Page:A Study of Mexico.djvu/40

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30
A STUDY OF MEXICO

even when offered increased wages, being satisfied to remain as they are. The Indian inhabitant contracts a debt in some store kept by Europeans or their descendants. The goods are of little or no intrinsic value, but they please his eye, or serve to fulfill promises made to a titular saint on condition that he suffer from no pest, or have good crops, or satisfy his vices. When the time of payment arrives he can not make it, and he goes to a proprietor, who pays the debt and takes his labor on the hacienda. He is thus made a debtor laborer, and only for this thinks himself obliged to labor. Once reduced to this condition the debt is increased by the advances which he needs, and which are more than he earns, and his intelligence is not sufficient to understand business matters.

"In the municipality of Tuxtla Gutierrez ’wages are from twenty-five to thirty-one cents for day-laborers, and the conditions under which contracts are made are as follows: The individual presents himself before the new master or patron with whom he wishes to obtain a position with a paper indicating the sum he owes the one whom he has just left, and the one who employs him pays the debt which the paper indicates, and they agree, upon the time he has to serve and the wage he shall receive. The latter is generally two dollars and a half per month, giving him a ration of corn, frijole and salt, or four dollars without the ration; in both cases the necessary tools are furnished him. The ration consists of six almudes (six and a half quarts each) of corn, half an almud of frijole, and one pound of salt. When the individual leaves the situation a paper containing his account is given him, so that the one who employs him may return the sum he owes.’

"In the department of Jonuta ’field hands’ are reported as 'under a sort of bondage, constituted by a debt of from three hundred to five hundred dollars, or even more, which each servant owes; and, by the law which governs these contracts and permits the forced confinement of the servant, he who for just cause wishes to change his master shall have three days' time, for each one hundred dollars he owes, given him to find one who will pay his indebtedness.'"

"As a rule" says Mr. Strother,[1] "none of the working-classes of Mexico have any idea of present

  1. Hon. David H. Strother ("Porte Crayon"), of Virginia, late and for several years consul-general of the United States in Mexico, a gentleman who had large opportunities for studying the country, and a rare faculty of digesting and properly presenting the results of his observations.