Jalapa, Mexico by the London Reading Book

Letter T.

The city of Jalapa, in Mexico, is very beautifully situated at the foot of Macultepec, at an elevation of 4335 feet above the level of the sea; but as this is about the height which the strata of clouds reach, when suspended over the ocean, they come in contact with the ridge of the Cordillera Mountains; this renders the atmosphere exceedingly humid and disagreeable, particularly in north-easterly winds. In summer, however, the mists disappear; the climate is perfectly delightful, as the extremes of heat and cold are never experienced.

On a bright sunny day, the scenery round Jalapa is not to be surpassed. Mountains bound the horizon, except on one side, where a distant view of the sea adds to the beauty of the scene. Orizaba, with its snow-capped peak, appears so close, that one imagines that it is within a few hours' reach, and rich evergreen forests clothe the surrounding hills. In the foreground are beautiful gardens, with fruits of every clime—the banana and fig, the orange, cherry, and apple. The town is irregularly built, but very picturesque; the houses are in the style of the old houses of Spain, with windows down to the ground, and barred, in which sit the Jalapenas ladies, with their fair complexions and black eyes.

Near Jalapa are two or three cotton factories, under the management of English and Americans: the girls employed are all Indians, healthy and good-looking; they are very apt in learning their work, and soon comprehend the various uses of the machinery. In the town there is but little to interest the stranger, but the church is said to have been founded by Cortez, and there is also a Franciscan convent. The vicinity of Jalapa, although poorly cultivated, produces maize, wheat, grapes, and jalap, from which plant the well-known medicine is prepared, and the town takes its name. A little lower down the Cordillera grows the vanilla, the bean of which is so highly esteemed for its aromatic flavour.

Town of Jalapa, in Mexico.

The road from Jalapa to the city of Mexico constantly ascends, and the scenery is mountainous and grand; the villages are but few, and fifteen or twenty miles apart, with a very scanty population. No signs of cultivation are to be seen, except little patches of maize and chilé, in the midst of which is sometimes to be seen an Indian hut formed of reeds and flags. The mode of travelling in this country is by diligences, but these are continually attacked and robbed; and so much is this a matter of course, that the Mexicans invariably calculate a certain sum for the expenses of the road, including the usual fee for the banditti. Baggage is sent by the muleteers, by which means it is ensured from all danger, although a long time on the road. The Mexicans never think of resisting these robbers, and a coach-load of eight or nine is often stopped and plundered by one man. The foreigners do not take matters so quietly, and there is scarcely an English or American traveller in the country who has not come to blows in a personal encounter with the banditti at some period or other of his adventures.