Page:The Story of Mexico.djvu/41

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9
THE SUBJECT

retinue to a horde of savages, the magnificent capital of palaces to a pueblo of adobe. The discouraged enthusiast sees his magnificent civilization devoted to art, literature, and luxury, reduced to a few handfuls of pitiful Indians, quarrelling with one another for supremacy, and sighs to think his sympathies may have been wasted on the sufferings of an Aztec sovereign dethroned by the invading Spaniard.

Yet perseverence, after brushing away the sparkling cobwebs of exaggerated report, finds enough fact left to build up a respectable case for the early races of Mexico. Visible proofs of their importance exist in the monuments, picture writings, and, above all, their traditions, which, at all events, remain a pretty story, with a sediment of facts the student may precipitate for himself. These traditions make of the early settlers of Anahuac a very interesting study, all the more from their shadowy nature, leaving still much margin for fancy.

They were overwhelmed by the Spaniards, but not destroyed, for the descendants of the conquered races still form a large proportion of the population of Mexico. Their teocallis and hideous carved gods gave way to Roman Catholic cathedrals and images of the Holy Virgin. Spanish viceroys, after the first atrocities of military discipline, ruled the gentle descendants of the Aztecs with a control for the most part mild and beneficent. The Catholic fathers who crossed the ocean to labor for the spiritual welfare of the natives, wisely engrafted upon the mysteries of their own faith the legends and .superstitions of the older belief. Thus we find in many of the religious