OF all the prospects in the Huahuapan district, ” La Providencia” was our favorite. All the traditions of the pueblo, concerning its former wealth, centered in that mine. The survivors of the family that had owned it, though now very poor, were treated with deference by the people; and they maintained an evident family pride. There seemed slight cause to doubt that the mine had existed, or that it had been very rich. To this the people all agreed with-out dissent. And for tangible evidence that its owner had made dogged and courageous efforts to find it, after it was lost, there were interminable tunnels, cross-cuts and shafts remaining. Into these Don Alfredo put his workmen and his money. He believed in ” La Providencia ” and was determined to find out what was inside that mountain; he said this knowledge was essential for his peace of mind, and he was willing to pay for it.
Nearly a year passed, and although several very rich pockets were found, la veta (the vein) eluded us. In some of the other prospects, ” blankets ” of rich ore came to light, but none were continuous. The country gave evidence of gigantic upheavals, which might well have broken up the ledges, and this theory coincided with that of the older men in the pueblo. I had evolved an idea which I jealously guarded. I believed the valley too beautiful to offer material wealth as well. It continued for me a sort of paradise, and I tried in vain to banish the fear that in the end we should be forced, by circumstances, to leave it. We had visited other camps, where the mines were big producers; but when that was said, there was no more to say. There was plenty of everything in those camps, food, drink and money. But no happiness that I could see! And the surroundings were barren and desolate: every vestige of green was trampled by the pack-trains carrying out the silver. True, there was generous hospitality and the comradeship of men of our own race. But in the mines even friendship is marred by the feverish lust for gold.
Returning from these camps, with prosperity strong in our nostrils, Don Alfredo and I were at first inclined to be gloomy. The ride was usually a matter of a day, however, and it was impossible to be gloomy, for twelve consecutive hours, in those glorious mountains. When we gained the last summit and gazed on the valley of Huahuapan, we invariably began praising it for its beauty. Don Alfredo would then say with emphasis that all it needed, to make it the finest camp in the world, was a good mine. If by chance we had left “La Providencia” in metal, he would begin planning the survey for a pipe-line, and would point out a favorable site for a mill. With me, however, the guilty conviction grew that it would be impossible to build pipe-lines and tram-ways and erect a mill, without hopelessly disfiguring the valley.
When the blow came, it was a sudden one and that was well. Don Alfredo returned alone one day, from an extended prospecting tour, and told us that he had ” denounced” another mine. It was situated in the hot country, on the other side of the mountains, and was two days’ ride from the valley. We decided that to break up camp and go at once was the only way. We were fond of the people and they of us. We had nursed their sick and tended their wounded. And the people had long since accepted us. Their thoughtful kindnesses to us were unvarying, and between us there had grown a bond of mutual trust. We were sad indeed when we bade them good-by and took leave of the valley of Huahuapan. That the people were truly sorry too, I know. Yet we felt the parting more. They had their ” matter-of-course ” psychology to console them.
For two days we journeyed coastward, over those gigantic ranges, down the western slopes toward the Pacific. The new mine was in the State of Sinaloa at an altitude of not over fifteen hundred feet. Once arrived there, Don Alfredo imperturbably went about surveying, while Dona Marciana, likewise unperturbed, again assumed her natural office of homemaker. I felt the irresistible desire to travel; to become acquainted with Mexico and the Mexican people. The year I had spent in the valley with my friends had been a happy one. It was comparable amost to rebirth, amid flawless, natural environment and with the constant uplift and inspiration of the mountains. The region we were now in was, commonplace, by comparison, and while the future of the new mine seemed assured, before me stretched an unattractive vista of dull monotonous years. The present was insistently calling. I knew that beyond the mountains was the real Mexico with its opulent cities, its splendid architecture, and its wealth of romance and beauty. These were the things which more than gold had called me to Mexico. My friends reasoned in vain, Don Alfredo particularly dwelling on the fine promise of the new mine. The low, hot country palled upon me. I was resolved to have a last, long ride through the mountains, and then take train for Mexico City.
The month was May, the rains being close at hand. I began preparations for my journey, and at the thought of all the strange and delightful experiences before me, my animation returned. I had engaged an excellent and favorite mozo, but at the last he fell ill with fever, and I was forced to take a mozo named Antonio, whom I had never liked. He was a superior type, quite white, and of good repute as a guide; but he had impressed me as sullen and discontented, and I always set store by a cheerful mozo. At last my luggage and grub-box were ready. Doña Marciana and her Indian maid had been engaged for days in preparing various comestibles; and while there was an abundance of tortillas, there were also several loaves of American bread.
Don Alfredo, true to California tradition, placed his purse at my disposal and endeavored to force upon me sundry substantial sums, which I gratefully rejected. I had ample funds for at least a year, and I was confident I could earn more before they were exhausted. For the rest, money borrowed is money to be repaid; and I have found it easier to avoid all such dealing.
It was hard to leave those kind and true friends, but I promised that after I had traveled through Mexico I would return, and the thought of a not distant reunion made us more cheerful. Antonio being ready for the start, with the two pack-mules headed up the trail, I climbed into the saddle and with a parting ” Adios!” I turned my face once more towards the mountains. Soon all sights and sounds of mining industry were left behind. Again I was amid the silent, fragrant pines. As we ascended my spirits rose and the charm of life returned. I felt as though casting off a sort of malignant miasma; and foolish though it may seem, I invariably experience this sensation when departing from the mines into the mountains.
While I had known excellent mozos, Antonio surpassed them all for service. He was faultless. He was lithe, active, very quick on his feet, and careful with the mules. When we halted for the night, he had the saddles and freight off the animals in a flash, piled for me a couch of pine boughs, and deftly prepared and served the supper. As I have said, he was quite white and seemingly intelligent. But he was extremely taciturn. The first night, after he had brought my supper, I bade him eat. With expressionless face he declined, saying he would eat when I had finished. There was a finality in his tone which did not brook further condescension. And while condescension was far from my intent, it seemed that for him it could have no other meaning. When I turned in, Antonio carefully spread my blankets and tucked them under; he would then crouch before the fire and smoke, looking fixedly at the flames. What were his thoughts? I observed his well-formed hands and feet, his shapely head, and thought he probably came of good stock. I wondered whether he held the same opinion, and chafed at being only a mozo. In no other way could I account for his sullen manner and manifest discontent. He never neglected his duties, but would spring up from sound sleep and run swiftly through the chaparral to keep the mules from straying too far from camp. Still I did not like him.
The weather was fine and we had covered ground each day, Antonio knowing all the short cuts to save distance. He said we should make Durango on the fourth day. For my part, I was in no hurry, for this was to be my last ride in the mountains. I was enjoying every hour and was even becoming reconciled to my mozo. The third night we passed in the uplands. The cold was intense and I woke with a start, about midnight. Antonio was sitting by the fire with his brooding gaze upon me. His eyes met mine, cold and inscrutable. It seemed his thought was scarcely friendly. I inquired for the mules, and asked him if he was cold. He said the mules were all right but was noncommittal as to the cold. When I suggested coffee he quickly brewed some and to my surprise, he drank a cup while I was drinking mine.
We made Durango City on the afternoon of the fourth day. Since the previous night I had felt more friendly toward Antonio; and I was grieved at his asking me to loan him a hundred dollars. His face lowered and his eyes gleamed when I declined. I suppose he thought I was rich. I gave him a handsome gratuity, in addition to his regular fee; but he took leave of me with a scowl. A month after that he shot a man from his own pueblo for a price. The man was a desperado, and the jefe politico had offered a hundred dollars for his removal. So Antonio got the sum he was in need of after all.
Travel in the mountains being now at an end, I decided to sell my mule. True to herself, she had pre-served her antipathy toward me to the last. If she was not glad to find another master, she at least was not sorry to leave her former one. I also parted with my saddle and rifle. I had still some clothes in my trunks that were good enough for city wear, but my stock of American shoes was exhausted. Before leaving the mines, I had the forethought to write home for a pair to be sent by parcel-post, and to my satisfaction I found them awaiting me in the post-office at Durango.
The following day I took train for Torreon, from whence I should proceed to Mexico City. As I found my seat in the Pullman, a lady and gentleman, apparently Americans, entered the opposite section. I judged that they were man and wife, that they were just turned thirty and that they were from New England. I longed for society, yet felt a sort of shyness that must have been due to my year in the mountains. I found a book and began to read, but so attractive were my neighbors, I found reading out of the question. Soon the gentleman asked to see my railroad folder and in this way the ice was broken. Their manners were as charming as their appearance, and our acquaintance ripened quickly. ” Are you from the United States? ” they asked, almost simultaneously. And at my replying that I was, they exchanged glances.
” But how did you guess I was an American? ” I asked.
” By your shoes!” they announced with triumph, ” and it was so good to see a brand new pair of American shoes in Mexico.”
My new friends, whom I will call the Howards, in-tended to stop over a day at Zacatecas, and I asked leave to join them. We arrived in the early evening and found lodging in ” El Zacatecano,” an old convent re-stored as a hotel and with much architectual merit, especially in the patio. After the cena or supper, which in Mexico is a substantial repast with always at least one meat course, we went to the plaza to hear the band, which was under the leadership of that splendid maestro,
Fernando Villalpando. How can any one be sad in Mexico on a summer’s night, with a Mexican band playing the alluring airs of the country?
Mrs. Howard, who was a finished musician, was en-chanted and insisted on expressing our thanks for the pleasure the concert had given. We found Sr. Villalpando a charming and courteous man and after we had bidden him good night, he had the band play ” La Golondrina,” out of compliment to the fair stranger who had expressed admiration for it. It was then I heard that lovely and plaintive air for the first time, and my fondness for it has only increased with the years. The verse is of Spanish origin and describes the sorrows of the Moorish ruler, Aben Hamet, on leaving his home in Granada, when Ferdinand and Isabel expelled the Moors from Spain. The first verse is as follows:
“Aben Hamet, al partir de Granada, Su corazon desgarrado sintio:
Alla en la Vega, al perderla de la vista, Con debit voz su lamento epreso:`Mansion de amores! Celestial paraiso! Naci en tu seno do’ mil dichas goze; Voy a partir a lejanas regiones, De donde nunca jamas volvere.”‘
“Aben Hamet in parting from Granada,
Felt his heart torn:
There on the Vega, when it was lost to sight, With faint voice he made lament:
`Mansion of loves! Celestial Paradise!
I was born on thy bosom where I knew a thousand joys;
Now I depart to distant regions,
From whence I shall nevernever return.’”
I have heard that in the dwellings of the Spanish Moors in Africa there still hang the massive keys to their lost homes in Granada; and that for generations they cherished the hope to return. Such is man’s love of home.
The next day we visited the training school for boys, at Sr. Villalpando’s invitation, and heard the boys’ band, made up of youngsters all the way from ten years up-ward. They showed the effect of training by a master hand and played astonishingly well, rendering both Mexican and American airs: among them I remember ” Hail Columbia ” and ” La Paloma.”
Directly after dinner we set out to visit the Church of Guadalupe, which is very famous, both architecturally and for its paintings. This church, which is in the environs of Zacatecas, is reached by street car. On the car I made an inquiry of a young man who sat next to me and he replied in excellent English. He proved an interesting talker and we chatted together during the rest of the journey. As we were leaving the car, Mr. Howard whispered, ” Ask him to go with us,” and I lost no time in issuing the invitation, which my new acquaintance gracefully accepted, as though receiving an attention instead of granting one. We discovered later that he had put himself out not a little, for he was an attorney and had gone there on business; but with him, as with the majority of the Mexicans, courtesy to strangers was of first importance.
It is an easy matter to see Mexico’s churches, if one is satisfied with merely entering the church and perhaps penetrating as far as the sacristy. To go further, an introduction is indispensable. Our new acquaintance, whose name was Sr. Ramirez, readily secured permission for us to go wherever we liked; and with him we visited the ancient convent, and ascended mysterious stairways leading into dark and silent corridors, whose walls were hung with ancient paintings, dim with dust and age. Meantime Sr. Ramirez, who was thoroughly familiar with the history of the church, related many interesting and thrilling events that had transpired there.
On our way back to the hotel, I told Sr. Ramirez that Mrs. Howard sang charmingly. At that he had a brilliant idea: he declared that he should organize a musical without delay and that it should take place that very night. In the evening he appeared and announced that all was arranged. He escorted us to the rooms of the club, of which he was a member, where a party of his friends were already assembled to receive us. Then followed one of the most delightful evenings of my experience. There was that slight strangeness on both sides, that lent a piquancy to the most trivial event; and there was, at the same time, that sympathy that immediately obtains amongst music lovers, despite the fact that they may have met for the first and the last time. I remember that we had the serenade of Braga, with violin obligato. One of the young men played Beethoven superbly and the violinist had magic in his finger tips. There were Mexican danzas, and English songs rendered by Mrs. Howard: of the latter, I think ” Annie Laurie ” made the greatest impression. It seems to have been written not for the Saxon race alone, but for all men alike; appealing with the sweet melody, even when the verse is not understood.
We were amazed to find it was midnight and still we lingered for one more song. When we reached our hotel we found a parcel awaiting us. It was a present from Sr. Villalpando: a copy for each of us of his magnificent ” Marcha Funebre,” which was rendered at the funeral of Victor Hugo.
As I recall that night the face of the violinist comes back most vividly. It is strange what slight things make a lasting impression. On the night of the musical, wine was served and as we were taking it, I noticed this youth hovering near the chair of the American senora. He was a handsome fellow, quite fair, with a bright, boyish face and graceful bearing. Several others surrounded her, engaging her in conversation; this boy seemed worshiping from a distance. Suddenly he darted for-ward and the next instant he was bending before her to take the wine glass. It was that he had been waiting for. There was a charming savor of old-time gallantry in the act. While other courtiers had vied for the lady’s favor, this knight stood by, waiting to serve her. That boy was subsequently killed by a rival in love. I have received an account of the tragedy, but what is the use of repeating it? The bright young life is gone out and no bitter words of mine can bring it back. I shall re-member him as he played the ” Angel’s Serenade,” with his cheek bent lovingly to the violin; and later, as he stood waiting to take the wine glass of the American senora.
Throughout our stay Sr. Ramirez was unfailing in his attention. With him, we saw the churches and the schools and under his guidance we made our pilgrimage to the little chapel on the heights, el Santuario de la Bufa, where many of the devout go to pray daily, and where all Zacatecas repairs, once a year, during the feast attending the anniversary of its consecration.
The following morning, he presented me with a paper on which were neatly written a number of important datos, regarding the history of the city. This was entirely his own idea and I felt duly grateful. He had written it in Spanish and I give the translation as nearly as possible.
“The Indian town of Zacatecas was discovered, so says Padre Frejes, in the year 1531, by Pedro Almendes Chirinos. It was conquered the 8th of September, 1546, by Juan de Tolosa. On the 11th of June, 1548, they discovered the vein of ” San Bernabe ” which was the first silver mine.
” On the 20th of July, 1588, Zacatecas was elevated to the category of Noble y Leal Ciudad, by act of Felipe II.
” The Convent of San Agustin, now the Hotel Zacatecano and Presbyterian Temple, was erected in 1576 by the R. P. Alonso Quezada and rebuilt in 1613 by D. Agustin Zavala.
” Of the chapel of Mexicalpa (one of the first chapels), the date of construction is not known, but it is very old.
” El Santuario de la Bufa (the little chapel on the heights) was founded in 1548, but it was afterwards destroyed. The present chapel was erected over the ruins by the Sr. D. José Rivera Bernardez, Conde de Santiago de la Laguna and Colonel of Infantry. The count was also a famous writer and philanthropist.
The temple was consecrated by the Ilmo, Sr. D. Nicolas Carlos Gomez Cervantes, Bishop of Guadalajara, on the 29th day of June, 1728.”
The bones of the noble Conde de la Laguna repose in the crypt of the church of Santo Domingo. This splendid edifice, which fronts on the same square with the post office, was begun in 1746 and completed in 1769, which seems remarkable, especially as the cathedral has never been completed. The exterior of Santo Domingo is very fine. The interior was being restored, at a cost of about eight thousand dollars, but it is seldom that the restoring process is an improvement to Mexico’s churches. The paintings are nearly all by Francisco Martinez Sanchez; and one in the sacristy is dated 1749. In the church there is also a Cabrera which is very well preserved. Santo Domingo was originally the seat of the Inquisition, and the painter Sanchez was also its notary.
We were returning from the sacristy to the church, when I saw two of the attendants lifting a heavy door in the floor, and without a word we were ushered down a long flight of steps. The chamber at the bottom was scarcely visible in the dim light but the sacristan brought a candle, and we found we were in a crypt, surrounded by tombs, some ten or a dozen in all. On the door of one was the following inscription: ” Here repose the remains of the Respectable Padre Fray Gregorio Moya, who died in the year 168o, and whose body was en-countered without corruption, III years after death.” Within this tomb, which was of wood, were two mummies in robes which seemed to have ossified as well. The quaint shoes, with large buckles, were still intact. In climbing up to examine them, I inadvertently clapped my hat on the back of my head, whereupon Sr. Ramirez kindly removed it without a word. In a long, coffin-like box we saw the remains of the count, which have lain there over two centuries. He must have been over six feet in his stockings. The sacristan said that until a few years ago, the count’s red mantle was tolerably well preserved. Lime has recently been put in the coffin and now no sign of the mantle remains.
The most remarkable mummy was in a closed cell, with a small aperture at the top. Peering through this I saw the form of a priest, standing erect in one corner, with his hands crossed on his breast. The head and face were but slightly disfigured and the body seemed to have retained its proportions. The robes, which were gray with dust, fell in statuesque folds and the whole had the look of a carving in stone. At his feet crouched a small dog, as though cut out of the same stone. I wondered if that dog followed the body of his master and was walled in by mistake !
Zacatecas was building an immense state hospital, of brick and stone, severely plain, with an inside court and a fountain. I asked whence the water would come. The reply was ” Quien sabe? ” This lack of water is a serious thing: almost as sad as a lack of bread.
The city’s elevation is 8,000 feet. Its people numbered then 30,000. In 1892 the official count showed 42,000 and in 1887, 75,000. Sr. Ramirez said it was unlikely there would be a further drop, as already la-borers were scarce. Some of the mines were still in good metal. The Zacatecas miners are known through-out the republic as good workmen, and I have met them in the mountains of northern Durango trotting along the trail leading to some big camp, in search of employment.
In the afternoon, being left to my own resources, I started just before sunset for La Bufa; and trudged slowly up the steep mountain, past the Indian huts and the little hump-backed boy, tending his goats among the rocks, reaching the chapel just as the sun disappeared behind the mountains opposite. The sky of Zacatecas was more deeply, intensely blue than any I had seen elsewhere, and retained its vivid quality at night, changing from azure to a deep and then a deeper sapphire. I watched the blue grow darker till it swallowed up the primrose line of the horizon, and then saw in the west a crescent moon and one brilliant star. Soon all the stars came out and the trail, which a moment before had looked dark was light enough for the descent. On my way down I met the lone figure of a woman, shrouded in a black shawl, toiling up the rocky path to the chapel, which shone white and bold in the starlight.
What gleams so bright from the mountain height, Amid the stars of the sober night?
‘Tis the light on the holy chapel wall,
Inviting the pilgrim to pray in its hall.
We left Zacatecas the following morning. Sr. Ramirez, attentive to the last, came to see us off. He was one of the first of many kind acquaintances we made in traveling and his was the customary courtesy of Mexico.
My American friends, whose immediate destination was Guanajuato, had to change trains at Silao; and while I felt inclined to continue in their company, the desire to see Mexico City, la Capital as she is called, was over-mastering. She is to Mexico as New York to America, Paris to France, Madrid to Spain. She had drawn me to her with irresistible charm ever since I could remember. I had Prescott’s ” Conquest ” and Wallace’s ” The Fair God ” in my trunks, and meant to read them again within her very gates. So now that only an afternoon and night intervened, I determined to continue on the train. After a farewell luncheon with my friends at the Silao station, with a dish of luscious strawberries, they took the branch road for Guanajuato and I continued on to Mexico.
I awoke at seven o’clock the next morning, just as our train entered the station. Picking a couple of stout cargadores or porters, I gave them my trunk checks and at the same time recorded the numbers displayed on their metal badges. I then took a coach and told the coachman to drive me to Calle San Agustin. I had with me two letters of introduction; one from a young Mexican in the mines to a friend who was studying engineering in Mexico City; and another from an American in the mines to an American who was practising his profession in Mexico City. The letter to the young Mexican was directed to his boarding-place, and I presented it at once, as I desired to secure lodging there. From the moment that this young man, Don Juan he was called by all his friends, read the letter and offered me his hand, placing himself unconditionally at my service, he became a sincere, useful and devoted friend. The apparent reason for this was that a mutual friend had recommended me. He was the son of a well-to-do family residing in one of the smaller cities, and was in Mexico City completing his education. He at once presented me to the lady of the house, with whom I arranged to take a large comfortable room, opening on the flower-filled patio, and my meals, for the moderate sum of $40.00 per month Mexican money.
My Spanish, after a year in the mountains, was execrable. Finding slight inclination or time to study, I had learned it from the mountain people. Don Juan, who had a gentle manner and a most cheery smile, at once volunteered to take my Spanish in hand and to con-verse with me whenever we both were at leisure. I accepted with the condition that I should teach him English; and while he acquiesced with apparent delight, I discovered that this was merely courtesy. His part of the contract he kept, but I was unable to fulfill mine as he cheerfully insisted on speaking Spanish whenever we were together. There were about forty men living at this house, all young, and either at college or just beginning to practise their profession or calling. Only Spanish was spoken, and each one good-naturedly joined in my instruction. For six months I blundered without compunction. For six more I suffered real mortification, for I had learned enough to realize how atrociously I violated the language. At the end of a year my friends said I spoke quite well. I read Spanish with ease at least and understood all that I heard. I went often to the theater, and the greater number of my acquaintances and friends were Mexicans; so that I heard it constantly spoken. One morning, on waking, I was conscious of a dream, in which my thought or meditation had been in Spanish. I was overjoyed at this, and while I knew I had begun too late to ever speak it with perfection, I knew too that in a sense I at last possessed it. It would be idle to speculate as to the effect of language upon life, but Spanish, I believe, has enriched life for me at least one hundred per cent.
It was Don Juan who first guided me about the streets of the magical city, Mexico, the pride of the Spaniards, built over the ruins of Tenochtitlan, pride of the Aztecs. My kind young friend, in whose veins coursed the blood of both these noble races, strolled beside me, murmuring in his soft, pleasant voice the facts that I ought to know: population about five hundred thousand; altitude a little over seven thousand feet; many foreigners in the capital, mostly in trade, Spaniards in provisions and wines, French in dry goods, Germans in drugs and hard-ware, Americans in mining and everything else. The city was healthful, though one must be careful at night not to sleep with open windows. The volcanoes, Popocatepetl and Ixtaccihuatl, were not visible in the afternoon, at this season, but the next morning he would call me to see them. They were ten thousand feet higher than the city, with a total height of about seven-teen thousand feet.
I heard the foregoing as through a pleasant dream. At last, after a life of anticipation, I was in Mexico. Everything charmed me; the houses, with their transient glimpses of interior gardens and fountains; the pleasant monotony of the sky-line, broken at intervals by superb towers and domes; and the Alameda with its fine trees and military band; the people in carriages and the people on foot; the composite life of the street; the color, the animation, the happiness. We walked through San Francisco and Plateros to the great plaza, where stand the Cathedral and both the National and the Municipal Palace. Don Juan said we must ascend one of the Cathedral towers for a view of the city; so we climbed the massive, stone stairs, being halted midway by a gate, where the porter had his habitation with his wife and children, and taxed each visitor six cents for the view from the tower. When at last we had reached it we found the volcanoes had emerged from their clouds and stood forth in dazzling white splendor, against the blue. I observed that there were broad balustrades providing comfortable seats and nooks in the masonry where one might sit all day and read.
The next morning I again sought the tower, with Prescott’s ” Conquest ” for my companion; and with frequent glances at the city and the wide valley, spread on every side to the foot of the mountains, I read again, on that day and many more days, the story that is doubt-less one of the most amazing and fascinating in the history of the world. The scenes of the main episodes of the conquest were before me. To the south stretched the causeway over which in 1519 Cortes and his men first entered the Aztec capital. In that square, where the Cathedral and palaces now stand, he lodged his soldiers, and there he held Montezuma as hostage. To the west, over what is now Calle de Tacuba, he led his desperate forces in retreat, on ” the Sad Night “; and his favorite, Alvarado, called by the Indians, ” Child of the Sun,” made his famous leap over the heads of his companions, who with their horses were floundering to their death in the ooze of the Canal. On that site of Mexico’s great Cathedral there towered the Aztec Temple dedicated to the Heathen Gods. From their encampment without the city, the Spaniards saw their captive-comrades ascending the steps of the temple, to die on the sacrificial stone as an offering to the war god, Huitzilopochtli. And there they returned, in their day of triumph, to hurl down the god from his throne and level the temple walls in the dust. In the National Museum, not a square distant, both war god and sacrificial stone afforded weighty proof of the truth of it all.
I did not live wholly in the past, for there was the city life, vivid, real, exciting, insisting that I should share it. In the afternoons I forgot the past and enjoyed the life of Modern Mexico. The most at-tractive point in Mexico’s capital between the hours of 4 and 7 P. M. especially on Sunday and Thursday, is the Paseo de la Reforma, where one hears’ a superb military band and sees not only the beauty and fashion of Mexico, but a sprinkling of all sorts and conditions that help form its population. While the Paseo is comparatively a short drive, its magnificent trees, fine roads, and charming vista terminating in the castle-crowned heights of Chapultepec, together with the anticipation of the beautiful grove beyond, all serve to make it delightful. At the approach there is a gigantic equestrian statue of Carlos IV of Spain, which is called familiarly by the people, Caballito (Little Horse). It is recorded on the base that it weighs 22 1/2 tons, was cast in one pouring by Manuel Tolsa, director of sculpture at the Academy, in 1802, and that the chiseling and burnishing occupied fourteen months. It was placed on its present site in 1852, having formerly stood in the Plaza Mayor. The entrance to the drive is also guarded by two enormous bronze figures of Indian warriors.
A far more interesting monument stands in the third glorieta. It bears the inscription, ” To the Memory of Cuauhtemoc and of the warriors who fought so heroic-ally in defense of their country in 1521.” On the base are two fine bas-reliefs. One represents the capture of Cuauhtemoc at the moment when he was brought to the presence of Cortes, to whom he made his memorable speech of surrender: ” Malinche, I have done what I could in defense of this city and of my nation,” and placing his hand on the conqueror’s dagger, ” Take this now and kill me!” The other depicts his subsequent torture, which failed to elicit so much as a groan, still less the desired information about the treasure. Above are blazoned the names of Indian nobles and patriots, and the whole is surmounted by the bronze figure of an Indian of heroic size with spear uplifted as though to hurl it at the foe. The monument is flanked on either side by the broad driveway and an imposing semi-circular bench of stone. From this vantage-point one may listen to the music and watch the passing show.
At the first notes of the band there are few turnouts visible, but their numbers rapidly increase until the road is soon thronged with carriages, automobiles, equestrians and foot passengers. There rides a lady gowned in pale lavender, the latest Paris creation, no doubt; her faultless victoria drawn by a pair of high-stepping bays; docked a la Inglesa, and with two men in livery up in front. She is followed by a pair of beautiful black horses with flowing manes and tails, their fine heads and sensitive nostrils suggesting an Arab strain. They draw a brougham faultless as the victoria, but the owner has chosen to retain one feature essentially of the country. The coachman, a dark swarthy fellow, wears a tight-fitting suit of black and a huge sombrero, thus adding a picturesque quality. There rides a young caballero in all the bravery of Mexican attire, both his suit and hat elaborately trimmed with silver. His horse, a mettlesome gray, seems to step the prouder for the silver-mounted trappings. At his side a youth of as many years has adopted the English mode and rides a stylish trotter, rising in the stirrups in approved form. Now a ranchero reins his pacing mule to listen to the music. Behind him is a tiny mite of a boy, his chubby legs tied in the thongs of the Mexican saddlehis hands clutching his father’s jacket, while he looks amazement from a pair of big black eyes. The crowd in-creases. There a peon in brilliant zarape is buying dulces for his wife and child who sit on the curbstone and blissfully devour the sweets. Here a woman walks, graceful, barefooted, carrying an immense earthen jar on her head, and passing amid all this gay throng, come some freighters with their band of sleek-coated mules.
During this scene of tropical color, beauty and luxury, at a stone’s throw have been passing innumerable little street cars, some of them draped in black, others in white, surmounted by crosses, and bearing suggestive coffin-shaped boxes. These have gradually ceased, how-ever. New equipages laden with beautiful women dash past. One catches a fleeting glimpse of dark eyes and of jeweled fingers twirled rapidly at some passing friend.
A young Southerner romantically inclined says they make him think of twinkling stars which are now beginning to show over the tree tops. The sun has dropped behind the mountain, there is a young moon overhead, the strains of La Golondrina float across the Paseo, the scene is one not to be forgotten. It. is la noche and evening life has begun in the gayest city of the Republic.
The Howards arrived in Mexico a few days later than I, with enthusiastic accounts of the picturesque charm of Guanajuato. I soon learned that Mr. Howard’s paramount desire was to meet the President of Mexico, and as he carried credentials from the highest sources, both official and social, his pretensions seemed not unreasonable. For the rest, he pursued his goal with the unwavering assurance peculiar to men of his race. He had brought letters to Senator de Herrera of Chihuahua, and it was no surprise when he informed me that the Senator would present us to President Diaz at the National Palace the following day.
On our entering the presidential apartment, the ante-room was deserted as was also the receiving room into which the Senator conducted us. The next moment, President Diaz entered. His presence was extremely commanding, not haughty but dominant. His countenance was handsome and rather impassive, his complexion fresh and sanguine, his eye large, dark and at that moment mild. His hand-shake was firm and cordial and his hand warm and dry, denoting perfect circulation. Mr. Howard at once delivered to the President a message from his father, an elderly gentleman, who had al-ways followed the career of the President with admiration, and who now begged that he would send him, by the hand of his son, a signed photograph. Thereupon the President signed and gave us two photographs. But Mr. Howard, who possessed a naive and charming manner, asked to be permitted to photograph the President with his own camera. The President seemed agreeably impressed by the sincerity of his request, and we were accordingly bidden to visit him the following Sunday morning at Chapultepec Castle.
On Sunday morning at ten o’clock we went to Chapultepec. The President received us with distinct kindness, dismissed his attendant, and led us upon the terrace. The month was May. The light was golden, the sky blue, with no premonition of the afternoon shower. On the west and south rose giant cypress trees, the pleasure-groves of Aztec emperors before the coming of the Spaniards. On the east, was the broad Paseo de la Reforma, fringed with tall eucalyptus trees, leading straight to the city, whose towers we could plainly see. We could even hear the Cathedral bells. From this same terrace the Empress Carlota watched, on summer evenings, for the coming of Maximilian, who had endeavored to reproduce here all the beauty of Miramar. The frescoes and furnishings were still eloquent of the luxurious tastes of the Austrian Arch-Duke and his beautiful consort, whose hand was especially revealed in the charming interior gar-dens.
The Senator, glowing with pride, had just entreated us to admire once more the beauties of Popocatepetl and Ixtaccihuatl, limned in snowy profile against the blue, and under the spell of their enchantment we followed the President to the north terrace where historical fact awaited us. While history by no means precludes enchantment, it is not its distinguishing feature; but we had been reading Prescott, and the romance of the Conquest possessed us. We were surrounded by reminders of the brief reign of Maximilian, and these though sad are in the main beautiful. Is it easy to be unmindful of our own trespasses? I confess I scarcely remembered the war of ’47. Then came the grim fact, on that field the Mexican and American armies met: at that precise angle of the cliffs, our soldiers scrambled, tooth and nail, to assault and capture the castle. I learned now, for the first time, that it was defended by boys who were cadets in the military school, some only fourteen years old.
The President, when he had indicated the exact point of attack, started to move on. Our kind friend, the Senator, began speaking rapidly, half in extenuation, I remember he placed much stress on the fact that it all happened a good many years ago. He could not but speak thrillingly of those boy-heroes, his son was even then a cadet in Chapultepec Academy, but he also paid a tribute to the bravery of the Americans. The Mexican boys were young lions, the Senator said, they died like men. The young color-bearer, fatally wounded, clutched the flag in his arms and hurled himself over the embankment, rather than surrender. And an American officer, when he saw the wounded and dying boys, shed tears and said they were too young, that they should not have been there to die so young. Then the Senator spoke of the monument to their memory, where each year, after the President has placed a wreath with his own hand, the American Ambassador goes also to offer a floral tribute in honor of the boy martyrs. The President listened gravely and at mention of the wreaths bowed slightly in acquiescence.
It was here that American diplomacy, of a high order, informed by intelligent sympathy, projected itself on the disturbed psychology of the moment. Mr. Howard, a typical Saxon, blue-eyed, smiling, sunny of look and nature, his sweet American girl-wife clinging to his arm, had listened with rapt attention and serious mien. I attribute to him a high order of diplomacy, because his words and manner seemed exactly right. Mrs. Howard confided to me afterwards that she was sure he would say something.
” I am glad, Mr. President,” he began, and his tone was courteous as it was untroubled, ” that in later years, during the French intervention, my country was enabled to perform a service for Mexico.”
It was then President Diaz pronounced these words which I shall always remember:
” Nations are like boys. When they are young, they quarrel. When they are older, they help each other.”
The situation was saved. Did the President sense our anxiety or our relief? The hero of many wars might well be insensible to the trepidations of mere mortals. Yet if he was quite unconscious of ours, why did he at that moment turn and graciously offer his arm to Mrs. Howard? Her spirits now regained their natural buoyancy and sweetness. Did the President speak English? He regretted that he did not. Naturally she demanded an interpreter, and I was chosen for this useful if difficult office. My Spanish was almost nil and my embarrassment was heightened, inasmuch as I had heard that while the President did not converse in English, he under-stood it quite well. But by this time, his direct and simple kindness, which only enhanced his nobility of manner, had cast upon us such a magical charm, that all that followed took on a natural, almost a homely quality. I even felt that blunders in Spanish would be regarded with indulgence.
Meantime Mr. Howard had adjusted his camera and begun the business of snap-shotting the President. Trotting about him in most nonchalant fashion he photographed him at various angles, and then, with his most polite if somewhat brief American bow, he would wave his hand toward an adjacent chair and say, ” Please be seated, Sir!” And the President of Mexico, the ” Man of Iron,” with composed and serious look, but with, I was certain, an amused twinkle in his eye would seat himself to be photographed. The remarkable thing was that, as I have said, all seemed perfectly natural.
It was during luncheon, where we were unostentatiously served by an Indian butler, that President Diaz spoke of Mexico, and especially of the friendship existing between Mexico and the United States. He said it was our revolution and achievement that had heartened Mexico to cast off the yoke of Spain; that Mexico’s government was modeled, so far as possible, after ours.
Mr. Howard then likened Hidalgo to Washington; Juarez to Lincoln; Diaz to Grant. The President then proposed the health of the President of the United States. A curious mistake occurred while we were at table, showing the difficulty of social intercourse between people of different tongues. Mr. Howard, who was a brilliant talker, and who manifested implicit though somewhat misplaced confidence in the versatility of his interpreters, desired to give an essentially American toast in honor of the President. He began with a reference to our favorite actor, Jefferson, and turning to the President said, ” Sir, may you live long and prosper ! ” Senator Herrera, who was in excellent spirits and eager to aid Mr. Howard, said rapidly, ” He. desires to honor the memory of their great president Jefferson.” I was too rattled to interpose in time, and the toast was politely drunk.
It was when he spoke of Mexico and her future, that Diaz glowed as with an inner flame. Sometimes his eye flashed, again it softened and became suffused. We were awed and deeply affected. We felt that we were in the presence of a great and holy passion, the passion of a patriot for his country. Somehow I forgot his greatness, his eyes filled with tears as he talked of his hopes for Mexico. But I saw the great compelling motive of his life, his love of country.
The President walked with us to the elevator in the enclosed garden which descends through a shaft cut in the solid rock. In taking leave of him, Mrs. Howard desired me to express our gratitude for his exceeding kindness, and this I endeavored to do. ” You merit it,” was his reply. We were silent throughout our return drive to the city, through the Paseo de la Reforma. The magnitude of our enterprise had begun to dawn upon us. We had been for a whole forenoon with one of the great rulers of the world; yet so indulgent was his kindness, for the time we had only realized that we were happy.
The good and gentle Senator soon afterwards returned to his estates in the northern part of the republic and my American friends continued their journeyings to other countries. A year later Mr. Howard wrote me, ” I have always intended to write an account of our morning with President Diaz at Chapultepec; but he is such a big fellow, I am afraid to tackle him.” I confess to the same feeling, a feeling of awe, of veneration. Yet it was a real experience, the biggest one of my life. And now, of that party of friends who went to pay their homage to Mexico’s president on Chapultepec heights, I alone remain.
Throughout the ensuing years I saw the President constantly. I saw him reviewing the army on field days, presiding at official ceremonies, laying corner-stones, dedicating edifices. He was always unchanged, always alert, impassive, clear-eyed, commanding, dignified: always on time, no matter what the hour or the weather, thus quietly enforcing the rule of promptness in this pleasant land of manana. It seemed that in this habit of punctuality, as in all his daily life, he was modestly and unobtrusively setting a good example to the men in Mexico, whether native or foreign. And while the light beats fiercely on the President’s chair as on the throne, no stain on the private life of Diaz has been revealed, even to his enemies.
As for the achievement of President Diaz, all the world knows that he went into office as provisional president in 1876, it being formally decreed by Congress in April of the following year that he serve as Constitutional President for a term expiring in November, 1880. He declined reelection, in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. At the expiration of the term of Gonzalez in 1884, Diaz was again elected. One of his’ first acts was to reduce the President’s salary from $30,000 to $15,000. He established schools and compulsory education. He made Mexico safe for foreigners, and invited them to come in and develop her marvelous resources, mineral, agricultural, industrial, to the ad-vantage of Mexico and to their own enrichment. He once told me, in course of conversation, that he welcomed the coming to Mexico of young, intelligent, constructive Americans. He made possible the complete railway systems, which have brought about a remarkable development in national and international communication, both industrial and intellectual. Above all, he fostered and maintained peace for thirty years.
In order to justly appreciate the achievement of Diaz, we should note the following chronological events, as affecting the social and political evolution of Mexico.
1325 The Aztecs (ancient Mexicans) took possession of the Val-ley of Mexico. Their origin is mystery. At the time of the Spanish conquest, the Aztecs had either subjugated or were at war with the other Indian nations.
1502 Montezuma became Emperor of the Aztecs.
1519 Cortes landed on the Mexican coast.
1520 Montezuma died.
1521 Cortes captured the Aztec capital, now Mexico City. 1522 The first Catholic church was founded in Mexico.
1527 All the picture-writings and other manuscripts of the Aztecs
were taken from the national archives and burned.
1531 The miracle of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the Patroness of Mexico.
1547 Cortes died.
1571 The Inquisition was established in Mexico.
1810 The priest, Hidalgo, proclaimed Mexican Independence. 1811 Hidalgo was captured and shot.
1813 First Mexican congress.
1814 First Mexican constitution.
182o Inquisition was suppressed.
1821 Mexican Independence was consummated.
1822 Iturbide was named Emperor. Santa Ana declared for a republic.
1823 Iturbide abdicated. Monroe Doctrine proclaimed. Iturbide shot.
1835 Rebellion of Texas.
1845 Annexation of Texas.
1846 United States war with Mexico.
1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
1859 Reform laws promulgated by Juarez.
1862 French army invaded Mexico.
1864 Maximilian was crowned Emperor.
1865 Mr. Seward’s note to France, demanding the withdrawal of her army.
1867 French army withdrawn. Diaz captured Puebla. Maximilian was shot. Diaz captured City of Mexico.
1876 Diaz proclaimed Provisional President.
1877 Diaz elected Constitutional President.
188o Gonzalez elected President.
1884 Diaz elected President.
During Mexico’s centenary celebration in 1910, on the birthday of President Diaz, which falls on September 15th, the day preceding that of Mexico’s independence, I passed before him in line with the visiting newspaper men, who were the guests of the Mexican federal government. We had been advised not to address him in English. When I shook his hand, I said in Spanish, ” May you have a very long life, Sir, and may the country continue happy ! ” He gripped my hand firmly, smiled and bowed, and I passed on to make way for the next man in line.
President Diaz should have a long life. He comes of a hardy race and his habits are conducive to longevity. His magnanimity has long since elevated him above any personal ambition or self-interest. His identity is merged completely with the national life. And in the future peace and prosperity of Mexico he will continue to find happiness. He may see firmly established the era he so confidently proclaimed when nations, grown older, help one another.