Rambles in Yucatan; or, Notes of Travel Through the Peninsula Including a Visit to the Remarkable Ruins of Chi-Chen, Kabah, Zayi, and Uxmal. 2nd ed
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RAMBLES in YUCATAN
To those who intend to bestow upon the following pages thehonor of a perusal, it may seem almost supererogatory for the authorto mention, that it has formed no part of his purpose to prepare abook which should owe its leading interest to its literary merits.His life has been necessarily more devoted to the disseminationof books than to the study of their internal fabrication; he hashad but slender opportunities for the cultivation of letters, andlittle of the preparation requisite for a task, to the results of whichhe now solicits the candid consideration of the public.
Circumstances, however, of which all that is worthy of detailwill be found in the following pages, brought under the author’sobservation a portion of our continent which was strewed withgigantic and monumental ruins of ancient cities, and which, tothe several departments of Cosmogony, Archæology, and Ethnography,appeared in his eyes to be of vast importance. Impressedwith this conviction, although the author left his countrywithout the remotest intention of making a book upon any subjectwhatever, or even of seeing the wonderful places he has attemptedto describe, yet, with very inadequate scientific qualifications—withoutinstruments, except a knife and compass, and without acompanion, save an Indian boy—entirely ignorant of the countryand its people—he was enabled to explore many objects of interestand curiosity; and he has resolved to present the substanceof his observations and researches, in as succinct a manner as possible,that those who are competent to avail themselves of hislabors may digest and present them to the public in such a form aswill most contribute to the advancement of true science.
4It is, therefore, to the facts which it has been the author’s privilegeto witness and reveal, and not to the garniture of those facts,that he looks, for the interest which he desires to awaken in theminds of his readers, and upon which he relies for his own justificationin having for once trespassed ultra crepidam into the charmedcircle of literary enterprise. The almost universal curiosity whichhas manifested itself in every quarter through which public feelinghas utterance, concerning the vast and unexplained ruins of ourhemisphere, found in Central America and Yucatan, has not been,in modern times at least, excelled by that upon any subject notinvolving some immediate and practical interest, not even exceptingthe discoveries of modern antiquarians in Egypt. It is neitherthe author’s duty nor purpose to analyze this movement, or to discernits cause; it only concerns him to show that he had goodreason for presuming that further developments of, and explorationsamong these mysterious relics of antiquity, could not fail toawaken some portion of that interest which the public mind, inthis country at least, has already manifested.
A portion of the ruins which are noticed in detail in the followingpages had never been visited, to the author’s knowledge, byany modern traveller before his arrival. Others, which had beensummarily alluded to, he has portrayed as elaborately and adequatelyas his circumstances and scientific qualifications wouldadmit; and, he has no hesitation in saying, far more minutelythan they had ever before been described. In corroboration ofthese remarks, he ventures to call the reader’s attention to thechapters which include the ruins of Chi-Chen, of Kahbah, Zayi,and Uxmal, of which cities, the last only excepted—to which Mr.Stephens devotes a few sentences near the conclusion of his recentpopular work upon this subject—no other published accounts,it is believed, have appeared.
The author avails himself of the present opportunity to makethose acknowledgments to the people of Yucatan which couldnot be incorporated with propriety in the body of his work.He feels himself under grateful obligations for the uniform kindnesswhich he received at their hands; and he begs to assurethose of his American friends who may feel disposed to visit the5province of Yucatan, that whatever inconveniences they may experienceindirectly from an unfavorable climate and an unsettledpolitical organization, they may count upon meeting, among thehigher ranks of the Yucatecos, a kindliness of feeling and a spontaneityof hospitality which will compare favorably with theirexperience in any other portion of the globe.
In acknowledging his obligations to the friends who have assistedhim in the preparation of these pages, he would be guiltyof great injustice did he not tender his most sincere thanks toan American gentleman, who has long resided in Yucatan, towhom he is indebted for most of the facts connected with thepolitical history of that country, which are embodied in the thirteenthchapter. The long residence of that gentleman in the country,and his evident familiarity with its political history, give theauthor reason to rely implicitly upon his acquaintance with thesubject, as well as upon his fidelity as an historian.
The author regrets that he is not permitted to give the nameof the gentleman to whose aid he is indebted for the philologicalremarks contained in the fourteenth chapter, which he venturesto believe will prove to the scholar and the antiquarian not theleast interesting feature of the work.
It has been the author’s intention upon all occasions to acknowledgehis indebtedness to any preceding or cotemporary writer inappropriate modes and places in the text, and he believes that hehas seldom failed in his aim; at the same time, he feels that toWaldeck, a distinguished French traveller, who spent a numberof years in Central America and Yucatan, his obligations are of acharacter not to be passed over without a special acknowledgment.
The illness of the writer during the time the following pageswere passing through the press, must constitute his apology,should inaccuracies be found to disfigure the work.
The Map is intended to show the geographical position of theruins, and of the towns passed through before arriving at them;and the Plans to define the relative locations of the structures,neither of them, however, is laid out with scientific exactness;it is hoped, nevertheless, they will still be found sufficiently correctto illustrate the descriptions.
6If the public shall find the work now submitted to them possessedof sufficient merit to deserve their regard, or if others shallbe induced, by reading it, to extend their researches in a similardirection, or shall, through its aid, eliminate one new ray of lightto illumine the dark mystery of its subject, the author will feelamply compensated for the trouble he has taken, and will thinkhimself entitled to indulge the assurance that his life has not beenaltogether without profit.
New Orleans, November, 1842.
|I.||Setting Out—Accommodations—Arrival at Sisal—Geographical and Political view of Yucatan—A Christening—Lady Smokers—Off for the Interior—Merida—A Feast-day—Christmas Eve—Christmas Day—Conclusion of a Feast—Holy Unction—Indian Character—Soldiers’ Return—Holy Days—Gaming||13|
|II||Description of Merida, Geographical and Historical—The City—Public Squares—The Market—Trade—Habits and Customs—Health—The Public Buildings—A way to get a Husband—New Year Eve—New Year Day—The City and Environs—A Touch of Music—A Country Seat—Congress of Yucatan—Franciscan Ruins—More Holy-days—Cock-fighting—A Drill—The Bishop at Home—The College—Miracles||34|
|III||Mechanical Pursuits—The Circulating Medium—A Ball—A Remnant of Franciscans—Signs of Decay in the Suburbs—The Cemetery—The Weather—A Whole Congregation Flogged—The Wise Men—The Gentlemen—Extra Civilities—The Appearances of Trade—Products of the Soil—Education—Language of the Indians—The Ancient People—Waldeck’s Opinion of them—The Maya Language—The Lord’s Prayer in Maya—Grammars of that Dialect—Difficulties in Speaking it—Traits of the Indian Character||53|
|8IV||Preparations for the Interior—Outfit, &c.—The Indian Boy—Departure from Merida—Arrival at Tixcoco—Calcachen—A Feast-day—Isamal at a distance—Arrival there—Our Palace—A Procession—Ancient Mounds—The Church—A striking Indian—Wrong Impressions—Tuncax—A Dilemma—Philosophy of the Road-side—A Dinner—Visit to a Curate—A Touch of Comfort—Mail Carrier—Sitax—An Indian Alcalde—Tinum—An Allusion—Valladolid—A Mistake rectified in time||73|
|V||Festival of the Purification—A Factory discovered—New Quarters—Appearance of Public Buildings—Church—Singular Display of Taste—Population and Health—The Town—Its Suburbs—Monastic Ruins—Remarkable Sonato—Amusements—The Riband Dance—The Market Place—Cotton—Ancient Ruins—Difficulties of Strangers—A Norther—Kaua—The Churlish Curate—End of a Feast—The Route—Approach to Chi-Chen—A Glimpse of the Ruins||91|
|VI||A Visit to the Ruins—Reflections—Indian Visiters—Detail of the Ruins of Chi-Chen—The Temple—The Pyramid—The Dome—The House of the Caciques—General Ruins—Mounds—Foundations—Characteristics of the Ruins—Materials and Manner of Building—The Finish—Fresco Paintings||108|
|9VII||An Arrival—Unexpected Honors—Usurpation of Office—Prices of Labor—Indian way of Living—A Sonato—An Incident—Departure—Yacaba—Sonato at Tabi—Arrival at Sotuta—“Las Ruinas”—A Benediction—Cantamayec—Turn Physician—Successful Practice—The Reward of Merit—Route to Teabo—Its Curate—Mani—Arrival at Ticul—Description of Ticul—The Church—Curate—Market-place—Pretty Women—Convent—Occupations—Health—Roads—Sugar Estates—Ruins of Ichmul—Departure—Cross the Cordilleras||129|
|VIII||The Ruins of Kahbah—Those of Zayi—Scattered Ruins—Church at Nohcacab—The Padre—The Town—Departure for Uxmal—Arrival at the Hacienda—Quarters and Arrangements—The Scenery—General Character of the Ruins of Uxmal—The Governor’s House—The Nuns’ House—The Pyramid—Other Remains—Pyramids, Walls, and Mounds—Reservoir—Moonlight||148|
|IX||Introductory Facts—Ruins of Yucatan and other parts of Mexico—Ruins of North America—Mississippi and Missouri—Look-Out Mountain—Ohio River—Mount Joliet and others—Indian Races—Ledyard—Bradford—Dr. Morton—Diversity of Opinions—Pyramids of Egypt—Speculations—Vassalage—Comparison—Traditions—Embalming—Priesthood— Siamese—Japanese—Astronomy and Mythology||168|
|X||Waldeck’s Remarks on|