Six Months In Mexico/Chapter 23
embroidered in gold all over it. The workmanship is exquisite, and some of the likenesses perfect. There is also a black velvet vestment embroidered in the same manner, which is only for use on holy week. They were both a present from Charles V., of Spain. The Bishop of Mexico has been anxious to obtain possession of them, and has repeatedly offered $3500 for the two pieces, but they refuse to sell at that price. This church is known as the Royal Chapel. Its architecture is very pretty, yet extremely odd. Every way one counts across the chapel gives seven arches—lengthwise, crosswise, corner wise, etc., the end is always the same—seven. In the center of this queer construction is a pure well, the waters of which are noted for their coolness, healing qualities and love charms. One strange fact about this church is that the morning following its dedication it fell to the ground completely demolished, but was immediately rebuilt. In this vicinity there are no less than twenty-nine churches, which can be counted, nestling within a very small space, from the pyramid, which is left for another chapter.
THE PYRAMID OF CHOLULA.
The pyramid of Cholula is very disappointing to any one who has seen illustrations of it in histories of Mexico; there it is represented as a mass of steps, growing narrower as they reach the top. At present it looks like many of the other queerly-shaped hills which one sees so frequently in Mexico. Closer inspection shows there were once four stories to it, but it is now badly demolished, and the trainway has cut through one side, damaging the effect. At present it is three thousand eight hundred and sixty feet around the base, although once it is said to have been one thousand four hundred and forty feet on each side, or four times that around the entire base. Some say its height is no more than two hundred feet, while others affirm it is at the very least five hundred feet high; the ascent is made by a Spanish stairway of hewed stone fifteen feet wide, and there is a second stairway of two hundred steps leading from the main one to the church door.
The little church on top was first built by the Spaniards in the place of the temple called Quetzalcoate (the God of the air), built by the Astecs. The church was first in the shape of a cross, but alterations have been made of late years, destroying entirely the original design. It was dedicated to the Virgin of the Remedies, or Health—Senora de los Remedios, and she is said to have performed some wonderful miracles, at any rate her image is covered with tokens of her goodness. There is a desk in the church where they sell beads and measures of the Virgin's face, which are said to keep away the devil and bring good luck to the wearer. A little tinseled charm on the beads contains some part of the Virgin's garments, and when I, in a weak moment, asked the seller if he really meant it, I knew by his answer I had met George Washington, Jr. It was, "Senorita, I cannot lie."
At places where the hill is dug away can be seen the layers of mud-brick, which proves undisputedly that the pyramid was really built. It is thought to have served as a cemetery as well as a place of worship. The Indians have a tradition that when Cortes tarried at Cholula, a number of armed warriors plotted to fall suddenly upon the Spanish army and kill them all. Cortes may have suspicion, or a desire for more blood and more stolen wealth, for without the least warning, he attacked the citizens of Puebla and killed outright 6,000 besides terribly wounding thousands of others. When the road was being made from Puebla to Mexico they cut through the first story of the pyramid. In it was found a square chamber, destitute of outlet, supported by beams of cypress and built in an odd and remarkable manner. Curious varnished and painted vases, idols in basalt and skeletons were in it. The only conclusion offered was that it was either a tomb for burial or else the warriors who wanted revenge on the Spanish were by some means buried in this hiding-place. The pyramid is now covered with grass, trees and orchids.
Famous stone idols are found in this vicinity. In plowing the fields or digging holes they are turned up by scores, in all shapes and sizes; the tourist pays good prices for them, and the more sensational the story attached the higher the tariff; the guide at the hotel showed me a white arrow flint. He had bought it the day before at Cholula for a medio, and said he was going to daub it with chicken blood and sell it to the next party of tourists as a wonderful relic, which had been used on the sacrificial stone to kill thousands of people. He would tell them that the worshipers of the sun used to get a victim and the one who could send the arrow with this flint directly in the center of the victim's heart stood in favor with their god, the sun. At the depot, besides being bothered with at least twenty idol peddlers, a woman with a baby tried to make me buy it. She refused to sell to any one in the party, but coaxed me to take it, telling all its good qualities. It was good, very amiable, sympathetic and very precious. Partly to get rid of her I asked, "How much?" "Dos reals" (twenty five cents) was her astounding reply. "That is too cheap," I said; "I cannot take it unless the price is $100." Evidently she did not understand jesting, for she kept on saying, "No, senorita, dos reals; muy benito." I successfully resisted its charms as well as her persuasions. At the last moment, when the car started, she ran after me, saying I could have the baby at $100, if I wouldn't take it at twenty-five cents; but the car soon left her in the distance, and we had a good laugh at the poor woman's reasoning powers and lack of business qualities.
The tramway ends at Atlixco, a lovely little village midway between Cholula and Puebla. One of the most beautiful things along the way is the famous tree at the foot of St. Michael's Mountain. It is called Ahuehuete. It is many centuries old and a very curious shape. Its trunk is hollow, with a hole big enough for a horseman to enter at one side. Thirteen men on horseback can find plenty of room in its big body. The orchards at this village are valued at $2,800,000.
There are twenty-four hotels in Puebla, and some are first-class in every respect. They serve coffee from 6 to 9, breakfast 1 to 3, and dinner 6 to 9. The penitentiary looks like a Spanish fortress. It is very old, picturesque, and covered with orchids, but the state authorities decided they needed a new one, and have built a handsome one of stone and brick, which is said to resemble one in Pennsylvania, whether East or West I know not, but from a distance it looks somewhat like the Western, although all similarity faded on closer inspection. There are several parks, and very pretty ones, too, in Puebla. In the main one they have music nightly. At the east end of the town they have sulphur baths, which are considered very healthy.
The most unique bull-fights of the whole republic are held here. One Sunday they fought all afternoon in the regular style, but when evening came, they turned on the electric lights, set a table in the center of the ring, put on it tin dishes, and all the fighters sat down as though to eat, one of them attired in a long, white dress. As soon as they were seated comfortably the gate was flung open, and the toro rushed in. At the same moment two banderillas containing fire-rockets were stuck into him, and as they exploded the maddened bull made a rush for the table. The occupants jerked up the tin ware, and with it began to fight off the bull. Then they jerked the table apart, and fought it with the pieces. When the men and beast were pretty tired, the bull was allowed to attack the one in white, the so-called bride, and the swordsman, who of course represented her husband, defended her, and killed the bull with one thrust of the sword. It was simply magnificent, and so exciting that everybody was standing on their feet yelling lustily at every new move. The fight was called "The Interrupted Bridal Party."
The next Sunday they fought the bulls on burros instead of horses. The men had their bodies protected by plates of tin, and when the toro charged they jumped off the borro and ran behind screens, while the poor little animal had to run for his life, and that was the funniest part of the programme. The following Sunday all the fighters stuffed themselves. They looked as if they had feather beds around their bodies. Then they dressed up in fantastic garb. No horses were allowed in the ring. When the time came the men lay flat on their backs, and and as the door was opened and the bull came tearing in, they wiggled their legs in the air to attract its attention.
One peculiar feature of bull-fighting is that the bull will never attack a man's legs, but always strike for his body. The toro would rush for the prostrate form, and the American auditors would hold their breath, and think that the fighter's end had come, but just then the bull would gore him in the stuffed part, and the man would turn a complete somersault, alighting always on his feet, safe and sound. The bull would turn those men into all sorts of shapes without either hurting them or himself.
Puebla is considered the richest State in Mexico, and in it one can select any climate he desires. Puebla City is never cold, is never warm; it has the most delicious climate in the world, just the degree that must please the most fastidious. In the State are wonderful stone quarries. Every color of clay is used to make dishes, vases, and brick, and abundance of chalk for making lime. In the rivers and small streams several kinds of sand are secured, which is used for many purposes, and a few miles away are large veins of iron and other minerals; there are mountains of different varieties of marble and onyx, from the transparent to the heaviest known; extensive fields of coal, quicksilver, lead, with wonderful mines of gold and silver everywhere; there is one strange mountain called Nahuatt (star) covered with rock crystal, the fragments resembling brilliant diamonds, and at another craggy place beautiful emeralds are found. In many places are hot springs.
The woods are fortunes in themselves. Besides all the Mexican varieties are cedar, ebony, mahogany, pine, oak, bamboo, liquid amber, India rubber, and above all the writing tree, the wood of which has been pronounced the finest by five countries. Its colored veins are on a yellowish ground, and it forms thousands of strange figures, monograms, words and profiles. Then there are the silk cotton tree, the logwood and thousands of others. Some of them produce rich essences, others dyes which never fade. A cactus also grows here from which wine is made which they say far excels that of Spain or Italy. In the cold and warm districts are raised cotton, tobacco, vanilla, coffee, rice, sugar-cane, tea, wheat, aniseseed, barley, pepper, Chili beans, corn, peas, and all the fruits of the hot and cold zones. There are salt mines and land where cattle, horses, mules, burros, sheep, goats and pigs are raised on an extensive scale. The flowers are so varied and abundant that a gentleman who has been exploring the paradise says their products would supply all the drug stores of the world with perfume. These are a few of the charms of the State of Puebla.
There is quite an interesting story connected with the emerald district. The Indians found one and placed it on the altar of the church to serve as a consecration stone. It was three-quarters of a Spanish yard, or a little over one-half English yard, in length. Maximilian, during his short reign, went to Puebla to examine it, and offered $1,000,000 for it the moment the jewel expert with him pronounced it extremely fine. The Indians refused, and asked $3,000,000. Afterward an armed force went to kill the tribe and carry off the gem, but were themselves whipped. The Indians then decided to bury it for safe keeping, when a wily Jesuit promised eternal salvation to the living, the dead, and the unborn, if they would give it him in the name of the Holy Virgin, who, he said, had asked for it. The poor innocent and faithful wretches gave their immense fortune away for a promise that was worse than nothing, and the treacherous purchaser cut it into small portions and sent it across the sea to be sold, he reaping the benefit. The god Quetzalcotl, which once graced the top of the pyramid at Cholula, was sold to an American a few years since for $36,000.
A few miles out from the city, situated in the midst of a barren plain, stands the magnificent old castle of Perote, which is celebrated in Mexican history as the last home of many of her dark-eyed senoras, who have either pined to death in its dreary dungeons or been murdered during revolutions. It was once the national prison of the republic, and was considered one of the strongest buildings in the world. Even now it is stronger and more formidable than most fortresses. There is much more of interest, historical and otherwise, to be seen in and around Puebla, and one could spend months of sight-seeing every day, and still have something worth looking at. If a gentleman or lady resident of Puebla is asked where their home is they will quickly answer, "I live in Puebla, but am not a Pueblaen." The latter word translated into Spanish means false and treacherous, hence the carefulness of the people always to add it.
I cannot end this until I give you a sample of the meanness of the Mexicans, other than Indians. The Real Mexican—a mixture of several nationalities—has a great greed for cold cash, and thinks the Americano, Yankee, or gringo, was sent here to be robbed. They do not draw the line on Americans, but also rob the poor Indian of everything. When I asked for my hotel bill, which was 14 a day, the clerk handed me a bill with $1.25 extra. "What is the extra for?" I inquired. "Charming senorita," he answered, "you called for eggs two or three times." "Yes," I replied, "when you set down goat's meat for mutton, and gave me strong beef I had seen killed by the matadore in the bull-ring the day before." "Well," he continued, "eggs are expensive, and it was a trouble to cook them." "My dear senor, I have no intention of paying your salary, and your pocket is just minus an expected $1.25. Here is the other." That settled it.
While looking at some marble objects in a store a poor Indian came in with twelve blocks of marble twelve by twelve on his back; the poor fellow had hewn them smooth and then traveled undoubtedly two days or more on foot over hills and through valleys, the ground at night his bed and the wild fruits or a few beans brought from home his food. He was ragged and tired, and dirty, but he had a good, honest look on his face. He asked the shopkeeper to buy the marble. After a little inspection the merchant purchased, and for it all, which was weeks of labor to the poor peon, and meant at least $300 for himself, he gave fifty cents. Nor was that the worst of it; the two quarters were counterfeit and the Indian told him so, but he said no. I stepped to the door and watched the peon go to a grocer's store across the street. They refused to take the money and he came back and told the marble dealer. Upon his refusing to give good money the Indian turned to me for help, whereupon the keeper laughed and said: "She is a Yankee and can't understand you."
Well, I had not been in Mexico long, and was entirely ignorant of the language, but my American love for justice was aroused, and in broken English and bad Spanish I managed to tell him I knew the money was bad, and that the merchant was like the money—that by even giving good money he was cheating the poor peon of his goods. He was surprised, that is if a Mexican can be