IN INDIAN MEXICO
A NARRATIVE OF TRAVEL AND LABOR
CHICAGO FORBES & COMPANY
Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data
Starr, Frederick, 1858-1933. In Indian Mexico.
Reprint of the ed. published by Forbes, Chicago. 1. Indians of Mexico. 2. Mexico—Description and travel. 3. Starr, Frederick, 1858-1933. I. Title. F1220.S78 1978 972'.004'97 74-9025 ISBN 0-404-11903-4
First AMS edition published in 1978.
Reprinted from the edition of 1908, Chicago. [Trim size of the original has been slightly altered in this edition. Original trim size: 15.5 x 23.7 cm. Text area of the original has been maintained in this edition.]
IN INDIAN MEXICO IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED TO A.A. ROBINSON TO WHOM ALL MY WORK IN MEXICO IS DUE AND WHOSE INTEREST HAS BEEN CONTINUOUS AND UNFAILING
The reading public may well ask, Why another travel book on Mexico? Few countries have been so frequently written up by the traveler. Many books, good, bad, and indifferent, but chiefly bad, have been perpetrated. Most of these books, however, cover the same ground, and ground which has been traversed by many people. Indian Mexico is practically unknown. The only travel-book regarding it, in English, is Lumholtz's "Unknown Mexico." The indians among whom Lumholtz worked lived in northwestern Mexico; those among whom I have studied are in southern Mexico. The only district where his work and mine overlap is the Tarascan area. In fact, then, I write upon an almost unknown and untouched subject. Lumholtz studied life and customs; my study has been the physical type of south Mexican indians. Within the area covered by Lumholtz, the physical characteristics of the tribes have been studied by Hrdlicka. His studies and my own are practically the only investigations within the field.
There are two Mexicos. Northern Mexico to the latitude of the capital city is a mestizo country; the indians of pure blood within that area occupy limited and circumscribed regions. Southern Mexico is indian country; there are large regions, where the mestizos, not the indians, are the exception. From the time of my first contact with Mexican indians, I was impressed with the notable differences between tribes, and desired to make a serious study of their types. In 1895, the accidental meeting with a priest from Guatemala led to my making a journey to Central America. It was on that journey that I saw how the work in question might be done. While the government of Mexico is modeled upon the same pattern as our own, it is far more paternal in its nature. The Republic is a confederation of sovereign states, each of which has its elected governor. The states are subdivided into districts somewhat corresponding to our counties, over each of which is a jefe politico appointed by the governor; he has no responsibility to those below him, but is directly responsible to the man who names him, and who can at will remove him; he is not expected to trouble the state government unnecessarily, and as long as he turns over the taxes which are due the state he is given a free hand. Within the districts are the cities and towns, each with its local, independent, elected town government.
The work I planned to do among these indian towns was threefold: 1. The measurement of one hundred men and twenty-five women in each population, fourteen measurements being taken upon each subject; 2. The making of pictures,—portraits, dress, occupations, customs, buildings, and landscapes; 3. The making of plaster busts of five individuals in each tribe. To do such work, of course, involved difficulty, as the Indians of Mexico are ignorant, timid, and suspicious. Much time would be necessary, in each village, if one depended upon establishing friendly and personal relations with the people. But with government assistance, all might be done promptly and easily. Such assistance was readily secured. Before starting upon any given journey, I secured letters from the Department of Fomento, one of the Executive Departments of the Federal Government. These letters were directed to the governors of the states; they were courteously worded introductions. From the governors, I received letters of a more vigorous character to the jefes of the districts to be visited. From the jefes, I received stringent orders upon the local governments; these orders entered into no detail, but stated that I had come, recommended by the superior authorities, for scientific investigations; that the local authorities should furnish the necessaries of life at just prices, and that they should supply such help as was necessary for my investigations. In addition to the orders from the jefes to the town authorities, I carried a general letter from the governor of the state to officials of every grade within its limits. This was done in case I should at any time reach towns in districts where I had been unable to see the jefe politico. It was desirable, when possible, that the jefe should be seen before serious work was undertaken. As Governor Gonzales of Oaxaca once remarked, when furnishing me a general letter: "You should always see the jefe politico of the district first. These Indians know nothing of me, and often will not recognize my name; but the jefe of their district they know, and his orders they will obey." In using these official orders, I adopted whatever methods were best calculated to gain my ends; success depended largely on my taking matters into my own hands. Each official practically unloaded me upon the next below him, with the expectation that I should gain my ends, if possible, but at the same time he felt, and I knew, that his responsibility had ended. In case of serious difficulty, I could not actually count upon the backing of any one above the official with whom I then was dealing.
Upon the Guatemala expedition, which took place in January-March, 1896, my only companion was Mr. Ernst Lux, whose knowledge of the language, the country, and the people was of the utmost value. As the result of that journey, my vacations through a period of four years were devoted to this field of research. The first field expedition covered the period from November, 1897, to the end of March, 1898; the plan of work included the visiting of a dozen or more tribes, with interpreter, photographer, and plaster-worker; the success of the plan depended upon others. Dr. W.D. Powell was to serve as interpreter, Mr. Bedros Tatarian as photographer; at the last moment the plans regarding the plaster-worker failed; arrived in the field, Dr. Powell was unable to carry out his contract; the photographic work disintegrated, and failure stared us in the face. Reorganization took place. Rev. D.A. Wilson was secured as interpreter, two Mexican plaster-workers, Anselmo Pacheco of Puebla and Ramon Godinez of Guadalajara, were discovered, and work was actually carried through upon four tribes. The second field expedition covered the period of January-March, 1899; eight tribes were visited, and a most successful season's work was done; Charles B. Lang was photographer, Anselmo Pacheco plaster-worker, and Manuel Gonzales general helper. The third field season, January-March, 1900, was in every way successful, six populations being visited; my force consisted of Louis Grabic photographer, Ramon Godinez plaster-worker, and Manuel Gonzales general assistant. The work was brought to a conclusion in January-March, 1901, during which period six tribes were visited; the party was the same as the preceding year.
"In Indian Mexico" claims to be only a narrative of travel and of work. It is intended for the general public. The scientific results of our expeditions have been published under the following titles:
1. The Indians of Southern Mexico: an Ethnographic Album. Chicago, 1899. Cloth; oblong 4to; pp. 32. 141 full-page plates.
2. Notes upon the Ethnography of Southern Mexico. 1900. 8vo, pp. 98. 72 cuts, maps, etc. Proc. Dav. Acad. Nat. Sci., Vol. VIII.
3. Notes on the Ethnography of Southern Mexico, Part II. 1902. 8vo, pp. 109. 52 cuts, map, etc. Proc. Dav. Acad. Nat. Sci., Vol. IX.
4. The Physical Characters of the Indians of Southern Mexico. 4to, 59 pp. Sketch map, color diagram, and 30 double cuts. Decennial Publications, University of Chicago, 1902.
5. The Mapa de Cuauhtlantzinco or Codice Campos. 1898. 8vo, pp. 38. 46 engravings. University of Chicago Press.
6. Recent Mexican Study of the Native Languages of Mexico. 1900. 8vo, pp. 19. 7 portraits.
7. Picture of Otomi woman beating bark paper. Printed on sheet of the original paper; mounted.
8. The Mapa of Huilotepec. Reproduction; single sheet, mounted.
9. The Mapa of Huauhtla. Reproduction; single sheet, mounted.
10. Survivals of Paganism in Mexico. The Open Court. 1899.
11. Mexican Paper. American Antiquarian. 1900.
12. The Sacral Spot in Maya Indians. Science. 1903.
Naturally, in a work of such extent we have been under obligation to many parties. It is impossible to acknowledge, in detail, such obligations. We must, however, express our indebtedness, for assistance rendered, to the Mexican Central Railroad, the Mexican Railway, the Mexican National Railroad, the Tehuantepec Railroad, the Mexican Southern Railroad, and the Interoceanic Railroad; also to the Ward Line of steamers. Among individuals, it is no unfair discrimination to express especial thanks to Mr. A.A. Robinson and Mr. A.L. Van Antwerp. President Diaz has ever shown a friendly interest in my plans of work and the results obtained. Senor Manuel Fernandez Leal, Minister of the Department of Fomento, more than any other official, lent us every aid and assistance in his power; his successor, Senor Leandro Fernandez, continued the kindness shown by Minister Leal. And to all the governors of the states and to the jefes of the districts we are under many obligations, and express to each and all our appreciation of their kind assistance. Those personal friends who have been helpful in this specific work in Indian Mexico are mentioned in the appropriate places in the text. To those companions and assistants who accompanied us upon the journeys a large part of the results of this work are due.
CHICAGO, January, 1908.
I. PRIESTLY ARCHAEOLOGY 1
II. WE START FOR GUATEMALA 13
III. THE LAND OF THE MIXES 22
IV. THROUGH CHIAPAS 39
V. AT HUIXQUILUCAN 56
VI. LAKE PATZCUARO 68
VII. TO URUAPAN BEFORE THE RAILROAD 76
VIII. TLAXCALA 85
IX. ZAMORA AND THE ONCE PUEBLOS 95
X. THE BOY WITH THE SMILE 108
XI. IN THE MIXTECA ALTA 112
XII. THE MIXES REVISITED 142
XIII. ABOUT TEHUANTEPEC 161
XIV. ON THE MAIN HIGH-ROAD 173
XV. CUICATLAN 181
XVI. IN TLAXCALAN TOWNS 188
XVII. IN THE CHINANTLA 198
XVIII. TO COIXTLAHUACA 216
XIX. HUAUHTLA AND THE MAZATECS 228
XX. TEPEHUAS AND TOTONACS 239
XXI. IN THE HUAXTECA 274
XXII. IN MAYA LAND 293
XXIII. OX-CART EXPERIENCES 328
XXIV. AT TUXTLA GUTIERREZ 351
XXV. TZOTZILS AND TZENDALS 360
XXVI. CHOLS 381
XXVII. CONCLUSION 395
IN INDIAN MEXICO
While we stood in the Puebla station, waiting for the train to be made ready, we noticed a priest, who was buying his ticket at the office. On boarding the train, we saw nothing of him, as he had entered another car. Soon after we started, Herman made his usual trip of inspection through the train, and on his return told me that a learned priest was in the second-class coach, and that I ought to know him. As I paid no great attention to his suggestion, he soon deserted me for his priestly friend, but presently returned and renewed his advice. He told me this priest was no common man; that he was an ardent archaeologist; that he not only collected relics, but made full notes and diagrams of all his investigations; that he cared for live Indians also, and had made a great collection of dress, weapons, and tools, among Guatemalan tribes. When I even yet showed no intention of hurrying in to visit his new acquaintance, the boy said: "You must come in to see him, for I promised him you would, and you ought not to prove me to be a liar."
This appeal proved effectual and I soon called upon the priestly archaeologist in the other car. He was an interesting man. By birth a German, he spoke excellent English; born of Protestant parents and reared in their faith, in early manhood be became a Catholic; renounced by his parents and left without support, he was befriended by Jesuits and determined to become a priest. Entering the ministry at twenty-nine years of age, he was sent as mission priest to foreign lands. He had lived in California, Utah, and Nevada; he had labored in Ecuador, Panama, and Guatemala. His interest in archaeology, kindled in the Southwest, continued in his later fields of labor. Waxing confidential he said: "I am a priest first, because I must live, but it does not interfere much with my archaeology." For years past the padre has lived in Guatemala, where he had charge of one of the largest parishes in that Republic, with some eighteen thousand full-blood indians in his charge. Like most Germans a linguist, the padre spoke German, French, Spanish, English, and Quiche, the most important indian speech of Guatemala. In his parish, he so arranged his work as to leave most of his time free for investigation. Twice a week he had baptisms, on Thursday and Sunday; these duties on Thursday took but a couple of hours, leaving the rest of the day free; Sundays, of course, were lost, but not completely, for the indians often then told him of new localities, where diggings might be undertaken. Always when digging into ancient mounds and graves, he had his horse near by ready for mounting, and his oil and other necessaries at hand, in case he should be summoned to the bedside of the dying. As the indians always knew where to look for him, no time was lost.
Not only was the padre an archaeologist: he also gathered plants, birds, and insects. When he was leaving Germany, his nephew, the ten-year-old child of his sister, wished to accompany him. The parents refused their permission, but the uncle gave the boy some money, and they met each other in Frankfort and started on their journey. They have been together ever since. The padre depends completely on the younger man, whom he has fashioned to his mind. The plants, birdskins, and insects have supplied a steady income. The plants cost labor; insects were easier to get. All the indian boys in the parish were supplied with poison-bottles and set to work; a stock of prints of saints, beads, medals, and crucifixes was doled out to the little collectors, according to the value of their trophies. To allay the suspicions of his parishioners, the padre announced that he used the insects in making medicines. One Sunday a pious old indian woman brought to church a great beetle, which she had caught in her corn field four days before; during that time it had been tied by a string to her bed's leg; she received a medal. One day a man brought a bag containing some five hundred living insects; on opening it, they all escaped into the house, causing a lively time for their recapture.
The nephew, Ernst, had made a collection of eleven hundred skins of Guatemalan birds. The padre and he have supplied specimens to many of the great museums of the world, but the choicest things have never been permitted to leave their hands.
The padre is a great success at getting into trouble. He fled from Ecuador on account of political difficulties; his stay in Guatemala is the longest he has ever made in one place. During his eight years there he was successful; but he finally antagonized the government, was arrested, and thrown into jail. He succeeded in escaping, fled to Salvador, and from there made his way to the United States, where, for a little time, he worked, unhappily, at San Antonio, Texas. A short time since, the Archbishop of Oaxaca was in Texas, met the padre, and promised him an appointment in his diocese. The padre was now on his way to Oaxaca to see the prelate and receive his charge.
He was full of hope for a happy future. When he learned that we were bound for the ruins of Mitla, he was fired with a desire to accompany us. At Oaxaca we separated, going to different hotels. My party was counting upon the company of Mr. Lucius Smith, as interpreter and companion, to the ruins, but we were behind our appointment and he had gone upon another expedition. This delighted the padre, who saw a new light upon the path of duty. The archbishop had received him cordially, and had given him a parish, although less than a day had passed since his arrival. When the padre knew of our disappointment, he hastened to his prelate, told him that an eminent American archaeologist, with a party of four, wished to visit Mitla, but had no interpreter; might he not accompany these worthy gentlemen, in some way serving mother church by doing so? So strong was his appeal, that he was deputed to say mass at Mitla Sunday, starting for his new parish of Chila on the Monday following.
In the heavy, lumbering coach we left next morning, Saturday, for Mitla. The road, usually deep with dust, was in fair condition on account of recent rains. We arrived in the early afternoon and at once betook ourselves to the ruins. At the curacy, we presented the archbishop's letter to the indian cura, who turned it over once or twice, then asked the padre to read it, as his eyes were bad. While the reading proceeded, the old man listened with wonder, and then exclaimed, "What a learned man you are to read like that!" As we left, the padre expressed his feelings at the comeliness of the old priest's indian housekeeper, at the number of her children, at the suspicious wideness of his bed, and at his ignorance, in wearing a ring, for all the world just like a bishop's. But he soon forgot his pious irritation amid those marvelous ruins of past grandeur. In our early ramble he lost no opportunity to tell the indians that he would repeat mass on the morrow at seven, and that they should make a special effort to be present.
But as we wandered from one to another of the ancient buildings, the thought of the morrow's duty lost its sweetness. He several times remarked that it was a great pity to lose any of our precious morning hours in saying mass, when there were ruins of such interest to be seen. These complaints gained in force and frequency as evening approached, until finally, as we sat at supper, he announced his decision to say mass before daybreak; he would call me at five o'clock, we would go directly to the church, we would be through service before six, would take our morning's coffee immediately after, and then would have quite a piece of the morning left for the ruins, before the coach should leave for Oaxaca.
The plan was carried out in detail. At five we were called from our beds by the anxious padre. Herman and I were the only members of the party who were sufficiently devout to care to hear mass so early. With the padre, we stumbled in the darkness up to the church, where we roused the old woman who kept the key and the boy who rang the bell. The vestments were produced, the padre hastily robed, and the bell rung; the padre was evidently irritated at the absence of a congregation, as he showed by the rapid and careless way in which he repeated the first part of the service. When, however, at the Credo, he turned and saw that several poor indians had quietly crept in, a change came over him; his tone became fuller, his manner more dignified, and the service itself more impressive and decorous. Still, we were through long before six, and throwing off his vestments, which he left the boy to put away, the padre seized me by the arm, and we hastened down the hill to our morning's coffee. On the way we met a number of indians on their way to mass, whom the padre sternly rebuked for their laziness and want of devotion. Immediately after coffee, we were among the ruins.
The padre had kindly arranged for my presentation to his Grace, Archbishop Gillow. Reaching Oaxaca late on Sunday afternoon, we called at the Palace. His Grace is a man of good presence, with a face of some strength and a courteous and gracious manner. He appeared to be about fifty-five years of age. After the padre had knelt and kissed the ring, the archbishop invited us to be seated, expressed an interest in our trip to Mitla, hoping that it had proved successful. He then spoke at some length in regard to his diocese. He emphasized its diversity in climate and productions, the wide range of its plant life, the great number of indian tribes which occupied it, the Babel of tongues within it, its vast mineral wealth. A Mexican by birth, the archbishop is, in part, of English blood and was educated, as a boy, in England. He speaks English easily and well. He showed us many curious and interesting things. Among these was a cylindrical, box-like figure of a rain-god, which was found by a priest upon his arrival at the Mixe Indian village of Mixistlan.[A] It was in the village church, at the high altar where it shared worship with the virgin and the crucifix. The archbishop himself, in his description of the incident, used the word latria. We were also shown a little cross, which stood upon the archbishop's writing-table, made in part from a fragment of that miraculous cross, which was found by Sir Francis Drake, upon the west coast. That "terrible fanatic" tried to destroy it, according to a well-known story. The cross was found standing when the Spaniards first arrived and is commonly attributed to St. Thomas. Sir Francis upon seeing this emblem of a hated faith, first gave orders to hew it down with axes; but axes were not sharp enough to harm it. Fires were then kindled to burn it, but had no effect. Ropes were attached to it and many men were set to drag it from the sand; but all their efforts could not move it. So it was left standing, and from that time became an object of especial veneration. Time, however, destroys all things. People were constantly breaking off bits of the sacred emblem for relics until so little was left of the trunk near the ground that it was deemed necessary to remove the cross. The diggers were surprised to find that it had never set more than a foot into the sand. This shows the greatness of the miracle.
[A] Survivals of Paganism in Mexico. The Open Court. 1899.
The padre had been assigned to the parish of Chila, a great indian town, near Tehuacan. Early the next morning he left for his new home.
Not only did the padre, while in Oaxaca, urge us to call upon him in his new parish; after he was settled, he renewed his invitation. So we started for Chila. We had been in the tierra caliente, at Cordoba. From there we went by rail to Esperanza, from which uninteresting town we took a street-car line, forty-two miles long, to Tehuacan. This saved us time, distance, and money, and gave us a brand-new experience. There were three coaches on our train, first-, second-, and third-class. When buying tickets we struck acquaintance with a Syrian peddler. Three of these were travelling together; one of them spoke a little English, being proficient in profanity. He likes the United States, per se, and does not like Mexico; but he says the latter is the better for trade. "In the United States, you sell maybe fifteen, twenty-five, fifty cents a day; here ten, fifteen, twenty-five dollars." The trip lasted three hours and involved three changes of mules at stations, where we found all the excitement and bustle of a true railroad station.
The country was, at first, rolling, with a sparse growth of yuccas, many of which were exceptionally large and fine. On the hills were occasional haciendas. This broken district was succeeded by a genuine desert, covered with fine dust, which rose, as we rode, in suffocating clouds. Here the valley began to close in upon us and its slopes were sprinkled with great cushion cactuses in strange and grotesque forms. After this desert gorge, we came out into a more open and more fertile district extending to Tehuacan. Even this, however, was dry and sunburned.
Our party numbered four. We had written and telegraphed to the padre and expected that he, or Ernst, would meet us in Tehuacan. Neither was there. No one seemed to know just how far it was to Chila. Replies to our inquiries ranged from five to ten leagues.[B] Looking for some mode of conveyance, we refused a coach, offered at fifteen pesos, as the price seemed high. Hunting horses, we found four, which with a foot mozo to bring them back, would cost twenty pesos. Telling the owner that we were not buying horses, but merely renting, we returned to the proprietor of the coach and stated that we would take it, though his price was high, and that he should send it without delay to the railroad station, where our companions were waiting. Upon this the owner of the coach pretended that he had not understood that there were four of us (though we had plainly so informed him); his price was for two. If we were four, he must have forty pesos. A fair price here might be eight pesos for the coach, or four for horses. So we told the coach owner that we would walk to Chila, rather than submit to such extortion. This amused him greatly and he made some facetious observations, which determined me to actually perform the trip on foot. Returning to the railroad station, where two of the party were waiting, I announced my intention of walking to Chila; as the way was long and the sand heavy and the padre's silence and non-appearance boded no great hospitality in welcome, I directed the rest to remain comfortably at Tehuacan until my return on the next day. Herman, however, refused the proposition; my scheme was dangerous; for me to go alone, at night, over a strange road, to Chila was foolhardy; he should accompany me to protect me. Consenting that he should accompany, we began to seek a mozo, as guide to Chila. With difficulty, and some loss of time, one was found who would undertake the business for two pesos. In vain a Jew peddler standing by and the station agent remonstrated with the man; two pesos was a full week's wages; it was ridiculous to demand such a price for guiding two foot travellers to Chila. He admitted that two pesos might be a week's wages; but he did not have to go to Chila and if we wanted him to do so we must pay his price. We capitulated, the station agent loaned us a revolver, we left our friends behind us and started on our journey. It was now dark. In a mysterious voice, our guide said we must go first to his house; there he secured his serape and a heavy club. As we left his house he feared we must be hungry and indicated a bread-shop; we purchased and all three ate as we walked; a moment later he suggested that we would need cigarros of course, and a stock of these were added, at our expense. Then, at last, we came down to business.
[B] The Mexican league is 2.7 miles.
Plainly our guide did not enjoy his task. Shortly after we started, the moon rose and, from its shining full on the light sand, it was almost as bright as day. We were in single file, our guide, Herman, and I. At sight of every bush or indistinct object, our guide clutched his club and crossed himself, as he mumbled a prayer. When we met anyone, we kept strictly to our side of the road, they to theirs, and, in passing, barely exchanged a word of greeting. The timidity and terror of our guide increased as we advanced, until I concluded to be prepared for any emergency and carried the revolver in my hand, instead of in my pocket. Mile after mile we trudged along through the heavy sand, into which we sunk so far that our low shoes repeatedly became filled and we had to stop to take them off and empty them. We passed through San Pablo, left the Hacienda of San Andres to one hand, and, finally, at 10:10 found ourselves in the great indian town of San Gabriel de Chila. It was much larger than we had anticipated and almost purely indian. We walked through a considerable portion of the town before we reached the plaza, the church, and the curato. Our journey had probably been one of fifteen miles. All was dark at the curato; an indian was sleeping in the corridor, but he was a traveller and gave us no information on being awakened. At our third or fourth pounding upon the door, Ernst appeared at the window; on learning who we were he hastened to let us in. He reported trouble in the camp; the padre had gone hastily to Oaxaca to see the archbishop; our telegram had not been received; our letter came that morning. We found that things were packed ready for removal. A good supper was soon ready, but while it was being prepared we took a cool bath, by moonlight, in the trough bath-tub out in the patio.
In the morning we heard the full story. Formerly there was here a priest, who devoted his whole life to this parish, growing old in its service; in his old age he was pensioned, with sixty pesos monthly from the parish receipts. The priest who succeeded him, coming something over three years ago, was a much younger man. During his three years of service, he was continually grumbling; the work was hard, his health was bad at Chila, the heat was intolerable; he wished another parish. The archbishop finally took him at his word; without warning he transferred him to another parish, and sent our friend, the archaeologist here, in his place. This did not suit the man relieved; Chila itself was much to his liking; what he really wanted was to be relieved from the support of his superannuated predecessor. No sooner was he transferred than he began to look with longing on his former charge and to make a vigorous effort to regain it. Accusations were hurried to Oaxaca; the new priest was pursuing agriculture as a means of profit; he had not paid the dues to the aged priest; he had himself admitted to parishioners that his object in coming to Chila was more to study antiquities and natural history than to preach the gospel. It is claimed that, immediately on receiving this communication, the archbishop sent a peremptory letter to the padre demanding an explanation; this letter, Ernst said, never was delivered, hence no explanation was sent. The prelate acted promptly; orders were sent to our friend to give up the parish to the former priest, who appeared on the scene to receive his charge. Then, and then only, it is said the delayed letter came to light. The padre had left, at once, for Oaxaca and his archbishop. From there he sent messages by telegraph: "Pack up, and come to Tehuacan;" "Wait until you hear further." A third came the morning we were there: "Pack up; meet me at Tehuacan, ready to go to a new parish."
It was really sad to look about the new home, to which he had come with such buoyant hopes and of which he had been so soon dispossessed. When he arrived, the place was neglected and filthy; two whole days were necessary to clean it. It had contained practically no furniture; he had made it look like a place in which to live. He had improved and beautified its surroundings. He had planted a little corn and set out some young banana trees; he had gathered many species of cactus from the neighboring hills and had built up a fine bed of the strange plants in his patio. Passionately fond of pets, he had two magnificent greyhounds and a pug—all brought from Guatemala—a black collie, doves, hens and turkeys on the place. And now, he was again without a home and his time, money, and labor were lost.
Ernst accompanied us to Tehuacan. We rented three horses and a man on foot went with us to bring them back to the village. And for the whole we paid the regular price of eighty-seven centavos—twenty-five each for the animals, and twelve centavos for the man—something less than the twenty pesos demanded the day before at Tehuacan.
WE START FOR GUATEMALA
The evening we were at Mitla, Senor Quiero came hurrying to our room and urged us to step out to the corridor before the house to see some Mixes. It was our first glimpse of representatives of this little known mountain people. Some thirty of them, men and women, loaded with fruit, coffee, and charcoal, were on their way to the great fair and market, at Tlacolula. They had now stopped for the night and had piled their burdens against the wall. Wrapping themselves in their tattered and dirty blankets, they laid themselves down on the stone floor, so close together that they reminded me of sardines in a box. With a blazing splinter of fat pine for torch, we made our inspection. Their broad dark faces, wide flat noses, thick lips and projecting jaws, their coarse clothing, their filthiness, their harsh and guttural speech, profoundly impressed me and I resolved to penetrate into their country and see them in their homes, at the first opportunity.
Our friend the padre never tired of telling how much more interesting Guatemala was than Mexico; he could not understand why any man of sense should waste his time in Mexico, a land so large that a dozen students could not begin to solve its problems, while Guatemala, full of interesting ruins and crowded with attractive Indians, was of such size that one man's lifetime could count for something. His tales of indian towns, life, dress, customs, kindled enthusiasm; but it was only after thinking over the Mixes, that I decided to make a journey to Guatemala. The padre, himself, could not accompany me, being a political refugee, but he had told me Ernst should go with me. After three months' consideration my plan was made. We would start from Oaxaca overland via the Mixes country; we would everywhere keep in the mountains; in Chiapas we would completely avoid the usual highway, hot and dusty, near the coast; in Guatemala itself, we would go by Nenton, Huehuetenango and Nibaj. This did not suit the padre: he had had in mind a journey all rail and steamer; and friends, long resident in Mexico, shook their heads and spoke of fatigues and dangers. But I was adamant; the Mixes drew me; we would go overland, on horse, or not at all.
When the Padre left Chila, he took a letter of recommendation from the Archbishop of Oaxaca to the Bishop of Vera Cruz at Jalapa. By him, the padre was located at Medellin, a few miles from Vera Cruz itself. Thither I journeyed to join Ernst and make the final preparations for the journey. Ernst met me at the station at 6:30 in the evening and we stayed the night in the hot, mosquito-tortured, plague-stricken city. Leaving at eight o'clock in the morning we were at Medellin in an hour. Our journey was through low, swampy ground on which the chief growth was of palm. The padre, whom we had not seen since we parted at Oaxaca, met us at the station and took us at once to his house. The town is small, the population a miserable mixture of black, white, and indian elements. Few of the couples living there have been legally married. The parish is one of the worst in the whole diocese. The bishop warned the padre that it was an undesirable field, but it was the only one then unoccupied. But the padre was working wonders and the church was then undergoing repairs and decorations. The actual curato was long ago seized by the government and is now used as a schoolhouse. The priest lived in a rented house close by the river bank. The house is a double one and the priest occupied but half of it; those in the other half were hostile to him and he was anxious to rent the whole place. His neighbors, however, did not care to leave and threatened vengeance; they were behind a mass of accusations filed against him with the bishop. His friends rallied to his support, sent in a strong endorsement, and he remained. The padre had been industrious while here. Behind his house is the little river, with a bath-house built over it; crossing in a dugout canoe we found his garden flourishing, filled with fresh vegetables. The family of pets had grown; Baldur, Freia, Votan, Doxil—the dogs—were here as at Chila, but he also had fantail and capuchin pigeons, hens and chicks, ducks and geese, canary birds, and native birds in cages. Here also were archaeological relics, plants, beetles and birds for gathering. And here too, for the first time, I had the opportunity of examining his great collection of Ecuadorean humming-birds and a magnificent lot of Guatemalan quetzal skins, among them probably the finest ever collected.
We left Medellin on January 8th; went by rail to Puebla, then to Oaxaca. Here we found our friend Doctor Hyde, of Silao, who was nursing Lucius Smith, in what proved to be a final illness. He aided us in finding animals and completing preparations for our journey. We secured a large bay horse for myself, a roan for Ernst, a little mule for baggage. For my own part, I dislike mules; Ernst and the doctor, however, were loud in their praise of such a beast; both asserted that a good mule should sell for double its cost on our arrival at Guatemala City. When, finally, after inspecting a variety of animals we found one lively, young one, the doctor was delighted. Taking me to one side, he informed me that such an opportunity was unlikely to occur again. I yielded and the little mule was ours. We named the three animals Mixe, Zapotec, and Chontal, from three tribes through whose country we expected to pass.
The doctor's helpfulness was not confined to advice regarding mules. He insisted upon our buying various supplies, such as boxes of sardines, sago, coffee, etc., the utility of which appeared neither at the time nor later. Also at his suggestion a quart of whiskey was purchased and carefully divided into two flasks, one for each saddlebag. Most useful of all the doctor's suggestions, and one for which we had reason many times to thank him, was the securing from the governor of a letter to all local authorities in the state, directing them to supply us with the necessities of life, at just prices.
We had hoped to start from Oaxaca in the early morning, but it was well on in the afternoon before all arrangements were completed. The doctor and his Mexican friend rode with us to Tule to see us well started. It was out over the old road to Mitla. The afternoon was hot, dust was deep, and a heavy wind blew it up into our faces in clouds. The sun was already setting when we rode into Santa Maria Tule, and we went at once to see the famous cypress tree, which no one in the party, save myself, had seen. It seems now to be a single tree, but was perhaps, originally, three; at present it displays a single, vast trunk, buttressed with heavy irregular projecting columns. So irregular is this enormous mass that no two persons taking its girth exactly agree. We measured it four feet above the ground and made the circumference one hundred and sixty feet. The mass of delicate green foliage above was compact, vigorous, and beautiful. Many years ago Humboldt cut a rectangular piece of bark from the old trunk and on the smooth surface thus exposed carved an inscription with his name.
Bark has since grown over the sides and corners of this tablet, but much of the inscription may still be read. Since Humboldt's visit many lesser men have gashed the old tree to leave their mark.
As it was now darkening we hurried to the meson of the village. The old lady in charge received us with suspicion; she could not feed us and refused to receive us into the house for the night; she would permit us to sleep outside, in the corridor—which we might have done without asking permission. At this moment, the doctor's friend remembered that he knew a man here and went out to reconnoitre; he soon returned and led us to his friend's house, where we were well received. A supper of eggs, tortillas, and chocolate was soon served. Before we had finished the moon had risen and by its light the doctor and his friend started on their return to town. We slept on beds, made of boards laid upon sawhorses, in a grain store-room, where rats were running around all night long.
The next day, we were again at Mitla. It was a festival day, that of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle. In the evening there were rockets, the band played, and a company of drummers and chirimiya blowers went through the town. Senor Quiero had fires of blazing pine knots at the door. When the procession passed we noted its elements. In front was the band of ten boys; men with curious standards mounted on poles followed. The first of these standards was a figure, in strips of white and pink tissue paper, of a long-legged, long-necked, long-billed bird, perhaps a heron; next stars of colored paper, with lights inside; then were large globes, also illuminated, three of white paper and three in the national colors—red, white, and green. Grandest of all, however, was a globular banner of cloth on which was painted a startling picture of the saint's conversion. All of these were carried high in the air and kept rotating. Behind the standard bearers came a drummer and the player on the shrill pipe or pito—chirimiya. The procession stopped at Senor Quiero's tienda, and the old man opened both his heart and his bottles; spirits flowed freely to all who could crowd into the little shop and bottles and packs of cigarros were sent out to the standard-bearers. As a result we were given a vigorous explosion of rockets, and several pieces by the band, the drummer, and the pitero.
Beyond Mitla the valley narrows and the road rises onto a gently sloping terrace; when it strikes the mountains it soon becomes a bridle-path zigzagging up the cliffside. As we mounted by it, the valley behind expanded magnificently under our view. We passed through a belt of little oak trees, the foliage of which was purple-red, like the autumnal coloring of our own forests. Higher up we reached the pine timber. As soon as we reached the summit, the lovely valley view was lost and we plunged downward, even more abruptly than we had mounted, along the side of a rapidly deepening gorge. At the very mouth of this, on a pretty terrace, we came abruptly on the little town of San Lorenzo with palm-thatched huts of brush or cane and well grown hedges of organo cactus. Here we ate tortillas and fried-eggs with chili. Immediately on setting out from here we rode over hills, the rock of which was deeply stained with rust and streaked with veins of quartz, up to a crest of limestone covered with a crust of stalagmite.
The road up to this summit was not good, but that down the other side was bad. The irregular, great blocks of limestone, covered with the smooth, dry, slippery coating, caused constant stumbling to our poor animals. From this valley we rose onto a yet grander range. Here we had our first Mixe experience. At the very summit, where the road became for a little time level, before plunging down into the profound valley beyond, we met two Indians, plainly Mixes. Both were bareheaded, and both wore the usual dirty garments—a cotton shirt over a pair of cotton trousers, the legs of which were rolled up to the knees or higher. The younger of the men bore a double load, as he had relieved his companion. The old man's face was scratched and torn, his hands were smeared with blood and blood stained his shirt. We cried an "adios" and the old man kissed my hand, while the younger, pointing to his friend said "Sangre, Senor, sangre" (Blood, sir, blood.) Vigorously they told the story of the old man's misfortune, but in incomprehensible Spanish. While they spoke three others like them, each bent under his burden came up onto the ridge. These kissed my hand and then, excitedly pointing to the old man, all talking at once, tried to tell his story. Having expressed our sympathy, we left the five looking after us, the old man, with his torn and bleeding face, being well in the foreground.
Down in the valley, across a little stream, we struck into a pleasant meadow road leading to the Hacienda of San Bartolo. Suddenly, before us, in the road, we saw a man lying. We thought he was dead. He was a young man, an indian in the usual dress, apparently a Zapotec. His face was bloody and his shirt was soaked in front with blood, which had trickled down upon the ground forming a pool in which he lay. We could see no deep wound, but, as he lay upon his side, there may have been such. Near him in the road there lay a knife, the blade covered with blood. The man lay perfectly still, but we fancied we could see a slight movement of the chest. In Mexico, it is best not to investigate too closely, because the last to touch a murdered man may be held responsible for his death. So we hurried on toward the hacienda but, before reaching it, met two girls about nineteen years of age and a little lad all Zapotecs. We told them what we had seen and bade them notify the authorities. One of the girls cried, "Si, Senor, es mi hermano" ("Yes, sir, it is my brother"), and they ran down the road. As for us, we hurried onward, without stopping at the hacienda, in order not to be delayed or held as witnesses.
There is no love between the Zapotecs and Mixes. We never learned the actual story, but imagined it somewhat as follows. The old Mixe, carrying his burden, had probably encountered the young Zapotec and had words with him. Probably there had been blows, and the old man was having the worst of it when his companions came along and turned the tide of battle.
The road, after passing the hacienda, ascended almost constantly for many miles. We passed clumps of yuccas. As we mounted we faced a strong and cutting wind, and were glad when any turn in the road gave us a moment's relief. The final ascent was sharp and difficult, up a hill of red or purple slate, which splintered into bits that were both slippery and sharp to the feet of our poor animals. Just as the sun was setting and dusk fell, we reached the miserable pueblo of Santa Maria Albarradas. It was situated on a terrace or shelf, and its little houses were made of red or purple adobe bricks, and thatched with grass. Little garden patches and groups of cultivated trees surrounded the houses. The church was little larger than the dwellings, and was constructed of the same clay, thatched with the same grass. Near it was the town-house. We summoned the presidente, and while we waited for him, the men, women, and children of the town thronged around us and watched our every movement, commenting the while on our actions and words. When the presidente came, we made known our wants and soon had supper for ourselves, food for our animals, a shelter for the night, and a mozo as guide for the morrow. The town-house was put at our disposition; it was sadly in need of repairs, and consisted of two rooms, one larger than the other. In the larger room there was a long and heavy table, a bench or two, and some wooden chairs. We slept upon the ground, and long before we rolled ourselves up in our blankets the wind was blowing squarely from the north. The sky was half covered with a heavy black cloud; as the night advanced, it became colder and colder, the wind cutting like a knife, and while we shivered in our blankets, it seemed as if we had been born to freeze there in the tropics.
THE LAND OF THE MIXES
Santa Maria was the last Zapotec town; we were on the border of the country of the Mixes. Starting at seven next morning, we followed a dizzy trail up the mountain side to the summit. Beyond that the road went down and up many a slope. A norther was on; cold wind swept over the crest, penetrating and piercing; cloud masses hung upon the higher summits; and now and again sheets of fine, thin mist were swept down upon us by the wind; this mist was too thin to darken the air, but on the surface of the driving sheets rainbows floated. The ridge, which for a time we followed, was covered with a thicket of purple-leaved oaks, which were completely overgrown with bromelias and other air-plants. From here, we passed into a mountain country that beggars description. I know and love the Carolina mountains—their graceful forms, their sparkling streams and springs, the lovely sky stretched above them; but the millionaires are welcome to their "land of the sky"; we have our land of the Mixes, and to it they will never come. The mountains here are like those of Carolina, but far grander and bolder; here the sky is more amply extended. There, the slopes are clad with rhododendrons and azaleas, with the flowering shrub, with strawberries gleaming amid grass; here we have rhododendrons also, in clusters that scent the air with the odor of cloves, and display sheets of pink and purple bloom; here we have magnificent tree-ferns, with trunks that rise twenty feet into the air and unroll from their summits fronds ten feet in length; fifty kinds of delicate terrestrial ferns display themselves in a single morning ride; here are palms with graceful foliage; here are orchids stretching forth sprays—three or four feet long—toward the hand for plucking; here are pine-trees covering slopes with fragrant fallen needles. A striking feature is the different flora on the different slopes of a single ridge. Here, too, are bubbling springs, purling brooks, dashing cascades, the equals of any in the world. And hither the tourist, with his destroying touch, will never come.
We had thought to find our wild Mixes living in miserable huts among the rocks, dressed in scanty native garb, leading half wild lives. We found good clearings on the hillside; fair fields of maize and peas, gourds and calabashes; cattle grazed in the meadows; fowls and turkeys were kept; the homes were log-houses, substantially built, in good condition, in neat enclosures; men and women, the latter in European dress, were busied with the duties of their little farms. Clearing after clearing in the forest told the same story of industry, thrift, and moderate comfort.
After more than five hours of hard travel we reached the Mixe town of Ayutla, and rode at once to the curato. The priest was not at home. It was market-day, and people were in town from all the country round. The men, surprised at sight of strangers, crowded about us; some gazed at us with angry glances, others eyed us with dark suspicion, some examined us with curious and even friendly interest. Many of them spoke little or no Spanish. Thronging about us they felt our clothing, touched our skins, saddles, baggage, and exhibited childish curiosity. The women at the curato spoke Spanish, of course; we told them we should stay there for a day or two, and sent out for the presidente. On his coming, we explained to him our business and asked leave to occupy the curato in the absence of the priest.
Ayutla is situated on a high terrace, before which opens a lovely valley and behind which rises a fine mountain slope. The village church, while large, is roofless; the town-house lies below the village, and by it are two jails for men and women. The houses of the village are small, rectangular structures of a red-brown-ochre adobe brick; the roofs slope from in front backward, and are covered with red tiles they project in front so as to cover a little space before the house.
By evening most of the indians in the town were drunk. At sunset a miserable procession started from the church, passed through the village, and then returned to the church; composed mostly of women, it was preceded by a band of music and the men who carried the santito. Later, we heard most disconsolate strains, and, on examination, found four musicians playing in front of the old church; three of them had curious, extremely long, old-fashioned horns of brass, while the fourth had a drum or tambour. The tambour was continuously played, while the other instruments were alternated in the most curious fashion. The music was strange and weird, unlike any that we had ever heard before. However, we became thoroughly familiar with it before we had traversed the whole Mixe country, as we heard it twice daily, at sunrise and after sunset. It was the music of the Candelaria, played during the nine days preceding February 2d. As we sat listening to the music the presidente of the town appeared. His Spanish, at no time adequate, was now at its worst, as he was sadly intoxicated. We tried to carry on a conversation with him, but soon seeing that naught but disaster could be expected, if we continued, we discreetly withdrew to our room.
There we found the fiscal, and I have rarely seen so drunk an official. When drunk, he is violent and abusive, and it was plain that the women at the curato were afraid of him. More than one hundred and fifty years ago Padre Quintana, who was the mission priest at Juquila, translated the Doctrina into Mixe and wrote a Gramatica of the language, both of which were then printed. We wished to secure copies of these old and rare books, and asked the fiscal if there were any here. He promptly replied that he had one at his house, and invited us to go there with him to see it. We at once started, and on our way had to pass the drunken presidente and the musicians. As we drew near them the presidente, with drunken dignity, rose and said: "Where are you going, Senores?" The fiscal was for going directly onward without giving answer; we hesitated and began a reply. Our delay was fatal; staggering up to us, his Honor said: "I shall not permit you to go; this man is drunk; he will be dangerous. I am responsible for your safety." The fiscal, standing at a little distance, cried: "Senores! shall we go?" We started toward him; the presidente interfered: "No, Senores, you shall not go to-night; the man is drunk; return to your house." "Vamonos," (Let us go) hiccoughed the fiscal. "Manana," (to-morrow) hiccoughed the presidente. The fiscal stormed; the presidente threatened him with jail, ordered him home, and with a body-guard for our protection led us to our room. Scarcely able to totter, the presidente assured us that drunken men were dangerous and ought not to be trusted; at the same time he produced his bottle and offered us a drop to warm us. It required tact and time to get rid of him and his corps of protectors. Early the next morning both of these worthy officials, presidente and fiscal, still drunk, called upon us with the book—a Doctrina of 1729. With the presidente were two stalwart fellows, intended, as he whispered to us audibly, to handle the fiscal in case he became dangerous. The audience ended, and the party dismissed, the presidente stood in the road until the fiscal had started for home, when he left for the town-house. The fiscal's home-going, however, was mere pretense. No sooner was the presidente gone than he came staggering into the patio of the curato. The women ran into our room, in terror: "The fiscal comes; bar the door; do not let him in." A moment later a feeble rap at the door, a call and a mournful request for admission; the barricaded door gave no encouragement. At intervals through the morning there came the flying maids: "He comes! don't let him in." Again and again the barricade; again and again, the vain appeal for entrance. We left Ayutla at noon. We had scarcely well started when we heard some one calling behind us. Turning, we saw the fiscal, running unsteadily toward us. We waited; he came up out of breath. "Ya se va?" (Now you are leaving?) "Si, senor," (Yes, sir.) With a look of despair he removed his hat, and fumbling in its depths produced two cigarettes; presenting one to each of us, he waved his hand as we rode away and cried: "Adios! senores."
For some distance our road led up a canon. Reaching its head, we gained the pass at two o'clock. A wonderful sight here presented itself. Above us was a brilliant blue sky—cloudless; every detail of the rock crest upon which we stood was clear. Forested to its summit, the ridge formed the half of a magnificent amphitheatre, whose slopes had been vertically furrowed at a hundred points by torrents; to the left a spur projected, the crest of which sloped gently downward, forming an enclosing wall upon that side. Before us, beyond the valley, was a boundary line of mountain masses, sharply outlined against the sky. Lower ridges, nearer to us, paralleled this distant rampart. The only apparent outlet from this valley was around the spur to our left. Looking down upon this magnificent valley, we saw it occupied by a sea of clouds, the level surface of which looked like a lake of water flecked here and there with whitecaps. The higher hills within the valley rose like islands from the water; to the left a mighty river seemed to flow around the spur, out into a boundless sea of cloud beyond. The level surface of this lake, river, and sea of clouds was hundreds of feet below us.
From this summit, our trail plunged downward into this sea of mists. When we reached its upper surface, which was plainly defined, little wisps of mist or cloud were streaming up along the furrowed channels of the mountain walls. As we entered the lake of cloud the sunlight became fainter, uprushes of cold mists struck us, gloom settled, denser and denser grew the fog, drops of condensed vapor dripped from the trees under which we passed. At the bottom of the valley, we could scarcely see a dozen yards in any direction. We were passing along meadows, like those of New England, with brakes, sunflowers, and huckleberries; here and there were little fields of wheat or peas. The fog was too dense for us to know whether we lost fine scenery. We saw nothing of the little villages through which we passed. On and on we plunged along the trail, until it began an ascent of a ridge, almost like a knife-edge, with steep slopes on both sides. When we had reached the summit of this ridge, we found the trail level, through a growth of oak trees which were loaded with bromelias and orchids. Though still dim, the light had brightened as we rose to higher levels. Graceful ferns and sprays of terrestrial orchids overhung our trail at every cutting or slope. One spray, which I plucked as I rode under it, was more than a yard in length, and its curiously colored brown and yellow flowers were strangely like insects in form. At one level summit of our ridge, we came upon a little whitewashed building of adobe, dome-topped, with no windows and but one little door. Pushing this open, I entered through a doorway so narrow that I had to remove my hat, and so low that I was forced to bend, and found myself in a little shrine with a cross and pictures of two or three saints, before which were plain vases filled with fresh flowers, the offerings of travelers. We added our spray of orchids before we resumed our journey.
For three hours, during which no distant view had delighted our eyes, we had traveled in the mists; we had almost forgotten that the sun could shine. At the end of a long, narrow ridge, where it joined the greater mountain mass, we found a rest-house. Here the trail turned abruptly onto the larger ridge, mounted sharply through a dugway, and then to our complete surprise emerged into the fair sunlight. The clear, blue sky was over us, and directly below us, at our horses' feet, was the flat top of the sea of clouds. A moment more and we rose to a point of view from which the grandest view of a lifetime burst upon our vision. Opposite, the evening sun was nearing the horizon, before and below us lay the valley; we were upon the very edge of a great mountain slope. To our right lay the cloud mass, which was all in movement, precipitating itself down the slope into the profound valley. It was a river of vapors, more than two miles, perhaps, in width, plunging, perhaps, two thousand feet into the abyss. Niagara, which I have often seen, is a pigmy cataract in comparison. The cloud mass tossed and heaved, whirled and poured in one enormous sheet over the precipice, breaking into spray as it struck against projecting rock masses. Every movement of whirling and plunging water was there; the rapid above the fall, the plunge, the whirlpool, the wild rush of whirlpool rapids, all were there, but all silent, fearfully and impressively silent. We could have stood there gazing for hours, but night was coming and a stretch of unknown road still lay before us. At the other end of the valley, in the dusk of early evening, we saw a second cataract pouring in. From both ends the cloud rivers were rushing in to fill the valley, along the edge of which we crept. And presently we plunged down again into the mists; night fell; our trail was barely visible, and we had to trust to our horses to find it; the air was cold and penetrating. Long after dark, we rode into Juquila.
The cura had gone to bed; the meson had no room for us and no food for our horses; our case seemed desperate. We heard, however, noisy laughter and the loud voices of men drinking. So I begged Ernst to seek the presidente and tell him our needs while I looked after the animals. The official was at the tienda, drinking with his friends. Ernst made known our wishes, producing our letter from the governor. At this, the presidente became furious: "Who is this with orders from the governor? Let me kill him," and with that he drew his machete and made at Ernst. Some of his less-intoxicated friends restrained him, and Ernst, concluding that the moment was not propitious, returned to me. After other fruitless efforts to get food for ourselves and animals we resigned ourselves to our fate, and lay down upon the stone floor of the corridor outside the meson, with a crowd of sleeping indians as companions.
Very early in the morning, all the town officials, except the presidente, came to apologize for the occurrence of the night. They announced that the presidente, realizing what he had done, had taken to the mountains, and asked what they could do for us. We ordered fodder for our hungry beasts, food for ourselves, and a place of shelter. The town-house was offered to us, and we were moved into those quarters with due ceremony.
Although we stayed several days at Juquila, the presidente did not return, during our presence, to resume his duties of office. We were, however, well treated. The cura aided us with advice, information, and helpers. While we were in the village the danza de la Conquista took place. It is a popular play, with much dancing and music, and little action or dialogue, which celebrates the Conquest of Mexico by Cortez. It was rendered in the shade of a great tree near the church. In the first act, nine men and two girls took part; in the second act, there were many others. The nine men and two girls represented Indians; they wore crowns with plumes of snow-white down; in their hands they carried a rattle, made from the fruit of a tree and a wand of white down, with which they beat time. One man, representing Montezuma, had a crown of brilliantly colored plumes. The other eight men were warriors; the two girls were "Malinches." The first act consisted of a series of dances, including a very pretty maypole dance. The play lasted about three hours, and represented the life of the indians before the Conquest—Montezuma in his court, with the amusements celebrated for his entertainment. Hearing of the arrival of the Spaniards, he is filled with sad forebodings, which the amusements fail to dispel. In the second act, Hernando Cortez appears, with soldiers. While the costumes of the indians were gay, and more or less attractive, those of these European warriors were ludicrously mongrel and unbecoming. The new-comers demanded that Montezuma acknowledge the authority of the King of Spain and the cross of Christ. Conversations, demands, replies, tableaus, sword-dances, etc., ensued. Finally, Montezuma and his warriors yielded, and kissed the crucifix.
While this drama was being enacted under the shade-tree, another amusement, in connection with the fiesta of San Marcos, was in progress in front of the church. The musicians with the long horns made doleful music; a dozen gayly-costumed dancers took part. They wore dark trousers slitted up the sides; bright kerchiefs, with the point hanging down in front, were tied about the waists; crowns of plumes were on the heads; red vests and kerchiefs, crossed at the neck, completed the costume. One player, who seemed to be a leader, carried a tri-colored flag; another represented a man on horseback, by creeping into a frame of sticks, covered with cloth, in the shape of a horse. They danced in the full sunlight for hours; their movements were varied and pretty, quite different, too, from the figures in the danza de la Conquista. Two outside characters played the clown. One of these was a little lad dressed in a garment representing a tiger-skin, while over his face he wore a heavy, old wooden mask, imitating an animal's head. The other was older, dressed in a leather suit, with a wooden mask like a vacant-looking human face. These two were very popular, and indulged in many acts that bordered on the obscene. We got no satisfactory explanation of this whole performance. The cura said that it represented the conflict between Christ and the Jews; this we greatly doubted.
Mixe roads avoid no mountains, and usually go straight up one slope and down the other. The Mixe villages are set upon the very crests, or upon little terraces a few hundred feet below the crest, or the summit of some spur that juts out from the great mountain mass, of a long and narrow ridge. The road from Juquila, by Ocotopec to Quezaltepec was beautiful and typical. The ascent, just before Quezaltepec, was magnificent. We had a letter of introduction from the cura at Juquila to the schoolteacher at Quezaltepec, and therefore rode directly to the school. The four boys who were in attendance were promptly dismissed and the maestro was at our disposition. He was a mestizo, and possessed the art of lying in a fine degree, like so many of his kind. This man set us an excellent supper, having asked us beforehand what we would like. We replied that we would be glad to have fresh meat, if there was any to be had. He replied, "There is always fresh meat here; someone kills every day." It really appeared in the dinner, but, as we ate it, our host remarked—"Gentlemen, it is indeed lucky that you arrived here just now, because to-night we have fresh meat, and like enough a month will pass before anyone in town kills again." Our teacher friend fully appreciated his opportunity, and we paid a large price for our meal, with its fresh meat, our beds on the school benches, and the fodder supplied our horses. The next day being Saturday, the maestro offered to accompany us to Ixcuintepec, where his half-brother, the local teacher, would welcome our coming and arrange for our entertainment.
Passing Camotlan, we entered a magnificent gorge, along one side of which we climbed, passing in front of lovely cascades and having magnificent outlooks. While we were on this trail, we encountered the maestro from Ixcuintepec, who was on his way to Quezaltepec to spend his holiday. A whispered word with his half-brother, our companion, quickly changed his plan, and he accompanied us. Upon this trail we found our first swinging foot-bridges made of lianas, or vines, hanging from trees. These are, of course, only suitable for foot-travellers, but are a great convenience, where streams are likely to be swollen. Two or three long and slender vines, laid side by side and lashed together, form the footway, which is swung from one tree to another; other lianas are stretched across as side rails, smaller vines being twined in between and around them to hold them in place; long vines, pendant from the high branches of the supporting trees, are fastened to the upper rails to steady and anchor these frail bridges, which swing and yield with every weight.
Ixcuintepec is upon one of the most abrupt ridges of this whole district. We went first to the schoolhouse, where our animals were to be guarded in a little open space before it; then we walked over to the curato which was being prepared for us. We had ordered zacate (fodder) for our animals and had divided it suitably between them. We ate our own meal, took a turn around the town, and were about to go to our quarters for the night, when Ernst noticed that the fodder, for which we had paid an outrageous price, had completely disappeared from before the two horses, although the pile before the mule had diminished but little. No doubt the two school teachers could have explained this mysterious disappearance; we could not, however, tax them with theft, but we made so much fuss over the matter that the officials brought a new supply. While I went to our room to write up my notes, Ernst sat in the gathering darkness watching the animals, as they ate, to prevent further robbery. I was busily writing, listening now and then to the fierce gusts of a gale that was blowing without, when the door burst open and Ernst, greatly excited, called me to follow, and we hastened to the place where our animals were tied. There we found that the great tree under which Chontal, the little mule, had been feeding, had been torn by the tempest and half of it had fallen upon the animal, bearing it to the ground. The crash had come without a moment's warning. Fortunately, the mule was unhurt, though it could not move until the branches which had crushed it to the earth had been cut away with axes. When we had released the beast and were retiring to our quarters, we saw a sight never to be forgotten. Looking down from our crest into the valley and across upon the other ridges and mountains beyond, we saw that the camp-fires of charcoal-burners and wayfarers had been fanned by the winds and spread into the forest until a dozen great lines of blazing trees lit up the landscape in every direction.
Our leaving Ixcuintepec in the early morning was not agreeable. The teachers were irritated over the affair of the zacate; the town authorities were dissatisfied with our refusal to pay for two lots of it. There was grumbling, and many dark looks followed us. We were rather glad to get away from the town without a serious outbreak. We were now on the road to the last of the Mixe towns we should visit, Coatlan. The road seemed endless, the ascent interminable; the town itself impressed us as exceptionally mean and squalid, and we stopped only long enough to eat a miserable dinner of eggs with chili and tortillas. The women here wore native dress. Several were clad as the Zapotec women from here to Tehuantepec, but a few were dressed in striking huipilis of native weaving, with embroidered patterns, and had their black hair done up in great rings around their heads, bright strips of cloth or ribbon being intermingled in the braiding. Literally and figuratively shaking the dust of the Mixe towns from our feet, we now descended into the Zapotec country. We were oppressed by a cramped, smothered feeling as we descended from the land of forested mountains and beautiful streams. At evening we reached San Miguel, the first Zapotec settlement, a little group of houses amid coffee plantings.
At the first indian house, we asked if we might have shelter for the night. The owner cordially answered, "Como no? senores," (Why not? sirs). He explained, however, that there was nought to eat. After eating elsewhere, we made our way back to our lodging-place, a typical Zapotec hut, a single room, with dirt-floor, walls of canes or poles, and thatch of grass. The house contained a hammock and two beds of poles, comforts we had not known for days. I threw myself into the hammock; Ernst lay down upon one of the beds; the man and woman, squatting, were husking corn for our horses; a little girl was feeding a fire of pine splints, built upon the floor, which served for light. As they worked and we rested the man asked that question which ever seems of supreme importance to Mexican indians, "Como se llama Ud. senor?" (What is your name, sir?). "Ernst," replied our spokesman, to whom the question was addressed. "Y el otro?" (And the other?), pointing to me. I replied for myself, "Federico." The man seemed not to catch the word and badly repeated it after me. "No, no," said the much quicker woman, "Federico! Federico! si, senor, nosotros tenemos un Federico, tambien," (Yes, sir, and we have a Frederick, also). "Ah, and where is he?" "He will come, sir; we have four boys, Luca and Pedrito, Castolo and Federico; Federico is the baby; the little girl, here, is between him and Castolo; they are working in the coffee-field, but they will soon be here." At nine o'clock the little fellows appeared. They lined up in the order of age, placed their hands behind them, and waited to be addressed. Castolo, then about ten years of age, most pleased me, and I asked him, among other things, whether he could read and write. His father answered for him, that he could not read or write; that the opportunities were not good; but that he believed Castolo could learn, that he had a good mind. At this point the mother spoke to her husband in Zapotec. Some argument ensued, in which at last she triumphed. Turning to me, the man said: "She says you may have Castolo; you may take him to your country and there he can learn to read and write and whatever else you wish." It was not altogether easy to refuse this gift; finally I replied that we had a long journey ahead and that Castolo would weary on the road; that he had better wait until some later time.
It was now time for the family to dispose of itself for the night. I was already in the hammock and Ernst had one of the pole-beds; the man, his wife, and little Federico occupied the other bed; the little girl and the three older boys climbed, by a notched log, up to a loft constructed of poles or canes on which they laid themselves down. After all were located, the woman barred the door and we were soon asleep.
All rose early. Not only did we wish to make an early start, but the boys, too, were to make a journey. Our friends had agreed to make us some coffee and tortillas. We had made our preparations for starting and were waiting for our breakfast, when a shriveled and wrinkled old woman tottered up to beg the strangers to visit her sick son and prescribe some remedio. On our consenting to go with her, she caught up a stick of fat pine, lighted it in the fire, and with this blazing torch to light the way, preceded us to her house. Her son had been a strong and robust young man, but four months of lying upon his pole-bed had sadly reduced him. He was thin and pale, coughed sadly, and suffered with fever, chills, and dreadful headaches. He was taking medicines brought from Tehuantepec, but these seemed to have no effect and we were begged to suggest treatment. We advised continuance of the remedy she had been using, but also prescribed hot water taken in the morning and at night, hot water applications for the headaches, quinine for the chills and fever, and a digestive for the stomach trouble, and furnished these remedies from our own supplies. Having lighted us back to our lodging-place the old lady asked our charge. When we refused to receive payment from the poor creature, we noted an increased activity on the part of our host and hostess; a bit of cheese was promptly found and added to the waiting coffee and tortillas, and when we called for our own reckoning, we received the hearty response—"Nada, senor, nada;" (nothing, sir, nothing) "and when you come this way again, come straight to us, our door is always open to you."
We were now ready and found that the three boys, Luca, Pedrito, and Castolo, were waiting to accompany us as far as our roads were the same. They were to go on foot, five leagues, into the mountains to bring back some mules from a camp; they expected to reach their destination that day, to sleep on the mountain, and to bring in the animals the next day. The little fellows, from thirteen to nine or ten years old, seemed to find nothing extraordinary in their undertaking; each carried his little carrying-net, with food, drinking-gourd, and an extra garment for the chilly night, upon his back; Pedrito buckled to his belt the great machete, which men here regularly carry for clearing the path, cutting firewood, or protection against animals. They were very happy at accompanying us for a distance. We soon rose from the low, malarial, coffee fincas onto a fine mountain, which was the last of its kind that we saw for many days; it was like the mountains of the Mixes, with its abundant vegetation of ferns, begonias, and trees loaded with bromelias and orchids. Our bodyguard kept up with us bravely until we had made one-half of the ascent, where they fell behind and we saw them no more. Reaching the summit, we saw before us a distant line of blue, interrupted here and there by some hill or mountain,—the great Pacific. From here on, the beauty of the road disappeared. We descended and then mounted along dry slopes to Santiago Guevea, then hot and dusty. Our friends of San Miguel really live in Guevea and are at San Miguel only when the coffee needs attention. From Guevea the road was hard and dry and dusty to Santa Maria. The mountain mass over which we passed was a peak, the summit of which was covered with masses of chalcedony of brilliant colors, which broke into innumerable splinters, which were lovely to see but hard upon the feet of horses; the surface of this part also gave out a glare or reflection that was almost intolerable. We descended over granite which presented typical spheroidal weathering. We went onward, up and down many little hills, reaching Santa Maria at noonday. The village sweltered; the air scorched and blistered; there was no sign of life, save a few naked children playing in the shade or rolling upon the hot sand. It was so hot and dusty that we hated to resume our journey and tarried so long that we had to ride after nightfall before we reached the rancho of Los Cocos, where we lay in the corridor and all night long heard the grinding of sugar-cane at the mill close by.
We had just such another hard, hot, and dusty ride the next day, on through Auyuga and Tlacotepec, where we stopped for noon, until Tehuantepec, where we arrived at evening.
Tehuantepec is meanly built; it is hot and dusty, and the almost constant winds drive the dust in clouds through the streets. But its picturesque market is a redeeming feature. Every morning it is crowded and presents a brilliant and lively spectacle. All the trade is in the hands of women, and the Tehuantepec women have the reputation of being the handsomest in the world. They are large, finely-built, and in their movements exhibit an indescribable freedom and grace. Their natural attractions are set off by a characteristic and becoming costume. The huipilili is a little sleeveless waist, loose at the neck and arms, and so short that it rarely reaches to the waist-line, to which, of course, it is supposed to extend; it is of bright cotton—red, brown, purple, with stripes or spots of white—and is stitched at the neck with yellow silk. The enagua, or skirt, is a strip of heavy cotton cloth, less than a yard wide, which is simply wrapped around the figure and hangs from the waist, being held in place by a brightly colored belt or girdle. The enagua is usually a rich red, but it is sometimes a fine violet purple. It reaches but little below the knees. It generally fails to meet the huipilili above, so that a broader or narrower band of fine, dark brown separates the two garments. Nothing is worn on the feet, which are exposed, as are also the finely shaped and beautifully developed arms. But the most striking article in the Tehuantepec woman's costume is her huipil, which travellers usually describe as a head-dress, although it is nothing of the kind. It is in reality a waist-garment with sleeves. It is made of lace or cotton, or linen, and is bordered at the neck, the sleeves, and the lower margin with broad ruffs of pleated lace. Only at church or on some important or ceremonial occasion is the huipil worn as it was meant to be. Usually at church the wearer draws the garment over her upper body, but does not put her arms into the sleeves, nor her head through the neck-opening, simply fitting her face into this in such a way that it appears to be framed in a broad, oval, well-starched border of pleated lace. Usually, however, the garment is not even worn in this manner, but is turned upside down and carelessly hung upon the head so that the broad lower fringe of lace falls back upon the hair, while the upper part of the garment, with the sleeves, the collar, and cuff-ruffs, hangs down upon the back. The whole effect is that of a fine crest rising from the head, coursing down the back, and moving with the breeze as the woman walks. These Zapotec women are fond of decoration, but particularly prize gold coins. In the past, when Tehuantepec was more important than now, it was no uncommon thing to see a woman in this market with several hundred dollars in gold coins hanging to her neck chain. In these later days of little trade and harder times, these once prized decorations have been spent, and it is rare to see any woman wearing more than twenty to fifty dollars as display.
Resuming our journey, we struck out upon the highway which parallels the coast. Almost immediately, the road changed from a fair country cart-road to a road remarkable at once for its straightness, breadth and levelness. It was, however, dreadfully hot and dusty, and was bordered on both sides with a tiresome and monotonous growth of low, thorn-bearing trees, with occasional clumps of palms. We ate dinner at Juchitan, in a little eating-house conducted by a Japanese! A little beyond that important indian centre, we saw a puma pace forth from the thicket; with indescribably graceful and slow tread it crossed the dusty road and disappeared in the thicket. In the morning we had startled flocks of parrots, which rose with harsh cries, hovered while we passed, and then resettled on the same trees where they had been before. In the evening we saw pairs of macaws flying high, and as they flew over our heads they looked like black crosses sharp against the evening sky. At evening we reached Guvino, a dreadful town, in the population of which there seems to be a negro strain. We stopped with the presidente, in whose veins flowed Spanish, indian, and negro blood. In his one-roomed house besides ourselves there slept the owner, his wife, two daughters, one with a six-weeks baby, a son, and two young men—friends of the family.
Turning north the next day, onto the Niltepec road, we wandered from our trail, losing five leagues of space and more than three hours of time. The country through which we passed was terribly dry; there were no running streams. We crossed the bed of one dried river after another—streaks of sand and pebbles. The people in the villages near these dried river-beds dug holes a foot or two deep into this sand and gravel and thus got water. At the place where we camped for the night, Suspiro Ranch, a new house was being palm-thatched. All the men and boys of the neighborhood were helping; the labor was carefully divided; some were bringing in great bundles of the palm leaves; others pitched these up to the thatchers, who were skilfully fitting them under and over the poles of the roof framework and then beating them firmly home. Many of the helpers had come considerable distances and spent the night, so that we shared our room with quite a dozen men and boys, while the women and children slept in another house.
Passing through Zanatepec, we stopped for Sunday at Tanatepec. Here we found ourselves again upon the low coast road. It was, however, our last point of low altitude, as from there we struck inland over a higher, cooler, and more interesting mountain road. At Zanatepec we first saw the marimba played. This musical instrument, unquestionably African in name and origin, is hardly found north of Chiapas, but is extremely common through Central America. It consists of a wooden frame supporting keys made of wood and metal, each of which gives forth its own note when struck with small hammers. Below the keys of lowest tone are hung tubes, pipes, or gourds, as sounding boxes to increase the sound produced by striking the key. Usually four players perform at one time, each using two or more little hammers. The music is rapid and brilliant, somewhat resembling that of the piano. The instrument usually has some fanciful name, which is painted upon it. The one at Tanatepec was La Azteca (The Aztec Lady), while our next one was La reina de las flores (The queen of the flowers). At Zanatepec, La Azteca was an advertising part of a traveling circus. The troupe consisted of three men and three women, the latter of whom seemed to be mulattos. The men were ridiculously garbed and painted to represent wild indians. The real, live indians, who followed these clowns in delighted crowds, enjoyed thrills of terror at their whoops, fierce glances, and wild antics, and assured us that these actors were, if not the real thing, at least wonderfully accurate impersonations of the natives of the Estados unidos (United States)—the land of the "Apaches."