Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/126

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TRAVELS IN MEXICO.

They have only to change the over and under skirt, dust a little powder over their arms and shoulders, dab a little rouge here and there, and hang on all the chains and jewelry they own, and then they are ready for anything.

At eight o'clock the village band came to escort us to the Casa Municipal, or the city hall, the corridor of which (one hundred feet long) had been swept, and decorated with palm branches. A great throng followed us, letting off rockets and fire-crackers, and in this way we were escorted to the scene of festivity. As we arrived, the crowd about the portales parted right and left, and we were conducted to the seats of honor. The sight that greeted our eyes nearly took our breath away; for there, ranged in chairs along the wall, was a row of the prettiest Mestiza girls we had ever seen. They were dressed in their becoming costume of snowy white, and some of them fairly glittering in gold chains and ornaments. The ancient national costume of the Mayas, from whom these Indians are descended, was, for the women, two skirts of fine white linen: the under skirt reaches from the waist to the ground, and is called pic; the upper, called uipil, falls from the shoulders, over the lower, to the knees. These are embroidered in gay colors, and often edged with lace. According to an ancient law, there should be no button or fastening on the uipil, and it is cut square, very low in the neck and back, so that it can be slipped over the head, and worn without any fastening. As a race, these people are symmetrically shaped, and the loose dress of the females sets off their beautiful shoulders to great advantage. About fifty of these lovely damsels sat awaiting our arrival. From among these the General, John, and the Consul selected partners, and were soon treading the light fantastic toe. I did not dance, and sat solitary in a secluded corner, enjoying the bright scene: the long, broad corridor lit with torches, the dark masses of Indians hemming us in, and the seƱoritas and caballeros in their gay costumes.

An old man, who had fixed his eyes on me some time previously, approached and asked me if I would not sit by his daughter and talk English to her. She was a sweet, blooming damsel,