Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans/Chapter 24
TLASCALA, PUEBLA, AND CHOLULA.
AT Apizaco, a station on the Mexican Railway, you leave the main line and take a branch to Puebla. Your ticket has a stamp on it bearing the likeness of one of the most villanous faces it is possible for man to wear. I suppose it is that of some old revolutionary hero, whom the Mexicans have shot, and then repented themselves, and made amends in this way for the injury done, as that is their usual custom. At the small station of Santa Anna, you leave the train for Tlascala,—not the town of forty thousand inhabitants which Cortés compared to the most flourishing cities of Spain, for the entire district has now scarcely that number. Probably not more than five thousand people now inhabit this ancient town. In the Plaza, which is also a very pleasant garden, is a fountain, the brim of which bears a long inscription, stating that it was erected by a grand Virey in 1646. Here is something savoring of antiquity at the very start; further research will take us back to the very beginning of Tlascalan history,—to those days when the Spanish soldiers were honored guests of this very town, when Montezuma was quaking with fear in anticipation of their arrival.
In the municipal palace. El Palacio, are four paintings, bearing names which the student of history will recognize at once as those of allies of Cortés, after he had left behind him the hot coast region and had entered and finally won to his cause the valiant little republic of Tlascala. They are "true and faithful pictures" of Vicente Xicotencatl, Don Lorenzo Mazicatzin, Don Gonzalo Tlanexolotzin, and Bartolome Zitlalpopoca, as they appeared to Cortés in 1519. A score of idols cumber the floor of the chamber containing the paintings, on the walls of which is the Titulo, or title of freedom, presented the Tlascalans by the king of Spain, besides the capote, or cape, of the first Indian chieftain who received baptism in New Spain. In a glass case is that war-worn banner of Cortés, which has remained in Tlascalan possession ever since the subjugation of the Aztecs. It is of a faded tea-colored silk, rent in many places, with the arms of Spain in the upper corner; EL PULPITO. the banner-staff is gone, but the pike-head that once topped this proud emblem remains.
Above the town, on a little hill, is the very old convent of San Francisco, one of the first of four erected by the frailes, in 1524. Its roof and rafters are great beams from Tlascalan forests, which produced the timber for the brigantines used at the siege of Mexico, but which, like the builders of those boats, have disappeared, and its ceiling is studded with golden stars. Entering the cool sanctuary, leaving outside all noise, and light, and merriment, I find that more than one hundred paintings yet adorn the walls of this venerable building, one of which bears date Año 1677, and the finest is of one of the Spanish queens. Securely glassed, we see fragments of the bones of three holy saints, sent from Rome in 1754. Alas that these relics should have survived their possessors, and have fallen into such sacrilegious hands! Everything points to the first years of Spanish supremacy; even the old bell, hanging by precarious clutch in the tottering tower, is dated 1587, and has on it a figure of a conquistador firing his arquebuse into a tree, beneath which crouches an abject Indian. Inside the church, we are reminded that this town of Tlascala was the first of importance to give
in its allegiance to the king of Spain, and that its claims upon history are strong. Here we stand before the first pulpit erected in Mexico,—"El Primer Pulpito de Nueva España." It is of stone, now plastered over and painted in imitation of marble, with red and gilt stripes. The inscription on it reads, "Aqui Tubo Principio el Sto. Evangélio en este Nuevo Mundo." Half hidden in a recess, opposite the pulpit, is another object of still greater interest, though it is nothing but a hollowed stone, about five feet in diameter, three feet high, and a foot and a half deep. It is called the Fuente de Maxicatzin, and is no-other than the font from which the great and loyal Maxicatzin and his coadjutors, senators of Tlascala, were baptized. It is not a matter of tradition alone, but of history, that when Cortés retreated with the remnant of his army to Tlascala, after that disastrous defeat of the Noche Triste, the Tlascalans received him with affection, instead of upbraiding him for the loss of the thousands of their young men whose lives he had sacrificed. To convince him more effectually of their sincerity, the senate of Tlascala, with Maxicatzin at their head, presented themselves for baptism. Let the inscription on the Fuente tell the story: "Este monumento, cuya autencidad conserva la tradicion, fue la fuente bautismal de los ultimos Caciques o Señores de la Antigua Republica de Tlascala; el ano de 1520."
Night fell about me as I descended the hill and sought the only hotel Tlascala could boast, a comfortless meson, merely a square surrounded by walls enclosing apartments,—such a tarrying-place as suited the traveller when horses and diligences were more in use, and all could be stabled within sight of, and on the same level with, himself. Early next morning I started out with a guide for the church of San Estevan, two miles from Tlascala, and built upon the site of the palace of Xicotencatl, the Tlascalan chief so basely slain by the Spaniards before Tezcoco. A great font is here, made in 1691, and an old painting of the baptism of the chief last mentioned.
In my walk that cool morning, I enjoyed very much the ramble through such a secluded region, where we met only a few shepherd boys, armed with slings and stones, driving sheep and goats, and some children going to school. My guide climbed a tree and threw down to me some juicy cherries, and led me through gardens which smiled such a welcome that they seemed to breathe only of peaceful delights. But emerging from one of these gardens into the highway, I suddenly stumbled upon a cross,—a black, wooden cross,—stuck up in memory of a man but recently killed. The frequency of these crosses rather dashes one's desire to penetrate new regions in this land of insecurity;—
"For wheresoe'er the shrieking victim hath
Poured forth his blood beneath the assassin's knife.
Some hand erects a cross of mouldering lath;
And grove and glen with thousand such are rife,
Throughout this purple land, where law secures not life."
From the province of Tlascala, in the middle of the sixteenth century, was taken the territory set apart for Puebla, and the city founded there, in 1532, became subsequently more famous IN THE CONVENT. than the original capital of the plucky little republic. The city of Puebla, to which I made my next move, contains more churches and convents to the square mile than any other town on this continent,—more places of worship, according to its population, even than Brooklyn. In Mexico City every vista of every street is terminated by a hill or mountain, blue and hazy in the distance, perhaps, but still there, to remind one of the works of nature while contemplating the works of man; in Puebla every vista is cut short by a church, or chapel, or some religious edifice. You are confronted at every turn by men begging for the Church, beggars with flaunting rags and tin cash-boxes, which they display before your eyes, and, what is worse, under your noses. Priests, wrapped in great black cloaks, form a goodly proportion of the pedestrians; from some door of every block issues the sound of a bell calling to prayer, and kneeling crowds everywhere pay homage to the Virgin; hat in hand, the true believer passes through the streets with head uncovered, for fear he might pass a chapel unobserved. The pervading tone of society here is religious; little business is done here, and little labor, because Sundays and feast days form the greater portion of the week. Sunday is, indeed, a general market day, and devoted to buying and selling, but not to work. It is strange to find such a contrast to Mexico: there, every one does as he pleases; here, he must devote a certain portion of his time, or his earnings, to the Church.
"Pay or pray," is the inspiring motto the holy men in office here have nailed upon the cross. Successful in preventing the main line of railroad from passing through or near their city, the bishop and priests have, from the beginning, kept Puebla as a place set apart from the active life of the world. Rich men give of their substance freely; poor men—and they constitute the great majority—go clothed in rags that the Church may be benefited thereby. They even refrain from using that freest of all gifts of God to man, water, and pass from childhood to old age without washing face or hands, for fear, perhaps, that the money wasted on soap could better be devoted to the Virgin.
Though the government stripped the clergy pretty close in its various decrees confiscating their property, and reduced them from affluence to comparative poverty, yet the last few years have seen a revival of their prosperity. At one time they held property to the value of $144,000,000, yielding an income of $12,000,000, a great portion of which they lost under Juarez and the liberal rulers. Silently, but surely, they have pressed the work of recovering their lost property. Though the country abounds in ruined churches and convents, yet they are principally in districts thinly settled, where the people are too poor even to keep the buildings in repair, or in cities where there are too many to be filled. The principal churches are showing the effects of a revival in business; walls have been repaired, new towers added or old ones built upon, the altars freshly painted, railings newly gilded, and the sacred emblems and images polished up and decorated. Cautious as the priests are in showing their fast accumulating wealth, it cannot but be observed that they are again becoming what they were before the adverse decrees of twenty years or so ago,—the holders of the moneys of the people, especially of the poorer classes.
But their confiscated property? They are rapidly gaining back a goodly portion of it, or its equivalent. The average Mexican is superstitious; he is valiant in times of peace, vainglorious before a battle, but craven and knock-kneed when the time of trial comes. Consequently, when sick and like to die, he will probably—no matter how he may have apostatized and fought the Church—send for the priest. Mindful of the fact that all things of this world belong to the Lord, and that the Catholic Church, as the chosen of the Lord, possesses a lien upon these worldly goods, the priest refuses to administer the sacrament without some restitution. If the dying man has bought confiscated church property, he must restore its value, with interest, or if he has even owned it at second or third hands, and fairly paid for it, he must pay again its value to the Church before he can get a clear title to heaven, or his heirs a title to his temporal possessions. With a persistence characteristic of these priests, they are following up and ferreting out their lost effects; and it may not take more than a decade, at farthest, for them to be as strongly intrenched as in the palmiest days of their glory.The great cathedral of Puebla is not so large as that of Mexico, nor has it the merit of being built upon the site of an Indian teocalli, as has the other; it lacks some years of being as old, also; but, to supply all deficiencies of this sort, the priests promulgated the story of the repeated visits of the angelic hosts. Yes, right here was the last recorded and verified visit of those heavenly messengers to the inhabitants of this sphere of ours. When they came, why they came, and how they came, is it not all entered in ecclesiastical records and sworn to? It is. And do not the faithful believe it, every word, and do they not point out to you the very place where the angels roosted, the very towers of the cathedral they came down to assist in building, and the very stones they placed in position? They do. As the workmen slept, the angels descended, and added stone
to stone upon the great towers. There is a miracle in this, for the priests say so; and hence they gave the city the name of Puebla de los Angeles or City of the Angels, which it bears to this day.
The cathedral is mainly built of dark brown stone, covers a great area, and is being enclosed with an excellent iron fence, every post surmounted by an angel, and its face ornamented with a cast of some saint of the past. The façade of the northern entrance is embellished with statues and medallions in marble, and the mitre and keys of the Pope. In the north face of the western tower is a clock. The main entrance is in the western front, and here are more statues in various niches, sculptured saints and cherubim, and the date of erection of the cathedral,—1664. The bronze casts that face the stone posts, and the angels that cap them, were produced at the foundery of one Marshall, an American, who had been here forty years or more.
If you wish to climb into the towers, you must enter a narrow doorway, and ascend a circular stone stairway for some distance, when you are stopped by a porter, who demands a real, and, this paid, he rings a bell for another man to let you in. Both men, with their families, live in the tower. There are two bell-towers, one above the other, containing the great bell, stamped 1729, and eighteen others, of various dates up to 1828. An inscription here states that the towers were erected in 1678, in the reign of Carlos II., at a cost of one hundred thousand dollars.
The top of the cathedral commands the entire Puebla valley, with its broad green fields and swelling hills; domes and towers rise everywhere, and glisten from every hill-top, many of them being covered with glazed tiles that reflect the sun. Arid plains alternate with verdant fields. Outside the city walls there are not many houses visible, except they are collected in pueblos or villages, and the haciendas are few, the farm buildings being concentrated in one spot, and surrounded by high walls. Though the view on every side is charming, with billowy plains running south and east, and the great mountain, Malinche, rises in the north and overshadows the city, our gaze constantly wanders toward the west,—toward the twin giants, Popocatapetl and Ixtaccihuatl, crowned with pure white snow. Between them is the gap through which Cortés marched when he first advanced upon Mexico, in 1519, and which I penetrated in May, in my ascent of the great volcano. Right in line with this mountain pass, with an extinct crater behind it, rises the world famous pyramid of Cholula, its domed chapel glistening above its cone of dark green trees. To the east is the road to Vera Cruz, over which General Scott marched when on his way from coast to capital, after the battle of Cerro Gordo, and before his masterly investment of Mexico.
Just outside the city gates is the fort where the French were repulsed on the 5th of May, 1862, in which affair the Mexicans won the only victory which they ever gained over anybody but themselves, and which they celebrate every year with great and joyful demonstrations. Below is the zocalo, or public square, in the centre of the city, with the cathedral on the east side, and the portales, beneath which much merchandise is sold, on the other three. Large trees, in which birds are constantly singing, fountains, music, and flowers, make it a pleasant place to visit. If any one should follow in my footsteps and visit Puebla, let him secure the services of the sexton, and wander over the vast roof of the cathedral, and climb the dizzy steps on the outside of the eastern dome, for from that point the view is magnificent.
The interior is as gorgeous as that of the cathedral at Mexico, and the grand vista down the long nave is fully as effective. The base of the great altar is beautiful marble, and so, apparently, is the whole altar dome, as well as the fluted pillars supporting it; a bright, though rather questionable effect is given to these by strips of brass alternating with the flutings. Fresh gilding and paint show that the cathedral is in good repair inside. If you will sit down awhile in the cool room, you may see the priests pass in procession, marching out from some mysterious interior, and then marching in again,—priests old and very fat, and old and very lean, priests that waddle as they walk, and PUEBLA AND VICINITY. priests that stick out necks and lips in seeking after a posture of humility.
Puebla was once famous for the riches of this cathedral, and especially for a great lamp of gold ornamented with precious stones, said to have been worth one hundred thousand dollars. This most valuable treasure was given by the Church to General Miramon, who represented their party, to aid in repulsing Juarez, and was broken up and sold to various parties. Here you will see fine specimens of that clear alabaster, or species of onyx, known as Puebla marble. It is obtained from the quarries of Tecalli, six leagues from the city. Many different ornaments are made from it; it forms portions of valuable buildings, and is even so translucent as to be used for windows, in a small church near the quarries. There are many marble-workers here, and along the river that drains the city are no less than fourteen cotton factories, a woollen, a paper, and a match factory. The cotton and woollen cloths manufactured here, though generally of coarse quality, find a ready market throughout Mexico. Railroads, have not disturbed this sleepy, sanctimonious old city greatly yet, but in two or three years it will wake up a little. There is but one newspaper here, and no news. The business is mainly in the hands of French and Germans, who jealously regard the incoming Americans, and who will have cause for that feeling in a few years, when the coming railroads shall pass through.
In the State college there is a fine library of old books, principally ecclesiastical, and very valuable ones pertaining to the history of Mexico. There are said to be some veritable paintings by Rubens and Murillo in a private collection in the city. As resorts, morning or afternoon, the two paseos, the Paseo Nuevo and the Paseo Viejo—the new and the old walk—are delightful. Near the former are the sulphur baths of San Pedro, which are very refreshing and medicinal, and close by is the old convent of San Xavier, partially destroyed during the French invasion.
The bull-ring is in this part of the city, and is in use every Sunday; one day it was for the benefit of a small church, and the next Sabbath it was in honor of the feast of "the sacred blood of Jesus." The markets are long, low, shingled sheds, covering platforms of stone raised about two feet above the pavement, where the women and men squat with small specimens of all the vegetables grown in Mexico. Prices are very low: cabbages, six cents per head; onions, seven for a tlaco, a cent and a half; radishes, six for the same amount; eggs, three for a medio, six cents; frijoles, four cents per quart; beef, six to eight cents per pound; crockery,—an ordinary pan, three cents; a jar, a tlaco; a ten-gallon jar, from twenty-five to thirty-seven cents, etc. In the shops, articles of domestic manufacture are equally cheap. I bought a lariat for two reales, while the metates, the great flat-faced stones upon which the corn is ground, cost only from four to eight reales, and the rolling-pins but a medio each. These stones are quarried in the volcano, forty miles away, and brought here on the backs of Indians or donkeys. One can estimate the value of labor by this, for one of them must cost, from first to last, a week of work.
I enjoyed exceedingly my stay in Puebla, although while there I was in a constant state of agitation, owing to alarming telegrams from the North; for it was that memorable first week in July, 1 881. We in Mexico at first only received meagre news of the great calamity that had befallen the nation in the shooting of President Garfield, and in Puebla, where there were not half a dozen people who could speak English, there were no details given at all. The Fourth of July was a gloomy one, to me at least, for the day before came a telegram announcing that Garfield was dead, and that the United States was convulsed with war. It was nearly a week before the true version reached me, and during all that time I had no one speaking my own language to converse or condole with except a young Chicago merchant, whom fortune had thrown into Puebla against his will. He had come here with a large lot of improved agricultural machinery, including the latest inventions in mowers, reapers, threshers, etc., in company with several other Americans, to instruct the natives in their use. His companions had left the country, but he had not the means with which to get away, and was, to use his own expression, "in a frame of mind."
"It is just a holy terror," said he; "these people have just about worried me to death. Here I've been here more'n a year, and how many mowers and reapers do you think I've sold? Well, sir, I ain't sold one! These Mexicans are just a caution to snakes! Why, they come here and get one of my machines, and take it out on their plantations and smash it all to pieces, and then say 't ain't good enough for 'em. And the worst of it is, I have almighty hard work to get the pieces of that machine back to the shop. No machinery is good enough for 'em. Here are Mexicans who 've lived all their lives without seeing an improved machine of any kind, and who 've ploughed their land all their lives with a stick, that are just too wise to learn how to do anything. "A few men have got all the land, and they keep it. The working people are only slaves, the best of them get only a quarter a day, and find themselves. It's no wonder that everybody's a thief. Why, these beggars are so poor that they never have twenty cents with 'em over night. Not a thing is wasted, the last bone and scrap of meat, and bit of old rag, is carefully saved; why, they've even driven the buzzards out of the country! A vulture would be ashamed of himself everlastingly if he ate and lived among the filth these Mexicans do."
It happened that we saw some vultures sitting on the trees of the Paseo the same afternoon my Chicago friend conveyed this information to me; but he insisted that they were imitations,—that a live one could not exist there.
"This government," continued he, "does everything to encourage the hacendado, or proprietor of large estates, to hold
on to his large tracts of land, and to discourage every attempt of a stranger to locate here. There was a Frenchman, who put up a flouring-mill and commenced to do a big business. The millers here became jealous, and the next thing that Frenchman knew, the government clapped a tax of $200 on each set of buhrs; and now that man 's just settin' in his ruins, looking wise. And steal! what you see lying about here that these people have n't gathered in, you may set down as not worth stealing. They're on the lookout for something all the time,—and they generally find it, too.
"Look at the haciendas all over the country; they are like forts, not built for protection from Indians, but from their own people. Every night the great gate is locked, and whatever is behind those stone walls has to stay in, and whatever is outside has to stay out, till morning. Everything on the farm is taken in under cover, not even one of those old wooden ploughs, patterned after the first one Noah patented in the ark, is left in the field; at sunset you will see the laborer driving home with the plough-beam over the yoke, and in the morning he brings it out again. If one of our American ploughs was left in one of these fields over night, it would be taken to pieces and distributed over the country in forty places, and half of it pawned. And as for a harrow, they would n't leave a tooth in it!
"Speaking of ploughs, what do you suppose these brutes do with one of our Yankee ploughs when they get it? Why, the first thing they do is to saw off one handle, and make it as near as possible like their old wooden ones; then they do everything they can think of to break it, and fall back on the wooden institution which they've used a thousand years. It's just a holy terror! Here I am, with a stock of machinery that would set up a first-class establishment in the States, that is just rusting to pieces; and these people are only waiting till I'm tired out, when they expect to get it all for nothing. When you've been amongst 'em a year, as I have, and have seen what sons of Satan they really are, you'll change your mind about 'em. You tourists, who only meet 'em on the street, and see 'em grinning and bowing and shaking hands, and embracing you as though you was a long-lost brother, and telling you their house is yours, and their wives and daughters, and everything they own, is at your disposal, you only see one side of 'em. I've seen both sides. I've tested their hospitality, and have found out that there ain't a bit of the real genuine article in all Mexico."
The horse railways of the city and district have proved quite profitable, a single short line within the city limits paying three per cent a month. There is a long line in course of operation to Matamoras Azucar, a large town in the tierra caliente, distant a day's ride by diligence to the southward. It is a branch from this that runs to Cholula, reaching it in an hour's ride, and at a cost, first-class, of two reales; second-class, fifteen cents. There is little variety of scenery, and nothing of great interest until the hill, or pyramid, is reached. To understand the historic and traditional value of this pyramid, we must refer to the historian. After mentioning the gods of the ancient Mexicans, he says: "A far more interesting personage in their mythology was Quetzalcoatl, god of the air, a divinity who, QUETZALCOATL. during his residence on earth, instructed the natives in the use of metal, in agriculture, and in the arts of government. . . . . Quetzalcoatl incurred the wrath of one of the principal gods, and was obliged to quit the country. On his way he stopped at the city of Cholula, where a temple was dedicated to his worship, the massy ruins of which still form one of the most interesting relics of antiquity in Mexico."
The car stops at the foot of this monument of the past, but you might need to be told what it was, if you had formed any preconceived ideas of it from reading in volumes of authors who have never seen it. At present it is not a true pyramid, and so many years have elapsed since its construction that it appears scarcely more than a natural elevation, or a hill that has been squared in places and levelled at the top. But the evidence of its artificial construction is plain enough to any one who will thoroughly examine it, for he will find sun-baked bricks and mortar where-ever any portion has been exposed. Whether these bricks form the entire structure is an important question for archaeologists to answer; the only way to settle it is by driving a tunnel beneath it, at the base, from one side to the other. Various attempts have been made, by excavating, but have not resulted in penetrating much beyond the surface; on all sides, however, are seen these great bricks, and, until the tunnel is run beneath it, we must assume that the entire structure is artificial, and not a natural hill faced with brick. Its height is nearly two hundred feet, and at the summit is a church, reached by steps built into the irregular sides of the hill, the path winding up the western slope, past perpendicular ranges of adobe, beneath various pepper trees, and through green bits of pasture which cover the ancient playgrounds of the Cholulans.
In the cutting of a new road, at one time, a square chamber was revealed, it is said, built of stone, with a roof of cypress beams, and containing some idols of stone, the remains of two bodies, and several painted vases. Humboldt gives this pyramid the same height as that of the Pyramid of the Sun, at Teotihuacan, and says it is three metres higher than that of Mycerinus, or the third of the great Egyptian pyramids of the group of Djizeh. Its base, however, is larger than that of any hitherto discovered by travellers in the Old World, and is double that of the Pyramid of Cheops. It is, doubtless, as he claims, entirely a work of art, but it is celebrated more for its breadth of base than its height.
Its situation on the Mexican table land is at a distance of seventy miles south-southeast of the city of Mexico, and at an elevation of 6,912 feet above the level of the sea. Humboldt, who used simply a barometer, gives its height as 164 feet; while the measurements of some officers of the American army, made by means of the sextant, determined its true height to be 204 feet, and its base 1,060. The breadth of its truncated apex is 165 feet, and here, where the ancients had erected a shrine to Quetzalcoatl,—"God of the Air," or the "Feathered Serpent,"—the Spaniards later built a church under the patronage of the Virgen de los Remedios. This church is in excellent repair, the interior beautifully frescoed and gilded, and the votive offerings that adorn the walls are many of them new, and show that the people still retain their faith in the Virgin of this shrine.
Rising from the centre of the fertile and extensive plain of Cholula, this ancient pyramid, with its modern capstone, can be seen from the distance of many a league. Most beautiful is the landscape spread out at its base! long, level fields of corn and maguey are on every side; villages of low mud huts rise hardly above the tops of the corn, so humble the first and so rank and luxuriant the last. Conspicuous here are the churches, that tower like giants among pygmies above the lonely cabins, adorn every hill, and claim attention on every side. They are the parasites that have sapped this fair land of its life-blood,—have gathered to themselves the wealth of the natives, and kept the country poor and wretched for three hundred years. Before Cortés drew the accursed trail of his army along this beautiful country, Cholula, it is related, possessed a population of forty thousand souls; now the little village scarce numbers six thousand. In his second letter to Charles V., Cortés describes the town as containing twenty thousand houses and four hundred "mosques," or temples. Gone are the magnificent temples and sculptures that adorned its site; the books that recorded their traditions were destroyed by order of the Spanish priests, and only the ruins of their mighty teocalli, with the paltry and contemptible temple of the conquerors, perched like the parasitic mistletoe on the rugged oak, remain to attest their greatness.
The village of Cholula lies crouched at the base of the pyramid. The largest of its religious edifices is the convent, more than two hundred years old; in its spacious court several thousand men could be quartered; it has shared the fate of many another of its order, and has been neglected, perhaps confiscated, but is now being again brought into use. Perhaps I should not have noticed this, had it not been for a severe rap these Catholics have administered upon Protestant knuckles, in the shape of four large paintings in the chapel. The first represents, by a painting twenty feet square, the martyrdom of St. Nicholas and eighteen companions by the Calvinistic Protestants of Holland, on the 9th of July, 1576, "for defending the bodily presence of Christ"; canonized by Pius IX. on the 29th of July, 1867. Two more pictures are of two parties of saints, who were murdered in 1597 by the Japanese, and canonized in 1862; one of these was the "Protomartir Mexicano," San
Felipe of Jesus, with twenty-two companions. He is the patron saint of the city of Mexico, which was put under his protection in 1629.
Mexicans generally are the reverse of intrusive, and never, as a rule, admit you into the sacred privacy of their families; but a party of ladies from Puebla, who had come down here to attend mass, and have a little picnic at the same time, made my acquaintance, and invited me to join them. They would never have done so had I not excited their curiosity by carrying a butterfly-net, which, as it was the first they had ever seen, prompted them to speak to me, their curiosity having overcome their timidity. A naturalist, especially one hunting for birds and butterflies, is looked upon with pity and compassion, and these ladies shared the general impression,—that a man who went about with a gun and insect-net needed looking after,—and took me under their care. It was the 1st of July, and they were going to celebrate mass, and if I would go with them to church they would later accompany me in my search for antiquities. So I went to church, gun, net, and all, and took a back seat, while my four fair companions knelt at their devotions. The church was gayly decorated, the kneeling figures, draped in rebozos, were picturesque, but the service was long and unintelligible; so I took advantage of the absorption of my friends, and slipped away. I wandered all day through the fields and in the suburbs of this old city, and met with no one who offered to molest me or obstruct my path, though this section has a reputation as a rendezvous for robbers.
In truth, as mentioned above, the Mexican has either great respect, or great contempt, for a man engaged in so-called scientific pursuits. A certain German traveller also notices this, and mentions how it aided him in securing the passage of his effects through the custom-house: "Este cavallero es botanista, cried the director, giving an order to leave my things unmolested. As far as I know the Spanish-American nations, scientific occupations are held in very high esteem amongst them. It may be fairly said that this feature, originally belonging to the Spanish nationality, has been greatly developed and generalized, as to the colonial population, by the travels and highly scientific researches of Humboldt."
Be this as it may, I know that the name of naturalista has often proved an open sesame to places I should not have otherwise had the privilege of visiting. It was explained to me, by a friend who has travelled extensively in that country, and who never carried anything in the way of a weapon of defence, that the Mexicano looked upon a man in pursuit of birds, insects, or antiquities as "a confounded fool, a crazy man,"—or un lunatico,—and, as they never kill or injure such a creature, whom they regard as harmless, he may expose himself with impunity. This explanation was not tendered me until after my return from my first Mexican trip, or I should not probably have felt flattered by the innocent attentions of the fair señoras and señoritas, who were so much interested in an Americario carrying a gun and a butterfly-net.