Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans/Chapter 14
THE MEXICANS AT HOME.
IT may have occurred to the reader, by this time, that the great city I have been describing, that cloud-dwelling capital of Mexico, is lacking in population; that its magnificent houses, hotels, and public edifices are tenantless. Yet such is not the case; for at least 280,000 people inhabit there. The reason that I have not before described them particularly is, that I wished to complete each topic as I took it up, to convey to the mind of the reader a distinct and lasting picture.
Before turning our attention to the Mexicans, let me confess that I have many misgivings as to the result. I know that it is the custom to abuse the Mexicans, to affirm that no good thing can, ever did, or ever will, come out of their country. At the outset, let me state that I shall not here indulge in invective. As a traveller who has seen the Mexican in nearly all the existing phases of life, who (coming from a country radically different in its internal life) shared, perhaps, in the customary prejudices against these people, but who has since dispassionately studied them by their works, and through the works of others, I may be permitted to express the belief that my views are substantially correct. But lest I should seem prejudiced, one way or another, I shall mainly present, in the following pages, the opinions of other writers.
Of the ten millions of people comprising the population of Mexico, at least one third are pure Indians, aborigines, indigenous to the soil; one sixth, Europeans and their Creole descendants; and one half. Mestizos, or "mixed" people. According to the latest census (1883), the entire mass of the population is divided as follows:—
|Indians (raza indigena)||3,200,000|
|Europeans and their descendants (Creoles)||1,500,000|
|Mestizos (raza mezclada)||5,800,000|
As to the peculiarities of this people, let me quote from Señor Don Garcia Cubas, a learned and observant native of Mexico. "The difference of dress, customs, and language," he says, "makes known the heterogeneousness of the population. . . . . The habits and customs of the individuals who compose the Creole division conform in general to European civilization, particularly to the fashions of the French, with reminiscences of the Spanish. Their national language is Spanish; French is much in vogue, whilst English, German, and Italian are receiving increasing attention. The nearest descendants of the Spaniards, and those less mixed up with the native race in Mexico, belong by their complexion to the white race. The natural inclination of the mixed race to the habits and customs of their white brethren, as well as their estrangement from those of the natives, is the reason that many of them figure in the most important associations of the country, by their learning and intelligence, including in this large number the worthy members of the middle classes. From this powerful coalition, the force of an energetic development naturally results, which is inimical to the increase of the indigenous race (the Indian), not a few of the natives themselves contributing to this fatal consequence, who, by their enlightenment, have joined the body I have referred to, thereby founding new families with the habits and customs of the upper classes."
From this we may infer the gradual extinction of the native Indian race, by gradual absorption into the more powerful mixed class; yet, although they are slowly melting away in the north, in the south they are increasing in number, until the country south of the capital is to a great extent in their possession.
The original stock of Mexico is the Indian, and, in pursuance of my plan,—to commence at the bottom and work upward,—we will inquire wherein the Mexican Indian is peculiar. It need not be stated, for the information of American readers, that the Indian is of a brown or olive color; he has little or no beard, is rather under medium height, generally stout or corpulent, with muscular thighs, broad chest, and rather slender arms; MEXICAN INDIAN.
(From a Wax Figure.) he is not over strong, but capable of great feats of endurance, and is the entire reliance of the country for work in the mines and agricultural labor. The Indian, says the German traveller Sartorius, invariably retains his national dress, which is as simple as the whole mode of life of these children of nature. The man wears short, wide drawers of coarse cotton or deerskin, which seldom reach to the knee, and a sort of frock of coarse woollen cloth, fastened around the hips by a belt; a straw hat and sandals complete his dress, which is devoid of all ornament. The females wrap themselves in a piece of woollen stuff that passes twice around the body, but is not closed with a seam; this is girded round the waist by a broad colored band, and reaches to the unshod feet. The upper part of the body is covered with the huipile, a wide garment closed on all sides, reaching to the knee, and furnished with two openings for the arms. The hair, tied up with a bright ribbon, is either wound about the head in a thick roll, or hangs down in two plaits; large earrings and bead necklaces complete the attire. The Indians distinguish their tribes by the color and fashion of their simple clothing. Wearing shoes is considered by them a departure from the good old fashion.
His dwelling is in keeping with his simple person. In the warm, well-wooded regions he builds of wood, and of palm leaves and stalks; on the table lands, of unburnt brick (adobe), with a flat roof of stamped clay supported by beams. Inside the hut burns, day and night, the sacred fire of the domestic hearth. Near it are the metate and metalpile, and an earthen pan, comale, for baking the maize bread. A few unglazed pots and dishes, a large water-pitcher, cups and dippers of gourd shell, comprise all the wealth, and a few carvings of saints (perhaps) the decorations. Mats of rushes or palm leaves answer for seats, table, and bed, and for their final rest in the grave. A mattock and hoe, nets perhaps and strings, the weaving apparatus of the woman (a few sticks), and the scanty provisions, hang on the wall and from the rafters. The Indian still uses the ancient temascale, or steam-bath,—a vaulted adobe oven, just high enough to sit upright in, where stones are heated and water poured on them to generate steam,—and practises simple remedies for his few diseases. His food is mostly vegetables and fruits. He distils and brews his own liquors; on the coast, palm wine, and rum from sugar-cane; on the table lands, pulque from the agave, the fermented juice of the tuna, or prickly-pear, chicha, chilote, etc. Maize is their support, and this is planted everywhere.
After the conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards, the lands of the Indians became the property of the invaders; but upon remote ranges of mountains, and in unhealthy coast regions, they retained land, because the conquerors feared to settle there in scattered bodies. A reactionary Spanish law granted to each Indian village a free possession extending 600 varas (1,800 feet) from the church, in all directions, and in addition to this a square tract of 3,600 feet base line. This they still possess and can cultivate in common, though many prefer to work on plantations as day-laborers. The Indian is always in debt, and as he can never leave an estate until he has worked out his indebtedness, he exists in a state of peonage which is a mild sort of slavery. They carry on few branches of industry, but have great capacity for making ornaments, and for manufacturing "antiquities," which are bought by unsuspecting travellers and deposited in museums as genuine relics of the past.
These people are trained porters and bearers of heavy burdens; they will sometimes go eighty or a hundred miles to market, and often thirty or forty, with loads of provisions, chickens, etc., that will bring only a dollar or two at the most. They have a peculiar dog-trot, which they keep up hour after hour and day after day; some of the Indian couriers, through their knowledge of paths and by-ways, have been known to accomplish the distance between certain points in less time than the mail-coach. Their ordinary load for a long journey is from seventy-five to a hundred pounds, but in the mines they climb up INDIAN WOMAN.
(From a Wax Figure.) the primitive ladders—merely notched poles—bearing four hundred and even five hundred pounds of ore.
The Indian is contented with the little he gets, and if a little remain it is almost invariably spent at the pulquerias—the liquor-shops—before he departs for home. Although the Indians form villages and settlements by themselves, and in the city of Mexico dwell in a suburb apart from the whites, yet they freely mingle in the streets, "a people within a people," says the authority from which the preceding account has been mainly drawn; they remain apart, interfering in none of the affairs of the upper classes, and confining even their quarrels to their own class. Humble and obedient, their self-abasement is such that they accept and apply to themselves the reproach of the whites, a term that implies that they have no understanding. A white man is to them a gente de razon,—a man of intelligence,—while the Indian is called a gente sin razon, or a man without reason,—of no understanding.
Further research into the Indian question may prove tedious to the general reader, and so we will leave the subject, merely pausing to state that the difference between the nomadic Indian of the Western prairies and the agricultural Indian of Mexico is hardly greater than that existing between the Aztec of the valley of Mexico, or the Yaqui of Sonora, and the native of Tehuantepec, and Yucatan; in a word, there are Indians and Indians. We need only note that the languages and dialects spoken by the various Indians of Mexico number one hundred and twenty, besides sixty more which are known to have become extinct.
The race which was imposed upon the country at the coming of the Spaniards should be the next to attract our attention, since it is from the union of this with the aboriginal that the representative Mexican is produced. The Creoles (Criollos) are either Europeans or of European parentage. At the time of the revolution, 1810-1821, a term of contempt was used in speaking of the Spaniards; they were called Gachupines. The Creoles were at one time the gentry, the aristocracy of Mexico, and even have aspirations in that direction now. In them, says Sartorius, we recognize the features of the Spaniard of the south, the conquerors and first colonists having been Andalusians. They are gentle and refined, yet vain and passionate, excellent hosts, delightful companions, addicted to gaming, and passionate admirers of the fair sex. The latter number among them many exceedingly lovely women, with dark complexions, large, languishing eyes, lithe and delicate forms, and dainty feet and hands. They are so closely immured in their prison-like dwellings that the foreigner has few opportunities for judging of their character; but I will venture to affirm that it will, compare favorably with that of their sisters of more northern climes. The daughters are closely watched by the mothers, who rarely trust them alone out of their sight. This may or may not be necessary; materfamilias thinks it is; the wicked young man, against whom all these precautions are taken, thinks it cruel."Domestic life is very different from that of the Germanic races. The life led by the ladies in their boudoirs savors something of the Oriental; they work beautifully with the needle, weave and embroider, play and sing; the intellectual element, however, is wanting, the understanding and the heart are uncultivated, and sensuality therefore easily obtains the upper hand. . . . . Taken altogether, the morals are more lax even
than in Spain, and yet less corrupt than in the large cities of Europe." This opinion is given by a writer who is commended in unqualified terms by Señor Cubas, himself a Mexican, or I should have much hesitancy in accepting it. Personally speaking, I saw no indication of this laxity of morals among the better classes, although among certain Indian tribes women of easy virtue are the rule rather than the exception.
In their dress, the Creoles differ in no important particular from the French, the ladies especially conforming to the latest fashion plates from Paris, with this exception, that at morning mass, and in making unceremonious calls, they wear that graceful Spanish head-dress, the mantilla; and the gentlemen, when on horseback, or in the country, adopt the picturesque riding costume of the Mestizos. They have many lovable traits: their goodness of heart, their cheerful endurance of the petty ills of life, the respect and courtesy paid by children to their parents, and the frankness with which a stranger is received by the family, who all combine to please and entertain him,—these are but few of their amiable qualities.
The deeper we get into this subject, the more delicate becomes the nature of it. We now approach that third race (so called) of Mexico, the Mestizo, or mixed people. Again, although I have already expressed myself regarding the Mestizo character, I shall doubt my ability to deal with it satisfactorily, and shall present the opinions of one longer a resident of Mexico than myself.
"The noblest of the Aztecs," says the author of Mexico and the Mexicans, "fell in battle with the Spaniards; their property fell into the hands of the victors, who at the same time became possessed of the families of those who had fallen; the rude warriors married the dusky daughters, who were rendered their equals by baptism. It was not considered a mésalliance to marry a noble Aztec girl. The sons of Montezuma, who were educated in Spain, received the title of Count. The Indian aristocracy adopted Christianity, and became amalgamated with the new population. It was not so with the poorer classes, who from the earliest periods had been subjected to the Indian aristocracy, and at the conquest only changed masters. Nevertheless, countless mongrels were born, some in lawful matrimony, some per nefas; and during three centuries the priest and the monk, the soldier and the young Creole, have continued to engraft the Caucasian stock on the wild trunk. Thus arose the numerous Mestizo population, which has inherited MESTIZO.
(By a Native Artist.) in part the brown hue of the mother, but also the greater energy and more vigorous mind of the father.
"The Mestizo, then, is properly the offspring (not always properly begotten) of white father and Indian mother. He has an inborn originality, and is the representative of national customs and peculiarities. He is a magnificent horseman; one might take him for an Arab, as, lance in hand, he rushes past upon his light steed. In the warmer regions he wears (on Sundays) a carefully plaited white shirt, wide trousers of white or colored drilling, fastened round the hips by a gay girdle, brown leather gaiters, and broad felt hat, with silver cord or fur band about it. The peasants, or rancheros, are usually distinguished by the calzoneras, or open trousers of leather ornamented with silver, with white drawers showing through, a colored silk handkerchief about the neck, and the sarape,—the blanket-shawl with slit in the centre, resembling a herald's mantle. The women seldom wear stockings, though their dainty feet are often encased in satin slippers; they have loose, embroidered chemises, and a woollen or calico skirt, while the rebozo—a narrow but long shawl—is drawn over the head, and covers the otherwise exposed arms and breast."
These are the elements that go to make up the Mexican people: Indians, Creoles, Mestizos. The last constitute the great majority of rancheros, or farmers, and arrieros, or mule-drivers; and in this latter capacity, often in the charge of great conductas, or trains, of treasure-laden animals, have always proved honest and trustworthy messengers.
The Mestizos are of pleasant countenance, when of good extraction, of full figure, with complexions which, though swarthy, are yet fresh, and sometimes rosy. As servants, the Mestizos are generally faithful, not over fond of ablution, but having high regard for their masters and mistresses. Always aspiring, the Mestizo is rapidly drawing away from the Indian progenitor, and assimilates with the white race; it is said that Mestizos of the third generation cannot be distinguished from the Creoles themselves. As politicians, they have ever been successful, taking to law, also, as naturally as to the profession of arms. Not alone in point of numerical superiority, but as regards the real possession of powder, through peculiar fitness for holding political office, the Mestizos are the dominant people of Mexico to-day.
But there is a class of Mestizos which a truthful delineation of Mexican society compels me to mention, not so creditable to Mexico by half as the poorest and most degraded of the Indians. I speak of the Lepero. The union of the worst of the Spanish with the worst of the Aztec race produced a progeny that exhibited all the vices, without a single virtue, of the parent stock. Time, instead of ameliorating, has hardened him, and the miserable lepero is the vilest specimen of humanity, the most degraded, most devoid of principle and honor, to be found on the American continent. And what is the lepero? Let Brantz Mayer, a close observer of the Mexicans for quite a length of time, answer this question: "Blacken a man in the sun, let his hair grow long and tangled, and become filled with vermin; let him plod about the streets in all kinds of dirt for years, and never know the use of brush or towel, or water even, except in storms; let him put on a pair of leather breeches at twenty, and wear them until forty without change or ablution; and over all place a torn and blackened hat, and a tattered blanket begrimed with abominations; let him have wild eyes and shining teeth, features pinched by famine into sharpness, and breasts bared and browned; combine all these in your imagination, and you have a recipe for a Mexican lepero."
In fine, the lepero is the most worthless kind of proletarian, a beggar whom no one can escape from, and whom no one can intimidate, Cortes mentions the swarms of beggars that existed in the Aztec capital in his time; they are also spoken of by Humboldt; they were the terror and disgust of every viceroy, except Revillagigedo, who, in the latter part of the last century, successfully dealt with them. In the revolutionary period they committed unheard of atrocities, and upon the entry of the American troops into Mexico it was the leperos who, let loose from the jails, murdered and pillaged friend and foe alike. To-day we find them on every street and corner, curled up in the portals of the churches, sleeping at noon in the shade of every sanctuary. It is on feast days that the lepero particularly shines, as witness this portraiture by the clever Sartorius:—
"The lepero has actually spent a medio (six cents) in order to convert the crusts of dirt, which had stood in bold relief on his face, neck, and hands, into the natural brown. . . . . Many of them are duly married, but the majority of them certainly not. They feel, however, the necessity of sharing their lot with a gentler being, and surely this may be achieved, as there are plenty of damsels of this class, who, like the male lepero, are enamored of freedom. Without the blessing of the priest, they live perhaps happier than with it. . . . . No popular festival, no church consecration, no marriage, takes place in the suburbs, without some of the leperos wounding or killing each other. No one interferes as the fight goes on, each with a knife in one hand and a cloak wrapped about the other, until one falls, and they all disperse, leaving him with his weeping mistress. . . . . These proletarians consist almost exclusively of Mestizos,—the Indians, poor as they seem to be, are not regarded as such,—their number mainly recruited from illegitimate children."
As to stealing, the lepero is a thief from his mother's arms. It is a fact, and I state it as confirmed to me by the chief of police, that nine out of every ten of the boys and men found in the streets of Mexico peddling papers or lottery tickets, or soliciting light employment generally, are thieves and pickpockets, and only approach you on the lookout for an opportunity to plunder you. So numerous are they that the police cannot distinguish the bad ones, as in the United States and in European cities, but class them all as capable of any crime.
The pawnbrokers are the great receivers of stolen goods in this country; the so-called empeños are pawn-shops. Washerwomen of the lepero class pawn the clothes of unsuspecting and trusting Americans when given them to be washed, and more than one engineer has had to visit some empeño and pay down the cash for garments that were already his to get them out of pawn. Either one by one, or all at a time, these garments are gathered into the maw of the Mexican "uncle."
Along the line of the great Mexican Railroad, from Vera Cruz to the city of Mexico, nothing is left outside after dark,—nothing that the strength of two men can lift. Even the car-couplings are taken inside the station and locked up. This road once introduced air-brakes on their cars, but the workmen punched holes in the pipes and stole the tubing; so they were taken off. On the National road, and doubtless on all others also, they stole the bolts that fastened the rails to the ties, until they were finally riveted on. One of a gang of workmen undertook to steal the cap off a cartridge of dynamite, with the result that he and several others went to their reward.
Brantz Mayer relates a good story of an Englishman, who, while walking one of the principal streets of Mexico, felt his hat lifted gently from his head, and looked upward just in time to see it sailing aloft, suspended by a hook to a line which the sagacious lepero had let down from a lofty window. He also relates that some years ago three Mexicans stopped another, in broad daylight, and took away his cloak. "His cloak gone, he naturally imagined that the robbers had no further use for him, and attempted to depart. The vagabonds, however, told him to remain patiently where he was, and he would find the result more agreeable than he expected. In the course of fifteen minutes their accomplice returned, and, politely bowing, handed the gentleman a pawnbroker s ticket. 'We wanted thirty dollars, not the cloak,' said the villain; 'here is a ticket, with which you may redeem it for that sum; and as the cloak of such a caballero is unquestionably worth at least a hundred dollars, you may consider yourself as having made seventy by the transaction. Vaya con Dios!'"
While I was in Mexico, the following incident was related to me, among others, illustrating the total depravity of the lepero. A good missionary had taken in charge a young man who showed evidences of conversion, and he was installed as janitor of the chapel. I suppose that (if missionaries ever do such things) this good man would have sworn by this janitor. While this converted Mexican was in charge an organ arrived; a day was fixed for the exhibition of this instrument, and the heart of the missionary warmed with pleasure at the thought of feasting the ears of his friends. The evening arrived for the exhibition, the friends arrived, but when the curtain was lifted that concealed the instrument of music it was not there! Neither was the janitor: he had gone and pawned the organ!
As the distinction between meum and tuum is altogether ignored by the leperos, so also life with them is not regarded as sacred; they even look upon death by shooting as honorable, and rather court it than otherwise. It perhaps comes of such perfect familiarity with fire-arms. Every lepero of distinction carries a revolver. Beg, borrow, or steal, a pistol he must and will have, and carry it in as exposed a place as possible. Should he arrive at the dignity of owning a horse,—though this is extremely improbable,—A LEPERO. the lepero becomes a most consummate fop, not only in regard to his horse, but to his equipments. He may parade himself with an incrustation on his skin of seven years' dirt, and with a shirt that has survived six months' continuous wear, but he will invariably carry a large nickel-plated revolver hanging at his side, and showing half its length of barrel below his jacket. To the butt of this revolver he will generally have a cord and tassel, or a steel or nickel-plated chain attached. If he is on horseback, he will have jingling bits, clanking sabre, and a saddle shining with silver ornaments; but he will never be without carbine or revolver. The result of all this display of fire-arms is, that they are perfectly familiar with weapons in a general way, and think no more of pointing a pistol at a man than at a post. It has almost superseded the knife, though that peculiarly Spanish weapon is not infrequently used.
It is a pleasure to me to be able to state that the present government has taken energetic measures looking towards a gradual reformation, if possible, of this worst portion of the criminal class, and the beneficial bullet has disposed of many of those who indulged in the pastime of the highwayman.
Two honest men next claim our attention, and then I have done with the people, except in genre, as we may meet them casually on the street, or in our travels. These are the policeman and the water-carrier,—the aguador. You meet the former on every corner and in every street, in times of peace; but have noticed here the same phenomenon that I have also observed in Northern cities; namely, that when you really need
one of these policemen, when there is any danger near, there is not one within a radius of half a mile. As a body, the policemen are efficient and well drilled, courteous and affable. At night, the policeman is furnished with a lantern, which he places exactly in the centre of the street, while he sits in a doorway on the opposite corner, and snoozes at intervals in his sarape, or blanket-shawl. At certain periods he disturbs the nocturnal quiet with ear-piercing whistles; in the smaller cities and provincial towns, he cries the time of night, always ending up with "Tiempo seréno," or, "All serene." From this the mischievous Mexican youth have nicknamed him the Sereno, although his trim appearance now, clad in neat uniform, is in great contrast to the ancient watchmen, who first acquired, and bore with serenity, this appellation.
But commend to me the honest aguador; who, with his burden of earthen jars, his leathern armor and quaint ways, is the most interesting individual of the Mexican street. All the water of the city being brought over aqueducts, it is only obtainable at the fountains, and the aguador thus becomes the most important personage of the household; and as he is the bearer of gossip and news, he is always most welcome.
Society in Mexico differs little from society in Spain, or in Cuba, or other Spanish-speaking country, so that to describe it would be an unnecessary task. There is one phase of it, however, that has reached a development not surpassed either in the mother country or the Gem of the Antilles. I allude to courtship, or perhaps it may be merely flirtation. From my secure post of observation on the azotea of my boarding-house, I often noticed a haggard and emaciated young man, pacing the sidewalk in front of the next house. Seeing him day after day, I inquired the reason of his perambulations in that particular spot, and was informed that he was "playing the bear"; or, in other words, paying his attentions to the fair señorita in the balcony above. Hacer el oso is the Mexican for this idiotic performance, or "to play the bear,"—from the uneasy walking to and fro in one spot, like a bear in a cage. In his hand the imitator of the bear carries either a cigar or cigarette, with which he conducts a correspondence with his inamorata, she replying through the medium of her fan or handkerchief. I was often told that some of these insensate creatures have been known to play the bear for at least seven years, and after all did not succeed in capturing the fair ones who had caused them to appear so ridiculous in the eyes of men.
We have inspected the Mexicans in detail, let us now look at them as a whole, and possibly homogeneous race. Says an English author: "To give a brief characterization of the EL AGUADOR
(From a Wax Figure) people of any country is always difficult. Especially is this a difficult task when the Mexican population has to be described. The race is heterogeneous, and what may be true of one part of the country may be utterly untrue regarding that of another section. . . . . One traveller represents the Mexicans as a fine race, possessing all the virtues of the rest of mankind, and some peculiarly their own. Others will assure the reader, on their word of honor, that they have searched the vocabularies of the language in which they write, without being able to pick out a series of adjectives strong enough to express the utter turpitude of these degenerate descendants of a degenerate race."
That this is strictly true, let me show by inserting some extracts,—first, from the book of the English traveller, Ruxton: "The Mexicans, as a people, rank decidedly low in the scale of humanity. They are deficient in moral as well as physical organization; they are treacherous, cunning, indolent and without energy, and cowardly by nature. Inherent, instinctive cowardice is rarely met with in any race of men, yet I affirm that in this instance it certainly exists, and is most conspicuous; they possess at the same time that amount of brutish indifference to death which can be turned to good account in soldiers, and I believe that, if properly led, the Mexican should on this account behave tolerably well in the field, but no more than tolerably."
A German traveller, Geiger, has a mild fling at the Mexican, as follows: "The Mexicans prefer the French to all other nationalities; it is an old liking, which the late war has not destroyed, and hardly even diminished. The reasons for this are many. There exists a certain similarity of character between them; they have been reared in the same religion; and last, but not least, the gushing, ceremonious politeness of the Frenchman fascinates the Mexican, whose vanity is easily tickled by these demonstrative though insincere formalities. When questioned as to their fondness for the French, Mexicans will tell you repeatedly that un Frances tiene educacion, which by no means implies that a Frenchman is educated, for in that respect they and Mexicans rank much alike, but that the Gaul knows how to embrace à la Mexicana, i. e. to fall into his friend's arms as if he were about to wrestle with him, and actively pat him on the back with the right hand of affectionate acquaintance."
Now in these two extracts we see illustrated the previous statement regarding the heterogeneousness of the population, since, although both speak of the Mexican, each describes a radically different type; the first evidently the Indian, the latter the Creole or Mestizo of the upper ranks. One should be careful to discriminate between the various classes of people. I have had my attention called to the fact, that those who have known the Mexicans longest speak of them in the highest terms. Of such well-informed observers was Brantz Mayer, author of several books on Mexico. He says: "I think it exceedingly reasonable that the Mexicans should be shy of foreigners. They have been educated in the strict habits of the Catholic creed; the customs of the country are different from others; the strangers who visit them are engaged in the eager contests of commercial strife; and besides, being of different religion and language, they are chiefly from those Northern nations whose tastes and feelings have nothing kindred with the impulsive dispositions of the ardent South. In addition to the selfish spirit of gain that pervades the intercourse of these visitors, and gives them no character of permanency, or sympathy with the country, they have been accustomed to look down on the Mexicans with contempt for their obsolete habits, without reflecting that they are not justly censurable for traditional usages, which they had no opportunity of improving by comparison with the progress of civilization among other nations. Yet, treating these people with the frankness of a person accustomed to find himself at home wherever he goes, avoiding the egotism of natural prejudices, and meeting them in a spirit of benevolence, I have ever found them kind, gentle, hospitable, intelligent, benevolent, brave. I speak, however, of the juste milieu of society, wherein reside the virtue and intellect of a country. . . . . In fact, regard them in any way, and they will be found to possess the elements of a fine people, who want but peace and the stimulus of foreign emulation to bring them forward among the nations of the earth with great distinction."
This prediction, that the Mexican people needed but "peace and the stimulus of foreign emulation" to bring out their latent energies, is being realized. Mexico is taking a distinguished stand among nations, from which it will soon become impossible for her to recede. I myself, having broken bread and eaten salt with almost every class in Mexico, can truthfully subscribe to the sentiments expressed by the last-quoted author, and do so unhesitatingly. There is more truth in the Mexican's protestations of good will than strangers are ready to credit; he is often so effusive that they lay upon him the charge of insincerity. It may be that he is insincere, that he means utterly nothing when he repeats the ever-ready phrase, Mi casa está muy á su disposicion, señor,—"My house, and all it contains, is very much at your disposal, sir"; but he as often means it as not, as I have frequently found, when, far from town or hotel, night has overtaken me near some rancho or hacienda, and I have received the warmest of welcomes from its hospitable proprietor.