The place of residence assigned to our travelers was the vacant wing of a sumptuous and spacious structure, at the western extremity of the city, which had been appropriated, from time immemorial, to the surviving remnant of an ancient and singular order of priesthood called Kaanas, which it was distinctly asserted in their annals and traditions, had accompanied the first migration of this people from the Assyrian plains. Their peculiar and strongly-distinctive lineaments, it is now perfectly well ascertained, are to be traced in many of the sculptured monuments of the Central American ruins, and were found still more abundantly in Iximaya. Forbidden, inviolably sacred laws, from intermarrying with any persons but those of their own caste, they had here dwindled down, in the course of many centuries, to a few insignificant individuals, diminutive in stature. They were, nevertheless, held in high veneration and affection by the whole Iximayan community, probably as living specimens of an antique race nearly extinct.
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Such is the marvelous story detailed by Velasquez. Containing all elements which can well stimulate curiosity, it also lays claim to a credence which further inquiry must either substantiate or withdraw. The Aztec Children stand independently as the most wonderful members of the human race, whatever their origin or descent; yet at the same time, all testimony professing to throw light on this is worthy of calm and considerate attention. To view these children is less to inquire whence they came, than to regard them as they are; to watch the progressive dawn of intelligence and continually stronger development of individual characteristics. To see them is an event in the life of the beholder, which will never be forgotten. Were they deformities, without proper lineage or name, excrescences or mere freaks of nature, their history would little merit the inquiry or examination now courted. They are here—the descendants of a people probably passed over to the Américan continent at a period too remote to be ascertained, members of a race kept preserved in rocky fastness, and now discovered on the eve of physical decline and disappearance. [ … ] It might be considered just, with great propriety, to class these remarkable specimens of humanity with fabulous existences, if the truth of their being rested on mere individual assertion—BUT HERE THEY ARE! LIVING!—and open to public examination—not merely imaginary creatures, like the strange men of Africa mentioned by Herodotus, the phoenix or the mermaid. Not a fictitious people, like the dryads of the Arcadian vales—not the moonlight fairies; the little grey men of Norse legends—not nymph, sprite, nor elf—but human beings of flesh and blood—the remnant of strange and wonderful race—the greatest marvel of a land of wonders, and of the nineteenth century—more strange than the vast skeletons of the Mastodon, which have been exhumed in the same region—but, like the black swan of New Holland formerly regarded as a myth, but now a well-established existence. In short, as curious and as well substantiated as the singular sightless fish of the mammoth cave of Kentucky.
In brief, these Aztec Children present the most extraordinary phenomenon in the human race ever witnessed by the modern world: let their origin be what it may – let their history and their country’s history be every so vague and traditionary—doubt the truth of Velasquez’s narrative or believe it wholly—these children present in themselves the eighth wonder of the world. They are, without exception, the most remarkable and intensely interesting objects that were ever presented to the European public.