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London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Triisner & Co., Ltd.

Copyrighted, 1904






AUTHOR OF Escritores Mexicanos Contemporáneos,

PUBLISHER OF La BihliotccQ de Autores Mexicanos,




Eduardo Noriega I

Antonio Garcia Cubas 15

Joaquín Garcia Icazbalceta . ^ 26

Agustin Rivera 43

Alfredo Chavero 59

Julio Zarate TJ

José Maria Vigil 87

Primo Feliciano Velasquez 94

Juan F. Molina Solis 106

Luis Gonzales Obregón 118

Francisco Sosa 132

Julio Guerrero 150

Alejandro Villaseñor y Villaseñor 168

Rafael Angel de la Peña 181

Ignacio Montes de Oca y Obregón 189

Ignacio M. Altamirano 204.

Victoriano Agüeros 216

Manuel Gustavo Antonio Revilla 228

José Peon y Contreras 243

José María Roa Barcena 259

Justo Sierra 275

Victoriano Salado Albarez 288

Ireneo Paz 301

José López-Portillo y Rojas 313

Manuel Sánches Mármol 334

Porfirio Parra 358

Emilio Rabasa 2>12,

Rafael Delgado 392

Federico Gamboa 405


When I began visiting Mexico, in 1894, my
knowledge of Mexican authors was limited to
those who had written upon its archaeology and
ethnography. Even the names of its purely liter-
ary writers were unknown to me. My first ac-
quaintance with these came from reading some of
the writings of Icazbalceta, a critical historian
of whom any nation might well be proud, and a
man of literary ability. I then sought the books
of other Mexican authors and have been accus-
tomed, when in Mexico, to read only those, in such
hours of leisure as travel and work have left me.
This reading has led me to prepare this little book,
in the hope that it may introduce, to some of my
countrymen, the literary men of the neighboring

I call the book Readings from Modern Mexican
Authors; I might almost have said Living Mex-
ican Authors, for my intention has been to include
only such. I have, for personal reasons, made two
exceptions — including Icazbalceta and Altami-
rano. This I have done because I owe much to
their writings and because both were living, when
I first visited Mexico.



Mexican authors write, to a notable degree, for
periodical publications. Many Mexican newspa-
pers devote space to literary matter and many
extensive works in fiction, in history, in social
science and political economy have appeared as
brief chapters in newspapers and hav^e never been
reprinted, Mexico is remarkably fond,, also, of
literary journals, most of which have a brief exist-
ence. Many of the writings of famous Mexican
writers exist only in one or other of these forms of
fugitive publication, and are almost inaccessible.
The tendency to republish in book form grows,
however, and Señor Agüeros is doing an excellent
work, with his Biblioteca de Autores Mexicanos
(Library of Mexican Authors), now carried to
more than fifty volumes, in which the collected
works of good authors, past and present, are being

Of course, many authors have been omitted
from my list, some of whom may have well de-
served inclusion; T have omitted none for personal
reasons. Specialists, unless they have written liter-
ary works outside of their especial field of study,
have been intentionally omitted. Men like Nico-
las Leon, Herrera, Or\'añanos, Belmar, Batres,
could not be left out in a history of Mexican litera-
ture, but their writings do not lend themselves to
translation of brief passages to represent the liter-
ary spirit of the country.

It has not been easy to devise a definite plan of


arrangement for my selections, but the matter is
roughly grouped in the following order — Geog-
raphy, History, Biography, Public Questions, Lit-
erature, Drama, Narrative, Fiction. One demand,
made of all the material, is that it shall show
Mexico, Mexican life, Mexican thought. Every
selection is Mexican in topic and in color; together
the selections form a series of Mexican pictures
painted by Mexican hands.

I hesitate at my final remark, because it will
sound like a lame excuse for failure. It is not
such. In these translations I have not aimed at a
finished English form. I have, intentionally, made
them extremely literal; I have sometimes selected
an uncouth English word if it exactly translates the
author, have frequently followed the Mexican form
and order of words, and have even allowed my
punctuation to be affected by the original. To the
English critic the result will be unpleasing, but to
those who wish to know Mexico and Mexican
thought, it will be a gain. And it is for these that
my little book is written.

The sections dealing with Icazbalceta, Lopez-
Portillo, Altamirano, Agüeros, Roa Barcena, Ob-
regón and Chavero, were originally published in
Unity. Part of the matter relative to Guerrero,
has been printed in the American Journal of Soci-




Eduardo Noriega was born ¡n the city of Mex-
ico on October 4, 1853. He came of a notable
family of Liberals, his father being General Do-
mingo Noriega, and his brother Carlos, being, at
the time of his death, adjutant-colonel to President
Juarez. Eduardo was educated in the Escuela
Nacional Preparatoria (National Preparatory
School), where he spent five years and received his



bachelor's degree. Since that time he has dedi-
cated himself to literary work and to teaching.

He has written both prose and poetry. Besides
two volumes of verse, he has printed a number of
monologues — among them Primeros nubes (First
clouds) , El mejor Diamante (The better diamond)
and La hija de la caridad (The daughter of char-
ity). He has translated dramatic writings and
has himself written two plays. From the age of
forty years he has confined his teaching and writ-
ing to scientific subjects. He holds the chair of
History and Geography in the Escuela de Comer-
cio y Administración (School of Commerce and
Administration). He Is author of a Geografía
general (General geography), which has gone
through two editions, of a capital Geografía de
Mexico, and of a handy Atlas de Mexico miniatura
(Miniature atlas of Mexico) which is In Its third

Eduardo Noriega Is a directing member of the
Sociedad Mexicana de Geografía y Estadística
(Mexican Society of Geography and Statistics)
and many valuable papers read by him before
that body are printed in its Bulletin.

Our selections are taken from his Geografía de
Mexico. ,A school text-book of geography is
hardly a promising place In which to seek examples
of literary^ value, but In his descriptions Noriega
often shows facility in expression and felicity in



The climatic contrasts occasioned by the moun-
tainous relief, are sharply produced only in the
middle portion of the Republic, that is to say, in
the central mesa and upon the slopes of the cor-
dillera. The section from one coast to the other,
from Vera Cruz to Acapulco, for example, is the
line best situated for observing well-marked cli-
matic changes.

The low zone of the seaboard contains, at once,
the marshes and the barren sands of the coast, the
well-watered open plains, and the lower slopes,
where the luxuriant branchings of a thousand dif-
fering trees mingle and crowd, closely bound to-
gether by festoons of trailing and pendent vines,
forming lovely masses of verdure, sprinkled
through with fruits of many and brilliant colors,
which stand out conspicuously from the magnifi-
cent, chlorophyll-laden foliage, and above all of
which tower the graceful forms of palm trees.
To such a charming tropical combination is given
the name — tierra caliente (hot land).

Within this range, where the temperature passes
23° C, there are places which must be included
among the hottest on the globe ; such, for example,
is the port of La Paz, in Lower California. The
high temperature of this region, gave to it the
name, derived from the words calida fornax, which
signify hot oven.


Above the two seaboard zones, one sloping
toward the Gulf, the other toward the Pacific, rises
the I ierra templada (temperate land), at an alti-
tude of from 1000 m. to 2000 m., but higher in
the south than in the north. This region corre-
sponds to the southwest of Europe, not so much in
climate — for it has no winter — as in mean tem-
perature, productivity and salubrity.

Lastly, the central tableland, the part of the ter-
ritory where the maguey is cultivated with notable
profit and every class of cereals is produced, con-
stitutes the tierra fria (cold land). It is the most
populous part of the Republic.

In the high valleys, as those of Toluca and
Mexico, the descent of the mercurial column often
shows considerable falls of temperature; in winter
the column reaches 8° or 10° below o C. and
frosts are frequent. In general, however, the
winters are mild. The mean temperature is from
13° to 14° C.

In many places exceptional conditions have
brought the vegetable areas into abrupt juxtaposi-
tion; thus, while upon the summit of some ridge,
only plants of European character may live and
flourish, in the plains surrounding it are seen palms
and bananas. From the summit of the great vol-
canoes, the three superposed zones may be clearly
seen, at once.

The rapid communication, which today happily
exists, presents to the traveler the marvelous op-


portunity of passing, in a few hours, through the
three distinct regions of which we speak, which
in other parts of the globe are separated by thou-
sands of kilometres.

In some places these zones remain clearly dis-
tinguished from one another, but this is exceptional,
since commonly they crowd upon each other, min-
gling one with another by imperceptible transitions.
It is common to mention some certain place as be-
longing to one and the other zone, because the line
of separation for both runs irregularly in moun-
tainous regions. A zone of reciprocal penetration
has been formed, on account of the multiple phe-
nomena of temperature, of winds and of plant
groupings. So, too, canons and slopes are met
with, which, by their vegetation, may be considered
foci of tierra caliente, included within the fully de-
veloped tierra templada.


The valley of Mexico lies, then, surrounded by
various chains, which are: to the north the Sierra
de Pitos and its branches, of which one is the Sierra
de Guadalupe; to the east the Sierra de Zinguila-
can, which ends in an extensiv^e ridge, channeled by
deep furrows, which connect the Sierra mentioned
with the Sierra Nevada. By means of mountains
and ridges forming the Sierra de Xuchitepec, to
the southeast of the valley, the Sierra Nevada


is connected with that of Ajusco, which is con-
nected to the southwest with that of Las Cruces,
which, extending to the northwest, forms the Cor-
dillera de Monte Alto, which is connected, as
already stated, with the western arm of the Sierra
de los Pitos.

In all these chains there are heights of impor-
tance such as; in the Sierra Nevada, Popocatepetl,
lovely volcano, and Ixtaccihuatl, merely a snow-
cap. . . . Popocatepetl — smoking moun-
tain — is the highest mountain in Mexican terri-
tory and measures 5452 m. above sea-level. The
ascent of this colossus is full of discomforts, but
when these have been endured, the result is sur-

The most suitable road for the ascent is the one
which goes from Amecameca to the ranch of Tla-
macas, which is situated at 3897 m. altitude and
almost at the limit of tree growth; the trees there
met with are stunted; the day temperature Is 8°,
and at night o C, in summer. In winter these
temperatures are more extreme.

Until one thousand metres beyond the ranch
some firs are seen, which are the last; to these fol-
lows a soil covered with a dark sand, very fine and
slippery, over which the horses can scarcely make
their way. Here and there upon this sandy zone
are tufts of dry grass. These gradually disappear,
until, finally, there remains no sign of vegetation.
A little later snow begins, at a place called La


Cruz, to which a great wooden cross, reared upon
a heap of rocks, gives name. At this point, the
line of perpetual snow is found, at 4300 m., little
more or less, above sea-level.

From here the ascent is made on foot, and ever
over the snow. The trail zigzags, because the
slope is 24° or 25°, becoming more abrupt, until
reaching 30° and 34°, at times. The walking is,
naturally, very difficult.

When some hundred metres have been traversed,
great difficulty in breathing begins to be experi-
enced, the lungs feel oppressed, and every step,
every movement of the body, causes great fatigue
and compels the stopping to take breath. Feeble
constitutions cannot endure the weariness and
illness which are experienced. The reflection of
the sun upon the snow is intense, for which
reason the wearing of dark glasses is necessary.
The face should also be veiled, to prevent the ver-
tigo, which the white sheet surrounding the trav-
eler produces toward the middle of the journey;
when the day is fine and the atmosphere clear, the
panorama is incomparably beautiful. The city of
Puebla is clearly seen, and, at a greater distance the
peak of Orizaba and the Cofre of Perote. There
may also be seen, with all clearness, the summit of
Ixtaccihuatl, totally without a crater. After some
four hours of travel, the end of the journey, the
summit of the volcano is reached; the last steps
are particularly difficult, because the slope is now


40° and the rarity of the air is greater; progress is

From the point where the crater is reached it is
not easy to take full cognizance of its depth, though
the general form may be appreciated. This is
elliptical; the major diameter measures some fifty
metres more than the other. A crest of rock, of
varying elevation, forms the edge, which makes
it very irregular; it is very narrow; a simple step
leads from the outer, to the inner, slope. This
edge presents two heights — one is the Espinazo
del Diablo (Devil's Backbone), the other is the
Pico Mayor (Greater peak), which is, as its name
indicates, the highest point of the volcano, being
150 m. higher than the Espinazo. The Pico
Mayor is almost inaccessible, but its summit may,
with difficulty, be reached.

The major diameter of the crater corresponds to
the two summits named, has some 850 m. length,
and its direction is from south 20° west to north
20° east. The transverse diameter may be esti-
mated at 750 m., which would give the crater a
circumference of 2,500 m. In descending from
the border, the crater presents three distinct parts;
a slope of 65°, a vertical wall seventy metres in
height, and another slope, which extends to the
bottom. In total, the mean depth of this imposing
abyss will reach 250 m. to 300 m.

At the place, where the vertical wall begins and
the first slope ends, there has been set up a sort of a


windlass, below which an enormous beam slopes
downward toward the abyss; by this beam, and
lowered by a cord, the workmen who extract sul-
phur descend.

In the bottom of the crater are four fumaroles,
whence vapors escape, which in issuing produce
slight hissing sounds. Abundant deposits of sul-
phur exist near these. Besides the fumaroles men-
tioned, there are seven points at the borders of the
crater, where gases escape, though in less abun-
dance; six of these points lie to the east of the major
diameter, and the seventh on the opposite side.
All are inaccessible.

The interior of the crater is formed by sheets,
which form a regular wall with vertical sides. In
some places these layers are profoundly shattered
and there various species of rocks, of notably dif-
ferent natures are seen ; first, below, are sheets of
trachyte, very compact and rich in crystals of stri-
ated feldspar and partly decomposed amphibole;
above these more or less regular trachytic layers
are beds of well-characterized basalt — also very
compact and rich in peridote; lastly, above these
layers are porous scoria?, of dark purple color,
which indicates the presence of a considerable quan-
tity of iron oxide. These scoria^ must have origi-
nated from the fusion of the porphyritic rocks.

Every little while, at the summit, rage violent
storms of snow, which falls in thick sheets; at such
times the atmospheric clouds do not permit objects


to be seen at a metre's distance and the temperature
falls to 20° and 22° below o C.

The exploitation of the sulphur is insignificant
since only some forty-eight or fifty tons are taken
out, in a year; this sulphur is distilled at the ranch
of Tlamacas; it is sold in Mexico and Puebla at the
same price as that of Sicily — that of Popocatepetl
being superior in quality. The snow, too, on the
side of Ozumba, is exploited, but this exploitation
is on the smallest scale.

Various expeditions have been organized for the
ascent of Popocatepetl, some scientific in nature,
others for amusement. The first was made in
15 19 by Diego de Ordaz, one of the soldiers
of Cortes; others followed. In our own day, such
expeditions are frequent and their results happily
verify each other.

Ixtaccihuatl, — " white woman " — connected to
Popocatepetl by a ridge of graceful outline, rises to
5,288 m. altitude above sea-level. Down the
slopes of this mountain, several torrents, derived
from the melting snows, pour and form cascades
and falls up to forty-five metres in height. These
same slopes, covered by a sheet of astonishingly
rich and luxuriant vegetation are gashed by deep
crevices, in which are enormous masses of porphy-
ritic and basaltic rocks. Conifers form dense for-
ests up to 3,000 m. altitude; from there the vigor
of arborescent vegetation diminishes and at 4,000
m. it completely ceases; from that point on there


are only stretches of brambles, which completely
disappear at about 4,200 m. ; then follow the sands,
and, lastly, the perpetual snows, which begin at
4,300 m.

The crest, which is very grand and beautiful,
resembles in the arrangement of its rock masses,
the form of a woman's body, stretched at length
upon its back, and covered by a white winding
sheet. From this, the name of white woman, —
izta, white; cihuatl, woman — with which this
lovely mountain was baptized by the dreamy imag-
ination of the Aztecs.


In the limestone mountains of Cacahuamilpa,
thirty kilometres north from Tasco, in a ravine, lies
the village of the same name, near which is situated
the famous cavern, one of the most beautiful in the
world, commonly designated by the name of
the gruta de Cacahuamilpa (grotto of Cacahua-
milpa). . . . Dominating the eminence
formed in the cordillera running eastward and
which has already been mentioned, is perceived the
great mouth of the cavern, with the green festoons
of foliage which adorn it and some stalactitic for-
mations which seem to announce the marvels of the
interior. Access to this entrance is gained by a
short and narrow path.

The mouth measures five metres in its greatest


height and thirty-six metres from side to side; after
it has been traversed, there begins a plane sloping
toward the interior; the soil is sandy; shortly one
arrives at the first gallery, which is lighted by the

This gallery is very large; its walls are formed
of enormous masses of tilted rocks, which look as if
about to fall; the spacious and lofty vault is fur-
rowed by broad and deep crevices and from it hang
many stalactites in the form of columns, or colossal
pear-shaped masses of marble. Crossing the
broad space of this gallery, a second is reached,
where the darkness is dense and appalling, the
torches scarcely dispel the gloom, and the spirit is

In the first gallery the most notable concretions
are " the enchanted goat " and " the columns."
The former has lost much of its resemblance, as the
head of the goat has fallen, but the second is won-
derfully beautiful, because of its astonishing origi-
nality; its form is that of a column adorned with a
capital. In the form of a tuft of plumes, which
supports the base of a natural arch.

The third gallery, called " the pulpit " on ac-
count of the shape of its principal concretion is no
less beautiful, grand, and Imposing, than the pre-
ceding. Here the darkness is absolute.

Beyond this third gallery there are twelve more,
very Imperfectly known; they are called — the
cauliflower, the shell, the candelabrum, the gothic


tower, the palm tree, the pineapple, the labyrinth,
the fountain, and the organ-pipes. The rest have
no special names. All of these galleries are mar-
velously beautiful; all are extensive and have lofty

The total extent of the cavern is unknown;
though the guides assert that it ends in the gallery
of the organ-pipes, there are indications that the
statement is false. These indications are : the air,
which, even at such profound depths, is perfectly
respirable; the lack of exploration; the supersti-
tious fears of the guides to go further; and, some
traditions, which declare that new galleries exist
and have been explored by persons, who report a
rushing torrent producing a terrible noise, for
which reason no one cares to penetrate further.
But, although the extent of the cavern is unknown
and the gallery of the organ-pipes may not be the
last, we ought not to believe the reports, which give
the cavern immense extension. For example,
some say that the galleries and ramifications extend
to the mountains of Tasco, and there is one tradi-
tion, which affirms that the cavern prolongs itself,
through the interior of the mountains which limit
the Valley of Mexico on the south, until it unites
with the cavern of Teutli, near Milpa Alta.

This tradition, although improbable, is curious;
it states that some families hid their treasure in the
cave which occurs in the mountain of Teutli; this
has a very narrow entrance at first, but after some


twelve or fifteen metres broadens, forming a most
beautiful cavern; this cavern has a series of cham-
bers, of greater or lesser size, which finally com-
municate with the cave of Cacahuamilpa, more
than one hundred kilometres distant.

The tradition cited adds that but few persons
have dared to penetrate the cave of Teutli, and on
but one occasion, a herd of sheep having entered it,
some peons followed to collect and bring them
out — a thing they could not do because the ani-
mals penetrated far into the cave; those who went
in pursuit of them returned after two days of jour-
neying through these rough passages.

In conclusion, it only remains to state, that the
existence of the cavern of Cacahuamilpa remained
unknown to everyone, until the year 1833. Be-
fore that year, not even the Indians had entered it,
because they believed that the stalagmite in the
form of a goat was a bad spirit, that guarded
the mysteries, which the cavern enclosed; but a
criminal who took refuge in it and was there dur-
ing the period of his pursuit, after which he re-
turned to his home, astonished the inhabitants
of Tetecala by his fantastic reports; they made the
first exploration and announced their expedition,
describing the wonderful cavern. Since then, until
now, expeditions have not lacked; unhappily, none
of them has been scientific.




Antonio García Cubas was born July 24, 1832,
in the City of Mexico. He began study looking
toward engineering in the year 1845, although not
actually taking the degree of engineer until 1865.
His technical studies were pursued in the Colegio
de San Gregorio, the Minería (School of Mines),
and the Academia de San Carlos. His studies
were repeatedly internipted by appointments of
importance and by public commissions. Thus, in


1853 h^ published a general map of the Mexican
Republic. Since that date he has done much geo-

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Online LibraryUnknownReadings from modern Mexican authors → online text (page 1 of 23)