Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/299

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XV.

 

FEASTS AND FESTIVALS.—MEXICAN MISSIONS.

 

TRAS la cruz está el Diablo, "The Devil lurks behind the cross," says the Spanish proverb. Nowhere is this more true than in Mexico. Indeed, his Satanic Majesty rarely takes the trouble to conceal himself, but openly thrusts his impudent face into every gathering of a religious nature that takes place. The religion of the present population of Mexico is extremely anomalous; though nominally Catholics, the Indians are mainly pagans, while the Mestizos and the Creoles have little but the outward semblance. Time, as usual, wreaks its revenges. We know in what manner the religion of the Spaniards was imposed upon the conquered Indians,—at the point of the sword, by the fire and rack. We know that they were "converted" to the new faith by the thousand at a time, and were reckoned good Christians as soon as baptized. We do not wonder, then, that after three hundred years of trial the native population should tacitly agree to the overthrow of priestly power and return to their idols, whom they have so long secretly cherished. Yet it seems strange to us that the successors of Juarez and Gomez Farrias, and those of their associates who are responsible for the downfall of the Church, should be allowed peacefully to rule as they do to-day. To be sure, the Church is exhausted; its final struggle was at the time of Maximilian, and when he fell, and its treasures were appropriated to the use of the nation, it lost more than gold,—it lost its prestige. Yes, the prestige of the Church is departed, never perhaps to return; its officers no longer command the popular respect, and its sanctuaries are no longer sacred from the touch of impious hands. Yet the priests of to-day are no worse than before, so