Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Remarkably Fertile Soil

Mexico is remarkable for the fertility and peculiar productiveness of her soil, both of a vegetable and mineral character, though the former is very largely dependent upon irrigation, and almost everywhere suffers for want of intelligent treatment. As a striking proof of the fertility of the soil, an able writer upon the subject tells us, among other statistical facts, that while wheat cultivated in France and some other countries averages but six grains for one planted, Mexican soil gives an average product of twenty-two times the amount of seed which is sown. Humboldt was surprised at this when it was reported to him, and took pains to verify the fact, finding the statement to be absolutely correct. Being situated partly in the tropics and partly in the temperate zone, its vegetable products partake of both regions, and are varied in the extreme. In the hot lands are dense forests of rosewood, mahogany, and ebony, together with dyewoods of great commercial value, while in the temperate and cooler districts the oak and pine are reasonably abundant. It must be admitted, however, that those districts situated near populous neighborhoods have been nearly denuded of their growth during centuries of waste and destruction by the conquering Spaniards. From this scarcity of commercial wood arises the absence of framed houses, and the universal use of stone and clay, or adobe, for building purposes. There is valuable wood enough in certain districts, which is still being wasted. The sleepers of the Monterey and Mexican Gulf railway are nearly all of ebony. Attention having been called to the fact, orders have been issued to save this wood for shipment to our Northern furniture manufacturers. Iron ties and sleepers are being substituted on the trunk lines of the railways as fast as the wooden ones decay, being found so much more durable. Those used on the Vera Cruz line are imported from England; on the Mexican Central, from the United States. There is a low, scrubby growth of wood on the table-lands and mountain sides, which is converted by the peons into charcoal and transported on the backs of the burros (jackasses) long distances for economical use in the cities and villages. All the delicious fruits of the West Indies are abundantly produced in the southern section, and all the substantial favorites of our Northern and Western States thrive luxuriantly in her middle and northern divisions. Some of the cultivated berries are remarkably developed; the strawberry, for instance, thrives beyond all precedent in central Mexico, and while larger, it is no less delicately flavored than our own choice varieties. The flora throughout Mexico is exceedingly rich and varied, botanists having recognized over ten thousand families of plants indigenous to the soil. It appeared to the writer, however, that while the color of the flowers was intensified above that of our Northern States, their fragrance was not so well defined. Even the soft green mosses threw out a star-like blossom of tiny proportions, which seemed almost as full of expression as human eyes, while they emitted a subdued fragrance. The best-grown coffee of the country is in our estimation equal to the best grades of Mocha or Java, while the tobacco produced in several of the states compares favorably with the much-lauded brands of Cuba. The most fertile regions of Mexico lie on the east and west, where the districts decline abruptly from the great plateau, or table-land, towards the coast.

The Monterey and Mexican Gulf railway has lately opened access to most excellent land, suitable for sugar plantations, equal to the best in Louisiana devoted to this purpose, and which can be bought for a mere song, as the saying is. These lands are better adapted to sugar raising than those of the State just named, because frost is here unknown. In the opening of these tropical districts by railroad, connected with our Southern system, we have offered us the opportunity to secure all the products which we now get from Cuba. These staples are equal in quality, and can be landed at our principal commercial centres at a much less cost than is paid for shipments from that island. Such is the arbitrary rule of Spain in Cuba, and the miserable political condition of her people, that all business transacted in her ports is handicapped by regulations calculated to drive commerce away from her shores. The fact should also be recalled that while Mexico produces every article which we import from Cuba, she has over five times the population to consume our manufactures and products, rendering her commercial intercourse with us just so much more important. At present, or rather heretofore, she has sought to exchange her native products almost wholly with Europe, through the port of Vera Cruz; but on account of the excellent facilities afforded by the Mexican Central Railroad the volume of trade has already begun to set towards the United States. While upon the subject it may be mentioned incidentally that the way business of this railroad has exceeded all calculations, and yet it is but partially developed, the rolling stock being quite inadequate to the demand for freight transportation.

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