Six Months In Mexico/Chapter 8

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shooting the pretty birds just for the fun of the thing. All other riders had disappeared, and people looked at us from beneath the shade in amazement, and even we felt a little tired and heated after a thirty-mile ride. We reached home at one o'clock. Since then I have been wearing blisters on my cheeks and nose, and making frequent applications with the powder rag of the literary widow and old-maid artist who room across the way.

 

 

CHAPTER VIII.

 

A MEXICAN BULL-FIGHT.

 

Mexicans are always mauana until it comes to bullfights and love affairs. To know a Mexican in daily life is to witness his courtesy, his politeness, gentleness; and then see him at a bull-fight, and he is hardly recognizable. He is literally transformed. His gentleness and "manana" have disappeared; his eyes flash, his cheeks flush—in fact, he is the picture of "diabolic animation." It is the "hoy" to-day with him. Even the Spanish lady of ease and high heels forgets her mannerisms and appears like some painted heathen jubilant over the roasting of a zealous missionary.

There have been some very good bull-fights lately in the suburbs, for fighting is prohibited within a certain distance of the city. When they say a good bull-fight, it means that the bulls have been ferocious and many horses and men have been killed.

It is safe to say that the majority of Americans who visit Mexico do like the natives, even on the first Sunday; attend divine service in the morning, a bull-fight in the afternoon and theater in the evening. But it is with regret that I say that many Americans who are residents of the city now are as passionately fond of the national inhuman sport as a native who has been reared up to it. Some never miss a fight, and their American voice outstrips the Mexican in the shouts of "bravo" at the bloody thrusts. Yet there are tourists who cannot outsit one performance, and have no desire to attend a second. While we Americans cry "brutal" against the national amusement, they in return cry "brutal" to our prize fights, in which they see nothing to admire, and a dog-fight is beneath their contempt.

"Your humane societies would prevent bull-fights in the States," said a Spanish gentleman; "your people would cry out against them. Yet they have strong men trying to pound one another to death, and the people clamor for admission to see the law kill men and women, while in health and youth, because of some deed done in the flesh. Yes, they witness and allow such inhuman treatment to a fellow mortal and turn around and affect holy horror at us for taking out of the world a few old horses and furnishing beef for the poor."

 
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Read of glorious bull-fights and then witness one, and the scene is entirely changed. The day of their glory has departed. When Maximilian graced the country with his presence the fights were indeed fitted for royal sight. The costumes were of the costliest material; the horses were of the best blood and breed, and the bulls regular roaring Texans, which needed no second sight of a red capa to raise their feverish ire. No fight cost less than $5,000.

Now all is different. Maximilian lies in a grave to which a treacherous bullet consigned him; Carlotta, still what that bullet made her, a raving lunatic and a widow. Men of low degree are permitted to grace the fights, which are but miserable shadows, a farce of the former royal days.

The National—a narrow gauge—and the Mexican Central, run special trains consisting of twenty and twenty-five cars, first, second, and third-class, to the fights every half hour. Tickets are sold during the week, which include railroad fare, admission to grounds and seat. Long before the time for leaving, carriages pull up to the stations and blooming senoras, fair senoritas, handsome senors and delicate, lovely children, dressed in the height of wealth and fashion, enter the railway coach and proceed to make themselves comfortable for the half-hour or hour's ride which is to bring them to their destination. Bands march up and are disposed of in the coaches, and last comes a troop of soldiers, clad in buckskin suits, elaborately trimmed with silver ornaments, yard wide sombreros, and armed with gun, revolver, sword, dagger, mace, and lasso, which they have no hesitation in using in quite a characteristic manner, asking no questions, expecting no information, performing their duties fatally.

They are the "daisies" of Mexico, and in appreciation of which they are sent to grace every bull fight! They are the best paid soldiers in the republic, receiving $1 a day, while the highest salary paid to any of the others is twenty-five cents daily, out of which they provide their own wearing apparel and food. The same "daisies" were all outlaws, bandits, fierce and uncontrollable. Their many deeds, always done in the name of the law, are fearful to relate, so the present president thought it policy to engage their services. They ride handsome horses, furnished by the government, and are said to be the most faithful, reliable men in the employ of the republic. Their only fault is killing without asking questions, for which they go scot-free without even so much as a rebuke. The "daisies" have some of the finest specimens of manhood in Mexico, and number in their list some handsome, open-faced, youthful boys. They can maintain order among 6,000 people filled with pulque without uttering one word. Their presence is sufficient.

On speeds the train. Above the din arises the musical sound of a strange language. A view from the window exhibits some of Mexico's most beautiful scenery. Now we pass beautiful farms, magnificent artificial lakes covered with wild duck, which would delight the heart of our American hunters, as they arise in dark clouds on the approach of the train, and move off to a more secluded spot; beautiful fields of grain, and acres and acres of pulque plant, quaint huts, picturesque, historic churches, ancient monastries and convents, now used for other purposes, all surrounded by snow-capped mountains. For eyes on the strangest and grandest mountain in Mexico, the White Lady, or the Sleeping Virgin. It deserves chapters of description and praise, but feeling our inability to do it justice we shall confine ourselves to a brief remark.

Outlined against a blue sky, only such skies as are habitual to Italy and Mexico, is a snow-topped mountain in form of a woman lying on a straight cot; on the head is a snow band, such as worn by Sisters of Mercy. The arms are folded peacefully on the breast, and the snow garments fall in graceful folds over the feet. There she lies and has lain for centuries in perfect outline and peaceful repose. Even as we look the clouds play fantastically about the beauteous form. Now they cover her body like a dark shroud. Again they drape her cot like a pall, then rise in a threatening attitude above her fair head, but undisturbed she lies there with hands ever folded above the quiet heart, proudly indifferent to storm or shine, clad in her pure snowy garments, truly the most beauteous sight in Mexico. With a sigh we at last leave her behind and are rudely brought to earth by the announcement that we have reached our destination.

The bull ring resembles somewhat a race course; the highest row is covered and called boxes. They are divided into small squares, which are meant to hold six but are crowded with four. Miserable chairs without backs are the comfortable seats. Below is the amphitheater, arranged exactly like circus seats. Different prices are charged and the cheapest is the sunny side, where all the poor sit. A fence painted in the national colors—red, green and white—of some six feet in height, incloses the ring. Three band-stands, equal distances apart, are filled with brilliantly uniformed musicians.

The judge is appointed by the municipality, but the fighters have a right to refuse to fight under one judge whom they think will compel them to take unnecessary risks with a treacherous bull, for a judge once chosen his commands are law, and no excuse will be accepted for not obeying, but a fine deducted from the fighter's salary, and he loses cast with the audience. The judge is in a box in the center of the shady side; with him is some prominent man, for every fight must be honored with the presence of some "High-toned" individual, while behind stands the bugler, a small boy in gay uniform, with a bugle slung to his side, by which he conveys the judge's whispered commands to the fighters in the ring. Below the judge hangs a row of banderillas. They are wooden sticks, about two feet long with a barbed spear of steel in the end which are
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stuck in the bull to gore him. They are always gayly decorated with tinsel and gaudy streamers of the national colors. Sometimes fire-crackers are ingeniously inserted, which go off when the banderilla is deftly fastened in the beast's quivering flesh.

The bands play alternately lively airs, the audience for once find no charms in the music and forget to murmur mauana, but soon begin to cry "El toro! El toro!" (The bull! the bull!)

The judge nods to the bugler, and as he trumpets forth the gate is swung open and the grand entry is made. First comes "El Capitan" or matador, chief of the ring, and the men who kill the bull with a sword. Next eight capeadores, whose duty consists in maddening the bull and urging it to fight by flinging gay-colored capas or capes in its face. Two picadores, who are armed with long poles, called picas, in the end of which are sharp steel spears which they fight the bull with. After come the lazadores, dressed in buckskin suits, elaborately trimmed with silver ornaments and broad, expensive sombreros. They ride fine horses, and do some very pretty work at lassoing. Three mules abreast, with gay plumes in their heads, and a man with a monstrous wheelbarrow of ancient make, close up the rear. All range before the judge and make a profound bow, after which the mules and wheelbarrow disappear.

The dresses of the fighters are very gorgeous: satin knee-breeches and sack coat of beautiful colors, and highly ornamented, beaded, etc. On the arm is carried the capa, a satin cape, the color of the suits, and little rough caps, tied under the chin, grace the head. At the back of the head is fastened false hair, like a Chinaman's, familiarly known as "pig tail." Two gayly painted clowns, who, unlike those in the States, never have anything to say, are always necessary to complete the company in the ring.

Again the bugle sounds, the band strikes out in all its might, the people rise to their feet and cry "El toro," the fighters form a semicircle around a door, el capitan draws a bolt, flings it open, and as the bull springs forth from his dark and narrow cell a man perched above sticks two banderillas into his neck to madden him. With a snort of rage he rushes for the capas. As they are flirted before his eyes, he tramples them under his hoofs, and the capeadors escape behind the bourladera, a partition six feet wide, placed in the arena at four places equally distant.

At the trumpet sound a banderilla runs out waving the banderillas above his head. He faces the maddened bull with a calm smile. The bull paws the ground, lowers his head, and with a bellow of rage makes for his victim.
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Your eyes are glued to the spot. It is so silent you can hear your heart throb. There can be no possible escape for the man. But just as you think the bull will lift him on his horns you see the two banderillas stuck one in either side of the neck, and the man springs safely over the lowered head and murderous horns of the infuriated animal, as it rushes forward to find the victim has escaped. The audience shout "bravo," and wave their scrapes, sombreros and clap their hands. The bull roars with pain, and the banderillas toss about in the lacerated flesh, from which the blood pours in crimson streams. "Poor beast! what a shame," we think, and even then the order is given for the picador to attack the bull.

The horse on which the picador is mounted is bought only to be killed. It is an old beast whose days of beauty and usefulness are over; $2 or $4 buys him for the purpose. Sometimes he is hardly able to walk into the ring. First the brute is blindfolded with a leather band, and a leather apron is fastened around his neck in pretense of saving him from being gored.

The picador guides the blinded horse to face the bull. Capas are flung before the bull tauntingly. The picador dives the pica into the beast and it vents its pain on the horse. Blood pours from the wound; trembling the horse stands, unable to see what has wounded it. Again they coax the bull to charge, and place the horse so that the murderous horns will disembowel it. Down goes the blinded beast, and the capeadores flaunt their capas at the bull while the picadore gets off the dying animal, which is lassoed and dragged from the ring. Another horse is brought in, and the same work is done over until the horse is killed.

Every bull is allowed to kill two horses, and then the people shout "Muerie! muerie!" (Kill the Bull.) The judge gives the command and the matador bows to, the judge, and then teases the bull with his red capa. The laws prohibit a fighter to strike a bull until it first charges, and the bull has the chance of three charges at the matador before he dares to strike, The bull never appears to see the man by his side, but furiously fights the red capa held before him. El capitan then plunges the sword into the neck between the shoulders and through to the heart, if deftly done, after which the bull staggers, protrudes its tongue, tries to find a door for escape, stumbles and dies. Again the people shout, and the matador, as he makes his bow to the judge, is thrown money, cigars, fruit, flowers and other favors. Men fling in their $50 and $100 sombreros, and consider it a great honor when he picks them up and tosses them back. During all this the three mules are brought in. At the sight of the dead bull they plunge and tear, but are finally hitched to it. The clowns jump on the dead beast, and it is hauled from the ring.

When the bull is tame and, though tortured on all sides, still refuses to gore the horse, the people hiss and shout "lazadore," until the judge gives the command for the brute, that is more humane than its tormentors, to be removed and replaced by one that will sate their feverish desire for blood. Now is the time for the lazadores to get in some pretty work. The space is small and cramped. but with a deftness that is bewildering they throw the loop over the horns. The knowing horse dodges, the bull loses his balance and the horse gives a sudden jerk, throwing the bull on the ground. He is then allowed to arise and is started around the ring at a merry gallop, while the second lazadore exhibits great skill in lassoing the feet, front and back, of the running beast.

The bull, after being thrown, realizes he is at their mercy, and lies passive; or trembling with fear and pain, while the brutal clowns spring astride the prostrated beast, and with no gentle hand tear the banderillas from the quivering flesh, which, still warm and dripping with blood, are sold as trophies at one and two dollars each. Then the butcher steps forth and with a sharp knife cuts the spinal cord, and the beast is done for. When a bull refuses to fight before he is cut, except for wounds from the pica aid banderillas, the people cry in Spanish, "He is a weak woman," until the judge orders his removal. It is a difficult work, and affords much fan for the Mexicans, for the bull must be forced back into the dark cell whence he came.

One fight consists of four bulls and as many old horses as they can be compelled to kill. A bull is not considered much unless he can kill, at the very least, two horses. The poor horses are very seldom killed instantly. When wounded so that it is impossible for them to walk, they are dragged from the ring and left in a vacant field, where they die that night or the following day, as the Mexicans do not consider them worth a bullet. The bull finds more mercy. If not killed outright by the matador, a butcher finishes the work, and ends the misery. When stabbed fatally he often staggers along the fence, as though in hopes of finding an exit. The cruel spectators are not satisfied that he is dying, and allow him some little mercy, but stab his wounded flesh, tear open his death wound, twist his tail, do all in their power to enhance his sufferings until he falls dead. One would suppose the heated, tortured, wounded beef would be of no account, but such is not the case. Before many hours, after taken from the scene of its death, the beef is being sold to the people, who buy it without the least hesitancy or disgust, even boasting that they eat of the bull that killed so many horses, and if it happened to kill man it is considered an honor to eat of it. This makes an American want little beef, and that little covered red pepper to kill the taste. When seated opposite the entrance gate one has full view of the butcher at work. The hide is taken off the toro immediately, and it is dissected. Then they commence on the horses, but they claim the horses' flesh is not sold for beef.

At some fights the spectators are favored with a performer, who allows the maddened toro to attack him, when, by the aid of a long pole, he jumps clear over it. This is a dangerous and, many times, a fatal leap, but is a favorite sight of the people.
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After the fight comes the toro embolado. A bull with balls on its horns is led in. All the paid fighters leave the ring and any one among the spectators who has a desire to try the sport can do so. The number is not few, and the sight is really funny. They wave their serapes at the bull, who, in return, often tosses them on his horns. The lazadores prevent him from trampling them, and it is very seldom any one is killed, though broken arms and ribs are no unusual thing. This is the proudest day of the Mexican's life when he gains access to the bull ring and can exhibit to people his activity and daring.

The most risky amateur is then given a position as fighter, a position he considers greater than the presidency of the United States, and for which he would not exchange.

The government charges a license of $250 for each fight. If the bulls are tame the show is fined for giving a poor performance and swindling the people. The matador, El Capitan, whose duty it is to strike the bull's heart with a sword, gets the highest salary, as much as $200 a performance; the other fighters receive from $10 to $100.

Sometimes a fight is given for charitable purposes. Young girls dressed like brides in white satin, veil and satin shoes, do all the directing, and young men of position and birth are the fighters.

It is to be supposed that when a man is killed in the ring the fight would stop, but that only seems to whet their desire for more blood, and a dead man is pulled off the field and another takes his place amid increased enthusiasm. At a fight two weeks ago one man was gored almost to death, another had his arm broken, and a woman, who had witnessed this from her seat, entered the ring and tried to kill the bull. She was caught on its horns and carried once around the ring and whirled around in her perilous position like a top. The audience shouted and was much disappointed when the bull cast the woman to the ground, devoid of clothing and badly bruised, but alive. At another fight three men were killed. Both times the spectators could hardly be forced to leave at the end of the performance. It is safe to assert that that beef sold at a high price.

Bernardo Javino, the man who was gored almost to death two weeks ago, has quite a history. He came from Spain fifty-one years ago, and is eighty-two years old, the oldest lighter in Mexico, and the most famous. He has fought in every bull ring in the republic, and has killed four thousand bulls. Senor Javino is a well-built, fine-looking fellow, and though but lacking eighteen years of one hundred is as strong as a man of thirty-five. He is a great favorite, and has received numerous and costly presents, among which he numbers one thousand fine bulls. But he is to-day very poor, and has only his salary. He is unmarried. Though the idol and favorite of the people, they shouted with joy when they saw him being gored. The bull caught him in the small of the back, and though making only one wound outside made five inside. He was carried off for dead, but though having a wound that would have finished any other man, he is still living, and asserts he will repay many bulls yet for his sufferings. The bull that had the honor to nearly finish the old warrior, killed three horses, broke the man's arm, and almost finished the woman.

Senor Javino has a nephew, Juan Moreno, who gives promise of being the best fighter, after his uncle, in the Republic. He is a six-footer of magnificent build, with a handsome face, fair complexion, with brown hair,

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