« PreviousContinue »
THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY 591669
ASTOR, LENOX AND
PRINTED BY WARREN HALL AND CO.,
CAMDEN ROAD, N.W.
There is very much in Central America to claim our attention, and excite our interest. First, perhaps, in importance may be placed its commanding geographical position. The rapid extension of commercial enterprise, the opening up of China and Japan to European intercourse, and the discovery of the goldfields of California, Australia, and British Columbia, combine to make the Isthmus of Panama, with the adjacent territories, a great highway for commerce, the value of which it would be difficult to exaggerate. The communications between Europe and the eastern shores of America on the one hand, and the denselypeopled empires, and rapidly-growing settlements of : the Pacific on the other, must be carried on either across some part of Central America, or by the tedious and perilous circumnavigation of Cape Horn, or the Cape of Good Hope.* Hitherto the anarchy which
* For reasons upon which we need not enter here, the Suez route is left out of account as being, probably, visionary and impracticable.
has prevailed in these Central American Republics has prevented the full development of the immense facilities afforded by the Panama route. But even in spite of the political and social confusion which have proved so disastrous, that route is rapidly rising in importance; and the whole civilised world is too deeply interested in securing a safe and speedy communication between the Atlantic and Pacific to allow such obstructions to block
way much longer. It was the dream of Columbus, when he set sail for America, that he should discover a new and easy passage to the far-off regions of the East. The establishment of order in Mexico, and the adjacent republics, will fulfil that dream, and make the Isthmus of Panama the gateway of the Pacific.
But Mexico has other claims besides that afforded
by its commanding geographical position. Its extraordinary geological conformation, and the strange convulsions and upheavings of its mountain-chains, continuing down to the present day, rivet the attention of the geologist. The student of natural history reads with wonder of the richness, strangeness, and variety of its fauna and flora. The antiquarian seeks to penetrate the mystery which hangs over the Cyclopean ruins which encumber the soil—the sole relics of Aztec or Toltec civilisation, or which, perchance, bear witness to the existence of yet earlier races, of which the very names are forgotten. The merchant, too, thinks of Mexico not only as his future highway to regions which lie beyond, but anticipates the time when the mineral wealth of its mountain ranges, and the exuberant fertility of its sunny plains, and wellwatered valleys, shall be laid under tribute to increase the wealth of the world.
Nor can the Christian think of those vast regions, now “sitting in darkness and the shadow of death," without a sad and mournful interest. We claim them as forming part of the domains of the world's true King, and long for the time when Satan, who now reigns there with a scarcely questioned supremacy, shall be dethroned and cast out. Nor shall our hopes be vain. The mighty fabrics of imposture and superstition, which so long have dominated over that unhappy land, shall be demolished, and the kingdom of righteousness and peace shall be established on their ruins. The traveller in the depths of Mexican forests comes ever and anon to ruined temples, where the hideous idol has fallen from its shrine, the blood
stained altar is overthrown, and the massive walls, which once witnessed the foul and murderous orgies of Aztec worship, are rent asunder by some mighty and irresistible agency. What is the power which has triumphed over edifices, the colossal grandeur of which might vie with those of Ancient Egypt? It has not been by the throes of the earthquake, or the fires of the volcano, or the more destructive assaults of man, that the ruin has been wrought. A tiny seed borne by the passing breeze, or dropped by some wandering bird has fallen into a crevice of the Titanic masonry; there it has germinated, and by its living, expansive force has torn to fragments the edifice which seemed to set at defiance the ravages of time. So shall “the seed of the word " fall upon these strongholds of sin, and in its living might and energy shall overthrow them.
It is to a condensed and popular description of this country that the following pages are devoted. It is hoped that the brief account here given of its history, its scenery, its natural productions, and its social condition will be found to contain much interesting and valuable information.