Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/526

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
526
526
TRAVELS IN MEXICO.

a landscape similar to that of the day before,—red sandstone hills, yielding nothing but cacti and nopals. There was some grand scenery as we reached the Rio Grande, where cliffs, three hundred feet high, towered above our heads. It grew hot as the sun got up and had a square look at us, and the dry landscape of rocks and cacti seemed to sizzle in the heat. At a small hut we got a drink of mescal and some tortillas, and a league farther on passed three other shanties with native rum, or licor del pais, for sale.

Toward midday a great field of sugar-cane enlivened the scenery, occupying a narrow valley made fertile by irrigation, and after that appeared the large sugar-works of the estate of Guendolain, with coco and fruit trees grouped about them. The hospitable proprietor invited us to take breakfast with him, for he was a Mexican, and consequently generous to a stranger. This hacienda occupies the best portion of the only cultivable land in this region. It is the lowest point reached on the trail, and so hot that the people say they would rather pass through purgatory than through the vale of Guendolain.

The afternoon was passed in threading the same bad roads, and narrow, gullied trails, and at its close we reached the town of Dominguillo, the largest between Tehuacan and Oaxaca, and containing less than fifty families, housed for the most part in bamboo huts. There was a meson here, or house for the entertainment of man and beast. The rooms all opened into a corridor, with rarely a single window, and contained each two hard board beds, a chair perhaps, and an abundance of fleas. An amateur bull-fight was in progress when we arrived, and all the inhabitants were indulging in a fiesta, in honor of some saint. A small cattle-pen was turned into a bull-ring, and a calf was let loose to be tormented by the boys with sticks and sarapes. Later on, a bull was driven in, girths fastened about him, and a man mounted on his back. The assembled men then goaded him, and he fought them fiercely, trying at the same time to get rid of his burden. Finally, becoming frightened, the bull bolted for the bars, and got half-way through, but the men pulled him back and incited him to fresh charges. When his spirits failed,