TRAMPING THROUGH MEXICO, GUATEMALA AND HONDURAS
Being the Random Notes of an Incurable Vagabond
By Harry A. Franck
Author Of "A Vagabond Journey Around The World," "Zone Policeman 88," etc.
Illustrated With Photographs By The Author
To The Mexican Peon With Sincerest Wishes For His Ultimate Emancipation
This simple story of a journey southward grew up of itself. Planning a comprehensive exploration of South America, I concluded to reach that continent by some less monotonous route than the steamship's track; and herewith is presented the unadorned narrative of what I saw on the way,—the day-by-day experiences in rambling over bad roads and into worse lodging-places that infallibly befall all who venture afield south of the Rio Grande. The present account joins up with that of five months on the Canal Zone, already published, clearing the stage for a larger forthcoming volume on South America giving the concrete results of four unbroken years of Latin-American travel.
Harry A. Franck. New York, May, 1916.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I INTO THE COOLER SOUTH
II TRAMPING THE BYWAYS
III IN A MEXICAN MINE
IV ROUND ABOUT LAKE CHAPALA
V ON THE TRAIL IN MICHOACAN
VI TENOCHTITLAN OF TO-DAY
VII TROPICAL MEXICO
VIII HURRYING THROUGH GUATEMALA
IX THE UPS AND DOWNS OF HONDURAS
X THE CITY OF THE SILVER HILLS
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
A street of Puebla, Mexico, and the Soledad Church.
The first glimpse of Mexico. Looking across the Rio Grande at Laredo.
A corner of Monterey from my hotel window.
A peon restaurant in the market-place of San Luis Potosi.
A market woman of San Luis Potosi.
Some sold potatoes no larger than nuts.
A policeman and an arriero.
The former home, in Dolores Hidalgo, of the Mexican "Father of his Country".
Rancho del Capulin, where I ended the first day of tramping in Mexico.
View of the city of Guanajuato.
Fellow-roadsters in Mexico.
Some of the pigeon-holes of Guanajuato's cemetery.
A pulque street-stand and one of its clients.
Prisoners washing in the patio of the former "Alondiga".
Drilling with compressed-air drills in a mine "heading".
As each car passed I snatched a sample of its ore.
Working a "heading" by hand.
Peon miners being searched for stolen ore as they leave the mine.
Bricks of gold and silver ready for shipment. Each is worth something like $1250.
In a natural amphitheater of Guanajuato the American miners of the region gather on Sundays for a game of baseball.
Some of the peons under my charge about to leave the mine.
The easiest way to carry a knapsack—on a peon's back.
The ore thieves of Peregrina being led away to prison.
One of Mexico's countless "armies".
Vendors of strawberries at the station of Irapuato.
The wall of Guadalajara penitentiary against which prisoners are shot.
The liver-shaking stagecoach from Atequisa to Chapala.
Lake Chapala from the estate of Ribero Castellanos.
The head farmer of the estate under an aged fig-tree.
A Mexican village.
Making glazed floor tiles on a Mexican estate.
Vast seas of Indian corn stretch to pine-clad hills, while around them are guard-shacks at frequent intervals.
Interior of a Mexican hut at cooking time.
Fall plowing near Patzcuaro.
Modern transportation along the ancient highway from Tzintzuntzan, the former Tarascan capital.
In the church of ancient Tzintzuntzan is a "Descent from the Cross" ascribed to Titian.
Indians waiting outside the door of the priest's house in Tzintzuntzan.
A corner of Morelia, capital of Michoacan, and its ancient aqueduct.
The spot and hour in which Maximilian was shot, with the chapel since erected by Austria.
The market of Tlaxcala, the ancient inhabitants of which aided Cortez in the conquest of Mexico.
A rural of the state of Tlaxcala on guard before a barracks.
A part of Puebla, looking toward the peak of Orizaba.
Popocatepetl and the artificial hill of Cholula on which the Aztecs had a famous temple, overthrown by Cortez.
A typical Mexican of the lowlands of Tehuantepec.
A typical Mexican boy of the highlands.
Looking down on Maltrata as the train begins its descent.
A residence of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.
On the banks of the Coatzacoalcos, Isthmus of Tehuantepec.
Women of Tehuantepec in the market-place.
On the hillside above Tehuantepec are dwellings partly dug out of the cliffs.
A rear-view of the remarkable head-dress of the women of Tehuantepec, and one of their decorated bowls.
A woman of northern Guatemala.
A station of the "Pan-American" south of Tehuantepec.
An Indian boy of Guatemala on his way home from market.
Three "gringoes" on the tramp from the Mexican boundary to the railway of Guatemala.
Inside the race-track at Guatemala City is a relief map of the entire country.
One of the jungle-hidden ruins of Quiragua.
The last house in Guatemala, near the boundary of Honduras.
A woman shelling corn for my first meal in Honduras.
A vista of Honduras from a hillside, to which I climbed after losing the trail.
A resident of Santa Rosa, victim of the hook-worm.
The chief monument of the ruins of Copan.
I topped a ridge and caught sight at last of Santa Rosa, first town of any size in Honduras.
Soldiers of Santa Rosa eating in the market-place.
Christmas dinner on the road in Honduras.
Several times I met the families of soldiers tramping northward with all their possessions.
A fellow-roadster behind one of my cigars.
An arriero carrying a bundle of Santa Rosa cigars on his own back as he drives his similarly laden animals.
The great military force of Esperanza compelled to draw up and face my camera.
The prisoners in their chains form an interested audience across the street.
Honduras, the Land of Great Depths.
A corner of Tegucigalpa.
The "West Pointers" of Honduras in their barracks, a part of the national palace.
View of Tegucigalpa from the top of Picacho.
Repairing the highway from Tegucigalpa to the Coast.
A family of Honduras.
Approaching Sabana Grande, the first night's stop on the tramp to the coast.
A beef just butchered and hung out in the sun.
A dwelling on the hot lands of the Coast, and its scantily clad inhabitants.
Along the Pasoreal River.
The mozo pauses for a drink on the trail.
One way of transporting merchandise from the coast to Tegucigalpa.
The other way of bringing goods up to the capital.
The garrison of Amapala.
Marooned "gringoes" waiting with what patience possible at the "Hotel Morazan," Amapala.
Unloading cattle in the harbor of Amapala.
The steamer arrives at last that is to carry us south to Panama.
We lose no time in being rowed out to her.
The Author's Itinerary
INTO THE COOLER SOUTH
You are really in Mexico before you get there. Laredo is a purely—though not pure—Mexican town with a slight American tinge. Scores of dull-skinned men wander listlessly about trying to sell sticks of candy and the like from boards carried on their heads. There are not a dozen shops where the clerks speak even good pidgin English, most signs are in Spanish, the lists of voters on the walls are chiefly of Iberian origin, the very county officers from sheriff down—or up—are names the average American could not pronounce, and the saunterer in the streets may pass hours without hearing a word of English. Even the post-office employees speak Spanish by preference and I could not do the simplest business without resorting to that tongue. I am fond of Spanish, but I do not relish being forced to use it in my own country.
On Laredo's rare breeze rides enough dust to build a new world. Every street is inches deep in it, everything in town, including the minds of the inhabitants, is covered with it. As to heat—"Cincinnati Slim" put it in a nutshell even as we wandered in from the cattleyards where the freight train had dropped us in the small hours: "If ever hell gets full this'll do fine for an annex."
Luckily my window in the ruin that masqueraded as a hotel faced such wind as existed. The only person I saw in that institution during twenty-four hours there was a little Mexican boy with a hand-broom, which he evidently carried as an ornament or a sign of office. It seemed a pity not to let Mexico have the dust-laden, sweltering place if they want it so badly.
I had not intended to lug into Mexico such a load as I did. But it was a Jewish holiday, and the pawnshops were closed. As I passed the lodge on the north end of the bridge over the languid, brown Rio Grande it was a genuine American voice that snapped: "Heh! A nickel!"
Just beyond, but thirty-six minutes earlier, the Mexican official stopped me with far more courtesy, and peered down into the corners of my battered "telescope" without disturbing the contents.
"Monterey?" he asked.
"No revolver?" he queried suspiciously.
"No, senor," I answered, keeping the coat on my arm unostentatiously over my hip pocket. It wasn't a revolver; it was an automatic.
The man who baedekerized Mexico says Nuevo Laredo is not the place to judge that country. I was glad to hear it. Its imitation of a street-car, eight feet long, was manned by two tawny children without uniforms, nor any great amount of substitute for them, who smoked cigarettes incessantly as we crawled dustily through the baked-mud hamlet to the decrepit shed that announced itself the station of the National Railways of Mexico. It was closed, of course. I waited an hour or more before two officials resplendent in uniforms drifted in to take up the waiting where I had left off. But it was a real train that pulled in toward three, from far-off St. Louis, even if it had hooked on behind a second-class car with long wooden benches.
For an hour we rambled across just such land as southern Texas, endless flat sand scattered with chaparral, mesquite, and cactus; nowhere a sign of life, but for fences of one or two barb-wires on crooked sticks—not even bird life. The wind, strong and incessant as at sea, sounded as mournful through the thorny mesquite bushes as in our Northern winters, even though here it brought relief rather than suffering. The sunshine was unbrokenly glorious.
Benches of stained wood in two-inch strips ran the entire length of our car, made in Indiana. In the center were ten double back-to-back seats of the same material. The conductor was American, but as in Texas he seemed to have little to do except to keep the train moving. The auditor, brakeman, and train-boy were Mexicans, in similar uniforms, but of thinner physique and more brown of color. The former spoke fluent English. The engineer was American and the fireman a Negro.
Far ahead, on either side, hazy high mountains appeared, as at sea. By the time we halted at Lampazos, fine serrated ranges stood not far distant on either hand. From the east came a never-ceasing wind, stronger than that of the train, laden with a fine sand that crept in everywhere. Mexican costumes had appeared at the very edge of the border; now there were even a few police under enormous hats, with tight trousers and short jackets showing a huge revolver at the hip. Toward evening things grew somewhat greener. A tree six to twelve feet high, without branches, or sometimes with several trunk-like ones, growing larger from bottom to top and ending in a bristling bunch of leaves, became common. The mountains on both sides showed fantastic peaks and ridges, changing often in aspect; some, thousands of feet high with flat tableland tops, others in strange forms the imagination could animate into all manner of creatures.
A goatherd, wild, tawny, bearded, dressed in sun-faded sheepskin, was seen now and then tending his flock of little white goats in the sand and cactus. This was said to be the rainy season in northern Mexico. What must it be in the dry?
Toward five the sun set long before sunset, so high was the mountain wall on our right. The sand-storm had died down, and the sand gave way to rocks. The moon, almost full, already smiled down upon us over the wall on the left. We continued along the plain between the ranges, which later receded into the distance, as if retiring for the night. Flat, mud-colored, Palestinian adobe huts stood here and there in the moonlight among patches of a sort of palm bush.
Monterey proved quite a city. Yet how the ways of the Spaniard appeared even here! Close as it is to the United States, with many American residents and much "americanizado," according to the Mexican, the city is in architecture, arrangement, customs, just what it would be a hundred miles from Madrid; almost every little detail of life is that of Spain, with scarcely enough difference to suggest another country, to say nothing of another hemisphere. England brings to her colonies some of her home customs, but not an iota of what Spain does to the lands she has conquered. The hiding of wealth behind a miserable facade is almost as universal in Mexico of the twentieth century as in Morocco of the fourth. The narrow streets of Monterey have totally inadequate sidewalks on which two pedestrians pass, if at all, with the rubbing of shoulders. Outwardly the long vista of bare house fronts that toe them on either side are dreary and poor, every window barred as those of a prison. Yet in them sat well-dressed senoritas waiting for the lovers who "play the bear" to late hours of the night, and over their shoulders the passerby caught many a glimpse of richly furnished rooms and flowery patios beyond.
The river Catalina was drier than even the Manzanares, its rocky bed, wide enough to hold the upper Connecticut, entirely taken up by mule and donkey paths and set with the cloth booths of fruit sellers. As one moves south it grows cooler, and Monterey, fifteen hundred feet above sea-level, was not so weighty in its heat as Laredo and southern Texas. But, on the other hand, being surrounded on most sides by mountains, it had less breeze, and the coatless freedom of Texas was here looked down upon. During the hours about noonday the sun seemed to strike physically on the head and back whoever stepped out into it, and the smallest fleck of white cloud gave great and instant relief. From ten to four, more or less, the city was strangely quiet, as if more than half asleep, or away on a vacation, and over it hung that indefinable scent peculiar to Arab and Spanish countries. Compared with Spain, however, its night life and movement was slight.
Convicts in perpendicularly striped blue and white pajamas worked in the streets. That is, they moved once every twenty minutes or so, usually to roll a cigarette. They were without shackles, but several guards in brown uniforms and broad felt hats, armed with thick-set muskets, their chests criss-crossed with belts of long rifle cartridges, lolled in the shade of every near-by street corner. The prisoners laughed and chatted like men perfectly contented with their lot, and moved about with great freedom. One came a block to ask me the time, and loafed there some fifteen minutes before returning to his "labor."
Mexico is strikingly faithful to its native dress. Barely across the Rio Grande the traveler sees at once hundreds of costumes which in any American city would draw on all the boy population as surely as the Piper of Hamelin. First and foremost comes always the enormous hat, commonly of thick felt with decorative tape, the crown at least a foot high, the brim surely three feet in diameter even when turned up sufficient to hold a half gallon of water. That of the peon is of straw; he too wears the skintight trousers, and goes barefoot but for a flat leather sandal held by a thong between the big toe and the rest. In details and color every dress was as varied and individual as the shades of complexion.
My hotel room had a fine outlook to summer-blue mountains, but was blessed with neither mirror, towel, nor water. I descended to the alleyway between "dining-room" and barnyard, where I had seen the general washbasin, but found the landlady seated on the kitchen floor shelling into it peas for our almuerzo. This and the evening comida were always identically the same. A cheerful but slatternly Indian woman set before me a thin soup containing a piece of squash and a square of boiled beef, and eight hot corn tortillas of the size and shape of our pancakes, or gkebis, the Arab bread, which it outdid in toughness and total absence of taste. Next followed a plate of rice with peppers, a plate of tripe less tough than it should have been, and a plate of brown beans which was known by the name of chile con carne, but in which I never succeeded in finding anything carnal. Every meal ended with a cup of the blackest coffee.
Out at the end of calle B a well-worn rocky path leads up to a ruined chapel on the summit of a hill, the famous Obispado from which the city was shelled and taken by the Americans in 1847. Below, Monterey lies flat, with many low trees peering above the whitish houses, all set in a perfectly level plain giving a great sense of roominess, as if it could easily hold ten such cities. At the foot of the hill, some three hundred feet high, is an unoccupied space. Then the city begins, leisurely at first, with few houses and many gardens and trees, thickening farther on. All about are mountains. The Silla (Saddle), a sharp rugged height backing the city on the right, has a notch in it much like the seat of a Texas saddle; to the far left are fantastic sharp peaks, and across the plain a ragged range perhaps fifteen miles distant shuts off the view. Behind the chapel stand Los Dientes, a teeth or saw-like range resembling that behind Leceo in Italy. Only a young beggar and his female mate occupied the ruined chapel, built, like the town, of whitish stone that is soft when dug but hardens upon exposure to the air. They cooked on the littered floor of one of the dozen rooms, and all the walls of the chamber under the great dome were set with pegs for birds, absent now, but which had carpeted the floor with proof of their frequent presence.
At five the sun set over the city, so high is the Dientes range, but for some time still threw a soft light on the farther plain and hills. Compared with our own land there is something profoundly peaceful in this climate and surroundings. Now the sunshine slipped up off the farther ranges, showing only on the light band of clouds high above the farther horizon, and a pale-faced moon began to brighten, heralding a brilliant evening.
Fertile plains of corn stretched south of the city, but already dry, and soon giving way to mesquite and dust again. Mountains never ceased, and lay fantastically heaped up on every side. We rose ever higher, though the train kept a moderate speed. At one station the bleating of a great truckload of kids, their legs tied, heaped one above the other, was startlingly like the crying of babies. We steamed upward through a narrow pass, the mountains crowding closer on either hand and seeming to grow lower as we rose higher among them. The landscape became less arid, half green, with little or no cactus, and the breeze cooled steadily. Saltillo at last, five thousand feet up, was above the reach of oppressive summer and for perhaps the first time since leaving Chicago I did not suffer from the heat. It was almost a pleasure to splash through the little puddles in its poorly paved streets. Its plazas were completely roofed with trees, the view down any of its streets was enticing, and the little cubes of houses were painted all possible colors without any color scheme whatever. Here I saw the first pulquerias, much like cheap saloons in appearance, with swinging doors, sometimes a pool table, and a bartender of the customary I-tell-yer-I'm-tough physiognomy. Huge earthen jars of the fermented cactus juice stood behind the bar, much like milk in appearance, and was served in glazed pots, size to order. In Mexico pulqueria stands for saloon and peluqueria for barber-shop, resulting now and then in sad mistakes by wandering Yankees innocent of Spanish.
There were a hundred adult passengers by actual count, to say nothing of babies and unassorted bundles, in the second-class car that carried me on south into the night. Every type of Mexican was represented, from white, soft, city-bred specimens to sturdy countrymen so brown as to be almost black. A few men were in "European" garb. Most of them were dressed a la peon, very tight trousers fitting like long leggings, collarless shirts of all known colors, a gay faja or cloth belt, sometimes a coat—always stopping at the waist. Then last, but never least, the marvelous hat. Two peons trying to get through the same door at once was a sight not soon to be forgotten. There were felt and straw hats of every possible grade and every shade and color except red, wound with a rich band about the crown and another around the brim. Those of straw were of every imaginable weave, some of rattan, like baskets or veranda furniture. The Mexican male seems to be able to endure sameness of costume below it, but unless his hat is individual, life is a drab blank to him. With his hat off the peon loses seven eights of his impressiveness. The women, with only a black sort of thin shawl over their heads, were eminently inconspicuous in the forest of hatted men.
Mournfully out of the black drizzling night about the station came the dismal wails of hawkers at their little stands dim-lighted by pale lanterns; "Anda pulque!" Within the car was more politeness—or perhaps, more exactly, more unconscious consideration for others—than north of the Rio Grande. There were many women among us, yet all the night through there was not a suggestion of indecency or annoyance. Indian blood largely predominated, hardy, muscular, bright-eyed fellows, yet in conduct all were caballeros. Near me sat a family of three. The father, perhaps twenty, was strikingly handsome in his burnished copper skin, his heavy black hair, four or five inches long, hanging down in "bangs" below his hat. The mother was even younger, yet the child was already some two years old, the chubbiest, brightest-eyed bundle of humanity imaginable. In their fight for a seat the man shouted to the wife to hand him the child. He caught it by one hand and swung it high over two seats and across the car, yet it never ceased smiling. The care this untutored fellow took to give wife and child as much comfort as possible was superior to that many a "civilized" man would have shown all night under the same circumstances. Splendid teeth were universal among the peons. There was no chewing of tobacco, but much spitting by both sexes. A delicate, child-like young woman drew out a bottle and swallowed whole glassfuls of what I took to be milk, until the scent of pulque, the native beverage, suddenly reached my nostrils.
The fat brown auditor addressed senora, the peon's wife, with the highest respect, even if he insisted on doing his duty to the extent of pushing aside the skirts of the women to peer under the long wooden bench for passengers. A dispute soon arose. Fare was demanded of a ragged peon for the child of three under his arm. The peon shook his head, smiling. The auditor's voice grew louder. Still the father smiled silently. The ticket collector stepped back into the first-class car and returned with the train guard, a boyish-looking fellow in peon garb from hat to legging trousers, with a brilliant red tie, two belts of enormous cartridges about his waist, in his hand a short ugly rifle, and a harmless smile on his face. There was something fascinating about the stocky little fellow with his half-embarrassed grin. One felt that of himself he would do no man hurt, yet that a curt order would cause him to send one of those long steel-jacketed bullets through a man and into the mountain side beyond. Luckily he got no such orders. The auditor pointed out the malefactor, who lost no time in paying the child's half-fare.
This all-night trip must be done sooner or later by all who enter Mexico by way of Laredo, for the St. Louis-Mexico City Limited with its sleeping-car behind and a few scattered Americans in first-class is the only one that covers this section. Residents of Vanegas, for example, who wish to travel south must be at the station at three in the morning.
Most of the night the train toiled painfully upward. As a man scorns to set out after a hearty meal with a lunch under his arm, so in the swelter of Texas I had felt it foolish to be lugging a bundle of heavy clothing. By midnight I began to credit myself with foresight. The windows were closed, yet the land of yesterday seemed far behind indeed. I wrapped my heavy coat about me. Toward four we crossed the Tropic of Cancer into the Torrid Zone, without a jolt, and I dug out my gray sweater and regretted I had abandoned the old blue one in an empty box-car. Twice I think I drowsed four minutes with head and elbow on my bundle, but except for two or three women who jack-knifed on the long bench no one found room to lie down during the long night.
From daylight on I stood in the vestibule and watched the drab landscape hurry steadily past. No mountains were in sight now because we were on top of them. Yet no one would have suspected from the appearance of the country that we were considerably more than a mile above sea-level. The flat land looked not greatly different from that of the day before. The cactus was higher; some of the "organ" variety, many of the "Spanish bayonet" species, lance-like stalks eight to ten feet high. The rest was bare ground with scattered mesquite bushes. Had I not known the altitude I might have attributed the slight light-headedness to a sleepless night.
Certainly a hundred ragged cargadores, hotel runners, and boys eager to carry my bundle attacked me during my escape from the station of San Luis Potosi at seven, and there were easily that many carriages waiting, without a dozen to take them. The writer of Mexico's Baedeker speaks of the city as well-to-do. Either it has vastly changed in a few years or he wrote it up by absent treatment. Hardly a town of India exceeds it in picturesque poverty. Such a surging of pauperous humanity, dirt, and uncomplaining misery I had never before seen in the Western Hemisphere. Plainly the name "republic" is no cure for man's ills. The chief center was the swarming market. Picture a dense mob of several thousand men and boys, gaunt, weather-beaten, their tight trousers collections of rents and patchwork in many colors, sandals of a soft piece of leather showing a foot cracked, blackened, tough as a hoof, as incrusted with filth as a dead foot picked up on a garbage heap, the toes always squirting with mud, the feet not merely never washed but the sandal never removed until it wears off and drops of its self. Above this a collarless shirt, blouse or short jacket, ragged, patched, of many faded colors, yet still showing half the body. Then a dull, uncomplaining, take-things-as-they-come face, unwashed, never shaved—the pure Indian grows a sort of dark down on his cheeks and the point of the chin, the half-breeds a slight beard—all topped by the enormous hat, never missing, though often full of holes, black with dirt, weather-beaten beyond expression.
Then there were fully as many women and girls, even less fortunate, for they had not even sandals, but splashed along barefoot among the small cold cobblestones. Their dress seemed gleaned from a rag-heap and their heads were bare, their black hair combed or plastered flat. Children of both sexes were exact miniatures of their elders. All these wretches were here to sell. Yet what was for sale could easily have been tended by twenty persons. Instead, every man, woman, and child had his own stand, or bit of cloth or cobblestone on which to spread a few scanty, bedraggled wares. Such a mass of silly, useless, pathetic articles, toy jars, old bottles, anything that could be found in all the dump-heaps of Christendom. The covered market housed only a very small percentage of the whole. There was a constant, multicolored going and coming, with many laden asses and miserable, gaunt creatures bent nearly double under enormous loads on head or shoulders. Every radiating narrow mud-dripping street for a quarter-mile was covered in all but the slight passageway in the center with these displays. Bedraggled women sat on the cobbles with aprons spread out and on them little piles of six nuts each, sold at a centavo. There were peanuts, narrow strips of cocoanut, plantains, bananas short and fat, sickly little apples, dwarf peaches, small wild grapes, oranges green in color, potatoes often no larger than marbles, as if the possessor could not wait until they grew up before digging them; cactus leaves, the spines shaved off, cut up into tiny squares to serve as food; bundles of larger cactus spines brought in by hobbling old women or on dismal asses and sold as fuel, aguacates, known to us as "alligator pears" and tasting to the uninitiated like axle-grease; pomegranates, pecans, cheeses flat and white, every species of basket and earthen jar from two-inch size up, turnips, some cut in two for those who could not afford a whole one; onions, flat slabs of brown, muddy-looking soap, rice, every species of frijole, or bean, shelled corn for tortillas, tomatoes—tomate coloradito, though many were tiny and green as if also prematurely gathered—peppers red and green, green-corn with most of the kernels blue, lettuce, radishes, cucumbers, carrots, cabbages, melons of every size except large, string-beans, six-inch cones of the muddiest of sugar, the first rough product of the crushers wound in swamp grass and which prospective purchasers handled over and over, testing them now and then by biting off a small corner, though there was no apparent difference; sausages with links of marble size, everything in the way of meat, tossed about in the dirt, swarming with flies, handled, smelled, cut into tiny bits for purchasers; even strips of intestines, the jaw-bone of a sheep with barely the smell of meat on it; all had value to this gaunt community, nothing was too green, or old, or rotten to be offered for sale. Chickens with legs tied lay on the ground or were carried about from day to day until purchasers of such expensive luxuries appeared. There were many men with a little glass box full of squares of sweets like "fudge," selling at a half-cent each; every possible odd and end of the shops was there; old women humped over their meager wares, smoking cigarettes, offered for sale the scraps of calico left over from the cutting of a gown, six-inch triangles of no fathomable use to purchasers. There were entire blocks selling only long strips of leather for the making of sandals. Many a vendor had all the earmarks of leprosy. There were easily five thousand of them, besides another market on the other side of the town, for this poverty-stricken city of some fifty thousand inhabitants. The swarming stretched a half mile away in many a radiating street, and scores whose entire stock could not be worth fifteen cents sat all day without selling more than half of it. An old woman stopped to pick up four grains of corn and greedily tucked them away in the rags that covered her emaciated frame. Now and then a better-dressed potosino passed, making purchases, a peon, male or female, slinking along behind with a basket; for it is a horrible breach of etiquette for a ten-dollar-a-month Mexican to be publicly seen carrying anything.
One wondered why there was not general suicide in such a community of unmitigated misery. Why did they not spring upon me and snatch the purse I displayed or die in the attempt? How did they resist eating up their own wares? It seemed strange that these sunken-chested, hobbling, halt, shuffling, shivering, starved creatures should still fight on for life. Why did they not suddenly rise and sack the city? No wonder those are ripe for revolution whose condition cannot be made worse.
Policemen in sandals and dark-blue shoddy cap and cloak looked little less miserable than the peons. All about the covered market were peon restaurants, a ragged strip of canvas as roof, under it an ancient wooden table and two benches. Unwashed Indian women cooked in several open earthen bowls the favorite Mexican dishes,—frijoles (a stew of brown beans), chile con carne, rice, stews of stray scraps of meat and the leavings of the butcher-shops. These were dished up in brown glazed jars and eaten with strips of tortilla folded between the fingers, as the Arab eats with gkebis. Indeed there were many things reminiscent of the markets and streets of Damascus, more customs similar to those of the Moor than the Spaniard could have brought over, and the brown, wrinkled old women much resembled those of Palestine, though their noses were flatter and their features heavier.
Yet it was a good-natured crowd. In all my wandering in it I heard not an unpleasant word, not a jest at my expense, almost no evidence of anti-foreign feeling, which seems not indigenous to the peon, but implanted in him by those of ulterior motives. Nor did they once ask alms or attempt to push misery forward. The least charitable would be strongly tempted to succor any one of the throng individually, but here a hundred dollars in American money divided into Mexican centavos would hardly go round. Here and there were pulquerias full of besotted, shouting men—and who would not drink to drown such misery?
There was not a male of any species but had his colored blanket, red, purple, Indian-yellow, generally with two black stripes, the poorer with a strip of old carpet. These they wound about their bodies, folding them across the chest, the arms hugged together inside in such a way as to bring a corner across the mouth and nose, leaving their pipe-stem legs below, and wandered thus dismally about in the frequent spurts of cold rain. Now and then a lowest of the low passed in the cast-off remnants of "European" clothes, which were evidently considered far inferior to peon garb, however bedraggled. Bare or sandaled feet seemed impervious to cold, again like the Arab, as was also this fear of the raw air and half covering of the face that gave a Mohammedan touch, especially to the women. To me the atmosphere was no different than late October in the States. The peons evidently never shaved, though there were many miserable little barber-shops. On the farther outskirts of the hawkers were long rows of shanties, shacks made of everything under the sun, flattened tin cans, scraps of rubbish, two sticks holding up a couple of ragged bags under which huddled old women with scraps of cactus and bundles of tiny fagots.
Scattered through the throng were several "readers." One half-Indian woman I passed many times was reading incessantly, with the speed of a Frenchman, from printed strips of cheap colored paper which she offered for sale at a cent each. They were political in nature, often in verse, insulting in treatment, and mixed with a crass obscenity at which the dismal multitude laughed bestially. Three musicians, one with a rude harp, a boy striking a triangle steel, sang mournful dirges similar to those of Andalusia. The peons listened to both music and reading motionless, with expressionless faces, with never a "move on" from the policeman, who seemed the least obstrusive of mortals.
San Luis Potosi has many large rich churches, misery and pseudo-religion being common joint-legacies of Spanish rule. Small chance these creatures would have of feeling at home in a place so different from their earthly surroundings as the Christian heaven. The thump of church bells, some with the voice of battered old tin pans, broke out frequently. Now and then one of these dregs of humanity crept into church for a nap, but the huge edifices showed no other sign of usefulness. On the whole there was little appearance of "religion." A few women were seen in the churches, a book-seller sold no novels and little literature but "mucho de religion," but the great majority gave no outward sign of belonging to any faith. Priests were not often seen in the streets. Mexican law forbids them to wear a distinctive costume, hence they dressed in black derbies, Episcopal neckbands, and black capes to the ankles. Not distinctive indeed! No one could have guessed what they were! One might have fancied them prize-fighters on the way from training quarters to bathroom.
There is comparative splendor also in San Luis, as one may see by peeps into the lighted houses at night, but it is shut in tight as if fearful of the poor breaking in. As in so many Spanish countries, wealth shrinks out of sight and misery openly parades itself.
Out across the railroad, where hundreds of ragged boys were riding freight cars back and forth in front of the station, the land lay flat as a table, some cactus here and there, but apparently fertile, with neither sod to break nor clearing necessary. Yet nowhere, even on the edge of the starving city, was there a sign of cultivation. We of the North were perhaps more kind to the Indian in killing him off.
TRAMPING THE BYWAYS
Heavy weather still hung over the land to the southward. Indian corn, dry and shriveled, was sometimes shocked as in the States. The first field of maguey appeared, planted in long rows, barely a foot high, but due in a year or two to produce pulque, the Mexican scourge, because of its cheapness, stupefying the poorer classes. When fresh, it is said to be beneficial in kidney troubles and other ailments, but soon becomes over-fermented in the pulquerias of the cities and more harmful than a stronger liquor.
Within the car was an American of fifty, thin and drawn, with huddled shoulders, who had been beaten by rebel forces in Zacatecas and robbed of his worldly wealth of $13,000 hidden in vain in his socks. Numbers of United States box-cars jolted across the country end to end with Mexican; the "B. & O." behind the "Norte de Mejico," the "N. Y. C.," followed by the "Central Mejicano." Long broad stretches of plain, with cactus and mesquite, spread to low mountains blue with cold morning mist, all but their base hung with fog. Beyond Jesus Maria, which is a sample of the station names, peons lived in bedraggled tents along the way, and the corn was even drier. The world seemed threatening to dry up entirely. At Cartagena there began veritable forests of cactus trees, and a wild scrub resembling the olive. Thousands of tunas, the red fruit of the cactus, dotted the ground along the way. The sun sizzled its way through the heavy sky as we climbed the flank of a rocky range, the vast half-forested plain to the east sinking lower and lower as we rose. Then came broken country with many muddy streams. It was the altitude perhaps that caused the patent feeling of exhilaration, as much as the near prospect of taking again to the open road.
As the "garrotero" ("twister," or "choker" as the brakeman is called in Mexico) announced Dolores Hidalgo, I slipped four cartridges into my automatic. The roadways of Mexico offered unknown possibilities. A six-foot street-car drawn—when at all—by mules, stood at the station, but I struck off across the rolling country by a footpath that probably led to the invisible town. A half-mile lay behind me before I met the first man. He was riding an ass, but when I gave him "Buenos dias," he replied with a whining: "Una limosnita! A little alms, for the love of God." He wore a rosary about his neck and a huge cross on his chest. When I ignored his plea he rode on mumbling. The savage bellow of a bull not far off suggested a new possible danger on the road in this unfenced and almost treeless country. More men passed on asses, mules, and horses, but none afoot. Finally over the brown rise appeared Dolores Hidalgo; two enormous churches and an otherwise small town in a tree-touched valley. The central plaza, with many trees and hedges trimmed in the form of animals, had in its center the statue of the priest Hidalgo y Costilla, the "father of Mexican independence." A block away, packed with pictures and wreathes and with much of the old furniture as he left it, was the house in which he had lived before he started the activities that ended in the loss of his head.
Well fortified at the excellent hotel, I struck out past the patriot priest's house over an arched bridge into the open country. As in any unknown land, the beginning of tramping was not without a certain mild misgiving. The "road" was only a trail and soon lost itself. A boy speaking good Spanish walked a long mile to set me right, and valued his services at a centavo. A half-cent seemed to be the fixed fee for anything among these country people. A peon carrying a load of deep-green alfalfa demanded as much for the privilege of photographing him when he was "not dressed up." He showed no sign whatever of gratitude when I doubled it and added a cigarette.
The bright sun had now turned the day to early June. The so-called road was a well-trodden sandy path between high cactus hedges over rolling country. An hour out, the last look back on Dolores Hidalgo showed also mile upon mile of rolling plain to far, far blue sierras, all in all perhaps a hundred square miles visible. There were many travelers, chiefly on foot and carrying bundles on their heads. The greeting of these was "Adios," while the better-to-do class on horse or mule back used the customary "Buenas tardes!" Thirst grew, but though the country was broken, with many wash-outs cutting deep across the trail, the streams were all muddy. Now and then a tuna on the cactus hedges was red ripe enough to be worth picking and, though full of seeds, was at least wet. It was harder to handle than a porcupine, and commonly left the fingers full of spines. Two men passed, offering dulces, a species of native candy, for sale. I declined. "Muy bien, give us a cigarette." I declined again, being low in stock. "Very well, adios, senor," they replied in the apathetic way of their race, as if it were quite as satisfactory to them to get nothing as what they asked.
The Rancho del Capulin, where night overtook me, was a hamlet of eight or ten houses, some mere stacks of thatch, out of the smoky doorway of which, three feet high, peered the half-naked inmates; others of adobe, large bricks of mud and chopped straw, which could be picked to pieces with the fingers.
From one of the kennels a woman called out to know if I would eat. I asked if she could give lodging also and she referred me to her husband inside. I stopped to peer in through the doorway and he answered there was not room enough as it was, which was evident to the slowest-witted, for the family of six or eight of all ages, more or less dressed, lying and squatted about the earth floor dipping their fingers into bowls of steaming food, left not a square foot unoccupied. He advised me to go "beg license" of the "senora" of the house farther on, a low adobe building with wooden doors.
"There is nothing but the place opposite," she answered.
This was a sort of mud cave, man-made and door-less, the uneven earth floor covered with excrement, human and otherwise. I returned to peer into the mat-roofed yard with piles of corn-stalks and un-threshed beans, and met the man of the house just arriving with his labor-worn burros. He was a sinewy peasant of about fifty, dressed like all country peons in shirt and tight trousers of thinnest white cotton, showing his brown skin here and there. As he hesitated to give me answer, the wife made frantic signs to him from behind the door, of which the cracks were inches wide. He caught the hint and replied to my request for lodging:
"Only if you pay me three centavos."
Such exorbitance! The regulation price was perhaps one. But I yielded, for it was raining, and entered, to sit down on a heap of unthreshed beans. The woman brought me a mat three feet long, evidently destined to be my bed. I was really in the family barnyard, with no end walls, chickens overhead and the burros beyond. The rain took to dripping through the mat roof, and as I turned back toward the first hut for the promised frijoles and tortillas the woman called to me to say she also could furnish me supper.
The main room of the house was about ten by ten, with mud walls five feet high, a pitched roof of some sort of grass with several holes in it. In the center of the room was a fireplace three feet high and four square, with several steaming glazed pots over a fire of encinal fagots. The walls were black with soot of the smoke that partly wandered out of an irregular hole in the farther end of the room. The eight-year-old son of the family was eating corn-stalks with great gusto, tearing off the rind with his teeth and chewing the stalk as others do sugar-cane. I handed him a loaf of potosino bread and he answered a perfunctory "Gracias," but neither he nor any of the family showed any evidence of gratitude as he wolfed it. The man complained that all the corn had dried up for lack of rain. The woman set before me a bowl of "sopita," with tortillas, white cheese, and boiled whole peppers. A penniless peon traveler begged a cigarette and half my morning loaf, and went out into the night and rain to sleep in the "chapel," as the mud cave across the way was called. There several travelers had settled down for the night. A girl of seventeen or so splashed across from it to beg "a jar of water for a poor prostitute," apparently announcing her calling merely as a curious bit of information.
The family took at last to eating and kept it up a full hour, meanwhile discussing me thoroughly. Like most untutored races, they fancied I could not understand their ordinary tones. When they wished to address me they merely spoke louder. It is remarkable how Spain has imposed her language on even these wild, illiterate Indians as England has not even upon her colonies. As the rain continued to pour, I was to sleep in the kitchen. Drunken peons were shouting outside and the family seemed much frightened, keeping absolute silence. The four by two door with its six-inch cracks was blocked with a heavy pole, the family retired to the other room, and I stretched out in the darkness on the unsteady wooden bench, a foot wide, my head on my knapsack. I was soon glad of having a sweater, but that failed to cover my legs, and I slept virtually not at all through a night at least four months long, punctuated by much howling of dogs.
It was still pitch dark when the "senora" entered, to spend a long time getting a fire started with wet fagots. Then she began making atole. Taking shelled corn from an earthen jar, she sprinkled it in the hallow of a stone and crushed it with much labor. This was put into water, strained through a sieve, then thrown into a kettle of boiling water. It was much toil for little food. Already she had labored a full hour. I asked for coffee, and she answered she had none but would buy some when the "store" opened. It grew broad daylight before this happened and I accepted atole. It was hot, but as tasteless as might be the water from boiled corn-stalks. There had been much discussion, supposedly unknown to me, the night before as to how much they dared charge me. The bill was finally set at twelve centavos (six cents), eight for supper, three for lodging, and one for breakfast. It was evidently highly exorbitant, for the family expressed to each other their astonishment that I paid it without protest.
At the very outset there was a knee-deep river to cross, then miles of a "gumbo" mud that stuck like bad habits. My feet at times weighed twenty pounds each. Wild rocky hillsides alternated with breathless climbs. Many cattle were scattered far and wide over the mountains, but there was no cultivation. I passed an occasional rancho, villages of six or seven adobe or thatch huts, with sometimes a ruined brick chapel. Flowers bloomed thickly, morning glories, geraniums, masses of a dark purple blossom. The "road" was either a mud-hole or a sharp path of jagged rolling stones in a barren, rocky, tumbled country. Eleven found me entering another rancho in a wild valley. My attempts to buy food were several times answered with, "Mas arribita"— "A little higher up." I came at last to the "restaurant." It was a cobble-stone hut hung on a sharp hillside, with a hole two feet square opening on the road. Two men in gay sarapes, with guns and belts of huge cartridges, reached it at the same time, and we squatted together on the ground at an angle of the wall below the window and ate with much exchange of banter the food poked out to us. The two had come that morning from Guanajuato, whither I was bound, and were headed for Dolores. It was the first time I had any certain information as to the distance before me, which had been variously reported at from five to forty leagues. We ate two bowls of frijoles each, and many tortillas and chiles. One of the men paid the entire bill of twenty-seven centavos, but accepted ten from me under protest.
Beyond was a great climb along a stony, small stream up into a blackish, rocky range. The sun shone splendidly, also hotly. Apparently there was no danger to travelers even in these wild parts. The peons I met were astonishingly incurious, barely appearing to notice my existence. Some addressed me as "jefe" (chief), suggesting the existence of mines in the vicinity. If I drew them into conversation they answered merely in monosyllables: "Si, senor." "No, jefe." Not a word of Indian dialect had I heard since entering the country. Two hours above the restaurant a vast prospect of winding, tumbled, rocky valley and mountain piled upon mountain beyond opened out. From the summit, surely nine thousand feet up, began the rocky descent to the town of Santa Rosa, broken by short climbs and troublesome with rocks. I overtook many donkeys loaded with crates of cactus fruit, railroad ties, and the like, and finally at three came out in sight of the famous mining city of Guanajuato.
It would take the pen of a master to paint the blue labyrinth of mountains heaped up on all sides and beyond the long, winding city in the narrow gorge far below, up out of which came with each puff of wind the muffled sound of stamp-mills and smelters. As I sat, the howling of three drunken peons drifted up from the road below. When they reached me, one of them, past forty, thrust his unwashed, pulque-perfumed face into mine and demanded a cigarette. When I declined, he continued to beg in a threatening manner. Meanwhile the drunkest of the three, a youth of perhaps seventeen, large and muscular, an evil gleam in his eye, edged his way up to me with one arm behind him and added his demands to that of the other. I suddenly pulled the hidden hand into sight and found in it a sharp broken piece of rock weighing some ten pounds. Having knocked this out of his grasp, I laid my automatic across my knees and the more sober pair dragged the belligerent youth on up the mountain trail.
For an hour the way wound down by steep, horribly cobbled descents, then between mud and stone huts, and finally down a more level and wider cobbled street along which were the rails of a mule tramway. The narrow city wound for miles along the bottom of a deep gully, gay everywhere with perennial flowers. The main avenue ran like a stream along the bottom, and he who lost himself in the stair-like side streets had only to follow downward to find it again as surely as a tributary its main river. Masses of rocky mountains were piled up on all sides.
The climate of Guanajuato is unsurpassed. Brilliant sunshine flooded days like our early June, in which one must hurry to sweat in the noon time, while two blankets made comfortable covering at night. This is true of not only one season but the year around, during which the thermometer does not vary ten degrees. July is coldest and a fireplace not uncomfortable in the evening. An American resident who went home to one of the States bordering on Canada for his vacation sat wiping the sweat out of his eyes there, when one of his untraveled countrymen observed:
"You must feel very much at home in this heat after nine years in Mexico."
Whereupon the sufferer arose in disgust, packed his bag, and sped south to mosquitoless coolness.
The evening air is indescribable; all nature's changes of striking beauty; and the setting sun throwing its last rays on the Bufa, the salient points of that and the other peaks purple with light, with the valleys in deep shadow, is a sight worth tramping far to see.
I drifted down along the gully next morning, following the main street, which changed direction every few yards, "paved" with three-inch cobbles, the sidewalks two feet wide, leaving one pedestrian to jump off it each time two met. A diminutive streetcar drawn by mules with jingling bells passed now and then. Peons swarmed here also, but there was by no means the abject poverty of San Luis Potosi, and Americans seemed in considerable favor, as their mines in the vicinity give the town its livelihood. I was seeking the famous old "Alondiga," but the policeman I asked began looking at the names of the shops along the way as if he fancied it some tobacco booth. I tried again by designating it as "la carcel." He still shook his head sadly. But when I described it as the place where Father Hidalgo's head hung on a hook for thirteen years, a great light broke suddenly upon him and he at once abandoned his beat and led me several blocks, refusing to be shaken off. What I first took for extreme courtesy, however, turned out to be merely the quest of tips, an activity in which the police of most Mexican cities are scarcely outdone by the waiters along Broadway.
The ancient building was outwardly plain and nearly square, more massive than the rest of the city. High up on each of its corners under the rusted hooks were the names of the four early opponents of Spanish rule whose heads had once hung there. Inside the corridor stood the statue of the peon who is said to have reached and fired the building under cover of the huge slab of stone on his back. When I had waited a while in the anteroom, the jefe politico, the supreme commander of the city appointed by the governor of the State, appeared, the entire roomful of officials and visitors dropping their cigarettes and rising to greet him with bared heads. He gave me permission to enter, and the presidente, a podgy second jailor, took me in charge as the iron door opened to let me in. The walls once red with the blood of Spaniards slaughtered by the forces of the priest of Dolores had lost that tint in the century since passed, and were smeared with nothing more startling than a certain lack of cleanliness. The immense, three-story, stone building of colonial days enclosed a vast patio in which prisoners seemed to enjoy complete freedom, lying about the yard in the brilliant sunshine, playing cards, or washing themselves and their scanty clothing in the huge stone fountain in the center. The so-called cells in which they were shut up in groups during the night were large chambers that once housed the colonial government. By day many of them work at weaving hats, baskets, brushes, and the like, to sell for their own benefit, thus being able to order food from outside and avoid the mess brought in barrels at two and seven of each afternoon for those dependent on government rations. Now and then a wife or feminine friend of one of the prisoners appeared at the grating with a basket of food. Several of the inmates were called one by one to the crack of an iron door in the wall to hear the sentence the judge had chosen to impose upon them in the quiet of his own home; for public jury trial is not customary in Spanish America.
In the fine gallery around the patio, in the second-story, we were joined by an American from Colorado, charged with killing a Mexican, but who seemed little worried with his present condition or doubtful of his ultimate release. From the flat roof, large enough for a school playground, there spread out a splendid view of all the city and its surrounding mountains. There were, all told, some five hundred prisoners. A room opening on the patio served as a school for convicts, where a man well advanced in years, bewhiskered and of a decidedly pedagogical cast of countenance in spite of his part Indian blood, sat on his back, peering dreamily through his glasses at the seventy or more pupils, chiefly between the ages of fifteen and twenty, who drowsed before him.
There is a no less fine view from the hill behind, on which sits the Panteon, or city cemetery. It is a rectangular place enclosing perhaps three acres, and, as all Guanajuato has been buried here for centuries, considerably crowded. For this reason and from inherited Spanish custom, bodies are seldom buried, but are pigeonholed away in the deep niches two feet square into what from the outside looks to be merely the enclosing wall. Here, in more exact order than prevails in life, the dead of Guanajuato are filed in series, each designated by a number. Series six was new and not yet half occupied. A funeral ends by thrusting the coffin into its appointed pigeonhole, which the Indian employees brick up and face with cement, in which while still soft the name of the defunct and other information is commonly rudely scratched with a stick, often with amateur spelling. Here and there is one in English:—"My Father's Servant—H. B." Some have marble headpieces with engraved names, and perhaps a third of the niches bear the information "En Perpetuidad," indicating that the rent has been paid up until judgment day. The majority of the corpses, however, are dragged out after one to five years and dumped in the common bone-yard, as in all Spanish-speaking countries. The Indian attendants were even then opening several in an older series and tossing skulls and bones about amid facetious banter. The lower four rows can be reached readily, but not a few suffer the pain of being "skied," where only those who chance to glance upward will notice them.
There were some graves in the ground, evidently of the poorer Indian classes. Several had been newly dug, unearthing former occupants, and a grinning skull sat awry on a heap of earth amid a few thigh bones and scattered ribs, all trodden under sandaled foot-prints. In one hole lay the thick black hair of what had once been a peon, as intact as any actor's wig. There is some property in the soil of Guanajuato's Panteon that preserves bodies buried in the ground without coffins, so that its "mummies" have become famous. The director attended me in person and, crossing the enclosure, opened a door in the ground near the fourth series of niches, where we descended a little circular iron stairway. This opened on a high vaulted corridor, six feet wide and thirty long. Along this, behind glass doors, stood some hundred more or less complete bodies shrouded in sheets. They retained, or had been arranged, in the same form they had presented in life—peon carriers bent as if still under a heavy burden, old market women in the act of haggling, arrieros plodding behind their imaginary burros. Some had their mouths wide open, as if they had been buried alive and had died shouting for release. One fellow stood leaning against a support, like a man joking with an elbow on the bar, a glass between his fingers, in the act of laughing uproariously. Several babies had been placed upright here and there between the elders. Most of the corpses wore old dilapidated shoes. In the farther end of the corridor were stacked thighbones and skulls surely sufficient to fill two box-cars, all facing to the front. I asked how many deaths the collection represented, and the director shrugged his shoulders with an indifferent "Quien sabe?" He who would understand the Mexican, descendant of the Aztecs, must not overlook a certain apathetic indifference to death, and a playful manner with its remains.
Once on earth again, I gave the director a handful of coppers and descended to the town, motley now with market-day. The place swarmed with color; ragged, unwashed males and females squatted on the narrow sidewalks with fruit, sweets, gay blankets and clothing, cast-off shoes and garments, piles of new sandals, spread out in the street before them. Amid the babel of street cries the most persistent was "Agua-miel!"—"Honey water," as the juice of the maguey is called during the twelve hours before fermentation sets in. From twelve to thirty-six hours after its drawing it is intoxicating; from then on, only fit to be thrown away. But the sour stench from each pulqueria and many a passing peon proved a forced longevity. Several lay drunk in the streets, but passers-by stepped over or around them with the air of those who do as they hope to be done by. Laughter was rare, the great majority being exceedingly somber in manner. Even their songs are gloomy wails, recalling the Arabs. A few children played at "bull-fight," and here and there two or three, thanks to the American influence, were engaged in what they fancied was baseball. But for the most part they were not playful. The young of both Indians and donkeys are trained early for the life before them. The shaggy little ass-colts follow their mothers over the cobbled streets and along mountain trails from birth, and the peon children, wearing the same huge hat, gay sarape, and tight breeches as their fathers, or the identical garb of the mothers, carry their share of the family burden almost from infancy. Everything of whatever size or shape was carried on the backs or heads of Indians with a supporting strap across the forehead. A peon passed bearing on his head the corpse of a baby in an open wooden coffin, scattered with flowers. Trunks of full size are transported in this way to all parts of the mountain town, and the Indian who carries the heaviest of them to a mine ten miles away and two thousand feet above the city over the rockiest trails considers himself well paid at thirty cents. Six peons dog-trotted by from the municipal slaughter-house with a steer on their backs: four carried a quarter each; one the head and skin; and the last, heart, stomach, and intestines. Horseshoers worked in the open streets, using whatever shoes they had on hand without adjustment, paring down the hoofs of the animal to fit them. Here and there a policeman on his beat was languidly occupied in making brushes, like the prisoners of the Alondiga, and two I saw whiling away the time making lace! Several of them tagged my footsteps, eager for some errand. One feels no great sense of security in a country whose boyish, uneducated, and ragged guardians of order cringe around like beggar boys hoping for a copper.
Saturday is beggar's day, when those who seek alms more or less surreptitiously during the week are permitted to pass in procession along the shops, many of which disburse on this day a fixed sum, as high as twenty dollars, in copper centavos. Now and then the mule-cars bowled over a laden ass, which sat up calmly on its haunches, front feet in the air, until the obstruction passed. All those of Indian blood were notable for their strong white teeth, not one of which they seem ever to lose. In the church a bit higher up several bedraggled women and pulque-besotted peons knelt before a disgusting representation of the Crucifixion. The figure had real hair, beard, eyebrows, and even eyelashes, with several mortal wounds, barked knees and shins, half the body smeared with red paint as blood, all in all fit only for the morgue. Farther on, drowsed the post-office, noted like all south of the Rio Grande for its unreliability. Unregistered packages seldom arrive at their destination, groceries sent from the States to American residents are at least half eaten en route. A man of the North unacquainted with the ways of Mexico sent unregistered a Christmas present of a dozen pairs of silk socks. The addressee inquired for them daily for weeks. Finally he wrote for a detailed description of the hectic lost property, and had no difficulty in recognizing at least two pairs as the beak-nosed officials hitched up their trousers to tell him again nothing whatever had come for him. Not long before my arrival a Mexican mail-car had been wrecked, and between the ceiling and the outer wall were found over forty thousand letters postal clerks had opened and thrown there.
I drifted into an "Escuela Gratuita para Ninos." The heavy, barn-like door gave entrance to a cobbled corridor, opening on a long schoolroom with two rows of hard wooden benches on which were seated a half hundred little peons aged seven to ten, all raggedly dressed in the identical garb, sandals and all, of their fathers in the streets, their huge straw hats covering one of the walls. The maestro, a small, down-trodden-looking Mexican, rushed to the door to bring me down to the front and provide me with a chair. The school had been founded some six months before by a woman of wealth, and offered free instruction to the sons of peons. But the Indians as always were suspicious, and for the most part refused to allow their children to be taught the "witchcraft" of the white man. The teacher asked what class I cared to hear and then himself hastily suggested "cuentitas." The boys were quick at figures, at least in the examples the maestro chose to give them, but he declined to show them off in writing or spelling. Several read aloud, in that mumbled and half-pronounced manner common to Mexico, the only requirement appearing to be speed. Then came a class in "Historia Santa," that is, various of the larger boys arose to spout at full gallop and the distinct enunciation of an "El" train, the biblical account of the creation of the world, the legends of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, and Noah's travels with a menagerie, all learned by rote. The entire school then arose and bowed me out.
A visit to a mixed school, presided over by carelessly dressed maidens of uncertain age and the all-knowing glance of those who feel the world and all its knowledge lies concentrated in the hollow of their hands, showed a quite similar method of instruction. On the wall hung a great lithograph depicting in all its dreadful details the alleged horrors of "alcoolismo." Even the teachers rattled off their questions with an atrocious, half-enunciated pronunciation, and he must have been a Spanish scholar indeed who could have caught more than the gist of the recited answers. This indistinctness of enunciation and the Catholic system of learning by rote instead of permitting the development of individual power to think were as marked even in the colegio, corresponding roughly to our high schools. Even there the professor never commanded, "More distinctly!" but he frequently cried, "Faster!"
On the wall of this higher institution was a stern set of rules, among which some of the most important were:
"Students must not smoke in the presence of professors," though this was but mildly observed, for when I entered the study room with the director and his assistant, all of us smoking, the boys, averaging fifteen years of age, merely held their lighted cigarettes half out of sight behind them until we passed. Another rule read: "Any student frequenting a tavern, cafe chantant, or house of ill-fame may be expelled." He might run that risk in most schools, but none but the Latinized races would announce the fact in plain words on the bulletin-boards. The director complained that the recent revolutions had set the school far back, as each government left it to the next to provide for such secondary necessities.
IN A MEXICAN MINE
A classmate of my boyhood was superintendent of the group of mines round about Guanajuato. From among them we chose "Pingueico" for my temporary employment. The ride to it, 8200 feet above the sea, up along and out of the gully in which Guanajuato is built, and by steep rocky trails sometimes beside sheer mountain walls, opens out many a marvelous vista; but none to compare with that from the office veranda of the mine itself. Two thousand feet below lies a plain of Mexico's great table-land, stretching forty miles or more across to where it is shut off by an endless range of mountains, backed by chain after blue chain, each cutting the sky-line in more jagged, fantastic fashion than the rest, the farther far beyond Guadalajara and surely more than a hundred miles distant, where Mexico falls away into the Pacific. On the left rises deep-blue into the sky the almost perfect flattened cone of a lone mountain. Brilliant yet not hot sunshine illuminated even the far horizon, and little cloud-shadows crawled here and there across the landscape. The rainy season had left on the plain below many shallow lakes that reflected the sun like immense mirrors. From the veranda it seemed quite flat, though in reality by no means so, and one could all but count the windows of Silao, Irapuato, and other towns; the second, though more than twenty miles away, still in the back foreground of the picture. Thread-like, brown trails wound away over the plain and up into the mountains, here and there dotted by travelers crawling ant-like along them a few inches an hour. Take the most perfect day of late May or early June in our North, brush off the clouds, make the air many times fresher and clearer, add October nights, and multiply the sum total by 365, and it is more easily understood why Americans who settle in the Guanajuato region so frequently remain there.
The room I shared with a mine boss was of chilly stone walls and floor, large and square, with a rug, two beds, and the bare necessities. The mine mess, run by a Chinaman, furnished meals much like those of a 25-cent restaurant in Texas, at the rate of $5 a week. No Mexican was permitted to eat with the Americans, not even with the "rough-necks." When the whistle blew at seven next morning, some forty peons, who had straggled one by one in the dawn to huddle up together in their red sarapes among the rocks of the drab hillside, marched past the timekeeper, turning over their blankets at a check counter, and with their lunches, of the size of the round tortilla at the bottom and four to six inches high, in their handkerchiefs, climbed into the six-foot, iron ore-bucket until it was completely roofed with their immense straw hats. Near by those of the second night-shift, homeward bound, halted, to stand one by one on a wooden block with outstretched arms to be carefully searched for stolen ore by a tried and trusted fellow-peon. A pocketful of "high-grade" might be worth several dollars. The American "jefe" sat in the hoisthouse, writing out requisitions for candles, dynamite, and kindred supplies for the "jefecitos," or straw bosses, of the hundred or more peons still lined up before the shaft. With the last batch of these in the bucket, we white men stepped upon the platform below it and dropped suddenly into the black depths of the earth, with now and then a stone easily capable of cracking a skull bounding swiftly with a hollow sound past us back and forth across the shaft.
Not infrequently in the days to come some accident to the hoist-engine above left us to stand an hour or more packed tightly together in our suspended four-foot space in unmitigated darkness. For this and other reasons no peon was ever permitted to ride on the platform with an American. Twelve hundred feet down we stepped out into a winding, rock gallery nearly six feet wide and high, where fourteen natives were loading rock and mud into iron dump-cars and pushing them to a near-by chute. Even at this depth flies were thick. A facetious boss asserted they hatched on the peons. My task here was to "sacar muestras"—"take samples," as it was called in English. From each car as it passed I snatched a handful of mud and small broken rock and thrust it into a sack that later went to the assay office to show what grade of ore the vein was producing.
Once an hour I descended to a hole far beneath by a rope ladder, life depending on a spike driven in the rock above and a secure handhold, for the handful of "pay dirt" two peons were grubbing down out of a lower veta, a long narrow alleyway of soft earth and small stones that stretched away into the interior of the mountain between solid walls of rock. No inexperienced man would have supposed this mud worth more than any other. But silver does not come out of the earth in minted dollars.
In the mine the peons wore their hats, a considerable protection against falling rocks, but were otherwise naked but for their sandals and a narrow strip of once white cloth between their legs, held by a string around the waist. Some were well-built, though all were small, and in the concentrated patch of light the play of their muscles through the light-brown skins was fascinating. Working thus naked seemed so much more dangerous; the human form appeared so much more feeble and soft, delving unclothed in the fathomless, rocky earth. Many a man was marked here and there with long deep scars. It was noticeable how character, habits, dissipation, which show so plainly in the face, left but little sign on the rest of the body, which remained for the most part smooth and unwrinkled.
The peons were more than careless. All day long dynamite was tossed carelessly back and forth about me. A man broke up three or four sticks of it at a time, wrapped them in paper, and beat the mass into the form of a ball on a rock at my feet. Miners grow so accustomed to this that they note it, if at all, with complete indifference, often working and serenely smoking seated on several hundred pounds of explosives. One peon of forty in this gang had lost his entire left arm in a recent explosion, yet he handled the dangerous stuff as carelessly as ever. Several others were mutilated in lesser degrees. They depend on charms and prayers to their favorite saint rather than on their own precautions. Every few minutes the day through came the cry: "'Sta pegado!" that sent us skurrying a few feet away until a dull, deafening explosion brought down a new section of the vein. Not long before, there had been a cave-in just beyond where we were working, and the several men imprisoned there had not been rescued, so that now and then a skull and portions of skeleton came down with the rock. The peons had first balked at this, but the superintendent had told them the bones were merely strange shapes of ore, ordered them to break up the skulls and throw them in with the rest, and threatened to discharge and blackball any man who talked of the matter.
By law a Mexican injured in the mine could not be treated on the spot, but must be first carried to Guanajuato—often dying on the way—to be examined by the police and then brought back to the mine hospital. Small hurts were of slight importance to the peons. During my first hour below, a muddy rock fell down the front of a laborer, scraping the skin off his nose, deeply scratching his chest and thighs, and causing his toes to bleed, but he merely swore a few round oaths and continued his work. The hospital doctors asserted that the peon has not more than one fourth the physical sensitiveness of civilized persons. Many a one allowed a finger to be amputated without a word, and as chloroform is expensive the surgeon often replaced it with a long draught of mescal or tequila, the native whiskies.
Outwardly the peons were very deferential to white men. I could rarely get a sentence from them, though they chattered much among themselves, with a constant sprinkling of obscenity. They had a complete language of whistles by which they warned each other of an approaching "jefe," exchanged varied information, and even entered into discussion of the alleged characteristics of their superiors in their very presence without being understood by the uninitiated. Frequently, too, amid the rumble of the "veta madre" pouring down her treasures, some former Broadway favorite that had found its way gradually to the theater of Guanajuato sounded weirdly through the gallery, as it was whistled by some naked peon behind a loaded car. A man speaking only the pure Castilian would have had some difficulty in understanding many of the mine terms. Many Indian words had crept into the common language, such as "chiquihuite" for basket.
Some seventy-five cars passed me during the morning. Under supervision the peons worked at moderately good speed; indeed, they compared rather favorably with the rough American laborers with whom I had recently toiled in railroad gangs, in a stone-quarry of Oklahoma, and the cotton-fields of Texas. The endurance of these fellows living on corn and beans is remarkable; they were as superior to the Oriental coolie as their wages to the latter's eight or ten cents a day. In this case, as the world over, the workmen earned about what he was paid, or rather succeeded in keeping his capacity down to the wages paid him. Many galleries of the mine were "worked on contract," and almost all gangs had their self-chosen leader. A peon with a bit more standing in the community than his fellows, wearing something or other to suggest his authority and higher place in the world—such perhaps as the pink shirt the haughty "jefecito" beside me sported—appeared with twelve or more men ready for work and was given a section and paid enough to give his men from fifty to eighty cents a day each and have something over a dollar left for himself. Miners' wages vary much throughout Mexico, from twelve dollars a month to two a day in places no insuperable distances apart. Conditions also differ greatly, according to my experienced compatriots. The striking and booting of the workmen, common in some mines, was never permitted in "Pingueico." In Pachuca, for example, this was said to be the universal practice; while in the mines of Chihuahua it would have been as dangerous as to do the same thing to a stick of dynamite. Here the peon's manner was little short of obsequious outwardly, yet one had the feeling that in crowds they were capable of making trouble and those who had fallen upon "gringoes" in the region had despatched their victims thoroughly, leaving them mutilated and robbed even of their clothing. The charming part of it all was one could never know which of these slinking fellows was a bandit by avocation and saving up his unvented anger for the boss who ordered him about at his labors.
It felt pleasant, indeed, to bask in the sun a half hour after dinner before descending again. Toward five I tied and tagged the sacks of samples and followed them, on peon backs, to the shaft and to the world above with its hot and cold shower-bath, and the Chinaman's promise, thanks to the proximity of Irapuato, of "stlaybelly pie." Though the American force numbered several of those fruitless individuals that drift in and out of all mining communities, it was on the whole of rather high caliber. Besides "Sully the Pug," a mere human animal, hairy and muscular as a bear, and two "Texicans," as those born in the States of some Mexican blood and generally a touch of foreign accent are called, there were two engineers who lived with their "chinitas," or illiterate mestizo Mexican wives and broods of peon children down in the valley below the dump-heap. Caste lines were not lacking even among the Americans in the "camp," as these call Guanajuato and its mining environs. More than one complained that those who married Mexican girls of unsullied character and even education were rated "squaw-men" and more or less ostracized by their fellow countrymen, and especially country-women, while the man who "picked up an old rounder from the States" was looked upon as an equal. The speech of all Mexico is slovenly from the Castilian point of view. Still more so was that of both the peon and the Americans, who copied the untutored tongue of the former, often ignorant of its faults, and generally not in the least anxious to improve, nor indeed to get any other advantage from the country except the gold and silver they could dig out of it. Laborers and bosses commonly used "pierra" for piedra; "sa' pa' fuera" for to leave the mine, "croquesi" for I believe so, commonly ignorant even of the fact that this is not a single word. In the mess-hall were heard strange mixtures of the two languages, as when a man rising to answer some call shouted over his shoulder: "Juan, deja mi pie alone!" Thanks to much peon intercourse, almost all the Americans had an unconsciously patronizing air even to their fellows, as many a pedagogue comes to address all the world in the tone of the schoolroom. The Mexican, like the Spaniard, never laughs at the most atrocious attempts at his tongue by foreigners, and even the peons were often extremely quick-witted in catching the idea from a few mispronounced words. "The man with the hair——," I said one day, in describing a workman I wished summoned; and not for the moment recalling the Castilian for curly, I twirled my fingers in the air.
"Chino!" cried at least a half-dozen peons in the same breath.
Small wonder the Mexican considers the "gringo" rude. An American boss would send a peon to fetch his key or cigarettes, or on some equally important errand; the workman would run all the way up hill and down again in the rarified air, removing his hat as he handed over the desired article, and the average man from the States would not so much as grunt his thanks.
The engineers on whom our lives depended as often as we descended into or mounted from the mine, had concocted and posted in the engine-room the following "ten commandments":
"Notice To Visitors And Others
"Article 1. Be seated on the platform. It is too large for the engineer anyway.
"Art. 2. Spit on the floor. We like to clean up after you.
"Art. 3. Talk to the engineer while he is running. There is no responsibility to his job.
"Art. 4. If the engineer does not know his business, please tell him. He will appreciate it.
"Art. 5. Ask him as many questions as you like. He is paid to answer them.
"Art. 6. Please handle all the bright work. We have nothing to do but clean it.
"Art. 7. Don't spit on the ceiling. We have lost the ladder.
"Art. 8. Should the engineer look angry don't pay any attention to him. He is harmless.
"Art. 9. If you have no cigarettes take his. They grow in his garden.
"Art. 10. If he is not entertaining, report him to the superintendent and he will be fired at once."
On the second day the scene of my operations was changed to the eighth level, a hundred feet below that of the first. It was a long gallery winding away through the mountain, and connecting a mile beyond with another shaft opening on another hill, so that the heavy air was tempered by a constant mild breeze.
Side shafts, just large enough for the ore-cars to pass, pierced far back into the mountain at frequent intervals. Back in these it was furnace hot. From them the day-gang took out 115 car-loads, though the chute was blocked now and then by huge rocks that must be "shot" by a small charge of dynamite stuck on them, a new way of "shooting the chutes" that was like striking the ear-drums with a club.
The peons placed in each gallery either a cross or a lithograph of the Virgin in a shrine made of a dynamite-box, and kept at least one candle always burning before it. In the morning it was a common sight to see several appear with a bunch of fresh-picked flowers to set up before the image. Most of the men wore a rosary or charm about the neck, which they did not remove even when working naked, and all crossed themselves each time they entered the mine. Not a few chanted prayers while the cage was descending. As often as they passed the gallery-shrine, they left off for an instant the vilest oaths, in which several boys from twelve to fourteen excelled, to snatch off their hats to the Virgin, then instantly took up their cursing again. Whenever I left the mine they begged the half-candle I had left, and set it up with the rest. Yet they had none of the touchiness of the Hindu about their superstitions, and showed no resentment whatever even when a "gringo" stopped to light his cigarette at their improvised "altars."
Trusted miners hired to search the others for stolen ore as they leave the shaft were sometimes waylaid on the journey home and beaten almost or quite to death. Once given a position of authority, they were harsher with their own kind than were the white men. The scarred and seared old "Pingueico" searcher, who stood at his block three times each twenty-four hours, had already killed three men who thus attacked him. Under no provocation whatever would the peons fight underground, but lay for their enemies only outside. A shift-boss in a neighboring mine remained seven weeks below, having his food sent down to him, and continued to work daily with miners who had sworn to kill him once they caught him on earth. One of our engineers had long been accustomed at another mine to hand his revolver to the searcher when the shift appeared and to arm himself with a heavy club. One day the searcher gave the superintendent a "tip," and when the hundred or more were lined up they were suddenly commanded to take off their huarachas. A gasp of dismay sounded, but all hastily snatched off their sandals and something like a bushel of high-grade ore in thin strips lay scattered on the ground. But a few mornings later the searcher was found dead half way between the mine and his home.
Some of the mines round about Guanajuato were in a most chaotic state, especially those of individual ownership. The equipment was often so poor that fatal accidents were common, deaths even resulting from rocks falling down the shafts. Among our engineers was one who had recently come from a mine where during two weeks' employment he pulled out from one to four corpses daily, until "it got so monotonous" he resigned. In that same mine it was customary to lock in each shift until the relieving one arrived, and many worked four or five shifts, thirty-two to forty hours without a moment of rest, swallowing a bit of food now and then with a sledge in one hand. "High-graders," as ore-thieves are called, were numerous. The near-by "Sirena" mine was reputed to have in its personnel more men who lived by stealing ore than honest workmen. There ran the story of a new boss in a mine so near ours that we could hear its blasting from our eighth level, long dull thuds that seemed to run through the mountain like a shudder through a human body, who was making his first underground inspection when his light suddenly went out and he felt the cold barrel of a revolver against his temple. A peon voice sounded in the darkness close to his ear:
"No te muevas, hijo de——, si quieres vivir!"
Another light was struck and he made out some twenty peons, each with a sack of "high-grade," and was warned to take his leave on the double-quick and not to look around on penalty of a worse fate than that of Lot's wife.
Bandit gangs were known to live in out-of-the-way corners of several mines, bringing their blankets and tortillas with them and making a business of stealing ore. Not even the most experienced mining engineer could more quickly recognize "pay dirt" than the peon population of Guanajuato vicinity.
Though he is obsequious enough under ordinary circumstances, the mine peon often has a deep-rooted hatred of the American, which vents itself chiefly in cold silence, unless opportunity makes some more effective way possible. Next on his black-list comes the Spaniard, who is reputed a heartless usurer who long enjoyed protection under Diaz. Third, perhaps, come the priests, though these are endured as a necessary evil, as we endure a bad government. The padre of Calderon drifted up to the mine one day to pay his respects and drink the mine health in good Scotch whisky. Gradually he brought the conversation around to the question of disobedience among the peons, and summed up his advice to the Americans in a vehement explosion:
"Fine them! Fine them often, and much!
"Of course," he added, as he prepared to leave, "you know that by the laws of Mexico and the Santa Iglesia all such fines go to the church."
Intercourse between the mine officials and native authorities was almost always sure to make it worth while to linger in the vicinity. My disrespectful fellow countrymen were much given to mixing with the most courteous Spanish forms of speech asides in English which it was well the pompous native officials did not understand. I reached the office one day to find the chief of police just arrived to collect for his services in guarding the money brought out on pay-day.
"Ah, senor mio," cried the superintendent, "Y como esta usted? La familia buena? Y los hijos—I'll slip the old geaser his six bones and let him be on his way—Oh, si, senor. Como no? Con muchisimo gusto—and there goes six of our good bucks and four bits and—Pues adios, muy senor mio! Vaya bien!—If only you break your worthless old neck on the way home—Adios pues!"
After the shower-bath it was as much worth while to stroll up over the ridge back of the camp and watch the night settle down over this upper-story world. Only on the coast of Cochinchina have I seen sunsets to equal those in this altitude. Each one was different. To-night it stretched entirely across the saw-toothed summits of the western hills in a narrow, pinkish-red streak; to-morrow the play of colors on mountains and clouds, shot blood-red, fading to saffron yellow, growing an ever-thicker gray down to the horizon, with the unrivaled blue of the sky overhead, all shifting and changing with every moment, would be hopelessly beyond the power of words. Often rain was falling in a spot or two far to the west, and there the clouds were jet black. In one place well above the horizon was perhaps a brilliant pinkish patch of reflected sun, and everything else an immensity of clouded sky running from Confederate gray above to a blackish-blue that blended with range upon range to the uttermost distance.
There was always a peculiar stillness over all the scene. Groups of sandaled mine peons wound noiselessly away, a few rods apart, along undulating trails, the red of their sarapes and the yellow of their immense hats giving the predominating hue. In the vast landscape was much green, though more gray of outcropping rocks. Here and there a lonely telegraph wire struck off dubiously across the rugged country. Rocks as large as houses hung on the great hillsides, ready to roll down and destroy at the slightest movement of the earth, like playthings left by careless giant children. Along some rocky path far down in the nearer valley a small horse of the patient Mexican breed, under its picturesque, huge-hatted rider, galloped sure-footed up and down steep faces of rock. Cargadores bent half double, with a rope across their brows, came straining upward to the mine. Bands of peons released from their underground labors paused here and there on the way home to wager cigarettes on which could toss a stone nearest the next mud puddle. Flocks of goats wandered in the growing dusk about swift stony mountain flanks. Farther away was a rocky ridge beaten with narrow, bare, crisscross trails, and beyond, the old Valenciana mine on the flanks of the jagged range shutting off Dolores Hidalgo, appearing so near in this clear air of the heights that it seemed a man could throw a stone there; yet down in the valley between lay all Guanajuato, the invisible, and none might know how many bandits were sleeping out the day in their lurking-places among the wild, broken valleys and gorges the view embraced. Down in its rock-tumbled valley spread the scattered town of Calderon, and the knell of its tinny old church bells came drifting up across the divide on the sturdy evening breeze, tinged with cold, that seemed to bring the night with it, so silently and coolly did it settle down. The immense plain and farther mountains remained almost visible in the starlight, in the middle distance the lamps of Silao, and near the center of the half-seen picture those of Irapuato, while far away a faint glow in the sky marked the location of the city of Leon.
Excitement burst upon the mess-table one night. Rival politicians were to contend the following Sunday for the governorship of the State, and the "liberal" candidate had assured the peons that he would treble their wages and force the company to give them full pay during illness, and that those who voted for his rival were really casting ballots for "los gringos" who had stolen away their mines. All this was, of course, pure campaign bunco; as a matter of fact the lowest wages in all the mines of Mexico were in those belonging to the then "liberal" President of the republic, and accident pay would have caused these insensible fellows to drop rocks on themselves to enjoy its benefits. For several mornings threatening political posters had appeared on the walls of the company buildings. But this time word came that "liberal" posters had been stuck up in the galleries of the mine itself. The boss sprang to his feet, and without even sending for his revolver went down into the earth. An hour or more later he reappeared with the remnants of the posters. Though the mine was populated with peons and there was not then another American below ground, they watched him tear down the sheets without other movement than to cringe about him, each begging not to be believed guilty. Later a peon was charged with the deed and forever forbidden to work in the mines of the company. The superintendent threatened to discharge any employee who voted for the "liberal" candidate, and, though he could not of course know who did, their dread of punishment no doubt kept many from voting at all.
Work in the mine never ceased. Even as we fell asleep the engine close at hand panted constantly, the mild clangor of the blacksmith-shop continued unbroken, cars of rock were dumped every few minutes under the swarming stars, the mine pulse beat unchanging, and far down beneath our beds hundreds of naked peons were still tearing incessantly at the rocky entrails of the earth.