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The International Monthly, Volume 5, No. 3, March, 1852   By:

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Of Literature, Art, and Science.

Vol. V. NEW YORK, MARCH 1, 1852 No. III.



For several weeks the attention of the curious has been more and more attracted to a remarkable ethnological exhibition at the Society Library. Two persons, scarcely larger than the fabled gentlemen of Lilliput, (though one is twelve or thirteen and the other eighteen years of age), of just and even elegant proportions, and physiognomies striking and peculiar, but not deficient in intellect or refinement, have been visited by throngs of idlers in quest of amusement, wonder seekers, and the profoundest inquirers into human history. Until very recently, Mexico was properly described as Terra Incognita . The remains of nations are there shrouded in oblivion, and cities, in their time surpassing Tadmor and Thebes, untrodden except by the jaguar and the ocelot. A few persons, indeed, attracted by uncertain rumors of ancient grandeur in Palenque, have visited her temples and tombs

There to track Fallen states and empires o'er a land Which was the mightiest in her high command, And is the loveliest

but no one has been found to read the hieroglyphics of Tolteca, to disclose the history of the dwellers in Anahuac, to make known the annals of the rise and fall of Tlascala, Otumba, Copan, or Papantla. In the great work of Lord Kingsborough are collected many important remains of Mexican and Aztec art and learning; Mr. Prescott has combined with a masterly hand the traditions of the country; and Mr. Stevens and Mr. Squier have done much in the last few years to render us familiar with the more accessible and probably most significant ruins which illustrate the civilization of the race subdued by the Spaniards; but still Central America is unexplored. In the second volume of the work of Mr. Stevens, he mentions that a Roman Catholic priest of Santa Cruz del Quiche told him marvellous stories of a "large city, with turrets white and glittering in the sun," beyond the Cordilleras, where a people still existed in the condition of the subjects of Montezuma. He proceeds:

"The interest awakened in us, was the most thrilling I ever experienced. One look at that city, was worth ten years of an every day life. If he is right, a place is left where Indians and a city exist, as Cortez and Alvarado found them; there are living men who can solve the mystery that hangs over the ruined cities of America; who can, perhaps, go to Copan and read the inscription on its monuments. No subject more exciting and attractive presents itself to any mind, and the deep impression in my mind will never be effaced. Can it be true? Being now in my sober senses, I do verily believe there is much ground to suppose that what the Padre told us is authentic. That the region referred to does not acknowledge the government of Gautamala, and has never been explored, and that no white man has ever pretended to have entered it; I am satisfied. From other sources we heard that a large ruined city was visible; and we were told of another person who had climbed to the top of the sierra, but on account of the dense clouds rising upon it, he had not been able to see any thing. At all events, the belief at the village of Chajul is general, and a curiosity is aroused that burns to be satisfied. We had a craving desire to reach the mysterious city. No man if so willing to peril his life, could undertake the enterprise, with any hope of success, without hovering for one or two years on the borders of the country, studying the language and character of the adjoining Indians, and making acquaintance with some of the natives. Five hundred men could probably march directly to the city, and the invasion would be more justifiable than any made by Spaniards; but the government is too much occupied with its own wars, and the knowledge could not be procured except at the price of blood... Continue reading book >>

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