Our Sister Republic/Chapter 3
FROM COLIMA TO ZAPOTLAN.
ON the evening of Oct. 13th, we made our final preparations for departing from Colima, and at 4 o'clock next morning all was bustle and excitement in the grand house of Señor Huarte, and in the streets and Plaza in front. The long roll of the drum, and the shrill notes of the trumpet, announced the assembling of the military guard before day-break, and when the dawn came, the scene as viewed from the balcony was magnificent. The squadron of the Guard of Jalisco, one hundred strong, lined one side of the Plaza, with their horses saddled and caparisoned for the road. In front of our house, a long train of pack-mules was being loaded for the journey by a swarm of servants; two coaches, each with six mules, four in the lead and two at the wheel, stood ready for the party, and the police of Colima, finely mounted, with Señor Canedo, Don Luis Rendon, Gov. Cueva, our worthy Consul Dr. Augustus Morrill, and other officials and private citizens, were galloping about on horseback, all handsomely mounted, and each with servants, spare horses, and camp equipage, ready for the road.
At last all was ready, the trumpets of the advance-guard sounded "to the saddle," and they filed away at a gallop down the streets. The crowd in front was forced back by the police, and Mr. Seward entered his coach with the members of his party, the other coach was filled by our friends, and the people bared their heads and bowed respectfully as a last salutation, as the coaches rattled away over the cobble-paved streets.
The rear-guard and the long pack-train fell in behind, and the police and other officials and friends galloped alongside. Vamos! ah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-h-a-a-a! yelled the cocheros; the postilions cracked their whips, and so, with clatter and uproar, and strange music indescribable, we dashed past the Plaza Nuevo, with its triumphal arches, its orange groves and seats for summerevening loungers, out through the long, straight, narrow streets, into the garden-lined roads of the suburbs, and Colima the Beautiful was behind us.
In the last chapter, mention was made of a prisoner in irons in the State Prison awaiting death for a brutal murder. The order for his execution had been signed by Gov. Cueva on the day previous to our departure, and he was to be shot at day-break on that morning. While standing in Consul Morrill's office on the evening before our departure, I heard a terrible outcry in the corridor, and saw the poor old mother of the condemned criminal on her knees before the Consul, begging him in the name of God and all the saints to interfere in her son's behalf. "You represent the- great Estados Unidos del Norte, and are all-powerful. Save him, Señor, and all the saints of heaven will bless you!" He told her as mildly as possible, that he had no power to interfere, and that the young man—a bad youth, who had committed murder before, and on this occasion butchered, in cold blood, a merchant's clerk, who had, under orders from his employer, refused him credit for four dollars—deserved his fate. Then she fell insensible to the pavement.
When the sympathizing women had restored her to consciousness, she rushed to the house of Señor Huarte, and fell on her knees before one of our party, mistaking him for Mr. Seward. She was taken away by the police before she could see him, and so he was saved the useless pain of meeting her. Gov. Cueva, being told that the prisoner was apparently insane, sent two physicians to examine him, but they reported him thoroughly sound in mind; and as he had no power to pardon him, that being reserved to the State Legislature and the President, while a reprieve would be no mercy, he ordered, as a mark of respect to Mr. Seward, that the execution be delayed until we were out of the city. Our coaches had hardly rolled off the last pavement of Colima, before there was a sharp rattle of musketry from the river's bank, a puff of blue smoke curled up above the house-tops, and drifted away in the clear morning air, and the story of a life was told.
A few miles out of Colima the character of the country begins to change from ultra-tropical to semi-tropical. We drove over execrable roads, between wide fields of rice, now half-grown and richly green, beautiful castor-beans, and Indian corn. The cocoa-palms decreased in number, and finally, at twenty miles north-east of Colima, entirely disappeared, while the bananas grew less thriftily and abundant. The land, where not cultivated, was everywhere covered with rich, nutritious grasses, and cattle and sheep abounded. We have no grass, properly speaking, in California, the wild oat out there taking its place, and these green, grassy fields appeared more beautiful to me from the fact that I had not looked upon their like for many years. The country is well populated, and though the people—mostly of Indian descent—live in poor huts of cane, with rice straw-thatched roofs, open all around the sides to wind and rain, and are miserably clad, they appear to have abundance to eat, and are quite well behaved, and apparently contented with their lot.
Twenty-five miles from Colima, we reached the first "Barranca," a branch of the great "Barranca de Beltran," the insurmountable obstacle to the construction of a passable wagon road from the coast to Guadalajara. These Barrancas, some five or six in number, three very large, are minor Yosemites in appearance, having been formed by the action of water in a stratum of sand, bowlders, and loose gravel. They are many miles in length, uniting finally like the various branches of a great river as they approach the sea-coast, and are from five hundred to fifteen hundred feet in depth, with steep precipitous sides.
The amount of labor required to construct even passable mule roads up and down their sides, is almost incredible. The road has been laid out—it was done a century ago—with great engineering skill, and the zig-zags, with acute angles, are beautifully constructed. The road-bed is from eight to thirty feet in width, the sides inclining to the center, and neatly paved with cobble-stones, the large and small stones being arranged in lines in regular order. Each year, the water cuts the bed of the Barranca deeper and deeper, and the work must be extended, while the heavy rains gullying out the pavement, make constant repairs necessary. The lower side of the road is usually fenced in, or lined with a substantial stone wall neatly plastered, and in one of the smaller Barrancas a solid stone bridge with, a single arch, evidently of great age, spans the stream.
Señor Huarte had provided a large palanquin to convey Mr. Seward through the Barranca country, as his injuries, received some years ago, rendered it impossible for him to guide a horse, or hold on to a saddle for a long time. The palanquin, or litter, consisted of two stout poles, three feet apart, bolted together with cross beams, supporting in the center a platform on which was fastened a large, cushioned arm-chair, above which was a canopy of brilliant green merino stuff with curtains of the same material. When going up and down the Barrancas, and in particularly dangerous places, the palanquin was borne on the shoulders of four stalwart men in white cotton pantaloons, and broad plam-leaf hats, with rough sandals on their feet. When the procession came to a good place on the road, the palanquin was transferred to the backs of two mules, who carried it along at a swinging trot. The men were relieved at intervals of a few minutes, and despite the heat and bad roads, they would get along nearly as fast as a man on horseback, riding at an ordinary gait.
At the first Barranca we left Señor Huarte's excellent coaches, and took to mule and horseback. Descending the first Barranca and climbing its precipitous sides again, we crossed a small plateau, and came to the first arm of the great Barranca de Beltran, probably eight hundred feet deep. Looking up this Barranca we saw, on the opposite side, the old red-tile-roofed town of Tornila, embowered in tropical foliage and flowers, with banana fields and trees, each bearing a profusion of brilliant flowers, on either side, and the great Volcano of Colima towering into the heavens in awful majesty, his head crowned with a turban of sulphurous smoke, in the background. Surely, I mused, I must have been here before, the scene is so wonderfully familiar.
At last it occurred to me, this is the perfect counterpart of "the Heart of the Andes," as Church painted it. Even the trees covered with parrots, and the rushing waters, were all there. On that day, and again the next day, we saw the picture repeated in a thousand varied forms, and each more "beautiful and wonderful than the last.
At noon, we reached Tornila, and were warmly received at the hospitable residence of Senor Don Ramon de la Vega, the elected Governor of Colima. Tornila is just over the line, in the State of Jalisco, and Señor Vega is residing there by permission of President Juarez, while Gov. Cueva acts in his place. He was driven out by the French, and was compelled to flee to San Francisco, but immediately returned on the restoration of the republic. He has served several years, and will decline another re-election, as he is old, and desires to devote himself to his private affairs. His mansion overlooks on one side, a broad and beautifully irregular valley, with ranges of low hills, and the Sierra del Tigre rising to the clouds in the southern background. Nearer, are gardens filled with fruits and flowers in endless profusion.
From the northern front of Gov. Vega's residence a magnificent view of the great Volcano of Colima may be obtained. The western peak of this great mountain is a perfect truncated cone, very beautiful, and majestic in proportions. It is estimated to be from twelve thousand to fourteen thousand feet above the sea—no two estimates agree by hundreds of feet—and is wooded to the very summit. This peak, though formerly in eruption, had been silent for forty years. Now, we can see small jets of smoke or steam issuing from, crevices near the summit, but in no considerable quantity, and there is no rumbling or other indications of an eruption. Back of this first peak to the eastward some miles, is a second peak, called the Snowy (Nevada) Peak, or Old Crater. This is now wholly silent.
Between these, but further to the northward than either, and lower down, is the crater formed in August, 1869, from which the smoke now pours in dense volume, but not a sound of any kind nor any trembling accompanies the eruption. In fact, this whole affair is an unexplainable mystery. The former eruptions sent forth immense rivers of lava, and were accompanied by frightful earthquakes and rumblings. This, commenced in the night, with a shock so slight that it was hardly noticed in the City of Colima, and continued in the same manner from the 12th of July 1869 up to the time of our visit. No lava is poured out, but there is a constant discharge of red-hot rocks, some of which weigh hundreds of tons, which are merely vomited out and rolled down the side of the mountain: not hurled into the air.
The engineer who was sent up to examine it, made a full report, and through the kindness of Gov. Cueva, I was furnished with a copy. I am inclined to the opinion that the present demonstration is only preliminary, and that the actual eruption, attended with lava discharges and wide-spread devastation, is yet to come. At present, the Volcano of Colima is the best-behaved volcano in the world—mild-mannered, but wonderfully beautiful and awe-inspiring to the beholder. The dinner-table was spread in the corridor overlooking all the scene, and the party sat down to a sumptuous entertainment prepared on the shortest notice. Señor Huarte had provided an unlimited supply of wines and liquors of every description, and poured them out like water all the way to Zapotlan, to which place he accompanied us. He is a perfect prince of hosts, and his kindness and unceasing care for the comfort of our party will not soon be forgotten. These Mexican people "beat the world" in the number and excellence of the dishes they prepare for the table at short notice. Chicken, turkey, and beef may be had at every little hamlet in abundance, and they serve them up in a variety of styles, always well-cooked and palatable. They also contrive to produce dulces—literally "sweets"—from almost every conceivable fruit and vegetable, and also pastes and jams in endless variety. On this occasion the dulces were prepared by the hand of Señora de la Vega herself. Their three bright-eyed daughters, handsome young ladies, with light olive complexions, their cheeks tinged with a rosy hue, sat at the table with the party.
When the dinner was dispatched and wines brought on, Gov. Cueva arose, and in feeling terms thanked Mr. Seward for his visit, and for the good services he had rendered to Mexico. On behalf of the State of Colima he desired to bid him good-bye, wish him God-speed, and a safe return to his home in the far North, and give him a hearty embrace. The Governor then embraced him with great fervor, bade each of the party an affectionate adieu, and started on his return to Colima.
The rainy season in this country commences in June, and according to the almanac, ought to conclude in September, but this year it did not. It was now the middle of October, and still the clouds poured down showers every evening and during most of the night making traveling, which ought to have been better than at any other season, almost impossible and slow at best. It was raining when we left Tornila, and we hardly saw the sun that day. The country from Colima to Zapotlan is quite populous, and in the middle part nearly all the arable land is cultivated.
The road is very wide, but poor, and inclosed between very high and substantial stone walls. The crops are corn, beans, pumpkins, rice, sugar-cane, &c., &c., and all are very good. From Tornila we ascended rapidly, and were soon among the foot-hills of the Sierra Madre of Mexico. The country is not unlike Central Arizona in formation, but the vegetation is rank and luxuriant to a degree beyond comparison. At all the houses along the road there are little open windows, in which are exposed for sale fruit and bread cakes, tortillas and cheese. For a medio—half a rial, or six and one-fourth cents–you can buy a milk-pan full of bananas or other fruit, and bread, etc., is very cheap.
Women, lightly dressed in loose cotton camesas and skirts, are seen in every house, squatted before the hollowed block of lava, on which they grind to a paste the half-boiled hulled corn, from which they make tortillas. Placing a handful of the corn on the stone, they take hold, with both hands, of a stone about a foot in length and three inches square, which they rub back and forth over the corn until it is reduced to a pulp, then taking up a little mass, pat it with both hands until they have spread it out to the thickness of common paste-board, and bake it on a hot stone. This is the tortilla, which with the dark red beans known as frijoles, form the leading articles of diet of the humbler class. The tortilla is also used as a spoon, when they eat beans or soup, and the spoon is eaten up at the close of the feast.
Our military guard was an object of no little curiosity and admiration. They belong to a force of eight hundred picked men, armed, equipped, and put into the field by the State of Jalisco, to free the roads
|A MEXICAN COOK.|
from robbers and maintain public order. Col. Sabas Lomeli, their commander, is a splendid-looking man, tall, stout built, quite fair complexioned, with long whiskers and mustaches, a la Americano, and is not only remarkably good looking, but has the air and carriage of a soldier. He is said to be a very brave and accomplished officer, and the fact that within a few months his command has practically cleared the roads of the great State of Jalisco of robbers, and captured or killed nearly two hundred of the banditti, who had made traveling very dangerous, speaks well for his energy. He is accompanied by a major, captain, and the company lieutenants, all of whom are uniformed with dark-blue jackets, trimmed with broad silver bullion and large silver buttons, bright scarlet pantaloons, with silver lace, and top-boots of enameled leather. Their caps are nearly the same in form as the regular United States fatigue cap, but with green trimmings, and with a white linen cover having a cape, which when let down, protects the shoulders from sun and rain.
|COL. SABAS LOMELI.|
The soldiers have caps, blue coats and pantaloons with green trimmings, and the pantaloons are foxed with dark leather. They carry swords, Colt's revolvers, and Springfield muskets, and are mounted on small, but very spirited and quick-traveling horses, of which they take excellent care. The officers carry swords and Colt's revolvers, and wear broad, red sashes thrown carelessly over their shoulders. Their uniform is very brilliant and picturesque. The force of one hundred men have only three pack-mules to carry all their baggage. They take no tents or cooking utensils, and can get over the ground with twice or thrice the speed attained by our troops in the United States. One hundred miles within thirty hours is no great march for them, and the infantry can keep up with them. The common soldiers are all of Indian blood, small in size, but active, and admirably fitted for rapid marches and the guerilla style of warfare. I never saw so well-behaved, quiet, and orderly men. They receive thirty-seven and one-half cents per day in coin. Of this twelve and one-half cents is paid them daily, and the remainder at, or near, the end of the month. They get no rations, but live easily on the twelve and one-half cents. They will gallop up to a road-side shop, and with three cents purchase a dozen tortillas, and a piece of the sour-milk cheese of the country, which serves them for lunch. For breakfast, an ear of soft-boiled corn will serve them admirably, and for supper a few frijoles and tortillas are sufficient. In camp or at garrison duty, they get rations, and are charged for them. Col. Lomeli wears a magnificent diamond ring and gold watch, and is splendidly mounted, a silver-ornamented saddle setting off to great advantage the fine black horse which he rides.
Leaving the party just before night-fall, I galloped on alone to the great hacienda of San Marcos, where we were to pass the night, meeting by the way the proprietor who had started out to meet Mr. Seward and welcome him to his house.
This great hacienda cost a million dollars, and for many years prior to the French invasion paid $60,000 net profits annually. The war ruined its old proprietor, and its present one bought it for $200,000. The buildings surround a large square, in the center of which there is a fountain constantly playing, to which all the workmen and women resort for water. On one side of the square are the workshops where the casks, boxes, etc., are made. On the opposite, is the immense sugar-mill, with splendid machinery of the best pattern. At the entrance, on one side, is the office and counting room; on the other, the pyre or altar-like pile of mason-work, on which a fire is kindled with pitch-pine wood at night, to light up the entire place. At the opposite end is the extensive distillery in which the cane, (after the greater part of the juice has been expressed,) is permeated with the molasses, to make a villainous kind of rum called aguardiente del cana, which is as much like boiled lightning as can be imagined, and the very smell of which will cause a very fair sample of the Christian gentleman to commit murder. Above this, rises a small hill of solid rock about seventy feet in height, surmounted by the casa grande, or great house of the estate. This house is one story in height, with a vast corridor all around it, and a hollow square in the center. It is painted white outside, and inside it is like all the better houses in this country, elaborately frescoed in blue and chocolate colors.
The view, from the corridor, of the great volcano—the base of which is but ten miles distant—and of the Sierra Madre in the east, the Sierra del Tigre, and intervening plains on the other side, is wonderfully beautiful. The business of the hacienda is now but moderately profitable, since the fine, almost pure, and richly flavored sugar is worth but two dollars and fifty cents per arroba of twenty-five pounds, and the aguardiente only realizes three dollars per barrel of eighteen gallons, after being packed on mules to Zapotlan and Guadalajara, the barrel itself being returned.
Night came on while I was sitting on the broad verandah waiting for the arrival of the party, and drinking in the glory of the scene before me. The darkness was almost palpable to the touch, and I began to fear that the party must encamp on the mountains for the night. Suddenly, the notes of the bugle came floating through the air, and a long line of brilliant lights, moving with a steady motion which showed that they were carried by marching men, came out upon the hill-side some miles away.
Like a great fiery serpent the column, with its hundred torches unfolded itself, and crept steadily toward the hacienda. On it came, winding and turning with the sinuosities of the road, until I could discern the outlines of the horsemen who bore the flaming torches, and see the great-leaved trees come in and out of the panorama of ever-shifting lights and shadows, as the column moved along. It was a scene of enchantment which seems too much like the work of imagination to be real, even now, as I look back upon it through memory's gateway.
At last the procession entered the patio, and all was bustle and confusion for an hour or more before the troops were finally quartered for the night, the baggage disposed of, and the party quietly provided for in the various rooms of the great house. The, family of the proprietor, Mauricio Gomez, reside most of the time at Zapotlan, and were not at the hacienda when we were there. We supped royally, slept soundly—there are no musquitoes, and very few flies in all this country—and at 6 a.m., on the 15th were off for Zapotlan, our road leading for miles between the rice-fields, sugar-cane and corn-fields which covered the whole country.
Soon after leaving San Marcos we came to the main branch of the great Barranca de Beltran, which is about two thousand feet wide and fifteen hundred feet deep, with almost perpendicular sides, down which the road has been cut with infinite labor and paved at an immense expense. The descent into this Barranca on horseback is no trifling feat, and the beauty of the views at every turn is really wonderful.
|BARRANCA DE BELTRAN.|
At places, the whole road is over-arched with trees and climbing vines, and on every hill-side the wealth of flowers is beyond imagination. Parrots in great flocks yelled at us from the trees, and little parroquets and other brilliant-hued birds, swarmed in the thickets all around. Mules, loaded with the produce of the country, met us at every angle of the road.
The scene, as the procession wound down the defiles into the bed of the Barranca and up the other side, the green palanquin swaying back and forth at the head, the brilliant uniforms of the officers and soldiers of the guard coming in and out among the trees in vivid contrast to the deep green of the vegetation, and the scarlet and blue and orange of the flowers, the sabres and muskets flashing in the sun, with the hundred minor but still picturesque details of the march was one, once witnessed, not soon to be forgotten.
It was high noon when we reached the Mesa on the eastern side, and crossed over to the Barranca Atenquiqui, beyond which we expected to meet the stages from Zapotlan. Looking back, I noticed two projections or points between divided branches of the Barranca; these might serve for points on which to erect piers for a suspension bridge, which might be constructed so that each span would not exceed eight hundred feet in length. On the highest point, Gen. Arteaga, at the commencement of the French invasion, erected earth-works defended by artillery, but finding his troops, who were poorly armed and thoroughly demoralized, could not hold the position, he pitched his cannon down the Barranca, and retreated to the interior. He was subsequently taken by surprise, and murdered in cold blood by the French, under the orders of Maximilian. Gen. Arteaga's remains, with those of Gen. Salazar, who met a like fate, have recently been removed to the Pantheon, at the city of Mexico, and interred in great state.
Take the Yosemite Valley, diminished in depth one-half and narrowed in like manner, cover all its sides and bottom with the luxuriant vegetation of the tropics, and you have the great Barranca de Beltran as we looked back into it for the last time.
At 1 o'clock p. m., we paused for a rest in the last of the Barrancas, that of Atenquiqui, in which the forces of Miramon were bush-whacked and completely routed, with almost total loss, by the Liberals under Gen. Cheeseman, immediately commanded by Col. Geo. M. Green, if I remember correctly, toward the close of the war.
The stages were not forth-coming, and people who came over the road told us that it was impassable for vehicles for the greater part of the way from Zapotlan to the Barranca owing to the damage done by the recent storm.
An Indian messenger was sent off, on foot, with a promise that if he returned before 4 p. m., with news of the stage-coach, he should have two dollars. It was then 2 p. m., and we laid down to rest. At five minutes before 4 p. m., the barefooted messenger returned with the news that the coach would meet us nine miles down the road, at a point where a great gully had made it impossible to get the vehicle farther. He had made eighteen miles at a run, within the two hours, as was subsequently demonstrated, and well earned his two dollars.
We mounted at once and pushed on, Mr. Seward on a mule led by a half-naked native and holding on by both hands, and met at last the fine, large stage, made by the American pattern in Mexico, sent out from Zapotlan for our accommodation. Here, we were near the summit of the pass through the Sierra Madre, and the country looked not unlike the foot-hills of the Sierra Nevada about Grass Valley and Colfax, in California. The chaparral had mostly disappeared, and the country was sparsely covered with stumpy, yellow pines, with long leaves hanging down, so as to give them a weeping-willow aspect. The air at this elevation was quite comfortably cool, and we discarded the thin apparel in which we had sweltered in the Terra Caliente, which we were now passing out of, and put on such as is worn in San Francisco.
At every turn on the road we met trains of pack-mules laden with the produce of the country, going down to the coast, or were, for hours, mixed up with similar trains going up from the coast to the interior.
INDIANS FROM MICHOACAN GOING UP TO GUADALAJARA.
The down trains were loaded with the hard soap of Zapotlan, coarse earthen ware, fruit, sugar, etc., but principally, soap. The up trains were loaded with sugar, rice, and aguardiente, of which there seemed to be no end. One train must have numbered at least two hundred and fifty mules, each loaded with two barrels of the accursed aguardiente, eighteen or twenty gallons in each cask. The poor little mules were utterly exhausted with climbing and descending the barrancas, and were dropping down at intervals of a few rods all along the road. It is estimated that not less than twenty thousand mules are constantly employed transporting goods over the road between Colima and Guadalajara and intermediate points, and as each carries at least two hundred and fifty or three hundred pounds, the aggregate amount must be enormous. Many of the smaller trains which we met were loaded with coarse rush matting, used for covering floors, or earthen jars, and were driven by Indian families, men, women, and children, on foot, who appeared to be doing business on their own account. In many cases a mule would have goods worth not more than three dollars on his back, and the family must be poor indeed to go so far for so little money. We must have met or passed at least fifteen hundred or two thousand mules during the day.
We passed also several Mexican families of the better class, traveling on horseback and attended by numerous servants, all well armed. The women, invariably, had their heads covered with rebosas, or large handkerchiefs under their broad-brimmed hats, hiding all their hair and most of their faces, so fearful do they seem to be of any exposure to the air when traveling, though when at home, they go, bare headed, in the hottest sun, or coldest breeze to church, theater or promenade, all the year around.
Passing at a distance the magnificent hacienda of Huescalapa, which appeared like an immense white palace, we saw soon after night-fall, the long rows of paper lanterns which adorned every house, and were strung across every street in Zapotlan, giving to the tumble-down old city an air of enchantment. The illumination was in honor of the feast of San Jose of which saint this was the anniversary. Driving up to the door of the residence of Don Trinidad Viszcayno, we alighted, and were soon provided for, for the night. The City Council of Zapotlan called immediately to pay their respects, and a band commenced playing in front of the house. The crowd was dense, but well-behaved and respectful, and during our stay, nothing but kind treatment was experienced. Among those who paid us most attention was Señor Don Manuel F. Alatorre of Guadalajara, cousin of Gen. Alatorre, a popular republican commander, then in the City of Mexico.
Zapotlan contains from eighteen thousand to twenty thousand people. There are more Indians in proportion to the whole population than at Colima, and fewer well-dressed people on the streets. This is one of the oldest cities in America, and is situated in one of the richest regions of Mexico; but, two hundred and fifty years' experience have only brought the people up to manufacturing soap and sugar. There are ten or twelve large soap factories in Zapotlan, and the trade is enormous. One of them we visited. There are no iron kettles or utensils in it, and all the heating is done in vats made of brick, while the ladling is done with immense calabashes fastened to long poles. And yet, the work is well done, and the soap much superior to the common brown soap in general use in the United States. The alkali is obtained from soda-earth in immense quantities on the margin of a lake ten leagues from Zapotlan, and the hogs are thrown into the vats whole, bristles and all, as we had an opportunity to see. This is emphatically "going the whole hog." In some parts of Mexico cakes of soap are used as small change, and hence the expression so common in the United States, "How are you off for soap?" I charge nothing extra for this explanation.
The town is full of churches of ancient date, and there are the ruins of an immense cathedral which was thrown down in 1806, when many people were killed. They are just erecting a new one, from lava taken from a field of great extent near the town, and which flowed from the great volcano centuries ago. It will probably be finished in another century.
Above the door of one of the churches, we noticed an inscription, announcing that there were thirteen stations in the church at which one could deposit money, and have any friend he might name, prayed out of purgatory, or helped along on his way. Willing to lend a helping hand, I deposited twenty-five cents on behalf of a friend in San Francisco. I forgot to mention the fact that he is not yet dead, but presume that will make no difference, as he is sure to need it sooner or later, and the longer he waits the greater call he will have for all the assistance his friends can give him.
|BRIDE AND GROOM ENTERING THE CHURCH.|
While at Zapotlan we saw a wedding party enter the church. Bride and bridegroom were of pure Mexican blood, the common people of the country, and the whole party were of the same class. The costumes of the bride and bridegroom, and their floral decorations, were of such a remarkable character, that nothing but the engraving can give a good idea of them.
The city, though dull, is growing and slowly improving. It contains a number of beautiful residences, and about twelve first-class families.
When the infamous robber and patriotic cut-throat "General Rojas" took Zapotlan on one occasion, his men reported that the bell-tower of one of the churches was full of the enemy, who had surrendered, and were ready to come down and deliver up their arms. "What shall we do with them, your Excellency?" Rojas considered a moment, and then replied, "Oh, these poor men are not to blame; they must not be killed, but sent home, as they only acted under orders." His men could not understand such unusual clemency, as it was his custom to kill all who, by any misfortune fell into his hands. Seeing the officer who had made the inquiry standing irresolute, as if in doubt of understanding correctly what Rojas had said, the latter added, "I say sent home; of course you will not take any extra trouble with them, but send them home by the shortest road. The officer understood the infernal monster's hint, and returning to his command, gave such orders that in a few moments a well-directed fire from below forced all the soldiers in the tower to jump to the street, and of course they perished to a man. This anecdote was related to me by a gentleman who knew Rojas well, and belonged to the political party with which he was acting at the time. As we advanced into the interior we heard many similar anecdotes of this atrocious criminal. It is a satisfaction to know that the brute got his deserts, and was killed like a wild beast at Seyula, at last.
Rojas came from the district of Tepic, where he was employed for many years by one foreign importing house, to oppose by fraud, violence, and blood-shed, Manuel Lozada, who was in the pay of a rival house. Lozada finally triumphed, and has for years carried on a sort of independent monarchy, with Tepic for its capital, in the Northern corner of the State of Jalisco. He styles himself "Manuel Lozada, Natural Chief of the district of Tepic," permitting no one to share the cares and responsibilities of office with him. San Blas serves as an importing or smuggling port for his kingdom, and as he has a mountain district which is impenetrable to an opposing force if defended at all, his army, of devoted followers like those of Lopez in Paraguay, which can be swelled to eight thousand or ten thousand in a few days, enables him to bid defiance to the Federal Government, and carry things all in his own way. He was originally a muleteer, and is too ignorant to write his own name, but has much capacity for governing, with an energetic, cruel, and unforgiving nature. Skinning the feet of his enemies and forcing them to walk over live coals, is one of the mildest of the practical jokes in which he sometimes indulges. To do him justice, he keeps excellent order in the district of Tepic, allowing no one else to murder or rob within his jurisdiction. The republic has been forced to tolerate him for many years, because unable at any time to send a sufficient force against him to crush him at a blow. Should a period of entire peace in all other parts of the Republic come within his time, the Government would make short work of him at any cost; but how soon such an opportunity may occur, is a question for unreliable speculation only.
In 1868-9, an expedition against him, to be under the command of General Ramon Corona, was planned and nearly ready to start, but never got marching orders, disturbances requiring the presence of the troops arising elsewhere.
It is a noticeable fact, that nearly all the local revolutions or pronunciamentos in Mexico,—especially in the states bordering on the sea-coast—are fomented and sustained for the moment by foreign houses, who desire to profit, pecuniarily, by the misfortunes of the country and its inhabitants. When several cargoes of goods from Europe, on which duties ranging from fifty to one hundred and fifty per cent ad valorum are payable by law, are about due at some port, the parties in interest look up some ambitious chief, who will consent to be used by them, provide him with the means to raise the first body of troops at hand in a pronunciamento. He then seizes the Custom-House, and if possible, the nearest mint, lets in the cargoes for twenty or twenty-five per cent, of the legal duties, and levies a forced loan or two, on the merchants within his reach. Of course, he takes good care to give receipts for the amount of the prestimo due from the houses in whose interest he is acting. By the time the Government troops arrive to attack him, he is ready to decamp with what funds he has raised, and seek an asylum in the United States, or some other country. The legitimate Government authorities, on being restored to power, find it always difficult, and generally impossible, to collect the duties on the goods which have thus been smuggled into the country, and so the Republic is not only swindled out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in the time of its most urgent necessity generally, but is put to a heavy expense to suppress the rebellion. The only parties who profit by the pronunciamento are those who get up the scheme and the leader of the forces in rebellion. The men forced into the army of the pronunciados, and the regular troops of the Republic, are the victims who meet death every time these outbreaks occur. This game has been played over and over, year after year, at the expense of every administration, legitimate or otherwise, which has held power at the time. It is not to be wondered at that the rich grow richer, and the poor poorer, year by year, under such a state of things, and that legitimate trade and industry are finally crushed out and disappear.