Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/620

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TRAVELS IN MEXICO.

North. The great trade, which was formerly conducted by means of caravans, with Santa Fé, Kansas City, and St. Louis, now, of course, reverts to the railroad. No longer isolated, but with direct and rapid communication with the outside world. Chihuahua does not now demand its goods in great bulk; its wants are supplied, and of the great number of traders and speculators who flocked there at the opening of the railroad, the majority have been badly bitten and bitterly disappointed. The Mexican can only move at a certain pace; in an age of steam he lives with all the simplicity of his ancestors, when the patriarchal system was in vogue. You cannot hurry him, except you charge upon him with an engine, and then he retorts by putting conductor and engineer in jail and confiscating your property. He does not take kindly to innovations; he prefers bare floors and unadorned walls to English carpets and American furniture. In truth, he prefers to be let alone; he will not allow his household gods to be ruthlessly torn down by these iconoclastic "Gringos"; and if the American flood increase to a deluge, and even completely surround him and his family, he will continue to live as his fathers did, calm and unmoved amid the seething waters of change.

The Mexican of the Border has an unpleasant custom, when trouble arises, of clapping his loving brother from the "Sister Republic" into the calaboose. The farther south one goes, the less the danger, as a rule, as this undoubtedly arises from the frequent vagaries of the American stranger, the outgrowth of individual enterprise. This is not always prompted by malice or jealousy; indeed, he is remarkably unsuspicious; but it is a custom of the country, costumbre del pais, sanctioned by long usage. He makes no distinction between Yankee and Aztec; his rule is, when in doubt, the calaboza. It may happen that the unhappy victim languishes for months, perhaps for years, in durance vile, but his turn for trial comes round in due course. Retributive justice is swift in Mexico, but the processes of the law are slow. It may be that the Mexican official is sometimes influenced by the haughty bearing and arrogance of the American, who, conscious of superior antecedents, makes his presence a trifle obnoxious.