Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 29.djvu/35

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25
AN ECONOMIC STUDY OF MEXICO.

only upon the labor in the immediate neighborhood of their line of construction; and that, generally, neither money nor persuasion would induce any great numbers of these people to follow their work any distance from their native fields and villages. In those instances where temporary emigration was effected, the laborers insisted on carrying their families with them. The Government also recognizes to a certain extent this peculiarity in their army movements; and, whenever a company or regiment moves, the number of women wives of the soldiers—accompanying seems almost absurdly numerous. They, however, represent, and to some extent supply, the place of the army commissariat.

In short, what Mexico is to-day, socially and politically, is the natural and legitimate sequence, and exactly what might have been expected from the artificial conditions which for more than three centuries have been forced upon her; and history has never afforded such a striking, instructive, and pitiful illustration of the effect upon a country and a people, of long-continued absolutism and tyranny in respect to both government and religion. It is true that Spain, if called to plead at the bar of public opinion, might point to her own situation and decadence as in the nature of judgment confessed and punishment awarded. But what has the Church, in whose hands for so many years was exclusively vested the matter of education, and which lacked nothing in the way of power and opportunity, to say to the appalling depths of ignorance in which she has left the Mexican people; an ignorance not confined to an almost entire lack of acquaintance with the simplest elements of scholastic learning—reading, writing, and the rules of common arithmetic—but even of the commonest tools and mechanical appliances of production and civilization ? But, wherever may be the responsibility for such a condition of things, the conclusion seems irresistible that, against the moral inertia of such an appalling mass of ignorance, the advancing waves of any higher civilization are likely to dash for a long time without making any serious impression.

Educational Efforts and Awakening in Mexico.—It is, however, gratifying to be able to state that at last the leading men of Mexico have come to recognize the importance of popular education; and it is safe to say that more good, practical work has been done in this direction within the last ten years than in all of the preceding three hundred and fifty. At all of the important centers of population free schools, under the auspices of the national Government, and free from all Church supervision, are reported as established; while the Catholic Church itself, stimulated, as it were, by its misfortunes, and apparently unwilling to longer rest under the imputation of having neglected education, is also giving much attention to the subject; and is said to be acting upon the principle of immediately establishing two schools wherever, in a given locality, the Government, or any of the Protestant denominations, establish one. In several of the national