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Alexander von Humboldt: „Humboldt’s History of New Spain“, in: ders., Sämtliche Schriften digital, herausgegeben von Oliver Lubrich und Thomas Nehrlich, Universität Bern 2021. URL: <> [abgerufen am 17.04.2024].

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Titel Humboldt’s History of New Spain
Jahr 1811
Ort Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
in: Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser 40:10768 (1. Juni 1811), S. [2].
Sprache Englisch
Typografischer Befund Antiqua; Spaltensatz; Auszeichnung: Kursivierung.
Textnummer Druckausgabe: II.76
Dateiname: 1809-Voyage_de_MM-08-neu
Seitenanzahl: 1
Spaltenanzahl: 2
Zeichenanzahl: 9500

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|2| |Spaltenumbruch|

Humboldt’s History of New Spain.

[extract.] The condition of man is the most interestingobject in every country; and we confess ourselvesgratified by finding that in New Spain the numberof slaves [negroes] is comparatively few, and thestate of the Indians is less unhappy than we had beenaccustomed to suppose. We extract with pleasurea passage from which it appears that the mines,though a considerable source of wealth, are not theonly, or even the chief wealth of the province ofMexico. “The Indian cultivator is poor, but he is free.His state is even greatly preferable to that of thepeasantry in a great part of the north of Europe.There are neither corvees nor villanage in New-Spain; and the number of slaves is next to nothing.Sugar is chiefly the produce of free hands. There theprincipal objects of agriculture are not the produc-tions to which European luxury has assigned a varia-ble and arbitrary value, but cereal gramina, nutriveroots, and the agave, the vine of the Indians.—The appearance of the country proclaims to thetraveller, that the soil nourishes him who culti-vates it, and that the true prosperity of the Mexi-can people neither depends on the accidents of fo-reign commerce, nor on the unruly politicks ofEurope. “Those who only know the interiour of theSpanish colonies, from the vague and uncertain no-tions hitherto published, will have some difficulty inbelieving that the principal sources of the Mexicanriches are by no means the mines, but an agriculturewhich has been gradually ameliorating since the endof the last century — Without reflecting on the im-mense extent of the country, and especially the greatnumber of provinces which appear totally destituteof precious metals, we generally imagine that all theactivity of the Mexican population is directed to theworking of the mines. Because the agriculture hasmade a very considerable progress in the capitaniageneral of Caracas, in the kingdom of Guatimala, theisland of Cuba, and wherever the mountains areaccounted poor in mineral production, it has beeninferred that it is to the working of the mines thatwe are to attribute the small care bestowed on thecultivation of the soil in other parts of the Spa-nish colonies. This reasoning is just when ap-plied to small portions of territory. No doubt, inthe provinces of Choco and Antioqua, and thecoast of Barbacoas, the inhabitants are fonder ofseeking for gold washed down in the brooks and ra-vines, than of cultivating a virgin and fertile soil;and in the beginning of the conquest, the Spaniardswho abandoned the peninsula or Canary islands, tosettle in Peru and Mexico, had no other viewbut the discovery of the precious metals. Aurirabida sitis a cultura Hispanos divertit, says a writer ofthose times, Pedro Martyr, in his work on the dis-covery of Yutacan and the colonization of the An-tilles. “In Mexico, the best cultivated fields, thosewhich recall to the mind of the traveller the beau-tiful plains of France, are those which extend fromSalamanca towards Siloe, Guanaxuato, and the Villade Leon and which surround the richest mines of theknown world. Wherever metallick seams havebeen discovered in the most uncultivated parts ofthe Cordilleras, on the insulated and desert table-lands, the working of mines far from impeding thecultivation of the soil, has been singularly favoura-ble to it. Travelling along the ridge of the Andes, orthe mountainous part of Mexico, we every wheresee the most striking examples of the beneficial in-fluence of the mines on agriculture. Were it notfor the establishments formed for the working ofthe mines, how many places would have remaineddesert? How many districts uncultivated in the fourintendancies of Guanaxuato, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi, and Durango, between the parallels of 21and 25 where the most considerable metallickwealth of New-Spain is to be found? If the town isplaced on the arid side, or the crest of the Cordil-leras, the new colonists can only draw from a dis-tance the means of their subsistence, and the mainte-nance of the great number of cattle employed indrawing off the water, and raising and amalgama-ting the mineral produce. Want soon awakens in-dustry. The soil begins to be cultivated in the ra-vines and declivities of the neighbouring moun-tains, where ever the rock is covered with earth —The high price of provision, from the competition |Spaltenumbruch|of the purchasers indemnifies the cultivator for theprivations to which he is exposed, from the hard lifeof the mountains. Thus, from the hope of gainalone, and the motives of mutual interest, whichare the most powerful bonds of society, and withoutany interference on the part of the governmentin colonization, a mine which, at first, appeared in-sulated in the midst of wild and desert mountains,becomes, in a short time, connected with the landswhich have long been under cultivation.” “The valley in which the city of Mexico stands,is upwards of 6500 feet above the level of the sea.It is of an oval form, encompassed on all sides bymountains. It contains several lakes. The largestis salt. Formerly it surrounded the city, which wasapproached only by causeways, constructed in thewater. But, at present, the extent of this lakediminished, and the city is now on the land,some distance from the water’s edge. The circum-ference of the valley is 67 leagues. “Mexico is undoubtedly one of the finest citiesever built by Europeans in either hemisphere. Withthe exception of Petersburgh, Berlin, Philadelphia,and some quarters in Westminster, there does notexist a city of the same extent, which can be com-pared to the capital of New Spain, for the uniformlevel of the ground on which it stands, for the re-gularity and breadth of the streets, and the extentof the public places. The architecture is general-ly of a very pure style, and there are even edificesof very beautiful structure. The exterior of thehouses is not loaded with ornaments. “The Ballustrades and gates are all of Biscayiron, ornamented with bronze, and the houses, in-stead of roofs, have terraces like those in Italy, andother southern countries. “Mexico has been very much embellished sincethe residence of the Abbe Chappe there in 1769 —The edifice destined to the School of Mines, forwhich the richest individuals of the country furnish-ed a sum of more than three millions of francks,would adorn the principal places of Paris or Lon-don. Two great palaces [hotels] were recently con-structed by Mexican artists, pupils of the academyof fine arts of the capital. One of these palaces,in the quarter della Traspana, exhibited in the in-terior of a court a very beautiful oval peristyle ofcoupled columns. The traveller justly admires avast circumference, paved with porphyry flags, andenclosed with an iron railing, richly ornamentedwith bronze, containing an equestrian statue ofking Charles the fourth, placed on a pedestal ofMexican marble, in the midst of the Plaza Major of Mexico, opposite the cathedral, and the viceroy’spalace. However, it must be agreed, that notwith-standing the progress of the arts, within these lastthirty years, it is much less, from the grandeur andbeauty of the monuments, than from the breadthand straitness of the streets, and much less from itsedifices, than from its uniform regularity, its extentand position, that the capital of New Spain attractsthe admiration of Europeans. “Nothing can present a more rich and varied ap-pearance, than the valley, when, in a fine summermorning, the sky without a cloud, and of that deepazure which is peculiar to the dry and rarefied airof high mountains, we transport ourselves to thetop of one of the towers of the cathedral of Mexi-co, or ascend the hill of Chapoltepeck. A beauti-ful vegetation surrounds this hill. Old cypresstrunks, of more than 15 and 16 metres in circum-ference, raise their naked heads above those of theshinus, which resemble in their appearance, theweeping willows of the east. From the centre ofthis solitude, the summit of the porphyritical rockof Chapoltepeck, the eye sweeps over a vast plainof carefully cultivated fields, which extend to thevery feet of the colossal mountains covered withperpetual snow. The city appears as if washed bythe waters of the lake of Tezeuco, whose basin,surrounded with villages and hamlets, brings tomind the most beautiful lakes of the mountains ofSwitzerland. Large avenues of elms and poplarslead, in every direction, to the capital; and twoacqueducts, constructed over arches of very greatelevation, cross the plain, and exhibit an appearanceequally agreeable and interesting. The magnificentconvent of Nuestra Sonora de Guadaloupe, appearsjoined to the mountains of Tepeyacack, among ra-vines, which shelter a few date and young yuccatrees. Towards the south, the whole tract betweenSan Angel, Tacabaya, and San Augustin de las Cu-evas, appears an immense garden of orange, peach,apple, cherry, and other European fruit trees. Thisbeautiful cultivation forms a singular contrast withthe wild appearance of the naked mountains whichenclose the valley, among which the famous volcanosof La Puebal, Popocatepelt, and Iztaccicichautl arethe most distinguished. The first of these formsan enormous cone, of which the crater, continual-ly inflamed, and throwing up smoak and ashes,opens in the midst of eternal snows.”