Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A City Where You Never Die

Saltillo, which lies some seventy miles to the eastward of Jaral, is now the capital of the State of Coahuila. Before the separation of Texas from Mexico it was the capital of that State. It is situated five thousand feet above the sea level, on the northeastern edge of the table-land already spoken of, and has a population of about eighteen thousand. The table-land, as it is termed, declines more or less abruptly on the east towards the Gulf of Mexico, and on the west towards the Pacific Ocean. Saltillo is a manufacturing town, built almost wholly of sun-dried bricks, and is noted for the production of rebosas and serapes. The people living south of this region and on the lower lands make of Saltillo a summer resort. It is humorously said that people never die here; they grow old, dry up, and disappear. The place is certainly very healthy. It is over three hundred years old, and looks as though it had existed in prehistoric times. It has, like all Mexican cities, its alameda, its bull ring, and its plaza, the latter particularly well-cared for, beautiful in flowers and charming shade trees, together with well-trimmed shrubbery. The Calle Real is the principal thoroughfare, over which the traveler will find his way to the famous battlefield of Buena Vista (pronounced Wana Veesta), about eight miles from the city proper. This was one of the fiercest battles ever fought on Mexican soil. General Taylor had only forty-five hundred men of all arms, while Santa Anna's army numbered twenty-two thousand! The Americans had the most advantageous position, but were at times overwhelmed by numbers. Notwithstanding this, at the end of the second day, February 23, 1847, the American flag waved in triumph over the field, and the Mexicans were utterly routed. It was of this hard-fought battle that Santa Anna said: "We whipped the Americans half a dozen times, and once completely surrounded them; but they would not stay whipped." The battle of Buena Vista was fought at a great altitude, nearly as high above the level of the sea as the summit of Mount Washington in New England.
The baths of San Lorenzo, a league from the city, are worth visiting, being cleanly and enjoyable.
About seventy-five miles to the eastward of Saltillo, and eight hundred miles, more or less, from the national capital, on the line of the Mexican International Railroad, which crosses the Rio Grande at Laredo, is the city of Monterey,--"King Mountain,"--capital of the State of Nuevo Leon. It is eighteen hundred feet above the sea and contains nearly twenty thousand inhabitants. It was founded three hundred years ago, and its history is especially blended with that of the Roman Catholic Church during the intervening period. Here one finds quite a large American colony; but still the place is essentially Mexican in its manners and customs. The city stands upon very uneven ground, in the middle of an extensive plain, with grand mountains rising to view in the distance on all sides. The Rio de Santa Catarina flows through the town. In coming hither from Saltillo we descend thirty-five hundred feet, or about an average of fifty feet to the mile. It is considered to be a healthy locality, and invalids from the Northern States of this country have often resorted to Monterey in winter; but the public accommodations are so poor that one should hesitate about sending an invalid there who must necessarily leave most of the ordinary domestic comforts behind. Mexican hotels may answer for people in vigorous health who have robust stomachs, but not for one in delicate health. In no other part of the country is there a greater variety of the cactus family to be seen, illustrating its prominent peculiarity, namely, that it seems to grow best in the poorest soil. Several of the varieties have within their flowers a mass of edible substance, which the natives gather and bring to market daily. The flowers of the cactus are of various colors, white and yellow being the prevailing hues.

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