Travels to Oaxaca

Nicolas-Joseph Thiéry de Menonville (1739 - 1780)
Translated by Anonymous

Botanical Piracy! A French botanist plots to steal red dye cochineal insects from Spanish Mexico and transplant them and their cacti hosts to the French Caribbean. The year is 1776. Nicolas-Joseph Thiéry de Menonville is a fast talker and a quick thinker. Botanist and physician by training, he insinuates his way from Port-au-Prince, first to Havana and then to the Mexican mainland on the ruse that he is searching for a botanical cure for gout. In Vera Cruz, however, his passport is confiscated, and the Viceroy orders him to leave Mexico on the first available ship. There are three weeks to wait before the ship sails. Thiéry de Menonville concocts a daring plan. Circulating the story that he is spending the interval before his departure at the country estate of an alluring widow, he instead climbs over the city wall of Vera Cruz in the dead of night and sets out on foot for Oaxaca and its cochineal plantations, no matter that he is ignorant of the exact route to take. Not daunted, he stops at a monastery and tells the monks he has made a vow to walk on foot to Nuestra Señora de la Soledad in Oaxaca, and the monks point him on the right road. How Thiéry de Menonville succeeds in bringing living cactus and cochineal insects to the French colony of Saint-Domingue is a non-stop adventure tale. - Summary by Sue Anderson

Genre(s): Memoirs, Life Sciences

Language: English

Section Chapter Reader Time
Play 01 A Plot is Laid; Arrival at Havana Sue Anderson
Play 02 Havana - Life and Times Sue Anderson
Play 03 Obtains a Passport to Visit Veracruz Sue Anderson
Play 04 Provincial Society at Veracruz Sue Anderson
Play 05 Veracruz - City and Fortifications Sue Anderson
Play 06 Birds, Insect Bites, and Gossip Aplenty Sue Anderson
Play 07 Ordered to Leave Mexico; A Desperate Plan Sue Anderson
Play 08 Sets Out, Illegally, for Oaxaca on Foot Sue Anderson
Play 09 Reaches Orizaba; Visits a Monastery; A Temptation of the Flesh Sue Anderson
Play 10 Tehuacan; Negro and Indian Labor; Turtles; Pulque; Offended Pride Sue Anderson
Play 11 Tehuacan to Oaxaca: San Sebastian, Los Cues, Quiotepec, Cuicatlan Sue Anderson
Play 12 Sees First Cochineal Plantations Sue Anderson
Play 13 Arrives in Oaxaca: Secures Cochineal and Vanilla Sue Anderson
Play 14 Starts Back to the Coast Sue Anderson
Play 15 Praise for Native Justice; A Customs Inspection Sue Anderson
Play 16 Animosity Between Blacks and Indians Sue Anderson
Play 17 Safely Back at Veracruz with the Cochineal Sue Anderson
Play 18 8 June 1777 Sails from Veracruz with Stolen Cochineal Sue Anderson
Play 19 A Stop at Campeachy; Dyewood Smuggling Sue Anderson
Play 20 Dissects a Porpoise and 2 Sharks Sue Anderson
Play 21 A Mix-Up with the American Revolution: Encounter with the Ship "Boston" Sue Anderson
Play 22 Lands Cochineal at Saint-Domingue; Offers Sophistic Defense of Botanical Piracy Sue Anderson