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HOME > Classical Novels > The Boy Travellers in Mexico > CHAPTER XV.
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One of the most attractive drives in the neighborhood of Mexico is along the Paseo de la Reforma, the avenue leading to Chapultepec. In point of fact, it is generally the first drive taken by a visitor, and he
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 is pretty certain to be favorably impressed with it. Chapultepec was a royal residence before the Conquest; during the Spanish rule it was the home of the viceroys, and since that time the President of the republic has generally lived there when he could live at all in the city or its vicinity. Maximilian selected it for the location of the Imperial Palace, and enlarged the then existing buildings; the avenue leading to it owes its origin to his ambition, and is a monument of his taste for the beautiful.
Whether the ride to Chapultepec is taken by the tram-way or in a carriage, the stranger will find it full of interest, and he would do well to try both means of making the visit. If he is an equestrian he will hire a saddle-horse, and make the excursion on horseback between seven and nine o'clock in the morning, when it is the fashion to appear thus on the Paseo. Doctor Bronson and his young friends followed the prevailing custom, and through the aid of the manager of the hotel were satisfactorily provided with steeds. But they were very modestly mounted in comparison with some of the Mexican equestrians, whose saddles and saddle-cloths were elaborately ornamented and said to have cost all the way from one to two
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 thousand dollars each. Some of the horsemen were armed with sabres and revolvers—a souvenir of a custom which is no longer necessary, but was emphatically so not many years ago. The road to Chapultepec, and indeed the roads anywhere in the suburbs, were infested with brigands, who used to rise up from unexpected spots as though at the hand of a magician, and perform their work in a very expeditious manner.
The enterprising brigands were not content with robbing people on horseback or in carriages, but occasionally devoted their energies to kidnapping residents and holding them for ransom. As an illustration of their performances Frank made note of the following story:
"One evening while a gentleman was at dinner with his family, in the suburb of Tacuba, a party of brigands appeared and commanded silence on the part of all under pain of death. They harmed no one, and did not rob the house, but they hurried the gentleman into a carriage, and drove away with him. It was naturally supposed that he had been taken to a place of concealment among the foot-hills of the mountains that encircle the valley; but it turned out that his captors drove directly to the city and secreted
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 their victim in the cellar of a house. There he was kept for several days, until the police were so closely on the track of the kidnappers that they fled and left him to make his escape. Subsequently they were captured and executed; but the circumstance was not at all a pleasant one for suburban residents to contemplate."
Fred observed that the Paseo de la Reforma begins at the equestrian statue of Charles IV., very nearly a mile from the Plaza Mayor. It may also be said to begin at the Alameda, a beautiful garden of poplar and other trees, and occupying a historic site. The Alameda includes the ancient Indian market-place and the Plaza del Quemadero, where the victims of the Inquisition were burned to death on a stone platform which was long since removed. Successive viceroys improved it, and within the last few decades it has been planted with flowers and otherwise beautified, so that it is now a very attractive spot.
The statue of Charles IV. is a fine work of art, and notable as the first bronze casting of any magnitude on this side of the Atlantic; Humboldt pronounced it second only to the statue of Marcus Aurelius, and it has received the unstinted praise of many critics who have seen it. It was cast in 1802, and placed upon its pedestal in the following year. During the War for Independence it was, in 1822, covered with a large globe of boards painted blue, and in this condition it remained for two years, when it was taken down and placed in the court-yard of the University. In 1852, when the hostility to the Spaniards had somewhat abated, the statue was restored to its pedestal, and has peacefully rested there ever since. The casting is in a single piece, and weighs thirty tons, and the height of horse and rider is only a few inches less than sixteen feet.
From the foot of the statue to the base of Chapultepec is a distance of 3750 yards; the Paseo de la Reforma runs straight as a sunbeam along this measured length, and it has a width, including the sidewalks, of fifty-six yards. At regular distances there are glorietas, circular spaces like the Rond-Point of the Champs-Elysées, in Paris, which are intended for statues of men eminent in the history of Mexico; one of them is already occupied with a statue of Columbus, who is represented drawing away the veil that hides the New World. At the corners of the pedestal are four life-size figures in bronze, and Frank and Fred were pleased to observe that one of them represented the good missionary Las Casas, who labored earnestly for the protection of the Indians. A statue of Guatemozin, the last of the Aztec kings, is destined for the next space, but had not been erected at the time of the visit of our friends; the third space was intended for a statue of Cortez, and the fourth for one of Juarez. The occupants
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 of the other glorietas had not been named, but they will be men famous in the history of Mexico. From present indications Maximilian is not likely to be chosen as one of the heroes to be preserved in bronze. The glorietas are 400 feet in diameter, and surrounded with stone benches for the accommodation of pedestrian visitors.
The Paseo is lined with shade-trees, so that it affords pleasant walks; the centre of the road-way is reserved for people on horseback, while the carriages move along the sides. On pleasant afternoons the vehicles are so numerous that the police have sufficient occupation to keep them in proper line, and the turnout is a fine one in every way. Frank and Fred compared the display one afternoon with that of London, Paris, and New York, under similar circumstances, and after careful consideration they agreed that the Mexican pageant was more attractive than any one of the rest.
"The ground is level, the road finely macadamized, and the way perfectly straight; the horses and carriages are the best that can be procured; the equestrians are splendidly mounted, and their apparel and equipments are picturesque; the ladies are handsomely attired, and many of them have pretty faces; the panorama of hills and mountains loses none of its grandeur, and altogether we are in love with the Paseo de la Reforma."
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So wrote Frank, and his cousin gave his hearty indorsement of the opinion thus presented.
"Don't forget," said Fred, "to make mention of the aqueducts that supply the city with water, as they are in sight from this drive. One comes from back among the hills near the old convent of El Desierto, and the other leads from a great spring at the foot of Chapultepec. The latter aqueduct gave shelter to our soldiers during their attack on the gates of the city after the storming of the castle; from one pillar to another of the aqueduct they dodged the fire of the Mexican artillery and infantry, and so gained the front of the gate-way."
"I'll not forget that," replied Frank, "nor the old cypresses under which Montezuma is said to have sat and walked; but before we get to them we'll mention that an American company proposes to make an extension of the city of Mexico by building a suburb on the level tract of land through which the Paseo runs. This was one of the dreams of Maximilian, but he had no time or opportunity to put it into practical shape. His idea has been taken up by the peaceful invaders from the North, and
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 if it is carried out as they propose, it will not be many years before the land is materially transformed. Artesian wells have been sunk in this level space and have found an abundance of water, and the projectors of the suburb say they will have their own supply without depending upon either of the aqueducts."
"Chapultepec is a delightful spot," wrote Fred, "whether considered as a public resort, a royal or Presidential residence, or for the panoramic view presented to the visitor as he looks from its top. It is an isolated rock, or hill, rising about 200 feet, and with a length of 1000 or 1200 feet, and the top is crowned with the buildings, which have seen many changes among their occupants as well as in themselves. The sides are steep in some places, but gradual in others, the steep parts predominating. All around the base are cypress-trees, whose age is unknown; but they are certainly very old; and their venerable appearance is increased by the moss that depends from their limbs.
"The tree of the greatest interest to us was that which bears the name of Montezuma. If tradition is correct, the Emperor sat beneath its shade; and it was possibly while resting here that he received the news of the
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 approach of those strange white men who had landed upon the coast, and rode upon animals the like of which were never before known in America. It is a wonderful tree 170 feet high, and forty-six in circumference. Like the other great trees of Chapultepec, it is a cypress; and like the others, too, it is heavily draped with moss, as though in mourning for the aboriginal ruler, whose kingdom was torn away by the invader.
"From the tree of Montezuma we went to his bath, which is not far away, and is the famous spring that fills the aqueduct already mentioned. The water is cool and clear, and supplied the ancient Tenochtitlan, just as in later days it was made to supply the Spanish city which rose on the site of the Aztec one. The aqueduct through which the water flows is exactly on the line of that of the Aztecs. The Spanish aqueduct was begun in 1677, and has 904 arches from its starting-point at Chapultepec to its terminus in the Salto del Agua, or Water-fall, in the city. The water of Chapultepec is called agua delgada, or thin water; while that supplied by the San Cosme aqueduct is agua gorda, or thick water. From time immemorial the spring has been flowing, and it is supposed to be fed by underground channels from the mountains.
"After the tree and the baths we visited the palace, or such part of it
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 as was open to the public. There is not much worth seeing inside the building, the most interesting feature about it being the view from the roof. All the Valley of Mexico, with its girdle of mountains, was before us; it was like the view from the cathedral tower, with the difference that the city formed a part of the horizontal view in one direction, while from the tower it lay beneath and around our feet; and the same view that included the city embraced also the snowy peaks of Popocatepetl and the 'White Woman,' which lay a little to the right of the cluster of domes and roofs standing between us and the silvery sheet of Tezcoco. In the opposite direction was Tacuba, the spot where Cortez thought of rebuilding the city which was to rise in place of the Tenochtitlan he had destroyed. It is to be regretted that he did not do so, as the site is better adapted to a city; it admits of good dr............
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