Merida itself is much larger and better built than we had expected. Many of the houses, especially on the outskirts, are elliptical in section, and have walls of small stones closely set in mud plaster. In the center of the town the houses are covered with painted plaster and are in the usual Latin-American style. Great numbers of quaint little coaches, with a single horse, were waiting at the station. As we walked up to the center of the town, we found but few places open, practically nothing but barber-shops and drug-stores. Of both of these, however, there were a surprising number.
Having been directed to the Hotel Concordia, we were disappointed when the old lady in charge stated that she had no rooms, and directed us across the way to the Hotel de Mexico. As we had arranged for the delivery of our stuff, we did not care to look elsewhere, and therefore inspected the rooms in this hotel. To reach them, we went through a barber-shop into a narrow patio, and, mounting some rickety stairs, found our quarters, which were filthy, vile-smelling, hot and uncared for. Yet for these choice quarters, with two beds in each of two rooms, leaving no space practically between, we were expected to pay four dollars. Upon remonstrating with the proprietor at the price demanded, he cooly said, "Oh, yes, everything here costs high; but there is money to pay it with." This really stated the fact. Conditions in Merida are the most abnormal of any place which I have visited. Owing to the war in the Philippines, and interference with the trade in hemp, the fiber of the hennequin is in great demand, and money is plentiful. At good restaurants each plate costs thirty cents, instead of ten or twelve, as in the City of Mexico itself. No coach will cross the street for less than fifty cents; for a cooling drink, such as in the capital city would cost three cents, one here pays twelve. The shortest street-car line charges ten cents; and everything else is in proportion. What the hotel-keeper said, about there being money to pay these frightful prices, was equally true. We paid cargadors four times, draymen three times, more than we have ever done in any other part of Mexico. In the restaurants we saw cargadors calling for plates at thirty cents, boot-blacks eating ices at one real, newsboys riding in coaches, and other astonishing sights. In the plaza, good music is played on Sunday nights, and every one is out in all his finery; fruits, sweetmeats, refreshing drinks, are hawked everywhere, and are much indulged in; under the corridors are little tables, where ices, iced milk and drinks are served. At the hotel we passed a night of horror, suffering from the heat, dust, ill-placed lights, mosquitoes and other insects. Leaving my companions I went the following morning to Progreso to attend to the unlucky baggage. For variety, I took the broad-gauge road, but found little difference in the country through which we passed. The number of wind-mills was astonishing, and most of them were Chicago aeromotors. At one station a great crowd of pure indians got off and on the train. The American consul at Progreso is too much interested in archaeology to be found at his office, but his Mexican vice-consul was present. To him our difficulty was explained, and on his advice we deposited the forty dollars demanded for duty, and signed various documents of remonstrance, upon which we paid almost four dollars more for stamps. We were then permitted to take out enough plates for immediate use, leaving the balance in Progreso until we should be ready for our return journey.
Acting on the advice of the vice-consul, we changed quarters in Merida from the Hotel de Mexico, to the Moromuzo, kept by an American who had been many years in the country, and where, though we paid even more for rooms, we had some comfort. By industrious search, we found a Chinese restaurant, where prices were not high and service quite as good as in the aristocratic place where we had dined before. The day before we called at the palace, hoping to see the governor, though it was Sunday. He was out of town, and we were asked to call the following day. Accordingly, in the afternoon, after returning from Progreso, I repeated my call but was told that the governor had gone out of town again and that I should come the following day. The third day, again presenting myself at the office, I learned that it was a holiday and that the governor would not be at the palace; the secretary recommended that I try to see him at his house. To his house I went, and sending in my card and my letters from the Federal authorities was surprised, after having been kept waiting in the corridor, to be informed that the governor would not see me, and that I should call at the palace, the next day, in the afternoon, at two o'clock. Sending back a polite message that we had waited three whole days to see his excellency, and that our time was limited, my surprise was still greater at receiving the tart reply that he had stated when he would see me. We spent the balance of day and all the morning of the next, looking about the town.
Having failed in my visit to Governor Canton, I took a street-car to Itzimna to see the bishop, to ask him for a letter to his clergy. The well-known Bishop Ancona had lately died, and the new incumbent was a young man from the interior of Mexico, who had been here but a few months. He had been ill through the whole period of his residence, and seemed frail and weak. He received me in the kindest way, and after reading the letters I presented, asked whether I had not been in Puebla at a certain time two years before; on my replying in the affirmative, he remarked that he had met me at the palace of the bishop of Puebla and had then learned of my work and studies. He gave me an excellent letter to his clergy, and as I left, with much feeling, he urged me to be careful of my health and that of my companions while we were in the country. When he came from Puebla, only a few months before, he brought three companions with him, all of whom had died of yellow fever. He told me that, though this was not the season for that dread disease, cases of it had already broken out in the city; at the same time he stated that more than eight hundred cases of small-pox were reported in Merida, and that many of them were of the most virulent. Sunday we had walked through dust ankle-deep upon the roads; Tuesday and Wednesday it was with difficulty that we could cross the streets, which were filled with mud, and, part of the time, with muddy water a foot and more in depth. This is a frequent occurrence, and foot-passengers who desire to cross the street are often forced to hire a coach for that purpose. As one walks the street, he runs constant risk of being splashed with mud and water from passing vehicles and street-cars. During the four days we spent in Merida we met several persons interested in literary lines, and visited a number of institutions, among which the most interesting was the Museo Yucateco, of which Senor Gamboa Guzman is in charge. It is by no means what it should be, or what, with but small outlay, it might be. But it contains interesting things in archaeology, in local history, and in zoology. It is of special interest to Americans because Le Plongeon was interested in its foundation and early development.
An old gentleman, clerk in the diocesan offices, advised us to visit Tekax and Peto for our study. The governor had set the hour of two for our reception. Merely to see when he would come, we seated ourselves in the garden of the plaza, so that we could watch the entrance to the palace. Two came, but no governor. At 2:30 several gentlemen were waiting near the office door. At three no governor had arrived. At five minutes past three, we noticed that hum of excitement and expectation which usually heralds some great event, and looking down the street, saw the governor pompously approaching. As he passed, hats were removed and profound salutations given. Waiting until he had entered the office, we walked up to the reception room, where we found ten or twelve gentlemen waiting audience. The great man himself had disappeared into an office which opened onto this reception-room, but the door of which was not closed. All waited patiently; from time to time the usher-secretary crept noiselessly to the office door and peeked through the key-hole to see whether the executive was ready. Finally, at 3:35 the word was given, and the privilege of the first audience was granted to myself. During these days of waiting—something which has never occurred with any of the many governors of states in Mexico upon whom I have called—I had expressed my surprise to a gentleman of wealth and prominence in the city, at the governor's compelling me to wait for audience. With some feeling, this gentleman replied, "But, sir, you are fortunate; you are a stranger, and bring letters from cabinet officials; many of the best gentlemen in this city have been kept waiting months in order to see Governor Canton in regard to business of the highest consequence to themselves and to the public." I will do the governor justice by saying that he listened with apparent interest to my statement, and that he gave orders that the letters which I wished, to local authorities, should be prepared without delay. Thanking him, I withdrew, and by five o'clock the secretary handed me the desired documents; we had lost four days. Early the following morning, as no cargadors were at hand, our little company resolved itself into a band of carriers and we took our baggage and equipment to the Peto station. The securing of tickets and the checking of baggage was quite an undertaking, and if the train had started at the time announced, we should have missed it; however, we were in good season, and left something less than an hour late. The country through which we passed was an improvement upon what we had seen before. The trees were greener, and many flowers were in bloom. From the train, we saw a group of pyramids at one point, and an isolated pyramid at another. Some of the indian towns through which we passed, with curious Maya names, were interesting. So, too, were the vendors at the station. Hot tamales, "pura masa" (pure dough), as Manuel said, slippery and soapy in feeling and consistency, done up in banana leaves and carefully tied, seemed to be the favorite goods; far better were split tortillas with beans inside and cheese outside; beautiful red bananas and plump smooth yellow ones were offered in quantity. We lost an hour at the station where trains met, reaching Tekax at eleven. We walked up to the hot plaza, where we found the town offices closed, and had difficulty in even leaving our stuff with the police. At a restaurant we had a fair breakfast, for which we paid a peso each person. As there were no signs of the town officials, we dropped into the curato to see the priest, to whom we presented the bishop's letter. He was a Spaniard, who had been in this country only a few months, and despises it heartily. He was sitting at table with two young men, who had accompanied him from Spain, and who love Yucatan no better than he. He greeted us most heartily, and was interested in our plan of work. He sent at once for the judge of the registro civil, who could tell us many curious things about the indians, and, as soon as the old man came, the good priest ordered chocolate to be served. We chatted for some time, when, seeing that the jefe's office was open, I suggested that I had better go to present my letters. The cura and the judge at once began to abuse that official roundly for his sins of commission, and particularly for those of omission, and told me that I should have him summoned; that it was much better than to trouble myself by going to his office, where I had already been twice in vain; it was but right that he should attend to business; he ought to be in his office when visitors came to see him. Accordingly a messenger was sent and the jefe summoned.
He seemed a rather nice young fellow, and was much impressed by the letter from his governor; he expressed himself as ready and anxious to serve us in every way, and made arrangements for us to begin work in the town-house, where, before dark, we had taken fifteen sets of measurements. This was a capital beginning, but the next two days our work fell flat. It was necessary to keep constantly at the jefe, and it soon became plain that he was making no great effort to secure subjects for us, on the assumption that we had better wait until Sunday, when there would be plenty of people without trouble to the police.
It was useless to urge effort, and we spent the time talking with the old judge in regard to the habits and superstitions of the indians and in walking with the judge of primera instancia up to the ridge which overlooked the town, and which was crowned by a little hermita. The population of Yucatan is still, for the most part, pure indian of Maya blood and speech. The former importance of this people is well known; they had made the greatest progress of any North American population, and the ruins of their old towns have often been described. They built temples and public buildings of stone and with elaborate carved decorations; they ornamented walls with stucco, often worked into remarkable figures; they cast copper and gold; they hived bees, and used both wax and honey in religious ceremonial. They spun and wove cotton, which they dyed with brilliant colors; they had a system of writing which, while largely pictorial, contained some phonetic elements. They are still a vital people, more than holding their own in the present population, and forcing their native language upon the white invaders. Nominally good Catholics, a great deal of old superstition still survives, and they have many interesting practices and beliefs. The cura presented me a ke'esh of gold, which he took from the church, where it had been left by a worshipper. It is a little votive figure crudely made, commonly of silver; the word means "exchange," and such figures are given by the indians to their saint or to the Virgin in exchange for themselves, after some sickness or danger.
The ridge overlooking the town is of limestone, and is covered with a handsome growth of trees and grass. The terrace on which the hermita is built is flat and cleared; it is reached by a gently graded ascent, with a flight of wide and easy steps, now much neglected. The little building is dismantled, though there is some talk of reconstructing it. Behind it is a well of vile and stagnant water, which is reputed to cure disease. From the ridge a pretty view of Tekax is to be had, bedded in a green sheet of trees. The town is regularly laid out, and presents little of interest, though the two-storied portales and the odd three-storied house of Senor Duarte attract attention. There are also many high, square, ventilated shafts, or towers, of distilleries. From the terrace where we stood, in the days of the last great insurrection, the indians swept down upon the town and are said to have killed 2,500 of the people, including men, women and children.
The school-teacher of the town is a man of varied attainments, being also a photographer, watch-maker, medical-adviser, chemist, and so forth. His house is full of scientific instruments—a really good camera, a fine aneroid barometer, several thermometers, including self-registering maximum and minimum, etc., etc. All seem excellent in quality, but I could not learn that he makes any use of them, except the camera. The cura, and the judge deride his possession of the instruments, doubting whether he knows how to use them. They assert that he has an apparatus for projection, for which he paid 1,000 pesos, which has never yet been unpacked. When we called on him he showed us, by his hygrometer, that the air was very humid, though the temperature was at 86 deg. Fahr., and told us, what probably is true, that in this heavy, hot weather, every wound and bruise, however trifling, is likely to become serious. In illustration of this fact, the cura mentioned that his Spanish carpenter, who merely bruised his leg against the table, has suffered frightfully for three months, having now an ugly sore several inches across, that makes walking difficult. Great care is necessary with any injury that breaks or bruises the skin. We ourselves had already experienced the fact that insect-bites became ugly open sores that showed no signs of healing; as a fact, none of us succeeded in curing such for several weeks after leaving Yucatan. In the afternoon, the priest, the judge of primera instancia and myself took a coach to ride out to a neighboring hacienda, where there was a great sugar-mill, Louis accompanying us on horseback. Our road ran alongside the ridge and consisted of red limestone-clay. It was fairly good, though dry and dusty, and closely bordered with the usual Yucatecan scrub. The ridge, along which we were coursing, is the single elevation in the peninsula; beginning in northeastern Yucatan, it runs diagonally toward the southwest, ending near Campeche. It is generally covered with a dense growth of forest, unless artificial clearings have been made. Covies of birds, like quail, were seen here and there, along the road, and at one point a handsome green snake, a yard or more in length, glided across the way. Snakes are said to be common, and among them several are venomous—the rattlesnake, the coral-snake, and most dreaded of all, a little dark serpent a foot or so in length, with an enormous head, whose bite is said to be immediately fatal. There are also many tree-snakes, as thick as a man's arm. In the forest, mountain-lions are rare, but "tigers" are common. We found Santa Maria to be an extensive hacienda, and the sugar-mill was a large structure, well supplied with modern machinery, and turning out a large amount of product. We saw a few of the indian hands, went through the factory, and were shown through the owner's house, which has beautiful running water and baths, though there is little furniture, and nothing of what we would consider decoration. It was after dark before we started to town, and when we got there we found two wedding parties waiting for the padre's services.
The promised crowd filled the market Sunday, and our work went finely. Between the town officials and the priest, subjects were constantly supplied. Among the indians who presented themselves for measurement was old Manuel, sacristan from Xaya; he is a h'men, and we had hoped that he would show us the method of using the sastun, or divining crystal. He is a full-blood, and neither in face nor manner shows the least emotion. Automatic in movement, he is quiet and phlegmatic in manner; having assumed the usual indian pose for rest, a squat position in which no part of the body except the feet rests upon the ground, or any support, he sat quietly, with the movement of scarcely a muscle, for hours at a time. He sang for us the invocation to the winds of the four quarters, which they use in the ceremony of planting time. Though he is frequently employed to say the "milpa mass" and to conjure, he claims that he never learned how to use the sastun, but told us that another h'men in his village knew it well.
One of the padre's companions has been ill ever since he came to Yucatan; Sunday he suffered so greatly that a doctor was sent for in haste. Nothing was told us as to what his trouble might be, but personally I suspected that he had the small-pox. In connection with his illness, we learned for the first time that another companion of the priest, brought from Spain, died in the room I was occupying, less than two weeks before, from yellow fever. We had known that one of his companions had died of yellow fever, but supposed it was some months earlier. Toward evening the priest was sent for by a neighbor, who needed the last service. On the padre's return, we learned that this person was believed to be dying from vomito. For a moment we were in doubt what was best to do, especially as the police had told us that the padre had permitted no fumigation of his premises after his comrade's death, simply sprinkling holy water about the place. That night the young man in the next room suffered greatly, and I could not help but wonder what ailed him. However, I decided that what danger there might be from the disease we had already risked, and as we expected to remain but one or two more days, it seemed hardly worth while to make a change. Monday we planned a visit to San Juan and Xaya. The horses had been ordered for five o'clock, but mass had been said, chocolate taken, and all was ready, long before they appeared. Six, seven, eight all passed, and at last, at nine, only three animals appeared. This decided us to leave Ramon behind to pack the busts which we had made, while the others of the party, with the padre, mounted on his own horse, should make the journey. A foot mozo carried the camera. The road was of the usual kind, and was marked at every quarter league with a little cross of wood set into a pile of stones and bearing the words, De Tekax——L. As we passed La Trinidad we noticed great tanks of water for irrigation before the house, and tall trees with their bare, gray roots running over and enveloping the piles of stones on which they had been planted. There were no other plantations or villages until just before the ninth cross—two and a quarter leagues—we came to the hennequin plantation of San Juan. The mayor domo was delighted to see the padre and greeted us warmly, taking us at once to the great house. We rode between long lines of orange trees, loaded with sweet and juicy fruits, and were soon sitting in the cool and delightful hallway. It is impossible to say how many dozens of those oranges four of us ate, but we were urged to make away with all we could, as the daily gathering is something more than five thousand. Soon an elaborate breakfast was ready for us, but before we ate we took a drink of fresh milk from cocoanuts cut expressly for us. We had salmon, eggs, meat-stew, beans, tortillas, and wine. But the mayor domo expressed his regret that he did not know we were coming, as he would gladly have killed a little pig for us. As dessert a great dish of fresh papaya cut up into squares and soaking in its own juice, was served. Sitting in the cool corridor, after a good breakfast, and looking out over a beautiful country, with promises that all the subjects necessary for measurement should be supplied, the idea of riding on to Xaya lost attractiveness, and we sent a foot-messenger with an order to the town authorities to send the h'men with his sastuns without delay to see us.
This was our first opportunity to see the industry of hennequin, which is the chief product of this hacienda. The leaves, after cutting, are brought from the field tied up in bundles. These are opened, and the leaves are fed into a revolving, endless double chain, which carries them on iron arms upward and dumps them onto a table, where three men receive them and feed them into the stripper. This consists of a round table, into the inner, excavated, circular face of which a round knife with dull edge fits closely, though at only one place at once; the leaves, fed between the table and knife, are held firmly by them at about one-third their length. The projecting two-thirds of the leaves hang downward; as the table revolves the leaves thus held are carried to a vertical revolving rasp which strips out the flesh, leaving the fibre masses hanging. These taken out from between the table and the knife are fed again to a second revolving table which holds the masses of fibre, leaving the unstripped portion of the leaves exposed to a second rasp, which strips it. The hanks of fibre are dropped from the second table onto a horizontal wooden bar, where they are rapidly sorted over by a man who throws inferior and spotted bunches to one side. The whole operation is rapid and beautiful. The fresh fibre is then hung over bars, in the southern wind, to dry, after which it is baled in presses for shipment.
We had no trouble in completing the measurement of subjects from the indian hands on the place, and made portraits and photographs of native dancers. In the afternoon the h'men appeared. He was an extremely clean and neat indian of forty-five, and carried at his side a little sack, within which, carefully wrapped up in a handkerchief, were his sastuns. There were five in all; three were small round balls of glass, broken from the stoppers of perfume bottles; one was somewhat barrel-shaped and of bluish color, while the other, the largest of all, was rather long, fancifully formed, and with facets ground out upon it; it was yellowish in tint. The two latter were apparently from toilet bottles. Telling him that I was anxious to learn about something which had been stolen from me, I asked what was necessary in the way of preparation. He demanded a candle and aguardiente. A great taper of yellow wax and a bottle of spirits were supplied. Taking these in his hand, he entered the little chapel of the hacienda, considering it a good place for conjuring. He piously kissed the altar tables and the bases of the crucifixes and saints; then picking out a dark corner he opened his cloth, took out his glasses, lighted the candle and squatted for his operation. Taking one of the crystal balls between his fingers, he held it between the flame and his eye and looked intently into it, as if seeking something. One after another, the five crystals were carefully examined. Finally, laying the last aside, he shook his head. He could see nothing, nothing whatever, that interested the gentleman, unless indeed sickness; this he pointed out in one of the little balls; redness, fever. Being urged to try again, after an interval he got down to real business; he took the aguardiente, dipped the crystals into the liquor, repeating formulas as he did so, and again made the test, but with no better result. He could see nothing, absolutely nothing, of stolen property; there was nothing in the crystal of interest to the gentleman, except fever; that there was, he was certain. This practice of divining by means of crystals is a survival from the old pagan days. It is probable that there is no indian town of any size in Yucatan where some h'men does not make use of it.
We had now finished our work with Maya Indians, except the measurement of a few women and the making of a single bust. Upon rather strong representation to the jefe, a desperate effort was made by the policemen and the women were secured. Among the village police-force, one man had attracted our particular attention, as representing a type of face, quite common among the Mayas, which we have called the serpent-face. It is round and broad, with retreating chin and receding forehead, and with curious, widely-separated, expressionless eyes. We had already measured and photographed the subject, but, because he was a policeman and had been useful, we thought we would not subject him to the operation of bust-making. Seeing, however, that no other equally good subject had presented itself, we decided to make his bust, and told him so. To our surprise he refused. The jefe, for once, acted promptly and without hesitation issued an absolute order that the man's bust should be made. The order had no effect. The officials scolded, threatened, but Modesto Kan was immovable. The jefe ordered that he should be thrown into jail, which order was promptly obeyed, but all to no purpose. Our subject said we might whip him, fine him, keep him in jail, or kill him, but he would not have his bust made. Hours passed, and neither remonstrance nor threats on the part of the jefe or ourselves were of the least avail. On my last interview with him, I found him lying on a mat with so high a fever that I dared not urge the matter further, and we desisted from our efforts to secure him. It was the only subject among 3,000 Indians, with whom we failed to carry out our work.
A story which the old judge had told us had its influence in my permitting this subject to escape. These Mayas often die for spite, or because they have made up their mind to do so. Don Manuel at one time was summoned by a rich indian with whom he was well acquainted. The man was not old, and had land, good houses, many head of cattle, much maize, and many fowls. He had three children, and owned the houses near his own in which they lived. Everything was prospering with him. Yet the message to the judge was that he should come at once to hear this indian's last words. With a companion he hastened to the house, and found the man in his hammock, dressed in his best clothes, waiting for them. He seemed in perfect health. When they accosted him, he told them he was about to make his will, and say his last words. They told him that a man in health had a perfect right to make his will, but remonstrated with him for saying that he was about to speak his last words. He insisted, however, that he was about to die. In vain they argued with him; he had had his dream. He gave to one child, house, animals, corn, poultry; to the second, similar gifts; to the third, the same. Then, having bidden them all farewell, he lay down in his hammock, took no food or drink, spoke to no one, and in six days was dead. Such cases are not uncommon among Maya indians of pure blood.
When we reached home that night we found Ramon unwell. Next day, the last of our stay at Tekax he was suffering with fever. He had done no work while we were absent the day before, and all the packing and doing-up of plaster fell upon the others of the party. As for him, he collapsed so completely that it scared me. The ordinary mestizo has no power of resistance; no matter how trifling the disease, he suffers frightfully and looks for momentary dissolution. It was plain from the first moment that Ramon believed that he had the yellow fever; instead of trying to keep at work or occupying himself with something which would distract his attention, he withdrew into the least-aired corner of a hot room and threw himself onto heap of rugs and blankets, in which he almost smothered himself, cut off from every breath of fresh air. In vain we urged him to exert himself; in the middle of the afternoon we took him to the doctor, who assured us that the case was in no way serious—at the worst nothing more than a light attack of malaria. In the afternoon the jefe, neglecting the padre, invited the judge of primera instancia and myself to accompany him upon a little expedition to the neighboring Cave of the Fifth of May. We went in a coach, taking Louis, who sat with the driver, as photographer; on the way, we visited the town cemetery, which we found a dreary place, with no effort at adornment and with an air of general neglect. We passed a number of places where they were boiling sugar, and at one we stopped to see the mode of dipping calabashes for dulces; the fruits are gourd-like, but have considerable soft pulp within the thin, hard crust; several holes are bored through the external shell and the calabashes, slung by strings into groups at the end of a pole, are dipped into the boiling sap or syrup; the dipping is done two or even three times, and the clusters are removed and allowed to drip and dry between dips. The loose flesh is soaked through with the syrup, making a rich, sweet mass, much used for desserts. Finally, we turned into another place where sugar was being made, and found it the cleanest and neatest of its kind. Here we sampled little cakes of clean brown sugar, and were treated with similar cakes in which peanuts and squash-pips were embedded, making a delicious confection. We were here supplied with a clean, fresh jicara cup, and, walking along the path a few rods, ascended slightly to the mouth of the cave, which was far handsomer than we had expected. The limestone of Yucatan abounds in caves and subterranean water-courses, especially near the base of the ridge already mentioned. The mouth of the cavern was fringed with ferns and other vegetation. A flight of rustic steps led down to the nearly level floor of red cave-earth. The light from outside entered sufficiently to show the greater portion of the cave. The rock walls, opposite the opening, were brilliantly green with some minute growth; from the floor rose a heap of stone upon the top of which was set an olla of large size to catch the water dripping from the roof; it was full of most beautifully clear, cool water, which we dipped out with our jicara and drank. At two or three other places on the floor, and on projections from the side walls of the cave, were other ollas, or broken water-troughs of stone, for catching water. Lighting our candles we went behind a pendant veil of thick stalagmite. At some spots hummocks of snow-white crystalline matter, with a reticulated surface, had been deposited by dripping water. A few great masses of stalagmite rose from the floor, and there were some columns of the same material. On returning from the cavern, nothing would do but we must breakfast with the jefe, which we did, in state, though at our usual boarding-house.
The three great industries about Tekax are sugar, hennequin, and liquor. Father Juan insisted that we should visit one of the local distilleries, of which there are fourteen in Tekax. Sugar, ground with water into a thick syrup, is drawn off from the mill into great vats, where it is permitted to ferment; it is then taken into the still, where it is heated and vaporized, and the vapor carried up into high towers for condensation. These three-storied, square, wooden towers, with ventilator-shafts, are one of the characteristic features of the town.
Padre Juan insisted on supplying a coach for our leaving, in the morning. This coach, like those at Merida, was an extremely small affair, for a single horse. Under any circumstances it would scarcely carry three persons, without luggage, besides the driver. When it is remembered that our party, (consisting of four), the stout padre, four satchels, measuring-rod, tin pan and blankets, made up the load, it can be easily appreciated that the little coach was full. We rode slowly, and the poor, creaking vehicle threatened to fall to pieces every moment, but we reached the station safely. It was scarcely ten when we arrived at Merida and took our old quarters at the Moromuzo. Our invalid at once lay down, and neither threats nor bribes would move him; he looked as if he suffered, but he insisted on doing so; going to the nearest drug store we described his symptoms to the apothecary, who assured us that the case could not be serious, and supplied a remedy which was rapid and energetic in its action, though our sick man insisted that he was not improved.
We were now but waiting for notice of a vessel sailing from Progreso for Coatzacoalcos. Writing, errands, visits, filled up the time, but it was dreary waiting. The muddy streets, the heavy, moist, fetid air, the outrageous prices, the mosquitoes—all combined to make a disagreeable experience. We worried through three days, and still no announcement of a boat. In a visit made to the bishop, to tell him of our kind reception in Tekax and to make inquiry regarding books printed in the Maya, we were again warned by the prelate to be most careful of our health; that day, he told us, two of our countrymen, working at the electric-light plant, had been stricken with yellow fever and would surely die. The second day we were in town the boys met Don Poncio, one of the Spanish comrades of the padre at Tekax, who, with another of the household, had run away, leaving the good priest alone, as the young fellow who had been ill in the room next ours developed a full case of yellow fever the day we left, and was dead before night.
One day we went to a cenote for a bath. Passing through a house into a rather pretty garden, we came to a stairway, partly natural and partly cut in the solid rock, which we descended; we found ourselves in a natural cave, with a pool of blue, transparent water. A paved platform surrounded one side of the cave, and near its rear edge was a bench of masonry, which was continued along the side of the pool by a similar bench, cut partly from the living rock. The water was so clear that we could see, by the light coming from above, to its very bottom, and could detect little black fishes, like bull-heads, against the sand and pebbles. The pool was irregular in shape, so that a portion of it was out of sight behind the rock-wall, beyond which we found that there was a paved floor and benching similar to that in the portion which we had entered. We had a delightful and refreshing swim in this underground pool, but it was noticeable that, after we came out into the air, there was no evaporation of water from the body, and towels were absolutely necessary for drying. Such cenotes are found in many parts of Yucatan, and form the regular bathing-places, and are often the only natural supplies of drinking-water. Of streams above ground there are practically none in the whole peninsula.
The last day of our stay in Merida we saw the xtoles. These are bands of indian dancers who go from house to house during the carnival season; they are dressed in costumes which reproduce some features of the ancient indian dress. In the little company which we saw were fifteen dancers, including the standard-bearer; all were males, but half of them were dressed like females and took the part of such. The male dancers wore the usual white camisa and drawers, but these had a red stripe down the side of the leg; jingling hawk-bells of tin or brass were attached to various parts of their dress; a red belt encircled the waist; all wore sandals. The "female" dancers wore white dresses of the usual sort, with decorated borders at the arm and neck; also necklaces of gold beads and gold chains with pendants. Two of the dancers were little children, but the rest appeared to be young men up to about thirty-five years of age. All wore crowns upon the head; these consisted of a circlet of tin, from which rose two curved strips, which intersected over the middle of the head; from the circlet rose four feathers—either natural or made of tin. Two of the crowns of special size, with real feathers, marked the king and queen. Under the crowns, covering the top of the head and hanging down from the shoulders, were gay handkerchiefs of red or blue. All the dancers were masked. The men wore bandoliers of cotton, worked with bright designs representing animals, birds and geometrical forms; the square ends of these were hung with marine shells. In their hands, the dancers carried curious rattles and fans, which they used in making graceful movements as they danced. The handle of the fan consisted of the leg and foot of a turkey, while the body was composed of the brilliant and beautifully spotted feathers of the ocellated turkey, a bird peculiar to Yucatan and the adjacent country. There were two musicians, one with a long pito, or fife, and the other with a huehuetl or drum, which he struck with his hand. Hanging to the side of the drum near the top was a turtle-shell, upon which the drummer beat, from time to time, with a deer's horn. A standard was carried by the company, which bore a representation of the sun, with dancers and a serpent; the pole by which it was carried was surmounted with a tin disk representing the sun's face. The music was apparently of indian origin and the words of the song were Maya. The dancing itself was graceful and accompanied by many curious movements. Mr. Thompson, our American consul to Yucatan, believes this dance is ancient, and thinks he has found representations of it painted on the walls of ancient ruins at Chichen Itza.
Merida prides itself upon its carnival, which, it claims, ranks third,—Venice and New Orleans alone surpassing it. It was admitted that the celebration of this year was far below that of others. The cause of this dullness was generally stated to be the great amount of sickness prevalent in the city. However that may be, it certainly was a tame affair. On the 15th two processions took place, one in the morning, the other in the afternoon; these were arranged by two clubs of young people, and each desired to surpass the other. We saw that of the afternoon, and found it not particularly interesting. A number of private carriages, drawn up in line, passed through the streets; within were gentlemen, ladies and children, but few of them wore masks, or were otherwise notable; besides these, in the procession, were five allegorical cars. One represented a gilded boat containing pretty girls; it was arranged to seem to rise and fall upon a billowy sea. A second float represented the well-known ancient statue, the Chacmool; an indian, in the attitude of the figure mentioned, held an olla upon his breast, while one or two others stood near him as guards or companions. The most attractive float was loaded with the products of Yucatan, and a group of figures symbolizing its industries and interests. Upon the fourth, a female figure stood erect in a chariot drawn by lions. The fifth was comic, and represented marriage in public and private—a vulgar couple indulging in affectionate display before a partition, and in a conjugal quarrel behind it. These floats were scattered at intervals through the procession, which was of no great length.
By this time Ramon had suffered violent agonies, and had become so weak that assistance was needed when he walked. The second day in Merida we had sent for a competent physician, who assured us that nothing was the matter excepting an unimportant attack of bilious fever, and that with a day or two of treatment he should be entirely recovered. On his second visit he was much irritated, as the young man had not made the promised improvement, and assured us that there was no cause for his collapse. During our first visit to Merida, in hunting through the city for Protestants—a practice in which he invariably indulged whenever we reached a town of consequence—Ramon had happened on an interesting little man who represents the American Bible Society in this district. By name Fernandez, this gentleman was born in Argentina, educated in Spain, and has served as colporteur in the states of Chiapas, Tabasco and Yucatan for upwards of a dozen years. He was stout, active, and vivacious; he claimed to have been in every town in Chiapas, and gave us much advice regarding our journey to that state; he called upon us several times during our stay, and shared the general disgust over our sick man, who, he assured us, had nothing serious the matter, and only needed to arouse himself to throw off the bilious attack from which he suffered. On the streets we met the baron who had been with us on our voyage from Tampico. He told us that after one day in Merida, he and his lady decided that they preferred Progreso, and were stopping there, going down upon the day-train when they wished to visit Merida. He also warned us that we need never expect to see the forty dollars which we had advanced through the vice-consul, as whatever disposition should be made of our complaint regarding customs charges by the government, no such money was ever known to leave his hands. Following events entirely confirmed this gentleman's dire prophecy; neither Mr. Thompson nor Senor Solis have paid the least attention to communications regarding the matter sent after our return to our own country. It is little likely that the Mexican government refused to refund the payment; but we shall probably never know.
The remarks of the baron suggested a new line of action. Why longer wait in Merida for our boat? Progreso is cleaner, cooler, enjoys a sea breeze, and gives as good living for less than half the price we were paying. For comfort, for the benefit of our sick man, for the advantage of our pocket, we would be better off at Progreso than in Merida. While there were cases of small-pox in the little seaport, there were none of yellow fever. In every way it looked attractive, and on Monday morning we left, and found ourselves, before noon, comfortably located in the curious little hotel, La Estrella de Oro, in Progreso. To be sure, our rooms were mere stalls, being separated from each other by board partitions scarcely eight feet in height, and without ceiling, so that it was impossible to escape the conversation in neighboring rooms at night. The table, however, was excellent, and the price, compared with what we had been paying, economy itself. Having seen my companions comfortably located, I returned to Merida, where there was still some business demanding attention. This time I found a room in the Hotel Concordia, which was the most comfortable I enjoyed in Merida, although the price of $4 for the mere room was high. The day before, we had seen the Battle of Flowers of the carnival. No flowers figured in it; it consisted of a long procession of carriages, mostly private and mostly good; they were filled with well-dressed young people, of whom few were masked; all were supplied with confetti, which was thrown in handfuls by those in the carriages upon those in carriages going in the other direction, for the procession was double. Usually, girls and ladies threw at men and boys, who reciprocated the compliment; the ladies had their hair loose and flowing, and wore no hats; so that in a little time it was filled with the brilliant bits of paper. Everyone, also, had long strips of colored paper, rolled up like ribbons, which were now and then launched, either with no direct aim or at some person; as these strips unrolled they trailed prettily in the air, and everyone caught at the trailing streamers. Crowds of poor children chased along, beside and behind the carriages, catching at the showers of bits of paper, and at the long streamers, which they kept, or, in turn, hurled at passers. The balconies of all the better houses were filled with people, as were the seats and raised platform fronting the town-house, and those in the balconies and on the seats rained down paper upon those in the carriages. Many children in the balconies were masked, and wore grotesque costumes, but few grown persons were so decked out. While pretty and characteristic, the Battle of Flowers disappointed us, lacking the life and "abandon" which one usually associates with the idea of carnival. It was all reserved, and respectable, and unenthusiastic. The only persons who really seemed to enjoy it were the poor children, with their loads of bright paper and long streamers. Monday afternoon, the most striking function of the carnival, so far seen, took place. This was an enormous procession of vehicles; private carriages, with elaborate equipment, were filled with finely-dressed gentlemen and ladies; common rented coaches were in line, and some of them were loaded to their full capacity with common people—four, five, or even six, in one; in one were four brawny, young cargadors; in another an old grandmother, her two daughters, and some grandchildren, pure indians, rode complacently, enjoying the admiration which they knew their best clothes must attract; in some of the fine private coaches, no one but indian nurses or favored servants rode. Even here, few of the parties were really dashing, lively or beautiful. The whole thing was constrained, artificial and sedate. An occasional group seemed to really enjoy the occasion. One bony horse dragged an ancient buggy or cart, which might well be that of some country doctor, and in it was the gentleman himself, commonly dressed, but with a whole family of little people, who were bubbling over with enjoyment. Another happy party was that of a common carter, who had his own dray in the line, with his children, neatly but commonly dressed, as its only occupants; in two or three carriages were maskers, though none of them appeared funny; one drayman's cart had been hired by a crowd of loud and boisterous youngsters, who performed all kinds of pranks and bawled nonsensical remarks to the crowd.
My chief errand was to see the leader of the xtoles, to purchase from him some of the objects which they had used in their dance. Just as I was starting, at evening, for the address he had given me, I met Senor Fernandez in the plaza, and he agreed to accompany me to the place. We went some little distance on the street-car, and, dismounting at the corner of a narrow lane, were about to start through it, when someone touched my companion on the arm, and greeted him. He recognized the owner of the little shop before which we stood. Heartily invited to enter the tienda, we did so and stated the object of our quest. The shopkeeper at once said that we must have a lantern, as the road was dark, and ordered his clerk to accompany us with one, for which we were truly thankful. We came, finally, to the house where Don Gregorio, the leader of the dancers, lived. Fernandez was friendly and voluble, greeting every company of girls and women that we met, or who were at the house, as "lindas," and passing compliments. He was, however, uneasy, continually glancing around and asking repeatedly when Don Gregorio would appear. The dancers were still absent, but expected every moment; in fact, we could hear their music in the distance. When, finally, they did appear, their leader, who was very drunk, insisted that he could not treat in the matter until after the next day, which would be the culmination of the carnival, and their chief day for dancing. The instant that we received this answer, Fernandez seized the lantern, which the clerk had left, and, grasping me by the arm, we started off at breakneck pace. As we almost rushed down the stony road, he looked furtively to right and left, and told me that there were, no doubt, persons in the neighborhood who had recognized him, and said that, more than once, in this very neighborhood, he had been stoned when selling bibles, and that any moment we ran our chances of a night attack. Apparently, however, people were too much excited over carnival to waste their time in baiting Protestants, and we heard no whizzing missiles, and soon, reaching the corner shop, left the lantern, and went home. There had been doubt as to whether trains would run the following day, Tuesday, on account of carnival. I found, however, that the train on which I had counted, leaving at seven in the morning, went as usual, though it was the only train of the day for Progreso. My companions were delighted to see me, and I found our sick man sure that death was imminent; to tell the truth, he was constantly spitting black blood, which oozed from his gums, and which gave me more concern than any of his previous symptoms. We found the carnival at Progreso more natural and unpretentious, but also far more lively and amusing, than anything in Merida. To be sure, some of the performances bordered on the indecent, but on the whole, it was jolly, and scarcely gave cause for Manuel's pious ejaculation that there were many abusos. Groups of men and boys went through the streets decked with ribbons and flowers, and with their faces painted or daubed; many carried handfuls of flour, or of blue paint, which they dashed into the faces or over the clean clothes of those they met; bands of maskers danced through the streets; companies of almost naked boys, daubed with colors, played toro with one who was inside a frame of wood. One man, completely naked, painted grotesquely, pranced through the streets on all fours; young fellows, dressed in women's clothes, with faces masked or painted, wandered about singly, addressing persons on the street in a high falsetto voice with all sorts of woeful stories or absurd questions. Very pretty was a company of trained dancers,—with a standard, leader, music, and fancy costume,—each of whom carried two staves in his hands; these performed a variety of graceful movements, and sung a song in Spanish; this was interestingly like the song of the xtoles, and the movements were almost precisely theirs. In the evening, we attended the baile de los mestizos—dance of the mestizos, where the elite of the little city was gathered, and the place was crowded. Very little of it was enough, for while the music and dancing were all right, the heat, the tobacco-smoke, and the perfume, were overpowering.
To our joy, on Wednesday, the "Hidalgo" appeared, bound for Coatzacoalcos. All day Thursday we waited for it to unload its cargo, and on Friday morning, we loaded into a little sail-boat at the wharf, which we hired for a price far below what the regular steamer would have charged to take us to our vessel. The luggage had been weighed and valued, and an imposing bill of lading, and an official document, had been made out, to prevent our paying duty a third time when we should reach our port. At 10:30 we were on the "Hidalgo," ready for leaving. It is the crankiest steamer on the Ward Line, and dirty in the extreme. The table is incomparably bad. The one redeeming feature is that the first-class cabins are good, and on the upper deck, where they receive abundance of fresh air; there were plenty of seats for everyone to sit upon the deck, a thing which was not true of the "Benito Juarez." Of other first-class passengers, there were two harmless Yucatecan gentlemen—one of whom was seasick all the voyage,—and two Americans, brothers, one from St. Louis, Mo., and the other from Springfield, Ill. The captain of our vessel was a Norwegian, the first officer was a Mexican, the chief engineer an American, the purser a low-German, the chief steward an Oaxaca indian, and the cook a Filipino. Never was I so glad to reach a resting-place, never so relieved, as when we got our baggage and our sick man safely on board. As to the latter, he at once lay down, and, practically, was not on his feet during the voyage. We had expected to make the run in thirty hours, but were hindered by rough weather, catching portions of two northers; the second was so bad that, when almost in sight of our destination, we were forced to put to sea again, and lost many hours of time and miles of distance. On the morning of the third day, however, we had dropped anchor, and on looking from the cabins at five, caught sight of Coatzacoalcos; but it was not the Coatzacoalcos of 1896. Prodigious changes had taken place. The Pearson Company, having taken possession of the railroad, had made great improvements; their pretentious general-offices, located at the wharf, had recently been completed; the railroad station had been improved; the old shack, where we slept in 1896, had been torn down, and a construction track occupied its place; on the little rise behind, a pretty and large hotel had been erected; on the higher land, to the right, a line of well-built houses, making some pretension to architectural effect, had been constructed. It was only after landing, and walking through the older portions of the town, that any familiar scenes were recognized. Though we were ready to land at five, and wished to catch the train at seven, we were forced to wait for the official inspection, and saw the longed-for train—and there would be no other for two days—pull out before our eyes. Finally, at nine o'clock, we were permitted to land. To my surprise, my shipping document was called for, but, being produced, we were subjected to no difficulty. The balance of the day was spent in wandering about the village, meeting former acquaintances, attending to odds and ends of shipment, and strolling on the familiar beach, which was still covered with scurrying crabs and sprinkled with white "sand dollars." During the night, a terrific norther blew, and the next day, cold, dull gray, rainy, kept us in-doors. By this time, the purser of the "Hidalgo," who had himself had yellow fever, and said he was familiar with it, had convinced us that Ramon really had had a slight touch of that dread disease, but having passed his tenth day of sickness, was destined to recover, and would be no serious menace to other people.
On the following morning, at seven, we took the railroad train, and at five at night had reached Tehuantepec, and were pleasantly located in our old hotel, the Europa. On February 28, we visited the market, called at the house of the jefe politico for a letter to the town authorities of Huilotepec, and visited Dr. Castle, whom we found much the same as ever. We failed to find the jefe at his office, though we went there several times, but found him sitting in a tienda much the worse for drinking. He was charmed to see us, embraced us warmly, and told us that his thoughts had frequently been with us since our former sojourn in his district. New supplies of wine, and, on the appearance of certain ladies, of champagne, were ordered in witness of his satisfaction. In regard to our desires, he was delighted to learn that Louis was shooting birds, declaring that we were just in time; that he had a damnable order from Mexico to send on skins of all the birds of his district for the National Museum, and that he had not known what to do in the matter; we must prepare them; if we did so, willingly, we should be handsomely paid; but if not, he would be compelled to force us. The jail was ready, and men die easily in Southern Mexico. With this, he made some suggestions that it was easy for a person to be officially reported as accidentally killed, or dead from vomito. He insisted that we should not go alone to Huilotepec, but that he himself would accompany us and make sure that everything was done according to our wishes. All these dire threats and great promises were completely forgotten on the following day, when we sallied forth alone.
In the jefe's office we learned that during the past year not only Coatzacoalcos, but Tehuantepec, had suffered frightfully from yellow fever. Of course, the disease is no rarity on the Gulf coast, though it was never worse than in the last season; but in Tehuantepec, and on the Pacific coast, it is a thing so rare as to be almost unknown. So true is this, that, when it was first reported from this district, the federal government did not believe the story, and sent a commission to investigate. We learned that the commission arrived at evening, and, finding two persons dead in their black vomit on the street, made no further investigation, but started for Mexico on the following train. The spread of the disease to the west coast is generally attributed, and no doubt correctly, to the railroad. The disease was particularly fatal, in both places, to Americans and Englishmen, and it was whispered that 90 per cent of the employes of the new railroad management succumbed. The chief clerk in the jefe's office told us that, while many cases occurred here, no pure indians were taken, and that none of the mestizos who were affected died—the mortality being confined to the foreigners.
Dr. Castle had moved, but his place was as interesting as ever. For pets, he had three hairless dogs, a mapachtl, two macaws, two parrots, and a lot of doves, one of which he had taught tricks. He was much interested in cactuses, and had established a garden in which he planned to have all the species of the district. We had purchased some iguanas in the market, and Louis had been skinning them. The Doctor said that there were three species of iguanas in the district, the largest being green, changing to orange or gray, and its flesh not being eaten, as it is too sweet; the second species is of medium size, and gray or black in color; the third is rarer, smaller, and is striped lengthwise; it lives among the rocks near the coast. The two last species are both eaten, and are often sold in market. Here we learned, by a casual remark which Manuel dropped on seeing the ugliest of the hairless dogs, that these are believed, not only here, but in Puebla, and no doubt elsewhere through the Republic, to cure rheumatism. In order to effect a cure, the dog must sleep for three nights with the patient, and the uglier the dog the more certain the cure. Through Dr. Castle, we also learned that the Zapotec Indians hereabouts, have many songs, of which the sandunga is a great favorite. Questioning an indian friend of mine, we afterwards learned that there are many of these pieces of music which are held to be truly indian. The words are largely Zapotec; Spanish words are scattered through the song, and the sentiment is largely borrowed. Most of the songs are love-songs, and they abound in metaphorical expressions. Our little trip to Huilotepec was for the purpose of photographing the curious and interesting mapa belonging to the village. We rode out over the hot and dusty river-bed road, arriving at noon. Sending for the agente and secretario, we ordered breakfast and made known our errand. Though it plainly was not to their taste, the mapa was brought out for our inspection. It is painted on a piece of coarse cotton cloth, of native weaving, in three colors—blue, red and black. The places around Huilotepec are indicated by their ancient hieroglyphs. Several personages of the ancient time are represented in the conventional manner commonly used in Zapotec writings before the Conquest. After eating, we placed the mapa against the wall, wrote out a description of it, and photographed it. Dismay now filled the soul of the agente, and the one principal whom he had summoned for advice. They talked long and earnestly with me about the mapa, and begged me to assure the jefe that it was no good; that it was not autorizado; that it was mudo. To quiet their fears, I was compelled to write a letter to that effect to be delivered to the jefe; if it ever came to hand, he certainly found it incomprehensible. Mrs. Seler, in her book, describes the trouble that they had in seeing this mapa, and the interest which their examination of it aroused. Dr. Castle told us that, several years ago, he accompanied a Mr. Werner and a priest to Huilotepec to see the mapa, and, if possible, to secure a picture of it. For a long time they were unable to secure a glimpse of the old document, and it was only when the priest assured the indians that the doctor was an American engineer, who had been commissioned to survey the line in dispute between the village and the Juaves, that they were allowed to see it. Before permission was then given, a general meeting of the principales was held, and none of the guests were permitted to touch the document. Mr. Werner made an exposure, which he sent to the States for development; it was lost or destroyed. It is thus possible that ours is the only picture of it in existence.
We had been told that a coach went regularly from San Geronimo to Tuxtla Gutierrez, making the journey in two days. This seemed too good to be true, and no one at Tehuantepec knew anything of such an arrangement, but we took the train the following morning for San Geronimo, hoping to get off without delay. All that the traveller sees upon descending from the train is the station, the place of Senor Espindola, and the little Hotel Europa. To our surprise, we found that our baggage had not yet come from Coatzacoalcos, although we had seen it loaded on the train ourselves. Still worse, we were informed that frequently fifteen days were consumed in transportation of freight from that point hither, and that we had no right to expect it so promptly. Inquiry regarding the coach revealed the fact that no such vehicle existed. Six hard days of horseback riding would be necessary for the journey, and, though Ramon admitted himself to be much better, he was too weak for such an undertaking. This had had its influence in determining us to go by coach in the first place. When in doubt as to what we should do, Senor Espindola suggested that the journey could be made by ox-cart in ten or eleven days. Though this seemed slow, it was better than to run risks with our invalid, and we determined to journey in that fashion as soon as our luggage should appear.
The station is situated on a somewhat elevated plain, constantly swept by heavy winds. While we were there, this wind was hot, and loaded with dust. In the afternoon, we walked through the indian town, which extends over a considerable area. The houses are rectangular, with adobe walls, mostly whitewashed, and with steep, pitched roofs. We met a funeral procession in the road, with the usual band in front. The coffin open, so as to show the child, was carried on the shoulders of several men. The mother, in contortions of real or simulated grief, was supported by two women, and the mourners brought up the rear, wailing now and then. Among the mourners was a woman who suffered from black pinto, notably developed. The principal industry of the town is pottery. The clay, which is of a greyish-black color, is stiff and hard, and is first broken up with a mallet. When worked into a stiff paste, it is built by hand into great ollas and plates, one and a half or two feet in diameter. These ollas we saw at many houses, and sometimes they were lashed to carts, plainly for bringing water from the stream. A single olla thus lashed, practically filled a fair-sized cart.
The little hotel at the station is a new venture, and deserves complete success. At few places in Mexico have we found meals so good and cheap. In the evening, more from curiosity than expectation, we watched the train come from the east, and to our surprise and satisfaction, found our luggage. We had really made up our minds that we must spend some days in waiting; on the whole, the quiet and comfort of the little tavern would not have been unpleasant; but we hastened at once to Senor Espindola, and urged him to make instant arrangements for our leaving in the morning. To this he replied that no carretero would be likely to start on Sunday, and that we would have to wait until the following day. Matters turned out better than anticipated, and before nine, the following morning, our arrangements had been made. Two carretas were hired, at twenty-eight pesos each, to make the journey; our driver agreed that, without counting that day, he could get us to Tuxtla in eight days; in order to encourage him, we promised to pay five pesos extra for each carreta, in case we reached the city of Tuxtla on Monday the 11th. His name was Eustasio; he was a good-natured little Zapotec, from Juchitan originally, but living now at Guvino, Union Hidalgo. He warned us that, for the first day, we would have to put up with some discomfort, but that, upon reaching his home, he would fit us out magnificently. He promised to start at four that afternoon, and we were ready; of course, he was not, nor was he at five; so we went back to the hotel for a last good supper, and finally at 5:50 started. There were four teams and carts in the company, loaded with freight for Hidalgo. The night was clear, with a fine moon. The road was over heavy sand. Sometimes we walked in the moonlight, passing Ixtaltepec at 8:30, and reaching Espinal at ten, where we lost three-quarters of an hour in loading freight. From there all went well, until a-quarter-of-two in the morning, when we were passing through a country covered with scrub timber. Here we constantly met many carts heavily loaded; the road was narrow, and several times collisions, due to the falling asleep of one or other of the carreteros, were narrowly escaped. Finally, one really did take place, between our second cart and a heavily loaded one going in the other direction. The axle of our cart was broken, and the vehicle totally disabled. Two hours and a quarter were consumed in making repairs and in reloading. Here, for the first time, we were impressed with two characteristics in our driver: first, his ability to swear, surpassing anything that we had ever heard; second, his astonishing skill and ingenuity in repairing any accident or break, which happened on the road. Before our journey was over, we learned that both these qualities are common to his profession. It was four o'clock in the morning before we were again upon our way. All hope of reaching Union Hidalgo at the promised hour disappeared. Before sunrise, we had turned into the hot, dusty, broad, straight high-road, which, after my journey of 1896, I had devoutly hoped never to see again. Just as the sun rose, we took quite a walk, killing some parrots, calandrias, and chacalaccas as we walked. They said that javali—peccaries,—were common there. The day was blisteringly hot, long before we reached Union Hidalgo; hot, hungry and sleepy, we reached our carter's home, a little before ten in the morning. The carreta in which we were travelling was here far ahead, and after we had rested half-an-hour or more, Manuel, hot and perspiring, appeared, and reported that the disabled cart had broken down again, and that the other two were delayed by a sick animal. All came straggling in later. We had planned to leave here toward evening, travelling all Monday night; but hardly had we rested a little, and eaten dinner, when Eustasio announced that we should spend the night here, and not leave until the following afternoon. He said the animals were hot and tired from travelling in the daytime, and that to push on would defeat our plans. He swore that, unless God decreed otherwise, we should reach Tuxtla Gutierrez by the promised date. There was nothing for it but submission, though we would gladly have chosen a more interesting town than Union Hidalgo for a stay of almost two days. When evening came, I took my bed of poles out into the open air, into the space between two houses; Ramon lay down upon a loaded carreta, also out of doors, while Louis and Manuel took possession of hammocks in one of the houses. It was a cloudless night, with brilliant moon. The air soon grew cool. After midnight, I was aroused by the most frightful yelling, and opening my eyes, I saw a barefooted, bareheaded Indian yelling out the most frightful imprecations and oaths. At first I thought that he was insulting some one in the house, but both the houses were fast closed. Ramon, completely wrapped in his blanket, could attract no notice, and I did not believe that I had been observed, nor that I was addressed. For quite ten minutes the crazy drunkard stood there in the moonlight, bawling out a frightful torrent of abuse, invective, and profanity, with an occasional "Viva Mexico! Muere Guatemala!" patriotically thrown in.
At last he disappeared, but for a long time could be heard howling, as he went from house to house. Believing that it might be well to be prepared for intruders, I arose and pulled a stake from one of the carts, and laid it at my side, upon the bed. But I was soon fast asleep again. Awaking at five, I found myself so cold, and the dew so heavy, that I dressed, and wrapped my blanket around me, and sat up, waiting for daylight. At 5:30 our drunken friend passed again, somewhat less voluble, but still vociferous. He was absolutely crazed with drink, and through the day several times made his appearance, and always with a torrent of abuse and profanity which made one's blood run cold. Before the day was well begun, a second person, almost as drunk, but far more quiet, a nice-looking old man, began making similar visits about the village. The two drunkards, differing in age and build, differed also in dress, but on the occasion of one of their visits, they were taken with the crazy notion of exchanging clothes, and proceeded to undress, making the exchange, and re-clothing themselves in garments ridiculously non-fitting—all with the utmost gravity and unsteadiness. During the day, our carretas were being prepared. Apologizing for the inconvenience of the preceding day, Eustasio proposed to fix our cart "as fine as a church." He put a decent cover over it, and laid our sacks of plaster on the floor. Upon this, he spread a layer of corn-stalks, and over them, a new and clean petate. To be sure, the space left above was low for comfort, and we were horrified when we saw him loading up the second one, not only with the balance of our luggage, but high with maize, fodder, and great nets of ears of corn, to feed the animals. We had supposed that two persons and part of the luggage would go in each of the carts, and never thought of carrying food enough to last four oxen eight days. Crowding four people into our carreta made it impossible to lie down in comfort. Still, such is the custom of the country, and we submitted. During the day we heard a woman crying in a house. Upon investigating, we found that she was the wife of a carretero who had been injured on the road, and for whom a carreta had been sent. Shortly afterward, they brought the poor fellow into town, amid weeping and lamenting. When they took him from the carreta in which he had been brought, he was supported by two men and helped into the house, where he was laid upon a hammock. He groaned with pain, and a crowd of curious villagers pressed into the room.
It was easy to locate four broken ribs behind, and he complained of great internal bleeding. It seemed that he had started to climb up onto his moving cart in the usual way, and the stake which he had seized broke, letting him fall to the ground under the wheel of the heavily-loaded cart, which passed over his body.
Finally, all was ready, and at about five in the evening we started. Packed like sardines in a box, we were most uncomfortable. Personally, I did not try to sleep, neither lying down, nor closing my eyes. Shortly after leaving town, we crossed a running stream, and from the other side went over a piece of corduroy, upon which we jounced and jolted. Soon after, we descended into a little gully, from which our team had difficulty in drawing us. The baggage-cart had a more serious time; the team made several attempts to drag it up the slope, but failed, even though our whole company, by pushing and bracing, encouraging and howling, aided. There was a real element of danger in such help, the slipping animals and the back-sliding cart constantly threatening to fall upon the pushers. Finally, the cart was propped upon the slope, and its own team removed; our team, which was heavier and stronger, was then hitched on, but it was only with a hard tug, and with heavy pushing, that success was gained, and the cart reached the summit of the slope. We crossed a fine marsh of salt water, quite like the lagoon at San Mateo del Mar, and were told that we were not far from the Juave town of San Dionisio. From here, the country, was, for a distance, an open plain. With the moonlight, the night was almost as bright as day; cold winds swept sheets of sand and dust over us. At one o'clock, we happened upon a cluster of six or eight carts, drawn up for rest, and the company of travellers were warming themselves at little fires, or cooking a late supper. We learned that this gypsy-like group was a compania comica, a comic theatre troupe, who had been playing at Tuxtla, and were now on their way to Juchitan. We never before realized that such travelling of ox-carts as we were now experiencing was a regular matter, and that the carter's trade is a real business. At two o'clock, we stopped to repack our loads, but were shortly on the way again. After the sun rose, we were in misery; the road was deep with dust, and we were grimy, hot, and choking. When the cross that marks the beginning of the land belonging to Ixhuatlan was pointed out, we were delighted, but it was still a long ride before we crossed the little stream and rode into the village.
Ixhuatlan is like all the Zapotec towns of this district, but less clean, on account of its lying in the midst of dust, instead of sand. Our carts drew up in a little grove, a regular resting-place for carting companies, where more than fifteen were already taking their daytime rest. Having ordered breakfast, we hastened to the stream, where all enjoyed a bath and cleansing. Coffee, bread, tortillas, eggs, and brandied peaches, made a good impression, and we ordered our buxom young Zapotec cook, who was a hustler, to have an equally good dinner ready at 2:30. We set this hour, believing that she would be late, but she was more than prompt, and called us at two to a chicken dinner. It was interesting to watch the carreteros in the grove. The scenes of starting and arriving, packing and unpacking, chaffing and quarreling, were all interesting. In the lagoons of Vera Cruz, our boatmen applied the term jornada to a straight stretch across a lagoon made at one poling; here among the carreteros, the word jornada means the run made from resting-place to resting-place. In neither case is strict attention paid to the original meaning of the word, a day's journey. Ixhuatlan is a made town; a paternal government, disturbed over the no progress of the pure Juaves in their seaside towns, set aside the ground on which this town now rests, and moved a village of Juaves to the spot. High hopes were expressed for the success of the experiment; now, however, the town is not a Juave town. It is true, that a few families of that people still remain, but for the most part, the Juaves have drifted back to the shore, and resumed their fishing, shrimp-catching and salt-making, while the expansive Zapotecs have crowded in, and practically make up the population of the place. Between dinner and our starting, we wandered about the village, dropping into the various houses in search of relics. As elsewhere, we were impressed with the independent bearing and freeness of the Zapotec woman. She talks with everyone, on any subject, shrewdly. She loves to chaff, and is willing to take sarcasm, as freely as she gives it. In one house we had a specially interesting time, being shown a lot of things. The woman had some broken pottery figures of ancient times, but also produced some interesting crude affairs of modern make from Juchitan. These were figures of men and women—the latter generally carrying babies in indian fashion—of horses and other animals. As works of art, they make no pretension, but they are stained with native colors, and are used as gifts at New Year's by the common people. Here we saw the making of baked tortillas, and sampled some hot from the oven. Such tortillas are called tortillas del horno—oven tortillas. Flat tortillas, about the size of a fruit-plate, are fashioned in the usual way; a great olla is sunk in the ground until its mouth is level with the surface. This is kept covered by a comal, or a smaller olla, and a good hot fire of coals is kept burning within. When the tortillas have been shaped, they are stuck on the hot olla, being pressed against the sides, to which they adhere, and are left to bake. In baking, the edges curl up so that the cake, instead of being flat, is saucer-shaped. They are crisp and good. Leaving at four, we continued on the hot, deep, dusty road, but saw interesting plants and animals along the way. There were fine displays of the parasitic fig, from examples where the parasite was just beginning to embrace its victim, through cases where it had surrounded the tree with a fine network of its own material, to those where the original tree-trunk was entirely imbedded in the great continuous gray investing trunk of the parasite, now larger than its host. Some trees bore bunches of pale-purple flowers of tubular form, which fell easily from the calyx, and dotted the ground along the roadside. Other trees appeared as if covered with veils of little purplish-red flowers hung over them. Others were a mass of golden bloom, the flowers being about the size of cherry blossoms. A few trees, yet leafless, showed large, brilliant white flowers at the tips of rather slender branches. At Ixhuatlan, we saw the first monkey's comb of the trip. This orange-yellow flower, growing in clusters so curiously shaped as to suggest the name, is among the most characteristic, from this point on through Chiapas into Guatemala. There were but few birds, but among them were macaws and toucans. Eustasio said that in the season, when certain berry-bearing trees are in full fruit, the latter may be seen by hundreds.
When night had really fallen, I unwisely sat in front with the driver, to prevent his sleeping, and to keep the animals moving. Both drivers had a way of dozing off, utterly regardless of the movements of the animals or the dangers of the road. Carts going in opposite directions must often depend absolutely upon the oxen for their chance of escaping collisions or being thrown over precipices. Frequently the animals themselves stop, and the whole company is at a standstill until the driver wakes up. In this jornada, we had planned to reach La Frontera, the border of the state of Chiapas, at which place we had been promised we should arrive at 8:30 in the morning. Everything had gone well, and we were just about to reach the place, where it was planned to repack for the last time; it was just daylight, and Eustasio was congratulating us upon our prompt arrival; we drove to the brink of a dry stream, on the other side of which was our resting-place; just at that instant, we heard the other driver cry out; we stopped, and found that the baggage-cart was overturned. This dashed all hopes. There was unhitching, unloading, the making of a new axle, and reloading. It was plain that we could not reach La Frontera. While the men were putting things to rights, we strolled up the dry stream-bed to a shanty, where Eustasio told us we could breakfast. There was a well there, with fresh water, and the shanty, for the refreshment of travellers, consisted of nothing but a little shelter of poles. Here, however, we found baked tortillas, atole, and hard meat; the breakfast for four persons, cost twenty-five centavos, equal to ten cents American money. Through the day, birds were hunted and skinned, reading and writing carried on, until at half-past-three in the afternoon we were again ready for movement. The road was now sandy, and not dusty, the sand being produced by the decomposition of crystalline rocks. Mounting to a high llano, we shot a pair of curious birds, which looked like water-birds, but were living in a dry place and were able to run with great speed. They were of the size of a hen, and had a long beak, long legs and four flat though not webbed toes. At the end of this high llano, we passed the Hacienda of Agua Blanca, a property belonging to the jefe of Juchitan. From here, we descended rapidly over a poor road, coming out at nine onto the straight road from Tapanatepec, at this point four leagues behind us. From here on, the whole road was familiar to me. La Frontera was just ahead, and, arriving there at 10 o'clock, we spent an hour. Before us rose a massive mountain, the ascent of which seemed appalling. We could see a white line of road zigzagging up its side, and well remembered Governor Leon's pride in having constructed a cart-road against great natural difficulties. Thirty or forty ox-teams had gathered here, either ready to make the ascent, or resting, after having come down the mountain. Having gotten breath and courage, we started at about eleven. The road had suffered during the five years since I last passed over it, but was still an excellent work of engineering. As we mounted, zigzagging constantly, the magnificent view over the valley widened; each new turn increased its beauty. My companions were asleep, and had had so little rest recently, that I hated to disturb them for the view. When, however, we were two-thirds up the slope, they awakened, and were as delighted as myself. We all got out, and walked for a considerable distance. An astonishing number of little streams and pools of fresh water burst forth from the rocks, and cut across the road or flowed along its sides. Finally, we reached the summit, and began the descent. This had made no impression on me when I went over it on horseback, but travelling in an ox-cart was a different matter, and I shall never again forget it. It was less abrupt than the ascent—less of vertical zigzag, and more of long steady windings. It also was excavated in the solid rock. It was badly neglected, and the cart jolted, and threatened every instant to upset us, or leap into the gulf. Coming out into a more level district, we passed Paraje and Dolores, reaching Carizal at five, where we stopped for the day. This is a regular resting place for carreteros, and there were plenty of carts there for the day.
As soon as the oxen were unyoked, I turned out my companions and lay down in the cart, trying to get an hour's sleep before the sun should rise, as I had not closed my eyes since leaving Union Hidalgo two days before. I was asleep at once, but in less than an hour was awakened by the assaults of swarms of minute black-flies, whose stings were dreadful. The rest of the company suffered in the same way, so we all got up and went to work. A group of carreteros breakfasting, invited me to eat with them—hard tortillas, atole and salted meat, formed a much better breakfast than we got, a little later, at the house upon the hill where travellers eat their meals. At this house they had a little parrot which was very tame, and also a chacalacca, which had been hatched by a domestic hen from a captured egg. This bird is more slender and graceful than a hen, but our landlord informed us that its eggs are much larger than those of the common fowl, and much used for food. Both this bird and the little parrot regularly fly off with flocks of their wild fellows, but always come back afterward to the house. This was a most interesting example of an intermediate stage between true wildness and domestication. There was little doing throughout the day. Heat, black-flies, and sunlight all made it impossible to sleep; but we took a bath in the running brook, and skinned some birds, and tasted posole for the first time. Posole is a mixture of pounded or ground corn and sugar, of a yellow or brownish color, much like grape-nuts. It may be eaten dry, but is much more commonly mixed with water. The indian dips up a jicara full of clear spring water, and then, taking a handful of posole from his pouch, kneads it up until a rather thick, light-yellow liquid results, which is drunk, and is refreshing and satisfying.