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HOME > Classical Novels > The Boy Travellers in Mexico > CHAPTER XXIV.
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"In the height of its glory," said Fred, "Puebla contained more than ninety churches. In 1869 it had sixty churches, nine monasteries, twenty-one collegiate houses, thirteen nunneries, and numerous chapels and shrines. The confiscation of ecclesiastical property has reduced the number of the churches to little more than twenty, abolished the nunneries
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 and all the monasteries except two, which are really hospitals or almshouses for old and disabled priests. Some of the confiscated buildings have been sold for private uses, and others converted into schools, hospitals, libraries, and other Government establishments for local, State, or general government use.
"Doctor Bronson had a letter of introduction to the superintendent of the Hospital de Dementes, or Insane Asylum, which is in the building that was formerly the nunnery of Santa Rosa. We accompanied the Doctor when he went to deliver the letter, and were politely received and shown through the establishment. The hospital appears to be well managed, and Doctor Bronson was much interested in it. Of course the building was particularly attractive to Frank and myself, as we wanted to see how the nuns were lodged in the olden times. They certainly had a most delightful home so far as the eye was concerned, and I don't wonder that the nunneries in Mexico were popular among the women. The decorations everywhere were of beautiful tiles; the courts and their walls, the walls of rooms, the ceilings, the oratories, the bath-rooms, and even the kitchens and cooking stoves, were all covered with finely painted and glazed tiles. It is easy to keep such rooms clean, and we certainly have never seen a cleaner and neater building anywhere. We did not ask whether the attractions of the place had any beneficial effect upon the insane patients, but certainly they ought to have.
"From all we could observe, the city is admirably provided with hospitals, schools, and asylums, and no doubt the fact that so many suitable buildings were ready at hand had something to do with their number. Then, too, the Church had made liberal provision for the sick and suffering, and the Government here, as in other cities, had the good-sense not to undo the philanthropic work which was so long carried on under religious auspices. In the general hospital half the patients are treated by allopathy and half by homœopathy. The advocates of either system can readily demonstrate its superiority over the other, as they can in other countries besides Mexico."
Every visitor to Puebla should go to Cholula, and particularly to its great pyramid, which is, in some respects, the most remarkable edifice on the American continent. In point of fact, very few visitors fail to see it, and many of them go to Cholula before doing anything else.
"It is an easy excursion," wrote Frank, "as Cholula is only six or seven miles from Puebla, and can be reached by a tram-way which deposits you at the very foot of the great pyramid. A special car for sixteen persons or a smaller number can be had for ten dollars, and it is
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 as much subject to your orders as a private carriage would be. As we were three instead of sixteen, we decided to go in the ordinary way, paying fifty cents each for the round trip. The cars afford a fine view, and altogether we greatly enjoyed the excursion.
"We took a guide from the hotel, and he called our attention to the various buildings and other objects, of which there were so many that they are considerably confused in our recollection. We crossed the Attoyac Valley, which abounds in fields of grain, and is dotted with ruined churches and monasteries, one of the latter having been converted into an iron-foundery and another into a cotton-mill. There is an old Spanish bridge crossing the Attoyac River, and the Mexicans have shown their ability to utilize the water-power of the stream by building several mills upon it.
"We had not gone far before our eyes took in the mound, or pyramid of Cholula, and also the great volcanoes of Popocatepetl and the White Woman all in one view. The mound did not seem insignificant, although backed by these great mountains; they are thirty miles away,
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 though they seem much nearer, while the pyramid is close upon our horizon and steadily swells into the sky as we approach it.
"This is a good place for a bit of history. Cholula was an important city, and covered a large area, when Cortez came to Mexico; under the conquerors it had at one time fifty churches and other ecclesiastical buildings, but now it has dwindled to a population of less than 5000, and most of its former edifices are in ruins. The great pyramid is the principal monument of the Aztecs, and in fact it is the best preserved of their monuments to-day in all Mexico. For a picture of what it was when Cortez looked from its summit, we have read with great interest the description in Prescott's History. Here it is:
"'Nothing could be more grand than the view which met the eye from the truncated summit of the pyramid. Towards the north stretched the bold barrier of porphyry rock, which Nature has reared round the Valley of Mexico, with the huge Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl standing like two sentinels to guard the entrance of this enchanted region. Far away to the south was seen the conical head of Orizaba soaring high into
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 the clouds, and nearer, the barren, though beautifully shaped Sierra de Malinche, throwing its broad shadows over the plains of Tlascala. Three of these volcanoes, higher than the highest peak in Europe, and shrouded in snows which never melt under the fierce sun of the tropics, at the foot of the spectator the sacred city of Cholula, with its bright towers and pinnacles sparkling in the sun, reposing amidst gardens and verdant groves. Such was the magnificent prospect which met the eye of the conquerors, and may still, with slight change, meet that of the modern traveller, as he stands on the broad plateau of the pyramid, and his eye wanders over the fairest portion of the beautiful plateau of Puebla.'
"We are quite willing to adopt Prescott's description for our own, as the scene is the same to-day as in the time of Cortez, except that there is little left of the sacred city of Cholula, with its spires and pinnacles, its gardens and verdant groves. The pyramid is a stupendous structure, and worthy a place by the side of the great pyramids of Egypt. It was long thought to be a natural mound, but all the excavations that have been made in it show that it is an artificial work, built by time and patience and the muscle of many thousands of men. Its interior is of earth, and its exterior was once stone and adobe, but time has covered much of the outside with earth, in which trees, grass, and bushes have taken root and grow luxuriantly.
"The car stopped at the foot of the pyramid, and there we alighted. There is a sloping road leading to the summit; it was built by the Spaniards, and in its construction much of the old masonry was removed. We ascended partly by this road, and partly by steps, pausing several times on the way in order to rest and take in the ever-changing view. We did not take the measurements of the mound, and therefore must give you the figures of others.
"Humboldt says the mound is 1400 feet square, covering forty-five acres of ground, and 160 feet high; another authority makes it 177 feet
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 high, and 1425 feet square. Another, and probably the most exact measurement, gives the following figures:
"North line, 1000 feet; east line, 1026 feet; south line, 833 feet; and west line, 1000 feet.
"The summit is a platform, or plateau, measuring 203 by 144 feet, and having an area of not far from one acre. This plateau has a stone parapet around it, and there is a chapel in the centre; the mound was evidently built in four stories, like some of the oldest pyramids of Egypt; but they are less distinct than the stories or stages of the famous pyramid of Sakkara, on the banks of the Nile, which is said to have been built by the children of Israel during their captivity.
"The sides of the pyramid correspond to the cardinal points of the compass, north, south, east, and west; and in this respect the structure resembles the great pyramid of Cheops. Nobody can tell when it was built; the Aztecs found it here when they came, and the Indians whom they conquered said it was not the work of their ancestors. The Aztecs dedicated it to their god Quetzalcoatl, and every year they sacrificed on the summit of the mound thousands of victims in the manner we have described in our account of Tenochtitlan. When the Spaniards came here they found a statue of the Aztec deity on the place where the chapel now
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 stands; one of the first acts of Cortez was to destroy the statue, and order the erection of a church in its place.
"In his report to the King, Cortez said the city of Cholula contained 20,000 houses and the suburbs as many more. The people received him kindly, but he learned, or pretended to learn, that they were plotting against him. So he called a meeting of all the dignitaries, under pretence of a consultation, and when they were assembled he ordered a general massacre. Six thousand of the people were slain, and for two days the city was given over to be pillaged by the Spaniards and their allies the Tlascalans, who were bitter enemies of the Cholulans. The Tlascalans were, of course, gratified with the slaughter and pillage, but Cortez offended them deeply when he refused to permit the sacrifice of the prisoners captured in the affair.
"We remained nearly two hours on the summit of the mound enjoying the magnificent view, and trying to picture the place as it was in and before the days of Cortez, and shuddering as we thought of the blood that had been shed there in sacrifices and by the swords of the conquerors. Fred made a sketch of the view, and then we descended and looked through the village, which contained very little of interest; next we took
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 a Mexican dinner at the Fonda de la Reforma, a small but clean restaurant on the Plaza Mayor. The plaza is as large as that of the capital city, but so little used that it is grass-covered in many places. There were few people there when we saw it, but they told us that it is quite lively on market-day, when everybody in the town comes there; there is a Zocala in the centre of the plaza, but it offered so few attractions that we did not visit it. We strolled through the ruined churches, and our guide told us that one of them, the Capilla Real, w............
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