Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

Tramping Through Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras by Harry A. Franck

Part 2 out of 4

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.4 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

weeks until they pocketed whatever was left to them after paying the
king's fifth and the tithes of the church.

My rucksack on the back of a peon--and it is astonishing how much more
easily one's possessions carry in that fashion; as if it were indeed
that automatic baggage on legs I have long contemplated inventing--I set
off to the neighboring mine of "Peregrina." As the peon was accustomed
to carry anything short of a grand piano, he did not complain at this
half-day excursion under some twenty pounds. Being drawn out, he grew
quite cheery on this new fashion of carrying--"when the load is not
much." In the cool morning air, with a wind full of ozone sweeping
across the high country, the trail lay across tumbled stretches of rocky
ground, range behind range of mountains beyond and a ruined stone hut or
corral here and there carrying the memory back to Palestine. For a half
hour we had Guanajuato in full sight in its narrow gully far below. Many
donkeys pattered by under their loads of encinal fagots, the ragged,
expressionless drivers plodding silently at their heels.

Ahead grew the roar of "Peregrina's" stamp-mill, and I was soon winding
through the gorge-hung village. According to the manager, I had chosen
well the time of my coming, for there was "something doing." We strolled
about town until he had picked up the jefe político, a handsome Mexican,
built as massive as an Aztec stone idol, under a veritable haystack of
hat, who ostensibly at least was a sworn friend of the mining
company. With him we returned to the deafening stamp-mill and brought up
in the "zinc room," where the metal is cast into bricks. Here the
stealing of ore by workmen is particularly prevalent, and even the
searching by the trusty at the gate not entirely effective, for even the
skimming off of the scum leaves the floor scattered with chips of silver
with a high percentage of gold which even the American in charge cannot
always keep the men from concealing. Hence there occurs periodically the
scene we were about to witness.

When the native workmen of the "zinc room" enter for the day, they are
obliged to strip in one chamber and pass on to the next to put on their
working clothes, reversing the process when they leave. To-day all five
of them were herded together in one dressing-room, of which, the three
of us being admitted, the door was locked. The jefe político, as the
government authority of the region, set about searching them, and as his
position depended on the good-will of the powerful mining company, it
was no perfunctory "frisking." The ragged fellows were called up one by
one and ordered to strip of blouses, shirts, and trousers, and even
_huarachas_, their flat leather sandals, the jefe examining
carefully even the seams of their garments. Indeed, he even searched the
hairs of their bodies for filings of "high-grade."

The men obeyed with dog-like alacrity, though three of them showed some
inner emotion, whether of guilt, fear, or shame, it was hard to
guess. Two had been carefully gone over without the discovery of
anything incriminating, when the jefe suddenly snatched up the hat of
the first and found in it a knotted handkerchief containing a scrap of
pure metal some two inches long. From then on his luck increased. The
fourth man had been fidgeting about, half disrobing before the order
came, when all at once the local authority turned and picked up a piece
of ore as large as a silver dollar, wrapped in paper, which the fellow
had surreptitiously tossed away among a bunch of mats against the
wall. The jefe cuffed him soundly and ordered him to take off his
shoes--he was the only one of the five sporting that luxury--and
discovered in the toe of one of them a still larger booty. The last of
the group was a cheery little fellow barely four feet high, likable in
spite of his ingrained lifetime lack of soap. He showed no funk, and
when ordered to undress turned to the "gringo" manager with: "Me too,
jefe?" Then he quickly stripped, proving himself not only honest but
the biggest little giant imaginable. He had a chest like a wine-barrel
and legs that resembled steel poles, weighed fifty-two kilos, yet
according to the manager, of whom he was one of the trusties, frequently
carried four-hundred-pound burdens up the long hill below the mine. The
jefe found something tied up in his old red cloth belt, but little
Barrel-chest never lost his smile, and the suspicious lump proved to be
a much-folded old chromo print of some saint.

"What's he got that for?" asked the manager.

"To save him from the devil," sneered the jefe, wadding it up and
tossing it back at him.

When he was dressed again the little giant was sent to town for
policemen, a sign of confidence which seemed greatly to please him. For
a half hour we smoked and joked and discussed, like so many cattle in
the shambles, the three prisoners, two found guilty and the third
suspected, who stood silent and motionless against the wall. Three
policemen in shoddy uniforms, armed with clubs and enormous revolvers
sticking out through their short coat-tails, at length appeared, of the
same class and seeming little less frightened than the prisoners. They
were ordered to tie ropes about the waists of the criminals and stood
clutching these and the tails of the red sarapes, when the jefe
interrupted some anecdote to shout the Spanish version of:

"What in ---- are you waiting for?"

They dodged as if he had thrown a brick, and hurried their prisoners
away to the cold, flea-ridden, stone calaboose of the town, where in all
probability they lay several months before their case was even called
up; while the manager and I ascended to his veranda and flower-grown
residence and sat down to a several course dinner served by a squad of
solemn servants. As in many another land, it pays to be a white man in

Stealing is rarely a virtue. But it was not hard to put oneself in the
place of these wretches and catch their point of view that made such
thievery justifiable. As they saw it, these foreigners had made them go
down into their own earth and dig out its treasures, paid them little
for their labors, and searched them whenever they left that they should
not keep even a little bit of it for themselves. Now they had made
their own people shut them up because they had picked up a few dollars'
worth of scraps left over from the great burro-loads of which, to their
notion, the hated "gringoes" were robbing them. Like the workingmen of
England, they were only "getting some of their own back." They were no
doubt more "aficionados al pulque" and gambling than to their families,
but so to some extent were the "gringoes" also, and they were by no
means the only human beings who would succumb to the same temptation
under the same circumstances.

The ancient "Peregrina" mine was different from "Pingüico." Here we
entered by a level opening and walked down most of the two thousand
feet, much of it by narrow, slimy, slippery, stone steps, in some places
entirely worn away by the bare feet of the many generations of peons
that as slaves to the Spaniards of colonial days used to carry the ore
up on their backs from the very bottom of the mine. "Peregrina"
mountain was almost another Mammoth Cave, so enormous are the caverns
that have been "stoped out" of it in the past four centuries. In many a
place we could see even with several candles only the ground underfoot
and perhaps a bit of the nearest sidewall; the rest was a dank,
noiseless, blank space, seeming square miles in extent. For three hours
we wandered up and down and in and out of huge unseen caves, now and
then crawling up or down three or four hundred foot "stopes" on hands
and knees, by ladders, stone steps, or toe-holes in the rock. Through it
all it was raining much of the time in torrents--in the mine, that is,
for outside the sun was shining brightly--with mud underfoot and streams
of water running along much of the way; and, unlike the sweltering
interior of "Pingüico," there was a dank dungeon chill that reached the
marrow of the bones. Even in the shafts which we descended in buckets,
cold water poured down upon us, and, far from being naked, the miners
wore all the clothing they possessed. Here the terror of the peons was
an old American mine-boss rated "loco" among them, who went constantly
armed with an immense and ancient revolver, always loaded and reputed of
"hair trigger," which he drew and whistled in the barrel whenever he
wished to call a workman. A blaze crackling in the fireplace was
pleasant during the evening in the manager's house, for "Peregrina" lies
even higher above the sea than "Pingüico"; but even here by night or day
the peons, and especially the women, went barefoot and in thinnest garb.

A native horse, none of which seem noted for their speed, carried me out
to the famous old mining town of La Luz, where the Spaniards first began
digging in this region. The animal made little headway forward, but
fully replaced this by the distance covered up and down. To it a trot
was evidently an endeavor to see how many times and how high it could
jump into the air from the same spot. The ancient Aztecs, seeing us
advancing upon them, would never have made the mistake of fancying man
and horse parts of the same animal. Moreover, the pesky beast had an
incurable predilection for treading, like a small boy "showing off," the
extreme edge of pathways at times not six inches from a sheer fall of
from five hundred to a thousand feet down rock-faced precipices.

Still it was a pleasant three-hour ride in the brilliant sunshine,
winding round and over the hills along pitching and tossing
trails. Peons obsequiously lifted their hats when I passed, which they
do not to a man afoot; a solemn stillness of rough-and-tumble mountains
and valleys, with deep-shadowed little gorges scolloped out of the
otherwise sun-flooded landscape, broad hedges of cactus and pitching
paths, down which the animal picked its way with ease and assurance,
alternated with mighty climbs over a dozen rises, each of which I
fancied the last.

La Luz is a typical town of mountainous Mexico. A long, broken adobe
village lies scattered along a precipitous valley, scores of "roads" and
trails hedged with cactus wind and swoop and climb again away over steep
hills and through deep _barrancos_, troops of peons and donkeys
enlivening them; flowers give a joyful touch, and patches of green and
the climate help to make the place reminiscent of the more thickly
settled portions of Palestine. From the town we could see plainly the
city of Leon, fourth in Mexico, and a view of the plain, less striking
than that from "Pingüico," because of the range rising to cut it off in
the middle distance. The mountains of all this region are dotted with
round, white, cement monuments, the boundary marks of different mining
properties. By Mexican law each must be visible from the adjoining two,
and in this pitched and tumbled country this requires many.

Beyond the village we found, about the old Spanish workings, ancient,
roofless, stone buildings with loop-holed turrets for bandits and niches
for saints. These structures, as well as the waste dumped by the
Spaniards, were being "repicked for values," and broken up and sent
through the stamp-mill, the never-ending rumble of which sounded
incessantly, like some distant water-fall; for with modern methods it
pays to crush rock with even a few dollars a ton value in it, and the
Americans of to-day mine much that the Spaniards with their crude
methods cast aside or did not attempt to work. At a mine in the vicinity
the ancient stone mansion serving as residence of the superintendent was
torn down and sent through the stamping-mill, and a new one of less
valuable rock erected. We descended 1600 feet into the mine of La Luz
down a perfectly round, stone-lined shaft in a small iron bucket held by
a one-inch wire cable and entirely in charge of peons--who fortunately
either had nothing against us or did not dare to vent it.



With the coming of November I left Guanajuato behind. The branch line
down to Silao was soon among broad plains of corn, without rocks even
along the flat, ragged, country roads, bringing to mind that it was long
since I had walked on level and unobstructed ground. The crowding of the
second-class car forced me to share a bench with a chorus girl of the
company that had been castilianizing venerable Broadway favorites in
Guanajuato's chief theater. She was about forty, looked it with compound
interest, was graced with the form of a Panteón mummy, and a face--but
some things are too horrible even to be mentioned in print. Most of the
way she wept copiously, apparently at some secret a pocket mirror
insisted on repeating to her as often as she drew it out, and regained
her spirits only momentarily during the smoking of each of several
cigarettes. Finally she took to saying her beads in a sepulchral,
moaning voice, her eyes closed, and wagging her head from side to side
in the rhythm of her professional calling, until we pulled into the
one-story, adobe, checkerboard town. All the troupe except the two
"stars" rode second-class, dressed much like peons, and carried their
possessions in misshapen bundles under their arms. If the one
performance I had seen was typical, this was far better treatment than
they deserved.

The express from El Paso and the North set me down in the early night at
Irapuato, out of the darkness of which bobbed up a dozen old women, men,
and boys with wailing cries of "Fresas!" For this is the town of
perennial strawberries. The basket of that fruit heaped high and fully a
foot in diameter which sat before me next morning as we rambled away
westward toward Guadalajara cost _cuatro reales_--a quarter, and if
the berries grew symmetrically smaller toward the bottom, an all-day
appetite by no means brought to light the tiniest. The way lay across a
level land bathed in sunshine, of extreme fertility, and watered by
harnessed streams flowing down from the distant hills. All the day one
had a sense of the richness of nature, not the prodigality of the
tropics to make man indolent, but just sufficient to give full reward
for reasonable exertion. The rich, black, fenceless plains were
burnished here and there with little shallow lakes of the rainy season,
and musical with wild birds of many species. Primitive well-sweeps
punctuated the landscape, and now and then the church towers of some
adobe village peered through the mesquite trees. In the afternoon
grazing grew more frequent and herds of cattle and flocks of goats
populated all the scene. Within the car and without, the hats of the
peons, with all their sameness, were never exactly alike. Each bore some
individuality, be it in shape, shade, material, or manner of wearing, as
distinct as among the fair sex in other lands; and that without
resorting to decorating them with flowers, vegetables, or dead
birds. Some wore around them ribbons with huge letters proposing, "Viva
----" this or that latest aspirant to the favor of the primitive-minded
"pela'o," but these were always arranged in a manner to add to rather
than detract from the artistic ensemble. Many a young woman of the same
class was quite attractive in appearance, though thick bulky noses
robbed all of the right to be called beautiful. They did not lose their
charms, such as they were, prematurely, as do so many races of the
South, and the simplicity of dress and hair arrangement added much to
the pleasing general effect.

As night descended we began to pant upward through low hills, wooded,
but free from the rocks and boulders of a mining region, and in the
first darkness drew up at Guadalajara, second city of Mexico. It is a
place that adorns the earth. Jalisco State, of which this is the
capital, has been called the Andalusia of Mexico, and the city is indeed
a Seville of the West, though lacking in her spontaneity of life, for
this cruder people is much more tempered with a constant fear of
betraying their crudeness and in consequence much weighed down by
"propriety." But its bright, central plaza has no equal to the
north. Here as the band plays amid the orange trees heavy with ripening
fruit, the more haughty of the population promenade the inner square,
outside which stroll the peons and "lower classes"; though only custom
seems responsible for the division. One misses in Mexico the genuine
democracy of Spain. The idea of a conquered race still holds, and
whoever has a strain of white in his veins--or even in the hue of his
collar--considers it fitting to treat the Indian mass with a cold,
indifferent tone of superiority. Yet in the outer circle the
unprejudiced observer found more pleasing than within. One was reminded
of Mark Twain's suggestion that complexions of some color wear best in
tropical lands. In this, above all, the women of the rebozo were vastly
superior to those who stepped from their carriages at about the
beginning of the third number and took to parading, the two sexes in
pairs marching in opposite directions at a snail's pace. The "women of
the people" had more sense of the fitness of things than to ape the
wealthy in dress, like the corresponding class in our own land, and
their simplicity of attire stood out in attractive contrast to the pasty
features and unexercised figures in "Parisian" garb of the inner circle.

Guadalajara has the requisites of a real city. Its streets are well
paved with macadam, and it even possesses garbage wagons. Indeed, in
some respects it has carried "progress" too far, as in the case of the
winking electric sign of Broadway proportions advertising a
_camisería_--a local "shirtery," before which fascinated peons from
the distant villages stand gazing as at one of the seven wonders of the
universe. Beggars are few and there is none of the oppressive poverty of
other Mexican cities. This, it is agreed, is due not merely to the
extreme fertility of Jalisco, but to the kindness of nature in refusing
to produce the maguey in the vicinity, so that drunkenness is at its
lowest Mexican ebb and the sour stink of pulque shops nowhere assails
the nostrils. For this curse of the peon will not endure long
transportation. An abundance of cheap labor makes possible many little
conveniences unknown in more industrial lands, and the city has a
peaceful, soothing air and temperature, due perhaps to its ideal
altitude of six thousand feet, that makes life drift along like a
pleasant dream.

But its nights are hideous. The Mexican seems to relish constant uproar,
and if Guadalajara is ever to be the open-air health resort for frayed
nerves and weakened lungs it aspires to, there must come a diligent
suppression of unnecessary noises. As the evening gathering evaporates,
leaving the plaza sprinkled with a few dreamy mortals and scattered
policemen eating the lunch their wives bring and share with them,
pandemonium seems to be released from its confinement. First these same
preservers of law and order take to blowing their hair-raising whistles
at least every ten minutes from one to another back and forth through
every street, as if mutually to keep up their courage. Scores of the
gilded youth on the way home from "playing the bear" before their
favorite _rejas_ join together in bands to howl into the small
hours their glee at the kindness of life, the entire stock of
street-cars seems to be sent out nightly on some extended excursion with
orders never to let their gongs fall silent, and long before dawn even
the few who have succeeded in falling into a doze are snatched awake by
an atrocious din of church-bells sufficient in number to supply heaven,
nirvana, the realm of houris, and the Irish section of purgatory, with
enough left over to furnish boiling pots for the more crowded section of
the Hereafter. Then with a dim suggestion of dawn every living dog and
fighting-cock, of which each inhabitant appears to possess at least a
score, joins the forty thousand vendors of forty thousand different
species of uselessness howling in at least as many different voices and
tones, each a bit louder than all the others, until even an unoccupied
wanderer concludes that sleep is an idle waste of an all too short

I brought up a day of random wandering in state's prison. The
_Penitenciaría_ of Guadalajara is a huge, wheel-shaped building in
the most modern style of that class of architecture. The bullet-headed
youth in soldier's uniform and the complexion of a long-undusted carpet,
leaning on his musket at the entrance, made no move to halt me, and I
stepped forth on a patio forested with orange trees, to find that most
of the public had preceded me, including some hundred fruit, tortilla,
cigarette, and candy vendors. Here was no sign of prisoners. I
approached another stern boy armed like a first-class cruiser in war
time and he motioned upward with his gun barrel. The dwelling of the
_comandante_ faced the patio on the second-story corridor. His son,
aged five, met me with the information:

"Papá 'stá dormido."

But he was misinformed, for when his mother introduced me into the
parlor, father, in shirt-sleeves, was already rubbing the sleep out of
his eyes and preparing to light the first after-siesta cigarette. When
my impressiveness had penetrated his reawakening intellect, he prepared
me a document which, reduced to succinct English, amounted to the
statement that the prison and all it contained was mine for the asking.

A whiff of this sesame opened like magic the three immense iron doors
through anterooms in charge of trusties, in prison garb of the material
of blue overalls and caps shaped like a low fez. Inside, a "preso de
confianza" serving as turnkey led the way along a great stone corridor
to a little central patio with flowers and a central fountain babbling
merrily. From this radiated fifteen other long-vaulted passages,
seeming each fully a half mile in length; for with Latin love of the
theatrical the farther ends had been painted to resemble an endless
array of cells, even the numbers being continued above the false doors
to minute infinity. Besides these imaginary ones there were some forty
real places of confinement on each side of each corridor,
three-cornered, stone rooms with a comfortable cot and noticeable
cleanliness. The hundred or more convicts, wandering about or sitting in
the sun of the patio, were only locked in them by night. Whenever we
entered a corridor or a room, two strokes were sounded on a bell and all
arose and stood at attention until we had passed. Yet the discipline was
not oppressive, petty matters being disregarded. The corridor of those
condemned to be shot was closed with an iron-barred gate, but the
inmates obeyed with alacrity when my guide ordered them to step forth to
be photographed.

One of the passageways led to the _talleres_ or workshops, also
long and vaulted and well-lighted by windows high up in the curve of the
arched roof.

These showed the stone walls to be at least four feet thick, yet the
floor was of earth. On it along the walls sat men weaving straw ribbons
to be sewn into hats on the American sewing-machines beyond. In side
rooms were blacksmith, carpenter, and tinsmith shops in which all work
was done by hand, the absence of machinery suggesting to the trusty in
charge that Mexico is "muy pobre" as compared with other lands. Convicts
were obliged to work seven hours a day. Scattered through the building
were several small patios with patches of sun, in which many prisoners
were engaged in making ingenious little knickknacks which they were
permitted to sell for their own benefit. The speciality of one old
fellow under life sentence was a coin purse with the slightly
incongruous device, "Viva la Independencia!"

There was a complete absence of vicious faces, at least faces more so
than those of the great mass of peons outside. I recalled the assertions
of cynical American residents that all Mexicans are criminals and that
those in jail were only the ones who have had the misfortune to get
caught. Certainly there was nothing in their outward appearance to
distinguish the inmates from any gathering of the same class beyond
prison walls. Off one corridor opened the bath patio, large, and gay
with sunshine and flowers, with a large swimming pool and several
smaller baths. The prisoners are required to bathe at least every
Sunday. Within the penitentiary was a garden of several acres, on the
walls above which guards patroled with loaded muskets and in which
prisoners raised every species of fruit and vegetable known in the
region. The institution indeed was fully self-supporting. The kitchen
was lined with huge vats into which bushels of beans, corn, and the like
were shoveled, and like the prison tailor, shoe, and barber shops, was
kept in excellent order. Several short-time prisoners, among them many
boys, volunteered to stand in appropriate attitudes before the heavy
wall at the end of a three-cornered court where condemned men are shot
at three paces in the dawn of many an early summer day. In one corridor
the prison band, entirely made up of prisoners, was practising, and when
I had been seated in state on a wooden bench they struck up several
American favorites, ending with our national hymn, all played with the
musical skill common to the Mexican Indian, even among those unable to
read a note. On the whole the prison was as cheery and pleasant as
fitted such an institution, except the women's ward, into which a
vicious-looking girl admitted me sulkily at sight of the comandante's
order. A silent, nondescript woman of forty took me in charge with all
too evident ill-will and marched me around the patio on which opened the
rooms of female inmates, while the fifty or more of them left off their
cooking and washing for the male prisoners and stood at disgruntled
attention in sullen silence. Their quarters were noticeably dirtier than
those of the men. My guide took leave of me at the first of the three
iron doors, having still to postpone his exit a year or more, and these
again, fortunately, swung on their hinges as if by magic to let pass
only one of the thousand of us within.

On the mule-car that dragged and jolted us out to the "Niagara of
Mexico" were three resident Germans who strove to be "simpático" to the
natives by a clumsy species of "horse play." Their asininity is worth
mention only because among those laughing at their antics was a peon who
had been gashed across the hand, half-severing his wrist, yet who sat on
the back platform without even a rag around the wound, though with a
rope tourniquet above. Two gray and decrepit policemen rode with him and
half way out stopped at a stone hut to arrest the perpetrator of the
deed and bring him along, wrapped in the customary red sarape and

The waterfall over a broad face of rock was pleasing but not
extraordinary, and swinging on my rucksack I struck off afoot. The
lightly rolling land was very fertile, with much corn, great droves of
cattle, and many shallow lakes, its climate a pleasant cross between
late spring and early fall. From El Castillo the path lay along the
shimmering railroad, on which I outdid the train to Atequisa station.

The orange vendors lolling here under the shade of their hats gave the
distance to Chapala as fifteen miles, and advised me to hire a horse or
take passage in the stage. This primitive bone-shaker, dark-red in
color, the body sitting on huge leather springs, was drawn by four teams
of mules in tandem, and before revolution spread over the land was
customarily packed to the roof and high above it with excursionists to
Mexico's chief inland watering-place. Now it dashed back and forth
almost empty.

I preferred my own legs. A soft road led between orange-groves--at the
station were offered for sale seedless oranges compared to which those
of California are pigmies--to the drowsing town of Atequisa. Through one
of its crumbling stone gates the way spread at large over its sandy,
sun-bathed plaza, then contracted again to a winding wide trail, rising
leisurely into the foothills beyond. A farmer of sixty, homeward bound
to his village of Santa Cruz on a loose-eared ass, fell in with me. He
lacked entirely that incommunicative manner and half-resentful air I had
so often encountered in the Mexican, and his country dialect whiled away
the time as we followed the unfenced "road" around and slowly upward
into hills less rugged than those about Guanajuato and thinly covered
with coarse grass and small brush. Twenty-one years ago he had worked
here as _mozo_ for "gringoes," my compatriots. They had offered
him a whole peso a day if he would not get married. But "he and she both
wanted," so "qué quiera usté'"? They had started farming on a little
piece of rocky ridge. He would point it out to me when we came
nearer. By and by he had bought another piece of land for fifty pesos
and then _poco á poco_ for forty pesos some more. Then for
twenty-four pesos and fifty centavos he had bought a cow, and the
_vaca_ before long gave them a fine calf and twelve
_cuartillos_ of milk a day. So that he was able to buy another
heifer and then an ox and finally another ox and--

Whack! It took many a thump and prod and "Bur-r-r-r-r-r-o!" to make the
pretty little mouse-colored donkey he was riding keep up with me--and
what did I think he paid for him? Eighteen pesos! Sí, señor, ní más ní
menos. A bargain, eh? And for the other one at home, which is larger,
only twenty-two pesos, and for the one _they_ stole from him,
fifteen pesos and a bag of corn. And once _they_ stole all three of
the _burritos_ and he ran half way to Colima and had them arrested
and got the _animalitos_ back. So that now he had two oxen--pray
God they were still safe--and two burros and three pieces of land and a
good wife--only yesterday she fell down and broke her arm and he had had
to cut sticks to tie it up and she would have to work without using it
for a long time--

Whack! "Anda bur-r-r-r-r-ro!" and once he owned it he never could get
himself to sell an animalito. They were sometimes useful to plow and
plant anyway, and this life of _sembrar_ and _cosechar_ was
just the one for him. The cities, bah!--though he had been twice to
Guadalajara and only too glad to get away again--and wasn't I tired
enough to try the burrito a while, I should find her pace smooth as
sitting on the ground. No? Well, at least if I got tired I could come
and spend the night in his _casita_, a very poor little house, to
be sure, which he had built himself long ago, soon after they were
married, but there I would be in my own house, and his wife--or perhaps
now he himself--would _ordeñar la vaca_ and there would be fresh
milk and--

So on for some seven or eight miles. Here and there the road passed
through an open gate as into a farmyard, though there were no adjoining
fences to mark these boundaries of some new hacienda or estate. From the
highest point there was a pretty retrospect back on Atequisa and the
railroad and the broad valley almost to far-off Guadalajara, and ahead,
also still far away, Lake Chapala shimmering in the early
sunset. Between lay broad, rolling land, rich with flowers and
shrubbery, and with much cultivation also, one vast field of ripening
Indian corn surely four miles long and half as wide stretching like a
sea to its surrounding hills, about its edge the leaf and branch shacks
of its guardians. Maize, too, covered all the slope down to the
mountain-girdled lake, and far, far away on a point of land, like Tyre
out in the Mediterranean, the twin towers of the church of Chapala stood
out against the dimming lake and the blue-gray range beyond.

Two leagues off it the peasant pointed out the ridge that hid his casita
and his animalitos and his good wife--with her broken arm now--and
regretting that I would not accept his poor hospitality, for I must be
tired, he rode away down a little barranca walled by tall bushes with
brilliant masses of purple, red, and pink flowers and so on up to the
little patch of corn which--yes, surely, I could see a corner of it from
here, and from it, if only I would come, I should see the broad blue
view of Chapala lake, and--My road descended and went down into the
night, plentifully scattered with loose stones. Before it had grown
really dark I found myself casting a shadow ahead, and turned to find an
enormous red moon gazing dreamily at me from the summit of the road
behind. Then came the suburbs and enormous ox-carts loaded with
everything, and donkeys without number passing silent-footed in the
sand, and peons, lacking entirely the half-insolence and pulque-sodden
faces of Guanajuato region, greeted me unfailingly with "Adiós" or
"Buenas noches."

But once in the cobble-paved village I must pay high in the "Hotel
Victor"--the larger ones being closed since anarchy had confined the
wealthy to their cities--for a billowy bed and a chicken centuries old
served by waiters in evening dress and trained-monkey manners. The free
and easy old _casa de asistencia_ of Guadalajara was far more to my
liking. But at least the landlord loaned me a pair of trunks for a
moonlight swim in Lake Chapala, whispering some secret to its sandy
beaches in the silence of the silver-flooded night.

It is the largest lake in Mexico, second indeed only to Titicaca among
the lofty sheets of water of the Western world. More than five thousand
feet above the sea, it is shallow and stormy as Lake Erie. Waves were
dashing high at the foot of the town in the morning. Its fishermen are
ever fearful of its fury and go to pray for a safe return from every
trip before their patron St. Peter in the twin-spired village church up
toward which the lake was surging this morning as if in anger that this
place of refuge should be granted its legitimate victims.

Its rage made the journey by water I had planned to Ribera Castellanos
inadvisable, even had an owner of one of the little open boats of the
fishermen been willing to trust himself on its treacherous bosom, and by
blazing eleven I was plodding back over the road of yesterday. The
orange vendors of Atequisa gathered around me at the station, marveling
at the strength of my legs. In the train I shared a bench with a
dignified old Mexican of the country regions, who at length lost his
reserve sufficiently to tell me of the "muy amigo gringo" whose picture
he still had on the wall of his house since the day twenty-seven years
ago when my compatriot had stopped with him on a tour of his native
State, carrying a small pack of merchandise which gave him the entrée
into all houses, but which he purposely held at so high a price that
none would buy.

From Ocotlán station a broad level highway, from which a glimpse is had
of the sharp, double peak of Colima volcano, runs out to Ribera
Castellanos. Sam Rogers was building a tourist hotel there. Its broad
lawn sloped down to the edge of Lake Chapala, lapping at the shores like
some smaller ocean; from its verandas spread a view of sixty miles
across the Mexican Titicaca, with all vacation sports, a perennial
summer without undue heat, and such sunsets as none can describe. The
hacienda San Andrés, also American owned, embraced thousands of acres of
rich bottom land on which already many varieties of fruit were producing
marvelously, as well as several mountain peaks and a long stretch of
lake front. The estate headquarters was like some modern railway
office, with its staff of employees. In the nearby stables horses were
saddled for us and we set off for a day's trip all within the confines
of the farm, under guidance of the bulky Mexican head overseer in all
his wealth of national garb and armament.

For miles away in several directions immense fields were being plowed by
dozens of ox-teams, the white garments of the drivers standing out
sharply against the brown landscape. Two hours' riding around the lagoon
furnishing water for irrigation brought us to a village of some size,
belonging to the estate. The wife of one of the bee-tenders emerged
from her hut with bowls of clear rich honey and tortillas, and the
manner of a serf of medieval times before her feudal lord. The bees
lived in hollow logs with little thatched roofs. For several miles more
the rich bottom lands continued. Then we began to ascend through bushy
foothills, and cultivation dropped behind us, as did the massive head
overseer, whose weight threatened to break his horse's back. Well up we
came upon the "chaparral," the hacienda herdsman, tawny with sunburn
even to his leather garments. He knew by name every animal under his
charge, though the owners did not even know the number they possessed. A
still steeper climb, during the last of which even the horses had to be
abandoned, brought us to a hilltop overlooking the entire lake, with the
villages on its edge, and range after range of the mountains of Jalisco
and Michoacán. Our animals were more than an hour picking their way
down the stony trails between all but perpendicular cornfields, the
leaves of which had been stripped off to permit the huge ear at the top
the more fully to ripen. A boulder set in motion at the top of a field
would have been sure death to the man or horse it struck at the bottom.

The hotel launch set me across the lake next morning. From the
rock-tumbled fisher-town of La Palma an arriero pointed out to me far
away across the plains of Michoacán a mountain of striking resemblance
to Mt. Tabor in Palestine, as the landmark on the slopes of which to
seek that night's lodging. The treeless land of rich black loam was flat
as a table, yet the trail took many a turn, now to avoid the dyke of a
former governor and Porfirio Diaz, who planned to pump dry this end of
the lake, now for some reason only those with Mexican blood in their
veins could fathom. Peons were fishing in the irrigating ditches with
machetes, laying their huge, sluggish victims all but cut in two on the
grass behind them.

Noon brought Sahuayo, a large village in an agricultural district, in
one of the huts of which ten cents produced soup, pork, frijoles,
tortillas, and coffee, to say nothing of the tablecloth in honor of so
unexpected a guest and a dozen oranges for the thirst beyond. The new
trail struck off across the fields almost at right angles to the one
that had brought me. I was already on the hacienda Guaracha, largest of
the State of Michoacán, including within its holdings a dozen such
villages as this, but the owner to whom I bore a letter lived still
leagues distant. Dwellers on the estate must labor on it when required
or seek residence elsewhere, which means far distant. All with whom I
spoke on the subject, native or foreigners, seemed agreed that the peon
prefers this plan to being thrown on his own responsibility.

The traveler could easily fancy himself in danger in this vast fenceless
and defenseless space. Enormous herds were visible for miles in every
direction, bulls roamed here and there, bellowing moodily, cattle and
horses by hundreds waded and grazed in the shallow swamps across which
the dyked path led. All the brilliant day "Mt. Tabor" stood forth in
all its beauty across the plain in this clear air, and the sun brought
sweat even at more than a mile above the sea.

I was in the very heart of Birdland. These broad, table-flat stretches
of rich plateau, now half inundated, seemed some enormous outdoor
aviary. Every species of winged creature one had hoped ever to see even
in Zoo cages or the cases of museums seemed here to live and fly and
have its songful being. Great sluggish _zopilotes_ of the horrid
vulture family strolled or circled lazily about, seeking the scent of
carrion. Long-legged, snow-white herons stood in the marshes. Great
flocks of small black birds that could not possibly have numbered less
than a hundred thousand each rose and fell and undulated in waves and
curtains against the background of mountains beyond, screening it as by
some great black veil. There were blood-red birds, birds blue as
turquoise, some of almost lilac hue, every grassy pond was overspread
with wild ducks so tame they seemed waiting to be picked up and
caressed, eagles showed off their spiral curves in the sky above like
daring aviators over some admiring field of spectators; everywhere the
stilly hum of semi-tropical life was broken only by the countless and
inimitable bird calls.

As my shadow grew ungainly, the dyked path struck across a long wet
field against the black soil of which the dozens of white-clad peons
with their mattocks gleamed like grains of rice on an ebony surface.
Beyond, it entered foothills, flanked a peak, and joined a wide road
leading directly to an immense cluster of buildings among trees. The sun
was firing the western horizon. From every direction groups of
white-garbed peons were drawing like homing pigeons toward this center
of the visible landscape. I reached it with them and, passing through
several massive gates, mounted through a corral or cobbled stable yard
with many bulky, two-wheeled carts and fully two hundred mules, then up
an inclined, cobbled way through a garden of flowers to the immense
pillared veranda with cement floor of the owner's hacienda residence.

The building was in the form of a hollow square, enclosing a flowery
patio as large as many a town plaza. Don Diego was not at home, nor
indeed were any of his immediate family, who preferred the urban
pleasures of Guadalajara. The Indian door-tender brought me to "Don
Carlos," a fat, cheerful man of forty in a white jacket, close-fitting
trousers, and an immense revolver attached to the left side of his broad
and heavily weighted cartridge-belt. I presented my letter of
introduction from an American friend of the owner and was soon entangled
in the coils of Mexican pseudo-politeness. Don Carlos tore himself
away from his priceless labors as manager of the hacienda and took me up
on the flat roof of the two-story house, from which a fine view was had
for miles in all directions; indeed, nearly a half of the estate could
be seen, with its peon villages, its broad stretches of new-plowed
fields, and the now smokeless chimney of the sugar mill among the trees.

The interest of the manager did not extend beyond the cut-and-dried
formalities common to all Mexicans. In spite of his honeyed words, it
was evident he looked upon me as a necessary evil, purposely come to the
hacienda to seek food and lodging, and to be gotten rid of as soon as
possible, compatible with the sacred Arabian rules of hospitality. I had
not yet learned that a letter of introduction in Latin America, given on
the slightest provocation, is of just the grade of importance such
custom would warrant. Not that Don Carlos was rude. Indeed, he strove
outwardly to be highly _simpático_. But one read the insincerity
underneath by a kind of intuition, and longed for the abrupt but
honestly frank Texan.

The two front corners of the estate residence were taken up by the
hacienda store and church respectively--a handy arrangement by virtue of
which whatever went out the pay window to the peons (and it was not
much) came in again at one or the other of the corner doors. Adjoining
the building and half surrounding it was an entire village, with a
flowery plaza and promenades for its inhabitants. The owners of the
estate were less churlishly selfish than their prototypes in our own
country, in that they permitted the public, which is to say their own
workmen and families, to go freely anywhere in the family residence and
its patio, except into the dwelling-rooms proper.

When darkness came on we sat in the piazza garden overlooking the
mule-yard. The evening church service over, the estate priest came to
join us, putting on his huge black "Texas" hat and lighting a cigarette
on the chapel threshold. He wore an innumerable series of long black
robes, which still did not conceal the fact that the curve from chest to
waist was the opposite of that common to sculptured figures, and his
hand-shake was particularly soft and snaky. He quickly took charge of
the conversation and led it into anecdotes very few of which could be
set down by the writers of modern days, denied the catholic privileges
of old Boccaccio and Rabelais.

Toward eight supper was announced. But instead of the conversational
feast amid a company of educated Mexican men and women I had pictured to
myself during the day's tramp, I was led into a bare stone room with a
long, white-clothed table, on a corner of which sat in solitary state
two plates and a salt cellar. A peon waiter brought an ample, though by
no means epicurean, supper, through all which Don Carlos sat smoking
over his empty plate opposite me, alleging that he never ate after
noonday for dread of taking on still greater weight, and striving to
keep a well-bred false politeness in the voice in which he answered my
few questions. He had spent a year in a college of New Jersey, but had
not even learned to pronounce the name of that State. Having pointed
out to me the room I was to occupy, he excused himself for a
"momentito," and I have never seen him since.

Evidently horrified at the sight of a white man, even if only a
"gringo," traveling on foot, the manager had insisted on lending me a
horse and mozo to the railroad station of Moreno, fifteen miles distant,
but still within the confines of the hacienda. It may be also that he
gave orders to have me out of his sight before he rose. At any rate it
was barely three when a knock at the door aroused me and by four I
stumbled out into the black starlit night to find saddled for me in the
mule-corral what might by a considerable stretch of the word be called a
horse. The mozo was well mounted, however, and the family chauffeur,
carrying in one hand a basket of eggs he had been sent to fetch the
estate owner in Guadalajara, rode a magnificent white animal. Without
even the formal leave-taking cup of coffee, we set off on the road to
the eastward. For road in Mexico always read--at best a winding stretch
of dried mud with narrow paths meandering through the smoother parts of
it, the whole tumbled everywhere with stones and rocks and broken by
frequent unexpected deep cracks and stony gorges. My "horse" was as
striking a caricature of that species of quadruped as could have been
found in an all-night search in the region, which indeed there was
reason to believe had been produced in just that manner. But at least it
had the advantage of being unable to keep up with my companions, leaving
me alone behind in far more pleasant company.

We wound through several long peon villages, mere grass huts on the bare
earth floors of which the inhabitants lay rolled up in their blankets. I
had not been supplied with spurs, essential to all horsemanship in
Mexico, and was compelled at thirty second intervals to prick up the
jade between my legs with the point of a lead pencil, the only weapon at
hand, or be left behind entirely. As the stars dimmed and the horizon
ahead took on a thin gray streak, peons wrapped in their sarapes passed
now and then noiselessly in their soft leather _huarachas_ close
beside me. In huts along the way frowsy, unwashed women might be heard
already crushing in their stone mortars, under stone rolling-pins, maize
for the morning atole and tortillas, while thick smoke began to wander
lazily out from the low doorways. Swiftly it grew lighter until suddenly
an immense red sun leaped full-grown above the ragged horizon ahead,
just as we sighted an isolated station building in the wilderness that
now surrounded us on all sides.

A two-car train rambled through a light-wooded, half-mountainous
country, stopping at every collection of huts to pick up or set down a
peon or two, and drew up at length in Zamora. It was a populous,
flat-roofed, ill-smelling, typical Mexican city of checkerboard pattern,
on the plaza of which faced the "Hotel Morelos," formerly the "Porfirio
Diaz," but with that seditious name now carefully painted over. Being
barely a mile above sea-level, the town has a suggestion of the tropics
and the temperature of midday is distinctly noticeable.

Zamora ranks as the most fanatical spot in Michoacán, which is itself
so throttled by the church that it is known as the "estado torpe," the
torpid State. Its bishop is rated second in all Mexico only to that of
the sacred city of Guadalupe. Here are monasteries, and monks, and
nuns in seclusion, priests roam the streets in robes and vestments,
form processions, and display publicly the "host" and other
paraphernalia of their faith; all of which is forbidden by the laws of
Mexico. When I emerged from the hotel, every person in sight, from
newsboys to lawyers in frock coats, was kneeling wherever he happened
to be, on his veranda, on the sidewalk, or in the middle of the
street, his hat laid on the ground before him, facing a high churchman
in flowing robes and a "stove-pipe" hat strutting across the plaza
toward the cathedral. Traveling priests wear their regalia of office
as far as Yurécuaro on the main line, changing there to civilian garb.

Nor is the power of the church here confined to things spiritual. Vast
portions of the richest sections of the State are church owned, though
ostensibly property of the lawyers that control them. Holding the
reins, the ecclesiastics make it impossible for companies to open up
enterprises except under their tutelage. The population of the State is
some eighty per cent, illiterate, yet even foreigners find it impossible
to set up schools for their own employees. The women _of all
classes_ are almost without exception illiterate. The church refuses
to educate them, and sternly forbids any one else to do so. An American
Catholic long resident reported even the priests ignorant beyond belief,
and asserted that usury and immorality was almost universal among the
churchmen of all grades. The peasants are forced to give a tenth of all
they produce, be it only a patch of corn, to the church, which holds its
stores until prices are high, while the poverty-stricken peon must sell
for what he can get. Those married by the church are forbidden to
contract the civil ceremony, though the former is unlawful and lack of
the latter makes their children legally illegitimate. The local form of
worship includes many of the barbaric superstitions of the Indians
grafted on the stems of Catholicism, and weird pagan dances before the
altar are a part of many a _fiesta_. The town has already churches
sufficient to house easily all the population, yet an immense new
cathedral is building. The purpose of its erection, according to the
bishop, is "for the greater glorification of God."

I spent two days with the American superintendent of "Platanal," the
electric plant run by water power a few miles out of town through fields
of head-high maize. The night before my arrival bandits had raided the
establishment and one of them had been killed. The president of Zamora
had profusely thanked the "gringo" in charge when he presented himself
in town with the body. On pay-day the manager went and came from the
bank with two immense revolvers and a loaded rifle.

The current supplied by the rapids of "Platanal" is carried on
high-tension wires to several cities far distant, including Guanajuato,
a hundred miles away. Let the dynamo here break down and the cage of
"Pingüico" mine hangs suspended in its shaft and Stygian darkness falls
in the labyrinth below. In the rainy season lightning causes much
trouble, and immense flocks of birds migrating south or north, according
to the period of year, keep the repair gangs busy by flying against the
wires and causing short circuits through their dead bodies. Woodpeckers
eat away the wooden cross-pieces on the iron towers with disheartening
rapidity. The company is philanthropically inclined toward its
employees. Even the peons are given two weeks' vacation on full pay,
during which many rent a patch of land on the mountainside to plant with
corn. A savings bank system is maintained, strict sanitation is insisted
upon in the houses furnished by the company, and the methods of the
haciendas of the region, of paying the peon the lowest possible wages
for his labor and produce and selling to him at the highest possible
prices at the estate store, thereby keeping him in constant debt and a
species of slavery, are avoided. The result is a permanent force of
high Mexican grade. All attempts of the company to introduce schools,
however, even on its own property, have been frustrated by the powerful
churchmen. A bright young native in the plant was an expert at figures,
which he had been surreptitiously taught by his "gringo" superior, but
he could not sign his name.



My compatriot strongly opposed my plan of walking to Uruapan--at least
without an armed guard! The mountains were full of bandits, the Tarascan
Indians, living much as they did at the time of the Conquest, did not
even speak Spanish, they were unfriendly to whites, and above all
dangerously superstitious on the subject of photography. There are
persons who would consider it perilous to walk the length of Broadway,
and lose sight even of the added attraction of that reputed drawback.

I was off at dawn. Hundreds of Indians from the interior had slept in
scattered groups all along the road to town, beside the produce they had
come to sell on market day. For it is against the law to be found out of
doors in Zamora after ten! My compatriot had twice fallen foul of the
vigilant police there and been roundly mulcted--once the bolt of the
hired carriage in which he was riding broke, the conveyance turned
turtle, mashed his foot, and covered his face with blood, and he was
imprisoned and fined for "escándalo." On another occasion he spent some
time in jail because his mozo behind him accidentally knocked over the
lantern of a policeman set in the middle of the street.

But let us leave so straight-laced a spot behind. The rocky "road"
could not hold to the same opinion for a hundred consecutive yards, but
kept changing its mind as often as it caught sight of some new corner of
the landscape. The Indians, who crowded the way during the first hour,
were not friendly, but neither did they show any dangerous propensities,
and never failed in greeting if spoken to first. There were many of them
of pure aboriginal blood. The stony road climbed somewhat to gain
Tangantzicuaro, then stumbled across a flatter country growing more
wooded to Chilota, a large town with a tiny plaza and curious,
overhanging eaves, reminiscent of Japan, stretching down its
checker-board streets in all directions.

The trail, which had gone a mile or more out of its way to visit the
place, no sooner left it than it fell abruptly into the bed of what in
other weather would have been a rocky mountain torrent, and set off with
it in a totally new direction, as if, having fallen in with congenial
company, it had entirely forgotten the errand on which it had first set
forth. The land was fertile, with much corn. In time road and river bed
parted company, though only after several attempts, like old gossips,
and the former took to climbing upward through thin forests of pine in
which the wind whispered an imitation of some distant, small
waterfall. For some miles there were no houses. Up and down and in and
out of valleys thin with pine we wandered, with now and then a rough
shelter of rubbish and thatch, halting places of traveling Indians or
the guard-houses of their fields, while the sky ahead was always filled
half-way up by peaks of many shapes wooded in every inch with brightest
evergreens. Michoacán is celebrated for its forests.

The population showed no great difference from the peasants elsewhere. I
ran early into their superstitions against photography, however, their
belief, common to many uncivilized races, being that once their image is
reproduced any fate that befalls it must occur to them in person. When I
stepped into a field toward a man behind his wooden plow, he said in a
very decided tone of voice, "No, señor, no quiero!"

"Why not?" I asked.

"Porque no quiero, señor," and he swung the sort of small adze he
carried to break up the clods of the field rather loosely and with a
determined gleam in his eye. I did not want the picture so badly as all

There was no such objection in the straggling town made of thatch and
rubbish I found along the way early in the afternoon. The hut I entered
for food had an unleveled earth floor, many wide cracks in the roof, and
every inch within was black with soot of the cooking-stove--three large
stones with a steaming earthen pot on them. There was _carne de
carnero_, tortillas and water, all for five cents. The weak-kneed
table was spread with a white cloth, there were several awkward,
_shallow_, home-made chairs, and against the wall a large primitive
sideboard with glistening brown earthen pots and carefully polished
plates and bowls. When I had photographed the interior, la senora asked
if I would take a second picture, and raced away to another hut. She
soon returned with a very small and poor amateur print of two peons in
Sunday dress. One of them was her son, who had been killed by a falling
pine, and the simple creature fancied the magic contrivance I carried
could turn this tiny likeness into a life-size portrait.

Beyond, were more rocks and wooded mountains, with vast seas of Indian
corn stretching to pine-clad cliffs, around the "shores" of which were
dozens of make-shift shacks for the guardians against theft of the
grain. Later I passed an enormous field of maize, which more than a
hundred Indians of both sexes and every age that could stand on its own
legs were harvesting. It was a communal corn-field, of which there are
many in this region. They picked the ears from the dry stalks still
standing and, tossing them into baskets, heaped them up in various parts
of the field and at little temporary shanties a bit above the general
level on the surrounding "coast." As I passed, the gang broke up and
peons in all colors, male, female, and in embryo, went away in all
directions like a scattering flock of birds.

Thus far there had been no suggestion of the reputed dangers of the
road. But trouble is never far off in Mexico, since the failure of its
rapidly changing governments to put down bands of marauders has given
every rascal in the country the notion of being his own master. The sun
was just setting when, among several groups coming and going, I heard
ahead five peons, maudlin with mescal, singing and howling at the top of
their voices. As they drew near, one of them said something to his
companions about "armas." I fancied he was expressing some idle drunken
wonder as to whether I was armed or not, and as he held a hand behind
him as if it might grasp a rock, I kept a weather eye on him as we
approached. Had the weapon I carried in sight been a huge six-shooter,
even without cartridges, it would probably have been more effective than
the toy automatic well loaded. As the group passed, howling drunkenly, a
veritable giant of a fellow suddenly jumped toward me with an oath. I
drew my putative weapon, and at the same moment the hand I had guessed
to be full of rock appeared with an enormous revolver, shining new. With
drunken flourishes the peon invited me to a duel. I kept him
unostentatiously covered but continued serenely on my way. To have
shown fear would have been as dangerous as for a lion-tamer in the cage
with his pets. On the other hand, to have killed or seriously wounded
one of the group would in all likelihood have meant at least a
none-too-well-housed delay of several years in my journey, for the
courts of Mexico seldom admit pleas of provocation from a "gringo." The
group bawled after me and finally, when I was nearly a hundred yards
beyond, the fellow fired four shots in my general direction. But as his
bright new weapon, like so many furnished his class by our enterprising
arms factories, was made to sell rather than to shoot, and his
marksmanship was distinctly tempered with mescal fumes, the four bullets
harmlessly kicked up the dust at some distance on as many sides of me,
with danger chiefly to the several groups of frightened peasants
cowering behind all the rocks and rises of ground in the vicinity.

The dangers of the road in Mexico are chiefly from peons mixed with
fire-water. When he is sober, the native's attitude verges on the
over-cautious. But it is a double danger to the wandering "gringo," for
the reason above mentioned, while the native who kills a foreigner not
infrequently escapes with impunity, and "gun toting" is limited now
among all classes of the men only by the disparity between their wealth
and the price of a weapon.

As I passed on over the rise of ground ahead, huddled groups of men,
women, and children fell in after me as if for protection from their own
people. At dusk I entered Paracho with a good thirty miles behind
me. It was a quaint little town in a lap of valley surrounded by pined
hills and with the overhanging Japanese eaves peculiar to the region.
The inhabitants were entirely peons and Indians, none in "European"
dress. The vision of being carried into the place with a few stray bits
of lead lodged in one's anatomy was not alluring, and the dark dirty
little _cárcel_ on the plaza looked equally uninteresting.

I turned in at the "Mesón de la Providencia." The keeper gave his
attention chiefly to his little liquor and corn shop wide-opening on the
street. There were several large rooms above, however, facing the great
corral where mules and asses were munching and arrieros had spread their
straw and blankets for the night, and in at least one of them was not
merely a wooden-floored cot but two sheets to go with it. I bathed in
the tin washbasin and turned out redressed for a turn through the town.
It swarmed with liquor-shops. Apparently any one with nothing else to do
could set up a little drunkery or street-stand without government
interference. There was no pulque, the maguey being unknown to the
region, but bottled mescal and aguardiente de caña amply made up for
it. It seemed uncanny that one could talk with ease to these unlettered
dwellers in the wilderness in the same tongue learned in a peaceful
class-room of the far North. A towsled woman or child drifted now and
then into the mesón shop to buy a Mexican cent's worth of firewood. The
woman who kept the shanty _fonda_ down the street boasted of having
lived nineteen months in California in her halcyon days, but was obliged
to borrow enough of me in advance to buy the ingredients of the scanty
supper she finally prepared. By eight the corral was snoring with
arrieros and I ascended to my substantial couch.

A wintry cold of the highlands hung over Paracho when dawn crawled in to
find me shivering under a light blanket. As I left the place behind, the
sun began to peer through the crest pines of a curiously formed mountain
to the east, and to rend and tear the heavy fog banks hanging over the
town and valley. Peons tight-wrapped in their blankets from eyes to
knees slipped noiselessly past. There was a penetrating chill in the
air, the fields were covered white with what seemed to be hoar frost,
and the grassy way was wet with dew as after a heavy shower.

Within half an hour the way began to rise and soon entered an immense
pine forest without a sign of habitation. Tramping was delightful
through what seemed a wild, untamed, and unteutonized Harz, with only
the faint road and an occasional stump to show man had passed that way
before. Huge birds circled majestically over the wooded hills and
valleys of which the trail caught frequent brief but wide vistas. The
road would have just suited Hazlitt, for it never left off winding, both
in and out through the whispering forest and in and out of itself by
numberless paths, often spreading over a hundred yards of width, and
rolling and pitching like a ship at sea. As in most of Mexico, wheeled
traffic would here have been impossible.

By eight I could stuff my coat into my knapsack. The day's journey was
short, and twice I lay an hour on a grassy knoll gazing at the birds and
leisurely drifting clouds above and listening to the soft whispering of
the pines. Then an unraveled trail led gradually downward, fell in with
a broad sandy "road" that descended more sharply to a still swifter
cobbled way, and about me grew up a land reminiscent of Ceylon, with
many frail wooden houses on either side among banana groves, fruit for
sale before them, and frequent streams of clear water babbling past.
But it was only half-tropical, and further down the way was lined with
huge trees resembling the elm.

Uruapan was just high enough above the real tropics to be
delightful. The attitude of its people, too, was pleasing. If not
exactly friendly, they lacked that sour incommunicativeness of the
higher plateau. Very few were in modern costume and to judge from the
crowd of boys that gathered round me as I wrote my notes in a plaza
bench, the arrival of a white man in this largely Indian town was an
event not to be slighted. There was a general air of more satisfaction
with life in the languid country place where nature rewards all labor
quickly and well, and where nearly all have gardens and orchards of
their own to make them independent of working for others at a scanty

Its plaza lies a bit higher than the rest of the town, and from it
straight streets of one-story houses, all of different slope, flow
gently down, to be lost a few blocks away in greenery. The roofs of tile
or a long untapered shingle are not flat, as elsewhere, but with a slope
for the tropical rains. Patio life is well developed. Within the blank
walls of the central portion all the rooms open on sun-flooded, inner
gardens and whole orchards within which pass almost all the family
activities, even to veranda dining-rooms in the edge of the shade. Dense
groves of banana and coffee trees surround most of the uncrowded, adobe
dwellings. In the outskirts the houses are of wood, with sharp-peaked
roofs, and little hovels of mud and rubbish loll in the dense-black cool
shadows of the productive groves and of the immense trees that are a
feature of the place. Flowers bloom everywhere, and all vegetation is
of the deepest green. On every side the town dies away into domesticated
jungle beyond which lie such pine forests, vast corn fields, and
washed-out trails as on the way thither from Zamora.

There is not a "sight" of the slightest importance in Uruapan. But the
place itself is a sight worth long travel, with its soft climate like
the offspring of the wedded North and South, a balmy, gentle existence
where is only occasionally felt the hard reality of life that runs
beneath, when man shows himself less kindly than nature. A man offered
to sell me for a song a tract bordering the river, with a "house" ready
for occupancy, and had the place and all that goes with it been portable
we should quickly have come to terms. For Uruapan is especially a beauty
spot along the little Cupatitzio, where water clearer than that of Lake
Geneva foams down through the dense vegetation and under little bridges
quaint and graceful as those of Japan.

The sanitary arrangements, of course, are Mexican. Women in bands wash
clothes along the shady banks, both sexes bathe their light-chocolate
skins in sunny pools, there were even horses being scrubbed in the
transparent stream, and below all this others dipped their drinking
water. Here and there the water was led off by many little channels and
overhead wooden troughs to irrigate the gardens and to run little mills
and cigarette factories.

In the outskirts I passed the city slaughter-house. A low atone wall
separated from the street a large corral; with a long roof on posts, a
stone floor, and a rivulet of water down through it occupying the center
of the compound. The cattle, healthy, medium-sized steers worth fifteen
dollars a head in this section, were lassoed around the horns and
dragged under the roof, where another dexterously thrown noose bound
their feet together and threw them on the stone floor. They were neither
struck nor stunned in any way. When they were so placed that their
throats hung over the rivulet, a butcher made one single quick thrust
with a long knife near the collarbone and into the heart. Boys caught
the blood in earthen bowls as it gushed forth and handed it to various
women hanging over the enclosing wall. The animal gave a few agonized
bellows, a few kicks, and died. Each was quickly skinned and quartered,
the more unsavory portions at once peddled along the wall, and
bare-headed Indians carried a bleeding quarter on their black thick hair
to the hooks on either side of pack horses which boys drove off to town
as they were loaded. There the population bought strips and chunks of
the still almost palpitating meat, ran a string through an end of each
piece, and carried it home under the glaring sun.

All this is commonplace. But the point of the scene was the quite
evident _pleasure_ all concerned seemed to take in the unpleasant
business. Most of us eat meat, but we do not commonly find our
recreation in slaughter-houses. Here whole crowds of boys, dogs, and
noisy youths ran about the stone floor, fingering the still pulsating
animal, mimicking its dying groans amid peals of laughter, wallowing in
its ebbing blood, while fully as large an assemblage of women, girls,
and small children hung over the wall in a species of ecstatic glee at
the oft-repeated drama. Death, especially a bloody one, appeared to
awaken a keen enjoyment, to quicken the sluggard pulse of even this
rather peaceful Tarascan tribe. One could easily fancy them watching
with the same ebullient joy the dying struggles of helpless human beings
butchered in the same way. The killing of the trussed and fallen animal
over the rivulet recalled the cutting out of the heart of human victims
on the sacrificial stones amid the plaudits of the Aztec multitude and
the division of the still quivering flesh among them, and the vulgar
young fellows running around, knife in hand, eager for an opportunity to
use them, their once white smocks smeared and spattered with blood,
brought back the picture of the savage old priests of the religion of
Montezuma. The scene made more comprehensible the preconquest customs
of the land, as the antithesis of the drunken and excited Indian to the
almost effeminate fear of the same being sober makes more clear that
inexplicable piece of romance, the Conquest of Mexico.

There is less evidence of "religion" in Uruapan than in Zamora. Priests
were rarely seen on the streets and the church bells were scarcely
troublesome. Peons and a few of even higher rank, however, never passed
the door of a church even at a distance without raising their
hats. Twice during the day I passed groups of women of the peon class
carrying in procession several framed chromo representations of Saint
Quién Sabe, bearing in his arms an imaginary Christ child, all of them
wailing and chanting a dismal dirge as they splashed along through the
dust in their bare feet.

A Tragedy: As I returned in the soft air of sunset from the clear little
river boiling over its rocks, I passed in a deep-shaded lane between
towering banana, coffee, and larger trees about three feet of Mexican in
sarape and overgrown hat rooted to a certain spot and shedding copious
tears, while on the ground beside him were the remnants of a glazed pot
and a broad patch of what had once been native firewater mingled with
the thirsty sand. Some distance on I heard a cry as of a hunted human
being and turned to see the pot remnants and the patch in the self-same
spot, but the hat and the three feet of Mexican under it were speeding
away down the lane on wings of terror. But all in vain, for behind
stalked at even greater speed a Mexican mother, gaining on him who fled,
like inexorable fate, not rapidly but all too surely.

The only train out of Uruapan leaves at an unearthly hour. The sun was
just peering over the horizon, as if reconnoitering for a safe entrance,
when I fought my way into a chiefly peon crowd packed like a log-jam
around a tiny window barely waist high, behind which some unseen but
plainly Mexican being sold tickets more slowly than American justice in
pursuit of the wealthy. For a couple of miles the way lay across a flat
rich land of cornfields, pink with cosmos flowers. Then the train began
to creak and grind upward at dog-trot pace, covering four or five times
what would have been the distance in a straight line and uncovering
broad vistas of plump-formed mountains shaggy with trees, and vast,
hollowed-out valleys flooded with corn. Soon there were endless pine
forests on every hand, with a thick, oak-like undergrowth. A labyrinth
of loops one above another brought us to Ajambarán and a bit of level
track, with no mountains in the landscape because we stood on the summit
of them. Little Lake Zirahuén, surrounded on all sides by sloping
hills, half pine, half corn, gleamed with an emerald blue. The train
half circled it, at a considerable distance, giving several broad
vistas, each lower than the preceding, as we climbed to an animated
box-car station higher still. From there we began to descend. Over the
divide was a decided change in the landscape; again that dry, brown,
thinly vegetated country of most of the Mexican highlands. Miles before
we reached the town of the same name, beautiful Lake Pátzcuaro burst on
our sight through a break in the hills to the left, and continued to
gladden the eyes until we drew up at the station.

While the rest of the passengers repaired to the mule-tram, I set off
afoot for the town, a steady climb of two miles by a cobbled road, up
the center of which runs a line of large stones worn flat by generations
of bare feet. The man who baedekerized Mexico says it is a "very
difficult" trip afoot. Perhaps it would be to him. From the central
line of flat stones there ran out, every yard, at right angles, lines of
stones a bit smaller, the space between being filled in with small
cobbles, with grass growing between them. The sun was powerful in this
thin atmosphere of more than seven thousand feet elevation. I was barely
settled in the hotel when the mule-tram arrived.

Patzcuaro is one of the laziest, drowsiest, most delightful pimples on
the earth to be found in a long search. It has little in common with
Uruapan. Here is not a suggestion of the tropics, but just a large
Indian village of mud and adobe houses and neck-breaking, cobbled
streets, a town older than time, sown on and about a hillside backed by
pine-treed peaks, with several expanses of plazas, all grown to grass
above their cobbled floors, shaded by enormous ash-like trees with
neither flowers, shrubs, nor fountains to detract from their atmosphere
of roominess. About them run _portales_, arcades with pillars that
seem at least to antedate Noah, and massive stone benches green with age
and water-logged with constant shade, as are also the ancient stone
sidewalks under the trees and the overhanging roofs of one-story houses
supported by carved beams. Along these wanders a chiefly peon
population, soft-footed and silent, with a mien and manner that seems to
murmur: "If I do not do it to-day there is tomorrow, and next week, and
the week after." The place is charming; not to its inhabitants perhaps,
but to us from a land where everything is distressingly new. To the man
who has anything to do or a desire to do anything, Patzcuaro would be
infernal; for him who has nothing to do but to do nothing, it is

Those who wish may visit crooning old churches more aged than the plays
of Shakespeare. Or one may climb to "Calvary." The fanatical
inhabitants, abetted by the wily priests, have named a road, "very rocky
and very hilly," according to the Mexican Baedeker, leading to a knoll
somewhat above the town, the "via dolorosa," and have scattered fourteen
stations of plastered mud niches along the way. From the aged,
half-circular, stone bench on the summit is another of the marvelous
views that abound in Mexico. It was siesta-time, and not a human being
was in sight to break the spell. The knoll fell away in bushy
precipitousness to the plain below. As I reached the top, two trains,
bound back the way I had come, left the station two miles away, one
behind the other, and for a long time both were plainly visible as they
wound in and out away through the foothills, yet noiseless from here as
phantoms, and no blot on the landscape, since all colors, even that of a
railroad cutting, blended into the soft-brown whole.

The scene was wholly different from that about Uruapan, 1700 feet
lower. There was very little green, and nothing at all of jungle; only a
sun-faded brown tapestry backed by a jumble of low mountains covered
with short bristling pines. Here and there a timid, thin-blue peak
peered over a depression in the chain. A panoramic glance, starting from
the west, showed range after range, one behind the other, to the dimmest
blue distance. Swinging round the horizon, skipping the lake, the eye
took in a continuous procession of hills, more properly the upper
portions of mountains, losing their trees toward the east and growing
more and more bare and reddish-brown, until it fell again on the
doddering old town napping in its hollow down the slope. Below the
abrupt face of "Calvario," the plain, with a few patches of still green
corn alternating with reddish plowed fields, but for the most part
humped and bumped, light wooded with scrub pine, was sprinkled with
mouse-sized cattle, distinct even to their spots and markings in this
marvelous, clear air of the highlands, lazily swinging their tails in
summer contentment.

But the center of the picture, the picture, indeed, for which all the
rest served as frame, was Lake Pátzcuaro. It is not beautiful, but
rather inviting, enticing, mysterious for its many sandy promontories,
its tongues of mountains cutting off a farther arm of the lake with the
old Tarascan capital, and above all for its islands. One of these is
flat, running out to sand at either end, and with something of an old
town among the trees that cover its slightly humped middle. Then there
is Xanicho, pitched high in mound-shape, suggestive of Capri, rocky,
bare, reddish-brown, and about its bottom, like a narrow band on a
half-sunken Mexican hat, a long thin town of white walls and tiled roofs
visible in all detail, a church towering above the rest to form the bow
of the ribbon. It is strange how the human plant grows everywhere and
anywhere, even on a patch of rock thrust forth out of the sea. A bit to
the east and farther away lies a much smaller island of similar shape,
apparently uninhabited. Farther still there stands forth from the water
a bare precipitous rock topped by a castle-like building suggesting
Chillon; and beyond and about are other islands of many shapes, but all
flat and gray-green in tint, some so near shore as to blend with the
promontories and seem part of the mainland, thereby losing their

Over all the scene was a light-blue, transparent sky, flecked only with
a few snow-white whisps of clouds, like bits of the ostrich plume that
hung over Uruapan in the far west, and from which a soft wind tore off
now and then tiny pieces that floated slowly eastward. The same breeze
tempered the sunny stillness of the "Calvario," broken occasionally by
the song of a happy shepherd boy in the shrub-clad hills and the
mellow-voiced, decrepit, old church bells of Pátzcuaro below.

Some miles away from the town, at the far end of Lake Pátzcuaro, behind
the hills, lies the ancient Indian village of Tzintzuntzan, at the time
of the Conquest the residence of the chief of the Tarascans and ruler of
the kingdom of Michoacán, which was not subdued until ten years after
the fall of Mexico. I planned to visit it next day. As I strolled around
the unkempt plaza grande in a darkness only augmented by a few weak
electric bulbs of slight candle-power, with scores of peons, male and
female, wrapped like half-animated mummies in their blankets, even to
their noses, I fell in with a German. He was a garrulous,
self-complacent, ungraceful man of fifty, a druggist and "doctor" in a
small town far down in Oaxaca State until revolutions began, when he had
escaped in the garb of a peon, leaving most of his possessions
behind. Now he wandered from town to town, hanging up his shingle a few
days in each as an oculist. His hotel room was a museum. None can rival
the wandering Teuton in the systematic collecting, at its lowest
possible cost, of everything that could by any stretch of the
imagination ever be of service to a traveler. This one possessed only a
rucksack and a blanket-wrapped bundle, but in them he carried more than
the average American would be caught in possession of in his own
home. There were worn and greasy notebooks full of detailed information
of the road, the cheapest hotels of every known town of Mexico, with the
lowest possible price and the idiosyncrasies of their proprietors that
might be played upon to obtain it, the exact café where the beer glasses
grew tallest, the expenditures that might be avoided by a foresighted
manipulation; there were shoes and slippers, sleeping garments for each
degree of temperature, a cooking outfit, a bicycle-lamp with a chimney
to read by, guns, gun-oil, gun-cleaners, flannel cloth to take the place
of socks for tramping, vaseline to rub on the same--it would be madness
to attempt a complete inventory, but he would be inventive indeed who
could name anything that Teutonic pack did not contain in some
abbreviated form, purchased somewhere second hand at a fourth its
original cost. The German had learned that the parish priest of
Tzintzuntzan wore glasses, and we parted agreed to make the trip

Patzcuaro is summery enough by day, but only the hardy would dress
leisurely at dawn. A fog as thick as cheese, more properly a descended
cloud, enveloped the place, a daily occurrence which the local
authorities would have you think make it unusually healthful. An
ancient cobbled road leads up and over the first rise, then degenerates
to the usual Mexican _camino_, a trail twisting in and out along a
chaos of rocks and broken ground. The fog hung long with us and made
impossible pictures of the procession of Tarascan Indians coming in from
Tzintzuntzan with every species of red pottery, from cups to immense
water-jars, in great nets on the backs of horses, asses, men, and
women. Beyond the railroad the trail picked its way, with several climbs
over rocky spur-ends, along the marshy edge of the lake, which was so
completely surrounded by mud and reeds that I had to leave unfulfilled
my promised swim in it. The trip was made endless by the incessant
chatter of the "doctor," who rattled on in English without a break; and
when I switched him to German his tongue sped still faster, though
fortunately more correctly. No wonder those become fluent linguists who
can outdistance and outendure a man in his own tongue long before they
have begun to learn it.

Along the way we picked up any amount of shining black obsidian, some in
the form of arrow-heads and crude knives that bore out the statement
that the Indians once even shaved with them. It was nearly eleven when
we sighted, down among the trees on the lake shore, the squat church
tower of the once capital of Michoacán. A native we spoke with referred
to it as a "ciudad," but in everything but name it was a dead,
mud-and-straw Indian village, all but its main street a collection of
mud, rags, pigs, and sunshine, and no evidence of what Prescott
describes as splendid ruins. Earthquakes are not unknown, and the bells
of the church, old as the conquest of Michoacán, hang in the trees
before it. Inside, an old woman left her sweeping to pull aside the
curtains of the reputed Titian, a "Descent from the Cross," while I
photographed it from the pulpit, for which privilege the young peon
sexton appeared in time to accept a silver coin.

The German, with whom business always took precedence over pleasure, had
gone to find the house of the priest. When I reached the door of it on
the blank main street, he was sitting on a wooden bench in the hallway
with a dozen old women and peons. We were admitted immediately after,
as befitted our high social standing. A plump little padre nearing
sixty, of the general appearance of a well-stuffed grain sack draped in
black robes, but of rather impressive features--and wearing
glasses--greeted us with formality. The "doctor" drew a black case from
his pocket, went through some hocuspocus with a small mirror, and within
two minutes, though his Spanish was little less excruciating than his
English, had proved to the startled curate that the glasses he was
wearing would have turned him stone-blind within a month but for the
rare fortune of this great Berlin specialist's desire to visit the
famous historical capital of the Tarascans. The priest smoked cigarette
after cigarette while my companion fitted another pair of crystals and
tucked the dangerous ones away in his own case--for the next victim. He
did not even venture to haggle, but paid the two dollars demanded with
the alacrity of a man who recognizes his good fortune, and to whom a
matter of a few pesos more or less is of slight importance. For were
there not a score of Indians waiting outside eager to pay as well for
masses, confessions, and all the rest of his own hocuspocus? There
followed a social chat, well liquefied, after which we took our
ceremonious leave. Once outside, I learned the distressing fact that the
shape of the padre's bows had required crystals costing twelve cents,
instead of the customary nine-cent ones.

The German set off in the blazing noonday at his swiftest pace. He was
obliged to be back at the hotel by three, for the dinner must be paid
for whether eaten or not. I fell behind, glad of the opportunity. Many
groups of peons were returning now, without their loads, but maudlin and
nasty tempered with the mescal for which they had exchanged them. My
automatic was within easy reach. The oculist had criticized it as far
too small for Mexican travel. He carried himself a revolver half the
size of a rifle, and filed the ends of the bullets crosswise that they
might split and spread on entering a body. In the outskirts of Patzcuaro
there came hurrying toward me a flushed and drunken peon youth with an
immense rock in his hand. I reached for my weapon, but he greeted me
with a respectful "Adiós!" and hurried on. Soon he was overtaken by two
more youths and dragged back to where an older peon lay in the middle of
the road, his head mashed with a rock until trickles of brain
protruded. The event seemed to cause little excitement. A few stood at
their doors gazing with a mild sort of interest at the corpse, which
still lay in the road when I turned a corner above.

Mules drag the tram-car of Pátzcuaro laboriously up the three kilometers
from the station to the main plaza, but gravitation serves for the down
journey. When enough passengers had boarded it to set it in motion, we
slid with a falsetto rumble down the cobbled road, a ragged boy leaning
on the brake. Beyond the main railroad track a spur ran out on a
landing-stage patched together out of old boards and rubbish. Peons were
loading into an iron scow bags of cement from an American box-car far
from home. Indians paddled about the lake in canoes of a hollowed log
with a high pointed nose, but chopped sharp off at the poop. Their
paddles were perfectly round pieces of wood, like churn-covers, on the
end of long slim handles.

We were soon off for Morelia, capital of the State, across plains of
cattle, with an occasional cut through the hills and a few brown
ponds. At one station we passed two carloads of soldiers,
westbound. They were nearly all mere boys, as usual, and like the
policemen and rurales of the country struck one as unwisely entrusted
with dangerous weapons. Morelia is seen afar off in the lap of a broad
rolling plain, her beautiful cathedral towers high above all the
rest. It was brilliant noonday when I descended and walked the mile into

The birthplace of José Morelos and of Yturbide, first emperor of Mexico,
sits 6200 feet above the sea and claims 37,000 inhabitants. It is warm
and brown with dust. Architecturally it is Mexican, with flat roofs and
none of the overhanging eaves of Pátzcuaro and Uruapan. From the
"centro"--the nerve-center of the "torpid State," with two well-kept
plazas, the plateresque cathedral of a pinkish stone worn faint and
spotted with time, and the "seat of the powers of the State," all on the
summit of a knoll--the entire town slopes gently down and quickly fades
away into dirty, half-cobbled suburbs, brown and treeless, overrun with
ragged, dust-tinted inhabitants, every street seeming to bring up
against the low surrounding range. Its natural advantages are fully
equal to those of Guadalajara, but here pulque grows and man is more
torpid. All the place has a hopeless, or at least ambitionless, air,
though in this splendid climate poverty has less tinge of misery and the
appearance of a greater contentment with its lot. There is a local
"poet's walk" that is not particularly poetic, a wild park beyond that
is more so, and a great aqueduct over which sprawl enormous masses of
the beautiful purple bourgainvillea. This ancient waterway resembles,
but is far less striking than that of Segovia, for it runs across
comparatively level ground and has only single arches of moderate height
and too polished construction, instead of the massive cyclopean work of
immense blocks of stone without mortar of its Spanish counterpart.
Views and sunsets too often tempt the traveler in Mexico, or I might
mention that from a little way out of town at the top of the road to
Mexico City, where the cathedral towers all but reach the crest of the
backing range, over which hung the ocher and light-pink and
saffron-yellow clouds of the dying day.

The "Hotel Soledad" asserted its selectness by the announcement: "En
este hotel no se admiten compañías de cómicos ni toreros," but the
solitude of its wooden-floored beds at least was distinctly broken and
often. The pompous, squeeze-centavo, old landlady sat incessantly in her
place near the door between dining-room and kitchen, with a leather
handbag from which she doled out, almost with tears, coppers for change
and the keys to the larder, to the cringing servants and conferred long
with them in whispers on how much she dared charge each guest, according
to his appearance. But at least Mexico feeds well the traveler who is
too hungry to be particular. He who will choose his dishes leads a
sorry life, for the hotels are adamant in their fare and restaurants are
almost unknown, except the dozens of little outdoor ones about the
market-places where a white man would attract undue attention--if
nothing less curable--among the "pela'os" that make up 80 per cent. of
the population.

The passengers to Acámbaro included two ladies of the fly-by-night
species, who whiled away a somewhat monotonous journey by discussing the
details of their profession with the admiring train-boy and drumming up
trade in a coquettish pantomime. The junction town was in fiesta, and
the second-class car of the evening train to Celaya was literally
stacked high with peons and their multifarious bundles, and from it
issued a stench like unto that of a congress of polecats. I rode seated
on a brake, showers of cinders and the cold night air swirling about me,
until the festive natives thinned down enough to give me admittance. By
that time we were drawing into Celaya, also in the throes of some
bombastic celebration.

Like many another Mexican city the traveler chances into when the
central plaza is bubbling with night life, light, and music, Celaya
turned out rather a disappointment in the sunny commonplace of day. Its
central square is a little garden, but almost all the rest of the town
is a monotonous waste of square, bare, one-story houses with ugly
plaster facades and no roofs--at least to be seen--each differing a bit
from its neighbor in height, like a badly drawn up company of
soldiers. The blazing sun and thick dust characteristic of all the high
central plateau are here in full force. Like most Spanish
things--conquests, history, buildings--it looked more striking at a
distance than when examined in detail.

Celaya is far-famed for its candy. All over the republic sounds the cry
of "Cajetas de Celaya!" Mexico shows a great liking for sweets; no
block is complete without its little stands or peregrinating hawkers of
all manner of temptations to the sweet-toothed, ranging from squares of
"fudge" in all colors of the rainbow to barber-pole sticks a half-yard
long. The station was surrounded with soap-less old women, boys, and
even men offering for sale all sizes of the little wooden boxes of the
chief local product, in appearance like axle-grease, but delicious far
beyond its looks, and with vendors of everything imaginable, to say
nothing of a ragged, dirty multitude of all ages with no business
there--nor anywhere else.

When I had spread out over two wooden seats of the big, bustling El Paso
Limited I was quickly reminded of the grim, business-bent, American
engineer in gray hair, the unlit half of a cigar clamped tightly between
his teeth, of whom I had caught a half-conscious glance in the cab
window. One could literally _feel_ his firm American hand at the
throttle as the heavy train gathered steady headway and raced away to
the eastward. Across the car sat two handsome, solidly-knit young
bull-fighters, their little rat-tail _coletas_ peering from behind
their square-cut hats. We sped steadily across the sun-flooded, dry,
brown plateau, slightly rolling, its fields alternating between the dead
tint of dry corn and newly plowed patches. Here for the first time were
pulque producing fields of maguey, planted in long, straight,
emerald-green rows.

As Irapuato for its strawberries, and Celaya for its sweets, so
Queretaro is famed for its huge, cheap hats, of a sort of reed, large
enough to serve as umbrellas, and for its opals. From the time he steps
off the train here until he boards it again, the traveler, especially
the "gringo," is incessantly pestered by men and boys offering for sale
these worthless bright pebbles--genuine and otherwise. Here again are
the same endless rows of one-story, stucco houses, intersecting cobbled
and dust-paved streets, running to the four corners of the compass from
a central plaza planted with tall, slim trees, the interwoven branches
of which almost completely shade it. The cathedral houses, among other
disturbing, disgusting, and positively indecent representations of the
Crucifixion and various martyrdoms done in the Aztec style of bloody
realism, a life-size _Cristo_ with masses of long real hair and a
pair of knee-length knit drawers for decency's sake. One might fancy the
place weighed down by a Puritan censorship. The local museum contains
among other rubbish of the past the keyhole through which Josefa
whispered in 1810 the words that started the revolution against Spanish
power! Here, too, is what purports to be an authentic photograph of the
execution of Maximilian, theatrical to a Spanish degree, the three
victims standing in their places, the once "Emperor of the Mexicans"
holding a large crucifix, and several of the boy soldiers who executed
them crowded eagerly into the corners of the picture. More impressive to
the incredulous is the plain, tapering, wooden coffin in which the chief
body was placed, the bottom half covered with faded blood and on one of
the sides the plain, dull-red imprint of a hand, as if the corpse had
made some post-mortem effort to rise from the grave. The portrait of the
transplanted scion of Austria shows a haughty, I-am-of-superior-clay
man, of a distinctly mediocre grade of intellect, with a forest of beard
that strives in vain to conceal an almost complete absence of chin.

History records that the deposed ruler reached by carriage his last
earthly scene in the early morning of June 19, 1867. I arrived as early,
though afoot. It is a twenty-minute walk from the center of town across
the flat, fertile vega, green with gardens, to the Cerro de las
Campanas, a bare, stern, stony hill, somewhat grown with cactus bushes,
maguey, and tough shrubs, rising perhaps seventy feet above the level of
the town. It runs up gently and evenly from the south, but falls away
abruptly in a cragged, rock precipice on the side facing Querétaro,
providing the only place in the vicinity where poorly aimed bullets
cannot whistle away across the plain. Before them, as they faced the
youthful, brown file of soldiers in their many-patched and faded garb,
the three had a comprehensive view of the town, chiefly trees and
churches sufficient to house the entire populace several times
over. Nine immense structures, each with a great dome and a tower or
two--steeples are unknown in Mexico--stand out against the bare, brown,
flat-topped range beyond that barely rises above the highest tower. The
last scene he looked on must have struck the refuted emperor as typical
of a country he was sorry then ever to have seen, in spite of his regal
control of facial expression,--a hard, stony plateau, the fertility and
riches of which succumb chiefly to an all-devouring priesthood. Cold
lead plays too large a part in the history of Mexico, but certainly its
most unjust verdict was not the extinction of the "divine right" in the
person of this self-styled descendant of the Cæsars at the hands of an
Indian of Oaxaca. To-day a brown stone chapel, erected by Austria,
stands where Maximilian fell, but the spot remains otherwise unchanged,
and no doubt the fathers of these same peons who toiled now in the
gardens of the vega under the morning sun lined the way through which
the carriage bore to its American extinction a system foreign to the
Western Hemisphere.



The El Paso Limited picked me up again twenty-four hours later. Beyond
Querétaro's ungainly aqueduct spread fields of tobacco, blooming with a
flower not unlike the lily; then vast, almost endless stretches of dead,
dry corn up low heights on either hand, and occasional fields of maguey
in soldierly files. At San Juan del Rio, famous for its lariats, a dozen
men and a woman stood in a row, some forty feet from the train, holding
coils of woven-leather ropes of all sizes, but in glum and hopeless
silence, while a policeman paced back and forth to prevent them from
either canvassing the train-windows or crying their wares. Evidently
some antinuisance crusade had invaded San Juan.

Mexico is a country of such vast vistas that a man might easily be taken
and executed by bandits within plain sight of his friends without their
being able to lend him assistance. Nowhere can one look farther and see
nothing. Yet entire companies of marauders might lie in wait in the many
wild rocky barrancos of this apparently level brown plain. Up and up we
climbed through a bare, stone-strewn land, touched here and there with
the green of cactus, sometimes with long vistas of maize, which here
hung dead in its half-grown youth because of the failure of the summer
rains. Fields of maguey continued. The air grew perceptibly cooler as we
wound back and forth, always at good speed behind the American engineer,
mounting to the upper plateau surrounding the capital, not through
mountains but by a vast, steadily rising world. Sometimes long,
unmortared stone fences divided the landscape, more often mile after
unobstructed mile of slightly undulating brown plain, tinted here and
there by maguey, rolled by us into the north.

A special train of soldiers, with a carload of arms and munitions,
passed on the way to head off the latest revolted "general." The
newspapers of the capital appeared, some rabidly "anti-American,"
stopping at nothing to stir up the excitable native against alleged
subtle plans of the nation to the north to rob them of their territory
and national existence, the more reputable ones with sane editorials
imploring all Mexicans not to make intervention "in the name of humanity
and civilization" necessary. The former sold far more readily. The train
wound hither and yon, as if looking for an entrance to the valley of
Mexico. Unfortunately no train on either line reaches ancient Anahuac by
daylight, and my plan to enter it afoot, perhaps by the same route as
Cortez, had been frustrated. A red sun was just sinking behind haggard
peaks when we reached the highest point of the line--8237 feet above the
sea--with clumps and small forests of stocky oaks and half Mexico
stretching out behind us, rolling brown to distant bare ranges backed by
others growing blue and purple to farthest distance. The scene had a
late October aspect, and a chilling, ozone-rich wind blew. By dusk the
coat I had all but thrown away in the sweltering North was more than
needed. We paused at San Antonio, a jumble of human kennels thrown
together of old cans, scraps of lumber, mud, stones, and cactus leaves,
with huge stacks of the charcoal with the soot of which all the
inhabitants were covered, even to the postmaster who came in person for
the mail sack. That week's issue of a frivolous sheet of the capital
depicted an antonino charcoal-burner standing before his no less
unwashed wife, holding a new-born babe and crying in the slovenly
dialect of the "pela'o": "Why, it is white! Woman, thou hast deceived

At dark came Tula, ancient capital of the Toltecs, after which night hid
all the scene there might have been, but for glimpses by the light of
the train of the great _tajo_ cut through the hills to drain the
ancient valley of Anáhuac. On we sped through the night, which if
anything became a trifle warmer. Gradually the car crowded to what
would have been suffocation had we not soon pulled in at Buena Vista
station, to fight our way through a howling pandemonium of touts, many
shouting English, among whom were the first Negroes I had seen in

Mexico City was a great disappointment. The hotel only a block from the
cathedral and the site of the great _teocalli_ of the Aztecs, to
which the German in Pátzcuaro had directed me, differed not even in its
smells from a Clark-street lodging-house in Chicago. The entire city
with its cheap restaurants and sour smelling pulquerias uncountable,
looked and sounded like a lower eastside New York turned Spanish in
tongue. Even morning light discovered nothing like the charm of the rest
of Mexico, and though I took up new lodgings en famille in aristocratic
Chapultepec Avenue, with a panorama of snow-topped Popocatepetl and
Ixtaccihuatl, her sleeping sister, and all the range seeming a bare
gunshot away, the imagination was more inclined to hark back to the
Bowery than to the great Tenochtitlan of the days of Cortez.

In a word, the capital is much like many another modern city, somewhat
bleak, cosmopolitan of population, with strong national lines of
demarkation, and a caste system almost as fixed as that of India, but
with none of the romance the reader of Prescott, Mme. Calderón, and the
rest expects. Since anarchy fell upon the land, even the Sunday
procession of carriages of beauty in silks and jewels, and of rancheros
prancing by in thousand-dollar hats, on silver-mounted and bejeweled
saddles, has disappeared from the life of the capital. To-day the
Mexican is not anxious to parade his wealth, nor even to venture it in
business. He is much more minded to bury it in the earth, to hide it in
his socks, to lay it up in the great republic to the north, where
neither presidents corrupt nor Zapatistas break in and steal.

By day moderate clothing was comfortable, but the night air is sharp and
penetrating, and he who is not dressed for winter will be inclined to
keep moving. Policemen and street-car employees tie a cloth across
their mouths from sunset until the morning warms. Ragged peons swarm,
feeding, when at all, chiefly from ambulating kitchens of as tattered
hawkers. The well-to-do Mexican, the "upper class," in general is a
more churlish, impolite, irresponsible, completely inefficient fellow
than even the countryman and the peon, in whom, if anywhere within its
borders, lies the future hope of Mexico. To him outward appearance is
everything, and the capital is especially overrun with the resultant
hollow baubles of humanity.

There are a few short excursions of interest about the capital. Bandits
have made several of them, such as the ascent of Popocatepetl,
unpopular, but a few were still within the bounds of moderate safety.
Three miles away by highway or street-car looms up the church of
Guadalupe, the sacred city of Mexico. It is a pleasing little town,
recalling Puree of the Juggernaut-car by its scores of little stands for
the feeding of pilgrims--at pilgrimage prices. Here are evidences of an
idolatry equal to that of the Hindu. Peons knelt on the floor of the
church, teaching their babies to cross themselves in the long intricate
manner customary in Mexico. A side room was crowded with cheap cardboard
paintings of devotees in the act of being "saved" by the Virgin of
Guadalupe--here a man lying on his back in front of a train which the
Virgin in the sky above has just brought to a standstill; there a child
being spared by her lifting the wheel of a heavy truck about to crush
it. It would be hard to imagine anything more crude either in conception
or execution than these signs of gratitude. To judge by them the Virgin
would make a dramatist of the first rank; there was not a picture in
which the miraculous assistance came a moment too soon, never & hero of
our ancient, pre-Edison melodramas appeared more exactly "in the nick of
time." The famous portrait of the miraculous being herself, over the
high altar, is dimly seen through thick glass. Inside the chapel under
the blue and white dome pilgrims were dipping up the "blessed" water
from the bubbling well and filling bottles of all possible shapes, not a
few of which had originally held American and Scotch whisky, that are
sold in dozens of little stands outside the temple.

These they carry home, often hundreds of miles, to "cure" the ailments
of themselves or families, or to sell to others at monopoly prices.

Good electric cars speed across amazingly fertile bottom lands
crisscrossed by macadam highways to Xochimilco. Nearing it, the rugged
foothills of the great mountain wall shutting in the valley begin to
rise. We skirted Pedregal, a wilderness of lava hills serving as quarry,
and drew up in the old Indian town, of a charm all its own, with its
hoar and rugged old church and its houses built of upright cornstalks or
reeds, with roofs of grass from the lake. Indians paddled about in
clumsy, leaky boats through the canals among rich, flower-burdened
islands, once floating.

Another car runs out to Popotla along the old Aztec causeway by which
the Spaniards retreated on that dismal night of July 2, 1520. Now the
water is gone and only a broad macadamed street remains. The spot where
Alvarado made his famous pole-vault is near the Buena Vista station, but
no jumping is longer necessary--except perhaps to dodge a passing
trolley. Instead of the lake of Tenochtitlan days there is the flattest
of rich valleys beyond. The "Tree of the Dismal Night," a huge cypress
under which Cortez is said to have wept as he watched the broken
remnants of his army file past, is now hardly more than an enormous,
hollow, burned-out stump, with a few huge branches that make it look at
a distance like a flourishing tree still in the green prime of life. The
day was rainy and a cold, raw wind blew. The better-clad classes were in
overcoats, and the peons in their cotton rags wound themselves in
blankets, old carpets, newspapers, anything whatever, huddling in
doorways or any suggestion of shelter. Cold brings far more suffering in
warm countries than in these of real winters.

The comandante of notorious old Belén prison in the capital spoke
English fluently, but he did not show pleasure at my visit. An
under-official led me to the flat roof, with a bird's-eye view of the
miserable, rambling, old stone building. Its large patios were literally
packed with peon prisoners. The life within was an almost exact replica
of that on the streets of the capital, even to hawkers of sweets,
fruit-vendors, and the rest, while up from them rose a decaying stench
as from the steerage quarters of old transatlantic liners. Those who
choose, work at their trade within as outside. By night the prisoners
are herded together in hundreds from six to six in the wretched old
dungeon-like rooms. Nothing apparently is prohibited, and prisoners may
indulge with impunity in anything from cigarettes to adultery, for which
they can get the raw materials.

The excursion out to the Ajusco range, south of the city, was on the
verge of danger. Zapata hung about Cuernavaca and marauders frequently
approached the very outskirts of the capital. Under our knapsacks we
struck upward through the stony village where the train had set us down,
and along a narrow road that soon buried itself in pine forests. A
bright clear stream came tumbling sharply down, and along this we
climbed. A mile or more but we picked up at a thatched hut an Indian boy
of ten as burden-bearer and guide, though we continued to carry most of
our own stuff and to trust largely to our own sense of direction. Above
came a three-hour climb through pine-forested mountains, such as the
Harz might be without the misfortune of German spick and spanness. He
who starts at an elevation of 7500 feet and climbs 4000 upward in a
brief space of time, with a burden on his back, knows he is mounting.
Occasionally a dull-gray glimpse of the hazy valley of Mexico broke
through the trees; about us was an out-of-the-way stillness, tempered
only by the sound of birds. About noon the thick forest of great pine
trees ceased as suddenly as if nature had drawn a dead-line about the
brow of the mountain. A foot above it was nothing but stunted oak
growths and tufts of bunch-grass large as the top of a palm-tree. On
the flat summit, with hints through the tree-tops below of the great
vale of Anáhuac, we halted to share the bulk of our burdens with the
Indian boy, who had not brought his "itacate." The air was most
exhilarating and clear as glass, though there was not enough of it to
keep us from panting madly at each exertion. In the shade it was cold
even in heavy coats; but merely to step out into the sunshine was to
bask like lizards.

Our "guide" lost no time in losing us, and we started at random down the
sharp face of the mountain to the valley 4000 feet almost directly below
us. Suddenly a break in the trees opened out a most marvelous view of
the entire valley of Mexico. Popocatepetl and Ixtaccihuatl stood out as
clearly under their brilliant white mantles of new-fallen snow as if
they were not sixty but one mile away, every crack and seam fully
visible, and the fancied likeness of the second to a sleeping woman was
from this point striking. The contrast was great between the dense green
of the pine forests and the velvety, brown plain with its full, shallow
lakes unplumbed fathoms below. Farther down we came out on the very
break-neck brink of a vast amphitheater of hills, with "las ventanas,"
huge, sheer, rock cliffs shaped like great cathedral windows, an easy
stone-throw away but entirely inaccessible to any but an aviator, for an
unconscionable gorge carpeted with bright green tree-tops lay between. I
proposed descending the face of the cliff below us, and led the way down
a thousand feet or more, only to come to the absolutely sheer rock end
of things where it would have taken half the afternoon to drop to the
carpet of forest below.

There was nothing to do but to climb out again and skirt the brink of
the canyon. In the rare air we were certain a score of times of being
about to drop dead from exhaustion, yet a two-minute rest always brought
full recovery. Then came a wild scramble of an hour along sheer rocks
thick-draped with moss that pealed off in square yards almost as often
as we stepped on it, and threatened to drop us more than a half-mile to
the tree-tops below. Climbing, clinging, and circling through a
wilderness of undergrowth amid the vast forest of still, dense-green
pines, but with such views of the valley of Mexico and the great
snow-clads as to reward any possible exertion, we flanked at last the
entire canyon. In the forest itself every inch of ground was carpeted
with thick moss, more splendid than the weavings of any loom of man,
into which the feet sank noiselessly. Everywhere the peaceful stillness
was tempered only by a slight humming of the trees, and the songs of
myriad birds, not a human being within screaming distance, unless some
gang of bandits stalked us in the depth of the forest. More likely they
were by now sodden with the aftermath of Sunday festivities, and anyway
we were armed "hasta los dientes."

At length, as the day was nearing its close, we fell into what had once
been a trail. It was moss-grown and wound erratically in and out among
the trees, but went steadily down, very level compared to the work of
the preceding hours, yet so steep we several times spread out at full
length to slide a rod or more. The sun was setting when we came to the
bottom of "las ventanas" only a couple thousand feet from where we had
first caught sight of them hours before. Thereafter the trail moderated
its pace and led us to the most beautiful thing of the day, a clear
ice-cold stream at the bottom of the cliffs. We all but drank it
dry. Then on out of the canyon and across a vast field of rye, back of
which the great gorge stood like some immense stadium, with stalwart
athletic pines filling all the seats. This is the spot where Wallace's
"Fair God" burst forth upon the valley. We descended between immense
walls of pines, half unseen in the dusk and framing a V-shaped bit of
the vale of Anahuac, a perfect crimson fading to rose color, culminating
in the pink-tinted snow-clads above.

At dark we left the boy at his hut, on the walls of which his father had
just hung the two deer of that day's hunt. There was no hope of catching
the afternoon train from Cuernavaca, and we laid plans to tramp on
across the valley floor to Tizapan. But Mexican procrastination
sometimes has its virtues, and we were delighted to find the station
crowded with those waiting for the delayed convoy that ten minutes later
was bearing us cityward through the cool highland night.

I had hoped to walk from Mexico City to the capital of Honduras. That
portion of the route from former Tenochtitlan to Oaxaca and the Isthmus
of Tehuantepec, however, was not then a promising field for tramping by
any one with any particular interest in arriving. I concluded to flank
it by train. It was a chilly gray day when the little narrow-gage train
bore us close by the miraculous temple of Guadalupe, with its hilltop
cemetery and stone sails, and into the vast fields of maguey
beyond. Peons and donkeys without number, the former close wrapped in
their colored blankets, the latter looking as if they would like to be,
enlivened the roads and trails. We skirted the shore of dull Lake
Texcoco, once so much larger and even now only a few inches below the
level of the flat plain, recalling that the Tenochtitlan of the Conquest
was an island reached only by causeways. At San Juan Teotihuacan, the
famous pyramids lost in the nebulous haze of pre-Toltec history bulked
forth from the plain and for many miles beyond. The smaller, called that
of the Moon, was a mere squat mound of earth. But the larger had lately
been cleared off, and was now of a light cement color, rising in four
terraces with a low monument or building on the summit. It contains
about the same material as the pyramid of Cheops, but is larger at the
base and by no means so high, thereby losing something of the majesty of
its Egyptian counterpart.

A cheery sun appeared, but the air remained cool. Fields of maguey in
mathematically straight lines stretched up and away out of sight over
broad rolling ridges. I had put off the experience of tasting the
product until I should reach Apam, the center of the pulque industry. At
that station an old woman sold me a sort of flower-pot full of the stuff
at two cents. I expected to taste and throw it away. Instead there came
a regret that I had not taken to it long before. It was of the
consistency and color of milk, with a suggestion of buttermilk in its
taste and fully as palatable as the latter, with no noticeable evidence
of intoxicating properties. No doubt this would come with age, as well
as the sour stink peculiar to the pulquerías of the cities.

The train made a mighty sweep to the northward to escape from the
central valley, bringing a much closer and better view of the two
snow-clads, first on one, then on the farther side. By choice I should
have climbed up over the "saddle" between them, as Cortez first entered
the realms of Montezuma. A dingy branch line bore us off across broken
country with much corn toward Puebla. On the left was a view of
Malinche, famous in the story of the Conquest, its summit hidden in
clouds. I was now in the Rhode Island of Mexico, the tiny State of
Tlaxcala, the "Land of Corn," to the assistance from which Cortez owes
his fame. The ancient state capital of the same name has been slighted
by the railway and only a few decrepit mule-cars connect it with the
outer world. I slighted these, and leaving my possessions in the station
of Santa Ana, set off through a rolling and broken, dry and dusty, yet
fertile country, with the wind rustling weirdly through the dead brown
fields of corn. The inhabitants of the backward little capital were even
more than usually indifferent to "gringoes," seldom giving me more than
a glance unless I asked a question, and even leaving me to scribble my
notes in peace in a shaded plaza bench.

There is nothing but its historical memories of special interest in
Tlaxcala. It is a town of some 3000 inhabitants, a few hundred feet
higher than Mexico City, with many ancient buildings, mostly of stone,
often mere ruins, from the seams of surely half of which sprout grass
and flowers, as they do between the cobbles of its streets and its large
rambling plaza. I visited the old church on the site of which
Christianity--of the Spanish brand--was first preached on the American
continent. Here was the same Indian realism as elsewhere in the
republic. One Cristo had "blood" pouring in a veritable river from his
side, his face was completely smeared with it, his knees and shins were
skinned and barked and covered with blood, which had even dripped on his
toes; the elbows and other salient points were in worse condition than
those of a wrestler after a championship bout, and the body was tattooed
with many strange arabesques. There were other figures in almost as
distressing a state. A god only ordinarily maltreated could not excite
the pity or interest of the Mexican Indian, whose every-day life has its
own share of barked shins and painful adversities. It was amusing to
find this village, hardly larger than many a one about the home of
Mexican hacendados, the capital of a State. But the squads of rurales
and uniformed police and the civil employees of Government were very
solemn with their responsibilities. I had seen it all in an hour or two
and drifted back along the five lazy miles to Santa Ana. Tlaxcala lies
between two gaunt broken ridges, with rugged chains all about it, yet
the little State is by no means so completely _fenced in_ by nature
as the imagination that has fed on Prescott pictures.

Puebla, third city of Mexico, is even colder than the capital. The
snow-clads of the latter look down upon it from the west, and far away
to the east stands Orizaba, highest peak of Mexico. In the haze of
sunset its great mantle of new-fallen snow stood out sharply, darker
streaks that ran down through the lower reaches of snow dying out in
nothingness, as the mountain did itself, for as a matter of fact the
latter was not visible at all, but only the snow that covered its upper
heights, surrounded above, below, and on all sides by the thin gray sky
of evening. By night there was music in the plaza. But how can there be
life and laughter where a half-dozen blankets are incapable of keeping
the promenaders comfortable? In all the frigid town there was not a
single fire, except in the little bricked holes full of charcoal over
which the place does its cooking. Close to my hotel was the "Casa
Serdan," its windows all broken and its stucco front riddled with bullet
holes, for it was here that two brothers, barricading themselves against
the government of Porfirio Diaz, spilled the first blood of the long
series of revolutions and worse that has followed. Already the name of
the street had been changed to "Calle de los Mártires de Noviembre,

It is nearly three hours' walk from the plaza of Puebla to that of
Cholula, the Benares of the Aztecs, and for him who rises early it is a
cold one. What little romance remains would have fled had I made the
trip by mule-car. As it was, I could easily drop back mentally into the
days of the Conquest, for under the brilliant cloudless sky as I
surmounted a bit of height there lay all the historic scene before
me--the vast dipping plain with the ancient pyramid of Cholula, topped
now by a white church with towers and dome, standing boldly forth across
it, and beyond, yet seeming so close one half expected an avalanche of
their snows to come down upon the town, towering Popocatepetl and her
sister, every little vale and hollow of the "saddle" between clear as at
a yard distance. Then to the left, Malinche and the rolling stony hills
of Tlaxcala, along which the Spaniards advanced, with the beautiful cone
of Orizaba rising brilliant and clear nearly a hundred miles away. The
great rampart separating them from the cherished valley must have
brought bated breath even to the hardy soldiers of Cortez.

This unsurpassed view accompanied all the rest of the peaceful morning
walk. By nine I was climbing the great pyramid from the top of which the
intrepid Spaniard tumbled down the ancient gods, and about which
occurred the first of the many wholesale massacres of Indians on the
American continent. To-day it is merely a large hill, overgrown on all
sides with grass, trees, and flowers, and with almost nothing to bear
out the tradition that it was man-built. From the top spreads a scene
rarely surpassed. Besides the four mountains, the ancient and modern
town of Cholula lies close below, with many another village, especially
their bulking churches, standing forth on all sides about the rich
valley, cut up into squares and rectangles of rich-brown corn
alternating with bright green, a gaunt, low, wall-like range cutting off
the entire circle of the horizon. The faint music of church bells from
many a town miles away rode by on a wind with the nip of the mountain
snows in it. But Prescott has already described the scene with a
fidelity that seems uncanny from one who never beheld it except in his
mind's eye.

To-day the pyramid is sacred to the "Virgin of the Remedies." Gullible
pilgrims come from many leagues around to be cured of their ills, and
have left behind hundreds of doll-like figures of themselves or the
ailing limb or member made of candle wax that breaks to bits between the
fingers. Then there are huge candles without number, martyrs and
crucifixions, with all the disgusting and bloody features of elsewhere;
every kind and degree and shape and size of fetish. Cholula needs badly
another Cortez to tumble her gods down to the plain below and drive out
the hordes of priests that sacrifice their flocks none the less surely,
if less bloodily, than their Aztec predecessors.

A bright red sun came up as the train swung round to the eastward,
hugging the flanks of Malinche, and rumbled away across a sandy, very
dry, but fertile country, broken by huge barrancas or washouts, and
often with maguey hedges. Most of my day was given up to Mr. ---- come to
think of it, I did not even get his name. He drifted into the train at
the junction and introduced himself by remarking that it was not bad
weather thereabouts. He was a tall, spare man of fifty, in a black suit
rather disarranged and a black felt hat somewhat the worse for wear. He
carried a huge pressed-cardboard "telescope" and wore a cane, though it
hardly seemed cold enough for one. His language was that of a
half-schooled man, with the paucity of vocabulary and the grammar of a
ship's captain who had left school early but had since read much and
lived more. Whenever a noun failed him, which was often, he filled in
the blank with the word "proposition." Like myself, he traveled

Book of the day: