Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/505

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uncovered, for fear he might pass a chapel unobserved. The pervading tone of society here is religious; little business is done here, and little labor, because Sundays and feast days form the greater portion of the week. Sunday is, indeed, a general market day, and devoted to buying and selling, but not to work. It is strange to find such a contrast to Mexico: there, every one does as he pleases; here, he must devote a certain portion of his time, or his earnings, to the Church.

"Pay or pray," is the inspiring motto the holy men in office here have nailed upon the cross. Successful in preventing the main line of railroad from passing through or near their city, the bishop and priests have, from the beginning, kept Puebla as a place set apart from the active life of the world. Rich men give of their substance freely; poor men—and they constitute the great majority—go clothed in rags that the Church may be benefited thereby. They even refrain from using that freest of all gifts of God to man, water, and pass from childhood to old age without washing face or hands, for fear, perhaps, that the money wasted on soap could better be devoted to the Virgin.

Though the government stripped the clergy pretty close in its various decrees confiscating their property, and reduced them from affluence to comparative poverty, yet the last few years have seen a revival of their prosperity. At one time they held property to the value of $144,000,000, yielding an income of $12,000,000, a great portion of which they lost under Juarez and the liberal rulers. Silently, but surely, they have pressed the work of recovering their lost property. Though the country abounds in ruined churches and convents, yet they are principally in districts thinly settled, where the people are too poor even to keep the buildings in repair, or in cities where there are too many to be filled. The principal churches are showing the effects of a revival in business; walls have been repaired, new towers added or old ones built upon, the altars freshly painted, railings newly gilded, and the sacred emblems and images polished up and decorated. Cautious as the priests are in showing their fast accumulating wealth, it cannot but be