Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/61

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53
YUCATECOS.

secret tunnel leading under the city from the monastery (now likewise in ruins) to this abode of peace and purity. The starting-place for the grand paseo is at the square of Santiago, where is a most holy church, in front of which is a great ceiba tree, the centre of the bull-ring. It is one of the oldest in the city, its façade is adorned with numerous statues, and its cupola with many bells. In the opinion of the early builders of churches, the sanctuary that could crowd the most bells into its turrets, and raise the loudest clangor, possessed the strongest odor of sanctity.

Every time you pass acquaintances, it is considered proper to salute them. The ladies do this sort of thing very gracefully, but at the same time in such a way that you are puzzled to know whether they are merely giving you recognition or beckoning to you. They raise the hand till the tips of the fingers are on a level with their eyes, then they flutter them backwards and forwards, seeming to invite approach rather than to give an ordinary salutation; and their bright, beaming eyes add to the illusion.

The most interesting feature of the day was a group of Indians representing the costumes and dances of the aborigines. The people found in possession of Yucatan, who fought the early Spaniards and were finally subjugated by them, who probably built the cities that have been nothing but ruins for centuries, were the Mayas (pronounced Mý-yahs), and were sun-worshippers. It has been stated that no traditions regarding them exist among the present inhabitants of Yucatan. The dance that I witnessed at the carnival completely refuted this, as will now appear. The first thing these Indians did was to spread a banner in the centre of the room, on which was painted a figure of the sun, with two people kneeling in adoration of that luminary. The chief of this band of about twenty Indians then suspended from his neck a bright-colored representation of the sun stamped on tin. At the foot of the banner-staff crouched an old man, with a drum made by stretching the skin of a calf or goat over one end of a hollow log. At the side of the drum hung a shell of a land tortoise, and the old man beat the drum and rattled the shell in