Six Months In Mexico/Chapter 26
silver cord and tassel. Their saddles also match their suits in color and silver finish. How they ride! It is simply perfection. The horse and rider seem to be one.
I don't think they could carry any more weapons if they tried. Each man has a good carbine, a sword, two revolvers, the same number of daggers and two lassos, and they fight with any or all of these weapons. They fight very cleverly with the lasso. If they wish to take a prisoner—a very unusual proceeding on their part—they, with the rope, can either lasso man and horse together or two or more men. The other lasso is of wire, which not only catches the fugitive, but knocks him senseless or cuts his head off, as the case may be.
These rurales guide tourists through the interior and also attend all public places to keep order; they receive one dollar a day, which is enormous compared with the other soldiers' pay of six and one-quarter cents. They have their horses in perfect control, and can make them execute all kinds of movements in a body, while the tricks performed by individual horses are numberless.
The Mexicans have a good deal of suppressed wrath bothering them at the present day; they know that Diaz is a tyrannical czar, and want to overthrow him. It may be readily believed that Diaz knows they are bound to get rid of this superfluous feeling, and he would much rather have them vent its strength on the Americans than on himself; thus he stands on the war question. He is a good general, and has many good, tough old soldiers, the best of whom is ex-President Gonzales, to aid him, besides the convict soldiers and the rurales.
THE PRESS OF MEXICO.
The press of Mexico is like any of the other subjects of that -monarchy, yet it is a growing surprise to the American used to free movement, speech and print who visits Mexico with the attained idea that it is a republic. Even our newspapers have been wont to clip from the little sheets which issue from that country, believing them untrammeled, and quoting them as the best authority, when, in truth, they are but tools of the organized ring; and are only capable of deceiving the outsider. In the City of Mexico there are about twenty-five newspapers published, and throughout the empire some few, which are perused by the smallest possible number of people. The Mexicans understand thoroughly how the papers are run, and they consequently have not the slightest respect in the world for them. One can travel for miles, or by the day, and never see a man with a newspaper. They possess such a disgust for newspapers that they will not even use one of them as a subterfuge to hide behind in a street car when some woman with a dozen bundles, three children and two baskets is looking for a seat.
The best paper in Mexico is El Monitor Republicano (the Republican Monitor), which claims to have, in the city, suburbs, and United States, a circulation of five thousand. It is printed entirely in Spanish. The Mexican Financier is a weekly paper—filled with advertisements from the States—which is published in English and Spanish, and is bought only by those who want to learn the Spanish language, yet it is the best English paper in Mexico. Another English paper is published by an American, Howell Hunt, in Zacatecas, but it, like the rest, is of little or no account. One of the newsiest, if not the newsiest, is El Tiempo (the Times), which is squelched about every fortnight, as it is anti-governmental.
Very few have telegraphic communication with the outside world, and none whatever with their own country. They mostly clip and translate items from their exchanges, heading them "Special telegrams," etc., when in reality they are from eight to ten days old. El Monitor Republicano steals from its exchanges first and the other papers copy from it. Not a single paper has a reporter. Two men are considered plenty to clip and translate for a daily, and it is not unusual for them to borrow type to set the paper. All the type-setting is done in the day time and a morning paper is ready for sale—if anybody wanted it—the afternoon before. While our morning newspapers allow their brains to rest at 5 a. m., the Mexican brethren cease labor the day before at 4 p. m. Things happening on the streets, which would make a "display head" with us, are never even mentioned by them. One day I saw a woman fall dead two squares away from a newspaper office, and after a long time read in the same paper: "One of our respected contemporaries is authority for the story than an unknown Indian woman dropped dead on the street about two weeks ago." It needed no label "castanado" (chestnut). For a time the papers imagined they had an item.
There was an old Frenchman who made some sort of taffy and with it used to perambulate the streets crying, "Piruli." The English paper came out quoting a notice of this old fellow. In a few days they quoted another to the effect that the old fellow had died of smallpox. Then, after using space for one entire week, changing every other day the cause of the old man's death and substituting some new disease, the learned editor stated that according to all reports the old fellow was not dead at all, but had charmed some rich Mexican widow with his musical voice—or—taffy and was enjoying a honeymoon on her bank account. We even did not get peace with that, but in a few days they declared the report false and gave a new version. When we left there, five months later, they were still contradicting themselves about the old taffy-peddler.
Quite as bad was their treatment of a small forest fire located about twenty miles from the city. I was at the village at the time, and was quite amused, when the fires were extinguished after eight hours' burning, to read for two weeks after contradictory stories on it. It was still raging with renewed energy—hundreds of lives had been lost, etc., until one morning the English paper said: "According to a letter received at this office yesterday, only lasted a few hours, and our contemporaries, from whom we have been quoting, have made a big mistake. No lives were lost."
When a new member was added to the royal family of Spain the notice was clipped from a foreign paper, in which it stated clearly that the Queen Regent Christina had given birth to a boy baby. Yet it was headed: "Is it a Boy?" When it grew a little colder than usual in an interior town, they headed the item: "A Mexican Town in Danger." When Roswell P. Flower, of New York, returned from his trip to Mexico he was interviewed by some reporter, and while he said nothing in Mexico's favor he said nothing against it; so they headed the clipping: "He Loves Mexico." Moralizing is quite customary, at least with the English paper. After quoting an item from La Patria about a married pair quarreling so fiercely that the mother-in-law took bilious fever and died, it gave a sermon entitled: "Let not your angry passions rise." On another occasion, speaking of the criminal list being unusually large for the last month, it broke out with: "Oh, pulque, pulque, what evils are committed under thine influence! And yet, verily, thou art a most excellent aid to digestion."
All the papers which I know of are subsidized by the government, and, until within several months ago, they were paid to abstain from attacks on the government. This subsidy has stopped, through want of funds, but the papers say nothing against the government, as they care too much for their easy lives; so they circulate among foreigners misrepresenting all Mexican affairs, and putting everything in a fair but utterly false light. The Mexicans have nothing but contempt for the papers, and the newspaper men have no standing whatever, not even level with the government officials, whose tools they are. If a newspaper even hints that government affairs could be bettered, the editors are thrown into prison, too filthy for brutes, until they die or swear never to repeat the offense. The papers containing the so-called libelous items are all hunted up by the police and destroyed, and the and type are destroyed. These arrests are not unusual; indeed they are of frequent occurrence. in Mexico I knew of at least one man being sent to jail every two weeks; they are taken by force, in the most peculiar manner for a country which lays claim to having laws, not to speak of being a republic. Just for an imaginary offense in their writings, they are remanded to prison, and are kept in dark and dirty cells, shut off from connection with the world without trial, without even enough to eat.
A satirical paper named Ahuizote was denounced by some offended government officials and the editor was thrown into jail. Then Daniel Cabrera started another Mexican Puck and called it Hijo del Ahuizote (the son of Ahuizote). It was quite clever and got out a caricature entitled: "The Cemetery of the Press," showing in the background the graves of the different papers, and in the front a large cross engraved, "The independent Press. R. I. P.," while hanging to each side was a red-eyed owl with a spade. On top of the tomb was a lighted fuse marked "Liberty." Underneath it read, "The sad cemetery of the Press of Mexico, filled by liberty leaders, Juarez, Lerdo, Diaz and Gonzales." The police were sent out to gather up and destroy every copy of this paper.
Editor Cabrera was put in Belem, where he remained in the most pitiable condition until death promised release; through the influence of friends they took him home to die, guarding his house with a regiment until he should be fit to be carried back to jail or until they should see his body consigned to the grave. To say libelous things is as dangerous as to write them. One fellow who ran a liquor shop let his tongue wag too much for wisdom, and one night a member of the police secret service went in, and as the proprietor turned to get the drink the policeman had called for, he was shot in the back and again in the body after he had fallen. The notice of the affair ended by saying: "It is not known whether the policeman had orders to do the shooting." La Cronicade Tribunales (the Court Chronicle) editor was denounced and imprisoned for simply speaking about the rulings of one of the judges.
As all know by the Editor Cutting case, even a foreigner does not write about Mexico's doings as they really are. I had some regard for my health, and a Mexican jail is the least desirable abode on the face of the earth, so some care was exercised in the selection of topics while we were inside their gates. Quite innocently one day I wrote a short notice about some editors, who received no pay from the government, being put in jail. The article was copied from one paper to another, and finally reached Mexico. The subsidized sheets threatened to denounce me and said in Spanish, "One button was enough;" meaning by one article the officials could see what my others were like, but by means of a little bravado I convinced them that I had the upper hand, and they left me unhurt. They have a law, known as "Article 33," which defines the fate of "pernicious" foreigners who speak or write too freely of the land and its inhabitants. Once or twice they have been kind enough to take the offending