Page:Mexico as it was and as it is.djvu/85

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52
MEXICO

There are few things more beautiful than the salutation of a Mexican lady. Among themselves they never meet without embracing. But to men and strangers, on the street, they lift the right hand to near the lips, gently inclining the head toward it, and gracefully fluttering their fingers, send forth their recognition with an arch-beaming of the eye that is almost as bewitching as a kiss.

The universal conclusion of the day with a fashionable lady in Mexico, is the theatre. She begins with mass, to which she walks in the morning with her mantilla gracefully draped around her head, and falling in folds of splendid lace over her breast and shoulders. But the night must end in full dress at the opera or theatre. It is as regular and as much a matter of course as her meals.

It is then you may behold the Mexican woman in perfection. And yet, to confess the truth, I cannot say that they are beautiful according to our ideas of beauty in the United States.

You do not see those charming skins and rosy complexions, nor do you observe that variety of tint which springs from the mingling of many nations on our soil; but there is, nevertheless, something in Mexican women, be they fair or dark, that bewitches while you look at them: it is, perhaps, a universal expression of sweetness and confiding gentleness.

There is not much regularity of features; no "Attic foreheads and Phidian noses;" no "rose-bud lips whose kisses pout to leave their nest" no majestic symmetry to compel admiration; but their large, magnificent eyes, where the very soul of tenderness seems to dwell, and their natural grace, conquer every one. Their gait is slow, stately, majestic.

The commonest woman of the middle ranks you encounter on the streets, with but a fanciful petticoat, and her shawl or reboso, struts a queen—her feet small almost to deformity. Her figure, though full to embonpoint, you never think too fat; her lively enthusiasm always seems tempered and delicately subdued by the softness of her eye, and you feel that her complexion, sallow or dark as it often is, is yet no more than

"The embrowning of the fruit that tells
 How rich within the soul of sweetness dwells."

I give opposite, sketches of the costume of the lower class of females, as you see them constantly in the house and on the street, with and without the shawl, or reboso. Without it the dress is scarcely any dress at all: one garment—besides a petticoat—braced with a sash around the waist, while the hair falls in a long plait down the back. With it—their costume is made up. Flung gracefully over the left shoulder and passed across the mouth—you see nothing but the eyes, which are her greatest charm, and she never attempts to conceal them or neglect their power.

In speaking of the fine eyes, the beautiful feet, and the queenly tread of the Mexican ladies, and their costume, I should not forget to mention that an embroidered India crape shawl, blazing with all the colors of the