Six Months In Mexico/Chapter 6

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who now spends every nickel and every leisure in trying to learn wisdom from books.






"A right good land to live in
And a pleasant land to see."

Every day is Sunday, yet no day is Sunday, and Sunday is less Sunday than any other day in the week. Still, the Mexican way of spending Sunday is of interest to people of other climes and habits.

With the dawn of day people are to be seen wending their willing footsteps toward their church. The bells chime with their musical clang historic to Mexico, and men and women cross the threshold of churches older than the United States. Pews are unknown, and on the bare floor the millionaire is seen beside the poverty stricken Indian; the superbly clad lady side by side with an uncombed, half naked Mexican woman. No distinction, no difference. There they kneel and offer their prayers of penitence and thanks, unmindful of rank or or condition. No turning of heads to look at strange new garments; no dividing the poor from the from the rich, but all with uniform thought and purpose go down on their knees to their God.

How a missionary, after one sight like this, can wish to convert them into a faith where dress and money bring attention and front pews, and where the dirty beggar is ousted by the janitor and indignantly scorned down by those in affluence, is incomprehensible.

No Mexican lady thinks it proper to wear a hat into church. She thinks it shows disgust; hence the fashion of wearing lace mantillas. In this city of rights there is nothing handsomer than a lady neatly clad in black with a mantilla gracefully wrapped around her head, under which are visible coal-black hair, sparkling eyes, and beautiful teeth.

A ragged skirt, and rebozo encircling a babe with its head on its mother's shoulder, fast asleep; black, silky hair which trails on the floor as she kneels, her wan, brown, pathetic face raised suppliantly in devotion, is one of the prettiest, though most common, sights in Mexico on Sunday morning.

This is the busiest day in the markets. Everything is booming, and the people, even on their way to and from church, walk in and out around the thousands of stalls, buying their marketing for dinner. Hucksters cry out their wares, and all goes as merry as a birthday party. Indians, from the mountains, are there in swarms with their marketing. The majority of stores are open, and the "second-hand" stalls on the cheap corner do the biggest business of the week.

Those who do not attend church find Mexico delightful on Sunday. In the alameda (park) three military bands, stationed in different quarters, play alternately all forenoon. The poor have a passion for music, and they crowd the park. After one band has finished, they rush to the stand of the next, where they stay until it has finished, and then move to the next. Thus all morning they go around in a circle. The music, of which the Mexican band was a sample, is superb; even the birds are charmed. Sitting on the mammoth trees, which grace the alameda, they add their little songs. All this, mingled with the many chimes which ring every fifteen minutes, make the scene one that is never forgotten. The rich people promenade around and enjoy themselves similar to the poor.

In the Zocalo, a plazo at the head of the main street and facing the palace and cathedral, the band plays in the evening; also on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Maximilian planned and had made a drive which led to his castle at Chapultepec. It is 3750 feet long, wide enough to drive four, or even six teams abreast. It is planted on the east side with two rows of trees; one edging the drive, the other the walk, which is as wide as many streets. The trees are now of immense size, rendering this drive one of the handsomest, as well as most pleasant, in Mexico.

Maximilian called it the Boulevarde Emperiale; but when liberty was proclaimed the name was changed to the Boulevarde of the Reform. On the same drive are handsome, nay more, magnificent statues of Columbus, Quatemoc, and an equestrian statue of Charles IV. of wonderful size, which, has also been pronounced perfect by good judges. A statue of Cortez is being erected. This paseo is the fashionable promenade and drive from five to seven P. M. every day, and specially on Sunday afternoon. The music stands are occupied, and no vacant benches are to be found.

Those who call the Mexicans "greasers," and think them a dumb, ignorant class, should see the paseo on Sunday: tally-ho coaches, elegant dog-carts, English gigs, handsome coupes and carriages, drawn by the finest studs, are a common sight. Pittsburg, on this line, is nowhere in comparison. Cream horses, with silver manes and tails, like those so valued in other cities, are a common kind here. The most fashionable horse has mane and tail "bobbed." It might be added this style prevails to a great, very great extent among all animals. Cats and dogs appear minus ears and tails. Pets of every kind are much in demand. Ladies carry lap dogs, and gentlemen have chained to them blooded dogs of mammoth size. The poor Mexican will have his tame birds; even roosters are stylish pets. "Mary had a little lamb" is respected too much here to be called "chestnut." The favorite pets of children are fleecy lambs, which, with bells and ribbons about their necks, accompany the children on their daily airing.

Mexico, while in the land of churches, would be rightly called the city of high heels, hats, powder and canes. Every gentleman wears a silk hat and swings a "nobby" cane. There are but two styles of hats—the tile hat and the sombrero. Every woman powders—lays it on in chunks—and wears the high heels known as the French opera heel. The style extends even to the men. One of the easiest ways to distinguish foreigners from natives is to look at their feet. The native has a neat shoe, with heels from two inches up, while the foreigner has a broad shoe and low heel. These people certainly possess the smallest hands and feet of any nation in the world. Ladies wear fancy shoes—entirely beaded, bronzed, colored leather, etc. A common, black leather shoe, such as worn by women in the States, is an unsalable article. Yet it is nothing strange to see a lady, clad in silk or velvet, lift her dress to cross a street or enter a carriage, and display a satin shoe of exquisite make and above the hosiery of Eve. In fact, very few women ever wear stockings at all.

This city is a second Paris in the matter of dress among the elite. The styles and materials are badly
Nellie Bly-6m-in-Mexico-05.jpg
Parisian, and Americans who come here expecting to see poorly-dressed people are disappointed. Like people in the sister Republic, the Mexicans judge persons by their dress. It is the dress first and the man after.

On Sundays the streets and parks are thronged with men and women selling ice cream, pulque, candies, cakes, and other dainties. They carry their stock on their heads while moving, and when they stop they set it on a tripod, which they carry in their arms.

The flower sellers are always women, some of whom look quite picturesque in their gay colored costumes. All the flowers are elegant, and are arranged in bouquets to suit either ladies or gentlemen.

Bull fights take no little part in the Sunday list of amusements, where the poor and rich mingle freely. Theaters have matinees and evening performances, and everything takes on a holiday look, and everybody appears happy and good-humored. This is nothing new in Mexico, however, for the most unusual sight is a fight or quarrel. These are left to the numerous dogs which belong to the city, and even they do little of it.

Riding horseback is a favorite pastime. Ladies only ride in the forenoon, as custom prevents them from indulging in the saddle after one o'clock. Gentlemen,