Page:A Study of Mexico.djvu/15

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5
PREFACE

be inferred or charged as a basis for original assertions or deductions. In so doing, however, he claims nothing of infallibility. He frankly confesses that in respect to some things he may be mistaken; and that others might draw entirely different conclusions from the same data.[1] But for the entire accuracy of most

  1. One curious illustration of this point is to be found in the following extract from a letter recently addressed to the Mexican "Financier" by a Mexican gentleman, in contravention of the writer's opinions respecting the present industrial condition and prospective development of Mexico. He says: "If you pass through the Academy of San Carlos, you will see pictures executed by native Mexican artists in the highest style of art, comparing most favorably with any production of the academies of design of Paris, Rome, Munich, or elsewhere. Go with me, if you please, to a narrow lane in the small but picturesque city of Cuernavaca, and there in a small room, working with implements of his own-make, you will observe a native, whom you would perhaps class among the peons, carving a crucifix in wood, so highly artistic, with the expression of suffering on our Saviour's face so realistic, that any foreign sculptor of the highest renown would be proud to call it a creation of his own. Again, visit with me the village of Amatlan de los Reyes, near Córdoba, and observe the exquisitely embroidered huipilla of some native woman, surpassing in many respects the designs of the art-needlework societies of New York or Boston; not to mention the fine filigree-work, figures in clay and wax as executed by the natives in or near the city of Mexico, the art pottery of Guadalajara, the gourds, calabashes, and wooden trays highly embellished by native artists, whose sense or acceptation of art is not acquired by tedious study at some academy of design, but is inborn and spontaneously expressed in such creations. Only yesterday in my walks about town I entered the National Monte de Piedad, where I heard the sweetest and most melodious strains from a grand piano of American make, and beheld, to my astonishment, that the artist was a native, a cargador or public porter, clad in cheap sombrero blouse, white cotton trousers, and sandals, with his brass plate and rope across his shoulders, ready to carry this very instrument on his back to the residence of some better-favored brother from a foreign land. If this is not innate genius, I know not what else to call it." To this it may be replied that the facts as above stated are probably not in the least exaggerated. There is undoubtedly in the Mexican people, inherited from their Spanish ancestry, much of aesthetic taste and an "innate genius" for music, painting, sculpture, embroidery, dress, decoration, and the fine arts generally. But this very fact, in view of the hard, rough work that Mexico has got to do to overcome the natural obstacles in the way of her material development, is not a matter of encouragement. For it is not genius to carve crucifixes, embroider huipillas or compose and execute music, that her people need; but rather the ability to make and maintain good roads, invent and use machinery, and reform a system of laws that would neutralize all her natural advantages, even though they were many times greater than the most patriotic citizen of the country could claim for it.