United States. Dept. of Commerce and Labor United States. Bureau of Foreign Commerce.

Consular reports, Issues 188-191 online

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he is sure to return to cereals or to beans. This spring, the heat has been
excessive on the central plateau in the State of Hidalgo, and the fields of
wheat and beans are almost completely withered. There will be a resowing
if the rains come early.

The principal regions for the cultivation of the maguey are the arid
limestone chains of hills, and here, in many places, the hole for the insertion
of the young plant is made with a sort of crowbar with a sharp point, used
principally in the extraction of tepatate, the chief building material of the
Mexican capital. It is usual to aid the young plant by inserting some good
soil into the hole. These young plants are suckers which the mature maguey
throws out on all sides, and which have to be removed before the heart is
tapped for the sweet sap, which is the agua miel, or honey water, of the

The young plants are generally replanted at a distance of such propor-
tions as heretofore mentioned. When the laborer draws the sweet sap with
his rude siphon, made either of a gourd or a calabash and a hollow-horn tip,
he discharges' the contents into a pig or goat skin swinging at his back.
The agua miel in this stage is like green water in appearance and taste.
Soon carbonic acid is formed, and it becomes milky, and resembles in taste
very good cider. The amount of carbonic acid contained is so great and
the decomposition so incredibly rapid that in a few hours it would become
vinegar if not closely watched. To prevent this, the pulque dulce, or sweet

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pulque, is poured into a tinnacal — an oxhide strapped to a square wooden
frame, and capable of holding a considerable amount of the liquid. These
tinnacals are of various sizes, to meet the emergencies of the situation. To
the sweet pulque is added an equal proportion of milk, and then a slight
dose of infusion of rennet. This is not enough to coagulate it, but sufficient
to induce a slight amount of putrescence, as in cheese. The putrid odor and
flavor of pulque as sold in the pulquerias is due to the rennet alone, for the
belief that this is caused by the flavor of the pigskin, in which it is brought
to market, is entirely without foundation.

From the tinnacal, it is poured into hogsheads by means of pigskins, and
it is transferred to the barrels of the vendors from the hogsheads of the ha-
ciendado by means of the same skins. These barrels are, as before stated,
large tierces or barricas. In both instances, the pulque remains in the skin
barely more than a few seconds or minutes before the transfer. Throughout
the Mediterranean region, where wine is kept for years and years in pigskins,
the effect is only to give a slight putrescent aftertaste, so faint that only a
connoisseur would perceive it. The rennet added in the tinnacal is the real
cause of the putrid flavor and taste of pulque. This is removed in private
families by means of a chemical substance of a perfectly i nocuous character,
and some housekeepers add white sugar and others the juice of oranges.

It is a regrettable fact that, in the pulque shops, this beverage is made
intoxicating to a maddening degree upon some characters by the addition of
marihuana. This marihuana is an extraction of what is known in the United
States as the "jimson" weed and the Datura stramonium of our home drug
stores. The effect upon the nerves is singular, and it almost forces men into
physical struggles of which they are unconscious at the time. The Govern-
mint has made and is making every eff'ort to stop the sale of this noxious
compound. * * * The number of deaths from fights in pulquerias is
incredible. Those whom the poison does not madden it stupefies, and in
every great festival, particularly when there are public displays of fireworks,
the police have hundreds of i:)ersons to look after who are absolutely helpless
from drinking drugged pulque. The vendors at times become so bold in the
sale of this drink they declare they must sell it to those wanting it or lose
their trade, regardless of the struggles of the Government to remove the <?vil
consequences flowing from it.

The leaves of the pulque plant are long and pointed, with prickles along
the edge. Sometimes, these leaves are very large, and the bunches of them
springing from the common stock are enormous. The bruised leaves are
made into a kind of paper, rather a tough, stiff", and hard paper, and they
are also used in their natural state as a protecting thatch for the roofs of the
common huts or houses occupied by the peons. A kind of thread is also
made from the fibrous texture of the leaves, and a rough needle and pin is
made from the thorn, and from the root a cheap and palatable food is made.
It is not a matter of surprise, then, that the peon class almost worship and
idolize the pulque plant. It is said that Xochitl, a Toltec woman, revealed

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to her race in the eleventh century the method of extracting from the pulque
plant this drink, which has been ever since both the delight and curse of the

* :|e ;|e ^c * :jc :|c

Mexico, April 2 ^ i8g6. Consul- General.

[Translation. — Copied from the New Phannacopia, Mexican, of the Pharmaceutical Society of Mexico, edi-
tion of 1894.]


Pulque J Nenili, Mex, ; Vinttm agctves. — A liquid produced by the fermcotation of juice
(maguey juice).

C. Fis, — It is of a milky color, has a peculiar odor of its own (sui generis), a sweet and
agreeable taste; its density, according to Rio de la Loza (L), is, in pulque from the ferment-
ing vats, gathered in the evening, 1.102 when containing its own sediment, 1.002 when de-
canted, and 0.997 when filtered. The density of pulque taken from a vessel immediately
after the arrival of the cargo is 0.9943. It is more or less a paralyzer, possessing an acid reac-
tion which increases with time ; when heated, it is rendered clear, forms a gummy foam, and
allows the precipitation of the foreign matter which it contains.

Com Q. — Rio de la Loza has found that pulque contains the following: Albuminoid sub-
stance, gum, and resin, 12.57 ; sugar, 8.23; salts soluble in water, 1.68; salts soluble in acids,
0.37; salts not soluble by the foregoing vehicles, 0.15; absolute alcohol (average from three
experiments), 36.8; water and gaseous products, 940.2. The ashes contain, according to
the same chemist (Mexican), potash, soda, lime, magnesia, alumina, chlorine, and carbonic,
sulphuric, phosphoric, and silicic acids.

Boussingault has found in a liter of pulque the following: Absolute alcohol, 58.96; glyc-
erin, 2.1 ; succinic acid, 1.4; carbonic acid, 0.61 ; free organic acid (malic?), 5.5; traces of
butyric and acetic acid; gum, 0.5 ; anmionia, 0.05; potash, 0.85; lime, magnesia, and phos-
phoric acid, 2.5 ; nitrogenous matter (caceine?), 1.9; water and other matter, 901.83.

The composition and quality of pulque varies in accordance with the species of maguey
plant from whence the juice used in its confection is obtained.

The fermentation of this drink is caused by a fungus, that, according to Dr. Harragau, of
Mexico, belongs to the cryptoccocus species.

A. llerrera has succeeded in preserving pulque, by the slow addition of 60 grains of disin-
fected alcohol to I liter of the liquor.

M, U. — Tonic, analeptic, stimulant, diffusible and diuretic.


Owing to the injury to the orange trees in Florida from frost, the supply
of oranges in the United States has been greatly diminished, causing the
merchants to look to Mexico and elsewhere for the deficiency. About 400
carloads were shipped from Mexico to the United States last season. Since
the injury to and destruction of the trees in Florida, the growers in Mexico
are paying greater attention to production. Old trees and old orchards have
been pruned, cultivated, and reclaimed and new orchards planted with more

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Upon close investigations made by the agents of the various railway com-
panies, the crop this season is estimated to be much larger than ever before.
The railroads are gradually preparing for the shipment of at least 600 cars
this season. It ordinarily takes eight or nine days, moderately fast freight,
to send cars or trains to Chicago. It has been done in six days. The slow
freights (due in part to the small number of cars going at any one time), the
lack of fruit or refrigerator cars, and the inexperience of the packers here
for long distance shipments, are the great drawbacks. Besides, the dealers
here, on account of these facts, are unwilling to consign oranges. There-
fore, experts from the United States are required Jo be sent here in order to
properly superintend assorting — at least one expert for each gang of assort-
ers and packers. In some districts, the oranges are ** wormy,*' while in
others, there are many "creased** oranges.

The orange season of Mexico is from the latter part of September to the
ist of December. This season fits in between Florida and California, thus
making Mexico absolute in its season and with practically no competition in
our markets. The orange of Mexico is as juicy and sweet as any orange
grown. The question of getting orange boxes is also a serious one, as there
are in reality no factories for making orange boxes in this country, and im-
portation is almost universal.


Mexico, May 2g, i8g6. Consul- General.


The following report as to the production of oranges and lemons in this
consular district (the State of Sonora, Mexico) was prepared in answer to
interrogatories recently forwarded to me by a gentleman engaged extensively
in the raising of those fruits in the State of California:

In the territory covered by this consular district, there are but very few
lemon orchards and there have as yet been no lemons exported, to my knowl-
edge. The average age of the orange orchards producing the oranges for
export is about 15 years. The average crop of oranges is about 1,000 per
tree, their weight being in the neighborhood of 750 pounds.

I am informed that but very few new orchards are now being planted.

The price which the growers usually receive for oranges or lemons is ^i
in Mexican money, worth 50 to 55 per cent of United States currency, per
box weighing about 75 pounds. I understand that the purchaser generally
buys the fruit on the trees and picks, packs, and ships the same himself.

The orchards are plowed to destroy and keep out weeds, and where water
is plentiful, they are irrigated eight or nine times throughout the year. The
cost is hard to estimate. The trimming is done when the trees are small, so
that each shall have a trunk 5 feet high from the ground before it is allowed
to branch out at the top ; afterwards, the top is thinned out a little in order
to make room for air and sunshine.

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Except where the orchard is a small one, it is, as a rule, cared for by hired
labor. The small orchards are usually owned by the families occupying

Ordinary laborers, known in this country as " peons,*' are paid 50 cents
(Mexican silver) per day.

Boxes are purchased in the United States and cost, laid down here, about
15 cents in United States currency.

The lemons produced in the State of Sonora are small, and are conse-
quently not suitable for export. I learn that efforts are about to be made
looking to the productjon of fruit of a fine quality, so that they may be

The orange trees would probably be much more productive if a good
system were adhered to in fertilizing, of which only a.very little is now done.

An American gentleman said to me:

I think the average age of orange orchards in Sonora is about 15 years. The most of
them that furnish fruit for export are comparatively young. I know of several that were old
orchards when I first came here, thirty-six years ago; ihey are yielding now, and must have
been doing so for the last fifly or sixty years, their present crops being abundant ones.

The Sonora oranges are remarkably sweet and delicious.



NoGALEs, April 2jy i8g6.


Considering the vast advantages of our geographical position, it is sur-
prising how small is our trade with Mexico and the republics of Central and
South America. These countries are our natural allies, our neighbors ; their
ports are much nearer to burs than to those of Europe, yet Europeans get
there ahead of us and take from our very door the trade that should be ours.
How? They know the language of the country and we do not. We do
more business with the five millions of English-speaking people in Canada
than with the thirty odd millions of Spanish-speaking people in South Amer-
ica. We can talk with the Canadians and they with us; trade follows lan-

Take Mexico. Here, within a few hours' ride by rail from our frontier,
are fourteen millions of people — one-half of the population of England; a
people advancing marvelously in all the arts of civilization, a people who
will soon require as necessities what are now luxuries, who will be housed,
fed, and clad as well as any people of Europe. What a field this would be
if worked with that skill and industry and tireless vigor which have made our
domestic trade the wonder of the world. But it is not so worked. Igno-
rance of the language makes our usual business methods impossible. The
Spanish tongue builds about the country for American trade a barrier bigger
than the tariff.

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To many of our merchants, Mexico appears to be as remote as China or
Japan, and they strive for her trade by methods that might serve with coun-
tries of the Orient. They depend upon consuls for information, an effort
which, to be of any avail, should have the full time and best energies of
competent Spanish-speaking agents. Almost daily, the mail brings to my
office letters containing circulars, which I am requested to distribute among
Mexican merchants. Some of these are in English and are utterly useless;
the rest, in Spanish, have even less effect than circulars at home.

Would any manufacturer of mining machinery send as agent to Cripple
Creek, for instance, some Russian emigrant, whatever his fluency in his own
tongue, who is ignorant of English? Yet American agents, and principals,
too, come into Mexico from the United States knowing as little Spanish as
they know Sanscrit. Good talkers, these, round home, no doubt; but once
across the Rio Grande, the alert, keen, quick-witted American is stricken
dumb and tongue-tied. He readily turns his American dollars into Mexican
pesos, but he can not turn his English into Spanish. He goes through the
land envying the graduate of an institute for the deaf. He may do some
business — money and goods talk; but money and goods, be their merit ever
so great nowadays, need the advocacy of a ready tongue. Be it known that
in the ever-quickening competition in Mexican markets, circulars won't do,
nor letters, nor the friendly offices of consuls. Mexican trade must be talked
for, and it must be talked for in Spanish.

The influence of language on trade is well understood in America;
nowhere else is it so powerfully exercised. Talking business is our national
gift; surely this gift should not forsake us at our southern border. Igno-
rance of Spanish bars the way to intercourse with nearly half the people of
our continent ; knowledge of Spanish takes down that bar and leaves clear
to American methods the whole field of American trade.

I would have Spanish part of the education of every young American.
I would have it take the place in our schools and colleges now given to
other foreign languages. And its study should be a matter of business ;
otherwise, there will be as little success with it as has followed the intro-
duction into our schools of other foreign languages taught as mere accom-

It is my observation that Americans have not the lingual faculty. A
German or Frenchman will pick up more Spanish in a month than an Amer-
ican will in a year. I have met countrymen of mine who have lived most
of their lives here without acquiring it, but I have never come across a for-
eigner who could not make a good showing within a fortnight. Spanish,
however, is a beautiful language, musical and easy to learn. Its construction
is simple, and what is of no small moment to the student, it is pronounced
precisely as written. An hour a day for six months should give a fair com-
mand of it to any young person of average intelligence. This is less time
than is needed for learning shorthand, and the day is not distant — in fact,
I believe it is almost at hand — when there will be more demand and better

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wages for the young man or woman who can read, write, and speak Spanish
than there will be for stenographers.

The astute statesmen now directing the affairs of Mexico are alive to the
importance of the topic herein treated. They have to deal with a people
who love their language and are tenacious of custom, yet seeing its impor-
tance to the nation *s commerce, they have introduced the study of English
into their schools and English is displacing French as the fashionable lan-
guage at the capital. Mexico realizes that English and Spanish are the
languages of America. Let the United States do likewise.


NuEvo Laredo, March 77, i8g6. Consul- General,


What the black lace is to Malta and the laces of Antwerp and Brussels
are to Belgium, the **perfilado,** needle, or drawn, work is to Mexico. As
in the former countries, the women and girls here are occupied with this
intricate and delicate work. Matamoros is the principal city in Mexico
where it is manufactured. Thousands of dollars in value of this work is
exported annually to the United States. Agents in Atlanta, Washington,
Philadelphia, New York, Boston, and other cities are engaged in selling
perfilado. Some of it is very expensive, a year being required to make
a single piece. Tablecloths, bedspreads, covers for tables, lounges, and
chairs require the longest time and are most costly, bringing from $5 to
^100 in Mexican money. ** Panuellos,'' or handkerchiefs, are made either
of silk or very fine linen, worth $10 to ^25 each; then there are cheaper
grades that can be bought for $1 and $2, The doilies are worked in dozens,
each of a different design, from 4 to 8 inches square, and sell from J3 to ^8
in Matamoros. There is a duty of 50 per cent imposed by the United
States on this class of manufactures.

In Spanish, it is called perfilado; in English, drawn work. It is all
done with needles — sometimes very fine needles and the finest spool thread
(No. 100 Coates), made of long American and Egyptian cotton. For a long
time, perfilado was made an industrial feature of the public schools — every
girl learned to make it. In this way, the art of making this beautiful work
was acquired and others were taught in the family until nearly every girl
and woman in Matamoros could either make it or assist in its manufacture.
If you walk along the narrow sidewalks in this historic old city, you will see
through the grated bars girls and women bent over nearly double, with a
frame in their laps, and a needle, working. It is hard, difficult work, from
which the earnings are very small — often not 15 cents a day. The linen or
silk is placed in a frame, the threads are drawn out one way, and with a
needle the design is worked. The work is kept marvelously clean.


Matamoros, May -?-?, 7<?pd. Consul,

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In previous reports from this consulate, mention has been made of Mor-
mon settlements in Mexico. I have tried to get some information about
them, with rather meager results, but the little I learned I herewith report,
as it may be of interest to the Department and the readers of Consular

The Mormons have ten colonies in northern Mexico. Nine of them are
in the State of Chihuahua and one is situated in the State of Sonora.

In the lower valleys, the colonists raise cattle, fruit, and grain ; in the
mountains, they attend to general farming, growing vegetables and grain,
and raising sheep.

They are likewise largely engaged in the lumber trade, running four steam
sawmills, besides doing a great deal of tanning, shoe and harness making,
canning and drying fruit, and manufacturing furniture, tinware, and candy.

Their merchants, aside from the trade with their own people, do consid-
erable business with the Mexicans, who flock to the Mormon stores from all
directions, coming with their pack trains and their mule and ox teams from
hundreds of miles to lay in provisions and other supplies.

One store at Colon ia Juarez during the past year did over |6o,ooo worth
of trade.

Many of the Mormon colonists are engaged in buying and selling Chi-
huahua and Sonora cattle, and one of their firms handled about ^200,000
worth of live stock last year.

The principal markets for their produce are at present the mines of Cor-
ralitos and Sabinal. P'or their milch cows, canned goods, etc., they find
ready sale in the city of Chihuahua.

The holdings of the Mormon colonists are in the finest portions of north-
ern Mexico. The soil is very rich and productive, and with the advent of
railroads, must become greatly enhanced in value. At present, they are from
125 to 200 miles from any railway.

There is, however, a fine opening for American trade in all lines. The
goods brought to the colonies, so far, have been of Mexican and European
manufacture, and were purchased of German, French, and English merchants
in Leon, Chihuahua, and Paso del Norte, Mexico. But the Mormons, be-
ing nearly all Americans, would nr.turally prefer American goods. One of
the Colon ia Juarez settlers so expressed himself, saying it was the general
opinion among his Mormon friends that American products were of superior
quality. He added that their Mexican neighbors, also, would gladly buy
American goods if they could get them.


Paso del Nortk, May jo, i8g6.

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Beet sugar is shipped from France and Germany to New Orleans and sold
on board the Havre and Bremen ships to merchants here in Matamoros at
3^ cents per pound, the freight from New Orleans to Matamoros, and all
duties on same, amounting to 4}/^ cents per pound. It is classed here as
**azucar de terron '* (cut loaf sugar), and is hard and white. It is cased in
boxes of 1 20 pounds, carefully packed. How this sugar can pay such long
hauls and undersell the same article of American refineries, is a question
to be considered. American sugar ought to control this market, as United
States goods do in almost every other line, except wines, cognac, etc., im-
ported from Spain and France. The United States sends us brown sugar,
but, being our neighbor, should also supply Mexico with the refined grades.


Matamoros, May 22, i8g6. ConsuL



The many inquiries made by Americans regarding the town of San Juan
del Norte, Nicaragua, evidence a widespread belief in the United States that
the commencement of work on the Nicaragua Canal under circumstances
indicating both intention and ability to push the project to completion
would at once open a new and promising field for American laborers and
American capitalists.

The construction of the canal on a line striking the Caribbean at or near
San Juan del Norte would naturally give considerable importance to the
place, but the dream of a Rio de Janeiro or a Buenos Ay res at the mouth of
the San Juan River rests apparently on hoi)e alone.

Not only is the total area of the five Central .\merican States insignifi-
cant as compared with that of either Brazil or the Argentine Republic, but
many portions of Central America will long continue to be commercially
further from San Juan del Norte than from New Orleans and San Francisco.

The construction of railways, wagon roads, and bridges that would nat-

Online LibraryUnited States. Dept. of Commerce and Labor United States. Bureau of Foreign CommerceConsular reports, Issues 188-191 → online text (page 54 of 102)