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HOME > Classical Novels > The Boy Travellers in Mexico > CHAPTER XVII.
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On the day following the visit to the church of Guadalupe Doctor Bronson was occupied with some business matters that rendered his movements somewhat uncertain. Frank and Fred thought it a good opportunity to make some statistical notes about Mexico which they had been for some time contemplating, but had postponed in consequence of there being no hurry about the matter. The figures were at hand whenever they chose to use them, and so they had no anxiety on the subject.
"First," said Fred, "we will see the extent of the country, learn how large the population is, and of what it is composed."
"Very well," was Frank's reply; "you may put down the figures and other memoranda as I read them off."
The youths settled down to their work, Fred at table with note-book and pencil, and Frank with an array of books before him. For an hour or two their heads were, as Dr. Holmes says, "ant-hills of units and
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 tens," as we shall see from the following, which they have permitted us to copy:
"Mexico lies between the 15th and 33d parallels of latitude, and the 86th and 117th meridians of longitude. Its greatest length is only a trifle less than 2000 miles, and its greatest width 750 miles. At the Isthmus of Tehuantepec it narrows to 140 miles; and this is the place where Captain Eads proposed to make a railway for transporting ships from one ocean to the other. We'll have something to say about this proposition in another place.
"We cannot find that there has ever been an exact survey of the country or a careful census of the inhabitants. No two authorities agree concerning the area and population; but an average of the best of them shows that the country measures about 800,000 square miles, and has 10,500,000 inhabitants. It is divided into twenty-seven States, one Territory, and one federal district; the federal district includes the capital city, and may be regarded as the equivalent of the District of Columbia in the United States, though it is much larger in area.
"One-half the population consists of mestizos, or 'mixed people;' one-sixth are Europeans or their creole descendants; and one-third and more are of pure Indian blood. The following figures are from the last census:
Europeans and their descendants
Mestizos—mixed races
"Señor Garcia Cubas, a Mexican gentleman who has written a statistical work about Mexico, published at the office of the Minister of Public Works, says of the different races of people in the country: 'The difference of dress, customs, and language shows the heterogeneous character of the population.... The habits and customs of the people that make up the creole portion of the population are essentially European, and conform particularly to the fashions of the French, with some features borrowed
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 from the Spanish. Their national language is Spanish; French is considerably used; and English, German, and Italian are receiving increased attention. The nearest descendants of the Spanish, and those less mixed up with the natives of Mexico, belong by their complexion to the white race. The natural inclination of the mixed races to the habits and customs of the whites and creoles, as well as their estrangement from those of the natives, is the reason that many of them figure in the most important associations of the country, by their learning and intelligence, including in this number the worthy members of the middle classes. From this powerful coalition the force of an energetic development naturally results, which is inimical to the Indian race. Many of the natives themselves contribute to this fatal consequence, as they have joined the body I have referred to, and founded new families with the habits and customs of the upper classes.'"
"President Juarez may be cited as an example of the pure Indian of Mexico," Fred remarked, "who leaves behind him the traditions and customs of his race, and adopts those of the enlightened classes."
"I presume so," replied Frank, "and every Indian who has adopted the dress and ways of the European, and identified himself with the nineteenth century habits of thought, is helping to assimilate the aboriginal race with the new one. In this way the population will in time become essentially European, but it will take hundreds of years to bring about such a state of things. Railways, commerce, education, and liberal ideas will accomplish it; and the Mexico of the twentieth century promises to be a great improvement upon that of the eighteenth. There is now no political distinction on account of race, and the social one cannot last much longer."
Having given utterance to this sage remark, Frank blushed at his audacity in hazarding a prophecy, and referred again to the books before him.
"Wouldn't it be well," said Fred, "to say something about the natives, and compare them with the Indians of the Western States and Territories of our own country?"
"It certainly would," responded Frank, "and so here goes:
"The Mexican Indian is not much unlike the American one in general appearance, as he is of a brown or olive color, and has little or no beard. His cheek-bones are high, and he has slender limbs and a broad chest. Owing to his having been so long accustomed to carrying burdens on his back, he is inclined to stoop, while the American Indian stands erect. The Mexican Indian is also liable to stoutness, while the American one is not.
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 His dress is pretty much the same in all parts of the country, varied, of course, by the conditions of the climate. Short and wide trousers of coarse cotton cloth, a loose jacket of the same material, a serape or blanket for
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 cool weather or at night, a straw hat, and a pair of sandals form his costume. The different tribes are distinguished by the colors of the clothing, but this distinction is slowly being effaced."
"Now a few words about the creoles," suggested Fred.
"But I have not done with the Indians yet," replied Frank, "as this is a good place to say something about their houses. We have mentioned them in another place, but I want to add that in the hot country the Indian dwelling is made of wood, thatched with palm or banana leaves, while in the uplands it is of adobe, with a flat roof covered with clay supported by beams and stamped or beaten hard. A fire is generally kept burning day and night, and near it are the cooking utensils, which cost altogether only a few dollars at most. The hut has no furniture except a few stools and some mats of cane or rushes, which serve as beds at night and seats by day. A whole family lives in a space which we should consider small for one person and altogether too restricted for two.
"When the Spaniards conquered the country they took possession of the lands and everything else; they allowed the Indians only sufficient space for their villages, and a plot of ground 3600 feet square for agricultural purposes, which all the inhabitants of a village were to cultivate in common. They still have this common garden, but the majority of them
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 abandon their rights in it, and earn their living by hiring out with land-owners or miners. In former times a Spaniard spoke of himself as gente de razon, or man of intelligence, while he designated the Indian as gente sin razon, a man of no understanding. The Indians accepted this distinction, and often speak of themselves in this way. Of course this is not the case with the superior ones, who have adopted the European ways of living.
"Now I come to the creoles," said Frank, "who are either Europeans or people of European parentage. They were formerly the ruling class of Mexico in every sense of the expression, but since the Revolution and the Laws of the Reform their position is changed, as they are compelled to recognize the equality of the educated Indian, which in olden times they absolutely refused to do. When Juarez, who, as already stated, was an Indian of pure blood, became President it was a great shock to the sensibilities of many of the old aristocrats, but they survived it because they were compelled to do so. The hostility has generally died out, but a good deal of it lingers and will remain for many generations."
"I am reminded," said Fred, "of a transaction which is attributed to the Pilgrim Fathers of New England when they landed at what is now Plymouth."
"What is that?"
"They are said to have held a meeting, and passed the following preamble and resolution:
"'Whereas, it has been decreed that the saints shall inherit the earth;
"'It is therefore Resolved, that we are the saints.'"
"The Spanish conquerors of Mexico evidently did not think it worth
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 while to pass any resolutions or hold any meetings," answered Frank, with a laugh. "They went ahead and inherited the earth without bothering themselves about formalities. The Indians were considered to have no rights that the white men were required to respect, and were made to understand that it was owing to the great mercy and tenderness of the Spaniards that the natives were not slaughtered down to the last of the race. And there is little doubt that they would have been slaughtered had they not been needed for menial work and to make life easy for the newcomers.
"As before stated, the creoles have the manners, customs, and dress of Spain to a large extent, though they follow the fashions of France in several particulars. The account of a Mexican courtship shows how the women are secluded, as in Spain. The men have the Spanish taste for gaming, bull-fights, and gallantry, and they have lost little of the polite forms for which Andalusia is famous. Where their means permit they are princely in their hospitality, and no grandee of Castile could stab his intimate friend with a stiletto more gracefully than can the Mexican creole in case of a misunderstanding. That the creole women are pretty and possessed of most fascinating manners is the testimony of all who have seen them.
"In regard to the mestizos," said Frank, "I will quote a few words from 'Mexi............
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