little towards the support of Old Spain. Indeed amongst the whole of the Spanish American colonies, none but the vice-royalties of Peru and Mexico, make any regular remittances of monies to Spain for the assistance of the mother-country; the charges of government swallowing up all the revenues in the others. M. de Humboldt cites the public accounts of the colonies as his vouchers, and states, that the revenue of New Spain may be estimated at upwards of four millions sterling, of which about a million and a quarter are annually remitted to Spain, the remainder being consumed in the subsidies paid to Porto Rico, Cuba, &c., and in the interior administration. An anonymous writer, who styles himself Espagnol amante de su Patria, has lately published a pamphlet in London, in which he shows that the revenue derived by the Spanish government, has very much decreased since the period of M. de Humboldtʼs travels; although a free trade has been conceded to the island of Cuba, by means of which, the administration of that island has been enabled to meet their expences, and to have a small sum in reserve, without being obliged to have recourse to the Mexican subsidy.

The revenue of New Spain consists in the duties paid on all gold and silver extracted from the mines, on the sale of quicksilver, the coinage, sale of tobacco and powder, duties of entry, and embarkation at the ports, the tribute imposed on the Indians, duty on pulque (the fermented liquor of the agave), sale of indulgences from Rome, tax on the clergy, sale of powder, stamps, sale of snow, which is a royal right, and very productive in the hot regions, where so much cooling liquors are consumed, and some other minor taxes. With the[56] amount of money collected under these heads, the expences of the administration, of the missions to the northern provinces, the fortifications, dockyards, ships of war, the militia and regular troops are paid, together with the subsidies before-mentioned.

The Army of New Spain consists of a regular force raised in the country, of ten thousand men, and more than 20,000 militia. In the present time, the army and navy of New Spain must be considered as a component part of the military force of the Mother country, as she is engaged in reinforcing them, by every means in her power, in order to quell the disturbances which have arisen to such a height in her more southern colonies.

The insurgents have made no decided progress in New Spain; they are seen only in the province of Puebla, or rather in the old province of Tlascala, in small bodies, and in the district of Texas, on the northern part of San Luis Potosi, where they have formed a slight establishment in Galveston Bay.

In Guadalaxara and Valladolid symptoms of disaffection have been shown; but it has been immediately quelled, and the discontented were dispersed by the Spanish troops; the few who could get together taking shelter in an almost inaccessible island of the lake Chapala in Valladolid.

The Indians are said to take no part with the insurgents, nor are the people of the interior at all willing to enter into the struggle; on the contrary, they have formed themselves, in many of the districts, into military bodies for the preservation of the public tranquillity.

It will be seen, on consulting the journals of the present time, that the Government of the United States lays strong claim to that portion of the kingdom of New Spain, east of the bay of St. Bernardo; it having been declared in congress, that Galveston Bay, where the insurgents have been attempting to form settlements, in order to annoy[57] from thence, the coasts of San Luis Potosi and Vera Cruz, is within the limits of the United States. Should this assertion, which is founded on the treaty of 1783, be well grounded, the Spanish government will have no other barrier to oppose to any future aggression of that power, than the great river Bravo del Norte, which will bring the Americans within a very short distance of the capital, and will leave them some of the richest silver mines in the government of San Luis Potosi.

We shall now give a description of the capital of New Spain, as in it the commerce, the wealth, and the power of the country, is, as it were, concentrated.


Mexico, the capital of the Spanish vice-royalty of New Spain, is situated in 19° 25ʹ 45ʺ north latitude, and 99° 5ʹ 5ʺ west longitude, in a beautiful valley near the banks of the lake Tezcuco. The houses are mostly founded on piles, on account of the marshy nature of the ground, and the town is intersected by numerous canals. The scite of the city is the same as that of the ancient Mexico, which is said to have been so denominated from the god of war of the Mexicans, whose appellation was Mexitli, as he had a temple erected there to his worship. A palace was erected by Cortez, opposite to the scite of the palace of Montezuma. This city is a very fine one, and it is asserted that, with the exception of some parts of Westminster, Petersburgh, Berlin and Philadelphia, there is no city of the same magnitude which bears any comparison with Mexico for its great regularity, the extent of the public buildings and places, the level, and the general architecture. The railings and gates of the houses are of iron, ornamented with bronze, and the roofs of the houses are flat, and formed into terraces. The great breadth and length of its[58] streets is an object of admiration to strangers, but it is said they are nevertheless dirty. The streets are paved and lighted by large reflecting lamps, and generally run in straight lines, from west to east, and from north to south; the footpaths are guarded by little stone-pillars, and a covered sewer runs along the middle of the streets, as in France.

The chief building is the vice-regal palace, built by Fernando Cortez, near the ruins of that of Montezuma; it stands in the central square, near the cathedral, and is a massive stone edifice. The cathedral is a magnificent building, and cost the labour of upwards of ninety years. In it are two images of the Virgin, one of solid gold, weighing fourteen pounds, six ounces, eighteen pennyweights. There are upwards of 100 other churches, which are decorated in the usual glittering style of Catholic countries; the monasteries and convents amount to twenty. Behind the palace of the viceroy stands the mint, where 100 workmen are employed; the bullion being here exchanged for coin, by the proprietors of mines. The cathedral is so rich in plate, and gold, &c. that there is a solid, silver rail round the high altar, and an enormous silver lamp, enriched with gold embossed work, into which lamp, it is said, three persons might enter, and the images of the saints, are mostly solid silver, enriched with jewels and gold. The inhabitants of the better sort are habited generally in silks, their hats having diamond ornaments and gold lace; even the very slaves wear bracelets of gold, silver, and gems.

The shops of Mexico make a profuse display of the most valuable articles, and every thing wears the appearance of great riches, and consequently of great luxury. There are thirteen hospitals, and many charitable buildings; the population is estimated at 137,000 souls, of which 2,500 are Europeans, 65,000 white creoles, 33,000 copper-coloured natives, 26,500 mestizoes, and 10,000 mulattoes.


This great mass of people are abundantly supplied with provisions from the neighbourhood of the city, which is very fertile.

Mexico is not fortified, having merely a ditch round it, without ramparts or walls; there are however six gates for the great communications from the country, together with other smaller ones, for the immediate environs. The extent of this city is four miles from north to south, and three from east to west. There is a great market place, and a sort of bazaar, after the eastern fashion, being a square of shops.

Mexico is plentifully supplied with good water, by means of two aqueducts; the police of the city have guarded against fires by water pipes, and they have lately built ten fountains with cocks, after the manner of the towns in France, &c. They have a regular watch, who take care of the lamps, and guard the streets; besides which, the guard of the city, a species of troops, who are under the orders of a judge, (who has, besides those who act immediately in the city, about ten thousand spread through the kingdom,) patrol the streets constantly, and punish excesses in the most exemplary manner. The municipal body consists of a corrigidor or mayor, twelve regidors or aldermen, and other inferior officers; the alcades, or justices of the peace, sit for the judgment of civil and criminal cases; their judgments, as well as that of the chief judge of the police, are reversible by the Audienza Real, which again refers to the viceroy, whose judgment is final, except in particular cases, which he deems necessary to refer to the king of Spain.

The courts, are the above-named Audienza Real, or royal audience, the chancery, tribunal of accompts, the strangersʼ court, the court of administrations for persons dying intestate, the tribunal of registers, the tribunal of the inquisition, the royal tribunal[60] of mines, the tribunal of the descendants of Fernando Cortez, the tribunal of the city, &c. Amongst the public offices are the royal mint, chancery, the royal coffers, the house of the Californian missions, the mount of piety, and the chapter and government of the city, which is stiled Illustrious. The city arms are a castle with three towers, an eagle on a tree, with a serpent in its beak, and the Lake Tezcuco at the foot of the tree; supporters, two lions; and crest, an imperial crown. These arms were granted by the Emperor Charles V. whence the city has sometimes the title of Imperial and Illustrious. In 1728, Philip V. granted it all the privileges, &c. of a grandee of Spain, and in 1773 Charles III. granted to the chapter of magistrates of the city, the distinction of pre-eminence over all other tribunals, excepting the royal audience and tribunal of accompts; and the use of uniforms laced with gold. There are thirteen hospitals, and various charitable establishments under their jurisdiction.

The viceroy of New Spain, a grandee of Spain, and of course always a nobleman of high connections and rank, is commander in chief, and president of the government, or in fact, king; and as Mexico is the seat of his government, it will not be improper to give an account of his command, &c. in a description of the city. He is regarded as the chief viceroy of Spanish America, his territory being equal to an European kingdom of large size. The governors of the provinces of his vice-royalty are not however all named by him, this power resting with the court of Spain. His patronage over all the churches makes no inconsiderable part of his power.

The court of the viceroy is formed in the most splendid style; he has body-guards both horse and foot, an immense train of attendants, &c. His salary is not great, but the patronage over lucrative places, monopolies, and the presents he receives, are supposed to render it enormous; as he[61] however is obliged to support the style of a king, the greater part is spent in the payment of his household, equipages, &c.; he is commander in chief, and has under his orders in the kingdom of New Spain, about 10,000 regular troops, and 20,000 militia, making a total of 30,000 men; these are however so dispersed, and ineffective, that he can send no very large force into the field.

Mexico is an archbishopric, and metropolitan see; it is very valuable, as the income is inferior to none but that of the bishopric of Puebla de los Angelos; the archbishopʼs annual income being 100,000 dollars.

The clergy of Mexico are numerous and wealthy, the chapter of the cathedral containing twenty-six ecclesiastics. The income of the dean is 10,000 dollars, the canons from 7,000 to 9,000, and the sub-canons, from 2,000 to 4,000, and the parish curacies very valuable in general.

The ecclesiastic courts of Mexico are comparatively as numerous as the clergy, the principal one being the Holy Tribunal of the Faith, or as it is better known by the title of “the Inquisition.”

The university of Mexico was founded in 1551, and is called the Royal and Pontifical university of Mexico; it is composed of two hundred and fifty doctors in all the faculties. It is under the government of a rector, who is annually chosen by the preceding rector, and eight of the council chosen by ballot from amongst the doctors and bachelors. It has a chancellor, who is the chief schoolmaster of the city, and who presides at the conferring of degrees. The professors are nominated by a council, consisting of the archbishops, the chief-judge of the royal audience, the chief-inquisitor, the dean of the cathedral, the rector of university, the chancellor, the senior professor of theology and the dean of faculty.

The library of the university is in a bad condition, having been only lately endowed, and is filled[62] chiefly with theological works; it is open to the public.

The college of Santa Maria de Todos los Santos, is the principal college of Spanish America; it was founded in 1682, by the archbishop of Mexico, and has a public library and thirteen professors; it received additional buildings in 1750, and has 400 students.

The college of St. John is the oldest in New Spain; it was endowed for children of Spanish and Indian parents.

The Jesuits had formerly five colleges in Mexico; there are now two only remaining under the direction of the viceroy. Like the colleges of this order in all parts of the world, these buildings are strong, massive and magnificent; the great hall and chapel of one being the most beautiful pieces of architecture in the viceroyalty.

The public schools are numerous, being chiefly conducted by the priests of the several religious orders.

The royal academy of Arts and Sciences has a good establishment of professors of architecture, sculpture, painting, engraving, and mathematics. There has also been lately erected a college of mines, in which young men are instructed in various branches of science, and in every thing that relates to mining.

The botanical garden is another useful institution, lately much enriched.

The patron saint of Mexico is St. Mary of Guadaloupe, who is also the patroness of Spanish America.

The character of the people of Mexico, as given by late travelers, is that of a courteous and charitable people. The polite arts are their chief study, and they boast of their painters. They are great smokers, using cigars even at the theatre, and the ladies all smoke; a part of their ornaments being a gold or silver cigar box suspended by a[63] chain or ribbon, in which they keep their paper cigars; on the chain they wear little pincers to hold the cigar, which, is nearly finished, whilst they light the new one. The manufactory of cigars, a magnificent building, employs near 5000 persons; such is the demand for this article. They are fond of theatrical exhibitions and have a handsome theatre. As in all Catholic countries, religious processions and shows occupy a great part of their attention; amongst the most splendid of these, is the procession of the Corpus Christi, the festival of the anniversary of the conquest of Mexico, and the publication of the bulls of indulgence; which are hailed with eagerness, and looked for with earnestness. The great civil show, is the entrance of a new viceroy, on which occasion, the city is all splendour and joy. The lower people are immoderately fond of a liquor named pulque, and the number of houses for the sale of it have of late become so numerous that the Police allow them only to remain open from ten till four in the day-time, on account of the riots and violence that happens in them; this liquor is allowed to enter the city only by one gate, that of Guadaloupe; and such is the consumption of it by the inhabitants, that the tax on it yields a revenue annually of a million of dollars. The shopkeepers of Mexico issue tokens of copper, iron and wood; and even grains of cacao pass as current in the neighborhood; which arises from there being no bullion currency. The price of bread is regulated three times in the year by the price of grain. There are numbers of sugar mills in this capital, and from there numerous distilleries of rum are kept at work.

Mexico is at present a place of immense commerce, and will become of more importance in a commercial point of view, when the great roads from Vera Cruz, &c. are completed; as the transport of goods will then be easier and less expensive; and[64] the wheat, &c. of the fine plains of Mexico, will find a ready market all over the world.

This city, though on a marshy soil, is in general healthy, and the black vomit or yellow fever is here hardly known; but consumptions, apoplexy, agues, fever, and pleurisy, are not uncommon. The worst disorder to which the inhabitants of Mexico are subject appears to be what they denominate “flato” or “flatus;” the unhappy patients appearing in a state of madness, and have hot and shivering fits as in the ague; convulsions, and hysteric affections also accompany this strange disorder; which has been supposed to arise from the great quantity of spice they use in their food, and from the excessive use of tobacco.

This extraordinary city attracts the notice of Europeans from its curious situation, as well as from the remembrances attached to its name. It is placed on a plain, the height of which above the level of the sea is 6900 feet, near the banks of the lakes Tezcuco and Chalco, which are about ninety miles in circumference; the waters of the latter are salt, of the former fresh; they communicate with each other, and contain only two sorts of fish, one of which is of very peculiar organization. The city at a distance, appears to rise from the waters of the former lake; the banks of which are beautified with the most enchanting village scenery; on the opposite side of the lake, a luxuriant and highly cultivated valley is contrasted with the towering summits of the enormous mountains, emitting flame and smoke, in regions where eternal snow and winter reigns. This extensive plain is covered with flax, hemp, cotton, tobacco, sugar, indigo, &c.; and furnishes the markets of the city with abundance of vegetables, meat, fruits, and poultry, and reaches to the mountains, whose bases repose on its bosom. These mountains are diversified into every form that imagination can present, and are[65] clothed with cedars, shrubs, and plants, and contain in their bowels precious jewels and minerals. The plain extends on all sides of the city and of the Lakes Tezcuco and Chalco; but on the eastern-side of the latter it is not so prolific, owing to the saline exhalations from the waters. On the lower parts of the mountains, farms, country-seats and romantically situated cottages are seen; and the whole plain appears well watered by numerous canals and rivulets. To the north of the town, near the suburbs, is the promenade, or Alameda; it is surrounded by a rivulet, and is in the shape of a large square, with a basin of water and fountain in the middle. From this bason eight walks strike out, each bordered by two rows of trees: there are also several other public walks, but the ground, in the immediate neighbourhood of Mexico, is full of rivulets and canals, and rather swampy.

The cold at Mexico is not great in the winter, as the Lake Tezcuco seldom freezes thicker than a sheet of paper; in the summer it is very hot, but as there are regular showers, which fall in the evening, the air during the summer is much tempered. The rainy season occupies four months, from the middle of May, to the middle of September.

The houses of pilgrimage in the neighbourhood of Mexico are singular; the chief one is the sanctuary of Neustra Senora de los Remedios, on the spot where Cortez retired when he was repulsed.

The sanctuary of Guadalupe has a college, church, &c.

Just without the city is the sanctuary of Neustra Senora de los Angelos, formerly the retreat of an anchorite. The desert of the Carmelites is five leagues from the city, and here, in an inclosure of three miles, the most austere of these monks live in solitary cells.

About half a league from the city is the rock of the warm-baths.


The village of Traspana is also a place of great resort, the air being thought very wholesome and pure. On a hill in the environs, where there was formerly a palace of Montezuma, is the great aqueduct of Chapultepec, which conveys water to the city; it is above 9000 feet in length. The water of this, is however, not so pure as that of the aqueduct of Sante Fé, which is 30,600 feet in length, and which runs along the Alameda, but is not so beautiful a structure as the former, as the water is not conveyed the whole way over arches.

The surrounding scenery of the metropolis is in all respects highly beautiful and singular; from it are seen the summits of some of the loftiest mountains of North America, and the varied foliage of the cypress, the avenues of elms and poplars, which branch to the city from all quarters, the gardens of oranges and European fruits, the deep verdure of the plain, the golden tint of the ripening corn, and the different shades of the various Mexican plants, conveys, through the medium of a pure and cerulean atmosphere, the utmost delight to the eye of the beholders. The valley in which the city and its neighbourhood rests, is filled with villages and towns, and surrounded with enormous masses reposing on the great plain; two of which, Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl, are the most remarkable of the group; the first is continually vomiting fire and smoke, though covered with snow. The Pico de Orisaba is also visible, and forms a grand feature of the scene. On the west of the city, the chain is very high and continuous.

The remains of the former city are inconsiderable; some traces of the great dikes yet subsist, as well as of the aqueducts. The temples have been destroyed, but the foundations of the ancient Mexican habitations are numerous in the environs of the city, and prove that it was much larger than it is at present.

The lake has retired a league from the city, so[67] that it is now situated in a marshy soil to the left of the southern extremity of Lake Tezcuco, and between it and Lakes Xochimilco and Chalco. To the north it has two small lakes, one called Lake San Christoval, and the other Lake Zumpango.

The palace of Montezuma stood opposite to where the viceroyʼs palace now stands, and a palace was erected on the site of Montezumaʼs, by the descendants of Cortez, as they were obliged to resign the original building of the conqueror to the government; this house still belongs to a descendant of Cortez, who is Marquis del Valle de Oaxaca, and is also Duke de Monte Leone in Naples.

The building in which Cortez was stationed when he first entered the city, still shows some of its remains behind the convent of Santa Teresa.

Of the great temples nothing is to be seen; that dedicated to the god of war was destroyed to make room for the cathedral.

A fine modern equestrian statue in bronze, of one of the Spanish kings, ornaments the great square, which was cast and erected by a Spanish artist residing in the city.

In this city, there are a set of people who resemble, in their general habits, the Italian Lazaroni. They pass the night under the arcades and porches, and work one or two days of the week, to gain enough to enable them to buy sufficient liquor and food. They amount to 30,000, and are designated by the names of Saragates, and Guachinangos; they differ only from the Lazaroni, in not being ferocious, and in never asking alms.

After having given this extended description of the metropolis of New Spain, we shall return to the subject of its division into provinces, &c. These have been before enumerated; we shall therefore commence at the northern boundaries of the viceroyalty,[68] and proceed regularly to the southern limits of North America, on the isthmus of Panama or Darien.


The most, northerly province of New Spain is New Mexico, which extends from the Spanish boundary in 39° of north latitude, and is terminated by an unknown country, inhabited by the savage tribes, and by ranges of lofty mountains which have been very little explored; on the east, it has unknown countries between it and the United Statesʼ territory of Louisiana, from which it is divided by an ideal line; on the west by unknown lands and Indian nations; and on the south by the intendancy of New Biscay; it is 175 leagues in length and 40 in breadth: the limits on the east and west are not, however, very accurately defined. This country has been subdivided into several districts; but as few details of these have ever been published, it is impossible to ascertain their accuracy. Though very extensive, it is but thinly peopled, and that chiefly by the native tribes.

Throughout its whole western extent, the great chain of the Sierra Madre presents itself, running from south to north, and extending nearly the whole length of North America; this chain changes its name after quitting the Spanish territory, and then receives that of the Stony Mountains, Crane Mountains, Azure Mountains, &c. It is supposed, and with great probability, that this immense range is part of the same Cordillera as the Andes; thus forming one continuous ridge from the Tierra del Fuego to the Icy Ocean in the north. It is the great barrier of the west, and interposes its awful front to the whole length of the world.

In New Mexico, the climate is colder, generally speaking, than that of any other part of the Spanish possessions. The summers are warm, but not[69] intensely scorching, the winters cold, and frequently very severe, especially in the higher regions of the mountains; and they are not deluged with those incessant rains that prevail in some other parts of New Spain. This country lies within the temperate zone. The soil is represented as, in some parts, extremely fertile, which appears from the luxuriancy of the pasturages, where the herds of buffaloes and bisons are found; in others, as very arid and barren. The country is, excepting on the Cordillera, agreeably diversified into hill and vale; and the rivers and lakes are well stocked with fish; great quantities of game frequent the mountains; and the forests are stored with wild animals. Many of the writers on this country state, that it is amongst the most agreeable and the most plentiful colonies of America. Under these circumstances, it is wonderful that the Spaniards do not settle it more effectually; their attention has, however, of late years, been so much distracted by the unhappy state of the mother country, and by the struggle of the colonies for independence, that they have not had leisure to extend their views to this desirable land.

The capital of New Mexico is Santa Fé, which is in 36° 12ʹ north latitude, and 104° 52ʹ 45ʺ west longitude, on a river which falls into the Great Rio del Norte; it was founded in 1682, and is small and placed near the northern limits of the colony; its population is 3,600.

The other towns of most importance are;—Santa Cruz, containing 8900 souls, and Albuquerque 6000 souls; both near the east bank of the great Rio del Norte.

There are enumerated 26 villages and 19 missions in New Mexico.

The Passo del Norte, or Fort, is the most noted of these, and is situated in a country which produces all sorts of fruits and a fine wine; it is on the right bank of the Rio del Norte, 60 leagues south of Santa Fé.


This country, which was discovered by a missionary in 1581, was finally subdued in 1644, and slightly settled by the missionaries.

The mines are generally of tin; and the total population is about 40,000.

The chief river of this country is the Rio Grande del Norte, (the great northern river,) called also Rio Bravo, rising in the Sierra Verde, beyond the extreme bounds of the province; and after a course of 2000 miles, this noble stream enters the Gulf of Mexico, traversing the whole length of New Mexico, the province of Coaguila, and that of New Santander. In the province of Coaguila it receives the Puerco River, a considerable stream, which rises south of Santa Fé, the capital.

The Rio Grande is beautifully adorned in New Mexico by woody banks of poplar and oak. It is subject to periodical floods, which begin in April and end in June; the great road from the south to Santa Fé, runs along the east bank of this river in New Mexico, and crosses it at the Fort del Passo before mentioned, and is so level, that carriages of a light construction are used on it; but the wandering Indians render travelling unsafe in some points. In New Mexico, the Rio del Norte frequently is encrusted, during the winter, with ice thick enough to travel on. This river is fordable for horsemen in the droughts of summer; the streams which join it in New Mexico, are of no moment, the country being in general dry; near the northern part some rivers rise which have been conjectured to be the Red River, and Arkansas of Louisiana; but the geography of the countries to the west and east of New Mexico, remains in a very defective state.

The eastern towns of New Mexico, as well as its villages, are in general thickly peopled, on account of the proximity of the country to tribes of warlike Indians. On the west of the great river Del Norte, the Indians are of a comparatively peaceable character,[71] and are on friendly terms with the natives, of New Mexico.—Of these western tribes—

The Moqui Indians have towns well constructed, after the manner of the ancient Mexicans, for the purposes of defence; and the missionaries who have visited these tribes, say, that although their language is different from that of the ancient Mexicans, yet, from several concurrent circumstances, they appear to be part of the remnant of those people who scattered themselves at Cinaloa, on their march from the north. Their houses exactly resemble those of Casas Grandes, which the Aztecs built on their route near the Rio Gila.

It is the Indians of the east country, from the great river Del Norte, that are so constantly engaged in disputes with the New Mexicans.

Of these, the Cumanches are amongst the most warlike. They have no settled place of abode, but wander about, as the chase, or their inclinations dictate, in the immense extent of country from the rivers Trinidad and Brazos, across the Red River, to the heads of the Arkansas and Missouri, and beyond the Rio Bravo, over the ridge of the Great Cordillera; they have, of course, from this unsettled life, no towns or villages, and are subdivided into many hordes, who have so little communication with each other, as to be often supposed to be distinct tribes. They principally exist by the chase, the flesh of the bison and buffalo being their chief food; this, with some vegetables, which they procure from the tribes and settlements in their vicinity, constitutes nearly the whole of their nourishment. They carry about with them tents made of the skins of these animals, which they form like a bell, large enough to contain a dozen people; but the heads of the tribes and other great persons, have them of a much larger size. The tents are pitched in regular order, in the manner of a town, having streets of communication.

The wild horses which run about the country[72] serve the Cumanches in their predatory excursions; they know well how to ride and manage these animals, and pass nearly all their time on horseback; their tents are removed on horses, and having few other goods to pack up, they perform marches with astonishing quickness, and fall upon the unsuspecting settlers, whom they plunder of every thing, and carry off their children to serve them as slaves; many Spaniards existing in a state of servitude amongst them.

The chase of the buffalo is carried on by them on horseback, and they kill that animal either with arrows or with spears.

In person, the Cumanche Indian is strong and well made, uncommonly neat and clean; the dress of the women is a long loose robe, tied round the waist with a fine girdle; the whole is formed of leather, decorated with paintings in a rude manner: the men wear a close shirt and pantaloons of the same materials.

Their language is totally different from that of the neighbouring Apaches.

They cook their beef with a mixture of wild fruits and herbs, and particularly with a sort of bean which grows on a tree; this mess they season with pepper, which grows abundantly in the country they inhabit; and the food, so prepared, is said to be very good and palatable.

The great extent of uncultivated territory on both sides of New Mexico is subdivided amongst many other Indian tribes; of these, however, a dry detail cannot prove interesting; and so little is accurately known concerning those subdivisions, that errors would unavoidably arise in recapitulating them. The chief of these districts is named Apacheria, from the Indian tribes called Apaches, a warlike and restless race of Americans, who inhabit the country to the west and east of Santa Fé.

They are denominated, towards the southern part of New Mexico, Apaches Mescaleros; Apaches[73] Llaneros, and Lipanes in the northern part; and Apaches, Chicaraguis, Mimbrenos and Gilenos, on the eastern side. They are a brave, resolute and independent people, extremely attached to their primitive customs, and very jealous of the power of the Spaniards, with whom they are frequently at variance; but this does not proceed to open war, as they stile themselves the allies of Spain. They were subjugated on the first settling of this country, but revolted towards the close of the 17th century, since which time they do not acknowledge subjection to that power.

In referring to what has been before observed concerning the great chain of mountains which pervade this country, it will be necessary to state, that the name Sierra Madre, or Topia, is more strictly applied to that elevated part of this immense ridge, which commences near Guadalajara, and extends 450 miles in a northerly direction into New Mexico; the breadth of all its ridges, or parallel crests, at this part, is sometimes 120 miles, where the chain is called more distinctively by the appellation of Sierra Madre, or Mother Ridge, on account of its great altitude above the other parts: it has, by some writers, been compared with the Cordillera of Peru; and the chasms and precipitous terminations of its sides, are said to exceed any of the most terrific and sublime mountain features of the world; their aspect is terrible, their depths profound, and appear to the wondering traveller, to unite the concave of heaven and the valleys of New Spain, by everlasting walls of adamant.

This part of the chain, and indeed nearly the whole of it, is in general densely covered with forests of the most gloomy appearance, composed principally of pines and oaks. In these impracticable wilds, birds of every description, peculiar to the country, inhabit; and their variegated and beautiful plumage throws a ray of lustre on the sombre scene.


On the summits of some of these mountains snow eternally lodges, and the cold, in consequence, is intense. Many rivers take their rise in the sides and near the tops of this Cordillera, and rush with impetuous force into the valleys below, whence they take their courses to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. During the rainy season, (from June to September,) and when the upper snows lose their solidity and become fluid, these rivers, and the smaller streams, are turned into torrents, inundating the lowlands; and their devastations, to the distance of 10 or 12 miles, are inconceivable. During this period, when the natives are forced to much manual labour and bodily exertion in the open air, to repress the ravages of the waters, these pests of warm climates, the musquitoes, become intolerable.

Bears, tigers, &c. with various beautiful species of squirrels, inhabit the thick forests on the sides of the Sierra Madre. This ridge is most prolific in silver, each quintal of earth in the mines yielding a mark (two thirds of a pound); but these mines, on account of their distance from Mexico, have many of them been forsaken.

This ridge received its other name of Topia, from the appellation of a tribe of savages who inhabited it, and who were converted to the Catholic faith by the exertions of the Jesuit missionaries in 1590. So little was known of the existence of the Indians in some of the middle parts of this chain, that the inhabitants were not converted till the year 1718.

As before observed, nothing can be accurately advanced with respect to the termination of the continuation of the Topia, or Sierra Madre Cordillera on the north; but it seems, without much doubt, to be continued to an amazing distance towards the north pole, and that the Stony Mountains are certainly a part of it. In the immediate[75] vicinity of the northern boundary of the Spanish territories, the tribe of Indians called the Moquis, are reckoned amongst the inhabitants of its regions; they live under the same parallel as Santa Fé, the capital of New Mexico, and some distance to the westward of that place; their houses have already been mentioned.

The Sierra Madre sends off a branch in the west part of the province of New Mexico; this ramification, the summits of which are very lofty, is called Gemes, and bears a south-easterly direction; whilst on the eastern side, it throws off another arm, called the ridge of Nahmi; which is, however, of inferior height, and of shorter duration, than that of Gemes.

From the shore of the Pacific to the great Topian ridge, the general distance may be computed at 140 miles; in many places, however, it is greater, and in some, where the continent begins to straighten its bounds, not one half that distance.

The Topian chain takes the name of Sierra de las Grullas, from 38° to 40° north latitude; beyond that to 42° north latitude, it receives the name of Sierra Verde; during its southern course, it bears several distinct names, besides the general one of Sierra Madre.

It is in the Sierra Verde, that the great rivers, Colorado and Del Norte take their rise, and their sources are only separated from each other by the ridge of the mountain.

The great tract of uncultivated country between the Colorado and Gila, is inhabited by tribes of wandering Indians whose names appear on the map. To the south of the Gila is a tract of uncultivated country, inhabited by the Apaches Tontos, and other tribes: it was in this country that two missionaries in 1773, at the distance of three miles from the Gila, discovered the ruins of a Mexican or Aztec city, the houses of which were similar to those that are mentioned in the account of Mexico. These houses[76] were large, and the one most entire, consisted of five rooms three stories high, and in length, was 445 feet by 276 broad, the walls being 3 feet 11 inches in thickness. A wall and towers surrounded the mansion; and the ruins of the city occupied more than a square league; fragments of pottery and domestic utensils were found in all directions; and a canal had conducted the waters of the Gila to the city. This was supposed to be the second station of the Mexicans in their migration from the north; the third is in New Biscay, near Fort Yanos.

The Indians in the environs of these great buildings are more polished than their neighbours, and are in a more social state; from which circumstance, it is conjectured, that they are a remnant of the Aztec nation, who settled here in their journey from the northern countries.


California is divided into two intendancies. New and Old California.

Old California consists of the peninsula bearing that name. New California reaches from Port San Francisco to the isthmus, or down to the Colorado, and comprises a strip of land along the coast; as, however, neither of these countries are at present of any great importance, we shall not divide them in our account, but describe them both together under the general head of California.

The boundaries of this country are an imaginary line, in the 39th degree of north latitude; on the north, the river Colorado and Indian tribes; and the Vermillion Sea, or Californian Gulf on the east; the Pacific Ocean on the west and south.

The bay of Sir Francis Drake, which runs some distance into the country, is the limit placed by nature between the claims of the British government and that of Spain in North America; and on the south-side of this bay is another, called the bay[77] of St. Francisco, where the Spaniards have a small town and fort; this settlement is in 37° 48ʹ north latitude according to the latest authorities, but some have made it near 39°. The length of California, may be however computed from Sir Francis Drakeʼs harbour, in 39° north latitude, to Cape Lucas, in 22° 55ʹ north latitude, and 109° 52ʹ west longitude; the breadth varies so much, that a reference to the map will give a better idea of it than words.

Fernando Cortez seems to have been the discoverer of this country; he had sent several vessels in pursuit of the desirable object of making the coast of the Pacific known, when Hernando de Grijalva discovered the coast in February 1534; but they were so unsuccessful, that Cortez determined to undertake a voyage himself, which accordingly performing, he discovered the Gulf of California, in the year 1536, after encountering all sorts of misfortunes and perils; it was however neglected, and the form of it remained unknown till long after. In 1540, the viceroy of Mexico sent a vessel to explore it, but nothing was done of consequence; the same attempt was again made, but with like success. In 1578, the English navigator, Sir Francis Drake, explored the western coast of America, from 48° of north latitude, to 37° north latitude, and gave his name to the harbour, in 39° north latitude, which is the boundary of Californian lands. He called the country New Albion, and took possession of it in the name of Queen Elizabeth. In 1595, the Spaniards sent another vessel to explore the coast of California, but this vessel perished in Puerto de los Reyes. They were however determined to prosecute this object, on account of their wish to obtain a harbour for the Manilla galleons on their homeward voyage; the viceroy therefore dispatched Admiral Biscaino, who discovered and explored the harbour and land, to which he gave the name of the Viceroy. This place, Monterey, is in[78] 36° 36ʹ north latitude, and has since become the chief settlement of the Spaniards in California. After a long interval, Spanish missions were sent to this country, and inland discoveries consequently made. In 1684, Father Caino, a Jesuit, discovered that California was actually a peninsula; he came from the east, and crossed the country in the 35th degree of north latitude.

The Jesuits made many exploratory journeys in the latter part of the seventeenth century, and having converted many of the natives, they ruled with absolute sway, and continued in possession of what they gave out as a barren country, till their final expulsion from the territories of Spain. Some doubts having arisen as to their representations of the unfavourable nature of the country, the viceroy appointed Galvez, afterwards the minister of the Indies, to explore it, and from his accounts of the value of its productions, new regulations were ordered; but it has not yet been colonized to any extent. In 1769, ships were sent to build forts at St. Diego harbour, in 32° 39ʹ 30ʺ, on the west coast of California, and one at Monterey. This research occupied a whole year, and still nothing of consequence was achieved on the coast, and it was not till 1786, when that unfortunate but great navigator La Perouse, visited the west coast of America, that the whole of the coasts of California were made known.

The inhabitants of the Old and New Californias, are chiefly the native Indians, the Spanish settlers not forming any considerable body. There are twenty-five missions or subdivisions of these countries, the principal of which are Loretto, St. Domingo, St. Josef of Cape Lucas, and All Saints, El Rosario, St. Fernandez, St. Francisco de Borgia, St. Gertrude, St. Ignacio, La Guadalupe, Santa Rosalia, La Conception, St. Josef, and St. Francisco Xavier. Monterey is the capital and place where the governor lives.

The natives of Old California are computed at[79] about 6000 who live in the villages of the missions; those who live a wandering life are not enumerated, but are supposed not to exceed 4000; of these the greater part are Roman Catholics, having been converted by the missionaries. The natives of New California are computed at 15,600; they are a small race of people, and of an indolent character. Their complexions are dark, and they wear their hair long; the custom of eradicating the beard is prevalent amongst them, though not universally adopted. They are very expert at catching their game, and their principal weapon is the bow. Loretto is the chief town on the east coast. Old California appears not to be so estimable a province as New California, the climate not being so good or the land so fruitful; it abounds, however, with fish and game. The habitations of the natives are as miserable as the wigwams of Northern America, and in some measure resemble them, being constructed of boughs; they however will not alter them, preferring a life of independence to a settled state; they are much attached to the priests, who rule them with the authority of fathers over their children. The women manufacture coarse stuffs, and prepare the food, which is generally the objects of the chase, and corn or maize with pease and beans. They have caciques or chiefs of their own, but their power is very limited; they wear skins made in the forms of cloaks, and the women and men dress nearly alike; the boys go naked, but the young women have girdles round their loins; they all paint their bodies, and scalp their enemies, as the Canadians do, and they sometimes burn their dead with many ceremonies; the priests who settle amongst them are Europeans, who are sent from Mexico.

The women are the best looking, but in general, are not handsome; they are mostly taller than the men, who have low foreheads, projecting cheekbones and hollow eyes, with a large mouth, thick[80] lips, and strong teeth, with bushy, eyebrows; the women are particularly careful to eradicate the hair from their bodies, and pierce their ears for ear-rings; the age of puberty in the women is as early as eleven and twelve, in the boys about thirteen; they are rapid and violent in the expressions of the passions of anger and joy; like other savage nations, they are divided into tribes, which move together from one place to another as fancy or necessity dictate. Their chiefs are chosen from the tallest, the strongest and the most warlike amongst them, and are distinguished by their head-dress. Such as are not under the immediate influence of the missionaries, practise polygamy; but the men hold their women in servitude.

Sore throats, colds, pleurisies and disorders, attendant on a variable climate, are their complaints in the severe seasons; they make use of vegetable decoctions for the cure of these disorders; fevers prevail in summer. The women suffer very little in child-birth, and the attendant in those cases, plunges the new born infant into cold water, the mother bathing soon after, and is then covered up warm near a fire: she performs these ablutions and heatings successively for some time, and the infants are bandaged up in furs and pieces of bark, nearly in the same manner as in Canada. Their religion, previous to the priests coming amongst them, was very similar to that of most savage people, having a faint, idea of the Creator. A chain of mountains runs through the peninsula, the highest of which, called Cerro de la Giganta, is 4920 feet above the level of the sea.

The peninsula, or Old California, is, as we before observed, more barren than the northern province; it is mostly a rocky soil, and seems as if some concussion of nature had disjoined it from Sonora; the climate is hot in the summer, but it is moderated by the sea breezes. Few trees of any consequence are found except on the south; there are some[81] small volcanoes in it, with a ridge of mountains; vines and the Indian fig grow wild; the coast of the gulf is low and marshy, and the pearl fishery is very valuable; the gulf produces all sorts of shell-fish, turtles, oysters, lobsters, &c. Peacocks, bustards, geese, ducks, cranes, vultures, and sea-fowls, are plenty on the coasts; horses, asses, sheep, and goats, have been introduced and thrive very well. In New California the climate is nearly the same as in New Mexico, the western side being superior to the other parts, on account of the neighbourhood of the Pacific; the soil of this province is very prolific. The harvests of maize, barley, wheat, pease, and beans, are comparable to those of Mexico and Chili, corn produces in a seventy-fold proportion, and the soil is favourable for nearly all sorts of fruit trees. The climate is compared by late travellers, to that of the south of France; the forests, that great feature of American scenery, are extensive, and contain cypresses, pine-apple-firs, evergreen oaks, and the western planes and rose trees; on which a singular kind of dew falling in the morning, and covering the leaves, candies, and has the appearance of manna, being as sweet as white sugar. Immense bodies, or plains of salt, are found in the interior, and there are some gold mines.

The animals of the two provinces resemble each other, chiefly consisting of wolves, bears, wild sheep, bisons, buffaloes, rabbits, foxes, wild goats, and an animal peculiar to the country, called taye, as large as a young ox, and resembles the ox in its body, having a head like a deer, with horns as a ram. The great article of Californian commerce consists in the furs of the northern and pearls of the southern province, the pearls equalling in size and beauty those of Ormuz or Ceylon. The languages of the natives are too numerous for description, each tribe having a peculiar one of its own.


The mission of St. Domingo is the most northerly of the New Californian settlements, and borders upon New Albion. This and the other northern missions of California were hastily settled, on account of the Russians having advanced their colonies considerably to the southward, on the north-west coast of America.

The other missions or settlements, which are twenty-five in number, are divided into four districts, the whole under the directions of the governor of Monterey, the captain-general of the province, and of the father president of the Franciscan order of missionaries. In each of these divisions, is a presidio or fort under the command of a lieutenant, with an ensign, serjeant, &c. The most northern fort is St. Francisco, which has under it, the missions of St. Francisco and Santa Clara; the town of St. Josef, and a settlement in the southern part of the bay, or Port Juan Francisco, or Bodega.

The next division is that of Monterey, the capital of the province, under which is the mission of Santa Cruz, at Point Aña Nueva, established in 1789, and some others; southerly, and easterly from this, are the missions of St. Carlos, St. Antonio, St. Louis, Santa Rosa, and La Purissima.

The ensuing division is that of Santa Barbara, established in 1786, which governs that of Buena Ventura, founded in 1784; south of which is the town of Los Angelos, founded in 1781; this last is under the government of the fort of St. Diego, which is the southernmost of the new settlements.

The climate of the country from Port St. Francisco, in the thirty-eighth degree of north latitude, to the thirtieth, is subject to great drought; the season of the rains is from December to March, after which the summer and autumn is dry; however the dews are heavy, and in some measure supply this want. The air is on the whole healthy, the soil sandy, very capable of improvement, and generally fertile, except in the upper and rocky country; in these, the soil is[83] of course naturally very barren. The Spanish settlers have large flocks of sheep, and much poultry near Santa Barbara. Buena Ventura is abundant in fruit, viz. apples, oranges, peaches, pomegranates, pears, plums, figs, grapes, the plantain, cocoa-nut, banana, sugar-cane and indigo, with the kitchen-garden produce. The towns are in general no larger or better than villages; they contain from 500 to 1000 Spaniards and creoles; some late accounts say, that 20,000 natives have embraced the Catholic religion, but half that number may be judged as the fair proportion in both Californias. Their principal and best fur is the sea-otters, which abound on the northern coast. Many of the natives cultivate corn under the direction of the missionaries, but they refuse to become stationary. The trade in the above-mentioned skins has been monopolized by the Spanish government, and these settlements furnish a yearly supply of about 10,000.

The presidio or fort of St. Francisco was founded in 1776, and has a fine harbour, with a population of 820 souls; it is the most northern fort of the Spanish American dominions, and as such, is worthy or note. M. de Humboldt, gives the population of the villages of the missions of New California, but they are of course liable to constant changes. The missions of Old California are not so thickly inhabited, and several of them are deserted.

The presidio of Monterey, or San Carlos de Monterey, has a population of 700 souls, and was founded in June 1770. This town is in latitude 36° 36ʹ, and west longitude 121° 50ʹ 43ʺ, at the foot of the chain of Santa Lucia. Monterey is the capital of the Californias, and in it resides the governor. In this settlement the soil is productive, but generally not very good, and the climate fine, though troubled with fogs. Unfortunately, the rains in the rainy season are excessive, and they have dreadful hurricanes and water spouts on the coast. Peltry it the principal article that is sought after.


The European and American fruits have been propagated here by the missionaries, and yield very well; the mezcala is the chief plant, and like the maguay of the south, is the principal article of food of the natives, and at the same time supplies them with drink and raiment. Northward from this settlement there are immense forests of pines and firs. Their trade is with Manilla, in furs, chiefly of the sea-otter, which is of a fine glossy black. The manner of catching this animal is peculiar to the Indians; they pursue it in small canoes, capable of holding one man, in which they go to sea, with a long rope in them, with two hooks; when they see the otters and their young, the Indian advances towards them, the old ones immediately dive, and the Indian catches a young one by the foot; he then paddles off, and the young one, struggling with the pain, soon brings the dam its assistance, who in her turn becomes entangled with the hook, and is killed by blows from the hunter.

The natives massacred some of the settlers at the missionary district of Todos los Santos, at the station of St. Ann. This must have arisen from some oppression, as the Californians, in general, are very submissive and indolent. They are very dexterous at the chase and in fishing; their wigwams are generally two or three together, and the women wear a head dress of rushes, whilst that of their chiefs have feathers; the women have necklaces of little shells in the north, and pearls in the south. The furniture of their hovels consists of a quiver for arrows, two pieces of wood to light their fires, a pipe of clay, a net for seeds, tobacco, a bow and arrows, their lines and hooks for fishing, and a club to kill rabbits. They often pierce the nostril, and wear ornaments in it; seaming their flesh, and painting horribly to inspire their enemies with fear. The women carry all the household goods when they move, and the men the weapons. They[85] have magicians, who act as priests and physicians, and these magi are the great obstacles in the way of converting the natives.

The bay of Monterey is formed by Point Año Nueva on the north, and Point Pinos on the south; it is twenty-four miles wide at its entrance, and six in length to the east; the east shore is low and sandy, and the sea runs into the beach with a tremendous noise, that may be heard three miles off.

The Spanish ships which stay at Monterey, anchor in six fathoms water, at two cables length from the shore, and moor to the beach; ships putting in, keep the south shore aboard, and after doubling the south point, or Fir Point (Point Pinos) which stretches to the north, they see the fort, and drop anchor in ten fathoms behind the point, where they are sheltered from the west winds—the south winds blow here very strong off shore. At full and change of the moon it is high water here at half-past one; the tide rises seven feet.

The whales, a species of finner, are numerous in the bay, and La Perouse says, that they came within half pistol-shot of the ship, and occasioned a disagreeable smell. The coasts of this bay are generally covered with fogs, which render it dangerous to approach, otherwise it is not at all hard to enter. Pelicans frequent the sea at a small distance from land, and are a good sign for seamen, never going more than six leagues from shore; pelicans are very common on the coast of California; where they are called Alcatras by the Spaniards. Late travellers who have visited Port Monterey, say, that a better harbour could not be found for ships coming from the west, and that the soil in its neighbourhood is good, though dry; all sorts of grain succeed very well, and the cattle are very fine. The Manilla ships find this a good harbour to recruit in, when driven to the north by contrary winds.



Is the next subdivision of New Spain which meets our attention in proceeding to the south. It is bounded on the north by the Rio Colorado, on the east by New Biscay, on the west by the great Californian gulf, and on the south by the intendancy of Guadalaxara. Under the title of Sonora, are comprehended the provinces of Pimeria, Sonora, Hiaqui, and Mayo, or Ostimuri, and Cinaloa. The capital of Sonora is Arispe; and its provinces lie from the Colorado River in the north to Culiacan on the south, following the order above mentioned; we shall begin therefore with Pimeria; and the description of climate, soil, &c., of each subdivision, will best explain the general appearance of the whole of Sonora, or as it is called in modern maps, New Navarre.


Pimeria is the most northern district of this extensive division, and is bounded on the north by The Rio Colorado, by New Biscay on the east, by the Californian gulf on the west, and by Sonora on the south.

Pimeria received its name from the Pimas, a tribe of Indians who inhabit this tract of country. It is subdivided into high and low Pimeria, and extends about three hundred miles to the north of Sonora. The climate is cold and moist, and the rains often last a week without intermission in the winter season, and torrents from the mountains during that period descend in all directions.

Pimeria is very little known, being inhabited chiefly by the native tribes, the Spanish colonists frequently deserting it on account of the irruptions of a warlike race of savages, who inhabit the neighbouring country of Apacheria in New Mexico.


The river Colorado is the principal river of the uncolonized country north of Pimeria. This river has been also called Rio Colorado de los Martyres. The course of the Colorado may be computed in a straight line at 200 leagues, or 600 miles, and it is generally from north-east to south-west. It is called Colorado, or coloured, from the water being tinged red by the clay of its banks. This river rises in the Sierra Verde, it is navigable for a considerable distance, and very deep where it is joined by the Rio Gila, which issues from the same mountains in Pimeria, further to the south. This latter river, though broad and large, has no depth, and the country which lies between these streams is a desert of high land, without water or grass. The savages who inhabit the northern side of the Colorado, are termed Cocomaricopas, and are celebrated for their dexterity in swimming the river with a piece of wood in their left hand to support their goods and weapons above the water, and steering with their right, the women carrying their infants on a basket work attached to their bodies. Their side of the river is fertile, and they are an industrious people. The Colorado meets many other rivers which rise in the same chain; the chief of these is the Zaguananas, which rises in those mountains, in about 40° north latitude. There is a large lake near this branch, called Buenara, in 39° north latitude, on the frontier, but of this lake nothing certain is known. The Colorado empties itself by an immense estuary into the northern part of the gulf of California. The Rio Gila is the next river of importance of this country, but both this and the Rio Colorado are north of the actual intendancy of Sonora.

There are several rivers in Pimeria, but so imperfect are the accounts relative to this province, that nothing can be advanced with certainty about them. The Rio Ascension is the chief, on whose banks live a tribe of warlike Indians, named Seris.


Higher Pimeria contains the fort of Ternate and Lower Pimeria, the fort of Buenavista. The province contains much gold in grains, but it is not sought after, owing to many causes, amongst which the incursions of the warlike Indians of the neighbouring country is the principal one.


Sonora is the next province in proceeding southward, but, as in all this part of the New World, its limits are not accurately defined; it is however bounded by Pimeria on the north, the gulf of California and Hiaqui on the west, New Biscay on the east, and Hiaqui on the south. It is about 420 miles in length in a northerly direction, and 380 in breadth, from west to east.

The soil of Sonora is good on the shore of the gulf, and very fertile, but no very extensive forests are found in this province. The climate is good, the air being reckoned very pure; but on the immediate vicinity of the gulf, the air is indeed impregnated with marshy effluvia, and therefore not so conducive to health as in the interior.

The gold and silver mines of Sonora are very numerous, the mines of gold being in the greatest proportion, and in which the chief value of the province consists.

The trade of Sonora consists in the exchange of its natural productions with Mexico, both by land and by means of the gulf of California, as also with New Mexico and New Biscay. Sonora will in all probability become in time a very valuable province, its natural advantages being great.

Sonora is in the diocese of the bishop of Durango.

This country is famed for an excellent breed of horses, for its fine cheeses, and for its cattle, which are superior and numerous. The animals of Sonora are chiefly the deer, the bear, the goat,[89] and an extraordinary species of large lizard, which the natives domesticate, and teach to hunt mice and vermin.

The capital is Arispe, situated near the head of the Hiaqui River, 108° 53ʹ 15ʺ west longitude, and 30° 36ʹ north latitude. This town is celebrated for its hospitality, and for the great quantity of gold used in the table services of the chief families, with a population of 7600 souls.

Sonora is the next town of any importance, its population is 6400.

The principal rivers of Sonora are the Hiaqui or Yaqui, which rises in the Sierra Madre, and falls into the gulf of California, (after watering the district of Hiaqui,) in 28° north latitude, and the Ascension River, which falls into the same gulf in 31°.


Hiaqui and Mayo are two small districts, situated between Sonora and Cinaloa. The district of Hiaqui is bounded on the north by Sonora, and on the south by Cinaloa, on the west by the Californian gulf, and on the east by the ridge of mountains. Hiaqui is so called from a river of that name, which flows through it from Sonora. It is not a very extensive district, and little is known concerning the climate and productions, though they are nearly the same as those of Sonora.

The Rio Hiaqui is the principal river, a branch of which in the south east, divides that part of Cinaloa which lies on the eastern side of the ridge from Sonora; it also overflows occasionally, and inundates in the rainy seasons part of Sonora and Mayo, rising in a southerly direction in a place called Tauramara, and bending in a north-west course for half its length, it pervades the grand chain of mountains, and then turns off to the south-west, and falls into the Californian gulf, at the village of Huiribis, and forms a good harbour, from which[90] a trade in provisions is carried on to the opposite shore of California. The banks of the Hiaqui are extremely fertile, and produce abundance of maize, beans, pease, and vegetables. The chief town is Riochico, situated fifty leagues north-north-west of Sinaloa.

Mayo is a small district to the south of Hiaqui, and is bounded by that province on the north, on the east by the ridge of mountains, on the south by Sinaloa, and the west by the gulf of California. Of it very little is known with accuracy; it is fertile, aid watered by the river Mayo, from which it receives its name; this river falls into the Californian sea in north latitude 27° 40ʹ.


Sinaloa is the most southern province which is comprehended under the intendancy of Sonora; it is bounded by the gulf of California on the west, on the east by New Biscay, or the ridge or Cordillera of Topia, also called Tepecouan, and Sierra Madre, on the north by Mayo, and on the south by Culiacan. This country is about 300 miles in length from the south-east to the north-east, and 120 miles broad.

Sinaloa was discovered by Nunez de Guzman in the year 1552. The climate is good, the air being very pure, the land fertile, and producing abundantly grain, cotton, and fruits.

The rivers are numerous, though small, and well stored with fish.

Sinaloa is chiefly inhabited by Indians, though there are numbers of mining stations established; and the province bids very fair to be well colonized. The natives are a warlike race, and were with great difficulty brought to submit to the dominion of the Spaniards. They have caciques or chiefs, whose authority is however very limited, being confined to heading warlike expeditions. It is[91] chiefly by valour displayed in battle, or hunting, that they obtain this distinction; sometimes indeed the interest of a powerful family elevates one of their number to the caciqueship. They are fond of oratory, and if one of their number displays any great ability in this art, universal acclamations decree him their chieftain. These latter instances are however rare. Laws are unknown.

Their weapons are bows, with poisoned arrows, heavy clubs of wood and shields. These people are more industrious than their Californian neighbours in manufacturing coarse cotton stuffs. Many of the tribes subsist entirely by hunting and fishing, and have no regular residences, neither do they till the ground. In the inland parts these tribes are chiefly found subsisting by the chase; on the sea coast they live by their industry, and by the fishery.

Those in the mountainous regions are reckoned to be in the most perfect state of nature of any of the American Indians, relying solely on their skill in the chase, and on the bounty of nature in her produce of roots, fruits, and plants. During the rainy season, they make a large cap of rushes like a pent-house or umbrella, which they wear on their heads to throw off the water, by which means they keep themselves dry for a considerable time. They construct a sort of rude wigwam of branches, to shield themselves from the scorching rays of the summer sun, and in winter they constantly keep large fires, round which they sleep, eat, and drink, with no other canopy than Heaven. The heat in this country exceeds the cold, and they have little other bad weather, than during the rainy months.

There are many gold and silver mines in the mountainous parts of this district, and in one of these called Yecorato, there was found a piece of gold which weighed 16 marks and upwards, the mark being two-thirds of a pound, or eight ounces.[92] This was sent to Spain and deposited in the royal cabinet of Madrid. The chief mining station is Sivirijoa.

The principal town is Cinaloa, or St. Felipey St. Jago, on the river Cinaloa, in 106° west longitude, and 26° north latitude, 630 miles north-west of Mexico; the stream on which it stands and the Rio del Puerto, form the two principal rivers of this province; they both rise in the Cordillera of Topia, and receiving other streams in their course, enter the southern part of the Californian sea, very near each other, and a little to the northward of Macapule Bay. Cinaloa contains 9500 inhabitants.

The chief place of the whole government of Sonora is the capital.

Arispe, which has the forts of Bacuachi and Bavispe on the south and west.

Hostimuri, the chief place of Mayo and Hiaqui, has many rich mines in its vicinity, with a council of the mines situated at St. Xavier.

Los Alamos is also another station of note for the mines, between the Mayo and Fuerte rivers, with a population of 7900.

The towns of Sonora Proper, and Ostimuri, are three in number, the villages 46, and the missions 46; of these villages, many are mining stations.

Cinaloa contains four towns, Cinaloa, Montes Claros, with 7900 souls; and El Rosario 5600; with 92 villages, numerous distinct farms and missions, and many important mining stations.


In quitting Sonora, on the east, we find the province and intendancy of New Biscay or Durango, which is bounded on the north by New Mexico and Indian nations, on the east by a desert country between it and Coaguila, on the west by Sonora, and on the south by Zacatecas and Guadalaxara, or New Gallicia. It is about 100 miles in medial[93] breadth, and 690 in length. The great ridge or Cordillera of Sierra Madre crosses it in its whole length, and the whole country is very mountainous, well watered by small rivers, the climate temperate, the soil fertile, the cattle fine and numerous, and the mountains abounding in ores. This intendancy has a population of 159,000 souls.

The country near New Biscay contains several small marshes, in the islands or firm ground of which the Indians bid defiance to their Spanish neighbours, and are so hostile, that many forts have been built along the country to prevent their incursions.

The capital is Durango, which is the farthest town of any consequence north of Mexico; it is situated on a river which empties itself into a lake, (the river is called Durango or Guadiana).

The population of this city amounts to 12,000. It is the see of a bishop, which is very extensive; in his jurisdiction all the western interior provinces, comprehending those on the east shore of the Californian gulf, are included. It was erected in the year 1620. The tithes of this see are said to have amounted in ten years to 1,080,300 dollars.

A branch of the royal treasury of Mexico is established here for collecting the duties on the mines. The climate in the neighbourhood of this city is mild and healthy, and the country fertile, producing corn, maize and fruit, and pasturing fine cattle. It has three churches and four convents, and is 170 leagues from Mexico, and 298 from Santa Fé. Durango is elevated 6845 feet above the level of the sea, and the intendant or governor of the province resides here.

The inhabitants of New Biscay are all whites, there being no Indians amongst them; they are a people of robust constitution and good intellectual qualities.

They live in a state of constant warfare with their neighbours the Indians, particularly with the[94] Cumanches, a very warlike race of people, who bear an inveterate hatred to the Spaniards. A tract of desert country to the west, called the Bolson de Mapimi, is inhabited by the Acoclames, the Cocoyames, the Apaches Mezcleros, and Apaches Fardones. It is from this waste that the natives are principally annoyed by the Indians; in it is a large lake called Cayman, and part of another called Parras.

The Rio Conchos is the largest river of New Biscay, which rises in the Sierra Madre, and after taking a southerly course, suddenly turns to the east, and again to the north, and empties itself into the Rio del Norte, at the Fort de las Juntas. New Biscay has six towns and 199 villages, with innumerable stations and farms.

The towns of New Biscay of the greatest note after Durango, are Chihuahua, formerly the residence of the captain-general of all the interior provinces of the upper part of the viceroyalty of New Spain, and now the residence of the captain-general of the western interior provinces, which comprehend New Biscay, New Mexico, Sonora, and the two Californias. The population of Chihuahua is 11,600, and it is surrounded with mining stations, the principal of which is Santa Rosa de Cosiquiriachi, where that part of the Sierra Madre, called De los Metales, has valuable and numerous silver mines; this mining station is peopled by 10,700 souls.

Mapimis, on the south extremity of the desert of Mapimi, is a military port, with 2700 inhabitants.

St. Juan del Rio, south of Lake Parras, 10,200 souls.

Saltillo, situated to the west of Monterey, in New Leon, on a barren dry soil; 6000 people.

Pasquaro, south of Rio de Nasas; 5600.

Batopilas, west of Rio Conchos, 8000, formerly a place of great repute for its mines.


Parral the seat of a council of mines, 5000, and the mining station of Guirisamey, 3800.

The population of this government is concentrated entirely in these towns and in the mining stations, as in New Mexico, the warlike Indians rendering this method of living necessary; even the forts are well peopled, as the settlers choose to live under their protection, in preference to possessing large tracts of land at a distance from any defence.


The intendancy of San Luis Potosi, comprises the provinces of Coaguila, New Leon, Texas, and the colonies of New Santander; and forms the western captain-generalship of the interior provinces.

It is bounded on the north by desart countries, inhabited by tribes of wandering Indians; by the Bolson de Mapimi, an unconquered desart on the west, as well as by part of New Biscay and Zacatecas; on the south by the intendancies of Guanaxuato, Mexico, and Vera Cruz. On the east its limits are not defined; by the Spaniards they are considered to reach to the river Mexicano or Mermento, between the sixty-fifth and sixty-sixth degrees of west longitude, but the American congress deny this being the boundary of Louisiana, and extend their claims as far as the bay of St. Bernardo.

This intendancy is computed to have a population of 334,900 souls.

That part of San Luis Potosi which joins Zacatecas, is a mountainous country; in New Leon the land is not high, consequently the summers are hot and the winters cold; the land on the right, between Coaguila and Louisiana, is represented as containing impervious savannahs and enormous desarts. The nearest post of the Americans to New[96] Spain, is Fort Clayborne, on the Red River. In the greater part of this immense territory of San Luis the climate is good, and the air pure and healthy.

The coast which borders the Mexican gulf, is lined with long narrow islands, between which and the continent, are sheets of water denominated lakes. The mouth of the Rio Panuco, and the bar of New Santander, are the only ports of the coast from which vessels trade with the West Indian Islands in provisions. The whole coast has remained very little explored; such parts as have been surveyed, are found to be shut out by sand bars, which prevent large vessels from passing into the harbours, which are otherwise excellent.

The southern parts contain the mines of Catorce, Guadal-Cazar and Charcas, in the mountain districts.

There is a route which the Americans follow from New Orleans, through this intendancy, to Mexico, for the purposes of traffic, which is represented to require ten weeks to perform it, under great perils and hardships.

The great ridge of Anahuac, or plain of New Spain, gradually descends, and loses itself in this intendancy; and on its slope is situated the capital, St. Luis Potosi, where the intendant or governor-general resides; it is a little westward of the source of the Panuco River, and contains a population of 12,000 persons.


Coaguila is a province of St. Luis Potosi, lying to the north of New Leon, and sometimes included in that division; it is also called New Estremadura, and in some maps Cuvilla. It is bounded on the north by uncultivated countries, on the east by the provinces of Texas, New Santander, and Leon, on the west by New Biscay, and the Bolson de[97] Mapimi, and on the south by New Biscay. Its extent is 200 leagues from north to south, and 160 from north-west to north-east.

This province is nearly a waste, peopled only by the Indians and some few missions, and if it possesses mineral treasures, they remain to be discovered. The capital is Monclova, situated in the south part, the residence of a military governor. The next town of importance is Castanuela, on the southern borders.

The Rio del Norte pervades this district.


Is bounded on the north by Coaguila, on the west by Coaguila and New Biscay, on the east by New Santander, on the south by Zacatecas and St. Luis Potosi, or Guasteca. It is a very mountainous country, thinly inhabited and possessing few other mines than those of lead.

The chief town is Monterey, the see of a bishop; there are also several villages and small stations; but although it has been sometimes designated by the high sounding title of the New Kingdom of Leon, it is only a small tract, of which scarcely any thing is known.


These provinces extend for an immense length along the shores of the Mexican gulf, and commencing at the estuary of the river Mexicano follow the course of that river; Coaguila then bounds them on the north, New Leon on the east, Mexico on the south, and the gulf of Mexico on the west. The Rio Bravo del Norte flows through the centre of these provinces.

Numerous herds of cattle feed in this country, which abounds in fruit, corn, &c. A chain of mountains, from the main ridge, runs through New[98] Santander, and is called the Sierra Gorda; from which the district has sometimes been named; this chain abounds in mines. It was not till 1748, that this district or province was wholly subdued, in which year the capital was built. There is a fine harbour attached to it, which was first observed in 1739.

The richest mines are in Panuco or Potosi, and the chief of these is Catorce, or La Purissima Conception; it was discovered in 1773, and is said to yield annually to the amount of from seven to 800,000l. sterling of silver. Charcas is the next mining station of note, and is in the north of Panuco or Potosi.

The remaining towns of most importance in the intendancy of San Luis Potosi, are New Santander, the capital of the province of that name, with its port of Soto la Marina, which however does not admit vessels that draw more water than six feet.

Linares, in New Leon, between the Rio del Norte, and the Tigre, and—

San Antonio de Bejar, capital of Texas, between the two rivers Nogales and St. Antonio.

The most eastern fort of this intendancy is the Presidio of Nacogdoch, which is 68 leagues from the United Statesʼ Fort Clayborne.

The great river of this government is the Rio del Norte, which enters the Mexican gulf in about 25° 40ʹ north latitude, and 97° 20ʹ west longitude. The other rivers of most note are, beginning from the east, the Rio Mexicano, Rio de Sabina, Rio de la Trinidad, Rio Colorado de Texas, Rio St. Antonio, Rio de las Nueces, Rio de Tigre, to the south of the great Rio del Norte, and the Rio Panuco or Tampico; of all of which very little is known.



This intendancy is one of the smallest in New Spain, and is the first of those we are about to describe, which are under the immediate controul of the viceroy.

It is bounded on the north by the intendancy of New Biscay or Durango, on the east by San Luis Potosi, on the west by Guadalaxara, and on the south by Guanaxuato. It is 85 leagues long, and 51 broad in its greatest dimensions.

The population of this province is 153,300.

Zacatecas consists almost entirely of mountain country; so much so, as to have been said greatly to resemble Swisserland. The climate is very variable and inclement, and the soil far from fertile; but all this is compensated by the riches of the mines, which are only inferior to those of Guanaxuato.

Its chief town is Zacatecas, where the great mines are situated. The population of this town, is 33,000; it is a bishopʼs see, and is 240 miles north-north-east of Mexico.

The next is Sombrerete, the seat of the chief-council of mines; Fresnillo, near the latter, both of which are great mining stations. Sombrerete was formerly the richest of the whole, and there are many other mining stations of great importance in this district, most of which are very populous.


This, with Zacatecas, formed New Gallicia, in the former division of New Spain. It is bounded on the north by Sonora, and New Biscay, on the east by Zacatecas and Guanaxuato, on the west, by the Pacific, and on the south, by Valladolid, or Mechoacan; it is 118 leagues long, and 100 broad. This province is of importance, from being the seat of a royal audience, or supreme court,[100] which, as before observed, governs in civil affairs, more than one-half of New Spain. It was established in the year 1548.

Guadalaxara, contains a population of 630,500 souls, and its eastern side is a part of the declivity of the plain of Anahuac; the western side is mountainous, and covered with extensive forests. On the sea coast, the air is hot and unhealthy, but on the heights, pure and wholesome.

The chief productions of this country are wheat, maize, cotton, and cochineal, all of which are produced in very great abundance. Guadalaxara contains two cities, six towns, and 322 villages; there are five mines of silver of great value, the chief of which is Copala.

The great river of this country is the river Santiago, which crosses it from east to west, communicating with Lake Chapala.

The volcano of Colima is the most striking feature in this province, and is the last of those which lie on the same parallel to the west. Its height is near 10,000 feet above the sea, and its crater continually ejects smoke and ashes. This volcano is isolated from the neighbouring chain.

The Rio Santiago, or Rio Grande, is a noble stream, which rises in the Nevada de Toluca, near Mexico, and after traversing the extremity of Valladolid, or Mechoacan, and Guanaxuato, crosses the province of Guadalaxara, first going through the northern extremity of Lake Chapala; it throws itself into the Pacific, at the point of St. Blas; in Valladolid it bears the name of Rio Lerma.

Lake Chapala is a fine sheet of water of this province, much larger than the Mexican lakes, and has some islands in it; it is about ninety miles long, and thirty broad, but its dimensions are not accurately ascertained.

The great towns of Guadalaxara, are Guadalaxara, where the governor, the bishop, and the officers of the supreme court of the royal audience reside; its population is 19,500 souls. It is placed[101] on the Rio Esquitlan, or Santiago, which flows from Lake Chapala. At the distance of twelve miles from the town, this Great River has a cataract, and is very rapid. The city stands on a plain, in which there are many rivulets, surrounded by mountains, and covered with oaks and pines. Handsome gardens are seen in all directions, which abound with every sort of fruits. There is in estate belonging to the Marquis of Altamira near it, which sends annually to the markets of Mexico, four thousand head of cattle, with numerous flocks of sheep and swine; it also grows great quantities of pimento, maize, &c., of which it has been computed to yield, to the value of 40,000 dollars per annum.

The extent of the city is very great, and the population consists of Spaniards, mulattoes and mestizoes; the native Indians inhabit the suburbs and villages adjacent. The people are celebrated for industry, and they have excellent artisans amongst them; they are a good looking and well made race. The streets are unpaved, and mules are used for their carriages; this city is subjected to tempests of a very violent nature, but snow never lodges there.

Here there is a manufactory of cigars, and the natives make a sort of jars of a fine scented earth, which are in much request.

They have fine aqueduct, many churches, convents, and two colleges, with eight fine squares.

The revenues of the bishopric amount to 2,579,100 dollars annually.

The jurisdiction of the royal audience has been already mentioned in a former part.

The other towns of most importance are—

Colima, six miles south of the volcano of the same name.

Aguas Calientes, near the mines of Asiento de Ibarra.

Compostella, Lagos, and San Blas; the latter of[102] which is a noted sea port, where the marine department is stationed.

San Blas is at the mouth of the river Santiago; here there are magazines, dock yards for the royal navy, and in the vicinity, all sorts of necessary timber for constructing ships; but it is so unhealthy a place, that the officers usually reside in a village near it, where the air is better.


This is one of the small but populous provinces of New Spain, and is situated on the great ridge of the Mexican Cordillera. Its length is fifty-two, and breadth thirty-one leagues. The highest land is the mountain De los Llanitos, 9325 feet above the sea.

The value of this province consists chiefly (although great part of it is very fertile) in its mines. They are the richest of North America, and exceed in produce and value that of Potosi in South America, or indeed, any mines in the world.

The population of this province consists of 517,300 souls, of which, 180,000 are Indians.

The cities of Guanaxuato are three in number, with four towns, thirty-seven villages, and numerous settlements.

Guanaxuato, or Santa Fé is the capital; it was founded in 1554. It is surrounded closely by the silver mines, six principal ones of which have been enumerated. The height of Guanaxuato is 6836 feet above the sea; some of the mines have their entrance shafts even higher, the one called Valenciana, having its mouth as high as 7856 feet above the level of the ocean.

In the city, and mining villages surrounding it, the population is estimated at 70,600; the other towns of most note are—

Salamanca, at the height of 5762 feet, Silao or Celaya, which has a very fine church, still higher,[103] and Villa de Leon, celebrated for its neighbourhood producing fine maize and corn.


This province is the most important, though not the most extensive of those which form the viceroyalty of New Spain; its historical relations, its splendid capital, extraordinary and beautiful appearances and situation, give it, independently of its chief place being the metropolis of New Spain, an advantage over the other states of this widely extended region; we shall accordingly enter more at large into its history and description, than what the limits of this work will allow to be allotted to the other provinces.

Mexico is bounded on the north by the intendancy of San Luis Potosi, on the east by the province of Tlascala, or Puebla, and Vera Cruz, on the west by Mechoacan, or Valladolid, and Guanaxuato, and on the south by the Pacific Ocean. The government of the royal audience, in the capital, is the richest and most extensive of the three royal audiences established in North America.

Mexico was formerly an empire of no great extent, but numerously peopled, and covered with towns; it was surrounded by several other states, either in alliance with it, or under its dominion. Of these the most noted were the Michuacan, Tlacopan, and the Acolhuacan kingdoms, the Cholollan, Huexotzincan, and Tlaxcallan republics, with several others of inferior note.

The boundaries of the Mexican kingdom were the small state of Quauhtemallan on the south-east; on the east, part of the above states and the Mexican gulf; on the north Huaxtecas, a country inhabited by a tribe of that name; Tlacopan, and a savage tribe, called the Chichemicas, were on the north-west; Michuacan on the west; and on the south and south-west the Pacific. This kingdom was therefore situated[104] between the fourteenth and twenty-first degrees of north latitude, and between the ninety-seventh and the hundred and fifth degrees of west longitude. Of this extent, the most fertile and best cultivated portion was the vale of Anahuac, or of Waters, which embraced a beautiful district, comprised within mountains, the circuit of whose basis occupied 120 miles. From the name of this vale, the whole country received afterwards the appellation of Anahuac, previously to its settlement by the Spaniards, who called it New Spain; which title has since been given to the dominions of Spain, in North America, occupying the whole extent from the northern boundaries, to the kingdom of Guatimala, and often embracing that territory also. In the centre of the vale of Anahuac are the lakes of Tezcuco and Chalco, on whose banks were the cities of Mexico, Acolhuacan, Tlacopan, Tezcuco, and forty others, with innumerable small towns.

Michuacan, the westerly kingdom, had its capital on a lake, called Pascuaro, with four other cities. Tlacopan lay between Mexico and Michuacan, and its capital was Tezcuco, four miles west of Mexico. Acolhuacan, which was very extensive, as well as the most ancient of the kingdoms, had its capital on the eastern shore of Lake Tezcuco, at about fourteen miles from Mexico; this kingdom was powerful, populous, and contained many cities; it was amongst the most civilized of the territories of Anahuac. Tlaxcallan or Tlascala was on the south of Mexico, and the chief of the republics; it was not large, and its capital was situated seventy miles east of Mexico. The republics of Cholollan and Huexotzinco lay to the south of Tlaxcallan.

The origin of the Mexican nations, or the nations of Anahuac is very obscure, but it is supposed that the Toltecas, who inhabited a country to the north of Mexico were the most ancient inhabitants, of whom any trace could be found; and[105] they had a tradition that they came from the north. A tribe of this nation being banished from the country where they dwelt, journeyed to the southward in search of a favourable spot whereon to fix their residence; it is asserted they commenced their migration in the year 596 A.D., but not finding a place which had charms enough to fix them, for any great length of time, they still kept removing to the south for the space of 104 years, when they came to a spot which pleased them. Here they erected a city, fifty miles eastward of the spot where Mexico the capital was afterwards founded. They rested twenty years in this place, when they again removed and settled forty miles farther west, building another city.

They appear to have been an industrious people, well skilled in many arts, and living under the government of their kings in a peaceable manner; but, unfortunately in the year 1052, suffered from a dearth and want of water, which pervaded their land; and a great part of their people died of famine. Those who remained, dispersed themselves into Guatimala, Mexico, &c. For the space of 100 years the Toltecan country was nearly a desert, very few having been left behind; after this interval the Cachemecas, another race from the north arrived, whose manners were not so cultivated, and their way of living more savage than the Toltecans. They established themselves in a place about six miles from the present city of Mexico, and were governed by kings, who encouraged their people to cultivate the friendship of the poor Toltecans who remained; in return for which they instructed them in all the arts they knew. This monarchy lasted till the year 1520, or nearly five centuries; the Toltecan monarchy having endured nearly four. Some other tribes from the north, of which the Acolhuans, and the Otomies were the principal, entered into alliance[106] with the Cachemecas. After them the Tarascas and the Nahuatlacas, also from the north, settled in Anahuac. The Aztecas, or Mexicans, were the last; they came from a country beyond the gulf of California; this is said to have taken place in the year 1160, when they moved southward, and traces of the buildings they left, are said to exist on the banks of the Rio Colorado, and on the Rio Gila, &c. They stopped for some time at a place in New Biscay, about 250 miles north-north-west of Chihuahua, and there raised some large buildings, from which the place is now called Casas Grandes, which signifies large houses, and is in 29° north latitude. This large building is constructed with three floors, and crowned by a terrace; the lower floor has no door, and the upper is accessible only by a ladder, which is still the manner in which the buildings of New Mexico are constructed. This house, or fort, has been surrounded by a wall, seven feet thick, and in which enormous stones were used; the beams of pine are said still to exist. In the centre is a keep or mound; the whole has had a ditch about it, and earthen pots, jars, &c. with mirrors of the itzli stone, have been dug up in the neighbourhood. On leaving this spot, they crossed the mountains of Taraumara, and rested three years at Culiacan.

When the Aztecas left their native country, they consisted of six tribes, viz. the Mexicans, Tepanecas, Chalcese, Tlahuicas, Tlascans, and Xochimilcans. At Culiacan they constructed the image of the deity Huitzilopochtli, with a throne to carry it on the shoulders of four priests. The Mexicans were deserted by the five other tribes on quitting Culiacan, and journeying with their image, arrived at Tula, the capital which the Toltecans had built, erecting altars at all their resting places on the road. They stayed here, and in the vicinity, twenty years; and in 1216 they came to Zumpanco, a large town[107] in the vale of Anahuac; here they were kindly received, and one of their chief women married Ilhuicatl, the son of the chief; from which marriage the race of Mexican emperors descended. They roamed about the borders of the lake Tezcuco, settling in different places, and at last engaged in wars with the Cachemicas and Acolhuans, and were obliged to take refuge in some islands called Acocolo, in the southern part of the Mexican lakes. Here they existed fifty-two years, in great poverty, and were finally enslaved by the chief of a small state called Colhuacan.

A few years after a war commenced between the Xochimilcans, one of the tribes who had separated from the Mexicans at Caliacan, and the Cholhuans, in which the Mexicans assisted their enslavers, and behaved so valorously as to gain their liberty. Their conduct was however stained by the cruelty they committed in the action, by cutting off their prisonersʼ ears, and by a human sacrifice, which they made to their divinity after the battle, which consisted of four of the prisoners whom they had reserved. The chief of the Cholhuans commanded them to quit his territory, being disgusted at their barbarity; they moved therefore to a place near the junction of Lakes Chalco and Tezcuco, which place they named Mexicaltzinco; they removed however from this to Iztacalo, nearer the place where Mexico was soon after built. Here they rejoiced for their victory and subsequent liberation, and remained two years, when wandering about, they discovered on an island, in the lake, a sign which their oracles had declared to be the mark of their future resting place; here they accordingly built some miserable huts of reeds, and having taken a Cholhuan prisoner, sacrificed him to their deity, built an altar, and prepared permanently to fix their residence. To this town and island they gave the name of Tenochtitlan, and afterwards building their huts round the altar of[108] Huitzilopochtli or Mexitli, they gave the town the name of Mexico, or the city of Mexitli, their god of war. This took place in the year 1825.

The situation of their new town, chosen solely from the omen, was as uncomfortable and as ill-placed, as they could have found on a small island, in a lake without ground for cultivation, or much space for building. There they lived long in a very wretched manner, till at last, impelled by necessity, they drove stakes and made dykes to the neighbouring islets; by which means they shut out the water, and connected the islands, so as to gain considerable space from the lake. By industry they attained sufficient quantities of materials from the neighbouring settlements to erect their habitations and furnish themselves with necessaries, and constructed floating gardens on the water, with the mud of the lake and branches of trees, on which they raised vegetables, &c. Struggling with great distress and difficulties, they remained unanimous and constant in their exertions for thirteen years, when an old quarrel was renewed amongst themselves, and they divided into two factions, who separated, one remaining on the spot, the other going to an island in the vicinity, which they named Tlatelolco, and which was afterwards united to the other by mounds. The original town was now divided into four quarters, and in the centre was built the temple of Mexitli.

They remained in great barbarism for some time, and sacrificed a daughter of the king of Cholhuacan, whom they had invited into their town, under a specious pretext; on which the king declared war against them, but they were now as powerful as himself. Their government had been hitherto an aristocracy; the nation obeying a council of their great chieftain. At this era they found that a monarchy was best suited to their views, as well because their neighbours had mostly adopted that form of government, as because their territories consisting only of[109] the city, one person was better able to perform the duties of the kingly office than several. They therefore elected Acampatzin for their king and leader, who was descended from the race above mentioned.

This prince took a daughter of Acolmiztli, king of Coatlican, for his consort; their rival brothers, the Tlatelolcos also chose a king, the son of the king of the Tepanecans, and in consequence of their choosing the son of this prince, who had hitherto received tribute from both parties, they endeavoured to instigate him to make war on the Mexicans; he however, only doubled their tribute, and otherwise oppressed them very much, for fifty years; during thirty-seven of which, Acamapitzin governed Mexico. He took another wife, and had by her a son Huitzilihiutl, and by his concubines several children, of whom Itzcoatl was afterwards one of the most renowned.

Acamapitzin governed Mexico with great success, and in his reign buildings of stone were constructed, and canals for the use and ornament of the place were commenced. He died in the year 1389, and after four months Huitzilihiutl his son, succeeded him by the universal choice of the people. He married a daughter of the king of the Tepanecas, as well as another princess; they each brought him sons, and the son of the latter was the famous Montezuma Ilhuicamina. Huitzilihuitl reigned twenty years, and died in 1409, and was succeeded by his brother Chimalpopoca, who, dying by his own hands in prison, to which he was treacherously conveyed by the king of Acolhuacan, was succeeded by Itzcoatl, the son of Acamapitzin, by a slave. In the mean time they were engaged in many disputes with the neighbouring kings and their rivals the Tlatelolcans, who were as rapidly advancing in power as the Mexicans. The first king of the Tlatelolcans died in 1339.


On the ascension of Itzcoatl to the Mexican throne, who was accounted one of the most prudent of their kings, he built temples, &c. subdued some neighbouring provinces, and concluded an alliance with the exiled prince of Acolhuacan, whose father had been killed, and himself supplanted by a neighbouring king. This prince immediately declared war against the usurper, and took several towns. Itzcoatl sent Montezuma, the son of Huitzilihuitl to congratulate him. He was taken prisoner, but escaped by treachery, and got back to Mexico, when Maxtlaton, the usurping king of Acolhuacan, who had been only king of Tepanecas, declared war against Mexico, on account of the Mexicans joining the exiled prince Nezahualcajotl. This terrified the Mexicans, and they demanded their king to make peace, but Montezuma, by his oratory persuaded them to commence hostilities. Montezuma undertook to carry the defiance, and was assailed in his return by some of the enemy, but got back after killing two or three. After this the exiled prince joined his army to the Mexicans, and a furious battle took place. When night approached, the troops of the enemies still increasing, the Mexicans were discouraged, and began to give way; but Montezuma, and the other chiefs, rushing to the front, redeemed the day. Montezuma took the general of the adversaries with his own hand; the next day the battle was renewed, and the Tepanecans totally defeated, and their city taken.

That nation was afterward totally subdued, and became subjected to Itzcoatl; who, after reducing all the provinces which were refractory, replaced Nezahualcajotl on his throne; in these actions Montezuma manifested his usual address and courage. Itzcoatl gave the Tepanecan country to Totoquihuatzin, with the title of king of Tacuba. These kings then formed a treaty of alliance, offensive and defensive.[111] The Xochimilcans, fearing that they might be the next objects of Mexican power, declared war, but were defeated, their capital and strong holds being taken by Montezuma. Thus, after twelve years, Mexico rose from its insignificancy, and became more powerful than all the surrounding states, and was no longer tributary. Itzcoatl died in 1436, at an advanced age, and Montezuma was called to the throne; one of the first acts of his reign was to build an immense temple, and he was no sooner placed on the imperial seat, than he was called to a war between the Chalcese and the Tezcucans; which terminated in the defeat of the former, and in this war he obtained the victims to be sacrificed at his coronation, which was the most splendid they had ever witnessed. The king of Tlatelolco having formed a conspiracy against Itzcoatl, and renewing his designs against Montezuma, he deposed him, and put Moquihuix in his place. Two large provinces were also conquered, and added to the Mexican dominions about this period.

He then engaged in a war with the king of the Mixtacas, the Huexotzincas, and Tlascalans, and after meeting with a reverse, he finally succeeded in defeating them, and again enlarged his dominions. In 1457 he undertook the conquest of Euetlachtlan, and sent Moquihuix, king of the Tlatelolcos to subdue it, but hearing that the Cholulans, the Tlascalans and Huexotzincas had joined the enemy, he ordered his army to return; they however disobeyed his command, conquered the enemy, and dispatched an immense number of them to be immolated in the Mexican temples. This so pleased Montezuma, that he forgave them, and married Moquihuix to one of his own relatives.

The Chalcese, who had again rebelled, were again reduced, and the whole of his reign was occupied in augmenting his dominions; so that at his death,[112] in 1464, his territories reached from the gulf of Mexico nearly to the Pacific.

During the reign of Montezuma, Mexico suffered by an inundation; this happened in 1446, when, after a very long continuance of rain, the lake swelled, and overflowing the city, destroyed many houses; to prevent its recurrence, he constructed a dyke of two parallel rows of stakes, filled in with mud and stones; this dyke was nine miles long, and for the future, prevented that evil in a great measure. Six years after this calamity, the maize harvest failed; and, in 1452, after having suffered more or less, from the same cause, for three years, the people were become so reduced, that many sold themselves for slaves, and Montezuma was obliged to open the granaries, and issue edicts that no woman should sell herself for less than 400 ears of wheat, or any man for less than 500. They existed on fish, and were only restored by a plentiful harvest happening in 1454.

On his demise, he was succeeded by Axaycatl, in 1468; which prince, after a great victory, built an immense temple called Coatlan; this was after conquering the natives of the province of Tecoantepec. The Tlatelolcos, in opposition, built another which they called Coaxolotl. This prince was not so fortunate as Montezuma, for many of the districts he conquered, revolted, and the Tlatelolcos became again the enemies of the Mexicans. In 1469 and 1470, the kings of Acolhuacan and Tacuba died, and thus the league was weakened. The Tlatelolcos now declared war, and the king Moquihuix, who had married a sister of Axayacatl, treated her so ill that she informed her brother of the enterprise, by which means he totally defeated the Tlatelolcos, penetrating, in the commencement of the action, into the market place, where he tore out the heart of Moquihuix, who had been taken prisoner; he then united the city to Mexico, which it has ever since made a part of.


Axayacatl then engaged in war with some other states and was wounded, however, he gained a complete victory over the Matlatzincas, and continued to extend his dominions till his death in 1477. He was succeeded by his brother Tizoc, after reigning thirteen years. Tizoc conquered fourteen cities, and after having collected materials to build a larger temple than any of his ancestors, was poisoned by his subjects. This prince married one of his grand-daughters to the king of the Acolhuacans, who also fell in love with her sister Xocotzin, and married her, by whom he had a son named Cacamatzin, who succeeded his father, and was taken prisoner afterwards by the Spaniards.

Ahuitzotl, the brother of Tizoc, succeeded him in 1482, after he had reigned five years. His first care was to finish the temple begun by Tizoc, which he completed in four years. This king was engaged in several wars, and the human sacrifices he caused to be made at the dedication of the new temple, were so enormous, that they are said to have amounted to upwards of 70,000. Another temple was also dedicated in his reign, at which many unfortunate victims were immolated.

The dedication of these temples took place in 1486 and in 1487, when there was a terrible shock of an earthquake felt at Mexico. This monarchʼs life was spent in war, he extended his dominions as far as Guatimala, 900 miles from his capital. The Mexicans were however defeated in 1476, by the Atlixcans, under the command of a chief of the Huexotzincas.

Ahuitzotl caused a channel or aqueduct to be made from a fountain into the lake, by which the waters were so much increased, that an inundation, followed by a famine, took place.

He died in 1502, after a reign of twenty years. At the period of his death, Mexico was precisely in the same state, with regard to territorial acquisitions, as when the Spaniards arrived. He embellished[114] Mexico by building with a stone which he discovered a quarry of in the neighbourhood, and his death was caused by a contusion on the head, which he received in rushing out of his palace, when the waters of the lake rose, by striking his head against the upper part of the door.

The next sovereign was Montezuma, the second of that name, and the ninth in order; he was called Montezuma Xocotzin, or the younger; who was a priest, and a man of great bravery; and on his election the people particularly valued themselves.

Montezumaʼs attention was first directed to war, in order to procure victims to be offered to the deities at his coronation, and the unfortunate Atlixcans were the sufferers, who, however, slew numbers of the Mexicans before they were subdued.

The pomp of Montezumaʼs coronation exceeded that of any preceding emperor, and the people saw with regret, symptoms of a tyrannical and haughty disposition show themselves after this ceremony, which they had before not suspected.

Montezuma changed many of the rules adopted by his predecessors, and particularly favoured his nobles, at the expence of the other classes. His household were entirely composed of people of rank, and he kept a number of women confined in the palace, choosing those for himself and favourites, which he thought the most beautiful; 600 neighbouring chieftains came to congratulate him, and appeared themselves to be in the utmost dread of his vengeance. His attendants cast off their shoes on entering the palace, and he permitted none of them to be sumptuously dressed. On entering the audience hall, they made three obeisances, at each of which they addressed him with a higher title. He was carried in a litter on the shoulders of his nobles, covered with a canopy, and carpets were spread along the streets in which he walked; the kitchen utensils of the finest earthenware, his tablecloths and napkins were never used more than once. His chocolate was prepared in golden vessels,[115] and his state dinners were carried by three or four hundred young nobles, who respectfully retired when they set the dishes down, each dish standing on a chafing dish, and the whole consisting of every variety of the game, fish, fruits and herbs of the country. He pointed out those which he preferred, and the rest were taken into the anti-chamber to the attendant nobility. Four women stood by him the whole time with ewers, and he was surrounded by his counsellors and carvers.

He bathed every day, and changed his dress four times, never putting on the same dress again, they being reserved for his nobles and chief warriors. One whole city he appointed as a place of residence at his expence, for those who were worn out in his service. All his palaces and gardens were very magnificent, and he had palaces in Mexico, appropriated to the kings and foreign nobles, whenever they should choose to reside there; with royal menageries; an aviary that occupied the attention of 300 men and physicians; five hundred turkeys were killed every day for the birds of prey, and the beasts were fed on deer, rabbits, and the entrails of human sacrifices.

This Prince had many parks for hunting; he was the patron of the arts, and had many good qualities; but was bigoted in the extreme; so much so, that he afterwards lost his life and empire by his belief in vain predictions. Montezuma was not so fortunate as his predecessors had been, he indeed conquered a province which had not before been reduced; but in his wars with the Tlascalans, he was unsuccessful. This small republic contained a brave and independent people, and though comparatively in small numbers to the Mexicans, they resisted all their attacks; the Tlascalans fortified their territories, and built a wall six miles in length on the frontier they suspected would be attacked, and they repulsed the Mexicans and their allies in every attempt they made to subdue them.


The resistance of these people to the power of Montezuma created several other rebellions which lasted during the remainder of his reign. In the year 1508, an expedition had been sent against Amatla, a distant region, and the Mexican army, in marching over a mountain, encountered a furious snow storm, in which great numbers perished, and on arriving at Amatla, the remainder were almost all slain. A comet appearing at this time, and the empire suffering under rebellion and other calamities, Montezuma, ever superstitious, was thrown into great alarm; the king of Acolhuacan, Nezahualpilli, who was accounted a learned soothsayer, presaged, that the comet portended a calamity that was about to befal the nation, by the arrival of some strangers. This he was unwilling to believe, and an astrologer, who verified the predictions of his brother king, was slain in his house, which was razed to the ground.

There are many other things related of the foreknowledge the Mexicans had of the arrival of the Spaniards, these may be traced to two sources; the Spanish priests, who have invented most of them since, and to the following; the Spaniards at that time had become very formidable in the West India Islands; settlements had even been attempted on the southern continent, and their uncommon arms and appearance must have been the universal topic of conversation among the natives where they came; many of the savages on the islands had escaped, and it is hardly possible to think, that from the year 1492, when Columbus discovered the American islands, to 1508, the period we are now speaking of, that such a people as the Mexicans would not have heard of these formidable neighbours, and that they would not have formed some idea that it might soon be their turn to be attacked. They, however, went on for some years in the usual manner, and although always dreading the arrival of the unknown people, they continued their internal wars and human[117] sacrifices. The stone, or altar, on which these unfortunate victims had been laid, was found too small, and the emperor ordered one of enormous dimensions to replace it; this was dragged by a multitude of people towards the temple, and in going over a bridge, broke the structure and precipitated the high priest and his attendants into the lake. It was, however, got out by immense labour, and, it is said, upwards of 12,000 victims were sacrificed on it.

This was the period when Mexican splendour was at its height, and Montezuma on the pinnacle of his glory. The Spaniards having well settled themselves in the great islands of Cuba and Hispaniola, turned their attention to explore the continent towards the west. Vasco Nuñez de Balboa first landed on the coast, and from the mountains descried the Pacific; this was, however, near the Isthmus, in the year 1513.

Juan de Grijalva was appointed to command a small expedition for discovery; having four ships and 240 men, he first landed on the island of Cozumel, east of Yucatan, on the 3d of May, 1518, and returned to Cuba without making any attempt to reduce the country, which he called New Spain. Velasquez, the governor, by the accounts he gave, entrusted Cortez with a commission to explore and conquer the newly discovered regions; the manner in which this was effected has been related under the head of New Spain, as well as the cause of the death of Montezuma.

The Mexican empire extended, at this time, 500 leagues from east to west, and 200 from north to south. On the death of Montezuma, his brother Quetlavaca, or Cuitlahuitzin, succeeded him after he had reigned nearly eighteen years; which event happened in June 1520. Quetlavaca gave promise of being an excellent king; he prepared his capital to receive the Spaniards, when he heard they were returning from their last retreat, and[118] caused it to be supplied with stores, and made spears headed with the daggers and swords taken from the Europeans who had fallen, to annoy the Spanish cavalry. He died of the small-pox before he could bring his projects to bear, in July 1520, and was succeeded by his nephew and son-in-law, Guatimozin, who had the misfortune to observe his people, dividing themselves from each other, and instead of aiding him to extirpate the Spaniards, many of them were assisting them to the utmost of their power. He was a man of undaunted courage and great capacity, and defended his city with great resolution; but being at last nearly starved; want, wretchedness, and disease, with the daily advance of the Spaniards and their auxiliaries, induced him to effect his escape, which he sought to do with his family in a canoe, accompanied by many of his faithful subjects; whilst those whom he had left to guard the remnant of his once flourishing capital endeavoured to deceive the Spaniards, in order to favour it. The canoes being large and rowing very swiftly, with other suspicious appearances, attracted the attention of the Spanish vessel, and a brigantine commanded by Garcia Holguin, was ordered to chase by Sandoval, one of Cortezʼs best officers. On coming up with the canoes the rowers dropped their oars, and the people with lamentations, begged the Spaniards not to fire, as the emperor was there. Garcia eagerly seized such a prize, and the emperor in an undaunted manner gave himself up, earnestly requesting them not to injure his wife and children. Appearing before Cortez, he, in a manly and majestic tone, addressed him, saying, “I have done my duty as a king, sheath your dagger in my body; my life is now useless to myself and my subjects.”

He had, previously, ordered his treasures to be thrown into the lake; and the allies of Cortez, had, during the general bustle, carried off the most valuable of what remained; this exasperated the[119] Spaniards, and the rebellious spirit of his soldiers urged Cortez to a deed which has for ever stained his memory; he directed that Guatimozin and his prime minister should be put to the torture, to make them reveal where the treasure had been deposited. The emperorʼs favourite or minister, overcome with pain, for they varied the torture in every possible manner, putting them on heated grates with live coals, &c. threw a glance of supplication to Guatimozin, as if he requested leave to explain. The emperor looked at him sternly, and saying, “am I reposing on a bed of roses,” checked all further solicitation. The unfortunate minister, worn out with agony, shortly after breathed his last. Cortez, who was present, ordered the torture to cease, and released the emperor, but only for further indignities; he made him swear allegiance to the crown of Spain, and afterwards, pretending he had planned a revolt, ordered him to be strangled. Thus died Guatimozin, who had reigned about nine months, and finished his imperial career on the 15th of August 1521, the day on which the city was taken.

Here ended the race of Mexican emperors, after a period of 197 years, and 300 years from the emigration of the colony to Mexico.

The memory of the events which happened in Mexican history was retained by means of paintings on cloth of a coarse and awkward appearance, and by historical songs which were handed from generation to generation; we shall not, however, enter into those discussions which have taken place with respect to the probability of many of the circumstances; it is sufficent to say, that they were generally believed by the natives themselves. The Mexicans were assuredly an extraordinary people, and were acquainted with many arts unknown to more civilised nations; they cast metals, made pictures in feather work, dyed their cloths with beautiful and permanent colours, fabricated mirrors of a stone called itzli, as well as razors of the same substance, cut[120] and polished gems, made a strong and lasting cement for their architectural purposes, cultivated their land, and knew the uses of the cochineal insect, which they bred; manufactured cotton cloth and hewed wood into beams, &c. with instruments of copper. Their potters were adroit, and manufactured beautiful articles; above all, they knew the difference between the solar and civil year, and added 13 days to their cycles, or era of 52 years, as intercalary days. They divided their year into 18 months, and gave these months appropriate names from the seasons, agricultural employments, &c. In their pictures, a month was represented by a circle divided into twenty parts or days; for a year, they divided a circle into eighteen parts or figures, and placed the moon in the centre. The era or century of fifty-two years, was similarly represented, and round the circle a serpent was drawn with four folds, to denote the commencement of the four periods of thirteen years each.

Cacao nuts were the monies of the people of Anahuac; and, for large purchases, were made up in bags, each bag passing for a certain sum. (In Mexico, the poor people still make use of these nuts, to purchase articles at market.) Very few remains of the Mexican structures exist; but Cortez asserted, that the great temple of Mexitli, occupied a space, in which five hundred houses might have stood. It appears, that the habitations of the Mexicans were rudely constructed, and ill contrived. The ancient city stood nearly where the present stands; though the waters of the lake have receded, owing to a drain having been formerly cut, to carry off some superabundant water. Its scite was on some islands on the west side of Lake Tezcuco, north of its junction with Lake Chalco, accessible on the west side only, by three large causeways, thirty feet broad, of earth and stone; the lake covering the other sides. It is asserted, that the circumference of the city was ten miles, and[121] that it contained 60,000 houses. It was divided into four quarters, which had four broad roads leading from the four gates of the great temple; a fifth quarter was added, when the city of Tlatelolco was taken, and the city was intersected by canals in every direction.

It contained many temples and palaces, the better kind of which had parapets and balconies; and many had even towers for defence. The largest square was that of Tlatelolco, where the great market was held, large enough to contain 40,000 people; and the city had fountains and reservoirs for fish, with beautiful gardens and terraces. The population was immense, but no just account has been given of it.

The Mexicans were a sanguinary people. The human beings they sacrificed on the altars of their gods were innumerable; they laid the body on the altar, cut the breast open, and took out the panting heart to satisfy their chief deity. The priests practised all sorts of austerities; puncturing their bodies with the spines of aloes, and mangling their flesh; after which they bathed in a sacred pond, which was tinged with the blood of these self-tormentors.

The dress of the Mexicans consisted, in the higher ranks, of fine cotton, dyed in fanciful colours, interwoven with hair and feathers, and painted with curious figures; they wore two or three mantles, one above another, the longest undermost, so that each might be visible. Their shoes were mere sandals of leather, or coarse fibrous cloth, tied with ribbands; the rich people adorning them with precious stones, &c. Their hair was worn long; the women allowed it to fall naturally in tresses; the men tied it up, and adorned it with feathers and jewels. They wore ear-rings, pendants from the upper lip, as well as the nose; necklaces, bracelets on the wrists and arms, and round their legs. Those of the rich[122] were of gold, pearls and gems; the poorer sort wore crystal, amber and shells, and their habits were made of the thread of the mountain-palm or coarse cotton. They used the pulp of a fruit, and a root, for soap, to wash their cotton garments.

Having traced the Mexican people, from the earliest known period of their history, to the conquest by Cortez, it is now time to recur to the actual situation of the country.

The climate of Mexico Proper varies according to the situation of the districts; its sea coast is hot and unhealthy, the plains are temperate and salubrious, and the high land cold and barren. Earthquakes and dreadful thunder storms are common. This province abounds in mountains; their principal summits have been described under the general head of New Spain; four of them are within a short distance of the capital; these mountains abound in ores and fossils, and are in general covered with thick forests, and, in their upper regions, with snow. Some large rivers run from them into the two oceans. They occasionally furnish precious stones and marbles for sculpture, as well as different kinds of stone for building. Mexico is cultivated with the lemon, orange, citron, cocoa, and plantain trees, vanilla, chili, or long-pepper, achiote, cotton, indigo, pimento, wheat, maize, barley, rice, pease, beans, and all sorts of European vegetables and fruits; also the plants useful in forming drugs, resins, gums, oils, as well as for their fruit, flowers, and roots, which are indigenous, have been enumerated as exceeding one thousand.

The trees which afford timber in this province, are of every variety. Tigers, wild cats, or loupcerviers, wolves, bears, foxes, deer, goats, badgers, weazels, polecats, martins, squirrels, rabbits, otters, and rats, are common in the forests, and usual haunts of the respective species. The cojotl, the tlacojotl, and three other species similar to dogs;[123] the wild cat, called ocotochtli; the cajopollin, resembling a mouse; the tozan, a similar animal; the porcupine and ahuitzotl, an amphibious creature; the mitzli, a sort of lion, without long hair; the polutaca, a flying rat; the Mexican hog, the opossum, the armadillo, the tapir, racoons, monkeys, and apes, are amongst the most noted animals of Mexico, and the adjacent regions.

The birds of Mexico are numerous, and celebrated for the variety and splendour of their plumage. Eagles, falcons, hawks, ravens of two or three different kinds, of which one never touches carrion, but subsists on corn; and another which follows the alligator, and destroys her eggs; ducks, geese, swans, herons, quails, divers, king-fishers, pelicans, pheasants, pea-hens, the mocking bird, cardinals, humming bird, &c. &c. It would occupy a volume to describe their peculiarities as well as their number. Mexico has indeed been called the country of birds, celebrated for their song, their beauty, and for their feathers, of which the Mexican pictures were executed, and which had all the softness and brilliancy of oil colours, and were so skilfully done, as to be distinguished only by the touch; they having had the art of flattening them, in such a manner, as to give them an appearance of the finest painting.

The reptiles are numerous; the cayman, or alligator, being nearly as formidable in appearance as the Egyptian crocodile. The serpents in the forests and marshes attain an enormous size, but are rarely found in the inhabited districts. The lizard tribe, from the cayman down to the water lizard, are very numerous. The rattle snake, cenocoatl, or phosphorescent snake, are the most venomous; and there are many harmless snakes, who devour the ants and other insects. Edible frogs, of three species, which attain a great size, are found in Lake Chalco and are eaten at Mexico. The rivers and lakes abound with fish, as do the seas which bound the province. Turtles are a principal[124] article of food; lobsters, and other crustaceous animals also abound; and upwards of one hundred kinds of nutritious fish, have been enumerated as used by the inhabitants. Sharks of great voracity are found on the coasts; and the almost tepid water of the Mexican gulf, seems highly natural for the production of the large aquatic animals. Beautiful shells are collected on the shores, and sponges and lithophytes are produced in great variety. The insect tribe, terrestrial, aquatic, and atmospherical, are more numerous than can be conceived; of these, the scolopendras, ants, scorpions, spiders of great size, are all dreadful and venomous; hornets, wasps, bees, &c. common, and the fire-fly and lanthorn beetle, are singular and innumerable; indeed, the whole continent of America seems to be amply furnished with luminous insects, which are not to be found in Europe. A large fly, which is produced near the Mexican lake, lays innumerable eggs on the flags which border the shores; these eggs are collected by the natives, and made into a sort of paste for sale in the market, where it is eagerly purchased for food, and is said to resemble caviare.

Mosquitoes and venomous gnats occupy the air in clouds, and are extremely tormenting, sometimes causing inflammatory appearances on the bitten parts, which become dangerous. The capital, though on a lake, is however free from these pests, probably owing to the circumambient atmosphere being charged with smoke; the smoke or vapour of wood fires being destructive to these insects. Thus many towns in North America are free from mosquitoes, whilst, if you step across their boundaries, these insects immediately assail you, and it is remarkable, that they are more troublesome to strangers than to the natives. Butterflies of every beautiful and elegant variety are natives of the Mexican forests and fields, and form rich articles in the collections of the virtuosi. A species of locust sometimes destroys the rising vegetables, and great[125] distress is felt from their ravages. A species of the tique or tick is as troublesome as the chigoe, or jigger of the West Indies. Many of the insect tribe, after being reduced to powder, and made into paste, are eaten by the natives, as they were also before the conquest.

The silk-worms of Mexico are in a state of nature; but produce a beautiful and strong cocoon. The cochineal insect forms one of the principal articles of Mexican commerce; and great pains are taken in rearing it.

The mineral productions, are gold, silver, copper, tin, the mines of which are near the capital; lead, iron, quicksilver, sulphur, alum, vitriol, cinnabar, ochre, and a sort of earth, resembling white lead. Asphaltum and amber are found on the coasts.

Among the precious stones and gems of Mexico, are a few diamonds, topazes, emeralds, amethysts, the stone called cats-eye, turquoises, cornelians, &c. Chrystal is also found in the mountains. Jasper, and various marbles, alabaster in particular, and a red stone, called tetzontli, which is porous and light, yet firm, is much used in the capital, where the foundations being marshy, they wish not, in many spots, to overload the piles on which they are erected. The loadstone is found to the north-west of the province; mica is common, and a fine sort was, after being burnt and powdered, used by the Mexicans in their paintings. The itzli stone is the most curious of the productions of the Mexican quarries; it has a glossy appearance, is semi-transparent, and generally of a black colour, though sometimes varying to dark blue and dirty white; it has been assimilated to the obsidian of the ancients, and declared to be the obsidian, or volcanic glass of modern mineralogy. The Mexican artists fabricated it into mirrors, razors, spearheads, knives, lancets, and all sorts of fine tools.

The natives, that is to say, the aborigines or[126] Indians, are well made, above the middle size, with complexions of an olive colour, narrow foreheads, black eyes, firm, regular, and fine teeth, coarse, black shining hair, with very little beard or hair on the trunk, or legs and arms; and it is remarked, that few deformed people are seen amongst them.

The women are fairer than the men, and many of them handsome. These people have generally good health, and are long-lived. Ardent spirits, together with European disorders, have considerably thinned their numbers, and they have much degenerated; the modern Mexican possessing little of the fire and warlike spirit which characterized his ancestors, neither are they so industrious as their forefathers, being of a melancholic temperament, and affecting mystery in all their actions. They are mostly of the Catholic persuasion; their progenitors had an imperfect notion of the Supreme Being, and adored him under the appellation of Teotl; they likewise called him Ipalnemoani, “He by whom we live,” and Tloque Nahuaque, “He who has all in himself.” Of the Creator, they formed no image, and to him no set forms of religious worship were made; they principally directed their prayers to Tlatecolototl, or the wise owl, an evil spirit; they also believed in the metemsychosis, and imagined, that the souls of their heroes went, after death, to the mansions of the Sun; and, after living there four years in happiness, returned under the form of beautiful birds. The souls of their slaves and meaner people, passed into the bodies of animals, in the more abject scale of creation; but souls of those who died by disease, by water, by lightning, and other accidental causes, went with the souls of little children to an Elysium; and those who died by punishment for crimes, &c., to a kind of Tartarus, which they called Mictlan, or the abode of utter darkness. It is said, that their historical pictures related the events of the creation, deluge,[127] confusion of languages, and consequent dispersion of the people; and that this is one proof of the Americans being of the same origin as their brethren of the Old World.

They had thirteen chief deities. The creator; Tezcatlipoca, ever young, and supreme agent under the Invisible Being; the Sun, the Moon, the god of the air; Tlaloc, the god of water, of harvests, and of the household; the god of fire, Centeotl; the goddess of the earth; the god and goddess of hell; the god of night, and Mexitli, the god of war; and the rational owl, or evil god, who was worshipped to avert his wrath. Besides these, they had many inferior deities, who presided over the hunters, fishers, &c. They had also 260 gods, who had each a day of service assigned them; these were probably their heroes.

They were adored under the form of images of clay, wood, stone, gold, silver, or copper, and gems. In their prayers, their faces were turned to the east; and the avenue to the sanctuary, where the image was placed, had its opening to the west. It is said, the temples in Mexico amounted to 2000, and that the idol Huitzilopochtli, or Mexitli, was the most adored; having more sacrifices offered at his altar; and that this image was formed of seeds glued together with human blood. The two high priests, in fact, governed the nation; they were consulted on all occasions, and wore a distinctive habit. They ruled the inferior priests, whose dress consisted of a black mantle, thrown over the head; their hair reaching down to their legs, as they never were shaved. They gave the names to new born children with many ceremonies, and assisted at all nuptials. They also presided on these occasions, and at the funeral ceremonies, placing by the side of the deceased, if he was buried, a jug of water, and pieces of their paper, with gems, and one of the deceasedʼs domestic animals. The bodies of the dead were however generally burnt, and the ashes[128] collected in a pot, which, in the case of people of high rank, were deposited in the temples. The priests had likewise the care of instructing the children, and preceded their armies in war.

The language of the Mexicans bears some similarity to that of the Peruvians; it is expressive and copious; and the great feature of it before the conquest was, that an addition of respect, according to the rank of the person addressed, might be added to each word; the words are many of them of immense length, as in the more northern dialects of the American Indians. It has not the consonants b, d, f, g, r, s;—l, x, t, z, tl, tz, are the most usual; but no word begins with l, though it is the most common liquid of the language. The penultimate syllable of most of the words is long, yet no nasal sound occurs in speaking it; the aspirations are soft; it is also abundant in augmentatives and diminutives; and is as well supplied with verbs as with nouns.

The colleges and university of Mexico admit the natives as freely as the Spaniards and their descendants, and are said to be well conducted, and to find considerable genius for the fine arts, and for some of the higher branches of science manifested in the pupils.

The capital of this province or intendancy, and of the whole of New Spain, has been already described under the head of New Spain; and the province of Mexico is 136 leagues in length, and ninety-two leagues broad; its population has been laid down at 1,511,800 souls; which at once shows its importance.

The great features of this province are the immense plains on the ridge of the Cordillera, elevated from 6561 to 8857 feet above the level of the sea, and forming bases for still higher mountains, whose hoary heads repose on their bosom. These plains are from fifty leagues in length, to ten in breadth.


The mountain of Toluca, the highest summit of the intendancy, is covered with snow, whence it is called Nevado de Toluca; the word nevado signifying a mountain which rises above the lowest term of congelation. The highest peak of this volcano is 15,156 feet in height, the plain on which it rests being itself 8857 feet above the level of the sea. The mountains surrounding the vale in which Mexico is situated, are all very high, but reach the greatest elevation on the south, where the intendancy of Puebla begins, in which are two great volcanoes close to the boundaries of Mexico. The Iztaccihuatl and Popocatepetl roads of communication cross the crest of the Cordillera, enclosing the valley in six directions; one road passes between the last named volcanoes, and consequently, through very sublime scenery, another road, which is not yet finished, leads from Mexico to Vera Cruz, and promises to give great energy to the commerce of the interior countries. Some idea may be formed of the labour and art employed in opening these extraordinary communications, when we find that some of them are carried over summits elevated near 10,000 feet above the sea, at a greater altitude than the lower limit of perpetual snow in central Europe, and at nearly the height of Mont Perdu, the highest peak of the Pyrennean chain.

On the plate of comparative heights of the American Cordilleras which accompanies this work, a glance will suffice to point out these stupendous undertakings.

The lakes of Mexico are fed by small rivers, which rise in the surrounding mountains.

The Lake Tezcuco has retired since the period of the conquest, nearly three miles from the city of Mexico, and the city at present, instead of being enveloped by waters, stands solely on the margin of the strait or channel which connects the lakes with each other. Lake Tezcuco, the[130] sheet of water nearest to the city, is saturated with salts, and hence was called by Cortez, who supposed that it ebbed and flowed, the sea of Anahuac; it is 7468 feet above the ocean, and is only from ten to sixteen feet in depth. In the dry seasons it is so drained by evaporation, that the canoes find great difficulty in navigating it; there is also another cause, which operates to decrease this celebrated lake; a cut has been made through the mountains to throw off the superabundant waters of the two upper lakes of Zumpango and San Christoval, which prevents those lakes from nourishing Tezcuco. Lake Tezcuco, covers a space equal to ten square leagues. A strait or channel connects Tezcuco with the lakes of Xochimilco and Chalco to the south of the city, which are not so broad as Tezcuco, but are more interesting; in Chalco there are several islands of large size, famous for the retreat of the ancient Aztecs. These lakes are of fresh water, and occupy a space of six and a half square leagues; the first-named is the most pure; on their surfaces are the celebrated floating gardens of the Mexicans, which supply the capital with fruits and vegetables. They are formed on rafts of reeds and brush-wood covered with soil, which is constantly watered from the surrounding lake, and the earth, which is strongly impregnated with muriate of soda, becomes by this continual washing, at last very free from salt and fit for vegetation. They are moved from one place to another by men with poles, and some of them contain watch-huts; where the proprietor or his deputy resides to overlook the gardens; pease, beans, chilis, potatoes, artichokes, cabbage, &c. pimento and flowers of all sorts luxuriate on these moving gardens, and afford both pleasure and profit to the inhabitants of the metropolis; many of them have become fixed on the borders of the lake, on account of the general decrease of the waters. The remaining great lakes to the north, are San Christoval and[131] Zumpango; the former has an expanse of three and a half square leagues; the latter of one and a quarter.

There are two mineral springs near Mexico, at which baths have been constructed, and near one of them the earth is so impregnated with salts, that regular salt pans are established for the supply of the capital.

One of the most extraordinary works in the neighbourhood of the capital executed by the Spaniards, is the cut or canal above mentioned, which has been made to carry off the superabundant waters of lake Zumpango. It is carried through a mountain, and cost the labour of fifteen thousand Indians for nearly a year; its length is 21,653 feet, in breadth more than eleven feet, and in depth more than thirteen; it was completed in 1608. Beyond the mountain, this canal is carried on above 28,000 feet to the river Tula, which runs into the gulf of Mexico near Panuco. This canal was undertaken in consequence of the many and dreadful inundations the city had suffered, and it appears, that it may still be visited by this calamity, by the southern lakes being overflowed from the high mountains in their neighborhood. This wonderful gallery was however inefficient; for want of proper arching the earth fell in and closed the passage, and Mexico was inundated for the space of five years. After much discussion and trials of various other means, the subterraneous cut was entirely uncovered, and formed into an open trench; in many parts, upwards of 160 feet deep, and 300 in breadth at top, the old canal serving as the course for the water, and it yet does not answer the purpose, the slope of the banks not being sufficient, and the soil so friable that it is constantly falling. This work was put a stop to in 1789; and cost above one million forty thousand pounds sterling, and is 67,535 feet in length. In digging, fossil bones of the elephant species were discovered.

Many unfortunate Indians perished in this[132] undertaking, which displays an astonishing effect of human industry, but very little science. Canals have since been executed at enormous expence, to conduct the water from the lake Zumpango and St. Christoval to the cut; these, with the repairs, and the great cut itself, cost up to the year 1804, as computed by M. De Humboldt, the sum of 1,291,770l.

It appears, that a new canal is about to be commenced from Lake Tezcuco to the cut just described, which is also to be in part deepened, the waters of Tezcuco being lower than those of Zumpango.

In the vale of Mexico north-east of Lake Tezcuco, are two pyramidal shaped masses, called the temples of San Juan de Teotihuacan, which the Mexicans had built for the worship of the sun and moon. The temple of the sun is 180 feet in height, with a base of 682 feet; the temple of the moon is not so high or so large, their sides nearly correspond to the cardinal points, and around them are lines of smaller pyramids of about thirty feet in height, which branch off in streets from the faces of the pyramids, and were supposed to be dedicated to the stars; of these there are many hundreds. Time has eradicated the exact forms of them all, but though covered with plants, they are still very apparent. To the south of the Nevado de Toluca is another curious monument called Xochicalco, also a pyramid, with its sides to the cardinal points; it is above 500 feet in height, and divided into five stages covered with stone, the whole being surrounded by ditches; on the top are the ruins of a square building, and the stones of the several platforms are covered with figures; it is supposed to have been an Aztec fortress.

The great causeways which led to the ancient Mexico, are now converted into paved roads, but still exhibit all the traces of their wonderful construction.

An extended description of the capital of the intendancy having been given, we shall now briefly[133] describe the most noted towns of the province. Of these, Queretaro, Tacubaya, Cuernavaca, Tascho, Acapulco, Toluca, Zacatula, and Pachuca, are of the greatest note; there are also four mines of much consequence, of which, those of El Doctor and Zimapan, are the most productive.

Queretaro, in 20° 36ʹ 39ʺ north latitude, 100° 9ʹ 15ʺ west longitude, near the east boundary of Guanaxuato, is celebrated for its manufactures of cloth, its superb aqueduct, and the elegance of the buildings; it is situated at the height of 6374 feet above the level of the sea, and contains 35,000 people, of whom 11,600 are Indians; south of this city is a handsome town, called San Juan del Rio, surrounded with beautiful vineyards and gardens.

Tacubaya, celebrated for its olive grounds and the archbishopʼs palace.

Cuernavaca is in a delightful climate, on the southern edge of the Cordillera.

Tasco or Tascho, has a fine church founded by Laborde, a Frenchman, which cost him more than 83,000l.; he had gained enormous riches by the mines, but was afterwards reduced to poverty.

Acapulco, in 101° 40ʹ 45ʺ west longitude from Greenwich, and 16° 50ʹ 29ʺ north latitude, formerly the most famous sea-port of America, when the galleons came from Manilla with spices, muslin, china, silk, and other Asiatic productions, in return for cocoa, quicksilver, and silver; this trade still subsists, but in a different manner. It was formerly very populous, but is in so unhealthy a situation behind a chain of mountains, which reflect the heat to so great a degree, that the inhabitants made a cut through them to admit the sea breeze. Its population is only four thousand, which is increased on the arrival of the Asian vessels, by people from the interior employed in the trade.

Toluca, at the base of a great mountain, in a fertile valley, producing abundance of maize and[134] the agave, called also by the native name of maguey. This town, though at the foot of a mountain, is elevated 8813 feet above the level of the sea.

Zacatula, the most northern sea port of any consequence in the intendancy of Mexico, on the shores of the Pacific, is situated on the borders of the river Zacatula.

Pachuca is one of the most ancient mines of New Spain, and the village dependent on this town called Pachuquillo, is said to be the first Spanish village that was built in the vale of Anahuac. The height of Pachuca is 8141 feet above the sea.

The rivers of this province are the Rio Tula, which rises near the lakes, and receives several small rivers from the mountains, as well as the superabundant waters of the upper lake; and after a course through the whole north-eastern part of the province, crosses the intendancy of Vera Cruz, and falls into the river Panuco, or Tampico, near the town of Panuco, close to the Mexican gulf.

The great river Santiago also rises in this province, in the Nevado of Toluca, and is called Rio de Lerma, for a considerable length; it has already been described.

The next and last great river of consequence is the Rio Zacatula, which rises in the Cordillera of Anahuac, and discharges itself into the Pacific, at the town of Zacatula, on the confines of the province of Valladolid.


Is bounded on the north by the river Lerma, or Santiago, and Guanaxuato, east by Mexico, west by Guadalaxara and the Pacific Ocean, and south by Mexico; its length is 78 leagues, its breadth 38.

This country enjoys a salubrious climate, owing to its situation along the western side of the great Cordillera of Mexico; on the coast of the Pacific[135] the air is not so good, and the climate in some parts unhealthy.

Travellers speak with much delight of this province; it presents some charming scenery, and in the valleys surrounded by mountains, it has all the variety of hill, dale, water and forest.

The land in some districts is very high, but no part if the country offers so singular a feature, as the volcanic mountain of Jorullo, which rose from the plains in one night The highest point of Valladolid is the Pico de Tancitaro, and a little to the east of it, is the volcanic production above-mentioned; which, in the midst of the darkness of the night on the 29th of September, 1759, rose from the bosom of the plain.

Previous to this wonderful event, the ground consisted of part of an immensely extended plain between some ranges of mountains. This plain was covered with cultivation, and elevated from 2460 to 2624 feet above the level of the ocean. The sugar cane and indigo were thriving, and the inhabitants of the district, or plantation, which was reckoned as the richest of the kingdom, looked forward with delight to the prospect of the fruits they were to derive from their labour. A confused noise under the surface of the plantation was distinctly heard in June, 1759; to which succeeding alarming earthquakes for a month, the inhabitants fled from the devastation they imagined was about to overwhelm them; but these convulsions ceasing for a time, they thought that the effect was at an end, and returned to their beloved spot. For nearly the whole month of September nothing extraordinary appeared, when on the night of the 28th and near the morning of the 29th, the dreadful rumbling noise again began beneath the plain. The affrighted natives fled to the mountains, and forsook their homes; an immense tract suddenly rose and swelled itself into an enormous convex hill 524 feet in perpendicular height above the plain. This phenomenon[136] continued to vomit fire to an amazing extent; rocks of enormous magnitude were cast up, and two rivers were swallowed into the bosom of the burning entrails of the newly formed hill; the land of the plain was also seen to undulate like the waves of the ocean.

Thousands of small conical mounds, enveloped in basaltes, started up, and studded the hill with their knobs, each of these is a little volcano, occasionally vomiting smoke; amidst them, six large hills, elevated themselves above the main body, from 312 to 1640 feet in height, above the mass of cones.

The highest of these is called Volcano de Xorullo, and is 1695 feet above the level of the old plains; it spouted forth fire, rocks, ashes, &c. and continued to terrify the people till February, 1760. The roofs of houses 48 leagues distance were covered with ashes during this time; since then the mountain has been less furious, and the natives have returned to reside in its vicinity. M. De Humboldt went down into the crater of Xorullo in 1803, and examined the inside minutely; a sulphureous vapour issued from it, and the air was at 139° of Fahrenheit. He mentions that the hill begins to be covered with plants as well as the tumuli about it. The country filled with these volcanillos or brood of little volcanoes is not unaptly styled Malpays; and the air is so warm that in the shade the thermometer stood at 109°. The Indians inhabit this country even amidst these ovens! The two rivers which were swallowed, it is said, may be heard running underneath the ground, and issue from it in the form of heated mineral springs.

The above cited author, in concluding his account of Xorullo, remarks what is in reality a most singular circumstance. The volcanic mountains of central New Spain do not follow the direction of the great Cordillera, which is from the south-east to the north-west, but cross this chain perpendicularly, beginning on the east or Mexican gulf-shore[137] by the great Pico de Orizaba; thence west to the Pacific, the two volcanoes of the Intendancy of La Puebla, the Nevado de Toluca, the Pico de Tancitaro, the volcano of Colima and the new volcano of Xorullo, all lying in a line east and west between 18° 59ʹ and 19° 12ʹ of north latitude. The Pico de Tancitaro is covered with snow, but accurate measurement has been made of it.

The population of Valladolid is 376,400 souls. In it there are three cities, three towns and 263 villages. The Indians or natives exceed 120,000, and are of three tribes, the Otomies, Chichimecs and the Tarascs, inhabiting the whole of the southern part of the province; the Chichimecs retain the ancient Mexican language, and the Otomies their former savageness.

The bishop of Valladolid governs the ecclesiastical affairs of this province; his bishopric is not one of the most valuable of New Spain, and many of the priests are Indians.

Valladolid or Mechoacan, the capital, is delightfully situated on a small river, which discharges itself, into a little lake on the north; it has also another small lake on the east, both famous for fish.

It is a well built large town, and is at the height of 6396 feet above the level of the sea; snow sometimes falls, but the climate is in general excellent. It has a handsome aqueduct, and is the see of a bishop, with a population of 18,000 souls.

The other towns of note are Pasquaro on the banks of the little lake of that name on the west of Mechoacan, which has 6000 people.

Huitzitzilla, a village formerly the capital of the kingdom of Mechoacan, contains 2500 people; there are many other villages and towns, some of which are very large, inhabited chiefly by Indians.

There are five principal mines in Valladolid, and the products of the province are gold, silver, copper, maize, corn, cotton, cacao, gums, sarsaparilla,[138] vanillas, cassia, the root mechoacan, honey, ambergris, balsam, odoriferous gums, &c.

The Indians are famous for their pottery ware, silks and ornamental feather works; they supply the capital with fruit, flowers, vegetables, &c. and possess some beautiful gardens.

Valladolid is famous for an excellent breed of horses and fine cattle; the wild animals are principally the tiger, wild dogs, squirrels and an innumerable tribe of foxes, which are very troublesome to the inhabitants in destroying their fowls, &c.

There are no good ports on the coast of Valladolid, which causes most of the commerce of that province to be carried on by land.


Puebla or Tlascala, is the next province to the south of Mexico, and is bounded on the north by Vera Cruz; on the east by Oaxaca, or Guaxaca; on the south by the Pacific, and on the west, by the province of Mexico; and is about 354 miles in length, and from 40 to 150 in breadth.

The soil and productions are nearly the same with Mexico; it is here that the continent begins to narrow very much; and as we approach the southern boundary of North America, it gets continually less and less, until it passes the dividing mountains in Panama, when it again spreads into that immense extent of country, known in geography by the general name of South America.

Tlascala is crossed by the great chain of mountains called Cordillera de Anahuac on the west, which is adorned by cultivation; and on the north, by a range eternally overspread with snow; these are constantly subject to violent hurricanes, terrible tempests and torrents, by which those habitations, situated in their vicinity, are often swept away,[139] and even those which are built on the tops of little rising grounds endangered. Notwithstanding all this, and the dreadful earthquakes to which the country is subject, Tlascala is supposed to be one of the most populous provinces of New Spain. It is so fertile in maize, that it received its name from that produce of the soil; Tlascala signifying the land of bread in the native language.

This province was formerly a kingdom, but afterwards divided into different districts; a chief, or cacique of each district residing at the court of Tlascala, where a council of the whole was held to promulgate laws. They were the enemies of the Mexicans, and maintained themselves against its kings for a length of time, and continued this form of government until the conquest of Mexico by Cortez. The towns and villages are filled with the native Indians. Cortez obtained a grant of this kingdom from Charles VI., and it is consequently exempt from services and duties to the crown of Spain, on account of its having been his ally, in his expedition against the Mexicans; they pay solely a poll-tax to the Spanish king in kind, being a handful of Indian wheat each person, and this has been said to amount to the extraordinary quantity of 13,000 bushels in one year.

The government of the caciques or chiefs was decreed by the inhabitants of the country after the close of some civil wars; thus making many kings to abate the power of one.

The capital of this province was anciently Tlaxcallan, or Tlascala, on the side of a great mountain, and on the banks of a small river which runs into the Pacific. If we are to believe the accounts of the Spanish adventurers when they first saw this city, its inhabitants amounted to 300,000; and it was adorned with a large market-place, sufficient to contain 30,000 people; the market was supplied with hardly ever fewer than 1500 sheep, 4000 head of cattle, and 2000 swine. In the year 1698,[140] Gemelli says, that it was then a village with one church, in which hung the picture of the vessel in which Cortez arrived at Vera Cruz. The Tlascalans offered human sacrifices to their deities, and kept them in cages till their execution. It is situated twenty miles north of Puebla de los Angelos, and now contains only 3400 inhabitants, of whom 900 are of the original tribe.

Puebla de los Angelos, is at present the capital of Tlascala, and one of the few cities entirely built by Spaniards in America; it is situated in 19° 15ʹ north latitude, and 102° 43ʹ west longitude, east-south-east of Mexico, on a small river which runs through the town; the number of good houses is very great. It has a fine cathedral, several churches and monasteries, which are all well built and beautifully decorated. The houses are mostly of stone, very lofty and tasteful, the streets broad and quite straight, crossing each other at right angles, which is a favourite method of building the towns of the Spanish dominions in the New World. The streets are generally very clean, and there is a fine square in the middle of the city, superior to the great square of Mexico, adorned with porticoes or piazzas on three of its sides, and on the fourth, by the great cathedral built of stone, with two lofty towers, and an elegant front of modern architecture. The piazzas are filled with shops for the display of all sorts of goods, which has an exceedingly rich appearance. It is a bishopʼs see removed from Tlascala, and is reckoned the richest in New Spain. There is a manufacture of fine felts, with a royal mint and glass-house. The valley which adjoins this fine city, is extremely productive in corn and fruits, including all the European sorts. In the neighbourhood are many mineral springs; it contains 67,800 inhabitants, and its height above the level of the sea is 7380 feet.

The highest mountain in New Spain, or indeed[141] in all the known parts of North America, is in this province; as Popocatepetl; more elevated than any summit of Europe, its height being 17,716 feet above the level of the sea; it is constantly in action, throwing out smoke, ashes, and fire; and its figure is that of a truncated cone with a large crater; but no great eruption has hitherto taken place.

Iztaccihuatl is the next greatest elevation of the chain of Puebla, and is situated near the former on the north-west of it, and close to the boundaries of the province of Mexico; this mountain is part of the Sierra Nevada; its height is 15,700 feet above the level of the sea, and it appears to have been an active volcano; and between these two, Cortez and his wondering army passed when he marched to attack the capital; they are both constantly enveloped in snow on their upper peaks.

The whole of Puebla is under the torrid zone; the western part is a mere desert, and the east, from the above named volcano to the borders of Vera Cruz, where there are beautiful plains filled with fields of maize, corn, sugar, cotton, fruit, &c., is the most populous, containing 813,300 souls. It is on this ridge or plain, that the most ancient monuments of the former state of the Mexicans exist, of which the greatest and most astonishing, is the pyramid or temple of Cholula, 177 feet high, with a base of 1420 feet in breadth. It is divided into four stages; on the top the Spaniards have erected a temple to the Virgin, in which mass is constantly performed. This pyramid is built of layers of brick and clay, and has been injured by part of it having been destroyed to form a road, which has, however, shown that it was a place of burial, as in the Egyptian pyramids; the faces of this structure are directed to the four quarters of the globe, and as in the others before-mentioned, vestiges, though not very perfect, are found of smaller[142] pyramids around it. It had an altar on its summit dedicated to the god of the air, who was one of the most ancient Mexican lawgivers, and is represented to have disappeared suddenly, promising to return to resume the reins of government; the Mexicans imagined that Cortez and his Spaniards were the descendants and messengers of this mysterious being.

The view from the summit of this pyramid is very superb; the volcanoes of La Puebla, the Pico de Orizaba, and the stormy summits of the Sierra de Tlascala being distinctly visible from it. It is covered with vegetation, which renders an accurate examination of its superficies impossible.

There are some great salt works in Puebla, and some fine quarries of marble.

Puebla contains six cities and 600 villages.

The Tlascalan part of Puebla has been lately united to Mexico; the chief town Tlascala, being governed by a cacique who is the kingʼs lieutenant, and four Indian judges; and the municipal body is composed entirely of Indians.

Cholula, Tlascala, and Huexotzinco, are famous as having been the three republics which so long resisted the power of the Mexican kings; Tlascala for having been the ally of Cortez, and Cholula, as a holy city.——Three distinct languages are spoken by the Indians; the Mexican being one, which is spoken only by the Indians of the towns of Tlascala, Puebla and Cholula.

The town of most note after the capitals Puebla and Tlascala, is Cholula, which has a population of 16,000 souls. In ancient times this was one of the first of the Mexican cities, containing an immense number of inhabitants, and was deemed the sacred town of the empire; it contained more than 400 temples and places of worship. Cortez was astonished at the sight of this city, and described it with admiration in his letters to the king.


Huexotzinco, now a small place, was formerly the capital of the republic of that name, and a very populous city; as was also—

Atlixco, celebrated for its pure air, and excellent fruits, with many others which the limits of this work forbid us to enumerate.

The great mining undertakings of New Spain are not paid so much attention to in this province as in many others; however, it is not deficient in ores; but the fertility of the soil renders agriculture and other branches of commerce to be the more attended to; and where tillage once takes place in America, the produce of the interior of the earth is not so greatly sought after.

The principal river of the Intendancy of Puebla, is the Rio Yopez, which rises in the mountains near La Puebla, and throws itself into the Pacific just below the boundary of Valladolid; there are also several others on the Pacific coast, but of no material moment.


This Intendancy lies almost entirely along the shore of the Gulf of Mexico, and may consequently be denominated the eastern maritime province of New Spain; it contains, indeed, the most celebrated port in the viceroyalty, from the name of which that of the province is derived.

Vera Cruz lies wholly within the tropics, and its coast is consequently subject to violent heats, which render it unhealthy: but in the interior the high mountains and the declivity of the table land, or plain of the ridge of Anahuac, ameliorates the climate, and renders it suitable for European constitutions.

The length of this province, from the salt water lake of Terminos to the mouth of the great Panuco River, is 210 leagues, and its breadth twenty-six. It is bounded, on the north by San Luis Potosi, or[144] New Santander; on the east by the Gulf of Mexico and Yucatan, or Merida; west by Puebla, Oaxaca, and Mexico; and south by Oaxaca, or Guaxaca, and the kingdom of Guatimala.

Vera Cruz comprehends within its limits the former province of Tabasco.

M. de Humboldt has given a very animated picture of the sensations excited in a traveller when he ascends the acclivity leading from the coast of Vera Cruz, the capital, to the Plain of Perote. Here, he says, nature may be observed in the course of a few hours in all her variety; suffocating heat prevails on the coast; ascending, the air becomes gradually more pure and less heated; the face of the country sensibly changes; the productions of the torrid zone first meet the eye, then those of the temperate, and the eager step of curiosity advancing may place it amid the region of ever during snow and ice. The mountains covered to a certain height above and below with a belt of oaks, of bananas, and trees of the liquid amber, denote that the climate is conducive to health; the hardy pine ascends the higher regions, and becomes more and more stunted in its growth, till it is lost in fields of snow. The majestic features of the volcanoes, the vast expanse of the ocean, the verdure of the forests, and the fall of the cataracts, rushing from the mountains, cause the most wonderful and gratifying variety in the coup dʼœil of this singular province.

The pimento, the vanilla, jalap, cacao, tobacco, sarsaparilla, cotton, indigo, and sugar are amongst the principal productions of Vera Cruz, and in some of which a very lucrative and considerable trade is carried on.

The population of the Intendancy has been estimated at 156,000; part of which is concentrated in the town of Vera Cruz, and in the towns on the table land; and the remainder thinly scattered over[145] the extent of country between the coast and the mountains.

The capital of this province is La Vera Cruz, which is the seat of government, situated in 19° 11ʹ 52ʺ north latitude, and 96° 8ʹ 45ʺ west longitude; with a secure harbour sufficiently large for a great fleet, having from four to ten fathom water; the only danger being from the northerly winds, which are excessively violent, and have sometimes done much damage to the shipping in the port. This harbour swarms with aquatic birds.

The defence of the port is principally Fort St. Juan de Ulua, situated on a small island at the entrance of the channel, strongly fortified, and mounting three hundred pieces of cannon. It was this island that Juan de Grijalva discovered in 1518. This city is neither the Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz, nor Vera Cruz el Antigua of the followers of Cortez, both of which were deserted on account of their unhealthiness; it stands on the spot where Cortez first set his foot on the continent, on the 21st of April 1519.

Vera Cruz is the mart for the merchandizes of the East and West India Islands. The situation of the city is bad, on account of the marshy soil and the barren tract round it. It projects in a semicircular form into the sea, and is inclosed with a parapet six feet in height, and three broad at the crest, having a palisade. This rampart has six low bastions or square towers, twelve feet high. Along the shore on the north-west is a redoubt mounted with cannon; and on the south-east is another, to defend the port. The houses of the city are built of stone, and have wooden balconies; the streets being wide, paved, and in good order. The churches are numerous and richly decorated, and the inhabitants are chiefly merchants, very indolent, and very devout Catholics. The great luxury of their houses is porcelain; trade is carried on here to a great extent, and the city is accounted to[146] have seven or eight houses, each worth a million of dollars. The women are not reckoned very handsome, and are kept in great retirement; they are excused from going to mass during the north winds, which are very violent, and load the ramparts with sand from the beach. Processions and religious shows are the principal amusement of the people, who, during the time there are no arrivals, are computed at about 16,000: but this amount is much swelled in the season when the fleet arrives from Spain; at which time there is a fair here and at Xalapa, and lodging is not to be had. The display of riches on this occasion is immense; but since the galleons have been done away with, and the restrictions of the other ports taken off, Vera Cruz, no longer enjoying the monopoly, has dwindled from its former importance; it is, however, still a place of great trade. In the rainy season, the water falls chiefly during the night, and at this period the marshes and bogs on the south are infested with alligators of seven or eight feet in length, but which are said to be innocent. The mosquitoes, during this season, are intolerable, and the country subject to earthquakes, so that these evils, combined with its unhealthy situation, render it no very desirable residence. Commerce, all-powerful commerce, nevertheless, draws man to this abode, and in the middle of swamps, reptiles, venomous insects, tornadoes and earthquakes, he finds enjoyment in its pursuit, and shortens his life to amass a few grains of dust to enrich those, who after he is gone, laugh at him for his pains. The Buccaneers and different powers having taken and sacked this city several times, the Spanish government built small forts along the line of coast near it.

The black vomit, that dreadful malady which so often prevails in this town, has been supposed to be owing, in a great measure, to the want of good water, the richer people contenting themselves[147] with what falls in for all the uses of the kitchen and table; the poorer class living on bad water collected from the ditches. An aqueduct is constructing, though very slowly, and at immense expence, to bring a pure stream to the city.

Old Vera Cruz is also a sea-port near the former city, at the distance of only fifteen miles to the north. Cortez landed here in 1518. It is also situated very unhealthily in a marsh, and on a river which is full of large alligators, said to be strong enough to manage an ox, and to draw him under water. They devour all the dogs which fall in their way.

Xalapa, on the north of Vera Cruz, is the place where almost all the business of the European commerce is transacted. It gives its name to the medicinal root commonly called jalap, but originally spelt Xalap. This town is the see of a bishop, and contains 13,000 inhabitants; it is placed at the foot of a basaltic mountain, and its environs are highly picturesque; but it is sometimes subject to thick fogs for weeks together, during the winter. The merchants of Vera Cruz reside mostly at Xalapa. This town is at the height of 4264 feet above the level of the port of Vera Cruz, and contains an excellent drawing academy for young mechanics; the great road from Mexico to Vera Cruz will pass by it.

Cordova, near the Pico de Orizaba, and Orizaba are famous for being the places where the tobacco for home consumption in New Spain is mostly produced.

To complete the description of this intendancy, there remains only to notice a part of it, which was until very lately a distinct province, the coast of which is still designated the Tabasco shore.


Occupied the southern portion of the present government of Vera Cruz, and was 100 miles long and 60 miles broad. The soil is not very[148] fertile, neither is the air healthy, as the country is in general flat and marshy, filled with small lagoons or lakes; and as it rains during greater part of the year, the climate is very damp. The coast is subject, from September to March, including both those months, to dreadful storms, the northerly gales prevailing during that period, which renders navigation dangerous and difficult. In February, March and April, the heats prevail, which are insupportable, and accompanied with infinite swarms of mosquitoes and other venomous insects. Notwithstanding all these disadvantages, the inhabitants have good farms, well stocked with cattle, in which their principal traffic consists. To Vera Cruz they also export maize and cocoa nuts, and the Spaniards having brought vines, lemons, oranges and fig-trees here, they are now found in abundance, and thrive very well in most parts of the country. The natives reap from three to four harvests of maize in the year, and have rice, barley, European garden herbs and fruits, as well as those common to America. The cacao tree grows so well in Tabasco, that they formerly paid their tribute to the Mexican emperors in chocolate.

The woods, which are principally of Brazil-wood and cedar, with thickets of bamboos, mangroves, &c. are infested with serpents, tigers, bears and apes; and the rabbit, the deer, the squirrel, &c., find covert and shelter every where.

The marshes and lakes are well stored with fish.

The chief town, and one of the oldest of New Spain, is Tabasco, in 18° 34ʹ north latitude, 93° 36ʹ west longitude, called also Neustra Senora de la Victoria, on account of a great victory which Cortez gained here on his first landing. It stands on an island at the mouth of the Rio Grijalva, which divides itself near the gulf into two arms; the west arm falls into the Rio Tabasco; and the other continues its course till within twelve miles of the ocean, where it again divides, and separates[149] the island on which the city stands, from the continent.

The town is not very extensive, but strongly and well built, and owes its prosperity to a sort of annual fair at Christmas.

The island of Tabasco is about thirty-six miles in length, and seven or eight broad; near it, on the continent, are great plains abounding in cattle, sheep, &c., and a wild animal called the mountain cow, or tapir, which subsists on the moss that accumulates on trees near the great rivers, in marshy situations.

Villa Hermosa and Tlacotalpan, formerly the principal Indian town of Tabasco, are the only remaining towns of note.

The principal river of the Intendancy of Vera Cruz, is the Rio Tabasco, which rises in the mountains of Chiapa, and after a circuitous course, and receiving the Grijalva and other streams, runs into the gulf of Mexico: it is said that some of the largest cabbage and cotton trees, which are known in the New World, grow on the banks of this fine river.

There are some other streams in this country, viz. the Sumasinta, which rises in the mountains of Chiapa, twenty miles south of Sacatulan, and falls into the gulf near the isthmus of Yucatan.

The Rio Tula, under the name of Motesuema, pervades this province in the north, as do the Rio Panuco, or Tampico, the Rio Atopan, and the Rio Antigua, which rise near the volcano of Perote, the Rio Blanco which rises near the Orizaba volcano, the Rio del Passo and Huasacualco, with many others, which all fall into the Mexican gulf, and form large and numerous islands, of which little is known.

The lake, or enclosed bay, of Tamiagua, is an extraordinary large basin, having a long and narrow outlet to the south, parallel with the shore; it contains a large island called De Ramirez, and[150] several others. Lakes, or lagoons, and indentations, are very frequent on this coast, as are islands; but a bar extending all along, and the insalubrity of the climate, prevents the shore from being explored.

The volcanoes of Vera Cruz form the most astonishing feature of its scenery; of these, the highest is the great volcano of Orizaba, visible from Mexico; it is the most elevated mountain of Spanish North America, excepting only Popocatepetl; its form is that of a truncated cone, with a large crater, from which issues fire, smoke and ashes; as it is considerably above the lower period of congelation in these latitudes, its summit is constantly covered with snow. The inferior limit of congelation is very distinctly marked on the Mexican summits; at a distance, it forms so accurate a line on the cones, that it appears the effect of art rather than of nature, and adds greatly to the singularity of the landscape. This volcano is called, in the Mexican dialect, Citlaltepetl, or the Starry Mountain, its fire appearing like a star, when viewed from the capital, and is 17,371 feet above the level of the sea; its cone is a little inclined, at the summit, to the south-east.

The next summit is Nauhcampatepetl, or the Square Mountain, which the Spaniards call Cofre de Perote, from the small square rock on the top.

The Cofre de Perote is 13,414 feet above the level of the sea, and is to the north-east of Orizaba. It is seen at a great distance at sea, being a landmark for the harbour of Vera Cruz. There appears no crater at the top; but from beds of lava, and the whole mountain being surrounded with pumice stones, and other substances attendant on volcanoes, it is evident that it has formerly been one of a tremendous nature.

There is another volcano on the coast, to the south of Tlacotalpan, and in that part of the shore which projects considerably into the Mexican gulf;[151] it is the highest summit of a small chain, called Sierra de St. Martin. The distance is twelve miles from the beach to the volcano, which is called Volcan de Tuxtla, from a small village of the Indians in its vicinity. It is a very powerful volcano, and some dreadful eruptions have lately taken place; the last was not more than twenty years ago, when the houses and streets of Vera Cruz were covered with ashes, and the noise, resembling the firing of cannon, was heard 57 leagues distant.

The height of this volcano has not been ascertained, but it is considerably inferior to those which we have mentioned, as crossing the Cordillera of Anahuac, in a transversal line.

The next objects of curiosity which we have to turn our attention to, in traversing the intendancy of Vera Cruz, are the pyramidical remains of temples, of which that of Papantla has been recently discovered in the bosom of a forest; this building is not of layers of clay and stones, or brick, as those we have described are, but differs from them in all its architectural points; it is composed of enormous stones, cemented together, and well polished and finished, and is only 82 feet in base, with a height of about 160 feet. It has seven different platforms round it, and a square summit. In the middle of one of the faces a large and well-cut stair ascends the whole height. Niches are observed along the sides of each stage, regularly decreasing in number to the top; and the whole is carved in relief with figures.


This province is bounded on the north by Vera Cruz and Puebla; on the west by Puebla; on the east by Chiapa and Guatimala, and on the south by the Pacific.

This intendancy, the last of the viceroyalty of[152] New Spain, to the south-west, is esteemed one of its most fertile districts, producing excellent chocolate and cochineal, sugar, cotton, rice, plantains, cassia and indigo. The mountainous parts abound in mines of gold, silver, lead and crystal; and many of its rivers have particles of gold in their sands. The inhabitants are, however, not very industrious, and there are but two manufactures of indigo, and five hundred looms in employ for the weaving of cotton. It has also a manufacture, in its chief city, of black wax. Oaxaca may be stiled the western maritime province of New Spain, as it embraces a great extent of coast along the Pacific ocean.

The capital is Oaxaca, in 17° 30ʹ north latitude, at the opening of three large plains, one of which runs as far as Guatimala. This city stands on a river, which runs into the sea, near Vera Cruz, and aqueducts supply it with pure and wholesome water from the mountains on the north-east of the town. The form of Oaxaca is an oblong square, being two miles long, and one and a quarter wide, and surrounded by gardens and plantations of the cactus, which feeds the cochineal insect; and it is at this city that the most abundant gatherings of that valuable insect take place.

The streets are wide, uniform and well paved, and the houses mostly built of stone, two stories high. From a distance, the beautiful spires and numerous houses of stone, give it a magnificent appearance, and nothing seems to be wanting to render it a delightful abode, but superior industry; for the air is clear and healthy, and here reigns a perpetual spring, refreshed by westerly breezes in the evening, and the east winds in the morning. The temperature of the climate causes the fruits of Europe to flourish luxuriantly in the gardens; and thus, with the native trees, they have a constant succession for the luxuries of the table.


The town house is a stone building, in the middle of one of the sides of the great square, and has not been long built; the stone of this edifice is of a green colour, and has a pretty effect; the cathedral and bishopʼs palace occupy two of the other sides of the square; which is surrounded with arcades. There are many monasteries and churches of handsome architecture, and magnificently ornamented.

The population, including mulattoes, Indians and negroes, which form the greater portions, (the whites not being very numerous) is estimated at 24,000.

The governor of the province resides here, as well as the diocesan. Yet this beautiful city, so delightfully situated, in such a temperate clime, so fruitful a soil, and with such beautiful decorations, is sometimes visited by that tremendous scourge, an earthquake; and has a few years back suffered very much from the effects of one which was felt over all this part of the continent.

The other towns of the greatest importance, in the province of Guaxaca, are Tehuantepec, a sea-port town, situated on the shore of the great bay of Tecoantapeque, at the foot of a mountain, whose summit is a volcano, in 16° 20ʹ north latitude, 95° 1ʹ west longitude, with a population of 2600 families of Indians, and fifty of whites.

Aguatulco, or Guatulco, is a sea-port of Guaxaca, with a large and well frequented harbour, in the Pacific, in 15° 44ʹ north latitude, famed as having been plundered by Sir Francis Drake.

Embarcadero is situated on the western side of the province in a small harbour of the Pacific.

San Pedro, a sea-port 75 miles south of Guaxaca.

San Antonio de los Cues, in the north, on the route from Orizaba and Vera Cruz to Oaxaca, with a large population, is famous for the remains of[154] some Mexican fortifications, but which are in great dilapidation.

There are four mines of silver, which are very valuable, in Oaxaca, and the population of the province, amounts to 534,800.

Oaxaca is described as the finest, healthiest and most productive province of New Spain; and its former inhabitants were amongst the most civilized of the people discovered by the Spanish conquerors. It is extremely mountainous, and is divided into two highland districts, called Mixteca and Tzapoteca. The Cordillera, which runs through the province, falls to the oceans on either side; and it is said the mountains are so high, that in one or two points, the Pacific and Atlantic may be observed at the same time, the summits are however not so high as those of Mexico, and their substance differs widely. In Oaxaca, granite and gneiss compose the ridges; whilst in Mexico, basaltes, amygdaloid, porphyry, and grunstein, are the strata which form those tremendous elevations.

The most singular monument of the ancient inhabitants of this province is the ruins of Mitla, which was the burial place of the chiefs or kings of the country, and is finely constructed of stone, covered with sculpture; the excavations under the building are very large, and lined with large engraved stones. Six columns of porphyry, sixteen feet in height, of a single piece each, support the roof of a large room, and the whole is in good preservation; many curious paintings having been found amongst the rubbish.

These ruins are ten leagues south-east of Oaxaca.

The province is celebrated, as part of it forming a grant made to Cortez, for his services, with the title of Marquess.

It consists of four towns and 49 villages, and now belongs to the Duke of Monte Leone, a descendant of the conqueror.


The rivers of Oaxaca are principally, the Rio Verde, on which Oaxaca stands, which rises in the mountains of Higher Mixteca, and falls into the Pacific; the river Chicometapea, after receiving others, falls into the Pacific, north of the former.

The river Chimalapa, on the southern boundary, which falls into the bay of Tecoantepec, and several smaller ones along the coast, all of which proceed from the mountains, water the country, render it fertile, and also fall into the Pacific.


Yucatan is the most easterly province of the kingdom of New Spain, and is in the form of a peninsula, jutting out into the gulf of Mexico from the main land of the isthmus; it is surrounded on the north-west by the waters of the Mexican gulf; by the bay or gulf of Honduras on the south-east; the province of Vera Cruz bounds it on the south-west, and Vera Paz in Guatimala on the south. Here it is connected with the continent of North America, by an isthmus of about 120 miles in breadth. The English have settlements extending a short distance along the east coast of Yucatan, opposite Ambergris Key.

The soil of this peninsula is very prolific, and when under proper cultivation, produces great crops of corn, maize, indigo and cotton. The climate is hot, their summer beginning in April and finishing in September, but January and February are very warm months, the rest of the winter cooler, and little or no rain falls throughout that season. The north side is the pleasantest, for although very hot, it is refreshed by gentle breezes; on the whole the climate of Yucatan is not an unhealthy one. It produces and sustains vast quantities of cattle, fowls, and bees; honey and wax, are therefore plenty; and its forests afford[156] shelter to various kinds of wild beasts. It has no mines, for which reason it is not much settled by the whites, the chief part of its inhabitants being Indians, who are employed in making salt in Campeachy Bay, and are subject to the Spaniards. On the coasts of Yucatan, large pieces of amber are frequently found. There is a ridge of considerable mountains pervades the whole extent of this province, which extends from the eastern side at Merida to the western extremity of the peninsula; on this range of mountains, the climate is very fine, and it is asserted that the natives live to a great age. On the north side of this chain the land is refreshed with breezes, and contains plenty of springs; but the southern side is in want of good water, ill cultivated and thinly peopled, the settlers being chiefly on the north. In Merida the nights and days are nearly of a length owing to its situation.

In Yucatan there are very few rivers of any consequence, but springs are numerous, especially on the north side, and in digging for their wells, in which they always find water at a little depth, shells are usually found, from which, with the shallowness of the sea near the coast, it has been supposed that the greater part of the peninsula was once submerged. The eastern coast of Yucatan is not inhabited by Spanish colonists, the English alone appearing there, except in the small fort of Bacalar, which has been built to prevent the British from going into the interior. The British logwood cutters find that article in greatest perfection in Campeachy Bay, and in the Bay of Honduras; but it has been said that the logwood of Campeachy is more plentiful, as well as greatly superior to that of Honduras.

Campeachy, or St. Francisco de Campeche, the principal trading town of Yucatan, is situated in 19° 50ʹ 45ʺ north latitude, and 90° 30ʹ west longitude, on the west shore of the Bay of Campeachy, in the[157] gulf of Mexico, in the river St. Francisco. It has some fortifications which command the town and harbour, and has often been plundered and taken by the English and French buccaneers; In 1659 it was taken by the English under Sir Christopher Mims, in 1678 by the Buccaneers, and in 1685 by the pirates of St. Domingo; the last named year they set fire to the town and fortification, and plundered the adjacent country to the distance of fifteen miles; they also burnt 50,000l. worth of logwood, because the governor would not ransom the place for an enormous sum which they demanded. When the Spaniards first took this place, it contained three thousand houses, with many beautiful monuments of the Indian arts. The houses at present are numerous, and well built of stone; the harbour is large, but not deep; and the chief manufacture is cotton cloth, and wax. It used formerly to be the market for logwood till the British landed; when they cut it at Trieste island, 120 miles from Campeachy, near the isthmus. Great quantities of logwood formerly grew all about Campeachy, but the British have nearly monopolized this trade.

The logwood cutting establishments are under the Spanish governor; but by the treaty of peace in 1783, the British were allowed the privilege of cutting it without being molested.

The wood is felled at stated seasons, and in stated places, by permission of the intendant, and is dried for a year previous to exportation. This wood is not confined to Yucatan; it grows in abundance on the coast of South America, near the mouths of the Orinoco. The town of Campeachy contains 6000 people.

The language of the Indians is styled the Maya Tongue; and Yucatan is remarkable for being the scene of the early conquests and discoveries of the Spaniards, who found the natives in a state of comparative civilization; as they had stone houses,[158] temples, and cultivated fields; some monuments of their industry still exist.

The population, including Indians, is 465,800. We have given a description of Campeachy first, on account of its being the principal trading place, and formerly the metropolis. Merida de Yucatan is now the capital and residence of the intendant, who is also called captain-general. Merida is ten leagues from the coast; its port is called Sisal, being in 21° 10ʹ north latitude, 89° 59ʹ 30ʺ west longitude, with a castle and small harbour, having an immense sandbank opposite its entrance. Merida is situated in a plain almost destitute of water; the population amounts to 10,000. This with Campeachy and Valadolid, famous for its cotton plantations, are the most noted places of the country, with the large Indian villages of Zampolan and Equetchecan, between Merida and Campeachy.


Guatimala is a general name for a portion of the territory on the narrow part of the continent, which reaches from Oaxaca and Vera Cruz, southward to Veragua, on the isthmus of Darien. This tract of land is subject to the government of a captain-general, and is called the Capitania General of Guatimala, or as it is sometimes written, Gualtimala. The officer who exercises this command is independent of the viceregal court of Mexico, and is appointed by the king of Spain, consulting the viceroy on important occasions only; in what regards the immediate government of the captain-generalship, he is perfectly independent of any of the viceroys of the New World, acting solely on behalf and in the name of His Catholic[159] Majesty. Of his power and resources, with his emoluments, &c. very little can be said, as this interesting portion of Spanish America has not attracted the serious attention of any contemporary writers.

The territory of Guatimala is subdivided into numerous provinces or districts, of which the following names are given as a list: Soconusco, Suchitepec, Sonsonate, St. Salvador, St. Miguel, Tiguesgalpa, Choluteca, or Keses, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Vera Paz and Chiapa. The first seven of these are denominated Guatimala, in the most modern maps, which is however an error.

The general appearance of the soil, (excepting the neighbourhoods of the volcanoes,) is fertile in the extreme; and Guatimala abundantly produces corn, cochineal, honey, wax, cotton, the sugar-cane, indigo, maize, pimento and chocolate. There are plenty of cattle and sheep in the farming districts. The climate differs greatly, according to the situation of the provinces on the eastern or western coasts; the western side is in general the best and healthiest, as may be observed, throughout the whole of North America. The whole country is mountainous, of which the particular ridges are very little known. In the Guatimala of the maps, that is to say, on the western shore from Guaxaca to Veragua, the country is dreadfully subject to tremendous convulsions of the earth, which has at times involved whole cities in ruin, exterminated complete tribes of people, and reversed the order of peaceful nature. The volcanoes are extremely numerous, and some of them terrific; no less than twenty are known to exist, which are constantly in action. The captain-general is commander of the troops, and Guatimala, the chief city, is the seat of a royal audience, which governs twenty-five districts. This Audienza[160] Real, or Supreme Court of Justice, was first established in 1554.

The capital of this extensive country is Guatimala, which is situated in 14° 28ʹ north latitude, and 92° 40ʹ west longitude. It is built near the Pacific Ocean, on the Rio Vaccas, and has a good harbour. It is the see of an archbishop, which was established in the year 1742, and seat of the Audienza Real, with that of the government of the Capitania General. This renders it a place of nearly as much importance as Mexico, or any other chief city of the Americas. It has an university, and its chief trade consists in chocolate, pitch, and naptha.

When this city was first built, it was founded on the declivity of a mountain, at whose summit was a volcano, in a beautiful valley of three miles in width, and was then called St. Jago. This valley opened to, and fronted the Pacific Ocean, and the town contained about 7000 families.

In the year 1751, this unfortunate city was overwhelmed by an earthquake, and by the matter from the volcano, which is called the Volcan de Guatimala. Notwithstanding this awful calamity, the surviving inhabitants ventured to rebuild their favourite abode; but direful to relate, another and a more tremendous convulsion again destroyed the devoted place in the year 1775. The greater part of the inhabitants were buried in the ruins, and the whole circumstance was one of the most tremendous and calamitous ever known. The city was again rebuilt shortly afterwards, on the spot on which it now stands, which is twenty-five geographical miles to the southward of the Old Town. It is a magnificent place, adorned with churches and monasteries, and an university reckoned one of the best in the empire. The women have been celebrated for their beauty, and the people altogether for their suavity of manners and courteous disposition. The moisture of the climate[161] has been stated as a cause of the beauty and delicacy of the females.

The number of inhabitants in this city has been computed at about 19,000.


Or the Guatimala of the maps, is a division of the above territory, which is bounded on the north by Vera Paz, Chiapa, Guaxaca and Honduras; on the south, by the Pacific; on the east, by Nicaragua; and on the west, by Guaxaca and the Pacific Ocean. Guatimala or St. Jago de Guatimala is its capital, as well as that of the whole Audience. It is subdivided into the following districts, from the north to the south, along the coast of the Pacific, Soconusco, Suchitepec, Sansonate, St. Salvador, St. Miguel, Tiguesgalpa and Choluteca, or Xeses, each of which we shall separately describe, but in a limited manner, as no information, that can be relied on is to be found with respect to these regions.

Soconusco.—This province is situated in the northern part of Guatimala, and is bounded on the north, by Chiapa; on the east, by Vera Paz; on the south, by the Pacific; and on the west, by Guaxaca and the Pacific.

The air in this district is exceeding hot, and the general state of the climate either rainy or sultry; the rains last from April till September, and violent storms are very frequent. Soconusco is neither a healthy nor a pleasant country, and the soil is not so fertile as in some other parts of Guatimala, the corn and maize not growing so abundantly; but to compensate for this, it produces pimento, indigo, and cacao, in great quantities, and with these articles it carries on a great trade with the other North American colonies of Spain. The Spaniards are not numerous in Soconusco, it being chiefly inhabited by Indians, but the few Spaniards who reside there are very rich. The capital of this province is Soconusco, or Guevetlan, which is situated[162] in 18° 30ʹ north latitude, and 120° 40ʹ west longitude, on a small river which runs into the Pacific Ocean; Soconusco is 460 miles south-east of the city of Mexico.

Suchitepec is a small district to the southward of Soconusco, and whose capital is St. Antonio de Suchitepec, which is situated on a river running into the Pacific, in 14° 44ʹ north latitude, 93° 36ʹ west longitude, and 60 miles west-north-west of Guatimala. Its population amounts to 1480, all Indians of the Suhutil nation.

Sansonate is another small district of Guatimala, to the southward of Suchitepec, having for its capital La Trinidad or Sansonate, situated on the river Sonsonate, at its mouth; this town is a sea-port, and is situated 120 miles south-east of the city of Mexico, with about 2000 inhabitants, of whom 400 are whites. The population of the district is about 40,000 souls, consisting almost entirely of Indians, Mulattoes and Negroes.

St. Salvador is also a small district of Guatimala to the southward of the former, which produces sugar-canes and indigo in great abundance, the soil being very fertile; the capital of this province is Cuzcatlan or St. Salvador, which is situated in 13° 40ʹ north latitude, 89° 20ʹ west longitude, twelve miles from the coast of the Pacific Ocean, and 140 miles east-south-east of Guatimala; it has a little trade, and is the residence of a governor: many maps have absurdly made this town the capital of Spanish North America. Its population is about 5,000 Indians, whites and Castes.

St. Miguel, to the southward of the former, is another small district, having for its capital St. Miguel, which is situated fifty miles east of St. Salvador or Cuzcatlan.

Tiguesgalpa or Tiguazalpa, is also a small district of the same country, situated near the province of Nicaragua, whose capital of the same name is situated on a river which runs into Amapalla[163] Bay; eighty miles north of Leon de Nicaragua, in 13° 50ʹ north latitude, and 87° 36ʹ west longitude.

Choletuca is also another and the last district of that division of the Audience of Guatimala, which is named Guatimala Proper, or Guatimala only in the maps; of all these foregoing divisions little or nothing is known; their climate is very hot, they have rains from April to September, and are bounded from the eastern or Atlantic provinces of Guatimala by a ridge of mountains which are very lofty, and in which there exists numerous dreadful volcanoes. The whole of this country is subject to earthquakes and storms, and although in general very fertile and productive, it has little commerce, there being no mines of any great importance in its whole range; the number of its inhabitants has not been ascertained. Its rivers are not considerable, nor has it any lakes of consequence.

Solola, Quesaltenango, Totanicapan, Escuintla, &c. are the names of other districts in the interior, mostly inhabited by Indians living in missions or villages; but as so little is accurately known concerning this kingdom, it is of no use to merely enumerate titles of districts.


Is the next province of Guatimala which occurs in tracing the map of that country; it is situated inland, and is bounded on the north by the province of Tabasco; on the south-east, by Vera Paz; south-west by Soconusco, and west by Guaxaca; it is 255 miles in length from west to east, and 300 miles broad at its widest, and ninety at its smallest breadth. It is full of hills and mountains, but has no mines, nor is gold found in its rivers; the Spaniards therefore only value it for its situation, which renders it the key to New Spain, as the river Tabasco, Puerto Real, and its vicinity to Yucatan render it the easiest of access of any part of their dominions. The principal river is the[164] Chiapa, which rises inland, and running to the north through the Indian country of the Quelenes, falls into the Mexican gulf at Tabasco. This river is the great road of the inhabitants of Chiapa; by it they carry on a considerable trade with the adjacent provinces, particularly in cochineal and silk, the Indian women making beautiful handkerchiefs of the latter article, which are eagerly sought by the Spaniards for the European market.

Chiapa abounds with magnificent forests of cedar, cypress, pine, oak, walnut, &c. with trees which yield all sorts of aromatic balsams and gums, copal, &c.; wild cochineal, maize, corn, cacao, and cotton are also extremely productive, and fruits are found here of every kind that is known in these regions. The natives colour the chocolate with a substance called achiotte. This province is famous for its fine cattle, and for a very excellent breed of horses, which are in such request that they often send them to Mexico, 500 miles distant.

Wild beasts are very numerous in its forests, and wild hogs, foxes and rabbits are seen every where in its plains; snakes of a formidable size, said to be twenty feet long, are found in the mountainous parts, also others of a red colour, streaked with black and white, which are tamed by the Indians, who carry them about their persons.

The inhabitants of this country are a well made, fair people, very courteous in their manners and skilled in music and painting, with great knowledge of the mechanical arts.

The chief town of this province is Chiapa or Cuidad Real, or Chiapa de los Espagnoles; it is the see of a bishop, whose revenue is 8000 ducats per annum. It is also the seat of the courts of justice, and is situated in 17° north latitude, and 96° 40ʹ west longitude, in a beautiful plain environed with mountains, at nearly the same distance from the Pacific Ocean as from the gulf of Mexico, and 300 miles to the north of Guatimala. Chiapa Real[165] is neither very populous nor very rich, and it is said that the upper orders of the Spaniards who inhabit it are proud, poor and ignorant to a proverb. The families amount to four hundred in the city, and the Indian families in the suburbs, to about one hundred. The cathedral is an edifice of beautiful appearance and the city has several monasteries. It is governed by a magistrate chosen amongst the burgesses, in consequence of a privilege granted the city by the king of Spain, and its principal commerce consists in cacao, cotton and cochineal.

Chiapa de los Indios, or Chiapa of the Indians, is the next town of rank in this province; this is the largest city which they have in the country, and is situated 36 miles north-west of Chiapa Real, in a valley near the Rio Tabasco.

The town is extensive and opulent, and is filled with Indians who hold a high rank amongst their tribes. It is asserted that this city contains 20,000 people of the native race. The climate is excessively hot during the day-time in this part of the country, but the evenings and nights are cool. There are many monasteries and churches in this town; the first bishop was the celebrated Bartolomeo de las Casas, who struggled so hard for the rights of the Indians, and whose memory is consequently very dear to them. On the river Tabasco the inhabitants amuse themselves in performing naval actions with boats; and all around the town are farms which are plentifully stocked with cattle; in the vicinity there are also some sugar plantations: wheat is sold here from Chiapa Real, and biscuits are made of it, which are bartered by the natives and Spaniards for cotton, wool and other necessaries.


The province of Guatimala next to Chiapa is Vera-Paz; it is bounded on the north by the provinces of Chiapa and Yucatan; on the east, by[166] Honduras and the bay or gulf of Honduras; on the south, by Guatimala; and on the west by the Saine and Chiapa. It is about 120 miles in length, and 74 in extreme breadth. The air in the higher parts of Vera-Paz is healthy; in the low land insalubrious. This district is subject to earthquakes, to nine months of rain, and storms with dreadful thunder and lightning. The mountains which overspread great part of the country, are thickly covered with forests, of which cedars occupy the greatest part. It is not much cultivated, and yields a little corn and fruits. The wild animals of America are very numerous in the extensive woods of Vera-Paz. Its trade consists chiefly in drugs, cotton, cacao, honey, wool, &c.; and from its situation on the gulf of Honduras, might be rendered much more flourishing than it is. The gulf of Dolce or Dulce, a sort of large lake, but which communicates with the sea by means of the gulf of Amatique, lies on the eastern and southern part of Vera-Paz, and seems placed there by nature, to facilitate the commerce of the government of Guatimala.

The chief town of Vera-Paz is Coban, or Vera-Paz, situated in north latitude 15° 50ʹ west longitude, 91° 14ʹ; 600 miles south-east of Mexico, on the Rio Coban which falls into the gulf or lake of Dulce.


Is bounded on the north by Honduras, on the east by the Caribbean sea, on the west by Guatimala and the Pacific, and on the south by Costa Rica.

The climate is, generally speaking, salubrious; the summers are hot, but not unhealthy, and in the winter they have much rain and storms.

It is one of the most woody countries of Spanish North America, and where cultivated, extremely[167] fertile, so much so, as to receive the name of the “Garden of America.” When the Spaniards first discovered it, they called it Paraiso de Mahoma, Mahometʼs Paradise, on account of the beauty of the country, and the perfume of the odoriferous plants, with which the soil is covered. Its chief products are flax, hemp, balsams, cotton, sugar, long-pepper, turpentine, liquid amber and Nicaragua-wood, which is a substance used in the dying trade; these, with its silver mines, constitute the chief objects of the labour and traffic of its inhabitants, who carry on a great trade with Panama, &c.

Wheat is not plentiful in Nicaragua, nor is there any great quantity of sheep, but black cattle and hogs are very numerous.

Wild turkeys and parrots occupy, with wild animals, the extensive woods, whilst the sands of some of its rivers furnish gold, which is also found in lumps in this province.

The natives are numerous, and reckoned an industrious and ingenious people, and are particularly skilled in the goldsmithʼs art.

The capital of the province of Nicaragua is Leon, or Leon de Nicaragua, situated on a lake of fresh water, abounding with fish, which is called by the same name, and communicates with the great lake; this town has a mountain near it with a volcano, which has sometimes caused it to suffer by earthquakes. The town is not very large, containing about 1200 houses, with many convents, and four churches. It is the see of a bishop. Its port is Realexo, which is situated near it, and is a fortified town with a good harbour, which has the same name, and is on the Rio Realejo. The river Realejo is so deep and commodious as to be capable of containing 200 sail of vessels. The town has good fortifications and fine docks for building and repairing ships. It has three churches and an hospital. Realexo is in north latitude 12° 45ʹ, 87° 30ʹ west longitude,[168] eighteen miles north-west of Leon. It suffered much from the Buccaneers, as they found it a commodious harbour; the Pacific is shut out by an island which lies across the mouth of the bay, and forms two channels; but the one on the north-west side is the safest and best.

The town of Realexo is unhealthy owing to the marshes and creeks in its neighbourhood; its chief trade consists in cordage, pitch and tar, and in the little commerce it carries on for Leon, of which it is the embarcadero or port.

Nicaragua, or Granada, is another town near the great lake at its south-eastern extremity, in 86° 15ʹ west longitude, 11° 15ʹ north latitude. In the year 1680, this town as well as the capital was sacked by the Buccaneers, it has now a considerable trade in cochineal, hides and sugar, with the neighbouring provinces.

St. Juan is a sea-port thirty miles south-east of Leon, in 12° 10ʹ north latitude, 87° 38ʹ west longitude, and there are some others of little note.

The river St. Juan is the stream which affords an outlet to the lakes of Nicaragua and Leon into the Caribbean sea. Its length is about 100 miles; this river is navigated by boats and canoes carrying tallow and goods to Porto Bello, 240 miles distant, but they are obliged to make three portages which is owing to some obstructions in the course. These carrying places are defended, and at one of them is the Fort St. Juan, called also the Castle of Neustra Senora, on a rock, and very strong; it has thirty-six guns mounted, with a small battery, whose platform is level with the water; and the whole is enclosed on the land side by a ditch and rampart. Its garrison is generally kept up at 100 infantry, sixteen artillery men, with about sixty of the militia, and is provided with batteaux, which row guard every night up and down the stream. Some slaves are allowed for the menial services of the garrison, and this post[169] is supplied with provisions, fowls, garden-stuff, &c. from Granada, distant 180 miles, being usually provisioned for six months. The climate is very unhealthy as it is always raining, and the place requires to be constantly recruited from Guatimala. This port is looked on as the key of the Americas, and with the possession of it and Realejo on the other side of the lake, the Spanish colonies might be paralyzed by the enemy being then master of the ports of both oceans. This river St. Juan has also been proposed as the means of joining the Atlantic and Pacific oceans; its great length, the necessity for making only two or three cuts to avoid its obstructions, the immense depth of the lakes Nicaragua and Leon, and a short canal of twelve or fourteen miles on the western side, would effect this object; thus rendering an easy and safe communication from the West Indies, the coast of the Spanish main, and the eastern shore of New Spain to the Pacific Ocean. It is to be supposed that the Spaniards would not have neglected an opportunity thus afforded them by nature, had not political reasons suggested the impropriety of the undertaking.


Is a large province of the kingdom of Guatimala, and is bounded on the north by the gulf or bay of Honduras, which separates it from the province of Yucatan; on the west by Vera-Paz; on the east by the Caribbean sea; and on the south by the province of Nicaragua. The length of Honduras from east to west is 390 miles, and its breadth from north to south about 150. Honduras was first discovered by Columbus, who landed on the Mosquito shore on Sunday the 14th of August, 1502, and took formal possession of the country.

The climate of this country is good; the air, excepting on the eastern shore, and near the morasses,[170] being pure and wholesome. The soil in most parts is exceeding fertile, abundantly producing corn, vegetables and fruits. They have a three-fold crop of maize in the year, and the vines produce grapes twice in the same period. The pastures are excellent, and the country furnishes all kinds of provisions; but for want of cultivation and settlements, the greater part of it is in a state of nature. It has many good and serviceable small rivers, and is well watered. It has several mountains in its extent, in which are gold and silver mines, and the face of the country is agreeably diversified into valleys, plains and eminences, overspread in most parts with thick forests. Honey, wool, cotton, wax, mahogany and logwood, with other dyeing drugs, are its chief products; the latter forming an immense part of its exports, and from which its chief importance is derived.

The felling of the mahogany trees is performed twice in the year, in Autumn and at Christmas. This is done by slaves, who have one man called a finder, or huntsman, whose business it is to seek for the mahogany trees in the thick woods, and to point them out to the gang. This he does by penetrating the forest, and climbing the tallest trees to discover his object; the mahogany trees generally grow separately, and are much dispersed, so that the labour of procuring this valuable wood is very great; the finder soon discovers them by the deep colour of their leaves, and he selects the place where they are most numerous to call his comrades to work at.

The mahogany tree is cut at the height of ten or twelve feet from the earth; and for this purpose they erect a stage for the feller to stand conveniently on. The trunk is used for tables, and other articles of furniture, which require large planks of this wood; but the branches are reckoned the best parts of the tree, as the grain in them is closer, and the streaks more beautifully varied.[171] The trunks and branches are dragged by the negroes to the nearest river, and there made into rafts, for the purpose of being floated into the sea to the settlements.

The growth of the mahogany tree is very rapid, but not so much so as that of the logwood, which comes to a state fit for use in five years. The slaves who are employed in cutting the logwood and mahogany have been brought either from the United States, or the West India Islands by their owners, and are not in such a degrading state of subjection as their brethren of the last-mentioned places.

Logwood trees are cut in logs of about three feet in length, and sent to Europe in that form, where they afterward undergo many operations, and are principally used by dyers for the finest black and for purple colours.

The Mosquito shore, a tract of country which lies along part of the northern and the eastern shore of Honduras, has been claimed by the British. The English held this country for eighty years, and, abandoned it in 1787 and 1788. The Spaniards call it a part of Honduras, which it really is, and claim it as such. It is an unhealthy, hot country, inhabited chiefly by a race of people called the Mosquito Indians, who are excellent marksmen, and of a warlike disposition. They are employed by the British to strike the manati, or sea-cow, for the sake of the oil it affords, and bear an invincible hatred to the Spaniards, being much attached to the English; as they were so cruelly treated on the conquest of this part of the country by the former people, that they have never forgiven it, and they do not acknowledge any allegiance to them. Their ancestors, after long and exterminating contests with the Spaniards, retreated into the mountains, and there remained till the English took possession of the Mosquito shore.

When the Duke of Albemarle was governor of[172] Jamaica, they put themselves under his protection, and their king had a commission granted him from Great Britain. It is asserted that since that time the new monarch always goes to Jamaica to receive this document; and that the Mosquito Indians, his subjects, refuse to acknowledge his power till he does so. They trade with, and are frequently in the habit of crossing to Jamaica. The Spaniards are said to have no settlements on the Mosquito Shore; which name has been given to this country, partly from the Indians, and from a bank and cluster of islands which lie near it, in 14° 30ʹ north latitude, and 82° 10ʹ west longitude.

The Mosquito Indians were formerly a very powerful and numerous race of people; but the ravages of rum and the small-pox have diminished their numbers very much. They inhabit, however, nearly the whole coast of Honduras; and their most numerous tribe exists near the Cape Gracios á Dios. This tribe has, however, been the subject of many enquiries and disputes, as they differ in their persons from the other natives, and it is confidently said by many authors that they are the descendants of the slaves of a Guinea ship, which was wrecked near this Cape. They are called the Samboc Mosquitoes. Cape Gracias á Dios was the place where the British first established themselves in the Honduras territory, upon the banks of a navigable river, where the country is very fertile, and the harbour, formed by an inlet of the sea, is safe and commodious. This happened in 1730. They also fixed a colony about 78 miles from Cape Honduras, the colony at Cape Gracios á Dios being 162 miles distant. Seeking farther southward, at Bluefields River, 210 miles-from the first colony, they found a fine harbour, an extensive river, and a natural situation for a fort, with spacious, beautiful and fruitful plains.

The bay of Honduras, so celebrated for its trade in logwood and mahogany, is situated between[173] Cape Catoche, the north-eastern most point of the province of Yucatan, and Cape Honduras. The land in the neighbourhood of this bay is inhabited by the Mosquito Indians. The English factories in 1769 amounted to 200 whites, the same number of people of colour, and 900 slaves. They exported to Jamaica, mules, &c. and to Europe, 800,000 feet of mahogany, 10,000 pounds of tortoise-shell, and 200,000 pounds weight of sarsaparilla. This trade was much damped by smuggling: but in the year 1763 Great Britain obtained the privilege of the logwood trade. They have lately discovered that the Campeachy wood of Yucatan, which grows on drier ground, is better, and of a closer grain, than the Honduras wood: but the price of the former had been so long kept up, that the latter trade was the most flourishing. The best mahogany is now cut in Yucatan.

The climate of the Honduras is superior to that of the West Indies; the sea-breezes being regular during the whole of the year, excepting in April, May and June, when the heats of summer prevail; but the mean heat is 30°.

Balize is the chief and only settlement of the British which is worth mentioning, situated at the mouth of a river of the same name, and consists of 200 habitations built of wood, and elevated on pillars. The shops, magazines, or offices, are on the ground-floor, and the habitable parts in the upper. The two floors have each piazzas, to which the people retire, from the heat of their inner apartments. The river on which Balize is situated, is navigable for boats 200 miles up the country, and the wood cutters proceed to that distance, in search of their article. The agriculture of this country has been neglected, on account of the wood trade, though the soil would produce the West Indian commodities of sugar, coffee, or cotton, with rice and Indian corn in great abundance. The British government appoint an officer to the[174] command of this station, who is usually an officer of some rank in the army.

Many of the turtle which are caught here, are exported to England; and the hawks bill (a particular kind) is consumed in the settlement; its shell being an article of the commerce of Honduras. The bay of Honduras is full of shoals, rocks, and islands, which make its navigation dangerous. The fog, which is prevalent during the northerly winds, increases the difficulty, and the currents on the coast are very uncertain.

The introduction of British manufactures has been impeded into the adjacent Spanish settlements by the jealousy of the Spaniards; but it is probable that it may in time become a very valuable station.

The British government grant a convoy in January and July each year to the Honduras traders; and the annual revenue of the settlement is stated at about five thousand pounds.

The Mosquitoes who have fallen under the observation of the British settlers, seem to have no other religion than the adoration of evil spirits; and their conjurers are in fact the priests, the lawyers and the judges. Polygamy is practised; and all domestic offices are performed by the females.

The crown is succeeded to hereditarily, and the king is a despotic monarch. These people are warlike, keeping the other Indian nations and their Spanish neighbours, in complete defiance; they can support hardships and want of food with great heroism; but, as all savages do, when they can indulge, they place no bounds to their excesses. The warriors of this tribe are accounted at fifteen hundred. The mosquitoes annoy these savages, who probably have received their name from these insects being so plentiful on the coast; so much, that at particular seasons, they quit their dwellings, and pass their nights in their canoes.


In Honduras, the rainy season is always accompanied by great flights of swallows, who remain at night at rest on the great savannahs or plains, and at sun-rise rush in a body up into the air, in quest of the flies, their nutriment; at dusk they return, and a traveller has described the noise which this immense body of birds make in their flight, as comparable to that of a waterfall. In the bay, cormorants and pelicans are very numerous, as well as many other sorts of sea-fowl, attracted by the abundance of fish.

The chief towns of the Spanish part of Honduras, are Valladolid, the capital, Truxillo, Gracias á Dios, and Omoa.

Valladolid, or Comayaguas, is the capital, and is a large and fine town, in 88° 19ʹ west longitude, 14° 30ʹ north latitude, on the banks of a river which falls into Honduras bay. It is said that there are rich silver mines in the vicinity of Valladolid; this city is the residence of the intendant, and the see of a bishop, who is styled Bishop of Honduras.

Truxillo is situated on a hill near the sea, and in Truxillo bay; this sea-port has very often been ravaged by the Dutch and British; it is at present a place of little account, though made, by some writers, the capital; and is in 15° 51ʹ north latitude, and 86° 8ʹ west longitude. Truxillo is ninety miles north of Valladolid.

Gracias á Dios, is on the bay of Honduras, at the mouth of a small river; and there are said to be some gold mines in its vicinity. It is in 14° 30ʹ north latitude, and 90° 6ʹ west longitude.

Omoa, or St. Francisco de Omoa, is situated in 15° 50ʹ north latitude, 89° 53ʹ west longitude, and is a strongly fortified sea-port. The treasure and valuable commodities of Guatimala are received here to be embarked; and the European trade of the kingdom carried on through this port, which is so important as to be called the key of Honduras.



Costa Rica is the most southern province of Guatimala, and is bounded on the north by Nicaragua, east by the Caribbean sea, west by the Pacific, and south by the province of Veragua. It is 150 miles long, and in its widest part about 140 broad. Its name, Costa Rica, “the Rich Coast,” is derived from its valuable gold and silver mines, and a pearl fishery, which formerly existed on its shores. It is a very mountainous country, overspread with thick forests and waste lands; its population is not extensive, and consequently, there is little or no agriculture practised. The native tribes are its principal inhabitants; the Spaniards only occupying some small towns and mining stations; but the natives are not subjugated, and live independent of their Spanish neighbours. Its chief mine is Tisingal, reported to be nearly as rich as Potosi. The commerce of this province consists in cacao, cattle, honey, hides and wax; and in its pearl fishery, with a species of shell-fish, which produces a purple dye. The pearl-muscle and the shell-fish alluded to, are found principally in a small bay, called the Gulf de la Salinas, or Nicoya. This is its principal port on the Pacific shore, while on the Atlantic, the port of Carthago is situated at a great distance from the town of the same name.

Carthago the capital is situated in 9° 5ʹ north latitude, and 83° west longitude, 360 miles west of Panama, the see of a bishop, and the residence of a governor; it is not a place of much importance or any considerable population, having been lately much deserted, though it was formerly one of the first towns in this part of the world.

Nicoya is the next town of any importance; it is situated near the shore of the gulf of the same name, on the western or Pacific coast, in 85° 53[177]ʹ west longitude, and 10° 42ʹ north latitude. The pearl and dye fishery is situated in the bay of Salinas, thirty miles east of Nicoya. The trade of the inhabitants of Nicoya consists in salt, honey, Indian corn, wheat, fowls, and the purple juice of the above mentioned fish, which they export to Panama; and which was first discovered to produce so valuable a substance by the Indian women, who stained their cotton garments with its fluid.


Veragua, though actually situated in North America, is an integral part of the government or kingdom of Tierra Firma, in South America. The principle of this work being to offer descriptions of the whole of Spanish North America, as it is geographically situated, before entering upon the description of the territorial possessions of the same power in the southern part of that vast continent, we shall accordingly proceed with Veragua, as though it formed a part of Guatimala.

It is bounded on the north, by the Caribbean sea; east by the province of Darien in South America, which is separated from Veragua by the ridge of Canatagua; on the west, by Costa Rica, and on the south, by the Great Pacific ocean. It was first discovered by Columbus, in the year 1503, and this province was granted to him by the Spanish king, as a reward for his services, with the title of duke. He gave the river the appellation of Verdes aguas, which in Spanish is the same as Green Waters, on account of the colour of its waves; this has gradually been corrupted into Veragua, and from this river, the province takes its name. The Spaniards were very long before they could make any permanent settlement in this province, on account of the hostility of the inhabitants. Gaspar dʼEspinosa, and Diego de Alvarez, endeavoured to conquer and explore Veragua, but[178] being repulsed in all their attempts by the natives under their sovereign Urraca, they were obliged to form a settlement in the neighbourhood, and fonded the city of Santiago; but here they were assailed by these valiant Indians, and were obliged to strengthen their position in every possible manner to resist their frequent attacks. Veragua is a mountainous, rugged country, covered with vast forests, beautifully interspersed by luxuriant and fertile valleys; the heat of this province is very great, though meliorated by the rains which are constantly falling; thunder storms, accompanied with frightful lightning, occur very frequently, and during these storms, the torrents rush with impetuous and overwhelming force into the vales from the surrounding mountains. The Indians, the principal tribe of whom are called Doraces, live in the forests and mountains, and are only partially converted by the missionaries, who have founded some villages, where they reside with their flocks; this has only been accomplished since the year 1760. The woods abound with monkeys and wild animals; there is one kind of monkey of a delicate form and yellow colour with a white head, and it is said, they never live when removed from their native climate.

The gold and silver mines of Veragua are not much wrought, owing to the rugged nature of the country in which they are situated; the natives being the only means they have to transport the produce over the mountains, which when a mine is worked they do on their backs. The labour and expence attendant on this mode of carrying the ores to be smelted, render the working of the mines, though they are very rich, almost, impracticable.

The capital is Veragua, or St. Jago de Veragua, a handsome town, situated in a moist and warm climate, and surrounded by a small district which produces Indian corn, a root called yucca, of[179] which they make bread, and plantains; cattle and hogs are here also very numerous. The Indians in the vicinity dye their cottons, manufactured by themselves, with the juice of shell-fish found at the bay of Salinas in Costa Rica, and on the coast of Veragua, affording a rich and delicate purple; with this juice, and with gold, which they find in the hills, they carry on a trade with Panama and Guatimala. This city is the residence of a governor, and has fourteen villages under the jurisdiction of its magistrates; there is also a fine hospital founded by the friars; and its inhabitants are partly Spaniards, partly mulattoes.

The next city is Nuestra Senora de Los Remedios, or Puebla Nueva, inhabited by Spaniards and their descendants. Santiago el Angel, or Alangi, is the third city of Veragua, and was founded by Benito Hurtado, governor of Panama. There are also several large villages, inhabited principally by the native Indians.

Veragua is famed as having been the country where the first European colony was attempted to be planted by Columbus, on the continent of America. This happened on the 24th of February, 1503; but after building a fort and constructing some houses, they found themselves unable to resist the attacks of the Indians; and from this, and other circumstances, Columbus resolved to embark the colony; which he accordingly did.



The West India Islands, colonized by Spain, are not numerous. Puerto Rico and Cuba, in the northern group, Margarita and some others on the coast of Caraccas, unimportant in their nature, being mostly mere rocks, compose the[180] whole of the islands in the West Indian seas which are possessed by Spain; of these Puerto Rico and Cuba are the most important; Cuba being the largest as well as one of the most fertile islands belonging to any European power in the American seas.


These islands are divided into three governments; Puerto Rico is a capitaneria generale, as is the island of Cuba, including the adjacent continent of the Floridas; under the title of Captain-General of the Havannah, an officer of high rank governs this island and Florida; his situation being the most important of any of the capitanias generales of Spanish America.

The captain-general of Caraccas governs the island of Margarita and the others on the coast of his province; we shall therefore describe these islands under the head of Caraccas, proceeding at present to the description of Puerto Rico.


The island of Puerto Rico, is situated in the Caribbean sea and Atlantic ocean, between the island of Hayti or St. Domingo, and the Virgin Islands. It occupies a space between 65° 30ʹ and 67° 45ʹ of west longitude, and between 18° and 18° 35ʹ of north latitude. In shape, it is nearly a parallelogram, its length being about 120 miles by forty in breadth. Columbus discovered this island during his second voyage, in the year 1493. Juan Ponce de Leon, of whom we have spoken in the description of Florida, colonized Puerto Rico, in 1509; when he subjugated the country; the native Indians were at that time very numerous, but have since disappeared.

Puerto Rico is an important island to the Spaniards; its productions are very valuable to their European commerce, and the climate is more[181] healthy and temperate than in the other islands of the Caribbean seas. The mountains of Puerto Rico, are not of any very great altitude, but form a beautiful feature of the landscape, their gently undulating surface composing picturesque and well watered valleys. The rivers are of no size, but agreeably diversify the picture; and being very numerous, are exceedingly useful to the purposes of agriculture. The interior, and part of the seashore to the north, is still covered with the original forests, in which roam large wild dogs; these dogs are the remains of a race brought from Spain, by the first conquerors of the island, to assist in hunting down the natives, who fled for protection to the fastnesses of the interior.

These forests also abound with parrots, pigeons and other birds, peculiar to the West India Islands, as well as with land-crabs, which are as numerous here as in any of the Caribbean Isles; on whose flesh the wild dogs are supposed to subsist.

The natural history of these crabs is highly singular; they are the dread of colonists proceeding to the West Indies; who are told, that should they die of the fevers so prevalent in that region, their bodies will not rest long in the earth to which it is committed; as the land-crabs burrowing to the grave, soon consume them.

At certain seasons of the year, these singular animals, who greatly resemble the sea-crabs in shape and manner of moving, leave the mountains in which they have formed their burrows, and move in immense cavalcades down to the sea-coast, for the purpose of depositing their young in the waters. At this period nothing arrests their progress, as they move continually in the same line; if they meet with a wall, they climb up one side and down the other; and the clattering noise produced by the claws is said to be surprising. After depositing their young, they return to their haunts, in the same order, and are followed by the young[182] crabs, as soon as they attain sufficient strength to perform the journey.

Cattle of superior qualities, originally brought from the mother-country, are fed in this island; poultry are also very cheap and plentiful, and the rivers and sea supply the inhabitants with every variety of fish.

The southern coast is the most healthy as well is the most fertile; producing, for the commerce of the inhabitants, sugar, coffee, cassia, flax, cotton, ginger, and the odoriferous gums used in such great quantity in Roman Catholic countries; these, with hides and tropical fruits, compose the chief articles of their trade with Europe, &c. They have here a fine breed of mules, which are sought after, from the British islands in the neighbourhood.

The northern side, which is comparatively sterile, is supposed to contain in the higher lands, some gold and silver mines; but of the existence or value of these, nothing certain is ascertained.

With all these bounties so lavishly bestowed by the hand of Nature, Puerto Rico is subjected occasionally to a dreadful calamity. In the year 1742, a terrible tornado overturned the labour of years, and destroyed the plantations, which did not recover the shock they received for several years afterwards; these hurricanes occasionally visit the island at present, but none of so calamitous a nature has been experienced since that period. The total population of the island is calculated at 136,000.

The capital of the island, and residence of the governor, is situated on a peninsula on the northern shore. It was founded in 1514, and named Puerto Rico; from whence the whole island has received its appellation; having been called Borriquen by the natives when first discovered.

This town is also called St. Juan de Puerto Rico; and is situated in 18° 29ʹ north latitude, and[183] 66° 0ʹ west longitude; a fort called St. Antonio, protects it on the south-west; and it has also a citadel and other fortifications, with a very good harbour.

Puerto Rico is a bishopric, the bishop residing in the capital.

The amount of its population is not well known, but is very great.

This city has often been attacked; in 1594, by Sir Francis Drake; in 1597, by the Duke of Cumberland, (who took and plundered it and the island,) and again by the British in 1797; who were however as unsuccessful as Sir Francis Drake.

The plantations and small towns of the island are very numerous, but mostly too insignificant for notice. The number of slaves in Puerto Rico is not considerable.

Puerto Rico draws from Mexico for the expences of its administration, the sum of 377,000 piastres annually.

Its defence consists chiefly in the country militia.

It has adhered to the royal cause.


Cuba, the largest as well as the most important of the islands in the West Indian seas, is situated to the south of Florida, between the northernmost point of Yucatan, and the westernmost point of the island of Hayti, or Hispaniola. The western part of Cuba, nearly shuts in with the northern shore of Yucatan and the western coast of East Florida, that immense basin known by the name of the gulf of Mexico; it is strongly suspected that Cape Catoche in Yucatan and the most western headland of Cuba, were formerly united by an isthmus, which has been gradually worn away by the pressure and action of the waters of the Caribbean sea. Should this have actually been the case, the[184] Mexican gulf must have been very shallow, as we find that the passage of the waters of the South Atlantic, impelled by the trade-winds through the strait formed by Cuba and Yucatan, is, although it has considerable breadth, so very forcible, as to send a vast stream or current, with great impetuosity round the gulf and through the straits of Florida, as far as the banks of Newfoundland, and to the northern shores of Europe. This stream is distinguishable in the North Atlantic, by its superior heat to the rest of the waters of that ocean, and by a body of sea-weed which constantly accompanies it. This the author has observed considerably to the east of the great bank of Newfoundland, as well as small land birds, which he cannot imagine could have reached those latitudes by the aid of flight alone. Might they not have been conveyed on the masses of sea-weed (which also envelope wreck and trunks of trees) borne by this upper current from the Mexican gulf?

The extent of Cuba is from 73° 50ʹ, to 85° 30ʹ of west longitude from east to west; its form is so curved, that it lies, although narrow, between 23° 20ʹ, and 19° 40ʹ north latitude; it is about 700 miles long, but not more than seventy in medial breadth.

Its position gives it the command of the gulf of Mexico, by the Straits of Yucatan and Florida, as well as the navigation of the windward passage and channel of Bahamas. The fine harbour of the Havannah, and some other smaller ports, renders this island, with the before-mentioned advantages, the most important of the West India islands, particularly to Spain, possessing as she does the shores of the Mexican gulf.

The Spanish Government, have accordingly spared no expence in fortifying the Havannah, on which they seem to place their chief dependence for the security of their ultramarine colonies.

Cuba was discovered by Columbus during his[185] first voyage in the year 1492, on Sunday the 28th of October. The natives of San Salvador, the first land he made, called it by its present name, Cuba; Columbus, however, named it after the king or queen of Spain; but it retained this title only for a short time, the native name soon taking precedency of the other. Columbus appears to have made his research in this island, from the reports of the Indians of San Salvador; when he arrived with his ships at the estuary of a large river, the inhabitants imagining some terrible event was about to befall them, fled to the interior; he, however, sent some of his people after them; they fell down astonished at the feet of these men, whom they imagined to be gods, and gave them different articles the produce of the country, amongst which were golden ornaments, made, as they said, in the mountains; and the Europeans imagined they had found the mines of gold and silver they were taught to imagine existed in this quarter of the world.

Columbus visited the greater part of the north coast of the island, in search of the precious metals, but the Spanish adventurers were disappointed in their hopes, gold being found only in very small quantities. They in some measure consoled themselves by the reflection, that the continent, as they imagined Cuba to be, might contain these valuable articles in some other part, and by the certainty, that the part they were now in, was fertile, beautiful and rich in the vegetable productions of nature. The Spaniards imagined that Cuba was a part of an immense continent, till the year 1508, when an officer of the name of Obando, circumnavigated it, and by this means ascertained that it was the largest of the islands hitherto discovered in those seas. The brother of Columbus, in the year 1511, in his capacity of admiral, and governor of Hispaniola, sent Don Jago Velasques with a force of 300 men, to conquer and colonize Cuba, which having performed,[186] Velasquez was appointed governor of the island; his principal town he founded on the southern coast, and called it St. Jago; this situation he chose on account of the largeness and fineness of the harbour; he then built the city of the Havannah, at first of wooden houses, and afterwards with stone.

The climate of Cuba is better than that of any other island in the West Indian seas, excepting Puerto Rico; it is mild and temperate, and they have no winter; the summer heat is moderated by the rains and sea-breezes; the periodical rains lasting during the months of July and August.

The fertility of Cuba is celebrated; spices, among which are pepper and ginger; cassia, manioc, cacao, maize, aloes, mastic, sugar, tobacco, the flavour of which is superior to that of any other part of the world, known in commerce by the name of Havannah, and sold to an enormous amount in cigars, with many other articles the produce of tropical climates, constitute the riches of this fine island. Coffee, though cultivated, is so little attended to in the plantations, that not so much is grown for exportation as might easily be raised. Honey is one of the great articles of the export trade, and is annually produced to a great amount, as wax is also. Cattle, originally from Europe, have multiplied so much in Cuba, that they have become wild, and frequent, in immense droves, the forests and savannahs, or marshy plains; they are hunted for the sake of their hides and tallow, which are exported to a great amount.

The forests also abound with swine, which have multiplied in a similar manner; and the inhabitants possess large stocks of mules, horses, fine black cattle, and sheep, all of which thrive very much.

The woods chiefly consist of timber of valuable qualities, the red cedar, oaks, firs, palms, mahogany, ebony, lignum vitæ; woods producing gums, aromatic and medicinal, &c.


The rivers and coasts abound with fish, and fine turtles frequent the shallows. The birds of Cuba are principally the parrot, and paroquet, American partridge, turtle-dove, and great varieties of aquatic birds.

In this island there are supposed to exist veins of gold and silver, because the inhabitants procure a small quantity of those metals in the sands of the rivers which descend from the mountains. The great metallic production of Cuba is copper, of which some valuable mines exist in the eastern part of the island, with which a trade is carried on amongst the West India islands, and the ports of the southern continent.

About an hundredth part of the island of Cuba only is supposed to be under a state of cultivation; the inhabitants, consisting of Europeans and their descendants, and negroes; the amount of the former being 338,000, and of the latter 212,000, making a total of 550,000 inhabitants.

A chain of mountains runs the whole length of Cuba, from east to west, following the curvature of the country.

This chain divides the island naturally into two parts; though these mountains do not acquire any very considerable elevation, but give rise to numerous rivers which flow into the ocean on each side, and sometimes, during the rainy season, inundate the low lands.

Cuba, as all the other islands of these seas are, is exposed occasionally to the devastating effects of hurricanes, but on the whole it is more free from these, as well as from disease, than any of the others, and may be looked upon as the healthiest, the most fertile, and the most secure of the West India islands.

Cuba with the Floridas, comprises a capitaneria generale, styled of the Havannah. The officer who holds this command has a very arduous and extensive jurisdiction, during war particularly; he has in the island eighteen subordinate governors,[188] who preside over as many districts, into which Cuba is divided. An intendant superintends the finances and commerce of the island, and is subordinate only to the captain-general. The religious affairs of Cuba are superintended by a bishop, who resides at Havannah, and whose income is considerable.

The revenues of the island of Cuba are said to amount to more than two millions of piastres per annum, but the expences of administration are so great, that it receives from Mexico 1,820,000 piastres during the same period. We have observed more on this head under the article commerce, in the description of New Spain. The military force of Cuba consists chiefly in militia, the amount of which arm is stated to exceed 26,000; most of whom are undisciplined. This island, notwithstanding the immense droves of wild cattle and swine which roam about it, is supplied from the Caraccas with provisions.

Cuba has also adhered to the royal cause.


The capital of this island is that well known town called the Havannah, founded by Velasquez, in the commencement of the sixteenth century, in 23° 12ʹ north latitude, 82° 14ʹ west longitude, on the north coast, opposite to the Floridas.

The harbour is very fine, and capable of containing the largest fleet in safety. This harbour and the town have been fortified as strongly as possible; the Spaniards looking on this port as the key of their North American possessions.

The only fault in this excellent port is, that the entrance is very narrow and difficult; so much so, that during war, vessels have been taken going in; on account of only one being able to pass at a time, the rearmost vessels have fallen into the hands of the pursuing ships, without their comrades being able to assist them. This channel is however[189] so strongly fortified during its whole length, that it would be hazardous in the extreme, for an enemyʼs fleet to enter. The mouth has a fort on each side; that on the east, is called Moro Castle, on a high rock; which is a triangular work, mounted with forty pieces of heavy cannon, having a battery nearly level with the water at the foot of the rock; that on the west is called Punta, and communicates with the city; this is a square fort, strongly built, and well supplied with artillery.

The city is surrounded with works, mounted with numerous heavy guns. A square citadel is erected, near the center of the town, and is called El Fuerte; this work has also heavy cannon, and on this the Spanish garrison and inhabitants place their chief dependance. The captain-generalʼs palace is in it, and here the treasure is deposited; and the fortifications are said to be commanded by hills in the immediate neighbourhood.

The city contains eleven fine churches; two hospitals, a dock yard, lazaretto, and numerous public buildings; an aqueduct supplies the shipping with water, and turns the saw mills in the dock yard.

The town stands in a plain on the west side of the harbour, and the houses, which are elegant, are mostly of stone. There are several convents; and the great square is a fine ornament of the place. The churches are highly and magnificently ornamented with gold and silver lamps, images, &c. The manners of the inhabitants are said to be more polished than in most of the American cities, and they have societies for the encouragement of the arts and sciences. During the stay of the fleet from Mexico, an immense commerce is carried on, but at this time provisions are very dear; they are in general high in price and difficult to obtain, owing to the indolence of the natives, and the number of persons constantly arriving here for the purposes of commerce from the interior, and[190] the other American ports: all the vessels from the east coast of Spanish America, calling here on their way to Europe.

The importance of this city and harbour, has caused it to be repeatedly attacked; it was taken in 1536, by a French pirate, but ransomed for 700 dollars; it was again taken by the English and by the French and by the Buccaneers; but the most memorable attack was that executed by the British in 1762. Admiral Sir George Pococke, and Lord Albemarle, conducted a fleet and troops to the Havannah, and after a determined resistance of two months and eight days, on the 14th of August, the Moro Castle and place surrendered, as well as a district of 180 miles to the west of the town. The victors captured nine sail of the line; three more were sunk by the Spaniards; two on the stocks were burnt, and a great many merchant vessels, loaded with valuable cargoes, completed the spoil. The valuable merchandize and specie found in the place, was supposed to amount to three millions sterling. Thus, after incredible hardships, efforts of extraordinary valour, and a display of unequalled judgment on the part of the commanders, did this gallant force take this strong fortress; and were recompensed by the applauses of their nation, the paralyzation of the enemy, and an immense booty.

This city was restored to Spain at the peace of 1763; since which period, the Government has been constantly employed in increasing its strength and resources.

The trade of this port is computed to amount, by importations, (the exportations being chiefly in sugar, wax and coffee,) to twenty millions of piastres.

The inhabitants of the Havannah amount to 25,000, whilst the total population of the island of Cuba is estimated to be about 550,000.

The other principal towns of Cuba are St. Jago, Puerto del Principe, Bayamo, Trinidad, Batabano, Santa Cruz, Baracoa, and Cadiz.


St. Jago, was formerly the capital of the island; it is situated in 20° north latitude, and 76° west longitude, 269 leagues from the Havannah. The country about St. de Jago de Cuba, or Cuba, is mountainous, and this part of the island is frequently visited by earthquakes, which are generally of a slight nature. The harbour of Cuba is very good, and extends six miles inland; the entrance to it is similar to that of Havannah, very narrow and long, and defended by a castle called the Moro, and several batteries. Cuba is the see of a bishop, who was formerly the suffragan of that of St. Domingo; the bishop residing at present almost always at Havannah, and the trade of the island being concentrated there, has reduced St. Jago from its former splendour: It is still however a fine town, and well peopled. The women are said to excel in beauty.

Puerto del Principe, or Villa del Principe, is 145 miles north-west of St. Jago, in 21° 17ʹ north latitude, 77° 45ʹ west longitude, and is remarkable for the fertility of the country around it, where large droves of cattle are nourished by the luxuriancy of the pasturage in the savannahs.

Bayamo, or St. Salvador, in 20° 46ʹ north latitude, and 76° 55ʹ west longitude, is situated in the eastern end of Cuba, and on the little river Estero, nearly twenty miles from the ocean. This town gave its name to the Bayamo channel, which runs amongst the land and low rocks, which Columbus called Jardin de la Reyna, or Queenʼs garden.

Trinidad is in 21° 42ʹ north latitude, and 80° 6ʹ west longitude, on a bay in the south coast. Trinidad is a fine sea-port, but of little consequence.

Batabano is nearly opposite the Pinos Islands, on the south side of the island of Cuba, near a very large bay, fifty miles south-west of the Havannah.

Baracoa is a sea-port, on the north-east shore of the island, with an excellent harbour for vessels of small tonnage; it is situated in 21° 4ʹ north latitude,[192] and 76° 10ʹ west longitude; about seventeen leagues north-east of Cuba, or St. Jago.

Santa Cruz is a large town on the north coast, 30 miles east of the Havannah, and 115 north west of Cadiz.

Cadiz is situated in Cadiz Bay on the north coast of Cuba, 164 miles east of Havannah, and fifty miles north of Espiritu Santo, in 23° 2ʹ north latitude, 79° 55ʹ west longitude, and about ten miles west of Cadiz river.

Round the island of Cuba are several groups of rocks, and one large islet, named Pinos, which is situated near the south coast of Cuba, and separated from it by a channel, sixteen leagues long, and six wide; this island has several good and secure roads, but is uninhabited, except by a few fishermen, who occasionally dwell on its coasts. The only animals on it are goats, but it abounds in pastures and large trees. Pinos is about 42 miles long, and 34 broad, in 21° 38ʹ north latitude, 82° 45ʹ and west longitude.



The islands belonging to Spanish North America near its coasts, are numerous, both in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, but most of them are either uninhabited or unimportant from their being small. Commencing on the north-east shores of the Intendancy of San Luis Potosi, and proceeding along its maritime borders southward, we meet with very numerous long strips of insulated land, the very names of most of which are unknown; but from their situation, they must be very fertile and will probably soon become of some use; such are the islands in the bays of Galveston, St. Bernardo, at the estuary of the great Rio Bravo del Norte, and on[193] the coast of New Santander; of these the island of St. Luis, which embraces the above-mentioned bays, is one of the largest, with the island of St. Josef, extending from the bay of St. Bernardo to Lake Espiritu Santo, and La Carbonera, reaching from the same lake to the Barra de Santander. On the coasts of the Intendancy of Vera Cruz are the island of Ramirez in the gulf or lake of Tamiagua, a large isle in the centre, and the smaller island of Tore. In the bay of Vera Cruz are the islands of Sacrifices, Juan de Ulua, and others, which are small and sandy.

Juan de Ulua was first visited by Grijalva, in 1518, who gave it the name of Ulua, from having seen the remains of some human sacrifices, which the natives told him they were in the habit of offering here by order of the king of Acolhua. The interpreters who only spoke the language of Yucatan called the Mayo, believed that Acolhua or Ulua was the name of the island. A very strong fortress called the castle of St. Juan dʼUlua now covers nearly the whole rock, in the form of an irregular square, with advanced works towards the sea front; the expense of finishing this fortress is said to have been upwards of eight millions sterling; it contains fine barracks, cisterns, and a newly erected giratory light-house, placed at its eastern extremity, which was built according to the plan of M. Mendoza, the astronomer, who lately died in London. It consists of a high tower, on the top of which is the lantern with the lamps fixed on a triangle, turning by means of clock-work; the lights disappearing alternately, are supplied with a current of air and reflectors. This beautiful building cost about 20,000l. and is worthy of notice, on account of its utility in so dangerous a navigation as the channel of Vera Cruz is at all times.

The island of Sacrifices was so called, from the first discoverers observing the numerous remains of the victims immolated by the Mexican priests.


In the environs of the river Alvarado, several rivers descending from the interior, form numerous islands at their junction with the sea, and farther to the south are the islands of Guascualco at the mouth of the river of the same name and the island of Tabasco on which that town is situated.

Near the boundary of the provinces of Vera Cruz and Merida or Yucatan, in the lake or gulf of Terminos, are the islands of Triste and Port Royal; the former is on the south-west side of the gulf and west of Port Royal, from which it is separated by a narrow channel only. Triste, or as it is sometimes written Trieste, is in north latitude, 18° 20ʹ, and is eighteen miles in circumference, containing valuable mahogany and logwood, cut annually by the British. Port Royal is smaller, and is also called Puerto Escondido, having a small harbour, in north latitude 18° 22ʹ, west longitude 92° 86ʹ.

In the Intendancy of Merida, the western side has several small islands off its shores; of these the dangerous rocks called the Alacranes, are the chief, the others, such as Arenas, Sisal, &c. are chiefly sand banks above water, most of which are well laid down in the charts of the Mexican gulf.

To the north of Merida, and between Cape Catoche and False Cape, are a group of islands, of which Las Mugeres, or Womenʼs isle, is the most easterly; this isle is called Mohair Key in some maps, owing to the pronunciation of the Spanish word for women having a similar sound.

These islands were explored by the fleet under Cortez, in a storm which drove one of his vessels into their harbours.

On the east of Yucatan is the Island of Cozumel, or Cosumel forty miles long, and from three to ten in breadth, in 19° 40ʹ north-latitude, 85° 51ʹ west longitude; which is very fertile, and abounds in cattle and fowls. It is inhabited by an Indian tribe, and was first explored by Juan de Grijalva, on the thirteenth of April 1518, when he gave it[195] the name of Santa Cruz, because it was discovered on the day of the invention of the Holy Cross. On landing here the natives fled to the woods, but they took two old men in a field of maize, here they found an Indian woman of Jamaica, who had been driven on the coast with her husband and nine men in a storm; the natives had sacrificed all her party to their gods, and she gladly placed herself under the protection of the Spaniards.

The Island of Cozumel was again visited by Fernando Cortez shortly afterwards, in his expedition to Mexico; he reviewed his troops here on shore, and found them to amount to 508, besides 109 seamen. The 508 soldiers were now divided into eleven companies, with ten brass field-pieces, four falconets, thirteen musketeers, thirty-two cross bowmen, and sixteen horses. Cozumel had at that time several temples, one of which was in the shape of a square tower, hollow at top, with four large windows or openings and galleries, in which were many idols; at the foot was a wall with a sort of battlements, and on this was a cross three yards high, drawn with white lime. From these high buildings, and on account of the resemblance of this white mark to a cross, Grijalva named the Island and adjoining coast New Spain. It was here they first saw the pecari or sus tajassu, a sort of hog, with its navel on the back, or rather an open glandular orifice, discharging an oily fetid liquor, which is cut out when the animal is killed, otherwise it would taint the whole carcase.

The Spaniards having heard the word Castellano, repeated by the Indians in the former voyages, Cortez enquired of the Caciques, if any whites existed among them, and learning that there were, he gave large presents to some of them and dispatched them to the neighbouring continent to search for and bring any European who might be there to him; he also sent two ships to Cape Catoche, where the word Castellano had been[196] most frequently heard; in consequence of these exertions, which he doubtless made to gain a knowledge of the interior from the captives, Jeronimo de Aguilar gained his liberty, and went to another Spaniard, Alonzo Guerrero, to obtain his freedom, and to solicit him to accompany him; but Alonzo having married an Indian woman, by whom he had several children, would not return to his countrymen; and Aguilar lost so much time in endeavouring to persuade him, that the ships had already sailed, the appointed time for their stay being only eight days; but one of the ships having sprung a leak, the whole fleet returned to Cozumel a few hours after they had left it. Aguilar now crossed to the island in a canoe, and presented himself to Cortez. He had nearly forgotten his native language, was so dark from the burning climate, and almost naked, that it was with difficulty he was recognised as a Spaniard; he carried a paddle in his hand, and had an old prayer-book in a tattered bundle on his back; on coming before Cortez, he squatted down on his hams after the Indian fashion, and no one discovered that he was the Spaniard they were seeking for. He said at last, that he was a native of Ecija, and had been brought up for the church; but had been wrecked eight years before, in a voyage from Hispaniola to Darien. He and his companions in misfortune tried to reach Cuba in the shipʼs boat, but were drifted by the currents on this coast, where the Indians made them all slaves.

Most of them had been sacrificed to the idols; others, among whom were two women, were worn out with disease and fatigue, and soon died. Guerrero and himself were the only survivors; Aguilar had been condemned to die, but had escaped to a friendly chief, who had ever since protected him. He knew nothing of the interior, being kept constantly employed in getting wood and water, and in the cultivation of maize.[197] Guerrero had adopted the Indian manners, and had headed them in their attacks on the former navigators. Aguilar was much employed by Cortez in the subsequent conquest of Mexico.

The great temple of Cozumel was served by a priest in a long mantle, who addressed the people from the summit. They burnt incense before the idols, which so enraged Cortez, that he ordered his soldiers to destroy them, and made the Indians build an altar on the top, on which he placed an image of the Holy Virgin; and a crucifix being erected, one of the chaplains said mass, to which the people paid much attention, and as it afterwards appeared, burnt incense before the image and cross.

Cozumel was formerly inhabited by the Spaniards, at the ruins of several buildings, situated in a wood of palm-trees, indicate.

Ambergris Key, or Ubero Island, is the next of any consequence south of Cozumel. It lies in the Bay of Hanover, is seventy miles long, but narrow, and nearly shuts in the mouth of the bay. It is opposite to this island that the British logwood cutters are settled; besides Ambergris Key, there are several smaller islands in Hanover Bay.

The British settlements extend from the mouth of the river Hondo, to the north of Hanover Bay. This bay is in 18° 45ʹ north latitude, and 89° 15ʹ west longitude, where it receives the Rio Hondo.

Turneff Island, lies south of the former; is in 17° 16ʹ north latitude, 88° 20ʹ west longitude; twenty miles in length, and ten in breadth; abounding in cocoa-nut trees, and constantly frequented by the fishermen of the adjacent coasts. This part of the coast, as well as that of Vera Paz, and the gulf of Amatique, is also studded with islets.

On the coast of Honduras, towards the northern part, lie the islands of Utila, Ruatan, and Bonacao, of which Bonacao is supposed to be the Guanaia of Columbus, the first island discovered by him in[198] his fourth voyage. He made his brother Bartholomew land here, who found lapis calaminaris, which some of the sailors supposing to be gold, concealed lumps of for a length of time. He took a canoe full of people on board his ship, which came from the adjacent continent, and obtained information concerning it from them; but the land lying to leeward, he did not attempt to explore it, and therefore held on to the eastward, and discovered Cape Casinas, or Honduras. Bonacao, is about sixty miles in circumference, lying in 16° 30ʹ north latitude, 86° 23ʹ west longitude.

Ruatan or Rattan, in 16° 24ʹ north latitude, and 87° 10ʹ west longitude, is thirty miles long and twelve broad, with a fine harbour. The island is surrounded with shoals; it was settled by the British in 1741, for the purpose of carrying on the logwood trade, but was soon abandoned.

Utila is a small island to the south-west of Ruatan.

The Swan Islands are a group at some distance from the north-coast of Honduras, being chiefly barren rocks. Off Cape Gracias à Dios, are a multitude of islets and shoals.

Misteriosa and Santanilla are at a still greater distance, nearly in the middle of the gulf of Honduras.

Santanilla, consists of two small islands surrounded with rocks, in 17° 20ʹ north latitude, 85° 30ʹ west longitude.

Misteriosa to the north-west of these, seems to be a considerable bank or shoal.

Viciosas is a cluster of very small isles, in 15° 12ʹ north latitude, and 84° 4ʹ west longitude, opposite to the Bay of Carthago.

Cocoa-nut keys and Carrantasca shoals are other small clusters, to the north of Cape Gracias à Dios.

South of Cape Gracias à Dios are several groups of small islands and rocks. Tangulaco, Man of War Keys, Pearl Keys, little Corn Island,[199] Great Corn Island, and a multitude of little islets, line the eastern shore of Honduras.

The Pearl Keys are a groupe of islets near Pearl Key lagoon, on the Mosquito shore, in north latitude 11° 15ʹ, west longitude 83° 12ʹ.

St. Andres and Santa Catalina, or Old Providence, lie farther out at sea than the last mentioned.

St Andres or Andero is situated, in 12° 30ʹ north latitude, 81° 40ʹ west longitude, south south-east of Cape Gracias à Dios, and west south-west of Providence Island, which lies 80° 45ʹ west longitude; and 13° 26ʹ north latitude, is eleven miles long and four broad, with a good soil, excellent water, and pleasant climate. It was formerly inhabited, as well as many other small isles in these seas, by the Buccaneers, who fortified it. It is said there are no serpents or venomous reptiles found here, although it is near a continent in which they are so plentiful; at present this isle is uninhabited.

Roncador, Serranilla and Serrana, are to the north-east of the last.

Roncador is in 13° 45ʹ north latitude, and 79° 30ʹ west longitude.

Serranilla Isles, are a cluster of small islands, in north latitude 16° 10ʹ, west longitude 80° 10ʹ.

Serrana or Pearl Island, so called from Serrana, a Spanish navigator, who was wrecked on it, is in 14° 5ʹ north latitude, 78° 50ʹ west longitude. All these which lie to the east of Honduras are small.

In the bay or lake of Chiriqui on the coast of Veragua, are several groupes, of which Provision Island and Bocalero are the principal ones.

The whole of the eastern coast of Spanish North America abounds with islets, rocks, shoals and sand-banks, and there are consequently but few good harbours; for although there are many deep bays and gulfs, yet the entrances to them are in general blocked up.

The western coast is in the contrary extreme,[200] vary bold, and with few Islands; in describing these we shall commence on the north off the coasts of New California, where the first are the rocks, called in Spanish the Farallones, in 37° 48ʹ 10ʺ north latitude, and 123° 1ʹ west longitude.

The next are the island of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, in 34° north latitude, and 120° 31ʹ west longitude.

The island of San Nicholas in 33° 16ʹ north latitude, and 119° 30ʹ west longitude.

The island of San Salvador in 32° 43ʹ north latitude, and 118° 30ʹ west longitude.

Island of St. Martin, or de los Coronados, a small groupe in 32° 25ʹ north latitude, and 117° 18ʹ west longitude.

Island of San Bernardo in 29° 40ʹ north latitude, and 115° 56ʹ west longitude.

Island of Guadalupe in 28° 53ʹ north latitude, and 118° 17ʹ west longitude.

This last island is about thirteen miles long, composed of high, rocky and naked mountains with two small islands, one about a mile west south-west and the other two miles south of its southern point. The latitude and longitude are that of its southern cape, the island itself running thirteen miles farther to the north.

The island of San Benito is small and surrounded with shoals; it is mountainous, and its highest part is in 28° 18ʹ north latitude, 115° 46ʹ west longitude.

Island of Cedros in 28° 2ʹ north latitude, and 115° 23ʹ west longitude.

To the south, off the coast of Old California, the islands are not so numerous; there are however, several very small ones in some of the bays, and near the bay of La Magdalena one large one, named La Margarita, of which nothing is known excepting that it is about forty or fifty miles in length, and hilly.

On the east coast of Old California are several small islands, much used in the former pearl[201] fishery; of these, proceeding from Cape St. Lucas to the extremity of the Vermillion Sea, are the islands Cerralbo and del Espiritu Santo, near the Mission de la Paz; islands of San Francisco, and San Jose, with several smaller ones. Island of Santa Cruz, island of Montserrat, and island of Catalina, near Puerto Escondido, and a large island near the coast of the Mission of Loretto; of these Santa Cruz is famous, as having been the abode of Cortez during his expedition to California; he remained on it a considerable time, suffering dreadful hardships, and losing the greater part of his followers by famine and disease. Santa Cruz is in 25° 23ʹ north latitude, and 110° 47ʹ west longitude.

Island of St. Lorenzo opposite Tiburon isle, and the

Island of Santa Ines, or Angel de la Guarda, a fine and extensive tract.

In the estuary of the Gila and Colorado, at the extremity of the gulf, another large island appears, but of it nothing certain is known; descending the gulf of California on the eastern shore, off the province of Sonora, are the islands of Tiburon, Tortuga, Lobos, San Ignacio, and several smaller ones.

Tiburon is the largest of these, and appears to be about sixty miles in length.

Off the shore of the intendancy of Guadalaxara is the islet of Isabella in 21° 50ʹ north latitude, and 105° 56ʹ west longitude.

Islet of Juanico in 21° 45ʹ north latitude, and 107° 41ʹ west longitude.

Piedra Blanca at the mouth of the Rio Grande de Santiago, and in the port of San Blas, in 21° 33ʹ and 105° 17ʹ west longitude.

Las Tres Marias abounding with wood, water, salt-pits and game, which cause them to be frequented by the English and American whalers; the French and English pirates used to winter in them, when they cruised in the South Seas. The south cape of the easternmost island is in 21° 16ʹ north latitude,[202] and 106° 17ʹ west longitude. They were named Islands de la Magdalena, by Diego de Mendoza in 1532, and are occasionally visited by the Spaniards from Saint Blas, for the flax and lignum vitæ they produce. South of these, and near cape Corrientes, is the islet Isasvirivil in 20° 45ʹ north latitude, and 105° 57ʹ west longitude.

The Revillagigedo islands, which are a considerable distance from the coast, are four in number. Santa Rosa, Socorro, Rocca Partida, and San Benedito; their origin seems to be volcanic, as pumice stones are found in them; Santa Rosa is in 18° 37ʹ north latitude, 114° 3ʹ west longitude. Socorro, the highest summit of which is more than 3657 feet above the sea, is the largest of the group, but not above fifteen or twenty miles broad and long, and is situated in 18° 48ʹ north latitude, 110° 9ʹ west longitude. Rocca Partida is in 19° 4ʹ north latitude, 111° 5ʹ longitude. San Benedito in 19° 18ʹ north latitude, and 110° 53ʹ west longitude.

Socorro was visited by Captain Collnett, on the 20th September, 1793. He afterwards saw other islands of this group.

At Socorro no anchorage could be found near the shore, the coast being exceeding bold and steep, except in a small cove where they had only ten fathoms; which place he judged to be too insecure. On this island, which consists of one very elevated summit and several detached points, that have a singular and picturesque appearance, the crew of his ship procured plenty of wild beans and prickly pears; they also sowed all sorts of garden seeds and some cocoa nuts. Leaving Socorro they went to San Benedito, or San Berto, where they procured the same fruits: they then explored Rocca Partida; its greatest length was fifty or sixty fathoms, its breadth, thirty five, with two separated pinnacles, which are about 120 feet in height, and look exactly like a ship under jury-masts, when seen from afar: its distance from Socorro is about forty-eight[203] miles west. Here they saw a prodigious quantity of fish, but could only catch a few, owing to the multitude of sharks which destroyed their lines. A man reaching over the gun-wale of the boat, one of these ravenous animals attempted to bite his hand off, and they even seized the steering oar at the stern, so that they were obliged to lay it in.

Man of war birds and seals were the only habitants of this dreary rock. They steered from hence to the coast of California, and returned to Socorro on the 25th of November, 1793; after examining the coast they found a small bay on the south, with twenty-five fathoms water and good anchorage; the surface of the island on being explored, appeared to consist of a fine loose cinder, excepting on the north-east, where the ground was more firm. Captain Collnettʼs crew being very weak, and his ship in a bad state, he staid here only long enough to procure fish and fruit, and before his departure named the group Revillagegido, out of compliment to the Viceroy of that name, who had treated him with kindness whilst a prisoner at Mexico.

These islands were originally discovered by the Spaniards.

The whole coast from hence to Guaxaca and along the shores of the kingdom of Guatimala presents no islands of any consequence until we reach the extremity of Veragua, towards the south, where, between Cape Dulce and Cape Mariato are the isles Zedzones, Mentuosa, Quibo, or Caybo, and Quicaras; the first are merely small barren rocks.

Mentuosa rises to a considerable height, covered with cocoa-nut and other trees, and is about five or six miles in circumference, in 7° 15ʹ north latitude and 82° 40ʹ west longitude. The Quicaras are two islets, one of which is seven miles, the other two or three in length, and about twelve miles south of Caybo; they are also covered with trees.


Caybo, or Quibo, was visited by Lord Anson, in his celebrated circumnavigation of the world, on the 3d of December, 1741; when he came to anchor near Canal Bueno, and staid here until the 12th of the same month.

They found plenty of water and wood. The island is of moderate height, and thickly covered with a forest of cassia, limes, &c. Tigers, monkeys, wolves, and deer, abound, but were all extremely shy. Parrots, parroquets, macaws, hawks and vultures were seen in large flights; guanos, alligators of enormous size, the hawkʼs-bill and green turtle were found in great numbers, and the shores abounded with sharks, sea snakes, and various sorts of fish. Venemous reptiles were common, amongst which was the dreadful hooded snake. This island was afterwards visited by Captain Collnett, in 1794, who was bitten in the knee by one of these serpents, and continued for a length of time in great danger.

The writer of the voyage of Commodore Anson, speaks with great delight of the beauties of this isle, and mentions a cascade in the north-east part, which surpassed any thing of the kind they had ever observed; it was formed by a river of transparent water, rushing between rocks, over a ledge forty yards wide, and 150 in length, overhung by beautiful tropical plants; a flight of macaws passing over, and hovering about whilst they were observing this fall, added, by the glittering appearance of their beautiful plumage, to the singularity of the scene. The cedar trees were of enormous size, and the place affords, from its good anchorages, every facility to a distressed vessel cruizing in the Pacific.

The coast abounds with whales.

These are the last islands of Spanish North America in the Pacific Ocean; with them we therefore conclude the description of that portion of the trans-atlantic colonies of Spain.






Spanish South America

Spanish South America.
Sidy Hall sculpt. 14, Dury Stt. Bloomsby
Published as the Act directs. Augt. 20, 1818, by Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme & Browne, Paternoster Row, London.





The dominions of Spain in North America having been described as fully as the nature of the work permitted, our attention is now to be turned to the acquisitions of that power in the southern division of the American continent.

The territories acquired by Spanish enterprise in South America are more extensive than those which have just been treated of; they reach from the Canataguan chain of mountains, between the provinces of Veragua and Panama, in the isthmus of Darien, to the gulf of Chonos; but Cape Vela, the extreme northern point of South America, being in a higher latitude than the Sierra de Canatagua, it is usual to reckon the total length from it. This cape is in 12° north, and the gulf of Chonos in 44° south latitude[A]: thus the Spanish colonies[208] extend through a space equal to 3360 geographical miles, while their breadth, taken at a medium, is about 900 of the same miles. In fact, nearly the whole of that vast division of the New World, called by the general name of Southern America, is divided between two European powers, the Spaniards, and the Portuguese; the Portuguese holding the eastern, the Spaniards the northern, western and most of the southern part; the colonies of Great Britain and France being only slips of coast; and even the unconquered countries are very small, when compared with those belonging to the two powers first named.

Adding to this immense tract the kingdoms of Mexico and Guatimala, it appears that Spain possesses in the Americas an empire reaching from the 39th degree of north, to the 44th degree of south latitude; or a space included in eighty-three degrees, which is greater than the length of Africa, or more than five thousand miles.


The boundaries of the South American dominions are the province of Costa Rica, in the kingdom of Guatimala on the north-west; the Caribbean sea on the north; the Atlantic Ocean, British and French Guiana on the north-east; the Portuguese territories on the east; the Pacific Ocean on the west; the Atlantic and native tribes on the south-east; and the native tribes, and desert countries on the south.


Spanish South America is divided into five governments; viz. the viceroyalty of New Granada; the Capitania General of Caraccas; the viceroyalty of Peru; the viceroyalty of La Plata, or Buenos[209] Ayres; and the Capitaneria General of Chili; these are again subdivided into numerous provinces, which will be detailed in the descriptions of the different governments.


The discovery of the Spanish South American continent may justly take its date from the period at which Columbus landed on the coast of Paria, near the island of Trinidad, and the mouths of the Orinoco; which event took place in the month of August in the year 1498, and will be related hereafter at length. The discoveries of particular portions, the conquests and colonizations, will also be duly noticed in treating of the different governments; commencing with the most northern, and proceeding gradually, to those which occupy the southern portion of this great continent; concluding the whole with a description of the islands of most note on the coasts.

The viceroyalty of New Granada will therefore first engage our attention.



New Granada is bounded on the north by the Caribbean Sea, and the province of Costa Rica in the kingdom of Guatimala; on the east by the government of Caraccas, Spanish Guiana, and Portuguese Guiana; on the west by the Pacific Ocean; and on the south by the river Maranon, and the viceroyalty of Peru: its extent from 3° 30ʹ south latitude to 12° north latitude, is about 930 geographical miles, its mean breadth being 240.



This extensive viceroyalty is divided into numerous provinces, governed by intendants and governors under the orders of the viceroy.

These provinces are named Jaen de Bracamoros, Quixos, Maynas, Quito, Tacames, Popayan, Antioquia, Santa Fé, San Juan de los Llanos, Merida, Santa Marta, Carthagena, Choco, Darien, Panama, and Veragua; the three last of which are known by the distinctive appellation of Tierra Firme.


The coasts of New Granada which border on the Caribbean Sea were first visited by Columbus during his fourth voyage. Sailing from Spain to the West Indies, he arrived with his fleet at St. Domingo, in Hispaniola, where the governor Ovando, from private pique, refused him permission to enter the harbour and refit his vessels. This unforeseen occurrence obliged the admiral to stand to the west; after sailing in this direction for a few days, he discovered a little island, off the coast or cape of Honduras, where his brother landed, and traded with the natives. Prosecuting their voyage, they touched at the Cape itself, then called by Columbus Cape Casinas, and on which the admiralʼs brother landed to take formal possession for the crown of Spain: after this ceremony the fleet proceeded along the shore, and was compelled by the easterly winds to double a cape, which the pilots performing with difficulty, gave it the appellation of Gracias à Dios (thanks to God), because they could now take advantage of those winds in navigating along such unknown coasts with comparative safety.

Columbus touched at many places in this voyage, at Veragua, Nombre de Dios, Belem, Porto Bello,[211] &c. At Veragua he sent his brother up the country to search for gold, and Don Bartolomeo returning with a considerable quantity; the admiral wished to have planted a colony, but having made several fruitless attempts, and finding that the ships were very rotten and worm-eaten, he set sail for Hispaniola to procure new vessels and supplies; in this attempt he was forced by storms to run on shore in a creek in the island of Jamaica, where he propped up the worn-out hulls with shores, building huts on the decks for the crews. Columbus remained almost a year in this condition, and from the mutinous behaviour of his men, his life was several times in danger; this, combined with the fatigue and vexation he had undergone, seriously affected his health, and at length, worn out with watching for succour, he determined as a last resource, to send over a canoe to Hispaniola, with one of his most faithful followers, and some Indians. These men after encountering great dangers, succeeded in reaching that island, and there procured a small ship, (but not without much opposition from the enemies of Columbus,) in which this great and unfortunate man returned to Spain, where he fixed his abode at Valladolid, and closed his illustrious career on the 20th of May, 1506, at the age of 64. His body was interred in the church of the Carthusians at Seville, and a handsome monument pointed out the spot where his remains were deposited; on which was engraven this inscription:—

A Castilla y a Leon,
Nuévo mundo dio Colon.

“To Castile and Leon Columbus gave a new world.”

Ojeda, and Amerigo Vespucci, as well as many other adventurers, followed Columbus in exploring parts of the coast of New Granada, and Amerigo gave the first regular description of the people who[212] inhabited its shores. In the year 1508, Alonzo de Ojeda and Diego Nicuessa obtained from the Spanish crown, extensive grants in the territories now known by the names of Guatimala and New Granada; Ojeda had the country from Cape de la Vela to the Gulf of Uraba, or Gulf of Darien, included in his charter, which tract was to be styled New Andalusia; and Nicuessa was appointed to govern from the Gulf of Darien to Cape Gracias à Dios; the territory included between these points, to be named Golden Castile, and they left Hispaniola in the latter end of the year 1510, to assume the functions assigned to them. Soon after the arrival of Ojeda at Carthagena, (then called Caramari by the Indians,) he imprudently attacked the natives, and after a severe action, lost the greater part of his men, but was fortunately relieved by the arrival of the fleet of Nicuessa; he then went to the gulf of Darien, and established a colony on the eastern promontory, which place was named St. Sebastian; but being soon reduced to great extremity for want of provision, Ojeda sailed for Hispaniola, having dispatched another vessel before him to procure supplies and reinforcements for his new establishment; suffering shipwreck on the voyage, and losing all his property, he died shortly after of want.

The colony being reduced to great distress, went back to Carthagena, to endeavour to fall in with the reinforcements; by great good fortune they met two vessels with their supplies, and returning to St. Sebastian, found their town destroyed by the natives; to augment their misfortunes, they run their ships ashore, but by dint of great exertion they were at last floated, when the whole colony, by the advice of Vasco Nunez de Balboa, sailed to the river of Darien, where they attacked and conquered an Indian tribe, and founded a town which was named Santa Maria el Antigua del Darien, where they received a further reinforcement by accident, in November 1510.


In the mean time, Nicuessa, who also suffered great misfortunes, had endeavoured to establish a colony at Nombre de Dios; a deputation was sent to him here, to request him to come and assume the government of Santa Maria; he accordingly departed, but on his arrival, found that great dissensions had arisen amongst the colonists, who, instead of appointing him to the government, put him into a rotten vessel, and sent him to sea, where it is conjectured, that himself and his crew perished. The province of Tierra Firme, including both the grants of Nicuessa, and Ojeda, was given by a subsequent charter, in the year 1514, to Pedro Arias de Avila, under whose government Vasco Nunez de Balboa was beheaded on account of a revolt. It was this man who, in 1513 on the 25th of September, first descried the Pacific Ocean, from the mountains of Terra Firma, and embarking on its waters in a canoe, explored part of its shores, on his return making known to the Spanish nation, the existence of another sea beyond the Atlantic. The first discoveries of Ojeda in New Granada took place in 1502; in 1503, Roderigo Bastidas of Seville visited the coast from Santa Marta to the river of Darien. Thus in these years, the whole shore from the Gulf of Venezuela to Cape Honduras, had been explored by different navigators and adventurers.

In 1504, Bastidas resumed his discoveries, and proceeded to the gulf of Darien to procure gold and slaves; he here found grains of gold in the sands, which was the first time the metal had been sent in that state to Spain.

In 1515, the western coast of Panama, Veragua, and Darien, was explored under the orders of Avila, as far north as Cape Blanco; and the town of Panama was founded; from this city issued the conquerors of Peru, Francisco Pizarro, and Diego Almagro, of whom we shall have occasion[214] to speak at length in the description of that country; they are mentioned at present, because the discovery, the conquest, and the colonization of most of the internal provinces of New Granada was achieved under their orders, by Sebastian de Benalcazar, one of the officers of the army who accompanied Pizarro and Almagro in their expedition.

In 1536, Benalcazar attacked the southern provinces from Quito, whilst Gonzalo Ximenes de Quesada, who had been sent by Lugo, the admiral of the Canaries, over-run the northern districts from Santa Marta; they met with considerable opposition from the natives, but finally succeeded in reducing the country, and the whole was formed into a kingdom, and governed by a captain-general, in the year 1547; to check whose power, the royal audience was established, of which he was made president.

In the year 1718, a viceroy was appointed; this office was suppressed in 1724, and again finally established in 1740.

In the viceroyalty of New Granada, at present, there are two royal audiences, or supreme courts of judicature. The audience of Santa Fé has jurisdiction over Veragua, Panama, Santa Marta, Maracaybo in Venezuela; Antioquia, Choco, and the Llanos, with some others. The royal audience of Quito has all the southern provinces of New Granada under its superintendance.

The power of the viceroy is as great as that of the same officer in New Spain, but his revenue only amounts to the annual sum of 8400l. sterling. In the kingdom he governs, the population has been estimated at 1,800,000, of which there are upwards of 200,000 souls more in the audience of Santa Fé, than in the audience of Quito. The value of the gold and silver produced in the mines, annually amounts to 650,000l. sterling.

At Santa Fé de Bogota, the capital, besides the royal audience, there is a treasury, a tribunal of accounts, a royal mint, with many other judicial[215] and state offices; the court of the royal audience is formed of five supreme judges, a fiscal, a protector of the Indians, and numerous subordinate officers. Santa Fé is also an archbishopric, founded in 1562, having Popayan and Carthagena as suffragans. This archbishopric is of great importance, the viceroyalty having been occasionally confided to its jurisdiction both in civil and religious matters. The president of the royal audience of Quito is governor of all the southern provinces, and is subordinate only to the viceroy.

Of the commerce of the viceroyalties in South America, we have very little correct information; the value of the import trade of New Granada has been stated as amounting to 1,235,000l. sterling, and its agricultural produce at 433,330l. The greatest revenue which the mother country receives during the most plentiful times, and when the mines are in the highest state of activity, amounts only to 108,330l.; but very frequently the expences of the administration render it impossible to remit even this small sum.

The gross revenue does not exceed 823,340l., as the contraband trade greatly injures the receipts of the customs in this kingdom; the vicinity of powerful neighbours who are all of great mercantile spirit, renders it utterly impossible for the agents of the government to check this traffic altogether. The Portuguese goods are poured in from their frontier by the great rivers; the British from the West India islands, and from Guiana; and thus, even before the present unhappy struggle, the existence of the viceroyalty depended entirely on the produce of the mines and of some few manufactures, with the native products which Europe could not dispense with. The manufactures are of utility only in its internal trade, and consist chiefly of carpets, cotton cloths, blankets, woollens, counterpanes, &c. The natural productions are the excellent dye-woods of the northern shore, which[216] are reckoned even superior to those of Yucatan, timber for ship building, the mahogany of Panama, better and more beautiful than that of Guatimala or New Spain, chocolate and cacao, from the borders of the great river Magdalena, and the marshes of Guayaquil; excellent cotton, some tobacco, cochineal, coffee, and medicinal drugs, amongst which are the celebrated cinchona, or Jesuits bark, and contrayerva.

The mines of New Granada are however the objects of the greatest importance to its commerce. It may be said, that this kingdom is as rich in mineral treasures as any of the Spanish transatlantic colonies. In the provinces of Antioquia and Choco, it is alone richer in gold than any other, and the silver procured here is remarkably pure; lead and copper are also found, but little sought after; emeralds and other precious stones are sent to Europe. Platina, that valuable metal, was long thought to be peculiar to the province of Choco. Mercury, so useful in a mining country, has been lately discovered to exist in the province of Antioquia, in the valley de Santa Rosa, in the mountains of Quindiu, and near the village of Cuença, in the province of Quito. Salt is obtained in great quantity, and the kingdom produces many other valuable mineral substances.

Cassava or manioc root, and maize, form the bread of the Indians. European wheat is cultivated by the Spaniards and their descendants, and the tropical and European plants and vegetables are produced in as much abundance as they are in New Spain. The rivers and lakes are well stored with fish, and the woods and plains with game. The animals are such as are common to all South America, and will be noticed in the provincial descriptions; in this kingdom the inhabitants breed immense numbers of horses and mules, which they sell in Peru.

The native Indians are divided into numerous[217] tribes, which inhabit the provinces, and the widespread forests and savannahs, between the Andes and the Portuguese dominions. When this country was first conquered by Benalcazar and Ximenes de Quesada, they were very numerous, and those who inhabited the ridges of the Andes were nearly as far advanced in improvement and civilization, as the Mexicans and Peruvians; from both of whom they were however totally distinct, being unknown to the former, and but recently subjugated by the latter. They defended themselves with great perseverance and resolution against the Spaniards, and it was very long before they were totally subdued.

Of all the tribes who then inhabited this country, the people of Quito and the Moscas, or Muyscas, were the most civilised and the most numerous. The traditions of the Muyscas reached to very early ages, and the most remarkable point in their history was the mysterious appearance of their great legislator Bochica, son of the Sun, who came suddenly amongst them whilst they were disputing about who should be their king. He is represented as a white man, clothed in long garments, with a venerable beard, who having patiently listened to the contending parties, advised them to choose Huncahua, which they accordingly did; and this chief subdued the country extending from the plains of San Juan, to the mountains of Opon. Bochica lived amongst them two thousand years, and then suddenly disappeared near the town called Hunca, since named by the Spaniards, Tunja. The kingdom of Huncahua was called Cundinamarca, and the ruler had the title of zaque, analogous to that of inca among the Peruvians; but the high priest who succeeded Bochica was in fact the supreme governor; and his authority has aptly been compared to that of the Tartarian Lama. The other princes, or chiefs of tributary tribes were called zippas. Bochica invented the calendar[218] of the Muyscas, and regulated all their festival; he divided the day and night into four parts. Their week he made of three days, and the year was separated into moons; the common year consisting of twenty moons, whilst that of the priests, by which the festivals were regulated, contained thirty-seven; and twenty years formed a cycle.

The language of the Muyscas, which has been grammaticized by Bernardo de Luga, is now nearly extinct. It is called the Chibcha, and has neither the l or d; its chief characteristic being the frequent repetition of the syllables, cha, che, chu; they had words to express the ten numerals, beyond which they added the word foot, (counting by the toes in addition).

These people were sanguinary in their worship of Bochica and the gods. At the end of every fifteen years, they sacrificed a boy, who had been previously educated in the chief temple until he was fifteen. On this occasion, the priests led the victim with much ceremony to a column erected in a sacred spot, to which they bound him, and in the presence of the assembled nation, he was dispatched by the arrows of the warriors, after which, his heart was torn out, and offered on the altars of Bochica.

They appear to have known the use of a rude sort of dial, by the columns which were erected in various places, and to one of which, the boy victim was always attached; they had also attained some knowledge in sculpture, as their calendar was engraved on a stone, and other specimens of the progress they had made in this art have been occasionally found.

The ancient state of the town of Quito, and the first discoveries and settlements of the southern and eastern regions of New Granada, by Benalcazar and his followers, will be treated of under the head of the presidency of Quito.

Climate.—The climate of New Granada presents[219] great variety; the elevated Cordillera of the Andes, and the eternal snows which cap its summits, render this country, though it lies partly under the equator, subject to all the cold of the polar regions; whilst on its low savannahs, the tropical heats are felt with all their ardour. The elevated plains between the ridges of the Andes, enjoy a temperate and unvariable climate, and it is in these delightful spots, that the European colonists have chiefly fixed their abodes.


The great feature of the kingdom of New Granada or Santa Fé, is that amazing range of mountains denominated the Cordillera of the Andes, which crosses the country from the south to the north, and as some of the most sublime scenes in that astonishing chain exist in this viceroyalty, a general description of the whole will be given here from the latest sources of information.

The Andes run nearly parallel to the coast of the Pacific Ocean, at the general distance of about 150 miles, and may be satisfactorily traced from the river Atrato, in 8° north latitude, on the isthmus of Panama, as far south as Cape Pilares, at the western entrance of the Straits of Magellan, in 53° south latitude, being a length of 4200 miles. Their greatest altitude is conjectured to take place nearly under the equator, where the cone of Chimborazo rises to the amazing height of 7147 yards above the level of the sea, but they insensibly decrease in elevation towards the province of Darien, and in running through the isthmus of Panama are nearly lost; after passing the province of Darien, they again begin to evince their majestic forms, and dividing North from South America, enter the province of Veragua, pass to that of Costa Rica, and through the kingdom of Guatimala, where they[220] again attain considerable elevation, and in which they are thickly set with volcanic cones.

Leaving Guatimala, the Andes ascend through the viceroyalty of New Spain, near the capital of which, their summits are scarcely inferior to Chimborazo, and continuing their immense course, they pass the confines of New Spain by the province of New Mexico; entering a wild and unfrequented country, where the elevation of their peaks is still very great; and they are supposed finally to lose themselves in the icy ocean of the Arctic regions.

That part of the Andes which crosses New Spain and Guatimala has been already described. Three secondary chains are thrown out in the known parts of South America; the first of these is in the kingdom of New Granada; the second is known by the name of the Cordillera of the cataracts of the Orinoco; and the third is the Cordillera of Chiquitos, which province it traverses.

The first branch, or Cordillera of New Granada and Caraccas, bends eastward from the river Atrato, forming the Sierra of Abibé, and of Cauca, and the high plains of Tolu, and crosses the river Magdalena. It then forms a narrow chain along the coast to Cape Vela, where it separates into two parallel ridges; but joining again, and forming lofty summits, it stretches along the whole government of the Caraccas, and loses itself in the Atlantic ocean, at the cape of Paria. Its highest points are in the provinces of Santa Marta and Merida. The Nevada of the former is 16,000 feet, and that of the latter 15,000 in altitude, and their heads constantly enveloped in snow. These parallel ridges form vast plains between their summits, elevated to great heights above the sea; the plain of the Caraccas being 2660 feet in height. The greatest elevation of the chain after it crosses the boundary between New Granada and the Caraccas is near the metropolis of the latter government, where the Silla de Caraccas raises itself to the height of 8420 feet,[221] and forms an enormous and frightful precipice fronting the Caribbean sea.

In New Granada, the main chain also separates itself into parallel ridges, three of which exist between 2° 30ʹ and 5° 15ʹ of north latitude. The eastern ridge divides the great river Magdalena from the plains of the Meta; none of its summits are covered with snow. The central ridge separates the Magdalena from the Rio Cauca; this is the most lofty of the three, and its most elevated peaks enter the region of eternal frost; the three highest are named Quindiu, Baragan, and Guanacas.

The western ridge separates the Rio Cauca from the province of Choco; it attains scarcely 4500 feet in altitude, and nearly loses itself in the province of Darien. These three ridges unite in the district of Pastos in Popayan, and continue single till they have far past the equator; when they again separate themselves into two parallel chains, in the province of Quito, by a valley near their summits. It is here that they are seen in their most sublime forms, Chimborazo, Pichincha, Illinissa, Antisana, and Cotopaxi ascending to the very skies, their white cones being beautifully contrasted with the dark blue of the surrounding firmament.

The second branch of the Andes, called the Cordillera of the Cataracts of the Orinoco extends itself from the great chain eastward between the 3d and 6th degrees of north latitude, where the high plains of Tuquillo and St. Martin, with the peaks of Canavami and Umama are formed; it contains the sources of the Guaviari, the Meta, Zama, and Ymerida rivers, and forms the tremendous cataracts of Maypuré and Aturé; beyond these it acquires still greater elevation, and occupies an immense space, stretching southward to the boundaries of the Portuguese dominions, where it is lost in vast and nearly impenetrable tracts of woody country, over which no European ever trod, as the tribes[222] who inhabit the region are of a ferocious and sanguinary disposition. In this gloomy country exist the sources of the magnificent Orinoco, which have never been seen, either by the civilised Indians, or the Spaniards. The chain has again been observed issuing from forests farther to the eastward; it is, however, neither so elevated nor so broad, and is called Sierra de Quineropaca and Pacaraimo, near the lake of Parimé and the Amazons. It again extends its breadth a few degrees further east, and bends southwards along the Mao, where the hill of Ucucuamo, which being formed of shining yellow mica, deceived the venturous travellers, who fancied they at last found a mountain of gold. From this hill, called El Dorado, or the Golden Mountain, the branch stretches eastwards towards the mountains of French Guiana, where its form is little known, as the interior of that country is inhabited by Caribs and negroes, who keep the settlers at bay. The rivers of Berbice, Surinam, Marony, and Essequibo rise in this part of the chain.

The mountain of Duida is the highest point which has yet been seen of the Cordillera of the Cataracts; this volcano has not hitherto been explored, but its height has been found to be 8465 feet above the sea.

The Cordillera of the Cataracts is remarkable for the abrupt descent of its southern face.

It is said to exhibit no rock of secondary formation, or to contain any petrifactions or organic remains, consisting only of granite, gneiss, mica, slate, and hornblende; this however applies only to the part visited by M. de Humboldt, from the Rio Negro to the frontier of the Grand Para, a distance of 600 miles.

The third great branch from the main body of the Andes, is that of Chiquitos, between the 15th and 20th degree of south latitude, which, sweeping from the main chain in a semicircular shape, traverses[223] the province of the same name, connecting the heights of Paraguay and La Plata with those of Chili and Peru. The great rivers which fall into, and form parts of the La Plata and the Maranon, rise in this branch, but as no satisfactory accounts of it have been published, it is impracticable to give any general description of its particular properties and forms.

These branches form three immense plains between their bases, open to the southern Atlantic Ocean on the east, and shut out from the Pacific by the great trunk of the Andes on the west; the most northerly is the Savannah, or Plain of the Orinoco, noted for its luxuriant herbage, and possessing only a few scattered trees. The plain of the Amazons, or Maranon, succeeds to that of the Orinoco on the opposite side of the central branch. On this widely extended tract, forests, coeval with the soil they are nourished by, extend their gloomy and nearly impenetrable fastnesses, inhabited only by tribes of savage and wandering Indians, whose ferocity allies them to the beasts of prey which roam in every part of the savannahs of the Maranon.

The third great plain is that distinguished by the appellation of the Pampas, or the Plains of the La Plata, resembling in some measure the valley of the Orinoco, being covered with a strong and luxuriant growth of herbage, and occupied by countless herds of wild cattle, which are hunted solely for the sake of their hides, these forming one of the chief articles of the export trade of the viceroyalty of Buenos Ayres.

The mother chain of the Andes is rich beyond description in metallic productions, and furnishes several sorts of the precious stones; but with all this profusion of treasure, it contains within its bosom the materials of destruction; earthquakes of the most tremendous nature swallow whole cities, the activity of the internal fires frequently destroys[224] entire mountains, and leaves sheets of water in their place, by which provinces are devastated, and thousands of the animal creation destroyed. Forty volcanoes have been counted from Cotopaxi to the shores of the Straits of Magellan, that discharge lava, enormous rocks, showers of ashes, great quantities of water, liquid mud, sulphur, or devastating blasts of heated air from their craters.

The most striking features of the southern Andes are these volcanic cones, whose flanks, beset with frightful crevices of immeasurable depth, are crossed by the fearless natives, by means of pendulous bridges, formed of the fibres of equinoctial plants. Over these frail and tremulous passages, the natives carry the traveller in a chair attached to their backs, and bending forward the body, they move with a swift and equal step; but when they reach the centre, the oscillation of the bridge is so great, that were they to stop, inevitable destruction must ensue; the native and his burden would be dashed to the bottom of a precipice to whose profound depth the eye can hardly reach.

These bridges are, from the nature of their materials, frequently out of repair, presenting to the shuddering European, who visits these countries, frightful chasms, over which the Indians step with undaunted confidence. Volcanoes and crevices are not the only surprising circumstances which attract the notice of the adventurous traveller; cataracts of magnificent forms are every where observed, that of Tequendama, near the city of Santa Fé, dashing a volume of water from the plains of Bogota, through an opening in the Cordillera, to the depth of six hundred feet, into a dark and unfathomable gulf. In these mountains, the largest rivers in the world derive their sources; the La Plata, the Maranon, and the Orinoco; of which, as well as of some of the peculiar scenery of the Andes, we shall treat more at large in the local descriptions of the governments and provinces of[225] South America, resuming the subject of the present section, we shall describe the capital of the kingdom of New Granada.

Capital.—The metropolis of the viceroyalty of Santa Fé, or New Granada, is the city of Santa Fé de Bogota, in north latitude 4° 6ʹ, and west longitude 78° 30ʹ, near the river Funza, or Pati. It was founded in 1538 by Ximenes de Quesada when he conquered the tribes who then inhabited this country.

Santa Fé is situated in a spacious and luxuriant plain to the east of the great chain of the Andes, and between it and its first parallel branch; though only four degrees from the equator, the elevation of 8694 feet above the level of the sea renders its climate rather cold. The city is large, and handsomely built, containing four great squares, with wide, regular and well laid out streets. Two small rivers, the San Francisco, and San Augustin, run through the town, and join the main stream of the Funza at a short distance; over these rivulets, five handsome bridges are erected. The cathedral is a magnificent structure, and forms the chief ornament of the place, which also contains three other churches, eight convents, four nunneries, and an hospital; the university was founded in the year 1610, since which time two colleges have been endowed for public education; and a library was established in 1772. Besides the above mentioned churches, there are several others, as well as numerous chapels, all of which are tolerably well built. There is also a royal mint, several courts of justice, and state offices, necessary for the government of the viceroyalty.

The city is governed by six regidores and two alcaldes, with some subordinate officers; their jurisdiction extending over fifty-two villages in the neighbourhood, which are divided into seven districts. The inhabitants, amounting to 30,000,[226] are in general not very wealthy, and most of them are occupied in the internal trade of the country. They are represented as possessing agreeable manners, and much good sense, combined with a considerable degree of industry; the latter quality is manifested by the appearance of the plain surrounding the city, which they take so much pains with, as to cause it to produce two harvests in the year. The elevation of this plain renders the temperature of the air so equable, that the Bogotians enjoy a perpetual spring.

The viceroy of New Grenada has a palace in Bogota, which is also the seat of the archbishopric, founded by Pope Julius III. in 1554, and the court of the royal audience of Santa Fé. In the environs are some mines of gold, as well as of Peruvian emeralds; salt and coal are found also in considerable quantities, but the difficulty of carriage renders the latter very expensive.

The cataract of the Tequendama, by which the river Funza joins the Great Magdalena, is the most noted object in the surrounding country. The Funza or Bogota, after receiving the waters of the numerous small rivers which flow through the great plain, is about 140 feet in breadth, a short distance above the fall; approaching the crevice through which it dashes, its breadth is diminished to thirty-five, when, with accumulated force, it rushes down a perpendicular rock at two bounds, to the astonishing depth of 600 feet, into a dark, unfathomable gulf, out of which the river again issues under the name of Rio Meta, and continues its course, by an immense descent, till it joins the great river Magdalena.

In the fall of this river may be observed a strange variety of climate. The plain of Bogota is covered with crops of wheat, with oaks, elms, and other productions of a temperate region. At the foot of the fall are seen the palms of the[227] equinoctial low-lands. The face of the rock, which finishes and borders the vast plain of Bogota, near the cataract, is so steep, that it takes three hours to descend from the river Funza to the Rio Meta; and the basin or gulf cannot be approached very close, as the rapidity of the water, the deafening noise of the fall, and dense mass of vapour, render it impossible to get nearer the edges of the abyss than four or five hundred feet. The loneliness of the spot, the dreadful noise, and the beauty of the vegetation, render this situation one of the wildest and most picturesque scenes that are to be observed in the Andes.

When Quesada first arrived at Bogota, he discovered that the inhabitants, whom we have spoken of under the name of Muyscas, were rapidly approaching to civilization. The xaque or prince was absolute; his people carried him about in a sort of palanquin, attended by his guards and courtiers; whilst flowers were strewn along the ground over which he was to pass. They never approached him but with an averted countenance, as if they imagined that he was a divinity, in whose face they dared not look.

These people subsisted chiefly by agriculture, were clothed in cotton garments, and lived in regular society. Crimes were punished by judges appointed to watch over them, and they possessed, property independent of each other, on which taxes were levied for the support of the government. They had temples, altars, priests and sacrifices, but their religion, which consisted in the adoration of the sun, moon, Bochica, his descendants, and the evil deities, was intermixed with barbarous and bloody ceremonies; they resembled the Mexicans, with whom they had no connection, in a particular point of these immolations; the heart of the living victim was torn out, and supposed to be the most grateful offering to their gods.


One of their notions of the power of Bochica, and of the formation of the moon, is singular; and as it relates to the cataract of the Tequendama, we shall give it at length.

In remote times, when the sun alone gave the earth light, and the people of the plain of Bogota were savage barbarians, an old man, totally unlike the natives, suddenly appeared amongst them from the east, with a white beard and flowing garments.

This was Bochica. He instructed them in agriculture, &c., and with him came a woman, who, as well as himself, had three names, one of which was Chia; she was very beautiful, very malevolent, and overturned every thing Bochica attempted; by her magic she swelled the rivers and overflowed the plain, so that the people, with the exception of a few, who escaped to the mountains, perished in the waters. Bochica, exasperated at her conduct, drove Chia from the earth, and she became the moon. He then, by the mighty force of his arm, broke a passage through the rocks, and constituted the fall of the Tequendama, by which means the lake formed by Chia was drained; and the plain of Bogota rendered more fertile and beautiful than it had been before.

The appearance of the plain of Bogota at this moment justifies the tradition of its having been formerly a lake; low summits appear here and there like islets; and the whole plain is rendered marshy by the numerous streams which cross it in every direction.

In the kingdom of New Granada there are two mints, one in Popayan and the other in Santa Fé. The coinage of the capital is greater than that of Popayan; the total coined produce of the gold mines in 1801, was 455,000l.; whilst wrought gold and ingots were exported to the amount of 52,000l.; making the value of the gold found during that year 507,000l. This gold is not[229] found by digging, although many mines with auriferous veins exist, but by washing the alluvious grounds, and is chiefly collected by negroes.

The provinces governed by the viceroy of New Granada have been already enumerated. The most northerly of these are the three which are distinguished by the name of Tierra Firme, or Terra Firma, we shall therefore commence the provincial descriptions with them.



The northernmost of the provinces, which are governed by intendants, nominated by the viceroy of New Granada, under the general designation of Tierra Firme, is the province of Veragua, situated to the south of the kingdom of Guatimala, in North America. This, from its geographical situation, has been already described in the first part; it will therefore be unnecessary to repeat any observations on its history or statistics; our attention must consequently be turned to the province of Panama, on the south, or rather east of the Canatagua mountains.


Panama constitutes the second province of Tierra Firme, and is sometimes called Tierra Firme Proper. The most plausible conjecture which can be formed, as to the reason of its having received this name, is, that the original explorers, having an idea that a strait existed in this part of the world, by which a communication might be had from the Atlantic to the South Sea, were, after much research, disappointed in their expectations[230] and gave the country the name of Tierra Firme (analogous to continent.)

The province of Panama is bounded on the north by the Caribbean Sea, or Spanish Main; on the west, by the province of Veragua; east, by Darien; and on the south, by the Pacific Ocean.

Of the discoveries of this country, we have already spoken. Tello de Guzman, in 1513, is said to have given the country the name of Panama, from having observed the natives engaged in fishing; the word denoting a place abounding in fish.

Climate, &c.—The climate of Panama is hot, as may be well supposed, from its situation, the greatest heat being felt in the months of August, September, and October, when it is almost insupportable; the brisas, or trade winds, and the continual rains, ameliorate the excessive heats during the other months; but at the same time render the climate very unpleasant.

The soil of Panama is prolific, abundantly producing the tropical fruits and plants.

Great part of the country is still covered with thick forests, and the land between the two seas consists generally of abrupt and broken chains of mountains, one of which chains, the Sierra de Canatagua, on the borders of Panamo and Veragua, divides North from South America. On the tops of these craggy mountains, the land is sterile and uninhabited; the cities, settlements, plantations, and Indian villages, being mostly along the shores of the two oceans.

The trade of Panama consists in its relations with Veragua, and the ports of Peru and New Granada. From these it is supplied with cattle, maize, wheat and poultry; its exports are of no great importance or value. From Carthagena European goods are received, for which mahogany, cedar and other woods, with gums and balsams, are exchanged. The pearl fishery here is at present of little importance; it was anciently carried on[231] amongst the small islands in the bay of Panama, and was very lucrative; an endeavour has lately been made to re-establish it, but hitherto without any beneficial results.

Part of the European trade of the western shore of South America is carried on by way of Panama and Porto Bello; but since the galleons were disallowed, the trade of these two cities has been comparatively trifling.

The mines of Panama produce so little gold or silver, that they are supposed not to answer the expence of working.

The river Chagre is the principal stream in this province, and may be called the high road of Panama, being used as the means of communication between the eastern shore and the capital. It takes its rise in the mountains near Cruces, which place is about five leagues from Panama; the Chagre has a considerable descent, but is nevertheless navigable for boats up to Cruces; its velocity is about three miles an hour; therefore the ascent from the coast is rather fatiguing.

The breadth of this river is about a quarter of a mile at the mouth, and 150 feet at Cruces; it requires four or five days to ascend it when the waters are not very high. The distance from the estuary to Cruces, the last navigable point in a straight line, is not above 36 miles; but the river winding frequently increases this length. If the water passage is counted, the sinuosities make it 43 miles, reckoning from Fort St. Lorenzo, which defends the entrance. It is by means of this river that a communication between the two oceans has been argued to be possible; the ascent from Cruces where the river is first navigable, towards the summit of the mountains is rapid for a short space, after which there is a gentle descent the whole way to the South Sea.

In the river Chagre are seen numberless caymans or aligators; they are observed either in the[232] water or on the banks, but on account of the thorny shrubs and thick underwood, cannot be pursued on shore. On the borders of this stream, the luxuriancy of the soil is such, that the trees stand so thick, as to render it very difficult to penetrate the forests. The barks which navigate the stream are formed of those trees which grow nearest the water; some of which are so large, as to measure twelve feet in breadth. These forests are plentifully stocked with all sorts of wild animals peculiar to the torrid regions, among which, are innumerable tribes of monkeys. Many of these creatures are caught for food by the negroes and natives. To prepare this dish, the body is scalded in order to remove the hair; and after this operation has been performed, it has the exact appearance of a young dead child, and is so disgusting, that no one, excepting those pressed by hunger, could partake of the repast. It is not at all improbable, that many savage nations who have been accused of cannibalism, have been very unjustly charged with it; for according to Ulloa, the appearance of the monkey of Panama, when ready to be cooked, is precisely that of a human body.

The peacock, the turtle-dove, the heron, and various other sorts of beautiful birds, frequent the forests of the Chagre and of Panama, and the country is dreadfully infested with reptiles, insects, &c.

The province of Panama contains three cities, twelve villages, and numerous settlements of converted Indians. The capital is Panama, a city and sea-port, built near the bottom of a large bay of the Pacific which bears the same name. From this city, the isthmus of Darien has frequently taken its appellation; but at present is indifferently styled the isthmus of Panama, or of Darien. It stands in 9° 0ʹ 30ʺ north latitude, and 79° 19ʹ west longitude. Tello de Gusman gave the country its name from this spot. In 1518, Pedro Arias de[233] Avila, governor of Tierra Firme, settled a colony here, and in 1521, it was constituted a city by the Emperor Charles the Fifth. In 1670, it was sacked and burnt by Morgan, an English adventurer, who had already reduced Porto Bello and Maracaybo; he debarked at the mouth of the Chagre, reducing the fort there after an obstinate defence, and ascending the river, landed again at Cruces and marched to Panama, where after several skirmishes, he entered the city; the inhabitants flying to the woods. Soon after he left the place it was burnt down, but whether by accident or design is not known. The inhabitants resolved to rebuild the town at about a league and a half distance from where it first stood, and in a more convenient situation. It was then enclosed with a regular stone rampart; the houses were chiefly of wood with tiled roofs, having but one story, but of a very handsome appearance; and outside of the walls was a large suburb. In 1737, a fire commenced in a house where tar, naptha, and brandy, were stored; the devouring element was so rapid in its progress, that the city of Panama was entirely consumed in a very short time, with the exception of the suburb, which was saved, it being totally detached from the town. Panama was rebuilt shortly afterwards a second time, and the inhabitants having excellent quarries in the vicinity, erected their houses chiefly of stone; but it suffered again from fire in 1756, and in 1784 it was nearly destroyed by another dreadful conflagration.

The governor of Panama was formerly captain-general of Tierra Firme, and president of a court of royal audience, which has lately been removed to Santa Fé de Bogota. The city of Panama is the see of a bishop, who is subject to the control of the archbishop of Lima; but as he receives no tithes, is paid out of the royal coffers. A municipal council governs the district of the city; a treasury, custom-house, &c. are established there, and when[234] the galleons came from Lima, Panama, and Porto Bello, might be said to have been the Acapulco and Vera Cruz of South America.

The cathedral is a handsome edifice of stone, as are the churches, convents, monasteries, and an excellent hospital.

The streets are broad and paved, both in the city and its suburbs, but the houses of the suburbs are mostly of wood, intermixed with thatched huts. Such is the spirit of trade of this place, that every person is engaged in bartering. The people of Panama, have a disagreeable drawling method of speaking, and appear as if they were overcome by the great heat of the climate; they nevertheless are really healthy, and live in general to a good age.

One of the favourite articles of food among the lower classes, and much used with the higher, is an amphibious animal of the lizard tribe, called the guana, about three feet long, of a yellowish green colour, having a bright yellow belly, with strong claws on its toes, its back covered with thin scales, and a serrated ridge running along the superior surface of the body and tail. It lays from fifty to sixty eggs, as large as those of a pigeon, which are esteemed great delicacies; these eggs are attached to each other by a fine membrane, and form a string or chaplet. The flesh, when dressed, is as white as that of a chicken, and greatly resembles it in taste; it is served with lime-juice, cayenne-pepper, or other high sauces.

Panama is now only remarkable for its fine bay, which is studded with islands; and amongst these is formed the road where the ships from the southern ports anchor in safety, particularly before the islands of Perico, Naos, and Flamingos; the distance of this road is two and a-half, or three leagues from the town.

The tide rises and falls from thirteen to sixteen feet at Panama, whilst at Porto Bello, the[235] flux and reflux amounts to only as many inches. The Bay of Panama is famous for the pearl oyster, and the shoals near the islands del Rey, Tabago, and about forty others which form a small archipelago, formerly produced pearls as fine as could be procured in any part of the world. On these islands, huts were built for the divers, who were mostly negroes, and boats holding from eight to ten people, went out to the banks, which were not more than fifteen fathoms under water. The divers, provided with a rope tied to their bodies, and a small weight attached, plunged into the ocean; on arriving at the bottom, they seized a shell in the left hand, which they put under the arm, a second in the same hand, a third in the right, and sometimes one in the mouth; they then re-ascended to breathe and to put the fish in a bag.

In this practice, the unfortunate slaves were frequently destroyed by the sharks, mantas, &c. The manta is a large, flat fish of great size, which wraps its fins round the object it seizes, and presses it to death. The negroes usually carry a knife to defend themselves, but notwithstanding this protection, as well as that of their comrades in the boats, numbers were annually devoured by these horrid fish.

The Isla del Rey, was first discovered by Pizarro; it was for a long time inhabited during the fishery, but whether it is or not at present, is not known.

The next city of importance in this province is Porto Bello, or Puerto Bello, on the shores of the Caribbean sea, or Spanish main, in north latitude 10° 27ʹ, and west longitude 79° 26ʹ. The harbour of Porto Bello, as its name, (Fine Port,) indicates, is an excellent one, and was first discovered by Columbus, on the 2d of November 1502, who was so charmed with it, that he gave it the name it now bears.

The town of Porto Bello was founded by order of Philip II., who directed the settlers at Nombre[236] de Dios, or Bastimentos, to remove to this spot in 1584, on account of its admirable situation for the commerce of the country; it stands near the sea, on the side of a mountain which embraces the harbour.

The entrance of the harbour is defended by a castle, called Todo Hierro, or all Iron, on the north point, where the channel is about three-quarters of a mile broad. The south side is covered with dangerous shoals, so that vessels are obliged to keep near the castle; and opposite to the anchoring ground on the south side, is another fort, called Castillo de la Gloria, between which and the town, a point of land projects into the basin, on which formerly stood Fort St. Jerome. Opposite to the town on the north-west, is another small and perfectly secure bay, where vessels are careened.

The whole town and harbour being surrounded with high land, renders it a very safe place for shipping, particularly as this part of the Spanish main is subject to terrible storms. The mountains in the neighbourhood are of such an elevation, that one of them, called Monte Capiro, is constantly covered with thick dark clouds on its summit.

A small river which discharges itself into the harbour near the town, is salt to the distance of a quarter of a league from its estuary; this river is called the Cascajal.

The country in the neighbourhood of Porto Bello is very thinly inhabited; a few farms are found in the valleys, but the mountains are covered with thick and impenetrable forests, tenanted solely by wild animals.

The climate of this city is very unhealthy, as the heat is excessive, owing to the stagnation of the air by the wall of mountains enveloping the harbour. The humid exhalations from the forests cause frequent rains, which, though of short duration, pour down with astonishing violence. The nights are as suffocating as the days, accompanied[237] with torrents of rain, bursts of thunder, and flashes of lightning, which fill the mind of an European on his first arrival with dread and horror. The caverns in the adjacent rocks re-echo the percussions of the thunders, and add to the dreadful noise, which is accompanied by the howlings of animals, particularly the monkeys.

The natives, as well as the Europeans, are carried off in great numbers by the fevers generated by the unhealthiness of the air, and it is this which will ever prevent Porto Bello from becoming a large city; no one living here, but those engaged in government offices, or in trade.

It is supplied with provisions from Carthagena, and fish of every quality are caught in the bay. Its manufactures are unimportant; but there are some sugar-houses in the town, where an inconsiderable quantity of that article is made. The great luxury at Porto Bello consists in the numerous streams of fresh water which pour down from the hills into the town; they are said however to be unwholesome, and to produce dysentery, if too freely used. Little reservoirs are formed here and there, shaded by trees, and in these the inhabitants bathe themselves every day.

Jaguars, and other animals, are said to enter Porto Bello during the night, and to carry off any domestic animals they meet with. They are slain in the woods by the negroes and Indians, who hunt them for the sake of a trifling reward, which is paid on their destruction.

The sloth is an animal very common in the vicinity of this city. Its habits are well known. Serpents of every deadly nature are extremely numerous. Frogs and toads are seen in such numbers after the showers, that the natives say every drop of water is changed into one of those nauseous animals. The country about Porto Bello, resembles in this instance the British settlements in[238] some parts of North America, where toads and frogs cover the land after any humidity.

The city of Porto Bello is also called San Felipe de Puerto Bello; it consists of one principal street, extending along the shore, and crossed by several others up the side of the mountain. In it are two squares, two churches, two convents, a custom-house, and some other public buildings; at the east end of the town, in the quarter called Guinea, are the habitations of the free and enslaved negroes.

Formerly, when the galleons were permitted, this place had an annual fair, and was then excessively crowded with people. The houses at present are chiefly of wood with a few of stone, and the better sort do not amount to 150. This city is sixty miles north of Panama, and its climate is said to have been wonderfully improved by a cut which has been lately made through a neighbouring hill to admit a current of air. The governor, Don Vincente Emparan, has also levelled great part of the forests which formerly reached to the very gates of the town.

Sir Francis Drake took this place in 1596, and died in a subsequent voyage in its harbour.

When Porto Bello was taken and plundered by John Morgan, the town was ransomed for a large sum, which prevented his burning it.

In 1739, Admiral Vernon with six ships entered the harbour and made himself master of the place, after demolishing the forts. He afterwards bombarded Carthagena, and took Fort Chagre, near the mouth of the river of that name.

The population of Porto Bello is inconsiderable, being chiefly negroes and mulattoes, with about thirty white families, and the garrisons of the forts.

The third city of Panama is St. Jago de Nata de los Cavalleros, or Nata, so named from the Prince, or cacique, who reigned over this part of the province[239] when it was explored in 1515 by Alonzo Perez de la Rua.

It is situated near the extremity of the Canataguan chain, fifty miles south-west of Panama, in north latitude 8° 35ʹ, and west longitude 81° 6ʹ, in a bay on the borders of the Pacific, which extends to the island Iguenas; it was founded by Gaspar de Espinosa, but the Indians burnt and plundered it shortly after its first erection; he again rebuilt it with the title of city.

At present it is a large place, the houses of which are built of unburnt bricks and mud. The inhabitants are a mixture of Spaniards and Indians; near it is a town called Los Santos, which has been built by people from Nata, for the sake of the excellent soil in its vicinity, on which they have formed extensive plantations.

The population of this town is greater than that of the city of Nata, and also consist of Spaniards and Indians.

In the province of Panama, there are many villages, and farms, some of which are inhabited by the Europeans and their descendants, and others by the Indians who have been converted.


The third and last province of Tierra Firme is that of Darien, bounded on the north by the Spanish Main, or Caribbean Sea, on the east by Carthagena, west by Panama, and south by the Pacific Ocean, and the province of Choco.

Darien is one of the largest provinces of Terra Firma; it is about 200 miles long and 80 broad, but is very thinly inhabited, and that almost wholly by the native tribes. The unhealthiness of the climate and the impenetrable forests preventing the formation of European settlements.

The valleys in Darien are so marshy, from the overflowing of the numerous rivers that the savages[240] build their habitations in the branches of high trees. These rivers are in many parts very large, but most of them are not navigable, owing to the shoals, bars, and rapids in which they abound; most of them, however, roll down grains of gold.

A small fort which protects the gold mines of Cana is the principal station of the Spaniards on the frontiers of Choco; its garrison is sent from Panama every month. Santa Maria el Antigua del Darien was the first settlement of the Spaniards on the Atlantic coast, but as it did not flourish, it was soon abandoned.

The chief products of this province are cotton and tobacco; it may, however, be said to be now wholly in the power of the natives, who are scattered over the whole country, and amount to about 30,000 souls, with whom the Spaniards have been frequently at war, but have as yet gained no sensible advantages. In 1786, the viceroy of New Granada sent a formidable expedition against them, but the troops being unable to bear the inclemency of the climate, the army returned to Bogota without effecting any thing.

The gulf of Darien which is the mouth of the Rio Atrato, or rather a large arm of the sea, is the most important part of the northern coast, and contains several islands of considerable size. The river Atrato though very wide, has many shoals at its mouth, yet serves to export much of the internal produce of some of the settlements in the neighbouring provinces; its mouth is a noted smuggling station, where European goods are exchanged for the gold of Choco.

The capital is Santa Cruz de Cana, which we have mentioned; it was formerly a very considerable place, and there were nine other towns or missions, with several farms and hamlets, but most of these have been abandoned, owing to the ferocity of the Indians, and other causes. The Scotch[241] once endeavoured to form a permanent settlement in this country; a company was chartered at Edinburgh, called the Scots Darien Company in 1695. In 1698 they fitted out a small armament, in the vessels of which were embarked a numerous body of colonists, with a governor, &c. and arriving on the Isthmus, they formed a settlement in a fine port on the north-west shore, in north latitude 9° 30ʹ, west longitude 77° 36ʹ, to which they gave the name of New Caledonia. Here several families were settled, but the Spanish government being alarmed, the British court refusing to acknowledge this act, and the success of the adventurers becoming daily greater, a force was sent against them, by which means they were ejected from the country in the latter end of the year 1699, or beginning of 1700.


The next province of New Granada, in passing eastward from Tierra Firme, is Carthagena, so named from its capital: it is bounded on the north by the Spanish main, east by the great river Magdalena, south by the province of Antioquia, and west by the river and province of Darien. Its extent from east to west may be computed at fifty-three leagues, and from north to south at eighty-five.

This space is covered with mountains, savannahs and forests. The great plains or savannahs are those named Zinu, Zamba, Tolu, Mompox, Barancas, &c., all of which are highly fruitful valleys between the ridges of the hills. The settlements of the Europeans and natives are chiefly on the coast, or in these valleys; the hills and rivers are supposed to have formerly furnished much gold, with which a trade was carried on with the neighboring countries; and gold is said to have[242] been so plentiful, that the natives were always ornamented with trinkets composed of that metal.

The soil of this province is very luxuriant, especially near the capital where it produces every thing in the greatest plenty. The trees attain an immense bulk, and form by their shades, pleasing retreats from the scorching rays of the sun. The mahogany or acajou, of which the canoes of the natives are formed, the white and red cedar, the maria, the balsam tree which yields an oil, the celebrated balsam of Tolu (so called from a town where it is gathered), the tamarind, the medlar, the sapote, papayo or papaw, guayubo, cassia, palm, and mançanillo, are a few of the species whose wood, fruit or sap, are so precious. The mançanillo derives its name from the Spanish word mançan, an apple, the fruit resembling the European apple in shape, colour and taste, but is of a poisonous nature; the juice of this tree is so acrid, that it blisters the skin of those employed in felling it, and it is reckoned dangerous to remain under its shade after a shower, as the droppings of its leaves have the same caustic quality.

The palms are of many different species, and form, by their broad and spreading leaves, elevated on lofty trunks, the great beauty of the scenery; of these, the produce is chiefly cocoa-nuts, dates and palm wine. The sensitive plant grows to the height of a foot and a half in the woods of Carthagena.

In its vast forests numerous tribes of wild animals are found; of these the jaguar or tiger, and the American leopard are very destructive to the cattle and domestic animals; the former grows to an amazing size, and is extremely ferocious; wild boars, foxes, armadilloes, squirrels, deer, rabbits and monkeys are produced in great plenty, most of which are eaten by the Indians and negroes whenever they catch them. The cattle and swine of this province are very numerous; their flesh, when[243] salted, forms the principal article of commerce and of food.

Wild geese are caught in the lakes by means of an entertaining stratagem; in the places they frequent, the Indians put calabashes or gourds, which constantly floating on the surface of the water, cause no alarm to the geese, and when they are sufficiently accustomed to see them, the Indian gets into the water at a distance from the flock with a gourd over his head; he then advances amongst them, and draws them by the legs under the surface, until he has procured as many as he wants.

The birds of this province are both numerous and beautiful; amongst them the toucan with its large bill, the gallinazo vulture, which clears the country of all carcases or offensive matter, and the guacamayo or macaw, with its beautiful plumage and disagreeable voice, are the most singular.

Bats are so numerous in the city that they cover the streets in an evening in clouds, and there is not a house in which these nocturnal birds are not found. Of these the most formidable is the vampyre, which, according to the authority of Ulloa and other travellers, has been known to suck the blood of a sleeping person, at the same time fanning its victim with its broad wings.

The insects and reptiles peculiar to the climate are as numerous as the birds and beasts. Of these the centipede, the scorpion, the spider; and amongst the serpents, the rattle snake, the dart, and the dreadful corales, or coral snakes, are the most venomous, the bite of the latter being rarely cured. Whilst the feet of the pedestrian are insecure from the attacks of these dreadful creatures, his face is exposed to the venom of the mosquitoes, which attain a great size, and are exceeding troublesome.

The beds of the inhabitants of Carthagena are surrounded with gauze curtains to protect the sleeper from these insects, but this is unavailing; for another and almost imperceptible enemy creeps[244] in through the threads, and annoys any part of the body which may be exposed; these are called manta blancas, or white cloaks (by their forming a cloud in the air of that colour); they cause no other pain than an intolerable itching.

The pique is also another disagreeable insect of this country, which penetrates the skin of the feet or hands, and causes intolerable pain; this animal it well known in the West Indies under the name of jigger, or chigoe.

Goods which belong to the merchants of Carthagena are frequently destroyed in a short time by a sort of moth, which perforates, in a single night, through and through the finest bales of cloth, linen, silks or laces; the only way they have of preventing this is to place them on benches away from the walls, and to smear the feet or supports with naptha.

The country produces neither wheat nor barley, but maize and rice in great plenty. Of the maize they form a kind of bread called bollo, which is used by the natives and Europeans; the negroes make greater use of the cassava bread, made from roots; in fact it is their chief food; whilst the opulent families use the flour of European wheat, imported from Spain. Sugar-cane plantations are very common, and rum is distilled in small quantities. The cotton-tree is cultivated, and the cacao of Carthagena is said to excel that of the Caraccas, both in its size and goodness.

Besides melons, grapes, oranges, dates, and fruits of other climes; the pine-apple, the plantain, banana, papaws, yams, mameis, sapotes, &c., grow here in great luxuriance, and afford, during the whole year, a great part of the nourishment of the people. The banana is a fruit something resembling in shape and appearance a cucumber; they are roasted, sliced, and served with brandy and sugar. The papaws resemble a lemon with a green rind, very juicy, and of a gentle acid taste.[245] This fruit grows on a tree. The banana and plantain, like the pine-apple, are the produce of a shrub.

The guanabana resembles a melon in appearance and taste, but grows on a tree; the sapote is round, and about two inches in circumference, with a loose thin rind of a brown colour streaked with red; the inside of a bright red, and containing a little juice of a viscid nature; but as this fruit consists in its edible parts of many tough fibres, it is far from excellent. The mameis are of the same colour with the sapotes, only rather lighter; their rind adheres more firmly; they also contain a hard stone, and are in taste not unlike a plum.

The sutiles, or limes, are well known; their chief use is in cooking, the meat used by the settlers being always soaked in their juice, if intended to be roasted, or the juice is put into the water, if it is to be boiled; by which means the flesh is so softened, that it can be thoroughly done in an hour at farthest.

The country abounds in tamarinds, and produces all the other fruits common to the West Indies.

The want of oil is felt occasionally in Carthagena, as well as that of wine, when the supply from Spain does not arrive at the expected times. The inhabitants always make use of tallow-candles instead of lamps, and hogsʼ-lard for most of the things which oil and butter are required for. The tables of the higher classes are served with great splendour.

The inhabitants of this class usually make two meals a day, and a slight repast. Their breakfast generally consists of fried meats, pastry made of maize-flour, with chocolate. The dinner is of a more substantial nature, consisting of several meats, birds, &c., all of which they season highly with pimento; fruits and wines finish that meal, whilst at night, the regale consists only of sweetmeats and chocolate.


The Magdalena and the Cauca are the most important rivers in this province; but the great river Magdalena, dividing the province of Carthagena from that of Santa Marta, we shall have occasion to mention it more particularly in the description of the latter province. The Cauca flows partly through Carthagena, and joins the Magdalena below Mompox.

This country was first discovered by Rodrigo de Bastidas, who in 1502 visited the bay and coast, then called Caramari by the natives; in 1504, Juan de la Cosa, and Cristoval Guerra, began the war against the Indians, whose martial disposition afforded insurmountable obstacles to the conquest of the country; even the women fought against the invaders; their arms were poisoned arrows, so that the slightest wound proved fatal.

Alonzo de Ojeda, and Juan de la Cosa, again attacked these devoted people, but made no impression; they were followed by Gregorio Hernandez de Oviedo, who met with the same fortune; Don Pedro de Heredia, at last undertook the conquest of this country, and after meeting with some reverses, finally subdued the Indians in the year 1533, when he established the city of Carthagena.

The small ridge of the Andes which divides the bed of the Magdalena from the river of Darien, or Atrato, loses itself in this province; it is no-where of any great elevation.

The capital of the province is Carthagena, situated on a small peninsula, or sandy island, joined to some others and the continent by two artificial necks of land, the broadest of which is about seventy yards wide. This city stands in north latitude 10° 26ʹ 35ʺ, and in west longitude 75° 26ʹ 45ʺ.

The suburb, which is almost as large as the city itself, is placed on an island near the town, and has communication with it by means of a bridge. This suburb is called Xexemani, and is surrounded as well as the city with strong fortifications of[247] freestone, built in the modern manner: at a small distance from the town on the main land, on a hill which commands both the fortifications, is a strong fort called St. Lorzaro; this hill is near 150 feet in height, and communicates with several others towards the east, which are still more elevated; they terminate in a mountain 552 feet above the sea, on the summit of which is the convent of the Augustins called Nuestra Senora de la Popa. From this place there is a most delightful prospect over an immense tract of country.

The bay of Carthagena is one of the largest, as well as one of the best on the whole coast; it extends two leagues and a-half from north to south, has capital anchorage, and being completely landlocked, is so smooth, that vessels ride as if they were on a river; the only fault of this bay, but which constitutes its chief defence, are numerous shoals near its entrance; these render it necessary to secure a good pilot in coming in. The entrance to it was formerly a considerable distance to the south of the city, through the strait of Bocca Chica, (or narrow mouth,) but since the attempt of Admiral Vernon on this port, the pass has been filled up, and a more commodious one, which formerly existed, has again been opened close to the place, and strongly fortified. Carthagena Bay abounds with fish and excellent turtles; and sharks are so numerous, as to render bathing highly dangerous.

The climate of the city and its environs is exceeding hot during the whole year; the season called winter, lasts from May to November, during which time there is a continued succession of storms, thunder, lightning and rain, which falls in such torrents, that the streets look like rivers; there is, however, an advantage attending this dreadful season, for as there is no good fresh water in the vicinity, the cisterns and tanks are then filled for the supply of the remaining months; from December[248] to April, the weather is fine, and there are no rains, the heat is also somewhat abated by the north-east winds, which blow during those months.

This heat is so great during the rains, that the people have a livid wan complexion, and appear sluggish and worn-out on the least exertion. This is, however, only in appearance, for they enjoy in general, good health, and live to an advanced age, when not cut off by the disorders incident to the climate, some of which generally attack the Europeans on their first landing, and others are peculiar to the natives; the vomito prieto, or black vomit, is sometimes as fatal in its progress as it is at Vera Cruz, carrying off whole families.

The inhabitants of Carthagena are also very subject to the leprosy; to prevent the spreading of which, they have an hospital, in which persons suffering under that disorder are confined for life, with every accommodation that can be afforded them.

The city and suburbs are well laid out, the streets being straight, broad and well paved; the houses are chiefly of stone, and of one story above the ground-floor, with balconies in front; instead of windows they have lattices after the Spanish fashion. There is a handsome cathedral and several churches, convents and monasteries. The population is estimated at 25,000; of these, the descendants from the Indian tribes who occupy the suburbs, form by far the greater portion; the rest are Chapetones, or Europeans, who seldom remain here, if they acquire a fortune sufficient to enable them to return to Spain; they are the most opulent persons in the city.

White Creoles, or descendants of Spaniards born in the country, possess all the landed property, and have large estates in the province; the mulattoes, and descendants from negroes, Indians and whites, form the labouring classes.


Negroes are the slaves, but some of them from the law established in their favour, are from time to time enfranchised; they wear no other dress than a cotton covering about the waist. The dress of the whites is similar to that worn in Spain, only of lighter materials; whilst the other classes affect the same style of clothing. The opulent females pass their days swinging in cotton hammocks, and the women of all the castes are noted for their charity to suffering strangers, and are of a mild amiable disposition. The men are celebrated for their acuteness, and the early maturity of their faculties; and their facility in acquiring the mechanical arts is very great. Drinking brandy and chocolate, smoking cigars, and eating sweetmeats, are the prevalent luxuries, intermixed with a great fondness for dancing.

The governor, and the bishop of Carthegena reside in this city, and there is a court of inquisition which has cognisance of all religious matters in the provinces north of Quito. Besides these, there are various public offices for the receipt of customs, &c. The city enjoys a great trade with the interior, and by means of its port, with Spain, the West Indies, and other parts of the world.

The goods of Santa Fé de Bogota, Popayan, and Quito, are mostly transmitted to it; and Carthagena, from its advantageous situation, will most probably be a city of the first importance in Spanish America.

It has suffered since the year 1544, when it first became a place of note, from the attacks of European powers. It was then invaded by some French adventurers in 1585, and was pillaged and almost destroyed by Sir Francis Drake; but was rescued from the flames by a ransom paid by the neighbouring colonies. The French again pillaged it in 1597 under M. de Pointis and the Buccaneers. In 1741, Admiral Vernon and General Wentworth[250] attacked Fort Bocca Chica, which was taken after eleven days siege, when they sailed up the bay, after removing all the obstructions in the channel with considerable difficulty; they destroyed several of the forts, and the enterprize was abandoned. It has lately been the scene of some actions between the insurgents and royalists.

The exports of this city, including that of the neighbouring ports of Santa Marta, Rio Hacha, and Porto Bello, which have all the most intimate connection with each other, without including the gold and silver, reaches annually to the value of 260,000l. in cotton, sugar, indigo, brazil-wood, cinchona of New Granada, balm of Tolu, and ipecacuanha; whilst the imports amount, in European goods, to the value of 866,000l. The towns of Carthagena are generally small; those of most note are,—

Mompox, in 9° 19ʹ north latitude, 74° 11ʹ west longitude, which is the most important town of Carthagena, next to its capital, and is situated on the Magdalena, 110 miles south-south-east of Carthagena, with a custom-house and fine quay built very high, on account of the periodical rises of the river in December, the floods then extending twelve or thirteen feet higher than its usual level. Mompox is about seven leagues above the confluence of the rivers Magdalena and Cauca.

Tolu, a small sea-port town, having a convenient harbour on the Spanish main, or gulf of Uraba, in 9° 32ʹ north latitude, 75° 30ʹ west longitude. In the environs of this town are found the trees which produce the balsam of Tolu, so excellent in pectoral complaints. Tolu is fifty miles south of Carthagena.

St. Sebastian de Buenavista, was formerly a town of much importance, but now decayed; it is situated 140 miles south-south-west of Carthagena, at the entrance of the Gulf of Darien.

Barancas, or Baranca del Malambo, a small sea-port[251] near the estuary of the great river Magdalena, with a good harbour. This place has some commerce with the neighbouring ports, being a sort of magazine for the goods coming down the river from the interior; a branch of the river leading to Santa Marta, by which merchandize is transported thither. The principal article of its export consists in salt, plenty of which is procured close to the town. Barancas is twenty-five miles from Carthagena, in 11° 40ʹ north latitude, and 74° 30ʹ west longitude.

Santa Maria, thirty-two miles west of Carthagena.

Puebla de Samba or Zamba, and Zinu are sea-ports in the great gulf of Darien, noted for the fertility of the country which surrounds them.

Guamoco, on the southern boundaries of the province, thirty-five miles north of Santa Fé de Antioquia; and—

The village of Turbaco, which is known from the circumstances of its being the resort of Europeans, who, arriving at Carthagena, find the summer heats too oppressive. This village, which is small, is situated a short distance inland from the capital, on the summit of a mountain nearly 980 feet above the level of the sea, at the entrance of a majestic forest of immense extent. The houses are built of bamboos, covered with palm leaves, and are plentifully supplied with water from numerous springs. The gardens are ornamented with beautiful trees and plants, and the whole place is so delightfully situated, and the air in general so cool, that it may be termed the paradise of Carthagena. It is also renowned for a singular marsh in its neighbourhood, which is embosomed amid a forest of palms, tolu trees, &c., having some little conical mounts rising twenty or thirty feet higher than the level of the swamp. They are eighteen or twenty in number, each one is formed of blackish clay, and has a small crater filled with water at its apex.


On approaching this pool a hollow moaning sound is heard at intervals, followed in fifteen or eighteen seconds, by an explosion of gas. Five of these detonations happen in about two minutes, frequently accompanied with an ejection of muddy water. These cones are called Los Volcanitos de Turbaco, and are situated about three miles and a half east of the village, at the elevation of more than 160 feet above it. The people say that the plain formerly sent forth flames, but that a priest of great sanctity, succeeded by frequently casting holy water towards it, in extinguishing the fire, after which it became a water volcano.


The province of Santa Marta is divided from that of Carthagena by the great river Magdalena; it is bounded on the north by the Spanish Main, or Caribbean sea; on the east by Maracaybo, and the Rio de la Hacha, on the south by Santa Fé, and west by Carthagena; its extent is about 300 miles, whilst its breadth is only 200.

The discovery of this country dates from the third voyage of Columbus in 1497, when he explored the coast of the Spanish Main to Cape Vela.

This province was included in the grant made to Alonzo de Ojeda, his patent giving him authority over all the country situated between the Gulf of Darien, and Cape de la Vela, consequently including Darien, Carthagena, Santa Marta, and Maracaybo; these were then designated under the general name of New Andalusia.

His predecessor, Rodrigo de Bastidas, was as unfortunate as himself, for in 1524 he was murdered in his bed, by Pedro de Villaforte, one of his companions, because he would not allow his soldiers to plunder a certain Indian town. Pedro de Lugo, and his son Don Alfonso, succeeded Bastidas, but[253] committed such crimes, that their authority soon ended.

The first regular system of government on this coast, was that of Pedro Arias de Avila, in 1514, but as no colonies were planted by him in Santa Marta, we must pass to that of Villaforte, which we have just mentioned; and as he proved unsuccessful, to that of Don Ximenes de Quesada, the conqueror of New Granada, who made this province the rallying place of his troops.

The climate is not so unhealthy or hot as that of Carthagena; the heat being moderated by the winds, which blow over the cold mountains of the Sierra de Abibe, and the Nevada of Santa Marta, whose summits reach far beyond the lower term of perpetual congelation.

The whole country of Santa Marta is full of lofty and impracticable mountains, which form part of the branch of the Caraccas; it produces some cotton, tobacco, palm wine, cacao, Brazil-wood, sugar, vanilla and maize, and a peculiar tree, whose unctuous leaves afford a substance used by the natives, as soap.

The mines are of very little importance; some gold is found in the river Ariguana, ninety miles from the capital; and at the village of Ocana copper ores are dug up.

The pearl fishery was formerly carried on at Carrizal, about forty miles east of the chief city, and was very productive. It is still followed on different parts of the coast, and yields some excellent pearls; but the undertaking appears to be badly conducted.

The valleys feed immense quantities of cattle, which are killed and salted for exportation; some mules are also reared.

The great features of the province of Santa Marta are the enormous height of its mountains, the most elevated of which is 16,000 feet above the level of the Caribbean sea, from which it is visible,[254] and it is said to discharge streams of boiling sulphureous water from the crevices in its sides.

Long and very narrow vales, covered with thick forests, are formed by the Cordillera of Santa Marta; these vales usually run from north to south; at Cape Vela the mountains divide into two parallel ridges, forming three other valleys, ranging from east to west, and appearing to have been the beds of ancient lakes. The northern of these two ridges is the continuation of the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta; and the southern that of the snowy summits of the province of Merida; they are again united by two arms, which prevented to all appearance, the issue of the waters in their vicinity. These three valleys extend to an immense distance, and are remarked for rising like steps one above the other, and for their elevation above the sea; that of Caraccas, the most easterly is the highest, being 2660 feet; the next, or basin of Aragua, is 1530; and the third, the reedy plain of Monai, or the Llanos, is only 5 or 600 feet above the level of the sea. The water of the lake of the plain of Caraccas has been drained through a cleft or crevice, called the Quebrada of Tipe; and the lake of Aragua appears to have gradually evaporated, leaving only ponds charged with muriate of lime, and small insulated masses of land.

The Rio Grande de la Magdalena, is a majestic navigable river, but of which there is at present very little known; for although M. Bouguer, the celebrated mathematician, travelled along the greater part of its banks, he has left a very imperfect memorial on the subject: it is said to rise about thirty miles east of Popayan, near the sources of the Cauca, in 8 degrees south latitude; and after a northerly course of immense length, receives the latter river, with which it has flowed in nearly a parallel line on the opposite side of the same chain of mountains. The river Funza or Bogota, after quitting the fall of the Tequendama, rushes with[255] impetuosity through a long course into the bosom of this fine river, which also receives many others, and united with the Cauca, near Mompox, pours the confluent waters into the Caribbean sea by several branches, the great or main channel being in 11° north latitude, and 74° 40ʹ west longitude.

The Magdalena is subject to overflow in the month of December, at which time it rises thirteen or fourteen feet above the usual level at its mouth, and inundates and fertilizes the adjacent lands; thus the country near the ocean is a succession of extensive marshes, famous for the fine cacao produced in them.

The mountains bordering this river near Honda, are remarkable for the horizontal situations of their strata, which are clearly seen, on account of the faces of the rocks being so perpendicular as to resemble walls; when any of these hills are insulated, they form such a regular cone, and the strata are so uniformly and cylindrically disposed, that they seem rather the work of art than of nature. One of these exists about a league from Honda, on the road to Mariquita, and is of such an extraordinary shape, and so symmetrical, that M. Bouguer forbears describing it minutely, for fear of being thought to take the usual liberty imputed to travellers. Other mountains in the vicinity of this river assume the shapes of ancient and sumptuous edifices; of chapels, domes, castles and fortifications, consisting of long curtains surmounted with parapets. From the circumstance of the strata of all these corresponding in a singular manner, the celebrated savan, above mentioned, supposes that the valley must have been sunk by some sudden convulsion of nature, leaving the sides of those hills uncovered whose bases were of more solid materials than itself. The same thing is observable on the banks of the Orinoco, though nothing of the kind is to be seen in Peru, where nature is so infinitely varied in her Alpine scenery.


Most of the rivers which fall into the Magdalena are rapid, on account of the vicinity of the Cordilleras on each side. It may be easily imagined such streams cannot be crossed with stone bridges, in consequence of the immense pressure of the water, and because of the volumes of rock and earth which they roll from the interior. Bridges of most singular construction are therefore adopted, to facilitate the land journey from Santa Marta or Carthagena; roots of plants, twisted together into the form of cables, as thick as a manʼs thigh, are placed across the torrent; two of these are laid parallel to each other, at about four or five feet distance, and stretched on each side over a trestle of wood, having a windlass at one end to tighten them; over these cables are placed fascines, or branches of trees, and a little higher than the two bottom ropes, are fixed two slighter ones, in order to serve as balustrades. When a large river is crossed in this manner, the weight of the cables causes the bridge to form a considerable curve or concavity, and the traveller arriving in the centre, experiences a very unpleasant, and sometimes dangerous oscillation.

In other places, three or four thongs of leather are plied into a rope, which being made fast on the most elevated bank of the torrent, is carried over, and secured on the lower shore, so as to form an angle of fifteen or sixteen degrees; the passenger is suspended on the higher side to a sort of pulley formed by the bifurcation of two branches of a tree; the cord of leather is then tightened, and the traveller descends with such rapidity that sparks of fire are emitted from the pulley in consequence of the friction, and he is obliged to keep his head averted to prevent these sparks from falling in his eyes; a man is however placed on the upper bank, holding a long cord, which is attached to the body of the passenger, to check the too great rapidity of the descent.


Numbers of these flying machines, which are called tarabitas, are established on all the rivers connected with the Magdalena; and for the convenience of travellers, going and coming, they are placed alternately, as close to each other as the higher and lower shores of the streams afford proper opportunities.

The river Magdalena is infested with alligators, from eighteen to twenty feet in length, but they are said generally to fly from man, and only to attack him if they have by accident fed on human flesh.

In Santa Marta, and Carthagena, the banks of this river, which has been styled the Danube of New Granada, are famed for the excellent cacao they produce. The cacao, or chocolate-tree, is a native of Spanish America, about the size of a middling apple-tree, seldom exceeding the diameter of seven inches, and is extremely beautiful, when laden with its fruit, which are dispersed on short stalks over the stem and round the great branches, resembling citrons, from their yellow colour, and warty appearance. The leaves are alternate, stalked, drooping, about a foot long, and three inches broad, elliptic-oblong, pointed, slightly wavy, entire, and very smooth on both sides; with one mid-rib, and many transverse ones, connected by innumerable veins. The petals of the flower are yellow, the calyx of a light rose-colour, and the flowers themselves are small and placed on tufts on the sides of the branches, with single foot-stalks about an inch long.

Its fruit is red, or a mixture of red and yellow, and about three inches in diameter, with a fleshy rind half an inch thick; the pulp is whitish, and of the consistence of butter, containing the seed of which chocolate is made; these seeds are generally twenty-five in number in each fruit, and when fresh gathered, are of a flesh-colour, and form a nice preserve, if taken just before they ripen. Each tree yields about two or three pounds of fruit[258] annually, and comes to maturity the third year after planting from the seed; it also bears leaves, flowers, or fruit, all the year round, the usual seasons for gathering being June and December.

In making chocolate, the seeds or kernels are first roasted, and then pulverised by mills or pounders; after which the fine powder is wrought into a paste with milk, orange-water, vanilla, spices, sugar, &c., and formed into cakes for sale.

So great is the demand for the chocolate of the Magdalena, that enough cannot be raised in the provinces above-mentioned, to supply the market, and they are obliged to import the cacao of the Caraccas and Guiana, in order to mix them with it. The excellence of the Magdalena chocolate, may be attributed to the marshy nature of the soil, as the plant never thrives where the ground is hard and dry, and they require to be shaded by other trees from the sun; and their branches, which commence from the ground, must never be allowed to exceed four or five, otherwise the fruit would not have sufficient nourishment. Weeds and shrubs must also be cleared away carefully from its roots, in order that it may derive as much humidity from the soil as possible. The other productions of this province are similar to those of Carthagena.

The government of Santa Marta contains from 250 to 300,000 souls.

Capital.—The chief city of this province is Santa Marta, 100 miles north-east of Carthagena, in 11° 19ʹ 2ʺ north latitude, 74° 4ʹ 30ʺ west longitude, with a very large and convenient harbour, which is protected by lofty ridges, and has in front a round hill defending it on the side of the snowy mountains. This city, founded in 1554, was made the magazine of Ximenes de Quesada, from whence he explored and conquered New Granada. Sir Francis Drake reduced the place to ashes in 1596. The harbour has two forts for its defence, but the town has considerably declined of late years, having[259] only a trifling trade with Carthagena, and the other Spanish ports. The climate, though exceedingly hot, is not so unhealthy as that of Carthagena; and the town is supplied with excellent water by the river Guayra, which passes close to it; the banks of this stream are adorned with beautiful trees, and are very fertile. Santa Marta is a bishopʼs see. The other towns of most note are—

Puebla Cordova, a small town on the coast, 20 miles south of Santa Marta.

Puebla Nueva, also a small town, 62 miles south of the capital.

Teneriffe, in 10° 2ʹ north latitude, 74° 30ʹ west longitude, 80 miles south-south-west of the capital.

Ocana, or Santa Anna, is a little town, near which copper is found, and situated on the Rio de Oro, 220 miles south of Santa Marta, in 7° 50ʹ north latitude, 73° 26ʹ west longitude.

Puebla de los Reyes, and Tamalameque, are two other small towns of the province, which also includes a district named Rio de la Hacha, of which the chief town is Hacha. This district bounds the province of Maracaybo in Caraccas on the west. The town of Hacha is situated in 11° 28ʹ north latitude, 72° 46ʹ west longitude, 210 miles east-north-east of Carthagena, on a river of the same name, and close to its junction with the Caribbean sea; this river is navigable for light vessels, but the harbour is exposed to the north winds. Gold and precious stones are occasionally discovered in the district which bears the same name, the interior of which is covered with forests, and infested with jaguars and other wild beasts. The trade of this port, as well as that of Santa Marta, has been mentioned in treating of the commerce of Carthagena.

The neighbourhood of Rio de la Hacha is inhabited by a tribe of warlike and unsubdued Indians, called the Goahiros; their territory extending from the river La Hacha, to the province[260] of Maracaybo along the coast for more than ninety miles, and equally far into the interior of the country.

The Spaniards have found it impracticable to reduce this nation, but missionaries have endeavoured to convert them without much effect. They are supposed to be the most ferocious race of the South American aborigines; and to amount, on a moderate computation, to 30,000 souls, being governed by a cacique, who lives in a fortified town on the summit of a small hill, called the Pap, or La Teta, some miles from the sea. The number of wild horses in this country is so great, that all their warriors are mounted, and armed with carabines and bows. They have been supplied with fire-arms by the contraband traders from Jamaica, with whom they carry on a very great traffic, particularly in time of war. Their principal aggressions are made on the Maracaybo side, so that the settlers in that province are obliged to be constantly on their guard.

When they are inclined to barter with the Spaniards, they carry their goods to Rio de la Hacha, for which place they set out in bands accompanied by their women and children, who are the bearers of the merchandise, which is chiefly exchanged for spirituous liquors, as they are so fond of these, that when they commit hostilities upon the settlers, the usual present to appease them consists of brandy.

Very few Spaniards dare to traverse this country, although the Goahiros frequent many of the Spanish towns. The English from the West India islands are the people they most respect, and with whom their chief connections are formed; they are supplied by them with arms, ammunition and clothing, for which they return pearls, dye-woods, horses, oxen and mules.

Feathers, and shining metals form the chief ornaments of the dress of these people, who are[261] also very fond of displaying golden-nose-rings, ear-rings, and bracelets.

It is said that the Goahiros are so exceedingly savage, that even the English will not venture much on shore, but carry on their traffic on board their vessels, and depart the moment it is concluded. Ships which have the misfortune to be cast away on their coast, immediately become the prey of these Indians, who massacre the crews, and feed on their flesh.

The Cocinas are another small nation, on the eastern part of the territory of the Goahiros, but are so pusillanimous, or probably so very inferior in strength, that the latter govern them with absolute power, and use them for slaves.

Besides these tribes, there are many others, who inhabit the province of Santa Marta and those adjoining, but little is known of their numbers, manners, customs, or even in some instances of their names.


Merida is bounded on the north by Maracaybo; east by Venezuela; west by Santa Marta; and south by Santa Fé and Juan de los Llanos.

Its great feature consists in the amazing elevation of a branch from the chain of the Andes, which entirely pervades this province on its western side, rising beyond the lower period of perpetual snow, and to the height of 15,000 feet above the level of the sea. The direction, &c. of this branch has been described in the general form of the Andes.

The climate of this province is very variable, on account of the vicinity of the snowy mountains and the unequal heights of the land; and when the westerly winds prevail, febrile diseases are common.

The rainy season lasts from March to November, during which time tide water descends in torrents;[262] and rains are also frequent, but not so heavy in the other months.

Very little is ascertained concerning the interior of this country, but it produces maize, beans, peas, potatoes, cassada, wheat of the finest quality, barley, rye, &c. as well as the Tropical and European fruits in great plenty; also containing several plantations of sugar, cacao, and coffee; and the cattle are in such numbers, that meat is purchased at a very moderate price.

The Rio Apure, and some other rivers of considerable size, either rise or receive their tributary streams from the mountains of Merida, watering in their courses immense tracts of level and fertile land, which also extend from these mountains to the vicinity of the Orinoco.

Capital.—The chief city of the province is Merida, from which the whole district has taken its name; this city is situated in 8° 10ʹ north latitude, and 73° 45ʹ west longitude, twenty-five leagues south-east of Varinas, 80 leagues south of Maracaybo, and 140 leagues south-east of Leon de Caraccas. It is the see of a bishop, and the residence of the governor, and is seated in a valley, three leagues long, and three quarters of a league in breadth, surrounded by lofty mountains. This vale is peculiarly productive in the necessaries and luxuries of life; and contains three rivers, the Mucujun, Albaregas, and Chama, which encompass the city, but are none of them navigable.

The chief plantations of the province are at a short distance from the capital, where a college and seminary for the priests is established, in which the inhabitants are educated; besides these buildings, are a handsome cathedral and three convents, with several chapels.

The population of Merida amounts to upwards of 11,000, composed of Spaniards, mestizoes, mulattoes, &c. The whites are chiefly employed in agricultural pursuits, and the people of colour in[263] the manufacture of articles of cotton, and woollens.

This city was founded under the name of Santiago de los Caballeros, in 1558, by Juan Rodrigo Suarez; and at the period when the late dreadful earthquake overwhelmed the city of Caraccas, it shared the same fate, and was nearly destroyed, but has since been rebuilt, and become more populous than before.

Pampeluna, or Pamplona, is another town of the province of Merida towards its southern boundaries, in 6° 30ʹ north latitude, and 71° 36ʹ west longitude. In its neighbourhood some gold is occasionally found. This place is 170 miles north-north-east of Santa Fé de Bogota.

St. Christoval is also another town, situated between the two latter, and

La Grita is fifty miles south-south-west of Merida, where there is a chain of mountains called by the same name.


This province which is the most easterly one of the kingdom of New Granada, is bounded on the north by Varinas and Merida; on the east by Varinas; on the west by Santa Fé and Popayan, and south by the government of Quixos. Its limits are not accurately defined, the name signifying the Province of the Plains, which extend their dreary surfaces to an immense length in these regions; some of those on which numerous herds of cattle are fed being more than 2 or 300 leagues in length.

The capital of this province is the town of San Juan de los Llanos, at the distance of fifty miles east-south-east of Santa Fé de Bogota, in 3° north latitude, 73° 26ʹ west longitude. It was formerly celebrated for the gold found in its neighbourhood. This town was founded in 1555, and contains very few inhabitants.


In this province are several missions, established by the monks of Santa Fé de Bogota and the Jesuits; but very little is known concerning them, being chiefly establishments for the conversion of the different scattered tribes which roam over the country intercepted between the Andes and the Orinoco.

The Rio Meta, the Vichada, the Casanare, and several other fine streams flow through these plains, many of them taking their rise in the main chain of the Andes, and others in the branch called the Cordillera of the cataracts of the Orinoco.

The northern portion of the Llanos is sometimes styled the province of Casanare, of which Pore is the chief town, situated in a hot climate and unhealthy situation; but its territory produces cacao, maize, yuccas, plantains, &c., and it has some trade in dressed leather, manufactured by the inhabitants from the skins of the numerous herds of cattle which feed in the plains, and from those of the venados or deer, with which the province abounds. The rivers and lakes furnish abundance of fish, and are the means of transporting the goods of New Granada to Caraccas and Guiana.

The city of Pore or San Josef de Pore, is 133 miles north-east of Santa Fé de Bogota; 82 south of Pamplona, and in 5° 40ʹ north latitude, 72° 13ʹ west longitude; containing about 500 inhabitants.

The other places in the province or district of Casanare are chiefly missionary, and other villages, along the banks of the rivers which flow from the Andes of New Granada to the Orinoco.


Santa Fé, or Santa de Bogota, is bounded on the north by Santa Marta and Merida; on the east by the lofty summits of the eastern part of the Cordillera of the Andes, and the province of San[265] Juan de los Llanos; south by Popayan; and west by Santa Fé de Antioquia.

This province, which is exceedingly mountainous, is situated in the very centre of the viceroyalty of New Granada, on the west of the eastern branch or parallel of the main chain of the Andes, and on both sides of the great river Magdalena, which pervades the whole province from south to north. The highest summits of this eastern branch are the Paramo de la Summa Paz, and that of Chingasa: it divides the valley of the river Magdalena from the plains washed by the Meta and the Casanare. None of the summits of the chain of Santa Fé de Bogota, attain the regions of eternal snows, although they approach very near to it. The western slope of this chain is broken into numberless elevated plains and peaks, intersected with crevices of the most tremendous appearance.

The city of Santa Fé, which being the capital of the kingdom, has been already described, is situated to the west of the Paramo of Chingasa, at a great elevation; on the western declivity of which is the celebrated fall of the Tequendama. The outlets from Popayan or Quito to Santa Fé, are by means of roads traversing an assemblage of broken ground; and the pass of the Paramo de Guanacas, which lies across the Cordillera of Antioquia, is the most frequented, from which the traveler crosses the Magdalena, and arrives at the metropolis by Tocayma and Meza, or the natural bridges of Icononzo. These bridges are however not much frequented excepting by the Indians and travellers whose curiosity inspires them to venture in such desolate regions; they are the formation of Natureʼs ever varying hand, and are situated west of the Summa Paz, in the direction of a small river which rises in the mountain of that name. This torrent rolls through a deep and narrow valley, which would have been inaccessible, but for the arches thrown across it in so wonderful a manner.


The little village of Pandi is the nearest inhabited place to this pass, being a quarter of a league distant, and the whole road from the capital is one of the most difficult in the Andes.

The crevice of Icononzo is in the centre of the valley of Pandi, and appears to have been formed by some convulsion of nature, which has rent asunder the mountain; at the height of near 300 feet above the torrent (which forms beautiful cascades, on entering and quitting the crevice) are seated these extraordinary bridges, one under the other, the breadth of the upper one being about forty feet, and its length upwards of fifty, composed of solid rock in the form of an arch, seven or eight feet thick at its centre. Below this and rather advanced on one side of it, at the depth of sixty feet, is another bridge formed still more singularly, for as the mountain appears to have been rent away or drawn from the upper, the inferior one seems to have fallen from the mountain, and three enormous masses of rock have descended from the opposite sides of the chasm in such a manner that the upper mass forms the key of the other two. This lower bridge cannot be visited without much risk, as a narrow path alone leads to it along the brink of the precipice. In the centre is a hole, through which the abyss below can be seen, and numberless flights of nocturnal birds are observed hovering over the water, which flows through so dark a cavern that the sides cannot be distinguished.

The rivers of Santa Fé are very numerous, but most of them are innavigable on account of the great declivity of the land towards the Magdalena.

The Suarez, the Galinazo or Sogamozo, the Rio Negro, and the Bogota, or Funza, are the chief streams, which, rising in the eastern Cordillera, descend into, and swell the Magdalena.

Lake Guatavita may be considered as one of the curiosities of this province, it is situated on the ridge of the Zipaquira mountains, north of the[267] capital, in a wild and solitary spot, at the height of more than 8700 feet above the sea. It is a small oval piece of water, in a deep hollow of the same form, round which are cut ranges of steps, reaching to the brink of the lake, having served, most probably for some religious ceremonies in use among the ancient possessors of this country.

As it was supposed that a great quantity of treasure had been thrown into this lake, when Quesada conquered the kingdom of Cundinamarca, the Spaniards attempted to cut a canal through the mountain of which its banks are composed, in order to drain off the waters, but their design does not appear to have succeeded, for after considerable excavations, it has been left off at little more than half the requisite depth.

This province was conquered, as has been already mentioned, by Gonzalo Ximenes de Quesada, who was sent in 1536, by Fernando de Lugo, Admiral of the Canaries, from Santa Marta, to discover the countries along the banks of the great river Magdalena. Ximenes travelled along the left bank of this river, meeting with great difficulties on account of the thickness of the forests, and the number of torrents and rivers he had to cross, which were frequently bordered with marshes and swamps nearly impassable.

He was also constantly attacked by the numerous tribes of Indians, who wandered about these deserts; but overcame all these difficulties by perseverance and ardour, and by shewing a good example of personal fortitude, and disregard of danger to his followers. He at last came to a place called Tora, which he immediately called Puebla de los Brazos, on account of four rivers meeting there. At this place he raised huts, and passed the winter with his men, having travelled by his own computation 150 leagues from the sea coast.

In the spring, Quesada pursued his march, when the floods had abated by going up the banks of[268] another river, until he arrived at the foot of the lofty mountains of Opon, which were fifty leagues in breadth, steep and desert; passing these heights, they arrived in a plain country, well cultivated, and where they procured a great deal of salt from some springs. From these springs, they advanced into the province or kingdom of a powerful chief, named Bogota, whom they defeated after some actions. The towns and villages belonging to this chief contained many articles of value, among which, gold and emeralds were procured in abundance; and after plundering these people, the troops of Quesada marched into the country of the Panchos, separated from Bogota by little hills, and entering a deep vale, fifteen leagues distant from a very high mountain, which was destitute of vegetation, and, on which they were informed the natives found their emeralds. Here Quesada procured an immense booty of gold and precious stones. In three days subsequent marching, they overthrew two other chiefs; and returning through Panchos to Bogota, forced the natives to submit, and to make overtures for peace. The conqueror imagining that the adjacent country was sufficiently subdued, commenced the foundation of a city, which he named Santa Fé, (the present capital,) and because he was a native of the kingdom of Granada in Old Spain, he gave the name of New Kingdom of Granada to the districts which he had passed through. This title was, however, restricted for a long time to the country immediately in the neighbourhood of the capital, and New Granada embraced little more than the present province of Santa Fé.

The state of the natives at the period of their subjugation, their civil and religious government, &c., has been already treated of; the province is noted at present for the production of a small quantity of gold, silver, gems, salt and coal, and for the fertility of the plain near the capital. The[269] woods abound with game, wild beasts and birds; the rivers with fish and alligators, and the plains breed numbers of horses and mules, which are exported to Peru.

The towns of most note after the capital are, Honda, San Gil, Socorro, Velez, Muzo, Leiva, Tuna, Mariquita, and Villa de la Purificacion; which all lie in the different jurisdictions into which the province is divided.

Honda is the first port on the upper part of the great river; it is represented by M. Bouguer as a pleasant little town, “une petite ville tres riante,” lying in north latitude 5° 16ʹ, and 72° 36ʹ 15ʺ west longitude. The river is navigable for barks a great distance from Honda towards its sources, so that this town is the mart of the commerce between the northern and southern provinces of New Granada.

Mariquita is situated four leagues west-south-west of Honda, on the little river Guali, which passes through the latter place into the Magdalena. This town was formerly much celebrated for its gold mines, and its district contains at present, on the west, those of Bocaneme and San Juan de Cordova, with the mines of Hervi, Malpasso, Guarino, and Puano; and on the east are the silver mines of Sta. Anna, Lojas, and Frias, the silver in these being mingled with the purest gold which is extremely difficult to separate from it. The town was formerly exceedingly rich and populous, but owing to the want of exertion in the working of the mines, is now reduced to 300 inhabitants, and to comparative insignificance. It is eighty miles south from Santa Fé, in 5° 16ʹ north latitude, and 74° 6ʹ west longitude.

Mariquita is remarkable for having been the place where Ximenes de Quesada, the conqueror of New Granada, died in the year 1597. His body was removed to the cathedral of the capital, where it is enclosed in a monument.


San Gil is a small town on the northern frontier near the junction of the rivers Sogamozo and Suarez, as is Socorro, which lies a short distance south of San Gil, near the banks of the Suarez, and is 123 miles north-north-east of Santa Fé; the inhabitants amounting to more than 3500.

Velez is 100 miles north of Santa Fé, in 5° 50ʹ north latitude and 73° 16ʹ west longitude, on the river Suarez.

Muzo is a small town near the banks of the Magdalena, and on those of the river Negro, which flows into the former. The Muzos or Musos, were, and still are, a race of Indians, who were noted for being at continual war with the Muyscas or Bogotians. Their country was extremely rich in emeralds, and is mountainous, hot and moist. They had a singular tradition, that there was in ancient times on the other side of the Magdalena, the shadow of a man called Ari, which amused itself with making wooden faces of men and women, casting them into the stream, from whence they issued in the form of human beings, and he taught them to cultivate the earth; they then dispersed, and from this stock came the Indians who inhabit the surrounding regions.

The Muzos had no gods, nor did they worship the sun and moon, as the Bogotians did; as they said these bodies were created after the wooden faces, in order to give them light when they became living beings.

Their marriage ceremonies were singular, the wife beating her husband during the honey-moon. Their dead were dried before a slow fire, and not buried till a year had passed after their demise; and the widow was obliged to cultivate the ground for her support until the interment, when her relations took her home.

Leiva is a small town situate at the foot of the Paramo de Guacheneque, north of the capital.


Villa de la Purificacion is on the southern bounds of this province, on the west bank of the Magdalena.

Tocaima is fifty-six miles west of the capital, at a little distance from the river Pati or Bogota, in 4° 16ʹ north latitude, 74° 59ʹ west longitude, and near the confluence of the Pati with the Magdalena. It was founded in 1544 in a bad situation, destitute of springs, exposed to violent heats, and infested with venomous creatures. It has however fertile plantations of cacao, tobacco, sugar, maize, yuccas, plantains and potatoes, and there are abundance of fish in the rivers Pati and Fusagasuga, which are however infested with alligators. The inhabitants are poor, and amount only to about 700. In its vicinity are some mines of copper, but these are at present unworked.

Tunja or Tunia in 5° 5ʹ north latitude, 72° 56ʹ west longitude, sixty miles north-east of Santa Fé, is famous for the tradition concerning the disappearance of Bochica; it was enlarged into a town by the Spaniards in 1539, and was formerly a very opulent place. The great church is so spacious that it might pass for a cathedral, and there are three convents of considerable dimensions remaining, but the present population of Tunja does not exceed 400 souls; though it is the chief place of one of the districts, into which the province of Santa Fé is divided.


This province, also called Antioquia, is bounded on the north by Carthagena and Darien, east by Choco; west by Santa Fé; and south by Popayan; of which it is a district or government.

It is famous for its mines of gold, &c., and consists almost entirely of mountainous land, having part of the central ridge of the Andes, which divides the valley of the Magdalena from that of the Cauca, within its limits.


Quicksilver, that precious article, in a mining country, is occasionally discovered in Antioquia, as sulfuretted mercury is found in the valley de Santa Rosa on the east of the Rio Cauca.

Gold is found in veins in micaceous slate at Buritoca, San Pedro, and Arenas, but is not worked on account of the difficulty in procuring labourers, as the province is only accessible on foot; gold is also collected in grains in great abundance on the alluvial grounds of the valley of Santa Rosa, the valley de la Trinadad, and the valley de los Onos. It is chiefly found by negro slaves, employed for that purpose, and sent to Mompox, which is the great mart where the gold found in this province is disposed of; the gold of Antioquia is only of nineteen or twenty carats fineness, and it has been computed that 3400 marcs of this precious metal are annually exported.

The silver of New Granada is chiefly produced in this province at Vega de Supia, a mine which has been lately discovered twenty leagues from Carthago.

The mountains of this country attain the greatest elevation of any of the three parallel chains in this part of the Andes. They reach the period of perpetual congelation, and in some of their summits greatly exceed it; indeed the whole country is so thickly surrounded with these mountains, that those who are not strong enough to travel on foot, or dislike being carried on the backs of men, must pass their whole lives within its bounds.

The capital of this province is Santa Fé de Antioquia, in 6° 48ʹ north latitude, and 74° 36ʹ west longitude; but from the situation of the country, so little is known of it, that it is impossible to give any correct description. It was founded by Sebastian de Benalcazar, in 1541, after he had conquered the country which was then inhabited by cannibals.


The number of negroes who inhabit the gold district of the valley of Cauca, is said to be 8000, who are dispersed in small villages near the mining stations.


This province, of which as little is known of its interior as of that of Antioquia, is bounded on the north by Darien and Carthagena; west by the Pacific, or district of Biriquete; east by Antioquia, and south by Popayan.

It is separated from the valley of the Cauca by the western chain of the Andes, which attains in this district the inferior altitude of about 5000 feet, and gradually diminishes in height towards the isthmus of Darien.

In the interior of Choco, the ravine of the Raspadura unites the sources of the river Noanama (or San Juan) with the river Quito, which forms, with the Andegada and the Zitara, the considerable river Atrato. The river San Juan flows into the South Sea, and a monk of the village of Zitara, caused his flock to dig a small canal in the ravine above mentioned, by which, when the rains are abundant and the rivers overflow, canoes loaded with cacao, pass from the Atlantic to the Pacific ocean. This communication has existed since 1788, unknown to even the Spaniards themselves; the distance of the mouths of the Atrato in the bay of Panama, to the estuary, of the river San Juan being seventy-five leagues.

The province of Choco is still a wide continuous forest, without trace of cultivation, road or pasture; it is inhabited chiefly by negroes and persons connected with the mines, and the price of commodities is so great, that a barrel of flour from North America, sells at from 10l. to 15l.; the maintenance of a muleteer, is from five to seven shillings a day, and iron is so dear, even in peace,[274] owing to the great difficulty of carriage, that it is almost impossible to procure it.

The villages inhabited by the negroes are Novita, Zitara, and Taddo; the first settlers came to it in 1539, and it contains about 5000 persons at present. The gold washings of most consequence are Novita, Zitara, and the river Andegada; all the ground between this river, the river San Juan, the river Tamana, and the river San Augustin, is auriferous.

The largest piece of gold ever found in Choco weighed twenty-five pounds; but the negro who discovered it, did not even obtain his liberty. His master presented it to the Kingʼs cabinet, in hopes of obtaining a title, but it was with much difficulty that he even got the value of its weight, a just punishment for not emancipating his slave.

Ten thousand eight hundred marks of gold are the utmost annual produce of the washings of Choco, and the metal is generally about twenty-one carats fine.

Platina is chiefly found in this and the neighbouring province of Antioquia. It is in Choco and Barbacoas, that this valuable metal is only discovered in grains, in the alluvious grounds between the second and sixth degrees of north latitude.

In Choco, the ravine of Oro, between the villages of Novita and Taddo, yields the greatest quantity; the price on the spot being about thirty-three shillings the pound.

The district of Biriquite, which is attached to Choco, lies along the coast of the Pacific; in it is the village of Noanamas, inhabited chiefly by Indians, and situated on a river of the same name, 170 miles north-west of Popayan. This country was discovered by Pizarro, who called the natives Pueblo Quemado (the burnt people). It is thinly inhabited by some Indian tribes, who, as is the[275] case with their neighbours in Darien, are perfectly independent.


This country, which is subordinate to the presidency of Quito, contains several districts, Cali, Quatro Ciudades, Timana, Guadalajara de Buga, St. Sebastian de la Plata, Almaguer, Caloto, San Juan de Pasto, El Raposo and Barbacoas.

Of these the four northern ones are attached to the audience of Santa Fé de Bogota, and the others to Quito. Popayan is bounded on the north by the Llanos de Neiva, on the west by Choco and the Pacific, on the east by the government of Quixos, and on the south by that of Atacames.

The country of Popayan possesses from the extent of its surface, a very unequal climate; the district of Barbacoas being on the sea shore, is extremely hot, whilst in the interior, on the mountains, the cold is excessive; but Popayan, the capital, enjoys a temperate climate, and an eternal spring.

Tempests and earthquakes are more frequent in this government than in Quito itself, though they occur often in the latter place; and the district of Caloto is the one most subject to storms, thunder and lightning.

The soil of Popayan varies according to the situations of the districts; it produces grains and fruits in great abundance; and numbers of horned cattle, horses and sheep, are reared by the farmers.

Among the singular plants of this country is the coca or betel, which is chewed by the natives in the same manner, and for the same purposes that it is in the East Indies. And one of the gum-trees of Popayan yields a resin so remarkably tenacious, that when used to varnish ornamental[276] work, it resists the application of boiling water, or even acids; for which reason, tables, cabinets, &c., made by the Indians, and lacquered with it, are highly valued at Quito.

The central branch of the three parallel chains of the Andes runs through the northern part of Popayan, in which they all commence; this branch is, however, as before stated, the highest of the three, and its summits are above the lower limits of congelation; of these, Barangan, Quindiu, and Guanacas are the most lofty. In order to go from Popayan to Santa Fé, the central Cordillera must be crossed; the most frequented pass being that of Guanacas, in 2° 34ʹ north latitude, between Popayan and the small town of La Plata, presenting every where to the view, summits clothed in eternal snows.

It is impossible to traverse this road without trembling, and care must be taken to encamp at night as near the top of the mountain as possible, or to stop at the village of Guanacas, which is on the eastern side, it being absolutely necessary to stop there, if the blackness of the clouds indicates that contrary weather appears to be at hand.

The mules which convey passengers over this mountain pass, and which are made use of in preference to horses, for the secureness of their footsteps, not only partake the dangers, but run much greater risks than the traveller, as they have equally with their riders to resist the effects of the extreme cold, and also to undergo the greater part of the fatigues. The whole road, for the space of two leagues, is so covered with the carcasses and bones of those animals, which have sunk under their exertions, that it is impossible to avoid treading over them. This pass has on the south, at the distance of five or six leagues, the snowy mountain of Coconoco, an ancient volcano which is not at present in activity, and on the north another summit, called Houila, also covered with perpetual snows.


At the top of the gorge, is a small lake or pond, of which the water never freezes; and at less than 700 feet distant from this on each side, are the sources of the Cauca and the Magdalena. Goods are often left in this place, because the muleteers will not run the risk of quitting it between suns, and therefore return to take them up the next morning. The distance from Popayan to La Plata (the town on the Magdalena, where the journey terminates) is about nineteen or twenty leagues, which generally occupies twenty or twenty-two days to travel; but the time taken to pass the actual ridge is about a day, and there are habitations, at intervals on each side; not so the other road, which leads from Popayan, by the mountains of Quindiu, between the cities, or rather towns of Ibague and Carthago, in 4° 36ʹ north latitude; and is the most difficult to scale, when taken in the sense of a road, of any in the whole Cordillera, crossing a thick untenanted forest, which, in the most favourable weather, is not passable under ten or twelve days. No hut is to be seen, or any means of subsistence procured, and the venturous traveler must take with him at least a monthʼs provisions; as the sudden thaws and swellings of rivers render it frequently impracticable to go forward or return. The highest point of this pass is 11,499 feet above the level of the sea; and is styled Garito de Paramo.

The path is not more than a foot and a half broad, and has, in several points, the appearance of a gallery, whose surface has been taken off, and the whole is bottomed with muddy clay; the torrents which rush down the rocks, forming every here and there narrow beds, from twenty to twenty-five feet in depth, along which the passenger must work his way in the mud, encompassed by a wall of rocks, covered with vegetation of luxuriant growth, which renders these places nearly dark. Along these galleries, many of which[278] are a mile and a half in length, the oxen employed to carry baggage, and whose feet are better adapted than those of mules, for struggling through the tough and deep clay, can hardly force their way. The meeting with other travellers, in such a situation, is highly troublesome, as there is the greatest difficulty to pass. The roots of the bamboos, studded with strong prickles, projecting from the sides of the mountains, are among the other inconveniences, combined with the necessity of crossing the icy waters of the torrents, and of being deluged with the incessant rains which prevail here.

The colonists, whose affairs oblige them to go by this route, are carried in chairs on menʼs backs, by a set of people who are bred to this business; and who are generally either creoles or mulattoes.

The common price of carriage, from Ibague to Carthago, which occupies fifteen or twenty days, and even more, is from fifty to sixty shillings; a very inadequate sum for the labour they undergo, and which frequently renders their backs perfectly raw. Besides the chair and rider, they carry a roll of leaves of the vijao, a species of banana-tree, which they gather near Ibague, in order to form the huts that it is necessary to construct at night, or, if overtaken by heavy rains; each of these leaves is twenty inches long and fourteen broad; their lower surface is white, and covered with a sort of powder, which enables them to throw off the water. A few branches lopped from the forest, and set up on a dry spot, are speedily covered with these leaves, forming a cool and comfortable retreat for the wearied people.

The departments of Popayan, mentioned above, of most consequence, are Pasto, which is large and fertile; Cali and Buga, lying between Popayan and Choco, thrive on account of the trade they mutually carry on, and Caloto, which is fertile and rich, though the most subject to[279] earthquakes; none of these however deserve the names of provinces.

Popayan carries on as much, if not more trade than any other part of the audience of Quito, as all the European goods from Carthagena are consigned to it, and sent to Quito; and it exports cattle and mules there, receiving cloths, &c., in return. Its active commerce also consists in dried beef, salted pork, tobacco, lard, rum, cotton, &c., which are sent to Choco and other places, in barter for the precious metals; sugar and snuff, are imported from Santa Fé. The exchange of silver for gold is also a great branch of traffic; for as gold abounds and silver is scarce, the latter is much sought for.

The city of Popayan contains, amongst its inhabitants, many very wealthy persons, who have accumulated their fortunes by trade.

The capital of this government is Popayan, in the beautiful valley of the Cauca river, in 2° 28ʹ 38ʺ north latitude, and 76° 31ʹ 30ʺ west longitude, 195 miles S.S.W. of Santa Fé, is the most ancient city erected by Europeans in this part of America, having been founded by Benalcazar, in 1537, after he had completed the conquest of the government we have described. It received its present name in July 1538, and is seated on a large plain, 5905 feet above the level of the sea, having an uninterrupted prospect to the north, and a mountain named M from its resemblance to that letter, on the east. The west side of this plain is moderately elevated, and is covered, as well as the mountain, with trees. On the summit of M is a convent, near which issues a river, that runs rapidly through the city, and serves to cleanse it of filth. This river has two bridges, one of stone and the other of wood, erected over it, and is called Molina.

The Cauca flows about a league from Popayan with a broad and quick current, subject to dreadful[280] inundations, in June, July and August, when the torrents descend from Guanacas, and the neighbouring mountains; and in the immediate vicinity of this city are the great volcanoes of Puracé and Sotara.

The streets of Popayan are broad, straight and level, the town being built in a rectangular shape; the houses have mostly only one story, or a ground-floor; and though made of unburnt brick, are very handsome.

The number of Indians is not considerable, most of the people being of the mulatto cast, owing to the great number of negroes who have always been employed here and in the neighbouring mines; the inhabitants have been computed at above 25,000.

The governor of the intendancy resides in this town as does the bishop of Popayan, who is suffragan of the archbishop of Bogota. The cathedral was endowed in 1547, and there are several convents and churches, with two nunneries. It is also the seat of the royal mint, the annual coinage of which is estimated at a million of dollars.

A tribunal of finance is also erected in this city, to receive the capitation tax on the Indians, the kingʼs fifth on metals, the duties on goods, and other branches of the royal revenue.

The remaining towns of note, are

Carthago, in the northern part, which is a small place on the road to

Ibague, also a place of little note, except for being the beginning of the passage of Quindiu, and is eighteen leagues south of Honda, and five or six leagues west of the Magdalena.

Cali, in 3° 15ʹ north latitude, 73° 16ʹ west longitude, the chief place of the district of the same name, was originally founded by Benalcazar, but afterwards removed, on account of the unhealthiness of its climate, to a short distance from its former site.


Timana, the chief town of that district, eighty miles east of Popayan, in 2° 12ʹ north latitude, 74° 46ʹ west longitude.

Neyva or Neyba, in 3° 10ʹ north latitude, 74° 16ʹ west longitude, 120 miles N. E. of Popayan.

La Plata, or Sebastian del Oro, in 2° 50ʹ north latitude, 75° west longitude, 60 miles E. of Popayan.

Mercaderes, in 1° 45ʹ north latitude, three leagues north of the Rio Mayo, and on the confines of the bishoprics of Quito and Popayan, celebrated as having been the place where Huana Capac carried his conquests towards the north.

St. Juan de Pasto, chief town of the district of the same name, in which are the sources of the Caqueta, falsely supposed to be those of the Rio Negro or Orinoco; this town is eighty miles S.S.W. of Popayan, in 1° 15ʹ north latitude, 76° 46ʹ west longitude, and contains 7000 inhabitants.

The Indian village of Puracé, near the capital, is celebrated as being situated on a plain above the city of Popayan, called the Llano del Corazon, 8694 feet above the level of the sea, on the side of the volcano of Puracé; this plain is carefully cultivated by the Indians, and is bounded by two deep ravines, on the brink of whose precipitous sides they have built their houses; the appearance of this village is therefore highly picturesque, and the gardens are surrounded with hedges of euphorbiums, contrasting their elegant verdure with the black and disrupted mountains which surround the volcano.

A small river, called Pusambio, forms, near this place, three considerable cataracts, one of the falls being more than 390 feet, and joins the Cauca in the valleys below. To add to the singularity of this fall, the water is warm towards the source, and so very acid, that it obtains the appellation of the Vinegar River; the acidity destroying the fish in the Cauca, for more than four leagues after it joins that river.



Tacames, or Atacames, is a newly formed government, north of the presidency of Quito, and included in the jurisdiction of its audience. It is bounded on the north by the government of Popayan, whose district of Barbacoas is its frontier; westward, by the Pacific or South Sea; southward, by the district of Guayaquil; and east, by the western Cordillera of the Andes. It reaches along the coast of the southern ocean, from the island of Tumaco, in 1° 30ʹ north latitude, to the bay of Caracas, in 0° 34ʹ south latitude. This country lay neglected for a length of time after the conquest of Quito, and the Indians of the district are yet in a state of nature, coming only from their woods to sell fruits and drugs, at the metropolis of Southern Granada. It was conquered by Sebastian de Benalcazar, but its importance remained unknown till 1621, when Delgadillo was appointed governor of the province of Tacames and Rio de Esmaraldas, in order to open a communication by land on the coasts, but failing in so doing, he was superseded, and Menacho was appointed in his place in 1626, with no better success. He was succeeded by two others, who were also unable to clear a communication between Quito and Terra Firma. In 1735, Maldonado effected a part of this object, by opening a road between the capital and the river Esmaraldas, for which service he was rewarded by the king; as in 1747 this country was formally declared a government, and Maldonado was named the intendant.

This intendancy contains twenty towns, which are small and poor, five being on the sea coast, and the others in the interior; the coast towns are inhabited by Spaniards, creoles and negroes; the inland places by Indians, a very few Spaniards, mulattoes, and negroes; and eleven priests, govern[283] the spiritual affairs of the whole, visiting the inland towns by turns.

The climate of Atacames is hot, and resembles that of Guayaquil, producing the same fruits, vegetables and grains.

Vanilla, achiotte, indigo and sarsaparilla, are cultivated, or found in great abundance; and the forests which cover the greater part of the country are famed for the noble and lofty trees they are composed of, which appear fit for all architectural purposes.

Great quantities of wax are made and exported, and the cacao of Tacames is not inferior to that of Guayaquil, yielding more profit, as from the higher situation of the sloping land it grows on, it receives all the necessary moisture, without being subject to be drowned.

The capital of this government is Tacames, in the bay of Atacames on the Pacific Ocean, 110 miles north-west of Quito, in 0° 52ʹ north latitude, 62 degrees west longitude, having about twenty miles south of it, the famous mine of emeralds, which has been long supposed to have been lost.

The other towns, which are of little importance, are, on the coast, Tumaco, Tola, San Mateo de Esmaraldas, and La Canea. In the interior, Lachas, Cayapas, Inta, Gualxa, Nanegal, Tambillo, Niguas, Cachillacta, Mindo, Yambe, Cocaniguas, Cansa Coto, Santo Domingo, San Miguel and Nono.


Quito was originally an independent country, which remained distinct from all the neighbouring states, until a very short time previous to the conquest of Peru by Francisco Pizarro; but its limits were not the same as they are at present, nor is it of any importance to trace their ancient extent. It is now bounded by Santa Fé on the north, and has within its audience some districts of Popayan,[284] which also forms a part of its northern frontier. On the east its jurisdiction extends over the governments of Maynas, Macas, and Quixos, which reach to the Portuguese frontiers. On the west the Great Pacific washes it from the gulf of Puna to the government of Atacames, and on the south the kingdom of Peru concludes its boundaries. Its length from north to south is about 600 miles, whilst its breadth exceeds 1800.

In this immense extent the population is chiefly confined to the valley, which is formed on the very ridge of the main chain of the Andes, by the parallel summits making a prolonged series of small narrow plains extending from St. Miguel de Ibarra to Loja, and to the country between those and Popayan, and from the western slope of the Cordillera to the ocean. The eastern governments, which will be hereafter mentioned, being chiefly immense tracts, thinly scattered with missionary villages.

Quito Proper is subdivided from north to south into nine districts, viz., San Miguel de Ibarra, Otabalo, Quito, Latacunga, Riobamba, Chimbo, Guayaquil, Cuença, and Loxa or Loja.

History, &c.—This country had remained independent, till a very short time previous to the Spaniards appearing on the western shores of the Southern Pacific. The empire of Peru at that period, had fallen to Huana Capac, (the young rich man,) who being of a very warlike disposition extended his conquests to all the countries bordering on his kingdom, but had particularly directed his operations against the state of Quito, which his predecessor Tupac Yupanqui had already overrun. Quito was inhabited at that period by powerful tribes, who resembled the Peruvians in their manners and customs; the most noted of these people were the Puruays, who were governed by a king under the title of conchocando, and by tributary chiefs called guastays, and whose country was known by the name of Lican.


Huana Capac departing with an immense army from Cuzco, marched five hundred leagues towards the capital of this country, encountering at every step the greatest difficulties from bad roads, ravines, precipices, marshes and rapid rivers. These difficulties were apparently insurmountable, but nothing could damp the ardour of the Inca and his Peruvians, and they reached the metropolis of their enemies, subduing both the kingdom and its adjacent provinces.

His subjects fancying they could not offer him a more acceptable return for the benefits he had showered upon them, by removing all dread of the future incursions of their warlike neighbours, prepared a magnificent causeway from Quito to Cuzco, in order that the monarch might travel back to his capital with the greatest facility and ease. This road was carried with indefatigable labour over mountains and through swamps. Valleys were filled up, and rocks excavated to an immense extent, and so smooth and level was its surface, that a coach might have been driven along it with the greatest safety. It has since suffered considerable dilapidations from the wars between the Spaniards and Peruvians, but enough is still left to show the magnificence of the undertaking.

After returning to Cuzco, the Inca projected another road by the low lands to Quito; in order that he might go by one and return by the other in his visits to the conquered province; high mounds of earth were laid across all the small valleys formed by the torrents from the mountains, in order to make the road level; and it was forty feet in width, which was marked where it crossed any wide plains, by stakes on each side, to prevent the travellers from losing their way. This second causeway was five hundred leagues in length, as was that of the mountains, and many of the mounds over the valleys yet exist, attesting to the most ignorant spectator, the astonishing perseverance and labour of these singular people. When[286] the Inca traveled on these roads, his subjects strewed the way with branches of trees and flowers of the most exquisite perfume; and on the mountain road were erected at a dayʼs journey from each other, large palaces or buildings, with convenient apartments for the monarch and his suite. On the road of the plains these erections were also continued, but at greater intervals, and always on the sides of rivers. They were called tambos, and the inhabitants of the neighbouring districts were bound to supply them with provisions, clothing and arms. Over the rivers were built bridges of wood, but if the stream proved too rapid for these frail constructions, cables of the fibres of the maguey or aloe were stretched across and interwoven with a close netting covered with branches: some of these were ninety feet broad and four hundred long, and made of cables as thick as a manʼs body.

Huana Capac continued to reside for a long while at Quito, where he married the daughter of the king he had deposed, by whom he had a son, Atabalipa or Atahualpa; to this son the Inca was exceedingly attached, and left him at Quito to be educated, when he found it necessary to return to the capital, where he remained no longer than was necessary to settle some affairs of state; and becoming daily more fond of Quito, he finally settled there for the remainder of his life, on his death bed appointing Atahualpa to wield the sceptre of his ancestors, independent of his eldest son, whom he desired should govern the kingdom of Peru alone. This event happened about the year 1529.

Atahualpa finding that this decision of his father was likely to be contested by the other children, distributed large presents to the army from the treasures of Quito, and sent ambassadors to Huascar the monarch of Peru, his elder brother, informing him of their fatherʼs demise, and requesting that his decision might be adhered to, and that if allowed to assume the reins of government[287] in Quito, he should still remain a tributary of the Peruvian Inca.

Huascar refused to listen to these overtures, desiring Atabalipa to give up the command of the army in Quito, under pain of being considered as an enemy to the state if he refused. The monarch of Quito consulted Quizquiz and Cilicuchima, two of his bravest warriors on this occasion, who advised him to take up arms, assert his right, and march against the Inca, assuring him, that the army was so devoted to him, that he would not only gain the kingdom of Quito, but the whole empire of Peru.

Atahualpa followed this advice, and marched into the Incaʼs territories, who immediately collected a strong army at Tumbibamba on the Peruvian frontier, which place became the scene of a sanguinary battle that lasted three days, when Atahualpa was taken prisoner, as he was attempting to escape over a bridge. He was immediately confined in one of the tambos, whence he contrived to escape by boring through a wall with a bar of copper which was given to him for that purpose by a woman. Returning to Quito, he told a miraculous story of his escape, which he asserted had been performed through the assistance of the spirit of his father; this so encouraged his people, that they again collected, and attacked the Incaʼs array, defeating it with prodigious slaughter.

Marching further into Peru, they destroyed the cities, and wasted the provinces with fire and sword, and arrived at Caxamarca, where they waited for a second army which Huascar had collected; Atabalipa having posted ambushes in every quarter, one of his generals contrived to take the Emperor prisoner by surprise; but being attacked on their way back to their own camp, they would have been cut to pieces, had they not terrified the Inca by threatening him with instant death if he did not order his people to retire.[288] This he consented to, and he was carried as a captive to Atahualpa at Caxamarca.

It was at this period, that the Spaniards arrived in Peru; and Huascar imagining that if he could persuade them to join him, the terror of their arms, would once more restore him to the regal fillet; he accordingly dispatched ambassadors to Pizarro, to implore his assistance. What that warrior afterwards performed, will be shown in the history of Peru, but the unfortunate Huascar suffered for the confidence he had thus reposed in the Spaniards, as he was put to death by the orders of Atahualpa, for having entered into alliance with the common enemy.

It will be needless to detail the further operations of Atahualpa, now become the sole emperor of Peru, as his subsequent history is so intimately connected with that of the Spanish conquests, that it must be reserved for the history of those memorable occurrences.

Atahualpa, being slain by the orders of Pizarro, the kingdom of Quito was forcibly taken possession of by Ruminagui, one of the chiefs who had served under the unfortunate prince in his expeditions against Huascar; he put to death all the surviving children and relatives of the Inca, and caused his brother to be flayed alive.

The remains of Atahualpa were, however, respected by this assassin, as they were interred with much pomp in his native city of Quito.

On the departure of Pizarro in his various expeditions from Cuzco, he left Sebastian de Benalcazar to defend the town he had founded near the Peruvian frontiers; the Indians of the neighbouring districts complained to this officer, that Ruminagui, and his troops from Quito, were constantly harassing them. Benalcazar thinking this a favourable opportunity for subjugating the country, marched to Quito with 200 soldiers, eighty of which were cavalry. Ruminagui advanced to[289] meet him with more than 12,000 men, but afraid to face the Spaniards in the open field, contented himself with taking advantage of all the difficult passes, in which he displayed much judgment, but was always driven backward by the superior tactics of Benalcazar. In this skirmishing method, the usurperʼs troops were gradually forced to retire upon the city, which having, a large plain in its vicinity, afforded an excellent place to show the Peruvians the superiority of the Spanish cavalry; and Benalcazar accordingly endeavoured to bring him to action there, but the usurper, instead of offering battle, contented himself with digging pits in his front, in which he placed sharp stakes, and constructed pit-falls covered with grass, upheld by slight twigs, in hopes that he might destroy the horses. The Spanish captain was aware of these, and as nothing could put him off his guard, he at last drove the Peruvians into the city itself. Finding that he could not defend himself in this position, Ruminagui set fire to the most valuable moveables of the late Inca, slew his wives, to prevent their falling into the enemyʼs power, and after an ineffectual sally, retreated to the interior.

At this juncture, Don Pedro de Alvarado, governor of Guatimala, arrived with a strong reinforcement to Benalcazar at Quito; and assuming the command, took several important places; but not finding the treasure he expected, he went to Cuzco, leaving Pizarroʼs captain with the army. Alvarado had been sent to this country by the Emperor Charles, who granted him a commission as governor of certain territories not included in Pizarroʼs patent. Previous to his leaving the army for Cuzco, he was attacked by Almagro, who imagined that he was infringing on the territories of himself and Pizarro; but a convention took place between them, and they afterwards were concerned in several battles against the Peruvians. Quizquiz, the Peruvian general, attacked Benalcazar after[290] Alvarado had left him, but was defeated with great loss, and was slain by one of his officers in a council, when he had proposed to retreat to the mountains.

Benalcazar now engaged himself in conquering and colonizing the districts and provinces to the north of Quito, which he accomplished in a very able manner, founding towns, and encouraging settlers. It was at this period, that the wars broke out between the followers of Almagro and Pizarro; and when the latter had defeated the Almagrians, he sent his brother Gonzalo to explore a tract to the east of Quito, called Los Canelos, the cinnamon country, as it was conjectured that it contained great quantities of that valuable shrub. Pizarro conferred at the same time, the chief command of the whole country of Quito on his brother, and the new governor set out with 100 horsemen, and an equal number of foot, taking the city of Quito in his route eastward, toward the district of Quixos, which had been discovered by Gonzalo Diaz de Pineda, in the year 1536, when, among the officers sent from Popayan, (which had been settled by Benalcazar) to trace the course of the river Magdalena, and survey the country adjacent to the conquered provinces, he found that this district was extremely fertile, abounding in gold, and producing excellent cassia; he reported these circumstances, and they were laid before Pizarro, who immediately sent his brother to explore it, and to push his discoveries to the east, for the purpose of finding the cinnamon country.

Arriving at Quito in the latter end of 1539, Gonzalo Pizarro remained only time enough to receive a further supply of the necessary stores, and departed from this city in 1540, attended by 4000 Indians, carrying provisions, arms, and materials for bridges. Peruvian sheep or llamas, and 4000 swine accompanied the army, which soon arrived[291] in the country of the Quixos, where they met with little opposition, and where they remained several days, on account of the tempestuous weather and a dreadful earthquake. On quitting this country, they crossed some very high mountains, on which the Indians suffered so much from cold, that many of them died.

Proceeding to the river Coca, and thence to another river, Pizarro built a vessel to enable part of his army to penetrate with less fatigue; and finding the river become broader as he proceeded, he determined to pursue its course as far as he could, but having navigated about 200 leagues down its stream, and there appearing no probability of procuring provisions, and not being able to advance the men, who were obliged to follow the vessel on the banks, on account of the increasing imperviousness of the forests, he determined to send Francisco de Orellana forward with the vessel, to see if he could find any country where eatables could be procured, the stock he brought from Quito being now completely exhausted. Fifty men accompanied the bark, with orders to load the vessel with what they might find, and to stop at a place where two great rivers joined, as well as to leave two canoes at a river which crossed the route to this place by land, and of which information had been given by some Indians.

The ship was soon carried to the junction of the two great rivers; but Orellana finding it difficult to remount the current, determined to push his fortune and explore the country in the direction of the stream; neglecting therefore the orders he had received, he sailed beyond the appointed place, and being much crowded, and frequently attacked by the Indians on the shores, he constructed a smaller vessel in a convenient spot, and dividing his soldiers, proceeded to a country inhabited by women, who made war upon and defended themselves against the neighbouring tribes. Following[292] the stream for a long while, Orellanaʼs barks at last reached the Atlantic Ocean, and with great difficulty and many dangers he navigated the seas to the Island of Trinidad, where purchasing a vessel, he went to Spain, and obtaining an audience of the king, he got a grant of Amazonia, (the country he had seen, and which was so called, on account of the warrior women,) and equipped a force of five hundred men for its conquest; but died on the outward voyage; his men dispersing themselves among the Canaries and West India islands.

Gonzalo Pizarro was terribly straightened by the defection of Orellana, and arriving at the rendezvous, found a Spaniard whom Orellana had put ashore for disobedience; this person informed Pizarro of what had happened.

In the vessel were all the baubles intended to be bartered with the Indians, so that as they were now four hundred leagues from Quito, and with no hopes of relief, they determined on endeavouring to return. Suffering incredible difficulties, and eating all their dogs and horses, they arrived at last on the confines of that kingdom, having lost forty of their companions by famine; and the whole party were nearly naked, and so altered, that it was with difficulty they were recognised by their acquaintances. This unfortunate expedition lasted nearly two years; two hundred and ten Spaniards, and two thousand Indians perished, only eighty Europeans returning to Quito out of the whole force; and those who did return, having ate toads, snakes, and other reptiles, after they had consumed their horses.

In consequence of the dissensions among the Spaniards in Peru at this period, Vaca de Castro was sent to assume the government. In 1541, this officer was driven by stress of weather into the harbour of Buenaventura, at the bottom of the Bay of Choco, at that time a port of Popayan;[293] and after a difficult journey by land he arrived at Quito. His commission was immediately recognised by Benalcazar, lieutenant-general and governor of Popayan, and by Pedro de Puelles, who commanded in Quito in the absence of Gonzalo Pizarro. He then left this city to march against the adverse party in Peru, in which he was joined by Pedro de Vergara, who was occupied in conquering the present province of Bracamoros. Vaca conquered the insurgents, and was proclaimed governor of Peru. The subsequent history of the viceroys and governors belongs to the description of that kingdom, of which Quito continued a dependent province till the year 1708, when a new viceroyalty being erected at Santa Fé de Bogota, under the name of the New Kingdom of Granada, Quito was taken from the Peruvian government and attached, with all its provinces, to that of Granada. The royal audience of Quito was suppressed until 1722, when it was restored, and the provinces of Quito, erected into a presidency, under the controul of the vice-regal court of Santa Fé. Since that period, it has remained under the same form of government, the president of the court of royal audience being governor of Quito and its dependencies.

Capital.—The capital of this presidency is Quito, which was rebuilt from the Indian town by Benalcazar, in 1534, who then called it San Francisco de Quito; seven years after which it was made a royal city. It is situated in 78° 10ʹ 15ʺ west longitude, and 0° 13ʹ 27ʺ south latitude, on the eastern slope of the western branch of the equatorial Andes, thirty-five leagues distant from the coasts of the South Sea. The volcanic mountain Pichincha is the basis on which this celebrated city rests; and its crevices are so numerous in the environs, that many of the suburbian houses are built on arches, and from the acclivity of the ground the streets are very irregular and uneven. The city has in[294] its vicinity the great plains Turubamba and Inna Quito, covered with country-seats and cultivation, and the junction of these plains forms a neck of land on which some of the streets are built.

The temperature of the climate is such, that neither heat nor cold are felt in extremes; though this may be experienced in a very short journey from it. The whole year is a perfect spring, with little or no variation; pleasant gales constantly waft the odours of the cultivated plains towards the town, and these are seldom known to fail or to become boisterous. The rain alone descends occasionally with impetuosity, and prevents the usual out-of-door avocations; but with such a climate, and in the midst of plenty, the city is hourly liable to earthquakes, and its inhabitants are frequently occupied in noticing, with the most awful apprehensions, the slightest variations in the phenomenæ of the heavens; for from these they affect to judge of the approach of the subterraneous concussions which have so frequently destroyed the place; of these, a very destructive one was experienced in 1775. In 1797, on the 4th of February, the face of the whole district was changed, and in the space of a second, forty thousand persons were hurled into eternity. This earthquake affected the temperature of the air, which is now commonly between forty and fifty-five degrees, whereas it was usually sixty-six or sixty-eight degrees, and since which violent shocks have frequently been experienced. During this tremendous scene, the ground opened in all directions, and vomited out sulphur, mud and water. Notwithstanding these horrors, and the constant state of anxiety they must feel, the inhabitants are gay, lively, and much addicted to pleasure, luxury and amusement.

The population is estimated at 70,000 persons; among whom are many of high rank, descendants of the conquerors, or persons who came in the early periods from Spain. The[295] whites compose about a sixth part, the mestizoes a third, the Indians of the suburbs another third, and the mixed race from negroes, Indianʼs, &c., the remaining sixth. The European whites are, with the exception of the nobles and merchants, generally very poor; the mestizoes follow the handicrafts, and excel in some of the higher branches of the arts, appearing to possess considerable talent and very lively imaginations. The Indians also follow several trades, which they are remarkable for gaining a knowledge of with comparative ease.

Great magnificence of dress is affected by the Spanish gentry, whose habiliments shine with gold and gems; but those of the middle rank are usually very neat, and covered with a long black cloak; the Indians wearing white cotton drawers, and a black cotton frock or shirt. The ladies of Quito are generally handsome and well educated, and the men a good looking race. The instruction given to young people of rank consists chiefly in the polite arts, and in philosophy and divinity. The language of the whites and most of their descendants is Spanish, but the Quichua and other dialects of Indian origin are no less common.

Idleness, drunkenness and gaming, are the most prevalent vices, and the common people and Indians are addicted to theft; and these indulge very freely in the use of rum and brandy. The matté, an herb which grows in Paraguay, is used here as a sort of tea, and forms the most favourite beverage of all classes.

The principal square of Quito is ornamented with the cathedral, the bishopʼs palace, the town-hall, and the palace of the royal audience, and with a beautiful fountain in the centre. Four streets terminate at the angles of this square, which are broad, straight and well built for about four hundred yards, when the acclivities and breaches commence; on this account, the luxury of wheel-carriages[296] is not to be had. Besides the great square, there are two others of considerable size, and several small ones; in these the churches and convents are situated, which are generally fine buildings.

The principal streets are all paved, and the houses are large and convenient, being mostly of one story in height, built of unburnt bricks and clay, and cemented by a sort of mortar, which was made use of anciently by the Indians, and which becomes exceedingly solid.

This city has seven parishes, with numerous convents, nunneries, &c. The hospital is a fine structure, and there are several courts for the administration of justice; the exchequer, treasury, &c.

The cathedral which was endowed in 1545, has a very extensive jurisdiction, and the revenue of the bishop is 24,000 piastres. In this church are held two annual festivals in honour of the Virgin, by whose assistance it is said the city was delivered when Latacunga, Riobamba, Hambato, and other places in its neighbourhood, were entirely destroyed by an earthquake and an ejection from Pichincha, of pumice, basalt, porphyry and liquid mud.

The clay and hot water vomited from this volcano diffuses such fertility, that a constant succession of fruits, flowers, and leaves, appear during the whole year, and even on the same tree. Corn is reaped and sown at the same time, and such is the goodness of the pasture, that excellent mutton, beef, &c., are to be had at Quito. Fine cheese is also made in the dairies, and so much is used, that 70 or 80,000 dollars worth is annually consumed. Good butter is also found, and for the service of the table, whether in luxuries or necessaries nothing appears to be wanting.

The height of Quito above the level of the sea is 9510 feet, and it is backed, by the conical summit of Javirac, immediately under that of Pichincha; Javirac being 10,239 feet above the ocean, consequently 729 feet higher than the city.


Quito is plentifully supplied with water from several streams which flow from the sides of the mountains, and are conducted into the town by means of conduits. Several of these brooks unite in one spot, and form the small river Machangara, which washes the south parts of the city, and is crossed by a stone bridge.

In the church of the Jesuits is an alabaster slab, on which is engraven a Latin inscription, commemorating the labours of the French and Spanish mathematicians in 1736, and the following years, till 1742, and enumerating the signals, angles, and other circumstances connected with the great undertaking of the measurement of a degree of the meridian which was performed in those years.

In this province some cotton goods are manufactured; these are exported to Peru, for which gold, silver, laces, wine, brandy, oil, copper, tin, lead and quicksilver are returned; the wheat of Quito is exported to Guayaquil, and the coast of Guatimala sends indigo, iron and steel, for which some of the products of Quito are returned by way of Guayaquil. The commerce of Quito is however mostly internal, and this province contains no metallic veins which are worked, though many rich ones are supposed to exist, and some mercury has been found between the villages of Cuença and Azogue.

Quito is celebrated as having been the scene of the measurement of a degree of the meridian by the French and Spanish mathematicians, in the reign of Louis the XV. The plain made choice of for the mensuration of the great base is situated 1592 feet lower than the city of Quito, and four leagues north-east of it, near the village of Yuranqui, from which it has its name. It was in this desert valley, surrounded by the lofty summits of the central Andes, that these geodesic operations were carried on, and which were attended with[298] constant peril and labour; some idea of which may be formed from the following description of the chain of the Andes which pervades Quito; this chain after having been divided near Popayan into three branches, unites in the district of Pastos, and stretches far beyond the equator.

Its most lofty summits form two lines, separated by a series of valleys, from 10,600 to 13,900 feet in height, as far as the third degree of south latitude, in which the chief towns of Quito are situated. On the west side of this vale or plain rise the mountains of Casitagua, Pichincha, Atacazo, Corazon, Ilinissa, Carguirazo, Chimborazo and Cunambay; and on the east are the peaks of Cayambe, Guamani, Antisana, Passuchoa, Ruminavi, Cotopaxi, Quelendama, Tunguragua and Capa Urcu, or the altar, all of which, excepting three or four, are higher than Mont Blanc, but on account of the great elevation of the plain on which they rest, their appearance is not so lofty as may be imagined; the summit of Chimborazo, the most elevated, not being more than 11,942 feet above the plain of Tapia, which itself is 9481 feet above the level of the sea.

The constant temperature of the air is such, that the summits of those mountains which enter the region of perpetual snow have the line of congelation distinctly marked, and the road to Quito from Guayaquil leads along the northern declivity of Chimborazo, amid scenes of the most majestic nature, and near the regions of eternal frost.

Chimborazo, the most lofty of the American summits is in the form of a dome, and towers over the conical peaks and heads of the adjacent mountains, to an amazing altitude; its height above the level of the sea being 21,441 feet.

Pichincha, which surmounts the city of Quito was formerly a very active volcano, but since the conquest, its eruptions have not been frequent; three peaks rise from the edge of its crater, which are[299] generally free from snow, on account of the heat of the ascending vapours; at the summit of one of these is a projecting rock twelve feet long, by six broad, hanging over the precipice, and generally strongly agitated by convulsive shocks. M. de Humboldt lay on his breast on this stone, and looked down into the abyss of the crater below, which was so vast (being three miles in circumference) that the summits of several mountains were seen in it. Its sides were of a deep black, the tops of the mountains he observed in this awful situation were six hundred yards beneath him, and he supposes the bottom of the crater is on a level with the city of Quito. Its edges are always covered with snow, and flames rise from its surface, amid columns of dark smoke. Pichincha is 15,939 feet above the level of the sea.

Of all the American volcanoes Cotopaxi is the most noted, and is situated to the south-east of Quito, twelve leagues distant from that city, and five leagues north of Latacunga, between the mountains of Ruminavi, the summit of which is rugged and jagged with separate rocks, and Quelendama, whose peaks enter the regions of eternal frost. The form of Cotopaxi is very beautiful, being that of a perfect cone, covered with snow, and the crater appears surrounded with a wall of black rock, which is impossible to be reached by reason of the immense crevices in the sides of the mountain.

In viewing this volcano every thing conspires to afford the most majestic and awful scene that can be imagined; the pyramidal summits of Ilinissa, the snowy ridges of the other mountains, the singular regularity of the inferior line of snow, and the luxuriancy of the great plains offer an unparalleled assemblage of the grand and picturesque features of nature.

Cotopaxi is the loftiest volcano at present in activity in the world, being 18,891 feet above the[300] level of the sea. It has ejected such masses of scoriæ, and immense pieces of rock on the plain below, that they would, of themselves, if heaped together, form an enormous mountain; and in a violent eruption in 1774 its roarings were heard at Honda at the distance of 200 leagues.

In 1768, it sent forth such a volume of ashes, that the light of the sun was obscured in Hambato, till three in the afternoon, and then the people were forced to use lanthorns; at the same time, the cone was so heated, that the mass of snow which covered it suddenly melted away; and at Guayaquil, 150 miles distant, its eruptions were as audibly distinguished, as if there had been repeated discharges of cannon close to the town.

Cayambe Urcu, the summit of which is crossed by the equator, is noted as being the highest mountain of this range which has been yet measured, excepting only Chimborazo, as it is 19,386 feet above the level of the ocean. Its form is that of a truncated cone, and it is one of the most majestic and beautiful of those which surround the city of Quito.

El Corazon, covered with perpetual snow, is so called from its summit having a heart-like shape.

Bouguer ascended this mountain, and describes the frost as so great near the top, that his clothes, beard and eyebrows were covered with icicles; it is 15,795 feet above the level of the sea.

Ruminavi and Ilinissa, the latter of which is 17,238 feet above the level of the sea, and has its summit divided into two pyramidal peaks, join each other by a transverse chain, called the Alto de Tiopullo, Ilinissa being on the west, and Ruminavi on the eastern crest of the equatorial Andes. This chain bounds the valley of Quito on the south and separates it from the plains of Hambato and Latacunga; and the pyramids of Ilinissa are visible from the plain of Las Esmaraldas in Atacames.


A most singular monument is observable on the top of the dyke or chain of Tiopullo, consisting of a tumulus, and the ruins of one of the Peruvian palaces called tambos, situated in a plain covered with pumice stones.

The tumulus, if it be one, is upwards of two hundred feet high, and is supposed to have been the burying place of a chief.

The palace is south-west of this hillock, nine miles from the crater of Cotopaxi, and thirty from Quito. It is in the form of a square, each side being about 100 feet in length, with four great doorways and eight chambers. Its walls are more than three feet thick, formed of large stones regularly cut and laid in courses, and the whole is in tolerable preservation. It is called the palace of Callo, but the great curiosity of this edifice consists in the beauty of the workmanship, as all the stones are cut into parallelopipedons, and laid in regular courses, and so nicely joined, that were it not that each stone is convexly and obliquely cut on the outside, their joints would not be visible.

The volcano of Sangai, or Mecas, is the most southern mountain of Quito, and is covered with snow, but a continual fire issues from its summit attended by explosions, which are heard 120 miles distant, and when the wind is fair, are audible even at Quito. The country adjacent to this volcano is totally barren, being covered with cinders; in this desert the river Sangay rises, and joining the Upano, flows into the Maranon under the name of the Payra. Sangai is 17,131 feet above the level of the sea.

The Altar, or El Altar, is on the eastern crest, in the district of Riobamba, joining itself by a high desert, to another peak called Collanes. The Indians have a tradition, that El Altar was formerly more lofty than Chimborazo, but that its summit suddenly fell in; by the latest observation, it is found to be 17,256 feet above the level of the sea.


Tunguragua is seven leagues north of Riobamba. The figure of this volcanic mountain is conical, and very steep, and Riobamba was destroyed by its dreadful eruptions. Some hot springs gush out through crevices in its sides, which has caused warm baths to be erected for the accommodation of invalids. Tunguragua is 16,500 feet above the level of the sea.

North-west of Riobamba is Carguirazo, which just enters the lower period of congelation. Near this mountain and Chimborazo is the road leading to Guayaquil, passing over such lofty deserts and such dangerous places, that many people perish in attempting to travel over it in bad weather or in winter. The height of this mountain is 15,540 feet above the level of the sea.

In these mountainous regions, the wind is often so violent that it tears off fragments of rocks, and the academicians in measuring their base, and taking the necessary angles, were often in the most imminent danger, by having their tents and huts suddenly blown over. The violence of the wind also hurled the snow about in so furious a manner, that they were often in danger of being buried under it. Though their huts were small and crowded with people, yet every person was forced to have a chafing-dish of coals before him, owing to the intensity of the cold, and this under the equator; their feet swelled, their hands were covered with chilblains, and their lips were so chopped, that speaking aloud always brought blood. In some places, even the Indians deserted their villages to prevent being forced to accompany the survey; such was the rigour of the climate.

The districts of Quito having been previously mentioned, we shall include a short sketch of each in the description of its chief town, commencing with that of—



San Miguel de Ibarra is the chief place of a district of the same name, and is situated in north-latitude 0° 25ʹ, and 77° 40ʹ west-longitude, forty-five miles north-east of Quito, with a population of about 10,000 souls. The town stands on a large plain between two rivers. The houses are built of stone with tiled roofs, and it contains several convents, a fine church, a college and a nunnery.

The temperature of the air in this district is variable, but generally warmer than at Quito. The soil is fertile, producing the tropical fruits, cotton, maize, great quantities of sugar, wheat and barley; and the Indians weave cotton and cloth, and work some large salt mines, which supply the northern districts. Few sheep are seen in Ibarra, but it abounds in goats, and near a village called Mira, with a multitude of wild asses, extremely fierce, which are hunted for their skins.

In passing from Pastos, through Ibarra, the traveller views with astonishment the deep valley or crevice of Chota, 4922 feet in depth, covered with luxuriant vegetation.

Ibarra contains within its district, eight principal villages or small towns.


Otabalo is the next jurisdiction, containing eight towns or villages, the lands of which are laid out in plantations, principally of the sugar cane; but the wheat and barley sown in this district thrive very much; a great number of small rivers fertilize the country, and it abounds with sheep, black cattle and horses. Great quantities of butter and cheese are exported, and the native Indians are industrious, weaving quilts, cottons, bed furniture, and[304] carpets, which, having very brilliant colours, are much valued in Quito and Peru.

The chief town is Otabalo, thirty miles north of Quito, in 0° 15ʹ north latitude, and 77° 56ʹ west longitude, containing 15,000 souls, a great portion of whom are whites; the other villages or towns are mostly inhabited by Indians.

This district contains two lakes, one called San Pablo, is three miles long, and a mile and a half broad, abounding with wild geese, and gives rise to the Rio Blanco. The other lake has nearly the same size, and is called Cuicocha, being situated at the foot of a mountain of that name; it produces a sort of cray-fish much esteemed at Quito, as it is the only fresh water fish that can be had there.

The Indians of Otabalo resisted Huana Capac in his expedition against Quito, which so exasperated him, that he ordered all that could be found to be beheaded, and cast into a small lake in Ibarra, called Yagarcocha, signifying the bloody lake.

The villages of Cayambe and Catacatche in this district, are situated at the feet of the mountains of those names, the latter of which is 16,434 feet above the level of the sea; near Cayambe are the ruins of an ancient circular temple on an eminence, and about fifty feet in diameter; of this nothing remains but the walls, which are about five feet thick and fifteen feet high; the whole is of unbaked brick, cemented with a sort of earth. In the plain near this village are numerous tumuli, or burying places of the ancient inhabitants of the province, which are generally in the form of sugar loaves; many of these are of great size, and have been perforated for the sake of the gold utensils which were buried with the chieftains.

Some Spaniards have enriched themselves in this manner, for in making a gallery through the tumulus, they have found golden idols and jewels to a great amount; but the contents generally[305] consist only of the skeleton, earthen drinking vessels, tools of copper or stone, with mirrors of obsidian, and of a sort of flint, curiously made and perfectly polished. The golden ornaments and images they occasionally discover, are, in general, beautifully wrought, but always very thin and hollow; the emeralds are cut into all shapes, and perforated with the greatest nicety, but how these were executed without any other than hardened copper and stone tools, is almost inconceivable.

The jurisdiction of Quito, independent of the city, contains twenty-five villages or parishes; the lands are covered with plantations, in the plains breaches or valleys, and up the sides of the mountains, as far as vegetation will reach, so as to be productive of any return to the cultivator; the valleys being hot grow sugar canes and cotton; the plains, maize; and the higher regions, wheat, barley, &c. European grain was introduced into Quito by Father Jose Rixi, a native of Ghent in Flanders, who sowed some near the convent of St. Francis, and the monks still show the vase in which the first wheat came from Europe, as a sacred relic.

Above the regions which produce wheat, barley, potatoes, &c., are fed numerous flocks of sheep, which yield great quantities of wool; and cows are reared also in great numbers, for the sake of cheese and butter; most of the villages of Quito are inhabited by Indians.

South of Quito, and divided from it by the mountains of Tiopullo and Chisinche, is the district of Lactacunga, or Latacunga, the chief town of which is Latacunga, in 0° 55ʹ 14ʺ south latitude, and 78° 16ʹ west longitude, fifty miles south of Quito, a large and well-built place, the streets being straight and broad, the houses of stone, arched, and of one story, on account of the frequency of earthquakes; but in 1698 the whole of the town was overturned, excepting the church of the Jesuits,[306] which was much damaged, and almost all the inhabitants perished. The stone of which the houses are built is a sort of pumice, extremely light, and which has been ejected from the neighbouring volcanoes; that of Cotopaxi being only six leagues distant.

This district contains seventeen large villages, and the climate is cold, on account of the vicinity of several snowy summits. The first eruption of Cotopaxi, witnessed by the Spaniards, was when Benalcazar invaded these provinces; the natives had a tradition, that when the volcano should burst they would be subdued by an unknown people; this event, combined with the appearance of the white and bearded strangers, struck such terror into the poor Indians, that they quietly submitted to the Spanish arms.

The villages are in general large and populous, inhabited by a mixture of whites and Indians, although the Indians always live in a separate quarter.

The town of Latacunga contains from 10 to 12,000 inhabitants; a parish church, several convents, and a college, formerly belonging to the Jesuits.

Cloth, baize, &c. are manufactured in this city, and great quantities of salt pork are exported to Quito, Guayaquil, and Riobamba.

The Indians of two villages in this jurisdiction, are noted for making fine earthenware; the clay which they use emitting a fragrant smell, and being of a lively red colour, causes these articles to be much valued.

Riobamba is the next jurisdiction southward, adjoining that of Latacunga, and separated from the vale of Quito, by the same dyke or chain, the chief town of which is Riobamba.

This district is divided into two departments, Riobamba and Hambato. In this former are eighteen villages; in the latter, six.


The town of Riobamba was destroyed by the dreadful earthquake of the 4th February 1797, when the peak of Sicalpa, falling on the place, stopped the course of two rivers, so that not a vestige of the town remained; and of 9,000 inhabitants 400 only escaped. Thirty or forty thousand Indians are supposed to have perished at the same time, in this and the neighbouring districts. Latacunga, and most of the villages in its jurisdiction, were destroyed. Near Hambato the mountains split; and a village called Quero, with all its inhabitants, was buried under a cliff that gave way; another place, called Pelileo, was overwhelmed in a torrent of heated water and mud, the plains were completely altered, and in a few hours after the commencement of this calamity, a deadly silence alone indicated the general ruin. This terrible event appears to have been caused by an internal eruption of the volcano of Tunguragua, between Latacunga and Riobamba, as tremendous subterraneous thunders proceeded from that quarter, and the devastation was all in its vicinity.

Riobamba produces silver and gold, but the mines are not worked, and cochineal, cotton, flax, wheat, sugar, barley, &c.

The town of Riobamba has been rebuilt in a more convenient spot; at present it contains 20,000 souls, and is large and handsome, with two churches, four convents, two nunneries, and an hospital; and its jurisdiction carries on a brisk trade with Guayaquil. The village of Lican, in this division, is noted as having been anciently the residence of the kings of Quito.

The town of Hambato is situated in an extensive plain, having a large river crossed by a bridge on its northern side. The number of its inhabitants is about 9000. Its houses are built of unburnt bricks, and very low, and the parish church[308] and a convent, with two chapels, are the principal public buildings.

This place suffered severely in the earthquake which destroyed Latacunga, as the volcano of Carguirazo, part of which fell in, vomited forth torrents of mud, ashes and water; and the heat of the crater melting the snow, it precipitated down the sides of the mountain, sweeping away every thing before it.

In Riobamba, the Llamas, or Peruvian camels, are seen; they are indeed so common, that hardly any Indian has less than one to carry his goods when he travels; we shall however have further occasion to describe these singular animals, in treating of the colonies farther south of the equator, which seems to be their natural clime, as they are rarely seen north of the line.

The final junction of the two parallel ridges of the Andes, which we have before mentioned, ends near this district; it is called by the general name of Paramo del Assuay, and across this chain lies the road from Riobamba to Cuença, the journey over which is at all times formidable, particularly in June, July and August, when there are great falls of snow, and the icy winds of the south sweep over it. This road is almost the height of Mont Blanc, and the cold is often so great, that many travellers perish every year, in crossing. The plains of Assuay contain several small lakes, surrounded with coarse grasses, but in which there are no fish.

In the midst of this elevated road is a marshy plain, at the height of 13,123 feet above the ocean, on which is situated the remains of a causeway, lined with freestone, and constructed by the Incas. It is quite straight for more than four miles, and may be traced to Caxamarca in Peru, 120 leagues south of Assuay. Close to this road, and at 13,261 feet of elevation, are the ruins of[309] one of the mountain palaces, or tambos of the Peruvian sovereigns; these ruins, which are much dilapidated, are called Los Paredones, or the thick walls. In descending towards Cuença, are seen the remains of another of these structures, which deserves notice; it is called the fortress of Cannar, and is built of large blocks of freestone, in an oval form, 124 feet in length, having a house in the centre, containing two rooms. Behind this oval is a continued chain of fortifications, nearly 500 feet in length, built also of fine freestone; and the ruins of several other buildings show, that this fort was capable of containing the Inca and his whole army.

The chambers and walls on the inside have a series of niches, between which are projecting cylindric stones with knobs, said to be used for hanging the arms of the warriors on; all these, as well as the stones of the building, are beautifully cut. This fort is on the top of a small hill, the superior surface of which is cut into terraces and esplanades; a river named Gulan flows at its foot. On descending to this river, by means of steps cut in the rock, the traveller sees a fissure, called the Ravine of the Sun (Inti-Guaicu) in which rises a solitary mass of sand-stone, sixteen or eighteen feet high. One of the sides of this rock is cut perpendicularly, and is remarkably white; on it is traced concentric circles, representing the sun; and a few steps lead to a seat directly opposite this image. All around the temple are pathways cut in the rock, leading to a place called the gardens of the Inca, in which is a singular mount, artificially raised, on whose summit is an inclosed seat, big enough for one person only, commanding a most delightful view of several beautiful cascades. This seat has arabesques sculptured in the form of a chain, on the walls which form its back, and defend it from a precipice, on the brink of which it is placed.


The ensuing district of Quito is that of Chimbo, whose principal town has the same name; but the chief magistrate resides at Guaranda, one of the seven villages of which the district is composed.

Chimbo, the capital, is a small place, containing only about eighty families. Guayaquil being separated only by the ridge of the mountains from this district, carries on all the trade of Quito to the Pacific through it, the bales of cloth, stuffs, meal, corn and other products of the interior passing over this ridge, to the port of Guayaquil, whence comes wine, brandy, salt, fish, oil and other goods, necessary for the internal provinces; this traffic can however only be carried on in summer, the roads being impracticable in the winter season for mules or other beasts.

The temperature of the air in Chimbo is generally cold, from the proximity of the snowy summits of Chimborazo.

The chief objects of the farmers in this district, is the breeding of mules, for the purposes of the trade before mentioned.


Guayaquil follows that of Chimbo on the west, and is the largest and most important district of Quito; it begins at Cape Passado, 21ʹ south of the equinoxial line, and stretching south, includes the island of Puna, and is terminated by Piura in Peru.

This country is mostly a continued plain, and is divided into seven departments, Puerto Viejo, Punta de Santa Elena, the island of Puna, Yaguache, Babahoyo, Baba, and Daule.

During the winter months, this district is infested by insects and vermin, and is subject to dreadful storms and inundations, which oblige the farmers to send their cattle to the Andes.

In the rainy season, fevers, dysenteries, diarrhœas,[311] the black vomit, or yellow fever, and other disorders are common, and carry off great numbers of people; at this period also, snakes, scorpions, vipers and scolopendras find their way into the houses, and are sometimes even found in their beds. The boba, a serpent of immense size, is also common. These, with swarms of mosquitoes, and other venomous insects, render the towns very unpleasant during this season; and alligators, of an enormous size, cause the rivers and flooded places to be very dangerous.

In the summer, the heat being moderated by the sea and land breezes, the number and activity of all these creatures is much decreased; and this season, which is the coldest, renovates the inhabitants who have been rendered listless and indolent, by the suffocating heat which prevails during the rains.

The inundations spread to such an extent in some parts, that Babahoyo, one of the departments, is converted into a large lake, and the villages, which are always on heights, can only be approached with boats. These floods add, however, very greatly to the fertility of the country, as the cacao plantations and meadows thrive exceedingly when the water subsides.

Guayaquil grows cacao, tobacco, wax, cotton, timber for naval and architectural purposes, sugar, maize and plantains; and rears great quantities of cattle.

The rivers furnish fish in great plenty, but the city is scantily supplied, owing to the putridity which so soon takes place in transporting fresh fish. The coasts abound with lobsters, oysters and most kinds of salt-water fish.

The department of Puerto Viejo, which bounds the government of Atacames southward, has five principal towns, but these are, however, thinly inhabited; this department grows some tobacco and cotton, which, with wax and fine timber, form its[312] chief resources, as nearly the whole district of Guayaquil is covered with immense forests of the largest trees, which render travelling in many parts impracticable.

Punta de Santa Elena has five towns, besides the chief place of the same name, which is celebrated for its salt-works, capable of supplying all Quito. The purple dye-fish is found in great plenty on the coasts of this division, and the productions of the district are wax, fruits, and cattle. The port of Punta is much frequented by vessels trading to Panama and Peru, and carries on a great trade with them in provisions and salt.

The island and district of Puna is situated at the mouth of the river Guayaquil, and is between six and seven leagues long and broad. It was formerly very populous, and is famous in the history of the conquest of Peru; containing at present one town, which is built in a convenient harbour on the north-east, but has very few inhabitants. To this district belong the towns of Machala, and Narangal, on the continent near the river Tumbez. The port of Puna serves for the lading-place of large ships which cannot get over the bar to Guayaquil, and the island abounds in wood, particularly mangrove-trees.

Yaguache is a district at the mouth of the river of the same name, which joins the Guayaquil. This division contains three towns, thinly inhabited, and produces cacao, cotton and wood, with great herds of cattle.

The division of Babahoyo contains five towns, and is the high road to the interior of Quito, famous for its cacao plantations producing also rice, cotton, pepper and a great variety of fruits, with immense droves of black cattle horses and mules. This country is overflowed every winter by the swelling of the three rivers, Columa, Ujiba and Caracol. The custom-house of the maritime districts of Quito, and the royal arsenal, is situated[313] at Babahoyo, the chief town, in 1° 47ʹ south latitude, which renders this district a place of considerable commerce. On account of the periodical inundation, the cacao trees thrive so much, that many of the plantations are so productive, that part of their fruit is left ungathered; and the monkeys and other animals availing themselves of this, annually destroy great quantities.

The largest district of Guayaquil is Baba, reaching to the Cordillera of the Andes, and bounded by the jurisdiction of Latacunga. It contains only three towns, two of which are inhabited by Indians, and are seated on the sides of the mountains. Its inhabitants are estimated at 4000.

The cacao also thrives exceedingly in Baba, and the quantity of this fruit gathered annually in Guayaquil for exportation and home consumption, amounts to 50,000 loads, at eighty-one pounds the load.

The last district of Guayaquil is that of Daule, so called from a river of that name, which flows by its principal town, also called Daule. This town contains some fine houses, to which the inhabitants of Guayaquil retire in the hot seasons; and by its river it sends fruits and plantains to the capital.

Daule also exports cattle, horses and mules, with cacao, cotton, and sugar, and much Indian corn. The tobacco grown in this district is the best of Guayaquil. It contains two other towns of no great size.

The river Guayaquil is not only the largest but the most important of all the streams in the jurisdiction. It rises in the Andes, and pursuing a serpentine course, flows into the Pacific in the Bay of Puna. The torrents which flow in all directions from the mountains, contribute to swell this river, and in winter it inundates the country to a great extent. Its mouth is about three miles wide, at Isla Verde and at Guayaquil still broader; the[314] distance on it from this city to the custom-house of Babahoyo is twenty-four and a half leagues, and it is navigable four leagues further. The tides reach as far as the custom-house in summer, but in winter the current is so strong, that the tides are often imperceptible. The mouth of the river is so full of shifting sands, that the passage of large vessels is rendered very dangerous. Its banks are decorated with country-seats and cottages inhabited by fishermen. By means of this fine stream, Guayaquil exports the produce of its departments to Peru, Panama, and Quito, receiving European goods from Tierra Firme; from New Spain, and Guatimala, naptha, tar, cordage and indigo.

The other large rivers are those called Yaguache, Baba, and Daule, along the banks of which most of the Indians have formed their habitations.

The capital of the whole district is Guayaquil, a city of considerable importance, at the bottom of the gulf of Guayaquil, and at the mouth of the river of the same name, in 2° 12ʹ south latitude, and 79° 6ʹ west longitude. It was founded in the year 1534 or 1535, by Benalcazar; but was destroyed after several furious attacks by the Indians. In 1537 it was rebuilt by Orellana at some distance from its first scite, on the declivity of a mountain; and in 1693, great additions were made to it, on the other side of a branch of the river, which now divides the city into two parts, known by the names of the New and Old towns, communicating with each other by a long bridge.

The houses are constructed mostly of wood or whitened earth. It has suffered repeatedly by conflagrations, and was reduced to ashes in 1764, since which, the government have forbid the inhabitants to thatch their houses with straw. The streets of the new town are straight and wide, and well paved; arcades run along before all the houses, so that the people can walk protected from the rain and sun. It is now one of the handsomest towns of South America,[315] but the marshes in its neighbourhood, combined with the heat of the climate, render it very unhealthy. It has a handsome church, college, convents, and an hospital, and is governed by a corregidor, who is named by the king of Spain, and who holds his office for five years. There is also a treasury and revenue office, for the receipt of the Indian capitation-tax, the duties on imports and exports and other taxes; and the bishop of Quito sends a vicar to govern the church.

The city is defended by three forts, two on the borders of the river, and the other inland, to guard the entrance of a deep ravine which leads to it.

The number of inhabitants is 10,000, most of whom are engaged in commerce, the Spaniards and creoles being the merchants, and the creoles and castes the artizans and labourers. The trade of this town is gradually increasing, and from the situation of its port, it will in all probability become a place of the first consequence, notwithstanding the insalubrity of its climate, and the dreadful tempests it is subject to in winter. The women of Guayaquil are proverbially handsome, which causes many Europeans to marry and settle here. The island of Puna has a fort or rather battery on it, where all ships coming in and going out are brought to.

Guayaquil was named a royal dock-yard, in 1767, and the abundance of excellent timber produced in its neighbourhood, renders it very fit for this purpose. The balsam-tree and several others yield excellent knees, and are celebrated for resisting worms and rot. Notwithstanding these advantages, the building of vessels is neglected, and the river and coasting trade is carried on in balsas, which receive the cargoes of the vessels arriving from Europe, Lima, or Panama. These balsas or rafts are peculiar to the coast of the provinces of[316] New Granada; they are made of five, seven, or nine trunks, of an exceedingly light tree, called balsa. A little boy can carry a log of this wood twelve feet long, and a foot in diameter, with great ease. The rafts are made larger or smaller, according as they are wanted for fishing, for the coasting trade, or for the rivers, and they go as far as Payta in Peru from Guayaquil with safety. The logs of which they are made are sixty feet in length, and two, or two and a half, in diameter, so that a large one of nine logs, is between twenty and twenty-four feet in breadth. These logs are fastened to each other by bejucos, (a sort of parasite plant,) or withies, and have cross logs lashed so firmly with these pliable plants, that they rarely give way, though the sea in their coasting voyages runs very high.

The thickest log of the balsa is put so as to project beyond the others in the centre, and the others being lashed in equal number on each side to this, the number of logs is always uneven. A large balsa will carry twenty-five tons, and that as free from wet as possible, for the sea never breaks over them, nor does the water rise between the logs, as the whole machine adapts itself to the motion of the waves. They work and ply to windward like a keeled vessel, and keep their course extremely well before the wind, by means of a contrivance peculiar to them, which consists of some planks erected vertically, three or four yards long, and a foot and a half in breadth at the stern, and forward between the main logs. By pushing down some of these, and raising others up more or less, the float sails large, tacks, bears up, or lies to; and what renders this more astonishing, is that the machine is the contrivance of Indians unversed in the mechanical arts. On many of these rafts, the owners erect little huts for their accommodation, and on some of them in the rivers[317] they have small gardens, with beautiful flowers and vegetables.

All the rivers in the vicinity of Guayaquil abound with large alligators, some of which are five yards in length; they destroy vast quantities of the fish, and are usually seen basking on the marshy shores, or employed in catching their food; they feed also on flies, musquitoes, &c., which they catch by keeping their huge mouths open until filled with these insects, which soon happens in a country where the air swarms with them.

The female alligator lays her eggs in a hole in the sand; these eggs are quite white and very solid, and she generally deposits a hundred at a time, which occupies a day or two, she then covers them over, and rolls herself about near them to accumulate the sand over her deposit. At the proper season the old one returns to the spot, and tearing up the sand, breaks the eggs to let the young animals out; the female then takes them on her neck and body and puts them into the water; but while doing this, the gallinazo vulture destroys great numbers of them, and the male alligator is said to devour as many as he can, while the female herself eats those which fall off her back, or do not swim, so that only four or five remain alive out of the hundred. The scales of the alligatorʼs back are impenetrable to a musket-ball, and they are only vulnerable in the belly between the fore legs.

Vultures and other birds, frequently discover the nests by watching the female till she retires, and then claw up the sand, and devour the eggs; which are also eaten by the mulatto fishermen who frequent these rivers.

Calves and colts in the meadows, as well as dogs and other small animals, often fall a prey to these amphibious creatures, who approach the pastures in which they feed in the night, and carry them off; young children, and even men, have occasionally[318] met with the same fate; but the American crocodile rarely attacks mankind, for which reason the Indians are emboldened to engage them whenever they meet them; but these creatures are usually killed by means of a snare, consisting of a strong piece of wood, pointed at both ends, and covered with flesh; this is fastened to a thong secured on shore, when the animal seeing the flesh on the water, darts at it, and shutting his mouth, the points run into his jaws, and he is caught.

Many of the small rivers on the coasts of Spanish America are said to contract a musky smell and taste, from the vast numbers of alligators with which they abound, and it is even asserted that seamen are aware of the presence of these animals, by the peculiar white colour of the water which they frequent, but nevertheless, do not refrain from supplying their ships with that article, from such streams, as it has never been discovered that the change in taste, smell and colour, imparts any noxious quality to the fluid.

We shall conclude this account of Guayaquil, with a statement of the amount of its annual domestic and foreign trade.

The exportations, of which the principal article is cacao, are valued in good seasons, at 119,170l., whilst the importations in a like period, arise to 260,000l. sterling.

The adjoining district of Cuença is the next of the presidency of Quito, that comes under our notice, the chief town of which is the city of Cuença, founded in 1537, by Gil Ramirez Davalos; it stands in 2° 53ʹ 49ʺ south latitude, and 79° 14ʹ 40ʺ west longitude, on a spacious plain, about half a league from the river Machangara; on the south side is another river called Matadero, and about a quarter of a league distance are two others, named Yanuncay and Banos.

These rivers are fordable in summer, but in winter can be crossed only by the bridges. The[319] plain of Cuença is about six leagues long, and in it these four rivers unite and form a large stream. The streets are straight and broad, the houses mostly of adobes, or unburnt bricks; the Indian suburbs, consisting of low mean huts; but the place is well supplied with water, and the environs are extremely fertile and pleasant. It contains three churches, two of which are appropriated to the Indians; there are also four convents, two nunneries, and a college formerly belonging to the Jesuits, with an hospital.

Its public offices are the chamber of finance, and those of the government of the city; and the tithes and taxes of Loja and Jaen de Bracameros, are collected here.

The men are said to be very indolent, the manufactures of baize and cottons, being carried on by the women, who transact most of the business.

Its inhabitants exceed 20,000. The district of Cuença is subdivided into two departments, Cuença, and Alausi; the former including ten villages, and the latter, which borders on Riobamba, has four.

They produce sugar, cattle, cotton, and grain, and a great quantity of cloth is manufactured in them. The mines in this country are very numerous, but from want of capital, and other causes, are not worked.

This district is famed for the many remains of Peruvian architecture it contains, the ruins of the Fort of Cannar before mentioned, being near the village of Atun-cannar, or Great Cannar, which village is also noted for its corn fields, affording very rich harvests.

The unfortunate inhabitants of the district were inhumanly massacred by Atabalipa, on account of their siding with his brother Huascar; and it is stated, that he caused 60,000 to be slain after the victory he gained over that monarch.


The climate of the city of Cuença is mild, the cold being little felt, and the heat very moderate. It is subject, however, to dreadful storms of rain, thunder and lightning, and in the department of Alausi, to earthquakes; the whole of that part of the district being full of chasms and crevices, caused by these events. In this part the air is also cold, on account of the neighbourhood of the snowy mountains.

Alausi, the chief place of the second department, is an inconsiderable town, containing a few Spaniards of rank, mestizoes and Indians, with a good parish church, and a Franciscan convent, in 2° 12ʹ north latitude, and 78° 39ʹ west longitude.

The last jurisdiction of Quito on the south, which is not a separate province, is Loja, or Loxa the chief town of which has the same appellation, and was founded in 1540, by Alonzo de Mercadillo, resembling in extent, form and manner of building, the city of Cuença, but the climate is much hotter. In Loja are two churches, several convents, a nunnery, an hospital, and an ancient college of the Jesuits; its population is about 10,000 souls, who are an industrious people, governed by an officer of high rank, having some peculiar titles and privileges.

In this district are fourteen villages, and it is famous for producing great quantities of the best quinquina, or cinchona, so well known as a medicine; the forests of Loxa contain three kinds of this substance.

The trees which produce this bark are not of the largest size, the usual height being about fifteen feet; the largest branches do not always yield the best; and in order to collect the bark, the Indians cut down the trees, then strip them and dry the rind in the sun, after which it is packed for exportation. Cochineal of an extreme good quality is bred in this country, but so little care is taken, that enough is[321] only produced to serve the dyers of Cuença. Numerous droves of cattle and mules are sent from this district to Peru and Quito; and the manufacture of carpets, in which the cochineal dye is used, is very considerable.

The village of Zeruma is celebrated for having some rich gold veins in its neighbourhood, which have failed, owing to the want of proper exertion being made to clear them. This town or village was one of the first which was built in the province, and contains five or six thousand inhabitants.


This government following that of Loja on the south, we shall describe it before those of Quixos and Maynas, although it is the most southern of the provinces of Quito. It is bounded on the north by Loja and Quixos, or Macas, on the east by Maynas, on the west by Piura, and on the south by Caxamarca, or Chachapoyas in Peru. Its southern and western frontiers limit the territories of the viceroyalty of Peru.

Bracamoros was first discovered and explored in 1538, by Pedro de Vergara, who was appointed to command an expedition by Hernando Pizarro. Juan de Salinas was sent afterwards to this province with the title of governor; by courage and artifice, he conquered the native tribes, and built several villages, some of which are dignified with the names of cities. The Indians of the country, known at that time by the names of Yaguarsongo, and Pacamoros revolted and destroyed all the principal settlements, and those which escaped, dreading a return of a similar calamity, united themselves into one town called Jaen, from which the whole province has now taken its name.

The town, or city of Jaen, lies in nearly the same longitude as Quito, and in about 5° 25ʹ south latitude;[322] it was founded in 1549, by Diego Palomino, on the river Chinchipe at its conflux with the false Maranon. Its inhabitants amount to about 4000, being chiefly mestizoes, a very few Indians, and still fewer Spaniards.

There are three other villages called Valladolid, Loyola, and Santiago de las Montañas, which are styled cities, but contain very few inhabitants to support this title. The other villages, which are about ten in number, are mostly peopled by Indians.

The Pongo de Manseriche, or strait by which the False Maranon passes the Andes, is partly in this district.

The embarkation on the Lauricocha, the present name for a river which was until very lately supposed to be the Maranon, is usually at Chuchunga, a village of Bracamoros, in 5° 29ʹ south latitude, four daysʼ journey from Jaen; the river not being navigable nearer than this, on account of the rapids.

In Jaen, the climate is hot, though the rains are not so violent or lasting as in Quixos; the summer is the pleasantest season, as the heat, the rains, and the tempests abate during that period.

Such parts of this country as are under cultivation, are very fertile, but nearly the whole government is covered with forests. The cacao flourishes very much, but owing to the difficulty of carriage, cannot be exported with profit; tobacco seems peculiar to the soil, as great quantities are produced, which being prepared in a peculiar manner, by soaking the leaves in decoctions of fragrant herbs, acquires so pleasant a taste, that the cigars of Jaen are universally sought after in Peru, Chili, and Quito. Cotton-trees are very abundant, and their produce constitutes a great part of the traffic of the inhabitants. The rivers of Bracamoros formerly produced a great deal of gold, but no exertions are made to procure the grains at present.


Its commerce consists in cotton, tobacco and mules, with which a brisk trade is carried on with the provinces of Peru and Quito, in return for European articles.

The animals peculiar to the wilds of Jaen are the cougar, or puma, the jaguar, and the great black bear of the Andes, which equally inhabits all the mountain regions of Quito. They have also a very large animal called danta, which is as big as an ox; its skin is white, and it has a horn in the middle of its head bending backwards; and the woods are abundantly stocked with reptiles and birds.

All the rivers of Jaen flow into the Lauricocha, or descend into the deserts of the Maranon to join that noble stream on the east. The communication by post is carried on down these rivers, and the Indian, who carries the letters, wraps them in his dress which he ties round his head, and with a great knife in his hand, to clear the underwood which may obstruct his road when obliged to land, he descends swimming for two days the river of Guacabamba, or Chamaya, and then the Amazons to Tomependa, a village of Jaen. The Chamaya is full of rapids, but the postman passes these by land, and generally carries with him a log of bombax or balsa, in order to rest himself on in the water. In the huts of the natives, which mostly lie along the shores, he finds food and welcome, and none of these rivers are infested with alligators, which generally prefer water whose stream is not rapid.

The Indians who inhabit Bracamoros are usually in large hordes, and on their migrations from one hunting ground to another, they generally travel in this manner, excepting when they ascend the country; then the forests offer the only paths; and through these (in which cinchona of the finest quality is found) they are forced to hew their way with their long knives.



The government of Maynas is the most eastern territory of Quito; it extends to the Portuguese frontiers on the Great Maranon, and is bounded on the north by Quixos, west by Bracamoros and Peru; south by Peru, and eastward by Portuguese America, and the missions north of the Maranon.

The extent of Maynas cannot be computed, as the greater part of it consists of the immense forests of the vale of the Amazons.

Its capital is St. Francisco de Borja, or Borja, in 4° 28ʹ south latitude, and 76° 24ʹ west longitude. The inhabitants are not numerous, being mostly creoles and Indians; but the governor resides here, who is styled governor of Maynas and Maranon. The western district of Maynas contains, besides the city of Borja, the town of Santiago de la Laguna or Cocamas on the eastern bank of the river Guallaga. This is the seat of the superior of the missions, which are spread among the Cocames, the Maynas, Xibaros, Panos, Omaguas, Chamicuros, Aguanos, Muniches, Otanabes, Roamaynas, Gaes, Napeanos, Yurimaguas, and several other Indian tribes. On the river Napo these missionaries have twelve villages, and on the False and True Maranon, as far as the Rio Negro, upwards of twenty-four, with many infant settlements. In the interior, and on the banks of other rivers which flow into the Maranon, they have also many populous and flourishing places, among various tribes of Indians, but most of which are little known.

All these nations of Indians have a great affinity to each other in appearance and manners, but their languages differ as much as those of the northern continent; many of them have also very singular customs; the Omaguas flattening the heads of their infants,[325] by compressing them constantly between boards, and fancying that this gives them a very beautiful appearance; these people were converted by father Fritz, in 1686.

Other tribes bore holes in the septum of the nose, in the lips, or in their chins, sticking in these fine feathers or other ornaments, whilst some extend the lobes of their ears, by constantly hanging weights to them, till they descend to the shoulders.

Maynas is chiefly remarkable as being the country which was supposed to contain such invaluable forests of cinnamon, that the brother of Pizarro nearly lost his life in endeavouring to find it. This exploratory march of the governor of Quito led to the discovery of one of the finest rivers in the world; a part of which traverses this district.

The river Maranon rises in the southern Andes of Peru, and if its length is estimated from its known parts only, to the Atlantic, it rolls its waters through a space equal to 4500 miles, and it is said that a vessel of 4 or 500 tons, might actually navigate it throughout this immense extent. It receives on every side along its majestic course, streams which are themselves longer and deeper than most of the great rivers of Europe; the Beni, the Lauricocha or Tunguragua, the Madera or Llavari, and the Negro, are all of this description; besides which, as a late traveller in Brazil has observed, it may be said to receive thousands of others into its bosom. Near its supposed sources, this noble stream, or rather inland sea, is called the Apurimac, and rises to the south of the mountains of Cailloma, between 16 and 17 degrees of south latitude, near the city of Arequipa, where it is joined by the Monigote or Panguana, and is so deep that on entering the province of Canes, a rope bridge becomes necessary. Eight miles below this bridge it passes through the Andes, amid awful precipices, and is joined by the Pampas or Charcas in 13° 10[326]ʹ south latitude from the west. The Vilcamayo, nearly equal in size to the Apurimac, falls into it, at 12° 15ʹ south latitude, and the Rio Jauja, or Mantaro in 12° 6ʹ south latitude. At the junction of this stream with the Apurimac, the current which had before run from north-west, changes to the north-east. The Perene at 11° 13ʹ, and the Ynambari, or Paucartambo, at 10° 45ʹ, augment its swelling waters, after which, from hence to 8° 26ʹ south latitude, it receives forty large streams; but none so considerable as the Beni, whose sources lie in the province of Sicasica, in 19° south latitude. At its confluence with this river, the Apurimac is called the Grand Para, and is two miles in width; and at 8° 26ʹ south latitude; the Pachitea throws in its tributary waters.

Northward of this last the Piachiz joins it, and here the river changes from north to north-east. At 7° 35ʹ south latitude, the Aguaytra falls into it, and in 7° south latitude, the Manoa or Cuxniabatay, the Sariacu at 6° 45ʹ south latitude, and the Tapichi at 5° south latitude. The stream has now borne for some time the name of Ucayale, and proceeding under this appellation, with an immense volume, it receives at 4° 55ʹ south latitude, the Tunguragua, Lauricocha, or False Maranon. It now divides into three branches, the largest of which is 55 fathoms in depth, and turns directly to the east. Before describing its farther progress, it is necessary to say that some authors have doubted whether the Beni is not the true Maranon, as its sources are farther south than those of the Apurimac; and it is of such force, and has such an immense width on its junction with that river, that it actually drives the Apurimac towards the west for some distance.

The Tunguragua was formerly considered to be the Real Amazons, but that opinion is now quite exploded; it rises in the province of Tarma[327] in Peru, in the lake Lauricocha, near the city of Guanuco, in 11° south latitude, and flows through Peru to Bracamoros, where passing by Jaen, it turns to the east, and pours itself, after intersecting the Andes at the Pongo de Manseriche into the Maranon by an immense mouth, below the village of St. Regis.

The Tunguragua receives many large tributary streams, in the kingdom of Peru, one of which, the Guallaga, rising in the southern Andes, east of Guamanga, is at its conflux with the Lauricocha, 450 yards wide, and thirty-four fathoms deep.

The Ucayale, or True Maranon, is navigable at all seasons; it was explored in 1794 by father Girval, who ascended it from St. Regis to the river Pachitea, and found its current gentle, abounding with fish, and its banks crowned with superb forests stored with wild animals. The native tribes on its shores were generally of a pacific nature, and in the course of 300 leagues he found 132 islands.

From the confluence of the Ucayale and Tunguragua, the river decidedly receives the name of Maranon, and flows with a gentle current, and with an increasing expanse of waters into the Atlantic Ocean; its course lies mostly through the Portuguese territories of Amazonia, Guiana, and Grand Para. It receives from the Cordillera of Quito, the Caqueta and Apapures, which running into each other, become a noble river, under the name of the Yapura. The Napo, which was the river on which Orellana first embarked, also rises in Quito, as does the Putumayo, or Ica, which flows into the Maranon, between the Napo and the Yapura. East of these rivers, besides an immense number of smaller streams, the Maranon receives the great Rio Negro, by which it communicates with the Orinoco. Between the junction of the Negro and the Atlantic Ocean, innumerable streams rising in the deserts of Portuguese Guiana pour in their[328] tributary waters from the north; on its south side this amazing river receives, commencing from the west after the conflux of the Lauricocha, the Yavari, the Jutay, the Juruay, the Tefe, Carori, Puros, and the great Madera, which has its sources in Potosi, far south of the Apurimac, and falls into the Maranon by numerous mouths; and the Topayos, Zingu, Dos Bocas, the Tocantins and the Mugu, issuing from the mining districts of Brasil, pay their tribute to the Maranon, until it rushes into the vast bosom of the Atlantic.

In breadth and depth the Maranon answers almost every where to its immense length, and it forms throughout its course, innumerable islands, especially between the mouths of the Napo and the Carori, which are picturesque in the extreme, from the great variety of their figures, and from the beautiful straits they form between their banks. The depth of the branches formed by these islands, near St. Pablo, or St. Paul de Omaguas, the western Portuguese fort, on the frontiers of New Granada and Peru, is more than a mile. At Coari, where the groups of isles terminate for a short space, the river is nearly a mile and a half broad, and M. de la Condamine, after taking every precaution against the effect of the current, found no bottom with 100 fathoms of line; 400 miles below the mouth of the Negro, the shores of the Maranon approach each other, and this place is called the Straight of Pauxis; the breadth here is only a mile, and the tides are perceptible, though the ocean is still 200 leagues distant.

Proceeding onward, with a majestic course, and forming numerous islands and straights, the river directs its course, after receiving the Zingu, towards the north-east, and enlarging its boundaries in the most astonishing manner, it runs, with accumulated force, to its final destination, forming, as it glides along, several very large insulated[329] places; one of these dividing it at last into two mouths, by which it enters the Atlantic Ocean.

This island, called Joanes, is 150 leagues in length, and from its Cape Maguari to Cape Norte, on the opposite continent, the largest of the two estuaries is forty-five leagues in breadth, whilst the lesser is twelve leagues broad, from the same Cape Maguari to Tigioca point, on the southern continent.

The Maranon is subject to periodical floods during the rainy seasons, at which times it overflows, and fertilizes the country adjacent to its banks. The descent of this river in a straight course of 1860 miles, was found by M. de la Condamine, (who embarked on the Tunguragua and joined the Maranon) to be about 1020 feet, or rather more than six inches in a mile; and the place where the tides are first perceptible, is 90 feet above the level of the sea.

Its banks are adorned with every variety of plants peculiar to tropical countries; immense and stately forests are every where observed, inhabited only by the wild animals, or by man in a state of nature. The settlements of the Portuguese, extend only a very short distance from the Atlantic, where they have here and there a fort, in the most open situations of the interior; the rest of the valley of the Amazons is in the possession of its ancient tenants.

A history of the discovery of this river from the interior, has been already given; but Orellana was not the first who explored it. Vicente Yanez Pinzon, who accompanied Columbus in his first voyage, was the person by whom this was achieved. At his own expence, he fitted out four vessels in Spain, in 1499, and sailed to the Canaries; passing Cape Verde, he steered directly west, till on the 26th January 1500, when he saw the land, which he named Cabo de Consolacion (now called Cape St. Augustine); landing here, and viewing the[330] country, he determined to coast along its shores, until he at last found himself in a fresh water sea, and advancing further, he discovered the islands at the mouth of the river, and trading with the Indians who inhabited its banks, he called it by what he heard them name it, the Maranon.

This discovery was followed by that of Orellana from the interior, in 1540. In 1559, Pedro de Orsua endeavoured to trace the route of Orellana, but was killed by the Indians.

In 1602, Rafael Ferrer explored the river for a short space, and gave the first account of the nations on its shores.

In 1616, some soldiers, pursuing the Indians, fell in with the False Maranon, and went down it in canoes; on their return, and in consequence of what they reported, Baca de Vega was appointed governor of Maynas, in 1618.

Some missionaries afterwards proceeded as far as Para in Brasil, from whence they were dispatched with a flotilla of boats, to re-ascend and explore the banks of the river. They departed on the 28th of October 1637, and reached Palamino in Quixos, on the 24th June 1638.

In consequence of this voyage, the flotilla was ordered to return to Para, with several intelligent persons on board, who were to make a further survey, and then proceed by way of the Portuguese territory, to Spain. They accordingly set out from Quito, on the 16th of February 1639, and reached Grand Para, after a voyage of ten months; whence they crossed the Atlantic to Europe.

The missionaries now exerted themselves to form settlements, but none so arduously as Father Fritz, who sailed down the river from Maynas to Para, in 1689, and returned by the same route, in 1691; he subsequently visited most of the rivers which flow into the False Maranon, as well as some of those down to the Negro, which fall into the[331] genuine river, and drew a map of these, which was engraved at Quito, in 1707.

Father Girval explored the Ucayale, or True Maranon, in 1794, extracts from whose account will appear in the description of Peru.

The voyage of M. de la Condamine, in 1793, down the Maranon, from the province of Jaen de Bracamoros, to the Atlantic Ocean, threw a great light on the geography of this famous river, since which period no traveller of any note has undertaken this dangerous and fatiguing journey, for scientific purposes alone. A stronger motive than the mere love of science induced a lady to venture herself on the immeasurable expanse of the Maranon. Madame Godin des Odonnois, the wife of M. Godin, a brother of the celebrated mathematician of that name, had received advices from her husband, that it would be necessary to embark with her family on this perilous voyage. Actuated by the spirit of conjugal affection, she committed herself to the bosom of the river, in 1769. In this expedition the greater part of the company who went with her, perished, having lost their way in the trackless forests of the country; after the most inconceivable struggles, she regained the borders of the river, and sailed down it to the ocean. The narrative of the disasters which befel her is one of the most affecting relations ever penned by the hand of man; and her conduct exhibits a picture of the fortitude which woman is capable of exerting, in situations under which the mind of the bravest of the other sex fails. From Madame Godin alone, this noble river might be named the Amazons.

One of the extraordinary circumstances respecting this river, is the pororoca, or bore, a sudden efflux of the waters, which rush like a moving wall, twelve or fifteen feet in height, and sweep every thing before them; the noise of this irruption may be heard for eight miles; it is chiefly observable at the Cape del Norte, at its confluence with the Arowary.[332] This rising of the waters is observable in several rivers and arms of the sea, in the New and Old Worlds; the river Severn in England, and the bay or basin of Minas in Nova Scotia, are, with that of the Ganges in India, among the most remarkable.

The waters of the Maranon run with such velocity, that they are unmixed with the salt of the ocean, 80 leagues from the mouth.

Maynas contains several other rivers besides the Lauricocha, the most noted of which are the Napo, issuing from Cotopaxi, which receives several other streams, and after a course of 200 leagues, falls into the Maranon. Father de Acuna insisted that this was the true Amazons.

The River Ica, or Putamayo, rising in the district of Ibarra, falls into the Maranon, east of the Napo, after a course of 300 leagues. The Yapura, which rising in Popayan, under the name of Caqueta, runs into the Maranon, by several mouths. One branch of this river was formerly thought to be the great Rio Negro, the junction of which, with the Orinoco, is so exactly laid down in a map of Father Ferreira, of the city of Gran Para, that it differs in very few respects from the late discoveries of M. de Humboldt on the Cassiquiare. The Portuguese penetrated from the Amazons to the Orinoco, by means of canoes, as early as 1774; and M. de la Condamine, also gives a very reasonable description of this famous junction.

The Rio Negro rises a short space north of the Caqueta or Yapura, and after an amazing course, sends off one branch to the Orinoco, directly north, and another south-easterly to the Maranon. The northern branch is now known by the name of the Cassiquiare: these afford an inland communication between two of the most celebrated rivers in the world; and as the settlements of the Spaniards in Caraccas, and the Portuguese in Guiana, approach each nearer and nearer every[333] year, this natural canal will shortly become of great importance.

The most remarkable natural curiosity in Maynas is the Pongo or straight, through which the Lauricocha passes the Andes. The river above the Pongo, runs down a mountain channel, forming rapids, cataracts, &c., approaching the eastern ridge of the Andes, where it suddenly contracts its bounds, from 1600 to 600 feet, and rushes through a crevice of tremendous height for the space of eight miles.

The vortices are so powerful here, that a missionary was kept in one for two days, and would have perished with his raft, if the river had not suddenly swollen and carried him out of it. Balsas are always used in this strait, as the spring they have resists the shocks which they experience when dashed against the rocks; in such cases, a canoe or boat would be broke to pieces.

La Condamine was carried through on his balsa at the rate of nine miles an hour, and emerging from the jaws of the mountain, he found himself in a new world, separated from all human intercourse, on a fresh water sea, surrounded by a maze of rivers and lakes, which struck in every direction into the gloom of an immense forest, impenetrable but for them. New plants and animals were exhibited to his view, the soil covered with a dense mass of vegetation never appeared, and nothing was to be seen but verdure and water. Below Borja, and four or 500 hundred leagues beyond it a stone or a pebble is as rare as a diamond.

In Maynas the Indians are great adepts in fishing, and the rivers swarm with tortoises on their shores and islands, which they catch in great numbers. The manati or sea-cow is also sought after by them for food; it is about three or four yards long, and very broad, with two large wing fins. This animal feeds on the herbage growing along shore, and has obtained its name from its[334] great size, and from its suckling its young in the manner of a cow, and its flesh tastes also like beef.

This country, particularly along the rivers, is infested with large snakes, or boa constrictors, and in the places where these abound, the air is generally hot and unhealthy, as is the case along the whole range of the vast river Maranon, which likewise swarms with alligators, venomous reptiles, and insects.


The government of Quixos and Macas is the last and most easterly of those of the audience of Quito and kingdom of New Granada; it is bounded on the north by Popayan and the plains; east by Portuguese Guiana; on the west it is separated from Latacunga and Ibarra by the Cordilleras of Cotopaxi, Cayambe, &c., and on the south, it is limited by Maynas and Bracamoros.

This country was first discovered by Gonzalo de Pineda, as before related, in 1536. The viceroy Canete, commissioned Davalos to govern the province, reduce the Indians, and found towns. He accordingly erected Baeza the capital, in 1559, and this was soon followed by the building of Archidona, Avila, and other places.

In Quixos the climate is very hot and moist, the rains being almost continual. It is covered with thick forests, some of the trees in which are of prodigious magnitude. In the south-west of Quixos, is the country called Los Canelos, a sort of spice resembling cinnamon growing there. The south part of Quixos is called Macas, and is separated into a distinct district, under that appellation, of which the chief town is the city of Macas, or Sevilla de Oro.

The climate of Macas is better than that of Quixos, as the proximity of the Andes occasions to be much cooler. The winter here begins in[335] April, and lasts till September, the summer then commences, and the north winds blowing constantly, renders it very mild. The chief occupation of the settlers is the cultivation of tobacco which is exported to Peru; sugar canes thrive very well, as do cotton, grain, &c. Among the infinite variety of trees, which the forests are composed of, is the storax, distinguished by the exquisite fragrancy of its gum. Great quantities of copal are brought from Macas as well as wild wax, and the district contains eight principal villages, and numerous missionary settlements, two priests or superiors governing the spiritual affairs. At the conquest, this country was very populous, owing to the quantity of gold drawn from the neighbourhood of Macas.

Baeza, the capital of Quixos y Macas, is a miserable village, of only eight or nine houses, the governor residing always at Archidona.

Macas, the chief town of Macas, lies in 2° 30ʹ south latitude, and 78° 5ʹ west longitude. Its houses are built of wood and thatched; the inhabitants who amount to 1200, are generally mestizoes or Spaniards.

Archidona is a small place, in 0° 45ʹ south of the line, and 76° 48ʹ west longitude. Its houses are of wood with thatched roofs, and the inhabitants amount to about 700, being a mixture of all castes. It was almost ruined in 1744, by an explosion of Cotopaxi.

Avila is in 0° 44ʹ south latitude, and 76° 25ʹ west longitude; its inhabitants amount to about 300, and its curate has six other villages under his jurisdiction. The number of regular villages in Quixos are twelve, with numerous missions. The independent Indians are still the chief occupiers of Quixos and Macas; their irruptions are frequent and much dreaded, most of them being of a warlike disposition. This prevents these countries from being colonized rapidly, but a few Spanish[336] troops properly managed, might however soon quell these people, and reduce them to a state of insignificance. The missions of Sucumbios, five in number, also belong to this government.

Quixos and Macas are intersected by the rivers mentioned as flowing into the Maranon through parts of Maynas; but little is known of the state of the country on their banks, as the aborigines are there the sole and undisputed masters.


[A] The latitude of forty-four degrees south has been taken as the boundary of Spanish America, because it appears that in that parallel there are Spanish settlers dispersed amongst the islands on the west coasts of Terra Magellanica.


 Printed by A. Strahan,
Printers-Street, London

Transcriberʼs Notes:

Punctuation and capitalization which appear to be printing errors have been fixed. Repeated spelling variations and inconsistencies (e.g. Louisiania and Louisiana, scite and site, caste and cast, Cape Gracias à Dios and Cape Gracios á Dios), as well as inconsistent hyphenation and older spellings, have been retained as printed in the original text. However, words that appear to be printing errors have been corrected and are listed below.

“govenor” changed to “governor” on page 52. (under the directions of the governor)

“runing” changed to “running” on page 136. (running underneath the ground)

“Yutacan” changed to “Yucatan” on page 155. (the east coast of Yucatan)

“isdivided” changed to “is divided” on page 188. (into which Cuba is divided)

“sacrified” changed to “sacrificed” on page 195. (the natives had sacrificed)

“coastsof” changed to “coasts of” in the footnote at the end of Part I. (the west coasts of Terra Magellanica)

End of Project Gutenberg's Spanish America, by Richard Henry Bonnycastle


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