In Indian Mexico (1908)
by Frederick Starr
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

From Tanatepec we were in Chiapas, the southernmost state of the republic. We struck out over a fine mountain road, passable for carts all the way to Tuxtla Gutierrez, the capital of the state. Our first ascent was over a magnificent mountain mass of syenite, which at some places seemed to be as fine as our own Quincy stone. The road, with many short zigzags, made a remarkably abrupt ascent, and, having reached the crest, wound like a vast serpent along the summit. As we descended into the following valley, we encountered a beautiful deer, which stood in the middle of the road, eyeing us with curiosity, until we were almost upon it, when it dashed into the thicket and then stopped to again eye us. Upon attaining the second summit we were amid pines. All day we had had a wind in our faces, cold and so strong as to almost blow us from the narrow ridge, yet the sky was cloudless. Looking back from our summit, a magnificent view to the ocean was spread before us. Below us were the mountains over which we had come, then a valley broken with mountains of a lesser size; beyond, was the dry, coastal plain, and yet beyond it, the sea. The dark green pines, the blue sky, the brown hills, the gray plain, the stretch of blue-green waters, made a wonderful color combination.

The next two days were most uninteresting. We were often reminded of the recent threat of war between Mexico and Guatemala, the disputed border-line between which we were now nearing. We met marching bands of soldiers who were returning to Juchitan. Officers were on horses, common soldiers on foot, pack-mules were laden with luggage, the women (accompanying their husbands) were weighed down with coffee-pots, bundles of clothes, and babies, all strapped on their backs together. They were a motley crew. At Jiquipilas a company was encamped in the plaza. Our mule, Chontal, took particular delight in running into such bands of marching soldiers as we encountered, causing no end of trouble. On one occasion, as a group approached us, he ran forward at a lively pace into their midst and tangled himself up with a party of prisoners,—apparently soldiers in disgrace,—who, tied together with ropes, were under guard. As we rode up to capture him, I felt a hand at that coat pocket which contained our money-bag and, turning suddenly, found one of the guard trying to draw the bag of money from my pocket. I struck at him with my whip and he slunk away.

The last day of travel before reaching Tuxtla Gutierrez, we passed one of the few pretty places on this dreary road, Agua Bendita. At this point the road makes a great curve, almost like a horseshoe; at the middle of this curve there rises to the right of the road a wall of limestone rock the plainly defined strata of which are thrown into a gentle anticlinal fold. The upper layers of this arch were covered with shrubs, clinging to its face, while the lower layers were tapestried with a curtain of delicate ferns, which hung down over the open arch below, under which the road passed. Water trickled through this limestone mass and dripped and collected in little basins, which had been excavated in the ledge close by the roadside. Some grateful passer had set up little crosses by the water pools, and they were gay that day with purple orchids plucked from a near-by tree. In this tree, amid the brilliant clumps of yet unplucked blossoms of the orchids, were a number of toucans with their enormous, brightly colored bills—the picos de canoa (canoe beaks) of the people.

Tuxtla Gutierrez is a town of some thousands population, with a central plaza where the local band plays almost every evening, and a market place of exceptional interest. Here, as nowhere else, we saw crowds of the purest indians in native dress. Chiapas is the home of at least thirteen tribes, each with its own language. Among the most interesting indians we saw in the market were the Tzotzils, from Chamula, who wore heavy, black woolen garments. The indians of the town and its immediate vicinity are Zoques.

Few Mexican governors possess the breadth of view and the intelligent enterprise of Governor Leon, whom we encountered here. A man of middle age, of fair stature though slight in build, with dark complexion, iron-gray hair, beard and whiskers carefully trimmed after the French fashion, his appearance creates a favorable impression. He did everything in his power for our comfort and assistance, and supplied us with letters to the jefes politicos of the districts through which we were to pass. We congratulated him upon the cart-road over which we had come from Zanatepec, an important public work for this part of the world; he told us he began it three years ago with a force of but nine men; that it would be extended to San Cristobal and San Bartolome; that he was no engineer, but that he could tell quite well when a road was passable for a cart. We found him greatly interested in a congress which he had called of persons interested in labor questions. Among the questions which he hoped to see considered was the abolition of the system of peonage, which still exists in full development in the state.

Less than three leagues from Tuxtla Gutierrez is Chiapa, famous for the brightly painted gourds and calabash vessels there manufactured and sent out to all parts of the republic. Toys, rattles, cups, and great bowl-basins are among the forms produced. We visited a house where five women were making pretty rattles from little crook-necked gourds. The workers sat upon the floor, with their materials and tools before them. The first one rubbed the body of the dry gourds over with an oil paint. These paints are bought in bulk and mixed upon a flat slab, with a fine-grained, smooth, hard pebble as a grinder, with aje and a white earth dug near the road between Chiapa and Tuxtla Gutierrez. The aje is a yellow, putty-like mass which gives a brilliant, lacquer-like lustre; the white earth causes the color to adhere to the surface to which it is applied. The second woman rubbed the neck of the gourd with green paint; the third painted the line of junction of the two colors with white, using a brush; the fourth brought out the lustre of the before dull object by rubbing it upon a pad of cotton cloth upon her knee, giving a final touch by careful rubbing with a tuft of cotton-wool; with a brush, the final worker rapidly painted on the lustrous surface delicate floral or geometric decoration. Though representing so much delicate and ingenious labor, these pretty toys were sold at the price of two for a medio (three cents in United States currency).

The aje which gives the brilliant lustre to this work deserves more than a passing notice. It is made chiefly at San Bartolome and is secured from an insect, a sort of plant-louse, which lives upon the blackthorn and related trees. The insect is found only in the wet season, is small, though growing rapidly, and is of a fiery-red color, though it coats itself over with a white secretion. It lives in swarms, which form conspicuous masses. These are gathered in vessels, washed to remove the white secretion, boiled, crushed, and strained through a cloth; an oily matter, mixed with blood (?) and water passes out, which is boiled to drive off the water and to concentrate the oily mass. This is then washed in trays, to rid it of the blood, and made up into balls, which are sold at ten or twelve centavos (five or six cents) a pound. It is a putty-like substance, with a handsome yellow color. We have already stated that it is ground up with dry paints to be rubbed on the object which is to be adorned, and that the brilliant lustre is developed by gentle and rapid friction.

Pinto, a spotting or discoloring of the skin, is a common disease in many parts of Mexico. Three varieties are recognized—white, red, and blue or purple. The disease is particularly frequent in the states of Guerrero and Chiapas, and we had heard that it was very common in Chiapa. Perhaps twenty per cent of the population really has the disease; at San Bartolome perhaps seventy-five per cent are affected; in some towns an even larger proportion is reported. The white form appears the commonest. One subject examined at Tuxtla Gutierrez was a woman some sixty years of age. At birth she showed no symptom of the trouble, but spots began to appear when she was seven or eight years old. She was naturally dark, and the white spots were in notable contrast to her normal color; the spots increased in number and in size until her face and arms looked as if they had been white and become brown-spotted, instead of vice versa. After she was forty years of age her spots varied but little. The cause of this disease is still obscure, although several treatises have been written upon it. Authorities do not even agree as to the sequence of the forms of the disease, if there be such sequence. Some assert that the white form is the early stage and that the disease may never progress beyond it; others assert that the white spots are merely the permanent scars, left after the disappearance of the disease itself. Maps of distribution seem to show a distinct relation of the disease to altitude and character of water-supply. The common herd attribute it to an insect sting, to drinking of certain water, or to bathing in certain pools. Usually, there is no pain or danger connected with the trouble, except in the red form, but if the person affected changes residence, itching and some discomfort may temporarily ensue. The presidente at Chiapa took us to the jail, where the prisoners were filed before us and made to hold out hands and feet for our inspection. Such cases of pinto as were found were somewhat carefully examined. All we encountered there were of the white variety. Later, at private houses, we saw some dreadful cases of the purple form. Very often, those whose faces were purple-blotched had white-spotted hands and feet.

We had not planned to stop at Acala, but after a hard ride over a dreary road and a ferrying across a wide and deep river in a great dugout canoe thirty feet or more in length—our animals swimming alongside—we found our beasts too tired for further progress. And it was a sad town. How strange, that beautifully clear and sparkling mountain water often produces actual misery among an ignorant population! Scarcely had we dismounted at our lodging place, when a man of forty, an idiot and goitrous, came to the door and with sadly imperfectly co-ordinated movements, gestured a message which he could not speak. Almost as soon as he had gone a deaf-mute boy passed. As we sat at our doorway, we saw a half-witted child at play before the next house. Goitre, deaf-mutism, and imbecility, all are fearfully common, and all are relatedly due to the drinking water.

To us, sitting at the door near dusk, a song was borne upon the evening breeze. Nearer and nearer it came, until we saw a group of twelve or fifteen persons, women in front, men and children behind, who sang as they walked. Some aided themselves with long staves; all carried burdens of clothing, food, utensils; all were wearied and footsore with the long journey, but full of joy and enthusiasm, as they were nearing their destination—a famous shrine. Passing us, they journeyed onward to an open space at the end of town, where, with many others who had reached there sooner, they camped for the night. The next day we constantly passed such parties of pilgrims; coming or going to this shrine which lay a little off the road between Acala and San Bartolome. In one group, we counted ninety pilgrims.

We had been told that San Bartolome was full of goitre, and we really found no lack of cases. It is said that forty years ago it was far more common than now, and that the decrease has followed the selection of a new water source and the careful piping of the water to the town. In the population of two thousand, it was estimated that there might be two hundred cases, fifty of which were notable. None, however, was so extraordinary as that of which several told us, the late secretario of the town, who had a goitre of such size that, when he sat at the table to write, he had to lift the swelling with both hands and place it on the table before he began work. The former prevalence of the disease is abundantly suggested by the frequency of deaf-mutes, a score or more of whom live here—all children of goitrous parents. Bad as was San Bartolome, it seemed to us surpassed by San Antonio, where we found the disease in an aggravated form, while at Nenton, our first point in Guatemala, every one appeared affected, although we saw no dreadful cases.

San Bartolome is an almost purely indian town, where for the first time our attention was called to the two sets of town officials—indian and ladino. The indian town government consisted of four Indians of pure blood, who wore the native costume. This, here, is characteristic, both for men and women. The men wore wide-legged trousers of native woven cotton, and an upper jacket-shirt, square at the bottom, made of the same stuff, with designs—rosettes, flowers, geometrical figures, birds, animals, or men—wrought in them in red, green, or yellow wools; about the waist was a handsome brilliant native belt, while a bright kerchief was twisted about the head. The men were well-built, but the alcalde was a white pinto. Women wore huipilis, waist-garments, sometimes thick and heavy, at others thin and open, in texture, but in both cases decorated with lines of brightly colored designs. Their enaguas, skirts, were of heavy indigo-blue stuff or of plain white cotton, of two narrow pieces sewed together and quite plain except for a line of bright stitching along the line of juncture. As among other indian tribes, this cloth was simply wrapped around the figure and held in place by a belt. The town is famous for its weaving and dyeing; the loom is the simple, primitive device used all through Mexico long before the Conquest. We were surprised to find that the designs in colored wools are not embroidered upon the finished fabric, but are worked in with bits of worsted during the weaving.

From San Bartolome to Comitan, the road passes over a curious lime deposit, apparently formed by ancient hot waters; it is a porous tufa which gave back a hollow sound under the hoofs of our horses. It contains moss, leaves, and branches, crusted with lime, and often forms basin terraces, which, while beautiful to see, were peculiarly harsh and rough for our animals. But the hard, and far more ancient, limestone, onto which we then passed, was quite as bad. At the very summit of one hill of this we found a cave close by the road; entering it, we penetrated to a distance of perhaps seventy-five feet, finding the roof hung with stalactites and the walls sheeted with stalagmite. Just after leaving this cave, we met a tramp on foot, ragged, weary, and dusty, and with a little bundle slung upon a stick over his shoulder. He accosted me in Spanish, asking whence we had come; on my reply, probably catching my foreign accent, he winked and said in plain English,—"Yes? And where are you going, pard?"

After a hard day's ride, over a shut-in road, destitute of fine views, we reached the crest overlooking Comitan. The descent was almost precipitous. The town, better built and more compact than most, was situated near the foot of the hill; near it, on a terrace, was the cemetery. On the level road, stretching to a long distance from the town, we saw lines of hundreds of pack-mules, dwarfed by distance. South from the town stretched a grassy plain, bordered here and there with pine trees. Back of this plain rose round-topped hills, and beyond them were again the blue mountains; far in the distance, behind these, towered the mighty crests of the Guatemalan Sierra Madre.

The town was crowded, as the annual feria (fair) was in progress, and it was with difficulty that we found a room to sleep in, going for our meals to one of the many temporary eating-places in the plaza. Comitan is the last town of consequence in Mexico, and has wide fame on account of its spirits, known at comiteco. This drink, of enormous strength, distilled from coarse, brown sugar (panela,) is a favorite in Guatemala, and its smuggling across the border, though risky, is a lucrative business. There are scores of little distilleries in the town, many of them belonging to and conducted by women.

Mexican paper money is useless between Tuxtla Gutierrez and Comitan. At the latter city it may be exchanged for silver, but with difficulty. From here on we found no copper in circulation, and before reaching Comitan we had begun to receive Guatemalan silver in our change. Fully thirty leagues from the border we ceased to receive Mexican silver from anyone. This notable displacement of Mexican currency seems curious, because Guatemalan money is at a heavy discount in comparison with it. At San Bartolome we sent a soldier-police to buy zacate, giving him Mexican money. He brought back two Guatemalan pieces in change, and on our objecting to receive it, assured me, not only that the money was good, but also that here the people were Guatemalans. "Here," said he, "not Mexico: here we are all Carrera's people." This, of course, was sheer treason. Carrera, the pure-blood indian who in the stirring days of 1839 seized the power in Guatemala, a strange and wild being who had a real love for his country, has left a profound impression. At times an exile, he had lived at Comitan, where his name was familiar to all the indians around. His coins are much prized by the indians for necklaces and earrings, and even at Tehuantepec we had seen women wearing his little gold pieces in their ears.

It should have been an easy matter to go from Comitan to Nenton (in Guatemala) in a single day. As it was, we made it with great difficulty in two, our mule Chontal apparently being completely worn out. We crossed the llano, passed through patches of pines, and then came out upon a terrible country of limestone hills. In our last day's journey we had to coax, threaten, beat, drag, and push that mule until our voices were gone and our arms were tired. Immediately on passing the line into Guatemala, we found the telegraph wires cut and poles down, a result of the late unpleasantness with Mexico. The mountain mass before us, which had been in view for two days past, loomed up frightfully before us. Would our little mule be able to pass it? We remembered what an American tramp, whom we had met at Tuxtla Gutierrez and who had walked on foot from Guatemala City, had said: "Between Nenton and Huehuetenango you will pass over a mountain that will make your heart sick; may God help you." Just at dusk we looked down upon Nenton in a little valley, with a fine stream crossed by a pretty bridge, where mountains rose steeply on every side. Having been registered by the custom officials, we slept that night, our first in the new republic, in the municipal house.

Next morning we started bravely, the whole town having assembled to see us off. We safely reached the foot of the mountain, where the mule stopped and braced himself. We spoke kindly, coaxed, dragged, but all to no effect. Finally he started, but three times within the next few minutes, he and we went through the same procedure. Patience had ceased to be a virtue; we held a serious consultation. Ernst asserted that by placing the rope over the nostrils of the animal and then leading, he must move. We tried the experiment. The beast gave a snort, a groan, lurched, fell over, kicked convulsively, closed his eyes, and lay to all appearance dead. The town below, which had been watching progress, came running up. We removed the halter; the animal lay quiet. The pity of the by-standers was maddening; their remarks exasperating. "Poor little mule, he dies;" they pointed to his rubbed sides,—"Ah, poor creature! What a heavy load! How thin he is." It is certain that the best mule in the town was in far worse condition, and as for food, Chontal had eaten more the night before than our two horses put together. Having exhausted their vocabulary of sympathy, our friends left us, as the "poor little animal" showed signs of coming to. We concluded to engage a man on foot to carry the burden across the mountains and to lead Chontal. After some delay a man was found, who readily agreed to carry the burden and pack-saddle, but when he found he was to lead the mule besides, he defied the town authorities and refused to go. Unfortunately, he was a carpenter and, by law, could not be made to go against his will. Hours passed, while another carrier was sought. Declaring that I would not return to town, I waited on the road with the mule, while Ernst rode back and forth. As soon as he had left, the beast began to mend; he coughed, raised his head, and, opening one eye, gravely winked. Taking his halter and encouraging him to rise, I led him a few yards up the hill, when he again braced himself and I desisted. There he ate zacate. Presently we took another turn, mounted a little higher up the hill, where he stopped again. A little later we made another journey, and again halted. Just then I heard an indian boy of fourteen years calling from the cliff above me in great excitement, "Senor, un animal" (An animal, sir). Clambering over rocks, I came up to the boy, with his machete in his hand, standing at the foot of a tree upon the leafless branches of which was a fine iguana (lizard) two feet or more in length. Visions of iguana steak, which I had long desired to try, rose in fancy. The boy was disgusted when he found I had no pistol with which to shoot his animal, but grunted, "If we but had a cord." I directed him where to find a cord among our luggage and on his return he made a slip-noose, cut a long and slender pole to which he tied his snare, then handing me his machete he raised his pole and tried to slip the noose over the lizard's head. The iguana gave a leap, and as it shot by me I struck at it with the machete, which hit it and threw it on the rocks below. However, before we could reach it, it had made good its escape.

Returning to the mule I found it eating grass contentedly by the roadside. It was three o'clock in the afternoon when our human beast of burden finally arrived, took up his burden and was ready to start. Then, suddenly, I took a new resolve. Before us rose the appalling mass of the Sierra Madre; to get that mule across it would wear us out in mind and body; I regretted that he had not died, and determined to have no further trouble with him. Quickly, we sent back word to Nenton that a mule and saddle were for sale; the crowd gathered. We demanded fifteen dollars for the mule, ten for the saddle; and were offered ten and five respectively. But we declared we would kill the mule and burn the saddle before we would take less; we triumphed. Our account stood:

Cost of mule $45.00 Cost of saddle 6.00 ——— 51.00

Selling price of mule 15.00 Selling price of saddle 10.00 ——— $25.00 ——— Loss—paid for experience in mules $26.00




Our serious work was to begin with one of the most conservative and reserved of Mexican indian populations. If we could do what we planned to do with the Otomis, we were likely to have but little greater trouble with any tribe. In ancient times the name of Otomi was synonymous with stupidity. When an Aztec was particularly stupid or clumsy, his fellows in derision called him an Otomi. They still are ignorant, suspicious, and unprogressive.

Huixquilucan, which we had chosen as our field for labor, is situated on a high ridge within sight of the National Railroad, at a distance of perhaps a mile and a half from the station of Dos Rios. A crowd of indian women and children are always at the station when trains pass, to sell tortillas, chalupas, and pulque to passengers; few travellers from the United States, passing over this road, have failed to notice the dark and ugly faces of these sellers, and have received their first impression of the indians of Mexico from seeing them. Our party, three in number, reached Dos Rios in the morning and began work at the station with the women who were selling there. Dr. Powell, as our interpreter, undertook the personal dealings, and our material, as was to be expected, was chiefly women. When we came to record the names of our subjects, we found that every woman's first name was Maria, the differentiation between them being first found in the middle name. They were little creatures, scarcely larger than well grown girls of eleven or twelve among ourselves. Some old women, with grey hair and wrinkled faces who piously kissed our hands when they met us, were among the smallest. Now and then some young woman or girl was attractive, but usually their faces were suspicious, sad, and old before their time. The skin was a rich brown; the eyebrows heavily haired, often meeting above the nose; the hair grew low upon the forehead, and in young women the forehead itself was covered with a fine downy black growth. The nose was flat, broad, and depressed at the roots, while its tip was flat and wide. The eyes were dark brown and the hair was black and coarse. If we were to judge the population by the women only, we might call the Otomis true pygmies. The average stature of 28 subjects was 1,435 millimeters—while Sir William Flower's limit for pygmy peoples is 1,500 millimeters.

Many of the women whom we measured and photographed carried babies; the disposition of the children while the mothers were being examined was something of a problem. When given to another woman they usually cried lustily, and so conducted themselves as to distract the attention of their mothers and interfere seriously with our work. In the crowd of lookers-on there chanced to be a little girl, surely not more than ten years old, who seemed to be a born caretaker. Upon her back, supported by her ayate, she carried her own baby brother. We quickly found that really refractory babies were best committed to her charge. No matter how loudly they might have been crying beforehand, when transferred to the arms of this little creature they became instantly quiet. The poor little thing was kept busily employed the greater part of the afternoon with the two babies, one upon her back, the other in her arms.

Almost all the women wear the ancient costume, which consists of the huipil, enagua, faja, and ayate. The huipil is a cotton blanket, with a slit through which the head passes. On each side of the slit are bands of patterns embroidered in bright colors. Much of the remaining surface of the garment may be similarly decorated; sometimes it becomes one mass of designs. The patterns are usually geometrical figures, but may be representations of animals, birds, or human beings. They may be regularly arranged, or jumbled together haphazard. The enagua, skirt, consists of two strips of cloth of different kinds and colors, sewn together side by side and then wrapped horizontally about the body. The strips of cloth are native spun, native dyed, and native woven. The favorite colors are dark blue, brownish purple, or indian red, horizontally banded with narrow black stripes. The two strips are usually joined by a line of colored stitching. The enagua is simply wrapped about the body, sometimes thrown into pleatings in front, and held in place by a broad cotton belt of bright color, into which are woven birds, animals, human figures, and geometrical forms. These belts are called by the Spanish name, faja. Both men and women carry ayates. These are square or rectangular blankets made of ixtli, the strong fibre of the maguey. Like the enaguas, they usually consist of two pieces, side by side, stitched together with some bright color. The fibre, which is gotten from the leaves partly by maceration, partly by beating, is spun in a primitive fashion. Almost every woman one meets upon the road, no matter what burden of babies or goods she carries, has a hank of the fibre thrown over her shoulder, and keeps her little spindle whirling, spinning the strong thread as she walks. Her spindle consists of a slender stick thrust through a whorl of baked pottery. Such whorls are no longer made, but the ancient ones, called by the Aztec name malacates, are picked up in the fields and reapplied to their old use. Usually the ixtli thread is left of its original grey or white color, but sometimes the fibre is dyed, a fine shade of orange being favored. The ixtli thread is woven into ayates, which are used for carrying burdens. Vegetables, charcoal, babies—anything—are put into them. Two ends are tied together to hold the burden in place, and the other two are passed across the breast and tied in front. These blankets are astonishingly strong and unyielding.

At evening, after a fair day's work, we made our way on foot across the valley and up the long slope to the summit of the ridge on which lay Huixquilucan, the official centre of a municipality of 11,000 persons. Of these, 3,000 live in the village, while the remainder are clustered together in hamlets like San Bartolito, San Francisco, Agua Bendita, or are scattered in single-house settlements over the mountains. Of the 11,000 persons, more than three-fourths claim to be full Otomis. There are no truly poor in the whole town. Every family has its field, its house, its bit of woodland. All the people still speak the native tongue, and many speak no other. The town is picturesquely situated upon the crest and flank of a long, narrow ridge, which is enclosed by a grand sweeping curve of lofty mountains. The flanks of the enclosed ridge and the whole slope of the surrounding mountains are occupied by the little fields of the indians, long narrow patches separated by lines of maguey or century-plants. The houses are built of adobe bricks with thick and solid walls, which are usually plastered on the outside and tinted white or pink. The roofs are pitched, but with a gentle slope. They consist of frameworks of poles upon which long narrow shingles are laid, and pegged in place with wooden pegs which project both above and below for several inches in a formidable, bristling way. Sometimes the shingles, instead of being pegged in place, are held by stones, which in some cases weigh several pounds, and are laid in regular horizontal lines.

When we were there, great stacks of corn-husks were to be seen in almost every yard; these were placed on floorings, raised by posts some distance above the ground to keep them from animals. A long ladder usually leaned against one side of the stack and a light cross of sticks stuck into the top of the stack kept off evil influences. Sometimes this cross was cut in relief on the smooth, carefully trimmed end of the stack itself. More striking than these stacks, and quite characteristic of the Otomi country, were the queer corn-bins or granaries called by the Aztec name cincalote. They rose in all directions like great square columns. The floor of boards was slightly raised from the ground by stones, and measured some 4 or 5 feet on a side; from its corners rose 4 poles, sometimes to the height of 20 feet; these were connected at the top and held firm by ropes. The sides of the bin were built up of a cobwork of slender staves laid horizontally. The vertical bin thus formed was filled with ears of corn roofed about with a light thatch or shingled roof. Later in the season, as the corn was taken from these bins, the sides would have been removed piecemeal to keep progress with the diminishing hoard. When the time of planting should be near, the whole structure but the floor and upright poles would have disappeared.

Next to maize the chief culture among the Otomis is maguey. This forms division lines between the corn-fields and the village yards, and is sometimes, though not commonly here, planted in fields. The maguey is an agave very close to the century-plant. Manifold are its uses, but to the Otomi its value is chiefly in two directions. It furnishes ixtli fibre for ayates, and it yields pulque. For a dozen years the maguey plant stores away starchy food in its long, thick, sharp-pointed leaves. It is the intended nourishment for a great shaft of flowers. Finally, the flower-bud forms amid the cluster of leaves. Left to itself the plant now sends all its reserve of food into this bud, and the great flower-stalk shoots upward at the rate of several inches daily; then the great pyramid of flowers develops. But man interferes. The flower-bud is cut out, and a neat, deep cup is fashioned amid the bases of the cluster of leaves. The sap which should produce that wonderful growth is poured into this cup. The pulque gatherer, with his long gourd collecting-tube, and skin carrying-bottle, goes from plant to plant and gathers the agua miel—honey-water. Fermented, it becomes the whitish, dirty, ropy, sour-tasting, bad-smelling stuff so dear to the indians. And the Otomi are fond of pulque. We were compelled to do our work in the mornings; in the afternoons everyone was drunk and limp and useless in the operator's hands.

We slept and ate at the house of the presidente, an old mestizo of rather forbidding manners but kindly spirit. Our cases came rather slowly and a deal of coaxing, argument, and bribes were necessary to secure them. Here we gave a trifle, a few centavos, to each subject. The policy was bad, and we abandoned it with reference to all subsequent populations. Naturally the natives were hostile to our work. They thought that we were measuring them for their coffins; that they would be forced into the army; that disease would result; that an uncanny influence was laid upon them; that witchcraft might be worked against them. After having had a lot of trouble with many of our subjects, we were surprised one day to have the oldest man of the village, Antonio Calistro, born in 1813, still so hale and hearty that he works his own fields, come in for measurement and photographing. He still wears the old style of dress: a loose jacket with wide sleeves made of dark blue woolen cloth, gathered around the waist by a closely-woven cotton belt; short, wide-legged trousers of buckskin. He is the only man left in the village who wears his hair after the old fashion; that on top of his head in front was combed together and braided into a little tail, while that on the sides and back of the head was made into a longer braid. When we asked him how it was that he was not afraid to undergo our measurement and photographing, we learned that someone had told him that the purport of the work was to send information to the Pope in Rome as to how his Otomi children looked, and from respect for the Holy Father the old man of eighty years had walked in from his distant farm to be measured and photographed.

A curious fact in respect to the Otomis resulted from our study. The men, apparently of pure blood, presented two quite different types. There are many who are as little as the women; these present almost the type already given as that of the women, but are a little lighter in color. The second type is tall, sometimes over 1,700 millimeters. It is lighter in color, presenting at times a light brownish-yellow shade. Some indians of this large type have white skins, blotched with disagreeable red or purple. The eyes of these large men are usually widely-spaced, and the face appears rounder than in their smaller brethren. All the Otomis of both types, men and women, have astonishingly big heads, and many dwarfish individuals would require a 7-1/4 hat.

One night during our stay we had a grand illumination. It was St. Martin's Eve. During the afternoon the men and boys planted dead trees in the plaza and streets, and filled the branches with bunches of dry brush. At dusk we walked up to the crest before the church. All through the valley the men and boys had been busy, and as darkness settled down, blaze after blaze sprung forth until every hillside was dotted with flaming heaps. On every church and farm-house of large size, straight lines of little bonfires were built along the edges of the roof. There must have been many hundreds of fires in sight at once. Meanwhile, all the churches of the little hamlets around clanged their bells discordantly. Then the church close by us burst into illumination, and its bells joined in the clangor as we started down the hill. The villagers were putting torches to the piles, and children were dancing in the glare, shooting off their little rockets and adding their full share to the general confusion.

In the olden time Huixquilucan had a bad reputation for highway robberies. A great hill overlooking the town is called the hill of crosses, and here a cross by the wayside usually signifies a place of murder. Many a traveller in the not distant past found his way from here as best he could to the capital city minus burden and money, minus hat and shoes, and sometimes minus clothing. They used to say that from Toluca to the city a man was robbed three times; the first time they took his money, the second his watch and valuables, the third, his clothes. We were told that the church here, the chief church of our Otomi friends, is called "the church of the thieves," and that it was even lately a favorite resort of ladrones, who prayed for blessing upon their thieving expeditions and for release in case they should be taken captive. And not so long ago, among the little silver votive offerings,—eyes, legs, arms, hands,—all given in fulfillment of promises for the cure of ailing members,—one might see little chains and manacles, visible evidence that saint or Virgin had kindly released some fellow, taken in his misdeeds, from a well deserved punishment, in answer to his pious prayers.

Below the station of Dos Rios a little ravine borders the main valley. There, within sight of the track on one side of the ravine lies the stone which long ago "fell from the moon." It is a great boulder, with flat lower surface, and round upper surface, sufficiently large for a considerable party to camp on. The earth is washed away somewhat from below it, and on its under side are rude figures painted in imitation of suns and circles and symbolic designs. It is said that the indians throughout the country around respect this rock, making prayers and offerings to it.

One of Huixquilucan's pretty hamlets is Agua Bendita,—blessed water,—near the upper, narrowing end of the valley. A dozen or so houses compose the settlement. Near it, upon a little side gorge, two lovely springs burst forth from the rock. From them a babbling stream of sparkling water flows, in which, in the bright sunshine, women wash clothes, and lay them out on bushes or grassy banks to dry; little naked children play about while the mothers labor; hither dusky maidens come to perform their toilets; here women fill their ollas with water; here pulque-gatherers wash and scrape their skin bottles. In the little tank below, where the water lies so clear that everything is visible upon its bottom, one may see axolotls creeping. They are water-salamanders, but they have a strange history. Like frogs, they pass through a series of changes, and the larval is very different from the adult form. In some Mexican lakes of genial temperature, the little creature goes through its full history from the larva to the adult; but in cold mountain lakes, the adult form is never attained, and the larva (elsewhere immature) lays eggs that hatch its like.

Our last evening at Huixquilucan, I went out to purchase native garments. We rode from house to house, and were quite away from the town in a district where houses were few and far between. It was nearly dusk and our search must end. We were at the last house on a slope near the bottom of a valley, on whose opposite slope were but a few houses. The people were primitive in appearance, dress and language. They could not understand all we said, but were anxious to please the "padrecito," whose hand they kissed. Having no clothing to sell us, they tried to help us procure some. Orders were given to a shy and wild girl, with deep-set, shining jet-black eyes, raven hair and dark brown skin, dressed in rags. Stepping to a little out-jutting mass of rock, she gave a wild cry, looking across the valley to the nearest house on the opposite slope, fully half a mile away. We could see the people of the house turn out to hear. Then, in a high, clear voice, strangely penetrating, but without harshness or a break or pause for breath, with rising and falling intonation, she cried her message. There was a moment's pause, and then we saw the answering crier take her place, and in the same clear, penetrating, unbroken, up-and-down voice, came back the reply. It was not favorable, and the old man apologized for the failure, as he kissed the padrecito's hand in parting.

Some weeks later we were again at Huixquilucan, this time to secure some busts. Having reached the house of the presidente, we sent out our drunken friend Augustin, who had been useful to us during our measuring experiences, to find subjects. He finally appeared with a man who agreed to submit to the operation for one peso. Everything went well until the moulds were removed; it is true that in the removal a good deal of hair was pulled out, but no serious damage was done. When the peso agreed upon was offered, the subject indignantly refused to receive it, demanding five. I replied that he well understood our agreement: there was his peso; if he cared to take it, good; if not, I would keep it; but that to pay five pesos was out of the question. He thereupon grew angry and boisterously demanded the increased sum. Several of his friends gathered and backed him in his demand. The noise they made attracted a still greater crowd until at last we were surrounded by forty or fifty angry Indians. The man continued to demand his five pesos, the other crying, "Pay him five pesos." I was firm, declaring that the man should receive no more than had been promised. Again the peso was offered, again to be rejected. At that moment some brilliant genius cried, "If you do not pay five pesos we will break your moulds." And the cry was caught up by the angry crowd: "Yes, we will break the moulds unless you pay five pesos." At this threat I told my two companions to stand back out of the way, and then, speaking to him who had suggested the breaking of the moulds, said, pointing to them, "Yes, break the moulds." His ardor cooled. Turning to another, I said to him, "Come, break the moulds." He began to back away. Turning to the cause of the disturbance, who had joined in the cry about destroying the moulds, I said to him, "Come, come, we are waiting for you to break the moulds." No one made a move toward destroying our plaster-work, so I said, "No, you know quite well you will not break the moulds; if you did, you know what would happen; I should take you all as prisoners to Toluca." At that moment, catching sight of the old presidente who was passing on the road, I clapped my hands and beckoned him. When the old man came I laid the matter fairly before him, telling him the agreement that had been made, the time taken for the work, and the fact I had offered the man the peso promised; that he now demanded five pesos, refusing to take the proffered money. The old man looked a moment at me, then at the angry indian; then at me, and again at the indian; then, stepping up to him, he patted him on the back as a father might a spoiled child, saying, "Come, come, son; don't be a fool; three good days' wages for an hour's time; take your peso and be gone." We had feared the incident would cast a damper on our work and hinder other subjects. Far from it. We were supplied as rapidly as our men could work at the same price we paid our first subject.




Mexico has few large lakes, the largest, Chapala, having an area of only 1,685 square kilometers. Patzcuaro is much smaller, but far more picturesque. The form is something like a fat horseshoe; fine hills rise around it on all sides, behind which are mountain heights, with jagged outlines; pretty islands dot its waters, and twenty-two villages or towns of Tarascan indians are situated on its borders. The indians of these villages rarely use the land roads in going from town to town, commonly journeying by canoes, of a somewhat peculiar type. These are "dug outs," made from single tree trunks, and range in size from those intended for a single hunter to those which will carry ten or twelve persons. At the stern they are cut almost squarely across; at the bow they are trimmed to a slope; they are flat-bottomed and considerably wider at the bottom than above; they are dug out in such fashion that the walls are thin and almost vertical on the inner side. Buttressing pieces are left at the bottom, at two or three places, extending across the canoe and no doubt strengthening the sides; they also serve as squatting places for the passengers. The prow narrows as well as slopes upward, and a buttressing piece left in it serves as a foot-rest for the steersman, who sits in the bow, instead of in the stern. He steers by means of a long-handled paddle thrust through a loop of wood fastened to one side of the canoe. The paddles used for propulsion have handles three or four feet long, with round blades. The paddlers sometimes make their stroke on but one side of the canoe, sometimes on both. When they paddle over one side only, the stroke of the oar through the water is oblique, maintaining a steady course.

In such canoes the Tarascans of the lake villages go from place to place; in such a canoe, we started one morning before six o'clock, for Santa Fe de la Laguna. Our force consisted of three persons, an old man named Felipe, his wife, and a young man. All three had paddles, but only two really paddled, the third one steering. The sun rose shortly after we started, and the light effects of early morning on the water and surrounding mountains were fine. Though we had made an early start, many had started earlier, and in the first part of our journey we met scores of canoes, the paddlers of which were on their way to Patzcuaro. It was a beautiful sight to see six or eight paddlers in some great canoe keeping exact time in their movements, singing as they went. Sometimes two canoes were raced, and laughter and excited cries accompanied the contest. Here and there along the shores we saw little huts of fishermen, with nets hung out to dry, or groups of men seining or dropping dip-nets; upon many slopes were little terrace garden spots, where modest crops were cultivated; here and there were mats lately finished or heaps of fresh-cut rushes for their fabrication. Five hours of good paddling brought us to Santa Fe de la Laguna, just opposite the far more famous Tzintzuntzan, and but a little distance from the much larger town, Quiroga. Santa Fe is quite a town, stretching for a considerable distance along a terrace, but little elevated above the water level. The houses are built of rather large, dark-brown, adobe bricks; the walls are usually white plastered; the roofs of all the houses are tiled, and the supporting rafters of the roof extend out far beyond the front wall of the house, so that the passer on the footpath is sheltered against rain and the noonday sun. The outer ends of these rafters are cut to give an ornamental effect. All the houses are surrounded by fruit trees—orange, lemon, lime, ahuacate and chirimoya. Each little property is surrounded by a stone wall of some height; the gate-way through this, giving entrance to the yard, is surmounted by a pretty little double-pitched roofing of thatch.

A crowd of pure indians had gathered at the landing, by the time we were unloaded. Forty or fifty men and women of medium stature, dark-brown skin and broad, expressionless faces, watched our every movement with curiosity, but none was ready to assist us in carrying our luggage to the curato. Taking it ourselves, as best we could, we found a boy to direct us and made our way to the house. The cura, had gone to Quiroga and his suspicious household would not receive us until his return, although permitting us to leave our goods. Going to the plaza, we succeeded in getting bread and cheese at a tienda, and after eating loitered until, at half-past-two, the Padre Ponce made his appearance. We showed him our letters and asked his interest and aid. He at once made us at home in his house, summoned the officials, read the governor's letter aloud to them, and told them it was their duty to assist us in every way. We at once began our work, and before nightfall had measured and photographed a number of cases.

The next morning, Saturday, all started merrily. After breakfast, however, Padre Ponce left us, going to Quiroga for celebrating Christmas. The moment he was gone, work slackened, and it was with difficulty that we could procure subjects. Early the next morning the padre appeared to say mass, after which he stirred up the people and we were again at work. But as soon as he left for Quiroga, once more, the interest diminished. Finally, as no one came and the officials had disappeared, we started out upon a tour of investigation. We found the whole town drunk; the juez, the chief of police, the mayores, all were too drunk for measurement. We experimented upon two or three subjects, but soon gave up in despair.

Padre Ponce need not have gone to Quiroga for Christmas celebrations; we had them also. For example, we had Los Viejos. One afternoon, we saw a band of half-a-dozen persons singing in the street. All but one of them were men or boys dressed in long robes of brilliant red, purple or green, which were buttoned down the front; their heads were covered with white cloth, over which were fitted little masks of clay. The last one in the company was a woman, dressed quite in the usual fashion, but barefoot and with her rebozo covering her face and a man's sombrero on her head. Two of the party had guitars of local manufacture. This company strolled through the streets, singing and dancing; some of the dancing was clog-dance, some the jarabe, a man and woman taking part. Having noticed this group, we saw that the whole town seemed in movement toward the corral connected with the shrine behind the church. Following with the crowd, we found the corral already filled with people. The men were seated on benches or squatting against the walls; women and children were sitting on the ground. We noticed that all the women brought burdens, which proved to be pots full of hot atole, bundles of large tortillas, trays heaped high with tamales, or sacks full of little cups. Various bands of dancers made their way around, delighting the crowd with their performances. The group we had already seen was the least interesting. Those that really represented los viejos (the old men) were the best. These wore large, comic, wooden masks, many of which showed signs of long-continued use; one represented a long, warty, bearded face and was painted purple; others were painted red or brown, but most of them were of the natural color of the wood; great wigs of corn-husk or of matting were worn over the back of the head; the clothing was ragged and dirty, and in some cases was really of ancient style; some wore roughly made garments of the skin of the tigre. Each band had its leader, and each tried to outdo the others in the oddity of performance, vigor of dancing and coarseness of jest. Much fun and laughter were caused by their antics. Meantime, boys and young women were busied as waiters. Cups of steaming atole, delicious tortillas, hot tamales were distributed until everyone, including the strangers, were supplied. No one ate until the whole company had been served, when the town officials set the example and all fell to feasting. Dancing, music, laughter and fun followed, and were kept up until some time after nightfall.

On the second day after Christmas a strolling band of pastores, from San Geronimo, passed from house to house singing their Christmas songs. The company consisted of two or three musicians, a carrier—who was an indian boy about fifteen years old—and half a dozen other youngsters, wearing new palm hats and carrying long staves ending above in a loop from which streamed strips of brilliantly colored tissue paper. The carrier bore a cushion, upon which was stretched a figure of the infant Christ. At each house, he passed before the spectators, allowing them to kiss the figure and to deposit gifts of flowers or of money for the little church at San Geronimo; the music then struck up, the leader began to sing, and the little shepherds (pastores) marched around and around singing in chorus.

We lost quite two days on account of the drunkenness of the town. When it was past, by a vigorous indulgence in wheedling and threatening, we got the work again under way, and were just finishing with our one-hundredth man, when Padre Ponce returned for good and all. We had nearly starved during his absence; his old housekeeper had done her best with the poor materials which we were able to secure, but the best was bad. With Padre Ponce came another priest, Padre Torres of Patzcuaro, who used to be located at Santa Fe and was much loved by the natives. With the assistance of the two Padres we were able to secure and deal with our female subjects in less than a day, and were ready to bid adieu to the padrecitos and leave for Tzintzuntzan.

All the tourist world that goes to Patzcuaro visits Tzintzuntzan to see the Titian. Padre Ponce was anxious to have us see the famous picture and photograph it. It was late when we reached the town, which consists in large part of mestizos and indians who speak little but native Tarascan. We found the cura was not in town, but were taken to the curato; arrived there, we discovered that the good man had taken his keys with him. We arranged, with some difficulty, for something to eat, and, after supper, were shown into an open room, with an unfinished roof, without a door, and with no hint of bed. Here we shared a lumber pile with two or three young men and suffered frightfully from cold all night. We were up early, as sleep was impossible, and filled our time as best we could, until it was light enough to photograph the picture.

We had our letter from Padre Ponce to the cura, in which he recommended the priest to have us photograph the painting. This letter and the governor's letter we had shown the town officials the night before, telling them that we should make the picture. They replied that they could not give permission to do so during the padre's absence. After we had breakfasted, and the light had become sufficient, we made our way to the old church, in front of which are some beautifully gnarled and irregular ancient olive trees, amid which the old bells are quaintly hung. Entering the church, we soon found the Titian, a descent from the cross. The figures are boldly painted and skillfully grouped; the action and lighting concentrate upon the figure of the Christ. Padre Ponce had told us that the proper place from which to photograph was the pulpit, and he was right. The sacristan was looking on with doubt: when he saw us making preparations for the picture, he hurried to us and said it was against all rule for anyone to take a photograph when the cura was not present. We told him our time was short; that we must return to Patzcuaro that day to arrange our farther journey; we showed the governor's order and Padre Ponce's letter, but all in vain. We must wait until the cura came. With this I put some centavos in his hand and told him I was certain his duties called him outside the church and that we would not detain him; that we should stay awhile to gaze upon the picture, which deserved close and pious examination. He at once withdrew, locking the door behind him. The instrument was quickly placed in the pulpit and the picture taken. Curiously, the sacristal duties ended just as we were ready to leave the church and the door opened as if we had said "Open sesame."

By ten-thirty we had secured a canoe and boatmen, two young and vigorous pure-blood indians. Though a wind was blowing squarely against us, we made good time. We stopped at the picturesque fishing-village of Janicho, on its rock island. Its houses cluster on a little terrace near the bottom of the hill, which rises behind it as a fine background. Steps of rock lead up the stony slope from the water's edge to the houses. In every yard mattings are laid, upon which little white fish are drying. As they walk through the streets or stand talking together, the men are ever tatting at nets; long lines of net-cord are reeled out for many yards along the wayside; hundreds of feet of seines are hung out in the sun to dry. The houses, with their pretty red tiling, are irregularly clustered along narrow winding streets. The people are purely indian, and wear the characteristic dress.

No town in all the region makes so much use of the tsupakua, or spear-thrower, a wooden stick cut to fit the hand and support the shaft of a spear or long dart, the end of which rests against a peg near the tip of the thrower. By means of this instrument, the long, light, darts of cane with iron points are thrown more directly and forcibly than by the hand alone. These spears are used in hunting ducks. Anciently a spear-throwing stick was widely used through Mexico; to-day it lingers in few places, the best known of which is here on Lake Patzcuaro.




We easily arranged at Patzcuaro to leave for Uruapan the next morning. Although delayed beyond our proposed hour of starting, we were off at six. It was early enough, indeed, for the morning air was cold; heavy frost coated the leaves and grass and lay upon the soil; in spite of our heavy blankets, wrapped closely about us, we shivered as we rode along upon our horses.

The ride, however, was a lovely one. At first we seemed to leave the lake behind us; mounting for some time we reached a summit from which it again broke upon our view; descending, we constantly caught glimpses of it, with its sinuous shores, its lovely mountain backgrounds, its islands, and its pretty indian towns. Finally, we again left it and rose into a magnificent mountain region, covered chiefly with pines. Passing through Ajuno, which lies upon a steep slope, we overtook a party of police, mounted on horses, taking a group of prisoners to Uruapan. At Escondidas, itself a miserable village, we were impressed by the mercantile spirit of these indians. In all these villages the houses are constructed of heavy logs or timbers, closely and neatly joined; the roofs are shingled with long and narrow shingles, and are abruptly four-sloped. At every house there was something for sale—food, drink, or cigarros. All these houses were built close to the edge of the road, and in the middle of the front was a little square window, in which the goods were shown. When no trade was solicited, these windows were closed with solid wooden shutters. Not only, however, was every house a store, but on the highway between towns, we passed many places where, beneath brush shelters, women offered fruit, food, or drink for sale. Usually several such shelters would be near together, and the venders had gay times, chatting, laughing and singing. Such houses and roadside-selling are common through the whole Tarascan region.

Soon after passing Escondidas, we began a descent, which seemed absolutely endless. Time after time we thought we had reached the bottom, only to find that we were on a terrace from which another drop led us still further down. On and on into this bottomless pit we descended to Ziracuaretaro, a striking town. Banana plantings surrounded the houses; orange-trees covered with their golden spheres reared themselves to the unusual height of thirty feet or more; mameys, with their strange nut-brown fruits, and coffee-trees, loaded to breaking, were abundant. Amid this luxuriant mass of tropical vegetation, houses were almost invisible until we were directly in front of them. Notwithstanding the enormous descent we had made, it appeared to us, when we crossed the stream and began the ascent, that we had not really been to the bottom of the great valley. For a long distance we mounted through a district of sugar-canes; then passed a little settlement of rude huts spread out over a reddish space; then, by a gentle but circuitous ascent, to a rugged trail which brought us to the summit and the edge of the great slope to Uruapan. At the further side of the valley and to our left, in a mass of green, we saw smoke rising from the factories of Uruapan. Crossing one of the characteristic bridges of the district, with a pretty shingled roof—four-sloped like those of the houses—over it, and with benches at the sides, where passers can sit and rest, while looking at the dashing, gurgling, foaming, water below,—we followed a level road between blackberries, wild roses, and other shrubs, to Uruapan.

No town in Mexico is more beautiful. Perpetual spring reigns. Although several thousand feet above sea level, it is so situated, with reference to mountain slopes and funnel valleys, that it has a genial climate, where plants nourish which are usually found only at lower altitudes. Its fruits and "the finest coffee in the world" have rendered the town long famous. The houses, bowered in dense groves of green, are of the picturesque Tarascan type. The four-sloped roofs, now covered with long, narrow shingles, now with the dull red tiles, suggest the prettiest pictures in Japanese towns. The streets are clean. Through the centre of the town dashes a mountain stream of clearest water, with the hue of sapphire. This pretty stream furnishes power for mills, factories and lighting-plant, and is crossed several times by picturesque, roofed bridges, in the shelter of which one may spend hours in watching the dashing water, foaming cascades, curious potholes worn in the rocky banks, and the passing Indians. Most Mexican towns are contented with one plaza; this one has three, following each other closely, separated only by single lines of narrow buildings. They are neatly planted, and supplied with bandstand and monuments. The town is electric-lighted and several hotels had been lately put in readiness to receive the crowd of visitors expected with the completion of the railroad, a matter of a few months later.

The prefecto of Uruapan and jefe politico of the district is the son-in-law of Governor Mercado, and to him we bore a special letter from his father-in-law. The old gentleman had been insistent that we should return by Capacuaro and Cheran, indian towns. He said that at the former we should find a mogote (mound or heap of stones and dirt) which every traveler should see, while at the latter Lumholtz had secured some skulls of exceptional interest, and that we should do the same. As our time was short, we asked the prefecto to send a messenger to Cheran with orders to dig some skulls and have them ready against the time of our arrival. That official expressed delight in doing our bidding, and we saw the messenger summoned and the order placed in his hands, with full direction as to its delivery.

Meantime, there were objects of interest for us in Uruapan itself. The town is famous for its lacquer work, made with aje, like that of Chiapa. Gourds are ornamented, fruit-forms are colored after nature, bowls made from fruit shells are elaborately decorated, all quite like the Chiapa work. What is characteristic of Uruapan are the placques and table-tops of wood, decorated with floral designs in brilliant colors, upon a background of dark-green, pink, blue, yellow, or black. This art is in the hands of a few persons, some pure indians. Visiting them, we found the wooden placques and table-tops are brought from one of the mountain villages of the Tarascans; they are first covered thickly with the background color; upon this the pattern is pencilled and then cut out in the lacquered surface; the color, mixed with oil and aje, as with other substances, is then applied with the finger-tips to fill the cut patterns; the lustre is then brought out by careful rubbing. The work is striking, and is prized throughout the Republic.

In the same quarter of the town, where this local industry is carried on, are many goitrous persons. The disease seems to be confined to the one district, but there perhaps one-half the people have it, most of them to but a slight degree. Occasionally the swelling is notable, and in the families affected we find, as usual, deaf-mutism.

On the morning of New Year's day, we left for Capacuaro and Cheran. As we rode out from the city, we were more than ever impressed with its verdant beauty and picturesqueness. The road to Capacuaro was unexpectedly level and good, and we reached the town, which is purely indian, by nine o'clock. Women, almost without exception, wore the native dress. Goitres were common, and some, among the men, were really enormous. Riding through the long town, we drew up before the house of the jefe de policia (chief of police), and summoned the village officials. On their appearance we found that all but the jefe himself, were drunk, the secretario in particular being almost useless. When we handed him the letter from the prefecto he was quite unable to make aught of its grandiloquence. Having looked it through in a dazed way, he declared that we were "gringos," "like the one who was here last year" (presumably Lumholtz). With some severity, I told him he did wrong to call visitors to the town by the opprobrious name of gringos, and ordered him to read the letter and make known its contents to the jefe. He made another effort and then helplessly said—"Who can make anything of such a letter? It is in their idioma." Sternly pointing to the signature I said—"The letter is from your prefecto and written in his idioma; you see the firma." Helplessly shaking his head, he said, "Oh, yes, the firma is that of Silvano Martinez, but the letter is in your idioma." Seeing that he was of no earthly use, I took the letter from him, and, turning to the crowd which had gathered, rebuked them for their drunkenness, asserting that it was disgraceful for a whole town government to be intoxicated at the same time; that some one ought always to be sober enough to attend to business; that we had been insulted by being called gringos, and that our order had not been read to them because the secretario was too drunk to do his business; that there were two ways of dealing with such town governments, and that, unless something was done promptly, we would see how they would like to go back with us to Uruapan, whence we had come. The jefe, who was really not drunk, thereupon begged to know what we desired, and the drunken secretario was somewhat frightened; the remainder of the official body expressed a wish to do only what we wanted. I then read the prefecto's letter in my best manner and added that we had come to Capacuaro only at the desire of the governor himself, to visit their mogote, and that we ought to wait no longer for guidance. At once all was commotion and bustle. Bidding the disgraced secretario go to his house and stay there, the jefe de policia summoned the rest of his company about him, seized his staff of office, buckled on his great machete, and took the lead; three policemen, with their machetes, followed; two others, unarmed, followed, and, with this escort, we started to hunt our ruins on the mountain. They proved to be two heaps of rubbish, from constructions of stone. Had we had time for serious investigation they might have proved of interest; as it was, we spent but a few minutes in their inspection, and then, bidding our drunken escort good-bye, we continued our journey. We had planned to go first to Nehuatzen, thence to Parracho, and, after visiting Cheran, back again to Nehuatzen. At the mogote, however, we were already near the Parracho highway and at once struck into it. Our journey led through forests, chiefly of pine, with open glades, at intervals; on many of the trees we saw great bunches of a parasite that bore honeysuckle-like, yellow flowers. Parracho we found lying at the base of mountains at the very end of a long stretch of level. It is an unattractive town, our only reason for visiting which was to see something of the manufacture of its famous rebozos, which differ from others in the wide border of white and azure blue silk, which is attached to a netted foundation to form decorative patterns, representing birds and animals, or geometric figures. The work is curious, and I am inclined to see in it a surviving imitation of the ancient feather-work for which the ancient Tarascans were famous. From Parracho our road led through Aranza to Cheran. Just beyond Aranza we passed over the astonishing wash from some summer torrent. During the wet season a single rain may fill the gorges, sheet the mountain slopes with water, tear great trees from their hold, break off mighty rock fragments and carry them onward, like wooden blocks, with hundreds of tons of finer gravel. At this season there was not a sign of water; not a trickling thread was visible in any of the gorges; but from their now dried mouths there spread fan-shaped deposits many rods in length and breadth, containing quantities of blocks of rock that measured from four to ten feet in diameter, trunks of trees up to two feet in thickness, all in the greatest confusion and at places completely covering our road to a depth of several feet. We could trace the tailing out of the fans of deposit, from their thicker, heavier part at the base of the torrent, to their margin on the plain; from heavy rock masses weighing tons, through smaller masses, into sand and gravel.

The way to Cheran seemed endless, but at last we reached that interesting, great indian town, when the afternoon was nearly spent. It was the New Year, and the street celebration of los negritos (the negroes—or the little negroes) was in progress. As we rode through the streets, however, we attracted much attention and the performance was neglected. We rode directly to the town-house, entered and asked for the presidente. He was slow in appearing and long before he arrived scores of people were crowding around the doors and windows to see us and know our business. When he arrived, we greeted him in a most friendly way and told him that we had come for the skulls. He looked aghast. "The skulls, what skulls, sir?" "The skulls the prefecto ordered you to dig for us." By this time, the crowd outside, which had increased with every minute, showed uneasiness. The presidente declared he knew nothing of any skulls. After we had explained the matter more fully, he assured us that no messenger had come from the prefecto; this, which at first we thought to be a lie, was no doubt true. He was plainly scared. He begged us to be careful lest the people, who were ignorant, should overhear us. He told us that a year before Don Carlos (Lumholtz) had been there; that he, too, had wanted skulls, and that the town officials had given him permission to dig some from the graveyard; that this caused so much excitement and so many threats that the permission had to be revoked. He feared the people had already heard our wishes and were even then in an ugly mood—a thing which seemed likely from an inspection of the faces in the doorway and windows. He said, however, that Don Carlos afterward secured some skulls from an ancient burial-place not distant from the village, and, if we pleased to wait in Cheran through the morrow, as it was now too late, five in the evening, to do aught, he would gladly show us the burial place of the ancients, where no doubt abundant skulls could be secured. Not yet certain that the man was telling truth, we spoke to him severely, saying that we should report him to the governor for not having obeyed the order of the prefecto. At the same time we demanded an official document signed by himself as presidente, and by the secretario, and duly sealed, stating that no messenger had come to him from the prefecto. To our surprise this document was promptly furnished, good evidence that the prefecto had played us false, only pretending to despatch the messenger whom we had seen started.

With profuse apologies and expressions of regret from the officials, we left Cheran, hurrying on to Nehuatzen for the night. Our chief reason for doing so was that everyone who knew of our intention to visit Cheran had shaken their heads, remarking "Ah! there the nights are always cold." Certainly, if it is colder there than at Nehuatzen, we would prefer the frigid zone outright. Nehuatzen is famous as the town where the canoes for Lake Patzcuaro are made. We had difficulty in securing food and a place to sleep. The room in which we were expected to slumber was hung with an extensive wardrobe of female garments. These we added to the blankets we carried with us, but suffered all night long from the penetrating cold. The two indian boys, who accompanied us as guides and carriers, slept in the corridor outside our door and when day broke they were so cramped and numbed and stiff with cold, that they lighted matches and thrust their cold hands into the flames, before they could move their finger-joints. We had planned to leave at five, but it was too cold to ride until the sun should be an hour high, so finally we left at seven. There was heavy frost on everything; curved frost crystals protruded from the soil, and we broke ice a half inch thick in water-troughs, unfinished canoes, by the roadside.

For ten hours we rode, without even stopping for lunch, through Sabina and Pichataro, San Juan Tumbio and Ajuno, back to comfortable Patzcuaro.




We have always loved the State of Tlaxcala and its quaint little capital city of the same name. For more than a dozen years its governor has been Prospero Cahuantzi, a pure-blood indian, whose native language is Aztec. He is a large, well built man, with full face and little black eyes that are sunken deeply into the flesh. He is a man of some force and energy. The population of his little state, the most densely populated in the Republic, is almost entirely indian, and it at once fears, hates, and respects him. Having made several previous visits to the city, and having always been graciously received by Don Prospero, we thought it hardly necessary to carry with us our usual letters of recommendation from the Federal authorities.

Just before we were ready to visit Tlaxcala, while we were in the City of Mexico, we learned that Governor Cahuantzi was there, on business. We thought it best to call upon him, explaining our proposed work and asking his interest. So to the Hotel Sanz, where he always stops when in the Capital, we went. We called twice without finding him and our third call appeared to be as unsuccessful, but just as we were leaving, resolved not to try again, we met the governor alighting from his carriage at the door. Intercepting him, we asked a moment's interview, which was granted, though with ill grace. It was plain that he was sadly out of humor. Apologizing to him for our intrusion at so late an hour and so immediately after his return to his hotel, we told him of our projected visit, described the measurements, photographs and other data we were gathering, reminding him that two years earlier he had heard our plans and promised his assistance. In a somewhat gentler mood, he told us we might visit Tlaxcala and that he would aid us, but he must have a little time "for preparing the soil;" that all his people were indians, and that our work would necessarily be considered with suspicion. Upon our asking him how much time would be needed "to prepare the soil," we received no definite reply. He, himself, planned to leave for home the following morning, Friday; so we suggested that we would go first to Puebla, and reach his capital on Monday. He plainly considered this somewhat hasty, but grunted his assent, and we left him, somewhat surprised at his unusual gruffness and lack of interest.

Early Monday morning, we appeared upon the scene. After breakfast we betook ourselves to the state palace; the governor was already in his reception room, but, instead of being ushered promptly into his presence, as had always happened in our previous visits, we were left to sit two hours in the outer office. Finally, on our displaying some impatience, a message was again taken to his Excellency, and a few minutes later, the jefe politico of the district bustled past us into the carefully guarded reception chamber. He did not long remain there, and, on coming out into the office where we were waiting, brusquely asked, "Are you the persons who want to measure heads? Well, they are waiting for you out there in the corridor; why don't you go to work?" Seizing our instruments, blanks and camera, we hurried to the corridor and began operations. Three or four were measured in quick succession; then, when I cried, "Otro" (another), the jefe's eyes began to bulge. That one measured, and another called for, he seemed half-distracted; desperation seized him; as he faintly repeated "Otro" he looked wildly around in search of subjects and it was plain that he had not begun to realize what demands we planned to make upon him. Before the noonday rest, we had measured fourteen subjects, but the jefe's personal interest had ceased, and he had completely disappeared from the scene of action. When we returned at three o'clock to resume work, only the guards were there to help us. One and another subject, invited to be measured, showed no interest in advancing science. So, Mr. Wilson went to see the jefe in his office; the old man was furious and actually ran out, with the statement that he had plenty of his own work to do. When this scene had been reported, it in no wise increased the readiness of subjects to undergo the operation. Finding that we were accomplishing nothing, we decided upon desperate measures. Going to the office of the governor's private secretary, we insisted on his telling the chief executive that we were losing time, that no one was assisting us, that subjects were obdurate and stubborn, and that something must be promptly done. We waited but a few minutes. The fiat went forth; the jefe politico appeared, puffing and blowing, and wildly excited. He was closeted a moment with the governor. On his reappearance, we greeted him cordially, and told him that the people present would not be measured and indicated one particularly stubborn subject, who was dealt with, promptly, and without gloves. The jefe remained long enough to reestablish order, though, under his breath, he muttered curses and threats, and expressed his feeling to any official, who chanced to pass. He said the business was driving him clean crazy; that he was doing what he did, not for love of us, but from respect to the orders of his chief. Having set the ball to rolling, he left us and there were no more delays.

When the labor of the day was over, we stopped at the jefe's office to inform him that we should continue work the following day, and emphasized the fact that we wished one hundred cases, and, as yet, had less than half that number. We suggested that systematic arrangements would not only facilitate our labor, but would lessen his own task. The result was evident; on the following day delegations, ordered by the jefe, and consisting of from six to a dozen persons each, began to come in from the outlying villages. This made our work easy, indeed. In one respect, Tlaxcala differs from all the other Mexican states with which we are acquainted. Most of the people live in very little towns, which cluster around the larger places. Thus, around the capital city, Tlaxcala, there are some seventeen of these small pueblos.

Working at the palace, we had secured almost no women for measurement. Asking the advice of the cura, in the matter, he recommended that we should go to some one of the neighboring indian villages; that he would give us a letter to the juez and that, thus, we would secure our subjects easily. He suggested San Estevan and wrote the promised letter to the juez of that village. San Estevan is a pretty village, near the summit of some low gray hills of tufa, behind which rises a background of higher hills of the same material. The slope is terraced for the houses, which are all built of adobe bricks and have flat roofs. The "three part house," of the ancient Aztec type—god-house, kitchen, and granary—is better shown in this state than almost any other part of the Republic. The granary, or cuezcomate, is particularly characteristic. It is built of clay, in the form of a great vase or urn, open at the top, above which is built a little thatch to shed rain and to protect the contents. The cuezcomate is often ten feet high. One or more of them is found in connection with every house.

The juez lived in a comfortable house of two rooms, half of which is used at present for the boy's school, of which his son is teacher. He received us graciously, and was pleased to receive a letter from the padre, though he stated it was not a government order and carried no actual authority; that if the women cared to be measured, well and good, but if not, no force could be employed. The appearance of the camera, however, interested him; plainly, he desired to have a family group photographed; he hinted at this so broadly that, taking him to one side, I whispered that it was, of course, impossible to take family groups for everyone, but if we secured the twenty-five women without delay, notwithstanding the fact that we had no more authoritative document than a cura's letter, the group should be taken. The effect was immediate. The police were summoned and sent through the village to bring in women for measurement and naught was said about their right of refusal.

When, toward evening, we returned from San Estevan, tired but quite satisfied with the day's work, we found a delegation of more than a dozen men waiting for us in the plaza. We did not need so large a number to complete our work, and it was nearly dark; we would gladly have dismissed them and run our chances of securing others the next day. But neither they nor the jefe politico were to be bluffed. So we marched into the corridor, lighted candles and got to work. When those lacking to make our full hundred had been measured, we proposed to let the others go, but they were not to be thus got rid of, and insisted on being measured as such were the orders of the governor. We were not through until long after dark, and we were ravenously hungry.

This delegation was one of the most attractive, clean, and intelligent with whom we had dealt. It was from Los Reyes, a little town at a distance of about half a league. It was headed by the village juez. After we had completed the measuring, they stood, shifting their sombreros from hand to hand and plainly wishing to say something further; finally, mustering courage, the juez and secretario advanced and stated that it was the town's desire to have a picture taken of the church, with the saint and people of the village before the door. Would it be possible for us to make the picture and on what conditions? We replied that time was precious and that the trip, if it involved a loss of time, was quite impossible; but if they supplied carriers to take the instruments to and from their village, and had all ready before seven in the morning, we would make it. Delighted, the officials then inquired what we would wish for breakfast; we answered French bread and red wine. When we looked out of our window, a little before seven, we saw our party ready and waiting. The juez, the secretario, and two others made the company. A basket, carefully carried by one, was suspected to contain our breakfast. The burdens were shouldered, and we started out in the cool, fresh morning air, for the village, where we arrived in about half an hour. It is a town of less than one hundred people, situated upon a little mountain, hidden, to one looking from Tlaxcala, by intervening hills. We were received in the town-house, which is a portion of the old church building; mass was in progress, and we told those who received us, that we had no wish to interfere with their religious duties; that those who wished, might go to service. Most went, but two or three were left as a committee of entertainment. They took us to a view-point from which there was a magnificent valley to be seen. And, here, we found one of the finest echoes possible. Rockets were exploded and the noise was echoed from hill to hill around the great amphitheatre; it was like a long reverberation of thunder, but it sank and swelled, sank and swelled, repeatedly, until it seemed that it would never stop. Service over, the procession formed, and the santito was brought out before the church. The townspeople were arranged and the view taken. We were then invited in to breakfast, which was fine. There were plenty of French rolls and the red wine brought from town, and a great heap of enchiladas, fresh lettuce and eggs. After eating, we expressed a wish to hear the village drum, a great huehuetl. This musical instrument is a reminder of the olden times; it is not found everywhere, but a number of indian towns possess one, which is kept to be played on festal occasions. The one as Los Reyes was some three feet or so in height, a hollow cylinder of wood with a membrane stretched across the upper end; it was painted blue. A chair of state was placed for me in the little patio. After I was seated the three musicians took their places,—one played the great huehuetl, a second beat the tambour or ordinary drum, the third performed upon the chirimiya, a shrill wooden pipe. It was the first time we had really heard a huehuetl. The player used two sticks with padded heads, beating with great force in excellent time. The booming of the instruments was audible to a great distance. The whole village had gathered, and in a momentary lull in the music, I told the people of the ancient use of the huehuetl; that Bernal Diaz, in his history of the Conquest of Mexico, tells us what feelings filled the hearts of the Spaniards, when they heard the great huehuetl, in the temple of the ancient city of Tenochtitlan; then it was chiefly beaten when human victims were being sacrificed to the gods, and the soldiers knew that some fellow-countryman, or a Tlaxcalan ally, was dying. Never have I given a public lecture, that was listened to with more attention or greater appreciation.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9     Next Part
Home - Random Browse