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Yucatan Before and After the Conquest, by Diego de Landa, tr. William Gates, [1937], at

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Yucatan is not an island, nor a point entering the sea, as some thought, but mainland. This error came about from the fact that the sea goes from Cape Cotoche along the Ascension passage to the Golfo Dulce on the one side, and on the other side facing Mexico, by the Desconocida before coming to Campeche, and then forming the lagoons by Puerto Real and Dos Bocas.

The land is very flat and clear of mountains, so that it is not seen from ships until they come very close; with the exception that between Campeche and Champotón there are some low ranges and a headland that is called Los Diablos.

As one comes from Veracruz toward Cape Cotoch, one finds himself at less than 20 degrees, and at the mouth of Puerto Real it is more than 23; from one point to the other it should be over a hundred and thirty leagues, direct road. The coast is low-lying, so that large ships must stay at some distance from the shore.

The coast is very full of rocks and rough points that wear the ships' cables badly; there is however much mud, so that even if ships go ashore they lose few people.

The tides run high, especially in the Bay of Campeche, and the sea often leaves, at some places, half a league exposed; as a result there are left in the seaweed and mud and pools many small fish that serve the people for their food.

A small range crosses Yucatan from one corner to the other starting near Champotón and running to the town of Salamanca in the opposite angle. This range divides Yucatan into two parts, of which that to the south toward Lacandón and Taiza * is uninhabited for lack of water, except when it rains. The northern part is inhabited.

This land is very hot and the sun burns fiercely, although there are fresh breezes like those from the northeast and east, which are frequent, together

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with an evening breeze from the sea. People live long in the country, and men of a hundred and forty years have been known.

The winter begins with St. Francis day, * and lasts until the end of March; during this time the north winds prevail and cause severe colds and catarrh from the insufficient clothing the people wear. The end of January and February bring a short hot spell, when it does not rain except at the change of the moon. The rains come on from April until through September, during which time the crops are sown and mature despite the constant rain. There is also sown a certain kind of maize at St. Francis, which is harvested early.


1:* Tah-Itzá, the country of the Itzás, around Lake Petén.

Next: II. Etymology of the Name of this Province. Its Situation