Page:A Study of Mexico.djvu/37

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27
CONDITION OF THE LABORING CLASSES.

fers straw to felt, he will be equally extravagant in its decoration; and, in common with his blanket, the hat will be made to do duty for many years. The laboring-classes in Mexico—the so-called "peons," who comprise the great bulk of the population—are chiefly Indians, or descendants from Indians, and are a different race from their employers. Originally conquered and enslaved by the Spaniards, and then emancipated by law, they are, as a matter of fact, through their peculiar attachment to the place of their nativity, and through certain conditions respecting the obligation of debts, almost as permanently attached to the soil of the great estates of the country as they were in the days of their former peonage, or slavery. And it is claimed that the keeping of the peons constantly in debt—a matter not difficult to accomplish by reason of their ignorance and improvidence—and so making permanent residence and the performance of labor obligatory on them, is indispensable for the regular prosecution of agriculture, inasmuch as a peon, if be once gets a few dollars or shillings in his pocket, and there is a place for him to gamble within from fifty to one hundred miles* distance, can never be depended upon for any service so long as any money remains to him. In the cities in the northern States of Mexico, where American ideas are finding their way among the