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PROGRESS OF THE CAPITAL.
the conquest. It is, of course, impossible to give the population of the ancient capital with any approach to accuracy; and, apart from the records of the chroniclers, we can but draw our conclusions from the number of warriors whom Cuitlahuatzin and Quauhtemotzin arrayed against the Spaniards and their allies, from the remains of walls and buildings, and from what we can ascertain of the circumference of the city.2
From the 4th of July 1523, on which date, it will be remembered, a coat of arms was presented to the capital of New Spain in consideration of its being "tan insigne y noble," until the close of the eighteenth century the growth in population had not been remarkable. Cortés in a letter dated October 15, 1524, intimates, as we have seen, that there were then 30,000 vecinos, although this number doubtless included many non-residents, while Gomara, who wrote about the middle of the sixteenth century, makes mention of two thousand Spanish settlers alone,5 and Torquemada, who describes events that occurred thirty years later, places the number of Spanish households as high as seven thousand, and of native families at eight thousand. Allowing for exaggeration, it must be said, therefore, that the progress of the metropolis in this particular was much smaller than that of many of the old-world capitals during a similar period, and far less than has been made within two or three decades by many cities on this continent.
It requires no slight exercise of faith to believe that the modern capital which is now distant about a league from the shore of the lake, was built on the
2 As already stated in my Native Races, ii. 560-61, the number of houses is variously given at from 30,000 in Ayalon to 120,000 in Torquemada; and according to the most reliable estimates the population may be set down at about 300,000.
3 See Hist. Mex., ii. 17, this series. A description of the foundation and early growth of the city is given in the opening chapter of that volume.
Cartas, 309. 5 Hist. Mex., 236.
site "where," as Humboldt says, "stood old Tenochtitlan, with its numerous teocallis, which rose toward the sky like minarets, surrounded by water and causeways, built upon islands covered with vegetation, and with the constant movement of thousands of boats on the surface of the lake." The main cause that contributed to dry up the lakes round the city, is the drainage work of Huehuetoca, of which mention has been made in its place. The destruction of the forests in the valley of Mexico, occasioned by the vast consumption of lumber needed to rebuild the city and for other purposes, of course helped to cause a shrinkage in the volume of water.
Chapultepec, a historic spot in Aztec as well as New Spain history,' alone retained its former beauty. After the conquest the Spanish commander stationed there a small garrison of Tlascaltecs, and from that time it became a favorite place of resort for the Spaniards, as it had formerly been of the Mexican emperors. Viceroy Luis Velasco dedicated "to his sovereign this forest, beautiful place for public recreation," and placed there two greyhounds that had been brought from Spain by Archbishop Montúfar. These multiplied so rapidly that the species after some years became quite common throughout New Spain.
The viceroy Galvez chose the heights of Chapultepec on which to build a palace for himself and his successors. The design of the structure was somewhat remarkable. The side facing Mexico was fortified with walls and buttresses capable of supporting cannon, though built as though merely for architectural
6 Page 7 et seq., this vol.
See Native Races, ii. 166-7; iii. 298; iv. 502; v. 295-7, 321-4, 330-1, 340. 8The palace which the Montezumas built there was used as a powder fac tory, and was blown up in 1784, with the loss of forty-seven lives. See Galvan, Calendario, 1838; Mex. Gaceta, Dec. 1, 1784, supl.; Caro, Tres Siglos, iii. 54; Humboldt, Essai Pol. (tom. ii. lib. iii. cap. viii., German ed.) On June 5, 1728, the city council issued a license to Juan Diaz del Real, to establish there a house to furnish refreshments to visitors who 'fueran á holgar, pan é vino é otros mantenimientos.' Icazbalceta, Notas, in Salazar, Mex. en 1554, 256-7. The crown disapproved of the enormous expense, but too late. Reales Cédulas, MS., 105–6.
adornment. On the north were ditches and wide souterrains large enough to contain stores for several months.10 When Galvez was wrongfully suspected of treason, it was thought that the palace was intended to serve him as a last retreat and place of defence, should European troops be sent against him. The structure remained unfinished until devoted to other uses after the independence, and its beauty was marred by the addition of an astronomical observatory. From this point is obtained a fine view of the valley, and of the city of Mexico with its towering spires and prominent structures encircled with gardens, orchards, country villas, and shaded causeways.
At the time of Revilla Gigedo's arrival as viceroy of New Spain in 1789, the capital appears to have been in a demoralized condition morally and socially. "It had been converted," says Bustamante, "into a receptacle for immoral persons, coming from all parts of the country, and hiding with greater security in the capital than thieves in their forest haunts and dens; they act with impunity knowing that there is no police to interfere with their conduct." And in no very flattering language this writer laments that the city was not the capital of a flourishing empire, but "a cesspool, filthy and pestiferous, with its centre in the principal square.
Indeed, this plaza presented a singular appearance. Notwithstanding the orders issued after the riot of 1692, its surface was covered with booths and stands of every description and filled with half-naked hucksters. The gallows and the pillory occupied a prominent place in front of the viceregal palace to the right, and the execution of criminals could be witnessed by many thousands of spectators. A column, poorly constructed and crowned by a statue of Fer
10 Humboldt, Essai Pol., i. 202.
More particulars concerning Chapultepec may be found in Revilla Gigedo, Residencia, MS., 374-85; Panes, Vireyes, MS., 128; Mendoza, Carta, in Flo rida, Col. Doc., 137; Ternaux-Comp., sér. ii. tom. v. 273; Dicc. Univ., ix. 31– 5, 385; Viagero Univ., xxvi. 190 et seq.
nando VI. rose in the centre of the square, and on one side was the graveyard of the cathedral. The interior of the viceregal palace, which was never closed, was also filled with hucksters' booths, and along the sides of its walls flowed the drainage canal which received the offal of the city. The police system was in keeping with the condition of the plaza; there were no watchmen or guardians of the peace, nor any other means to assure safety than the occasional few patrols of alcaldes or citizens; there were no street lights, and at night it was necessary to carry torches or lanterns; the pavements were neglected, and through the middle of the streets ran open gutters loaded with filth. Nevertheless, comparing the condition of the capital with that of many of the principal European cities in the eighteenth century, the contrast is not very marked.
Revilla Gigedo comprehended the immediate necessity of reform. He recognized that the prevailing abuses were caused by the indolence and criminal neglect of former rulers, whose principal aim seemed always to have been the accumulation of riches which they might enjoy on their return to Spain. He suppressed the festivities at his reception; the palace and the plaza were deprived of their filthy booths; working men were compelled to appear in more decent dress; public baths and market-places were overhauled and regulated; a system of lighting the streets was inaugurated, the paving of streets was recommenced, and an effective fire brigade was organized. A multitude of other useful measures was adopted during the administration of this able and energetic ruler. Among them was a reduction in the number of feast days which clogged the regular course of traffic and commerce, and increased the natural indolence of the masses. A foundling institute was also erected to check the crime of child-murder, which had become very prevalent.
This was not all. Not a single elementary free
school is said to have existed at the time in the capital or in the provinces, and nearly all the other institutions of learning were under the charge of friars, generally ignorant and cruel, while the female institutes were directed by women whose mode of teaching consisted in narrating ridiculous stories of saints, calculated to develop the superstition of the listeners. Of useful knowledge, a little reading and writing were sufficient. 12 Even the school of mining, so celebrated in after years, was only an institute in name. It lacked professors, instruments, and apparatus, and its utility was questionable. All these matters received the attention of the viceroy. At the same time he established a new police system and remodelled the administration of justice. Great changes were soon apparent, and the labors of Revilla Gigedo became of lasting benefit to New Spain, particularly to the capital.
Notwithstanding these drawbacks, at the close of the eighteenth century Mexico was the largest city in America, and one of the finest built by Europeans on either hemisphere. From north to south it measured one league, and three fourths of a league from east to west. It was encircled by a ditch, or navigable canal, which served at the same time as a drain and military defence, and prevented goods from being introduced except by the causeways and gates, thus serving as a protection to the customs department. The buildings were plain and elegant, not overladen with ornament, and not disfigured by the uncouth galleries and balconies so common to other Spanish cities. The material of which they were mainly constructed-tetzontli and a peculiar kind of porphyry13-gave them an aspect of solidity and splen
12 Rivera, Gobernantes, i. 476, whose facilities to ascertain historical data concerning the city of Mexico may be considered fully as ample as those of Zamacois, supports the statement made in the text. The latter author, Hist. Mej., v. 683, takes umbrage at this, claiming that many elementary institu tions existed in the country at the time, particularly for orphans, in which tuition and maintenance were given gratuitously.
13 The porous amygdaloid called tetzontli, and a porphyry of vitreous felspar without any quartz.