Page:A Study of Mexico.djvu/43

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33
LABOR ON THE GREAT ESTATES.

tions, or camping-out, is the traveler's only alternative. They put one in mind of the caravansaries of the East, or better, of the inns or posadas of Spain, which Don Quixote and his attendant, Sancho Panza, frequented, with the court-yard then, as now, all ready for tossing Sancho in a blanket in presence of the whole population. In some cases the hacienda is an irregular pile of adobe buildings without symmetry, order, or convenience; and in others, where the estate is large and the laborers numerous (as is often the case), the most important buildings only are inclosed within the wall—the peons, whose poverty is generally a sufficient safe-guard against robbery, living outside in adobe or cane huts, and constituting a scattered village community.

The owners of these large Mexican estates, who are generally men of wealth and education, rarely live upon them, but make their homes in the city of Mexico or in; Europe, and intrust the management, of their property to a superintendent, who, like the owner, considers himself a gentleman, and whose chief business is to keep the peons in debt, or, what is substantially the same thing, in slavery. Whatever work is done is performed by the peons—in whose veins Indian blood predominates—in their own way and in their own time. They have but few tools, and, except possibly some contriv-