Page:A Study of Mexico.djvu/38

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A STUDY OF MEXICO.

people, and where the construction of railways has increased the opportunities for employment and raised wages, the condition of the peons has undoubtedly greatly improved within recent years: but in the agricultural districts the general testimony is to the effect, that there is little appreciable change in their condition since their emancipation from involuntary servitude, "and very little sympathy or cordiality between them and their former masters and present employers. And in the cities, also, the caste feeling between the Indian operatives and laborers and the other nationalities, is also reported as strongly manifesting itself in jealousies and prejudices."

Note,—The extent to which the condition of labor in some, and probably a great, part of Mexico approximates to involuntary servitude is illustrated by the following extracts from recent United States "Consular Reports":

"In the State of Chiapas, Southern Mexico, 'laborers are divided into two classes, free and debtor. The first receive twenty-five cents per day, with rations, or thirty-eight to fifty cents without. The debtor class are those who receive in advance a sum sufficient to pay their former proprietor, which sum frequently reaches five hundred dollars or more.' When a laborer of the second, or debtor class, is dissatisfied, he obtains from the proprietor of the estate where he is situated 'a statement more or less as follows:

"'A. B., laborer [married, widower, or single], seeks employment (accommodation) at (of) farm-work for the sum of ——— dollars, which he owes me, as per account made to his satisfaction. The person who wishes may contract with him, first paying the above sum, for which effect a term of eight days is given.'

"With this document the bearer seeks a new master, and, after the debt has been paid, a new contract is made before judicial authority for one or more years. The laborer agrees to give his services to the