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Full text of "Through southern Mexico : being an account of the travels of a naturalist"

l 



THROUGH SOUTHERN 




BEING AN ACCOUNT OF 

THE TRAVELS OF A NATURALIST 



M.A., PH.D., F.R.S. 



WITH OVER ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY FULL PAGE AND OTHER 
ILLUSTRATIONS AND MAPS 



LONDON : 
WITHERBY & CO. 

NEW YORK : 
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS 

1908 




TO 

C. B. 



PREFACE 

THIS narrative is based upon two journeys through Southern 
Mexico during the months of June to September of the years 
1902 and 1904. Eight months most of them spent in roaming 
about, off the few tourist-tracks, through some rather wild 
and little-known districts, from the regions of snow down to 
the sweltering, tropical lowlands afforded more than hasty 
impressions of this wonderful country. 

I have tried to present to the reader the ups and downs, 
the enjoyments and 'the drawbacks, just as they happened. 
We, my wife and I, have no blood-curdling adventures to 
relate, and yet some of the incidents might have turned into 
such by a hair's breadth. 

As to personal safety, the actual conditions were tersely 
put to us only a few weeks ago : " You do not need any arms 
whilst travelling in Mexico, but when you do, you want them 
badly." 

The scientific purpose of these travels was the study of the 
distribution of animals and plants with reference to the 
prevailing environmental conditions. Some of the more 
technical results have been published in the Proceedings of 
the Royal, the Zoological, and the Linnean Societies of 
London. 

Care has been taken to mention the various creatures at the 
time and place that we observed them. The country swarms 
with life, and yet days may pass without a glimpse of anything 
worth relating, and the best finds are made when least expected. 
Full-coloured pictures of the life and scenes of a typical day's 
travel in the wilds, if we put them to the test, are liable to 
cause disappointment, since the majority of the exciting 
events (though each described without exaggeration) rarely 
happen in conjunction. 



vi. PREFACE 

The photographs of the Tlapaneca country we owe to the 
kindness of Mr. W. Niven, Mineralogist, Mexico City, who had 
taken them on another occasion. 

It is a pleasant duty to acknowledge the great assistance 
and invariable courtesy received from the A. T. & Sa. Fe 
Railroad, and from all the railways in Mexico. Above all, 
our way was smoothed by the Mexican Government, thanks to 
the initiative of General Pedro Rincon Gallardo, the Minister 
accredited to St. James's, and of Don Ignacio Mariscal, the 
Minister of Foreign Affairs. The President, General Porfirio 
Diaz, taking a personal interest in our plans, gave us letters of 
special recommendation to the Governors of various States. 
Without all this help, and many acts of friendship, we should 
have a different tale to tell. 



H. GADOW. 



In Camp, Volcan del Torullo, 
Michoacan, 

June 10th, 1908. 



CONTENTS 

i 
CHAPTER I. 

THE VALLEY OF MEXICO. 

Situation of the Capital Former Inundations from the Lakes 
The Floating Gardens of Xochimilco The Axolotl : its 
peculiar Life History ; zoological controversies and new 
explanation of its non-metamorphosis The Pyramids 
of the Sun and Moon at Teotihuacan 



CHAPTER II. 

FROM THE HIGH TABLE-LAND TO THE ATLANTIC SLOPE. 

The Scenery of the Central Plateau Agaves and Pulque The 
Edge of the Plateau ; rapid change into the Tropics- 
Orizaba Mexican Fruits : Bananas, Pineapples, Aguacate, 
Zapote 21 

CHAPTER III. 

CAMPING ON CITLALTEPETL. 

The Scenery near Orizaba Vegetation at the Level of the 
Cloud-belt First Camp at 8,600 feet elevation Visitors 
The Forest and its Fauna Armadilloes Lungless Newts- 
Second Camp at 12,500 feet, above the Cloud-belt : different 
aspect of Fauna and Flora The upper Tree-line An 
Ascent to the Rim of the Crater 41 



CHAPTER IV. 

IN THE HEART OF THE TROPICS. 

The Hill-forests from Cordoba to the Rio Tonto Enormous 
Numbers of spawning Tree-frogs Cordoba A typical 
Hacienda Native Boys as Collectors of Reptiles Two 



vin. CONTENTS 

PAGE 

Boas The Ferryman Lizard A Shooting Fray A Visit 
to the Mazateca Tribe The Rio Tonto Butterflies 
Coral Snakes and " warning " Colours Leaf-cutting Ants 
A bad Accident Lagoon Life 73 

CHAPTER V. 

FEATURES OF TROPICAL FORESTS. 

The conditions necessary for Tropical Forests General Im- 
pression and leading Features The fierce Struggle for 
Existence The effect of Environment upon Animals and 
Plants Adaptations to Arboreal Life The prevailing 
Colours and Patterns Cases of convergent Development 102 

CHAPTER VI. 

SAVANNAHS AND SWAMPS FROM TETELA TO THE ISTHMUS. 

Mateo Trujillo and his Home Jaguars Birds Nearly killed 
in our Car Vegetation and Animals of the Lagoon of 
Aguafria It is not advisable to assist a wounded Man 
Railway Oddities The Town of San Juan Evangelista 
Laziness Dermophis mexicanus 114 

CHAPTER VII 

THE ISTHMUS OF TEHUANTEPEC. 

By Rail across the Isthmus Tehuantepec The Women and 

their Dress Life at an Inn The Prefect 141 

CHAPTER VIII. 

A VISIT TO THE HUAVI TRIBE. 

Travelling by Ox-cart San Mateo del Mar The Huavi 
Education The Lagoons Tortoises and Iguanas First 
sight of the Pacific Characteristics of the People and their 
Houses The return Journey An ancient Hieroglyphic 
Map of Huilo tepee A Turtle Dinner 158 



CONTENTS ix. 

PAGE 

CHAPTER IX. 

SALINA CRUZ AND JIGGERS. 

Salina Cruz and the Harbour Works The Jigger, or Sand-flea 

Bird and Reptile life at the Coast 175 

CHAPTER X. 

A RIDE FROM TEHUANTEPEC TO OAXACA (FROM TEHUANTEPEC 

TO SAN CARLOS). 

The Ruins of Quiengola A new Drink Plentiful Bird-life 
Termites Tequesixtlan and the Chontal Tribe Collecting 
Rattlesnakes and the Evolution of the Rattle The 
Four-eyed Fish Weaver-birds' Nests Hummingbirds 
An eventful Day San Bartolo and its jovial Schoolmaster 
The unfathomable Indian Mind San Carlos Yau tepee 187 

CHAPTER XI. 

FROM SAN CARLOS YATJTEPEC TO THE SOUTHERN PLATEAU. 

A District smitten with Small-pox Dismal Camp The Cactus 
Family Totolapan Idolatry and Native Beliefs 
Interesting Pedlars Character of the Edge of the Plateau 224 

CHAPTER XII. 

ZAPOTECS AND MISTECS. 

The National Fete Day at Tlacolula The Plume Dance 
President Diaz : an appreciation The Temple Palaces 
of Mitla The Ruins of Monte Alban Many Tribes and 
Languages The Capital of Oaxaca Progressive Natives 
A State Dinner Misteca Poetry The Mountain of San 
Felipe 246 

CHAPTER XIII. 

IN THE STATE OF MORELOS. 

The Sierra de Ajusco Cuernavaca, Pottery and Moths 
Ancient Carved Lava Blocks The Pyramid of Tepoztlan 
The Hacienda de Chiconcuac The Pyramid of 
Xochicalco 272 



x. CONTENTS 

PAGE 

CHAPTER XIV. 

THE CAVES OF C AC AHUIMILPA . 

Scorpions as a Cure for Hydrophobia The " Animal Plant " 

The gigantic Caves of Cacahuimilpa, and their Fauna 285 

CHAPTER XV. 

THE ANCIENT CIVILISATION IN MEXICO AND ITS ORIGIN. 

The Problem The Toltec Question The Aztecs and other 
Nahoa not the Builders of the Ancient Monuments The 
Civilisation of the Aztecs' Empire not of Aztec Origin 
The famous Almanac or Tonalamatl The Chronological 
and Calendric System The Time-bills on the Central- 
American Monuments An Attempt to solve the Question 
of the Zero of their Reckoning The Aztec Hieroglyphs 
Successive Migrations of different Nations in Mexico 
The Native Languages Whence came these People ? 293- 

CHAPTER XVI. 

IGUALA AND THE BIO BALSAS. 

A beautiful Defile Inn and Market of Iguala The Railhead 
The Balsas River Tree-frogs The Chirotes Lizard 
Gold Disagreeable Experiences 321 

CHAPTER XVII. 

IGUALA TO CHILPANCINGO. 

The Rurales Wholesale Executions Our New Servant 
Scenery between Iguala and the Balsas at Mescala Mules, 
Asses, and Horses The Musk Duck at Home Bush 
Fowls Parrakeets Crossing the River and Camping at 
Mescala A bad Night Vegetation The Canon del 
Zopilote Chilpancingo, the Capital of Guerrero Market 
Scenes The Governor, Manuel Guillen : an appreciation 337 



CONTENTS xi. 

PAGE 

CHAPTER XVIII. 

THE MOUNTAINS OF OMILTEME. 

An Excursion into the Heart of the Southern Sierra Madre 
Character of the Fauna and Flora Macaws, Jaguars, 
Stags, and Peccaries The Blue-tailed Skink 366 

CHAPTER XIX. 

CHILPANCINGO TO AYUTLA. 

Preparations for the Journey Wet Camps The Rurales on 
the alert How Brigands are treated The beautiful Pass 
of Los Cajones Rapid Descent into the Hot Country and 
a Narrow Escape Tierra Colorada Crossing the 
Papagayo River Camp amidst wild Mountain Scenery 
Semi-Alpine Vegetation on the low Coast Range A 
Prehistoric Carved Stone Slab 382 

CHAPTER XX. 

AYUTLA, AND THENCE TO THE COAST. 

The Mayor, Schoolmaster, and other Misteca of Ayutla Guests 
of the Municipality Masked Dances A Funeral Scrim- 
mage between Police and Robbers How such a Wild 
State is Governed The Land Question Destruction of 
Forests Ignominious Reception at Copala The 
" Tarima " Zambos Character of the low Coastlands 408 

CHAPTER XXI. 

CAMPING ON THE PACIFIC SHORE. 

The Purple Snail Heavy Nocturnal Thunderstorms Cocoa- 
nuts and Short Commons Crocodiles and Birds of the 
Lagoon The Forest Vampires 432 

CHAPTER XXII. 

THE RETURN JOURNEY BY SAN LUIS ALLENDE. 

Swamps and Inundated Forests The People of San Luis 
Allende A Funeral Our Landlord's Family Trading in 



xn. CONTENTS 

PAGE 

Animals A Glimpse of the Land of the Tlapaneca Im- 
passable Trail A Heavenly Camp The Village of 
Miahuichan A Vine-bridge Wooden Masks Religions, 
Dancing Dress and Rain-makers Rank Weeds Camping 
Troubles The " Mai del Pinto " Native Doctors A 
Plea for Native Dispensaries Prevalent Diseases 
Camp on the Pass of Los Cajones in a Thunderstorm 
Settling of Accounts at Chilpancingo Motmots 446 

CHAPTER XXIII. 

AN ASCENT OF POPOCATEPETL. 

Features of Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl Altitudinal Dis- 
tribution of Plants A Night spent at 13,000 feet elevation 
The Ascent to the Crater and the Descent Perilous Ride 
back to Amecameca 487 

CHAPTER XXIV. 

THE NEVADO AND VOLCAN DE COLIMA. 

The Mexican Volcanoes The recent Eruptions The Town 
of Zapotlan Camping on the Nevado Altitudinal 
Changes of the Fauna and Flora The " Escorpion " A 
Newt and its Distribution Woodpeckers The Lake of 
Zapotlan Goodbye, Perfecto 500 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

PAGE 

Frontispiece Tlapaneca. 

Sketch-map of Southern Mexico . . . . . . . . to face 1 

Sketch-map of the Valley of Mexico . . . . . . . . 2 

The " Chinampas," or Floating Gardens, of Lake Xochimilco . . 6 

Axolotl and Amblystoma . . . . . . . . . . 10 

Terra-cotta Masks from Teotihuacan and Monte Alban. . 18 

Black Earthenware Vase from Teotihuacan . . . . 19 

Hieroglyph Xochimilco . . . . . . . . . . 19 

Modern Pottery I. 20 

Profile from Mexico City to Vera Cruz . . . . . . 22 

Sand, Sun, and Children 23 

A Vendor of Pulque Jugs . . . . . . . . . . 26 

Old Mission Church near Orizaba . . . . . . . . 31 

Hieroglyph Orizaba . . . . . . . . . . 40 

Citlaltepetl from near Orizaba . . . . . . . . 42 

Yuccas (Liriodendron) near La Perla . . . . . . 43 

The Camp near Xometla . . . . . . . . . . 45 

A House at Xometla . . . . . . . . . . 48 

Armadillo trotting. Its imprint. The Hieroglyph . . 52 

Evening Callers . . . . . . . . . . . . 56 

Breaking Camp . . . . . . . . . . . . 58 

Our Second Camp at 12,500 feet 60 

South-east view of the " Volcan " . . . . . . . . 61 

Citlaltepetl at the Tree-line, 13,600 feet , . . 64 

Citlaltepetl at 12,500 feet 66 

The Guides near the top of Citlaltepetl, 18,200 feet . . . . 71 

Sketch-map of Route from Cordoba to Huile . . . . 74 

Church of Cordoba 79 

The Herpetologists of Motzorongo . . . . . . 81 

View from Motzorongo ; Citlaltepetl in the distance . . 84 

Mazateca Woman . . . . . . . . . . . . 86 

A Mazateca House Type I. . . . . . . . . 87 

Starting from Josefines . . . . . . . . . . 89 

Embroidered " Huipiles " . . . . . . . . . . . . 90 

View from La Raya .. .. .. .. .. .. ..91 

A Mazateca House Type II. . . . . . . . . . . 100 

Tropical Forest . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 104 

Mateo Trujillo and Family. . . . . . . . . . . . 115 

The Tetela River 120 

The first Iguana 126 



xiv. ILLUSTRATIONS 

PAGE 

Juanita . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 134 

San Juan Evangelista . . . . . . . . . . . . 137 

Machetes and Knives . . . . . . . . . . . . 147 

Painted Gourds and Baskets from Tehuantepec . . . . . . 151 

Modern Pottery II. 153 

Hieroglyph Tehuantepec . . . . . . . . . . . . 157 

The Isthmus and Bay of Tehuantepec . . . . . . . . 159 

Travelling by Ox-cart . . . . . . . . . . . . 160 

Market Place of San Mateo del Mar . . . . . . . . 161 

The Zapotec Schoolmaster and the Presidente Municipal . . 164 
Stockaded Entrance . . . . . . . . . . . . 170 

President and his Family, San Mateo . . . . . . . . 171 

The Alcalde and his Family, San Mateo . . . . . . . . 172 

Hieroglyph Huilo tepee . . . . . . . . . . . . 174 

The Pacific Coast West of Salina Cruz . . . . . . . . 184 

Sketch-map of Route from Tehuantepec to Oaxaca . . . . 188 

Our Protector 190 

The " Crested Beauty " (Calocitta formosa) . . . . . . 191 

Bell Tower, Tequesixtlan . . . . . . . . . . . . 196 

The Use of a Vibrating Tail 198 

Evolution of the Rattle 199 

Anableps dowei, the Four-eyed Fish . . . . . . . . 204 

View from the Curato, Tequesixtlan . . . . . . . . 206 

Nests of Mexican Oriole . . . . . . . . . . . . 207 

Tongue of a Long-billed Humming-bird . . . . . . . . 210 

Ancient and Modern Idols and Ancient Pottery. . . . . . 215 

Small-pox Deserted House . . . . . . . . . . 225 

Organ Cactus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 229 

Vegetation in the Southern Sierra . . . . . . . . 231 

Idol in the shape of a Flower Vase . . . . . . . . . . 235 

Typical House of the Zapoteca Serrano . . . . . . . . 238 

The Starving Family 240 

Pedlars 241 

Zapoteca parading for the Plume Dance . . . . . . . . 248 

Zapoteca Plume Dancer . . . . . . . . . . . . 249 

" Musica de la Danza de Pluma " . . . . . . . . . . 251 

Mixe Tramps 260 

Zapoteca Cage Seller . . . . . . . . . . . . 262 

Abraham Castellanos . . . . . . . . . . . . 266 

Hieroglyph Mitla . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 271 

Cuernavaca . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 274 

Cuernavaca . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 275 

Beauty and the Beast . . . . . . . . . . . . 276 

Two Female Idols from Tepoztlan . . . . . . . . 277 

Terra-cotta Image of a Spanish Soldier ... . . . . . . 277 



ILLUSTRATIONS xv. 

I'AGE 

The Xochicalco Pyramid . . . . . . . . . . . . 281 

The Xochicalco Pyramid 282 

Hieroglyph Cuernavaca . . . . . . . . . . . . 284 

" El Animal Planta " 287 

Distribution of principal Nations before 1000 A.D. . . . . 296 
Distribution of principal Nations after 1300 A.D. . . . . 297 

A Modern Aztec Boy 320 

Young Lady and Maid Shopping at Iguala . . . . . . 323 

Ferry across the Cocula River . . . . . . . . . . 325 

Our House at Balsas (south entrance) . . . . . . . . 326 

Our House at Balsas . . . . . . . . . . . . 327 

A Fisherman at Balsas . . . . . . . . . . . . 329 

Chirotes canaliculatus . . . . . . . . . . . . 330 

Balsas 332 

Market at Balsas 335 

Rurales . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 338 

Ramon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 343 

Leaving Camp at Vistola . . . . . . . . . . . . 345 

Typical Village Scenery . . . . . . . . . . . . 347 

Boys filling Gourds with Water . . . . . . . . . . 352 

Zamba of Mesquititlan . . . . . . . . . . . . 357 

Rain-water Pipes for the Palace . . . . . . . . . . 360 

Fruit Market at Chilpancingo 362 

Hieroglyph Mizquitlan . . . . . . . . . . ... 365 

Pines, Palms, and Oak . . . . . . . . . . . . 368 

The Chalet and our Escort 370 

The Hunter and his Family Omilteme . . . . . . . . 371 

Young Mexican Deer . . . . . . . . . . . . 373 

Antlers of South Mexican Deer . . . . . . . . . . 375 

The Postman 378 

Under the Amate Tree 386 

Looking South from Los Cajones . . . . . . . . . . 392 

Pearl Embroidery South Guerrero . . . . . . . . 395 

Natives of Tierra Colorada . . . . . . . . . . . . 398 

A Tortillera with her Implements . . . . . . . . . . 399 

Rio Papagayo, near Omitlan . . . . . . . . . . 401 

The Church of Pochote 403 

Sierra Madre . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 405 

Slab of Stone near Texonapan . . . . . . . . . . 406 

Hieroglyph Mazatlan . . . . . . . . . . . . 407 

A Deputy Mayor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 411 

In Prison 412 

The Tiger Dancers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 414 

The Tiger Dancers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 415 

The Dance of the Masked Gachupinos . . . . . . . . 417 






xvi. ILLUSTRATIONS 

PAGE 

The Dance of the Masked Gachupinos . . . . . . . . 418 

Rio Nexpa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 419 

The Guide 424 

Native and Zambo Boys at Cocoyule . . . . . . . . 427 

Women of Cocoyule . . . . . . . . . . . . 428 

Boys of Cocoyule . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 430 

Hieroglyph Ayutla . . . . . . . . . . . . 431 

View from " Pacific Camp " 433 

The Lagoon 437 

Dentition of the Vampire (Desmodus rufus) . . . . . . 443 

Inundated Forest . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 447 

Crossing the River Chilcahuite . . . . . . . . . . 448 

Market at San Luis Allende . . . . . . . . . . 450 

Embroidered " Huipiles " 452 

Claudio Garcia and Family . . . . . . . . . . 454 

Tlapaneca Village . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 455 

Heavenly Camp . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 458 

River near Coacoyulichan . . . . . . . . . . . . 460 

Vine Bridge near Coacoyulichan . . . . . . . . . . 461 

Leather Dancing Dress, Wooden Masks, etc. . . . . . . 463 

Tlapaneca and Zambo Children . . . . . . . . . . 467 

Mixe with Amulet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 475 

Looking South from Los Cajones Ridge . . . . . . . . 476 

Hieroglyph Zumpango . . . . . . . . . . . . 479 

Venta Vieja 480 

Tail Feathers of Motmots 482 

Camp near Mescala . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 484 

A hot Ride 485 

Tortillas 486 

Reality and Fancy : The two extinct Volcanoes, Iztaccihuatl 

and Popocatepetl, as seen from Mexico City . . . . 488 
Iztaccihuatl and Popocatepetl, as seen from Cuernavaca . . 489 
Popocatepetl from Las Tlamacas . . . . . . . . . . 492 

The Lava-Sand Fields .493 

Western Third of the Crater . . . . 495 

Iztaccihuatl, as seen from Popocatepetl . . . . . . . . 496 

On the Top 498 

Colima in Eruption . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 501 

Zopilotes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 504 

Hieroglyph Zapotlan . . . . . . . . . . . . 506 

Vegetation at 9,500 feet (Nevado) 508 

The Nevado seen from 11,000 feet level . . . . . . . . 510 

The Hunters of the " Escorpion " 512 

Four-in-hand Ox-cart .. .. .. .. .. ..517 

The last of the Nevado 518 



it 

1 CHAPTER I. 



THE VALLEY OF MEXICO. 

Situation of the Capital Former Inundations from the Lakes The Floating 

Gardens of Xochimilco The Axolotl : its peculiar Life History ; zoological 

controversies and new explanation of its non-metamorphosis -The Pyramids 

of the Sun and Moon at Teotihuacan. 

The broad plain called " El Valle de Mexico," in which the 
capital lies, is the bed of an old lake, surrounded by hills of late 
volcanic formation. Here and there arises out of the valley, 
which measures some twenty miles or more across, a solitary 
knoll like that of Chapultepec (the " Grasshopper Hill "), the 
reputed summer retreat of Montezuma. The beautiful palace 
erected on its top by Spanish viceroys is now the official 
residence of the President and the seat of the National Military 
Academy. Most of the valley is absolutely flat, with swampy 
marshes and meadows intersected by innumerable ditches, 
except where, on slightly rising ground, the volcanic rock, 
often in the form of lava, appears on the surface. Dozens of 
rivulets, and even streams, drain into this valley, which has 
no natural outlet ; especially numerous, and for the most part 
permanent, are the streams which come from the well- wooded 
heights of the Sierra de Ajusco and the Montes de las Cruzes. 
to the south and west of the valley. We must not forget that 
we are here on a highland plateau, the city lying at an altitude 
of 7,400 feet above the level of the sea, whilst the Sierra de 
Ajusco rises to more than 10,000 feet. 

Some four miles to the east of the capital lies the large lake 
of Texcoco, and more than double this distance towards the 
south-east are the lakes of Xochimilco and Chalco. These 



2 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

three lakes and several others to the north on higher ground- 
are the last remnants of the original large lake. How long 
ago that was, it is impossible to tell, history dating back 
scarcely four hundred years in Mexico, but even at the time of 




THE VALLEY OF MEXICO. 

the Conquest at least, Lake Texcoco was much larger than 
it is now. Its water is brackish, and it was already even then 
quite undrinkable, when it extended to and even surrounded 
the city. It is known that the Aztecs had constructed a cause- 
way by which they not only communicated with the dry land, 
but also shut off the brackish from the fresh water which came 



FORMER INUNDATIONS 3 

down from the hills to the west. Cortez attacked the old 
Tenoehtitlan by water, in brigantines, and the whole town was 
intersected by canals. In fact, it must have been a kind of 
Venice on a smaller scale : in less poetical language, a lake- 
dwelling settlement. 

Its present condition is widely different. The whole of 
Tenoehtitlan this was the name of the famous Aztec capital 
with its Teocallis and numerous other temples and 
monuments, was completely destroyed, being levelled to the 
ground, or rather thrown into the canals, and thus forming 
the foundations upon which, by degrees, an entirely new city, 
the present Mexico, has arisen. 

It was an act of vainglorious folly, almost amounting to 
insanity, for the Spaniards to rebuild the town destined for 
their capital upon a spot so liable to inundations, that even the 
Aztecs had made attempts to mend matters. Each of the 
six lakes is fed by streams which, during heavy rains, are con- 
verted into torrents, so that the northern lakes at least are 
sure to overflow and discharge their waters into the Texcoco 
Lake, which lies, together with the city, at the bottom of the 
whole valley. If it is true, as has been asserted, that the 
Spaniards, in their usual ruthless way, stripped the then 
existing forests from the slopes of the hills, the danger of 
sudden inundations was thereby vastly increased. 

Disastrous floods repeatedly submerged the new capital, 
sometimes for years, since there was no natural outlet from 
the valley, and the loss by evaporation during the dry season 
was more than balanced by the next wet season's downpour. 
Then for about 150 years hundreds of thousands of natives 
were forced to toil in carrying out the plans of one Martinez, 
a Dutch engineer, originally named Maartens, who had been 
attracted to Mexico by fabulous sums from the classical land 
of canals and dykes. This is the origin of the famous " Tajo," 
or cutting, of Nochistongo, a gigantic ditch, now mostly dry, 
which is sure to attract the traveller's attention as he rushes 
past it in the train coming from the north. It intercepted 
at least the waters of the north-western streams, and of the 
Zumpango Lake as well. Henceforth the capital was secure 

B 2 



4 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

against submersion, but another danger, permanent and much 
more subtle, remained, viz., the unhealthiness of the ground 
itself, sodden as it was with the filth of half a thousand years. 
The contents of the usual mediaeval sewers were collected 
by the canal of San Lazaro, an ominous and, as it proved, 
appropriate name. Theoretically, it discharged into the 
Texcoco Lake more than three miles off ; but it always was, 
and its remains still are, a pestilential ditch, and whenever the 
water in the lake rose a few feet, the whole of the sewage system 
was reversed, and the people died at a rate which, but for the 
great altitude 'of the town, would have been terrific. 

All this has been changed. In the year 1900 the President, 
General Porfirio Diaz, inaugurated the tunnel of the gigantic 
works, which now furnish a reasonable sewage system, the 
sewage being taken up by a new canal 43 miles long, so 
constructed that it carries off the overflow of the Texcoco 
and the northern lakes, together with the intercepted spate- 
water of the streams. Near Zumpango, due north of the 
capital, this canal turns into a tunnel more than six miles in 
length, which at one spot descends through the hills at a depth 
of more than 300 feet below the surface, to discharge its 
contents near the little village of Tequixquiac into a small 
tributary of the Rio Panuco, which falls into the Gulf of Mexico 
at Tampico. 

A great city of about 400,000 inhabitants, built up on sands 
and clays, and raised but a few feet above swamps sodden 
with decaying matter, cannot easily become a very healthy 
place. The water supply is ample, but the water itself is 
vile, and is pumped into high but exposed iron cisterns, 
coming out warm and often turbid. The climate is, up to a 
certain point, delightful, but there is no such thing as a warm 
night known in Mexico City ; the air gets very chilly with the 
setting sun, and the rarefied atmosphere does not suit every 
constitution. 

The nearest shores of Lake Texcoco are now several miles 
away to the east of the town. Where these shores are it is 
impossible to say exactly. The present mean level of the lake 
is only about six feet below the lowest part of the town. The 



THE LAKES 5 

lake has, during the last few centuries, been silting up fast. 
It is shallow, and nowhere bordered by higher ground, so that 
a rise of but a few feet suffices for the lake to spread over many 
square miles of the neighbourhood, which, during the dry season, 
is partly covered with a white saline crust, interspersed with 
scanty grass, on which cattle and horses eke out a precarious 
existence. The lake is not quite dead ; it contains several 
kinds of tiny fish, only one of them of any commercial value. 
According to Dr. S. E. Meek,* who has studied the freshwater 
fishes of the country, in the whole of the Mexico valley only 
ten kinds of fish occur, and five kinds of these are peculiar to 
this valley, while the others occur also in the basin of the Rio 
Lerma, which flows through Lake Chapala and then as the 
Rio Grande, or Santiago, through Jalisco into the Pacific 
Ocean. This distribution of the fish fauna alone is sufficient 
evidence that originally the valley of Mexico formed part of 
the Lerma system, from which it has been shut off by the 
subsequent elevation of the present hills. Moreover, that 
this event has not taken place very recently is indicated by 
the fact that about five of the Mexico valley fish are peculiar 
to this valley ; in other words, some of the original stock had 
time and opportunity to change into these species. 

While Lake Texcoco is a dreary waste of water, only en- 
livened in the autumn by numerous waterfowl, Lakes Chalco 
and Xochimilco present a very different appearance. They 
are situated, perhaps, ten feet higher than the Texcoco Lake, 
and from the intervening five or six miles of land arise two 
picturesque hills. Both lakes contain fresh water, and they are 
surrounded by fertile meadows. The Chalco Lake was rich in 
fish, and also contained many tortoises (Cinosternum hirtipes), 
which are brought daily to the market in the capital. Un- 
fortunately, this lake has been cut in two by a railway which 
passes right across it, and it has moreover been nearly drained 
off for agricultural purposes. This " improvement " put the 
fishing population into a state of indignant excitement, since 
they had originally been given to understand that their ancient 

* S. E. Meek, " The Freshwater Fishes of Mexico North of the Isthmus of 
Tehuantepec." Field Columbian Museum, Chicago, 1904. 



6 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



rights should not be interfered with. They knew perfectly 
well that none of themselves, since they had been fishermen 
from time immemorial, and breeders of cattle for the last 
three hundred years, would take to ploughing the newly 
reclaimed land, and that the benefits of the change would after 
all be reaped by strangers. Of what good would be their fishing 
rights when there was no longer any lake, or only a much 




THE " CHEST AMPAS," OR FLOATING GARDENS, OF LAKE XOCHIMILCO 

restricted area, to fish in ? Such instances are not uncommon, 
and they teach the Indians to look with sullen suspicion upon 
every new enterprise. 

The two lakes are separated from each other by a narrow 
natural ridge, almost like a dyke or causeway, which was used 
by Cortez on his march from the south to Texcoco. Lake 
Xochimilco. which means in Aztec " flower-field," is an earthly 
paradise. Towards the south the mountains slope down, 



FLOATING GARDENS 7 

here and there with small detached outlying foothills in the 
midst of fertile pastures with shrubs and trees, little streams, 
rocks and ravines. The northern side has, properly speaking, 
no boundaries, since it changes gradually into a swamp with 
tall rushes, reeds and willows, and agaves growing close by on 
the drier sandy patches. The ancient Viga canal leads through 
this mixture of swamps, waste lands and meadows, and fields 
of maize, maguey and chili, or capsicum, extend right into 
the southern-most Indian part of the capital, the waterway 
being enlivened every morning with dug-outs and other 
primitive craft, laden with garden produce and punted along 
by natives, most of whom come from the village of Xochi- 
milco, and who, although living so near the capital, have 
continued to practise, sub rosa, and therefore all the more 
tenaciously, many of their ancient rites and customs. 

A visit to this marvellous place is easily accomplished. 
An electric tram starts from the centre of the capital for Tlal- 
pam, but it is better to alight at the previous station of 
Huipulco, whence an interesting (though sandy) walk of two 
hours takes one to the village. Unless there are clouds, as 
there usually are in the rainy season, the snow-clad giants, 
Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl, right in front, make a picture 
not easily equalled. The natives are accustomed to visitors, 
and are eager to take them for a boating tour along the ditches 
that run through the village, and then into the lake, which has, 
however, comparatively small stretches of open water, half its 
surface, perhaps more, being taken up by the celebrated 
" chinampas," or so-called " floating gardens," which consist of 
hundreds of large and small islands, separated by ever so many 
wide or narrow canals. The term " floating gardens " has 
been objected to by some prosaic people, because the 
islands do not float, and it cannot be proved that they ever 
did. The fact is that new islets may still be watched in the 
process of formation ; floating masses of peat, rushes, and grass, 
all tangled together, which sometimes form clumps of only a 
few square yards, are caught, combined and anchored by means 
of stakes or long willow and poplar saplings, which are driven 
into the muddy bottom, where they soon take root. The 



8 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

fertile mud is then ladled up from the bottom, and heaped up 
upon the floating mass, which in course of time is thus con- 
verted into an island proper, a patch of garden land being 
eventually produced on which are cultivated masses of flowers, 
melons, pumpkins, gourds, and other kinds of vegetables. 
The larger islands, some of them several acres in size, are 
mostly surrounded by tall poplars planted in rows along the 
edges, the trees thus forming a firm boundary. Undue shade 
is avoided by lopping off the side branches. None of these 
"chinampas" rise more than a foot or two above the water-level, 
and some of them are firm enough to support houses ; whether 
they were born islands, or are artificial, is immaterial suffice 
it to say that many of these gardens are still as unsteady as 
a bog, especially the newly- annexed portions. The property 
laws, concerning boundaries, are intricate ; for instance, 
whatever a man catches and annexes is his, but he must not on 
that account obstruct the existing waterways which, thanks 
to the continual dredging or rather ladling up of the mud, 
and dragging for water weeds, are kept in a tidy condition. 
Only the wider open stretches are covered with masses of 
nymphseas, or with the mauve-blooming pistacias, which float 
in the water, buoyed up by their peculiar swollen leaves. The 
depth of the water averages, perhaps, from five to ten feet. 

The lake is only fed by a few streams, but at various places 
clear water wells up from the bottom, especially at the famous 
" ojos de agua," or springs near the southern end, which are 
very deep, and yet so clear that the inevitable traces, in the 
shape of broken bottles, left by the " tourist fiend " can be 
seen at the bottom. The further away we go from these 
powerful springs, the muddier and darker appears the water, 
which is full of decomposing vegetable matter and teeming 
with fish, the larvae of insects, worms, and the famous axolotl. 
This name, pronounced aholotl or ajolotl or ajolotes (with the 
Spanish plural), was given by the Aztecs to a large newt, about 
eight inches in length, which was, and still is, brought daily 
to the market in the capital. This black, fish-like creature 
superficially resembles a loach, but has three pairs of delicate 
much-branched external gills, four limbs, and a long tail 



AN IMPORTANT QUESTION 9 

with a broad dorsal and ventral fin. It is eaten either fried 
in oil or simply seasoned with vinegar and chili, the red 
capsicum pepper. 

THE AXOLOTL. 

The point of interest to the zoologists who named the 
axolotl* Siren pisciforme, or Siredon Gyrinus mexicanus, 
consisted in the fact that this creature always retained its gills, 
and therefore had to be classed with other perennibranchiate 
amphibians, such as the North American Siren, the " mud-eel," 
Necturus, the " water-dog," and the Proteus of the caves of 
Adelsberg, in Istria. Cuvier, however, suspected that the 
axolotl was but the larva of some otherwise unknown 
terrestrial newt. The mystery was not cleared up until, in the 
year 1865, something happened which threw the zoological 
fraternity into great excitement, and made the axolotl, together 
with the lakes of Mexico, famous. The whole history is of such 
general biological importance, and so interesting in detail, 
that it may be thought worth re- telling, in spite of, or rather 
perhaps because of, the many, mostly garbled, accounts already 
existing. 

The first living axolotls, several dozen in number, which 
ever left Mexico, were brought to France late in the year of 
1863 by Marshal Forey on his return from the first French 
expeditionary muddle in Mexico. Five males and one female 
were then kept in the Jardin des Plantes, where they spawned 
in the same winter, and a large number of young were reared. 
From this fact it was naturally concluded that the Siredon 
having bred in its gilled condition, was not the larva of some- 
thing else, but, so to speak, the representative of a genus in 
its own rights. A year later this second generation, born in 
Paris, propagated, and the offspring developed, as before, 
into typical axolotl. But, lo and behold ! it was observed that 
several of these young ones gradually developed yellow spots 
on their hitherto dark skin, and lost the fin or crest of the tail, 

* The most reasonable of the various attempted derivations of the name 
is that from a = water ; joloa, to sprout, diverge, change ; tl, article ; the chang- 
ing water-creature, i.e., larva, tadpole. " Hue-xolotl " (hue = old) is the name 
of the male turkey. 



10 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



whilst their bunches of gills shrivelled up, and they then left 
the water and lived the life of terrestrial newts. The axolotl 
had, in fact, metamorphosed themselves into a kind of lung- 
breathing land newt, which was already known as the 
Amblystoma tigrinum from many other parts of North 
America.* 

A considerable literature has grown up around the axolotl, 
all written by men who have never been in Mexico, with the 
exception of De Saussure and a Mexican zoologist, who had 





Upper figure AXOLOTL. Lower figure AMBLYSTOMA. 

recently settled the whole question in a novel and startling 
way, viz., that in the lake they are unable to transform 
themselves for want of food ! Fancy the idea that the over- 
crowding of the lake, which is teeming with food, should at 
one and the same time cause them to suffer from want of food 
and also produce these big, fat, oily axolotl ! 

Naturally, we were all the more eager to examine not only 
the lakes but also the whole neighbourhood, with especial 
reference to these strange creatures. The first discovery we 

* Good illustrations of the accompanying changes of the skull are given 
by Wiedersheim, "Zeitschrift f. wiss. Zoologie," XXXII., Pis. 11 and 12. 



THE AXOLOTL 11 

made was that there are no axolotl whatever in Lake Texcoco 
to which alone Weismann's dismal and fanciful explanation 
could apply, that the newts could not leave the lakes 
on account of their salt-encrusted shores, and therefore were 
obliged to remain in their gilled condition. 

The description of the lake of Xochimilco, given above, 
will be sufficient to show that it is a very paradise for these 
creatures, with its abundance of fresh water and food, and 
without anything in the way of natural obstacles which could 
prevent them from leaving the lake. The fishermen who 
punted us about in dug-outs knew all about the axolotl : how 
they bred early in the spring, about February ; how their eggs 
were fastened singly to the water-plants ; how soon afterwards 
the little larvae swarmed about in thousands like other tadpoles ; 
how they grew at a great rate, always remaining dark and never 
becoming piebald or marbled over with yellow, until by the 
month of June they were all grown-up, ready for the market. 
Indeed, we could not get any small specimens in June. Later 
in the summer they take to the rushes, and in the autumn 
they seem to become scarcer, at least they are then more 
difficult to get. Sometimes they are caught in nets, more 
frequently they are speared with a pronged fork. Although 
we often went to the market in the capital, there were rarely 
more than a few dozen for sale, whilst in the market in 
Xochimilco also they were only brought in a few at a time. 
None have ever been known to leave the lake or to 
metamorphose. 

The reason why this particular clan of axolotl does not 
change is now obvious. The unfailing abundance of food 
and water, the innumerable hiding-places for them in the mud, 
under the banks, and amongst the reeds, all these features are 
attractions so great that the creatures remain in their paradise, 
and consequently retain all those larval characters which are 
not directly connected with propagation. There is nothing 
whatever to prevent them from leaving this lake and 
becoming land newts, but there is also nothing to induce them 
to do so. 

So far, so good. We all agree that permanent life in the 



12 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

water has caused the retention of the gills of what would be 
the Amblystoma tigrinum. But within a few miles of this 
famous lake, in the very mountain streams which come down 
from the Sierra de Ajusco into the valley of Mexico, lives 
another kind of axolotl which regularly passes through its 
larval stage and then remains in the water as a lung-breather, 
a typical Amblystoma without gills. This is Amblystoma 
altamirani, described in 1896 by Dr. Duges,* now an aged 
French gentleman living in Guanajuato, who has contributed 
many valuable notes to the natural history of his adopted 
country. 

Accompanied by two young zoologists we went by the 
Mexican National Railway to the station of Dos Rios, 8,800 
feet above sea level, and soon fished out of the little streams 
several dozen larvae and adults. On another occasion, in the 
month of September, w r e took the Cuernavaca Railway to the 
station of Contreras, situated at an altitude of 8,090 feet, at 
the foot of the Sierra de Ajusco. The creatures lived in the 
cool, rushing streams, preferring the sheltered side of large 
boulders with little patches of sand, the larvae working their 
gills vigorously, the adult motionless and never coming to the 
surface. All were extremely shy, and very swift of movement, 
skimming along the bottom and seeking shelter at the slightest 
alarm in dark places between the boulders. The native millers 
knew them well. They called them " axolotes sordos," 
" deaf," having no ears or rather no gill openings, and described 
them as " axolotes sin aletas," without winglets, or earrings, 
meaning gills. 

When I searched for them on land, in the meadows and 
under stones or trees, the people laughed at my ignorance in 
expecting to find " fishes " on dry land. There are no fishes 
in these streams, but this, their fish, they pronounced to be 
" no good," because these " axolotes del cerro " mountain 
axolotl are not eaten like the " axolotes del lago." 

We tried to bring specimens of both kinds home alive, but 
only three survived the perils of the journey. As it is strictly 
forbidden to take anything alive into the Pullman cars, I put 

* " La Naturaleza," 2nd Series, torn. III. Mexico, 1896. 



A DISASTROUS JOURNEY 13 

various baskets, cages and vessels, into the next passenger car 
which happened to be empty, but overnight a gang of navvies 
broke in, cleared out the whole of a travelling fruit-stall, 
and rummaged my things into the bargain ; not finding any 
edibles, they drank off the spirit from some of the bottles, 
and, finding an unexpected sediment of preserved specimens in 
them, their wrath was roused, and they smashed and scattered 
the rest. This, at least, was the explanation given by the con- 
ductor. On the last journey home our livestock was, by kind 
permission, carried in the van of the Wells' Fargo Co., and all 
would have gone well if the four days' journey to Chicago had 
not been converted into a sojourn of eleven days in the train, 
owing to the most appalling series of " wash-outs " and col- 
lapsed bridges. These delays began in North Mexico, and 
reached a climax in New Mexico and Colorado, so that on 
the seventh day we found ourselves once more at El Paso ; 
then they dogged our progress all along the diverted route 
through Texas, Indian Territory, and Kansas. The effect on 
our poor reptiles, amphibians, and birds can be imagined.* 

* The following note contains a further, more technical, discussion of this 
important axolotl question : 

The classical specimens, metamorphosed into Amblystomas, also bred 
occasionally after some years. The other axolotls continued to breed and to 
produce axolotls by thousands, and with these and their descendants numerous 
aquaria on the Continent and in England were stocked, so that they could be 
bought for a few pence each in the year 1879. In the following years some- 
thing went wrong ; they were attacked by fungoid growths, whole colonies 
died out, or became sickly, and now a healthy breeding pair is comparatively 
difficult to get. It is possible that the undoubted deterioration was due to 
incessant in-and-in breeding, no fresh specimens having reached Europe again. 
This extraordinary behaviour of the axolotls caused much excitement, 
and they were subject to many careful experiments, and to comparison with 
other newts. There are many kinds of Amblystomas in North America. They 
behave like the vast majority of terrestrial newts, that is to say, they spawn in 
the water ; the gilled larvae are gradually transformed into gill-less, entirely 
lung-breathing, creatures. But numerous cases have become known in which, 
for some reason or other, this transformation is retarded, sometimes for so long 
that the creatures reach sexual maturity, but retain those larval characters 
which fit them for aquatic life. Such phenomena are described by the term 
neoteny, i.e., retention of juvenile characters. In many cases the changing 
of tadpoles, or of newt-larvae, can be delayed simply by preventing them from 
leaving the water. Amblystoma tigrinum, the species of which our axolotl 
is the larva, metamorphoses regularly, from New York to California and to 
Central Mexico,' so that the behaviour of the specimens in Lake Xochimilco 

1 Even in the lakes to the north of the capital, described bv Jose M. Velasco, "Naturaleza," 
om. IV., pp. 209-233 ; with three plates. Mexico, 1879. 



14 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

Those who do not care about axolotls or the sweet scenery 
or the floating gardens of Xochimilco, and prefer antiquity, 
should not fail to pay a visit to Teotihuacan, where amongst 
the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon they will have plenty 
of food for reflection. The excursion can easily be made within 
a day by the Mexican Railway, the train leaving at 7 a.m. 
and returning to the capital about the same hour in the 
evening, the distance being only twenty-seven miles. From 
the train the pyramids do not look very imposing, but rather 
like big mounds of earth. Less than an hour's walk from the 
station, through the miserable village, inhabited by poor but 
friendly Indian agriculturalists, takes us to the spot. Teotihuacan, 
the Aztec name, means " where many gods are," the Pantheon, 
but the Aztecs do not seem to have had the faintest idea w r ho 
had built the place, this having, at the time of their arrival 
in the Valley of Mexico, about the year 1000 A.D., already been 

is all the more exceptional. However, these are no longer unique, since 
sexually ripe specimens, ready for breeding purposes, and yet typical axolotls, 
have been found in the States of Colorado and of Jalisco. The question 
would have been solved long ago if a competent zoologist had studied it in 
this particular spot. But De Saussure seems to have been the only naturalist 
who went there in or about 1867. He suggested that the swamps which extend 
between the water and the dry land prevented the creatures from gaining the 
latter, and therefore from transforming. This is wrong, since thick rush- 
swamps fill the northern end of the lake alone, whilst there are thousands of 
inviting places for newts to leave, if they should want to do so. Then A. 
Weismann 1 evolved another explanation. According to him, the specimens 
in the Mexican lakes were prevented from becoming perfect Amblystomas 
because they could not cross the saline, uninhabitable crust now covering, in 
his own imagination, the shores of these lakes, as they have more and more 
receded since the devastation of the forests that once surrounded them. He 
went further, and, by the use of his weU.-known dialectic power, has succeeded 
in spreading the notion that the axolotl is not only a case of reversion to an 
ancestral stage, but that the present Amblystoma, instead of being the pro- 
gressive, perfect, final form, is likewise a case of reversion. He started with 
the wrong assumption that the true perennibranchiate newts represent the 
true ancestral stage of all amphibia. The next stage would be the lung- 
breathing terrestrial newts, such as Amblystoma ; hence, if its young, owing 
to adverse circumstances, " revert " to the ancestral perennibranchiate 
stage, and if some of the axolotls lose their gills and fins, they " revert " thereby 
to the original Amblystoma. A reversion from a reversion ! Surely a round- 
about way of explaining the curious, but after all fairly simple, process of 
neoteny ! 

It seemed the obvious thing to do to search for a cause which might be 
reasonably expected to prevent these amphibians from leaving their nurseries 
Here the various writers have been strangely unsuccessful. De Saussure's 
explanation is inadmissible, and that of Weismann could apply only to Lake 

i " Zeitschrift f. wiss. Zoologie," XXV., (1875), p. 297-334. 



PYRAMIDS OF SUN AND MOON 15 

deserted by a prehistoric race, the so-called Toltecs. Crossing 
the plain there is a little river. Near its southern bank stands 
the so-called citadel, a square formed by an enormously thick 
wall of earth which carries fourteen small mounds upon it 
and encloses another in the centre, with traces of buildings. 
From the northern bank of the brook leads, in an absolutely 
straight line, in a direction north by north-east, the " road of 
the dead," nearly a mile in length and 250 feet wide. It ends 
near the Pyramid of the Moon. The Pyramid of the Sun stands 
about half-way, a little to the east of the road, and is much 
larger, being more than 200 feet high. Both consist of huge 
mounds of earth, terraced and faced with hard smoothed mortar ; 
but most of the outside has crumbled away, or rather, has in 
time become covered with dust and debris, so that the general 
appearance of these structures is now that of huge mounds 
covered with grass, herbs, and scattered shrubs. The Pyramid 

Texcoco, in which however the axolotl does not live, and the various statements 
that specimens have come from that lake are erroneous. They have been 
bought at the market of Mexico City, where the only answer one gets from the 
vendors, natives of Xochimilco, as to their origin, is " del lago," which means 
of course " their lake," but not the lake of Texcoco, which is visible from the 
city. 

Herrera's' notion that they cannot change owing to want of a proper food 
supply is not only groundless but directly opposed to recent experiments 
conducted by Dr. J. H. Powers 2 at Doane College, Nebraska. He found that 
ordinary axolotls can be hurried on towards their metamorphosis by the shock 
of starvation ; the sudden withholding of food being sufficient for this purpose. 
When once sexually ripe, they are apparently incapable of changing, but that 
their ancestral habits are still latent in them, not quite forgotten, and capable of 
being revived, has been shown by the long and careful experiments conducted 
by Marie de Chauvin 3 with the descendants of the Parisian stock. In the 
natives of Xochimilco Lake the inducements to remain in the water, their 
birth-place, have been too strong for these larvae to give way to the full 
CDmpletion of their development, or rather to change those of their characters 
which had after all been acquired in the process of adaptation to aquatic larval 
life. Nothing is stunted in the development of their bodies. On the contrary, 
they become to a certain extent overgrown, and the sexual organs, which, at 
all events in most terrestrial Urodela, are active only during the temporary 
aquatic breeding-life, undergo their normal course of development and 
function. 

One of the two specimens which I succeeded in bringing home in the late 
autumn of 1902 was an apparently full-grown typical female axolotl from 
the lake. In the winter it seemed to be in a condition ready to spawn ; an 

1 " La Naturaleza," 2nd Series, toin. III. Mexico. 

" "American Naturalist," June, 1903; and " Studies from Zoolog 1 . Lab., Nebraska Univei 
sity," 1908. 

" " Zeitscbrift f. wiss. Zoologie," XXVII. (1876), p. 52iJ ff. ; and 1891. 



16 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

of the Sun has an entrance which leads into a chamber com- 
posed of cut stones. The top of this pyramid commands a 
good view of the plain, over which are scattered numerous 
small mounds and traces of buildings, indicating the former 
presence of a considerable population in this defenceless plain. 
The most interesting feature of the whole is the " road of 
the dead," which is flanked on either side throughout its length 
by ramparts composed of lava stones, cemented together 
and covered with a whitish mortar which is very hard, smoothly 
polished, and on less exposed parts still showing ornamenta- 
tion in bright colours, chiefly red and white. In and upon 
these ramparts are whole rows of small buildings, partly of 
sun-dried bricks, faced, and lined with cut lava stones and 

English-born male was therefore associated with it, but they did not show 
any inclination to breed. The male flourished, but the unique female 
began to refuse food and to become thin, and died in March, 1905, after having 
been kept two years and five months. Unfortunately, as the irony of fate 
would have it, it was at that critical time impossible for me to watch her, and 
this was all the more annoying since a post-mortem examination revealed, 
by means of the shrunken gills and fins, that she was on the road to 
metamorphosis. 

Concerning A. altamirani all that was known was that they had been found 
in the Monies de las Cruzes at a reputed altitude of 10,000 feet. They are 
very rare in collections, perhaps because nobody has taken the slightest 
trouble to collect any since Duges. The larvae which we got in the month of 
June measured some 3 in. in length, and all had a bold piebald coloration of 
black and yellow. By the following September they averaged perhaps half 
an inch more in length, otherwise they presented no appearance of change ; 
the adults were still in the water, one of them a beautiful yellowish albino. 
The larvae were not, like the adults, restricted to the clear streams, but lived 
also in quiet water which was muddy and overgrown with watercresses and 
similar plants. In the streams of Contreras we found them up to 8,800 feet ; 
further up they did not seem to occur, and we met with the same result two 
years later. One of the specimens caught at the end of September contained 
eggs that were nearly ripe. These newts go down to at least 7,900 feet, where 
this stream leaves the mountains and runs, though still swiftly, in its stony 
bed through the pedregal or lava-field, then through evergreen meadows into 
Lake Xochimilco. I can now add with certainty that this species is aquatic 
throughout its life. Curiously enough, when becoming adult, with a length 
of 6 in., it loses the yellow and black piebald coloration, which is so character- 
istic of the perfect Amblystoma tigrinum, and develops innumerable small 
blackish specks upon an olive-grey ground. It thus comes greatly to 
resemble the coloration of the lake axolotl, which is so very dark, nearly black, 
only, however, when the chromatophores are expanded ; otherwise it is grey, 
with innumerable small black dots. 

The solitary specimens of A. altamirani which reached England alive, were 
an adult, and a larva, 4 in. in length ; the latter began to metamorphose within 
eight weeks, losing the gills and fins and closing the gill-openings, but it died 
before losing the piebald coloration. 



MYSTERIOUS MASKS. 17 

mortar. There seem to have been shrines, those which have 
been opened being found to contain stone chests with human 
bones, ornaments, and earthenware. In the case of others, 
the whole of the interior is carefully packed full with blocks 
of stone, as if the rightful owners had taken out the sacred con- 
tents and then blocked up the shrines when they had to leave 
their pantheon, or mausoleum, for ever. 

All over the ploughed fields the ground is literally strewn 
with broken bits of earthenware, and little " caritas," or masks, 
which can be picked up by the dozen. These " caritas," or 
little faces, are terra-cotta masks representing the front half 
of the human head, many of them of beautiful execution and 
showing several different types, none of which, it is customary 
to say, agree with those of any tribes known to have inhabited 
the country. The object of these little masks is a mystery. 
It is supposed by some that they were fabricated in many 
thousands, and represented the dead, of whom only the great 
were buried, while others were burnt. Not all these clay faces 
were individually made by hand ; most of them were made 
from moulds, of which specimens have been found here and 
also at Mitla. Moulds of other terra-cotta objects, for instance, 
of vase-shaped idols, are still in the possession of the natives, 
although rare, and of course jealously guarded, the natives 
selling very good replicas of such idols to those who ask. After 
all, there is not much wrong about this. The moulds, the clay, 
and the locality, are the same as the originals, and the makers 
are, at all events, genuine Indians. It is different with a regular 
syndicate in the capital itself, which makes all kinds of 
antiquities and sells them as genuine, not only to tourists, but 
also to scientific institutions. Almost every other household 
in the village of Teotihuacan has handfuls of " caritas " and 
other bits of figures for sale ; but the few frauds are so obvious, 
and so clumsily made, that they are easily picked out, and no 
offence is taken. 

Many of these " caritas " have so much expression and 
individuality that one cannot help thinking that they were 
meant for likenesses. The commonest type shows a most 
peculiarly shaped head, very broad and flat on the top, with a 
















TERRA-COTTA MASKS FROM TEOTIHUACAN. 



The top Figure, middle row, is a Whistle. The bottom Figure, middle row, 
is from Monte Alban. 



CURIOUSLY SHAPED HEADS 



19 




very high forehead, whilst the face is small, neither cheek- 
bones nor nose being prominent, though the latter is broad. In 
some the eyes are very oblique, and converge towards the 
inner angle. Some of these flat-pated 
masks show straight hair dressed accord- 
ing to a certain pattern, or are crowned 
with an elaborate head - ornament. 
This same kind of headgear occurs on 
other heads, which are normal in shape, 
and this dress is found also on the clay 
figures and carvings of Monte Alban, 
near Oaxaca. The broad flat heads alone 
are peculiar, but they are reminiscent 
to a certain extent of those of the 
present Otomi. All these masks have at 

the back of the neck a stump-like pro- BLACK EARTHENWARE 
jection, or " foot," indicating that they VASE, 

were stuck into something. Besides From Teotihuacan. 
these masks other parts of figures 

are found at Teotihuacan ; some of these are sitting 
cross-legged exactly like some of the large figures carved on 
the Pyramid of Xochicalco, or, again, on the monuments of 
Yucatan and Guatemala, a strong hint that all these pre- 
historic buildings owed their origin. to one and the same race, 
and that one which had not much in common with the Aztecs, 
to whom, thoughtlessly but persistently, these and similar 
prehistoric buildings have been ascribed. However, the 
discussion of this thorny question is reserved for another 
chapter. 




HIEROGLYPH xocHiMiLCO (" In the Flower-field "). 
Xochitl = flower, milli = cultivated ground, co = in. 



c 2 




C fl 

>& 



fe p2 
1.1 



c- 5 
S & 



CHAPTER II. 

FKOM THE HIGH TABLE-LAND TO THE ATLANTIC SLOPE. 

The Scenery of the Central Plateau Agaves and Pulque The Edge of the 

Plateau ; rapid change into the Tropics Orizaba Mexican Fruits : Bananas, 

Pineapples, Aguacate, Zapote. 

The traveller who arrives in Mexico City from the north, after 
a long railway journey, say from El Paso, has an opportunity 
of seeing some 1,200 miles of the country ; and not much less 
when his route is that by Laredo, or Eagle Pass. Yet, to begin 
with, there is not much to strike him as different between New 
Mexico and the State of Chihuahua, nor would he perceive much 
change between Texas and the adjoining Mexican States, whilst 
his general impression of the 1,000 miles ride is that of a dreary, 
sandy, arid, dusty, wind-swept table-land, without any trees, 
and with brown or yellow as the prevailing tints, the landscape 
unrelieved by rivers, bordered by low ranges of mountains 
which, in the far distance, change into dark blue sierras, the 
jagged outlines of which stand out sharply against the light 
blue sky in the thin atmosphere. 

The air, owing to the considerable elevation, gradually 
rising from 3,000 to 7,000 or even 8,000 feet, would be ex- 
hilarating if it were not for the fine, gritty dust which creeps 
into and covers everything. The fierce heat of the sun, beating 
upon and reflected by the interminable plains, raises little 
eddies of sand, like a miniature storm, in the otherwise perfectly 
still air. Some of these eddies concentrate into tiny cones 
rising only a few inches, others reach the height of a yard ; 
there is a swirling, circular, gradually increasing motion, the 
sand and dry grass rush towards it from an ever-widening 



22 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

circle, and suddenly, before we are conscious of what is going on 
or how itwas done, there isadark brown cone, composed of dust, 
sand, straw, leaves, and anything that is light and portable, 
many yards high ; then the top broadens out into an inverted 
cone, and the whole " sand-spout " waltzes away, gathering 
force and substance in its maddening career across the plain. 
Then something happens to upset the equilibrium of this weird 
thing ; maybe it stumbles over an obstacle on the ground in 
the shape of a boulder or a mound, or a gully, or the 
internal strain has become too great. At all events, the 
" spout " appears to snap asunder at its waist, the bottom cone 
collapses, and the top cone lingers on high up in the air like a 



, Citlaltepeff 
> /ezoo 



M cv i r n Apizacu 

M EXI CO __^ ._ ' ~^Boca del Man te 

7400 Teotihuacan San Andres 




PROFILE FROM MEXICO CITY TO VERA CRUZ. 

dissolving cloud. Sometimes there are many dozens of such 
fantastic apparitions racing over the plain. Result : dust, 
dust, and more dust, falling many miles away from its native 
home out of an apparently clear sky, which, however, causes 
every distant object to be bathed in beautifully delicate tints 
of violet varying to red or yellow. Very artistically, though 
in the long run very annoyingly, every blade of grass, and 
every leaf is coated with a fine film of w r hitish, sandy dust, 
or perhaps with some alkaline matter, where the local depres- 
sions are the beds of former lakes. The presence of a mob of 
cattle or a large troop of horses is indicated by a cloud above 
them. The vegetation is scanty : weird-looking Yucca trees, 
with here and there small-leaved mesquite scrub, sage bushes, 
agaves and cactuses of many varieties, and fields of Indian 



A DUSTY PLAIN 23 

corn, very desolate-looking with thin stalks and withered 
leaves. 

The whole aspect changes to a great extent, so far as colour 
is concerned, when soon after the onset of the rainy season the 
ground is covered, scantily it may be, with the new grass, or 
when extensive patches of wheat and Indian corn are grown ; 
but this applies only to a short period of the year, and in many 




SAND, SUN. AND CHILDREN. 

parts of the plateau the rainy days are few. When it does 
rain it comes down in torrents, as, for instance, at Saltillo 
one August day, when there fell 5^ inches out of an annual allow- 
ance of less than 2 feet. Most of these sudden floods run to 
waste in an inconceivably short time. Every shallow depres- 
sion is turned into a lake, which empties itself without delay 
into the dry river-beds, causing the rivers to rise suddenly, 



24 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

working havoc, though by the following day they have run 
dry again. We suffered days of delay by such cloud-bursts 
on our homeward journey. 

The habitations are wretched shanties built of adobe, or 
sun-dried brick, clustering near the stations, untidy, cheerless, 
and without so much as a tree to give shade or break the 
monotony. 

This is the general impression produced by the " mesa 
central " (central plateau) on the first morning of entering the 
country ; the same in the evening, and again during the whole 
of the next day. More than a thousand miles further on there 
is still the same sandy picture. 

Let us now take train by the Mexican Railway to Vera 
Cruz. The train leaves the capital at 7 a.m. It skirts the 
dreary waste of Lake Texcoco; an hour later we catch a glimpse 
of the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon near Teotihuacan, but 
the journey is monotonous and unrelieved even by a sight of 
the snow-clad giants, Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl, to the 
southwards, since they are hidden in the clouds. The endless 
fields are under maguey cultivation, that kind of agave which 
yields the famous pulque. As far as the eye can see, there ex- 
tend rows upon rows of these grey -green plants, and as the 
train passes by them hour after hour, these rows begin slowly 
to spin round and round in the well-known delusive fashion. 
We pass the small station of Apam a significant name, 
" aapam " in Aztec meaning " waterless land," or rather, a 
terrain which is dry on the surface with moisture beneath. 
It is this shaley limestone terrain, in the vicinity of higher hills, 
which is the best for the cultivation of the maguey plant, 
and as we happen to pass through the very centre of the pulque 
district, we may as well devote a little space to that industry. 

THE AGAVE AND PULQUE. 

There are about one hundred and twenty-five species of 
the Agave, an exclusively American genus, and one of the most 
useful of plants, which, in the barren districts, supplies well- 
nigh everything required by man. The juice makes various 
kinds of drink ; from the root a starchy food is prepared ; 



A WONDERFUL PLANT 25 

the fibres are used for ropes, coarse and finely woven cloth 
even paper, on which the Aztecs and other Mexican tribes 
wrote and painted ; its huge dried leaves are used to thatch 
the miserable adobe huts ; its woody stem and roots supply 
the only available firewood ; and the rows of the plant itself 
form an impenetrable fence of barbed leaves that nothing 
can charge against. The flowering plant is a sight not easily 
forgotten, but it takes many years before it is ready for 
blossoming : fancy says one hundred years hence the name 
" century plant " given to some of the largest kinds, e.g., the 
Agave americana. Then during a single rainy season there 
grows out of the centre a stalk, or rather something resembling 
a telegraph pole, apparently leafless, but in reality furnished 
with insignificant, aborted, paper-like leaves. This stem often 
reaches a height of twenty feet, and a foot in thickness at 
the base. The upper third carries one of the greatest in- 
florescences known. About two or three dozen branches 
form a pyramid, with candelabrum-like branches, each branch 
carrying a disc composed of hundreds of yellow or orange 
flowers, which at a distance looks like a sunflower, the 
pyramid consisting of several dozen of such sunflower 
discs. When the thousands of seeds are ripe, not only the 
huge stalk, but also the whole plant, withers away and dies, 
without an exception, and without any hope of resurrection 
by means of new shoots or suckers. The Portuguese appro- 
priately call this plant the " filha mata mai," " the daughter 
which kills her mother." Therefore, if the plant is intended 
to be saved for any purpose, e.g., for hedging, it is necessary 
to cut down the rising flower-stalk without remorse. 

Various drinks are made from the agave juice. " Mescal " 
is a distilled product from the leaves and the root, colourless, 
with a bitter taste and peculiar aroma, both of which it takes 
some time to appreciate. It contains as much as 20 per cent, 
of alcohol ; the most celebrated brand is that of Tequila, 
north of Guadalajara, where a cask of 65 litros, or about 
fourteen gallons, costs 19 pesos. The national drink on the 
plateau of the tierra fria, is the famous pulque, a fermented 
product of the maguey plant, or Agave americana, which forms 



26 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



the chief industry of the States of Mexico, Tlaxcala, Puebla, 
and Hidalgo. The plants thrive best on the arid slopes of lime- 
stone hills, or on the accumulated debris of such calcareous 
formations which is apparently quite dry on the surface, but 
retaining moisture beneath. The young plants are propagated 
from suckers, never from the seeds. In their third year they 
are planted in rows in the fields, an acre holding on an average 
500 plants, so that a recently prepared field looks hopeless 
enough, resembling a quarry rather than a juice-producing 
plantation. 




A VENDOR OF PULQUE JUGS. 

Instead of a spade the labourer has a crowbar, with which 
he excavates a large hole in the ground, which is then filled 
with good soil to receive the plant, and this for many weeks 
looks more dead than alive. It takes six to eight years to 
mature, to be large enough for tapping. At the base of the 
central cluster of leaves, which are firmly closed together 
in the shape of a large pointed cone, a cavity is scooped, which 
in large plants is of the size of a man's head. In this the juice 
collects at the rate of half a gallon per week, and this process 
lasts for four or five months, when the plant is exhausted from 
the incessant loss, and injury done to its growing centre, and 



PULQUE. 27 

dies. Consequently, the average yield of a good plant may be 
put down in round figures at ten gallons. 

The " peon," or workman, has a pigskin on his back, and 
is provided with a long flask-shaped gourd, open at both ends, 
called " acojote." If the maguey is large, he climbs up into 
it, and, inserting the narrow end of the flask into the bowl, sucks 
at the other end, which is broader and furnished with a horn 
tube ; the sucked-up fluid is emptied into his bag, and this in 
turn is poured into larger bags carried by a mule. When his 
daily visit is finished, the juice is conveyed to the hacienda, 
or factory, and put into wooden tubs or vats. In the fresh 
state this juice, called " agua miel," or honey- water, is sweet, 
with a slightly bitter taste, quite transparent, with a greenish 
tinge, and is a pleasant, refreshing drink. Very soon, however, 
fermentation sets in, occasionally helped, when there is a cold 
spell, by the addition of a little " madre pulque," i.e., some 
already fermenting liquor. Within a few hours, through the 
fermentation, the sugar is converted into carbonic acid and 
alcohol, and the " agua miel," assuming a slightly milky appear- 
ance, becomes " pulque dulce," or sweet pulque, now a 
slightly intoxicating, but most pleasant, drink, although, 
owing to the gas, it causes a sharp, burning sensation to the 
lips. 

If it stopped at this stage all would be well, and pulque 
would form a drink far more famous than cider, but un- 
fortunately the fermentation proceeds so rapidly that it would 
turn the fluid into vinegar within twenty-four hours. In fact, 
" pulque dulce " cannot be exported ; it has to be drunk on 
the spot or within a radius thereof, well within a day's journey. 
The natives have set themselves to cope with this difficulty 
with unwonted energy. Now comes the disagreeable side of 
the story. To check further fermentation an equal amount of 
milk is added to the " pulque dulce," together with an in- 
fusion of rennet, just enough, or rather just not enough, to 
coagulate the milk. The amount of rennet, the state of the 
previous fermentation, the prevailing temperature, and the 
cleanliness of the operator, are highly important factors in the 
process, which requires great skill and experience. They either 



28 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

make or mar the pulque. The mixing takes place in a large vat 
or ' ; tinacal," whence the pulque is transferred into pigskins, or 
barrels, and every day special pulque trains take this nauseous 
stuff into Mexico City. Nauseous to the greatest degree 
it is, because the rennet, a well-known part of the cow's com- 
pound stomach, is partly putrid. Maybe the milk also becomes 
slightly putrefied ; at any rate it stinks horribly, worse 
than the strongest kinds of cheese. The pulque smells, the 
barrel or pigskin smells, the entire pulque-shop smells, and the 
drinkers smell sour, putrid, alcoholic. Most of the acts of 
violence committed in the capital, at Puebla, and other large 
towns, are due to the prevailing drunkenness from pulque, 
which fortunately does not keep at all in the tierra caliente, 
and is essentially a drink of the cool upland countries. It 
would be interesting to know when and by whom this milk 
pulque was invented. The old Aztecs got drunk on " pulque 
dulce," as being without cattle, horses and donkeys, they 
of course had no milk. 

The annual production of pulque amounts to something 
fabulous, and since none of it is exported except a small quantity 
in the shape of " pulque whisky," and since the drinkers are 
practically restricted to the males of the lower classes in the 
uplands, the effect may be imagined. 



We continue our journey until, by noon, Esperanza is 
reached. More than 150 miles, almost in a due easterly 
direction, have we travelled at a high level, which has varied 
but little from 7,500 to 8,000 feet, and as yet there is no change, 
no new impressions worth recording. But wait a few minutes 
longer. At Esperanza a new engine takes charge of the train ; 
it is indeed a monster, one of those double-headed locomotives 
that looks like two engines joined end to end, built especially 
for very mountainous country. Four miles further east we 
arrive at Boca del Monte, the " gape " of the mountain, still 
at an elevation of 7,924 feet, but literally upon the very verge 
of a precipice. We are now at the eastern edge of the plateau, 
and this edge happens to be one of the most sharply defined 



FROM THE PLATEAU TO THE TROPICS 29 

lines of demarcation, both with respect to the faunas and 
floras in the whole of North and South America. 

An endless panorama now stretches out before us, and we 
look towards the east across wooded mountains, hills, ravines, 
and meadows till we see in the far distance, lost in a shimmering 
haze, the lowlands of the tierra caliente the tropics. 
Within a few minutes the train descends by zigzags through 
a big ravine, amongst green patches of grass, pines and 
oaks, with tree-ferns and maidenhair, orchids and ever- 
greens in profusion ; the rivulets soon take the form of cascades, 
and the air, hitherto decidedly chilly and crisp, becomes moist 
and warm ; Indians (among them a bright-eyed girl) flock 
round the train at the station, with offerings of fruit, unknown 
flowers, and pure mountain water, instead of the nauseous 
pulque. Ten minutes later, at the next station lower down, 
we are surprised at being offered the same things by the same 
girl. It is indeed the very same bright-eyed maiden that we 
saw before, and here are squatting the very same set of Indians 
with the identical set of calabashes, baskets, and jars that we 
noticed above. They have run helter-skelter down a short 
cut whilst the train was cautiously feeling its way down by 
a long detour. We are at Maltrata, distant from Boca del 
Monte only 12| miles, but 2,670 feet lower. 

By half -past 2 p.m. we are at Orizaba, 4,000 feet below 
Esperanza, and at 4,000 feet elevation above the level of the 
sea. Orizaba is sub-tropical, of which more anon. For the 
next sixteen miles the train continues through beautiful 
mountain scenery along the Rio Blanco, which is crossed and 
recrossed by wonderful viaducts, through and over gorges, 
along precipices, through dense forest and flourishing 
plantations, till, at Cordoba, at an altitude of only 2,700 feet, 
we are unmistakably in the tropics. This fact soon becomes 
apparent from the heat, the palm-thatch of the open-built 
houses, the more thinly-clad natives, the large bouquets of 
hot-house flowers, notably fragrant gardenias and whole 
basketsful of orchids a sight to delight the heart of the most 
inveterate orchid amateur, unless it sicken him with a sense of 
hopeless envy. More than seventy different kinds of these 



30 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

flowers have been collected in this neighbourhood, the district 
round Cordoba and Orizaba being noted for the profusion and 
variety of its orchids and ferns. It is, moreover, the land 
of tree-ferns and tall palms. The same conditions prevail 
until, about another dozen miles further down, at Atoyac, the 
foot of the eastern sierra is reached, whence from an altitude 
of about 1,300 feet for the next fifty miles stretches the lowland 
belt, sloping gently down to the sea at Vera Cruz. This low- 
land belt, in about 20 north latitude, is truty unmitigated 
tropical country, or tierra caliente. It may be characterized 
as savannah, sandy soil with morasses, which are most numerous 
near the coast, grassy plains with palms, mimosas, and acacias, 
and here and there a huge ceiba, or bombax, tree, and with 
rich vegetation near the streams and swamps. In the dry season 
it is liable to be burnt up, and in the rainy season it is un- 
healthy. 

From this cursory description of the journey from Mexico 
to Vera Cruz it may be gathered that within the short distance 
of less than 200 kilometres, or 127 miles, every gradation of 
physical condition of country exists, from the sweltering, 
tropical swamps on the coast to the high and dry cool table- 
land. 

Instead of catching fever, the west-bound traveller, after 
sweltering all night from Vera Cruz upwards, is more likely 
to awake at Mexico City with the homeliest of colds. But 
there are still other climes within easy reach, and examples 
of cold and arctic conditions are suggested by the peak of 
Orizaba, which reaches far aloft into the eternal ice and snow. 
Thus it comes to pass that in this wonderful country we can 
study all the climates of the world, and that within a horizontal 
distance of less than a hundred miles, or in vertical distance 
more than three miles. There are few parts of the world where 
this is possible. 

We had fixed upon Orizaba as our base for the exploration 
of the southern slopes of the mountain. Humboldt, and 
others after him, went up from Jalapa, and by the Cofre del 
Perote, on the* north-eastern side, whilst those who only wish 
to ascend the peak are now always taken up on the western 



ORIZABA. 



31 



side, from San Andres, near Esperanza. This, undoubtedly the 
most practicable way, was that taken by Professor Heilprin* 
and by J. J. Scovell,f together with several other scientists. 

Orizaba is a pretty town of some 40,000 inhabitants, amidst 
charming surroundings, in a richly watered and fertile valley. 
It is an old place which the Chichimecs, one of the Mexican 
tribes, significantly named Ahauializ-apan, i.e., " joy in the 




OLD MISSION CHURCH, NEAR ORIZABA. 

water," " the river of delight " ; but this was too much of a 
mouthful for the Spaniards, who soon turned it into the more 
euphonious Orizaba. There are several interesting churches 
besides the fine cathedral, with a pretty well-kept plaza, and 
the market-place alone is worth many a visit. Hundreds of 

* " Proc. Am. Phil. Soc., Philadelphia" (1892), p. 4-22. 

f " American Naturalist " (1892). p. 842-844 ; " Science " (1893), p. 253-257. 



32 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

natives congregate in the market hall at their regular stalls, 
or squat in the streets with their fruit, flowers, vegetables, and 
other goods, whilst the invariable " zarape " of the men adds 
richness of colour to the scene. 

Of genuine native make, of pure, good wool, which itself 
is either black, brown, or white, or dyed with genuine native 
colours, the zarape is practically indestructible, and its colours 
are absolutely fast. Moreover, for a long time the natural 
amount of fat in the wool renders these blankets waterproof. 
It speaks well for the taste of the people that none of the 
endless varieties of the in-woven patterns and many-coloured 
designs are ever ugly or jarring. Many of them are exquisitely 
beautiful. The designs seem to be as old as the native 
civilization, always geometrical, never with any figures of 
animals or plants. But, unfortunately, the white man's 
civilization, with its many fraudulent devices, has invaded 
this industry also. There are now large factories of zarapes 
for instance, at Puebla where they use " poor, or little, wool, 
but much aniline dye." However, some of these up-to-date 
fabrications are good enough, and can hold their own, except 
for the absence of the soft effects of the indigo and the cochineal; 
but many others are only fine-weather garments, as the first 
soaking rain causes the pattern to run, and stains the wearer's 
white cotton shirt and pantaloons. The sad point is the fact 
that not only these worthless " mantas," but also the better 
qualities are turned out cheaper than it is possible for the native 
artist to produce them, and thus they, too, are now forced to 
resort to aniline dyes, whilst the culture of cochineal and of 
indigo, both aboriginal products of the country, has almost 
died out within the last few years. 

There are several hotels in the town, in the broad but partly 
unpaved Avenida de la Libertad, and these are good, bad, and 
very bad. At one of them we managed to fall out with the 
staff, owing to some unfortunate misunderstanding, and they 
then robbed us of a dress and all our newly-bought zarapes. This 
is, by the way, almost the only instance during all our travels 
when anything has been stolen from us in " thieving Mexico," 
although there was often ample opportunity. A pair of bathing 



YELLOW FEVER. 33 

trousers, probably too strange an article to be left out for 
drying in the wilds of Oaxaca, and an earthern water] ug, 
worth twopence, and a lantern were " lifted " in Iguala. This, 
however, completes the list of our losses ; and for the railways 
that carried for thousands of miles our dozens and dozens of 
packages, many of them quite unprotected, and left often 
for days at some wayside shanty of a station, no praise is 
adequate. 

The town is healthy, lying on a slope between two rivers, 
as it is supplied with ample drinking water, and is still innocent 
of artificial drainage. It is therefore much resorted to, both 
as a summer and winter station, by the Vera Cruzanos who 
wish to escape from the sweltering heat, and in the winter by 
people from Puebla and the capital who want to get warm in 
this delightful climate, which much resembles that of a hot 
English summer. 

With its altitude of 4,000 feet, it enjoyed for many years 
a reputation for immunity from yellow fever, and was there- 
fore all the more sought after as a haven of refuge by the 
wealthy costalenos. Still, during the autumn of 1902 it suffered 
from a long-continued visitation of this " yellow peril," and 
thereby hangs a little tale. Hitherto, a kind of sanitary inspec- 
tion had been made somewhere below Orizaba of the passengers 
who came up from the coast during the almost annual outbreaks 
of yellow fever, and though suspicious cases were not actually 
retained in hospital, they were practically quarantined by 
being prevented from leaving the lowland belt. Then came 
the discovery of the responsibility of the Stegomyia mosquito 
for the yellow fever, and it was pointed out triumphantly in 
the papers that these little terrors travelled, as they undoubtedly 
do, hi the carriages right up to Mexico City. What, therefore, 
it was urged, was the good of annoying and dragging out 
healthy passengers whilst taking the real culprits unmolested 
to the capital ? Consequently, the mild quarantine and 
inspection were discarded, and Orizaba got its plague, and was 
shunned by visitors, especially by tourists, since the town was 
put on the Black List of the U.S. sanitary officers. 

The neighbourhood of the town is very rich in vegetation 



34 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

and exceedingly pretty. The town gives the impression of 
great size, since one may walk for nearly an hour along any of 
the main roads without getting into the country ; there are 
always houses on either side, first forming regular towny streets, 
then they become dirty, smaller, and more scattered, and the 
patchy pavement gives way to deep ruts, black mud and filth, 
with pigs wallowing in the pools, and with fowls, children, 
turkey buzzards, and ferocious dogs contesting the right of 
way. Then follow orchards, here and there with an abject- 
looking, dirty, untidy hut near the lane. In reality, all the 
space between the radiating streets and lanes is taken up with 
orchards, gardens, and plantations of coffee and bananas, 
the juicy, aromatic fruit, " chirimoya," of the Anona tree, and 
" aguacates." Here and there rises a majestic royal palm ; 
YucQas fence in the homesteads, and the red hibiscus blossoms 
glow in the dark foliage, together with the large white trumpet- 
like flowers of Datura trees, which yield a delicious odour, 
almost too powerful to be pleasant during the night, but eagerly 
sought after by the big moths. 

SOME MEXICAN FRUITS. 

EVEN a short stay in the delightful district of Orizaba cannot 
fail to impress the visitor with the great abundance and variety 
of Mexican fruit, nearly all of which he can see here growing 
wild or under cultivation. 

Bananas flourish from the coast up to a height of 5,000 feet ; 
beyond this elevation the fruit does not ripen well. They are 
entirely propagated by suckers, which are planted at the 
beginning of the rainy season, and grow so rapidly that they 
produce their one enormous bunch of fruit in about twelve 
months ; consequently they are in season during the rainy 
period, summer and autumn. In the moist tropics ripe fruit 
is to be had all the year round. Although the plants grow as 
freely as weeds, they require a considerable amount of culti- 
vation to yield good fruit. When the tall flowering-stalk shoots 
up, several suckers also sprout up, all but one of which are 
cut off. None of these need be wasted, since they can be used 



BANANAS 35 

for starting new plants. From the remaining sucker the second, 
year's flowering plant is produced, which, as a rule, gives a 
greater bunch, and so forth for a period of several years. The 
greatest part of the labour is the keeping of the land free from 
weeds, not a small undertaking where Nature is so prolific, 
and starts a veritable tangle of undergrowth within a few 
weeks. 

The banana plant grows most luxuriantly in rich humus, 
with an ample, but well-drained, water-supply. Therefore, 
whenever possible, the plantation is irrigated. In the tropical 
parts of the country they are used for a kind of rotation of 
crops in combination with coffee and cocoa, because these 
plants for several years, while young, require shade, until they 
are strong and dense enough to provide it for themselves. 
Until this is the case, and the young trees yield a crop of 
" beans," the bananas pay for the initial outlay, and avoid 
as well the considerable expense of keeping the plantation free 
from weeds. 

There is apparently an endless number of varieties of bananas 
and " plantanos," most of them possessing different names, 
and as difficult to distinguish as are our various kinds of apples 
-and pears. If one applies the wrong name to any one kind of 
the heaps of fruit spread out in the market, the woman will 
simply shake her finger and say " No hay." Some are red, 
or reddish, others yellow ; some only reach the size of one's 
finger, while other kinds are veritable monsters, some being 
more than a foot in length and nearly three inches thick. The 
natives are most particular about eating them only when 
thoroughly ripe, because of the well-known harmful qualities 
of the unripe fruit, a fact not to be trifled with in a tropical 
climate. Unfortunately, the ripe banana or plantain does not 
keep, and the exported article conveys but a weak idea of the 
delicious sweetness and flavour of the genuine article when it 
has been allowed to ripen at its own proper time in heat and 
sunshine. When roasted, or baked in the skin, the flavour 
comes out more strongly, even in the unripe fruit, which, 
moreover, can thus be eaten with impunity. In some parts 
of the country a kind of banana-wine is made by fermentation 



36 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

of the crushed pulp mixed with water, a drink not to be recom- 
mended, except, perhaps, as an aperient. 

The banana is now a barren fruit ; it contains no seeds, or, 
at least, they have degenerated into tiny vestiges of seeds 
which are attached to the grey central string which runs 
lengthwise through the fruit ; consequently, the plant can 
only be reproduced by suckers. This is a very remarkable 
thing. The striking-looking flower, delicately mauve or pink, 
is there, with stamens and pistils complete, but the fruit is 
barren. There are still some species in the tropics of Asia which 
reproduce themselves by seeds ;* but the best edible kind, the 
Musa paradisiaca, has never been known to do this, and, what 
is more, all knowledge of its original home is lost hence its 
specific name. It has been from time immemorial propagated 
by roots only, and has consequently lost the sexual mode of 
reproduction. It is not even known whether the plant was 
indigenous in America. 

Whilst it seems at least reasonably possible that through 
long disuse of the seeds the plant has acquired this negative 
feature, it is strange that it should have acquired no power 
to protect its long and beautiful leaves from the wind. These 
are invariably torn, rent, or frayed out at the edges, and there 
is scarcely a fully developed leaf, except in very sheltered places, 
which is not thus maimed ; moreover, in many cases the 
shredding is produced by a minute insect which devours the 
green pulpy part of the leaf between the side ribs. It does not 
seem natural that such a large and important organ should not 
be built so as to be free from these incessant injuries, and, what 
is more, all the allied genera and species seem to suffer alike, 
even, judging by photographs, the gigantic " ravenala " of 
Madagascar. 

The pineapple (Ananas sativa), or " pifia," which is in- 
digenous to Central America, also grows wild in the tropical 
parts of Mexico. It had been much improved by cultivation 

* Mr. W. Skeat informs me that, in some parts of the Malay Peninsula, 
bananas are eaten which have seeds as large as, and as hard as, cherry-stones, 
almost sufficient to break one's teeth. Artificial selection and cultivation of 
the more preferable varieties has, no doubt, aided in producing softer 
and, ultimately, seedless fruits. 



THE PINEAPPLE 37 

long before the Spaniards arrived in the country. The finest 
specimens regular giants, a foot long are grown on several 
large haciendas, or factories, south of Cordoba, and these 
fetch a high price in the capital, frequently more than a peso 
each. Those of ordinary size and quality cost at the market 
of Orizaba seventeen centavos, and fifteen centavos is about 
the average price in districts where the pine is native, although 
we often got them for nine centavos in Guerrero, though these 
were sometimes small and of poor quality. Of all the tropical 
fruits, the phi a is the queen. It has the inestimable advantage 
of going, or rather agreeing, with any reasonable kind of 
beverage coffee, tea, red or white wine, and water. There 
is nothing more delicious than the selection and eating of a 
pina before breakfast ; it is most refreshing, and lasts long 
enough to make the unavoidable waiting for this meal more 
endurable. The crushed pulp mixed with water ferments 
easily, and makes a pleasant drink ; but it is rather sweet and 
too full of body, and one's enjoyment of pineapple-wine is 
rather marred by the opaque, honey-brown look of the fluid, 
especially if it should be ladled out of an insect-beset jar with 
a cocoanut shell. Most of the fibres of the bromelia-like plants 
are strong ; those of the pineapple leaves are especially strong 
and fine, and are much used for the making of anything 
which elsewhere is made of hemp, such as hammocks, ropes, 
thread, and paper bags. It takes about a year for a plant to 
produce its single ripe fruit from the time it is planted as a 
sucker. 

The ' k aguacate," the fruit of the Per sea gratissima, a tree 
belonging to the laurel family, makes a delicious salad with 
the addition of oil, vinegar, and salt ; it is a buttery, mealy, 
oval-shaped fruit, some three to four inches long, with a smooth 
skin, varying from green to black, and a large stone. Its Aztec 
name, " ahuacatl," has been, and is being, distorted beyond 
recognition, and popular etymology has here been rampant. 
It has nothing to do with " agua " ; some spell it " abogado," 
i.e., " advocate," and the Americans have turned this into 
" alligator pear." To cap these names we called them 
" watercats." The tree which bears this frequently mis- 



38 

named fruit flourishes up to an elevation of 7,000 feet, and is 
indigenous. 

" Zapote " fruit are sold in any market, but the buying of 
them is likely to lead to misunderstandings and a trial of temper, 
since the Nahoa term, " tsapotl," applies to almost any kind 
of fruit which is succulent, and has but a few large and hard 
seeds. The English language has no simple equivalent term for 
it. We have come across at least five very different kinds of 
edible fruit, all of which are locally sold as " zapote," although 
they each have a distinguishing name. 

There is, first, the " chico-zapote " (Achras sapota), the only 
representative of its genus, indigenous to tropical and semi- 
tropical America, distantly related to Erica and Arbutus, 
and forming with these and others the order Sclerophyllce. 
The tree is rather handsome, growing to a height of forty feet, 
with very hard wood, and dark and leathery evergreen leaves : 
but the flowers are insignificant, light-brown and whitish in 
colour, and with a faint scent, reminding one of old bronze or 
copper coins. Every part of the tree yields a sticky white and 
very astringent, bitter juice, from which chewing-gum is ex- 
tracted by some process of distillation. If prepared over a 
wood fire the smoke colours the gum blackish-brown, and this 
kind some of the native tribes for instance, the Mazatecas are 
very fond of chewing. This stuff is called " chicla," from the 
Nahoa " tzictli," a most appropriate word, in view of the 
incessant noise made by the chewer. It has caused the tree 
and fruit to be distinguished as " chico-zapote," which has 
therefore nothing to do with "chico," meaning small. The fruit is 
of the size of a small potato, which it much resembles in appear- 
ance, owing to its shape and light brown, slightly rough skin. 
Its flesh contains some five smooth black kernels, and has a 
most agreeably sweet and aromatic taste. It can be eaten only 
on the day of its being completely ripe, as until then the milk 
of the fruit is bitter and astringent. On the following day it 
begins to decompose, and as it does not ripen well when plucked 
green, it cannot be exported. 

A near relation of the above is the " zapote borracho," or 
" amarillo," the Lucuma salicifolia. This tree is apparently 



MAMMEE FRUIT. 39 

not cultivated. It is called the amarillo or yellow zapote on ac- 
count of the colour of its flesh ; in an occasional variety this 
is, however, dark red, of the colour of claret, and in Spanish 
such a colour is called "borracho," but this word also, or rather 
usually, means tipsy, or a drunkard, and, curiously enough, the 
kernels of this fruit certainly produce a narcotic effect. 

Other members of the same order, but of the family 
Ebenacece, belong to the genus Diospyros, e.g., D. obtusifolia, 
and they are distinguished as " zapote prieto," or " negro." 
Such " black fruit " occurs in several varieties for instance, 
near Tetela and some are said to be cultivated. Our Mateo 
did not seem to think much of them ; perhaps they were not 
in season, and we left them alone. 

Then there is the "zapote bianco" (Casimiroa edulis), a 
member of the orange tribe, though tree, flower, leaf, and fruit 
look very much like those of the Achras. The leaves stand 
mostly in fives at the end of the branches, while the flowers 
come out upon the sides of the twigs, upon a short stalk, with 
five petals and stamens, and the same number of flattened 
seeds in the agreeable fruit. This tree has a wide distribution 
in Mexico, from the " hot-lands " to the plateau. The Aztecs 
call it " iztac zapote," the white zapote, and also " cochi 
zapote," which is said to mean somniferous, practically the same 
as the " zapote borracho." 

Lastly, there is the "zapote mamey" (Mammea americana), 
the mammee fruit, of the order Guttiferce. This noble tree 
has been introduced from the West Indies, and is now frequently 
grown in the warmer parts of Mexico. It is a large tree, often 
sixty feet high, with large laurel-shaped leaves, and a sweet- 
scented white flower an inch and a half in width. The large 
globular fruit, sometimes of the size of a man's head, contains 
four large, rough-surfaced brown stones embedded in the flesh, 
which is either yellow or reddish ; the outside of the fruit is of 
a warm reddish-brown, and looks like plush or soft leather. 
After we had eaten it at a factory, or hacienda, where it was 
cultivated, we were delighted to find the same inviting-looking 
fruit growing in the forest near by, and with much trouble 
secured some specimens, with the help of a most unwilling 



40 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

native, who, no doubt, thought us mad, and as events turned 
out, quite rightly, since it was not a mamey but a good 
imitation of it the terribly astringent and poisonous 
k ' frutillo." 




HIEROGLYPH ORIZABA. 

Ahuiliz-apan = " Joyful River. 



CHAPTER III. 

CAMPING ON CITLALTEPETL. 

Scenery near Orizaba Vegetation at the Level of the Cloud-belt First Camp 
at 8,600 feet elevation Visitors The Forest and its Fauna Armadilloes 
Lungless Newts Second Camp at 12,500 feet, above the Cloud-belt : different 
aspect of Fauna and Flora The upper Tree-line An Ascent to the Rim of 

the Crater. 

The Orizabenos look upon the giant mountain as their own 
chief " sight," although it is at least twenty miles off. Its 
real name is Citlaltepetl, or Star-mountain ; its Spanish title 
is " El Volcan de Orizaba," or the " Orizaba Volcano," but 
familiarly it is spoken of as " El Volcan," or "El Pico." Only 
its gleaming white crest is visible from the town, and the people 
speak of it as if it were a nice place for a picnic, though we could 
find nobody who had ever been near it. 

However, we had the necessary recommendations from 
the Governor of the State to the Prefect of Orizaba, a courteous 
and sympathetic gentleman, and from him we obtained a letter 
to the village communities further up. Good horses, too, 
could be hired easily, and at a reasonable rate, in the town. 

One brilliant morning, therefore, we rode out, lightly 
equipped, to scout for ourselves. A very good road leads north- 
wards through Jesus Maria and La Perla, which latter lies near 
the foot of the Sierra proper ; thence there went a mountain 
track through Tuzantla and Xometla, but as yet we had 
nowhere found anything like a suitable camping-ground, 
until we came to a perfectly ideal spot, at 8,600 feet 
elevation, sufficiently high up and far enough (about a 
dozen miles) from the town, to make a start with. 



42 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

Well satisfied, we returned after nightfall to Orizaba. 
At Tuzantla we made some friends, and through Mateo's 
(our native servant's) quiet, persuasive ways, half a 
dozen mules and donkeys were bespoken, to come down and 
fetch our baggage on the following day. Great was our 
astonishment when they actually did appear, accompanied by 




CITLALTEPETL FROM NEAR ORIZABA. 

several bare-footed, roughly-clad " montanezes," or wild men 
of the mountains, as the shifty townspeople called them in 
reality, simple-minded fellows who had come down because they 
trusted us. 

Where the Rio Blanco rushes through a deep limestone 
gorge, the vegetation is of bewildering beauty. Large " alamos " 
(a kind of Platanus), with magnolias, crotons, and many kinds 
of oaks, are the prevalent trees, and wherever the big branch 
of a plane tree or an oak stretches out horizontally over the 



LUXURIANT VEGETATION 



43 



stream in a shaded place, it supports a growth that would sur- 
pass the most luxuriant and tastefully-arranged hothouse 
fernery. The whole branch is thickly covered with moss ; 
in the middle arises the scroll-like shoot of some bromelia, 
surrounded by a profusion of ferns, selaginellas, and orchids, 
festooned with lichens and lichen-like tillandsias. These 




YUCCAS (Liriode.ndron) NEAR LA PERLA. 



clusters are regular hot-beds of life, the decaying parts forming 
an ever- accumulating mass of humus, the refuge or hunting- 
ground of many kinds of little creatures. And all this beauty 
is reflected in a pool, whence arise the broad leaves of collocasias 
and other water-plants. 

The gentle slopes towards the north are like pretty park 
landscape, with good pasture and clusters of shrubs or trees of 
mimosas and acacias, crotons, myrtles, yuccas, plane trees, and 



44 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

bamboos. Here, too, is the upper limit of coffee and cotton. 
Near La Perla we saw the first tree-ferns, although on the 
moist eastern side they occur down to about 2,500 feet. La Perla. 
significantly called " the Pearl," because of its fine situation, 
agreeable climate, and great fertility, lies at the foot of the 
Sierra. Thence begins the ascent. Tree-ferns, together with 
bracken, are plentiful. A group on the spur of a hill at 6,300 
feet forms the lowest outpost of the pine (Pinus montezumce), 
while 300 feet higher, at Tuzantla, they begin to be plentiful, 
though the prevalent forest trees are still several kinds of 
oak. Next the maize-fields become scarce, the meadows 
greener, tree-ferns and datura trees disappear, and here, 
coinciding roughly with the level of the central plateau, a great 
change now comes over the flora, which, with few traces of sub- 
tropical plants, is that of a temperate, moist, and fertile 
mountain climate. 

To a great extent this luxuriant growth coincides with the 
lower level of the usual cloud-belt. The prevalent winds 
come from the north-east, laden with moisture from the gulf ; 
they cross the lowland, discharging tropical torrents upon it in 
the rainy season, but as they near the edge of the plateau they 
are arrested, and, although they do not discharge so much 
water in the form of torrents, the more frequently prolonged 
rains are much more effective. The enormous mass of the 
mountain exaggerates these conditions, and on most days of 
the year there is a belt of clouds on its north-eastern or southern 
sides, whilst the west is dry, and in the winter, during the dry 
season, the " nortes," or north winds, which suddenly rage 
over the gulf, veil the uplands of the State of Vera Cruz for 
many continuous days in a drizzling rain. Since these con- 
ditions are important for any real understanding of the climate 
of Southern Mexico, let us put it thus : The hot air, saturated 
with moisture from the sea, travels inland (either as a north or 
east wind across Vera Cruz, or as a south-east wind across 
Guerrero), and then rises, causing the cool air from the mountain 
fringe of the plateau to rush underneath, and thus form the 
clouds which send down the torrential rains upon the low-lying 
coastlands. The rain begins near the coast and exhausts 



A CLOUD-BELT 



45 



itself whilst travelling inland, and long before dawn the tempest 
is over. As a rule, the whole of the forenoon is fine, 
except, perhaps, when, during the first onset of the rainy season, 
it happens to rain for several days and nights without inter- 
ruption. The water rises at once from the warm soil during 
the morning in the form of vapour, the process being helped 





THE CAMP NEAR XOMETLA. 

by the heat of the sun, and the moisture travels further inland 
until it reaches the cooler regions of the mountains, when these 
districts, too, get their thunderstorm. This may happen at 
any hour between noon and late in the evening, according to 
the situation of the district. In normal seasons these storms, 
always accompanied by a magnificent display of thunder, are 
so regular that in many localities invitations to afternoon or 
evening parties are issued with the reminder " after the 
storm." It would, however, be erroneous to assume that they 



46 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

are of daily occurrence ; on an average it rains during the wet 
season every other day from one to three hours in most 
districts. It is true that the wet season begins at the coast, 
where it lasts longest, and then gradually proceeds to the 
plateau, but there are many exceptions. Moreover, the greatest 
number of rainy days in a month need not at all coincide with 
the greatest amount of rainfall. 

The ascent towards Xometla was rendered difficult by the 
rain. The prevalent soil, except on the limestone, was a kind 
of red ferruginous clay which extends almost down to Cordoba. 
The incessant rains, and the hauling over the track of planks 
and boards and other pieces of timber, had turned the track 
where the steep slopes occurred into veritable glissades, and it 
was late in the afternoon before the whole party assembled, 
drenched and muddy, at the camping ground. The place was 
ideal a beautiful glade ; to the north-west loomed the glorious 
peak, though, unfortunately, it did rain during most of the 
nine days that we spent there. 

The first few mornings were fine, and rain did not begin 
to fall till about noon, when it rained for an hour or two ; this 
was followed by a few minutes of sunshine, but for the rest of 
the afternoon and evening it came down in torrents. During 
the nights heavy, continuous thunder was heard from below 
in the tierra caliente ; in the daytime the thunder was above us, 
and it rained, except when all was wrapped in a thick mist or 
drizzle. This wetness, at an altitude of 8,600 feet, with a de- 
cidedly cool temperature was trying, and it was little consolation 
to be told by the natives that the wettest months here were 
July and August, when it rained every day, sometimes for a 
few hours, sometimes " todito el dia," i.e., the whole little day 
long ; but that they hoped for a respite during " la canicula " 
the dog-days. 

Poor Mateo, saturated as he was with malarial germs, 
and having come up only a week ago from his home in the 
hot-lands, at once broke down with a severe attack of fever, 
brought on by the unwonted cold, and for a day and two nights 
he was the cause of much anxiety to us, until he was brought 
round again. To see his sallow appearance, the shaking and 



SONS OF THE MOUNTAIN. 47 

the childlike helplessness, was an awe-inspiring sight and irre- 
sistible attraction for the hill-natives, who had heard of, but 
had never seen, a case of fever of this kind. Indeed, these 
hardy mountain-dwellers had not much sympathy with disease. 
" Here are no illnesses of any kind," said one, " but we know 
that the people down below are always ill. Here people die 
in their time " (which is certainly not long, to judge from the 
fact that we never saw a really old man or woman), " unless 
they meet with any accident." 

Most of the few natives in the neighbourhood paid us a call 
to satisfy their curiosity, and they were of two types. The 
majority were rather short, broad-faced, and with prominent 
cheek-bones, short chin, and somewhat flat nose, the men with- 
out any trace of beard ; the others, who were herdsmen, were 
taller, with sharp well-formed noses, good features, and a 
scanty growth of hair on the chin and upper lip. Such a fine 
fellow, for instance, was our friend, Francisco, of Tuzantla, 
and Hieronimo Alarcon, a wild-looking but most intelligent 
herdsman whom we named John-the-Baptist. He, together 
with his younger brother Ezekiel, knew the haunts and habits 
of every kind of creature in the neighbourhood, and was natur- 
ally soon induced to accept the post of chief collector, and almost 
daily brought something new. Some of the other men were 
also not averse to roam about in search of animals, or to give 
their quaint versions of the habits and properties of men, 
beasts, and plants ; they minded neither wet nor fatigue, and 
willingly went and returned in an astonishingly short time 
the twelve miles to and from Orizaba to fetch provisions. 
This they did for scanty remuneration, half a peso here being 
much more than a full day's pay ; but to attend to the camp 
for a few hours daily and regularly, to cut wood, and make up 
a good blazing fire, above all, to sit still with nothing to do 
but to guard the camp during our absence at tasks like these 
the free sons of the mountain drew the line. Not one of them 
could stand this occupation for more than two or three days, 
and when any one of them had once got his ample pay he was 
certain not to show himself again, as he was then in the awkward 
position of having money without a chance of spending it. 



48 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



The camp stood about half-an-hour's walk beyond 
Xometla, which being only a " cuadrilla " i.e., not a village, 
but only a few scattered hamlets was ruled by a sub-regidor ; 
the regidor, or presidente municipal, lived at La Perla. The 
few scattered habitations, which make up Xometla, are mere 
shanties, constructed roughly of boards, thatched with the 
bark of the " oyamel," or Abies religiosa. The floor is made 




A HOUSE AT XOMETLA. 



of stamped-down clay, with a fireplace on the ground, sur- 
rounded by implements for grinding maize to wit, a three- 
legged, sloping " metlatl," or grinding-stone, made like the 
"metlapil," or grinder of lava-stone, and the thin, brittle, flat dish 
upon which the tortillas are roasted, with smaller, but otherwise 
similar, implements for grinding chili, some vessels of earthen- 
ware and cow-horns. Shelves are fitted up to hold the other 
household goods and the clothes, and the bedroom is 



DESTRUCTION OF FORESTS 49 

partitioned off with zarapes. It was all very clean and orderly. 
The good natural drainage, the opening in the pine-forest 
8,000 feet up, the absence of cattle-yards, and of any intoxi- 
cants were not conducive to slovenliness and misery. The 
people were poor but contented. No grain was grown, but 
there were small fields of Indian corn and patches of potatoes, 
which latter were said to grow well. A kind of wood-sorrel 
is also cultivated, the fleshy root and lower part of the stem, 
which grows to more than a foot in height, being boiled in milk 
and eaten. 

The staple industry is the burning of charcoal and the 
sawing of pine and deal boards, which are dragged down the 
steep slopes " travail " fashion, a couple being fastened to a 
pack-saddle. This method of wood-cutting implies a deplorable 
waste of timber, the greater part of the tree, comprising valuable 
logs of timber, being allowed to rot because they cannot be 
transported. Moreover, the people are utterly regardless of 
the consequences of a fire. Many a splendid pine tree along the 
path had had a hole burnt into it, and several times did we 
find one smouldering. The explanation was always that 
somebody had felt cold, and had re-lighted this primitive kind 
of wayside stove to warm himself. Then he had left the place 
to take care of itself. This does not matter much in the rainy 
season, and in mixed forest, but higher up in the region of the 
pine-forests whole slopes have been devastated by fire, 
especially since the herdsmen there are in the habit of firing the 
dried tussocks of grass to produce new crops. This is a difficult 
question to deal with. Theoretically, to burn the grass is strictly 
forbidden ; moreover, most of the forest now belongs to a few 
rich owners, while the few village communities have grazing 
rights in it. The owners live in Orizaba. Is it likely that the 
sub-regidor of Xometla will punish the herdsmen for an illegal 
act, which is nevertheless hallowed by immemorial custom, 
and which, after all, benefits the cattle of his own community ? 
The sub-regidor was a man of pleasant manners ; it amused 
him to have such queer strangers in his neighbourhood, and 
he did not like our leaving it for another camp higher up, 
since the official letter from the Prefect had made him 



50 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

responsible for our safety, and " there are bad people higher 
up, lawless fellows, who will attempt to rob you, and this would 
lead to a row." We all had a good laugh when it came out 
that our friend John-the-Baptist was one of these " mala 
gente." 

The sub-regidor took it for granted that we were heretics. 
" I know, all you foreigners are, that seems to be the custom 
in your country ; but please tell me two things : First, what is 
the difference between our faith and yours ? Secondly, would 
it be worth our while to adopt ' el protestantismo ' if it should 
prove to be better ? " He felt that he did not get much 
satisfaction out of his occasional attendance at mass at La 
Perla, and for a while it struck him that the absence of com- 
pulsory confession might be convenient, but when the broad 
general question was explained to him, he summed up splendidly, 
" No vale la pena, el Dios el mismo " " It is not worth while, 
the God is the same." 

The vegetation near the camp was grand. The forest 
consists mainly of the long-leaved Pinus liophylla and the 
"ocote," or Pinus montezumce, which muchresembles our Scotch 
fir, mixed with or rather bordered near the open spaces with 
various deciduous and evergreen oaks, " madrono " or arbutus 
trees, and alder, or Alnus jorullensis, called here " ilite verde." 
On open patches grew dense shrubby masses of the dark green 
small-leaved Arbutus spinulosus, a shrub with a pungent smell. 
Fuchsia microphylla forms shrubs twelve feet high. Plants 
of the bromelia kind occur in many varieties. On the ground, 
near the streams, they are more like typical bromelias, with 
long, serrated sharply-cutting leaves ; others (e.g., Tillandsia 
tricolor) form clusters on the " ocote " trees, looking as if the 
green leafy top of a pineapple had been grafted into the 
branch, with a long flower-stalk which, in the tillandsia, 
bears insignificant flowers, though the spathe carries 
bracts and short modified leaves varying from red to blue 
or yellow, these giving the whole plant an orchid-like 
appearance. These big tillandsias continue up to a level 
of 9,600 feet, when they suddenly disapp'ear. Other kinds 
look like pendent lichens, or form little patches on the 



PLANTS AND ANIMALS 51 

branches, resembling tufts of short, withered grass. Orchids 
were also well represented, from the broad-leaved, white- 
flowering Catasetum, which grows in the mould-filled re- 
cesses of hollow oak-trees, to crimson red stiff -leaved kinds, 
growing high up on the pine-trees. Ferns in the forest itself 
and in the open are scanty, except bracken, but, on the mossy 
stems of rough-barked trees, such as the oak and alder, was 
polypody. In the deep, well-shaded water-courses plant-life 
was luxuriant : here were maidenhair and big ferns in masses ; 
here, too, were thick clusters of bamboos, though not in such 
bewildering profusion as in the " barrancas," or gorges, lower 
down. The influence of the tropics was still indicated by gigantic 
lianas which crept right up into the tree-tops ; one of these, 
a bignonia, appropriately nicknamed " el caballero," or " the 
rider," since, as the people explained, it is never seen on the 
ground, but is always " well mounted." Salvias, dahlias, 
begonias, geraniums, oxalis, fuchsias, tradescantias, thistles, 
irises, and Ipomoea purga with its long scarlet trumpets, would 
be the most likely components of the armful of flowers which 
may be gathered during a short ramble. 

Animal life seems almost absent ; especially striking was 
the scarcity of birds. We never heard an owl, nor did we see 
a single eagle, hawk, or falcon ; a few families of tits, a tree- 
creeper, a woodpecker, and some Cyanocitta nana, or blue jays, 
were all we noticed ; there were scarcely any butterflies, and 
there was no humming of insects ; perhaps all winged insect 
life was depressed by the rain and mist. Of mammals we saw 
more : mouse-like rodents e.g., Peromyscus we caught in 
traps ; the " tuza," a kind of " pocket " gopher (Geomys hispid us), 
had its burrow not far below the camp, and was very common 
near Tuzantla, which name literally means " plenty of gopher." 
Squirrels, such as Sciurus variegatus, mostly grey or reddish, 
were frequent ; but there was one interesting find, the occur- 
rence of armadillos, which we had not expected at this level. 
It is true the same kind, Dasypus novemcinctus, inhabits also 
the Valley of Mexico, and is found, for instance, near Contreras 
at 8,000 feet elevation, but near our camp in a decidedly 
cool, clammy forest they seemed out of place. One of their 

E 2 






52 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

burrows stood at 9000 feet, They left plenty of spoor. 
When they are poking for worms and insects they make 
little holes resembling those of badgers, or scratch up 
some soil, pushing it back between the hind limbs, the 
latter, with the tail in the middle, leaving a curious-looking 
impression. A family is said to consist of six, including 





ARMADILLO TROTTING. ITS IMPRINT. THE HIEROGLYPH. 

Ayotochtli = Tortoise Rabbit. The sound " Ayotl" (Tortoise) is indicated in 
the hieroglyph by the sign " a " = water, represented by a wave with shells. 

four young, all of which live together in one " nido," or 
nest, which, like a badger's burrow, is deeply hidden on a 
slope between rocks and the roots of trees. This same kind 
of " encubierto," or " armado " (in Aztec " ayotochtli," or 
tortoise-rabbit), thrives equally well in the tropical lowlands. 
Being nocturnal, spending most of its time in its burrow, 
and probably hibernating when times are bad, it seems 
more independent of temperature than most mammals, in 



NEWTS 53 

spite of its naked skin. In any case there are but few kinds 
of mammals, except certain carnivores, which can show such a 
great vertical range of distribution as 9,000 feet. The peccary 
is regularly exhibited at the cookshops of Orizaba, where also 
Cariacus toltecanus (a small deer with antlers more like those 
of a roebuck) is common, but owing to the presence of wood- 
cutters and charcoal-burners, they are now restricted to the 
higher regions. This scarcity of game implies the absence of 
carnivores, of which, at this altitude in Mexico, only the wolf, 
coyote, lynx, and puma were to be expected ; the latter is not 
rare near Orizaba, which, broadly speaking, marks the lower 
distribution-level of this inhabitant of temperate and cool 
climates. 

More to my purpose were the amphibia and reptiles. There 
were five kinds of Spelerpes, land-newts of slender build, mostly 
black with yellow or orange specks on the back, or dusted 
with grey. These prowl about in the dusk, and also during the 
night, in search of soft insects and small scolopenders, while 
some of them hide in the daytime under moss, or, with pre- 
dilection, under the scraps of pine-bark which are strewn over 
the ground. Others, notably S. orizabensis, lead a partly 
aboreal life, their favourite hunting and hiding-places being 
in the clusters of epiphytic plants, such as tillandsias, orchids, 
and the climbing phyllodendron. Most, if not all, of them 
are viviparous, so that they are independent of standing or 
running water ; moreover, these creatures, although they 
grow to a length of some six inches, either have no lungs, or 
but tiny vestiges of them, so that their whole respiration is 
carried on through the medium of their permanently moist skin, 
supplemented to a small extent by the throat,* which is 
occasionally worked vigorously. The tongue is also peculiar ; 
it can be shot out upon their prey like that of the chameleon, 
although not so far. 

The whole genus, which comprises about twenty species, 
is widely distributed, from Massachusetts right into north- 
western South America. At least ten species inhabit Mexico, 

* Their buccal breathing has been studied by Inez L. Whipple ; " Biological 
Bulletin," XL, No. 1, 1906. 



54 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

nine of these south of a line drawn from Guadalajara to Tuxpan. 
on the Atlantic, a few as far south as Peru ; one inhabits 
Hayti, and one (8. fuscus) lives in Sardinia and in northern Italy. 
In Mexico itself they have the greatest possible range of altitude. 
S. orizabensis I met with up to at least 12,500 feet on 
Citlaltepetl ; S. variegatus from 9,000 feet down to the steaming 
hot lowlands of the isthmus. The occurrence of several species 
in the tierra caliente was rather surprising, as the finding 
of this genus in Peru has hitherto been explained by the tacit 
assumption of a former continuous range of high mountains. 
Here it may be mentioned that a whole boxful of S. 
variegatus, which I had collected on a day's excursion in a 
tropical district south of Cordoba, lived very well at our camps 
on Citlaltepetl in spite of the cold temperature ; but all those 
which I brought from that mountain died within a few days 
when taken into the tropics. This observation corroborates 
the fact that most creatures can endure a temporary change 
into cooler surroundings, even although they may not flourish 
under it, while the reverse of such conditions prostrates and 
kills them. Amphibia are especially sensitive in this respect ; 
a frog may be frozen, and on thawing it will revive, but a few 
extra degrees of heat, as, for instance, the warmth of one's 
hand, may kill it. Physiologically, all this is as easily ex- 
plained " the self-adjusting regulation of the body's tem- 
perature " is the phrase in technical use as it is difficult to 
reconcile with what geographical distribution shows us. There 
are, in fact, many more species of animals and plants which 
have their original home, or probable centre of origin, in tem- 
perate climates, and now extend into the tropics and yet remain 
apparently unaltered, than there are hot-country species which 
have spread into cool climates. The latter process seems 
to require a much longer time to accomplish successfully. 

The local name of the Spelerpes is " tlaconete," i.e., little 
creature, from the Aztec " tlaco " -- half, or small. They in- 
clude Thorius pennatulus, a tiny newt, less than two inches 
in length and thinner than a match, with weak limbs and 
reduced digits. The lungs are also aborted ; the nostrils of 
the males are very large and open, those of the females are 



FROGS 55 

much smaller. These little things showed a predilection for 
living in a proverbially precarious position, namely, " between 
the bark and the wood " of decaying pine-trees, amongst the 
boring-dust of beetles and maggots. 

Of tailless amphibians only one kind exists, but this is 
rather plentiful, Hylodes rhodopis, a small Cystignathid, which 
leads the life of a tree-frog. It seems to be a southerner, 
which, although not extending on to the plateau itself, ascends 
the high mountains on its eastern, southern, and western 
borders. On Citlaltepetl, for instance, it occurs well up to 
10,000 feet, whilst it also inhabits the " hot-lands " in the State 
of Vera Cruz. Most of the specimens were dark brown, with 
reddish tints, and lived on or near the ground amongst the dark 
masses of rotten leaves ; others had made their home in the 
tillandsia clusters, or on the green shrubs at the edge of the 
forest ; these frogs were quite green, but when caught soon 
changed to reddish yellow, and ultimately assumed the natural 
coloration, which is also that of specimens preserved in spirit. 
None of these frogs in the forest itself, upon the ground, showed 
a trace of green. The genus Hylodes comprises the H. mar- 
tinicensis, the " coqui " of the West Indies, which has become 
famous as the first frog known to lay a few large eggs only, 
from which within a few days the young are hatched, as almost 
perfect little frogs, they having hurried through the gilled 
and tailed tadpole stage in a diagrammatically precipitate 
.fashion. Most kinds of Hylodes seem to go through such a 
" condensed " process of babyhood ; the eggs are laid in a 
foaming lather or spume wrapped between leaves. Suitable 
places upon the mountain, shady places with decaying leaves, 
were swarming with these little baby frogs, but our search for 
nests was without result, since the proper breeding season was 
already passed, and the adults kept quite mute. In any case, 
the presence of these peculiar frogs was significant, they, with 
the newts, being the sole representatives of amphibia. There 
were no other frogs or toads whatever, nor were any known 
to occur. Both toads and frogs require standing water in 
which to deposit their eggs, and there is no standing water 
anywhere near the Xometla level. The streams were quick- 



56 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



running and very cold ; some were fed by melting snow, or 
became rapid torrents when it rained, and for these reasons 
they contained no fish either. 

The distribution of creatures here was somewhat puzzling, 
although the explanation may be simple enough when hit 
upon. If any information from natives can be relied on, it 
is that about the presence or absence of poisonous snakes. 
Now, near Orizaba there are plenty, rattlesnakes included. 




EVENING CALLERS. 

Here at Xometla in fact, from the foot of the mountain at La 
Perla upwards there were none whatever, but the herdsmen 
insisted upon the occurrence of " cascabeles," or rattlers, 
higher up, and they were quite right. The ordinary rattlers 
of the genus Crotalus are, as is well-known, not averse to 
northern climes, nor to high plateaus, but they shun moist 
forests, and, on the higher Mexican mountains, their place is 
taken by Crotalus triseriatus, a small, very viper-like species, 
with but a poor rattle. This little snake is found up to nearly 
13,000 feet. Thus, owing to local circumstances, it has come 



LIZARDS 57 

about that we here have a belt of country free from poisonous 
snakes, one kind not ascending, the other kind not descending 
far enough. Of harmless snakes only Tropidonotus scalar is 
was found, this being the representative of a typically northern 
genus. 

The numerous varieties of lizard found in the warmer 
parts, and even in temperate Mexico, ceased at La Perla, only 
two genera, Sceloporus and Gerrhonotus, sending up a few 
species each. The beauty of all the Sceloporus, S. 
formosus, a denizen of the median belt of these mountain 
ranges, was left behind well below Xometla, where it 
basked upon the rocks, its beauty and vividness of 
colours vying with that of the flowers ; the body, of a 
shining emerald green above, would now and then be raised 
upon its four limbs, thus rendering visible the blue-black sides 
of the belly, the broad bands of blue and black across the neck, 
and the throat gleaming with the richest and brightest orange. 
Maybe he was admired by his mate in her subdued, washed- 
out dress, if we may assume so much appreciation and 
perception of colour in these creatures. Thence, almost up to 
the snow-line, we met only with the small S. microlepidotus 
and S. ceneus. The former, truly arboreal and coloured like 
bark, ascends in the morning with the sun right into the 
tree-tops, where it hunts for insects. This little lizard has the 
greatest possible vertical range, from the hot country of southern 
Oaxaca, only a few hundred feet above the level of the sea, 
to the upper tree-line of Citlaltepetl, at about 13,500 feet. The 
other, S. ceneus, also sombre of colour, does not climb the trees 
beneath which it lives, but prefers the grassy ground, and is 
equally at home in the moist, cloud- wrapped pine-forests, and 
on the more barren, grassy larva-strewn slopes, extending 
almost up to the snow-line. Lastly, there were four kinds of 
Gerrhonotus, called " escorpiones," but known to be harmless, 
for a wonder ! Suffice it to say here that the gem of the genus, 
G. gramineus, is delicately green above and lemon-yellow below. 
It is pre-eminently arboreal, ascending the highest trees in 
search of insects, and making its lair in the hollows of oaks, 
pines, and arbutus. The other kinds are grey or brown, and 



58 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



do not climb, but prefer tussocks of grass near little streams. 
They are all viviparous, live on insects and worms, and are of 
a wonderfully gentle disposition, losing their shyness a few 
hours after having been caught and handled. They keep well 
in captivity, and shed their skin, fingers, eyelids and all, in one 
continuous piece, turning the whole shirt inside out, as do blind 
worms, to which, indeed, they are related. 




BREAKING CAMP. 



No doubt there are other kinds of vertebrates at this level, 
but after a week's search it became more and more difficult 
to come across, or even to hear of, anything new. The pre- 
servation of plants in the wet atmosphere was a sore trial, 
and, above all, we had more than enough of the mist and rain. 
We therefore decided to move out of the wet by ascending 
above it. When the necessary beasts of burden and men had 
been procured, through the sub-regidores of Xometla and 



A HIGH CAMP 50 

Tuzantla, the ascent was easy enough, as there was a regular 
track made by the woodcutters, which still further up, had 
been used in former days by the " neveros," who carried snow 
to Orizaba, until the railway superseded this primitive traffic 
with the importation of American ice. Towards 10,000 feet 
of altitude the general aspect of the flora shows a marked change. 
The big tillandsia disappears, and mistletoes (Loranthus), or 
" planta quebradora," the breaker-plant, take their place. 
The oaks are left behind, and for a while the tall " oyamel " 
(Abies religiosa), " madrona " or arbutus, and the alder become 
the dominant trees ; the long-leaved pine gradually drops out, 
and the underwood is composed of " escoba " or broom, 
elder bushes, and various shrub and tree-like heaths. 
This elder, Sambucus mexicanus, is the ugliest shrub of 
the country, very brittle, with grey-green, willow-like leaves ; 
its local name is " azumiatl," mentioned already by Hernandez 
as " xometl," or " arbol del sauco " ; infusions from the 
leaves are much used, and the leaves, when put upon the head, 
are believed to cure headaches. 

The ground is covered with asfodels, the first patches of 
which, when found, were still small and without flowering- 
stalks ; a hundred feet higher on the same slope they occurred 
in masses, though not yet in bloom ; another hundred feet 
higher and they were to be seen in their full beauty, together 
with thistles, bilberries, lupins, and pentstemons. 

Here, on a ridge, presumably at 12,500 feet of elevation, 
we established our camp, under pine-trees, on a carpet of 
asfodels and tussock-grass, in full view of the peak, which now 
appeared of imposing dimensions. We called this camp 
Santa Barbara, since the place was known as La Barbara, 
" the wilderness." There was a little brook with ice-cold 
water, and we managed to build a substantial hut to serve as 
shelter for our retainers, who, however, promptly disappeared 
on the following morning, only our friend Hieronimo con- 
tinuing his visits. It was delightful up there. To our unspeak- 
able joy we heard and saw the daily thunderstorms far below 
us ; we were indeed two or three thousand feet above those 
everlasting clouds. Certainly we experienced no rain, but snow 



60 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



fell occasionally. Frequently the snowy peak collected a cap 
of clouds, a short thunderstorm raged above us, and then 
the whole mountain glittered in a sheet of white, right down to 
the camp, but this snow disappeared rapidly under the sun, 
and soon all was dry again. Of course it was cool up there, 
the thermometer usually wavering between 39 F. and 46 F., 




OUR SECOND CAMP AT 12,500 FEET. 

reaching 15 C. (=59 3 F.) at noon. We experienced no incon- 
venience from the rarefied atmosphere, so long as we were not 
in motion, or during the night, but a few steps taken uphill at 
once considerably increased the pulse, whilst the felling and 
dragging about of small trees was felt severely. 

It was less lonely here than at the lower camp, since in the 
scantier wood it was easier to observe the few creatures that 
lived there. There were mice, all of new kinds, some squirrels, 



61 

and right up at the tree-line we found the shed antlers of a 
Cariacus, incontestable evidence of its existence at this extreme 
altitude. One or two blue-birds, Sialis, some Dendroecas 
and tits inspected the lichen-covered trees, and a few humming- 
birds an unexpected sight hovered around the flowers of the 
lupins, though we had not seen a " hummer " since Orizaba. 




SOUTH-EAST VIEW OF THE " VOLCAN," FROM OUR SECOND CAMP. 



A sensation we could have dispensed with was the discovery 
of rattlesnakes close to the tent ; they preyed, of course, upon 
the mice which made a good living out of the seeds and grasses; 
but the existence of these snakes so close to the upper limit of 
life, in a climate cold even in the summer, and one implying 
a long term of hibernation, was certainly surprising. Brown 
" escorpiones," Gerrhonotus antauges, basked on the grass- 
tussocks, Spelerpes orizabensis, continued nearly up to the 



62 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

tree limit, and the last to give out was the little brown Sceloporus. 
In the morning they were easily collected under the bark of 
trees, or under stones, stiff with the cold, arid it took hours of 
sunshine before they felt fit for leaving their hiding-places. 

At the camp the " ocote "-trees averaged fifty feet in height, 
all of them covered with lichens, especially with the pendent 
Usnea, and often supporting thick clumps of the yellow-brown 
mistletoe. Many of the trees were dead, or had fallen from 
stress of age and weather ; others had been destroyed by fire. 
Above 13,000 feet the " ocotes " become rapidly smaller, and 
appear yet more weather-beaten. There they stand in natural 
scattered groups, sprinkled over the southern and western 
sides of the slopes, whilst the northern and eastern aspects 
are bare ; the trees here only reach from some ten to fifteen 
feet in height, and then they cease to exist. These trees are, in 
fact, miniature " ocotes," with every sign of premature age, and 
have been stunted or dwarfed through adverse circumstances ; 
but they do not dwindle to a mere nothing, nor do they grow 
in sprawling, lying-down, or creeping attitudes like the juniper 
bushes which extend still further up, almost to 14,000 feet, 
the tree-line here corresponding to an altitude of about 13,500 
feet. It is an interesting problem. We do not know the effects 
of the various factors in the problem, as, for instance, the 
temperature, rarity and moisture of the air, the condition of 
the subsoil, and, still less, the combined effects of these. The 
difference between life and no life is, of course, absolute ; within 
the zone of life some animals and plants are sufficiently capable 
of adaptation to exhibit every grade, from a flourishing to a 
struggling or even lingering condition, and it is but a few kinds 
of plants of which the tree-line is composed. Why do they 
not dwindle to a mere nothing, say into dwarf trees of the size 
of those produced by the Japanese ? Because, up to a certain 
level, the bionomic conditions permit the life of the species, and 
a few feet higher they do not. Annual plants may, of course, 
in a favourable season, climb up higher and flourish, but 
perennials are inexorably bound to the line. No species can 
exist which enjoys but a partial life, without the chances of 
self -propagation. It is, after all, not more perplexing than the 



THE LIMIT OF LIFE 63 

fluctuation of the snow-line at any given hour, since near 
that line water must be either water or ice and snow. Upon 
some plants the unknown effects of the surrounding conditions 
are very sudden and mysterious. For instance, the Tillandsia 
tricolor disappears quite suddenly from the southern slopes 
at about 9,600 feet ; the last specimens are just as large and 
flourishing as those lower down, whilst the conifers, upon which 
they grow, continue without the slightest change. The Pinus 
liophylla and the Abies religiosa cease at their upper level as 
very big trees. Each kind has its limits, and, for unknown 
reasons, whilst climbing up the mountain, none of these trees 
have changed into new races, sub-species, or species, maybe 
because the whole district is comparatively recent territory, 
a fact which is almost certain, since the higher regions are still 
covered with the sands, ashes, and lava of the last eruptions. 
Their disintegration .has produced the red ferruginous clay 
which covers most of the slope down to Cordoba. 

At the very tree-line, on the slope of a sheltering rock, we 
found a rather fine specimen of an obsidian knife, left behind 
there by its owner, perhaps, many hundreds of years ago. From 
thence upwards cinders and pumice-stone covered barren 
stretches of the mountain, while here and there, on more stony 
ground, grew patches of lupins, and yet a few tussocks, looking 
like pillows of moss, but composed of tiny white flowers. Even 
here there was animal life : a raven croaked overhead, and 
some finches twittered among the rocks, while lizards (Scelopo- 
rus ceneus) hunted a tiny-winged grasshopper, or another, 
which was brightly coloured and wingless, and possessed of 
ridiculously small jumping powers ; lastly, there were some 
spiders. Then came the solid volcanic rocks, quite barren 
except for lichens and patches of moss, and some 600 
metres above the camp, at an altitude of about 14,400 feet, 
we reached what seemed to be permanent patches of snow. 

The summit of the volcano towered another 4,000 feet 
above us, and it was obvious that the ascent could never be 
made on these precipitous south-eastern and southern sides. 
Soon after noon the peak collected clouds, and, suddenly, 
a hailstorm made things unpleasant. Whilst winding our 



DESCENDING. 65 

way back, everything below became enshrouded in a thick fog, 
and it was nearing sunset when the repeated tooting of a horn 
gave us at last the right direction. Thoughtful Mateo, feeling 
uneasy about our long absence, had sent Hieronimo to the 
rescue. 

From the central mass of the volcano, which within historical 
times seems to have been extinct, run out several ridges, one 
nearly due east, another south-east, and a third due south- 
west, all more or less cleft and broken ; these consist of huge 
streams of lava, partly covered with pumice stone, ashes, and 
sand, which wind and water by turns have worn into intricate 
ravines. In the south-west, at about three to four miles from 
the centre, the horizon is bordered by the jagged masses of 
the Sierra Negra, which rises to a height of nearly 13,000 feet, 
and looks very imposing with its sheer, precipitous walls turned 
towards the volcano. This Sierra Negra consists of limestone, 
apparently of the same type as the hard blue stuff of the later 
cretaceous age, which passes in a broad belt close by Orizaba, 
and thence far to the south, along the confines of the States of 
Oaxaca and Vera Cruz. 

We stopped three nights at La Barbara, and on the fourth 
day descended and enjoyed a kind of repetition-lesson of the 
distribution of plants as one after another made its appear- 
ance, until their very numbers became bewildering. Tired, 
drenched, and hungry, we looked in vain for a suitable camping- 
ground, but there was only one small level patch, which, on 
closer examination, proved to be the cemetery of La Perla, 
showing that the village was nearer than we expected. We 
claimed shelter in the " curato," the house intended for the 
occasional visits of the clergy. 

The " alcalde " made a pompous speech, promised us every 
assistance, and wound up with the bombastic remark : " Here 
you may do as you like ; nobody has any power here but 
myself and God." " That's splendid, then let us have some 
food." " Hay de todo," said he ; " but as it is already late, 
I doubt whether you can procure anything now, but to-morrow, 
whatever La Perla possesses, you may command." He accepted 
a cigarette, drank our health in a cup of " specimen " spirit, 



A WORSHIPPER OF THE PEAK. 67 

wished us good-night, and promised to see us " manana." The 
foraging on the morrow was disappointing, nothing beyond 
bananas, tortillas, and " aguardiente " was to be had ; requests 
for chickens, bread, meat, and eggs, always elicited the same 
answer : " No hay," varied by " Se acabo " ("it has come to 
an end"). What little we got to eat on the evening of the 
following day we had to fetch from Orizaba. 

Our companion had in the meantime developed his worship 
of the peak into a regular cult, and the symptoms became 
so acute, when, in the midst of tropical heat and beauty, we 
again saw the peak, now fifty miles off, that the only chance 
of a cure was to tell him to go and shiver if he liked on the top. 
But since he actually accomplished the ascent, rarely under- 
taken, and still more rarely successfully carried out, the gist 
of his own account is here given : 

" From San Andres Station, reached by the up-train at 
2 p.m., a mule-tram leads to the village of Chalchicomula, 
six miles distant. The mountain, as seen from the plateau, 
was no longer a solitary giant spreading his great knees 
upon the earth and bearing up the firmament on his 
head. No, the first impression from the plateau is that of a 
hill a deformed, almost hunchbacked, and dusty-coloured 
hill rising out of a level plain, and only marked out from his 
fellows by a cap of snow. Dust lies ankle-deep in the parched 
highways, and every now and then leaps up in a tall column 
that spins its course until it is scattered by the wind, which 
sweeps over the endless fields of maize and agave. As the mules 
jog along, the view gradually clears, and one can distinguish 
first the foot-hills, thirsty-looking yellow sand, and pebbly 
pumice ; next the belt of dark green forest, and over that the 
beetling mass of porphyry, down the sides of which long, cloven 
tongues of snow seem to be straining to lick something they 
cannot quite reach. Quiet reigns in the streets of Chalchi- 
comula, where, save for the trams, wheeled vehicles are unknown; 
and the place itself, beyond its propinquity to the volcano, 
possesses no particular claim on the attention of the world. 
There is a regulation plaza, with the usual circular fountain and 
stone seats, flanked on one side by the large unfinished church, 



68 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

from the facade of which San Andreas, clad in a plaster kilt, 
faces the afternoon sun. On another side of the plaza stands 
the Hotel Siglo Veinte (the ' Twentieth Century '), in which, as 
the visitor is assured by a handbill posted in the train, are to 
be found ' Comodidad, aseo, moralidad, y orden.' More than 
comfort, cleanliness, morality, and order one could not ask for, 
so here I took a room ; besides, it was the only inn. I next 
broached the subject of the ascent. Instead of making diffi- 
culties, the landlord forthwith sent a boy for one Juan Sanchez, 
who turned out to be a man of seventy- two, but still nimble 
upon his feet. For the sum of $13, plus one peso for fodder, 
he undertook to supply a horse, a mule, his own services, 
and that of two other men, and to take me to the top of the 
volcano and back. In two days, unless a storm came on, he 
thought that the thing could be done. 

" Next morning we started at 7.30, the necessary equipment 
having been packed on to two ' burricas,'or she-asses, into which 
the promised mule had changed during the night. The peak 
was clear on this side, but its north-eastern face was banked 
with fleecy clouds. The road lies through open, rolling foot- 
hills, all cultivated and treeless as far as Barrio de San 
Francisco, a pulque-producing village. Along the side of the 
road are big white-flowering thistles, purple convolvulus, and 
Arbutus spinulotus ; while in the neighbourhood grow the 
' encino ' and the Roble oaks, the short and long-leaved 
pine, alder, and a few ' sabinos,' or junipers. At 9.15 
we entered the ' orilla del monte,' amongst a belt of pines. 
The behaviour of the tillandsias was as striking as it 
was on the Xometla side. The first was noticed at 9.30, 
two more at 9.45, four minutes later they were plentiful, 
although not growing with anything like the luxuriance 
they displayed at Xometla. Here was met the first big 
' oyamel,' which henceforth became plentiful, growing in 
groves. At 10.15 appeared masses of dark purple asfodels, the 
tillandsias gave way, and big scrubs of pentstemon and lupins, 
called ' Flor de San Juan,' six to eight feet high, attracted 
attention beneath the ' oyamel, 'which is here the predominating 
tree. At 10.35 the ascent, which so far had been gentle, became 



HIS ASCENT. 69 

steeper ; the alder disappeared, the long-leaved pine seemed 
somewhat dwarfed, and was giving way to the short-leaved 
' ocotel,' but the ' oyamel ' continued, most of the trees 
festooned with Usnea, and some were nearly overpowered 
with lichens. At 11.25 we stopped for an hour amongst 
lupins, pentstemon, small tree-heath, and ' ocotel.' The path 
now takes advantage of a depression between two converging 
ridges, and leads straight up to the toothed notch which 
separates the peak from the Sierra Negra. At 12.55 we 
were at the edge of the timber, and crossing a broad saddle 
between the two mountains, with steppe-like vegetation and 
deathly silence, although, for that matter, all the way up 
there had been very few signs of animal life. 

"At 1.45 we reached our day's destination, La Cueva, a 
roomy hole in the side of one of the rocky reefs which lead up 
to the snow. This one runs about north and south, and its 
eastern or weather face is clothed for some distance with large 
pines which, being here locally sheltered from the wind although 
not from the moisture, manage to thrive at this considerable 
level, the altitude of the cave being reputed to be 13,700 feet. 
The night before the ascent is always spent at this cave ; a 
big fire was made at the mouth, and soon after sundown a 
light rain began to fall. The night was wretched and nobody 
slept, although in preparation for an early start we tried our 
best. The altitude produced a tight feeling round the head 
and a slightly squeamish sensation in the stomach. The old 
man got up every hour to tend the fire and to look at the 
weather, but came back each time with the discouraging 
report ' Esta pegando,' literally, ' It is pegging away.' At 
last, soon after midnight, he declared that things were 
' limpiando,' ' clearing.' We warmed some food and gladly 
left the dismal cave a little before 3 a.m., the old man leading 
with a lantern. The sky was clear overhead, but it was a dark 
night, and the moon had already set. 

" There is a trail along the base of the ridge, and soon we 
found ourselves walking over the light powdery snow which 
had fallen overnight, giving the dim outlines of the ridges a 
ghostly appearance, but in front the dark mass of the peak 



70 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

loomed up unmistakably. The valley up which we were going 
gradually narrows into a pass, and at a moraine, about five miles 
from the cave, the real snow-line is reached. At 4.45, and 
perhaps at an altitude of some 15,000 feet, the horse and the 
donkey were taken back to the cave by the old man, and we 
three began the walk up, which, for about two-thirds of the way, 
consisted simply in placing one foot before the other on the 
rocks which lead in a straight line up to the summit, the only 
difficulty being the filling of the lungs. Day burst in all its 
glory, and as we gradually crept upward the plain from Cordoba 
to Puebla was clearly mapped out in all its wonderful colours. 
In the foreground was Maltrata, and above it the green steps 
of forest and open country which overhang Orizaba. West- 
ward a long stretch of filmy plain, and in the far distance, 
sparkling like many-hued jewels in the sunlight, were 
Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl. We kept on steadily until, 
at 7.45, we reached a point where the rocks stopped. The top 
was in full view, and just above our heads was ' el pulpito,' 
an overhanging mass of rock. 

" According to the younger of the two guides we should 
be on the ' pulpito ' in a quarter of an hour, but the older guide 
was less sanguine, and said that it might take us an hour to get 
to the crater itself. Actually it took us three hours, and we went 
through the misery of thinking that we might not get there 
after all. The main reason was the state of the snow, which 
was very soft after last night's fall, and we were also delayed by 
a storm which sprang up rather suddenly. Every step had to 
be sliced out with the spade by the unfortunate Juan, and so 
we ' tacked ' very slowly indeed up the steep slope. The 
' pulpito,' which had seemed within our grasp, was blotted out 
by the dense white clouds, and we plodded on and on without 
seeming to get anywhere. Juan could dig no more, and the 
other man was not such a good hand with the spade. Almost 
every moment I expected to be told that we could go no further, 
when through a thin spot in the mist appeared for a moment 
the figure of a cross which marks the summit. Between it and 
us there was a patch of wet ground which the wind had swept 
bare of snow ; from below this spot looked as if one could step 



THE SUMMIT REACHED 



71 



across it, but we had great difficulty in dragging our weary 
limbs over it. 

" The cross, which the men approached hat in hand at 
10.45, stands on the edge of the crater, but the wind blew so 
fiercely and so cold that it was impossible to stay there, nor 
could we see anything except the jaws of a jagged chasm in 
which water was roaring. We found a sheltered place and sat 
down, in the vain hope of the storm passing. We had nothing 







THE GUIDES NEAR THE TOP OF CITLALTEPETL, 18,200 FEET. 

to drink, which was a bad mistake, and for the food we had not 
much appetite in our somewhat nauseous and rather sleepy 
condition. 

" After waiting half-an-hour we started down, putting our 
feet in the same dug-out holes ; but the snow was treacherous, 
and before long I went through a soft place, wrenching my knee. 



72 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

It was nothing serious, but enough to make me cast about for 
some easier means of descent. After some palavering, Juan 
and I rigged up a toboggan in the shape of a small zarape, and 
we slid down on it together, all the way down the snow, cover- 
ing in a few minutes what had taken us hours to go up. At 
12.50 we were at the foot of the snow, and thence it took two 
hours to the cave, where we arrived about 3 p.m., hungry, but 
still rather squeamish about eating. When, an hour later, we 
left the cave the peak was brilliantly clear ! " 



CHAPTER IV. 

IN THE HEART OF THE TROPICS. 

The Hill-forests from Cordoba to the Rio Tonto Enormous Numbers of 
spawning Tree-frogs Cordoba A typical Hacienda Native Boys as 
Collectors of Reptiles Two Boas The Ferryman Lizard A shooting Fray 
A Visit to the Mazateca Tribe The Rio Tonto Butterflies Coral Snakes 
and "warning" Colours Leaf-cutting Ants A bad Accident Lagoon Life. 

Our original programme, as laid down at home, included 
a journey into the tierra caliente, the goal at which we in- 
tended to recuperate being Tehuantepec, and our plan being to 
reach the Isthmus by way of Oaxaca. We had even fixed 
the dates. In most cases, any serious change of such a plan 
of campaign leads to disappointment, to be repented at leisure, 
when it is too late. Not knowing how life in these tropics 
would suit us, we were a little afraid, especially after the many 
warnings received about the forests and sw T amps during the 
rainy season, and prudence dictated our leaving the swelter- 
ing, moist Atlantic lowlands alone, and trying the drier Pacific 
side, though in our heart of hearts we still hankered after the 
mysteries of the forbidden land. Eventually, however, we 
thought that we must have " just a peep " into those parts 
as well. On doing so, we were at once smitten with their 
luxuriant beauty, and good luck and a kind friend combined 
to produce a complete change of plan, which proved most 
successful. 

The " peep " was instructive, and came about in this way. 
Whilst waiting at Orizaba for Mateo, we happened to befriend 
a queer fellow, who professed to be a collector of natural 
history specimens, and I spent an afternoon digging and hoeing 



74 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



in his " cafetal," or coffee plantation, for newts, which, according 
to him, were so common that it would require care to avoid 
injuring them with the hoe. His name was Toro (Mr. Bull), 
a most inappropriate patronymic, since he was an arrant 
coward, childishly afraid of fever and snakes. What could be 
easier than to take the morning train for Cordoba at Orizaba : 
thence, after half-an-hour, to go by another train to Presidio, 
arriving at 10 a.m. ; there to stop and have a look round, and 
to return by the up-train at 3 p.m., reaching Cordoba at 5 p.m., 




Coatza 
Cos/cos 



SKETCH MAP OF ROUTE FROM CORDOBA TO HUILE. 



and getting back to Orizaba at 6.30 p.m. ? What could be 
pleasanter and easier than such a picnic, the train service being 
scheduled so conveniently ? What, indeed ? Only that 
things and trains did not hit it off well. 

The running of the Mexican Railway, from the capital to 
Vera Cruz, is above suspicion ; but the other line was different. 
The wheels of the train creaked and screeched as the large 
American cars grated against the rails of the tortuous curves 
now and then, indeed, they stuck fast, and then came a 
" wash-out," with a delay of several hours spent in mending the 
permanent way for the engine to be coaxed over the dangerous 
spot, hastily summoned Indians supporting the rails by means 
of crowbars used as levers. It was long after noon before 
the little station of Presidio was reached, with a flourishing 



A GREAT EXPERIENCE. 75 

factory, or hacienda the Finca de San Bernardino in the 
neighbourhood. The owner, a Spaniard, was most hospitably 
inclined, and we much regretted that our stay would be so 
short, when the up train crawled into the station an hour before 
its time. But this was a false alarm, as it was the train that 
had been due on the previous afternoon. Of course, we let that 
train go, not knowing that the fact of its having succeeded 
in going up had been deemed sufficient reason for suppressing 
the normal train. But this was the fact, and we were let in 
for a twenty-four hours' picnic without any preparations. 

What we saw and felt, heard and smelt, during that 
afternoon, the hot night, and the glorious morning that 
followed, as well as the ramble through forest and savannah, 
was enough to make us fall in love with the tierra caliente. 
The air thrilled with tropical life, in the literal sense of the 
word. Let me relate but one instance the great experience 
of this hasty visit. 

Whilst rambling along the edge of the forest we became 
conscious of a noise, at first resembling the mutter of a distant 
sawmill ; but on our reaching the other side of a cluster of 
trees this sound grew into a roar, like that of steam escaping 
from many engines, mingled with the sharp and piercing 
scream of saws. It came from a meadow containing a shallow 
pool of rainwater. In the wet grass, on its stalks, and on the 
ground, hopped about hundreds of large green tree-frogs ; 
nearer the pool they were to be seen in thousands, and in the 
water itself there were tens of thousands. Hopping, jumping, 
crawling, sliding, getting hold of each other, or sitting still. 
Most of them were in amplexus, and these couples were quiet, 
but the solitary males sat on their haunches and barked 
solemnly, with their resounding vocal bags protruding. Every 
now and then one was making for a mate, and often there 
were three or four hanging on to each other and rolling over. 
The din was so great that it was with difficulty that we caught 
the remarks that we shouted, although we were standing only 
a few feet apart. Each sweep of a butterfly net caught at 
least half-a-dozen frogs. 

Now the grassy pool, where the frogs were closest, was about 



76 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

thirty yards square (900 square yards), rather more than the 
area of a tennis lawn, and each square yard held from 
fifty to one hundred frogs many square yards certainly held 
several hundreds each. At the very lowest computation this 
gives 45,000 frogs ; and there was, besides, an outer ring of 
some five hundred square yards where frogs were fairly numerous, 
say from five to ten to the square yard, mostly spent females, 
but these few thousands we may leave out of the reckoning, 
to understate rather than overestimate the number. Supposing 
there were only 20,000 females, each spawning from 5,000 to 
10,000 eggs say only 5,000 the total would amount to just 
one hundred million eggs. The spawn literally covered both 
ground and water thickly. But the greatest surprise 
awaited us on the following morning, when we went to photo- 
graph the scene. There was not a single frog left : the water 
had all evaporated, and the whole place was glazed over with 
dried-up spawn ! The prospective chance of millions of little 
frogs was gone, their expectant parents having been deceived 
in calculating their day of incarnation. That was on the 4th 
of July, several weeks after the beginning of the rather fitful 
rainy season. 

These frogs belonged to the commonest kind viz., Hyla 
baudini found in tropical Mexico. We had already discovered 
half-a-dozen in the plantain-grove, tucked away and flattened 
between the sheath-like leaves and the stem ; several weeks 
later I caught one or two on a branch which was overhanging 
a stream. With these few exceptions I did not again come 
across this species, which shows how easy it is to miss even a 
common creature, and how easy to infer its absence, when it 
nevertheless exists in that very district in countless numbers. 
These tree-frogs cannot have assembled from a great distance 
at that deceptive pool ; they may possibly have represented 
but a fraction of the entire frog-population in the neighbour- 
hood. It was, further, a surprising fact that no snakes or birds 
of any kind were to be seen in pursuit of them, perhaps because 
it is not the custom of the tree-snakes to hunt for them when 
thus occupied in the open, and they probably felt they could 
be sure of their prey at the proper time and place in the trees. 



OUR TRAVELLING DOMICILE 77 

The railway which took us to Presidio goes from Cordoba 
to the Isthmus, where it joins the Tehuantepec line. Its 
official name is, or was, the " Vera Cruz al Pacifico," although 
it was not meant to extend to the Pacific, but was to 
have running power over the Isthmus line. It passes, roughly 
speaking, along the confines of the States of Vera Cruz and 
Oaxaca, going all the way through country practically un- 
known to the naturalist. It has since been repeatedly used 
by American zoologists. The line was advertised as the 
" Heart-of-the-Tropics-Route, one train each way daily, 
passing through wonderful valleys and picturesque plains, 
skirting the great sierras, passing all kinds of plantations, 
forests of palms and giant trees, the latter covered with orchids 
and tenanted by parrots and monkeys." All this is strictly 
true, only they forgot to warn the tourists that all along the 
two hundred and fifty odd miles from Cordoba to where the 
line loses itself in the wilderness, and during the four days 
which a successful down and up journey would take, there 
are only Indian villages and private haciendas, no inns, and no 
dining or sleeping cars. Of course not ! The only way to 
enjoy such a trip would be as the guest of an inspection party 
in the owner's well-found private car. However, we managed 
even better than that, travelling not exactly in luxury (far 
from it), but in absolute freedom. By great good luck Mr. 
Algernon Joy, one of the magnates of the line, befriended us at 
Orizaba, and practically put the use of the entire line at our 
disposal. The sacred private car was, of course, out of the 
question, as it could not be spared for several weeks, nor was 
it the kind of thing one would conscientiously turn into a sort 
of travelling show or menagerie. I therefore pleaded for the 
next best thing, namely, a large goods van. 

This proved in various ways better than a tent, since it solved 
the whole difficulty of transporting the equipment, without 
the ever-recurring worry of packing and unpacking it upon 
mules ; it provided a shelter that was absolutely waterproof, 
and last, not least, it kept us and our belongings raised some 
five feet above the ground. When locked it could be left un- 
guarded, as nobody was likely to run away with the car. Of 






78 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

course, it had some drawbacks for instance, it confined the 
stopping-places to stations possessing a shunting track, and it 
was naturally quite impossible to ascertain beforehand whether 
they would suit our purpose. Nevertheless, that particular 
car ("V. C. al P. No. 542 ") became our chief domicile and 
movable base. One end was curtained off by means of 
zarapes to form a bedroom, the centre served as drawing 
and reception-room, and the other end housed Mateo 
and our companion, together with a gradually increasing 
menagerie. 

However, at Cordoba, the train service being uncertain 
in the morning and the car being not yet quite ready it was 
recovering from the thorough cleaning which it had received 
the night was spent at a wooden shanty close to the station, 
run by a Chinaman, who was " casado " (lit. " housed with," 
i.e.. " married ") to an Indian woman. It was the usual abode 
of the railroad men and of occasional travellers, who literally 
fell into this hovel, the tiny " rooms " of which were formed 
by means of thin partitions, all giving upon the back-yard, 
over a mass of mud, dirt, and garbage of all sorts. But 
the woman was kind and attentive to my wife, and 
the food provided by the " Celestial " might have been 
worse if only I had not been so rash as to interview him in 
the kitchen ! 

Cordoba, founded by and named after one of the viceroys, 
is a strikingly pretty and quaint town, situated just within the 
" hot-lands," upon a slight hill at an elevation of 2,700 feet. 
The soil is rich, with a considerable amount of black humus, 
which, combined with an annual rainfall varying from eight 
to nine feet, produces an incredible fertility, every kind of 
tropical fruit and flower growing here in profusion. Moreover, 
there is no really dry season, not a month with less than two 
inches of rain, but the wettest time of the year is from June 
to the end of September, with an average monthly allowance 
of from sixteen to twenty inches. The rainfall at Orizaba 
is very much less, being but six feet, and that of Vera Cruz 
four to five. The town lies a long way off the station, the tram 
passing first through a succession of orchards, and then through 



CORDOBA. 



79 



narrow streets formed by picturesque, low houses, with eaves 
of curved tiles, which latter at times proffered a welcome shade, 
and at other times projected into the street, to right and left, 
thousands of little spouts of water. In the centre of the 
large plaza is a magnificent garden, and at least one of the 
hotels commands charming views. 




CHURCH OF CORDOBA. 



Our first stopping-place was Motzorongo, the name of a 
large hacienda. The administrator lodged and boarded us 
in the many-roomed house, Mateo remaining in the van, which 
became our laboratory. Motzorongo has an interesting history, 
typical of many such haciendas. Pacheco, a general of the 
Mexican army during the period of the foreign intervention, 
dealt the French a heavy blow at Puebla, and had the extremely 



80 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

bad (or, perhaps, as it turned out, rather good) luck to lose 
an arm and a leg during the engagement. He thus became one 
of the national heroes, and, after the final expulsion of the 
enemy, General Diaz rewarded him with enormous grants of 
land, much or most of which land had, after the reforms under 
President Juarez, been confiscated from the numerous religious 
orders. Motzorongo was one of these grants. A house was 
built for Pacheco, and at great cost a factory with all the plant 
for the refining of sugar, and, to crown all, a railway was con- 
structed from Cordoba to Motzorongo as its terminus, the 
beginning of the present " Ferro-carril de Vera Cruz al Pacifico." 
But the old warrior did not do well financially, and several 
times Diaz, who has never yet abandoned any of those who 
stood by him as comrades-in-arms during the bitter times of 
national stress, had to see him through his troubles. A huge 
ceiba tree (Bombax ceiba), now grown to beautiful proportions, 
was planted by the President during one of these sympathetic 
visits. Heavy mortgages had to be met when old Pacheco 
died, and the estate fell into utter ruin, the costly sugar factory 
plant with the rest. Then some foreign company bought it, 
and an administrator was employed to try and put it into shape 
again. 

The land was originally taken away from the natives by 
the religious orders, and when these were disestablished, their 
bad titles were, of course, taken over as good titles by the new 
Pacheco concern, and the natives therefore still had to pay 
rent, in money, to Motzorongo. Those of Josefines and of 
La Raya, dependencies of the big place, had, moreover, to 
do " fronde " service, being obliged, for very small pay, to work 
two days per week. During Pacheco's patriarchal and easy- 
going reign this went on well enough, just as it had been doing 
for several hundred years, and his grave, not far from the house, 
was still visited by the natives, who wanted to perform certain 
heathen rites there. But the long interregnum following his 
death had utterly demoralised the natives, who became 
good-for-nothing loafers, and could only occasionally be induced 
to work for six or seven reales per day. After mid-week they 
turned up sixty or eighty strong, until they were paid on the 



FASHION IN MACHETES 



81 



Saturday. On the Monday perhaps only three or four of them 
came, a few more on Tuesday, and so on, to the despair of the 
administrator, who never knew how many workers he was 
about to have available. 

There was a large store, a shop stocked with every imagin- 
able kind of goods that the natives might be induced to buy, 




THE HERPETOLOGISTS OF MOTZORONGO. 



from tinned meat to cigars, from milk to cognac, and from 
woollen blankets to machetes. Some of these machetes were 
of American, others of German make ; both kinds were ser- 
viceable, but were not in great demand, for the simple reason 
that the pattern was not that which was fancied in that 
district. The various tribes are most particular about their 
machetes, not only as to the shape and proportions of the 



82 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

blade, but also as to the shape and pattern of the handle, 
wherein immutable fashion reigns supreme. It was with some 
difficulty that we established trading relations with the 
people for collecting purposes. This new trade, however, 
proved profitable to the shop. I procured a handful of small 
coin to pay the boys with, and when, on the same evening, I 
went again for change, hoping that this might not incommode 
the storekeeper, he opened the locker and said cheerfully : 
' There they are, take them again ; they will all come back to 
me." The boys had at once spent their earnings in sweets 
and other more necessary commodities, and thus these coins 
circulated rapidly. 

Some labourers brought a pair of fine boa constrictors, 
which they had found ensconced in the ground while hoeing a 
field. Being gentle creatures, as all boas are, in contra- 
distinction to pythons, they were taken to our car and put into 
a barrel. On the following morning both snakes were gone, 
but after much searching one was recaptured under the platform 
near the store, the other being reluctantly given up as lost. 
Several days later, my wife, overhauling the baggage, found 
the truant. It was easy enough, with patience, to recapture 
him, but my wife and I had our hands full with the creature, 
which would have been more than strong enough to break one's 
arm if allowed to coil round it, and thus get a purchase. The 
creature never lost its temper, but was most deliberate in its 
movements, and since we happened to be alone, to hold it was 
as much as we could do. But we were not rehearsing the 
Laocoon group ; a passing boy, therefore, was invited to help 
us in putting the reptile into a box. " Como no ? " " Why 
not," said he, and climbed into the van. But he was not pre- 
pared for another snake's head to shoot out w r hen he raised the 
lid of the barrel, and only by dint of much forcible persuasion 
and patience were the boy and the snakes prevented from 
bolting. The worst of such little interludes is the utter ex- 
haustion that supervenes in a country where every additional 
exertion causes streams of perspiration, and upsets one's mental 
balance. When one can loll in a chair on the verandah, with a 
cooling drink at one's elbow, life in the tropics is delightful ; 






FISHING WITH DYNAMITE 83 

but when one has a hundred odd jobs to do, besides the day's 
active work, life assumes an altogether different aspect ; and 
we were not lazy, because we had not come merely to amuse 
ourselves. There was the Rio Blanco, the White River, so 
called on account of its somewhat whitish water, which rushed 
along its boulder-strewn bed of limestone where we went to 
fish in the deeper pools. Easier said than done ; even the pre- 
parations took two days' nagging and worrying over. Plenty 
of dynamite cartridges were kept at one of the outhouses : it 
cost us one day to get them ; then came the hunt for the fuses, 
and these were discovered at the store together with lamp- 
wicks, no doubt on the strength of their similarity. It was 
always the other man who knew, or who was in charge, or who 
had the key, and he invariably was the man who happened to 
be away. Thus went the second day, and still something was 
wanting the detonators, which, on the following morning, 
were coaxed out of the storekeeper's coat pocket. Mateo and I 
had intended to start operations in the cool of the morning ; 
it was already hot before we got under way at last, and then, 
to reach a suitable place, we had to cross a field of Indian corn. 
That was a clearing which had been made by cutting down 
and setting fire to the trees, the charred trunks and bigger 
branches being left in the position in which they happened 
to have fallen. They formed regular stockades, and the 
reverberating heat was maddening. At last we prepared f ex- 
action, to find that the fuses did not fit into the detonators. 
However, all went well, and in the excitement of retrieving 
the stunned fishes we managed to ford the stream, which in 
our subsequent calmer mood we lacked the courage to recross. 
We only got back by wriggling through the overhanging 
boughs, and then on to a fallen tree, along which we crawled 
on all fours all this encumbered with a rifle, a landing net, 
glass bottles, and pockets full of cartridges and spoils. 

Then came the tramp home in the noon-day sun, the 
pickling and labelling of specimens, and the making of notes, 
with many bruises and scratches and a burning skin, a 
squeamish appetite, and the petty mental disturbances 
all more than sufficient for the day. In the evening came 



84 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



the setting of traps for various kinds of opossums (Didelphys 
virginiana and the little D. opossum] and little rodents. 

It was quite a relief to prowl about in the beautiful forest, 
prying into hollow trees, turning over logs and stones, or 
which was generally more effective sitting still and watching 
for whatever might turn up. One day a native, with Mateo 
and myself, had been out collecting at our leisure. We had 
shot, or rather stunned, some fish and frogs ; had caught one 
little tree-frog (Hyla staufferi), hitherto known only from 




VIEW FROM MOTZORONGO ! CITLALTEPETL IN THE DISTANCE. 



Guatemala, and had found a nest resembling that of a bird 
in a bush, whence jumped out a mother opossum (Didelphys 
opossum), called " raton tlacuache," with nine young. We 
assisted the dog in treeing a carnivorous beast of some kind, 
had caught a snake or two, and then one of us stumbled over 
a root that stretched across the path. The Indian hacked 
at this with his machete, and I picked out of the loosened mould 
a treasure indeed, in the shape of a miserable-looking, blind, 
limbless kind of lizard Anelytropsis papillosus ! The two 
type specimens " from near Jalapa " had been described in 



A SHOOTING AFFRAY 85 

1885 by E. D. Cope ; this, the third specimen ever got, is now 
at the British Museum. 

Well satisfied we had a smoke, and, half-an-hour afterwards, 
the Indian stretched out his hand and picked from off the very 
stump upon which we rested a fine Corythophanes hernandezi, 
a rare and curiously-shaped lizard, of which I only got two 
more specimens. He had looked at that loose, upstanding piece 
of bark several times, but it was not until it moved that he 
recognised the " teterete," the Nahoa term for any long- 
legged and long-tailed climbing lizard of the Iguanid family. 
These " teterete de tierra " remind one of a chameleon in 
respect of their shape, and their light brown colouring enhances 
their apparent resemblance to a dead branch or piece of bark. 
I succeeded in taking this specimen home alive, where it soon 
became tame.. The rivers and pools all through the " hot-lands " 
are tenanted by another iguanid (Basiliscus americanus), the 
" teterete de agua," " basilisk," " pasarios," or " ferryman." 
This is a vegetable feeder, growing more than a foot in length, 
with helmet-shaped head, the back and tail of the male, which 
is larger than the female, having a high, reddish-coloured, 
serrated crest, the prevailing colour of the body being greenish. 
These lizards are very shy, and sit mostly on branches near the 
edge of, or overhanging, the water. At the slightest alarm 
they plunge in and then run, half erect, and rapidly beating the 
water with their long hind limbs, helped by their long wriggling 
tail, across the pond or stream, to climb up and hide in the 
shrubs on the other side. It is a curious sensation to see a 
large lizard thus ferrying itself across the water, and to hear 
the rushing, paddling noise. 

The station of Motzorongo had been without a telegraph 
office, but one morning an operator arrived, who was installed 
with his instruments in one of the empty buildings. This man 
caused, later on, a considerable upset and trouble. He had 
brought his wife with him, a tall white woman, with a profusion 
of red, touzled hair, the sight of whom proved too much 
for an amorous Irish clerk, and conjugal recriminations were 
the result. Eventually this was reported to us long after 
the event the husband, who was a methodical man, sent 



86 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



to the capital for a new six-shooter and a box of cartridges, 
put all his account-books in order, wrote an explanatory letter 
to his superiors, indicating that he might be prevented from 
continuing to perform his duties, went straight to the stores, 
fired two bullets into the offender, and a third clean through 
him, and thereupon gave himself up to the first person who 
cared to arrest him. 




MAZATECA WOMAN. 

The original offender lingered long between life and death, 
to recover under the fostering and assiduous care of the siren 
who caused the trouble. The husband, who was the actual 
culprit in the drama, being all that time kept in jail, and a 
Mexican hot-country jail is not a sanatorium. The magistrate, 
pressed by friends of both parties, found it difficult to dis- 
charge his duty. If he tried a man who, under much pro- 
vocation, had drilled a few holes into another man, the 



THE SEQUEL 



87 



sentence could not possibly satisfy the friends of the wounded ; 
and if he were to acquit him, and the wounded man were to die 
later, it would be still less satisfactory. Obviously it was a case 
of " manana veremos todo," " we'll see to it all to-morrow," 
and many repeated " pasados mananas." Solvitur ambulando, 
as time goes on. As in course of time it became clear that it 
was not a case of homicide, and since both men had suffered, 




A MAZATECA HOUSE. TYPE I. 



and the siren had behaved so very impartially by even nursing 
the wounded man, the case fizzled out, and the trio left the 
spot as being one that was too unhealthy to live in. 

The natives throughout the valley from Cordoba to Mot- 
zorongo speak Spanish, and are supposed to be Mexicanos 
(vulgo Aztecs), who, in olden times, had extended their influence 
into the lowlands of Vera Cruz. To be quite correct, only the 
dominant settlers in the villages are Aztecs, the rest of the 



88 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

population being of doubtful affinities. A few miles to the 
south, however, lives a genuine tribe, the Mazatecas, who 
belong to the great Mixteco-Zapoteca family. Some of the 
land of the Motzorongo Company extends a long way into the 
territory of this interesting tribe, one of whose " caciques," or 
chiefs, a young and courteous fellow, invited us to pay him 
a visit on the Rio Tonto. 

We set out one fine morning due southwards to the large 
village of Tezonapan, four miles off, where many hundreds of 
natives had collected for a fair. Then followed a long ride 
through most impressive primeval forest, over a road made by 
simply clearing a broad path through the luxurious growth, 
the foothills or spurs of the sierra being crossed to the west- 
wards at an average altitude of about 1,000 feet above sea-level. 
Owing to these spurs the path dipped and rose again, with a 
water runnel, or morass, here and there, bridged over by felled 
trees. In bygone days the road must have been quite 
tolerable ; there was even a telephone wire to Josefines, but 
many of the poles had been broken down, and the wire, partly 
cut and taken away by natives, made the most awkward 
entanglements for the horses, as it twisted about and coiled in 
the grass. This sufficiently explained why telephonic com- 
munication with Josefines " had recently got out of order." 

This place, which we reached late in the afternoon, was a 
dependency of the chief hacienda, and was in utter ruins, 
being only tenanted by an old Indian couple as caretakers. 
Nothing whatever was to be got there except shelter, and we 
spent a lively night. To begin with, it was just the right kind 
of night, as the old Indian sympathetically explained, for the 
" chaquistles " to turn out in myriads, these being tiny black 
gnats, which settle upon the skin and burn it like red-hot 
grains of sand. Then rats rummaged about under the beds, 
to see what supper the unwonted strangers might have left, 
and scuttled and rustled around, squeaking and chattering as 
they ran. At last sleep came, but was soon broken by a grand 
outburst in the shape of opossums which hunted the rats and 
caught some of them in the palm-thatched roof. The caretaker 
said that it was probably their " masacoatl," the boa, which 



A CHARMING INDIAN 89 

had been hunting in the roof, but it did not sound like the long- 
drawn rustle that is made by these creatures. Although this 
was a " snaky " place, we caught only two small specimens in 
the kitchen whilst preparing breakfast. 

The next day, fortunately rainless, was spent in still grander 
forest, until we came at last to La Ray a, a kind of Ultima 
Thule settlement close to the Rio Tonto. The great man, in 




STARTING FROM JOSEFINES. 

command of the large store-house, was Sr. La Barraque, a most 
agreeable young fellow of Spanish-French extraction. He 
was married to a quiet, good-looking Mazateca girl, to whom he 
was much attached, and for whose uneducated Indian ways 
he very pleasantly apologised. This was quite unnecessary, 
since her manners were charming. She spent much of her 
time in embroidering cotton " huipiles," or female garments, 
and table-covers, with the typical Mazateca patterns. He 



90 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

himself was something of a sportsman, having quite a 
collection of firearms, antlers of deer, skulls of the jaguar, 
and of the smaller ocelot, or tiger cat, all of which beasts were 
plentiful. 

We were installed in the hall of judgment, assembly room, 
town hall, or whatever one likes to call the large official 
municipal structure, a typical " hot-country " erection, con- 
sisting mainly of a thick, high-pitched roof of palm-leaves, 
with great, low eaves. The house was made entirely of vegetable 
matter, without a single nail or other piece of metal. The 




EMBROIDERED " HUIPILES " MAZATECA TRIBE, EASTERN OAZACA. 

framework was of unhewn stems and beams, the walls and 
the roof of the ribs of palm-leaves, neatly lashed together with 
the natural rope-like cords of the " bejugo de agua " plant, or 
with the flattened, creeping stems of some other liana, called, 
from its obvious resemblance thereto, " costillas de vaca," 
or " cow's riblets." This latter plant is poisonous ; well 
pounded, and then left to soak in a stream, it is used for catching 
fish. The interior of the room itself measured about twenty- 
four feet by fifteen. The construction of such houses (and the 
others were all of the same kind, only smaller) is very destruc- 
tive of palm-trees. One side of the roof of our hall alone 



GLORIOUS VIEWS 93 

required some eighty palm-ribs, and the whole roof, therefore, 
took some three hundred and twenty leaves, a single perfect 
palm-tree possessing only about twenty of the required length 
(from fifteen to eighteen feet). This implies the lopping off 
of the leaves of at least sixteen trees for the roof alone. Besides 
these, many ribs are required for the wattled walls, which in 
so hot and moist a climate have to be renewed every three or 
four years, the stalks rotting away near the ground, in spite of 
the protection afforded by the broad, overhanging eaves. Since 
a palm-tree does not recover from such a severe lopping within 
a few years, the inevitable result is that near an Indian settle- 
ment most of the palms present a deplorable, maimed 
appearance, and have become scarce. 

Not far from the town hall stood the prison, a small cage- 
like structure of strong beams, roughly hewn into shape. All 
round it the flat piece of ground was kept scrupulously clean, 
and the raised portion, which stood well up above its immediate 
neighbourhood, commanded exquisite views. Towards the 
west the river went winding through low forest and open cattle- 
pastures, while across the river were densely- wooded hills in 
well-nigh unknown country. But the grandest views were those 
to the west and north. In the foreground was the conical, 
square-topped Cerro de Masatiopa ; beyond, precipitous cliffs 
of yellow limestone and jagged sierras were silhouetted against 
the horizon ; and due north-west, across high, grassy meadows, 
impenetrable bushland, green forests, and purple and blue 
hills, arose the resplendent white cone of El Pico, here no longer 
called Citlaltepetl, but " Nassitshoa," or the " Thunder- 
Mountain." 

Meals were taken in the big store-house amongst lively 
company. Two tame, yellow-headed parrots climbed about 
the house, and a third, the oldest and most independent, sat 
on a rafter above the raised hearth eating a " jilote," or cob 
of Indian corn, and chattered Mazateca to his young mistress, 
a shy servant. Turkeys, geese, fowls, and two families of 
musk ducks, with several dogs and cats, went in and out of the 
house, that lacked both doors and windows. In the evening 
toads began to mutter, to trill, or to mew like kittens, now and 



94 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

then giving a snarl in deep bass and we heard all the voices 
of the plentiful Bufo marinus, from the tiny half -inch baby 
born this spring to the old six-inch mother, who during the 
daytime sat in her own cavity under the waterbut. 

The Rio Tonto, a north-western tributary of the mighty 
Papaloapan,* was in flood, a big, green-yellow, rushing stream, 
with delightfully cool water, in which we swam about to our 
heart's content, the sensation of coolness being refreshing 
beyond description to our sun-heated bodies. Although very 
rapid the river was deep, in many places about twenty-five 
feet, and the canoe-men soon ceased to touch bottom with their 
long poles. The canoes, long, hollowed-out trunks, were most 
unsteady, and only poles, no oars or paddles, were used. 
Owing to the fact that all the sandbanks were submerged, it 
was a bad time to try and see crocodiles, which are said to be 
numerous, and the same remark applied to the tortoises, but 
a small collection of fish was made, and meanwhile we beheld 
an amusing sight. On the opposite high bank was a kind of 
landing-place. The rains had thoroughly soaked this spot, 
which consisted of a steep incline of thirty or forty yards, and 
a number of naked, coffee-coloured boys amused themselves 
with slithering down the slippery red soil ; one of the boldest 
shooting down from time to time feet foremost into the 
river. 

The whole district appeared to be an ophidian paradise. 
The most dreaded was the " palanca " (Lachesis kinceolafus), 
from the bite of one of which a boy had died within twenty- 

* This river well deserves its Aztec name, which means " Butterfly-river.'' 
It was tantalising to see the great blue Morphos rapidly sailing overhead and 
then hovering over the water, always out of reach, and so swift in its move- 
ments that pursuit was hopeless. Yet even these resplendently beautiful 
insects had their enemies ; not birds, but big dragon-flies, which darted out 
of ambush on the banks of the river, and with a shrill noise, like little rockets, 
made for the passing butterflies. The only chano.e of escape for the latter 
was, apparently, to reach some branch upon which to alight, and by folding 
up its large wings to hide its gorgeous colours. We all know how easily a 
butterfly can suddenly thus become invisible, but whether this dodge is 
sufficient to elude the many-facetted eyes of the rapacious pursuer is another 
question. A great physiologist, Joh. Mueller, has written a paper on "The 
Sight of Insects," in which he proved, to his own satisfaction, that dragon- 
flies could not possibly discern the two ends of a stick, unless this was at 
least a yard in length ! 



WARNING COLOURS 95 

four hours, the reptile in question having a partly digested 
'" sabanera " (Coluber corals] in its stomach. Coral snakes 
were common, as also were certain other harmless kinds 
(Urotheca elapoides), almost identical with the former in their 
beautiful coloration. Tree-snakes abounded, but they were, as 
usual, difficult to observe ; such, for instance, were the whipcord- 
like Himantodes cenchoa, Leptophis, and the long and slender- 
snouted Oxybelis ceneux, called " bejuquillo," or " suchil," 
by the natives. 

CORAL, SNAKE3 AND " WARNING " COLOURS. 

Coral snakes are beautiful and very poisonous. For- 
tunately, they are not vicious, and the gape of their mouth is 
so limited that only the larger specimens can inflict a dangerous 
bite. When they do bite they do not strike like vipers, but 
deliberately select a spot, bite slowly and chew it, so as to work 
their very small fangs well in. They are usually paraded as 
glaring instances of warning coloration, but I am not at all 
sure whether this is justifiable. Certainly these Elaps arc 
most conspicuous and beautiful objects. Black and carmine 
or coral red, in alternate rings, are the favourite pattern ; some- 
times with narrow golden-yellow rings between them, as if 
to enhance this beautiful combination. But these snakes are 
inclined to be nocturnal in their habits, and, except when 
basking, spend most of their time under rotten stumps, in 
mouldy ground, or in ants' nests, in search of their prey, which 
must be very small, to judge from the size of the mouth. 

Black and red are very strong contrasts in the daytime, 
but this combination ceases to be effective in the dark. It 
is an easy and suggestive experiment to cut out and paste 
together patterns of variously coloured unglazed paper, and 
then gradually turn down the light to watch the effect. Upon 
a black ground red is the first colour to disappear, or rather to 
produce in combination with it a neutral tint ; next follows 
orange, then green and blue and lastly yellow, which is far less 
easily effaced than white upon black. We conclude that in 
most cases the combination of red and black is a self-effacing, 
rather than a warning, pattern. 



96 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

However, let that pass. There is another, greater, difficulty. 
It is usual to explain the occurrence of supposed warning colours 
in harmless creatures as case of mimicry. No doubt there 
may be fair instances of the mimicry of a dangerous animal 
by a harmless one, both of which live side by side, or at least 
within reasonable distance of each other. One is liable here 
to argue in a circle. Instances of mimicry, beyond cavil, seem 
to occur between the coralline Elaps and a number of other, 
harmless, snakes. But let us analyse the cases. It is very 
difficult to ascertain the distribution of the true Elaps in Mexico, 
since the natives are in the habit of calling any black and red 
snake a " coraliUo," although, when pressed, they admit that 
some are harmless, while others are poisonous. For instance, 
in Southern Guerrero, at San Luis, the " coralillo " was the 
harmless Coronella micropholis, of which a specimen was said 
to live in every kitchen under the water-tub. Several kinds of 
harmless snakes, belonging to different groups, inhabit the same 
districts together with the poisonous coral snake, and, what 
is more, they lead the same kind of life under rotten stumps 
and in ants' nests. The resemblance of the striking colours 
and pattern is sometimes very close, quite enough to make 
one reluctant to handle them.* There seems to be no reason 
why we should not call these cases of mimicry ; and yet this 
is most likely a wrong interpretation, since such harmless snakes 
are also found in districts where the Elaps does not occur, 
not only in Mexico, but likewise in far distant parts of the 
world, where neither elapines nor any other similarly-coloured 
poisonous snakes exist. To interpret this as an instance of 
" warning colours " in a perfectly harmless snake, which has 
no chance of mimicry, amounts in such cases to nonsense, and 
we have to look for a different explanation upon physiological 
and other grounds. 

* For instance, Elaps fttlvius and the harmless Urotheca elapoides, one of 
the Opisthoglypha, were caught at La Raya. Streptophorus atratus and 
Geophis semidoliatus, individually, often resemble coral snakes for instance, 
at Orizaba, and in the tropics, at La Raya, and near Motzorongo. The 
Dipsadine Homalocranium and Scolecophis are climbers and diurnal, thereby 
differing considerably from Elaps. Coluber porphyraceus, also with alternate 
black and red rings, lives in China. 



AN ANT'S MUSHROOM BED. 97 

LEAF-CUTTING ANTS. 

In such forests our eyes are sure to be attracted by a 
procession of apparently migrating pieces of fresh green leaves, 
all neatly cut out and walking in an upright position, as each 
is held in the jaws of an ant. Let us follow this stream to its 
source. It comes down from the stem of an orange or lime 
tree in our host's most cherished plantation. Thousands of 
ants are sitting upon the leaves, each holding on to the edge 
and scissoring out with its jaws a piece of the leaf, the cut form- 
ing part of a neat circle. This is allowed to drop, to be carried 
away by the other ants which are waiting below ; or else the 
cutting ant jerks the load, which is many times larger and 
heavier than itself, on to its back and climbs down. Within a 
few hours that tree may be stripped of all its green, only the 
ribs of the leaves being left, and it will probably die unless the 
attack was made during the sprouting season, but in any case 
that year's prospect of a harvest is gone. Now let us follow 
the procession along its well-beaten track, where nothing is 
allowed to grow, because of the millions of little feet which have 
trampled over it. It leads over many obstacles in a straight 
line for hundreds of yards until we come to a slight rise of 
ground in the forest, where we sink half up to the knee into a 
blackish-brown, smeary compost of rotten, ill-smelling vegetable 
matter. The mound may be a foot or two in height, and may 
measure several yards across. What we see is only the used-up 
or spent manure, the remains of the millions of bits of leaves 
which had been taken into the cavities in the ground, there 
to be further chewed into pulp, and then allowed to ferment 
in the countless passages and chambers of the mound, which 
is honeycombed in every direction. In the fermenting mass 
grows a fungus in profusion, and this forms the sole food of 
the ants and their larvae. We have, in fact, walked into a huge, 
scientifically-constructed mushroom bed a farm for the 
cultivation of mushrooms, and the nursery of the independent 
state of some species of Eciton ants. That the whole thing is 
in good working order is soon impressed upon us by the 
territorial army, the garrison of soldiers who are swarming 

H 



98 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

out to attack, whilst the workers rush about in the well-known 
style of disturbed ants. 

The study of these and similar leaf-cutting ants has pro- 
duced an enormous literature within the last dozen years. 
It is a fascinating subject, leading straight into fairyland ; and 
it is also easier to clothe some of the astounding facts in fairy 
language, than to try and express the complicated conditions 
in scientific terms, which let us be honest sound very learned , 
and yet may be not a whit better when we are hard pressed for 
their real meaning ! It is a case of " myrmecophytic sym- 
biosis," through the adaptive transformation of originally 
suffering into myrmecoxenous plants. We prefer a more 
frivolous rendering of " myrmecoxenismus." Trees are liable 
to be visited by the attacks of leaf-cutting ants especially 
introduced trees, which are quite unprepared for such con- 
ditions, while native trees have had time to hit upon some 
defensive plan. The best way of fighting ants is to get other 
ants to fight them. Lucky are the trees which possess such 
inducements to attract the mercenary ants, either by means of 
honey and other food, or by offering them shelter. Thrice 
lucky are the plants which can combine such attractions. 
Some acacias have managed it. Their twigs grow pairs of 
bull's horns, hollow spikes, modified stipules ; ants bite a hole 
into the base and live in these fortresses ; and on the tips of 
the pinnate leaflets is a little gland or other modification, full 
of honey, or a proteid, or some other stuff which is good to eat, 
and can be spared by the plant. And these little bodies are 
beloved by the ants, which, thus receiving board and lodging, 
are content to stay, to garrison and to defend furiously the 
hospitable tree against any aggressor. The system answers 
well. How it has come about, whether by teleology or by 
natural means, is another question, the answer to which must 
depend upon personal inclination. There is no arguing in 

such matters. 

***** 

In moist places we found growing the " bejugo de agua," 
a long, straggling liana, the stem of which contains an astonish- 
ing amount of water, to obtain which the soft stem is cut 



AN AWKWARD ACCIDENT 99 

through in two places about a yard apart, whereupon the water 
flows out readily. A piece nearly a yard long, and of the 
thickness of an arm, yielded an average-sized glassful of water, 
quite pure, rather cool, and without any taste. The natives 
make use of the plant for quenching their thirst. 

On our way back to Josefines, which was again to be our 
resting-place, an awkward accident happened. The night's 
rain had made the road in the forest very wet, and whilst we 
were crossing a creek by one of the " bridges," consisting of 
several-tree stems laid across side by side, my wife's horse 
slipped between two of the stems and jammed both her and 
itself between the beams, my wife being firmly pinned down by 
her dress and one leg. We had to cut her off the kicking horse, 
which every moment threatened to fall upon us as we stood in 
the mud below. To liberate the horse was an easy matter ; we 
had only to move the beams asunder, when it turned a complete 
somersault and plunged into the mire, its legs kicking in the 
air. For a wonder, no bones were broken, and the fright seemed 
to affect Mateo and myself more than the lady, who calmly sat 
down to stitch up her dress whilst we got the trembling horse 
up again. Mateo, always excitable, became quite exuberant 
when, at the lunch improvised soon afterwards, we drank the 
lady's health in some extra strong liquor. When, further on, 
an armadillo scuttled across the path, Mateo came out with a 
revolver, which he had concealed until then, to shoot behind 
our backs at imaginary jaguars. 

An attempt to get some water-tortoises in a small, but 
deep, lagoon with steep banks ended in failure, as it had done a 
few days before, the turtles plunging into the water long before 
we could get through the thick brushwood. But there was 
another and larger lagoon in the midst of beautiful forest. 
A big tree, which had fallen conveniently into the pool, gave 
us access, allowing us to observe several crocodiles that were 
floating in it, but every attempt at collecting in that paradise 
was hopeless. As usual, the brushwood formed so dense a 
tangle, with formidable thorny creepers, that progress was 
almost impossible, and certainly useless, since the noise made 
by forcing one's way through was more than sufficient to frighten 

H'2 



100 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



away or into hiding every creature for dozens of yards around. 
Then came black, oozy mud, and worst of all, near the margin 
of the pool, another kind of tangle, formed by roots, whilst 
shrubs and trees barred access to the water. It was always 
the same aggravating condition, with few exceptions, always 
an apt illustration of "so near and yet so far." 

Another pool, between Josefines and Motzorongo, the 
Laguna Grande, in a somewhat more open place, proved more 




A MAZATECA HOUSE. TYPE II. 



accessible. It was a big swamp, with a large patch of 
permanent water. I had scarcely gone a hundred yards through 
the high grass when a full-sized black Coluber corals slipped 
from its basking-place on a stump to the right, not a yard in 
front of my feet, and rushed straight for the water ; the 
creature looked ridiculously long, there seemed to be no end 
to it in the grass, and yet it could not possibly have measured 
more than ten feet. I confess it made me jump, and this 
startled a big, fat crocodile which otherwise would have let 
me pass within five yards. It fairly hustled through the 



WILD-LIFE ROUND A POOL 101 

reeds, and with a big splash disappeared into the water, to 
reappear, with nose and eyes peeping out, some forty yards 
further on. Of course I missed that head. The report silenced 
the lovely little Inca doves, cinnamon brown, with delicate 
white and grey crossbars on the under-side, which were, as 
usual, billing and cooing in the trees ; but it also startled a pair 
of parras, or jaganas, which became quite beside themselves, 
loudly vociferating, rising a few yards in the air, then alighting 
and running upon what seemed the surface of the water itself, 
though in reality they were merely running over the broad 
leaves of nymphseas and other floating plants, which their 
long toes, and still longer straight claws, enable them to do to 
perfection. Each of these pairs seemed to have its special 
domain ; when at last one left off, another pair was sure to 
take its place, with the same frantic excitement, sometimes 
flapping like peewits close above, then sitting down, screaming, 
and pointing at me for a whole minute, and then flying off 
again. 

There was much to see in and around that pool, which in 
many places was as treacherous as a floating bog of rushes 
and peat, and much intersected by open water, so that I was 
not sorry when, after an hour's struggle, I had made the round, 
without having collected so much as a frog. The heat hover- 
ing over that swamp had nearly dazed me. 



CHAPTER V. 

FEATURES OP TROPICAL FORESTS. 

The conditions necessary for Tropical Forests General impression and leading 
Features The fierce Struggle for Existence The effect of Environment upon 
Animals and Plants Adaptations to Arboreal Life The prevailing Colours 
and Patterns Cases of convergent Development. 

The conditions necessary for the production of a typical 
tropical forest are moisture and heat. The mean temperature 
is that of the tropics, say 80 P., rarely sinking below 70 or 
exceeding 90. The moisture must be due to rain, and a fair 
minimum for the annual fall is 200 cm., or 80 inches, the more 
the better. This rain must be distributed rather evenly that 
is, seasons of drought must not be too prolonged ; the dry 
period, if there is one at all, must not amount to three months, 
lest the vegetation come to a standstill, thus causing deciduous 
leaves and other great changes in the general aspect. 

There are three big regions in the world which fulfil these 
conditions. First : Tropical America, with the huge Amazon 
basin as its centre, called by some authors " Hylogaea," or 
" Dendrogaea," the world of trees. It extends through 
Central America into Mexico, mainly on the Atlantic or eastern 
side, the backbone of the country causing a very striking 
division. Secondly : Equatorial West and Central Africa, 
mainly the Congo basin. Thirdly : Indo-China and the 
Malay Islands. Smaller centres exist in many other parts of 
the world, for instance, on the Zambesi, the east coast of 
Madagascar, the south-western seaboard of India and Ceylon, 
the north coast of Queensland, several of the West Indian 
Islands, etc. 



TROPICAL RAIN AND ITS EFFECTS 103 

The rainfall of 80 inches is in itself nothing very tremendous. 
It is true that we call a climate with half that amount decidedly 
wet e.g., the north-west of Scotland and the wettest parts of 
Ireland enjoy about 60 inches but in the tropics the rain makes 
more of an impression by its being generally limited, in duration, 
to a few hours of the day, as is the case with a thunderstorm, 
gentle rain with a fall continuing steadily for a number of hours 
in succession being a rare occurrence. With the onset of the 
big rainy season the water comes down in torrents, and at 
first may continue both day and night without interruption, 
but the fall soon becomes more regular, and it then rains every 
other, and, finally, every third day, the storms being restricted 
to a few hours' duration. A fall of half-an-inch makes a rainy 
day with us. A fall of an inch during a two hours' storm is 
of common occurrence in the tropics ; moreover, torrential 
storms are frequent, a few days' intermission being made up for 
by a regular downpour. For instance, in September, 1902, 
on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, six inches fell within two 
nights and a day, which means a continuous fall of one inch for 
every six hours. 

These prolonged rains, always accompanied by thunder- 
storms, make camping in the forest an unmitigated misery. 
The electric discharges produce a great quantity of nitric 
acid, which is washed out of the air into the humus, and this 
process is no doubt one of the main causes of the incredible 
exuberance of the vegetation in every tropical rainy 
district. 

What is the general impression of such a rain-forest ? 
It does not begin gradually. On its outskirts it is 
fringed by an impenetrable wall of luxuriant herbage, shrubs 
and creepers, the tout ensemble recalling a lavishly-arranged 
bank of flowers at a flower-show. It can be entered only by 
hacking and slashing a path through the tangled growth, 
which closes up again within a few weeks, except where traffic 
may have produced a narrow, meandering track, from which 
it is impossible to deviate either to right or left. Once inside, 
we are in a gloomy, stuffy forest, consisting of tall straight 
trees, which branch out at a great height above us, there inter- 



104 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



lacing and forming a dense canopy of green, through which 
passes little or no sunlight. This absence of direct light 
effectively prevents the growth of underwood, and there are 
no green, luxuriant plants, no flowers or grass. The ground 
is brown and black, covered with many inches of rotting leaves 
and twigs, all turning into a steaming mould. From our 




TROPICAL FOREST. 



point of view below the canopy, the leaves, branches, and even 
bright-coloured birds, look black, and this is still more the 
case where, by contrast, such objects are seen through a rift 
in the canopy against the glaring sky. 

Many of the tree-stems are entwined by the twisted rope- 
like stems of lianas, long strands resembling the rusty frayed-out 
strands of a wire cable, ugly in shape, and without branch or 



PLANT-LIFE IN THE FOREST 105 

leaf, until they reach the crowns of the trees, where they 
intermingle with the green roof and creep across from tree- 
top to tree-top, perhaps for hundreds of feet. Many a liana 
has strangled its support, which has rotted away and dis- 
appeared. The creeper now, made fast to the ground, ascends 
straight through mid-air and there vanishes, like the rope of 
an Indian juggler. Liana is a comprehensive term. Many 
of them are vines of the genus Vitis e.g., Vitis pterophora ; 
where these are not indigenous, one or other of the numerous 
Bignonia family undergo the same modification. 

Wherever there is a break, where a tree has crashed down 
and made an opening, the other trees are covered with masses 
of climbing arums. Phyllodendrons send down their straight, 
wire-like sinkers and air-roots, until these are anchored in 
the ground fifty feet below ; their large scroll-like blossoms, 
of white, yellow, or red, are visible from afar ; the sup- 
porting stem is covered with a network of the climbing 
stems, which become receptacles for the collection of mould, 
or hot-beds for other plants, mosses, selaginellas, ferns, lichens, 
and a host of gorgeous orchids, bromelias, and other epiphytes, 
the seeds of which have started to grow many feet above the 
ground, so that these plants never know the ground proper. 
They were born aloft, have grown aloft, generation after 
generation, until they have forgotten what it was like to grow 
up from the bottom, and thus they have become epiphytes. 
Many of these (though never their primary supports, the trees 
themselves) have dodges for conducting, collecting, and storing 
the rainwater, all their leaves forming a nest-like whorl, as is 
the fashion of some bromelias and tillandsias, or maybe one 
leaf has developed into a scroll-like receptacle, or actual cups 
have been invented. Only rough and thick-barked trees 
tolerate such epiphytic masses ; others, perhaps the majority, 
protect themselves by having a very thin and slippery bark, 
and, to make quite sure, peel periodically like our plane-trees. 

A great feature of such a tropical forest is that it is com- 
posed of an astonishing number of different genera and species 
of trees, forming the greatest possible mixture of all kinds, 
while continuous groves, or even clumps, of one kind of tree are 



106 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

rarely met with. Whilst the temperate region has extensive 
oak, beech, and pine forests, mixed, of course, with other kinds, 
no such uniformity exists in the tropical belt, unless we ascend 
into the mountains. There is cause for this variety. The 
exuberance of life is so great, and therefore the struggle for 
individual existence is so severe, that there is little chance for 
two trees of the same kind to succeed in growing up side by 
side. It is almost by a lucky accident, that one grows up at all, 
where hundreds of other plants want to do the same. Such a 
forest brings home to us what the struggle for life really means, 
and what it can do. It is the struggle for sunlight and for rain- 
water, and to get them at first hand. One of the results is 
the height of the trees, a result to which, so to speak, they have 
forced each other, till they have developed into tall, slender, 
branchless stems, with an interlaced canopy above. What- 
ever plant cannot grow tall of itself, climbs on to its neighbour's 
shoulders. Even cactus in a forest can climb like ivy, and 
many of them have learned the trick so successfully that they 
have transformed themselves into epiphytes, either remaining 
still upright in form, or in the guise of big, many-tailed pendent 
bunches, and living thus apparently out of harm's reach ; 
their character has become modified, and they have lost their 
dreadful spikes. Such is the forest. Let us now consider its 
animal denizens, of which we have read and dreamed so much 
since our childhood, the fierce beasts of prey, the dangerous 
snakes, the gorgeously-coloured birds and butterflies. Full of 
expectation, and perhaps a little afraid, we fight our way into 
the paradise, feel oppressed with the sweltering heat, and 
relieved when we are out again, all sadly disenchanted because we 
have not seen a single living thing ! The observation of animal 
life is most disappointing to the uninitiated. One may roam 
about in this gloomy forest for hours and hear little, and 
certainly see less. All you can collect, if you know how to look for 
them, are a few toads, small, even diminutive, and very darkly 
coloured, living on the ground, and hiding amongst the roots 
and the mould, as do many worm-shaped lizards and snakes. 
You hear a few birds e.g., those which, like trogons, motmots, 
and pigeons, are habitually noisy callers but you see very 



COLOUR IN THE FOREST 107 

few and catch but glimpses of them, and such mysterious 
sounds as you hear cannot be located. A sudden rustle, scuttle, 
or splash in a pool may have been produced by some mammal, 
the meeting of which is out of the question. 

Where are the two hundred different kinds of mammals, 
birds, reptiles, and amphibians which we know to exist in the 
Mexican tropical forests ? Most of them inhabit the roof- 
garden which is formed by the tree-tops. If by a lucky chance 
we obtain a bird's-eye view from some eminence, we behold a 
different world. A dense green carpet overs trewn with 
thousands of mauve, pink, yellow, or white flowers of some kind 
of bignonia, visited by countless butterflies, which are preyed 
upon by lizards and tree-frogs, these being in their turn sought 
after by tree-snakes. Of bird-life, gorgeous and beautiful in 
colour, there is plenty. Vividly coloured also are many of the 
other creatures frogs, snakes, lizards and butterflies. Colour 
has to be laid on vividly, quiet coloration being out of place. 
This colour-contest was started by the blossoms, red, yellow, 
or white ; self -colours, not variegated, predominate, and stand 
out very effectively against the green. If a creature intends 
to be seen, to display its beauty, it has to use the brightest 
colours, since it is only by contrast that it can hope to attract 
attention. Again, those which do not want to be seen must 
dress in tints as emphatic, and as " saturated " as are the pre- 
vailing tones of the environment. Most of the tree-frogs are 
green, but some are delicate studies in brown, with irregular 
markings to suit the moss and lichen-covered branches upon 
which they rest. Some of these frogs have flash-colours, 
varying from orange to yellow or red, on parts which are quite 
concealed when the creature sits still. He trusts to not being 
discovered, but touch him, and he makes a tremendous jump ; 
there is a flash of yellow in the air, which vanishes in a moment, 
the frog likewise vanishing ; he has caught hold of a leaf with 
some of his finger-disks, vaulted on to it, and there sits demurely, 
indistinguishable from the foliage. The scientific explanation 
is that he has dazzled his pursuer by this sudden and un- 
expected display of colour. We find the same principle in the 
blue and red under- wings of some of our grasshoppers. These 



108 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

colours are not designed for merely aesthetic sexual gratification, 
nor are they warning colours or recognition-marks ; they are 
devices for use in an emergency. 

Nearly all the tree-top snakes are green, and so are many 
parrots, motmots, and other typical forest-birds of the tropics. 
Other parrots, pigeons, toucans, are loudly coloured, but these 
very colours mingle with their bright surroundings to a mar- 
vellous extent. Tropical light can be so fierce and resplendent 
that a whole flock of bright parrots in a tree will simply vanish ; 
in a museum we find it difficult to understand how such con- 
spicuous objects can ever manage to elude discovery. If we 
now continue our investigations below the tree-roof, there are, 
of course, many creatures which live habitually upon the 
branches or stems of the trees. These have more sombre 
tints of brown, and are speckled or barred. Lastly, those 
few animals that live on the ground itself, are nearly all dark 
of colour, whether toads, frogs, lizards, snakes, or birds. It 
would be no good to wear a beautiful dress in a badly-lighted 
place ; or, rather, it is impossible, as such colours could not be 
developed there. Some apparent exceptions, of course, occur, 
mostly among amphibians and snakes, a few of which are 
beautifully coloured with black and red. For instance, there 
are the coral snakes of America, the uropeltid snakes of Ceylon, 
and various Indian and African frogs and toads. All these 
creatures are nocturnal, and spend most of their time under- 
ground. When they do crawl about, they are practically 
invisible, since black and red are the very colours which, 
when combined, mingle in the dark into a neutral tint ; 
black and orange, on the other hand, mutually enhance each 
other. 

Another point concerning the coloration of the forest fauna 
is the pattern. Except when this is more or less uniform, the 
ground colour is broken up by white or yellowish spots, arranged 
in several longitudinal rows. Many snakes and lizards are thus 
marked ; the young of many mammals pass through a stage 
of this kind, notably those of deer, the peccary, the Central 
American tapir, and the Felidce, There are no stripes of light 
in a dense forest ; what sunlight there is, appears in the shape 



CLIMBERS IN THE FOREST 109 

of little round disks like diminutive sun-images, and these are 
let us put it boldly stamped upon the skin. If we follow 
the same kind of dark-skinned, white-spotted lizard out of 
the forest into the savannah or the grassland, its corresponding 
race or species has no spots, but white longitudinal stripes ; 
those which live in districts partaking of both characters, in 
the open, are barred like zebras ; and the species of the same 
genus which live in the desert have a pale ground-colour with 
dark spots. 

Most of the inhabitants of tropical forests lead an arboreal 
life. This is the prevailing feature. There is no hurry, no 
bustling, but they must be able to climb well. Let us consider 
how this necessity has modified the various creatures con- 
cerned. 

The majority of the Anura have acquired arboreal character- 
istics. They have adhesive disks on the fingers and toes ; 
the hind-limbs are long and slender, and well fitted for jumping 
long distances, and for catching hold of a leaf or twig by means 
of the pads. The Mexican tree-frog (Phyllomedusa) , has even 
developed a hand that can be used for grasping, with the 
thumb opposed. Such arboreal Anura are found in all suitable 
forests, and the most interesting point is that these climbers 
by no means all belong to the family of Hylidce, but that nearly 
every one of the main groups of the Anura has produced at least 
some typically arboreal forms, in spite of the considerable 
structural differences which distinguish, for instance, the 
toothless toads, or Bufonidce, which have the two halves of 
their shoulder-girdle movable and overlapping, from iheRanidce, 
or true frogs, which have teeth, and the two halves of the 
shoulder-girdle firmly united. This is so significant that it is 
worth detailing. There are : First, the Hylidce, the family of 
professional tree-frogs as we might call them, since nearly all its 
one hundred and fifty species are arboreal. Although this 
family is almost cosmopolitan it is very unevenly distributed, 
there being none in Africa and Madagascar, only two or three 
in the whole of Asia and Europe, but several dozen in Australia, 
and scores upon scores in America, especially in the tropical 
parts. Secondly, Cystignathidce of numerous kinds, but re- 



110 

stricted to America and Australia ; only those of the big Ameri- 
can forests have adhesive disks. Thirdly, Bufonidce, or toads, 
a cosmopolitan family, mostly slow, short-legged, and living 
on the ground, but in the forests of West Africa, Southern 
India, and Borneo, some have been modified into typically 
arboreal forms. Lastly, Ranidce, or true frogs ; cosmopolitan, 
but essentially inhabitants of the northern hemisphere. Out 
of a total of some two hundred and seventy, scarcely a dozen 
kinds extend into the north-western parts of South America, 
and all those are now typically arboreal. But such " tree-frogs" 
have been developed out of Ranidce, also in Africa, Madagascar, 
India, Malaya, and China, because in those countries there 
are no Hylce, and Ranidce happen to be the only material avail- 
able for counterfeiting them. In this respect the forests have 
succeeded so well that it is, for instance, impossible to dis- 
tinguish certain green tree-frogs of the African genus Rappia 
from a Hyla, unless we cut them open. If they lived side by 
side, which they do not, this close resemblance would be 
extolled as an example of mimicry. In reality, it is a case of 
heterogeneous convergence, brought about by identical en- 
vironmental conditions. One might almost say that tropical, 
moist forests must have tree-frogs, and that these are made out 
of whatever suitable material happens to be available. 

The same remark applies to tree-snakes, which every forest- 
country possesses, and it is immaterial whether the available 
stock of snakes be boas or pythons, harmless colubrines, cobras, 
vipers, or even pit- vipers. In India all these kinds have 
contributed to this class ; in Africa, of poisonous snakes, only 
vipers ; in America only boas and colubrines have done so, 
since there are no vipers, and most of the pit- vipers are turned 
into rattlers, which cannot climb at all. Professional tree- 
snakes, those which do nothing else but live in the trees, in- 
variably have a very long, slender body, with an excessively 
long, whip-like tail. Thus they are able to glide, almost to 
jump, through the foliage, from branch to branch, from tree 
to tree, the long body and tail always finding some support. 
In the most typical tree-snakes, whether in Brazil, Congo, 
India, or Australia, the horny shields of the flat belly are bent 



CLIMBING DEVICES 111 

so as to form a continuous sharp edge all along the sides, so 
that these snakes can glide both straight and along the trees. 
It is, by the way, only the snake of the artist, from the days 
of the Greeks to the days of the Royal Academy, that climbs 
trees in spiral fashion. 

The true whip-snakes are not afraid of falling. If you 
should succeed in treeing one, and with infinite trouble shake 
it down, it will jump from no matter what height, make a 
beautiful spiral of itself, rebound from the earth, and then 
glide away ! 

Another common feature among arboreal animals is upon 
the principle of the parachute, a distension of the skin to break 
the fall. There is a genus of Ranidce, widely distributed from 
Japan to Madagascar, called Rhacophorus, because its many 
species have an enlargement on the edges of the limbs, or the 
sides of the body, in the form of little rags or flaps of skin, and 
a few kinds of flying frogs have the webs between the fingers 
and toes enlarged to an almost absurd extent, so that they 
can descend through the air in a slanting direction. 

Boas and pythons have short and strong prehensile tails, 
and the numerous chameleons of Africa and Madagascar have 
not only a grasping tail, but grasping hands and feet as well. 
This principle of prehensile organs is carried to an extreme 
in various mammals, of which it is sufficient just to mention 
monkeys and lemurs, the pangolin and sloth among edentates, 
the old-world palm-martins among carnivores, the prehensile- 
tailed porcupines and opossums among marsupials. But the 
especial home of prehensile-tailed mammals is in the tropical 
forests of America. There alone live the prehensile-tailed 
monkeys, a group characteristic of and restricted to America. 
Nearly all its marsupials are arboreal opossums, even two 
ant-eaters, Myrmecophaga tetradactylus, and the little " mico de 
noche," or Cycloihurus didactylus, as well as Synetheres 
mexicanus, a climbing porcupine ; Cercoleptes caudivolvulus, 
the kinkajou, with its indiarubber-like tail-tip, is a repre- 
sentative of the carnivores, although it has become an almost 
strict vegetarian. All these mammals occur in the Atlantic 
' ; hot-lands " of Mexico. 



112 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

The little flying dracos, agamid lizards of India and Malaya, 
possess a perfectly folding parachute, with stays furnished 
by the much-lengthened posterior ribs. In Borneo there lives 
a tree-snake which, cobra-fashion, although it is not a cobra, 
spreads out its ribs ; it does this to flatten and broaden the 
body somewhat like a split bamboo, and is said to glide thus, 
in parachute-fashion, from tree to tree. This principle is carried 
to extremes in mammals, mostly in the Malayan and Australian 
forests, examples being Galeopithecus, the flying insectivore, 
flying phalangers among marsupials, and flying squirrels among 
rodents, while far away from this Oriental centre, in West 
African forests, lives another flying rodent, Anomalurus. They 
all possess parachutes formed by the enlarged folds of skin 
between the limbs and the sides of the body. Whilst in 
Malaya the parachute principle is a " fashionable " contriv- 
ance, prehensile tails are there almost absent ; the reverse is 
the case in the American forests, in all of which there does not 
occur a single advance towards the parachute principle. One 
feels inclined to appeal to the genius loci for the explanation ! 

Intensely arboreal life leads to various unexpected 
modifications, and sometimes to limited distribution. Many 
of such mammals scarcely ever descend to the ground, and if, 
like the sloth, they cannot even walk on the ground, their 
chance of spreading is absolutely limited by the continuity 
of the tree-tops. The same applies to lemurs and the 
American monkeys. It may be a laborious journey for a tree- 
frog to descend from his roof -garden to the gloomy basement ; 
moreover, he finds all he needs on the trees themselves. The 
scroll-like receptacles of leaves and flowers, before-mentioned, 
hold water, and some frogs use them as nurseries ; or they glue 
leaves together, fill the space with a foamy lather, and deposit 
their eggs therein, the development of which is so accelerated, 
that the babies are hatched within a few days as tiny frogs, 
having dispensed with gills and swimming tail ; or the nest 
is suspended over a pool, so contrived that the next big rain 
washes the tadpoles into the water ; or, they lay only a few 
large eggs, containing a great amount of yolk, which the male 
glues on to the female's back, a trick common in Africa and on 



IMPRESSIVE LESSONS 113 

the Seychelles. In some Brazilian tree-frogs, to prevent the 
eggs from slipping off, a slight fold of skin is raised along both 
sides of the back. In some other Hylce these folds become 
rather large during the hatching-season, forming a kind of 
hood e.g., in the South American Hyla gceldi. In a few South 
American and Mexican Hylce this hood has become a per- 
manent organ, a pouch upon the back ; Nototrema is such a 
marsupial frog. It may even be a question whether the 
mammalian marsupial does not owe its origin to the arboreal 
life of this early, and still rather primitive, group of mammals. 
The tropical forest teaches two impressive lessons : the 
tremendous, awe-inspiring competition into which plants and 
animals alike are forced in their struggle for life, and the fact 
that the fight is so fierce because the physical conditions 
plenty of warmth, water, and food are so favourable to all. 
Every living thing is modelled by adaptation to the prevailing 
surroundings, coupled with the cumulative inheritance of the 
characters acquired. 



CHAPTER VI. 

SAVANNAHS AND SWAMPS, FROM TETELA TO THE ISTHMUS. 

Mateo Trujillo and his Home Jaguars Birds Nearly killed in our Car 

Vegetation and Animals of the Lagoon of Aguafria It is not advisable to assist 

a wounded Man Railway Oddities The Town of San Juan Evangelista 

Laziness Dermophis mcxicanus. 

Our " Pullman car " (V. C. al P. No. 542) was hitched on 
to a train, and we moved twenty- two miles further south to 
Tetela. Half-way down, at Acatlan, the railway leaves the 
sierra and enters upon savannahs. The tree-covered higher 
ranges remain visible to the west, while to the eastward stretch 
lower trees, at first still forming continuous woods, but soon 
diminishing on the plains into scattered clumps, while still 
further south and east there is open grass-land with clusters of 
palms and other trees, especially near the rivers, for instance, 
the Rio Tonto. This savannah district, with its concomitant 
changes of flora and fauna, is of great interest. 

Tetela is an inland station typical of this line ; it possesses 
a station building of the usual dilapidated wattle-and-daub 
palm-house type, leaning against a more solid structure of wood 
and brick, with the usual drink-shop. The car was left on the 
short shunting- track. Tetela, as such, scarcely exists ; several 
scattered habitations in the neighbourhood make up the entire 
hamlet. 

Ten minutes away stood Mateo's house, and as he was such 
an important person in this expedition in fact, we, hitherto 
inexperienced in Mexican ways, could not have brought it to 
a satisfactory end without him he deserves some remarks. 
Mateo Trujillo was a native of Jalapa, in the State of Vera 



MATEO 115 

Cruz, a Mexicano, with some admixture of Spanish blood ; 
otherwise a typical Indian, with the ugly conical cranium, of 
short and slender build, with a few scattered hairs on his chin 
and upper lip, and forty-eight years of age. Rather well 
educated, able to read, write, and figure fairly well, and with a 
craving for knowledge, ha was born a naturalist a wonderfully 
close observer and lover of Nature. Since his youth he had, 




MATEO TRUJILLO AND FAMILY. 

off and on, been employed by various collectors, who preferred 
enjoying themselves in the towns whilst Mateo scouted for 
them in the country. But this was, at best, a precarious way of 
making a living and supporting a family. He said one day : 
" People in your country seem to think that people in Mexico 
live on tortillas and a real (2|d.) per day. Look at this postcard 
which I have recently received." Some shameless dealer from 
the " Vaterland " had offered him one real per kilogram for Mexican 

i 2 



116 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

landshells snails, mind you as if such things could be picked 
up like sea-shells ! Mateo had tried his hand at many things, 
had been boy to a muleteer, pedlar, assistant to a surveying 
party, a trooper "' guarding the coast " under General Diaz, 
and a traveller and commission agent for the railway. Recently 
he had settled, with his second wife, at Tetela, and we had 
engaged him for two pesos per day, besides his keep. Above 
all he was scrupulously honest, always cheerful and willing ; 
he became very much attached to us, and, above all, he adored 
" la senora." Many a time, when things looked black, he 
worked and worried until he had put them right, and it was a 
lesson to see his methods of enlisting the help, and gaining the 
confidence, of the most reluctant natives. It was a joy with 
such a companion to prowl about, watching bird or beast in 
its haunt, or to sit by the camp-fire exchanging confidences. 
He spoke nothing but Spanish, with a smattering of Aztec, 
and he liked using foreign terms, such as "idioma," " equilibrio," 
" recapitulacion," which he then translated in an aside into the 
vernacular for my benefit, saying : " This is a rare and diffi- 
cult Spanish word you may not yet have come across." Alas, 
that this has all to be written in the past tense ! Poor Mateo ! 
Maria, his wife, kept the house clean and in excellent order, 
and the two little children, a boy and a girl, were trained not 
to cry, and if there is anything, above all, likely to drive one 
out of an Indian's hut, it is the importunate, angry crying of 
their babies. 

A house like Mateo's is not over-furnished. Bamboo lattice- 
work screens off the sleeping apartment, with either a folding 
bedstead or more often a " petate," a plaited mat of rushes or 
grass, laid on the ground. When the woman receives friends, 
or does some sewing, other " petates " are laid down. The 
hearth in these Eastern States is invariably raised to a con- 
venient height above the ground by means of a fixed, table- 
like, wooden structure supporting a thick layer of clay, upon 
which is built a fire. A " soplador," or fan, neatly plaited 
from palm-leaves, a very large, thin, and extremely brittle 
" comalli," or unglazed earthenware pan for roasting the 
tortillas ; a " metlatl," or grinding-block, a " metlapil," or 



WATER AND WELLS 117 

cylindrical grinder, for the Indian corn, and a smaller pounding- 
stone for capsicum chilies, are all the necessaries found in the 
poorest hut. The horses' trappings, beautiful " mantas " 
and " zarapes " attract the eye, but the women's embroidered 
garments are kept out of sight, being hidden in bags which are 
suspended from the rafters, so as to be, like everything else, 
out of reach of the ants, termites, rats, and other vermin. 
The fowls roost where they please ; and during the heat of 
the day the people lie in their hammocks, slung from the beams 
of the verandah. None of these houses have windows, and few 
have proper doors. 

The people suffered much from malaria, and Mateo's servant 
was in a deplorable condition. The stuff which is sold as 
quinine at the haciendas, or factories, is worthless, like all 
the other drugs obtainable here, and shamefully expensive. 
We gave the man, a mere wreck as he was, a staggering dose, 
dissolved in a cup of wine with sugar ; he promptly curled 
himself up in the shade, slept for nearly twenty hours, and 
then came to do us a good turn. He had been appointed 
water-carrier, but we did not like the lukewarm and turbid 
fluid that passed under that name, and whilst he was so ill I 
had found a little well with much cooler and clearer water. 
' You lazy fellow, you got this muck from the brook where 
all the filthy cattle drink." " Yes, my chief, but in the well 
lies a dead 'tlacuache'( an opossum), drowned there as many mice 
have been before it. Nunca busce V. agua de un pozo " 
(Never take water from a well) ! Mateo was more philosophical. 
" Sr. Don Juan, I have repeatedly warned you that all water 
is bad except that of the sierras ; ah, what water we had at 
El Pico, at La Barbara ! " He meant well, but did not go so 
far as the well-known Hungarian, who said : " Water is bad 
enough when its gets into one's boots ; imagine what it must 
feel like in the stomach ! " 

The fauna and flora of Tetela, at an elevation of about 
1,000 feet, are both thoroughly tropical, but of the drier 
savannah-like types. The rains are said to be very heavy, but 
during our visit, in the month of August, a few consecutive 
rainless days sufficed for the tributaries of the Rio Tonto to 



118 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

empty themselves ; they were then three-quarters dry, a mere 
succession of very deep pools connected by long and shallow 
rapids ; only their banks and the hollows were densely wooded. 
A conspicuous landmark was a ceiba tree, or Bombax, a veritable 
giant, with a big hollow which reached perhaps for forty feet 
up the interior of the smooth, branchless trunk, before this 
latter began to spread out its great limbs. It had been set on 
fire many years ago, at which time many bats were reported 
to have issued from it. We therefore made a big bonfire of 
dry palm-leaves, which soon blazed and roared up the funnel, 
and then made a smoke by burning mould and grass, but the 
result was disappointing, only a few bats being caught ; they 
were, however, vampires, the real bloodsucking Desmodus. 
Several armadilloes were caught with dogs, the natives tracking 
them to their burrows, whence they were easily dug out. 

During the first night all the dogs in the neighbourhood 
were barking, and the cattle were lowing uneasily in a peculiar 
way, just because a jaguar was on the prowl, sometimes near 
enough to the car for us to hear the coughing, snorting, sniffing 
sound that he made. Information about the habits of these 
beasts was contradictory and puzzling. At Motzorongo a 
jaguar was slain by natives while in the act of tearing down 
a cow, in full view of the house and in broad daylight. Here 
at Tetela it was : " Oh, no, he never takes cattle, nor does he 
attack people, as he does not live here, but in the forest, on the 
slopes of the distant mountains ; he is quite harmless, since 
there he has plenty of game in the shape of staers." " Why, 
then, does he ever come here ? " " He always comes to the 
farms during the night, hoping to catch a dog. which he prefers 
to anything else. He also takes pigs." " Does he ever break 
into your houses ? " " Never, unless pigs, dogs, or fowls are 
inside." But as these are allowed to sleep in most houses 
" because of the jaguar," the information works back to the 
starting-point as usual. It is curious that the jaguar is so fond 
of dogs, just as the leopard is said to be in Africa and India; 
but leopards, panthers, and jaguars are really the same animal, 
the most successful of tropical cats, and hence cosmopolitan, 
each of the three great continents having its own form, the 



BABY IGUANAS 119 

Indian panther and the African leopard distinguished from 
each other by fancy alone, the American jaguar from these by 
the absence of a central spot in its " rosettes." 

A few miles south of Tetela was a large cattle ranch owned 
by a strongly-built, tall, white-haired and venerable-looking 
negro, with stately manners, like those of his " official " wife, 
a wizened, but rather awe-inspiring, old lady. We visited him 
to ask permission to search his lagoon. 

The old gentleman was reputed to be very wealthy, both 
in cattle and children ; of the latter alone he had thirty- three, 
boys and girls, the minority, of course, being children of the 
wife. This was the secret of the patriarch's success, his many 
children being employed as farm- workers, and in absolute 
subordination to him. The whole district goes in for much 
breeding of cattle and horses, but the difficulty was the then 
still unreliable condition of the railway though it was built 
for the very purpose of conveying cattle to Vera Cruz, for 
shipment to New Orleans. The ranchman had much to com- 
plain about. 

One of the elder of the many sons, and a younger brother 
of the patriarch, both dark-brown in colour instead of black, 
took us to some of the pools, where they stripped and waded 
up to their necks in the water, " feeling for crocodiles and 
tortoises " with little success. But we saw other creatures. 
Big iguanas plumped into the water with a loud splash ; 
" pasarios," or basilisk lizards, scuttled across, a graceful 
snake-bird took a header from its favourite perch, and there 
were baby iguanas which astonished me very much, emerald- 
green little beauties, not yet five inches long, even if we include 
their long tail ; they were sitting in the high grass and reeds, 
whence at the first alarm they dived into the water, and went 
to the bottom in a slanting direction, propelled only by their 
wriggling tail, their limbs being held back just like those of 
newts. The adults are arboreal 'and aquatic. On another 
occasion in the same neighbourhood, where guava trees over- 
hung the then dry river-bed, the ground was thickly splashed 
with the dung of these great lizards, which had been browsing 
upon their favourite food, the leaves of the guava- tree, the 



120 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



fruit of which yields the famous jelly. Our new friend, 
although he had really exerted himself, gracefully refused any 
reward, intimating that it would be more appropriate for us 
to have a smoke and a talk. Assuredly, he was one of Nature's 
gentlemen ; after having seen us half-way home, he invited us 
" to breakfast with the family " for the morrow, when his 
" papa would be very pleased " to see us. 




THE TETELA RIVER. 

In the morning and evening numbers of long-tailed, prettily- 
coloured cuckoos, or " piaya," became extremely noisy. They 
were a most cheerful and playful lot, although their cries, 
something like " Pia-pia-piayaah," often sounded like those of 
someone in dire distress. Parrots were mainly represented 
by the yellow-headed Chrysotis, which kept fairly quiet, as did 
some of the solitary kingfishers, Ceryle americana, and the 
large C. torquata, both of which sat, as usual, on a barren 
branch above the river, or hovered in the air. Ever-present in 



INTERESTING BIRDS 121 

grassy parts of the Mexican " hot-lands " are the " garra- 
pateros " (Crotophaga sulcirostris, of the cuckoo tribe), funny- 
looking birds, entirely of a dull, coal-black colour from the high, 
strongly compressed bill to the feet. They are odd in various 
respects. The long, thin-looking tail is composed of but eight 
quills, the smallest number in any known bird ; they build a 
big nest in company, several females combining to fill it with 
their eggs, which have blue shells, covered, however, with a 
white chalky matter. The latter often gets partially scratched 
off by their feet during the period of incubation, which also 
seems to be conducted upon queer principles. The natives said 
that several birds sit at the same time, while others perch upon the 
margin of the nest, waiting for their turn. It is usually stated 
that these birds pick the ticks off the cattle. This may be the 
case ; our own experience is that they often rest upon the backs 
of cattle, but we never saw any picking done. When the cattle 
were grazing, one or more of these " savannah blackbirds " 
usually stood a yard or two in front, to pounce upon the insects, 
mostly grasshoppers, which the cattle happened to stir up. 
They were most in evidence during the broiling heat of the day, 
which they seemed to feel greatly in their black dress, to judge 
from their panting, and the opening of their beaks as they sat 
upon the fences. Not at all shy, they rather seemed to take 
an interest in the passer-by, flitting from bush to bush along 
his track, now and then mewing like a kitten, or making a 
harsher double-note when alarmed. Little hawks of various 
kinds were surprisingly confiding, and far less wary than the 
black " tilcampo " lizards (Ctenosaura acanthinura) , which 
basked upon hollow branches, but, when they saw us approach, 
although still thirty yards off, crept at once into their 
holes, forgetting, as usual, to withdraw half of the long, 
serrated tail. 

Not far from Tetela, not more than half-an-hour in a bee-line 
from the station, is a small pyramid, about twenty feet high. 
It is a terraced structure, with steps leading to the top, but 
densely overgrown with trees, shrubs, and a tangle of weeds. 
This pyramid is still unexplored and " unknown " ; but the 
men who built the railroad had other things in view, and the 



122 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

natives have learned from experience that letting the 
authorities know of such monuments brings trouble in the shape 
of much ill-paid labour, besides confiscation of objects 
found, and beyond such reasons there is always some super- 
stition lurking in the Indian's mind. An active " jefe 
politico," or commissioner of the county, now and then annexes 
a " find," and sometimes sends it to the State or the National 
Museum, unless it is smuggled out of the country ; but the 
natives get neither credit nor reward, since, according to law, 
" prehistoric objects " belong to the Government, and 
" idolatry " is forbidden. 

Our next move was fifty-eight miles further south, to Agua- 
fria, a mere community of scattered habitations. The whole 
Trujillo family was invited, as Maria had relations in that place, 
and cherished the idea of paying them a surprise visit. 
Therefore my wife and I had the car to ourselves, and this was 
literally shunted into the bush, away from both huts and 
station. The first night we went within a hair's-breadth of 
being finished off. As we lay sweltering under the mosquito 
curtains, we heard, in the middle of the night, the puffing of an 
engine, and before we were quite awake there was a terrific 
bang, and camp beds shot against the end of the car, and tins, 
bottles, and canned preserves, which had been neatly arranged 
on the shelves, flew about like canister shot. The engine of 
a belated goods train had charged into the car ! I shouted in 
the dark, and tried to climb out by the open door, but the 
engine came on again, and I had just time to fling myself on 
to the bed, and hold tight, when the scene was repeated, 
with variations. A native with a lantern who went past, 
said they were " only shunting " ; one more shunt and all 
would be right. " Shunt " they did, and I am very sorry that 
I did not hit the brute whose fault it was ; but at least my well- 
meant attempt drew the attention of the driver, who came 
along with another lantern to search beneath the car for the 
person " supposed to be run over." He was beside himself, 
poor man, when he understood what had happened ; his 
revolver was out in a twinkling, and he blazed at the shunter, 
but the fellow escaped, and was never seen again. He had only 



AN UNPLEASANT EXPERIENCE 123 

to present himself at another station to be taken on again, 
with the loss of a few days' wages. 

Of course, the station-master had given no warning of the 
existence of this " private car " on the side track, but the 
knowledge of it soon spread all along the line. To make really 
sure, we made friends with another man who knew how to 
prevent any repetition of such attacks ; every night he laid two 
sleepers across the side track, one above and another below us, 
and both a good way off the car. " That," he said, " would 
prevent any engine from coming too near ! " The interior 
of the car was left in a state of heartrending confusion. 
Every box, including the barrel with the boas, had toppled 
over, the water-buckets were upset, curtains torn, and we 
thought it better to leave further inspection until the 
morning, when Mateo came and gazed at the wreckage. 

It generally rained, with heavy thunder, during part of the 
night, and the early morning hours were delightful when the 
sun lighted up the scene, the refreshed vegetation, still dripping 
with moisture, and almost visibly unfolding new leaves and 
flowers in its tropical exuberance. Parrots, always in couples, 
chattering and never forgetting to answer each other, crossed 
the sky overhead, pair after pair going in the same direction, 
and returning an hour before sunset in the same manner to 
the hills. Toucans alighted on a tree close to the car, and 
hopped about in their own amusing way, these almost voiceless 
birds communicating whatever they had to say by means of 
quaint movements of their huge, but light, beaks. Large 
Cnemidophorus lizards went seeking about on the ground ; 
trogons cooed, and motmots uttered their " hoo-too-hoo-too " 
in the denser parts of the jungle. Our toucan-tree, a large- 
limbed oak of some kind, was specially favoured by our visitors. 
Luxuriant phyllodendrons and vanilla plants had found their 
way up the bigger branches, and several kinds of bright orchids 
grew in clusters, together with a fine specimen of the most 
extraordinary-looking kind of bromelia (Mchmea laxiftora), 
while a climbing Cereus unfolded its white, yellow-centred, 
blossoms at night. We could even watch the very process : 
how those spots of white gradually appeared and grew large 



124 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

in the dark. They looked lovely amongst the verdure at 
sunrise, but a few hours later they visibly flagged and were 
soon no more. 

Until 7 a.m. life felt vigorous and full of promise, and a great 
programme was made for the day. An hour later the shade 
felt agreeable ; by 9 a.m. the sun had become unpleasant, 
and soon the last trace of the morning freshness had been 
overpowered by the heat of the day, and life appeared to be 
in a state of suspense. Things became lively and noisy 
again in the late afternoon ; but the world, somehow or other, 
had an aged, tired look, and the rapid closing in of darkness 
was only welcome as bringing relief from the merciless sun. 
The evening hour was spoiled by the insect pests which, one 
after another, made their appearance ; not all at once, but 
first one kind and then another giving ample employment to 
the victim ; " zancudos," or big flies, mosquitoes of all 
varieties, " chaquistles," and the microscopic flies called 
" jejen," the last-named being the worst of all. They con- 
siderably added to the troubles of the night, which, instead of 
being a time of rest, proved to be one of exhaustion. 

In this low-lying district, about one hundred feet only 
above sea-level, and consisting of a mixture of forest and 
swamps, with a sluggish river, creeks, and lagoons, the air was 
as saturated with moisture as that of an orchid-house. Clothes, 
already wet with perspiration, remained damp, and the limp 
mosquito curtains shut out every breath of air, which sent the 
pattering gusts of rain into the car through the sliding doors, 
which, of course, were kept wide open. Our increasing 
menagerie, so quiet in the day-time, became restless. The 
armadilloes and tortoises scraped and scratched, the boas 
tried with all their combined strength to lift the lid, and Mateo, 
who ought to have been well seasoned, tossed about with fever 
in his body. The mosquitoes were of the dangerous kind ; 
with blood-swollen abdomen and long legs stretched out 
behind them as they were found in the morning sitting on the 
walls of the car an uncomfortable warning that the fever- 
devils were about. Yet we escaped ; a small dose of quinine 
dissolved in a cupful of white wine or lemon juice, with enough 



CROCODILE HUNTING 125 

sugar to hide the bitterness, and taken in the early morning, 
an hour before breakfast, is a drink fit for the gods, and is 
death to the fever germs ; it enables an otherwise healthy 
constitution to grapple with the fiend before he can assert 
himself. 

The site of the village of Aguafria had been selected on 
strictly scientific principles, so as to secure the maximum 
amount of fever for the inhabitants ! The palm and reed- 
built houses were scattered around the margin of a large pond 
teeming with insect life, and shallow surface-wells had been 
sunk in the sodden ground. A log, half floating in the pond, 
was the favourite basking-place of the village crocodile. Plenty 
of smaller specimens lived in the ditches along the railway 
embankments. When pursued, they made for the deeper parts 
that were free from weeds, stirred up the yellow water, and hid 
in the mud at the bottom, where they lay close ; the only way 
of finding them was for the men to wade in, feeling for them 
with their feet, and prodding at random with their twelve-foot 
bamboo sticks pointed with ten-inch iron spikes their usual 
" fishing-rods." During the night the crocodiles roamed 
about in the forest, in search of new pools when their old ones 
had either been fished out or threatened to dry up. The 
railroad proved a veritable trap to them, as the bleaching bones 
of slain specimens showed. 

The Rio de Aguafria, or " cold river," owes its name to 
its source, a deep hole, out of which the river, as if ready-made, 
wells from beneath the overlying limestone. It soon becomes 
a mere series of lagoons and creeks, with steep, muddy banks, 
amongst brushwood and forest. 

Some navvies were mending a small bridge on the railway ; 
instead of replacing the broken crossbeams, they had built 
a crib, and as this sank the gap was filled up with boards taken 
from a wooden box, and with the stem of a palm-frond ! This 
sample of engineering skill was, of course, not visible to the 
inspecting party who, on the following day, rolled merrily over 
it in their observation car, but it set us musing as we embarked 
beneath that bridge in a dug-out canoe. The thing was 
horribly unsteady. My wife was perched in the bows, whilst I 



126 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

was kneeling on the muddy bottom in the stern, a position which 
drew from the fisherman the remark that I was in the proper 
position for doing penance. To shoot from such a rickety craft 
was to court disaster ; one could not even laugh in it, and there 
was soon so much to see, more than enough, indeed, to excite 
us. From the overhanging boughs great iguanas fell with a 




THE FIRST IGUANA. 

splash, some of them at least five feet long, and heavy enough 
to upset us if they had fallen into the canoe. Others crept 
stealthily through the brushwood, and, on reaching the water's 
edge, looked round with their large, quiet eyes before they slid 
into the shallow water, and walked along the bottom. 

The captain refused to punt us into the large lagoon ahead, 
for fear of our being upset by some frightened crocodile. 
There certainly were both crocodiles and alligators, very big 



A LAGOON 127 

skulls of either sort lying about, the living monsters themselves 
being far too wary to do more than show their heads and 
emit grunts. We therefore landed, to flounder across a 
flat of about two miles in extent, which had been recently 
inundated to a depth of five feet, as was indicated by the 
masses of dead weeds, and the grey, dried-up mud on the shrubs. 
These latter were low but thick, and grew in clusters, consisting 
apparently of some kind of " cuautecomatl," or Pseudosmod- 
ingium, whose foxglove-like, white blooms, proceeded from the 
very branches, and exhaled a sweet but sickly smell ; the 
fruit resembled green apples, and the bark was beset with spikes. 
Up to about the height of a man, the trees and shrubs all looked 
like dead wood, since they were coated over with mud, and the 
ground was one brown mass of slime, with here and there a 
pool of hot, brown water, and wherever such a pool was over- 
hung by shrubs, iguanas plunged in or rustled through the 
tangled roots. The young, which retain their vivid green 
coloration until they reach a length of fifteen inches or so, 
alone were less timid, and allowed us to approach within three 
yards distance, keeping their large black eyes wide open. 
If we came yet nearer, they ran through the brushwood as to 
the manner born. 

At last appeared the lagoon, now only a few hundred yards 
across, though several miles long ; one side passing gradually 
into sticky, hot mud, relieved by patches of grass and reeds, the 
other side forming a picture of tropical forest in all its glory. 
The slightly-rising ground was covered with a dense jungle of 
oak, palms, and many other kinds of trees, right down to the 
water's edge, and all the luxuriant verdure turned as it grew 
towards the open space, thus presenting a rare and, as it were, 
a bird's-eye view of the outside of the branch-canopy with all 
its blooms. Majestic, though decaying, trees were the resting- 
places of many birds, amongst which both large and small 
egrets, in resplendent white, shone out conspicuously from the 
green background. There were also grey herons, little dark 
herons, greenish-coloured bittern, and pink spoonbills, or 
rather white spoonbills with a tinge of pink, and with carmine- 
red upon their shoulders. White, curve-billed wood-ibises, 



128 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

with black wings and red eye-wattles, gyrated and croaked 
overhead, and in the midst of all this lovely bird-life, falcons 
perched stolidly on the same palm-fronds as the little egrets. 
The sight was lovely, one, indeed, not easily forgotten, and the 
reverse of the medal was memorable for different reasons : 
for the suffocating and glaring heat of the noonday sun caused 
the fermenting mud and vegetable rubbish to ooze and rise in 
evil-smelling bubbles. 

These lagoons must be teeming with fish. How can they 
otherwise produce and support such numbers of huge crocodiles 
and alligators ? No doubt many a stag and tapir, of both of 
which the spoors were plentiful, was dragged into the water 
by these reptiles as they lurked at the drinking-places ; yet 
they can scarcely form the staple food supply. It was 
aggravating to hear the fisherman talk from Tetela to the 
Isthmus about the " huge, pale, water- tortoises " called 
" galapago," or " tortuga blanca," which is the usual name 
of the vegetarian tortoise Dermatemys maivi, but the size of 
this creature is not known to exceed a shell-length of ten 
inches. We were rather unlucky with our tortoises ; plenty 
were visible, even in the ditches near Aguafria, but somehow 
or other they managed to escape, with the exception of some 
slow-paced Nicoria, which lived in shrubberies, and Cinosternum 
leucostomum, which, whether on land or in water, shut them- 
selves up and appeared like waterworn stones. Snakes, mostly 
arboreal, were beyond reach, except the pretty green and 
yellow mottled Drymobius margaritiferus, perhaps the com- 
monest kind in the hot countries on the Atlantic seaboard. 

" Ameiva " lizards and Cnemidophorus guttatus being, as 
forest dwellers, spotted and sombre of colour instead of sharply 
striped, were abundant. Of amphibians it was interesting to 
notice down here the little Hylodes rhodopis, the same kind 
which flourished on Citlaltepetl ; and the absurd-looking 
Rhinophryne dorsalis, here called " poche." This toad, con- 
fined to hot countries on the Atlantic, is ugly in shape, its 
narrow snout protruding, while its short legs can be drawn up 
into its flabby, oval-shaped body, the loose, baggy skin being 
rolled back in the process. This harmless creature is dark 



BOYS AS COLLECTORS 129 

brown, with a yellow or orange stripe along the spine, and 
smaller spots and patches ; being of retiring and nocturnal 
habits, it excavates a small hollow in moist clay under a trunk, 
and it lives mainly on termites and. similar small fry, which it 
licks up with its long tongue. 

The boys of the neighbourhood were bright- witted, and 
soon grasped the situation. Small change being scarce in 
this shopless neighbourhood, they formed a syndicate of eight, 
elected a spokesman, and appointed me treasurer and keeper 
of accounts, after having ascertained the current value of the 
various animals. At first this was no easy matter. " Quanto 
pagara por un poche, zumbichi, cachumbo ? " This question, 
" How much will you pay ? " could not be answered, until 
they actually brought me their toads and lizards, and thus 
taught me the native names of the Rhinophryne, Ameiva, and 
Cnemidophorus. But they were the most reasonable little 
fellows, expecting more only for what was rare and little for 
" un de los corrientes," one of the current things. They caught 
most of the lizards by shooting them with bows and arrows 
with a knob of indiarubber at the tip of the arrow, so as scarcely 
to stun and not to injure them. When they came to the car 
towards sunset, the spokesman first pointed out that so-and-so 
did not belong to the combine, and would have to be dealt 
with separately. Then followed the valuing, counting, and 
apportioning of the pay, and the result was most satisfactory, 
as not only did these boys continue to trade, but several men 
wished to enlist, amongst them a " cazador," or hunter. Thus 
trade became quite brisk, and Mateo got his hands full with 
preparing these specimens, in addition to the small animals 
that he himself trapped. 

These boys brought me armadilloes, the " nasua," or 
" tejon pisotl," the " tejon solitario " (Procyon lotor), black 
and red squirrels (Sciurus aureogaster) , several kinds of 
" tlacuaches," or opossums, the four-toed antbear (Myrmeco- 
phaya tetradactylus) , here called " brazo fuerte," or " strong- 
arm," which lived in the palm-trees, curled up in the dry 
clusters of the fronds, securing itself with a turn of its pre- 
hensile tail around a stalk, and further grappled to the spot 



130 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

by its claws. These, like its arms, are powerful, and the 
animal uses them for opening up the nests of the arboreal 
termites, which are as hard as stones, whence he is also 
called " oso colmenero," or " bee-hive bear." Such and similar 
animals were considered of little value, whereas a large 
" perro de agua," or water-dog i.e., otter (Lutra felina) 
cost as much as four pesos, although it was not obvious why 
they should so much esteem its fur in that sweltering 
country. All we could learn was that the long hairs are 
laboriously plucked out, leaving only the soft under-fur. 

As usual, there were other creatures which one longed for 
and could not get. For instance, instead of the common long- 
tailed deer (Cariacus toltecus], which carries three prongs, we 
wanted the little black-faced brocket (Coassus rufinus), which 
grows primitive antlers up to, but not beyond, the pricket 
stage. This diminutive deer is essentially a forest-dweller, 
and is not often seen, whilst the other deer is plentiful in the 
lowlands as well. These deer assemble during the periodical 
inundations on the slightly higher, isolated knolls near the 
coast, for instance, near Alvarado, where they are slaughtered 
by the hunters without mercy, the skins being paid for at the 
rate of twenty-five to fifty centavos, for shipment in quantities, 
with great profit, to New York, where they are turned into the 
finest doe-skin leather. 

t Above all, we longed for a tapir, called " danta " in Spanish, 
but also " anta," whence has arisen the term " ante-burro," 
further corrupted to " anti-burro," or " opposition ass," 
whilst " ante-burro " might, by popular etymology, be ex- 
plained as a " previous " or " early " donkey, which would 
make ridiculously good sense, since tapirs are zoologically 
generalised three-toed equines which have stuck in the mud. 
A few " ante-burros " are generally to be seen in that 
abomination of a " zoological garden " at Chapultepec. On 
enquiring whence they come, the invariable answer is " Oaxaca, 
del monte." But " monte " does not mean " moun- 
tain " ; it is Spanish for " low forest." Hence has arisen the 
notion that this kind of tapir is an inhabitant of the 
mountains, and as it so happens that in Peru there lives a 



A STATION MASTER 131 

Tapirus andinus, this, its Mexican relative, has been pro- 
moted to the high sierras of Oaxaca. In reality, he does 
not live on the mountains, but only in the tierra caliente, in 
the tropical lowlands. At Aguafria the tapir was plentiful, 
to judge from the spoor, but it was hopeless to get at him in 
the swampy forest ; the time to hunt him was said to be the 
dry season, when these semi-aquatic creatures collect at the 
permanent lagoons, instead of roaming far through the 
forest. 

To make our presence, or rather, that of our car, known 
to the engine-drivers, we kept a look-out for the occasional 
arrival of the trains. The station-master was a good-humoured, 
but utterly lazy and incompetent person, who spent most of 
his time sleeping in his shanty. Theoretically, he was in charge 
of the " post office," which consisted of two cigar-boxes, one 
for delivery, the other for such letters and memoranda as the 
conductors might deposit. Unstamped letters he refused to 
receive, whereas he relieved of their stamps those that had 
any, in which act, however, he only conformed with general 
custom. I was made free of his office, to rummage for possible 
letters, whilst he was lying on his back, and no wonder letters 
get lost in those out-of-the-way places. We only once fell out 
seriously, when he would not send a telegraphic message to 
Cordoba, and I threatened to operate myself. In spite of 
groans and curses he was compelled to keep on repeating it, 
until at length the man at the other end became angry, and we 
got a forcibly expressed, but satisfactory, answer. The point 
in question was to make sure that an eventual notice to move 
our car should be obeyed. We had not yet established intimate 
relations with the various train officials, but this came about 
in a most unexpected manner on the following day. 

I had just walked up to the station, to which I was 
attracted by the sight of a little crowd. The object of interest 
was a horribly-mutilated " peon," or workman, with a crushed 
foot, and the whole of the skin of his hand torn off, and hanging 
in flaps from his fingers. How, and when, and where this had 
happened, I know not ; on the contrary, I was repeatedly asked 
this question by every official. Possibly the man had been 

K2 



132 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

crushed by one of the stacks of firewood. The engineer readily 
promised to keep the train whilst I fetched our emergency 
medicine-case. If I enlarge upon what followed, and put myself 
in the centre of the stage, it is not with the intention of showing 
myself off to advantage, but of throwing a lurid light upon the 
conditions which prevailed. The wounded man kicked, yelled, 
and bit during the process of dressing his wounds, and not a 
man lent a hand, although the office, and the entrance to it, 
was choked with sightseers ; only the station-master's wife 
brought a basin of water. When this business was finished, 
everybody fled ; most of them jumped into the train and 
banged the doors. I myself had to carry the man round to the 
other side of the train. One woman, an old negress, helped 
me in, and we deposited the patient upon one of the long, 
central benches ; this was vacated as if by magic, men, women, 
and children craning their necks over from the other side to 
look at the patient. Outside, in front of the engine, the 
policeman, armed with a cavalry sabre and a revolver, stood 
and smoked ; one of these fellows rides in every train. I 
charged him to take the patient to the Cordoba Hospital, 
and to see that he got some refreshment during the long journey. 
The only reply was : " Has he got any money ? " The con- 
ductor was nowhere to be seen, but the American driver said 
he would see after the case at Cordoba, and we parted, he to 
make up for the long delay, and I to go to our camp, not in 
the best of tempers. Mateo joined me with beaming smiles, 
and my anger vented itself upon him. " What, you here . . ? " 
" Yes, sir, I stood in the door, but I saw it all, and you did 
grandly ; yet it would have been wiser to leave that man 
alone, because it is not known how he came by his dreadful 
injuries. Que disgracia ! " Little by little I learned that I 
had committed a rash act. According to Mexican law, the first 
person who is found with, near or touching a wounded man 
or dead body, can be arrested, and he generally is arrested, if 
for no other reason than that he might be a possible eye-witness. 
The result is that the victim of an accident, or of a foul deed, 
is shunned, and in a street the people run away to a safe 
distance. That policeman could have carried me off, as he 



ACCIDENTS 133 

found me bending over the wounded man, when the train 
arrived at the station. 

However, no ill, but good, resulted ; the engineer had spread 
and magnified my name along the line, and when, a few days 
later, we moved on to Perez, I was pointed out as " the man 
who cut off the peon's arm, who threatened the policeman, and 
who likes camping in the most God-forsaken swamps." 

Nearly all the engine-drivers and conductors of the Mexican 
railways are Americans or Canadians. The reasons are obvious 
enough. Experience has shown that when a small accident 
happens and these are frequent the Mexican would wire 
to his nearest headquarters and wait for instructions, whereas 
the white man would take his screw-jack, and com- 
mandeer help, and at least try to settle the matter himself. 
It is not so much a question of laziness, as want of initiative, 
and the shunning of responsibility. There are exceptions, 
but it is not the best-class of American who goes to Mexico, 
and the further he drifts from the base, the less satisfactory 
is his previous record likely to be, and many of those who have 
slipped off the plateau, and have got stuck in the southern 
" hot country," are a sorry lot. 

Still, after getting to know them, I have received much help 
and many acts of courtesy from both engineers and conductors. 
One of them provided the only fresh meat then available, as 
he had run over and killed a bullock on the line. On such 
lucky occasions the natives swoop down upon the carcase like 
vultures, divide it, and nothing is left to bear witness except 
the horns and hoofs, which in this case, fell to the engine's 
share. " Where does the owner come in ? " " That's just it : 
if he does come in time he claims his beast, and probably 
claims damages, too ; but if he doesn't well, that simplifies 
matters, as he can't prove the kill." This running over of cattle 
and donkeys mules and horses get out of the way is a fruitful 
source of litigation, and still more frequently of " accidents " 
to the trains, for the dissatisfied owner bears a grudge to the 
company, and a little accident, a " desgracia," is soon arranged. 
It may be a false report, but I heard of the manager of one 
railway who preferred travelling by the opposition line rather 



134 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



than by his own, since he had received a warning that his 
uncompromising attitude in settling " run-over " claims had 
marked him as a candidate for an accident. 

We had to leave Aguafria owing to funds running low ; 
so many things had been bought, and so many more were 
offered daily, that the currency threatened to give out long 
before Tehuantepec. 

Perez, on the left-hand bank of the Tezechoacan, a big 




JU ANITA. 

river, did not prove an inviting place, although it is a regular 
station, with a proper house for the railway officials, and is 
also the terminus for the little steamers which ply to Alvarado. 
There were, however, too many mosquitoes and fever-stricken 
people. Thence the railway was in splendid condition, and 
the train flew across the level or slightly undulating savannah 
a rich grazing country until the few scattered huts were reached, 
which represent Juanita station. Intending passengers for 
the Isthmus railway could travel further yet, to the junction 
at Santa Lucrecia, but there was a gap of an uncertain number 



A TALE OF BEER 135 

of miles of unfinished railroad, in which we should surely have 
stuck with our baggage. The alternative was to go from the 
little Juanita, across open country, to the big Juan Evangelista, 
and then by a branch of the Isthmus line to Juile Junction. 
For the present we decided to await events, and have a day's 
look round in the pretty neighbourhood, which consisted 
partly of sandy and pebbly ground, but also had very. fertile, 
green meadows unmistakable dunes and old seashores 
covered here and there with dense clusters of mimosa and spiky 
"cuautecomate" trees, with climbing cactus and many orchids. 

So far, the fresher and drier air was an agreeable change 
from the stuffiness of the swampy forests ; but all day long there 
was absolutely nothing to be bought at Juanita, not even 
tortillas, and nothing to drink until, at night, Mateo, having 
made a last attempt, came back radiant with a heap of crisp 
tortillas, several bottles of beer, and, oh, joy ! two pieces of ice, 
balanced on the rim of his sombrero. There was a mystery 
about the bottles, which had to be returned the same night, 
when done with. Mateo had much of the wisdom of the ser- 
pent. " Let us see whether this beer is good ; to-morrow they 
will be very busy at the station." The man in charge was a 
negro of business-like intelligence, and with feelings of 
responsibility. He had only arrived on the previous day, 
his predecessor having decamped, leaving the station to look 
after itself : he had sufficient reason for thus vanishing. Two 
boxes with beer had arrived, consigned to a farmer in the 
neighbourhood. The station-master had calmly sold it " in 
retail," stipulating that the empty bottles with the corks should 
be returned to him. These he put back into the boxes, and 
forwarded the invoice to the consignee, who had sent for his 
goods. Only one box was delivered, the other " had not yet 
come in." The farmer, discovering that his much-looked-for 
bottles were all empty, rode up to the station and found the 
other box in the office, minus the bottles. Everybody was 
sorry for the station-master, duly returned any empty bottles 
they might have, and felt grateful to him for the treat. 

The natives were a lawless lot, and made attempts to break 
into our car, even in the daytime. Several skins and heads had 



136 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

been put on the top to dry, and to get rid of the unpleasant 
smell ; in the dead of night the patter of naked feet on the 
zinc roof awoke us. Whilst I kicked at an arm which was 
reaching in by one of the doors, Mateo climbed out through the 
other and up by the hoops outside, in order to chase the two 
fellows on the top, flourishing his revolver (which I had carefully 
filled long ago with empty cartridges), and saying in his 
beautiful idiom : "If you up yourself again, I down you with 
lead." From Cordoba southwards the officials and many local 
passengers carried revolvers. From Perez to San Juan, and 
on the Isthmus line, every other man had one, mostly for 
swagger, though partly from mutual distrust. The genuine 
natives were quite sufficiently armed with their " machetes." 
Suspicious, and easily taking, and resenting, offence, these 
strangely-minded people, themselves being inveterate liars, 
never believe what you say, and yet are most easy to bluff. 
I have been hustled once or twice when quite alone and 
unarmed, buying provisions rather late after sunset, and then 
I have calmly told the fellows to carry my load, and this 
baffled them so much that they cheerfully consented. 
Except for the larger towns, mines, and railways in con- 
struction, where they come much in contact with the white 
man, and most of the latter foreigners whom they have 
learned to distrust, the natives are perfectly harmless and 
possessed of good manners. 

A stage-coach conveyed us and the baggage from the little 
Juanita to the big San Juan Evangelista, for an exorbitant 
sum. It was a lovely drive of a few hours through park-like 
grassland, with little brooks and forest fringing the big San 
Juan river. The ferrying was done by an enormous dug-out, 
each person and big bundle paying one real, while the horses 
were whipped into the river and swam across. The town on 
the opposite side looked lovely ; it lost much on nearer 
acquaintance. It had several inns, one run by Carmelita, an 
old woman who cooked good food, but the room, or rather 
sleeping accommodation, was horrid. Several foreign agents 
and our friend the stage-driver, boarded and lodged there, 
and, occupying the only available rooms, did not add to our 



SAN JUAN EVANGELISTA 



137 



happiness. They were so inquisitive, and probed us with 
questions about indiarubber, cattle, enamelled ironware, 
logwood, and many other trades, all of which they said offered 
no chance. When they heard that our branch of trade was 
big snakes, to set up a menagerie, they saw to it that most of 
our baggage was stored in the backyard, although Mateo tried 
to convince them that we were only beginners. 

The town, founded in early times by the Spaniards, is well 
laid out, with wide streets, a very large square, and another 




SAN JUAN EVANGBLISTA. 

round the double-towered church ; green turf covered the 
hard, sandy soil, and everything looked airy and fairly clean. 
Most of the low houses around and near the square are built 
of brick, further out the streets lose themselves in the usual 
labyrinth of gardens, cactus fences, and scattered palm- 
thatched huts. The people, who are rather good-looking, 
with a strong admixture of negro blood, have a bad, quarrelsome 
reputation. Dark-skinned women walked about in flowing 
garments of many colours, with gardenias and other bright 
and strongly-scented flowers in their somewhat short and 
slightly curly hair. As usual, the pure negroes have been 
completely absorbed. The talk of the dangerous disposition 
of the inhabitants seemed mere fancy at all events, on the 



138 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

two nights we spent in their town they were models of good 
behaviour, but we can testify to their almost incredible laziness. 
The station-master, himself a native, and I became friends, 
and as he was very hard pressed to get some navvies to patch 
up a bit of his railway, we went together to inspect the labour 
market, as represented by some dozen able-bodied fellows, 
lying on their backs and smoking in the shade near the jetty. 

" HoUa, Locadio, how do ? " 

" Thank you, jefe, I feel myself very well ; hope you feel the 
same ; your servant." 

" I am glad of that ; but you seem to have no work to do." 

" Thanks to God, I have not." 

" I could let you have a small day's work at that wash- 
out, nothing serious, you know ; it could perfectly well stand 
over for a day or two ; but they worry me so, those white 
inspectors, always in a hurry ; yet I should like half-a-dozen 
men. Will you come ? " 

" No. What pay ? " 

" Two pesos for the rest of this day." 

" Oh. not to-day ; and then for three pesos, just as last time." 

" But that was for a full day, Locadito ; however, all right, 
three pesos for to-morrow." 

" Oh, not to-morrow, pasado manana " (the day after to- 
morrow). 

" Loco ! Madman, why not to-morrow ? " 

" Jefe, what a trouble you are ; you yourself paid me three 
pesos last week ; well, I have still four reals in my little 
pocket, and now one wants to on-rib himself (he on his back) 
I am going to sleep." 

This is a faithful sample of the negotiations which the 

station-master had to give up as a bad job. 

***** 

We had traced an iguana into the big tree in the back-yard 
of the inn, and Mateo offered a passing boy a whole real (2|d.) 
to climb up the tree. The offer was refused curtly. Did he 
want more ? " No ! " Nevertheless, that lizard excited us. 
We had just photographed, and then caught with a noose, a 
young one, about ten inches long, which was still bright green ; 



A VANISHING LIZARD 139 

it was at first seen on a bare branch, and when it saw that it 
was observed, it slowly moved on to the leaves of the mango 
tree, and then sat quite still. In the tall mango tree close by 
was a large adult (Ctenosaura acanthinura), and this was 
likewise quite green, instead of a patchy brown or black, like 
those we had known hitherto. Although we climbed the tree 
ourselves, and spent a long time in looking for that big fat 
creature, whose size must have been more than four feet long, 
it gradually vanished before our eyes, mingling to perfection 
with the surrounding foliage, for there was no hollow for it 
to slip into. Later on we found that here on the Isthmus, 
amongst the more luxuriant and permanently green vegetation, 
most of these lizards retained their green dress, in adaptation 
to locally prevailing environmental conditions. The young 
one in time became very tame, and lived in a cage in a green- 
house for nearly two years. During the first four months it 
ate nothing, and became lamentably thin ; then it made up its 
mind to acclimatize itself, cropped the young leaves off the 
geranium plants, took to mealworms, cockroaches and earth- 
worms, and developed a great liking for dandelion blossoms. 
Meanwhile it had become of a dull green, and had shed its skin 
successfully, but remained dull ; after several months, having 
become quite supple, it developed brown and blackish patches, 
all traces of green disappeared, and it gradually assumed the 
coloration which is usual in those specimens which have to 
live in less brightly green and shady surroundings. 

Meanwhile, however, there were other little excitements 
in the zoological line. On the sandy shores of the river flitted 
about the small, sharply striated Cnemidophorus deppei, already 
met with on the open savannahs of Juanita ; in the mouldy 
ground of the jungle lived Dermophis mexicanus, the only 
representative in Mexico of this group of worm-shaped, limb- 
less amphibians. As all their relations are native to South 
and Central America, but do not extend either into the West 
Indies nor to the Galapagos Islands, it is fair to assume that 
this creature has managed to travel over at least 1,500 miles 
of ground since the close of the Miocene epoch, i.e., since the 
separation of the Antilles from the mainland. If this distri- 



140 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

bution began, roundly, a million years ago, then the rate of 
spreading need have been but a few yards per year on the 
average. Such a speculation may seem gratuitous, since we 
know neither distance, time, nor rate of possible progress ; 
but to each of these factors can be assigned an outside limit, 
and the fact remains that these little underground diggers 
have come from somewhere, and must have had time to per- 
form the journey. 

In the broad sandy river were shoals of the curious four-eyed 
fish (Anableps), of which more anon. To ourselves the water 
appeared so warm, and was so laden with sand, that a bath 
was no refreshment, although we tried to imitate the natives 
by lying in the current in the evening for a tediously long time. 
It may have been the shady forest-life, which we had been 
leading until recently, that made the open savannah, the river, 
and the town so trying to us : the worst sensation being the 
burning heat which seemed to collect in one's skin ; the feeling 
of hopelessness as to the drying of anything in the hot, 
moisture-laden atmosphere, and the incessant thirst, very im- 
perfectly quenched by means of small bottles of beer or mineral 
waters, each of which cost half a peso. At an exchange-rate of 
twelve pesos to the pound sterling, this meant about 10d., 
but to the Mexicans it was nearly 2s. The " drink bill " 
threatened to rise to fabulous proportions, and the worst of 
it was that the stuff was warm, and that warm soda-water 
passes through the body as through a sieve. The only real 
and lasting relief proved to be boiled water, and plenty of it 
too, taken hot. 



CHAPTER VII. 

THE ISTHMUS OF TEHTTANTEPEC. 

By Rail across the Isthmus Tehuantepec The Women and their Dress Lifo 
at an Inn The Prefect. 

It rained heavily during these August nights, in the early 
morning hours. The streets were then transformed into pools 
of mud, in which big toads wallowed and muttered ; in the 
crowns of the dripping palms sat the black vultures, spreading 
their drenched wings in the rising sun to dry ; but a few hours 
later all the water had vanished, the ground became caked, and 
the whole atmosphere was thick with moisture. On such a 
morning, still in the dark, and at the tail-end of the pouring 
hot rain, we picked our way to the station, fondly hoping to 
catch the 6 o'clock train, which plied on alternate days. But the 
train refused to budge for another hour-and-a-half , on account 
of that little business for which Locadio and his friends were 
wanted. However, we were in ample time at Juile, the 
junction, where the train from Coatzacoalcos was moderately 
late, and we experienced a new sensation, a ride on the 
Isthmus line, and there was every hope of making Tehuantepec 
by 5 or 6 o'clock in the afternoon. 

The line passes through the densest swampy jungle, which 
rises on either side of the narrow road-bed like an impenetrable 
wall, composed of many kinds of herbs, creepers, broad-leaved 
plants and flowers, shrubs and trees. In the foreground were 
selaginella and ferns, and broad-leaved hot-house plants, 
picked out by the vividly orange mock flowers of the 
" platanillo." Then follow shrubs, wild rubber and fig-trees, and 



142 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

palms, all densely packed, and held together by long festoons 
of creepers. All this has grown up within a few years, since 
this railway was built. In the background the primeval forest 
has remained untouched ; the stately limbs of noble trees are 
festooned with long, pendent grey-green masses of Spanish 
beard (Tillandsia usneoides), and these permanently moist 
forests seem to stretch, as a solid blue-green mass, even into the 
far horizon. They are enlivened by the large red macaw, which 
sails like a fiery cross of red and blue through the verdure ; 
or, tamed and educated, watches his mistress, a coffee-brown, 
much wilder and less intelligent beauty, who sings and smokes 
in her hammock under the banana-leaf covered hut, while her 
husband approaches with a pail to beg for some water from the 
engine. That is a little custom which may be seen all over the 
country, where water happens to be scarce or too muddy. The 
engine requires tolerably clean water, and plenty of it, and the 
natives know that a few bananas, mangoes, aguacates, or 
zapotes, not to mention a pineapple, will always open the tap. 
And where is to be found that gruffest of American drivers 
who, on the parched, interminable and dust-swept plains of 
the north, could resist the little ragged maiden who asks for 
" una copita de aguita," " a little cup of waterlet " ? 

To see all this beauty in its tropical profusion is very 
pleasant ; to have to watch it from a crowded train is a very 
different matter. Heat, noise, dirt, and smell, not to use 
stronger terms, assail the senses on all sides. The ill-ventilated 
cars reserved for the natives, crowded to the utmost, resemble 
regular slave-dhows, and emit an intolerable stench. The 
first-class carriages are also crowded, mostly with whites, who 
smoke, spit and swelter with perspiration, deplorable-looking 
people, sallow and drawn, many of whom are hoping to recover 
from some tropical illness by making for the other side of the 
Isthmus, or are ordered to some spot where extra work awaits 
them, the man in charge " being down," although they them- 
selves are equally close to the breaking-point. There is no 
cheerful talk, no story-telling, no humour, no quarrelling, or 
swearing, the general mental atmosphere is far too depressing 
for that. The doors at either end of the cars bang incessantly 



THE ISTHMUS RAILWAY 143 

as they swing to and fro with the jolting and bumping, and at 
every curve the wheels shriek with the grating against the 
rails. The collecting of the fares was done upon principles 
not very remunerative to the company. Every self-respecting 
white man avoided buying a ticket if he could possibly help it, 
and provided himself with a permit for the occasion. For 
the matter of that, we ourselves also had free passes, generously 
granted for a whole month up and down the line. The natives 
were treated differently. When they were bond fide passengers, 
say for a distance of six stations, the conductor gave them a 
ticket for half the distance, and he charged half-price for the 
balance, which he pocketed. In days of stricter supervision 
the trains became quite unpopular. 

That Isthmus railway had cost enormous sums to the 
Mexican Government, which had fully determined upon the 
construction of such a line. During the fifteen years of its 
existence it had never been in working condition, even to a 
moderate extent, and if it had been, there would have been 
no traffic, since the harbour at Coatzacoalcos, on the Atlantic 
side, was next to useless, while on the Pacific side there was none 
at all. At last the Government came to an agreement with 
Sir Weetman Pearson, who had already finished the great 
drainage-system of the valley of Mexico and the harbour works 
at Vera Cruz, to put the whole concern into order, and to 
work it. This involved the construction of proper works at 
the port of Coatzacoalcos, and the making of a great harbour 
at Salina Cruz, while the crazy old line itself had to be rebuilt. 
When we saw it parts of the old permanent way had been 
condemned as hopeless, but were yet used, the new line being 
but partially ready. The difficulties were great indeed. The 
line goes through swamps and dense forests, always, on the 
Atlantic slope, soaked with moisture ; moreover, it follows or 
crosses the vaUeys of streams which are liable to sudden floods, 
while the embankments are cut up by countless rivulets, 
which scoop out the sodden road-bed, while here and there 
long stretches of the red clay slopes slide down. There seems 
to be here every kind of subsoil, from bog and clay to porous 
rubble and hard rocks, limestone, sandstone, and granite. 



144 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

We stuck fast in several places, where the rails had first to be 
cleared of the red clay which had been washed on to them during 
the previous night's rain. But there were also delays for other 
reasons, thus : the train came to a halt at a bridge where a 
pair of oxen had upset a goods train. This sounds improbable, 
but the careless people on it had run the train, with the engine 
at the rear end, into the oxen, which proceeded along the line 
until they fell upon the trestle bridge ; the first car fell into the 
river, the others piled up, and the bridge was broken. It cost 
some trouble to convey the contents of our train to the other 
side through the scene of confusion, and then the whole crowd 
had to await, in this pretty wilderness, the chance of a relief 
train. 

Towards sunset the ordinary east-bound train turned up, 
not knowing what awaited it. At the end of this train was a 
well-equipped private car, which I boarded, in spite of the 
remonstrances of a Chinaman, who had a little English and 
Spanish at his command. " Boss a-dam, dammee mucho 
mal ! " He slammed the door in my face, but a dapper young 
man, a picture of health and of quiet, bustling energy, im- 
mediately mounted the platform, and, hearing that I wanted 
to speak to the boss, said : "I am in command here, if that is 
what you mean by the ' boss ' ; my name is Adam, and this is 
not a passenger car." By the luckiest of accidents we had thus 
fallen in with Mr. Adam, to whom I had a warm letter of 
introduction. With his introduction to my wife, and much 
shaking of hands, followed a complete change of scene. He, 
the commander-in-chief of the harbour works at Salina 
Cruz, had been expecting us for some time, though not 
exactly at this place, at which he was stopped through our 
accident on his way east. Henceforth we were under his 
powerful ceyis, or, rather, we had the pleasure of enjoying the 
friendship, help, and advice of a most courteous and ac- 
complished gentleman. How we revelled in the comparative 
luxury of a late tea, a clean dinner, with even some ice, pre- 
pared by the now beaming Chinaman ! We had not had a bite, 
except fruit, since the early morning, and were without the 
prospect of any more. 



TEHUANTEPEC 145 

It was a hot but lovely night. Near the divide of the 
Isthmus is a kind of open plateau, appearing almost barren by 
contrast with the dense vegetation of the Atlantic slope, and 
here, at Rincon, at a height of 800 feet, railway and other 
engineering works were being established, besides a kind of 
sanatorium. Unfortunately, in spite of the elevation and open 
situation, the general state of health here is, or was, not as 
good as might reasonably be expected, perhaps on account 
of the many pools on the plateau. Thence westwards the whole 
character of the landscape changed in marvellous fashion, 
the Pacific slope having a hot and dry climate. 

We arrived at Tehuantepec at five in the morning instead 
of the previous evening, and awoke on the Pacific side of the 
world. From the way in which people talked about far-off 
Tehuantepec, we were prepared for a kind of miniature tropical 
Paris, and it may be that its well-sounding name enhanced its 
glamour. It is one of those names which stick in one's 
memory since early schooldays. Tehuantepe from the 
Nahoa " tecuani," a wild beast means " jaguar-hill " ; but 
it is named from the white patches of quartz veins in the broken 
face of the porphyritic hill, in which fancy discerns the outline 
of a jaguar. This little hill, in the south-east of the town, 
commands a strikingly-beautiful view of the broad valley of 
the river, the cultivated fields and the woods rising in the north 
upon higher hills, which in their turn develop into jagged 
sierras. It affords, too, by far the best view of the scattered 
town itself, since all the slanting, red-tiled roofs show up well 
amongst the dark green groves of trees, banana plantations, 
bright green fields of sugar-cane and maize. The slope of this 
hill contains the oldest settlements in the place, the real native 
mud-walled huts and houses, rising in irregular tiers, with lanes 
which have never been planned or laid out, but which have 
been wearing themselves, crookedly and deep, into the rubble 
of the ground from time immemorial. On the top stands a 
little shrine of masonry ; it holds no image, but at sunset a 
silent, forbidding man, issuing from the nearest house, climbs 
up to put a lighted lamp into the recess. Many such lights 
are kept burning in niches on the heights which overlook the 



146 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

town from the other side of the river, and well-meaning people 
advise strangers not to venture too near these places, since 
they are dedicated to the native gods, and weird rites are 
practised there in the dead of night. Sometimes a crucifix 
surmounts such a niche, and some even hold a tawdry Madonna. 
These additional things cannot do any harm, and are intended 
to keep off a possibly over-zealous Catholic priest. 

Seen from within, the scattered town looks more like a 
half-deserted village, and this is probably due to the violent 
earthquake which took place in 1901. Many of the houses, 
all of them low and one-storied, were left in ruins, and, instead 
of being cleared away, were left as they had fallen, while others, 
better-looking houses, were put up somewhere else. But most 
of the place looks as if it had been deserted fifty years ago, 
with open spaces, buried in deep sand, here a few scrubby 
trees, there an attempt towards forming a street, which is 
nowhere paved, but possesses a raised side-walk composed of 
slabs or boards along and in front of the houses. There is, 
however, a large square with a well-kept garden, surrounded 
by some municipal buildings and the principal shops ; but even 
the well-to-do and there are some rich people here do not 
make a pretence at living in anything like moderately com- 
fortable houses. The inhabitants seemed to have earthquake on 
the brain. Severe shakings are, of course, rare, but even during 
our short stay not a day passed without one or more slight 
" temblones," which, by us inexperienced people, were at first 
taken for a passing steam-roller. The popular belief is that a 
good rain overnight stops the chances of any serious convulsion, 
at least, that is what they excitedly talked about in the 
mornings. 

We went straight to early mass, and saw many things 
characteristic of the place. The body of a man, who had died 
of " some fever," was taken from his house to be hastily buried, 
the women in the house sending up a heartrending howl which 
soon changed into a regulated long-drawn wail, the howl being 
renewed whenever a new mourning friend appeared. At last 
the men trotted off with their burden, and there was an end to 
that particular scene. The church, an old Spanish building, 




MACHETES AND KNIVES. 



L 2 



148 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

looked a most picturesque ruin ; it had a wide rent from top 
to bottom, and was so unsafe that it had been gutted and 
closed. They had constructed a roomy hall, in the form of a 
lean-to, and this was covered with corrugated iron, and 
supported by railway sleepers, iron pipes, and other bridge- 
building material belonging to the railway ; most of the old 
furniture had been put into the new building, and all was 
clean and neatly arranged, only it looked very much like a 
hastily-improvised stage at a fair, and this impression was 
enhanced by the behaviour of the orchestra, all players of 
wind instruments, who were a little late in coming. The 
priests were already officiating, and two men in the right 
farther corner were blowing for all they were worth, to 
make up for deficient parts. Now in came the trombone, 
crossed himself hastily, made a deep genuflexion, and in the 
very act of rising, joined in with a " prrump." Next came the 
piccolo-flute, who, without further ado, tootled himself up 
the aisle and joined the orchestra, which was thus rendered 
complete. 

In the same building we assisted at a wedding, at which 
the bride was bedecked with green and gold. This was a good 
opportunity of seeing the famous " huipiles " of the Tehuanas. 
" Huipil " is the Nahoa name for an embroidered chemise, 
which is worn by most other tribes in the usual way, but 
these particular " huipiles " have undergone a peculiar trans- 
cendental development, having grown into a purely ornamental 
garment, and from continued one-sided use have lost their 
original capacity of being put over the body. The " huipilli " 
is, in fact, a short white chemise, to the neck and waist of 
which is attached an elaborate frill of lace about a foot or more 
in width. The sleeves, when there are any, are either sewn up, 
or are represented by ribbons. The whole thing is starched, 
and is worn in several ways. When walking in the street 
they wear it with the neck portion resting upon the shoulders, 
and the waist is turned up over the head, and serves as a 
sunshade. For going to church and similar festive occasions, 
the rim of the neck is fastened round the face and tied under 
the chin, so that the starched neck-frill stands out like a 



BEAUTIFUL WOMEN 149 

gorgeous Elizabethan ruff, while the waist-frill rests upon and 
covers the shoulders, bosom, and bare arms down to the 
elbows ; one sleeve hangs in front, the other droops over the 
shoulder. The whole affair only wants a pretty face to set it 
off, and beauty is indeed a striking feature of most of these 
Tehuanas, or " tiger-beauties," as we called them. Their usual 
dress consisted of a short- waisted blouse, low in the neck, 
without sleeves ; the neck and armholes were edged or bordered 
with contrasted needlework, the principal colours being red or 
purple in various patterns. Secondly, they wore the " enagua," 
a skirt, likewise of cotton, either white or coloured. Over this 
was sometimes worn what might be termed a short overskirt. 
The Tehuana does not wear shoes, she even dances barefooted, 
and has no need to be ashamed of her deficiency in this respect. 
She is extraordinarily fond of enhancing her beauty by adorn- 
ing her raven hair with bright, scented flowers, and by wearing 
jewellery, though she is liable to overdo the latter, since she 
converts her savings into rings, gold chains, filigree work, and 
gold watches, and it is not unusual to see four or more valuable 
watches dangling on long chains about the waist of a wealthy 
lady. We never tired of admiring these women, who are 
notoriously the most beautiful in the whole Republic ; of course, 
not all of them are so, but the majority are very handsome, 
with a beautiful figure, excellently graceful carriage, and not 
at all undersized. Even their movements are likewise most 
graceful, this remark applying to the wealthy as well as to the 
servant class. " Tiger beauty " indeed was theirs ; but it 
does not last, and they are liable to grow fat. But there is 
nowhere absolute perfection, always some drawback, and here 
it consists in the grating and utterly unmelodious voice of these 
friendly and lively women. Their complexion ranges from 
a dark coffee-brown to almost white, every degree of mixture 
of the aboriginal Indian and the European races being repre- 
sented ; what these natives were like at the time of the 
conquest we do not know, but they must have been attractive, 
and these attractions have borne fruit ever since. The 
selective principle has worked well, and the women are fully 
aware of their power. In fact, they are the power in the 



150 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

whole district, which should consequently be a paradise for 
suffragettes. They do little menial work, mainly the fetching 
of water, the preparing of tortillas, and washing. Yet 
nearly the whole of the trade is in their hands ; so much so, 
indeed, that all commercial transactions are done by them, or 
at least require their sanction. 

At the market-place all the vendors are women, most of 
them sitting on low, peculiarly-shaped chairs, called " butacas," 
which are covered with the skin of a jaguar, or a cow, or with 
red-stained leather. The goods are brought and deposited 
by the men, who then withdraw. There are " huipiles " 
and other forms of clothing of many colours and patterns ; 
heaps of fruit and flowers ; turkeys, fowls, fish, and meat, 
and a curious sight rows of " tilcampos," or black iguanas, 
which are worth two fowls each, being much esteemed for their 
delicate flesh ; the poor things are alive, but can neither bite 
nor scratch, since their legs are tied together with their own 
tendons, and they are similarly muzzled. Another corner is 
given up to pottery, notably the hard-baked black Juchitan 
ware, mostly large oval-shaped vessels ; " jicaras," large and 
small cups, dishes and basins, made of gourds, gorgeously 
painted, and often inscribed with a name ; cocoanuts with 
engraved patterns and perforated, used as coffee strainers, 
the same neatly-shaped utensil, with an additional handle, 
being also made of the firm black clay ; quaintly carved pieces 
of wood, in an infinity of patterns, but always with two loose 
rings, are the universal implements employed for stirring and 
crushing the chocolate. 

Of the chief local industries may be mentioned the weaving 
of cotton goods, the most prized being blouses and skirts 
composed of fibres which, before they are woven, have been 
dyed with the juice of the purple snail. Much Indian corn, 
cotton, and coffee is grown and exported, and the same 
applies to the sugar-cane, used for the production of " cafia," 
or sugar-brandy. Above all, the town is the collecting centre 
of the trade that is carried across the Isthmus, both to 
Oaxaca and far into Central America. 

The population of the town and immediate neighbourhood 




EH 
W 



o o 



152 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

amounts to more than 10,000, almost all of these being 
Zapoteca, many of whom still speak only their native idiom. 
The place is moderately healthy, much better than the 
Atlantic side. During our visit it was troubled by yellow fever, 
but the cases, although all fatal, were sporadic, though, of 
course, more numerous than was officially admitted. The 
doctor's wife had just died, and the doctor, on this account, 
felt somewhat under a cloud, the difficulty being aggravated 
by the fact that he was a foreigner. A few people died suddenly 
overnight, and were hastily buried, and it was given out that 
they had come from somewhere else. Things looked a little 
alarming when a troop of actors arrived from Guatemala, and 
took lodgings in the opposition inn, where there happened to be 
a genuine case of yellow fever. This caused an exodus, and the 
histrionic company took shelter in our inn, where one of the 
" stars " wept over this particular " yellow peril," though 
another was much more afraid of the " sanguesugas," or 
vampires. Both were a nuisance, swinging all day long in the 
hammocks of the little " patio," and jabbering, singing, and 
bewailing their ill-luck. 

There are two inns in the town, both managed by Basques, 
one called Tocaven, the other named Bustillo. The latter 
was married to a Spanish-Mexican woman, and yet his younger 
sons looked typical half-blood Indians. But that is just what 
happens in these countries. Being run by a Basque, the inn was 
very orderly, though otherwise most moderate in style ; the 
charge per person for " asistencia " i.e., board and lodging 
was two pesos per day, but Tehuantepec is a dear place for the 
little which it has to offer. However, drinks were plentiful 
and of great variety, from soda to firewater, stuff that could 
rival the juice of the tarantula, so that it was doubtful which 
might be less dangerous. Of the soda-water we could never 
get more than two bottles at a time, the reason being that 
only four bottles were in existence. This explained the ex- 
traordinary proposal which came from another man, to set up 
a " fabrica de aguas gazeosas y minerales," if assisted with the 
capital of five pesos necessary to purchase the plant. When 
we found that the water would be taken from the river, we felt 




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AN ENERGETIC RULER 155 

sorry. The water supply was bad, there being no springs, not 
even wells. Every day at sunrise and after sunset the women 
trooped to the river, where they scraped holes in the sand to get 
a mere puddleful of " filtered " water, whilst they themselves 
chatted and bathed in the river. Then each in turn took a 
drink, lifted the heavy porous jar on to her head, and walked 
off, in stately fashion, squirting out a large mouthful of water 
as she went a trying, but universal habit of the country. 

Tehuantepec, being such an important centre of commerce, 
has many vice-consulates, in the charge of some trader as usual. 
Not only in Mexico, but elsewhere, the German consular official 
gives his travelling countrymen all the information and help 
he requires, and no less surely will remark : "I know of a place 
where we can spend an evening together, where there is ' echt 
Pilsener,' and where we shall find ' landsleute.' ' 

The English official, provided the credentials come from 
the right quarters and the less official they are the better is 
less profuse with information, but invites you to dinner, where 
men likely to be useful will be met. 

The Prefect of Tehuantepec, Sr. Demetrio Santibanez, 
was an exceptionally vigorous man, and proved of the greatest 
help to ourselves. Tall, strongly built, fearless as a lion, he 
ruled the district with firmness and tact, not an easy matter 
with a population whose leading characteristics, according to 
him, are " independence and laziness." He was always full 
of "go," and did everything himself. First he had to settle 
a complicated conjugal quarrel, cross-question witnesses, and 
smilingly threaten the husband with imprisonment unless he 
modified his attitude ; then he sent for the young woman to 
be confronted with her spouse, threatened to lock them up 
together, argued, admonished, made them kiss his hand, and 
sent them off rejoicing. " Any fine ? " " No, my little ones, 
but if you don't keep your promise I shall catch your husband 
and make a soldier of him." Then he whisked round, signed 
some papers, snatched another from a too leisurely clerk, 
and rattled off a type- written copy with his own hands. " I 
am so busy ; will you wait, or come back after an hour ? No, 
better have a look round the garden, and I will send my orderly 



156 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

with you." I shall always regret having omitted to photograph 
that tatterdemalion orderly in sandals, with his revolver, 
"machete," rod of office, short, wide cotton trousers, disgraceful 
military tunic, and black-ribboned straw hat. Demetrio was 
himself fond of animals. In his own large and clean house he 
had a little menagerie, consisting of parrots, doves, a " pavo " 
i.e., some kind of penelope, or curassow a monkey, and a young 
deer. One of the most remarkable creatures, according to 
him, was a lizard, transparent, brittle as glass, and dreadfully 
poisonous ; it was a gecko ! Deer were brought in every morn- 
ing in numbers, and the skins could be got for fifty centavos ; 
but the hunters could not be persuaded to bring the heads, 
since these are invariably cut off and buried, by way of pro- 
pitiating the spirits, the lips having first been sprinkled with 
water. The skin of the jaguar is valued at from three to four 
pesos only. 

Sr. Demetrio, having cleared the district of not a few danger- 
ous characters, and being honest, had many enemies, and slept 
in a well-barricaded room, guarded by some devoted hench- 
men. The greatest power in the town was a certain old woman, 
who ruled the place by means of her shrewdness and wealth, 
and through moneylending had got many of the people into 
her hands. Every important transaction required her sanction, 
lest it should go awry. Illustrious strangers were supposed 
to call on her. It was no secret that she and the Prefect did 
not pull together, and that she used her best influence to 
prevent his approaching reappointment. 

A month later President Diaz granted me an audience, to 
report about our trip, and soon got on the subject of Tehuante- 
pec, where, I could truthfully tell him, I had received much 
exceptionally vigorous help from the Prefect. " Oh, Santi- 
bafiez, he is the right man for them." What the President 
does not know about his own country is not worth knowing. 
It so happens that this man of iron will has kept a soft spot 
in his heart for Tehuantepec, ever since, many years ago, he 
was military commandant at that place, and that, too, during 
most unruly times. There is still told the story of a revolt 
which he quelled by clapping the women into prison ; next 



DIFFICULT SUBJECTS 157 

morning there was a dearth of tortillas, and there was nobody 
to prepare them, and this broke the resistance of the disaffected 
citizens. However, even Sr. Demetrio's powers were limited. 
He could not force unwilling and lazy, but free, Zapoteca to 
keep an engagement. We wanted to spend a few days at the 
coast lagoons among the Huavi tribe, whose chief village, 
San Mateo del Mar, is scarcely more than twenty miles from 
the town. It was enough for the owners of the necessary 
animals to see the orderly making enquiries to delight in show- 
ing their independence. We were determined not to spend 
another night with that company at the inn, and at last en- 
gaged a peasant with his ox-cart, Demetrio, the orderly, Mateo 
and myself having worried, interviewed, and pleaded till noon, 
and again at 3 p.m. after the noonday siesta, as the " carriage " 
was to be ready at 5 p.m. Then we waited and waited, rushed 
about once more, lost what was left of our temper, and formed 
a sad and exhausted trio. It is these petty worries and delays, 
and the chafing feeling of helplessness, which are more ex- 
hausting than anything else. A whole day was gone, and most 
of the previous afternoon, and it had been crazily hot, about 
95 F., in the coolest shade, without a breath of wind. Then, 
at 8 p.m., the two-wheeled ox-cart came to the back-door, and 
half-an-hour later we were off. 




HIEROGLYPH TEHUANTEPEC. 

Tecuani-tepec = Jaguar Hill. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

A VISIT TO THE HT7AVI TRIBE. 

Travelling by Ox-cart San Mateo del Mar The Huavi Education The 
Lagoons Tortoises and Iguanas First sight of the Pacific Characteristics 
of the People and their Houses The return Journey An ancient Hiero- 
glyphic Map at Huilotepec A Turtle Dinner. 

The owner of our ox-cart, a Zapotec, knew only a few 
words of Spanish, and we knew nothing of his idiom. He had 
half-filled the cart with leaves of Indian corn as provender, 
and this made a good bed for my wife between the baggage. 
Slowly we crawled out of the town, and then struggled and 
bumped over the slabs of rock in the utter darkness until the 
plain was reached. Progress with oxen is slow anyhow, and 
these were particularly deliberate ; one of them, a brown beast, 
was called " Tilcampo " the iguana ; the other's name was 
" Necre " ; Mateo thought that this was meant for " negro " 
black as the creature was of that colour, but the owner 
thought otherwise. Early in the morning we made Huilotepec, 
not yet half-way, and prepared a little tea . by the riverside. 
By sunrise the oxen were exhausted, not so much by the amount 
of the load or the distance traversed, as by the fact that they 
were not " a yoke," Necre being only about half the size of 
Tilcampo, who towered above him. 

The surroundings were pretty enough, the road passing 
most of the way through low jungle ; dew was dripping from 
the leaves, and a king vulture sat in a tree, so near that 
I could have touched him with the ox-goad ; then he 
woke up, shook himself, and began preening his feathers. 



OX-CART TRAVELLING 



159 



" ' Cozcaquautli,' neck-lace eagle, my forefathers called this 
bird," said Mateo, who was a Mejicano. A solitary tree-frog 
was sitting near by, and a green and yellow spotted snake 
(Drymobius margaritiferus) was climbing a tree on the other side. 
Soon the oxen refused to go another step, and the village 
was not yet in sight across the seemingly endless plain. After 
much talk and gesticulation, the Zapotec was induced to take 
a message to the village asking for a relay of oxen, whilst we 
cooked breakfast and waited. Hours later the Zapotec re- 
turned with a good yoke of oxen and also a native, a Huave, 



Juchitan 
,o 




GULF OF TEH UA NT EP EC 



THE ISTHMUS AND BAY OF TEHTJANTEPEC. 

who did not speak either Spanish or Zapotec, and soon ran 
back to make his report to his authorities, whilst our 
" Pullman," as Mateo called the ox-cart, followed steadily. 
The oxen are either driven by the man who sits on the pole 
and talks to them incessantly, or they are led that means to 
say, they follow a person who walks a yard in front of them 
and sets the pace. For a while I was entrusted with this office, 
while the rest of the company tried to sleep perched up on the 
cart. All went well for a time, but then there was a commotion, 
followed by shouting in three languages, as the oxen charged a 
boulder, upsetting the cart into a roadside pool. The passengers 
made uncomplimentary remarks quite beside the point, as it 



160 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



was really the fault of some tiny toads which had tempted 
me to turn aside to a puddle to catch them, whither the 
oxen had followed me ! A single specimen was secured, which 
in London was recognised as a new species of Cystignathidce, 
and immortalized as Eupemphix gadowi. 

The whole country is quite flat, the plain was scarcely a 
dozen feet above the sea, the soil a sandy grit mixed with pebbles, 
while here and there were pools but a few inches deep, which, 
in some cases, had dried up, leaving behind a white saline 




TRAVELLING BY OX-CART. 



crust. The well-grown trees of Tehuantepec are replaced by 
trees of lower growth, standing separately, spreading out their 
branches, umbrella-fashion, intolerant of epiphytes. The 
thorny mimosas, with their carmine blooms, had disappeared 
with the drier ground. In more swampy places were cocoanut 
palms and many fan palms, also good-sized organ cactuses and 
opuntias, and that although this ground is periodically 
inundated. One of the most peculiar trees was some kind of 
Crescentia, or " jicaro "-tree, the cauliflorous fruits of 
which, shaped like gourds and flasks, are used as " jicaras," 
or vessels. 



SAN MATED DEL MAR. 161 

Some of the deeper and permanent pools are surrounded 
with thick jungle, rushes, and reeds, inhabited by many birds, 
such as various kinds of heron and bittern, wood-ibises, rosy 
spoonbills, snake-birds, tree-ducks, stilts, and sandpipers. 
On the open ground were long-billed curlews and stone- 
curlews, looking as large as ostriches when standing on the 
little hillocks, the latter rendered invisible, and the birds 
themselves enormously magnified by the mirage. 

San Mateo del Mar, a distance of only twenty miles, was 
reached about noon, after a journey of sixteen hours. The 





MARKET PLACE OF SAN MATEO DEL MAR. 

head of the district, with the other local officials and the school- 
master, were awaiting us. " Stop ! Who are you to com- 
mandeer a yoke of oxen ? Have you any papers ? " When 
the schoolmaster had read and interpreted the Prefect's 
emphatic letter of recommendation, their manner, dignified 
and firm, though still somewhat suspicious, changed at once, 
and they bade us a hearty welcome. We were lodged in the 
" curato," where, with our camp bedsteads, we did pretty well, 
though there were fleas in abundance ! The party was too 
exhausted to do much that day but swing in the hammocks of 
the priest, who was away, and explain to the authorities the 
object of the visit. 

M 



162 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

San Mateo del Mar, or Huazontlan, is the most im- 
portant of the four villages of the Huavi,* who inhabit the flat 
lagoon district south of Tehuantepec, close to the Pacific shores. 
The whole tribe now counts not more than 3,500 souls. At 
the time of the Spanish conquest they seem to have had vague 
traditions that they came from the south ; a recent study of 
their language by that accomplished linguist and philologist, 
Don Francisco Belmar, has shown that they belong to the great 
Maya family. They are quite isolated from any tribes who 
might be their possible relations, being hemmed in from the 
west and north by the Zapoteca, to the east by the Xoconochco, 
and to the south by the ocean, which they do not navigate. 
The name " Huavi," by which they are known, has been 
given them by the Zapoteca, and means " rotten," obviously 
a term of contempt. Their principal occupation is the catching 
of fish and crustaceans, which abound in the lagoons. They 
keep cattle, but do not kill them for food. They have one 
industry, which is probably quite peculiar to them, namely, 
the weaving of small pieces of cotton cloth, " huatz " hence 
the Aztec name of " San Mateo " which they dye with the 
juice of the Purpura patula, a marine shell which is common 
on the rocks. Brasseur de Bourbourgf gives an account 
which has found its way into both German and Spanish books : 
" When the women, half up to their knees in the water, find 
such a mollusc, they take the shell gently off the rock between 
two fingers, and squeeze the violet juice upon their cotton, 
and then carefully replace the creature in order not to destroy 
it." Fancy a big, limpet-like shell allowing itself to be lifted 
gently from its rock ! Moreover, the juice squeezed out from the 
animal is colourless, or of a milky white, and turns purple only 
after hours of exposure to the air. The reader who is interested 
in this matter will find a fuller account in Chapter XXI. 

The original religious customs of the Huavi have been much 
suppressed by the missionaries, who established themselves 
early amongst these peaceful people ; moreover, they were to 

* The paper by Nicolas Leon, " Los Huavi Antonio Alzate," XVI. 
(1901), pp. 103-129, contains a map and a bibliography. 

f " Revue Orientale et Americaine," Vol. V., Paris, 1861. 



THE HUAVI TRIBE 163 

a certain extent civilized by the neighbouring Zapotecs. On 
the occasion of several official raids, which were made not long 
ago upon their sacred places, a few terra-cotta idols were found 
and carried away to the museums of Oaxaca and Mexico. 
These were human figures in a sitting, cross-legged posture, 
with large ornamental mitres, though it is uncertain whether 
these finds were of genuine Huavi make, or had been imported 
from the Zapotec. Such raids of this kind, and the consequent 
punishments idolatry being forbidden have made these 
retired people very suspicious of sudden visits, and thej^ are 
extremely reticent. We did not gain admission to the church, 
although we tried our best, and the promise to open it two or 
three days later, when the priest would be there, had no 
attractions, since by that time all the interesting little pagan 
outfit would have been safely removed. The Huavi still 
venerate crocodiles as their spiritual brothers and sisters, 
the soul of every crocodile being deemed to be intimately 
connected with that of some person who will die if the reptile 
dies. It must have been a rude shock to them when, a few years 
ago, a gang of American skin-hunters slew nearly all the 
crocodiles. The people still feel bitter about it, but, being a 
peaceful tribe, they left the " Gringos " alone ; moreover, 
their hands were tied, since, as they were nominally good 
Christians, they could not very well put forward their plea of 
Saurian affinity. Had they been Zapoteca, every one of the 
white hunters would have met with an " accident." 

We became quite fond of the Huavi. Most of the in- 
terpreting was done by the schoolmaster, who, as is usual 
amongst the less civilized tribes, was a Zapotec, thanks to the 
extraordinary mental capacity of this people. His business 
was to teach the children Spanish, the instruction being given 
both in this language and in the vernacular. The elementary 
schools being free, entirely supported by the Government, and 
education being compulsory, there was no great hardship in that. 
The head men, of course, spoke Spanish. Let us for a moment 
consider the mental standing of such a schoolmaster. He 
must know, and speak fluently, two languages in the present 
case he spoke three, his native Zapotec, Spanish, and Huavi. 

M2 



164 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

He had obtained his education at Oaxaca. Such atribe gradually 
becomes bi-lingual, and may remain so for many generations ; 
if they are intelligent, enter into commerce, and possess towns, 
the vernacular gradually fades away, and Spanish reigns 
supreme. Such bi-lingual people and tribes are called 




THE ZAPOTEC SCHOOLMASTER AND THE PRESIDENTS MUNICIPAL. 

" Ladinos," a Spanish term, which, for obvious reasons, has 
come to mean clever, canny, cute. They are fully aware of 
the advantages of Spanish as the surest way of communication, 
in a country where, as for instance on the Isthmus, in Oaxaca, 
and Guerrero, very different tribes are inextricably mixed. 
Their respective languages are sometimes so fundamentally 
different that, for instance, the Zapotec, with his quasi- 



A CANOE EXPEDITION 165 

monosyllabic idiom, finds it as eas}' to learn the universal 
Spanish as the polysynthetic Aztec, of which, after all, he 
would only learn one of the many dialects. Sometimes this 
Spanish is very interesting on account of its hybrid nature. 
Not the mere mixture of words, that means nothing, except 
that it enriches the language, but the natives will still think 
in their old vernacular, even although they may no longer 
speak it. In Southern Guerrero, where Nahoa was the latest, 
although not the original, native idiom, and where now 
Spanish is spoken, a man will sometimes express the idea of 
" in my house " by "mi casa dentro," instead of " en mi 
casa," still clinging to the Aztec syntax of " no-cal-co " 
" my-house-in." 

On the morning after our arrival we found a full-grown 
marine turtle lying on her back in front of the door. It was a 
present from the village, and they had deposited the heavy 
creature without making the slightest noise, in order to surprise 
us. The Presidente then invited us to a trip over the lagoons. 
The village lies on a narrow strip of lowland between the sea 
and the lagoons, which communicate with the sea. They are 
divided into the lower or outer lagoon, called " Diuk guialiat," 
and the larger upper or inner lagoon, " Diuk guialoni." The 
narrow channel between them is named " Tiak-mash-mual," 
i.e., " hill passes canoe," meaning where the canoe passes 
between hills. The shores are mostly sandy, covered with 
poor vegetation. The bottom of the lagoons is quite hard, and 
a great portion of the inner estuary is shallow at least, I could 
walk into it for hundreds of yards. During the winter, or 
dry season, much of the inner lagoon is said to become dry ; 
in its eastern half are about a dozen little islands, or rather 
rocks, covered with scrub. The people had a flat-bottomed 
canoe ready, a dug-out, large enough for a dozen people ; 
but they never use sails nor oars, only long poles for punting. 
A fresh breeze made the water rather choppy ; and to prevent 
the canoe from getting swamped they put up pieces of plaited 
palm-matting on the weather side. 

Far from the shore some men were fishing, standing up to 
the waist in the water, and quite naked, but with the head 



166 

covered by a sombrero, around which were wound the clothes. 
These men, burnt a deep black-brown through the glare and 
heat, were fishing with " atarrayas," conical, rather shallow 
and round nets, the circular rims of which were " leaded " 
with those little perforated terra-cotta discs, so common in 
ethnological collections. The fisherman holds the net by the 
centre, swings it round, and then lets it go, when it spreads 
flat over the water, and is hauled back by a rope attached to 
the centre. The lagoons seem to be teeming with fish, shrimps, 
and larger sorts of crustaceans, so that the Huavi need not 
go for fish to the ocean, the terrific surf of which their clumsy 
canoes could not possibly withstand. 

We landed on a narrow spit, and found quite a little 
reptilian fauna : the small and the large sharply striated 
Cnemidophorus lizards, C. deppei, and C. immutabilis ; these 
were being preyed upon by a snake (Zamenis mentovarius), 
in the successful chase of which everybody joined, with the 
merry and excited Presidente at their head, and the snake in 
Him found its enemy in the shape of the omnivorous black 
iguana (Ctenosura acanthinurus), which, in default of finding 
sufficiently large trees at hand, burrows in the ground. Whilst 
one of these iguanas was being unearthed, there tumbled out 
of the loose sand a specimen of the rather rare Geagras 
redimita, a little burrowing snake, with tiny eyes, and of a 
whitish-yellow colour, like the sand in which it lives. A box- 
tortoise was also amongst the spoils. At some places the shore, 
instead of being sand and pebbles, was one mass of heaped-up 
shells. 

These dunes are inhabited by a hare, which the four 
specimens that we brought home proved to be Lepus calotis, 
var. flavigularis, a rather large hare, with most conspicuous 
white hind-quarters. Various visitors have mentioned them 
as rabbits, in conformity with the account of the earliest 
Spanish chroniclers, who dilated upon the abundance of these 
" cone j os," or " conies." It is the only place where we met 
with this easily-recognisable species. 

The return to the house brought us an agreeable surprise. 
The Zapotec master had given his school a holiday, in order 



FORTY-SEVEN TORTOISES 167 

to take them out on a tortoise hunt in the neighbourhood, and 
he had kraaled the spoils under the verandah, to the amuse- 
ment of the adult population. There were no less than forty- 
seven specimens ! Thirteen Chrysemys grayi, and six C. 
ornata, which Mateo at once christened " chatas " snub-noses ; 
three Nicoria rubida, of which we had already found one in 
the shrubs (this being a terrestrial kind), and twenty-five box- 
tortoises (Cinosternum cruentatum), a decidedly Central 
American species, which here seems to find its northern limit. 
Of course, there was great rejoicing, and our kind helpers were 
invited into the "curato" to partake of some refreshment. Here 
the Presidente, a man of delightful manners, showed his tact 
and dignity. He took a cup, bowed, and made a little speech ; 
the boatmen were soon dismissed as likely to incommode us, 
and it was only on repeated pressure that he allowed a few others 
to come in, calling out each man's title by way of introduction. 
First, " Sr.Syndico " i.e., the chairman of the annually elected 
village council and so forth. Later, he was invited to tea, 
which was a new beverage to him, and whilst he was sitting 
there his eyes fastened on our folding canvas bath, which had 
been recently filled. Perhaps his stare was too much for the 
rickety thing ; somehow it gave way and flooded the floor. 
The man's face became a study, he was internally convulsed 
with laughter, and yet he tried to suppress it until he took a 
hasty leave. 

The night was not very restful. As the tortoises could not 
well be left outside, we put them in the neighbouring empty 
room of the "curato," to keep Mateo company. All night long 
those forty-seven hard-shelled creatures bumped about, 
tumbled over each other, piled themselves up in one corner 
and then tried the other, always with the same unsatisfactory 
result. The day-time provided other diversions. The roof 
of the house was inhabited by black iguanas, which are not 
eaten by the Huavi, and which therefore provided ample 
opportunity for studying their habits. In the morning they 
came out of their crevices to bask in the sun, their patchy 
grey and dark-brown colour changing meanwhile to black. 
Then they climbed into the mango trees to eat leaves, and lie 



168 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

in wait for insects, especially for the shrilling " cicadas." Now 
and then one climbed down the stem, head downwards, with 
its tail flexed in a curve, and on reaching the ground tore up 
a mouthful of grass, which it chewed deliberately. At first 
they were not shy. and could be caught with a stick and noose, 
which they allowed us to slip over their heads. Like all other 
lizards, they paid little attention to the noose, keeping their 
eyes fixed upon the person. When caught they became very 
wild, biting, scratching, and dealing painful blows with their 
strong tails. Some which got loose in the house became a terror 
to the inmates, running in their senseless fright even up one's 
body, in order to try and jump on to the beams overhead 
and the twenty claws of a large iguana are as strong, sharp 
and curved as those of a tiger-cat ! 

Mateo and I went to the sea one afternoon when the heat, 
reflected from the sand and water, was less trying. Between 
the village and the ocean is a long but narrow lagoon of brackish 
water without an outlet, both sides being covered with scrub 
and low forest. In the middle of the lagoon we saw something 
bobbing up and down, and stalked it, crawling on our bellies 
with the utmost care, only to find that it was our own turtle, 
which the people had moored to a stake there. Having had 
to strip, to swim the lagoon, and not knowing what more 
water there might be, we left our clothes and proceeded without 
them. I myself dressed in a pair of short bathing trousers, 
which had often to be ready for emergencies, so that we soon 
found our costume to be quite in keeping with that of the men 
who lived there, away from the village. These men walked 
about quite naked, with only a " tapa-rabo " or narrow strip 
of cotton passed through the fork, and tied to a plaited loin- 
string. All these men and boys, who rarely wear clothes, are 
much darker than those who dress, and all the females were 
much lighter in colour. Further, where the loin-string presses 
upon the skin the latter invariably becomes of a bluish tint, 
owing to the black pigment which the irritation causes to be 
deposited in the brown ground-colour. The wood was mainly 
inhabited by large brown pigeons, but also, curiously enough, 
by the " road-runner " (Geococcyx affinis), which uttered a loud 



AN INTERESTING VILLAGE 169 

but low note sounding like " Bo." Iguanas also had made 
burrows, the sand being heaped up between the roots as around 
a rabbit-warren. Our first sight of the Pacific was somewhat 
disappointing ; a flat, reckless shore, upon which broke long 
and mighty rollers, although the sea was as calm as a mill- 
pond, the rollers being of a dirty yellow-brown colour. 
Rashly I went in for a bathe, but was not prepared for the 
tremendous surf, which threw me and rolled me about like a 
log, whilst Mateo danced about in helpless excitement. On 
the shore were several dogs, which were said to have per- 
manently strayed away from the village, and to subsist entirely 
upon the shore-crabs, which they hunted in pairs, and then 
devoured on the dry land. There was not a single shell, nor 
any driftwood, along all this desolate coast, only pebbles and 
brown mud. 

The village is not less interesting than the people. The 
church, a remnant of an old Spanish mission, was kept in good 
condition, but, as mentioned before, we could not gain ad- 
mittance. On account of earthquakes the bell-tower is a low 
shed in front of the church, with some ancient bells, and a 
couple of gigantic stationary drums made of hollow trunks, 
which are used not only for church festivals, but, when played 
in a certain way, for summoning the men officially. 

The dwelling-houses are very different from those in other 
parts of Mexico. To a certain extent they remind one of the 
houses of the Huasteca, north of the State of Vera Cruz, and 
those of the Maya, at least to judge from photographs. The 
principal feature is the very high pitch of the roof, which is 
thatched with the short leaves of the fan palms ; the walls are 
sometimes wattle-and-daub, sometimes thatched like the roof. 
The eaves are narrow. The interior consists of one room, at 
one end of which are the sleeping mats. On one side stands a 
kind of altar, adorned with the usual tawdry pictures of saints, 
but also with other, much more interesting, things, which the 
owners will on no account allow to be approached. From the 
beams are suspended the few household goods ; the fireplace 
is not raised, but is on the ground. From one of the houses, 
one of the few which we were allowed to enter, we carried off a 



170 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

pair of old iron stirrups, of the same quaint design as was used 
by the old " conquistadores." Another feature of these settle- 
ments is that the houses of the well-to-do stand in a kind of 
enclosure, fenced in by flimsy but high stockades of reeds, with 
a movable shutter for the gate. Within the enclosed ground, 
which has an agreeable, tidy appearance, stand a few nice 
trees, a palm, or a ceiba-tree, and mangoes. Detached from 
the house is a kind of verandah, well thatched, beneath which 
are slung the hammocks. 

The flowing garments and the beauty of the Tehuanas are 




STOCKADED ENTRANCE. 

here unknown. Most of the women, but none of the men, are 
slightly tattoed, or rather, marked by a pair of small but deep 
scars beneath the high cheekbones ; the mouth is large and 
rather prominent, and the nose is flat, while the hair is tied 
in a sort of top-knot ; consequently they are not exactly 
beautiful. The men make a very different impression : although 
of medium or short stature, they are well built ; the nose is 
aquiline, with a narrow bridge, much bent towards the tip, 
and is larger than in any other of the Mexican tribes, even 
larger and more prominent than that of the Zapoteca. The 
black and straight hair is cut short ; the beard grows very late, 



BRACKISH WATER 171 

and is, in the pure race, restricted to the chin. A few of the 
old men have grey hair, but none of them white. 

The men were always busy with a distaff, spinning thread, 
or else making nets, which they slung round their waists whilst 
walking about and talking. Their favourite assembly-place 
was an enormous, wide-spreading tree. On our round of visits, 
the Alcalde, or judge, was, of course, not forgotten ; the fact 
that he had hitherto not shown himself was explained by his 
fondness for drink, and he was rather a surly old boy. 




PRESIDENT AND HIS FAMILY, SAN MATEO. 

We were quite sorry to leave this village after a sojourn of 
four days. Food had been plentiful ; with fruit, the eggs of 
fowls and turtles the latter rather too oily and fish, nobody 
fared badly, but it was a question of drinking-water which 
compelled us to move. All the water around is got from clean 
wells, which are scratched a few inches or a foot deep into the 
hard sand, but unfortunately it is brackish, and although this 
taste could be concealed, the salt remained, and when drunk 
in quantities it amounted to more than was desirable. 
Moreover, our Mateo was not well. 



172 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



The return journey promised to be quick, yet it took 
thirteen hours, but was full of interest. The Zapotec, with 
his Tilcampo and Necre, was dispatched with the baggage, 
whilst we followed in the afternoon in a Huavi cart, with the 
tortoises, iguanas, and the big turtle slung at the back of the 
cart, we having offered to take the turtle as a present from 
the village to the Prefect at Tehuantepec. In one of the pools 
still stood the very same horses, well above their bellies in the 




THE ALCALDE AND HIS FAMILY, SAN MATEO. 

water, and feeding upon the reeds, that had been there four 
days ago. Our driver, unfortunately, spoke only his native 
idiom. In the forest, when in complete darkness, he stopped, 
unyoked the oxen, and uttered from time to time a long-drawn 
yell. Then there appeared out of the wood, as stealthily as a 
jaguar, a tall, absolutely naked man, who, together with the 
driver, began pulling the things out of the cart. This we 
resented furiously, and much tri-lingual talk was bandied to and 
fro, but without any effect, and the situation became unpleasant, 



A KERCHIEF MAP. 173 

until a third man appeared with a new cart and pair. It had 
all been pre-arranged by the Presidente, but unfortunately 
he had only mentioned it to Mateo, who was far ahead. 

At half -past ten in the night we united at Huilotepec, a 
Zapoteca village, and found all the officials with some torches 
waiting in their " town hall " to show us their famous " mapa 
lienzo," or kerchief map. They would not have done this 
without a special order from our friend the Prefect. At first 
sight it looked, in the badly-lighted room, like a dirty cotton 
towel, but these maps, of which only a few are still in existence 
(another is said to be at Juchitan), are most interesting 
documents. The people look upon them as a kind of charter 
of their municipalities, given to them by the early Spaniards. 
In the map various dyes were used to represent the course of 
the river from Tehuantepec to the sea ; the sandy bed of the 
stream being in yellow, and the rocks in black. The town, and 
the villages, were indicated by their hieroglyphs in Aztec, as, 
for instance, Huilotepec (dove-hill), which was a green hill 
with a blue bird on the top having its wings uplifted. There 
were also figures of people, squatting in rows, with their names 
written against each, both in Spanish and in ancient Zapotec, 
the writing being in Spanish characters. These are supposed 
to be the dignitaries of the places, the witnesses of the transac- 
tion. After we had admired this map long enough, they 
brought out a clean copy, an exact replica of the original, on 
a new piece of cloth. They were all most polite, but sedate 
and quiet. The Zapotecs did not care for the Huavi, would 
not even allow them into the house, and Mateo, the 
Mejicano, hated the Zapotecs, who cross-questioned him 
about many things, until he turned sulky. Yet, they would 
not allow us to depart until midnight, and there was nothing 
to eat or drink except the brackish water we had brought from 
San Mateo. By this time we were deadly tired, and tried to 
snatch what sleep we could in the cart, which went slower 
and slower, with frequent halts, as our driver slept soundly 
on his perch. Therefore he was made to walk, and I took his 
place, vigorously prodding the pair of fine bulls which, in the 
hot, close night, reeked abominably. The sun rose with more 



174 

than the usual glorious tints, when we crawled into Tehuan- 
tepec, dead beat, but the richer by several unforgetable 
experiences. 

Demetrio was pleased with the turtle, and arranged for a 
feast to take place at our inn, on account of its superior culinary 
facilities. He invited a friend or two, and we did the honours, 
so that the positions of host and guests were slightly mixed, 
and there were turtle soup, turtle steak, turtle eggs, and turtle 
something else at noon, at night, and the next day. Then we 
felt we had done our share, and yearned to recruit " at the 
seaside," amongst the luxuries of Salina Cruz, only thirteen 
miles by rail. Most hospitably received at the large and clean 
company's house, which stood on rising ground, overlooking 
the sea, we found it a veritable haven of rest, in spite of the 
incessant traffic of trains, and the heat, which ranged from 
77 F. at sunrise, to 95 F. in the shade. Although the room- 
temperature averaged from 88 to 90 F. until bed-time, it was 
mitigated by a strong breeze, either from the north or from the 
south, whilst at Tehuantepec there was scarcely a breath of 
wind. 




HIEROGLYPH HUILOTEPEC . 
" DOVE -HILL." 



CHAPTER IX. 

SALINA CRUZ AND JIGGERS. 

Salina Cruz and the Harbour Works The Jigger, or Sand-flea Bird and 
Reptile Life at the Coast. 

Until a few years ago Salina Cruz was justly feared as 
a deadly hole, where nearly every white man died within a 
year. The " old town," a wretched conglomeration of native 
huts, of palm-trees and reeds, stood on a narrow neck of low- 
land between the sea and an evil-smelling lagoon, surrounded 
by thick brushwood a fever-haunted place. Mr. Adam's first 
action was to clear away all this scrub, and, unfortunately, the 
few date-palms as well ; but he is a man of thoroughness. " It 
is better to be yearning for the sight of palms than dying in 
their shade from fever," is an apt rendering of the German 
saying, " Man wandelt nicht ungestraft unter Palmen." This 
clearing has had a great and most salubrious effect. All the 
offices and the houses for the white staff have been erected 
on the higher ground, and an entirely new town has been 
regularly laid out, and everywhere were rising pleasant, airy, 
slate-covered buildings. Another trouble was the water 
supply, the only available brook, and that intermittent, passing 
by the cemetery, which contained by far the largest number 
of white men in the district. All this has been changed, and 
an inexhaustible supply of water is now carried to Salina Cruz 
from above Tehuantepec, which town is also benefited thereby, 
thanks to General Diaz. 

The great harbour works were only commencing, and the 
future docks and quays were to be laid out on the site of the old 



176 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

village. They were busy with the construction of a great 
breakwater, at the temporary head of which stood a Titan 
crane. It was an ill-fated giant. Once when employed on 
the Vera Cruz breakwater it toppled into the sea, but was 
fished out again ; then it was conveyed across the Isthmus, 
and is now buried in deep water in the Pacific, beyond all 
chance of resurrection. This came about in the following 
way. Only a few days after our visit there was a sub- 
marine earthquake. A great tidal wave came in at noon, 
followed by others at a few hours' interval respectively, until 
in the evening the last wave, an enormous one, swept over 
the land, doing fearful damage, the whole of the old village 
being submerged and swept clean away. These same waves 
also caused great loss of life and property at the Huavi villages. 
We did not hear of the disaster at Salina Cruz, however, until 
we reached Oaxaca ; the previous accounts by the natives 
of some great disaster that had happened were all so garbled 
that nothing could be made of them. Even at Oaxaca it was 
difficult to make out what had actually taken place, comical 
misunderstandings having exaggerated the accounts in the 
newspapers. A Mexican engineer was most impressed by the 
reported loss of 7,000 " durmientes," which had been carried 
out to sea. " What are ' durmientes ' ? " asked an American. 
" Sleepers," said I. " Oh, I say, this is real awful," he went on, 
" fancy 7,000 of these poor devils thus being drowned over- 
night." The solution of the puzzle was that what we call 
sleepers (railway sleepers, of course), the Americans know as 
" ties," and, curiously enough, the Spanish term " durmientes," 
is an exact translation of " sleepers." 

Mr. Adam's staff consisted of about a dozen English 
engineers, who took a delight in the chance of talking about 
Old England, and about something besides railways, harbours, 
and accounts. One of these was a Cambridge man. The life 
of such men is a hard one in these out-of-the-way places, full 
of temptations, requiring great moral and physical strength. 
With work, hard work, all day long, in an unhealthy climate, 
incessantly worried by unwilling and careless natives, whose 
languages to them are as sealed books, they come in dazed 



177 

and tired to their meals, and turn in dead beat, to swelter 
with perspiration throughout the night. The abstemious 
man alone has a chance of keeping his health, and he is not 
happy, as he is liable to be considered a muff, which is, after 
all, but to be expected. He who cannot control his ever- 
present thirst is the first to fall a victim, and there are several 
diseases ready to carry him off. They reckoned that if out of 
a dozen but three should die within two years, it would be a 
fair average not to be complained of, and this is what actually 
did take place, amongst the victims being the University man. 
Spaniards have a saying that in tropical countries the three S's 
should be avoided " Sol, sereno, sayo," or " sun, chilly night, 
and petticoat " ; the Latin races, being characteristically 
abstemious, do not add the fourth S spirits which is, 
perhaps, the greatest danger to the northerners. 

The country round is thinly inhabited, and the difficulties 
in getting a large number of willing workers together was 
enormous ; this trouble alone seemed sufficient to drive any 
manager to despair. It was interesting to watch on the 
Saturday night the hundreds of " navvies," representatives 
of more than half-a-dozen tribes, crowding round the pay-office. 
Nearly all of them were natives of the hot countries, since 
those of the plateau, who are much better and steadier workers, 
are liable to die like flies on account of the climate. There 
were a number of negroes from the West Indies, amongst 
others some Martinicans, who had been dislodged by the 
earthquake. Being bound by a contract they had to work 
for lower wages, and thus caused discontent among the brown, 
free natives ; indeed, it became advisable to house them 
separately in some white-washed tin sheds surrounded by 
palisades. For the sake of peace and safety, a detachment 
of soldiery had been applied for and sent from Juchitan, and 
the first request of the officer in charge was to have strong 
blockhouses built, as the only means of preventing his soldiers 
from running away and marauding in the neighbourhood. 
To cap all, a detachment of rural police was summoned to look 
after the military. 

One can imagine the trouble of breaking in wild natives 



178 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

to the use of the white man's tools and implements ; for 
instance, to prevent them from taking the wheels off the barrows 
and using the barrows as stretchers, or from carrying these 
strange things on their backs. The wiry native can trot for 
hours and hours with a heavy stag slung at his back by a loop 
round his forehead, and he will load himself to staggering 
point, but the first day's pushing or wheeling will reduce him 
to utter misery. And if he is spoken to harshly, or laughed 
at, he gathers up his few things and is seen no more. A few 
Chinese had established themselves as cooks, store-keepers, 
and washers. They had made themselves nets, and were the 
only people who fished in the sea, a thing which the natives of 
the place had never done themselves. 

Amongst all this turmoil of blasting, ballast trains, making 
and laying of concrete blocks, shifting, digging, forging, and 
quarrying, interspersed with accidents and illness, Mr. Adam 
moved as commander-in-chief, praised by all the white men 
for his business capacities. Quiet, sparing of words, or silent 
almost to provocation, he was everywhere, saw everything, 
praised nothing, never swore, but ruled with the proverbial iron 
hand in a velvet glove. Frugal and abstemious, and the 
picture of health, he expected everybody to do and be likewise. 
The evenings spent at the charming house of our kind and 
delightful host are an agreeable reminiscence. 

The days were spent in prowling about. Seeing on the first 
morning some boys disporting themselves on the beach in the 
shallow water, I ran across half naked to join them in a swim, 
This, however, I did to my sorrow, their brown skins being 
sun-proof, whilst mine became so badly burnt, each drop of 
water acting as a lens, that for weeks after I suffered acutely. 

THE JIGGER. 

To avoid wet boots whilst wading about the lagoons and 
on the shore, I frequently went barefooted like the natives, 
although warned not to do so. One of the results was my 
personal acquaintance with the jigger, or sand-flea, two of which 
were discovered in my toes. Several others were, uninten- 
tionally, allowed to ripen until we arrived at Oaxaca ; during 



THE JIGGER 179 

our second journey they attacked me at the Balsas, and again 
near the coast. The experience thus gained was, although 
moderately unpleasant, certainly more interesting than hearsay, 
and forcibly drew my attention to this pest. This execrable 
beast is a flea, called " nigua " by the natives ; in English it 
is called " jigger," a modification of the South American 
" chique," or " chego " ; scientifically it parades as 
Dermatophilus, Sarcopsylla, Sarcophaga, or Rhynchoprion 
penetrans. Both sexes are of the size of a flea, of a pale whitish 
yellow, and affect sandy places, where they hop about in the 
dust and dirt, sucking blood like other fleas, and leading a 
roving life.* But the impregnated female becomes sedentary 
for the rest of her life, fixing upon and digging into the skin 
of its victim, whether dog, pig, cat, or man. Other kinds 
prefer bats, and at Aguafria squirrels were badly infested 
with them. Concerning man, the favourite spots are the toes, 
mostly near or under the nail. The creature digs itself in and 
gets underneath the skin, remaining with its hinder end just 
beneath the surface. At first nothing much happens beyond 
a slight inflammation and itching, and a feeling of fulness at 
the spot ; but on the fifth day the female has swollen to the 
size of a large hemp-seed, and increases to that of a small pea. 
Lying, as it does, beneath or within the skin, this is raised, and 
the whole thing looks much larger than it really is, especially 
when embedded in the soft skin of small mammals. This 
swelling of the female is mainly due to the development of her 
eggs, numbering perhaps a hundred, which cause the abdomen 
to become a globular bag. If left undisturbed, one egg after 
another assumes comparatively large dimensions, growing to the 
size and shape of that of a louse, and the ripe egg is squeezed out 
into the dust, where it turns into a maggot-like larva. These 
are plentiful in the huts, the floors of which are often made of 
a mixture of clay and cows' dung, an ideal feeding-ground for 
the cultivation of the larva, which ultimately transforms 
into a flea. Presumably, after some weeks, when the last egg 
has been expelled, the spent female dies, and is cast out by the 

* The first good account is by Karsten, " Bull. Soc. Imp., Moscow," 1864, 
PI. 2. See also " Zoolog.-Anzeiger," 1884, p. 673. 



180 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

skin in the process of renovating, unless and here comes the 
danger the wound has become inflamed by rubbing, and 
infected by dirt and other insects ; or, if, worse still, the whole 
bag has been injured or burst. Where one flea settles, the in- 
flamed region appears to attract others, and thus it comes to 
pass that the feet of some unfortunates present a shocking and 
deplorable sight, being completely honeycombed with the 
nests of this pest ; thus they become cripples for the rest of 
their own lives, and all the while spreading the pest among 
others. Careless and dirty habits are the chief cause. The 
vast majority of the people do not suffer much. They advise 
you to leave the creature alone for the first day or two, lest she 
dig herself in deeper and break off. But when it is once well 
established and swelling, a nimble-fingered woman will care- 
fully enlarge the hole with a needle or thorn, and, if all goes 
well, lift the whole of the yellow bag out. So far so good, but 
then the operator rubs into the wound a mixture of saliva, 
tobacco-juice, and ashes, by way of well-meant disinfection. 
My own personal trouble with sand-fleas caused quite a ridiculous 
alarm amongst the white community. Mateo, however, dug 
the creatures out, and a drop of carbolic acid, put into the hole 
with a paint-brush, settled the case for good, without any further 
annoyance. The same treatment was equally effective on later 
occasions, although we always managed to break the egg-bag. 
It is customary, when the feet are examined at the camp-fire, 
to hold the extracted bag in the flame, where it bursts with a 
little crackling explosion. At least, the clean Zapotecs consider 
it heinously bad manners not to burn the eggs, and thus to 
avoid spreading the plague. By the time Oaxaca was reached, 
two of the jiggers were already in full laying condition, and 
each of them, when operated upon, jerked out a full-sized egg. 
The sand-flea is a native of tropical America. The 
Spaniards soon found this out, and so did the Portuguese in 
Brazil. Their slave-ships introduced it to the west coast of 
Africa, where it was well established by the middle of the last 
century. There, upon the feet of the native carriers, it followed 
the ancient trade routes inland, and within the last few decades 
it has crossed the whole continent to the east coast, and has got 



BIRDS, SNAKES, AND LIZARDS 181 

even into Madagascar. British East African jiggers are not 
allowed to leave the country, for fear of introduction into 
India, where officially they are still unknown, but, unfortunately, 
there is nothing to prevent them from entering that country 

by way of Goa, which is a Portuguese possession. 

* * * * * 

All along the coast there are both large and small lagoons, 
some in communication with the sea and clean, others con- 
sisting of rain-water, full of evil-smelling mud and scrubby 
vegetation, inhabited by blue or white herons, large and 
small bitterns, curlews, stilts, and sandpipers. " Quebranta 
hueso," or fish-hawks, usually perched upon the branches of 
some fallen tree, " zopilotes " hopped about, and Quiscalus 
chattered in the reeds. Pelicans and cormorants skimmed 
along the breakers, and the graceful Tachypetes, or frigate-bird, 
floated aloft, though there were no gulls, terns, or ducks. All 
the birds were so unsuspicious, that they might have been 
knocked over with a stone ; they knew that nobody would 
take the trouble of molesting them. 

The reptiles on the sandy parts were a revelation, so far as 
their colour-patterns were concerned ; every kind, both 
lizards and snakes alike, were sharply marked with longitudinal 
stripes, whilst the crossbars and spots, so exclusively prevalent 
on the Atlantic side, were absent. There were the little 
swifts, Cnemidophorus deppei, with a greatly increased number 
of white stripes, and otherwise golden green above and dark 
blue below, running like a flash over the hot sand, and so hot 
themselves as to be quite disagreeable to the touch. The 
large C. immutabilis, most difficult to catch, since it makes for 
the roots between the shrubs, has fewer stripes in a state of 
incipient dissolution ; Conophis vittata, a snake, which is milky- 
white or yellowish, with a few dark brown or black longi- 
tudinal stripes, crawled about the rocks or in the houses, and 
the irascible Zamenis pulcherrimus was also common, the fore- 
part of its body dark brown with milky stripes, this pattern 
changing quite imperceptibly, a little further back, into the 
exact opposite, so that its long tail is of a milky yellow, with 
conspicuous dark stripes. One of these snakes was a monster 



182 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

of its kind, more than eight feet in length. Another, only five 
feet long, showed remarkable intelligence. At first he made 
for a large patch of ground covered with spiny tussocks, in 
the midst of which stood some low, tangled trees. Four times 
he attempted to break through in different directions, but was 
always headed off. We had almost given him up after a long 
search, when he was rediscovered climbing into a tree, where he 
stretched himself flat upon a branch, only, as often happens 
with reptiles, he forgot to hide his tail. Then he showed fight, 
and was secured. 

It was rightty remarked upon by those engineers here, who 
kept their eyes open for such things, that most of the snakes 
responded well to the coloration of the trees. Yet they are 
not really professional tree-snakes, but spend much of their 
time on the ground, and only occasionally ascend trees. These 
are mostly shrub-like, have no dense foliage, and the bark of 
their branches is generally quite smooth and of a pale brown. 
The smooth surface reflects the sunlight, so that such a branch 
frequently appears dark from below, whitish along the sides, 
and light brown on the top ; a Zamenis stretched along such 
a branch is in perfect harmony with its immediate environ- 
ment. No more need be said, except that the snake probably 
knows what it is about. 

The lizards which inhabited the shrubs further inland, were 
climbers, mostly arboreal, and frequenting, like the geckos, 
the rough-barked trees, while Sceloporus here was covered 
with rough scales, dark-coloured, and mottled. There were 
also iguanas (Ctenosaura) , the young and half -grown specimens 
of which were of a vivid green, and spent their time in hunting 
for insects in the green crowns of the shrubs. Not all of them, 
however, fitted their surroundings. On the big house lived 
a half -grown specimen, away from any vegetation ; its 
favourite place of observation was at the corner of the red- 
painted balcony, where its beautiful green was a most 
conspicuous object. But yet it knew what it was about. It 
lodged in a hole between the boards at the other end of the house, 
and reached this hole, when disturbed, by running along and 
beneath a suitable ledge, being thus all the while out of sight. 



VEGETATION 183 

After various attempts to catch it at its post, it became very 
wary, and ran away in the manner described, whilst at first it 
was satisfied with slipping round the corner. 

A little further inland the hills are covered with low growth 
of scrub character, while it is only dense here and there in the 
valleys. This scrub really consists of trees, but these, grow 
low and squat, spread widely, branch early, and each tries 
to make as much as possible of its own shade. They are 
mostly leguminous plants, as, for instance, Jacquinia, with 
its delicate pinnate leaves, acacias, and mimosas ; also a tree 
called " rabo de lagarto," or " lizard tail," from its bark being 
raised into low, thick conical points ; and some kind of 
Parmentieria, with a smooth brown stem freely furnished 
with long spikes. This abundance of spikes shows the 
prevalence of xerophilous vegetation. Climbers, epiphytes, 
and underwood are not tolerated by these umbrella-like trees, 
they themselves forming their own substitute for underwood ; 
indeed, only a tufted, grass-like, epiphytic tillandsia is common. 
On still drier places are many kinds of cactus, large and small, 
and a few opuntias. 

Another feature of this xerophilous flora is that the stems 
and branches of many shrubs either have a light brown bark, 
which peels like tissue paper, or a pale grey -green rind, 
containing chlorophyll, to enable the plants to live when the 
leaves are withered through drought. The ground is mostly 
sandy, with large and small boulders of light reddish porphyry 
cropping up, and on this ground lives Phrynosoma asio, the 
largest and most beautiful of " horned toads," coloured in 
soft tones of red and yellow, with blacks and browns exactly 
resembling the soil, and at the same time able to change its 
colours rapidly when well baked in the sun. Geckos and the 
tree Sceloporus make their abode on trees that have rough and 
darker bark. But among those creatures that live on the 
ground, red and yellow hues prevail ; as in the case, for 
instance, with Sphaerodactylus glaucus, a gecko, which, in its 
younger stage, has the head and thick little tail coloured 
orange ; while others have an orange-yellow throat and a pair 
of blue patches on the lower neck. 



184 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

The beds of the rivulets were dry, with here and there 
offensively-smelling puddles, tenanted by large and small 
water-beetles, while baby frogs and toads were swarming in the 
neighbourhood ; the adults, among them the common Rana 
halecina, and several kinds of Leptodactylus. were sitting in 
holes between the roots of the trees, wherever any moisture 
trickled out. Bufo marmoreus, by the way, was the only 




THE PACIFIC COAST WEST OF SAUNA CRUZ. 

amphibian which inhabited the dirty puddles in the old 
village. 

We also made an excursion westwards, to find out whether 
it was possible to follow the coast to Puerto Angel, and thence 
to strike due north to Oaxaca. No information about that 
side of the country was available, and the maps showing the 
lagoons are of no use whatever. Fortunately, we only spent one 
day there, to learn that some of the lagoons were connected 
with the sea, whilst at their shoreward ends they lost them- 
selves in scrub and swamp. A track is said to go further 
inland, parallel with the coast, but there is none leading thence 



RAIN AND DROUGHT 185 

to the north. To the west of Salina Cruz is a fine promontory, 
with a lighthouse, and the ridge further inland commands a 
fine view of the coast, showing what it is really like ; lagoon 
following lagoon, with dunes, scrub, and swamps, or abrupt red 
promontories jutting out into the ocean. 

This corner of the State of Oaxaca, round the Bay of 
Tehuantepec, is known to be rather dry, and the change of the 
aspect of the country east and west of the isthmus is striking. 
Whilst the rainfall at Coatzacoalcos amounts to about eight 
feet, at Salina Cruz a yearly return of only two feet has been 
registered. The State of Chiapas, again, is one of the rainiest 
of the whole country. One night we witnessed one of the 
grandest displays of sheet lightning which, reflected from the 
sea, showed up against the Sierra Madre, the coast range of 
Chiapas, at a distance of, perhaps, sixty miles across the gulf. 
A thick black bank of cloud stood at the far-distant horizon, 
almost incessantly lit up, though much too far off for us to 
hear any thunder. 

The rainy season of 1902 was a failure in this district. The 
rains had begun with great violence in June, but had then 
stopped, and even in the month of September only a few 
occasional showers were falling, which made no impression 
upon the dry, overheated ground. This irregular drought had 
serious effects, and the general look of the country began to 
resemble that which was said to be typical of the so-called 
winter, or dry season. There was a scarcity of Indian corn, 
the stalks and cobs being miserably small, and ripening too 
early ; many deciduous trees lost their scarcely-developed 
leaves, and began to bloom in accordance with their winter 
habit. The river at Tehuantepec had been falling steadily, 
and its sandbanks increased from day to day, while only now 
and then came down a little freshet, due to some moderate 
storm in the higher sierras. It was, therefore, rather surprising 
that our friends at Salina considered it impossible to travel to 
Oaxaca " right in the middle of the rainy season," on the 
assumption that the rivers and many brooks would be im- 
passible. At best we might have to be prepared to camp 
on the wrong side of a torrent until the water subsided, though 



186 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

if this were the case the journey might take many weeks. 
Two days were spent in packing and despatching a box con- 
taining our collections to be shipped from Coatzacoalcos, 
whence a steamer was to sail at a time which would be just 
convenient. As a matter of fact, the box did not catch that 
steamer, nor the next, and when it arrived at home it was found 
to contain nine inches of black, wet mud, -which had caused 
many of the contents to rot no doubt that box had been left 
for weeks standing in the open, to let the mud soak in, which 
could not otherwise have entered. However, the conveying 
of the box to the station at Tehuantepec, only a few hundred 
yards from our inn, cost a day's worry. Of half-a-dozen ox-carts 
standing there empty, which had been waiting at the station 
ever since sunrise for a train which did not come, not one 
could be induced to earn a peso by ten minutes' work. 
Loafers, who thought nothing of handling big loads, declared 
it was too heavy ; " Why not take it empty and repack it 
at the station ? " And when at last it was got there, Mateo 
had to sit on the top of it for three hours before it was 
officially received, and even then some ass of an official, who 
wanted " palm-oil " did his best to refuse it, until he was 
appeased, and had his scruples relieved as to whether the box 
might contain explosives, vanilla beans, or silver in bullion. 



CHAPTER X. 

A RIDE FROM TEHUANTEPEC TO OAXACA. 
(FROM TEHUANTEPEC TO SAN CARLOS.) 

The Ruins of Quiengola A new Drink Plentiful Bird-life Termites 
Tequesixtlan and the Chontal Tribe Collecting Rattlesnakes and the 
Evolution of the Rattle The Four-eyed Fish Weaver-birds' Nests 
Humming Birds An eventful Day San Bartolo and its jovial School- 
master The unfathomable Indian Mind San Carlos Yau tepee. 

Friend Demetrio rose to the occasion, and procured good 
horses, an ox-cart for the baggage, and a guard, and at sunrise 
we said good-bye to Tehuantepec, the Prefect himself accom- 
panying us for some hours, and presenting us at parting with 
the skin of an unusually large otter. Having forded the river, 
which was a simple matter, our party divided, owing to some 
misunderstood, although well intended, order of the Prefect, 
and whilst Mateo with the ox-cart and driver followed an easier 
road, we with the guard wanted to see something of the ruins 
of Quiengola. 

Within full view of the town, to the eastwards, is an isolated, 
flat-topped mountain, perhaps 2,000 feet high, covered with 
pines, and as they extend down a few hundred feet from the 
top, this " kopje " is about the southernmost and lowest point 
in the tropics where pines flourish ! The top is said to be a 
fortified camp, the best account of which was that which 
General Diaz himself gave me, when he heard that we had not 
ascended to it. He had examined it many years ago, and it was 
a delight to hear this old soldier describe its strategic value 
to the old Zapoteca king, who had there been besieged by the 
Aztec emperor, not many years before the Spanish conquest. 



188 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

After describing the ramparts, he told us how heaps of selected 
stones, "la municion " i.e., ammunition were still lying at 
certain places, ready to be hurled down upon the assailants. 
Many ruins of stone buildings, palaces, courts, and temples, 
and a watch-tower with bastions, still exist about a quarter 
of the way up, overlooking the extremely steep south-eastern 
side of the hill, above the river. A somewhat inspired sketch 
and restoration of the place has been designed and published 
by A. Estrada.* 

On the way to Jalapa the river had to be forded four times, 
though only on one occasion was it necessary to be careful. 




SKETCH MAP OF ROUTE FROM TEHTIANTEPEC TO OAXACA. 

The people at this large village, being all Zapoteca, were at 
first rather reluctant in their welcome, but installed us in their 
town hall. The afternoon was so frantically hot that we spent 
most of the time trying to get cool in the river, waiting for the 
baggage to come up. However, it did not come, and we had 
to prepare for the night. Slowly the authorities became more 
amenable, and even ordered a much-needed dinner. As this 
took them many hours, I asked for a little hot water for tea, 
but it did not come until, rather late in the night, after the 
dinner, four men staggered in, carrying in a net a huge earthen- 
ware cauldron full of chocolate-coloured hot water. They 
meant well, and apologised for having been so long about 
it. They had requisitioned the largest vessel in the village, 

* " Las Ruinas deLCerro de Quiengola. Memoriasdela Sociedad Cientifica 
'Antonio Alzate,'" Vol. VI., 1892, pp. 155-156, PI. Ill 



A PINEAPPLE DRINK 189 

and it had been difficult to bring it to the boiling point. 
However, we took a bath in that teapot. 

Some of the natives were as good-looking as those of 
Tehuantepec, and we made friends with a family, whose 
daughter, about seventeen years old, was the most perfectly- 
proportioned and handsome girl we had ever seen. The 
parents were peasants, and passionately fond of her, but, 
unfortunately, she was beginning to suffer from lung trouble ; 
she kept some little parrakeets as pets. These quiet, courteous 
people invited us to breakfast. Between their house and 
ours man showed himself at his worst. An ox was being 
butchered, and the meat, cut in long strips, was hung in 
festoons between the trees to dry, part of it being 
intended for our dinner. All this while another ox, tied to a 
tree, was forced to look on, making frantic efforts to get 
away from the blood-reeking spot. 

Pimentel, the guard, although a teetotaller, introduced me 
to a new drink, " tepache," which is made of the juice of 
crushed or scraped pineapples, kept in a covered earthenware 
vessel until it has fermented. In spite of the sugar, it contains 
very little alcohol only one or two per cent. and it would 
have been pleasanter if the reddish-yellow stuff had been cool, 
and the old jar, out of which it was ladled with a cup of cocoa- 
nut-shell, not so dirty. After a walk round the village, 
Pimentel suddenly inquired, " Mi patron, y como se siente su 
estomagito ? " " How does your little stomach feel, my 
patron ? " gently patting mine the while. " All right." " I 
wish mine did," said the man of the broken pledge. This 
guard had caused considerable consternation amongst our 
friends at Tehuantepec, when they heard that he was to take 
charge of us. He had the reputation of being a profligate 
desperado, who had committed nobody knew how many 
murders, and yet he had been chosen by the Prefect actually 
to guard his person, and had been now, as a special mark of 
courtesy, handed over to us. Well, the man did look a ruffian, 
although he was the best-dressed man in the town, and seemed 
to know a thing or two. He was vain and boastful to a 
degree, but was also full of resource, and most solicitous 



190 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



about our welfare, so that I was sorry when we had to part 
with him. 

On the following forenoon we were the guests of an uncle 
of the Prefect, a retired colonel, who lived at his hacienda 




OUR PROTECTOR. 

half-way to Tequesixtlan. The lunch was characteristic. 
Two of his boys were sent up into palms to procure some green 
nuts, the " milk " to be stiffened with a little " aguardiente." 
Next came a pineapple, then beef garnished with fiery red- 
pepper pods, and eggs in various disguises fried in oil. Then, 
instead of a siesta, followed a ride in the noonday heat, in the 



ABUNDANT BIRD-LIFE 



191 



company of onr courteous host, to Tequesixtlan, where, to our 
mutual relief, Mateo was found waiting with the baggage. 
The whole ride from Jalapa was through very pretty country, 
following a depression between the low coast range and the 
next series of higher hills. The moisture in the ground, 




THE "CRESTED BEAUTY" (Colodtta /OrmOSd). 



oozing out from the foot-hills, ensured a permanently exuberant 
vegetation, and there was an abundance of bird-life. Long- 
tailed little parrakeets whirled about in swarms, and the short- 
tailed, yellow-headed " loros," climbed about in pairs ; while 
little inca doves and brown pigeons, grackles and Cassicus, 
hawks and weaver-birds, cormorants, white herons, black 
" zopilotes," and red-faced "auras " were also to be seen. The 



192 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

pretty long-tailed and delicately-tinted white and blue jays 
(Calocitta formosissima) , were great favourites, and watched 
us with curiosity from an overhanging branch, with their 
feathery topknot well curved forwards, and were so confiding 
that they whistled back when whistled to. Caracaras (Polyborus 
ckeriway), large birds of prey, prettily dressed in black-brown 
with yellow facings, the underside striped with dark and pale 
cross-bars, were another sight that never failed to give us 
amusement. They went about in pairs, and stopped still in 
the middle of the path, allowing us to approach within a few 
yards. Then they walked aside, and turning round to stare 
at us, put their heads well back, and uttered their shouts, of 
which the Spanish name " caracara " is not a bad rendering ; 
otherwise they are known by their Aztec name of " huiche," 
or " guiche." 

But if there is one sound more than another which conjures 
up to the full the delights and troubles of the Mexican tropics, 
of the really hot low-lands, it is that of the ubiquitous little 
doves, whose cooing sounds as hot as is the shade in which they 
sit, making love to each other. Their affectionate behaviour 
is really touching to behold. They spend most of their time 
on the ground in search of seeds, always in pairs. Then one 
flies on to a branch, to be followed within a few seconds by its 
mate, and then they kiss. They also are marvellously free 
from shyness. I have shot, with a pocket-pistol, within a few 
yards of a nest ; but it was only at the second shot that the 
bird flew off, and within a few minutes she was sitting again 
whilst I stood by, the nest being built in a low and open 
mimosa bush. 

TERMITES. 

Here we saw in the trees, for the first time in perfection, 
the huge nests of termites, or white ants, conspicuous and 
quaint-looking objects, that sometimes look like bee-hives 
stuck into the fork of a tree. They stand at a variable distance 
from the ground, but always upon the big branches, and form 
black-brown masses, irregular, but more or less globular in 
shape, sometimes measuring a yard in diameter, with a rough 
exterior, and containing innumerable cavities, in which the 



WORKERS IN THE DARK 193 

termites live and breed. The whole mass is entirely built up 
from the excrements of the creatures, which is ultimately 
composed of comminuted wood, and similar vegetable matter, 
cemented together by the secretion of their saliva. The whole 
thing is quite hard, and is always added to from the exterior. 
At its base several tunnels, made of the same hard, brown 
material, lead down to the stem of the tree into the ground, 
whence they may apparently be continued in any direction, 
whether to other trees without nests, or else far away to some 
dead timber. We found the tree-nests most frequent in the 
hot-lands of Southern Oaxaca, and again in the Balsas basin. 

There are various other kinds of " white ants," most of 
which have their colonies underground, and it is no exag- 
geration to say that, in many districts of this hot and warm 
region, there is scarcely a tree which is not visited by these 
little creatures, a little tunnel of cemented earth or woody fibre 
leading up the stem and then further along the branches. 
Unless the traveller breaks open one of these small tunnels 
and one is sure do so inadvertently by simply leaning against 
a tree, or grasping one of the branches he will not see any of 
these small blind white creatures, which look like degenerated 
ants. Since they never work in the open or expose themselves 
to daylight, but always build tunnels before them wherever 
they go, they are blind, and of a yellowish- white in colour. 
When they come to a suitable piece of wood they eat it up, 
and thus convey it away, always, however, carefully leaving 
the exterior intact, so that the log, box, piece of furniture, 
or anything that takes their fancy, is completely hollowed out, 
and collapses when touched, and yet appears to be perfect. 
Some termites take a fancy to the framed pictures hung up 
and left undisturbed in churches. These become queer-looking 
objects ; the inside of the glass, to enable the little creature 
to work in the dark, is pasted over with an opaque layer of 
cemented earth or wood, and the picture itself is gradually 
eaten up, together with the frame, the mere ghost of which, 
with the glass, is left firmly glued on to the wall. 

Many a time, when I have surveyed their tunnels on the trees, 
it has much puzzled me to understand the principle which guides 



194 

the termites in the positions they choose for the scene of their 
operations. The wetting of the rain does not hurt the tunnels 
at least, they do not collapse, although the walls often become 
soft and brittle. Sometimes they are so placed on the under- 
side of a sloping branch that the water is bound to run along 
them ; or they cross over to the upper side, or continue to run 
in a right or left direction in seemingly erratic fashion. At last a 
sudden storm brought the desired solution at least, a working 
hypothesis which seemed to stand the test : the tunnels are so 
placed that the tree and its branches are on the " weather " side 
of them, the storms in this country coming almost invariably 
from the same direction. Thus it comes to pass that the 
covered ways of these termites, although quite exposed and 
often in the run of the drip-water, are safeguarded against the 
actual beating of the drops. An exceptional storm does, of 
course, play havoc with these tunnels, and the termites are 
always mending their roads. 

Although they are usually called white ants, they have no 
relationship with the great fraternity of wasps, bees, and ants, 
though in their social arrangements they wonderfully resemble 
them. They have a queen who is the veritable and sole mother 
of the state, with princes, one of whom becomes consort. Only 
their royalty have two pairs of neuropterous wings, and with 
these they are allowed but a single flight, whereupon each 
princess selects a consort to found a new state, their wings 
drop off, and the pair never see daylight again, each queen 
growing to a preposterous size, immured in a large cell. Truly 
said Sancho Panza, " The ant has wings to her sorrow," since 
the flight is the opportunity of birds and lizards, who devour 
most of the wedding party. The bulk of the race, which in 
the case of termites is of both sexes, is from the cradle onward 
turned into sexless workers and soldiers by some process 
of feeding and treatment which is kept as a secret of state. 
The soldiers, easily distinguished by their large jaws, are able 
to bite, but so do the workers, and both seem to have some 
poison in their salivary glands. At any rate, they can become 
a terrible nuisance, since, apart from their bite and their poison, 
the skin is already irritable enough from other horrors for one 



BITING ANTS 195 

to wish to dispense with their tickling. I but once mustered 
courage to pry into a big tree-nest. On the whole we were 
wonderfully free from molestation by termites ; the real terrors 
being the ubiquitous ants ; of these the smallest kinds were 
the worst, leaving red, burning streaks upon the skin ; indeed, 
some of these little terrors seemed to be herding aphides upon 
the tall herbage, whence they conveniently got on to one's 
neck. The soldiers of some ants are of a preposterous size. 
One, who might have been, to judge from his size and that of 
his weapons, at least a captain in the guards, inspected my 
toes, and then, without any provocation on my part, walked 
over the foot until he came to the tender part of the skin above 
the ankle, where he deliberately bit me, and then, turning round, 
injected his genuine formic acid and jumped off. The spot 
soon became blue and swollen, and hurt horribly. Occasionally 
a native, sent up into a tree after some cluster of lovely orchids, 
will give a sudden yell, and come down like lightning, that* 
cluster being tenanted, perhaps garrisoned, by tiny, semi- 
transparent ants. 

* * * * 

Tequesixtlan is a large village, consisting of more than 
1,000 inhabitants, who belong to the Chontal tribe, hemmed 
in between Zapoteca and Mixteca, and number in all about 
10,000 people. Their affinities with other tribes are unknown, 
and their language, which most of them still speak, does not 
afford a clue. According to Belmar it has much in common 
with Nahoa, but, on the other hand, it seems to point to the 
great Zapoteca group of languages, and to our experienced 
ears sounded rather like Mazateca, which belongs to that same 
linguistic family. Chontal is the name given them by the 
Aztecs, in whose language Chontal is said to mean " strangers, 
outsiders," just the opposite of what " Nahoa " is supposed 
to mean. The majority seem to be tall, with long and almost 
straight nose, and with a thin beard on the chin and a 
moustache. The women wear the hair in two long plaits. 
The skin is mostly dark brown. 

The village stands on rising ground, and has a very large 
square ; most of the houses are built of sun-dried bricks, are 

o2 



196 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



whitewashed, and roofed with tiles ; those away from the plaza 
are more frequently thatched. At one end stands the 
" Ayuntamiento," or municipal building, at the other the 
" curato," and the school. As the " curato " happened to be 
empty and situated on the outskirts of the village, we took 
possession of it, or rather, of its broad and well- tiled verandah. 




BELL TOWER, TEQUESIXTLAN. 

which commanded a wild and pretty view. There is also a large 
and well-built church of a peculiar design, which was kept in ex- 
cellent order. The bells are hung in a separate shed. The people 
are entirely agricultural, cultivating maize and beans ; they 
keep but a limited number of cattle, just enough for ploughing 
and carting, but have no special industry. 

We applied to the authorities for a man to keep watch over 
our things upon the open verandah during our frequent 



NOT THE CUSTOM TO THIEVE 197 

absences ; the request was willingly conceded, but caused 
some astonishment. When it was bluntly explained that we 
did not want to lose any of our possessions, the answer was 
that there were no thieves amongst them. " How is that ? 
Why not ? " " Porque no es costumbre ! " " Because it is 
not the custom ! " And this is one of the admirable traits of 
the unspoiled natives of Southern Mexico ; they do not steal, 
and neither in any of the villages, nor when encamped near them, 
have we lost a single article, at least, not in the whole State of 
Oaxaca. 

The schoolmaster, a Zapotec, who was an energetic fellow, 
declared a public holiday, and sent the boys out to search for 
creatures, the height of their joyful excitement being reached 
when he, with some thirty boys, accompanied us to the lovely 
river to fish. Mateo had still a few cartridges left, and let them 
off in the deeper pools ; then the boys formed a cordon lower 
down, and thus retrieved most of the stunned fishes as they 
were carried down by the current. Next they arranged a 
sort of battue, driving the fish on to a sandbank or into a bay, 
where they dived for them. They did get some, and occasion- 
ally came up with a fish in their mouths, pretending to have 
caught them thus. 

This district, from Salina Cruz to Tequesixtlan, was the 
only place where we found Ctenosaura quinquecarinata, a sand- 
coloured iguanid, only a foot in length, and with a tail beset 
with short spikes set in whorls. These creatures bear a strong 
resemblance to the Indian Uromastix, and behave much in the 
same manner. They do not climb, live on a mixed diet of 
insects, leaves and flowers, are very gentle and easily tamed. 
When ensconced in its lair, this lizard defends itself by side- 
strokes of its tail. Rattlesnakes, in the open places, attained 
to a considerable size ; for instance, one specimen measured 
120 cm., or 47 inches, an unusual length for Crotalus terrificiis. 
This creature had a miserable rattle, composed of only three 
joints, but the tail was so curiously marked with half-a-dozen 
black bars, that these of themselves almost suggested a rattle. 
Of course this was a coincidence, and this race of snakes is 
liable to have such a black-marked tail, but the matter was 



198 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



striking enough for Mateo to remark, " Faltan los cascabeles 
pero tiene formula" "the rattle is wanting, but it has the 
diagram thereof ! " 

A full-grown, shrill-sounding rattle, composed of a dozen 
bells, is one of the most perfect instruments of warning, and 
looks like an instance of elaborate design, yet its evolution 
can be traced to insignificant, very different, beginnings, without 
any mystery about them. Not a few animals use the tip of 
their tail for attracting the attention of their prey, or of their 
enemies, towards that extremity i.e., away from the head. 
The same principle underlies many dodges practised by man, 




THE USE OF A VIBRATING TAIL. 
Death-adder fixing the attention of its prey. 

in fencing, in setting up a dummy, or in the fluttering, brightly 
coloured pennant of the lancer, which is not put upon his 
lance for the sake of ornament, but because it is sure to fix the 
attention of the assailed, while the deadly spike is reaching a 
foot further, and is being driven home. Some geckos, when 
cornered, wriggle their tail-end in a curious fashion, glad, if 
pounced upon, to escape with the loss of that member, which 
will grow again in due time. 

In some snakes the tail-end is thin and tapering, and hence 
unusually mobile ; moreover, this part is often coloured differ- 
ently from the thicker portion of the tail, the chance of its 
being seen when held up and vibrated to and fro being thus 
increased. For instance, the arboreal pit-viper of India is 
grass-green, but has the end of the tail of a bright red. The 



DEATH - ADDERS 



199 



next stage shows peculiar structural modifications, as in the 
Australian death-adder (Acanthophis antarctica), the last 
inch of the tail being laterally compressed and very slender, 
beset with a few rows of enlarged, imbricated scales, and ter- 
minating in a thin, horny, thorn-like spike. The apparatus 
is reddish in colour, and looks not unlike a wisp of flowering 




EVOLUTION OF THE RATTLE. 

A. End of tail of an Australian Death-adder. (Acanthopis antarctica.) 

B. End of tail of a young Rattlesnake (side view). 

C. A complete link or joint of an adult rattle (side view). 

D. Tail of an adult Rattlesnake with a rattle of three links (side view). The 

fourth joint, broken off, is indicated by dotted lines ; although loose, it 
is held in position by two constrictions which grasp two corresponding 
swellings of the third " bell." 

E. Diagram showing how the youngest " bell" is pushed into the next oldest. 

grass, most likely to attract the attention of small animals, 
when the snake, already coiled up, slightly raises and vibrates 
the tip of his tail. Then comes another stage a new de- 
parture of a feature already foreshadowed in its earliest 
beginnings, by the frequent occurrence of a short, thorn-like tip, 
the thorn being, of course, made out of the thickened epiderm. 
Normally, this horny spike should be shed at every moult, 
together with the rest of the skin, and its place should be taken 



200 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

by a precisely similar spike-shaped cap, which has grown up 
from beneath and within it. But if that cap should be stronger 
and more knobbly than usual, there is a chance that it may 
not slough off so easily, but stick on for a time, even though 
it may be ultimately pushed off by the newly-grown cap. 
But if this process should be prolonged and extended over a 
period of several moults, there would be left a series of dry, 
hollow, horny caps, which could not help rattling. This would 
be an accidental and unpremeditated result, which natural 
selection might then pass judgment upon and improve. 

In Mexico itself we have all the above theoretical stages 
represented by some pit- viper or other. As the first stage 
there is nothing remarkable about the tail of the water- viper. 
Next we have the dreaded Lachesis, or " fer de lance," with a 
tapering, wriggly tail ; in some this is coloured iron-grey to 
black, such a snake being called " palanca," which, in Spanish, 
means " crowbar," practically the same as the French term ; 
or the tail is yellow, and looks like a piece of sharpened bone, 
these specimens being known as " rabos de hueso," or " bone- 
tails." On the higher mountains lives the small Crotalus 
triseriatus, which, for a long period during its younger stages, 
has an incipient rattle. Lastly, there are the various kinds of 
" viboras con cascabeles," with perfect rattles. 

A modification, once well started, is liable to over- 
development, as in the case of tusked teeth, claws, horns, 
and antlers, some of which have quite outgrown their useful- 
ness. In the case of these snakes, the rattles break off, mostly 
somewhere in the middle of the series of bells, but sometimes 
near the base, when the reptile finds itself suddenly left with a 
stumpy, silent appendix, with only a few chinks in it, and has 
to wait for several moults until the rattle is again in working 
order. 

A large, well-conditioned rattle can make a shrill noise like 
an alarum-clock, and so loud that when its owner is confined 
in a room, it makes conversation well-nigh impossible. The 
rattle grows with its broader sides arranged vertically, not 
horizontally. The snakes rattle only when coiled up, with the 
tail-tip standing up erect in the centre ; whilst gliding away 



DANGER OF SNAKE-BITE 201 

they are mute. There cannot be the slightest doubt (although 
there are theorists who have a horror of allowing the use of the 
reason to animals) that the rattle acts most efficiently as a 
warning, and is now intentionally used for this purpose. It 
is not only man that takes notice of it ; horses and dogs are 
most susceptible, and, according to the natives, so also are 
stags, but these latter are said to trample these snakes to death, 
while the peccaries hunt them up and eat them. The best 
rattlers are the most phlegmatic ; they know their own strong 
points, but give fair warning to be left alone, in order to avoid 
accidents which might be regretted by both parties, aggressor 
and defender. On the other hand, those which are mute, 
like the " palanca," are highly irascible, they will attack an in- 
truder without further provocation, and are justly feared. 

However, it is surprising to find how very few mortal 
accidents happen from snake-bite, either to cattle, or horses, or 
man cases of the latter are confined mostly to inquisitive 
boys. Perhaps this is due to the fact that these snakes 
do not visit the huts, but generally do all they can to get out 
of the way. The average visitor to the country will probably 
never see a snake, and he may even travel for weeks, and con- 
clude that snakes are rare. But after a few months of a life 
of varied incidents e.g., when he has seen them in the morning 
coming out of or retreating into the walls of the house, or, 
in accordance with their kind, beneath the water-tub in the 
kitchen, the palm-thatched roof of the hut, the log he may have 
chosen for his seat, or upon his path he will concede that there 
are plenty of them, far too many, indeed, for his taste. But 
the fact is that snakes are not obtrusive ; they are of a morose 
and retiring nature, and trust to not being seen in a dress which 
so well harmonises with their favourite surroundings, or else 
they retreat in good time, since they have both good eyesight 
and keen powers of hearing, and easily perceive the footfall of 
man, a rustle in the grass, or the cracking of a twig. If many 
are to be seen, they have to be looked for by someone who is 
in sympathy with their habits. We managed to collect forty- 
four different kinds, comprising several hundred specimens, 
but it was hard work, and, after all, this formed only about 



202 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

forty-five per cent, of all the species which may be reasonably 
considered to exist in the States visited by us. 

Not being aware of the natives of Tequesixtlan being 
Chontals, and to convey better to the boys and men some idea 
of the creatures that I wanted, I gave the Aztec and Zapotec 
names, which I had learned with some trouble. These w r ere 
laughed to scorn, but the work of preserving, drawing, and 
making notes about the spoils afforded a good opportunity for 
a little instruction in Chontal. These people had a separate 
name for every kind of fish and lizard. Unfortunately, the. 
Alcalde and the boys did not always agree, and such discrepan- 
cies often occurred elsewhere, so that one should be very wary in 
taking down the vernacular names. A few may as well be 
given here ; every name is pronounced with the accent on the 
last syllable : 

Small lizards in general are called " s-pala " ; the green 
iguana, " wish-ta " ; the black iguana, " sta ". Large lizards in 
general, " candimolo. 

Snakes in general, " nio-far," w r ith the " r " almost 
inaudible ; the pit- viper that has no rattle, viz., Lachesis, is 
called " mangi-nja " ; whilst for the rattlesnake they professed 
not to have a special name, though this seems almost in- 
credible. 

Toad is " tahue " ; frog, " rana," and this they at once 
pointed out as Spanish. 

Of fishes a large siluroid (Pimelodus guatemalensis) was 
called " mur-chuii " by the boys, but " ssi-tou " by the Alcalde ; 
" barbudo " in Spanish. 

Sicydium multipunctatum, with the ventral fins transformed 
into a sucker, was called " camochin-bano " by the boys, 
" morchoii " by the Alcalde. This proved to be a new species. 

Philypnus maculatus, a gobioid, with projecting lower jaw, 
had as its native name " chokako " ; " trompudo " in Spanish. 

Cichlosoma aureum, a cichloid, had for its native name 
" tzili " ; " mucharra " in Spanish. 

Agonostomus monticola, a silvery- white, large mullet, had as 
its native name " ssa-pana" ; its Spanish name is " trucha," 
i.e., trout. 



THE FOUR-EYED FISH 203 

Tetragonopterus ceneus, a characinid, is the " liba " of the 
natives ; " sardina " in Spanish. 

Poecilia sphenops, a tiny cyprinodont, bright blue with red 
spots, was " bof-tuii " ; " tripon " in Spanish. 

Anableps dowei, a cyprinodont, the " four-eyed fish." 

In Spanish this fish is known as " quatro-ojo " ; the 
Zapotecs call it likewise " four-eye," " tapa-iyaloo," and hence 
has arisen at Tehuantepec the curious hybrid word " tapa-ojo," 
literally " cover-eye," which also gives good sense. The 
Chontals at Tequesixtlan know it as " palgan-divi " (" divi " 
= eye), but I could not find out the meaning of " palgan," 
except that it does not mean " four." 

Anatomically, the modifications of this fish's eye are easy 
enough to understand.* The iris, instead of forming the 
usual circular curtain, is produced into two flaps which freely 
overlap each other, so as to form horizontal bars across the pupil, 
which is thereby divided into a lower, roughly triangular, 
and an upper, elliptical, cavity. Corresponding to this broad 
bridge, which is movable, so that the overlapping flaps can 
alter the shape of the pupil, there is a slight modification of 
the cornea in the shape of a grey and reddish pigmented band, 
and this projects slightly on the inner side of the cornea. The 
lens is pear-shaped, and thus the thicker, larger, and less curved 
portion fits into the upper pupil, while the lower part of the 
lens is smaller, and also more convex. Consequently, it stands 
to reason that the light which passes through the lower pupil 
is received by a stronger lens, which thus counteracts the 
greater refraction of the water. The fish has indeed a double 
pair of spectacles, one for seeing at a distance and in the air, 
the other for close work in the water ! 

So far as I know, none of those who have described this 
wonderful apparatus have ever watched a live Anableps. The 
whole of the eyeball, which protrudes considerably on the 
upper side of the head, is as freely movable as any ball-and- 
socket joint. It can be turned in almost any direction, the fish 
looking, in the same manner as a chameleon, up and down, 

* Meckel, "Archiv. f. Physiol.," IV., 1818, p. 124. Valenciennes, " Cuv. 
et Val. Hist. Poissons," XVIII., Pis. 538 and 539. 








Andbleps dowei, THE FOUR-EYED FISH. 

I. Using the lower half of the eye. 
II. Using the upper half of the eye. 

III. Seen from above, upper half in use. 

IV. Iiis and divided pupil, outside view. 

V. Iris dividing the pupil, as seen from inside. 



WONDERFUL EYES 205 

or forwards and backwards. When the eye is turned com- 
pletely up, all the white of the upper half of the cornea 
disappears ; again, it can be turned down so far that the upper 
pupil looks quite horizontal, and then the lower apparatus 
altogether disappears within the socket. When swimming, 
the fish incessantly moves its eyes, which, when near the 
surface, protrude above it, the white of the cornea shining 
conspicuously, a sure sign that only the upper, or air-eye, is 
then in use. When the fish was below the surface this play of 
the eyes could, of course, not be observed, owing to the generally 
turbid condition of the water. But we kept specimens for 
many hours in basins, or in glass jars, and then the lower half 
of the eyes was mostly used. 

These fishes have rather curious habits. They congregate 
in schools of a dozen, or even of several scores, in the more 
quiet bays near the river banks, preferably below a sandbank, 
or at the edge of backwater eddies, where scum and flotsam 
collect, upon which they feed. Favourite resting-places of 
theirs are quiet shallows, where they lie, apparently resting 
upon their stout fore-fins, with their knob-like eyes alone 
above the surface. They are shy, rapidly scuttling or half- 
hopping away into deeper water, where they form up abreast 
in platoons, swimming up-stream, propelled by the tail, with 
the fore-half of the body raised, and some even jumping up ; 
but they are always anxious to quit the rushing of the stream, 
and, after a few minutes, return to their favourite anchorage, 
where they also seem to spend the night. Like many of the 
Mexican freshwater fishes, they are viviparous, and although 
a large female rarely reaches ten inches in length, the ripe young, 
from a few in number to a dozen, are two inches long. In the 
male the excretory and sexual passage is continued into a long 
perforated cone, which is covered with scales, is directed back- 
wards, and carries the much-reduced anal fin with it on its 
dorsal side.* 

Dowe's Anableps is restricted to the low-lands, through the 
whole of Central America, from Panama to the Isthmus of 

* Wyman, " Proc. Boston Soc. Nat. Hist.," 1857, p. 432. Garman, 
Mem. Mus. Cornp. Zool.," Cambridge, Mass., XIX., 1895, No. 1. 



206 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



Tehuantepec, both on the Atlantic and on the Pacific side. 
The largest specimens that we saw were in the San Juan river ; 
many smaller ones were in that of Tehuantepec and its tri- 
butaries. In South America they are represented by another 
species, A. tetrophthalmus. 

Life was quite pleasant as viewed from the verandah of 
the " curato," although it was hot, the shade-temperature in 
the north rising to 90 F. at 9 a.m., and being only one or two 
degrees lower at 8 p.m. ; even before sunrise it stood at 79 F., 
but a north wind sprang up regularly at about 9 a.m., dying 




VIEW FROM THE CURATO, TEQUESIXTLAN. 

down after sunset, or continuing well into the night. This 
breeze, combined with the very dry air, made existence quite 
tolerable, only the sun was very fierce. Soon after sunrise 
a flock of " zopilotes," which used to sleep in a tree near the 
house, hopped on to the ground and spread out their wings for a 
thorough baking in the sun, although there was no dew. They 
also took a bath in the river, where they searched for dead fish, 
molluscs, and worms. In the same tree were a number of 
long pendent nests of weavers, or hangnests (Icterus). 

On various occasions, here in Oaxaca, and again in Guerrero, 
these birds gave proof of their mental power in adaptation. 



WEAVER-BIRDS' NESTS 



207 



Their object is to suspend the nest from such a thin and long 
branch that it cannot easily be reached by tree-snakes and 
opossums. Therefore, what can be better than the telegraph 
wire, which goes in a bee-line across the country ? Now, most 
of such nests were fastened in a peculiar way : instead of being 




KESTS OF MEXICAN ORIOLE. 

A. Usual mode of suspension. 

B. Section through the nest. E. Entrance ; N. Nest. 

C. Mode of suspension from telegraph wire, with 

D. The timber hitch for fastening a grassy fibre on to a branch. 

suspended from one point, several plaited or twisted side- 
strands were thrown out from the main rope, and slung round 
the wire so as to make the base very broad, and thus to secure 
a better hold upon the wire, a hold firm enough to prevent the 
nest from being blown along the wire, or shifting its position ; 
moreover, the nests were slung at long distances from the poles, 
thus affording absolute safety. This had by no means become 



208 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

the prevailing fashion, but we saw about a dozen nests thus 
fixed in various districts. 

Humming-birds were also plentiful. Although they may 
be met with anywhere in Mexico, from the sea almost to the 
upper limit of the tree-line, to an altitude of 13,000 feet or 
beyond, they are local, absent in thick forests, and prefer a 
varied terrain and the neighbourhood of water. They 
often take a bath, ducking themselves right under water to get 
a thorough wetting. Here at Tequesixtlan some long-billed 
species used to hover over the river catching flies, then perched 
on a favourite branch, darted into the air to snatch an insect, 
and perched again. They are rather quarrelsome, tilting at 
each other in the air, and they attack other birds, much larger 
than themselves, in the same manner. Apparently, although 
wary they are quite fearless, and this is the outcome of their 
marvellous wing-power, these lovely creatures flying like 
swifts, to which they are closely related, or, again, like wasps 
and moths. Some of our hawkmoths bear, indeed, a striking 
resemblance to the smaller humming-birds, when they seem 
to stand immovably in mid-air in front of the long calyx of 
a flower, whilst, instead of their wings, all that is visible is a 
transparent blur. Again, they shoot suddenly either towards 
right or left, just visiting perhaps a neighbouring flower, and 
returning within a second or two to the first flower, unless they 
are off altogether, when the glittering little beauty with its 
metallic colours changing prismatically according to the direction 
of the light and the position of the spectator may, perhaps, 
next be seen sitting motionless on a branch, with its straight bill 
pointing upwards. It is during these sudden side-long darts that 
some of their species, not all, emit a short but rather loud noise, 
sounding like " oom," a fact which has given them their English 
name. The Mexicans call them " colibri," like the French 
and Germans, or " chupa-flor," " chupa-mirto," " chupa- 
rosa," "chupa-miel " i.e., flower, or honey-sucker or "pajaro- 
mosca," " fly-bird." The Aztec name is " huitzilin," i.e., 
the " spikelet." * The mask of this bird was an important 

* Or " huitzitzilin " = spike-humming. " Huitz-tlacuache " is the spiny 
tree-porcupine (Synethcres mexicanus). 



HUMMING-BIRDS 209 

attribute of the principal deity, the god of war, and chief patron 
of the Aztec tribe, Huitzilopochtli, which means the humming- 
bird of the left, or south. The god was always pictured in a 
mask of this kind, with a human face peeping out of the bird's 
chest. 

Humming-birds are still, in various parts of the country 
where Aztecs live, prized as powerful charms. To gain the 
affection of one's chosen lady it is sufficient to carry a dried 
bird in the folds of his sash. The metallic feathers are much 
used for the exquisitely beautiful and well-finished feather-work 
designs which still form a lingering industry, especially in 
the larger towns, where the outlined birds, heraldic, and other 
designs are eagerly bought by the tourist. A whole bird, 
either large or small, complete from bill to toe, and with even 
the branches and leaves upon which it rests, is made up from 
carefully selected feathers, and fastened on to cardboard, and 
these mementoes are everlasting, if framed and kept safe from 
insects. 

The nest is a delicate little cup, fastened on to a horizontal 
branch, and covered outside with lichen ; the bulk of it is 
woven from fine, silky, vegetable fibres, and within it two white 
eggs are laid. The young look almost exactly like those of swifts 
and swallows, including their widely-gaping, short, flat bill, 
which assumes its long and pointed shape much later. The 
females are much more sombre in hue than their mates, but 
by no means all the species possess beautiful colours. 
Humming-birds constitute an altogether Pan-American grouj 
of birds, being absolutely restricted to the New World and its 
islands, and at the same time ranging, during the summer in 
each respective locality, from Canada to Patagonia. More 
than four hundred species are known, and these are of almost 
endless variety in shape and colour of plumage, some with 
short and square, others with long forked tails, some with 
feathery crests, or with white puffs on the legs ; with short bills 
or enormously long ones, even surpassing in length the entire 
remainder of the body and tail. From the evolutionist's point 
of view they are glorified and specialized swifts, adapted to 
hover in front of flowers from which they extract the tiny insects 



210 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



upon which they live. The length of their bill stands in direct 
co-relation with the kind of flowers which are their specific 
favourites ; those which visit long trumpet -shaped flowers 
have the longest bills, and many kinds are said to be absolutely 
dependent upon certain flowers, perhaps 
because these are inhabited by certain 
kinds of insects. Consequently, these 
flowers have produced humming-birds to 
fit themselves, and possibly their visitors 
benefit the hosts in turn by acting as 
fertilizers. Not only is their pointed, 
slender bill always rather long, but their 
tongue also, and this can be protruded 
like that of a woodpecker, although not 
so far, the hyoid horns being so long 
that they curve from behind round the 
whole head, the tips ending loosely 
beneath the skin near the nostrils. The 
tongue proper is short, but its horny 
covering is elongated into a pair of thin 
blades, which throughout their length are 
curled up, so as to form two parallel 
hollow tubes. Their use is not quite 
evident. Obviously, narrow tubes would 
be meant for sucking honey from the 
flowers, but these birds do not live on 

TONGUE OF A LONG- this nectar > and their stomachs are always 
BILLED HUMMING- filled with insects. Their tongue finds 
an almost exact counterpart in that of 
the sunbirds of the Old World, which 
are likewise insectivorous, a remarkable 
instance of convergent analogy. Probably 
the long sheaths of such tongues are used for dislodging 
the insects in the depth of the flower, whereupon they 
are caught by the bill, which in many humming-birds has 
slightly serrated edges. The tongue-tubes are narrow enough 
to suck up fluid by capillary attraction, so that the nectar may 
well ascend, and perhaps the birds drink in some such manner. 



oe> 



HUMMING- 
BIRD. 

The circles on the side 

represent sections. 

(k Nat. Size). 



JAGUAR OR OX 211 

The keeping of humming-birds in captivity has hitherto always 
failed through their starvation. 

On the first night, when not yet familiar with our immediate 
surroundings, we came near committing a dreadful and foolish 
act. The dogs of the village had been restless and fell to 
fighting in the shrubs, and there followed a sound like that of 
crunching bones, with deep sniffing and growling. " Don Juan, 
el tigre esta comiendo a un perro ! " But it was not a jaguar 
eating a dog. Just in time, whilst trying to get a sight with 
the rifle, some doubt misgave me ; the two gleaming eyes under 
the bush were so far asunder in fact they were as wide apart 
as they usually are in an ox which is chewing the cud ! 

The cura arrived at the week-end, but would not allow 
himself to be drawn into talking about the customs and beliefs of 
the natives, he being supposed to have eradicated all that ; but 
he was not in sympathy with them, nor they with him, and he 
knew less about them than the Zapoteca schoolmaster. Other- 
wise he was very affable, and over some wine, which Mateo had 
procured from the shop, to mitigate his partial eviction from 
his own verandah (which, however, belonged to the muni- 
cipality), he confided to me that a friend of his suffered from 
pimples on her face, and asked if this could not be remedied. 
He did not seem to like my chaff, and made some remark about 
heretics to whom nothing was holy. 

A very stout wealthy native lady came to pay us a visit, 
and it was my good luck to be able to relieve her of some of 
her troubles. Next day she sent her servant to report her 
convalescence, with a basketful of choice fruit. This little 
incident would not be worth mentioning if it did not illustrate 
the marked difference in the behaviour of the people of the 
State of Oaxaca and that of Guerrero. Naturally, we gave 
freely of our stock of medicines, and rendered whatever help 
we felt justified in doing. Here in the State of Oaxaca, without 
exception, the natives wanted to pay us, and since this, of course, 
was always refused, they usually managed to get even with us 
by means of some invariably acceptable offering. In Guerrero 
they first enquired about the cost, and rarely, though this was 
not without exceptions, showed any gratitude. 



212 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

The day of our departure from Tequesixtlan was full of 
little incidents. Horses and mules had been procured without 
difficulty, and we went merrily along what was still a tolerable 
track. At a brook, which possessed pools of beautiful water 
between the volcanic rocks, we waited for the baggage to come 
up, and my horse, hitherto so lazy, ran away. Fortunately 
he scattered everything about ; kodak and knapsack, a calabash 
with live lizards, and a piece of the lasso indicated the trail 
for a while, but next came a swamp with ever so many bittern 
looking up at the intruders, and then the river broke up into a 
network of channels and islands, which put an end to the chase. 

Meanwhile my wife had prepared lunch, but said she did 
not like the spot, on account of a queer noise close to the zarape 
which she had spread out as a tablecloth. This proved to be 
somehow due to a snake entwined between the plants, which 
refused to be dislodged, and retreated under a ledge of the bank 
of the stream. Thence it made several counter attacks, 
coming half out of its cave with head and neck erect, and 
driving me off, so that I just missed those lively coils several 
times in succession. At last it darted out as straight as a lance, 
and tried to run away, when by a lucky fluke a bullet broke its 
back. It was a Coluber corais, a few inches more than eight 
feet long, and as thick as a man's arm. Then the origin of the 
noise became clear. This snake, closely allied to the black 
racer of the United States, Coluber, or Pityophis melanoleucus, 
has a peculiarly modified epiglottis, which is set in vibration 
by means of the air expelled from the large lungs, making 
an almost voice-like noise, very different from the usual 
hissing of snakes. As some of these Pityophis are of a bold 
and fierce disposition, this sound is perhaps made for the 
purpose of intimidation. 

The muleteers were sent after the runaway horse, Mateo 
was to wait for them, and we went on to a little place called 
Las Vacas. It consists of only a few scattered houses in a 
prettily situated valley with plenty of cattle, whence its name 
" the cows." The people were friendly, but had nothing 
whatever to give besides tortillas and " jilotes," or corncobs, 
and as they did not like taking in such a strange couple, whose 



TROUBLES WITH MULES 213 

possessions consisted of next to nothing, we had to make the 
most of one zarape, and to camp in the middle of the meadows 
well away from the village. It was a sultry, hot night, and the 
ground was warm, but there was a plague of insects on this 
cattle-haunted spot, and then it rained. Mateo came in 
shortly before midnight with half the baggage, the mule with 
the tent having broken down, and the runaway horse not having 
been found. Therefore back again we went with the empty 
beasts to bring in the straggler, which had toppled into a brook, 
strewing about the bundles, of which several had to be 
given up as lost. 

In the morning one of the remaining mules was gone, and 
this made the second mule, of which no more was seen by our 
party. It had not been a night of rest, and then came a long 
and exhausting ride, with a few short pauses, until, at sunset, 
a suitable camping-ground was found near a deserted house 
on the other side of San Bartolo. The scenery all through 
this long day was beautiful, the track leading over grand, 
mountainous country. It was a district full of the columnar 
cactus, with oak woods higher up, and, lastly, pines ; but 
although the views from the ridges were fine and the air at an 
elevation of from 2,000 to 3,000 feet was exhilarating, though 
hot, the reaching of each ridge only implied another descent, 
and there seemed to be no end to them, as they appeared one 
piled upon the other, till lost in the shimmering distance. 
Except for a forlorn hamlet or two, there was no human settle- 
ment all along that ride, and the only people met with were a 
string of muleteers with cargoes of apples, which they were 
bringing down from the plateau to the coast. 

On the bark of an oak-tree sat the most curious-looking 
object imaginable, a white fluffy thing, like a little bunch of 
cotton attached to a reddish body, which dodged to the other 
side of the tree. Within a few minutes after it had been put 
into a tube with alcohol, all the long white fluff dissolved 
away, and all that was left was a reddish insect, the rare 
Phenax mexicana, a member of the Fulgoridce, whose fluffy 
excrescences all over its body, and streamers several inches in 
length, are said to consist of some waxy matter. 



214 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

San Bartolo is a large village, and the people, perhaps a 
mixture of Chontal and Misteca, do not like strangers, be they 
white or brown. There is a " meson " i.e., a subsidised house 
where shelter has to be given to the wayfarer, and the people 
are in the habit of taking prepared meals thither, not allowing 
the so-called guests to enter their own houses. Nor did we 
succeed in getting more than a glimpse of the inside of that of 
the head-man, a very determined little fellow who suffered from 
St. Vitus' dance. He offered the " meson," as he was bound 
to do, and as that was declined with thanks he took us to the 
outskirts, to a spot where there were two empty houses, the 
inhabitants of which had recently died, and informed us that 
Dur neighbours, not far off, were " gente de razon," " people 
of reason " i.e., no longer savages, for whose good behaviour 
he would stand responsible. 

There the tent was put up, and we took a day's rest, but in 
spite of the elevation of some 2,500 feet it was frantically hot 
and stuffy. Although Mateo and I prowled about most 
of the day, scarcely a creature was to be seen. The people, 
with their independent nature, seemed to have their muni- 
cipality on the brain. About a dozen of them were always 
sitting and lolling under the verandah of the town hall, on the 
pillars of which were hanging the wands of office, each with a 
leather strap through a hole at the top end, and every stick 
different from the rest. Everyone who went, or was sent on 
an errand, first selected one of these sticks as the symbol of his 
authority, and they insisted on this custom so much that a 
man, despatched to fetch someone who was supposed to 
know a good deal about animals, would not leave without the 
stick appropriate to the occasion. These wands of office are 
an institution of the early Spaniards in various parts of Mexico, 
and every year the " stick-giving " day is a solemn occasion, 
corresponding with the appointment of the various municipal 
officers by the Prefect of the district, to whose seat they are 
compelled to repair. These wands are sacred, and some of them 
are of great age. In the town hall are suspended long lists of 
the names of all holders of office and their substitutes, from the 
President of the municipality of several villages, the alcalde, 




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A CURIOUS COMPLAINT 217 

"" regidor," or justice of peace of a village, the syndic, or 
chairman, and the vice-chairman, down to the dozen members 
of the local council, and even their police and messengers. All 
this was in a village inhabited by none but pure natives, few 
of whom speak Spanish, and who have the reputation, as the 
Prefect of Tehuantepec told me, of being frantically idolatrous, 
though outwardly, of course, good Christians. 

They flatly denied having ever heard of, or seen, ancient 
pots and clay-figures, though, as a matter of fact, on the eastern 
rim of the valley, at a considerable height above the village, 
stand the ruins of an old Zapoteca fort, with big stone walls, 
well constructed, and mortared like those of Quiengola, where 
the people still search for such idols, but these are either buried 
again, or adopted and guarded jealously. The schoolmaster, 
who was, as usual, a Zapotec, had been educated in Oaxaca, 
was a reasonable fellow, and took an interest in things around 
him, but he had to be careful, and would have been less com- 
municative if he had not been so fond of a little conviviality. 
This was easily arranged, since his sprightly wife was managing 
the best shop. The " maestro " had a quaint sort of humour, 
and he explained that, filling a position of dignity as the only 
learned person in the village, he felt it incumbent upon himself 
to entertain strangers, but that he suffered from an illness 
which sometimes interfered badly with his duties. The 
symptoms were great sickness of stomach, headache, and 
disinclination to work, always coming on over night when least 
expected, after he had been as jolly as any. Could I diagnose 
the malady, and did I know a remedy ? " Oh, yes ; it's a 
well-known complaint that is sporadic in every country, and 
goes by many names, such as, for instance "hot coppers," and 
" katzen-jammer," which terms, when explained, he thought 
described the symptoms very well. " But do you know a remedy, 
or, better still, a medicine or a diet which will prevent it ? " 
" Yes, one that is absolutely infallible : ' no beberes ' ! Thou 
shalt not drink ! " "I have told you that a hundred times," 
said his wife, and we had the laugh of him, but he went on 
expostulating that he never did get drunk, and that was the 
worst of it ; if he did, like other fellows, he would not have 



218 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

asked me ; but for a man in his position, who went to bed all 
right, to wake up ill in the morning, that was quite another 
matter. 

This man had constructed and neatly drawn a map of the 
road from Jalapa to Totolapan, which I jojtfully copied as a 
valuable guide. Unfortunately it was drawn with a sort of 
perspective, a foreshortening of the distances towards the 
north ; yet it was more correct than were the printed maps 
it had been our bad luck to have to trust to. He also helped 
us by trying to persuade the people to catch a Heloderma, or 
'' gila monster," or at least to show us the spots where it might 
be found. I held an assembly at the blacksmith's, showed 
them the coloured drawings of the creatures wanted, and some 
of them were recognised. However, we could not penetrate 
the curious labyrinths of the Indian mind. " How much will 
you pay for one ? " " Two pesos." " Good gracious, what 
can be the use of a beast which is only worth killing ? " "To 
make medicine of." " What for ? Can you cure dropsy with 
it ? " The obvious answer was : " ' Quien sabe ' I have 
to study the beast before I can tell ; we have none of them in 
our country." " He is right," said one ; " there may be strong 
medicine in so poisonous a beast, but how would that benefit 
us after you have left ? " ' You, or anyone else, will benefit 
to the extent of two pesos if you bring one here." " I should 
not touch it, it is dreadfully dangerous, and if you crush it 
with a stone and the blood squirts out you are a dead man." 
"Never mind us, locate one, and we will fetch him ourselves. 
Do you think you could find one for two pesos ? " " Certainly ; 
I know where they are ; when my father . . . ." At last the 
man was willing to spend a day in hunting for this particular 
snark at two pesos, and turned to fetch his " machete." A few 
minutes later he hurried back ; " Sir, I shall not go ; if I do 
not find one, what then ? " Such negotiations were enough to 
drive one mad. None of the company excepting the school- 
master, and maybe the Presidente, who said that it was none 
of his business could grasp the distinctions between the 
three possibilities, that of getting money down for a beast 
produced, and of money for searching with, or without, result. 



THE INDIAN MIND 219 

Moreover, if an Indian does not want to give an answer, his 
facial expression is unchanged, and remains either smiling or 
sullen as the case may be, but his eyes become as glassy as in 
the moment of death, a film passes over them, and no white 
man can tell whether there is a soul behind it. 

Mexicans divide the Indians into " gente de razon " reason- 
able people, who can or are willing to understand another's 
thoughts, and those who are " cerrados " " locked up " in 
their own thoughts, unmanageable, unapproachable. The 
distinction is good, the expression " gente de razon " is still 
better. The distressing feature of not being able to entertain 
two thoughts at a time is not peculiar to them. Amongst 
ourselves we, too, have many monkey-eyed people whose 
reasoning snaps if it is applied to a chain of argument. They 
revert to their first thought, with the same serene calmness 
as the Indians do to their single thought, the only difference 
being that our white brethren may run to the length of three 
links in the chain before breaking down, while the Indian stops 
at the second. It is not always unwillingness or laziness, it 
is want of capacity. As a glimpse into the working of another 
person's mind is always interesting, let us have some more 
examples which are, likewise, not fictitious. It was on this 
same high road, between Oaxaca and the coast, where caravans 
go up and down daily. A small pedlar with only a single 
donkey-load of apples would not sell that load, or even half of 
it, before he reached his goal at Tehuantepec, the advantage of 
continuing with a lighter load would not be grasped. At San 
Carlos we got into a difficulty about hiring animals, and it so 
happened that two strings of carriers, with empty pack-saddles, 
overtook us, and they also were bound for Oaxaca. Would 
they take our baggage ? No, they were returning to Oaxaca 
for a new cargo. Were they pressed for time ? No. Did they 
never take cargo up to that town ? Certainly ; but only 
from Tehuantepec where, as on this occasion, they did not 
happen to get any. 

Perhaps it was the beauty of the morning and the profusion 
of ferns and flowers on the moist banks of a shady ravine beyond 
San Bartolo, where a narrow belt of limestone caused a change 



220 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

in the porphyritic formation, that made us feel happier in our 
minds, but a succession of stumbling rides of seven or eight 
hours on bad horses and bad saddles, and with nothing to eat, 
is apt to become monotonous. Water fit to drink was not 
always easy to get ; there were diseases about in the villages, 
and often the water had an alkaline taste. It was necessary 
to drink much and often in this hot and dry air, which was so 
dry that the incessant perspiration evaporated at once, 
deceiving us as to the continuous loss of fluid that we ex- 
perienced. Boiled water alone is nauseous when taken luke- 
warm ; very weak tea with sugar and some of Horlick's milk- 
powder was better, but liable to turn sour before the afternoon ; 
thin coffee treated in the same way behaved similarly, and was 
too heating. On our second expedition through tropical 
Guerrero, water flavoured with the rind of the very aromatic 
small wild lemon with a little of its acid juice, and sweetened 
when taken, was by far the best refreshment during the 
march. 

We hired eight mules for as many pesos, including three 
natives, who were considered necessary by the authorities. 
Again, at about 3,300 feet of elevation the first oak-trees were 
encountered, and at 3,800 feet they became regular forests, 
mixed with the long-leaved pines and a sprinkling of arbutus 
trees, whilst cassias and jacquinias fell behind, showing that 
we were passing out of the tropics. Lizards were plentiful, 
and the size of Sceloporus horridus was remarkable, several 
specimens of the kind being regular giants of at least ten inches 
in length, but, in spite of our efforts, these large creatures always 
escaped, and we were anxious to get to San Carlos. This is a 
" town," the seat of the district called San Carlos Yautepec. 
For the sake of preserving complete independence we camped 
a mile above the town, on the road-side. The Prefect, in spite 
of our official letter from the Governor, and the friendly note 
from his colleague in Tehuantepec, proved a failure, as he was 
too busily engaged in deciding upon the pattern of a paper-cap 
that was to be worn by his guard on the approaching national 
anniversary. In his office was displayed the usual information 
that the sole idiom spoken was Castellano ; this was strictly 



MEASURING DISTANCE 221 

true when those were left out who spoke only the " serrano " 
dialect of their native tongue. Then there was the usual list, 
professing to give in leagues the distance of every village from 
the seat of the Prefect. None of these are correct, and some- 
times the explanation is added that the leagues are " buenas," 
or " chicas," full-grown or still young, as the case may be. 
That the total of a long distance does not tally with the details 
given does not matter. " These are the official distances as 
laid down by the municipality, and you won't arrive a day 
sooner in Oaxaca by altering them." The ascertaining of 
distances, difficult everywhere, was a sore trial all along this 
high-road of commerce. The people in the villages, of course, 
had their practical notions, although expressed neither in hours 
nor leagues, but the answers of anyone met on the road were 
hopeless. None of them intended to deceive : they simply 
could not express it. " Esta cerca " " it is near by," in- 
variably meant a long way, sometimes as much as three hours' 
march, whilst " muy lejos " " very far," once happened to 
be round the corner, within a mile ; " todavia falta algo " 
" it still wants some," could not be found fault with as being 
strictly true; but " un pedazo " " a step," was bad, and 
" un pedacito,"- *' a nice little step," was usually worse. Poor 
Mateo declared they were mad, and suffering from swollen 
heads : " Don Juan, when these Popolocos have learned how 
to read and write a little, they think themselves better than 
their betters." Popoloco is the Indian name of a still backward 
tribe to the west of Motzorongo, and it was his favourite 
term for such as he did not like ; moreover, " loco " being the 
Spanish for " mad," the resemblance in sound tickled his 
fancy. 

At an eating-shop of San Carlos were easily picked out two 
pale, thin, unhealthy-looking fellows, very different from the 
usual Mexicans. They were Catalans on a walking tour from 
Mexico City, to take photographs for a publishing firm in 
Barcelona, and they were bound for Buenos Ayres, which they 
hoped to reach in about two years ! It seemed to be the 
scheme of some Pan-Hispano- American propaganda. What 
unique scenes these courageous fellows might take and send 



222 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

home ; but fancy entrusting therewith a couple of uneducated 
men ! They brought the bad news that in the village further 
north small-pox was raging. 

The " Presidente municipal," whose business it was to 
procure the necessary animals for our party, according to em- 
phatic orders from the .Governor, returned such a haughty 
answer through Mateo that we decided to give him a lesson. 
It was a silly thing to do, but our pot of patience boiled over, 
and it cost us four hours' hard work of storming and threatening. 
But it did good for the next stage or two. The usual cost of 
hire of an animal, be it saddle-horse or pack-mule, is one peso 
per day, regardless of the distance ; the "arriero," who walks on 
foot, is included in the price, and so is the food for himself 
and his animals ; no charge is made for the return, and if any 
such attempt is made it is simple imposture. Thus the eight 
animals, with two men from San Carlos to Totolapan, cost 
sixteen pesos, the official distance being fourteen leagues, 
about forty miles, or two days' march. Since then " arrieros" 
are expected to find the food and fodder, most of the money 
should not be paid until the end of the journey. Sometimes 
payment in advance is insisted upon by the authorities, and 
in that case the " arrieros " start without a centavo, and the 
traveller will find that he has to keep them and the animals. 

The repeated hiring was by far the greatest worry during 
the whole journey from the coast to the plateau. It is easy, 
almost everywhere, to get one or two serviceable saddle-horses 
for a day or two, but the trouble assumes alarming proportions 
when more than half-a-dozen animals are required. No single 
person possesses such a number, and the people, out of sheer 
cussedness, and in order to show their independence, refuse to 
let them out ; moreover, each owner insists upon sending his 
ow r n man with his beasts, not trusting another, so that six 
pack animals may, in complicated cases, mean as many 
followers. The village authorities are bound to respect the 
governmental order to procure the men and beasts, but if 
he feels so inclined the head-man tells you that there 
are none ; or that some happen to be away on pasture ; 
anyhow, that they cannot be got together until the day after 



MULE HIRING 223 

to-morrow, and if you insist upon having your half-a-dozen 
mules ready by to-morrow they will be ready, but one of 
them will be a broken-down horse, another will be a similar 
beast with sores too terrible to behold, and a third will be a 
donkey. This assortment will be sent to your camp, but with- 
out any pack-saddles, without which they are useless, and if then 
you walk into the village and at last find the chief, to storm and 
to threaten, he calmly says that lie told you yesterday that they 
would not be ready before to-morrow. These men were not 
all like this ; some few were good, others a great deal worse. 
An additional difficulty in our case was that it was not possible 
to hire the whole outfit for the whole distance, and, partly 
owing to the variety of tribes, they refused going beyond their 
districts. Having to travel with eight animals and two or 
three followers, all of whom had ultimately to be fed out of our 
own pocket, especially if one decides that the march should 
stop for a day or two at some attractive spot, it becomes rather 
expensive, the whole bill easily amounting to a pound per day. 
For a longer journey it is, therefore, more economical to buy the 
animals outright, and to sell them again. They are cheap on 
the plateau, and worth much more on the coast. The horses 
which are bred on the airy highlands stand the tropics pretty 
well, for a time, but do not produce any good offspring, and 
these, too, when transferred to the plateau, are susceptible 
to chills, and have trouble with their wind. 






CHAPTER XI. 

FROM SAN CARLOS YATJTEPEC TO THE SOUTHERN PLATEAU. 

A District smitten with Small-pox Dismal Camp The Cactus Family 

Totolapan Idolatry and Native Beliefs Interesting Pedlars Character of 

the Edge of the Plateau. 

The next stages from San Carlos were terrible, since in nearly 
all the villages and hamlets along the track there raged small- 
pox of the virulent black and confluent kind. It is no exag- 
geration to say that people were dying on the roadside. The 
huts in this somewhat poor district were loosely, and often 
carelessly, constructed reed shanties. Outside some of these, 
in the little court-like enclosures, we saw lying on the ground 
both men and women, some in the shade, others left in the 
glaring sun, in the last stage of the disease, with their relations 
squatting round them in dumb despair. This had been going 
on for several weeks ; naturally some had recovered at 
least, many of those that we met were in the peeling stage but 
many huts were deserted, the reed-curtains used as doors 
being left open and aslant. The entire population of one village 
was said to have been exterminated, with the exception of a 
little girl who was found there, and who, when rescued, was 
quite prostrate by starvation. Yet there had been no stampede, 
the people stoically waiting for what was going to happen ; 
in some villages they had had a few sporadic cases, and after 
the victims of these had died, the remainder were left in peace. 
It was uncanny to have to spend two days in such a district, 
and heartrending to have to look on at this misery, and to have 
to prevent our party from entering into intercourse with the 
stricken population. Of course, we had been re- vaccinated, 



SMALL - POX 225 

we always are, with the result that the hungriest of small-pox 
bacilli cannot find anything to live upon in our bodies, but it 
was gruesome to see how the infection was carried about. 
What a suitable place that village of the dead would have been 
for an indignation meeting of our anti- vaccination cranks ! 
It was an unusually bad outbreak of small-pox, which occurs 
everywhere in the country to a moderate extent ; many people 
in Mexico are marked, and they are not, as a rule, afraid of it. 
A few days later, in Oaxaca, Mateo happened to get a letter 




SMALL-POX. DESERTED HOUSE. 



from his wife, complaining that the children were ill. He 
calmly shrugged his shoulders and said : " Maria need not make 
such a fuss ; I am sure it is that small-pox, everybody gets it 
sooner or later, and there is no epidemic in my own district " ; 
he knowing well that the disease, where already established, 
is usually of a mild character, but that the " outbursts " are 
of a dangerous type. By the way, small-pox was introduced 
originally by Cortez's soldiers. The governments of the States 
provide for vaccination, and a few thousand individuals are 
annually reported to as having been successfully vaccinated, but 
that does not concern the overwhelming majority ; for in cases 



226 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

where the native is asked to pay, he refuses, whilst what is 
offered free of charge he does not value. To get hold of the 
people in the remoter districts, who will not even submit to a 
regular census, would be as easy as tying a bell to a jaguar's 
tail, and about as pleasant to the operator. 

It was not easy to find a suitable camping-ground, as the 
plateau, which was of more than 3,000 feet elevation, was 
covered with rough lava, or strewn with porphyritic rubble, 
and was without water ; we should have preferred camping 
away from the track, and even from human habitations, but 
the only place available was on the shoulder of the plateau, 
at the edge of a deep ravine. Here, near the only well, and 
close to a solitary hut, where everybody had camped before, 
we had to stop. Fortunately, I was curious enough to inspect 
the well myself ; it was the most stinking waterhole imaginable, 
swarming with insect larva?, tadpoles, and algae, and with a 
strong mineral taste, so nauseous that one could not drink it 
even in tea, but only in strong coffee, which kept the whole 
company sleepless. The animals and the " arrieros " fared worse, 
as neither food nor fodder was to be had in this stricken 
district. The ground was strewn with flakes of opal, whole 
veins of which existed in the neighbourhood. In Mexico, 
especially in the capital, the cutting and setting of opal ornaments 
forms quite an industry, but the best Mexican worked stones 
are imported from the Old World, to supply the considerable 
demand by tourists for genuine mementoes. 

THE CACTUS FAMILY. 

The descent to the bottom of the ravine was made by a 
zig-zag path, so steep and precipitous at many points that it 
is a marvel how heavy loads can be taken up the five hundred 
and odd feet of the ascent. The steep slopes of the winding 
ravine were covered mostly with thousands and thousands of 
some kind of columnar cactus, related to the species which is 
aptly named senilis, on account of the white fluffy bunches of 
hair which cover the top of the plants, many of which were 
thirty feet high. The branching organ cactus grew on the 
ledges ; on less steep slopes these were mixed with opuntias, 



CACTI OF MANY KINDS 227 

the globular cactus, and thin, rope-like kinds. It was a 
land of cactus as well as of spiny mimosas. 

Whilst the agaves intrude themselves upon the sight of the 
traveller, chiefly through the medium of the cultivated maguey 
fields, he need not be long in Mexico before he finds out that 
the plants most characteristic of the country are those of the 
cactus family. More than one thousand different kinds have 
been described, all exclusively American, but their greatest 
abundance and variety is reached on the table-lands of Mexico. 
Cacti, of some form or other, are sure to attract attentior 
whether in the shape of enormous candelabras, of solitary 
columns or pillars, such as those which in thousands cover the 
mountain slopes and precipices ; of globes, varying from the size 
of a marble to that of the huge cushions strewn invitingly over 
the arid and stony plain ; or of the rope-like " snake-cactus," 
entwined around or between the rocks, and even suspended 
from the trees. Wherever it is hopelessly dry and arid, some 
kind or kinds of cactus are sure to flourish ; but there are also 
in the savannahs many cacti of tree-like growth, forming the 
centre of a tangle composed of many other plants, the whole 
clump looking as if it owed its existence to the central figure. 
Even in the dense forests itself cacti are not absent, and if 
the place is too moist the Cereus not only climbs into a tree, but 
grows upon it ; once rooted in the bark it hangs downward 
like a cluster of dark-green ropes. The blooms are mostly 
of a fiery red or yellow, and without scent, while those of the 
night-flowering kinds attract moths by their pure white colour 
and delicious perfume ; some of these blooms are diminutive, 
and almost insignificant, others are of gigantic proportions ; 
some plants produce but one bloom each, others, like the 
Cereus giganteus, are covered with thousands of flowers, a sight 
not easily forgotten. The hard wood of the dead plant, 
looking like the remnants of a crushed basket, is used as fire- 
wood ; the fruit of others is sold for food at every market. 
Every household singly, and whole villages jointly, are sur- 
rounded by an impenetrable fence of some kind of columnar 
cactus, and even where none are actually visible, one has but 
to take a rest to be unpleasantly reminded of their former 



228 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

presence by some spike or thorn, perhaps some three inches in 
length, straight, smooth, and hard as a needle, or curved and 
hooked like a claw, or so small and transparent as to be almost 
invisible, but making up for this shortcoming by tiny barbs 
which drive the irritating spicule deeper and deeper into the 
-kin. I was told in Arizona that it was quite sufficient to 
Remove a prisoner's boots to prevent him from escaping over- 
light, since no man who set any value on the use of his feet 
tvould venture to take the risk of a barefooted run across a 
cactus country. 

We did not take to these plants ; Mexico provided 
nough in the way of irritating sensations without them, and 
we admired their strange features with our hands so 
to speak, " behind the back." Still, this plant-family is full 
)f fascinating interest, because of its wonderful adaptation to 
ihe peculiar circumstances under which its representatives 
live, and they have if we may be allowed to personify them 
either invented or hit upon dodges which have been carried 
far beyond the stage of actual necessity. They are " over- 
doing it " from a purely utilitarian point of view, and the 
new-fangled and somewhat mystical term coined to express 
this fact is " hypertely." 

These plants have no leaves ; the necessary chlorophyll 
is stowed away in the green rind of the stem and the branches 
instead. Water is stored in the interior in specially constructed 
tissues. All the leaves are transformed into spikes and thorns 
or hairs. To increase the surface area, both stem and branches 
are often crenelated, forming longitudinal ridges, and upon 
these ridges the thorns are so arranged that those of neigh- 
bouring ridges point across the intervening depressions, and 
thus defend the softer, unarmed, portions. Thus armed, and 
supplied, a typical desert cactus will flourish in arid, sunburnt 
places where drought is the prevailing feature, and where it 
rains normally but a few days during the whole year. A globe, 
or melon-shaped cactus is, of course, quite unassailable, though 
even the less formidable, but much taller, tree-like plants are 
also quite unclimbable. They are shunned by man and beast ; 
at T east, I have never seen a large lizard on any of them, let 



FORBIDDING PLANTS 



231 



alone a mammal ; but the ground beneath the clumps or hedges 
of opuntias is a favourite place of refuge to many kinds of 
creatures, which seem to know well that they cannot be followed 
into their spiky retreat. Humming-birds often visit the 
flowers, but these are short-lived. During the greater part 
of the year there is nothing to be got either out of or from a 
cactus, not even by insects, the absence of which is a further 
inducement to the lizards to leave these plants alone. Even 
the termites, which build their covered roads up and down 
well-nigh every tree, but seldom make use of these forbidding 
plants. Only on? creature likes them, viz., the woodpecker, 




VEGETATION IN THE SOUTHERN SIERRA. 



which, by a stroke of genius, hammers out its habitation in 
the tall columns of the organ cactus. These look so soft and 
succulent that one wonders how their top-heavy growth 
can withstand a storm. But you may rock such a column 
of fifteen or twenty feet in length to and fro, and it will sway 
backwards and forwards without ever snapping off. Beneath 
the rind are about a dozen thick strands of woody fibre, some 
of the thickness of a finger, much interlaced or communicating 
with their neighbours, and of a surprising density and hardness ; 



232 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

this framework, like that of a basket, surrounds a softer, pithy 
core. When the woodpecker has drilled his hole through this 
framework, the enlargement of the nest is a comparatively 
easy matter. Old stems assume a brown, rugose appearance, 
and a considerable amount of oxalate of lime is deposited in 
the tissue, this being in such quantity and so hard that it blunts 
the axe, and in stems which have been partly destroyed by fire 
the white mineral appears amongst the ashes in regular 
lumps. 

Undoubtedly, the cactus plants are well " defended," and 
from this point of view they make a pretty illustration of the 
fitness of Nature's operations ; but it may well be asked who 
are the possible enemies against whom these armaments of 
barbs, hooks, and spikes have been constructed. It is quite 
true that the flat, thick, and uncouth branches of the opuntia 
for instance, contain much water, and that cattle eat them 
greedily. In some parts of the Northern States the people cut 
the branches down and rub off most of the spikes to assist the 
half -frantic, starving, and thirsty beasts ; asses and horses 
are said to paw with their forefeet at the globe cactus in order 
to get at the moisture from the under-side, but cattle and 
horses, sheep and goats, were all introduced by the Spaniards, 
and none of the indigenous vegetable-feeders of the plateau, such 
as stags, squirrels, hares, and mice, can claim to have helped in 
the evolution of these plants. Are we reduced for an ex- 
planation to go back to the extinct fauna ? More likely it is 
one of those cases in which imagination has run away from 
a more sober and matter-of-fact judgment. It is, no doubt, the 
case that the conditions prevailing on a high table-land of this 
kind, subject to prolonged drought, a fierce sun, great and 
quickly-succeeding changes of temperature, and dust-storms, 
have produced the characteristics of this family of plants 
without regard to the animals. Leaves are known under 
similar conditions to turn partially or entirely into thorns, and 
if these, in the nature of things, prove to be less edible to, and 
even a defence against, the existing fauna, that is an incidental 
advantage to the plant, as much so as the certain, though 
unrecorded, fact that the first Spanish donkey must have 



PRICKLY PEARS 233 

found himself completely nonplussed by the first Echinocactus 
that he was rash enough to tackle. 

But not all the members of the large cactus family live on 
arid lands. The huge candelabra cacti are often found in a 
jungle, whilst other kinds live in marshes, or at least, as, for 
instance, at San Mateo del Mar, in places where their roots 
stand in permanent moisture ; others, again, as mentioned 
before, are climbers, and have even turned epiphytes. Still, 
the more arid the locality the more spiny are the plants, and 
many of those which climb are almost harmless, not because 
they live out of harm's reach, but because the atmospheric 
conditions that cause spinosity are absent ; in these cases, there- 
fore, the whole leaf is gone, and even its representative, the 
spine ; and it almost amounts to an axiom that an organ once 
lost or materially degenerated cannot be re-developed. 

Besides planting cacti as fences, man has found no further 
use for any of them, except that the fruit of some kinds is 
eaten, notably the " Indian figs," or " prickly pears " of the 
Opuntia ficus indica, the " nopal " of the natives. The fruit 
is called " tuna." There are yellow and red sorts, with a 
similarly-coloured flesh. They are daily brought to the market, 
and are deprived of the clusters of little prickles by rubbing. 
The proper way to enjoy their agreeably tasting pulp is 
to peel off the somewhat leathery skin, and to soak the fruit 
for some time in water, whereupon it acquires a surprising 
freshness. But after the enjoyment follows the inevitable 
regret, since, in spite of every care in manipulating them, some 
of the tiny prickles are sure to have got between one's fingers, 
where they cause an extremely irritating sensation. 

In some districts the " tunas " form an important portion of 
the people's diet in the summer and autumn. A disagreeable, 
incidental effect of the blood-coloured pulp, mixed with the 
numerous indigestible seeds, is then to be seen in the lanes, 
at the roadsides, and other approaches of an Indian village, 
suggesting to the uninitiated observer a universal outburst of 

dysentery amongst the inhabitants. 

* * * * 

The track for many miles followed the valley of the river, 



234 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

mostly dry and without any signs of cultivation, until this little 
tributary emerged upon the broader valley of the Totolapan, 
or Tehuan tepee river. " How far was it still to Totolapan ? " 
" Four leagues " (a dozen miles), was the crushing answer, 
but fortunately the Zapotec really meant to say a " fourth of 
a league," as within half-an-hour our goal was reached. 

Here the land was under proper cultivation, with carefully 
irrigated fields and plantations of maize, sugar, plantains, 
and bananas. In the neighbourhood were several small silver 
mines. Fortunately, the village of Totolapan had nearly done 
with the small-pox, and things looked more cheerful in spite 
of a belated case here and there, these being aggravated by 
dysentery and fever. It was not healthy, and the people 
attributed this shortcoming to the unusually dry season and 
the fitful rains. On the day after our arrival the whole neigh- 
bourhood looked parched, but on the following morning the 
broad and flat valley, which had before been intersected with 
many water channels and sandbanks, was one expanse of 
turbid water which, before the day was over, had covered the 
ground with a chocolate-brown ooze, very fertile, though 
unhealthy. Negotiations with the natives were easy in this 
fairly well-built village ; the Presidente even accompanied 
us on a little shooting tour, and boys and men showed them- 
selves willing to collect, so that more than a dozen different 
kinds of amphibia and reptiles were brought together ; but 
this small collection was sufficient to show that here in this 
valley, at the foot of the southern edge of the central plateau, 
most of the tropical creatures were dropping out, while some 
that were native to the north had descended ; obviously this 
was the case with Scaphiopus dugesi, the spadefoot toad. 
The Cnemidophorus lizards proved of the greatest interest, 
and it was on this long ascent from the tropics to the plateau, 
having followed practically for the whole way the Tehuantepec 
river, that my eyes were opened to the changes of these lizards. 
The little, sharply-striped C. deppei still continued for some 
way further up the sandy stretches of the river bed, but its 
larger edition, the boldy-striped C. immutabilis, had been left 
behind in the " hot-lands " ; then came a break, and now the 



ANTIQUITIES 235 

large Cnemidophorus was represented by the southernmost 
delegate of another species, C. mexicanus, which is striped only 
during its younger stages, and assumes later a cross-barred 
pattern, in conformity with the prevailing environmental 
conditions.* 

On the other side of the river, to the south-west of the 
village, on the top of a hill, called " el Clarinero," stand the 
ruins of "el pueblo vie jo," the old village, which is said to be 
full of antiquities. The very fact that the natives call it the 
old village indicates that they are of the same race, although 
these ruins show that these old houses were built of proper 
stones, whilst the recent houses have mud walls, are built of 
sun-dried bricks, and are tiled, except when they have only 
wattled reed- walls, with a high-pitched roof of straw. The 
doorstep of the principal shop was a large stone beautifully 
carved, and similar antique pieces were built into other houses. 
The village seemed full of antiquities, but they were difficult 
to see, and still more difficult to get hold of. We were lucky 
in getting a few stone adzes, earthenware 
tripods, and an idol ; all of which were 
offered in grateful recognition for assistance 
of various kinds, after the people had heard 
from Mateo that " la senora blanca," liked 
such things. The man who brought the 
idol, a squatting mannikin,had indeed cause 
to be thankful, and before he showed me 
his treasure, was most particular to ascer- 
tain whether we were likely to sneer at ^^^^* 
it. He had it from his father's father's 
people ; if filled with flowers on the owner's 

, ., , , ,. ... , IDOL IN SHAPE OF 

name-day it brought domestic bliss, and A FLOWER V ASE 
would we give it a position of honour in our FROM TOTOLAPAN. 
home ? This was gladly promised. A 
much finer idol was in the possession of another man who 
lived some distance off, and who sent word to us one night, 
but on the following morning he was already dead. 

* " A Contribution to the Study of Evolution based upon" the Mexican 
species of Cnemidophorua." " Proc. Zool. Soc.," London, 1906, pp. 272-375. 




236 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

Our friend, whom Mateo had assured that we were safe to 
speak to, opened out a little. Had he really derived much 
benefit from his saint, and was the latter still in full strength, 
considering that his crown was somewhat broken ? " Yes, 
sir, you try him. He may be old, he is old, but that only shows 
he has the greater experience. But why do you ask ? We 
are all Christianos, we are ' gente de razon.' Our padre also 
puts up little images in the church, and he puts vases with 
flowers in front of them, and he wants us to do the same in our 
houses, and to burn candles, and when he comes on his round 
he dresses up our boys and they burn copal. But, look you, 
when last he came back from Oaxaca he brought with him 
another image of La Virgen, in a dress of ' las tres garantias ' 
(the national colours green, white and red,), and with gold 
and stones, a costume which no woman wears. I ask you, 
what can she know about us ? She knows nothing, and is 
without experience ; ' es munieca ! ' (it is a doll). Why 
must I put a doll on my shelf simply because it comes from 
Oaxaca, whilst I am forbidden to keep those figures which I 
have from my fathers ? " 

From San Mateo del Mar to this place, and again during the 
journey through Guerrero, we saw and heard many a thing 
which threw unexpected light upon the natives' religious 
state of mind. It may not happen everywhere, the people 
take good care of that, but such things as the following do 
happen. The church, even in an out-of-the-way place, looks 
and is well kept ; there are beadles and churchwardens and a 
choir, and when the bells are rung for the " oracion," vesper 
or curfew, the people take off their hats and cross themselves ; 
some go to Mass, and they besprinkle themselves with the holy 
water, and they do all that and more. It is well to be on the 
safe side ; and one can never tell what it may be good for. But 
go inside, on a day in mid-week. On the altar stand the custom- 
ary images, etc. ; the Madonna in front of the cross, before 
her a gaudy vase with withered flowers. On either side she is 
supported by the clay figures of native gods, also supplied with 
flowers, but these are fresh, and are put into the crown of the 
idol, which in reality is often shaped so as to serve as a flower 



IDOLATERS AND CHRISTIANS 237 

vase. These "idols" disappear towards the end of the week, 
when the padre is expected ; they are put underneath the altar, 
or behind it, into a niche, and if the ecclesiastic is a zealous fool 
he finds them and makes a fuss, and then he cannot even get 
a " niece " to cook his dinner. The worldly man states in his 
annual report that, thanks to the enlightened and vigorous 
action of the local authorities, in harmonious work with the 
clergy, and through divine help, the last traces of heathenish 
idolatry seem to have disappeared at least, no case has come 
to his knowledge. Ultimately appears a well- written essay, 
by some very high prelate, on the religious state of the country, 
and everybody concerned about the natives' spiritual welfare 
is pleased ; only the Governor wonders what has come over 
his faithful heathens. 

In some States but few idolaters are left ; in others they 
form the majority. The priests are nearly always white men, 
or at least half-bloods, but some are genuine " Indies," who, 
if they succeed in getting back to their native district, naturally 
make common cause with the natives. These Indians are 
emotional, in spite of their generally stolid behaviour ; and 
they are therefore often enough ardent, even fanatic, Christians. 
In the large cathedrals of the principal towns one can witness 
little scenes like the following, which impressed itself upon our 
minds when we were at big, bustling Puebla. Two Indians 
came in ; the son, apparently more accustomed to town-life 
than his old father, both in the typical poor man's dress of the 
country. Hundreds of Indians every day make their way 
into the town with one or two donkeys, loaded with wood or 
charcoal, the accessible supply of which recedes further and 
further away into the mountains. The father was one of these 
hewers of wood, in dirty, bespattered cotton trousers, one leg 
of which hung down, and the other was drawn up to the knee, 
barefooted, and with a large battered hat that he held in both 
hands ; he walked noiselessly, as if fearing to tread, with the 
most reverent and awestruck look. Our Mateo was a man 
of a different stamp ; before arriving at Puebla I asked him 
about the churches and other buildings, knowing that he had 
been there when a youth. But he said : " Sir, I came here 



238 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



as a poor boy in charge of somebody else's donkeys, to make a 
living, but not to visit temples." 

Frequently these same people cling firmly to their ancient 
rites. In the State of Oaxaca there is probably in every 
district, if not near every village, some secluded spot be it 




TYPICAL HOUSE OF THE ZAPOTECA SERRANO. 



a cave, the top of a mountain, or a pool whither the people 
clandestinely repair in order to make sacrifice, especially at 
the time of a new moon. This is propitious, owing to its 
waxing, for the obtaining of an increase of family, cattle, or 
crops. The favourite sacrifice is a fowl, or a turkey, whose head 
is cut off and buried, while the soil and other offerings, consist- 
ing of dishes with food, or tortillas, and a small gourd with some 



ANCIENT RITES. 239 

intoxicating drink, are besprinkled with the blood. The 
tortillas are pierced in three places with the spike of an agave 
leaf. Very often the heads of chickens, or the bones of dogs, 
are buried outside, against the very walls of the church. This 
is really a sign of the advance of Christianity. The devotee 
has forsaken his own secret place of worship for the church, 
inside which he, of course, cannot perform these rites. In 
other cases it depends upon the place where he makes these 
sacrifices for them to have the desired effect. For instance, 
if he bears a grudge against a neighbour he buries these things 
at night outside his intended victim's house ; though, on the 
other hand, when the ceremony is performed within the hut, 
it is meant to bring good luck. In many districts, as, for 
instance, near Tehuantepec, the hunter cuts off the head of 
the stag and buries it, after having offered it some water ; 
in others, as at San Bartolo, he has no such scruples. 

Every child, at birth, becomes intimately connected with 
some animal, and the two souls or spirits are henceforth joined 
together, and the grown-up man will never hurt that particular 
kind of creature. If the animal dies, the child dies. Naturally, 
the father is anxious to find out what kind of animal will be 
the spirit associated with his child, and in order to do this he 
strews ashes or dust upon the ground outside the house at the 
time of birth and watches for a spoor. The dead are given 
various things to help them along on their journey into the 
unknown. Sweet cakes, or mince-meat cakes, wrapped in 
the leaves of the corncobs, a little gourd with something 
drinkable, some coins, or tortillas, to throw to dangerous 
dogs are given, and oh, vanity, thy name is woman in 
the case of a lady she is provided with the large, smooth-shelled 
seeds of the mamey fruit, with which to make her hair smooth 
and glossy, these seeds being otherwise much used for smoothing 
cloth in the factories. 

We left Totolapan after a rainy night, which brought a 
plague of mosquitoes and smaller pests, with a bad mare, a 
weak-kneed mule, and six donkeys, slowly following the dry 
bed of the river, the valley of which widens out often to four 
hundred or five hundred yards, and which in many places is 



240 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



absolutely dry, so that the water must find its way below the 
surface. There we overtook a man and three women, son, 
mother, wife, and sister, who could scarcely crawl along, being 
well-nigh starved, these poor creatures having come from 
Tehuan tepee in the hope of getting employment at Oaxaca. 
The man carried the little child. Their gratitude for a few 
coins was touching, but they did not beg, and, for that.matter, 
we have never met a beggar in the State of Oaxaca, excepting 
at some railway stations where the blind and lame collect, 




THE STARVING FAMILY. 



and children are being gradually demoralised by having coins 
thrown to them by well-meaning, but mistaken, tourists. " How 
have you got along from the coast without money ? " "If 
the people see that we do not want to stay, they give us shelter, 
and allow us to grind their corn, and we then share the 
tortillas." 

Further on we met a very different group, some cheerful 
pedlars coming down from Oaxaca, with children's toys, and 
they were not averse to a little trading and a chat. Were we 
Americans ? " No, from Inglaterra." " Is that a big 
town ? " " No, it is a country on the other side of the 



A .MYSTERIOUS LAND 



241 



water." " Father," said the boy, " they mean their country, 
by Intla-tierra." Then followed a long talk about that 
mysterious land. How far was it ? A question which 
was often asked, and could never be answered satisfactorily 
to people who did not know the sea, and whose idea of a ship 
was a dug-out. On some such occasion the statement that the 
voyage across the water took about a whole week fell very flat, 




PEDLARS. 



since they at once calculated the distance as six long days' 
punting with nightly rests between. " If your country lies 
near the big water it must be ' tierra caliente,' and you have 
plenty of plantains, pineapples, rice, maize, and sugar ? " 
" No, it is a ' tierra fria,' and that produces none of these 
things." " But surely you have maize ?" "None, only wheat 
and potatoes ? " " What do you make your tortillas of ? " 
" Eat only wheaten bread, which lies so cold on the stomach ? " 



242 

" What, then, do you live on ? " " We eat wheat, potatoes, 
and plenty of cattle, and the big water is full of fish, and the 
rest we buy from other tribes ; our great ' canoas ' are always 
coming and going all over the world to fetch food." " Where 
do you get ' la plata ' ? " the silver or money. " Have you 
many mines, and do you find much gold ? " " We have neither, 
but very much iron, and we make anything that can be made out 
of iron. The whole railway at Oaxaca was made in Inglaterra, 
and we buy your cotton and your ' ixtle '-fibre and your hides, 
and when we have made them into cloth, ropes, and leather, 
we take them back to sell them again in your big towns." 
" Methinks, my friend, that your country cannot be very rich. 
What are you taking up to Oaxaca, your pack-train is carry- 
ing a tidy load ? " " Oh, we have nothing to sell ; I am a 
schoolmaster, and we are catching animals and collecting 
plants, and making pictures, to tell our people at home what 
your country is like." " And do they pay you for that ? " 
" I wish they did ! " One thing was quite beyond the under- 
standing of these good people, namely, that during our cool 
season the water becomes so hard that people can walk over 
it. They did know ice in the shops of Oaxaca, funny stuff 
which was quarried by the Americanos, but it was no good, 
since it burnt your fingers and turned into water whilst you were 
looking at it. And to explain snow in a snowless land, with 
none of the high mountains within sight, would be as profitable 
as talking to a Midland yokel about liquefied air. 

The road continues to follow the river to about 1,300 feet 
above Totolapan, the slopes growing low forest, but without 
any oaks or pines ; cactus and leguminaceous shrubs form the 
chief vegetation. Yet in one of the " barrancas " our attention 
was attracted by the loud screams of macaws, which, to our 
surprise, proved to be the green Ara militaris, which we saw 
here for the first time, instead of the red and blue A. macao. 
Then followed a steep ascent until the edge of the great plateau 
was reached, about 5,000 feet above the level of the sea. The 
view back, towards the south, was a wonderful mountain 
panorama, enabling one to mark the course of the river into the 
lowlands in broiling sunshine, enhanced by a black-blue thunder- 



TROPICS OR PLATEAU 243 

storm far to the south-west. Although in reality but sparsely 
timbered, the hill-tops combined to give the impression of a 
densely-wooded country. Before us, northwards, a plain ex- 
tended right up to the horizon, except where modified by low, 
gently sloping hills. Here were no more of the senile columnar 
cactus, but opuntias and globular cactus e.g., Mamillaria 
and Echinocactus ingens in endless varieties and sizes, from 
a shilling to a cart-wheel, some ribbed, some smooth, with 
innocent-looking hairs and others with vicious-looking hooks 
and claws, some indeed almost all claws, with scarcely a stem 
to protect. Here, too, were mimosas, different to those lower 
dawn, red blooming sage, thyme-like little shrubs, a yellow 
blooming Apocynum, looking like a young eucalyptus tree 
with its dull bluish leaves, white blooming ipomoea trees, and 
here and there green meadows and fields of Indian corn. The 
air was heavenly, most fresh and crisp, in spite of the biting 
sun. What a joy, at last, to be out of the sweltering tropics, 
with their insect pests, their diseases, and their restless nights, 
where for months a full breath of pure air and a cool drink of 
natural water had become mere ideas representing the height 
of bliss. And yet how we wished ourselves back in the tropics, 
when, within a fortnight, after a little railway mishap on the 
plateau of Puebla, a drizzling cold rain and cutting wind 
brought on the homeliest of colds ; how we yearned for them 
again for a year and a half, until, with indescribable joy, we 
once more saw- the promised land, this time the tierra caliente 
of Guerrero, with all its exuberant glory, the abundance of 
life and therefore also of death, the struggle for existence in 
all its most vigorous phases, with its endless miraculous results. 
What are the most soul-expanding places, the real " openers 
of the eye," which teach us most and make us feel most 
small ? A mountain reaching into the eternal snow, a desert, 
and a tropical forest, is the reply ; these three, and the forest 
is the most wonderful of all. However, they all have their 
drawbacks, and after some time it is always a case of " Da 
wo Du nicht bist, da ist das Glueck." 

This southern edge of the great plateau of Mexico is one of 
the important world-boundaries affecting the distribution 

E'2 



244 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

of animals and plants. It is here that the North American and 
South American floras and faunas meet, or rather, where they 
first met, with the resulting mutual penetration, both peaceful 
and warlike. The edge of the plateau, at least at this spot, 
happens to be further emphasized by the fact of its gently 
sloping down towards the north into the valley of Oaxaca, 
so that the little streams arise almost at the edge. The whole 
plain, or " valley," looks like the bottom of a fresh-water lake, 
with sandy depressions, and here and there flat-topped fields 
of lava or finely triturated rubble, which contains much 
salitrous matter, partly covering the ground with a thin, whitish 
crust, and imparting to the soil and water a perceptible, though 
not disagreeable, mineral taste. This same taste, too, if 
translated into terms of smell, seems to pervade the whole 
atmosphere, especially after a slight shower. It may be 
accidental, or, on the other hand, it may be a direct cause, 
but it is in any case a fact that this sensation is considerably 
enhanced by the ipomoea tree (Ipomcea arborescens), which is 
characteristic of such comminuted volcanic soil. Its white 
flowers, with a maroon centre, have a sweet, pungent smell, the 
concentrated essence of the prevailing local scent. 

We camped some distance north of San Dionisio, the first 
village. The houses stand each in the middle of a yard, which 
is invariably fenced in with a palisade of Cereus, each plant 
growing as if carefully trimmed, and forming a single upright 
pole ; most of them have clusters of tiny spines, while others 
have none at all. The rivulet near the camp had cut its course 
deep into the soil, forming little pools, inviting places to bathe 
in. In one of them we gave our boas a swim, and wanted to 
give the same treat to the tortoises. As a preliminary, one was 
turned loose, and promptly disappeared beneath a boulder, 
Mateo having to dive for it. After some groping about we found 
it and another as well, the only tortoise which we had seen since 
we left the coast ! A long search up and down the stream 
did not produce any more. 

The Dionisians were busy with preparations for the 
National Independence Day ; they had killed a number of 
deer, of which they sent us some most welcome venison, and 



EAGLE AND LIZARD 245 

all throughout the night the strains of the national hymn, 
and those of their own Zapoteca dance were wafted across the 
plain, over and over again, always with the same hitch, until we 
knew the thing by heart, faults and all, and fell into a trance, 
and finally asleep. 

The temperature at sunrise, which was down to 15 C. 
(59 F.), drew the whole party round the camp fire, and then 
followed a monotonous ride of six hours over a regular cart- 
road fringed with hedges or clumps of shrubs and trees, the 
refuge of thousands of Sceloporus and Cnemidophorus lizards. 
A few pigeons and crows, grackles, and some " zopilotes," or 
black-faced vultures, were seen in the village. The red-faced 
"aura" had left us above Totolapan ; on the plateau this 
North American species of turkey buzzard is rare, and the 
" zopilote," also is far from common. One sight was pleasant 
enough, that of an eagle perched upon a cactus growing on 
stony ground, forming the emblem that appears on the Mexican 
coat-of-arms, only, instead of a snake, he was dissecting a 
lizard. 






CHAPTER XII. 

ZAPOTECS AND MISTECS. 

The National Fete Day at Tlacolula The Plume Dance President Diaz, an 

appreciation The Temple Palaces of Mitla The Ruins on Monte Alban 

Many Tribes and Languages The Capital of Oaxaca Progressive Natives 

A State Dinner Misteca Poetry The Mountain of San Felipe. 

Tlacolula is a town, well-built and clean ; its 6,000 inhabit- 
ants are mostly Zapoteca, and they call it " Guichibaa," which 
is said to mean " glorious place." The Aztec " Tlacolula " 
has been rendered as " small place," or " place of twisted 
things." There is a fine church, Avith many solid silver 
ornaments, but more interesting were the numerous oil and 
water-colour pictures by native artists, hung on the walls, 
votive offerings perpetuating the miracles wrought by the 
saints and the Virgin Mary. Some of them were exceedingly 
realistic. A drowning scene in a spate, a woman and baby 
floating on top of a straw-thatched roof, and being rescued 
by means of the branches of a tree ; runaway horses jumping 
over a prostrate child ; murder, fire, cattle stampeded by a 
jaguar, etc., and in some of the scenes the directing spirit of 
the rescue is indicated by a hand or face peeping out of 
the clouds. 

The Prefect, Sr. Andres Ruiz, an exceedingly courteous 
gentleman, was an antiquarian who took great interest in the 
customs of the Zapoteca, and he had brought together a lovely 
collection of old earthenware objects. He had much to say 
about his treasures, and was worth listening to, since he in- 
timately knew the language and customs of his people, who 
in turn trusted and liked him. 



UNFORGETABLE SCENES 247 

Tlacolula was en fete to celebrate the 16th of September, 
the day of the declaration of Mexico's independence of Spain. 
Moreover, the 15th is the birthday, or name-day, of President 
Diaz, and although the large town of Oaxaca, the place where 
he was born, no doubt afforded a grander spectacle, we chose 
to witness a humbler, but much more genuine, display, and it 
was our good luck to witness some unforgetable scenes. The 
little town and its large square were decorated with garlands 
and flags like a fair. From early morn there began to come in 
from far and near the " presidentes " and " alcaldes " of the 
native villages, all of them genuine Zapoteca, some of them 
chiefs. Each with his wand of office went up to the Prefect 
to report himself and to kiss hands. Thousands of these people 
came in, every one of them spotlessly clean in their white, 
buttoned cotton shirts, which are either tucked into the narrow- 
cut cotton trousers, with a coloured sash, or worn loose ; 
sandals, straw hat, and " machete " sheathed in a leather 
scabbard. A review was held of the young men, splendid 
fellows, tall, well-built, but rather narrow in the hips ; they all 
flashed their bright swords in giving the salute. The 
Zapoteca have refined features, a strong, well-shaped, aquiline 
nose, a narrow, high-cheeked face, and a long, slightly-curled 
imperial moustache. Three at first, and soon four, different 
brass bands were playing the Mexican national and Zapoteca 
hymns, all at the same time, although by no means in unison, 
so that the noise was great, and there were many other things 
going on. Some of the villagers had brought their wooden 
masks, representing animals with human faces, a jackal, a 
jaguar, a stag, etc., and made processions through the streets 
in groups, then performing a weird dance. Others crowded 
into the church, the bell peals of which added to the din. 
The market, loaded with fruit, cooked eatables, and beautiful 
blankets, was thronged, and so, of course, were the drink-shops. 
But in spite of these thousands of men, women, and children, 
many of them not knowing a word of Spanish, there was not 
the slightest disorder. Some of the chiefs became a little 
unsteady, but their young men led them gently out of the 
crowd. The greatest preparations were going on at the 



248 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



municipal buildings, where all the dignitaries of the town and 
the villages, with the chiefs, collected, and x where there were a 
dozen tall men dressed for the " danza de la pluma." When these 
men were being reviewed in the pretty, shady garden, there was 
no standing-room left, and even the trees were covered with 




ZAPOTECA PARADING FOR THE PLUME DANCE. 



spectators. This dance is an old Zapotec custom, and is 
intended to record the main facts of the conquest. The 
performers are dressed in what is probably a representation of 
their ancient priests' festive costumes. Their helmet is of 
plaited leather, with a chin-strap, and a huge ornament of 
feathers of eagles and turkeys, some of which are dyed purple. 
The dress is made of leather and silk, with fringes, tassels, 
and braids of gold, and they wear an apron of leather similarly 




ZAPOTECA PLUME DANCER. 

(From "Resena historica del Estado de Oaxaca." Lie. Franc. Belrnar. 
Oaxaca, 1901.) 



THE PLUME DANCE 



251 



braided, and with embroidered designs. Their long trousers 
have three tiers of gold fringes. Yellow shoes complete their 
X ery pretty outfit, and in their hands they carry a little rattle. 




MUSICA DE LA DANZA DE PLUMA. 
(From Belmar.) 

The dance takes place after mass, in front of the church, but 
within its grounds, and lasts at least three hours. 

In the night another function took place which throws light 
upon the degree of culture reached by the Zapoteca. A shed, 



252 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

with a kind of stage, had been prepared, the Prefect took the 
chair, and after a few formal and patriotic speeches, the 
children, boys and girls, white and brown, recited poetry, the 
theme being the share which the State of Oaxaca had taken in 
the national development of the Republic. Be it remembered 
that Benito Juarez was a full-blooded Zapoteca, and that 
Porfirio Diaz is a native of Oaxaca, with a strong admixture 
of Misteca blood, and that both started life as poor boys without 
knowing a word of Spanish. It was touching to hear one of 
the brown girls in her recitation speak of the " pallido 
Frances," whom her father had helped to drive out of the land. 
Outside the shed thronged the natives, craning their necks 
and trying to get a glimpse of the performance ; behind them 
were the women, squatting around charcoal fires, roasting and 
frying, while street-sellers walked about and offered in whispers 
their stock of food. The large square looked like a camp. 
Poles had been planted in the ground, supporting pairs of 
crossed cane rods upon which mats had been put, to give shade 
during the day, and now at night they served as shelter from 
the cool, clear sky. They were all waiting for the " Grito," 
the shout which is raised at night by the chief official, 
accompanied by the peal of the church bells. " Viva Mexico," 
" Viva la independencia," went off all right, although they 
were too official to be taken up generally, but " Viva el 
Presidente, nuestro ' tata,' " " Que vive muchos afios," were 
responded to with as much of a roar as these undemonstrative 
natives are capable of. They had come to do honour to " their " 
President and their " father," whom these people simply 
adore. 

I here take the opportunity of saying something about this 
truly great man, who, in his combination of soldier, ruler, and 
political economist, does not easily find his equal. It would 
be preposterous here to allude to and to praise what he has 
done for Mexico, but I can mention a few points which it has 
been my privilege to observe on the occasion of the four 
audiences with which he has honoured me. Having furnished 
me with special letters to the governors of the various States, 
he asked me to report on the completion of my first journey, 



PRESIDENT DIAZ 253 

and to make it easier for me he dismissed his aide-de-camp. 
Being still full of the scenes witnessed at Tlacolula, I described 
them, and how the people spoke of " their President," their 
general, their " tata," how they had mustered in force, armed 
with their " machetes," and willing to do his bidding again. 
Tears came into the eyes of that man of iron ; wiping one away 
with a short, jerky gesture characteristic of him, he said : 
" You know, of course, that they are not the men I led ; they 
are their children and their grandchildren. When, at the 
time of the French intervention, I went to them, to my native 
State, I had scarcely any arms and no money, yet they came 
willingly, and followed me right up to the capital." Had I 
noticed the schools ? Truthfully I could declare that we 
had visited every school along our track, from San Mateo del 
Mar to Oaxaca itself, and how, even in remote places, the 
Zapoteca masters taught the boys successfully to write an 
astonishingly good hand ; how the boys did their sums, and 
learned the political geography of their country out of sensibly- 
written books. But I could tell him more. How, between 
Mitla and Oaxaca, we had seen several grown-up men, who had 
bought spelling-books, sitting by the roadside, anxious to see 
what it would be like to master their contents. Then he spoke 
of the Huavi, the superstition of the people of San Bartolo, 
and wound up with a description of his visit to the old 
Zapoteca fortress of Quiengola, near Tehuantepec. The 
President knows his country better than any other man ; 
during his long and adventurous life he has visited, mostly as 
a soldier, nearly every State, and he takes an interest in every- 
thing, applying to all things alike a marvellous power of 
observation. After our return from Guerrero he talked freely 
about its natural history ; for instance, he first described the 
comparatively harmless nature of the rattlesnakes, and then, 
to the astonishment of a general who was present, he described 
the vicious " rabo de hueso," the " fer de lance " of Corboba, 
explaining that the bony appearance of its tail was really caused 
by peculiarly-coloured little scales. The circumstances, under 
which he made his observations, were described with fascinat- 
ting, realistic touches. " Geckos ? Oh, yes, I know their ways 



254 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

and how they feed ; while I happened to be lying wounded I 
watched them for many a day hunting for flies on the walls 
and rafters of the hut. As to scorpions, the effect of the sting 
inflicted by them is much exaggerated, and people get over it 
within four to six hours ; but there is one kind, in the hot country 
of Jalisco, which is small and almost transparent, and this is 
really dangerous. I happen to know this from experience. 
When I was camping with a squad of soldiers near Tepic, I 
warned the men to be careful, but five were stung overnight, 
and two of them died ; maybe they were not in good condition." 
The fiasco about the " animal planta " I have related elsewhere, 
in Chapter XIV. Then he gave a succinct, but perfectly clear, 
account of the theory of malarial and yellow-fever infection 
through mosquitoes, with references to the working of a 
commission at Vera Cruz. 

Audiences are given on certain afternoons in the palace, 
unless one is honoured by an invitation to the tastefully 
furnished private residence. The company in the ante-chamber 
is a wonderful sight. First, there are men, mostly foreigners, 
who want some concession ; officers with their private affairs ; 
chiefs who come to report some trouble to " their father " ; 
Misteca and Zapoteca women, who come from afar, and to 
whom he speaks in their own language ; a crowd of all ranks, 
and of many nations. 

Within eight miles to the east of Tlacolula are the ruins of 
Mitla, one of the greatest and most beautiful sights in the whole 
of Mexico. A good country road leads to them from Oaxaca, 
a drive of thirty-one miles. The drive is through open country, 
which appears still more barren and desolate as we approach 
the ranges of the hills, which are covered with stones and 
boulders, volcanic, brown, bare, and dry. An exceedingly 
good inn is kept in the village by Sr. Felix Quero ; it is well- 
named " The Surprise " ; has a garden-like " patio," clean, 
shady rooms, good cooking and service. The village itself 
is a wretched settlement. 

From it two parallel roads lead across a little stream 
straight to the ruins. Mitla, contracted from " Mictlan," is 
an Aztec name, meaning " death-place " ; the Zapoteca call 



RUINS OF MITLA 255 

the village " Yu-baa," and the ruins " Lio-baa," meaning 
" place of delight, or rest." The general plan of the ruins, 
which stand on flat, rising ground, is this : In the middle of a 
wide place stands a small pyramid of stone, mortar, and earth, 
and ascended by a flight of stairs on the east side. It is now 
surmounted by a cross. There are four principal ruins of 
palaces : one to the north, a second to the east, facing the 
stairs of the pyramid, a third and a fourth facing the south-east 
and south-west corners of the square (which is open to the west), 
and at some distance southwards, on the village side of the 
stream, stands a mound and a pyramid. The palaces, which 
are magnificent in their dimensions and their purity of design, 
are of marvellous beauty. Each may be described as a square, 
with the sides true to the cardinal points, entirely 'built of care- 
fully-hewn stone, and averaging, perhaps, fifteen feet in height. 
The front is taken up almost entirely by a flight of stairs, with 
three doors near the top. The three other walls have neither 
windows nor doors, so that the four walls really enclose a court 
divided into many large and small chambers, all opening into 
the court. That they were roofed in, is certain. In one of 
the halls stands a row of monoliths, round, polished pillars, 
nearly twelve feet high, into the tops of which mortises had 
been cut to receive the beams of the ceiling. The most 
beautiful chambers are those of the east court. The walls of 
each have a separate " Grecque " pattern, which is either 
cut out of the stone or of small stones mortared in. The 
groundwork, of which traces are still extant, was painted red. 
In the walls are also niches. No arches are to be seen, but 
everywhere straight, rectangular lines ; enormous blocks of 
stone, a yard thick and several yards long, form the lintels 
over the doors, and many parts of the outside walls also show 
a Grecque pattern. 

The largest palace was that on the north, standing on the 
higher ground ; it is practically ruined by the church of San 
Pablo, which has been built right into it, and most of the once 
beautiful court has been turned into the " curato," with 
stables for horses, cattle, and pigs, though the priest himself 
does not live there. Much of the material for these vandalic 



256 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

buildings has been taken from the various palaces. They 
were, after all, the same bigoted fanatics who, much about the 
same time, built a church right into the Mosque of Cordoba. 
Those dirty stables were a heartrending sight ; along the walls 
runs a frieze of hard, polished stucco, coloured dark red, and 
upon it were painted in white some hundreds of figures 
representing gods, people, snakes, birds, flowers, and trees, 
most minutely and carefully executed. Many of these frescoes 
have been ruthlessly destroyed, and are now breaking away ; 
the same applies to those which have survived over the doors 
on the inside of the other courts. These paintings cannot be 
saved, the mischief has been done, but lately, within the last 
few years, Government has taken the rest under protection ; 
a caretaker prevents pilfering and disfigurement, and the 
Federal Government inspector, or conservator of Mexican 
antiquities, has to some considerable extent restored many of 
the blocks to their proper position on the palaces. There are 
also, for instance, near the south-east court, subterranean 
crypts built in the shape of a cross. A narrow entrance, flush 
with the ground, faced by large stone slabs, leads into a low 
passage which then widens into three chambers, the ceiling of 
which can just be touched, the walls being ornamented with 
the usual Grecque patterns. Much fuss has been made about 
these crosses, and others in Yucatan, and fanatics have seen 
in them evidence of pre-Columbian Christian influence. It is 
nothing of the kind. The entrance-passage runs from west 
to east, and the other arms point, consequently, to the north, 
east, and south, the cardinal points. Humboldt tried to dis- 
pose of the Christian ascription of the American prehistoric 
crosses by the erroneous statement that they have only three 
arms, the top extension being wanting. Similar underground 
cruciform crypts have been found in the mountains further 
east, and more no doubt will be discovered at Mitla itself, if 
ever the accumulated debris and soil from the whole of the wide 
space should be removed. The neighbourhood is full of 
mounds and similar remains. 

Who were the people who constructed all these marvellous 
buildings : these glorified palaces, and mausoleums of kings 



A MYSTERY 257 

and high priests ? Nobody knows. They were already 
deserted, although not spoilt by vandalism, when the Spaniards 
discovered them. It was then, as now, the land of the 
Zapoteca, and one of the later Aztec kings is known to have 
conquered them to a certain extent, when he forced his way 
into the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. History and tradition are 
mute about Mitla, the natives of which, now about as low as 
civilised natives can be, are quite indifferent about the ruins, 
and have eagerly taken to their modern substitute. They 
being of a religious turn of mind, the Spaniards found them 
willing disciples, and here, as elsewhere, they imported the 
Inquisition ; and, with the torturing and burning of heretics 
come in its train, they provided that excitement which hitherto 
had been derived from human sacrifices. 

The difficulty of assigning these ruins to the Zapoteca, or 
to the fabulous Tolteca, lies in the fact that these palaces are 
so very different in structure and design from anything else 
in Mexico, except, perhaps, from the temples of Yucatan ; 
they contain hardly any carved figures such as are found, for 
instance, on the Pyramid of Xochicalco, nor are they big 
mounds like those of Teotihuacan and Cholula. Scarcely 
anything has been found in the crypts, except a few bones and 
some little clay figures. The whole place seems to have been 
carefully cleared of all its numerous contents by the rightful 
owners, when these had to leave the country, and in this 
respect we are reminded of exactly the same conditions at 
Teotihuacan. Yet the clay or stone figures found in the land 
of the Zapoteca are characterised by an elaborate head-dress, 
in design much resembling that still used by the performers 
of the " plume-dance," which has its unmistakable natural 
prototype in the '' Rey Papa Mosga," a little flycatcher 
(Muscivora mexicana). This bird inhabits Central America, 
but extends northwards into the tierra caliente of Mexico, 
preferring thickly-wooded localities in the neighbourhood of 
a stream. A few other species, all rather rare, live in northern 
South America. The bird itself is dull brown and buff, but 
its glory is its crest which, when erected, forms a scarlet halo, 
each feather being tipped with black and metallic purple ; 



258 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

and the shorter feathers so arranged as to form a narrower 
crescent of black dots across the red disc. The female's 
head-dress is smaller, and orange to yellow, instead of red. 
When at rest, this " huipil " one cannot help thinking of the 
resemblance to the Tehuantepec belles is folded back, and 
rests upon the neck ; but these diminutive beauties are always 
excitedly opening and shutting what no doubt they glory in 
possessing. 

To the south-west of Oaxaca, within a few miles of the 
town, is the Monte Alban, on the plateau-like top of which 
stand the ruins of what must have been a large and fortified 
town, to judge from the many earthworks, walls and mounds 
scattered widely over the slopes, and the undulating ground 
near the plateau, on which have recently been unearthed 
(and cleared of debris] many great terraced palaces, pyra- 
mid-like structures, subterranean passages, and crypts. There 
are so many, and the place is so large that a short des- 
cription would be futile. Standing on the top of one of the 
quadrangular terraced esplanades we could only gaze and 
wonder at the rest. The sides of the passages leading to one 
of the crypts are lined with stone slabs on which are carved 
in relief several men about four feet high ; but these men have 
Mongolian features, and, what is more wonderful, one of them 
has a long pigtail hanging down his back. It is so unmistakable 
a queue that one of the natives pointing to it, said, " Look at 
the Chinaman ! " It is ridiculous to call these figures 
" monkeys with the tail turned up " (and growing from the 
head) in order to do away with anything which might possibly 
bear some testimony as to the oriental origin of this civilis- 
ation. I say " might possibly," since the whole of that question 
has never been tackled in earnest, although certain shallow 
(and therefore all the more assertive) hypotheses have been 
launched, only to be brushed away by equally weak and 
scornful objections. In contrast with Mitla, on Monte Alban 
have been found countless figures of terra cotta, or carved out 
of stone, with idols, implements, pottery and ornaments cut out 
of obsidian, or made of gold, some of great beauty and in perfect 
condition. Cartloads of broken bits might be carried away 



A CENSUS 259 

by anyone who likes to run the risk of evading the guardians. 
Here, on this side, we are in the land of Misteca, closely allied 
to the Zapoteca. " Mixtl " in Aztec means a " cloud " ; it 
is the " cloud-land," the mountainous western half of the 
State of Oaxaca, which the natives themselves call " nu 
dravui," " land of rain." 

It is interesting to note the differences in the facial features 
of the clay figures of Monte Alban. They agree as much with 
those of the present Misteca as do those further east and south 
with the present Zapoteca, so that these two large tribes with 
certainty seem to have inhabited, and worshipped at, these 
buildings, though it does not necessarily follow that they 
constructed either Monte Alban or Mitla. 

Sr. Don Francisco Belmar, then Secretary of State at 
Oaxaca, now judge of the Supreme Court in Mexico, has given 
the following approximate census of the many tribes which 
inhabit the State of Oaxaca : 

White and Mestizos . . . . 320,000 

Zapoteca 284,000 

Mijteca 205,000 

Mazateca 37,000 

Mixe, or Ayook 32,000 

Chinanteca *. 18,000 

Cuicateca 14,000 

Chatina 13,000 

Chontales 10,000 

Mexicanos . . . . . . . . 4,600 

Huavi 3,500 

Chochos, or Popolocos . . . . 2,600 

Triques 2,200 

Amusgos . . . . . . . . 2,000 

Zoque 2,000 

About . . 1,000,000 

It may here be mentioned that the Mexican Republic does 
not yet possess the machinery necessary for making anything 
like an accurate census of its population ; and the numbers 
of the less civilised natives especially are mere guesswork, 

s2 



260 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



let alone those of the still really wild tribes. The Prefect 
sends in the return for his district, himself relying upon the 
returns of the municipal presidents, who certainly do not over- 




MIXE TRAMPS. 



estimate their people, many of whom live in lonely hamlets, 
scattered among the mountain fastnesses. The census of the 
towns is just as difficult. The Indians shrewdly suspect that 



THE TWO RACES 261 

a census may be connected with increased taxation, with 
military service, vaccination, and similar blessings of civilisation, 
and those who feel that they are " wanted " think that this 
is a dodge for catching them. Consequently, there is an exodus, 
and they vanish. Those authorities who know the prevailing 
conditions, consider the population of brown natives to be 
several millions larger than the official returns. It is also 
absolutely impossible to distinguish between white and people 
of mixed blood, since every degree from pure white to *' Indios 
legitimos," or genuine natives, is amply represented. Their 
names and surnames do not give the slightest clue to descent, 
these being almost invariably Spanish, never translations of 
aboriginal names ; in fact, the latter are now extremely scarce, 
as, for instance, that of " Mexia," the name of one of the 
Aztec generals who was shot, together with the Emperor 
Maximilian. Owing to this mixture of races, there exists no 
racial question in Mexico, which in this respect is an ideal 
country. A full-blooded Indian can attain to the highest 
position in the land, witness Juarez, the Zapoteca. Soldiers, 
lawyers, judges of the High Court, savants, have been and are 
Indians, the majority of them Zapoteca or Misteca, and it 
appears that the pure native who rises to a high position, is 
a better man than the half-caste, while, again, a small admixture 
of Indian blood is of great advantage. If the total population 
of the Republic be taken at thirteen millions, about two and a 
half millions are white, six and a half millions of mixed blood, 
and the rest, at least four millions, are pure " Indios " ; and 
if the total should, as some authorities suspect, amount to near 
fifteen millions, the additional numbers would be due to the 
" Indios." In any case, the " brown blood " predominates, 
and there is no sign of its being swamped by the white. Few 
of the many Indian tribes have shown any sign of decreasing 
within the last century. Those who live in the wild, still 
uncivilised parts, live on as before, or rather better, since 
intertribal wars have long since come to an end. As a rule, 
the natives increase but very slowly ; they are prolific enough, 
but the infant mortality is very great, owing to the almost 
incredible carelessness of the parents. In the hot countries, 



262 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



for instance, each married couple and they mostly all marry 
averages from five to six children, but infant mortality 




ZAPOTECA CAGE SELLER. 

varies from 30 to 66 per cent., with a usual average of 50 per 
cent. 

How very capable the Misteca and Zapoteca are of progress 
we had some opportunity of seeing during a week's stay in 



OAXACA 263 

their capital. Its name, pronounced Oahakka, is a corruption 
of the Aztec Huaxyacac, which refers to a kind of fruit-tree, 
the " huaje," and nearly every tribe has its own name for the 
town, quite different in sound, but always alluding to this 
tree. The Misteca themselves have a tradition that they are 
descended from the trunks of trees. This tradition is still 
vigorous, and tree-worship is still actually practised, although, 
of course, in secret. In the museum of the town is preserved 
the branch of a tree which grew in the neighbourhood, and was 
cut down by the authorities because the natives went there to 
worship it, on account of its bearing a resemblance to a quaintly 
distorted human figure. The town was already in existence 
at the time of the conquest, and was soon garrisoned by one 
of Cortez' lieutenants as a southern outpost, and called Segura 
de la Frontera. Situated in a large and very fertile plain, 
at an altitude of 5,000 feet, with a delightful and healthy 
climate, it soon became a prosperous settlement. The whole 
district and much more besides, comprising many towns and 
villages, was given by the Emperor Charles to Cortez, together 
with the title of Marquez del Valle de Oaxaca, and thenceforth 
he was known as El Marquez del Valle, or simply El 
Marquez. 

The town has about 40,000 inhabitants ; the views across 
the plain, bordered on the west by the mountains, is not 
particularly grand, but the town itself is well-built, and contains 
many beautiful churches, well-kept gardens, broad avenues, 
and a most interesting square, flanked by colonnades and the 
Governmental palace. Every evening a native band played 
on the stand in front of the palace, and the garden, the seats, 
and the walks under the trees, were crowded. They played 
beautifully though, and, as a brown native lady said : " What 
else can you expect in a town where nearly everybody is musical, 
and can play some instrument ? " There were ladies and 
gentlemen in smart European dress, and amongst them hundreds 
of bare-footed natives, the women with a dark, mostly blue, 
" rebozo " (a sort of mantilla) over their head and shoulders, 
and the men wrapped in " zarapes " of many colours and 
patterns, and with the usual sombrero. Again, there was no 



264 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

noise, or quarrelling, but everybody was on his or her best 
behaviour, and if anything happened the native policemen, 
in their smart dark tunics and sandals, armed with machete 
and revolver, unobtrusively put things right. The people of 
the State of Oaxaca pride themselves on having no Federal 
police ; they won't tolerate them, because they feel perfectly 
capable of looking after the public safety themselves. Troops 
are, however, stationed at Oaxaca, and at Juchitan, on the 
Isthmus, in consideration of the political importance of this 
State. 

The Governor, Sr. Don Bolanos Cacho, now a barrister of 
renown in Mexico City, paid us every attention he could 
possibly think of. Under his personal guidance we thoroughly 
saw the town. It contains an institute of science and art, 
a kind of university, comprising, besides others, a medical 
faculty, a fine library, and a museum in which priceless local 
antiquities, among them some of the actual moulds used in 
prehistoric times for the making of clay masks. Amongst 
the animals may be mentioned a specimen of a " Gila 
monster " (Heloderma horridum), a perfect giant of its kind, 
about two and a half feet in length. But by far the most 
important and interesting subjects to us were the normal 
schools for male and female teachers. That for the women 
teachers has grown out of the "Academia de Ninas," i.e., girls' 
academy, founded by President Diaz, who thus emphasized his 
opinion of the value of education. The " Escuela Normal para 
Profesores " contains the room in which no less a man than 
the President, General Diaz, himself was born, or rather, let 
us say that the school, quite a new building, stands at the place 
of that historic house, and upon one of the class-rooms has 
been bestowed the special honour of having been the chamber 
of birth. Lecturing was in full swing, everyone of the teachers 
was a native, and the classes consisted of native boys, these 
future professors or teachers being attired in spotlessly clean 
white shirts and pantaloons, with bare feet. In the chemistry 
class the master had written a long formula for some com- 
pound, say sulphuric acid, on the blackboard, which these 
brown, intelligent-looking boys took turns in reducing. For 



A STATE DINNER 265 

several days after I was taken to task by people who wanted 
to know whether it was true that the boys " had correctly 
developed sulphuric acid." Not that the enquirers knew any- 
thing about the process themselves, but that they felt justly 
proud of the achievement. The other classes were on a par 
with this one, geography was splendid, hand-writing like 
copper-plate, and the answers to complicated mental arith- 
metical questions were given like a flash. These young 
budding professors are now sent out to almost every out-of-the- 
way village to teach Spanish and the three " R's," and the 
better and more widely taught they are themselves, the better 
will they be able to accomplish their often enormously difficult 
task. There is no fear that the Huavi boys at the far-off lagoons 
on the Pacific coast will learn how to " develop sulphuric acid," 
nor will they be taught English in a hurry, although their 
" maestros " are now obliged to learn both subjects at the 
Normal Schools. But the brighter boy does not stop at that, 
, he finds his way into the " Institute," or to Mexico City. 

The director, or headmaster, of this school, who was a full- 
blooded Misteca (Sr. Abraham Castellanos), got dispensation 
from his duties to act as our cicerone during the whole time 
of our stay in the town. As he himself was interested in natural 
history, and, above all, was a keen investigator of his nation's 
past, besides being the author of several pedagogic works, it 
was delightful and instructive to make excursions with him 
and his graceful sister. 

A great dinner was given in our honour, but thoroughly 
enjoyable as it was, it was also very embarrassing. Our 
" society " clothes had been left behind in Mexico, and our 
wardrobe, which showed considerable wear and tear, was not 
exactly the thing for a State function at which to meet the 
Governor and his brother, the Secretary of State, the director 
of the institute, the director of the school, several consuls, and 
the ladies of those gentlemen. My personal trouble began 
with the hat ; every Mexican of tact treats the hat of his guest 
with the greatest respect ; at a visit it is given a chair to itself ; 
it is thought to be as sacred and entitled to as much personal 
consideration as is the sword of a German officer. In the 



266 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

ante-room of the palace the guests were met by orderlies, 
the captain of the Municipal Guard, in full uniform, who received 
the shiny Parisian top-hats and deposited them upon velvet 
cushions, the same treatment being accorded to my apology 
for a sombrero. Stout laced boots, which had once been 
yellow, walked in company with patent leathers. However, 
the assembly, representatives of the best society, had not come 
to inspect our garments, and the conversation during the long 




ABRAHAM CASTELLANOS. 

and choice dinner was as animated as it was interesting. It 
was polyglot ; you could speak, or at least listen to Spanish, 
English, German, French, Norwegian, Misteca, and Zapoteca, 
whilst Sr. Belmar, the linguist, had half-a-dozen other native 
idioms up his sleeve. Even Latin was attempted as a joke, 
but rightly voted to be not a patch upon Spanish, which was, 
after all, the general medium for conversation. This dinner 
made us free of the place, and there is much good society in 
the town, which is interested in literature and art as well as 



A LOVE SONG 267 

commerce. Sr. Castellanos has since been transferred to 
Mexico, where also we had the pleasure of seeing much of him. 
As a Misteca, who speaks his native dialect, he is more fit to 
pursue his hobby of collecting the traditions and songs of his 
ancient race than is the professional foreign savant, whose 
knowledge can never hope to understand the genius, the real 
soul of these idioms, so fundamentally different in thought 
from anything we are accustomed to. With his permission 
a few samples of Misteca songs are given here : 

Fragment of Misteca Love Song, " The Flower of the Mountain," 
collected and translated into Spanish by Sr. Abraham Castellanos. 

" ITA NUH Yucu." " LA FLOR DEL MONTE." 

Dodo nehi deke yuco Del alto monte en la escarpada cumbre 

Dacuiconi leluni Vi que agitabas el airon gallardo, 

Guemehda yedah Y con este huipil te dije entonces : 

Ni da cuico dah. " Adios mi amado ! " 

Ita nuh yucu Y yo tambien, desde el creston altisimo, 

Niculi nuhlo. Cuando fije los ojos hacia el llano, 

Nihjinon ditali nuh yuco Te vi tan bella cual la flor del monte, 

Xdicocotili nuhlo. Que crece en los penascos ! 

Ni kenditali Cuando en el claro tu, y yo en la puerta, 

Yeda behe, Mire el aivon moverse entre tus manos, 

Xijitandeli ichi yuco " Ven," te dije, " no tardes amor mio ! 

Nucandou ! Ven ;i mis brazos ' " 

Translation : THE FLOWER OF THE MOUNTAIN. 

From the high mountain's precipice 
I saw thee wave thy beautiful head-dress, 
And with this " huipil " I said to thee, 
" Good-bye, my beloved." 

And I, from the high crest, 
When I fixed my eyes upon the plain, 
Beheld thee as beautiful as the flower 
Which grows upon the pinnacles. 

When thou in the open, and I at the gate 

Saw the head-dress move in thy hands, 

" Come," said I to thee, " do not delay, my love 

Come into my arms." 



268 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



A Misteca 
SHASTNUNIK. 
Dihi cashi te yachi 
Tuu ihn quhiu 
Sha shidootnaa u 
Septiembrea. 

Nguer ndaur beher 
Te nshicar nanducur 
Manii ngutur. 

Shidor ihn yucu 
Te shidor nca 
Te cuay nsheer 
Ihn nu-yuayu. 

The shani-inir nucor 

Shito nur, 

Dua, te ihn nunu 

Nane ndhi ja diqui 

Dugju yucu ndiuhj, 

Ihn sheine bico, 

Tuinir shai macucuee 

Sha juhdau, te ngachir : 

Daudee giieshavi ! 

Ntecur shaa daud i ndavido, 

Ihn sh'o cannindei 

Nudau yuco ! 

Te dua nshicar 

Cunu yodo. 

Nu tuat cueet 

Kquiti 

Nanit 

Vah ngutur ! 

Nshicar shit 
Dua nutnio 
Chihs den te shatu 
Dua ngandi 
Nuhihoo shacada 
Tnior shit. 

Nshee shanini 
Kicuat te ndetatut ! 
Nut nushathit, 
Dedo cum'it 
Mengat ndait 
Nini ruh j , na quidir ! 



Reverie. 

Asi PENSABA. 
Alegre claro y rapido 
Amanece un dia 
Que cruzaba dos 
Setiembre. 

Sali triste choza 
Y eche busca 
Buenas yuntas. 

Cruce un cerro 
Y subi otra 
Y fin llegue 
Una muralla. 

Y pensativo sente 
Dirigiendo vista 
Doquier y un instante 
Aparece alia crestones 
Altas Cordilleras limitrofes 
Una orgullosa nube 
Parecia no dilataba 
En Hover, y dije : 
Tempestad segura ! 
Oi que eco respondia 
En otro lado 
India cordillera. 

Y entonces dirijo 
Hondo llano 
Donde entre infinite 
Animales grandes 
Estaban 
Placenteros toros. 

Marcho ellos 
Hasta trabajo 
Bajo y ardiente 
Rayo sol 
En donde dedico 
Trabajar eUos. 

Llego tarde 
Libertad descanso. 
Vuelvan potrero 
Donde gobiernan 
Soberano bramido 
En tanto yo me duermo. 



A DIFFICULT LANGUAGE 269 

The meaning of the literal translation is as follows : 

THUS THOUGHT I. 

The second of September arises clear and rapidly. I left my dreary hut to 
fetch my good oxen. I crossed one ridge after another and at last came to a 
wall. And felt thoughtful and sat down, looking beyond to the high ridges of 
the far sierra, where appeared a threatening cloud which soon began to rain. 
And I said to myself : Surely a thunder-storm, I hear its echo from the other 
side of my native sierra. I descend into the plain below, where amongst 
many wild beasts stood my patient oxen. I marched them under the burning 
sun to the place where they had to work. With the evening came the hour 
of freedom and rest. Good friends, or herdsmen, return to the plain where 
you reign (over the animals) with your loud cries, and meanwhile I shall go 
to sleep. 

The little love song speaks for itself, and the ploughman's 
reverie is not so bad either, at least it smells of the soil and of 
labour. 

In quasi-monosyllabic language, such as this is, many 
words look alike, since their many slight variations of sound 
cannot be rendered by our alphabet ; as ST. Castellanos 
merrily remarked, the confusion, in a reverse way, is almost as 
bad as English, as he was fully aware of the bewildering resem- 
blance of words like " thought " and " caught," " dough," and 
" doe," " brought " and " broad," " he rose," " arose," and " a 
rose," etc. However, that seems as nothing to what these 
American languages can do. I found, for instance, in Belmar's 
glossary of Chatino, that the syllable " koo " had thirteen 
absolutely different meanings, distinguishable by intonation 
and sound, and not to be confounded either with other 
approximate forms, such as " ku," " kua," " kee," etc. Lastly, 
be it mentioned, that these languages, especially Zapoteca, 
are highly developed, as much as, if not more than, the 
Azteca which, happening to be extensively employed by the 
old Spanish chroniclists, has attained to a kind of classical 
status, like the Maya, whilst the others have, until recently, 
been neglected. Moreover, whilst not much " literature " 
can be got out of the modern Aztec, it is otherwise with the 
two principal tribes of Oaxaca. 

To the north-west of the town of Oaxaca rises the Cerro de 
San Felipe del Agua, to a height of a little more than 9,000 
feet, which is short of the " official " height, viz., 10,200 feet. 



270 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

In the tangle of hedges on the slightly rising plain Cnemido- 
phorus mexicanus was abundant ; and in shady gardens between 
stockades and cactus hedges there was also C. bocourti, whose 
forgotten habitat was thus at last rediscovered. At the 
village of San Felipe, about four hundred feet above the town, 
grow many "sabino" trees (Taxodium), upon which swarmed up 
and down Sceloporus microlepidotus, all the specimens coloured 
grey-green on the back, in harmony with the shading of these 
trees, and much in contrast with those found elsewhere. In the 
outskirts of the village, amongst a wilderness of untidy gardens, 
we were lucky enough to find many plants of the Jalapa mirabilis, 
so called from the fact that the flowers vary from red to yellow 
and white. The three colours, all pure, were equally repre- 
sented, the respective plants growing side by side. Only a 
few of the seeds were ripe (at the end of September), and only 
one plant (with white flowers) has been reared in the Botanic 
Gardens at Cambridge. Large fig-trees, " higo del monte," 
with tiny yellow sweet figlets, grow in most of the villages of 
the district. At the foot of the mountain the Cnemidophorus 
gives way, and the beautiful Sceloporus formosus and S. 
acanthinus appear, amongst a profusion of small oaks and a 
few miserable specimens of pines. These latter, according to 
the natives, were here, at an altitude of 6,000 feet, quite out of 
place, a farmer credibly explaining the fact by suggesting that 
they must have sprung from accidental seeds. Soon there 
appeared red Castilleia flowers, fine forests of many kinds 
of oak, with a sprinkle of arbutus ; a profusion of bulbous 
orchids in the ground, Pinguicola, sundew, and begonias, 
while the mossy limbs and stems of the trees were covered 
with various kinds of orchids. Near 8,000 feet elevation ap- 
peared magnificent evergreen oaks, mauve dahlias, deep blue 
tradescantias, blue lupins, and a pungent herb called " yerva 
del borracho," the drunkard's herb, an infusion of which is 
said to be a good remedy for the after-effects of too much 
tippling. In this moist cloud-land, at about 8,500 feet (the 
same level as our Xometla camp on Citlaltepetl), we found, to 
our joy, a few specimens of the little newt Thorius, hitherto 
known only from the Orizaba mountain ; also some of 



A GIGANTIC TREE 271 

Gerrhonolus imbricatus, Hylodes toads, Sceloporus microlepi- 
dotus, etc., in fact, exactly the same fauna as at Xometla, 
whilst the vegetation also showed the same characteristic 
features. Next came " ocote " pines, very large " encino prieto " 
and " chino," arbutus soon giving away to Alnus, Sedum, 
Castilleia, mauve dahlias, tiny-leaved fuchsias, scarlet runners, 
a yellow giant thistle, fully ten feet high in bloom, ferns, 
mosses, and pendent tillandsias, and everywhere on moist 
spots, right away in the forest, big, wild maguey plants, this 
kind of vegetation continuing right up to the top, where, 
perhaps, the pines are the most predominant trees. Of bird life 
there was absolutely none, except near the foot of the moun- 
tain, where, near the banks of the streams, humming-birds 
flitted about in astonishing numbers and varieties. 

Let us finish up with a short mention of one of the wonders 
of the world, a " sabino " tree, or " ahuehuetl " (Taxodium 
distichum), which stands in the little village of Santa Maria 
el Tule, near the road between Oaxaca and Mitla. It is a 
gigantic tree, still in full vigour and health, and jealously 
guarded by the people, who rightly will 
not allow so much as the tiniest twig to be 
filched from it. This beautifully-grown and 
symmetrically-spreading tree is said to have 
attained a circumference of one hundred 
and fifty-four feet. Upon this colossal and 
many-buttressed stem was fixed, a little 
more than a hundred years ago, a wooden 
tablet, commemorating Humboldt's visit. 
This tablet is already half-embedded in OOLYPH-MITLA 

" Place of the Dead. 

the bark and wood, which is now concen- 
trically growing over it, and the growth is proceeding steadily, 
to judge from the extent to which the inscription was hidden in 
1902, as compared with a photograph taken less than ten years 
before that date. The tree stands hi the churchyard, at a spot 
which, without any doubt, was already sacred ground at the 
time when the Misteca, " sons of the trunks of trees," 
were worshipping at the glorious monuments of Mitla. 




CHAPTER XIII. 

IN THE STATE OF MORELOS. 

The Sierra de Ajusco Cuernavaca, Pottery, and Moths Ancient Carved 

Lava Blocks The Pyramid of Tepoztlan The Hacienda de Chiconcuac 

The Pyramid of Xochicalco. 

The Sierra de Ajusco divides the Valley of Mexico from 
that of Cuernavaca. As the crow flies the distance between 
the two towns is scarcely thirty-five miles, but more than 
double that distance by the railway, which has to wind and 
climb by zigzags this tremendous mountain chain. It crosses 
the pedregal, or lava-field, which is studded with cactus, 
agaves, and scrubby evergreen oak, and at Contreras enters 
dense green forest. Arbutus spinulosus, chestnuts, oaks, 
" ocote " pines, juniper, and " sabino " trees, or " ahuehuetes " 
cover the slopes, whence descend numerous permanent streams, 
finding their way into the lakes which, in conjunction with the 
plain and the mighty city, make up a magnificent panorama. 
The powerful engine labours upwards into the mist, the air grows 
chilly, and by 10 o'clock, although we have started on a hot, 
bright summer's day, we shiver in spite of having on every 
available wrap. We are now at " Cima " i.e., the top at an 
elevation of almost exactly 10,000 feet. " Ocote " pines are the 
only visible trees, so far as these have not been destroyed by 
the voracity of the railway. Before us is a highland scene of 
turf, and tussocks of grass and peaty bogs. Here and there 
is a patch of Indian corn, with miserable stalks. There are 
a few pine-board shanties, untidily patched and thatched with 
the cut-up tins of the ubiquitous Standard Oil Company ; 
here and there are loads of charcoal or other fuel brought up 
by the natives on their small " burros " ; empty tin cans and 



GLORIOUS VIEWS 273 

boxes, coils of wire, strips of iron, are strewn about between 
the huts, the stacks of sleepers, the firewood and the other 
railway material, while the natives themselves, ill-clad, dejected 
and dirty in appearance, stand shivering about in the dripping 
mist, vainly trying to keep out the wet with their " zarapes." 
or native woollen blankets, whose usually lovely colours and 
still lovelier patterns are here, however, of a dirty sodden 
brown, the prevailing tone of these dismal surroundings. But 
this is all artificial, the mere " shady side " of progress. If 
it were not for the engine which, so to speak, has to get its 
wind, to drink and to feed, there would be no Cima station, 
and the " cumbre," or ridge, would appear in its impressive, 
stern, natural glory. The view seen from the next station, 
Tres Marias, or Three Maries, a trio of mountains, is not 
easily surpassed. Thence we descend through a forest of 
pines, strawberry trees, and oaks, where bracken, maidenhair, 
moonwort, mauve dahlias, scarlet salvias, pale pink begonias, 
and blue lupins abound. The broad, smiling valley appears 
below, now to the right, now to the left, and in front or behind, 
owing to the serpentine course of the descending train, which 
seems to be always trying to catch its own tail. 

Cuernavaca is a clean town, and full of interest, even to 
those who have seen much of Mexico ; it enjoys an exquisite 
climate at that most agreeable altitude of 5,000 feet, being 
neither cool nor oppressively hot, but a fine example of the 
" tierra templada," and hence much frequented as a health 
and pleasure resort ; there are several passable hotels, all 
of them making compensation for their good points, such as 
situation, size of rooms, quietude, quality of food and service, 
in such a manner that these points are never combined in one ; 
but all alike glory in the panoramic views to be seen from 
their flat roofs or " azoteas." Due north are the Tres Marias, 
to the east Popocatepetl, with Cortez' palace in the foreground. 
There is a large cathedral, with several other churches, and 
former monastic buildings ; and the town itself has its 
public gardens, with here and there a graceful, royal palm, 
introduced from Cuba, spreading its gigantic fronds above the 
mass of red-tiled roofs ; indeed, every day, if not every hour. 



274 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



we discovered new ranges of hills and mountains, both near 
and far, together with extinct volcanic cones, precipices, valleys, 
slopes and villages, varying in accordance with the shifting 
clouds and the changing light. All very much like the land- 
scape of some Italian pre-Raphaelite picture. 

In the afternoon a thunderstorm coming from the south- 




CUEKNAVACA. 

east gathers on these mountains, enveloping them in a dark 
blue impenetrable gloom which creeps steadily downwards, 
taking ridge after ridge, until the town is engulfed in tor- 
rential rain. Then the darkness lifts, the valley is again bathed 
in sunshine, the atmosphere is refreshed, and cleansed of dust, 
and an hour before sunset the gloom has blotted out in turn the 
western half of the amphitheatre, where the mountains hold 
the clouds far into the night. 



THOUSANDS OF MOTHS 



275 



The town is supplied with electric light, and the street lamps 
are an irresistible attraction to thousands of big and small 
moths of many kinds and colours. Some of these creatures 
measured four inches across their wings. On some evenings 
they began to swarm early, at others very late, but they 
appeared in their greatest numbers after midnight. Again, in 
some streets there were none, whilst in the next they whirled 
about in countless numbers. On two warm nights we went 
into the large garden of a friend, upon the outskirts of the 
town, and put up a lamp with a bright reflector. In spite of 
this and the many trees, shrubs, and flowers in the garden, we 




CUERNAVACA. 

scarcely saw a moth. It seemed as if they were all attracted 
by the many and brighter lights in the town. This is, indeed, 
said to be the case in other places, with the result that some 
years after the installation of electric light, the moths become 
practically extinguished, since endless numbers come to grief 
thereat, and forget to pair, for which purpose alone they 
fly about. 

Separated from the town by a deep gorge is the " barrio," or 
parish, of San Antonio, with its chief industry of pottery, 
beautiful in shape and colour. The clay is blue-grey, but turns 
to drab in the oven, the fire being fed with cow's-dung fuel instead 
of wood, on account of the gentler nature of the heat obtained 



276 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



from the former. The vessels made here are not really well 
fired ; they have to be porous, in order to keep the water cool 
by evaporation, consequently they are as brittle as they are 
graceful. The red colours are painted on, and white porcelain, 
bought for the purpose, is broken into small bits to form the 
ornamental inlaid pattern. The colours and painting devices 
are aboriginal, but the inlaid mosaic has been introduced from 




BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. 

Spain. Within the precincts of this suburb is one of the pre- 
historic sights of Cuernavaca, the well-outlined figure of a huge 
lizard, carved out of a big block of lava lying near the edge of 
the gorge, in what is now the ill-kept orchard of a poor Indian 
family, which charges an entrance fee of fifteen centavos. 

Beyond this same gorge, which in a secluded spot contains a 
fine waterfall, lies, in a meadow, a large volcanic block, the 
Chimalli, so called from the incised coat-of-arms of some Aztec 
emperor ; a round, quartered shield with heraldic designs upon 
it, surmounted by a standard and crossed by, or laid upon 



A FINE PYRAMID 277 

five spears. Above it is the broken head and neck of some 
creature. On the other side of the block are several dates, 
deciphered, but, as usual, not fitting into the Aztec chronology. 
Only some three or four miles to the south-east of Cuerna- 
vaca lies the entirely native village of Tepoztlan, and above it 
a fine pyramid. Neither are visible from the town, although 
standing nearly 2,000 feet above the valley, but the spot is 
rendered conspicuous by the red-stained limestone cliffs which 
rise above the summit. This spot was, I will not say dis- 
covered, but practically introduced to the attention of anti- 





TERRA-COTTA IMAGE OF A 

TWO FEMALE IDOLS FROM SPANISH SOLDIER IN IRON 

TEPOZTLAN. HELMET AND MAIL-COAT, 

FOUND IN CUERNAVACA. 

quarians only a few years ago by a young engineer, a native 
of Tepoztlan, who cleared the pyramid of the growth of 
shrubs and trees, and of the accumulated rubbish. The pyramid 
is situated upon a steep eminence, and consists of two terraces 
upon which stand the remnants of the temple proper, inside 
which are various chambers with many carved figures and 
dates. The outer walls of the terraces are not composed of 
stone, but are faced with a hard mortar, and this was painted 
red like some of the mortar-faced buildings near the pyramids 
of Teotihuacan. The long and steep ascent up to the pyramid, 
proceeding by successive staircases and little terraces, re- 
minded one forcibly of the penitentiary stages which led up 



278 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

to various renowned churches and monasteries of mediaeval 
Portugal. 

We presented our credentials to the Governor, Colonel 
Alarcon. After having started fighting on the wrong side, 
this gentleman became, later on, a valued comrade and brother 
in arms of President Diaz, and the Governorship of the State 
of Morelos is probably his reward, to the great benefit of this, 
little State. A man of few words, but of many deeds, not given 
to society, he puts down any disorders with ruthless energy, 
and now devotes his superabundant vigour to the planning and 
fostering of works of peace. 

The Governor, having been acquainted with our wish to 
visit the pyramid of Xochicalco and the Caves of Cacahuimilpa, 
most courteously provided an escort, and, what was more to 
the point, the necessary horses, so that the visit to these two 
wonders could be combined into one excursion, and at the 
same time take us on our way to the south without having to 
return to Cuernavaca. Accordingly, we left this town by 
train with all our luggage and outfit, and two hours later alighted 
at the station of San Vincente, whence we were taken to the 
Hacienda de Chiconcuac, which belongs to the widowed daughter 
of Benito Juarez, the late President of the Republic. Juarez, 
one of the greatest of the great men Mexico has produced, 
and who in turn has, with the still greater Diaz, made 
Mexico what it is, had a career typical of the rising Indian. 

In every prefecture, no doubt all through the country, are 
exhibited the framed lithographed pictures of three men, 
a trio symbolic of the country's history. First, the tall thin 
figure of Miguel Hidalgo, with his beautiful, ascetic face, clad 
in his priest's dress, and with the sash indicating his nominal 
military rank of divisional general. This priest, of pure Spanish 
blood, was the first in 1810 to raise the standard of independ- 
ence against the Spanish rule. 

The second picture is very different ; the head of Morelos 
looks like that of a rough peasant or a muleteer, an illusion 
enhanced by the handkerchief with which this warrior always 
bandaged his ever-aching head. Lastly, Juarez, the strong- 
featured, clean-shaven Indian, in his unassuming everyday dress. 



A PLEASANT RIDE 279 

The building of the Chiconcuac Hacienda, originally an old 
Spanish mission-house, with a chapel attached to it, had been 
turned into a strongly fortified mansion, and had undergone 
many adventures during the wars. Twice brigands had laid 
siege to the place and taken it, killing every man in it outright 
except one, who escaped only to die later of his wounds. The 
big courtyard was swarming with mules and cattle, the peones 
being busy lassoing the young bulls with the object of convert- 
ing them into bullocks. A high wall, with fine old arches and 
niches, surrounds the yard, and hundreds of martins' 
(Hirundo callorhina) nests covered the entrance gate, in rows, 
each shaped like a wide-bellied flask, with a short, curved 
passage for entrance at the side. The family of the adminis- 
trator, a veritable giant, did the honours of the place, but the 
night, spent in the gloomy, empty, vault-like rooms assigned 
to us, was made lively by the flat-bodied " chinches," which 
appeared in force to feast upon the strangers. 

A "cabo," or corporal, with two "rurales," or mounted police, 
arrived with saddle horses. Mules for the baggage w r ere found 
by the farm. At the breakfast, at sunrise, we were joined by 
an old gentleman and a young, dapper-looking fellow, who 
reported themselves as " la comision," selected by the Governor 
to act as our guides, and to give any local information required. 
This is worth mentioning, as showing that Colonel Alarcon did 
not do things in a half-hearted way. The old gentleman 
knew all about farming, traditions, the names of trees and 
plants, with their use and medicinal properties, and helped us 
to while away the time pleasantly, but his young companion 
was too modest to let out his special knowledge. The ride 
was over undulating ground, mostly cultivated with Indian 
corn, which, on the 18th of June, was just beginning to show 
its young blades. It is sown, or rather planted, at the onset 
of the rainy season ; a man following in the wake of the plough, 
dibbling holes with an iron-spiked lance-like bamboo, and 
inserting therein the grain. After a pleasant ride of four 
hours we arrived at the range of low limestone hills, one of 
which is crowned with the famous pyramid of Xochicalco. 
There was already waiting Sr. Henrique Dabbadie, the Jefe 



280 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

Politico of the district of Tetecala, with a force of six rurales. 
The son of a Frenchman and a Mexican lady, Sr. Henrique proved 
not only a most courteous and delightful companion, but a 
well-read cicerone. There is a tiny grass hut in which lives 
an old Indian as guard of the pyramid, to prevent the frequent 
visitors from pilfering, and further injuring the monument. 
He was quite a character, and had managed to pick up a few 
words of English, French, and German, which he wove into his 
voluble Spanish ; his real native idiom is Aztec, which is still 
extensively spoken in the State of Morelos. There was a 
sumptuous lunch, roast chicken with chili, papayas, potatoes, 
aguacates, bananas, and plenty of bottled beer and wine, 
^read, and tortillas. Only water was absent. 

The pyramid of Xochicalco is the most beautiful and best 
preserved of the many prehistoric monuments of Mexico. 
It is situated on a little plateau to the south-west of Cuernavaca, 
on a range of limestone hills. The whole ridge was fortified, 
here and there, with little forts protected by walls of hewn 
stones and ditches. Some, as, for instance, those of the neigh- 
bouring Xochitepec, on the top of one of the highest hills, 
have never yet been visited by any antiquarian. The slopes 
of the flat-topped plateau, on which the pyramid stands, still 
show many lines of earth-and-stone works rising in tiers one 
above the other. The wide central court was surrounded by 
a high wall, now much dilapidated. The pyramid itself is a 
square, each of its four sides being nearly seventy feet long, 
and facing exactly the four cardinal points. It consists of 
only two stories, or rather, of a basement with one story. 
The core of the mound is composed of blocks and rubble of 
limestone from the immediate vicinity, but it is faced with 
large blocks or thick slabs of volcanic stone, andesite, which 
had to be fetched from afar, dozens of miles away. The means 
by which these unknown builders transported these heavy 
pieces remain as much a mystery as those by which they 
managed to cut and carve most carefully these volcanic blocks 
with their primitive implements of stone, obsidian, copper, 
and bronze. 

The sloping walls of the basal portion are a little more than 



A BEAUTIFUL MONUMENT 



281 



twelve feet high ; then comes a kind of narrow ledge, and then 
a wall, likewise square, and with sloping outer sides some six 
feet high. In the centre of this enclosure lie several large 
blocks, which have been dislodged. In the middle of the 
western side is a staircase, apparently double, thirty feet wide, 
and with about a dozen steps. Opposite the top of these stairs 
is an equally wide gap in the inner wall. Unfortunately, many 
of the blocks of this wall have been disturbed, many are now 




THE XOCHICALCO PYRAMID. 

lying at the bottom, and, what is worse, others have been 
carried away for building purposes. The French, during their 
occupation, also played havoc with this monument, the beauty 
of which consists to a great extent in the exquisite carving of 
every one of the stone facings, which are so well put together, 
allowing for the slope, that it is often difficult to detect the 
joints. The principal figures are huge " quetzalcoatl," snakes 
ornamented with feathers. On each of the north, east and 
south sides is a pair of these snakes so arranged that the heads 



282 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



are in the corners and the tails in the middle of the side. The 
heads themselves, with open fanged mouths, and ornamented 
with long plumes, are turned inwards and backwards, and 
consequently look away from the snake on the neighbouring 
side. The result of this arrangement, when viewed from the 
corner, is striking ; the heads and first coils of the creatures 
combined giving the impression of a double-headed heraldic 
eagle. The snakes of the north and south have four coils or 




THE XOCHICALCO PYRAMID. 



bends each, those of the east wall only three. In one of the 
coils of every snake sits a cross-legged man, with a rich head 
ornament, much like certain figures on Indian temples. In a 
neighbouring coil is a cartouche with a date, which cannot yet 
be read, and if it has been interpreted rightly as meaning 
" nine rain," such a date does not at all fit into the Aztec 
chronology. The short portions of the western wall on either 
side of the staircase show snakes with one coil only, but several 
dates which contain the numbers, 2, 4, 6, 9 and 10. The sides 



GODDESS OF FLOWERS 283 

of the staircase are likewise ornamented, and we find there the 
same cross-legged person. The outside of the upper wall 
contains many carvings, mostly dates, but also the figures of 
a rabbit, eagle with widespreading wings, and a coyote. The 
blocks which form the entrance to the top chamber show the 
lower half of a standing man ; the slabs containing the upper 
half are lost. 

Most puzzling, but also most suggestive, is the cross-legged 
squatting attitude of the frequently recurring man, and, above 
all, the fact that in the dates the number 5 is invariably repre- 
sented by the symbol of a long tied-up bundle ; and the number 
10 by two such bundles ; the other numbers are represented 
by as many circles as units, and these are eventually used in 
addition to the five-symbol. This was exactly the style of 
Maya and Zapotec writing, a method not at all used by the 
Aztecs. We shall have the opportunity of returning to this 
point, which throws some light on the origin of this pyramid, 
in another chapter. 

It is supposed that this pyramid was dedicated to the goddess 
Xochiquetzal, a personage of many accomplishments, and 
possessing an intricate mythology ; the goddess of love and of 
flowers, who, having tempted the god Quetzalcoatl, became 
the first mother on earth, and eventually his wife, and then 
became with him the principal deity ; both being of foreign 
descent and, like most good things, adopted by the conquering 
Aztecs. The Aztec name of this goddess means " Flower- 
Quetzal," the beautiful metallic resplendent trogon, the 
Pharomacrus mocinno of Guatemala, " quetzal " being still used 
as a term of endearment. The pyramid itself is called 
Xochicalli, the flower-house, and the place is Xochicalco 
in or at the flower-house. 

Within a short distance of the pyramid is a small fortified 
hill called Loma de la Malinche, on which stood a large stone 
slab, now broken, with the carved figure of a woman, also sitting 
cross-legged. It is a very fine piece of work. The image is 
surrounded by a carved frame with designs of flowers, and 
above the imposing headgear is a row of five little children, 
holding each other by the hands. Now this goddess is known 



284 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



as La Malinche, the name of that romantic native girl who 
acted as Cortez's faithful interpreter, spy, adviser, and wife. 

In the middle of the courtyard, opposite the staircase, but 
a little more to the north, now lies a remarkable block, the so- 
called Piedra del Sacrificio. It is of the shape of a human 
torso, rather larger than life-size, without head and without 
legs below the knees, and lies in a recumbent position, with 
the ribs well worked out, and with a deep opening in the middle 
of the chest. This representation of a flayed human body, 
with the heart torn out, indicates plainly what these people 
formerly did on the top of their beautiful flower-house. 




HIEROGLYPH - CUEKNAVACA. 

Cuauh = tree ; nahuac = near by. 
Expressed by the signs for mouth and tongue, " Near the Forest. 



CHAPTER XIV. 

THE CAVES OF CACAHUIMILFA. 

Scorpions a? a Cure for Hydrophobia The " Animal Plant "The Gigantic 
Caves of Cacahuimilpa, and their Fauna. 

A ride of five hours, enlivened by a sharp thunderstorm, 
brought us from the pyramid of Xochicalco to Tetecala, with 
its offensive and unclean inn, which, for dirt, untidiness, and 
unwilling service, held the record. The little town is situated 
near a somewhat swampy plain where rice is cultivated, and 
there is much suffering from " paludismo," or malaria. 

The next morning we started for the caves, in quite a 
cavalcade, which included seven soldiers, besides servants, 
ourselves, the Prefect, and two friends who had attached 
themselves to the party : fourteen people in all, and then we 
were joined by an elderly fellow who had got into the habit of 
showing off the caves in the capacity of honorary guide. 

There is a handsome tree called " guayacan," or 
" tamahuatl," of the genus Tecoma, one of the bignonia family, 
which has a dense foliage on its extensive branches, and is 
said in the winter to be one mass of big brown- violet flowers. 
But the tree which is sure to attract most attention is the 
" cuautecomatl," a Crescentia or Parmentieria, another kind of 
arboreal bignonia. Its brown, leathery flowers grow out of 
the big branches, often out of the trunk itself, and its green, 
apple-like fruits of the last season are a curious sight, attached 
as they are to the branches and stems far away from the green 
foliage. The fruit is poisonous, and was said to have killed 
many a tired and hungry wayfarer, who could not resist its 



286 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

inviting look and sweet, juicy taste. It contains an acid which 
is used as a purgative, and a decoction made from the fruit 
is valued as a remedy for cough and other chest complaints. 
Whilst the " cuautecomatl " is studded about over the open 
plains, which are mostly of sandy and limestone formation, 
the " cuagiote " (Pseudosmodingium perniciosa, of the tere- 
binth family) forms little clumps or copses on stony slopes. 
It sheds its leathery leaves during the dry season ; its hard 
wood gives out great heat ; and its specific name, perniciosa, 
refers to the milky juice which exudes from it, and dries up 
into a kind of gum or rosin. This sharply irritating material, 
softened with saliva, is rubbed into the skin as a remedy against 
the bite of the scorpion, which is very common in these parts. 
Apropos of these scorpions, Don Henrique had a remarkable 
story to tell. A man suffering from hydrophobia was, accord- 
ing to custom, taken away from his house, tied to a tree, and 
left there to die. But on the following morning the self- 
constituted sanitary authorities found him not dead but alive, 
and imploring them to release him, as he had been attacked 
overnight by scores of scorpions, which crept out of the bark of 
the tree, stung him, and caused maddening agony. He had 
then fainted to awake in a profuse sweat, cured of the terrible 
disease. Ever since this occurrence, scorpions are looked upon 
as an infallible antidote to hydrophobia. I cannot tell 
whether this belief had stimulated some of the gentlemen at 
the Institute Medico in Mexico City to study the properties 
of scorpionine, as the poison is sure to be called when some 
analytic chemist has separated it into its constituents (with a 
.string of names a yard long), but I can vouch for the fact that 
in the summer of 1904 they had there a large consignment of 
scorpions from the State of Morelos. They had already written 
one original paper " On the time that it takes to starve a 
scorpion." 

People who profess to take an interest in Mexican natural 
Tiistory are sure to mention the case of the " animal planta," 
a miraculous creature, half plant, half animal, which crawls 
about on the ground, and throws out a miniature tree with 
branches, which then, like certain caterpillars, takes a deliberate 



ANIMAL-PLANT 



287 



step forward, buries itself again, and in this way gradually 

progresses. One of these creatures is not uncommon in the 

temperate regions of the States of Morelos and Puebla. It 

is really the larva of a cicada, which, living 

under ground like that of a cockchafer, is 

invaded by a peculiar fungus.* This parasite, 

living upon the substance of the larva, 

ultimately grows into a yellow-branched 

fungus some two inches high. But there 

was said to be another kind of vegetable 

creature or " animal plant " in the State of 

Oaxaca. President General Diaz had the 

kindness to ask me whether I should like to 

study it, as he had never succeeded in getting 

& proper account of it. He, by the way, 

surmised that it was a plant which, however, 

-presented certain curious phenomena. The 

President's slightest wish is law, and several 

specimens of the mysterious object were 

procured from Oaxaca. They proved to be 

a kind of stick-insect, Phantosoma, or 

Pseudosermyle. They were partly embedded 

in the ground, which was composed of black 

humus, in a vertical position, with the 

abdomen and part of their long legs sticking 

out. Apparently they had been drawn into 

this queer position by the agency of some 

other animal (maybe earthworms or ants, 

which draw feathers, haulms, etc., into their 

holes). So far, the animal portion of the " EL ANIMAL 

mystery could easily be accounted for ; about PLANTA." 

the plant or the fungus, nothing could be A cicada larva with 

.ascertained, as the wise men, who were a fungu ;l T !. Co ! rd \ 

ceps. (Nat. size). 

charged with keeping the whole mass, soil 

.and all, in a suitable moist and warm place, allowed everything 

jto dry up in a cupboard. 



* A. de Castillo, " Boletin Soc. Geo. y Estad," X. Mexico, 1864. 



288 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

Half-way between Tetecala and the caves we stopped at 
a grand hacienda, administered by a young and accomplished 
gentleman. There we joined Don Henrique's wife, her three 
daughters and little boy, and, after breakfast, we rode forth, 
our party having increased to twenty, through swampy ground, 
among clumps of cocoanut palms, then by rather stony tracks, 
up and down, over limestone country, and arrived by noon at 
the village of Cacahuimilpa. There a disagreeable surprise 
awaited us. The cave had, within the last year or two, been 
got hold of by some Orientals, who had turned it into a business 
concern, and had advertised far and wide the incomparable 
vastness and beauty of this wonder of the world ; a good 
road led to the cave, the modest but comfortable hotel, and 
illuminations with Bengal fire and magnesium, etc. To make 
things especially easy for us the travelling department of the 
Mexican Central Railway had applied to the owners for special 
facilities. On our arrival, however, an Indian who combined 
the offices of guardian of the cave and hotel keeper, produced 
a telegraphic order, just received from the owners, forbidding 
anyone to enter without a special pass, either to explore or to 
take photographs. The fee for people provided with a special 
permit would be five pesos each, and the key to the hotel was 
said to be in Mexico ! This roused the temper of Don Henrique 
to white heat. It was, of course, easy to brush aside the pro- 
hibition, but we paid, and got a receipt for thirty-five pesos,* 
for which neither torches, guides, or any other kind of help 
whatever were provided, and then scrambled on horseback 
for a whole hour over one of the craziest tracks imaginable, a 
track such as only a limestone country can produce. The cave 
entrance lies about four hundred and fifty feet below Cacahui- 
milpa, and, as is usual with such caves in the side of the 
mountain, high above a dry gorge. It is a big cavity and very 
long, but there is scarcely any water in it, and the stalactite 

* To avoid any false impression about this " disgusto," or " disagreeable 
and insulting incident," it may be stated that a letter ultimately reached me 
in which the cave directors graciously granted my whole party free entrance 
to their cave. But the letter was dated several days after the event, and 
when it had become public knowledge that the Governor of the State of 
Morelos had arranged for our excursion. 



A GIGANTIC CAVE 289 

formation is rather poor, giving the impression of its having 
been stopped soon after the commencement of the formation 
of the tunnel. There is a small pool in the first large hall, 
the Salon del Chivo, with a stalagmite three feet high opposite 
the entrance, in which fancy discerns the figure of a he-goat. 
Elsewhere there are but few stalactites, and those small ones ; 
but two large buttresses, irregular in shape, and partly 
encrusted with a yellowish-white deposit, mark the passage 
into the Salon de las Fuentes, which, by the way, does not 
mean the hall of fountains or springs, but simply of water-pans, 
the floor being formed by many little sloping terraces of 
stalagmites, the ledges of which here and there hold a little 
water. So far the light of day still reached dimly. Then the 
ceiling becomes lower, and the cave slopes sharply down, strewn 
with many boulders which have fallen from the roof, and we 
next find ourselves in the Salon de los Hornos, or furnaces, 
which has many pretty encrustations ; soon after comes the 
Salon del Muerto, where the skeleton of a man and a dog, 
with a water- jar beside them, is said to have been found amongst 
the wilderness of fallen blocks. A further passage contains 
curtain-shaped stalactites, some of which are pure enough to 
emit a musical sound when struck. A narrow and difficult 
passage leads to the " lake," which is a little shallow pool, a 
few yards across. Still, a certain painter, Landezio by name, 
who had visited this cave in 1846, urged in his report the 
necessity of taking a boat into the cave to cross this lake ! 
However that may be, the poor Empress Carlota of Austria 
went into the next chamber, and there left a record, and here 
nds that portion of the grotto which is traversable. 

But what about its dimensions ? One guide-book says 
there are caves in other parts of the world, but they are all 
small compared with this ; the length of the practicable 
passage is calculated to " be six kilometres, more or less," 
which should mean from three to four miles, let us say less, 
since that would be the rate of an hour's ordinary walking on 
a good road. Rockets let off are said not to reach the ceiling, 
at a height of hundreds and hundreds of feet above the floor. 
Now, one of its grandest caverns averaged but sixty-five steps 



290 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

across, from wall to wall, and this was, so far as we could judge, 
the diameter of the almost circular tunnel, one-third of which is 
filled with the debris of which the floor is composed. Still, 
a natural tunnel one or two miles long and occasionally 
reaching to a height of a hundred and twenty feet is an im- 
pressive sight, though for beauty, variety, and fineness of the 
stalactites it cannot be compared with the caves of Adelsberg, 
in Istria, and the Mammoth Cave in Kentucky need likewise 
not fear its competition. 

Close by is a more moderate-sized but prettier cave, the 
Gruta Carlos Pacheco, so called after a famous general. The 
sources of the Rio Amacusac are in this mountain, one, the 
Rio de Santiago with milky water, and the other, the Rio de 
Chontacuatlan with clear water, both coming out of the deep, 
narrow gorges or fissures in the mountain side, and soon 
uniting to form the Amacusac, which empties itself into the 
Balsas river. Ordinary mortals cannot penetrate far into 
these river gorges, and for what is inside them one has to trust 
to the lies of the natives. One of them, for instance, professed 
to have gone very far and, as usual, to have encountered a 
huge lake. According to himself, he lived in that cave for 
three weeks while he was exploring, and when asked what he 
had subsisted on, he replied : " Oh, I caught fish, big fish, as 
long as my arm, and they were all blind, having no eyes 
at all ! " 

There is a small cave fauna described by A. L. Herrera, 
who was a member of the exploring party of the Instituto 
Medico.* The most interesting is a little Lepisma, which is 
quite white, and has lost its eyes completely, compensating 
itself for their loss by developing very long antennse and three 
long tail-filaments. A grasshopper, likewise with extraor- 
dinarily long antennae, inhabits the entrance chamber, and has 
its eyes reduced to one-third of the normal size. I found the 
Lepisma, which was discovered in the lowest cavern, where 
utter darkness prevails, on the walls where the dim light is 
still discernible, but perhaps owing to bad luck or want of 
leisure no living things were found further in. 

* " Fauna cavernicola." Antonio Alzate, Vol. VI. (1891), pp. 218-220. 



A RESTLESS NIGHT 291 

The settling for the night of the many ladies and gentlemen 
was not an easy matter, not only the key of the " Hotel de la 
Gruta," but this building as well not being in evidence. We 
distributed ourselves as best we could in two houses, each 
protected by half of the force of rurales stretched out in front 
of us, and most of the party presented a miserable spectacle 
next morning, since sleep on a "petate," or straw mat, on the 
earthern floor in an Indian hut amid the disturbances occasioned 
by many noises and by voracious insects, and with a thunder- 
storm overhead, is not sufficiently restful after a long ride and 
several hours' scramble in a cave. 

When we arrived at the hacienda our friendly host 
regaled us with a sumptuous dinner, after which the ladies 
preened their ruffled plumage, saw to their bruises, blistered 
necks and shoulders, which had been insufficiently protected 
by their cotton dresses ; and last, not least, they powdered 
themselves, dipped their well-groomed finger-tips into water, 
and were then prepared to enter a coach, which jolted them 
home, escorted by the whole crowd of caballeros. Never 
have I seen so many examples of lizards, or of Sceloporus, or 
of the large iguana, or Ctenosaura, as I did during that hot 
afternoon's ride ; every hollow tree, every stone wall, was 
tenanted. 

It rained heavily during the night, and when we emerged 
from the dirty inn of Tetecala our Prefect and force were ready, 
not to say good-bye, but to conduct us straight to Puente de 
Ixtla, the nearest railway station. Was it necessary to in- 
commode him ; could we not find our way alone ? " That 
may be, my friend, but my orders are to see you personally out 
of the State of Morelos and safely into the train." Greatly 
did we enjoy his genial, ever-attentive company during the ride 
of four hours and a half, through fields of rice and sugar, over 
hills and dales, and, fortunately, the much-dreaded crossing of 
the Rio Tembembe was easily accomplished ; nor was it 
necessary to accept the hospitality of the Amor family, the 
feudal lords of that district, with their vast and beautiful 
hacienda, " San Gabriel," to whom the thoughtful governor 
had given us an introduction. 



292 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

At Puente de Ixtla the train drew up, " en su hora/' on 
time, and we shook hands with Don Henrique Dabbadie, 
he to return to Tetecala, we to arrive at Iguala before 
nightfall. 



CHAPTER XV. 

THE ANCIENT CIVILISATION IN MEXICO AND ITS ORIGIN. 

The Problem The Toltec Question The Aztecs and other Nahoa not the 
Builders of the Ancient Monuments The Civilisation of the Aztecs' Empire 
not of Aztec Origin The Famous Almanac or Tonalamatl The Chronological 
and Calendric System The Time-bills on the Central- American Monuments 
An Attempt to Solve the Question of the Zero of their Reckoning The A/.tec 
Hieroglyphs Successive Migrations of different Nations in Mexico The 
Native Languages Whence came these People ? 

Having seen most of the principal prehistoric ruins of 
Southern Mexico, it was but natural that we fell under the spell 
of the mystery which covers them and their builders. 
Popularly they, like everything else antique in Mexico, are 
called Aztec, and this name stands for the whole of the con- 
siderable civilisation which the Spaniards found in the 
country. That this is a misnomer, at least an exaggeration, 
we knew, but not much else. We have seen something of the 
many strikingly different tribes : have seen unique private 
and public collections : have even picked up a few things 
ourselves, and have heard what the people, the natives, had 
to say about them. 

Lastly, there is a great amount of literature* in Spanish, 
English, and German, open to those who will and can read it. 
But then our troubles began, since the views held by the various 
authorities are so very divergent. Of course, I may perhaps 
have read too much : some of the works being very learned and 
splendid in detail, others written to establish preconceived 

* Notably E. Seler, "Gesammelte Schriften Amerikan. Sprachen u. Alter- 
thumskunde," 2 vols., Berlin ; Foerstemann and others, the Collected and 
Translated Papers published bv the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, 
1904. 



294 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

notions regardless of evidence. However, not being those 
of a professional, and being warped by no special prejudice, 
my own conclusions, although those of an '' afficionado," an 
amateur, or dilettante, may contain some sense. The problem 
is : Whence came the civilisation of the Aztec Empire ? 

Concerning the, Aztecs themselves, they are one of the 
many tribes of a large family, which we shall call Nahoa,* 
and of these tribes they became the military dominant stock 
not so very long before the Spanish conquest. The Nahoa 
are not aborigines in the southern half of Mexico ; they came 
from the north-west, where their linguistic affinities seem to 
link them with south-western tribes of North America, whilst 
tribes linguistically related to them are still living in, and on 
either side of, the long western Sierra Madre of Mexico. They 
spread all along the Pacific coast from Sinaloa to Oaxaca, and 
form a broad belt right across Mexico to the Atlantic coast, 
this belt representing an arc, roughly speaking, from Acapulco 
to Mexico City, Puebla and Vera Cruz, and down the coast to 
Coatzacoalcos. It is certain that this belt, which is still 
inhabited principally by Nahoa, has partly overrun and partly 
driven out other nations. As has always and everywhere been 
the case with such migrations, there were other indigenous 
races there before them. To the north of the arc mentioned 
above, were, and have remained, the Tarascos and the Otomi, 
the latter a boorish but hardy race. The Otomi still inhabit 
a considerable portion of the central plateau, and numbers of 
them daily bring wood and charcoal to the capital from the 
Sierra de Ajusco. But in the valley itself, and thence east- 
wards, the migrating Nahoa came into contact with another 
nation, who had been settled there for hundreds of years, and 
had reached a high state of civilisation. These were the 
" Toltecs." Calculations and guesses, based upon the " Anales 

* Nahoa was the term for all those who spoke dialects akin to that of the 
Aztecs, and these various tribes together were called Xahuatlaca, the neigh- 
bour-people. It is one of those words which seems to have acquired many 
meanings : " near by," " around," "' round," " mouth," possibly " speech." 
Anahuac, "land near the water," was the term for the Pacific and Atlantic 
lowlands. The Mexican savants spell the word "nahoa," with accented o, 
although the proper pronunciation is something like nahva. 



TOLTECS AND AZTECS 295 

de Quauhtitlan," have been made to the effect that the Toltecs 
arrived there about 700 A.D. They were gradually pressed 
eastwards by successive waves of the Nahoa tribes, the last of 
which to arrive were the Aztecs, about 1200 A.D. In 1325 
these founded a lake-dwelling settlement, Tenochtitlan, on 
the site of the present city, but it was not until 1427 that they 
formed an empire, by making tributary the kings of man} 
tribes and various alien nations. This empire, having been 
destroyed by Cortez in 1521, was consequently scarcely of 
one hundred years' duration. 

There were traditions that these " Toltecs " withdrew 
before the new arrivals towards the east to the Atlantic sea- 
board, as far. as Campeche and Guatemala. Hence the fable 
that their chief god, Quetzalcoatl, the feathered snake, went 
into the sea (perhaps at Coatzacoalcos, which, if read 
Coatl-tzacual-co, would literally mean " in the snake's prison "), 
but promised some day to return ; meanwhile, to console 
those of their kindred who remained on the plateau, the Toltecs 
left them their buildings, gods, and almanacs, or instructions 
how to worship them. 

By what route the Aztecs arrived in the Valley of Mexico 
is unknown ; most likely from the south, following the line of 
least resistance, which in this case would be between the wild 
Tarasco-Otomi and the Toltecs, with their kindred, for 
whom I suggest the Misteca-Zapoteca family. At any rate, 
they got there, and having arrived they changed their name 
Azteca into Mejica, a word of unknown meaning. Since they 
had become the dominant race, the Spaniards named the rebuilt 
capital, the old Tenochtitlan, Mexico, and all the members of 
the Nahoa-speaking stock became generally included under the 
term Mexicanos, whilst the name Aztec fell into disuse. Long 
before that the true Mexicano dialect had superseded all the 
other Nahoa dialects, partly thanks to its superiority, partly 
because it was the speech of the ruling race. The term Aztec 
has, however, been artificially revived, mainly in order to dis- 
tinguish these Nahuatlaca from the inhabitants of the Mexican 
Republic generally, all of whom are, of course, politically 
" Mejicanos." The better and more comprehensive term is 



298 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

Nahoa, pronounced " nahwa," now used by Mexican savants 
themselves. 

Leaving this political meaning of the word alone, only those 
tribes of natives that do not belong to the Nahoa group have 
retained separate names of their own, but names which have 
been given them by the ruling Mejica. These Aztecs were 
terrible fellows for renaming every river, mountain, village, 
town, and tribe with which they came into contact ; and the 
Spaniards, taking over the Mexican Empire, retained these 
names, so that most of the original ones have become almost, 
or quite, forgotten. 

The so-called Toltec question is in a great muddle. Accord- 
ing to some writers they were the aborigines of the southern 
plateau ; others have written long essays to prove that they 
belonged to the Nahoa group, like the Aztecs, whom they con- 
sider as the originators of the whole Mexican and Central 
American civilisation ; lastly, some have tried to cut the knot 
by declaring that there never were any Toltecs, that they are 
fabulous. Now, assuming that such a people have vanished 
as a nation, it is reasonable to suppose that they did not clear 
out entirely from the plateau. There are even unmistakable 
statements that such people did remain, and these, learning the 
language of their conquerors, became occasionally included 
amongst the Nahoa. This applies, as is known for certain, 
to the inhabitants of the town Tollan, now Tula, fifty miles 
north of the capital, on the Central Railway. That was a very 
ancient place, the most north-westerly outpost of this 
mysterious people, and since it was here that the Aztecs first 
came into permanent contact with them, they called them 
naturally Tolteca, the men of Tollan, and this term became 
applied to the rest of the race, of which they were a mere 
remnant. This seems obvious enough. Further, although 
the Aztecs had established their empire, there remained, even 
at the time of the Spanish conquest, a number of " kings " 
even in the immediate vicinity of the capital, for instance, 
at Texcoco and Tlaxcala, with whom the Aztecs frequently 
quarrelled, who themselves had come into the country with 
no less than eight other Nahoa tribes, the Aztecs themselves 



AZTEC CIVILISATION 299 

consisting of six clans ! All of these must have been 
ridiculously small, petty States, like those of ancient Greece, 
bickering with each other, and fighting for the hegemony. 

What do we know of the civilisation of the Aztec empire ? 
There are the monuments, a number of preserved writings, 
innumerable implements and works of art, and the accounts of 
the Spanish historians. There is no doubt that this civilisation 
had reached a high level. Let us first consider the monuments 
in Mexico. Near Oaxaca are the palatial buildings, the royal 
residences and mausoleums of Mitla. They belonged to the 
Zapoteca. On the other side of the town, the grand buildings 
on Monte Alban were a stronghold of the Misteca nation, akin 
to the Zapoteca ; and the same applies to Zaachila, Quiengola, 
and various other ruins in the State of Oaxaca, where the 
Mejicanos have never gained a foothold. The pyramid of 
Cholula, near Puebla, well near the heart of the empire, is a 
huge mound, built in terraces with sun-dried bricks, clay, and 
limestone, and about 180 feet high. On it stood a big temple 
with the image of Quetzalcoatl, the chief god ; but this temple 
and the large town of Cholula, with its hundreds of towers, 
were there already when the Nahoa reached this district, and 
they attributed the buildings to a fabulous race of giants. 
But they kept the temple, and adopted Quetzalcoatl as the 
chief deity of their growing empire. The fanatic Spanish priests 
promptly destroyed everything, and much later they put a big 
church on the top of the pyramid, which now looks like a natural 
hill, thickly overgrown with shrubs and trees. The pyramids 
of the Sun and Moon, at Teotihuacan, have been described 
in the first chapter. The important point for the present 
discussion is that they also are prehistoric and had been 
abandoned, and cleared of their treasures, by the fabulous 
race which built them. The beautifully carved pyramid of 
Xochicalco, described in the previous chapter, is likewise known 
to have been deserted, and no longer used during the Aztec 
domination. In the State of Vera Cruz, from Tampico to the 
Isthmus, are also ruins of fine terraced pyramids, as, for 
instance, at Papantla, Huatusco, Tuzapan, and there are 
probably many more that are scarcely known, like the little 



300 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

pyramid near Tetela ; while beyond the Isthmus in the land 
of the Mayas, are the world-renowned monuments of 
Palenque, Uxmal, Copan, etc. All these were quite beyond 
the reach of the Mexican Empire. Great buildings, mostly 
constructed of sun-dried bricks, occasionally with terraced 
pyramids, and even with stone carvings, of a much cruder 
type, exist also to the north of that empire, for instance, at 
Quemada, near Zacatecas, and the so-called Casas Grandes in 
north-western Chihuahua, but these are said to bear a resem- 
blance to similar constructions in New Mexico and Arizona. 
Therefore we must not allow- ourselves to be carried away 
in infinitum, otherwise we might as well consider the Peruvian 
monuments. For our purpose we must restrict ourselves to 
Southern Mexico. If we assign all the buildings of this part 
of the country to the mysterious " Toltecs," it does not follow 
that these were the first people who in America had attained 
to some state of civilisation, although they may have 
been there for a thousand years. Spaniards to-day, Arrtecs 
yesterday, Toltecs the day before yesterday, what light 
does this throw upon last week ? We are too liable to take 
some fabulous hero as representing the beginning of things, 
forgetting the warning vixere fortes ante Agamemnona. Our 
point is that none of the great and glorious monuments which 
are popularly paraded as belonging to the Aztec civilisation, 
have anything to do with the Mexican Empire, but that they 
were built by a prehistoric, totally different, race. But were 
there no Aztec monuments ? Certainly there were. Every- 
body knows of the big Teocalli, or god's house, in the city of 
Tenochtitlan, with its many other temples. No doubt others 
existed in other towns, but all these have been completely 
demolished by those fiends, the Spanish priests. It is im- 
portant to note that these fanatics destroyed all those temples 
which were built by, or still used as places of religious worship 
by the Aztecs, while they spared those which were pre-Aztec, 
such deserted monuments being considered harmless. 

Are we not justified in concluding that the Aztecs, having 
come into such an inheritance, adopted this civilisation ready 
made ? It w r as easy for them to have new temples built with 



A CALENDRIC SYSTEM 301 

the old samples before them, whilst good workmen, artists, and 
savants could always be procured from the tributary alien 
nations. 

What we know of the culture, religious rites, and learning 
of the Mexican Empire has come to us in two ways. There 
are still preserved several so-called codices, genuine Indian 
productions, written on deerskin or on agave paper, folded in 
book-form and painted in many colours. There are, further, 
many sheets which contain the accounts, kept by the official 
Aztec receivers in the capital, of the annual tribute of the sub- 
jected tribes. Further, a few of the Spanish monks, men of 
high culture and learning, had the good sense to engage learned 
Indians to paint in their own hieroglyphics the traditions of 
their tribes, the characters of their gods, etc., and, what is 
more, the monks in some cases wrote against the pictures an 
elaborated explanation in the Aztec language, but in Spanish 
cursive characters. Lastly, others, especially Sahagun,* had 
the brilliant notion of having a whole history of the Mexican 
Empire written down in Spanish characters, but in the Aztec 
dialect, from the dictation of native professors of history and 
theology. 

The standard of civilisation reached was fairly high, and 
it seems to have been of much the same kind amongst all 
the more intelligent tribes of the plateau and down to Yucatan 
and Guatemala. This uniformity of civilisation is shown, above 
all, by the calendric system used alike by the Mejicanos, 
Zapotecs, and Mayas. This system is so absolutely unique 
that it can only have been invented once. It is worth a 
description, especially since we shall be able to draw some 
conclusions from it. They had two calendars, a civil one of 
about one year's duration, and an ecclesiastic almanac of 
two hundred and sixty days. This almanac was called 
" tonalamatl " (literally meaning the " day -paper "), the 
" day-book." This book was used entirely for augury and 

* Bernardino de Sahagun, "Historia general de lascosas de Nueva Espana. 
Republished, Mexico, 1829. For illustrations cf. Lord Kingsborough's 
sumptuous folio volumes by Aglio, " Antiquities of Mexico," vols. V.-VII., 
London, 1830. 



302 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



horoscopic purposes, and really formed a complete epitome 
of their knowledge. Every day, and every hour of the day 
and night, had some deity presiding over it, and their theosophy, 
with its personifications and legends some beautiful and 
subtle, some obvious and far-fetched, some elevating, and some 
revolting was as complicated, reasonable, and at the same 
time as fanciful, as was that of the Greeks and Romans. The 
tonalamatl consisted of twenty sections of thirteen days each ; 
let us say twenty day-signs, or names, combined with the 
numerals 1 13 ; and by a peculiar combination the whole 
thing was so arranged that the first day of each section received 
the cypher 1 , while the twenty day-signs went on being repeated 
in the same order, so that, for instance, the first day of the first 
section begins with and is called 1 Crocodile ; but, there 
being twenty such day-signs, the next Crocodile day falls 
upon the eighth day of the second section, and this day is 
therefore known as 8 Crocodile. Thus, every one of the 
two hundred and sixty days had an absolutely fixed 
name, number, and position. In every country where this 
tonalamatl was in use the day-signs followed in the same 
order, and, with slight variations, the signs themselves were 
the same. 

The twenty signs, with their Aztec names, are as follows : 



1. Cipactli, the Crocodile. 

2. Eecatl, the Wind. 

3. Calli, the House. 

4. Cuetzpalin, the Iguana, or, 

rather, the "Leguan." 

5. Coatl, the Snake. 

6. Miquiztli, the Skeleton, or 

Death. 

7. Mazatl, the Stag. 

8. Tochtli, the Rabbit. 

9. Atl, the Water. 

10. Itzquintli, the Dog. 



11. Ozomatli, the Monkey. 

12. Malinalli. the Twisting 

Herb. 

13. Acatl, the Reed. 

14. Ozelotl, the Jaguar. 

15. Cuauhtli, the Eagle. 

16. Cozcacuauhtli, the King 

Vulture. 

17. Olin, the Rolling Ball. 

18. Tecpatl, the Flint. 

19. Cuiauitl, the Rain. 

20. Xoehitl, the Flower. 



Now, for our purpose it is most important to note first 
that every one of the prototypes of these signs, creatures, and 
plants occurs in the tropical parts of Mexico and Central 
America ; secondly, that several of the animals are absolutely 



THE DAY-SIGNS 303 

foreign to the plateau of Mexico. These creatures are the 
crocodile, jaguar, monkey, the " necklace-eagle," or king 
vulture ; and we may safely add a fifth, the " cuetzpalin," which 
is usually translated as lizard, but this creature is always 
painted blue, was the patron of water, and from the old 
historians we gather that it was sacrificed and eaten, and that, 
whenever possible, specimens of the blue kind were taken. All 
this only fits the " leguan," the Iguana tuberculata, an absolutely 
tropical and semi-aquatic lizard, the largest in America ; not 
the black iguana, or Ctenosaura acanthinura. The giant snake, 
" coatl," is, of course, the boa, which is likewise absent from 
the plateau, although often figured with the rattlesnake's tail. 
In any case at least five, if not six, out of ten creatures being 
foreign to the plateau are, to my mind, strong evidence that 
these day-signs were not invented on the plateau, but were 
borrowed, and taken over by the Aztecs together with the 
ready-made book. On the other hand, if they were the 
inventors of the almanac it would pass comprehension 
why the Aztecs, having originally come from the north, 
should not have selected some of the most obvious, and 
most impressive northern animals, as, for instance, the wolf, 
bear, puma, and bison, all of which live, or lived, in the 
north-west. 

It is most suggestive that Quetzalcoatl, the Morning Star, 
the reputed inventor of this almanac, and chief god of the 
Toltecs and Mayas, was a prominent god in the almanacs 
used by the Aztecs, whilst their own tutelary god, the god of 
war, Huitzilopochtli, has no place in it ! This fact alone 
seems sufficient to rule them out as the possible inventors of 
this unique almanac. How have its inventors arrived at the 
numbers 20 and 13 ? The number 20 is obvious ; they all 
counted by scores i.e., the ten fingers and ten toes. But the 
origin of the number 13 has been puzzled out by Foerstemann, 
who has done so much to elucidate the arithmetics and cipher- 
writings of the Central American peoples. Eight years of 
three hundred and sixty-five days each are exactly five Venus 
years of five hundred and eighty-four days ; either sum being 
2,920 days, and the Central Americans worshipped and 



304 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

observed the morning and evening star. Now, 5 -f- 8 are 13, 
which, multiplied by the usual score, give 260 days of the 
tonalamatl, which consequently is based upon a combination 
of the terrestrial and Venus years. 

Further, the Central Americans had a civil calendar, a 
year of three hundred and sixty-five days, but they did not 
know the leap year. As the tonalamatl began anew after 
every two hundred and sixty days, it completed its circuit, 
so to speak, within the year, and overlapped into the next year 
by one hundred and five days. Each year seems to have 
been named after that tonalamatl day which happened to fall 
on the day which they fixed upon as the New Year's Day, and, 
further, it so happens that the tonalamatl has to complete 
its circuit seventy-three times before New Year's Day (or any 
other fixed day of the year) can fall in with the same sign and 
the same numeral. Further, 73 x 260 days = 18,980 days, or 
exactly fifty-two years, omitting the correction of leap years. 
Since they had not hit upon this latter invention, their New 
Year's Day fell further and further behind the real time, nearly 
a fortnight in every cycle of fifty-two years, and hence they 
were in an incessant muddle, and always trying to make their 
feasts tally with the actual seasons, therefore the people 
in Mexico occasionally shifted their New Year's Day. 
When these occasional shifts were made is unknown ; and it 
is equally regrettable that the various nations did not shift 
alike, and therefore had different New Year's Days. Con- 
sequently, none of the numerous dates can be determined. 
The astronomers made bundles of fifty-two years each, and then 
the whole reckoning began anew. If they had numbered, 
or otherwise distinguished, these bundles, we should be able 
to reckon back easily. 

Thus far the builders of the prehistoric monuments in 
Mexico had got with their science, but whilst the much later 
Mexican Empire sank into hopeless confusion, the Mayas 
beyond the Isthmus had given up the counting of years 
altogether, and reckoned their chronologies by days alone, 
using as multiples some of the units of the tonalamatl and of 
the civil year. The latter was divided into eighteen scores 



THE ZERO-DATE 305 

plus five odd, or supplementary, days. Thus they arrived 
at 18 x 20 = 360. The next higher unit was 360 x 20 = 7,200 
days, and this is, as Seler has found out, the length of a 
" katun." Each katun was named for some unknown reason 
only after the flower-sign of the twenty day-signs, each of which 
had the usual thirteen days in the tonalamatl. Consequently 
there were in all 13 x 20 = 260 katuns possible without 
repetition in a period which comprised the enormous sum of 
1,872,000 days =5,200 units of 360 days, i.e., about 5,125 
terrestrial years, allowing roughly for leap years. This big 
total was divided into cycles of 20 katuns, and there were 
13 such cycles possible. The number 400, a score of scores, 
is still a popular way of expressing something very big in 
numbers. Zapotecs wiU tell you that the giant agave, the 
Furcroya, blooms only once in four hundred years, and even 
Spanish-speaking Mexicans will swear " by four hundred 
devils." They have learnt this from the Indians, since the 
Portuguese and Spaniards of Europe swear by six hundred, 
as did the Romans. They could, of course, exhaust a few 
cycles of 20 katuns, i.e., 20 x 20 x 360 = 144,000 days, about 
394 years, but not thirteen such cycles. 

Foerstemann's genius has found out that the zero of the 
whole reckoning-system refers to a day which in this almost 
perpetual calendar is a 4 Ahau Katun, which began with the 
eighth day of the score, called Kumku, and this has therefore 
been called the normal, or zero-date ; in the Mexican 
tonalamatl it is "4 xochitl," or " 4 flower " (" ahau " being the 
Maya for flower). 

On the monuments of Palenque, in Tabasco, Copan, and 
Quirigua, in Guatemala, and elsewhere, are sculptured 
elaborate sums with a tonalamatl date below them. With 
infinite trouble and ingenuity many of these inscriptions 
have now been deciphered, with the surprising result 
that the sum total of such sums equals exactly the 
number of days by which the actual date is distant from 
the normal-date ! No. II. of Palenque carries the date 
1 Ahau 13 Mac, and the following elaborate calculation 
therewith 



306 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

1 x 20 x 20 x 360 

18 x 20 x 360 

5 x 360 

(?) 4 x 20 



Total . . 275,480 days, 

equal to the number of days by which the date 1 Ahau 13 Mac 
is distant from the normal-date 4 Ahau 8 Kumku. 

Obviously, this monument seems to commemorate an exact 
date in the 755th year of their era ; but, unfortunately, nobody 
knows when that era began, and what its beginning refers to. 
At any rate, we now know that all these long inscriptions on 
the Maya monuments are dates, and nothing but dates. Some 
of the sums are very large indeed. According to Foerstemann, 
most of those of Quirigua and Copan lie somewhere between 
1,360,000 and 1,382,000 days from zero, and if the few experts 
in these matters are right in guessing that these monuments 
belong to about the fifteenth century of our own era, then the 
Maya zero would be somewhere near B.C. 2300. 

The Stele C of Quirigua is supposed to be one of the oldest 
monuments, to judge from its date-sums, which amount to 
about 3,548 years. If this monument be rightly referred to 
about the year A.D. 1000, bold reckoning would bring the zero 
to B.C. 2500. It is not impossible that this zero refers to a real 
event, but it is most unlikely. First, because it would imply 
that this superior way of counting had been in existence several 
thousand years without the builders of the marvellous 
monuments in Mexico knowing anything about it, although 
they had exactly the same tonalamatl. Secondly, there is a 
great discrepancy to be observed ; for whilst the Quirigua and 
Copan monuments present sums of more than 3,000 years, 
those of the Palenque temples show sums of only 754, to 
perhaps 1,136, years. This enormous stretch of time, of about 
2,400 years, thus happens to be without any dated monuments, 
and it would be nonsense to believe that those of Palenque are 
so much older. Every expert agrees that all the Central 
American ruins belong to very much the same kind of 
civilisation. 



THE PALENQUE PERIOD 307 

The deciphering of the Palenque monuments happens to be 
the least successful. Seler has made the following guesses : 
Altar plate of the Sun Temple, 275,466 days ; cross, Temple 
No. II., 275,480 days ; and he considers these two dates as 
safely solved. The readings of Cross Temple No. I. are very 
uncertain, either 339,200, or 411,560 days. Lastly, for the 
palace stairs he gives 1,357,100 days, a sum which would take 
them exactly within the dates of the Copan monuments, but 
nobody is likely to attribute to Palenque a period which lasted 
3,000 years. Instead of this, I look upon the discrepancies of 
dates as a sign that during the Palenque period the chronological 
reckoning itself was shifted, perhaps in this way that the 
New Year's Day had been altered to bring it more into agree- 
ment with actual astronomical conditions. Seler himself tells 
us that at the time of the Spanish conquest the New Year's 
Day of the Mayas no longer corresponded with that of the 
monuments, having been shifted (if I understand him rightly) 
by 1 + 5 days. As it is not known when this shift took place, 
there is no chance of reconciling the old perpetual calendar 
with our own reckoning, and no possibility of finding out the 
time to which their normal date or zero refers. Foerstemann 
has come to the conclusion that the normal date refers to the 
time when the New Year's Day fell upon the 28th of June. 
That would mean the year about B.C. 1100; the annual 
precession being 50.21 arc seconds = 200.84 time seconds ; 
seven days being 604,800 seconds ; consequently 3, 01 1.3 years. 
But, as the whole total for the normal date amounts to 
1,872,000 days, or about 5,125 terrestrial years, this 28th of 
June solstice does not help us. However, I think something else 
may be made of the shifting solstice. I suggest that the 
discrepancy in the date of 

The Palenque Staircase . . 1,357,100 days 
And Palenque Temple No. II. 275,466 ,, 



1,081,634 

can be satisfactorily reduced by the assumption that during 
the ^building of the various monuments of Palenque a cor- 
rectional shift of six days of the solstice was applied. Six 

v2 



308 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

days mean about 2581.1 years, or, roughly, 942,700 days, which, 
by subtraction, reduce the Palenque difference from -much more 
than a million to about 138,900 days, or 383 years, instead of 
the incredible 2,800 years. Having thus brought the Palenque 
monuments well within the period of those of Quirigua and 
Copan, I venture to make a further suggestion. The key to 
the whole is represented by the so-called Stele C of Quirigua, 
which is the oldest of all the dated monuments hitherto known. 
Seler has read the inscription on the east side of this monument 
as follows : 

13 x 20 x 20 x 360 (cycles of 400 tuns.) 
x 20 x 360 (katuns of 20 tuns.) 
x 360 (tuns of 18 x 20.) 
x 20 (uinals of 20 days.) 
x l 

Dated 4 Ahau 8 Kumku. 

His only comment is that this inscription means : " This is a 
chronological monument ; the beginning of the reckoning is 
the day 4 Ahau 8 Kumku." I suggest that it means much 
more. That it is intended to set forth the whole mode of 
calculation within the possible sum total of days, here written 
on the top line. " From the beginning of time to the end 
when the thirteen cycles are fulfilled there will be 1,872,000 
days. On the other, west, side of this monument, is the date of 
its erection, and you can read the time by this key;" Whether 
the end refers to the day of doom, the end of time, or of all 
things, we know not. But I imagine that the big sum 
represented to them, so to speak, the available sum total of days 
in the Bank of Time, against which they drew, that, in fact, they 
" played up " to that sum before them. Further, that they 
considered themselves in the tenth of the possible thirteen cycles, 
the nine past cycles being those nine pairs of hieroglyphics 
which are engraved on the east side of this Stele C, beside the 
" key," and which Seler has already supposed to mean " larger 
periods of time." 

Of course, all this is mere guesswork by one who does not 
pretend to the slightest experience in such matters-; but let us 
see how the application of this unprofessional idea may work 



CALCULATIONS OF DATES 309 

out. Let us, with the experts, assign to the Quirigua monu- 
ment the year A.D. 1000 The date and sum on its west side 
is said to give 3,570 years. The complete time-bill of about 
5,125 years would then still be 1,555 years ahead, corresponding 
with the year 2,555 of our own era, and the hypothetical zero 
would be B.C. 2,570. The palace stairs of Palenque are (by the 
same method of reckoning) 148 years later. Stele K, of Quir- 
igua, is 350 years later ; Temple No. II. of Palenque (new style 
of reckoning, allowing a shift of six days due to precession) 
would be 5,125 (754 + 380) = 3,991 years, corresponding 
with the year A.D. 1421. But Temple No. I. of Palenque which, 
provided it can be read at all, is either 175 or 372 years later 
than Temple No. II., would with this calculation fall into the 
years A.D. 1596 or 1793 respectively, which would make 
nonsense. However, if we want to bring these Palenque 
monuments into line with the rest, the fault in this method of 
calculation would simply lie with the quite arbitrary assign- 
ment of Stele C to the year A.D. 1000. There is no reason 
whatever why this should not be put back several hundred 
years. For the sake of corresponding numbers in the years 
on the monuments and our own era, let us fix the zero at the 
round figure of B.C. 2900 ; then the Quirigua Stele C was erected 
in our year A.D. 648. For the sake of easier comparison, the 
units and tens of the monument numbers have been made to 
correspond with those of our era, leaving only the hundreds 
to be adjusted. 

Lastly comes the most important question of all. What 
is the zero ? Again I take Stele C of Quirigua as the key 
to the whole question. The date and sum on the west side of 
this monument is as follows, according to Seler : 
9 x 20 x 20 x 360 
1 x 20 x 360 

x 360 

x 20 

x 1 

Dated 6 Ahau 13 Yaxkin. 

That is to say, 1,303,200 days, or, as it is generally put down, 
3,570 terrestrial years and 150 days ; but in this sum are about 



310 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

857 leap years, and the correct sum is 3,567 years -{- 288 days. 
Further, the monument was erected when the ninth cycle was 
already passed by 20 X 360 days ; consequently the zero, or 
beginning of the tenth cycle, gives 3,548 years. Why, then. 
did the erectors of this key-monument consider their world to 
be already 3,548 years old ? I suggest that this was because 
they fixed its origin at ten times as many "years" back as their 
year had days, namely, 10 X 360 = 3,600 of their short years, 
which equal 3,548 terrestrial years ! Further, nine full cycles 
of 144,000 days each would have exactly the same effect, and, 
for reasons known to themselves alone, their cosmogony had 
just done with the ninth cycle. That is all, and that is a great 
deal. 

There are two remarkable coincidences in the appended 
table. First, for the sake of round numbers the beginning of 
our era has been made to correspond with the monument's 
reckoning of 2,900, putting the Quirigua key into our seventh 
century (to allow the last Palenque of 4,371 to remain well 
within the time before the conquest), and making the number 
of years within the problematic century to correspond. Then 
the date 648 happens to be the same which some authorities, 
upon grounds unknown to me, have assigned to the arrival of 
the fabulous Toltecs upon the Mexican plateau (Seler does not 
accept this date, but assumes 752). Secondly, if, as I assume, 
a great shifting of the New Year's Day has taken place, this 
must obviously have been done after the year 998 and before 
1099, and within this century falls the year 1051, in which, 
according to some authorities, the Toltecs are supposed to have 
left the plateau ! This brings us at last back to our original 
theme, the Toltecs. Why they should have cleared out of the 
plateau about one hundred years before the arrival of the Nahoa 
tribes, and one hundred and fifty before that of the Aztecs, 
is not clear. But if they left so early it explains why their 
Teotihuacan was already deserted long before the Mexican 
regime. In no case can the Toltecs, after their retreat to 
Guatemala and Yucatan, have had anything to do with the 
Quirigua and Copan buildings, but it is just possible that they 
arrived in time for Temple No. II. of Palenque. But it is 



A COMPARISON 



311 



most unlikely that they were the builders of Palenque, witness 
the date of the palace stairs. We might compare these ex- 
pelled Toltecs with the Moors who, after the loss of Cordoba 
and Se villa, rose again to a short-lived splendour at Granada, 
but that the conditions were different. The Moors were simply 
restricted to the last province of Spain and, at Granada, were 
still amongst their own people, whilst the Toltecs arrived in 
Yucatan and Guatemala, where they were not wanted, the 
best available parts of the country being already occupied by 
a kindred race with a still higher civilisation. They were 
therefore in the same condition as the Moors after their ex- 
pulsion from Granada, when, although highly civilised, they 
were forced back upon their kindred in Africa, whence they had 
come hundreds of years before ; but they were not wanted, 
and therefore they vanished as an historical unit. 



Anno 
Domini. 


End of the 
last Cycle. 






2225 


5125 






1520 






Conquest of Mexico by Cortez 


1471 
1427 


4371 


Temple I. of Palenque 
(Doubtful). 


Foundation of the Mexican 


1325 






Empire. 
Foundation of Tenochtitlan. 


1274 
1168 


4174 


Temple I. of Palenque 

(Alternative). 


AZTECS arrive on the plateau 
and send the other Nahua- 


1099 


3999 


Temple II. of Palenque. 


tlaca tribes away. 


1051 






According to some assump- 
tion the TOLTECS leave the 








plateau. 
Correction of the New Year's 


998 


3898 


Stele K of Quirigua. 


Day by excalation of six 
days 


951 


3851 


,, D of Copan. 




841 


3741 


P of Copan. 




756 


3656 


Palace stairs of 








Palenque. 





312 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



Anno 
Domini. 



648 



513 



2900 B.C. 



End of the 
last Cycle. 



3548 



3413 



Zero, first 
year of first 
Cycle, dated 
4 Ahau 8 
Kumku 



Stele C of Quirigua 



The dated Nephrite 
Plate. 



According to some assump- 
tion the TOLTECS arrive on 
the plateau. 



Synchronological table of Central American monuments and events, 
the zero of the native reckoning being assumed to be the year 
2900 B.C. 

The Toltecs were of a race akin to that of the Mayas, and 
had a fundamentally similar civilisation, though not so advanced 
as that of the Mayas themselves. Whilst they occupied 
Mexico proper they built ah 1 those fine monuments, they had 
the tonalamatl, and they wrote in the form of pictures ; but the 
Mayas improved upon their calculation of time and upon their 
mode of writing. The Toltecan, therefore, represents an earlier 
stage of civilisation, though it does not at all follow (as some 
will have it) that they conveyed it to the Mayas. The Mexican 
Empire inherited their whole civilisation from the Toltecs, 
partly from those that remained behind, and partly through 
contact by commerce, etc. 

The Aztec writing was entirely picture writing, and was 
only just approaching the phonetic stage at the time of the 
Spanish conquest. They never wrote any texts. They 
painted, mostly in colours, chronological events, dates, accounts, 
and, above ah 1 , names. The hieroglyphs are very much like 
a rebus, pictures conveying the intended sense either by 
direct symbols or by the sound of the object drawn, regardless 
of the original meaning of the sign ; often very much like a 
punning rebus. " Tl " is the article ; " etl " is the bean, a 
white little oval in a black field, hence e ; " otli " means the 
road, hence yellow ground with human footmarks stands for 



AZTEC HIEROGLYPHS 313 

o ; " atl " is the water, therefore a is represented by blue waves 
with white snail-shells. These shells throw an important light 
upon the origin of this writing. Without exception they are 
shells like Conus and Cyprcea, that is, marine shells. The 
inventors of this sign were people familiar with the sea-coast, 
and, moreover, this was the Atlantic coast where such shells 
are large and abundant, while they are small and com- 
paratively rare on the coast of Oaxaca and Guerrero. 

A few instances of place-names may explain this curious 
system of combined idiograph and sound- writing .* Cuerna- 
vaca is the Spanish corruption of the Aztec " cuaunahuac " ; 
" cuautl " tree; " nahuac " near by. The tree sign is 
simple, invariably painted green with three leaved branches ; 
" near " is ingenious ; people who can speak our language, 
or a similar dialect, are neighbours ; or, if you prefer it, our 
neighbours alone can speak, while foreigners are those who 
cannot speak. The Russians, for instance, call the Germans 
" Niemetz " literally, " mute ones ! " Hence a picture of 
' : mouth and tongue " is a sign for " near by " ; " cuaunahuac " 
near the forest. " Cuautla," originally " cuauhtlan " 
trees close together, abundance of trees. Teeth stand close 
together, and a tooth is " tlantli." Therefore the sound 
" tlan," or the syllable " tlan," is represented by the two front 
teeth shown in white, with part of the red gums. Exactly the 
same train of thought leads from " dens," tooth, in Latin, to 
" dense " ! 

Another remarkable point. Whilst the Mexicans painted 
their hieroglyphs elaborately, in the case of creatures, for 
instance, the whole head, the same sign in the Maya tonalamatl 
is often reduced to a well-nigh irrecognisable bit of the original, 
but this bit, when explained, is at once recognised as the 
characteristic point. For instance, instead of the whole 
jaguar's head the Maya sign gives nothing but the ear outline, 
with its characteristic black spot. Further, the Aztec Empire 
had no symbols for their numerals, except for certain higher 
units such as 20, and its multiples, etc. One was a little circle 

* See the hieroglyphs of place-names at the end of various chapters. 



314 

with a dot in it, 5 was represented by five such circles in a 
row, and 13 by thirteen such circles, and so forth, in very 
clumsy fashion. But on the Xochicalco pyramid, on Zapoteca 
monuments, and in those tonalamatl which were used in 
Oaxaca and southwards, the number 5 is always represented 
by a bundle, 10 by two such bundles. Lastly, amongst the 
Mayas, with their abbreviated writing, the cypher 5 is simply 
a stick, the cypher 10 two sticks. 

All this is a little chapter preaching evolution. The 
people, who invented the tonalamatl and the hieroglyphic 
writing, lived in the Atlantic tropical lowlands, not on the 
Mexican plateau. These intelligent people were Mayas, who 
were already advanced enough in the seventh century to con- 
struct some of those marvellous carved monuments in 
Guatemala. A branch of these people occupied the Gulf 
countries, the present State of Vera Cruz, northwards into 
Tamaulipas (the natives, Huasteka, of this State are known 
to be closely akin to the present Mayas) ; and from these 
lowlands they spread westwards on to the plateau, at least as 
far as the Valley of Mexico, and it was they who erected all the 
prehistoric monuments at Teotihuacan, Xochicalco, Cholula, 
etc., and, of course, those in the State of Vera Cruz. These 
people were the mysterious Toltecs. Their empire was bor- 
dered to the north, west, and south by a broad belt which was, 
and, with a gap consisting of western Guerrero and Morelos, 
still is inhabited in the north by the Otomi, in the west by the 
Tarascos, and in the south by the great Misteca-Zapoteca 
family. The north-west of Mexico was inhabited by the 
Nahoa family, merging northwards into the North American 
tribes. The affinities of the Otomi, Tarasco, and Misteca- 
Zapoteca to the great Maya stock are not at all clear ; there 
may be no kinship between them, and they may, with the 
Mixe and Zcque, form a kind of pre-Mayan aborigines. 
Tarascos and Otomi are possibly related ; the peculiar pre- 
Aztec local names, such as Queretaro, Patzcuaro, Tacambaro, 
Apundaro, seem to indicate this. The language of the very 
intelligent Tarascos seems never to have been studied in 
earnest. But that the Otomi are related to the Misteca-Zapoteca 



THE MEXICAN LANGUAGES 315 

family has been shown recently.* For our present purpose 
it is important that some tribes of the latter family namely, 
the Misteca, and, above all, the Zapoteca were capable of the 
same high civilisation as the Toltecs, witness Mitla and Monte 
Alban. The Toltecs flourished in Mexico until the Nahoa 
tribes, having come along the Pacific coastlands, broke through 
between the Tarascos and Misteca, and then appeared upon 
the plateau. By the time that the Aztecs had settled in the 
Valley of Mexico the majority of the Toltecs had gone to whence 
they had come. The Aztecs, the most intelligent of all the 
Nahoa tribes, had a gift for administration, and, above all, 
were a warlike race, somewhat like the Romans. It came to 
pass that all the Nahoa tribes became known as Mejica, and, 
overrunning the Toltec dominion, they inherited their science 
and art to a certain extent, but even at the time of the 
Spanish conquest they had made but little headway against 
the Zapoteca, the most intellectual of all the many tribes in 
the whole of the Mexican Republic. 

Much confused matter has been written about the languages 
which are spoken in Mexico, and there seems to be a bewilder- 
ing number of them, whilst many have died out, or are vanishing 
without having been recorded. Some authorities group the 
hundred and odd so-called languages into a dozen or a score of 
families, and fight over whether they are, and if so, which of them 
are, monosyllabic, agglutinative, incorporative, poly synthetic, 
or inflexional. A considerable clearing up of this chaos is being 
achieved by Sr. Lie. Don Francisco Belmar, till recently 
Secretary of State in Oaxaca. He himself speaks a number 
of these languages, and has followed up their dialects in daily 
intercourse with the people. Thus it has come to pass that 
differences, which to the bookworm philologist seem funda- 
mental, are to him but variations of one great theme, the 
linguistic peculiarities of some tribe or other always filling the 
gap ; in other words, the genius of these languages has been 
revealed to him. Instead of increasing the chaos by incessant 
splitting up of the groups, he connects the languages, reducing 

* F. Belmar, " Lenguas indigenas de Mexico." Mexico, 1905. 



316 

them to a few groups, and even these he is on a fair way to 
combining. One of his latest achievements has been to show 
that the Otomi is akin to the Zapoteca group. This is of the 
utmost importance. Hitherto the Otomi, still spoken ex- 
clusively in the centre, has been considered a monosyllabic 
language, and therefore primitive, and therefore again it 
sounds almost incredible attempts have not been wanting to 
connect it with Chinese ! 

Every language has started with monosyllabic words, and 
every language has retained such words, some many, others 
few, and many of such syllables have lost their independent 
meaning, although they at once impart a special meaning 
when attached to other sounds ; for instance, our own " be " 
or " un " in " become " and " undo." No language is known 
which is still primitively monosyllabic, and those which 
approach that condition have done so through a long process 
of attrition, notably the Anglo-Saxon portion of modern 
English, and Chinese. These words have been so much clipped, 
contracted, and used as auxiliaries, that they are now like so 
many water-worn pebbles, many of them almost alike. " I 
did not know what to say, but let him cut down for wood all 
the trees in his reach." Twenty different words, and only 
twenty syllables ! That is a greater feat than is within the 
scope of even the so-called monosyllabic Otomi. 

All the American languages are said to be incorporative 
and agglutinative, and none are inflexional. The differences 
between quasi-monosyllabic, simply juxtaposed, synthetic, 
and poly synthetic languages, are only differences of degree, 
and vanish when put to the test. However, the various 
authorities have not yet agreed upon reliable definitions of 
these terms, for the good reason that there are no fundamental 
differences in practice. " Son " is monosyllabic ; " grandson " 
is synthetic ; the " never-to-be-forgotten grandfather " is 
polysynthetic in the fullest sense, since " the whole combination 
is firmly welded together and presents a whole sentence, or 
proposition, in the guise of one word." The Aztec language 
is fond of such formations, hence it is polysynthetic. The 
Zapotec has little of it, others have still less or none. 



COMPOUND WORDS 317 

Sr. Belmar has shown that the further the respective 
languages have been developed the more the Mexican languages 
tend to form compound words, and he has followed up this 
process very elaborately in the various languages of the Misteca- 
Zapoteca group. Frequently the words of two syllables are 
formed of two roots, each of which originally meant the same 
thing, and each of which in some language or other is still used 
as the sole term for that thing. If " tree " in one language 
is called A and in another B, then in Zapoteca a tree is called 
A + B, I think that the same notion, the desire for greater 
precision, and the desire also to obviate mistakes in the pronun- 
ciation of the mostly monosyllabic roots (there are, for instance, 
thirteen different koo, five kee, three kii, ten kua, five kue 
in Belmar's short Zapotec vocabulary) has, perhaps, led also 
to the frequent use of categorical terms, or general, combined 
with specific, terms, something like " beast-cat," " beast-dog," 
just as it might occasionally serve to prevent confusion if 
we said " doe-beast " and " dough-mass." Some of the 
languages use more suffixes, others more prefixes. Some say 
" in-my-house," others " my-house-in " ; some say " past-I- 
sing," others " I sing-past," meaning, in either case, " I have 
sung." 

The various languages do not coincide with natural 
boundaries. They are in scattered groups, or mixed and form 
" enclaves," thus indicating the shifting, overlapping, and 
penetration that has gone on in the past. Moreover, there are 
very many dialects, and these change so easily and rapidly that 
no great geographical obstacles are necessary to bring about 
an estrangement. For instance, between Oaxaca and the coast 
almost every village has its own Zapotec dialect, not only 
as regards pronunciation, but even in respect of the difference 
of words. Another powerful illustration is afforded by the four 
Huavi villages, which are said to understand each other with 
some difficulty ; though separated only by the lagoons, and 
almost within sight of each other, the mere absence of daily 
intercourse is sufficient for these changes. The same principle 
applies to the language, and it must be remembered that none 
of these tribes and nations possessed a written language. Only 



318 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

those who had developed a central government, who ad- 
ministered and traded, and especially those who attained to 
military power, have spread, and to a certain extent have 
fixed, their speech. None show this more clearly than the 
Mejicanos. Yet even this military race has not been able to 
impress its avowedly highly developed language upon any of 
the other tribes and nations. Many have vanished, but none 
seem to have adopted another native language. Not so with 
Spanish, which, although so absolutely foreign in grammar 
and syntax to their own form of thought, is becoming the 
dominant idiom, simply owing to the strength of the im- 
measurably superior civilisation which backs it, and because 
the Government, instead of worrying, lets the natives talk as 
much as, and in whatever tongue, they like. 

It would be a great error to conclude that these languages 
are still in their infancy, because they are so plastic, are not 
fixed, and to some extent are still monosyllabic. If they can 
all be reduced to a few fundamental groups which are irrecon- 
cilable, then it follows either that the country received its 
population at various times and from different stocks, or that 
America was once inhabited by speechless man. As many 
other large mammals have spread from the Old into the New 
World, man may have done the same by way of Alaska before 
he reached the stage of so-called articulate speech, and that 
of using implements. Ethnologists tell us that all the American 
aborigines are closely akin to each other, forming one large 
family, with essentially the same fundamental characters, 
and that by speech and physical features they reveal them- 
selves to be of Mongolian stock. Unless we assume a multiple 
origin of mankind, this seems, after all, the most reasonable 
supposition. 

The question has cropped up with great persistence whether 
the builders of the monuments in Central America and Peru 
were people who, without affinities with the other tribes of 
North and South America, have immigrated more directly 
and more recently from some Indo-Chinese country. This 
idea has found enthusiastic advocates and no less scornful 
refutation ; yet it is far from settled. Reasons in favour of 



REASONS FOR ASIATIC ORIGIN 319 

it are the following : First, the style of the square pyramidal 
buildings. To think here of Egyptian influence is childish. 
Tumuli are either round, or they are sure to assume a square 
shape, with reference to the four quarters of the world, when 
sun worship and astronomical knowledge are developed, both 
of which are inherent elements in human nature. Secondly : 
the occurrence of so many implements and ornaments of 
jade and nephrite, which is not known to occur in America 
except in Alaska, though found in New Zealand and in Eastern 
Asia. Small implements can be traded thousands of miles 
over land, but this would scarcely be the case with pieces in 
the rough, to be carved by the buyer. Thirdly : some of the 
terra-cotta images have unmistakably slanting " Mongolian " 
eyes. Professor Starr states that " oblique eyes, like those 
of the Chinese, are frequent in some tribes, but are not universal 
in any ; a less degree of obliquity occurs quite commonly in 
some tribes." Of course, this may be due to a remnant of the 
problematic Mongolian immigrants, who must have existed in 
Central America in considerable numbers. There are, further, 
the pig-tailed people carved in relief on the slabs of the sub- 
terranean passages of Monte Alban, see p. 258. Neatly carved 
figures have been dug up in Mexico City which some experts 
declare to be of Chinese make. Lastly, and this is a point 
which I cannot get over : at Uxmal is said to be the carved 
image of the head of an elephant, as clearly delineated as it 
can have been done only by an artist who was familiar with 
these creatures. American palaeontologists, amongst them 
no less an authority than Professor W. B. Scott, of Princeton, 
hold that the mammoth in America was contemporary with 
man, but the Palenque creature is not a mammoth, and, 
moreover, that would put those stone carvings with their 
complicated sums back to the age of primitive man. 
Accomplished sculptors, mathematicians, and mammoths do 
not go well together. 

The whole question has not been solved : far from it. It 
cannot be disposed of by ridiculing everyone of the arguments 
adduced, though none of them amount to actual proof, and by 
simply explaining the resemblances as cases of accidental con- 



320 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



vergence. None of the American races were, or are, navigators, 
and yet there are huge carved stones on Easter Island, a little 
speck in the ocean, 2,000 miles off Chile, and not known ''to 
have been inhabited at all, except for these silent witnesses of 
the mysterious navigators of the great ocean. 




H 

A MODERN AZTEC BOY 



CHAPTER XVI. 

IGUALA AND THE RIO BALSAS. 

A beautiful Defile Inn and Market of Iguala The Railhead The Balsas 
River Tree-frogs The Chirotes Lizard Gold Disagreeable Experiences. 

There is not much in Iguala conducive to a stay, unless the 
traveller be preparing to follow the ancient trail to Chilpancingo 
and Acapulco. The town lies in the midst of a large, unin- 
teresting plain, which is reached by rail from the north through 
the Canon de la Mano. This gorge, cleaving the range of 
limestone hills from north to south, is only some four miles 
from the town, and is itself about as many miles long. In wild, 
picturesque, luxurious beauty it is not easily surpassed. We 
spent a whole day in it, revelling in its beauty ; in the high 
precipitous crags, every yard overgrown with trees, flowers, 
ferns, and creepers ; and the stream rushing through its bed 
of boulders, where the leisured observer is sure to see plenty 
of life. Myriads of butterflies, lizards, snakes, birds, and various 
mammals, such as the " tejon," the " cacomistle," squirrels, 
and opossums, are to be seen, and even the jaguar, who pays 
visits during his nightly prowls to the high trestle railway 
bridge, which itself is a fine piece of engineering skill and daring. 
Mostly, tourists keep to certain well-beaten tracks, but always 
enquire whether there is anything else worth seeing without 
undue exertion. 

A visit to the Canon de la Mano requires no preparations, 
since, on coming from Iguala one has but to step out of the 
morning train, have a day's picnic in this most glorious defile, 
and then either walk back to the town or take the afternoon 



322 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

down- tram. Much touting goes on at the station of Iguala, 
a long way off the town. The ramshackle omnibus, crowded 
beyond its last inch of capacity, and drawn by a team of mules, 
rushes through the filthiest mud at the back of the station, 
and dives into a pool between ox-carts, loose cattle, braying 
donkeys, and country Indians, the latter perched up on the 
stacks of sleepers. Other Indians squat under the shelter of a 
goods' car, the women busily grinding Indian corn with their 
lava implements, or roasting tortillas over roughly improvised 
fires. There are crowds and crowds of these natives, some com- 
ing and others going by the train. Many families have 
established themselves there for good, in their flimsily-built 
shelters, or stalls, and are driving a flourishing trade with 
" mescal," bits of sugar-cane, cigarettes, tortillas, and dulces. 
or sweetmeats, of many kinds and colours. Here and there 
stands a table with extemporised seats, where one can partake 
al fresco of a meal consisting of a nauseous-looking soup, a 
dish of black beans swimming in a brown oily-looking fluid, 
and " chili con carne," the national red-pepper and meat 
stew. 

The omnibus drags on over the fields, through sand and 
mud, passes the high-walled cemetery, enters the long, straggling 
lanes of the town, and then bumps over the stones of a curious 
pavement. For some unknown reason, unless it be that of 
economy, the roads in the outskirts of many of these towns 
are only half paved. Say one hundred yards of the right, 
then the next hundred yards of the left are paved, both sides 
sloping towards the centre which forms the gutter. The stones 
at the edges of these strips of pavement are, of course, loose, 
dislodged by wheels and rain, and the state of the road where 
these opposite pavements meet can be imagined. Within the 
town proper the streets are all right, barring the slope, and we 
gallop along at a furious pace. The town itself is fairly clean, 
the fruit market, pottery, and the whole life of the town is 
typically semi-tropical. 

The Hotel Cortina was dirty, and some of its rooms quite 
impossible, but the food was good and ample, as it was run 
entirely by women. Never-failing amusement was afforded 



A PARROT AND A MAID 



323 



by a parrot, which soon let out a little secret. The name of 
the chief maid was Luz, or " Light," and she was much in 
request. There were frequent calls for " Luz," every one of 
which was promptly answered by the " Perrico " in the 
" Light's " voice, with the words " Ya la traigo," " I am 
bringing it already," but Luz herself being usually elsewhere 
did not appear. 




YOUNG LADY AND MAID SHOPPING AT IGTJALA. 



Iguala is the " jumping-off " place for Acapulco. Riding- 
horses and pack-trains are fitted out at this town, and the 
traveller who might try to vary this immemorial custom would 
soon find himself in difficulties. It was our intention first to 
go by rail to the Rio Balsas station, and then return to Iguala, 
thence taking up the trail to the south. The Jefe Politico, 
whose business it was to make the arrangements, procured 
instead a letter from a man who was supposed to be all-powerful 
at the Balsas, and who just happened to pass through the town. 

w 2 



324 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

The letter was profuse, and promised horses, mules, and good 
guides at Balsas, to take us thence the dozen miles up river to 
Mescala, and then southwards. The proposal sounded at- 
tractive, as the return journey by rail would thereby be avoided 
as also the march from Iguala to Mescala, which place we should 
have to pass in any case. We fell into this trap. 

It is three hours by rail to Balsas station, where we arrived 
at half -past ten at night, having been joined on the way by one 
Daniel, who, as the bailiff and right-hand of his master, laid the 
whole village, with all its resources, at our feet, and installed 
us at the empty " casa grande," with Pascual, a native, to act 
as servant and guard. Rio Balsas is a queer-looking place ; 
it is at present the terminus of the railway, which was built, 
by private enterprise, from Cuernavaca southwards ; it was, 
indeed, well enough built, but at the Balsas it got itself into a 
cul-de-sac, whence it is not likely to be extricated in a hurry. 
The river is spanned by a fine iron bridge right in front of 
impassable mountains. Thus it has come to pass that the 
terminus of this line is a bridge which cannot be used even for 
ordinary traffic, since only men and dogs can hop over the 
trestles, and even they only on sufferance. There was originally 
no settlement of natives, but all sorts and conditions of men, 
that indescribable riff-raff which collects along a new railroad 
in a wilderness, had stuck there, and these were mostly Indians 
of various tribes. There is nothing to trade with, the chief 
industry being the cutting down of the scrubby trees, mainly 
the red-barked " mulato "-tree, to supply fuel for the engines 
on the line. Our self-appointed patron was the contractor 
for the firewood company ; the place practically belonged to 
him. The wood is brought there by donkeys, and then across 
the bridge on men's backs. 

Imagine some dozen palm-thatched huts, scattered about 
without rhyme or reason in the sloping corner, which is formed 
by the mighty Balsas and its tributary the Cocula. This 
river is crossed by a rope ferry, consisting of a wire rope which 
starts out of a tree on the opposite side. Passengers and goods 
are put into a kind of crate and then hauled across, not without 
interruptions, as if the passenger is a stranger the con- 



AN UNFAIR ADVANTAGE. 



325 



trivance is made to stop half-way to allow him the better to 
enjoy the view of the swirling river beneath, and the ferryman 
takes advantage of the situation to drive a better bargain. 
The craggy mountains are well covered with tropical growth, 
all very pretty, were it not for the presence of mankind. Our 
own domicile, the best in the village, is worth describing. It 
was a large, oblong, lofty hut, with wattled walls, and with a 
central roof-ridge supporting a roof of palm-leaves, forming 




FERRY ACROSS THE COCULA RIVER. 



eaves, and had in front the usual verandah. At front and back 
it had doors ; the floor was made of beaten clay mixed with 
cows' dung, and it had an office table and two " catres," the 
usual wooden folding bedstead frames held together by 
canvas. Bottles, saddles, chains, ropes, and dirt made up the 
furniture. If you arrive at such a place in utter darkness, 
with your camping equipment and all the other many bundles 
piled up on the floor, you sit down on the top of your possessions 
while the usual nocturnal thunderstorm is raging, soaked with 



326 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



perspiration and by the rain, and wish yourself elsewhere. 
However, you cannot sit there all night. Let us light candles 
and make ourselves at home. Then come forth moths, beetles, 
and mosquitoes, flies, midges, and untold similar horrors, all 
buzzing, biting, tickling, and irritating, while roof, walls, 
and floor are alive with other abominations, such as scorpions, 
centipedes, bugs, and fleas. At last you creep under the 
mosquito curtains of the camp beds, but sleep is impossible 
in the stuffy atmosphere temperature 86 F., and laden with 
moisture. The dogs keep up an incessant bark, donkeys bray, 




OUR HOUSE AT BALSAS. 
(South Entrance.) 

pigs squeal, and men drunk with " mescal " continue to brawl, 
and keep on droning their weird, monotonous songs. Toads 
sit in the little puddles under the dripping eaves, and cry like 
babies, or bleat like little goats, while the tree-frogs contribute 
to the din with their incessant, bark-like staccato, their cry 
sounding like a cross between that of an angry puppy and a 
snarling dog. But even amidst all this din you succumb 
at last to the sleep of exhaustion, soon stirred up by the 
discovery that the beds have been put exactly under the most 
leaky part of the roof, and require shifting. 

As usual, the morning hours were the best part of the day, 
but soon it became hot and glaring. Too hot to be about in 



OUR HOUSE AT BALSAS. 



327 



the sun from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., when the temperature, even in 
the dark, ill-ventilated hut, kept at 96 F. ; as long as it kept 
below 86 we did not much mind, and when it sank to 80, its 
lowest, the air seemed quite agreeable. The hut stood close to the 
bank of the Cocula, and in the dense foliage beyond the fireflies 
made a wonderful display in the evening, thousands of them 
flitting about like so many electric sparks, so bright that their 




OUR HOUSE AT BALSAS. 



reflections could be seen in the water. But usually about 8 p.m. 
the sky became thick with clouds, soon to burst like a deluge, 
which kept on till after midnight. 

The extent of these rains, or rather, their detailed distri- 
bution in space and time during the wet season, seemed to be 
rather erratic. For instance, the Cocula at our back door 
rose many feet overnight, and was then for hours covered with 
a mass of mould, dried grass, branches, trees, and hut-roofs, 
mixed with scum and foam, all rushing into the Balsas. This 



328 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

river, one of the largest in Mexico, fell during our stay of four 
days as many feet, indicating that in the region of its eastern 
basin the rains had temporarily stopped, but about the con- 
ditions to the south we could learn nothing. The Balsas has 
many names, since it is the custom of the natives to refer to a 
river by the name of the nearest settlement, unless they speak 
of it only as " the river." From its mouth upwards it is the 
Zacatula, Balsas, Mescala, Atoyac. 

" Rio de las Balsas " refers to the " balsas," or rafts, by 
which it is crossed or, to a limited extent, navigated. Often 
such a raft consists of but two logs lashed together, with a 
bundle of Indian corn-stalks on the top, and with a mat which 
also covers the " goods to be kept dry." The captain and 
crew, he is all in one, divests himself of all his garments 
except his big sombrero, sits astride in front, and punts the 
raft into the current, while the passenger, likewise stripped, 
is welcome to hold on behind as best he can. For regular 
voyages between villages, the raft is a bigger one, and the 
" crew " is drunk ! At the time of our visit the Balsas was full 
of yellow-brown water, which carried little sand, the turbid water 
being so full of comminuted vegetable matter that even after 
several hours standing in a vessel it deposited very little 
sediment. During the winter (the dry season) this same river 
shrinks considerably ; its rocky bed is then full of sandbanks, 
and the water is said to be quite clear, with a bluish-green 
tinge. The banks are high, mostly formed by limestone. The 
elevation of Balsas Station is returned as 1,417 feet, the river's 
mean may be 1,390. Between this station and the village of 
Coyuca, a distance of scarcely seventy miles, it is said there are 
more than fifty rapids. 

The whole valley is notoriously hot and stuffy, and at all 
times of the year infested with an unusual number of insects. 
The tropical features of plants and animals are apparent. 
Crocodiles of moderate size, regularly ascend a little beyond 
Mescala. There are very few kinds of fish, not more than six 
species having hitherto been reported from this huge basin. 
This scarcity is best explained by the abnormal conditions or 
changes of the water described above, few fishes being adapted 



LOVELY TREE-FROGS. 



329 



to live in a river which for half a year is turbid, and clear during 
the other half, without any quiet backwaters. The biggest 
fish is a kind of sheat-fish (Amiurus balsanus) . reaching a length 
of five feet ; the man who hauled it out with his primitive 
tackle belonged to a type very different from that of the 
majority. Lovely big tree-frogs, of a saturated green, dwelt 






A FISHERMAN AT BALSAS. 



during the heat of the day in the thick thatch of the huts, 
whilst at night, especially during the rain, they hopped about 
on the ground, to pair. As a rule these Phyllomedusas do not 
deposit their spawn directly in the water ; they wrap their eggs 
in a foamy lather, and suspend the whole mass between leaves 
or grass, over water, in such a position that the next heavy rain 
washes the rapidly developing eggs or tadpoles into it. Those 
which we could observe behaved in rather a puzzling manner 



330 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

The pairs sat in a tangle of herbs at the edge of a little ditch in 
the middle of the village, whence the rain could wash the eggs 
only into a filthy lagoon some fifty yards off. In the morning 
the ditch was always quite dry, and there were no traces of 
frogs or eggs left. This may have been an error of judgment 
of the tree-frogs. The majority were barking, snarling, and 
entreating each other's attention on more suitable ground, 
but we failed ignominiously in our observations during the 
dark of night, and in the tropical downpour. The most re- 
markable feature, so far apparently unique, is the colour of the 




\ 
\ 

Chirotes canaliculatus. 
(3 times nat. size.) 

numerous and very small eggs, these all being of a light 
green ! 

Our reward came in another direction in the guise of 
" culebritas con manitas," little snakes with little hands 
sounds quite sufficiently startling ! The creature belongs to 
the genus Chirotes, a member of the widely distributed family 
of Amphisbcenidce, worm-shaped lizards, all of which, except 
Chirotes have lost every trace of the limbs. Only Chiroles 
has kept its front pair, rather strong, with sturdy little digging 
hands. Discovered many years ago somewhere "in Mexico," 
it remained after that almost mythical, a treasure in a few 



WORM-LIKE CREATURES 331 

European museums. Then a single specimen with only three 
fingers was received from near Tecpan in South Guerrero. 
Next, some twenty years ago, a third kind was discovered in 
Lower California in considerable numbers. We found the 
original five-fingered Chirotes on the banks of the Balsas, 
where it lives in the patches of alluvial sandy soil, well out of 
reach of possible floods. Natives were actually ploughing the 
fields of Indian corn when they found this treasure. In our 
hopes of getting many we were, however, disappointed ; only 
three specimens were the spoil, in spite of the promised rewards 
being increased from day to day. Then Ramon and ourselves 
went digging until we were completely baked by the fierce 
sun. The pink, worm-like, blind creatures, of the size and 
thickness of an ordinary lead pencil, live at a depth of at least 
one foot, burrowing little canals which may be followed a long 
way in any direction in the moist sand, but collapse at once 
behind the digging animal in the drier parts. They do not 
apparently come to the surface during the night, no tracks 
being visible in the early morning. When kept in a tin with 
sand they dug into it first with their heads, then with their 
mole-like hands. Like other Amphisbcenas they soon become 
flabby from evaporation, but swelled up again when the 
sand was moistened. Chirotes, the least reduced member 
of the presumably ancient family of Amphisbcenas, is their sole 
representative in Mexico. It is difficult to imagine how it, a 
helpless digger, without any chance of travelling, bound as it 
is to sandy soil, has managed to survive, unless we imagine that 
it is really a coast inhabitant. Living in dunes as it does in 
Lower California, and at Tecpan, not far inland from Acapulco 
(most likely also in many other parts of the Pacific coast of 
Mexico, though accidentally not yet found), it may have worked 
its way up the many sand-covered ledges of the Balsas, unless, 
indeed the lower half of its basin once formed a temporary 
inlet of the sea, an assumption not at all impossible, although 
unsupported at present, its geological features being unknown. 
"It is slow but sure that does it." A worm-like creature, 
provided there was at some time or other continuity of suitable 
terrain in a west to east direction, it may have spread at the 



332 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



slow rate of ten feet per year, which means three miles since 
the beginning of the Christian era, a mere nothing in point of 
time, but even at this rate of progress the two hundred miles 
required would be accomplished in 125,000 years. To round 
off this fanciful calculation to a quarter of a million years, 
100,000 years may then be allowed for hitches on the journey, 




BALSAS. 

such as waiting for sandy patches to join. Idle dreams ? 
Not at all, since our calculations afford an insight into what 
can be done in time by a slowly-spreading kind of creature. 
They are at least as satisfactory as the assumption that these 
Chirotes once extended over a much wider area, and are now 
restricted to a few localities. By-the-bye, I wonder whether 
Pascual has ever introduced their new name amongst his people. 



MANY GOLD-MINES 333 

He asked what we called these " culebritas," and when told he 
repeated over and over again the word " quirotas." Perhaps 
some future traveller will analyse this word. 

The Balsas basin and the mountains of the western half 
of Guerrero are the centre of the gold-mining industry of 
Southern Mexico, or, let us say, of the seeking for gold. There 
are hundreds of gold-mines, or, rather, places where the white 
man is searching for the " yellow metal," and every year new 
little companies are formed, " puffed " into existence, sold, and 
then abandoned. One cannot travel for a week without 
receiving the most glowing offer of some mine, or, at least, a 
mine " en estudio, en su infancia," a mine in contemplation 
or in its infancy. The curious point is that the lucky owner 
invariably should be so anxious to get rid of it. Now, what 
are the facts about this gold in Mexico ? I have not yet met 
a man who has made his fortune out of gold, although I have 
met some who have made money by selling a mine, and not a 
few who have lost all they possessed through buying and 
working one. 

There is gold in Guerrero, and it has been washed by the 
natives from time immemorial. When the Spaniards destroyed 
the Aztec Empire they found that gold was much used for 
ornaments, but not even Cortez, who naturally had the pick of 
these treasures, managed to send home great quantities ; nor 
did any of his soldiers become rich. It has been calculated 
that the amount of gold squeezed out of Mexico during the 
first fifty years after the conquest did not average more than 
a few hundred pounds yearly.* 

The Aztecs had a humorously profane name for gold, 
" tio-cuitl," i.e., " god-excrements." They themselves got 
it from the tributary tribes, and as gold, when turned into 
ornaments does not get lost, the accumulation of hundreds of 
years may easily have reached a considerable amount. 
Moreover, the chiefs sweated their people, and the Spaniards 
put on the screw still more tightly, and yet the result was 
but moderate. Because there is not much gold in placers. 

* A. Soetbeer, " Edelmetall Produktion," Gotha. 1879. F. De la Yglesia, 
" Los Caudales de Indias en la primera mitad del siglo XVI." Madrid, 1904. 



334 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

Why, otherwise, did they waste their energy in sending ex- 
pedition after expedition further and further to the north-west, 
only to lose themselves in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona ? 

Much of the western half of the Sierra Madre del Sur is 
composed of eruptive rocks, granulite and andesite ; some of 
the peaks are quartzite, with great andesite dykes, and with 
mica schist on the slopes ; and in some places in contact with 
the eruptive rocks is a slaty formation, with quartz veins, 
and these contain gold. But they are difficult to work in the 
mountain fastnesses, with a very scanty population, and no 
water for the stamps. Neither natives nor Spaniards seriously 
wasted their energy in this way. The natives obtained the 
gold by the same process as they do still, namely, by washing 
it out of the gravel of the river beds, out of the debris of the 
original quartz veins, which it has taken nature countless ages 
to crush and to carry down. Every year, just before the rainy 
season, when the river is at its lowest, natives of Guerrero and 
Michoacan work in the shallow places and sandbanks for the 
" dust," and there are even rumours of little nuggets. 

A swarthy American, who had " jumped a train " and thus 
got to the Balsas, attracted general attention by his looking 
about and restlessly crossing and recrossing the bridge, wanting 
to buy arms and not knowing any Spanish. A day later he 
was found near a village lower down, famished and half mad- 
dened with the bites and stings of the insects which had 
attacked him while sleeping in the bush and rain. He was 
undoubtedly " loco," of unsound mind, and the chief of that 
village intended to transport him back to us, but as he never 
turned up and was not heard of again, he was probably 
despatched in some other way. These Indians are rather 
jealous of their womenkind, and a white stranger who cannot 
talk, is unarmed, and penniless, easily meets with a " disgracia," 
which does not mean a disgrace, but an accident, the idea of 
blame implied by the term referring either to Fate, God, or any 
other agency thought likely to be responsible. If " gracia a 
Dios " means thanks, a " disgracia " is clearly due to an 
" ungrateful," or rather, a thankless act, such as some careless- 
ness of failure of duty. The decision arrived at by an Indian, 



EFFECTS OF PAY-DAY 



335 



whether he is to propitiate his recalcitrant saint by further 
offerings or to punish him, is due to a very subtle mental pro- 
cess. Propitiation is tantamount to self -confession on the part 
of an uneasy conscience. 

If it had not been for the interesting fauna, we would 
gladly have left this hell of dirt, noise, and viciousness a 
day or two sooner. But this was easier to be said than done. 
Saturday being pay-day, brought in the contractor on a trolley, 




MARKET AT BALSAS. 



and our first interview with him seemed to be very satisfactory. 
He was thanked for his gracious letter, the loan of the house 
and servant, and for his repeated promise to despatch us with 
a guide, and any number of horses and mules to Mescala early 
next morning. But a few hours later everybody had suc- 
cumbed to the effects of its being pay-day, and it was Sunday 
afternoon when there at last appeared as impudent a rascal 
as only a bad muleteer can be, with two sore-backed mules. 
Daniel himself had taken the precaution of sending his own 



336 

horses away, and no other suitable beasts were available. We 
therefore cursed the whole village jointly and in detail, and 
resolved to return to Iguala by train, provided that the 
latter managed to turn up that night. There was much pack- 
ing and re-arranging of the baggage, which had already been 
divided into proper loads ; by midnight they were safely on 
board, and we sweltered in the hut in a state of exhaustion 
till 2.30 a.m., when we got off at last. And whom did we 
behold in the same car but Daniel, who went as far as the next 
station, thence personally to take back his horses ! 

The Prefect of Iguala was not exactly pleased to see us again, 
and felt uncomfortable when long telegrams from the Governor 
at Chilpancingo came in, wanting to know what had become 
of us, and announcing that a whole detachment of mounted 
police had been waiting for several days at Mescala. Then 
followed many excuses and explanatory lies, and orderlies 
bustled about. To make things still more lively three rurales 
with a sergeant clattered into the town at daybreak in search 
of us. Within record time horses, mules, and muleteers were 
found and got ready, and half-a-dozen mounted orderlies 
formed a guard of honour, in addition to the four rurales, to 
see us well out of the town. 



CHAPTER XVII. 






The Rurales Wholesale Executions Our New Servant Scenery between 
Iguala and the Balsas at Mescala Mules, Asses, and Horses The Musk 
Duck at Home Bush-fowls Parrakeets Crossing the River and Camping at 
Mescala A Bad Night Vegetation The Canon del Zopilote Chilpancingo, 
the Capital of Guerrero Market Scenes The Governor Manuel Guillen, 

an Appreciation. 

Such frequent mention has been made in this narrative 
of rurales, and they become so integral a part of our expedition, 
that they deserve more than a few casual remarks. Mexico 
has long suffered from the reputation of being the land of 
robbers, bandits, and murderers. Perhaps the people have, 
or had, a natural gift for these occupations, and as it is usual 
in countries which have undergone frequent political up- 
heavals, every revolution or civil war leaves in its wake a number 
of freelances, disbanded soldiers, partisans who have either 
forgotten the occupations of peace, or who, finding themselves 
on the wrong side, cannot easily settle down again to law- 
abiding employment. Things reached a climax when, after 
the fantastic Maximilian episode and the expulsion of 
Bazaine's army of occupation, the profession of the soldier 
offered no further inducements ; commerce and agriculture 
had suffered much, and the most remunerative employment 
was that of the robber. General Diaz conceived the bright 
idea of summoning the leaders of such bands to a parley to 
ask whether they had any objection to gaining a good living 
in an honest way. If they had not, he would guarantee them 
a congenial occupation, namely, that of hunting down other 



338 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

robbers and malcontents, and he promised to pay them 
regularly and better than any corps in any other country. The 
bargain was agreed to, and kept on both sides, with the result 
that Mexico now has a large number of rurales, comparable 
to the Irish Constabulary, or still more to that splendid corps, 
the Guardias civiles in Spain. The bandits originally enlisted 
have by now been replaced by their children and grandchildren, 
and the corps is so popular that the idea of being a rural does 




RURALES. 

not at all imply shady antecedents ; on the contrary, the rurales 
are picked men. The discipline is an iron one ; there is a con- 
siderable pride of caste, and the members of the corps are 
absolutely reliable, not the least though, because they know 
that they themselves would be hunted down ruthlessly by 
" the other boys " if they themselves did anything wrong. 
They have a uniform, consisting of a jacket of grey cloth, 
with blue or red facings, tight-fitting grey trousers, and, the 
most important part of all, a large grey felt hat. On the right 
side of the hat are silver-embroidered initials, indicative of 



RURALES 339 

the State, for instance, E de M s , E de G ro , Estado de Morelos. 
or of Guerrero. 

There are two kinds of rurales, those of the individual 
States, and Federals, with S. P. (" Seguridad Publica ") on 
their hats. These latter form one large corps, commanded by 
a general of their own, and are distributed almost throughout 
the country in " destacamentos," ready to be despatched to 
any part where things political are not exactly as they ought 
to be. State rurales are under the direct control of the State 
Governor, in whose capital they practically form the body- 
guard. In the smaller towns they are under the orders of the 
" jefe politico," or prefect, a person who, to a certain extent, 
combines the office of commissioner of police with that of a 
sitting magistrate. The unmarried rurales are lodged in 
barracks. The accoutrements of a private are not extensive. 
Most, perhaps the only, care is bestowed upon the sombrero, 
which has a special waterproof of its own that is at once put 
on when it threatens to rain. A blanket, or zarape, a " manga 
de hule," or white indiarubber waterproof sheet with a hole 
in the centre for the head, a repeating carbine, machete and 
colossal, heavy and clumsy spurs, complete the outfit. The 
saddle is of the universal Mexican pattern, very strong, the 
bare trees with a rather wide space between them, and with 
the broad stirrup leathers sunk in ; the high pommel, for the 
" riata," or lasso, ends in a broad, flat-topped disc almost 
invariably adorned with a rim of silver. The stirrups of the 
country are clumsy things in the form of wooden stirrup-boxes 
or thick leather shoes, which are made to fit the narrow pointed 
shoe there in fashion, and have no room for a stout boot. But 
in spite of its clumsy and heavy appearance, the stirrup-box 
has great advantages. It protects the foot in many ways ; 
from knocks against rocks, from the bites of vicious mules, 
keeps the boot dry in the rain, and shades it from the intolerable 
heat of the sun. 

The horses are never ridden on the snaffle, but always on a 
formidable bit, with short leverage. As a rule the Mexicans 
are not cruel to their horses ; on the contrary, they train them 
well. We, for instance, never came across a buck- jumper, 

x2 



340 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

nor saw any similar displays of temper. The reins are scarcely 
used ; if pulled up sharply the tender-mouthed horse rears 
up immediately ; it is guided practically by the slightest pressure 
of the rein against the side of the neck opposite to the direction 
which it is intended to go. To make a good horse canter it is 
sufficient to give it the spur and to drop the reins on its neck. 
Many a saddle-horse does not know the rein at all, but is ridden 
with a simple noose, or double halter. The big spurs, often 
weighing several pounds each, with their enormous rowels 
and long " spikes and bars," seem to the casual observer to be 
instruments of torture. In reality they are nothing of the 
kind, but are mostly intended for " swagger." The whole 
saddle is so firm and unyielding, and there are so many large 
leather flaps and straps, that no amount of pressure by the 
rider's legs or thighs would have the slightest effect upon the 
animal, whose flanks moreover could not be reached without 
exertion by an ordinary spur, especially if the long-legged 
rider be mounted on a pony which is the average size of 
the horse in Mexico. 

The rurales when on duty have practically to find every- 
thing both for themselves and their horses, consequently there 
is an entire absence of camping outfit or cooking utensils, 
let alone knife, fork, or spoon. 

The safety of the towns is entrusted to the " guardia 
municipal," or police proper. As the name implies, the 
domain of the rurales lies outside the towns ; they do not 
exactly patrol the country as the Guardias civiles do in 
Spain ; their main duty is the hunting down of criminals, 
and since in this they are, in the end, invariably successful, 
most of the country is now as safe as, or rather, safer than, 
many another which boasts of a much older, or more polished, 
civilisation. What the Guardias civiles have done and 
are doing for Spain, the rurales have effected in Mexico ; but, 
do away with this force, and the old trouble would prevail 
again. It is fear, the absolute certainty of being caught, 
which keeps the people good, and what things are really like 
in the more remote regions we had ample opportunity of study- 
ing on the spot. 



A WHOLESALE EXECUTION 341 

There are two crimes which bring death as a retribution 
highway robbery and the holding up of trains. Then the 
rurales are turned loose, and it is their excellent custom to 
take the captives to the identical spot in which their crime 
was committed, and then shoot them, after which they are 
suspended for twenty-four hours. A little cross, or crosses, 
and a heap of stones forms the only record, and with such the 
country is well studded. Sometimes these acts of retribution 
assume alarming proportions.* Witness the following recent 
incident, which was still a topic of conversation. A French- 
man, travelling with a large sum of money, showed this to a 
" jefe politico " and enlisted his protection. Instead of giving 
him a proper escort, this rascal assured the traveller of his 
safety, but hired some men to waylay, rob, and kill him. The 
foul deed became known, and a force of rurales soon appeared 
at the house of the " jefe," asking leave to inspect the contents 
of his official safe. He had lost the key. Never mind, they 
would break it open and they found the missing money. 
The ferreting out of his accomplices took some time, as they had 
other helpers, and it became difficult to ascertain accurately 
who was in this big plot. The knot was cut, little by 
little, by the execution of twenty-two men, the " jefe " included. 
Such a diversion has a most wholesome effect, which spreads 
over a large district, and lasts for many years. 

One might easily acquire the preconceived notion that these 
rurales are, either from inclination or acquired habit, a rough 
and even bloodthirsty lot. Certainly, familiarity breeds 
contempt so far as killing is concerned, and we often pondered 
over the effect of this rough life upon some of our protectors, 
who still looked mere boys. In the State of Morelos the people 
have a peculiar sing-song intonation, and it was a treat to 
hear a rural reporting some disagreeable business in the gentlest 
of voices and in well-turned phrases, perhaps winding up with 
the information that " fulano se moriod " i.e., So-and-so 

* Capital punishment has been abolished in the Republic, but this 
deficiency is compensated by the judicious application of the terrible " Ley 
fuga" (law concerning flight), according to which, any attempt to escape 
on the part of the prisoner is to be prevented by force of arms, and real 
criminals invariably seem to make the attempt. 



342 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

"died himself." People with much experience have told us that 
these fellows are the gentlest-mannered, and most mild-spoken of 
ruffians, and that, like Bombardos in the operetta, " and they'll 
hang you most politely, most politely." This may be so, but 
we have seen not a few, have lived with them, and have seen 
them dealing with unwilling villagers, but they never lost 
their temper, never got entangled with the women, and, even 
under most provoking circumstances, never swore a coarse 
oath, although the Mexican vocabulary is ample, and contains 
some choice expletives. No doubt our escorts were picked 
men, and, of course, they had their faults, but, taking them 
as troopers are, they could be relied upon. 

Apropos of coarse language and foul-mouthed oaths and 
kindred conversation in Mexico, I can speak only from my own 
personal experience, which was necessarily limited, though it 
was also varied enough. Leaving out the pulque-sodden 
stratum of the population, in the larger upland towns the natives 
are a wonderfully well-spoken people. There is an almost 
complete absence of those ever-recurring foul expressions which 
jar on the traveller's ear in Spain, and their behaviour towards 
each other under the most varied circumstances leaves nothing 
to find fault with. In all our wanderings there was nothing 
that a lady need be afraid of having to witness. Sometimes, 
indeed, the lack of well rounded off knock-you-down oaths 
was almost ludicrous, but this cannot possibly be the fault of 
the language. The only effect of such choice phrases being 
hurled at them and in this respect every white engineer, 
planter, or miner, could give them points was that they turned 
sulky and nursed their resentment with the hope of letting 
their enemy meet with some " disgracia," a serious little 
accident. But they never retaliated in words ; "no es 
costumbre." 

One of the greatest necessities on such expeditions is a 
good servant. Our gentle Mateo Trujillo having died, we spent 
much anxious time in Mexico City in procuring a substitute. 
It was imperative that such a person should be a " hot-country " 
man, the natives of the central plateau being liable to collapse 
when taken into the tropical districts. At last we closed with 



RAMON 



343 



one Ramon, a native of Oaxaca, but now living in Mexico City 
with his family, after having served in various capacities in 
a wealthy gentleman's family. His master had been murdered 
whilst travelling through his large estates in Guerrero, and 
Ramon never tired of explaining that this had happened whilst 




RAMON. 

he himself was accidentally not on the spot. This explanation 
was intended as a kind of self -recommendation. He had 
one great point in his favour, he was absolutely honest, 
but honesty is rather more of a negative than a positive 
advantage. Such a man may be honest for want of initiative 
or courage. Lately he had been employed as a clerk, and 



344 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

whenever we were in a town he spent hours and hours in 
making up our accounts, which he copied and recopied until 
the bill was a masterpiece of caligraphic execution and probably 
correct to the last centavo which had passed through his 
hands. In the towns, indeed, he was a treasure, but in camp 
he was helpless, and of courage he had none. Personally he 
was rather short and strongly built, with the typical hooked 
nose of the Zapotec Indian, of middle age, and possessed of a 
deep hoarse voice which harmonised with his somewhat gloomy, 
although not morose, disposition. 

It was not easy to break such a man in, and to instil into 
him livelier ways. One of the first lessons he received was 
intended to break him of the stereotyped answer, " Quien 
sabe." " Now, look you, Ramon, never you use that phrase 
again if you value your present engagement of two pesos a 
day ; if you don't know, find out." Henceforth his usual 
retort was " Ningun sabe, pero voy informarme ""Nobody 
knows, but I'll inform myself." Fancy the task of turning 
such a fellow into a collector of animals and plants. 

With this Ramon, a muleteer, three rurales, and with four 
pack animals, we set out on our journey south from Iguala to 
Chilpancingo, there to present our credentials to the Governor. 
Four " cargoes," or loads, may appear much, but previous 
experience had taught us that we could not do with less. The 
heaviest item was, of course, the tent, which formed one 
complete load. Then there were the camping-beds with bed- 
ding, two panniers, two so-called water-tight tin cases, the 
canteen, collecting boxes with alcohol, bottles, jars, wire cages 
for live creatures, rifles and ammunition, and last, though not 
least, a considerable quantity of preserved food in boxes. And 
when all this bewildering mass of baggage was at last safely 
packed, there was still quite a heartrending number of odds 
and ends which somehow or other had hidden themselves, 
and which appeared at the last moment to be tied on in positions 
where they soon came to grief, or were sure to be in the way. 

The distance from Iguala to Chilpancingo is about 70 miles, 
and can be accomplished in two long days, a performance 
which nobody has yet considered a pleasure. Iguala lies at 



A CATTLE COUNTRY 



345 



an elevation of 3,000 feet, Chilpancingo at 4,000 feet, but in 
between them is the Balsas river, at a height of only 1,500 
feet above sea-level. Immediately to the south of Iguala 
begins a steep ascent of near 1,000 feet, and then the track 
slopes more or less steadily down to the river. Before noon 
our party was reinforced by three more rurales who had come 
up from Mescala, and the first camp was established at a pretty 
spot near a ranch famous for a deliciously cool and pure spring 
of water which bubbled forth between the roots of a huge 
" amate," a kind of fig-tree. Humboldt, who followed up this 




LEAVING CAMP AT VISTOLA. 

same road from Acapulco in 1803, mentions this identical 
spring as the Fuente de la Extola. It is now variously called 
Vistola, or Pistola. Close to it is a small cattle ranch, and the 
great number of cattle in this valley was a great drawback, 
since, as usual, they rendered every stream undrinkable, and 
caused the whole neighbourhood to be infested with flies. 
That is the curse of a cattle country ; every drinking place is 
filthy, bad enough to upset horses and mules, which, in Guerrero 
are certainly not squeamish, poor beasts ; and should the grass 
or ground look never so clean and inviting, one has only to 
camp there to find that the flies and smells and dirt as if there 



346 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

were not already enough discomforts without them make the 
nights at such a place a burden both to man and beast. 
However, after various attempts we alighted upon a pretty 
spot, protected from the almost ubiquitous cattle on one side 
by a craggy hill, and on the other three sides by a ravine and 
a brook. Here was an abundance of wild " rabbits," tor- 
toises (Cinosternum) in the brook, a young boa was encountered 
on the track, and the wooded slopes, here and there beset with 
branching organ cactus, were enlivened with the excited chat- 
tering of numerous " chachalacas," or bush-fowl. 

As we descend gradually towards the Balsas river, the track 
following for the most part a small river with a valley that 
here and there broadens out into swampy meadows, the scenery 
becomes more tropical. The " mulato " tree is plentiful, 
with its red bark which peels off in many thin layers, like red- 
brown tissue paper, and, wherever there is water, Cassias, of 
which one is called the " morning glory," attract the eye with 
their thousands of yellow or orange blooms appearing amidst 
their dark-green foliage. Where the ground is drier and higher, 
composed of stones and rubble, the landscape is crowded with 
columnar and candelabrum cactus and with tall opuntias. 
The people congregate in streetless villages, " streetless " 
because their huts and other " buildings " seem clustered 
together without rhyme or reason, mostly on some prominent 
slope overlooking the valley. Xalitla is such a place. 

A dwelling-house here consists mainly of a solid, oblong 
roof, well thatched with reeds, and coming low down on the 
two long sides ; the entrance is at one of the shorter sides ; 
the walls are flimsily made of wattle- work, and there is no 
special verandah attached to the house, but shelter without 
is generally provided by a simple sort of thatch, or trellis, 
raised upon uprights. As a rule, there is also a store-house, 
more solidly constructed, the wattled walls being covered 
with clay. Each property or courtyard is enclosed by rude 
fences, none of which are ever new, and it is not easy to say 
whether they are intended for keeping creatures in or out ; 
most probably they only prevent from straying things like 
pots and pans and other implements, whilst fowls, pigs, don- 



FONDNESS FOR ANIMALS 



347 



keys, and children roam about without hindrance, the many 
gaps in the fence increasing as the dry sticks are gradually 
used up for firewood. There is no stationary hearth, the little 
fire being built on the ground inside or outside the house. 

An agreeable feature of these natives is their fondness for 
animals. The donkey is frequently alluded to as " el paulino," 
according to Spanish custom, " the little small one," but when 




TYPICAL VILLAGE SCENERY ; THE TREE IN THE CENTRE IS A 
" CUAUTECOMATE." 



reprimanded it is " burro," or " burra " ; it is least, however, 
attended to, since it manages to eke out a living where every 
other beast would starve ; it will let itself get drenched in the 
rain, and stand with a no less stoical look for a whole day in 
the broiling sun. Not so the horse, which practically lives 
with the family, and takes its meals of Indian corn, neatly 
spread out upon a " petate," or mat ; while for the rest of the 
day it is tethered under an awning, where it partakes of 



348 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

" zacate," the fresh or dried stalks and leaves of the maize 
plant. This intimacy makes the horses very tame, so that 
they never kick or bite ; some were too tame for camp-life, 
since they sought shelter near the tent, and several times 
in the morning we found the mat at our entrance occupied by 
a horse which had found this leeward side a convenient spot 
to sleep upon. 

The mule is a paradox in every respect. Physically, it 
combines the hardness of its father with the delicate consti- 
tution of its mother. Nothing which a donkey does eat, 
hurts it ; a horse is with difficulty prevented from eating the 
wrong kind of grass, and thus causing trouble in the camp. 
Certain mules have a craving for their owner's property, for 
instance, the stuffing of the pack-saddle, or their own sweaters, 
which are sensibly constructed pads made of the husk and fibre 
of cocoanuts ; they will even eat horse dung, yet these same 
animals may be most particular about drinking water if it is 
not clear. They catch cold, and are liable to develop enormous 
boils on back or shoulders, the result of sores which do not 
much inconvenience the poor donkey. Every mule has a 
temper, and this is rather bad. It kicks and bites, the rider's 
toes being a convenient object for conveying a hint that 
something is wrong with the saddle or girth ; some mules have 
a knack of cannoning against a tree, or perhaps a projecting 
rock on the side of the track proves an irresistible attraction, 
the rider's knee having to act as a buffer. On the other hand, 
if there is a precipice, your mule will walk along the very edge ; 
that is sure to happen, and you will get accustomed to it, but 
it will also as likely as not make half a turn, stand still, and 
deliberately look down. That is a trick which never loses 
the charm of novelty, because one has heard of ledges and 
stones giving way. The gentle use of the reins on such an 
occasion is at once resented by an impatient jerk of the head, 
whilst a whip or spur might have disastrous results. The 
muleteer will call out to you and to his special saint, in bad 
cases : " Por el amor de Dios," to sit still and leave the brute 
alone, since it is " only measuring the depth." But things 
reach a climax when the mule, thus blocking the way, kicks 






MULES AND MULETEERS 349 

out at the next animal coming up behind. When it is all over, 
the inexperienced rider will probably have it out with his beast, 
which, if not resentful at once, makes a mental note of it and 
abides its time. 

An overloaded donkey will lie down and refuse to get up 
until its " carga " is properly adjusted ; but the mule displays 
some unexpected liveliness, either kicking or throwing itself 
down and rolling on its back, or rather, on the baggage, which 
in either case gets scattered about. Then follows a painful 
scene and delay. Some things have to be taken off this load 
and added to another, which, having already been properly 
strapped, has to be undone, and the process may have to be 
continued until maybe the whole string of animals has been 
readjusted. Of course, native trade is carried with com- 
parative ease, sacks of ore, leather bags with honey, pulque 
skins, all have their regulation size and weight, and recently 
the people have taken kindly to the cans and packing-cases of 
the Standard Oil Company, these being conveniently-sized 
receptacles for all kinds of goods. But imagine the difficulties 
presented by our ill-assorted, odd-sized luggage, with its 
packages of unaccustomed size, and scarcely ever put on the 
right way up, an arrangement not exactly beneficial to their 
contents, and not a little disastrous when, during the crossing 
of a river, the water finds its way into the lids. 

By the way, every muleteer in Guerrero carries with him 
a strap of leather, sometimes neatly plaited or otherwise 
adorned, with which the animal is blindfolded during the 
ordeal of packing. During the march he holds this implement 
in his hands, using it as a whip ; and in any case it is the sign 
of his trade. The animals are fed twice a day, with maize 
and " zacate," if that can be procured ; once in the morning 
before the start, and once in the evening. During the night 
they are invariably turned loose to find what pasture they can. 
The result of this is that the hungry beasts stray, and the search 
for them in the morning is a business which is often anxious, 
and always annoying ; or they run about the camp, get 
entangled in the tent-ropes, and resort to all kinds of tricks 
which keep one awake. It seems so easy to prevent this by 



350 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

tying the animals, or by hobbling them. But this was only 
done on the rarest occasions, and there were then invariably 
many excuses. Either they had no ropes, though dozens 
were lying about, or the beasts might get entangled in the 
bush, or they would not find grass enough, or the " tigre " 
might come and eat them up ; but the real reason was that 
"it is not customary" the universal euphemism for 
laziness. 

Besides domestic fowls and turkeys, an Indian hut generally 
possesses a pair of musk ducks, often only a solitary specimen, 
and it is a touching sight to see how this bird, away from any 
pool or stream, considers itself as part of the household, sleeps 
in the hut, and superintends the grinding of the corn. This 
musk duck (Cairina moschata) is a native of South and Central 
America, and has from time immemorial been domesticated 
in Mexico. The drake never reaches the huge and ponderous 
size which it attains in our better-fed and better-bred 
European specimens ; otherwise they show the same amount 
of individual colour variation, chiefly in regard to the extent 
of the white, but, curiously enough, there is often also much 
yellow in the plumage. Our ordinary domestic duck not being 
kept by the Indians, the musk duck is simply known as " pato," 
though elsewhere it is distinguished as " pato mudo," or mute 
duck. 

Real pets are made of the " chacalacas " (Ortalida polio- 
cephala),ihe most northerly species of this Central and Southern 
American family of wood-fowls. The name is a good imitation 
of their cry ; when there are several of these birds together in 
the bush, they announce their presence by making a tremendous 
din with the repeated utterance of " Chacalac, chacalac," 
these sounds being uttered in even quicker and quicker suc- 
cession, and with increasing fervour. The birds, chiefly the 
males, which utter them, are, however, difficult of approach. 
Very shy, and preferring thick bush land, they stop their chatter- 
ing instantly at the slightest noise caused by our approach 
through the jungle ; but with patience a bird may be espied 
as, with its head and neck erect, it stands motionless on a high 
branch. If it thinks itself discovered, it will drop down like 



WOOD FOWLS AND PARRAKEETS 351 

a stone and vanish, running away amongst the thick under- 
growth. They are rather restless, taking long upward leaps 
with but slightly opened wings, and hopping from twig to twig, 
which they grasp with their long toes. They build their nest, 
as a rule, rather high up in a tree, but sometimes they select 
an old trunk only about seven feet from the ground. The nest 
is made of twigs and grass, from ten to twelve inches in diameter. 
They lay from two to four eggs, begin breeding in May, and 
hatch their chickens mostly about the beginning of July. 
The natives take the eggs and set them under their hens, and 
such domesticated " chacalacas " become very tame and 
affectionate. On our return journey we bought a beautiful 
specimen which, by that same evening, perched in the tent, took 
food from our hands, and behaved as if we were old friends. 
In the daytime it travelled in a reed basket. It soon got some 
companions, these being a quarter-grown and two small chicks, 
which, by the way, like other fowls, rapidly moult all their 
wing and tail quills, and that, too, several times in the course 
of their first year. This family attached itself to us at once ; 
being chiefly fruit and leaf eaters, they were easily kept on 
bananas, oranges, lettuce leaves, and bread and milk. 

Then there are lovely little parrakeets (Conurus canicula), 
grass-green, with orange and blue foreheads and ivory bills, 
the lower jaw with a dusky patch which gives them a rakish 
look. These little things are taken out of the nest when young, 
and, after having their wings clipped, are allowed to flutter 
and climb about. The dogs do not hurt them, and there are 
no cats. The usual price of such a " perrico " is a real (about 
2|d.) ; the Indians take them to the towns on marketing days, 
and feed them on " massa " i.e., the dough out of which tor- 
tillas are made. " Massa " is, of course, the stuff which is offered 
to everything indiscriminately. 

But to continue our journey. By noon of the second day 
out from Iguala we reached the Balsas river, here called Rio 
de Mescala, after a village on the left side. The views of the 
big river, as seen from the track which winds up and down 
over knolls covered with bush, or interrupted by green grass- 
land, are rather fine. At last the track follows the right bank 



352 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



of the river, over many limestone ledges, like little terraces, 
which become more numerous as the water recedes when it 
has not rained much. There is a large ferry, subsidised or, 
rather, let out by the Government. It is big enough to hold 
half-a-dozen horses. When everything is stowed safely on 
board, the flat-bottomed boat seems at the mercy of the strong 
current, which flows over a bed of hidden boulders, and now 




BOYS FILLING GOURDS WITH WATER. 



and then sends a little splash into the faces of the trembling 
horses. But the three boatmen know their business, and 
manage to reach land on a shallow some hundreds of yards 
lower down on the other side of the river. There is a collection 
of some large reed huts and shanties, kept by the toll-keeper 
and administrator of the ferry, and here the wayfarer bound 
for or from Chilpancingo stops as a rule, and no doubt fares 
badly. 

However, this did not concern us ; what troubled us were 



A STUFFY VALLEY 353 

the reports of the condition of the Canon del Zopilote, a long 
river gorge which leads from above Mescala directly southwards. 
The river bed forms the track, and when a spate comes down 
it is impracticable. Nobody had used the canon for some time 
during this rainy season, and the mountains were certainly 
wrapped in thick blue clouds. Therefore we followed the Balsas 
for a mile or two, crossed the Zopilote where it was broad and 
shallow, and established our camp on a knoll, close to the 
village of Mescala, but separated from it by another river 
or, rather, broad bed full of sand and rubble, with meandering 
streams of water. 

The village itself has nothing to recommend it ; on the 
contrary, it does not enjoy the best reputation, and we prefer 
to leave it undecided whether "mescal," the strong spirit dis- 
tilled from a kind of agave, is responsible for this. There are 
wattle- walled, reed-thatched houses, of which some are of 
pretension. Frequently the house, which is screened by an 
impenetrable fence of cactus, possesses a large verandah, or, 
rather, covered-in courtyard adjoining. This part is kept clean, 
the floor or ground is made of stamped-down clay, the wall? 
are whitewashed, in a corner is a niche with a little table in 
front, the private house altar with the Madonna, some saints, 
and bouquets of withering flowers. There are garden-like 
patches between the various fences, with " papaya " trees, and 
the loose soil yields plenty of gourds and water melons, whilst 
there are whole fields of " ajonjali." But it is not a cattle 
district. The numerous donkeys indicate that the chief in- 
dustry is the transitory traffic. 

The river here is about 516 metres above sea-level ; 
provided this calculation is right, and the river's elevation 
at Rio Balsas Station is 432 metres, then the river falls about 
84 metres, or 277 feet, in less than ten miles. The Balsas 
valley is noted for its stuffy heat, and its plague of insects, 
and the night, with its drizzling rain, was intolerably close, so 
that I crept out of the mosquito curtains, and relying upon 
my usual indifference to, or immunity from, insects, slept 
in the open air, clad in nothing but a short jersey. Nobody 
slept much during that night, and by the morning my whole 



354 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

body was literally covered with tiny black specks, each of 
which was an almost microscopic fly, which left a red 
inflamed spot behind. Our men explained that we had fallen 
in with the "chaquistle," their most dreaded terror, which 
thrives best on such hot, muggy nights. These creatures are 
really terrible, and the expression of the natives that the 
" chaquistles " feel like red-hot sand describes the sensation 
perfectly. 

Already in the afternoon both rivers, on either side of us, 
rose considerably, and we decided certainly not to try the 
canon. Accordingly, we followed the broad and flat valley 
on our right, and after a few hours began to climb what proved 
to be a spur of the plateau, or, rather, the remains of a creta- 
ceous tableland, most of which has been washed away, leaving 
a bewildering, intricate mass of spurs, flat-topped cones, canons 
and valleys emerging northward upon the Balsas. On the top 
lies the village of Xochipala, which means " flower-hill," about 
1,180 metres (3,890 feet) above sea-level, i.e., more than 2,000 
feet above the Balsas. The terrain is composed of a very hard 
bluish limestone, with horizontal strata ; as usual with such 
formations, its surface is rendered uneven by innumerable 
shallow holes with sharp edges, everything being covered with 
about a foot of black, rich soil, which, when it rains, is turned 
into a slimy, pasty ooze. The name Xochipala seemed 
justified by the abundance of Sprekelia formosissima, Bessera 
elegans, orchids, and other bulbous plants, which covered 
whole meadows. The village itself was of medium size, but 
seemed quite deserted, except for a girl who was washing in some 
of the natural rain cisterns. The houses, in conformity with 
the altitude and exposed position, were all carefully daubed 
with lime and clay. 

Soon after noon, after a short rest, we were overtaken by 
our pack-train, conducted by the muleteer, Ramon, and one 
soldier, and then began the steep ascent into a veritable maze 
of gorges. We soon descended from the hard limestone crust 
and reached softer cretaceous soil, partly overlaid with reddish 
volcanic rubble. Some 2,000 feet below the top the track 
joined the bottom of a gorge amidst andesite formation. This 



AX INTERESTING GORGE 355 

twisting gorge was a very interesting place. It might be 
described as a triangular cleft, with a boulder-strewn or sandy 
bottom, which fortunately held but little water ; the sides 
rising to at least 2,000 feet, either precipitously, or sloping 
enough to be covered thickly with shrubs and even with trees. 
At the bottom reigned perpetual shade, the trees from the 
opposite sides meeting and forming a canopy, whilst the ground 
was covered with an abundance of tradescantias, ferns, and, 
above all, carpeted with selaginellas. Sometimes the river-bed 
had contracted, and the spates had eaten out overhanging 
ledges in the brown or yellow loamy banks, these being held 
together only by the tangle of the exposed roots. Such places 
were much frequented by cattle and by stags, which had 
scratched deep hollows into the salitrous soil. Wherever the 
moist river sand had been manured by these animals, the 
ground was covered with butterflies, which fluttered about in 
myriads, attracted by the salty moisture. 

The meandering river-bed exposed at every moment new 
scenes, and its turns were so bewildering that one could not 
possibly guess in which direction the road would ultimately 
emerge. At the bottom the whole vegetation was tropical. 
A little higher the steep slopes were covered with the upright 
columns of cactus, every ledge, every possible space of 
foothold, being appropriated by this plant ; then followed 
an admixture of oak, and the whole scene was crowned 
with pines. 

At last w r e emerged upon the valley of the Zumpango 
river, near a place called La Venta Vieja. There were a few- 
reed huts in this broadening valley, affording a half-way resting 
place for the pack-trains. They have either to be dragged over 
the Xochipala track, w r hich involves a terrible amount of 
fatigue, or else they follow the dreaded Canon del Zopilote. 
This valley practically divides the whole canon into an upper 
and lower half. We had expected to find our pack-train here, 
and had for the last hour or two been rather puzzled by the 
absence of any signs of it, and the people in this valley had 
not seen it either. There was nothing left for us to do but to 
push on through the upper canon, near the southern mouth of 

v -2 






356 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

which is the Venta del Zopilote, a shelter-house, built by the 
late Governor of the State. 

On our return journey, two months later, we travelled 
through the whole canon, which we may, however, as well 
describe here. So far as the road is compelled to follow the river- 
bed, it is about twenty miles long, with an almost steady fall 
of some 1,000 feet, averaging a fall of sixty feet per mile, and 
this gorge forms the sole communication with Chilpancingo, 
or, to put it more forcibly, it is the high road connecting the 
port of Acapulco with the capital of Mexico. This was the 
case at the time of the conquest, Humboldt had to use it a 
hundred years ago, and an Acapulco-Mexico railway, via 
Chilpancingo, Mescala, Rio Balsas, and Iguala, will, no doubt, 
eventually follow this route. In the meantime it would be 
money thrown away to construct a cart-road, as every rainy 
season it would be washed away. The muleteers reckon that 
the river-bed is crossed more than a hundred times, and this 
is certainly no exaggeration. At low water the actual bed is 
followed, though, wherever possible, short cuts are taken ; 
but there are many parts where the bed is full of big boulders, 
or where it narrows so much between steep rocks that there is 
no way out of the torrent, and even when this is only a few feet 
deep there is nothing for it but to wait until the spate has 
passed. Rusticus expectat dum amnis deruat. It is the danger 
of being caught in such a trap which has given the canon its 
deservedly bad reputation. 

Progress was very slow, and our acute hunger was but 
partly appeased by a few unripe fruits procured from a down- 
ward-bound caravan. It was night before our pack-train 
appeared, but how, where, and why they had lost the way 
remained a mystery for all their endless excuses. It was a 
grim, if our only, satisfaction that the laggards had not had bite 
or sup ever since we all left Mescala at six in the morning, and 
that they were thoroughly played out. The river water was 
dirty and nauseous, and a spring not far from the Venta was 
not disclosed to our party until next morning, when we soon 
came to a hamlet, called Mesquititlan, in allusion to the 
abundance of the spiny mesquite shrubs, and a kind of thorny 



THE END OF THE CANON 357 

acacia (Prosopis dulcis). The owner of one of the huts was a 
friendly, and rather a pretty, woman, who was willing both to 
sell her stock of tortillas and to prepare more, a delay which, 
although at the beginning of the day's journey, nobody 
resented. 

This spot marks the southern end of the canon, the valley 




ZAMBA OF MESQUITITLAN. 

broadening out until we reached the large and important 
village of Zumpango, which lies on a fertile plain. This is 
a very old place, and notable for the numerous antiquities 
which are now being found there, or rather, are still hoarded 
by the natives. In a publican's shop were displayed strings 
upon strings of stone beads, which the old rascal had artfully 
interspersed with amulets, little stone figures, memorial 
medals, and small brasses of Spanish origin. Amongst other 



358 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

things he had a beautifully carved obsidian figure of a frog. 
After endless bargaining we secured various ornaments, 
the nicest of all being the exquisitely carved image of a 
tiny toad. 

Zumpango del Rio is a large and healthy, but cheerless, 
bleak village. Its Aztec name means " Place where skulls were 
exhibited," from "tzom," a skull, and "pantli," a banner. There 
are several Zumpangos in the country, for instance, north of 
Mexico City, and their complete hieroglyph we should call 
it a coat-of-arms is a row of skulls strung upon a crossbar, 
surmounted by a flag, possibly meant as a warning to the 
conquered survivors. The road continues to ascend over 
calcareous, sparsely-wooded terrain to the pass, about 4,400 
feet above sea-level. Thence it is only three miles to Chil- 
pancingo, but Ramon had broken down with gastric troubles, 
and thus it came to pass that we had to camp at the nearest 
water-hole, which had been spoken of for the last three hours 
as just round the corner. The spring was good enough, 
the landscape with its fields, pastures and wooded hills 
not bad either, but this was scarcely what we had come 
for, and was, moreover, marred by heavy rain which soon 
set in. 

Chilpancingo lies in the midst of a plain, in a hollow on 
the top of the watershed between the Balsas and the Pacific. 
Its elevation may be a little over 4,000 feet ; I say advisedly 
" may be," as this is a much-contested question since the time 
of Humboldt, who returned it at 4,570, while some railway 
surveyor gave its height as about 3,960 feet, and even two 
recently undertaken geological surveys differ by as much as 
410 feet. After many calculations, checked on the return 
journey, I arrived at the figure of 4,090 feet. The official 
altitude of the town is 1,193 metres (3,913 feet). Whether the 
additional lift I thus gave it will be duly appreciated is doubt- 
ful, but it is certainly in the right direction. The climate is 
cool, much more so than one would expect from its latitude 
(17 32' N.) and moderate elevation. This is to a great extent 
explained by its proximity to the watershed of the Sierra Madre, 
and by its being open to the south-east winds, which bring the 



AN HOTEL 359 

rain. The southern currents coming from the sea and crossing 
the " tierra caliente " are, of course, warm, but they are caught 
and directed upwards by several ridges of the Sierra Madre. 
The windiness of the place is suggested by the report that all 
the women wear trousers. Be this as it may, the town is 
healthy, so much so that no good qualified doctor can be 
induced to stay there. Thunderstorms gathered regularly 
every afternoon, arid it poured heavily for several hours, so 
that by nightfall the temperature was chilly, falling . readily 
to 60 F. 

There being two inns, we went to the Hotel del Sur, as 
being "el mas limpio" the cleanest. This establishment 
has the usual patio with a fountain, amaryllids, Indian shot 
plants, bananas, roses, and collocasias, surrounded by a few 
barely furnished rooms. It had recently been taken over by 
a Cornish mining engineer. The servant question was a real 
difficulty, and without intention I added to it. One morning 
I caught the " mozo " myself to make him clean the room, 
and for the better look of the thing, I laid my hippotamus- 
hide riding- whip on the bed. From that moment the " mozo " 
was not seen again, and nobody knew what had become of him, 
until in the afternoon a policeman came with the complaint 
that a terrible "gringo" the contemptuous term for an 
American, which every non-Mexican is considered to be had 
attacked the " mozo," and nearly beaten the life out of him. 
They had only a few days before imported from Acapulco a 
Chinese cook, who, still innocent of Spanish or English, was not 
easily communicated with, but he had brought with him a 
lump of yeast, which he had nursed all the way in his handker- 
chief, and therefore the hotel could provide leavened bread. 
The rooms and the verandah being paved with red bricks were 
horribly damp ; everything became mouldy, and our collection 
of plants, which it was hopeless to keep dry, suffered most 
of all. 

Chilpancingo, meaning, perhaps, the " little Chili river," 
has been selected as the place of Government mainly on account 
of its central position, though it has even now scarcely 7,000 
inhabitants, far less than either Acapulco or Iguala. It possesses 



360 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

nothing of special interest in the way of industries or buildings. 
The latter were, a few years ago, in 1902, ruined by a severe 
earthquake. The church was still an utter heap of ruins, 
but on the site of the old Governmental residence a fine palatial 
structure was near completion.* It costs a great, and apparently 
quite disproportionate, sum of morey, but the difficulties or 
such an undertaking are appalling. Nearly everything, whether 
iron joists, locks, lead sheets for the roof, cement, windows, 
or doors, has to be carried or dragged by mules or donkeys 




RAIN-WATER PIPES FOR THE PALACE. 

over from Iguala. We ourselves met on the road a long string 
of donkeys, each trailing behind him a pair of iron rain-water 
pipes, a piece of wood being stuck into the end to prevent 
abrasion. But the oddest and most impressive sight was the 
conveyance of a big iron safe which some banker had set his 
heart upon, in spite of the suggestion that a cemented vault 
would be much cheaper and equally effective. Under the shade 
of an "amate" tree, by the side of a stream, we encountered a 

* The whole town has since been destroyed by another earthquake, in the 
spring of 1907. 



PRISONERS AS WORKMEN 361 

crowd of more than thirty men squatting round the enormous 
safe, the women busily preparing tortillas. Then the whole 
crowd took up the gorgeously painted load slung on two long 
poles, and scrambled singing up the opposite bank. When on flat 
ground they trotted, as is the custom of all " cargadores," 
who usually load themselves up to staggering point. Thus, 
with frequent halts, the long journey was made, and if they 
accomplished it in a week, that safe must have become ex- 
pensive even at low wages, and, of course, the owner could not 
employ forced labour. It was otherwise with the palace. 
Much of the menial work was done by prisoners, guarded by 
the police, but most of the skilled labour had to be imported, 
such as carpenters, joiners, plumbers, and when these were 
slack, as happened, for instance, on a Monday morning, the 
palace was deserted for the rest of the day, because the whole 
lot of them had been put into prison for future encouragement. 
Prisoners are reasonably enough used for various public works 
as, for instance, for road-mending. The method of guarding 
them throws a peculiar light upon the various degrees of re- 
liability of the armed forces. In places which have a garrison 
of regular soldiers, a small detachment of them is marched 
out with the prisoners, but the soldiers themselves are looked 
after by the municipal guard, or ordinary police, while last 
not least, a couple of mounted rurales patrol the neighbourhood 
in case something might go wrong or astray. It is to be 
remembered that most of those who are doing a term of soldier- 
ing are either evil doers, although not quite deserving of 
imprisonment, or suspects, or else perhaps men who are merely 
under a cloud. 

Of never-flagging interest was the " mercado," a large 
paved square surrounded by stalls under a pillared shelter. 
Of native make, at least, produced in the Indian town of Chilapa, 
to the east of Chilpancingo, are the " rebozos " worn by the 
women, which are invariably of a blue colour, mostly striped 
and furnished with tassels of various patterns. Another 
staple industry of Chilapa are the large straw hats, and zarapes, 
or mantas. The people from the country come in with their 
donkeys early in the morning, and their produce is exhibited 



362 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



on mats, superintended by the women. There is, to sum up, 
an abundance of fruit of many kinds, but it belongs to so many 
sellers that one wonders how it pays them to bring so little, 
and that little, too, from a long distance. The sellers spend most 
of their time in arranging the various exhibits in tiny heaps. 
For instance, one makes piles of four potatoes each, then 




FRUIT MARKET AT CHILPANCINGO. 



contemplates them and deliberately takes a small potato 
away here, a large one there, and rearranges the whole. But 
let us watch her neighbour, who has brought a small basket 
full of " frijoles," or black beans, which are first measured out 
in tiny vessels and put on the mat in little heaps, or into 
" jicaras," or gourds. When all her goods are displayed 
she cannot resist taking one bean after another off each pile ; 



A MARKET SCENE 363 

she has plenty of time and more to talk about with her 
neighbours, or to haggle with the bystanders, and if you wait 
long enough you will see, growing bean by bean, a new little 
heap of these. There are Indian corn, never offered by the 
sack, gourds, melons, aguacates, mangoes, chirimoyas, and 
pinas, or pineapples, from the low countries, several kinds of 
bananas, flowers and " panoche," a brown crude sugar paste, 
wrapped in the husks of Indian corn. There is no lack of 
local colour to delight an artistic eye, what with the black 
beans, the golden maize, ruddy pines, and, above all. the 
chili, vividly green, or fiery red. There is a hum of 
voices, but there is not much individual noise, no shouting, 
yelling, cursing or quarrelling, let alone fighting, although 
every man has his machete ; and when he has partaken 
of too much mescal the average country Indian becomes 
rather sad, and friends lead him away to some quiet 
courtyard, where the donkeys are, to avoid the ubiquitous 
policeman. 

Indicative of the temperate climate is the paucity of 
rice, absence of oil, cocoanuts, cotton, pineapples, all 
of which, when seen in the market, have been brought 
from warmer districts, the bulk of the trade being formed 
of sugar-cane, sugar, chili, Indian corn, beans, and 
mescal. 

Our servant and supposed factotum being ill, and 
recovering but slowly, we got together a little brigade of 
boys, who scoured the country for anything of a creeping 
or crawling nature, and taking it all in all, the results 
might have been worse, considering the rather barren 
look of the neighbourhood. Amongst the more interesting 
creatures were the abundance of Glauconia dulcis and G. 
albifrons, degenerate burrowing kinds of snakes, and a 
bug with peculiar discs on its antennae, Thasus, a genus of 
hemiptera . 

Our sole object in going to Chilpancingo at all was to come 
into personal contact with the Governor, knowing well from 
previous experience that even the best of introductory letters 
loses much of its effect if not delivered in person. It was 



364 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

certainly a long and laborious way to this town, but the results 
surpassed expectation. 

El Sr. Lie. Don Manuel Guillen, a native of Guerrero, had 
received his education in the eastern states of America, and 
had filled an important position for his Government in San 
Francisco. A barrister-at-law, whence his title of Licenciado, 
or " one licensed to plead," and a wealthy landowner in or near 
the Valley of Mexico, he had been employed by the President 
with whom he is connected by ties of intimate friendship 
in various delicate missions, requiring unusual tact. 

A former Governor had " pronounced " against the 
Federal Government, which, in other words, he wanted to 
upset, putting himself at the head. The President sent Don 
Manuel as plenipotentiary, backed by an army, to bring the 
rebellious Governor to Mexico City. Don Manuel, instead of 
causing a bloody civil war, managed to surround the rebel 
and his adherents without allowing a shot to be fired, and then 
used his powers of persuasion so well that the foe, now a 
" pronunciado," accompanied his sagacious conqueror to 
Mexico City, there to make his peace with the President. Since 
no blood had been spilt he was forgiven, and had the good 
sense to die within a year. 

Don Manuel had but recently become Governor of 
Guerrero ; not having a proper house he had to lead a bachelor's 
life at Chilpancingo, where, with one or two exceptions, suitable 
society is non-existing. He yearned for his family, but did not 
dare to inflict the journey upon the ladies. Bismarck's motto, 
Patrice inserviendo consumer, seemed to be applicable to his 
case. 

Well, he was a delightful conversationalist, and could fully 
understand and appreciate the object of our little expedition. 
Perhaps he felt it a relief to come into contact with someone 
who had other aims than squeezing out mining, wood-cutting, 
estate- jobbing, and similar concessions. " Tell me where and 
when you want to go, and I shall not only give you a better, 
more suitable escort, but shall provide the necessary horses 
and pack-animals, and letters to the various local authorities 
will be ready at the same time." We only regretted that 



A DELIGHTFUL MAN 



365 



during our stay in the town we in that miserable inn, he in 
the temporary official quarters we had few opportunities of 
enjoying his society. Alas, I have now to add that he has 
since died. 




HIEKO GLYPH MIZQUITLAN. 

Mizquitl, the leguminous Gum-tree (Prosopia dulcia). 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

THE MOUNTAINS OF OMILTEME. 

An Excursion into the Heart of the Southern Sierra Madre Character of the 
Fauna and Flora Macaws, Jaguars, Stags, and Peccaries The Blue-tailed 

Skink. 

The chance of paying a visit to the Sierra Madre del Sur, 
instead of simply crossing it at its lowest depression by the 
Acapulco trail, was not to be thrown away, especially since it 
appeared under most alluring conditions. Horses and an 
escort were at our beck and call ; we had only to ride up to 
Omilteme to the house of a certain Don Augustin who, living 
at Chilpancingo, had placed his " chalet in the mountains," 
with all its resources at our disposal. As he had advised his 
"mayordomo" of our intentions, and the servants would be only 
too delighted to render our sojourn there pleasant and profit- 
able, we went to rest with the charming prospect that the 
morrow would be a day without worry. At sunrise a lieutenant 
with two gendarmes hammered at our gates, roused the whole 
inn, and presented himself as ready to march. But there were 
neither pack animals, nor saddle horses for us, and since they 
did not appear even two hours later, the escort was dismissed. 
Then the saddle-horses at least did turn up, but instead of 
pack animals their " arriero " came to bargain. Eventually, 
however, all was ready, except that one of the horses had to be 
shod, and I had to hunt up the three members of the escort, 
who meanwhile had prepared for a day off, one in the barracks, 
another with his family, and the lieutenant nowhere. At last 
we got off with one soldier who had meanwhile found his superior 
officer, while the others were to follow on with the baggage. 



TREES AND FLOWERS 367 



The track to Omilteme makes a long d^ioni- to the north- 
west, along the foothills of the sierra, which, near the cal- 
careous basin in the midst of which the capital is placed, are 
rather barren. It follows the brink of a precipitous gorge, 
where abounds a kind of dwarf date-palm attaining some 
twenty feet in height, while in the moister places are clusters 
of fine-leaved bamboos. Amidst green meadows, with herds 
of cattle and fields of Indian corn, lies the wretched village of 
Amejileca, fenced in all round with a stockade, the wattle- 
and-daub houses thatched with grass and bamboos. Here 
the character of the terrain changes to hard blue limestone 
of the lower cretaceous age. 

Soon we enter a gorge of this formation, and the ascent 
begins, mostly following the brink of the boulder-strewn bed 
of a brook. Below, to the left, at the bottom of a vertical 
wall of rock, is a cavern, out of which rushes a fair-sized stream, 
the same which at Chilpancingo lost most of its water under- 
ground. At about 5,500 feet of elevation i.e., about 1,500 
feet above the town a marked change takes place in the 
vegetation. The palms still continue for another three or five 
hundred feet upwards, but the oaks, represented by small 
kinds with large woolly leaves, give way to taller trees which 
soon form forests, where the long-leaved "ocote," a pine, makes' 
its appearance. Most of them are festooned with the long, 
corkscrew-like, pendent plants of Tillandsia usneoides, which 
are beset with small grey leaves, and here and there show a 
tiny, inconspicuous flower. Here, amongst the combination 
of palms, oaks, and pines, the semi-alpine scenery was 
charming. Long-trailing purple convolvulus with dark leaves 
crept over the rocks, the star-shaped red flowers of the Bessera 
elegans, with their white and blue veins, as well as glorious 
orchids e.g., Cypripedium izaplanum grew in the meadows, 
together with a profusion of other bright flowers, and the 
stream, which we saw emerge an hour ago, disappeared here 
into a narrow cleft of the mountain. It was a little difficult 
to scramble along the bed into that gorge, but it was well worth 
the trouble. Scarcely a dozen feet wide, sometimes less, but 
in many places at least eighty feet high, with stalactites in 



368 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



plenty, its vertical walls of limestone were polished up to a 
height of twenty feet, but during our visit the water was low 
and allowed our party to penetrate. On the ceilings clustered 
hundreds of young swifts, fully fledged, but not yet ready to 
leave their cave, whilst swarms of the old birds rose like a whirl- 
wind, and then gyrated about in the open. The whole mountain 




PINES, PALMS, AND OAK. 

must be honeycombed with clefts and caves, otherwise the 
outflowing water could not have formed such a large stream. 

Not far from this place is another large cave, likewise con- 
taining stalactites, but dry, and with an icy cold draught 
rushing out ; its huge vaults were not tenanted, even by 
bats. These and several other caves are, or rather were, so 
many outlets of a big lake in the mountains, the bed of which 






MACAWS IN GORGEOUS DRESS 369 

is now a very fertile valley, filled by the disintegrated debris 
which has been washed down from the partly volcanic, mostly 
metamorphic, formations of which the higher mountains are 
composed. 

A " guacamayo," the Aztec name of the macaw Ara militaris, 
announced the arrival of our party to his mate by a stentorian 
note, several times repeated, and this was answered afar off. 
Later, when the pair had united, they emitted different notes, 
and then watched us, sitting side by side, not at all conspicuous 
in spite of, or, rather, because of, their gorgeous dress. These 
birds are more at home in the temperate forests of the moun- 
tains than in the sweltering low-lands, and at the rainy season 
they feed chiefly on the seeds of the big pine-cones, which they 
easily open with their powerful beaks. Whether they are 
stationary during the " pine season " is doubtful ; they do not 
breed in the higher, but only in the tropical regions, but they 
fly so amazingly well that they can easily ascend for their meals, 
and return to their nests and sleeping places in the huge hollow 
trees. 

Soon the ascent became awkward, indescribably steep at 
places, with a deep red loam turned into a sticky mud by the 
last night's rain, which had filled the holes, and had thus also 
hidden the treacherous roots. The incessant ups and downs 
of this " switchback " road, with the climbing up of a spur, 
or big boulder, only to tumble and slide down again on the 
other side, though all the while we were steadily ascending, 
were most fatiguing, and made us feel uneasy about the pack 
animals, especially since thunder was increasing on the higher 
sierra. By 4 p.m. we had quite enough of it, but it took 
another hour before we reached Omilteme, well drenched by 
the rain. 

This place, a regular " Alp," in Swiss parlance, lies in a 
natural opening amidst forest, meadows, and streams, and 
consists of a few scattered huts. Don Augustin's chalet, used 
by him as a half-way station on the way to the mines of La 
Dicha, is constructed of pine-planks, thatched with palm 
leaves, and has boarded floors, a ceiling, and a verandah. 
Instead of the expected civility, we met with a refusal of 



370 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



admittance from the surly bailiff in charge, and likewise of food, 
fodder, and shelter for the rest of the party. However, much 
can be done in a lonely place when the request is backed by 
two gendarmes. 

By seven o'clock it was pitch dark, and raining, and we had 
to give up the hope of seeing our baggage. In the room were 
two " catres," the folding bedsteads of the country, while 
Toribia, a nice, obliging girl, provided the whole available 




THE CHALET AND OUR ESCORT. 

stock of six zarapes and two straw mats. In spite of these we 
felt miserably cold in our damp clothes, with a temperature of 
only 55 F., and we sympathised with a crying baby and its 
incessantly coughing parents on the other side of our partition. 
At daybreak, to our joy, we found the baggage piled up under 
the verandah, where Ramon and the " teniente " had slept out 
their watch. The belated stragglers had experienced a terrible 
time in the storm, but they had managed to make pine wood 
torches, and had arrived at the shelter about midnight without 
any serious mishaps. 



A LEAN-TO SQUATTER 



371 



The coughing family turned out to be a young, amiably- 
inclined Indian with his wife and babies, who, for occasional 
services rendered, had acquired the rights of a lean-to squatter. 
He had put up against the lee side of the house a sort of 
verandah, with nothing but three raised boards and one mat 
to lie on, behind a smouldering fire. His household goods, 
a few calabashes and earthenware pots, were suspended from 




THE HUNTER AND HIS FAMILY. OMILTEME. 

the rafters, on which some fowls were roosting. The man was 
a hunter by profession, and one day a stag was brought in. 
Plentiful, indeed, to judge from the spoor in the forest, are the 
little white-tailed deer (Cariacus toltecamis),with antlers remind- 
ing us of our roebuck, and " jabali," the peccary. The "leon,"* 

* The Aztec name of the puma, the Felia concolor, is "miztli" = the killer. 
Its small relative, the likewise unicoloured Felis joguarondi, is the " caco- 
miztli " = crow-killer, but this same name is applied also to the Basaaria 
astuta and B. aumichrasti. 

z 2 



372 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

or puma, is shot by lantern light, the hunter in ambush 
attracting the beast to the spot by the sound of a primitive 
instrument composed of a hollow piece of bamboo and a string, 
which, in the hands of a native, can be made to imitate the 
note of a hind, or kid. These contrivances vary. For 
instance, near the coast of Guerrero they used, for alluring the 
tiger or jaguar, and also the doe, a three-inch piece of a stag's 
cannon bone with a thin film pasted over one of the ends of 
the tube ; by sucking at the other end a squeaking note was 
produced. The lantern is, of course, intended to enable the 
sportsman to see the sight of his gun, and the reflected light 
in the eyes of his prey. The bluish, phosphorescent gleam of 
the eyes is, indeed, all that one can notice in a dark forest, but 
why the wild creatures are not frightened by the lantern instead 
of staring into it, is another question. Thus equipped, armed 
with a miserable gun and a machete, these Indians go out 
night after night until one of them is lucky enough to bring 
home the coveted " leon " or " tigre." The hundreds of 
failures are not recorded, whilst a single skin, which fetches 
about eighteen shillings in the larger town, and proportionately 
less in the wilder parts, is proof of the " abundance" of the 
" tigre," though there are not so very many, after all. 

The deer of Southern Mexico are of two kinds. First, 
there is a little black-faced brocket (Coassus rufinus), the 
" temazatl " of the Aztecs, with small, unbranched antlers, or 
brockets, which stands twenty inches high at the withers, 
and seems to be restricted to the lowlands of the Atlantic 
States from Vera Cruz southwards. Secondly, the common 
deer (Cariacus toltecus), which ranges all over Southern 
Mexico, whilst in the north it is represented by. or merges into, 
the Texan deer. It is universally known as " venado," which 
means " chased," or " hunted " ; its Aztec name is " mazatl, 
or " mazame." Although it has been hunted from time 
immemorial as the chief, if not sole, furnisher of meat, apart 
from the peccary, it is very common in the States of Oaxaca, 
notably on the Isthmus, and along our route through Guerrero. 
Its vertical range of distribution is enormous, from the coast 
to the snowline ; but, apparently, it is nowhere found in herds, 



MEXICAN DEER 



373 



but is always solitary, and prefers hilly or mountainous terrain. 
In the months of June and July the antlers were still small 
and soft, but by the middle of September we got them perfect, 
and clean from velvet. The rutting season of these deer cannot 
be much before October, since we never heard their cry. The 
season may vary according to the district ; in the south of 
Morelos they were still big with young at the end of June, 
and twins were not uncommon. 




YOUNG MEXICAN DEER. 



This deer is subject to much variation in size, frequently 
standing three feet high at the withers, and the antlers of the 
adult also vary so much that quite a number of so-called 
species have been established. If we restrict ourselves to the 






374 

extremes it is easy to distinguish between two kinds, but a 
larger series, even from the same district, bridges over all the 
differences. 

First type : the beams of the antlers continue to diverge, 
the distal points remaining, in large specimens, about ten 
inches asunder ; the first pair of tines is short and straight, 
only two inches long, slightly converging, the tips remaining 
four or five inches asunder ; then follows a long beam ending 
in two short tines, one anterior, the other posterior ; at their 
common base the beam is slightly broadened, or flattened, but 
frequently, with age, this feature is increased into a distinctly 
semi-palmate shape, and a third distal, or posterior tine, is 
added. Such antlers are those from San Bartolo, still in the 
" hot-lands," but also from the plateau, near San Dionisio, 
south of Oxaca ; these stags were rather small, but the largest 
pair of antlers of this type, with a greatest length along the 
curve of sixteen inches, I picked up at the tree-line on 
Citlaltepetl, at an elevation of some 13,700 feet. 

Second type : all the tines are long and slender, especially 
the distal, and these are strongly curved forwards and inwards 
so much that their tips approach within a few inches, or even 
almost cross each other ; there is not the slightest trace of 
palmation, even when a fourth tine is present. Stags with 
such graceful antlers as these we got also at San Bartolo and 
at San Dionisio. 

The wild pigs of America differ from the rest of the swine 
tribe by their possession of a large gland in the middle of the 
back, whence oozes a strong, disagreeable scent ; therefore their 
generic name of Dicotyles, i.e., double navel. There are two 
kinds of peccary, both occurring in Southern Mexico, and subject 
to much local variation in size and colour. The Dicotyles 
torquatus, s. angulatus, s. taja$u, is about one yard in length, 
and grizzled black and brown, with a paler stripe across the 
shoulder. This creature is solitary, and has a very wide 
distribution, from Texas all over Mexico, and far into Central 
and South America. In the Atlantic Mexican States it is 
known as the " jabali marino," or " jambamba." 

The other kind, D. Idbiatus, s. pecari, is a considerably bigger 




ANTLERS OF SOUTH MEXICAN DEER 



FLOWERS OF THE FOREST 377 

animal, much more ferocious, and lives in droves of sometimes 
as many as three dozen or more specimens ; it is, therefore, 
known as the " jabali de manado." Another name for it is 
" moro," as, for instance, in theState of Vera Cruz, but not much 
reliance can be placed upon this name, since in other parts the 
other species is called " moran," and " marine " is obviously 
a perversion of " moreno." This gregarious beast is easily 
recognised by its generally dark reddish-brown colour, whilst 
the belly, chest, throat, cheeks, and a narrow ring across the 
snout are white. The usual name of all these creatures is the 
Spanish- Arabic " jabali " ; the Aztecs call them " coyametl " 
and " quapisoti," or wood-pig. 

Omilteme lies at an altitude of about 7,000 feet, and the 
mountains are all covered with dense forest, chiefly various 
kinds of oaks and pines, mixed with arbutus and a kind of ash. 
Many sorts of brittle shrubs and herbaceous plants form the 
underwood, but most of the trees grow straight, their branches 
bearing long pendent lichens (Usnea), with much the same 
general appearance as the pendent Tillandsias, which do not 
occur up here. But there are other, upright Tillandsias, 
T. coerulea, on the pine-trees. Self-binding vines creep ver- 
tically upwards on one side of the stem like our ivy, which 
is unknown in America, whilst other creepers, mostly bignonias, 
screw themselves upwards in right-handed twists towards the 
light in the tree-tops, where they branch out. There is the 
" bejugo prieto," the water-giving liana, and another 
" bejugo," also a bignonia, which during our visit in July, was 
just dropping the corollas of its trumpet-shaped blossoms, 
and turning the fern-covered ground into a yellow-spotted carpet, 
as one after another of the trumpets came spinning down. 
Orchids were not in season, but were said to flower during the 
winter months, when it does not rain, and when the mountains 
are not enveloped in clouds and mists. Most of those which 
we collected had already started growing, and therefore came 
to grief long before we left the country. In a moist and per- 
manently gloomy spot stood a cluster of some half-dozen 
tree-ferns with stems more than twenty feet high, looking almost 
like palms. These, like most other tree-ferns, are not at all 



378 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



tropical plants ; they love a moist, temperate, not to say cool, 
climate, and they nourish best in Mexico in what may be called 
the prevalent cloud-belt, where such occurs at an elevation 
varying from 5,000 to nearly 8,000 feet. The abundance of 
selaginellas and ferns, mostly maidenhairs, was something 
delightful to behold, and several dozen kinds could be gathered 
easily during a short stroll. 




THE POSTMAN. 

Higher up, near 8,000 feet, the forest became less gloomy ; 
there is some scrubby growth but practically no underwood, 
since even the small and spiny-leaved " encino," an evergreen 
oak, grows to a large size there. The other oaks, all with large 
and smooth leaves, attain great dimensions, but the " ocote " 
pines and the " oyamel," or Abies, are veritable giants, from 



FOREST-CLAD MOUNTAINS 379 

five to six feet in diameter, as straight as a mast, and may be a 
hundred feet high. Here and there one of these giants has 
outlived his time, lightning has furrowed and more than once 
set fire to the rosin ous stem, and where this and its mighty 
limbs have crashed down a large space has been cleared for a 
new kind of vegetation to shoot up. Lupins, with woody stems 
seven feet high, appear on such a patch in numbers, as if they 
had been sown by man in a clearing of the primeval forest. 
Orobanche and similar parasites flourish upon the decaying stuff, 
and the piled-up heaps of rotten bark afford shelter for scorpions, 
scolopenders, snakes, and other " creepy-crawlies," which it 
would be futile to search for elsewhere, not because they are 
not there also, but because it is so hopeless to find anything 
in a virgin forest unless by mere accident. 

The shade-loving plants disappear from such a clearing ; 
maidenhairs give way to bracken ; the brittle, aromatic red 
salvias yield their place to spiny, blue thistles, and to yellow 
coreopsis ; whilst of creepers there are none, of course, except 
their dead and twisted remains, looking like ropes or strands 
of wire cable, either frayed out or still solid as the case may 
be. A few years later and all this is changed again. Young 
trees of oak and pines are growing up, quite a welcome sight, 
since in a tall forest the young generations have no chance, 
and are, therefore, practically absent. Shade is produced, and 
the stem of the late giant is transformed into a long ridge-like 
mound, overgrown with mosses and ferns, a trap for the unwary 
enthusiast to sink into up to his armpits. 

It was pleasant up there on the tops of the southern sierra, 
which rises, everywhere covered with forest, to heights of more 
than 10,000 feet, as, for instance, the far-off Tiotepec, or 
" God-mountain," with its abandoned prehistoric mines, where 
a friend had picked up a couple of ancient copper axes. This 
forest-clad range of mountains, running from west to east 
through the State of Guerrero, has a considerable influence 
upon the geographical distribution of animals and plants. It 
forms, except for a break of the lower basin of the Balsas river, 
a continuation of the mountains of Colima and Michoacan, 
and thus of the western sierra. Thus is explained the fact 



380 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

that there exists some similarity of life between this southern 
sierra and that of the western sierra and the central plateau. 
To the south of it is the " tierra caliente," with its flora and 
fauna of the typical Pacific type, which would be completely 
shut off by this same sierra from further inland, if this same 
tropical fauna and flora had not sent a good many forms up- 
wards into the basin of the Balsas. Thus it has come to pass 
that in Guerrero, in the hot regions north and south of this 
sierra, occurs a similar fauna and flora, separated from their 
relations by semi-alpine animals and plants, which are not 
modifications of the tropical basal stock, but have spread 
along the sierra. 

Of course we were busy collecting. From this Omilteme 
district are now known, in all, about twenty-two different kinds 
of amphibians and reptiles, and it is a curious fact that of the 
ten species found by ourselves only one, the commonest lizard, 
had been obtained by a previous collector, whilst we did not 
get one specimen of the eleven other ones brought home by him. 
That we stopped in this part only a few days makes this sup- 
plementary result all the more interesting, and it also shows 
how much such results depend upon luck. For instance, we 
did not see a single rattlesnake, although Antonio knew of 
two kinds on the " pedregal," a dry and rather barren slope 
covered with obviously volcanic rubble. High up, about 
8,000 feet, on the pine trees, was Sceloporus microlepidotus, 
and on the ground Gerrhonotus liocephalus and Eumeces lynxe, 
a slippery skink with an azure-blue tail. A new kind of Anolis 
flitted about on the branches of a fallen oak, but more variety 
of life existed in the vicinity of the hamlets. An insignificant 
and diminutive toad (Borboroccetes mexicanus) lived in the 
irrigated patches of Indian corn, and emitted a sharp, double, 
piping note. One of these specimens was inside an orange- 
headed grass-snake (Tropidonotus chrysocephalus) caught by 
Rafael, the " arriero," who was much astonished when he 
received the promised pay for two instead of one creature 
caught. This ought to have been good policy on our part, 
but as an apt illustration of the working of the Indian mind, 
he never caught another thing during the following six weeks 



A BLUE-TAILED SKINK 381 

for which he faithfully served us. Small toads were found 
under stones, and in the huts, and the common water frog of 
Mexico (Rana halecina) was plentiful in a pool that was 
difficult of access. So we fished for them, for lack of 
something better, with a bent pin and a bit of red paper, and 
then with the yellow flowers of a ranunculus, to which they 
took greedily. 

The blue-tailed skink mentioned above is another instance 
of the difficulties of collecting. I saw one basking on a heap of 
dry oak-leaves, but although Antonio helped in the search for 
twenty minutes it slipped away three times, and all we got 
was the end of its brittle tail. Not having recognised the 
species I felt rather unhappy, and although it is supposed to 
be common enough in the mountains, I never came across 
a specimen elsewhere, until three months later, on the Nevado 
de Colima, my horse kicked out of the loam another tail ! 
Since this was close to our camp we searched and searched 
without avail, though in the evening one skipped away into a 
rotten stump. However, two days later we got several and 
saw many more. That is my experience of Eumeces lynxe. 
The specific name has, by the way, nothing to do with a lynx, 
but seems to have been something like the Aztec name of this 
little creature. 

We have calculated the distance from Chilpancingo to 
Omilteme at nineteen miles, or six hours' steady riding. The 
little settlement chiefly owes its existence to its being a sort of 
half-way station between the town and the La Dicha mines 
further west in the mountains. These mines have recently 
been re-discovered, or, at least, taken in hand seriously by a 
company, after it had been ascertained that the district con- 
tained a fabulous wealth of copper ore. 



CHAPTER XIX. 

CHILPANCINGO TO AYUTLA. 

Preparations for the Journey Wet Camps The Rurales on the alert How 
Brigands are treated The beautiful Pass of Los Cajones Rapid Descent 
into the Hot Country and a Narrow Escape Tierra Colorada Crossing the 
Papagayo River Camp amidst wild Mountain Scenery Semi - Alpine 
Vegetation on the low Coast Range A Prehistoric Carved Stone Slab. 

Several busy days were spent at Chilpancingo packing and 
rearranging the many things preparatory for the journey to 
the coast, which we intended to strike somewhere to the east 
of Acapulco. These regions were, from a scientific point of 
view, still terra incognita, except as known to the ubiquitous 
prospector. A friend, for many years resident in Mexico, 
professionally a mining expert, mineralogist, prospector, 
inventor, temporary administrator, or owner of gold mines, 
collector of antiquities and insects, estate agent, and journalist 
combined, had pictured to me the prospects of a visit to the 
Copala district in glowing colours. In favour of this project 
was the fact that my friend had actually been there, and we 
might just as well visit this district as any other equally unknown 
to the naturalist. A considerable portion of the country had 
been acquired by a former Governor of Guerrero, who then, 
curious to see what his estate was like, had yielded to the 
versatile Irishman's suggestion of a joint investigation of its 
commercial prospects. Although the expedition was under- 
taken during the winter months, in the dry season, the grim 
old governor, who had the reputation of having condemned 
to death more evil-doers than any other governor of this State 
before him, paid for that trip with his life. We were to follow 
in his footsteps in the midst of the rainy season. The various 



DREAD OF THE COAST-LANDS 383 

travellers who came to our inn from Acapulco, contractors, 
agents, and prospectors on the look-out for a job, had dire 
stories to tell about the unhealthiness of the season, the flooded 
rivers, and other dangers of the trail. Nearly all the inhabitants 
of the inland plateau have an exaggerated dread of the coast- 
lands. The occasional travellers, therefore, rush through, 
from the capital to the coast, or vice versa, as quickly as possible, 
and thereby provoke the very dangers which they hope to 
avoid. Overtired, badly fed upon unaccustomed food, and 
with no time to adjust their systems to the considerable cli- 
matic changes, they arrive at the coast in prime condition for 
any kind of fever that may happen to be in season ; or, the 
other way round, the change from the tropics to the tierra fria 
produces colds, with much gastric and pulmonary trouble. 

Now nobody, the governor excepted, knew our real in- 
tentions ; they were hazy even to ourselves, ready as we were 
to be guided by circumstances, or by what we might find ; 
and, of course, nobody believed for a moment that we were not 
prospectors in disguise, or else bent on some mysterious errand. 
The lieutenant of the rurales reported himself ill the night before 
our departure, and was promptly confined to barracks, under 
arrest, and so there was an end of him. After all, he would have 
been more of a social nuisance than any practical help, and we 
were better off with our reduced escort, composed of a sergeant 
called Sabino, Pablo, a private, and Tranquilino, a corporal of 
gendarmes. By order of the governor we were to be provided 
with three riding horses and four strong pack-mules, complete, 
and Rafael was again willing to act as "arriero." But the start 
on Saturday, July 16th, was as annoying as could be. The 
" jefe politico," or commissary of police, had disposed other- 
wise. The mount kindly intended for my wife was a mule 
with a broken foreleg, which projected sideways ; my horse 
had never worn a bit, and there were no pack-saddles for the 
four stipulated mules, one of which was a sorry horse, and the 
other a small donkey. It took many hours to put matters 
right, and the governor was rather astonished to see me again, 
as the commissary of police had just reported to him that we 
had left the town hours ago. 



384 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

The stock of tinned provisions, brought from Mexico, had 
diminished sadly, and, to our dismay, could not be replenished 
at Chilpancingo. Still, we had the following stock : Nearly 
twenty pounds of tinned meat-stuff (sliced bacon, minced steak, 
chipped and very salt dried beef, and roast beef), four pounds 
of " force," rolled wheat and grapenuts, three pounds of dried 
apricots and plums, five dozen cakes of Maggie soups, a large 
tin of biscuits, and four large tins of proteine gingerbread, 
biscuits, and plasmon chocolate, with various little odds and 
ends. These stores ought to have lasted the two of us for three 
weeks, supplemented, as might reasonably be expected, by 
chickens, eggs, bread, tortillas, bananas, pineapples, and all 
the other tropical fruits, which are proverbially plentiful, 
let alone the game we might shoot. But it turned out other- 
wise, as instead of three weeks we were away thirty-five days, 
and suffice it to say for the present that the additional fifteen 
days meant a serious deficit of serviceable food. We cannot 
live on tortillas, and we cannot keep fit by feasting one day 
and fasting the next. 

The track towards the south is bordered by a ridge which 
has thrown out spurs composed of boulders, sand, and small 
stones, looking like moraines. Once over the cretaceous ridge 
we pass through a pretty gorge, and gradually drop down to 
Mazatlan, a long and very dirty village, situated amidst fields 
of Indian corn, meadows, and grassy, low hills a cattle- 
growing and horse-breeding district. Although scarcely a 
dozen miles from our start, we stopped in the neighbourhood, 
partly to break in our men to the mysteries of camp-life, and 
partly to change horses, the now cringing " jefe politico " 
having despatched two successive messengers to find out 
whether we were satisfied, to which he received such unfavour- 
able answers that, on the following morning, the alcalde of 
Mazatlan established a little horse fair. Thus ended our 
troubles, with a loss of the three best hours of the day for 
travelling. We came in for a heavy shower whilst pitching our 
tent, the storm coming as usual from the south-east, but it 
soon passed northwards, settling down over Chilpancingo. 
The wind was cool on our exposed, bleak hill, and by early 



A REMARKABLE TREE 385 

morning several of our beasts had taken shelter on the lee side 
of the tent from the drizzling mist which, with a temperature 
of only 65 F., felt very unlike the tropics. Mazatlan means 
in Aztec the " place of stags " ; but of living things we only 
saw the " sapo bianco," or white toad (Hyla copei), a tree-frog 
which spends most of its time on the ground, which it much 
resembles in its mottled brownish and white garb ; small scaly 
lizards, a few " zopilotes," and (curiously enough) crabs, well 
out of reach of permanent water on the slope of the ridge. 

An hour south of Mazatlan is Palo Blanco, the dirtiest of 
all villages, with still dirtier and unusually broad-faced people. 
The effect of the environment upon the looks of the natives 
is often striking. Here, at Palo Blanco, the white upper 
cretaceous formation joins the older hard blue limestone. 

A remarkable tree is rather common in this district, 
Juliania adstringens, well-known to the natives as " cuau- 
chalalatl " throughout Morelos and Guerrero. Lumholtz 
mentions another species, J. amplifolia, from Michoacan as 
" quetchalalatl," or " matixeran," in the Tarasco idiom ; 
the sap, which spurts out of the bark, is used for curing old 
wounds, and a decoction of its bark contains an alkaloid, good 
for malaria. The fruition is most peculiar, growing at the 
end of a stalk, and looking like a green, attenuated fig, or like 
a malformed walnut. I much regret not having preserved 
any of the plentiful specimens, which seem to be at a premium 
in every herbarium, but I did not then know what a Juliania 
looked like. My humble offer to be on the look-out for certain 
plants had been chilled by the information that " the most 
interesting thing in Mexico is Juliania, but it would be of no 
use showing it, as you won't find it." Dr. Rose, of the 
Smithsonian Institute, has since been twice to Mexico to get 
material, which he has kindly handed over to Mr. B. Hemsley, 
of Kew Gardens.* 

From Palo Blanco the track descends into a deep valley of 
limestone, the scenery changes to great advantage, and there 
are several rivulets which have either to be crossed or followed. 

* " The Julianaceae : A New Natural Order of Plants." Phil. Trans. 
Roy. Soc., London, 1907, p. 169-197. 

A A 



386 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



On the left is a large precipitous cliff, a pale yellow rock, part 
of which has the appearance of a colossal statue of a woman 
set in dark, luxuriant verdure. The proportions and the pose 
of the whole figure, the drapery, the position overlooking the 
wild valley, are altogether astonishing, and still it is only a 
natural freak. This is the famous " Imagen." Of course it 
is now called " La Virgen," the Madonna, but the natives call 




UNDER THE AMATE TREE. 



it "El Imagen de Acahuitzotla," and this is much more in- 
teresting and to the point, because Ahuitzotl was the last but 
one of the Aztec kings, a great warrior who extended his empire 
far to the south. The image commemorates his name amongst 
the Indians, who have long forgotten who Ahuitzotl was, and 
now give to the image the Spanish female gender. 

Further down, at the bottom of the whole valley, is the large 
Hacienda de Alarcon, forming with its attached shop, where 



CAMPING IN THE WET 387 

fodder and drinks can be got, a kind of half-way house for the 
traveller before he crosses Los Cajones, the last ridge which 
separates him from " la costa," the hot country. We went a 
little beyond the hacienda, attracted by a spot with beautiful 
views of the sierras to the north and south, only three hours' 
ride from Mazatlan. It had been cloudy all the forenoon, 
with a noon temperature of 82 F. at Alarcon, which lies at an 
altitude of about 3,000 feet, but wise people said that thunder- 
storms were due in the sierra soon after noon, and we wanted 
to get under canvas without being soaked ; but long before the 
arrival of the baggage heavy rain came down and continued 
during most of the night. The pleasant camping ground turned 
into a swamp, with countless rivulets. However, the men 
made the best of it by stretching out ropes from the tent- 
awnings and putting every available sheet and their own white 
regulation mackintoshes, etc., over the ropes, thus dodging 
some of the wet. Tranquilino, the gendarme, entrenched 
himself with his machete under the lee awning of the tent, 
and to this place he stuck during most of the time of our ex- 
pedition, since, somehow or other, he considered himself the 
person most directly responsible for our welfare during the 
night. This living en famille, with all the men around us in 
the closest proximity, even within touch, was obviously safe, 
but had its drawbacks, since one cannot well prevent escorts 
or muleteers from talking, or, poor fellows, from restlessly 
shifting about. Their talking was always a good sign, and 
interesting information was thus gathered which would not 
otherwise have been forthcoming ; but a quiet, talkless night 
boded ill either they had fallen out with each other, or 
they had some grievance which, thanks to their reticent 
Indian mood, could never be set right until it was too 
late. Sometimes they had no food : that means to say, they 
had not bought any when told to lay in a stock whilst 
passing through a likely-looking village ; or the Indian corn 
was more expensive than Sabino liked, so that his little 
margin of " profit " did not come up to his expectation ; or, 
worse than all, a mule or horse was developing a sore, and this 
would throw Rafael out of gear. 

A A 2 



388 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

I felt sure there was something up, thanks to some 
information which Sabino had received from the alcalde, and 
later on from people whom he had cross-questioned on the 
road. He would not let us ride in front nor in the rear, and 
stuck to us closely whilst Pablo kept his carbine ready " because 
of game." Ramon went quite to pieces, and croaked about 
this being an " awkward stretch of country." At last the 
reason came out accidentally, when Sabino could no longer 
hold in his reminiscences. He pointed out a place where three 
years before a stranger had been murdered by two robbers. 
It was an awkward-looking place, made for an ambush, at a 
turn of the path, in a ravine. " Here from behind that tree 
they shot him, and there we found the ' gringo ' lying. This 
is the branch on which we hanged the ' bandoleros.' ' All 
this was very realistically told and partly re-enacted. In that 
case the alarm of the murder had soon spread to Chilpancingo, 
and Sabino happened to be one of the squad told off to hunt 
the murderers down. They had caught them two days later, 
near Rincon, on the other side of the Ca Jones, as that was the 
only place where a man making for the coast could have a 
chance of getting through, all the rest of the mountain chain 
being impracticable and uninhabited. Next he described how 
they took the murderers, according to " costumbre," to the 
spot where the crime had been committed, to be shot, and how 
the sergeant gave the coup de grace by a bullet into their temples, 
" because it is rare that a man is dead at once, but a bullet 
placed here always finishes him." Then they were " colgados," 
hung up on a tree, by a " lazo " passed under their arms, to be 
suspended for twenty-four hours according to law, as a warning 
to others, and as a proof that justice had been done. " But 
don't you hang them by the neck ? " " Certainly not. What is 
the good of doing that to a man who is already dead ; besides 
"no es costumbre." " The truth is," said the gentle and 
refined Tranquilino, " that the hanging of a man by the neck 
may give a false impression as to his death, but when he is 
properly ' colgado,' everybody knows that it is not due to an 
accident, but for the benefit of the country, for ' la seguridad 
publica.' ' This is certainly a somewhat summary method 



A GANG OF ROBBERS 389 

of administering the law, but it is effective, and they did not 
quite follow me when I talked about subsequent inquests and 
possible miscarriage of justice. " No, my patron; our 'teniente' 
had orders to catch the two ' bandoleros,' and we caught them, 
prevented them from escaping again, suspended them, and 
took them to the Hacienda de Alarcon, where they were properly 
buried in the presence of the alcalde. There is no doubt about 
that, and we got our receipt." 

Sabino owned to having himself only killed five men, but 
having " assisted " with fifteen, at least, up to the present. 
Then he became more communicative, and let out that they 
had now received information of a gang of robbers who were 
expected to be on the warpath between us and the coast, this 
being what made them uneasy. That this was not a groundless 
alarm we found out later. 

Our escort was decidedly good, sometimes annoyingly so. 
Sabino was a quiet, often morose, but gentle-hearted ruffian ; 
Pablo entered into the fun of the thing ; but Tranquilino, a 
married man like Sabino, was essentially a man of peace. He 
was, as he often repeated, above all, " negociante," a com- 
mercial man, who in his spare time, to make both ends meet, 
had to do gendarme's duty. He was not keen about having 
to kill people, but he objected much more to the chances of being 
killed himself, and one day when things looked a little crooked, 
he confided to me what an incessant cause of anxiety we were 
to them. " If you or the Senora should get killed, we should 
have to fly, and where to ? And then they (the Government) 
would send out ' the boys ' to hunt us down and shoot us ; 
and what would be the good of that to anyone ? " Being really 
a quiet, trustworthy man, he had often been put in charge of 
well-recommended travellers, and he once had a close shave. 
The gist of his long and minutely-detailed story is that he once 
escorted a foreigner with a great sum of money. Both made a 
detour to inspect a deserted mine, of which the staging gave 
way, and they found themselves imprisoned for a long time. 
Supposing the stranger had broken his neck, how could his 
protector have cleared himself of the suspicion of foul play ? 
Such little yarns whiled away the time, and helped to get us 



390 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

over the ground, when the saddle seemed to develop creases, 
when the stirrup-leathers felt intolerably short or intolerably 
long, and when the longed-for camping-ground was still always 
just beyond the next ridge, whilst ridge after ridge followed 
each other in endless succession, each first looming out of a 
lovely hazy blue, then dancing in the broiling, trembling heat- 
waves, and then sinking back behind us into the same un- 
paintable tints as before. The hard-baked ground sends up 
a fierce, radiating heat, every stone glares, and every blade of 
grass appears with black on one side and white, sharply-reflected 
light on the other ; but far away soft tints prevail and urge 
us on. 

The vegetation of the whole valley between the ridges of 
Mazatlan and the Cajones is of great beauty. At the northern 
foot of the Cajones was a moist bank, or cliff, literally covered 
with climbing Maurandias, aroids, and a profusion of ferns, 
and every bit of projecting rock was studded w r ith blue flowers, 
interspersed with white bulbous orchids, while at the bottom, 
between green-capped boulders, rushed a clear stream, with 
luxuriant, broad-leaved collocasias in its bed, fringed with the 
tree-like stems of the orange-blooming " morning glory," and 
a delicately-tinted grey convolvulus, while higher up, the 
slopes supported a whole forest of columnar cactus, and higher 
still grew the oaks and pines, with orchids, tillandsias, and 
fiery-blooming Loranthus. All this was as lovely to behold as 
it was difficult to ride through, what with boulders, water-holes, 
and the caved-in sides of the brook. 

The ascent to the Cajones is steep, and this pass was, until 
recently, the terror of pack-trains ; but now a well-constructed 
and serviceable road leads across the ridge except where it 
happens to have slipped away. " Cajones " means boxes, 
and this term refers to the curious rut-like channels which the 
mule traffic of four hundred years, and before them, from time 
immemorial, the feet of carriers, had worn into the disintegrated 
soil. The whole ridge is partly overlaid with red rubble, or 
conglomerates, in sharp distinction to the northern parts, 
which are of volcanic, porphyritic formation. It has the appear- 
ance of a coarse red or yellow sandstone, but is in reality a 



OVER THE PASS 391 

disintegrating kind of granite, soft enough near the surface 
to be cut with a pickaxe. There, especially on the north side 
near the summit, the old tracks had worn themselves into 
channels more than a dozen feet deep, with vertical walls, and 
so narrow that a mule could only just pass through, and one 
could still see the scratches which have been worn by the 
thousands and thousands of projecting loads as they scraped, 
struck, and butted against the walls ; and where such a little 
defile had become too deep, the rain-water rushing through it 
had dug it still deeper ; it was then deserted, and a new one 
was made. There were rights over the right of way, and the 
greatest danger was the meeting of caravans from opposite 
directions. The summit of this pass is only about 3,500 feet 
above the sea level, much lower than the main chain of the 
Sierra Madre del Sur, and thence southwards this volcanic 
formation of porphyritic andesite, and then granite for the 
most part disintegrated, extends right down to the Pacific 
coast, with scarcely any change or interruption. 

The summit of the pass commands a glorious view towards 
the south. There are at least ten distances visible, near, 
middle, far, and still farther, with range upon range of cross 
views, all covered with forest, and becoming lighter and paler, 
until they fade away into the whitish haze of the horizon which 
imperceptibly merges into the sky. 

The southern descent was steep, and the good zigzag road 
soon dissolved itself into a choice of the alternating banks of a 
stream. Whether it was that bit of unexpectedly easy road 
which had demoralised the horses or whether because every- 
thing appeared easy after the awful ascent, our horses began 
to stumble, and a fall of my wife's pony came within a hair's 
breadth of ending fatally. The young animal, not yet accus- 
tomed to the bridle, went slipping down sideways over a bare, 
slanting ledge,and threw her over the off-side against the opposite 
bank, with the usual result of dragging and kicking, till horse 
and rider lay in a heap in the triangular corner of a boulder- 
strewn stream. For a wonder nothing serious had happened, 
beyond some contusions and a terrible shaking. 

The descent of 1,200 feet to the foot of the ridge, within a 



A STRIKING CHANGE 393 

distance of less than three miles, brought about a striking 
change. It made all the mysterious difference between our 
being still in the temperate and just within the tropical region. 
There were still patches of pines, mixed with the " yellow oak," 
but hereabouts the " raspa vieja," a stunted, large-leaved 
brittle oak, more shrub than tree, became prevalent, together 
with the same " quautecomatl," which at similar elevations 
was so common on the open lands of Morelos. " Nanche " 
trees, with their cherry-like fruit, Byrsonina cumingiana and 
B. cotinifolia, and wide-spreading, shady fig-trees, of the kind 
called " amate prieto," and plantain groves surrounded the 
huts, which themselves, by their loose structure, the 
absence of clay from the wattled " walls," and their shady 
verandahs, proclaimed a warmer climate. Of birds, the long- 
tailed grackles (Quiscalus) gave vent to their metallic notes, 
swarms of little parrakeets whirled about, large and small 
Pitangus, and the funny black Crotophagas. For a few miles 
the country is flat, meadows with herds of cattle extending to 
the village of Buena Vista, a well-chosen name, and not far 
beyond we selected what appeared an ideal camping-place, 
though we had scarcely dismounted when the early afternoon 
storm burst and soaked us thoroughly, during the three-quarters 
of an hour's wait before the baggage came up. There was no 
joy in that camp ; the carefully chosen spot was soon converted 
into a swamp, like the whole neighbourhood in fact, and it 
was hopeless to build a fire. 

From Buena Vista the terrain descends steadily, the subsoil 
being the same volcanic rubble, sometimes in shales, while 
underneath lies the hard pale andesite, cropping up occasionally 
in high boulders, and, of course, in the river beds. Part of the 
way, in the worst and steepest places, the road had been paved, 
some fifty years ago. Here, in this awkward stretch of country, 
where the track wriggles up and down, twisting between rocks, 
streams and trees, many of the large cobble stones are still 
in their original, closely-packed condition, affording welcome 
foothold to the panting beasts ; but where the stones have been 
loosened by the growing roots of trees, the torrential rains 
cause little landslips, or the road-bed is converted into a series 



394 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

of harmless-looking puddles, maybe a yard in depth, and hiding 
the leg-breaking tangle formed by the roots of the neighbouring 
trees. Where the track leads, as it frequently does, under the 
caved-in bank of a stream, some unusually big roots, or a fallen 
tree-trunk, may block the passage, in which case it always amused 
us to see each man as he rode past such an obstacle deal it a 
single vicious blow with his machete. This is " costumbre," 
and when some scores of travellers have done their duty, it 
may be that the obstruction will sink down. But there are 
plenty of trees which bear hundreds of such marks, and on 
many of them the tropical growth has partly mended the 
oldest cuts, the track now circumventing the too persistent 
obstacle. Further on, near Dos Caminos, and again above 
Tierra Colorada, the track divides into many little " cajones," 
on comparatively flat ground, the various tracks having worn 
themselves so deeply into the subsoil that our mules had to be 
unloaded several times when the packages stuck, and it was 
impossible otherwise to extricate the beasts. 

Tierra Colorada, well called the " Red Earth," is a large 
village built in the usual straggling fashion along either side of 
a broad, plaza-like space. On a knoll, well outside the village, 
we established our camp. There is much Indian corn grown, 
and there are many " platanares " here, but these are the only 
signs of cultivation. The neighbourhood was teeming with 
life ; large blackish iguanas basked on the rocks, motionless, 
and half erect, like old jagged branches, while their grass- 
green young sat in the green trees or in the " yerva," tall 
weed-like masses of sunflowers, salvias, and other glabrous, 
aromatic herbs ; striped lizards flitted through the grass, or 
played on the patches of red-brick coloured soil, representatives 
of Sceloporus were watching on the fences, anolids of various 
kinds, amongst them a large and beautiful new species, stretched 
out their gorgeously-coloured throat-discs, thereby alone giving 
themselves away ; geckos, called " pata de bueye " because 
of their cloven finger-discs, swarmed in the houses, and there 
was a fair sprinkling of snakes, from the harmless Tropidonotus 
to the " vibora con cascabeles," the rattlesnake. Another 
large snake, a Zamenis, lived under a ledge just in front of the 



A PILL FOR A SNAKE 397 

tent, but refused to be dislodged, basked during our absence, 
and hunted in the evening. At the pretty little river were 
" pasarios " lizards, tree-frogs tucked themselves away between 
the stems and leaves of the plantains, and tiny toads muttered 
in the grassy swamps. Bird-life was also plentiful, particularly 
the hundreds of little parrakeets which, especially in the morning 
and in the late afternoon, whirled about in flocks of from 
twenty to forty, and filled the air with their exuberant shrieks. 
Little crested quails uttered their quaint notes close by in the 
dense copses near the cultivated fields, and now and then a 
Crotophaga fluttered past holding a limp lizard by the neck, 
to dissect it at leisure upon some horizontal branch of his 
favourite tree. There were also stags within a hundred yards 
of our camp, but of other mammals, as usual, we saw 
nothing. 

The natives were not averse to collecting creatures when 
confidence had once been established, for which purpose we 
stopped here another day. Luckily, for me, there was much 
illness about, mostly rheumatism and cases of upset digestion, 
which were amenable to our stock of medicines. We had 
here an almost unique experience of an Aztec fulfilling his 
promise. A man had received some pills, and as he wanted 
to pay for them which was quite an unusual occurrence he 
was told that a snake would balance the account. In the 
evening he actually brought a nice specimen of Trimorphodon 
biscutatum, the only one I ever got in the country. He said 
there were several about, but he did not want any more pills 
that day. For a while trade went on quite briskly, until the 
tent was surrounded by the lame and the halt, a terribly palsied 
girl, some cases of goitre, which were rather frequent in this 
district, and other incurables. Then my reputation suffered ; 
moreover, our animals ran into the fields of Indian corn, and 
damages were curtly refused by the sergeant. A crowd of 
women and children squatted about, hunting awhile for the 
game on each other's heads, till they had to be cleared off the 
premises ; in short, relations became somewhat strained, 
and we remained on visiting terms with a few select families 
only. 



398 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



It was very hot there, the elevation being scarcely 1,000 
feet, and no rain falling. The mean shade-temperature hovered 
at about 86 F., which is quite hot enough to be uncomfortable 
in a stuffy valley without a breeze, and even by sunrise the 
thermometer still stood at 71 F. The evening was sultry 




NATIVES OF TIERRA COLORADA. 

and cloudy, and we experienced two sharp shocks of earthquake 
of about four seconds' duration, which sent cold shivers up 
one's spine. It must have been an extra strong shock, as it 
became the talk of the natives, who in this coast district are 
accustomed to almost daily " temblones." 

In the afternoon several roped prisoners were escorted past 
our camp by some Federal troopers, and caused considerable 



NOVEL RECRUITING 



399 



excitement, as they were supposed to be part of that band 
of robbers whom everybody had been on the look-out for. 
However, we heard later in Ayutla that there was nothing in 
particular against them, except that they were strangers who 
had loitered about in that town in search of employment, and 
the " jefe politico " therefore sent them to Chilpancingo as 
recruits for the army. He could not show his zeal for the 




A TORTILLERA WITH HER IMPLEMENTS. 

welfare of the Republic in a more tangible way, and, as the 
poor fellows had no friends, nobody minded. 

Tierra Colorada was soon to experience bustling changes, 
as it is marked out for a station on the railway from Acapulco 
to the La Dicha copper mines in the neighbourhood of 
Omilteme. At Dos Caminos the track divides, the " main 
road " continuing as the Acapulco trail, whilst the other, 
which we followed, branches off towards the south-east 



400 

and leads to Ayutla. Henceforth we were off the beaten 
track. 

About seven miles south of Tierra Colorada the Rio 
Papagayo has to be crossed at the Paso de Omitlan. This is 
a formidable river which rushes through a deep depression in 
the hills, its bed lying only about 160 metres, or 520 feet, 
above the level of the sea. The narrow valley is a mass of 
tropical tangle, and on the south side rises a densely-wooded 
ridge. The ferryman on the other side kept beating with his 
fist upon the covered-in prow of the launch, and by the drum- 
ming sound thus produced summoned his men together. The 
crossing, as this is not a Governmental ferry, was rather 
expensive, our whole party paying about two-and-a-half pesos, 
but there is also a cheaper mode of getting across, much resorted 
to by the natives. Oxen are driven into the river, and whilst 
they are swimming against the current, which carries them 
obliquely down towards the other side, each passenger holds 
on to a tail. The oxen like to cross in company, one alone 
cannot easily be induced to do it ; but now and then some self- 
willed beast makes for a shallow sandbank in the middle of the 
bed, higher up stream, and there the passenger has to wait 
until its bovine mind is made up whether to cross right over 
or to return to the bank of departure, to the howling delight 
of the boys who are in charge of this traffic. 

Omitlan, a small village, is a filthy place, reeking of cattle, 
which wallow about anywhere under the wide-spreading 
" amate," or fig-trees, and the people are not attractive either. 
The temperature in this enclosed valley was 88 F. The origin 
of the name Omitlan, which means " place of bones," has 
puzzled others before us. On the southern side escape out of 
the valley seems to be absolutely barred by a densely-wooded 
ridge, which rises steeply. A crazy track zigzags through the 
woods, past the hamlets of Tepehuaje, and crosses the ridge 
some 1,100 feet above the river, to descend immediately, and 
as sharply, on the south side. Here we camped on a pro- 
minent spur, and did not tire of admiring the rather awe- 
inspiring scenery of the densely-wooded mountains, which 
seemed to form an endless labyrinth of ridges running from 




B B 



402 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

east to west, each ridge sending out transverse outworks, 
coulisses, which screened the neighbouring ranges, and made 
it a puzzle to understand how the Rio de Omitlan, joining the 
Papagayo, could find its way out of such a labyrinth in fact, 
how rivers could flow at all in such a country. Still, there 
they were, far below in the middle distance, while in the 
west, clad in dark purple above the green, loomed the high 
peaks of Omilteme, and even of the jagged Tiotepec the 
mountain of the gods. The afternoon was cloudy, the tem- 
perature keeping agreeably near 81 F., and being still at 78 
at 8 p.m. ; heavy rain followed for several hours from 10 p.m. 
onwards ; at sunrise the temperature was 70 F. 

The following morning was cloudy, and a strong north 
wind brought a wet mist. The valley between this ridge 
and the next is thoroughly tropical, especially at the village 
of Coquillo, so-called from the abundance of the " coquillo," 
or " palma real "; but there were also whole groves, thousands 
of " cocoyul " palms (Acrocomia sclerocarpa] , the hard seeds 
of which, two inches long, and pointed at either end, are of 
great commercial value on account of the oil ; the kernels 
are also good to eat, but it requires a sledgehammer to open 
them. These palms grew chiefly on the slope of the mountains 
where they were exposed to the southern and western sun ; 
everything else, except for the artificial clearings, was a dense 
mass of '" raspa vieja," " amate," ceibas, " nanche," and 
mimosas, while the trees in the moister ravines supported 
arums and climbing Cereus, lianas, ferns, and orchids. Opun- 
tias, mostly small and scattered, stood in the more open ground. 
There was plenty of life. The palm groves and ravines were 
favourite lurking-places of the " masacoatl," the " stag- 
snake," or boa, and the jaguar's existence was at least proved 
by the lovely skin of a female, which was to be had for eight 
pesos. A full-grown ocelot, or " tigrillo" (Felis pardalis), sat on 
a rock, and calmly watched us riding past within ten yards. 
Here were representatives of the large and small yellow-headed 
parrots, savannah birds, hooting trogons, doves, black and 
yellow Cassicus, crested jays, grackles, grey woodpeckers, 
auras, and hawks. 



PRIMITIVE TURKISH BATHS 



403 



After having crossed the Rio Chacalapan, a clear and 
shallow tributary of the Papagayo, the village of Chacalapan, 
a curious place, was reached. Most of the few scattered houses 
have, instead of a verandah, a kind of awning spread over what 
might be called the court, palm leaves spread over lattice- 
work, supported by upright posts. There were also some 
ovens, like round bee-hives made of clay, with a hole in one 
side and raised a foot or two above the ground on a wooden 




THE CHURCH OF POCHOTE. 



stand with four feet. These funny-looking things are, however, 
not for baking bread, but for roasting patients. They are 
Turkish baths. A fire is lighted inside, and the patient 
crawls into the heated oven, which is just large enough to hold 
one person in a crouched position. 

There was a shop where some bananas and fiery chili pods 
were for sale ; to encourage trade I offered to buy a pound or 
two of the coarse sugar which was displayed in little tiny lumps 
on the counter, but the woman was aghast at my greediness. 
'" We sell here only ' al centavo.' and I cannot let you take my 

B B 2 



404 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

whole stock away." But what happened ? Every one of 
our men bought a few bits of sugar, the whole of the visible 
stock was cleared, and the woman calmly fetched some more 
from her real store. As usual, we had tried to break their 
custom, and maybe she was overawed by our appearance, 
but most likely it was a sample of the Indian mind which to 
us is as a book with seven seals. 

Further on. higher up, near a pretty, clear stream, is the 
village of Pochote ; well outside it stands the church, as usual 
with a tall, slender cross in front, erected upon a whitewashed 
pedestal. Like all the houses in this district, the church has 
a close stockade around it ; some of the houses are quite neat, 
with proper whitewashed mud walls, thickly patched with 
palm leaves, and with a little cross at each gable. For some 
occult reason these gable decorations, or, more properly, charms 
against evil, are, in some of the other villages further north, 
supplemented by little clay pots in which is planted the tiny 
cross. 

Beyond Pochote the road with manyups and downs ascends 
steadily, and crosses another ridge, the last parallel of the 
Sierra Madre del Sur, averaging about 2,000 feet in height. 
All the tropical life left us as we ascended the rolling hills, 
which were composed of disintegrated granite, sand, and yellow 
loam, and for the most part covered with turf, with here and 
there some stunted mimosa bushes, " raspa vieja," and 
"nanche," clumps of wood being restricted to the "barrancas." 
On the summit, after a ride of twenty miles, we camped on an 
ideal spot commanding views of the jagged sierra to the north 
and westwards, whilst towards the south the eye swept over 
the rolling downs. The general character of the country was 
strangely semi-alpine, as there was nothing in these turfy slopes 
to remind one of the tropics ; on the contrary, the most pro- 
minent plants were such as one encounters in higher altitudes. 
On moist spots grew the large, orange orchid (Cypripedium 
izaplanum), which we had admired in the meadows above 
Chilpancingo ; there was also in profusion the Bessera elegans ; 
tall pink begonias, yellow asfodels, and mauve lupins ; greenish- 
yellow orchids, reminding us of our Conopsea, and a kind of 



THE PACK-TRAIN 



405 



dimorphic moon wort. Animal life was scarce, with the ex- 
ception of numerous scorpions and centipedes, our spoils being 
restricted to a Cnemidophorus and some common frogs, while 
the only birds visible were a few " corre camino," or roadrunner 
cuckoos. Our enjoyment of this place depended upon the 
views and the fresh air, but, as usual, there was something to 
spoil the fun. This time the pack-train kept us waiting for 
five hours ; and when at last they turned up at sunset they had 
not brought a grain of food, whether eggs, chickens, tortillas, 




SIERRA MADRE. 



or maize, so that Sabino had at once to be sent back to Pochote. 
The difficulty was always in keeping the party together ; 
when we ourselves went on in front with one or two of the 
rurales, the baggage-men were sure to linger behind in some 
village, not being able to resist its manifold attractions, and 
then they followed at a snail's pace. On the other hand, when 
the order of march was reversed, and we ourselves stopped 
for some sketches, photographing, or collecting, the baggage 
went on at a racing pace, so that when we had settled upon a 
likely camping spot they were miles ahead, and had to be 
recalled. It took us weeks to drill them into something like 



406 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



shape, although they were willing enough individually, when 
not left to themselves, but with rare exceptions they could not 
be entrusted with the selection of a camping ground. The 
difficulty of uniting our few indispensable requirements was 
too much for them, namely, the combination of drinking water, 
firewood in the neighbourhood, and a dry spot commanding a 
view. Sabino was decidedly good at finding water ; with 
unfailing instinct he made for the proper spot. Tranquilino 
had a hankering after dry ground and firewood, and Pablo 




*s 



Moiirul ' 



SLAB OF STONE NEAR TEXONAPAK. 
Diameter about seven feet. 

had an artistic eye for " la vista." But, unfortunately, these 
three men could never combine their gifts, and the other fellows 
were duffers. 

This day, again, and the night were rainless ; there was a 
heavy dew, and the morning temperature went down to 69 F., 
quite refreshingly cool. The road continued through undu- 
lating, open country, past the little village of Limon, down to 
the large village of Texonapan, amidst extensive meadows, 
with numbers of cattle, and huge "amate" trees, a stream amidst 
verdure making a pleasant change. To the south of this village 
the name of which means " stone-river " the road passes 



STONE SLABS AND MONOLITHS 407 

by a number of stone mounds, about fifteen feet high, and there 
are two stout-shaped monoliths standing about four feet above 
the ground, which now serve as private boundary marks, and 
a little modern cross, erected there no doubt because of the 
now forgotten significance of this spot. Close by, between 
two of the largest mounds, lies a stone slab, cut hexagonally, 
about seven feet in diameter, and from eight to ten inches in 
thickness ; the upper surface is quite flat, with many shallow 
little cups, or holes, cut into it; unfortunately, the design is no 
longer in complete preservation. 

After an easy stage of eighteen miles, easy on account of the 
flat country and the low water in the various and extremely 
pretty rivers, our camp was once more established in " bush " 
country, amongst quails, parrots, and trogons, which hooted 
from morning to evening. There was not a breath of air, the 
temperature kept at 81 or 82 F. long after nightfall, and yet our 
notes say that " we enjoyed the cool night," because the 
atmosphere was dry. By 5 a.m., however, it had sunk to 
71, two hours later is rose to 74, to hover at about 86 during 
the day. 

Ayutla was said to be close by the proverbial league ; 
yet, although the road was very easy, and we did not linger 
more than fifteen minutes on the way, it took three hours' 
good riding to get there. This means a distance of at least 
sixteen kilometres, or ten miles. 




HIEROGLYPH MAZATLAN. 

" Place of Many Stags." 

Mazatl = stag ; tlan = close together. 

Expressed by two front teeth and red gums. 



CHAPTER XX. 

AYUTLA, AND THENCE TO THE COAST. 

The Mayor, Schoolmaster, and other Misteca of Ayutla Guests of the 
Municipality Masked Dances A Funeral Scrimmage between Police and 
Robbers How such a Wild State is Governed The Land Question 
Destruction of Forests Ignominious Reception at Copala The " Tarima " 
Zambos Character of the low Coastlands. 

Ayutla, the " tortoise place," we looked forward to as a 
haven of rest, a paradise of pleasures. It is a town of 
several thousand inhabitants, mostly western Misteca Indians 
and half-castes, the Spanish founders and settlers having long 
since been absorbed, although their influence, both physical 
and mental, is unmistakable. 

The special letter of recommendation to the " jefe politico," 
contained, to our surprise, the thoughtful order that our party 
should receive lodgings and board. We were accordingly 
installed in the Escuela de las Ninas (the girls' school), it being 
at the time the vacation. A gang of prisoners was at once 
set to work to clear out the large class-room, and two men were 
appointed to act alternately as sentinels, messengers, and, 
let us say valets. This school building forms a corner of the 
square which, according to the usual pleasant fashion of the 
country, is converted into a rather well-kept flower-garden, 
with a bandstand. Next to our corner across the street, 
were the "cuartel" of a detachment of Federal rurales, the prison, 
and, on the other side, "the ayuntamiento." The school-house 
itself was fortified, the verandah ending in a little round tower 
with loopholes commanding three streets. The back door led 
into a high-walled wilderness of a garden where a bull was 



MUNICIPAL GUESTS 409 

tethered. Here the escort and animals were installed. Our 
room was large and tidy, containing only tables and forms, 
and piles of school-books ; all in excellent order, clean, and 
without earmarks. Sensible books, mostly dealing with Mexi- 
can history, geography, and the three " R's". Three were 
serviceable little atlases and maps, containing much practical 
information from a commercial point of view, and of the 
handwriting in the note-books the girls had no need to be 
ashamed. 

We were scarcely settled, having just put up the mosquito- 
curtained beds and arranged the luggage, and, above all, sorted 
the many things which stood in need of washing, when the 
official visitors appeared to enquire what they could possibly 
do for us, with the mental reservation that they would do 
nothing at all, whatever happened ! Of course, nothing came 
of it, but the " jefe politico," a decent fellow, carried us off to a 
private house, where a meal of many dishes had been prepared, 
and saw to it personally that we gorged to our sorrow. There 
was no denying him, and we enjoyed at least the sensation of 
being officially fed by an Indian municipality, or, rather, 
indirectly by the State of Guerrero. Unfortunately, this 
" jefe " had to leave the next morning for Chilpancingo, with 
a convoy of arms and money. He was scarcely recognisable, 
having been cropped short, like a criminal, as is the custom 
with people who go for a long journey, to promote cleanliness. 
This was a good, safe opportunity of sending back Ramon, 
who -was, indeed, but a helpless creature. As no suitable and 
trustworthy servant could be procured for the journey to the 
coast, which they all dreaded like the very infernal regions, 
Sabino was promoted to the vacant post for more than 
adequate wages. Needless to say, a few hours later, the spell 
of his teetotalism was broken ! 

The schoolmaster posing as the learned authority, dis- 
coursed about the many things that he did not know, for 
instance, about the existence of a depression lying deep below 
the sea-level, between the town and the coast, a discovery 
which had been made by some traveller who, of course, had 
trusted exclusively to the readings of his aneroid. And there 



410 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

are many people, even those who ought to know better, who 
think that this instrument gives the altitude without the 
making of any tedious comparisons and calculations. The 
fact that the streams, flowing through this very depression, 
still managed to reach the sea, made the present proposition 
all the more noteworthy. "It is a mysterious thing ; as I 
told you, it is a wonderful fact." Except for the few men and 
boys whom we prevailed upon to bring in snakes, tortoises, and 
armadilloes, all of which were rather plentiful in the neighbour- 
hood, we were thrown upon our own resources. 

To the "teniente " of the Federal " destacamento," a very 
polite and dapper young man, we showed the order from the 
general commanding the forces, which gave me the right to 
ask for an extra escort wherever there was a detachment. 
Here it was advisable to make such a request, but the officer 
did not relish the idea. " The coast is at present very un- 
healthy ; my men do not know the roads ; their presence 
will only exasperate the natives, who are much given to 
internecine strifes, feuds, or vendettas." He illustrated his 
meaning by working his fingers together ; the natives would 
mistake the appearance of his troopers for an attempt to arrest 
some of them, and it was his policy to leave them severely 
alone ; in fact, neither himself nor his men had ever been in 
the district we wanted to visit, etc. Well, he is probably still 
sorry for his remissness ! 

Our two door-keeping attendants did duty for at least three 
hours, but after they had satisfied their curiosity, they mis- 
interpreted the meaning of " alternate " attendance, and 
" alternated " so much that we never saw them again during 
the following three days. The style of our occasional visitors, 
even of those who considered themselves " swells," was some- 
what lacking in ceremony. They burst into the room, made 
for a chair without invitation, spat on the ground, then made 
their bow and tried to open a conversation, which was soon 
brought to a conclusion, to their evident surprise. They were 
a mannerless, disagreeable lot, rather typical of the whole 
district, and remarkably different from the real, punctiliously 
well-mannered and unadulterated natives. 



GREEDY SHOPKEEPERS 



411 



Then the principal grocer put in a ridiculously high bill 
for a grand supper which we never saw, and the purveyor of 
the first midday treat also clamoured for payment. Would 
they write down the items ? Not they. Would the municipal 
chest sign the receipt ? Certainly not, because " bills were 
too high." And the deputy mayor stood by, barefooted, one 




A DEPUTY MAYOR 



of his cotton trousers tucked well up above the knee (as is the 
way with a hard-working man), and swore that he knew how 
to deal with these greedy shopkeepers, who were endangering 
the good name of the town. Thus ended our experience of 
municipal hospitality. 

There were all sorts of shops, but, somehow or other, it 
was difficult to buy things at them. It was much worse than 
at Chilpancingo. Tinned sardines there were in plenty, but 



412 

the further off from the States, the older, and staler, and 
more frequently leaky they were. We wanted in this land of 
coffee to lay in a fresh supply, but, as I had not given a full 
day's notice, will it be believed that, after having tried several 
shops, I succeeded in buying only twelve centavos' worth, 
done up in as many bits of paper at a centavo each ? It was 
very bad coffee, too. They would neither grind nor roast any 
more. Home-made cigars of good tobacco were plentiful and 




IN PRISON. 



cheap " but," said the man, " there are ' palomitas ' (butter- 
flies) in them, and we have no others." Although nearly all 
were riddled by the larvae of little moths, yet, when pasted over 
with cigarette papers, they were good enough to smoke. Some 
of our boxes wanted mending, but the tinker happened to be in 
prison. No objection was raised to his doing a little work there, 
but another inmate promptly seized the chance of making his 
escape through the armed sentinels, though the poor fellow 



THE TIGER DANCE 413 

did not get half across the square. Most of these prisons con- 
sist of only one room, with a thickly-barred grating for window 
and door combined, giving upon the street. To this lattice- 
work the prisoners crowd like caged beasts, and there are always 
some friends, mostly women, to minister comforts, bringing 
food, cigarettes, and whatever kind of liquor happens to be 
the beverage of the district. The result is that the inmates 
are mostly intoxicated ; apart from the indescribably filthy 
condition of these " black holes," they are treated kindly enough 
by their guardians . ' ' Tequila ' ' and ' ' mescal, ' ' the spirit-product 
of aloe plants, went locally by the name of " vino bianco," 
in contradistinction to " aguardiente." Being in want of real 
wine, I asked for " vino legitimo," or for " vino de uva " (wine 
of grapes). " Vino de uva ? What is that ? " Well, 
those " falsificaciones Americanas." " Oh, Zinfandel ? 
Certainly ! " Unfortunately, Mexico is not a wine-producing 
country, and just as with us every wine is either hock or claret, 
so in Mexico red wine is labelled " zinfandel," after the very 
drinkable Calif ornian product. The commissariat was indeed 
confronted with difficulties in Ayutla, and we did not fare well, 
except for the really excellent bread and fruit, bananas, zapotes, 
and, above all, pineapples and cocoanuts. Still, there was plenty 
to do and more to see. 

On Monday, the 25th of July, St. James' Day, people were 
astir early, letting off little detonating rockets all over the town, 
and accompanied by a wonderfully quiet crowd, ten men, with 
masks, paraded from place to place to perform the dance of 
" buscar el tigre," the tiger dance, signifying the stalking of 
the jaguar. The ceremony, which was as genuine and heathen 
a performance as could be wished for, was marred by the dress, 
all the performers being in ordinary town clothes, excepting 
the headgear. Each wore a carved, wooden human mask, 
painted black, with slits for the eyes and mouth, but with 
certain characteristic attributes of goats and stags. For 
instance, one had a long goaty beard, topped with a brim! ess 
straw hat, adorned with horns of goats ; another, representing 
a stag, had antlers, and stags' teeth surrounding the mouth. 
The tallest person was dressed up as a woman, in a white mask, 



414 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



with long and thickly-plaited trusses of yellow agave fibres. 
The pantomime represented the search, the find, the stalk, 
and the kill, in a " tigre," or jaguar, hunt, and wound up with 
the appeasement of the ghost of the slain. We invited the actors 
to our verandah. None of them would speak a word, either 
before or after the performance, the only communication being 
by signs. The music struck up, and an old, one-eyed and one- 
armed man played the fiddle, the bow being tied to the stump 
of his forearm ; this man represented the standing orchestra. 
One of the dancers had a gourd, over the top of which was 




THE TIGER DANCERS. 

stretched a piece of parchment, while from its centre rose a 
stick, which, when stroked with rosined fingers, emitted grunts. 
The woman played the rattles and tambourine combined, in 
the shape of the well-dried jawbone of an ass, stroking and 
scraping the teeth with a piece of iron, and then hitting the 
bone in time with her hand, so that the loose teeth rattled. 
This music went on during the whole performance, which 
lasted about twenty minutes. They began by arranging them- 
selves in two opposite rows, the woman being at one end 
between them, and all dancing a slow polka step, or hopping 
on one leg, or shuffling. The stalking attitudes were exquisitely 



A CURIOUS PERFORMANCE 



415 



droll and realistic. For instance, the stag crouched down, 
making his way through the underwood, eyed something, 
pointed at it, though hopping all the while like the rest, and 
then the woman, who represented the jaguar, suddenly emitted 
a deep growl, whereupon everybody growled too, and came 
to a dead stop. Then the same music began again, but with 
another dancing formation. The goat-boy next became the 
principal actor, his part being that of the dog. The next act 




THE TIGER DANCERS. 

was the shooting and, ultimately, the slaying of the beast. At 
the end of every act came a sudden " tableau," initiated by a 
growl from the woman. At last came the dance of victory 
and reconciliation, everybody in turn going through a solo 
recapitulation of his part, and advancing towards and retreat- 
ing from the woman, who alone was all the time kept in motion. 
The meaning of this antique performance was not very obvious, 
it having no doubt drifted away from its original form, but the 
modern intention was to " felicitate and to ingratiate 



416 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

Santiago." It was a " promesa" (a vow) to dance from sunrise 
to sunset, including four performances in front of the church. 
The padre had to draw the line somewhere ; within the church 
they w r ere not allowed, although there was a statue of St. James, 
the patron of the place, riding his white charger, and brandish- 
ing a sword, just as he does in Spain. 

People who consider themselves in a scrape make a vow 
to go through this dance, but they are allowed to hire a sub- 
stitute, so that some of the men have become kind of pro- 
fessionals. The whole thing is arranged upon business principles. 
The masks and the instruments belonged to a private person, 
who let them out, upon the advice of a syndicate, who could 
not be induced to part with them, the excuse being that the 
" mascaras " would be required a few weeks later for another 
festival. Now and then they made a pause, and they had a 
longer rest at noon, but long before sunset most of them were 
so pitifully exhausted that they, especially the boy, could 
scarcely keep on their legs. They were not supposed to take 
any money ; an- exception was, however, made in our favour, 
the old cripple being indicated as a safe receiver. After the 
spell had thus been broken, the tall " tigress " allowed a peso 
to be slipped into her dress. 

All this time there was an opposition performance, likewise 
lasting all day. Fifteen men were dressed as " gachupinos " : 
"gachupin " is still the universal, somewhat depreciative, name 
in Mexico for a genuine Spaniard. The origin of this term is 
said to be the following : The natives' fancy was tickled by 
seeing the Spanish troopers spurring their horses, and they 
therefore called them "cat-chopin" (spiked shoes), which term 
they further bestowed upon the fighting cocks which were 
introduced by the foreigners, the native gallinaceous birds, 
their quails, " chachalacas," and turkeys being devoid of 
spurs. At any rate, the spur is the tertium comparationis, and a 
Spaniard is still a " gachupino," or " gatzupin," only you 
must not call him that to his face. About a dozen of these 
'' gachupinos " were dressed in mediaeval costume as Spanish 
foot-soldiers. Each wore a wooden mask, painted a pale pink 
or a dead white, with the unmistakable straight and long 



GACHUPINOS' DANCE 



417 



Castilian nose, thick black mustachios and an imperial. The 
head-dress was made of red cloth, in the shape of a helmet, and 
was adorned with bits of looking-glass ; a red jacket, likewise 
ornamented with pieces of glass, indicative of the metal armour; 
they also had red tight knickerbockers, parti-coloured stockings 
and shoes. Each man was armed with a brightly polished 
machete. One man carried a tall pole, wound round with green 
cloth, with streamers, representing the " bandera," or standard. 




* 



THE DANCE OF THE MASKED GACHUPINOS. 

The band consisted of a fiddle, and, as was more appropriate, 
a big military drum. They formed up in two files, the captain 
gravely holding two crossed machetes on his open palm, for two 
men to step forward and select their weapons for fighting a mock 
duel. When all had gone through this performance they 
went through various dance-figures, making a show of fighting 
at the same time. Then the swords were put away, and every- 
body took out a large green or red kerchief, flapping it in time 
and dancing, the white impressively masked and yet motionless 

c o 



418 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



faces looking too funny for words. These people obviously 
represented the Spanish descendants of Ayutla, the conquering 
party, in opposition to the element of natives, who themselves 
had to adapt their Indian customs to those of the ruling patron 
saint as the only way of still retaining any vestige of what was 
theirs. Meanwhile, in front of the altar in the church there 
lay in state, in an open coffin, the body of a child. A procession 




THE DANCE OF THE MASKED GACHUPINOS 



of children, dressed in white, each with a fresh long stalk of 
sugar-cane, wended their way to the church to attend the funeral ; 
the waving green tops of the plants were then left upon the grave 
and the children returned, eating with gusto the sweet stalks 
as they went. To them the solemn performance was thus 
rendered more agreeable, than if they had had to carry palm 
fronds in this land of palms. 

We left Ayutla with misgivings : the replenishing of the 
commissariat had proved a failure, the promised gendarme, 



A BEAUTIFUL SPOT 



419 



who was to act as guide, was at the last moment converted into 
a messenger with a letter to the authorities of the nearest village 
to the south, and even he, too, escaped after a few hours when 
the pack-train got stuck in a swamp ; we therefore had to find 
our way alone to La Union as best we could, and there, besides 




RIO NEXPA. 



Indian corn and eggs, nothing was to be got. However, we 
camped in a beautiful spot on a wooded hill, with a view of 
the Nexpa river, which, after descending in cascades upon the 
left, wended its way through the swampy green lowland, now 
scarcely 100 feet above sea-level. Steady rain fell during the 
night, with much sheet lightning but little thunder, the 
lowest temperature being about 78 F., and the air saturated 

c c 2 



420 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

with moisture. There were cormorants, snakebirds, and herons ; 
the progress through the many mud-holes was slow ; but a 
commandeered native proved helpful and did not run away. 
An official letter to the authorities at La Cruz Grande, the next 
halting place, fell flat. The presidente municipal, the alcalde, 
and the secretary were away on business, and we soon fell out 
with their somewhat impertinent deputy, force having to be 
used to get the requisite corn for the animals. Fortunately, 
near the camp there was a big swamp with " pichites," or tree- 
ducks, which had to provide the supper. Our rurales had little 
by little gathered from the villagers that some murders had 
been committed, between La Cruz and the coast, by some 
robbers, the very band whom we had been on the look-out for 
since Mazatlan, and it was whispered that the apparent zeal 
displayed by the local authorities was in reality a pretence, 
and that they themselves were implicated, and wanted to hush 
the matter up. The camp, which was away from the village, 
stood in a well-chosen spot in the centre of an open patch of 
ground, surrounded, however, by patches of wood, was soon 
put in a state of alarm. For once all the animals were properly 
tethered, and we went to rest prepared for emergencies, for the 
general behaviour of the villagers towards us was suspicious. 
We actually had an alarm, an attempt being made in the dark- 
ness of the night to steal the horses, some of which fortunately 
stampeded and thus roused us in time. 

Now, what had actually happened in this district, and 
with what terrible consequences, we did not learn until some 
weeks later, and that, ultimately, from the Governor himself. 
There had been no murder near La Cruz, but a body of 
robbers had attacked a lonely house and wounded two of its 
inmates. This leaked out, and as it could not be hushed up, 
a detachment of Federals from Ayutla, the very fellows who 
refused to accompany us, was ordered to hunt the robbers 
down. Six of the band having been surrounded in a house, 
promptly shot down four of the soldiers, whereupon, brave 
as these troops really are, they stormed the house and slew 
five, the sixth escaping. Thus this hot scrimmage cost the 
lives of nine men, and the wrath of the Governor was furious. 



ROUGH METHODS 421 

But the account was not yet settled. The four dead rurales 
had still to be avenged. When the rainy season was coming 
to a close, and the swampy country became more passable, 
" troops," that is to say a large force, instead of the few dozen 
rurales permanently stationed there, were sent through the 
coastal district, partly to hunt up the missing sixth robber, 
and partly to settle other outstanding claims, but chiefly, no 
doubt, to show these " devilish " costalenos and their local 
authorities that there was, after all, a strong Government. 

The difficulties of keeping order in such a State as Guerrero 
must be tremendous. Fancy a State of 22,000 square miles, 
one-sixth of the size of the whole of the United Kingdom, 
containing half a million inhabitants, and consisting mostly of 
a wild, mountainous country, without roads, and with the tracks 
often all but impassable during the rainy season, that has yet 
to be looked after by a few dozen State rurales and similar 
detachments of Federals, located in a few of the principal 
towns such as Iguala, Chilpancingo, Ayutla, and Acapulco. 
What can they possibly do for a place which it takes a week's 
hard riding to get to ? And, as our escort no doubt rightly 
explained, you may as well try to catch a stag when it bounds 
away from the track, to which necessarily the troops are tied. 

The efficiency of the usual letter of recommendation 
decreases at a ratio in proportion to the square of the distance 
from the centre of Government. The Governor himself can 
do no more than furnish a letter to the " jefes " of the various 
districts, who, in turn, copy out some of the best sounding and 
most equivocal phrases for the benefit of the village authorities, 
who, for their part, have not the faintest idea what it is all 
about. Most of the outlying districts are never visited by either 
the " jefes " or the Governor ; they are really independent, self- 
governing communities, which, if left alone, behave according 
to their own notions The difficulties are increased in the case 
of scattered tribes which do not yet speak Spanish. The public 
are never aware of a rising or a revolt going on, and it is only 
when all is over that the fact gets known, that some tribe or 
other, scarcely known by name outside the State, has been 
" reduced." Under the old Spanish regime the natives were 



422 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

significantly classed as "Indies bravos, manzos, and reducidos." 
The " manzos " were, and in South America still are, simply 
those who are tame enough not to give trouble, but the 
" reducidos " are those who are broken in, " reduced " from 
their own ways to those of the white man and his Christianity. 
The most frequent causes of such revolts are the pernicious 
" concessions " often made to the white man. The natives 
are now passionately opposed to parting with their land, and 
in all fairness it must be said that not a square yard can now 
be " grabbed " in Mexico, if that land, whether private or 
communal, happens to belong to anyone at all. Now, what 
happens ? A company gets a " concession," and endless 
litigations at once ensue. In many cases the very rumour 
of a surveying party suffices to excite a whole province. I 
know of the following case in Oaxaca. A piece of land had 
passed into the hands of a company after having been granted, 
and then nominally transferred and resold in order to obscure 
the title. There was a smart native boy who declared that he 
knew from his father that that land had not been private but 
village property, and he persuaded the villagers to stand by 
him. He went through the higher school at Oaxaca, thence 
to Mexico, where he studied law, all the while with the support 
of his village, and gathering up every scrap of evidence concern- 
ing the titles in question. He became a " licenciado," or 
barrister-at-law, and then fought and won the case, restoring 
the land to his own community ; he is now a successful lawyer 
in the capital with a great Indian clientele. It is extremely 
difficult to ascertain the possessions of a given village com- 
munity. Whatever is, or has been, under cultivation, is con- 
sider the "property," as distinguished from what is "no man's 
land " ; that is, leaving aside the question of ownership as 
between neighbouring village communities, a question which 
they know well how to settle amongst themselves. Regularly 
cultivated fields can present no difficulty, but a man may burn 
down a piece of " monte," i.e., terrain covered with trees (the 
usual way of making a clearing), and, keeping this under culti- 
vation for a year or two, may then move on to select another 
patch. Thus it comes to pass that the holdings of a village 



THE PRICE OF LAND 423 

community may lie many miles away, scattered in the 
mountains, and the same applies to the cattle ranches, or 
grazing-grounds, which are likewise continually shifted. Within 
less than a generation the process may be reversed, the new 
" monte," deserted for twenty years, is taken up again and so 
forth, so that real boundaries may not be in actual existence, 
though these rights, as established by tradition and custom, 
are clear enough. 

The population of Guerrero, averaging twenty to the square 
mile, is sessile, but the village lands are rather amoeboid, 
extending and retracting, by the forming of new and the 
desertion of old settlements. Much of the State, especially in 
the mountains, is still " no man's land," i.e., it belongs to the 
Government, and can be bought at two pesos an acre. You 
can even get any quantity of it say a few hundred square 
miles as freehold property for nothing, if you will survey it. 
All throughout the Republic the surveyor receives one-third 
of such Government land, but there is a hitch about this sur- 
veying, which means not only the proper mapping out of 
unknown country, but also the thorough sifting of any prior 
claims, and the establishment of proper boundaries for any of 
the numerous village enclaves, or other already existing 
properties. Otherwise the state of affairs would be incon- 
ceivable. Moreover, many an administrator has helped himself 
during and after turbulent times of political strife, and has 
amassed huge estates for his present heirs. For instance, in 
Guerrero most of the valuable timber land has passed by now 
into private hands. The Mexican Government, now keenly 
alive to the threatened disappearance of their forests, finds it 
difficult even to check inconsiderate waste, and this is about all 
they can attempt to do. 

From La Cruz Grande our party proceeded, with a new guide 
and at a snail's pace, through low, inundated forest, through 
mire and swamp, the warm, slimy water, coming well up over 
the rider's knees ; and thus we kept on for hours and hours 
until dry ground was reached, where amongst " nanches," 
mimosas, acacias, and cassias, beset with glowing orange- 
coloured bunches of Loranthus, we pitched camp at last in sight 



424 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



of the Pacific. The flat land below was apparently all covered 
with forest, excepting the mere swamps and the lagoons 
which fringe the coast. The number, size, and position of 
these lagoons vary according to the fancy of the map-makers ; 
there are not two maps which agree in this respect. Most of 
the " costa chica " is fringed with such lagoons, some widely 




THE GUIDE. 

communicating with the sea, and therefore salty ; others 
receiving a river, are brackish ; others, again, contain fresh 
water, and form lakes in the rainy season, whilst in the winter 
they form a series of pools, swamps, or mud-holes. It is cus- 
tomary to divide the Pacific border of Mexico into the " costa 
chica," from Acapulco to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, and 
the " costa grande," from Acapulco westwards. 



A TROPICAL NIGHT 425 

We fared well at this spot, there being " chachalacas " 
and " conejos." The latter are not rabbits, but hares (Lepus 
palustris), if their non-burrowing habits may be taken as a 
criterion, though nobody uses the term " liebre." The view 
was lovely, and the sunset happened to be a most glorious one : 
first a blaze of colour over the Pacific, then a display of rapidly- 
changing hues over the forests and swamps, and then 
"lights out." The "chachalacas," with their almost hysterical 
calls, the parrots and parrakeets, and whistling " pichite " ducks 
quieted down suddenly, while other and newer voices proclaimed 
the night. First, for a short time, as if only to bid us good- 
night, sounded the plaintive notes of the "piayas," or rainbirds, 
and then followed the cries of a family of " guacos," birds of 
prey (Herpetotheres cachinnans). " Gua-co," yelled the parents, 
and the children answered " Gua-coa," " gua-coa." A 
sudden yell, or scream, betokening some tragedy, produced 
a few minutes' stillness, to be followed by a din of many 
voices, and the process of warning, quarrelling, and settling 
down was repeated, the frogs and toads all the while 
keeping up a low concert of whining, muttering, barking, 
and snarling. All this was pleasant to listen to in the hot, 
rainless night, but there were other sounds and sensations 
enough to drive one to despair, and to curse the spot which, 
until then, had seemed ideal. This was the plague of insects, 
" zancudos," mosquitoes, and " chaquistles," which turned the 
camp into a perfect hell. It took several hours' work, distributed 
throughout the night, until the last of them had been killed 
within the mosquito curtains. Tranquilino was buried under 
his zarapes, indulging in a sweating bath ; Rafael and Pablo 
literally spent the night in a performance resembling a 
" gachupino" dance, standing, as they did, all the night with 
flapping handkerchiefs ; only Sabino slept soundly and without 
any cover. With the break of day the plague vanished like 
magic ; not so the inflamed spots on the skin, which became 
worse by rubbing and exposure to the sun, together with the 
perpetual perspiration and the next night's repetition of the 
same ordeal. 

The village of Copala was in sight, on the top of a hill, 



426 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

on the other side of the river. A reasonable-looking ford was 
found further down, and all went well except that a mule 
and the donkey rolled back whilst trying to gain the bank ; 
they had to be unloaded, and all this trouble came whilst 
we were standing knee-deep in blue and yellow mud, which 
had been made filthy by being used as a wallowing-place for 
cattle. Soaked to the waist, begrimed with mud, and with 
dripping baggage, we made Copala by noon Copala of the 
resources of which we had heard so much. 

It was frantically hot, even under the trellis- work and 
verandah of the " ayuntamiento." The presidente, a tall, old 
man, evidently of Spanish blood, was the most insolent, 
conceited man of his kind which it had been our luck to meet 
in Mexico. Things became quite lively for a while, when he 
refused our party food and fodder. Our reception and his 
freely-expressed sentiments about the Governor and the 
President of the Republic were duly recorded, and it is a grim 
satisfaction to know that the tenure of this presidente 
municipal came to a sudden end. Clearly it was not advisable 
to stay at or near the place. 

Under the verandah was kept a " tarima," a log of wood, 
about two yards long, in the shape of a turtle, with a rudi- 
mentary head and tail, flat on the top, and hollowed out below. 
Upon such a " tarima " people dance in couples, and the stamp- 
ing of the feet produces a sound like that of a big drum. Such 
an instrument has never been mentioned or described ; the 
only other specimen we met with was on our return journey 
at Pochote, where it had the same name, a word decidedly 
not Aztec, but possibly African. Our escort, as usual, could 
give no information. There may be such, and even other 
things still more interesting, in every village, but only accident 
will reveal their existence. Enquiries lead to nothing, and 
after all, what is one to ask for ? The " tarima " in Copala 
was known to every man, woman, or child ; it did not rank 
as a curiosity, and only inconceivably ignorant strangers like 
ourselves could ever want to talk about it. 

Not in the best of temper we left this inhospitable spot 
in the heat of the day, to plunge again into swamps, which, 



NEGRO BLOOD 



427 



this time, consisted of meadows under water. The seashore 
was inaccessible, although only a few miles off. Camp was 
pitched near the tiny village of Cocoyule, inhabited by kindly 
people, with a strong mixture of negro blood. All along the 
" costa chica " this admixture is strong. The pure negroes have 
almost completely disappeared, at least we never saw any ; 




NATIVE AND ZAMBO BOYS AT COCOYULE. 



they have been absorbed into the brown Indians, and the 
resulting cross is not at all disadvantageous to the latter race. 
They are known as " mas carifiosos," or more amiable, far 
less sullen and reserved, and frequently taller and of better 
build than the other costalenos. The peculiar soft African 
skin, velvety to the touch, is retained, and the colour is a rich 
dark chocolate brown ; whilst the narrow hips, and, above all, 
the hair, which though a little longer, is yet still crisp and 



428 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

curly, help to proclaim the African blood. The flatness of 
the nose and the prominence of the jaws have been much 
mitigated ; altogether they are often pleasant and good-looking, 
and bear a surprising resemblance to Melanesians. 

Men and boys entered into the fun of collecting creatures 
in the neighbourhood. Although they spoke Spanish and 




WOMEN OF COCOYULE. 

had no native idiom, the hours of the day conveyed no meaning 
to them, and it was comical to watch how Sabino raised his 
arm and slowly twiddling his fingers indicated the sun's course 
and thus gave his orders as to time. 

In this district eggs were not called " huevos." Our 
demand for such at Cocoyula was promptly met by the 
customary " no hay," or ." not got," until an old woman, the 
one with the plaited hair in the photograph, said : " Oh, the 



THE CO AST -LAND 429 

white strangers mean ' blanquillos,' " the " little whites " of 
the black hen, whereupon eggs were offered gladly. Is this 
not rather an instance of African thinking ? 

Although some of the natives were intelligent and willing 
collectors, none could be induced to attach themselves to our 
party for any length of time, rarely even for a whole day, since 
our doings were too " uncanny." So we went off with the 
sulky Copala guide, who led us wilfully astray. What he was 
after remains doubtful, but Sabino exerted a subtle, persuasive 
influence on such occasions by sidling up to me, looking more 
than usually dreamy and fumbling with his carbine. We had 
to return to the village, and then dived once more into the 
wilderness. Parts of the coast-land look like ill-kept parks. 
The slightly undulating, gritty ground is chiefly pasture-land, 
interspersed with small and large clumps of trees. Each clump, 
no matter whether it is only a square rood or several acres in 
size, forms an independent kind of plantation, having a few 
tall trees in the centre, with lower and scrubbier trees around 
them, the whole being bordered with an impenetrable tangle 
of bushes, thorns, and creepers, sharply divided from the 
lawns beyond, as if clipped and trimmed with an eye to effect, 
like the clumps fenced off from cattle in an English park. 
This symmetrical arrangement is only broken where the 
numerous brooks occur, the depressions between the ridges 
being there covered with an all but impenetrable swampy 
grove, where a track has to be cleared with the machete. 

At last we heard the booming of the Pacific rollers, and 
soon came to the edge of a lagoon, the borderland of which, 
however, proved quite impassable. Back, therefore, we went 
into the gloom, where the periodically inundated ground, 
composed of deep black mud, was at least devoid of underwood. 
Yet there were other surprises to make progress difficult. 
None of the horses liked the gloom ; they were always nervous 
in a forest, being natives of the uplands, and they were excited 
by the mysterious thunder of the waves. Every tree supported 
some creeper, mostly vines, such as Vitis pterophora, and 
these climbers sent down long brown, wire-like air-roots, some 
resembling mere packing threads, whilst others were like good- 



430 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



sized ropes ; some were still dangling loosely in the air, others 
were anchored to the ground by a profusion of small roots. 
Sabino in front slashed away at these pendulous ropes, which 
then fell upon and tickled the horses, or ensnared their feet. 
One of these anchored abominations got caught in the pommel 
of my wife's saddle, and her pony rushing forward, loosened 




BOYS OF COCOYULE. 

thereby the whole bunch of roots, so that the thing swung 
back, skimming over the ground like a black hairy beast, 
straight at my horse's legs. That much I had time to see, but 
then I was otherwise occupied, as I found myself lying on my 
back, rifle in one hand, reins in the other, and being dragged 
by the left foot through the mud until my trembling and kick- 
ing horse was in turn caught by some of those self -same air- 
roots. The Spanish stirrups often caused trouble. The shoe, 



PACIFIC CAMP 431 

or rather wooden box, which here serves instead of our simple 
iron hoop, ends in a point, large enough to receive the narrow 
native shoe, but not a stout thick-soled European boot ; 
moreover, the everlasting crossing of swamps kept leather 
and wood in a chronic swollen condition. It is no exaggeration 
to say that for some ten days our lower extremities were 
scarcely ever dry. 

At last we emerged upon the narrow strip of dry land 
between the lagoon and the sea, and upon a promontory of 
granite we established our " Pacific camp," some fifty feet 
above the water, just out of reach of the spray. 




HIEROGLYPH AYUTLA. 

Ayotl = Tortoise. 



CHAPTER XXI. 

CAMPING ON THE PACIFIC SHORE. 

The Purple Snail Heavy Nocturnal Thunderstorms Cocoanuts and Short 
Commons Crocodiles and Birds of the Lagoon The Forest Vampires. 

It was the highest spot available, but as we had two years 
before just missed the tidal waves which wrought so much 
destruction at Salina Cruz, it seemed as well to be a little 
cautious. A shore with endemic earthquakes is not exactly 
safe. Providence had hitherto been very kind to us during 
our two journeys. We had each had a fall or two, or had 
been thrown, but had escaped drowning and fevers, and had 
only " assisted " at three railway accidents. The wilful running 
of risk would therefore have been unfair to our patron saint. 

The camp commanded a glorious view. Curving in towards 
the east the coast was rocky, fantastic pillars of granite advanc- 
ing into the sea, while the forest came here and there down to 
the water's edge. On the right was the open shore and the 
lagoon ; in the distance were high, yellow dunes, more forest, 
more lagoons, and a clump of palms. The never-failing 
attraction was, of course, the sea itself. Even when it appeared 
quite calm its long enormous, wall-like billows came rolling in, 
the nearest to rise to unwonted height, soon to turn over, and 
then with a hollow thunder to cover the foreshore all over with 
boiling foam, which then rushed back like a mill-race. Our 
men spent hours lying in the spray of the surf. Indeed, they 
had the best of it, being frantic with excitement, whether over 
the collecting of shells, which happened to be plentiful, or 
hunting for the eggs of turtles that had come to deposit them 
overnight in the dunes well out of reach of even the highest 



A SNAIL DYE 433 

waves. The whole shore was strewn with an astonishing 
amount of driftwood, mostly pines, which had been carried 
down by the rivers, so that we were well off for firewood, and 
could always keep big logs blazing throughout the nights. 
There were, also, whole banks composed of pieces of pumice- 
stone (where did they come from ?) and thousands of lt ojos 
de venado," or stag's eyes, a most descriptive name for the 
seeds of the Mucuna s. Dolichos urens, a papilionaceous creeper, 
common in the woods. Some of these seeds grew, when planted 




VIEW FROM "PACIFIC CAMP. 

at home, none the worse for their salt-water voyages, and for 
having lain exposed upon the broiling, open beach. 

The rocks were studded with Purpura patula,. the same 
kind of shell-fish which at Tehuantepec is used for its purple 
dye. Ten full-grown snails yielded on an average 40 c.c. of 
juice, which, as secreted by the glands, is an opaque white 
with an opalescent tinge ; when mixed with sea-water it turns 
to a pale sea-green, and this is also the colour of the live shell, 
which sticks to the rock like a limpet. On exposure to the 
air for several hours, the fluid assumes its famous purple tint. 
and this is quite fast. We dyed a whole handkerchief by 
soaking it in the water with the juice of two snails. At first 

D D 



434 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

it was a sickly green, but by the following morning it was purple, 
and it has retained its colour ever since, after several washings. 
The pure juice, kept in a corked bottle, is now, after three years, 
still of the colour of purple ink, and has not gone bad, but 
retains its dyeing properties. Consequently, this lovely stuff 
might well be collected and exported, if it were not for the 
cheap and nasty aniline dyes which are driving out the much 
warmer- tinted native products. What is the use of this juice 
to the mollusc ? It is true that it colours the shell grey-green 
like the algae-covered rocks, but this can hardly be an advantage 
to the creature which, at the slightest alarm, sucks till it 
adheres so firmly that it can only be dislodged by a sudden, 
sidelong blow. At any rate, the lovely purple is a purely in- 
cidental effect, only the dead, stranded shells being of this 
colour. 

A few hundred yards from the camp a little brook fell into 
the sea, and as it ran through a shaded cleft its clear water 
was agreeably fresh, that it to say, a few degrees less than 
80 F. Here a jaguar was wont to come down nightly to drink 
and to prowl about in search of turtles, which these carnivores 
understand how to turn over, when they clear out the shell 
with their claws. We never saw anything of him except his 
big cat-like pugs in the sand. Naturally, after we had found 
the spoor, there was much talk about the " tigre," and Sabino 
jokingly went to bed with his machete. That night a squall 
and thunderstorm came upon us from the sea with unusual 
suddenness and violence, bursting open the tent and tearing 
out some of the pegs of the sun-flap, which then, with the usual 
noise, began lashing and crackling about. When one peg gives, 
others are sure to follow, so I crawled out, groping about in 
the pitchy darkness, and was soon lying down on the ground 
holding on to the ropes and the sheet, and yelling for somebody 
to come with the mallet. Sabino was ready in the twinkling 
of an eye, prepared to do execution upon my own body. They 
all felt sure that the " tigre " was upon us, when I shouted : 
" Hit quickly, I cannot hold on much longer." A flash of 
lightning lighting up the scene saved the situation, and we 
turned in completely drenched. 






WONDERFUL DISPLAYS 435 

Some of these nightly thunderstorms were really fine dis- 
plays. The whole day long there might not be a speck of a 
cloud in the sky ; then came the glorious sunset, and the 
cooking of the evening meal, with the men grouped round the 
blazing logs, and an hour's chatting and dreamy taking of it 
all in, we lying in front of the tent under the southern sky, 
and " unheating " ourselves in the comparative coolness of 
the tropical night. Far away on the horizon, over the ocean 
stood a blackish-blue bank of cloud, out of which came 
lightning, flash upon flash, but so far off that the thunder was 
inaudible. The bank rose higher and higher, and the guns 
of the celestial artillery were obviously being brought into 
position. There matters sometimes stopped, and we enjoyed 
the finest display of fireworks and sheet-lightning ever wit- 
nessed; but when the blackness rose up to, say, half a right angle, 
then within a few minutes the rest of the sky became grey, 
the stars went out, the sea rose in angry, lurid white crests, an 
explosion or two overhead shook the ground, and a perfect 
pandemonium broke loose. Flash and clap could neither be 
counted not distinguished, the wind tore at everything, and 
the rain came down with as much force as if squirted out of a 
fire-hose. Our toads and frogs in their cages invariably chimed 
in, and thus the din went on for an hour or two, sometimes 
well into the small hours of the morning. 

One night the sheet lightning was so vivid and continuous 
that one could read a book by it, and we did this just to be able 
to say we had done it. These rains were not at all refreshing, 
although they cooled the atmosphere a little, which, in the 
daytime, hovered between 86 and 88 F., rising for a few hours 
to 92. On clear nights heavy dew fell, and the air cooled 
down to 74. But immediately after the rain had ceased 
it rose again like steam from the baked ground, and everything 
became soaked with moisture ; and, a sure sign of the saturated 
condition of the atmosphere, our clothes did not really dry 
even in the hot sun. The beds were soaked, the damp crept 
into the panniers, the paper got so limp that the ink blurred 
on it, and all our pressed plants became mouldy. Our scanty 
store of provisions, already sadly shrunk, was further reduced 

D D 2 



436 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

by this moist heat. The packets of " grape-nuts " and " force " 
contained nothing but a brown and green fungoid growth ; 
some of the tins started leaks, causing the putrefaction of their 
contents; the coffee gave out; and both the boiled rice, intended 
as a substitute for bread, and the cigars with the " butterflies " 
in them, had to be roasted at the fire. 

Still, some food was procurable even in this solitude. We 
shot " pichite " ducks until they became too shy, and in the 
western distance we espied a clump of cocoanut palms, trees 
which indicated the proximity of a settlement. There were 
two huts, with a little cattle ranch, and some pleasant 
people, who supplied us with a few eggs, nuts, and tortillas. 
This was most important, since at this lonely camp our men 
had to be fed by us. The owner was a bit of a sportsman, 
and his dog was a trained " iguanero," that is to say, he pointed 
to, and retrieved, the black, whip-tailed iguanas. They, and 
the servant, a Zambo, became our established camp- visitors. 
Cocoanuts, when fresh and just in their proper green condition, 
are refreshing and nourishing ; moreover, the so-called milk 
is the cleanest fluid procurable. Still, they, too, have their 
drawbacks. For a thirsty man, one is not enough, and more 
than one are liable to cause a slight squeamish sensation. 
Besides this, they are, when in their green husks, very heavy, 
so that in our case a supply anything like sufficient for a day 
was as much as a foraging party could carry. 

Between the camp and this lonely " rancho " was the 
lagoon, which would have been our show-place had we had to 
entertain friends. It was a good-sized stretch of water, sur- 
rounded on three sides by swamps, clumps of reeds and dense 
forest, accessible only from the narrow neck of grassy and 
sandy land which separates it from the sea. The best time 
for a visit was the late afternoon and sunset, but for the myriads 
of insects which, one kind after another, were then turned 
loose to prey on the traveller. 

A stretch of pebbly shore was the favourite basking-place 
of crocodiles. One skull measured twenty-three inches, and 
there was an old bull with a considerably larger head, who, to 
my disappointment, managed to roll away, although hard hit. 



STALKING CROCODILES 437 

These creatures looked exactly like black, scorched logs, 
scarcely distinguishable from the muddy soil upon which they 
crawled, with extreme caution, to bask with their heads 
invariably turned towards the water. Their senses were very 
keen. Sometimes they moved off when we were still three 
hundred yards away ; sometimes, when floating, with only 
part of the head exposed, they sank at once at the slightest 
motion on our part, and a long time passed until, further out, 
there was again a little ripple in the water, where the tip of the 
nose and the eyes once more appeared. Only when taken by 




THE LAGOON. 

surprise, as, for instance, when discovered behind a belt of 
reeds, they dived with a splash of the tail. The only way of 
getting at them was by crawling, like themselves, upon the 
belly, taking advantage of any intervening rise of ground or 
of cactus shrubs. Their young ones were far less cautious ; 
several times they scuttled away almost under our feet from 
the raised tussocks, or floating masses of reeds, upon which 
they had been resting. 

The thickets of reeds and rushes were full of shrilly-chatter- 
ing grackles, which collected there like starlings for the night. 
They had a curious way of flying with their long tail-feathers 
turned up in a vertical position, out of the plane of the rest of 



438 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

the tail. Tiny green and brown bitterns stood there in 
ridiculous attitudes like badly-stuffed specimens, with head 
erect, bill pointed upwards, and their yellow gleaming eyes fixed 
upon us, behaving as if we did not see them. The " yellow 
gleaming eye " sounds rather like a poetical invention, but 
these creatures were so free from shyness that they could be 
approached within half-a-dozen yards, so long as they stood 
within the reeds ; almost as trusting were the wood-ibises 
(Tantalus loculator}. They waded about in pairs, less than a 
yard asunder, stirring up their prey, water-snails and the like, 
with their feet, and driving them before them, at the same 
time deliberately poking the shallow, muddy water with their 
long curved bills, and working their way towards each other. 
The resplendent white herons or egrets, both small and great; 
and the rosy spoonbills were much more shy, and after their 
first day's acquaintance with us settled in inaccessible places, 
where also lurked a few of the odd-looking boatbills (Cancroma), 
the diminutive counterpart of the African giant, the Balcenirps, 
or whale-billed heron. 

Parts of the lagoon were covered with water-lilies, or 
Nymphcea,upon the floating leaves of which vociferous "pan-as' 1 
were running about. We did not hurt any of the inmates 
of this birds' paradise, except the "pichites," and this we were 
compelled to do by dire necessity, and few of these had their 
full complement of toes, having been bitten either by crocodiles 
or by the Cinosternum tortoises. 

On the seashore there was but little bird-life ; only pelicans 
sailed up and down, their mottled brown young being already 
fully fledged, leaving the nests in the mangrove swamp 
deserted. Already on our second day there some turkey buz- 
zards, or "auras", called to inquire whether any scavenging was 
required, and then remained eking out a subsistence by 
inspecting the shore during the ebbing of the tide. Swiftly- 
running shore-crabs were abundant, and they were so quick 
that nobody could outrun them, not even young Pablo. They 
sidled away at a great rate for perhaps fifty yards, doubling 
and swerving, and all the while making for their private holes, 
very rarely diving into the sea, although this seemed the most 



IMPENETRABLE FOREST 439 

obvious thing to do ; and when the worst came to the worst, 
or when really hard pressed or surrounded, these comical 
creatures stood at bay and shook their fists at the pursuers. 
On the other side of the camp, towards the east, where rocks 
prevent the accumulation of a foreshore, or of dunes, was a 
mangrove swamp, with its ugly tangle of stilted roots standing 
in the brackish water ; besides being a pelican nursery, this 
was the home of countless hermit crabs, a source of boundless 
astonishment to our men. 

The forest brought with it some keen disappointment, 
not that it was uninteresting, but because of its very peculiari- 
ties. It rose like a wall, impenetrable, and an entrance had 
to be cut through the mass of " felted " verdure, and even when 
inside, we still beheld an abominable tangle of air roots and 
nothing underfoot but gloomy mud (without any underwood), 
while on the rising ground, the vegetation was so abundant 
that we could not proceed without further slashing and tearing. 
This was not only a tiresome process, which kept one man 
always busy in front, but the noise frightened away, or into 
hiding, every living thing from the jaguar to the gecko. 

Sabino, the friendly hunter, and myself, exhausted our- 
selves in this fashion with trying to work our way on to the 
'* cerro del tigre " without getting near the top, which was 
reported to be less densely wooded. Our half-day's spoil 
was an iguana, which was again set at liberty, one Ameiva, 
some Cnemidophorus lizards, some little Leptodactylus toads 
and geckos, some Phyllodactylus tuberculosus of rather unusual 
size, and the rare Coleonyx elegans, a typical forest gecko. As 
a rule, geckos are not addicted to living in dense forests ; they 
prefer houses, plantations, or trees in open country ; and yet 
these Phyllodactylus lived in the dark parts of this forest, 
making their homes in hollow trees. They were rather difficult 
to catch, as they worked their way upwards when alarmed, 
in the style of most aiboreal lizards. Just above a man's reach 
they stopped, flattening their lichen-coloured skin against 
the similarly coloured bark, their glossy eyes alone giving them 
away. With patience and some trouble the horse would then 
be brought up against the tree, one of us would climb into a 



440 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

standing position on the saddle, make a dart for the gecko 
(which was sure to dodge round like a flash to the other side 
of the stem), and then the horse as surely would jump away 
from underneath its rider. 

Amongst many other kinds of trees there were fine mahogany 
and ebony trees, the latter here called " jebana," or " liebana," 
instead of " ebonia," while on the banks of the brooks grew 
very spiky palms and cycads (Ceratozamia ghisbrechti) . It 
was tantalising to be inside that forest where nothing could 
be got at, with plenty of life in. or. rather, on it. Take a bird's- 
eye survey from the little knoll at our tent, of green tree-tops, 
both dark greens and light greens, large leaves and small leaves, 
crowns of palms, and the masses of trumpet-shaped flowers, 
yellow, purple, and mauve, which attract swarms of butterflies, 
sought after in their turn by birds, swift anolids, other lizards, 
and green frogs, which themselves are stalked by the tree- 
snakes. Take your fill of this sight of lovely things, so near 
and yet so far. Only a few hundred yards from the camp 
stood a gigantic tree covered with hundreds of large white 
blossoms, but we never could find that tree, and if we had. 
the flowers would have remained out of reach. Perhaps the 
most curious feature of this forest was, that one could, to a 
moderate extent, at least in theory, walk right on to the top 
of it. On the drier, rocky ground, and where exposed to the 
sea winds, the trees became smaller and smaller, and there were 
especially some hard, scraggy sorts which had interlaced their 
flattened branches so firmly and densely, that at the back of 
the tent we could actually walk for a few yards upon the top 
of the springy mass, say six feet above the ground, and this 
plaited roof rose by degrees, and continued till it was merged 
in the veritable forest. 

Whilst we were plagued by insects, all the horses suffered 
from vampires, which selected the neck for their bites, causing 
profuse bleeding. As the flow of blood continued so long, 
and as the little sharply-cut wounds were not stopped by 
coagulation, I cannot help suspecting the presence of some 
special properties in the saliva of these bloodsuckers. One 
of them flitted in and out of the tent, but I vainly tried to 



VAMPIRES 441 

attract him by keeping my bare feet out of the curtain, the 
belief being that these " sanguesugas " make for the big toe. 

There are only two kinds of the real vampire, or blood- 
sucking bat, in the world : Desmodus rufus, with a range from 
Southern Mexico to Argentina, and Diphylla ecaudata, a rare 
inhabitant of Brazilian forests. Various other kinds of bats 
have been suspected of blood-sucking, but one after another 
has revealed itself to be a harmless fruit-eater, such as the 
Glossaphaga, with its long rasping tongue, or Vampyrus spec- 
trum, of tropical America, which is libelled by its scientific- 
name. All these creatures belong to an exclusively American 
family of bats, the Phyllostomidcs, easily characterised by their 
possessing three joints on the middle finger, while all the other 
families have but two phalanges. 

The two blood-suckers are specially fitted by adaptation 
for their bloody habits, which require them to hang on to their 
unwilling victims. First, they have no tail, and no, or only 
a short, membrane spread between the thighs, the chief use 
of such a sail between the legs and the tail being the catching 
of insects during flight. The rather strong and well-clawed 
hind-limbs are thus left free and unencumbered, although 
Desmodus has, for some occult reason, retained part of the 
membrane between the thighs. Secondly, the thumb is un- 
usually long and strong, probably to enable it to be hooked 
well into the skin of the victim. Thirdly, the dentition is 
much reduced in respect of numbers for the benefit of the single 
pair of upper incisors, which are transformed into a wonder- 
fully effective cutting instrument. These two teeth stand close 
together, are very large and triangular, with sharp edges, and 
fit into a she If -like depression on the under jaw immediately 
behind the diminutive lower incisors. Both lips are thin, 
and form folds at the angle of the mouth ; probably the thin 
flaps are neatly pressed around the wound during the act 
of suction. 

The exclusive blood diet of these creatures has brought 
about an absolutely unique modification of the stomach. 
While the oesophagus is such a narrow tube that nothing but 
fluid, blood, can pass through it, the stomach is transformed 



442 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

into a long, left-sided, blind sac, which is several inches in 
length, and coiled up upon itself.* 

Desmodus, a somewhat stoutly-built bat, about three inches 
long, with fur of a red-brown colour above, and silvery below, 
represents the perfection of the species, and this is indicated 
by its enormous range. Diphylla, on the other hand, may be 
looked upon as a failure. It is rare, with an apparently restricted 
range, and its molar teeth are not so much reduced, not that 
these relics do it any harm, but they are signs of deficient 
specialisation, and there are probably other not very obvious, 
yet significant, points in its organisation. 

The peculiar blind sac of the stomach of Desmodus is not 
quite unique, since there is an indication of it in the closely 
allied Brachyphylla cavernarum of the West Indies, but we 
know nothing about its habits. 

To trace the correspondence between the changes in the 
dentition, and those relating to habits and diet, from feeding 
upon insects to fruit eating, and, lastly, to the sucking of blood, 
forms a little chapter in evolution, which seems not yet to have 
received due attention. The primitive insectivorous bats had 
three pairs of upper and lower incisors ; this number is still 
repeated in the young of Desmodus. The majority of bats have 
only four upper and lower incisors, prominent sharp canines, 
and a variable number of multi-cusped back teeth. f In some 
of the fruit-eaters a few of the upper and lower teeth are 
broadened, and have a chisel-shaped edge, well adapted for 
scraping the hard rind of fruits. The detail is variable. In 
Vampyrus the upper incisors and the canines are enlarged, 
and play upon the much enlarged lower canine. The other 
pair of upper incisors is squeezed into a corner ; doomed to 
decay, it is neglected for the benefit of those upon which falls 

* Huxley, " Proc. Zool. Soc.," London, 1865, p. 38ti-390, with figure. 

j I purposely use this term for the so-called molars and premolars or 
grinders. It has become fashionable to call them "cheek-teeth," which 
purports to be a translation of the German " Backzaehne," but this term means 
literally " back-teeth," those which stand back, not in front, and has nothing 
to do with Backen or cheeks. A girl in her teens is jocularly called a 
"Backfisch," namely a fish, which, being still undersized, is thrown "back "' ; 
that, again,, has nothing to do with cheek, although such a girl may be 
" cheeky." 



TEETH OF THE VAMPIRE 



443 



the main function. Brachyphylla, which seems to be a link 
between vegetarians and incipient blood-suckers, has the pair 
of upper front incisors enlarged and triangular ; standing close 
together they form a cutting tool. In Diphylla, which may be 
called an improved blood-sucker, the upper incisors are 
restricted to a single pair, but this is much enlarged, and plays 
upon the broadened lower incisors. Behind the strong canines 
are three back teeth above and four below. Lastly, in Des- 
modus, the perfected blood-sucker, the chisel-like implements 
are still larger and broader, occupying almost the entire space 





DENTITION OF THE VAMPIRE (DesmoduS rufus). 

I. Mouth closed, showing the overlap of the teeth. 
II. Mouth opened. 

III. Diagram showing the relative position of the teeth when the mouth is 
shut. Upper teeth, white ; lower teeth, black. 

between the canine fangs, and they do not play upon the 
lower teeth, but upon a shelf of the under jaw, and against their 
inner sides. Moreover, these lower teeth are double -cusped. 
and leave a gap between them for the reception of the triangular 
edge of the chisels. The back teeth are reduced to two pairs 
above, three below. The action of biting is probably carried 
out as follows : The four canines act as fangs, or hooks, in 
the skin. The lower front teeth scoop up, and forwards, a 
piece of skin, and the two trenchant chisels cut it off clean at 
one blow. The wound is not a punctured hole ; it always 
presents the appearance of a neatly cut-out piece, which then 
bleeds profusely. The whole act is probably instantaneous. 



444 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

A Desmodus, when caught, inflicts precisely the same kind of 
wound upon one's finger. It does not bite and chew like any 
other bat, but it literally snips a bit of skin out. Horses and 
mules are invariably attacked on one of the two spots which 
they cannot reach with their teeth, legs, or swishing tail, 
preferably on the withers, and in the morning the blood is seen 
to have run down the shoulder and forelegs. The other 
favourite place is the neck, an inch or two below the mane ; 
these wounds do not matter much, while those on the withers 
are liable to become inflamed through the irritation of the saddle. 
Sometimes a horse is bitten by several bats at our Pacific 
camp every animal received three or four wounds every night. 
The few ounces of blood actually sucked can, of course, easily 
be spared, but as these scooped-out wounds bleed so profusely 
for several hours in succession, the repetition of the process is 
rightly supposed to have a deleterious effect ; moreover, the 
poor creatures are very restless w r hen these blood-suckers are 
about. The continuous bleeding for the blood does not 
coagulate upon the wound reminds one of the bite of a leech, 
and possibly the saliva of these bats has a similar specific effect. 
There are, however, no especially enlarged glands within the 
mouth; a pair of little glandular cushions between the eyes and 
the rosette-like membrane of the nose, opens by several ducts 
well outside the mouth. Whether their secretion is rubbed upon 
the wound immediately after the bite, is unknown. No trust- 
worthy white man has ever observed the entire action of attack 
and sucking, although this must require some considerable 
time. My own impressions are as hazy as the accounts of the 
natives. The horses are restless, they flick their tails, jerk 
their heads, shake themselves ; bats of some kind or other flit 
about amongst the never-absent insects, and at best you fancy 
that you see in the moonlight a shapeless, neutrally-coloured 
something, which is more than a shadow, hovering over the 
horse, or a dusty patch resting upon its coat, and when you 
move the spectre is gone. Sit up to watch, keep perfectly 
still, and never mind the tiny abominations which collect upon 
your neck and wrists " Ya no vienen las sanguesugas " 
"Now they won't come, the blood-suckers," says the "arriero," 



445 

and you turn in. By the early dawn every one of the horses is 
bleeding. These bats frequently enter the stables, even in the 
towns ; they are also said to come into the houses and to attack 
people, but we need not sift the evidence. There are mysteries 
enough about the vampires. Horses and mules were victimised 
as soon as these animals had been introduced by the Spaniards, 
both in Mexico and in Peru. Cattle are not attacked, and I 
have never seen the characteristic signs upon the thin-haired 
bulls or cows of the ".hot-lands." Maybe that, as these cattle 
can reach every part of the body either with the tail or the tips 
of their horns, they are unpopular with the bats, as well as their 
hornless calves. What, then, were the natural victims of these 
bats before horses, mules, and cattle came into the New 
World ? They must have been good-sized mammals, scarcely 
birds ; I can only think of the various kinds of deer, and it is 
reasonable to suppose that with the introduction of horses the 
range of Desmodus has increased widely, even beyond the 
" hot-lands," for instance, to Cuernavaca, and to the mountains 
of Omilteme. 






CHAPTER XXII. 

THE RETURN JOURNEY BY SAN LUIS ALLENDE. 

Swamps and Inundated Forests The People of San Luis Allende A 
Funeral Our Landlord's Family Trading in Animals A Glimpse at the 
Land of the Tlapaneca Impassable Trail A Heavenly Camp The Village 
of Miahuichan A Vine-bridge Wooden Masks Religious Dancing Dress 
and Rain-makers Rank Weeds Camping Troubles The " Mai del Pinto "- 
Native Doctors A Plea for Native Dispensaries Prevalent Diseases Camp 
on the Pass of Los Cajones in a Thunderstorm Settling of Accounts at 
Chilpancingo Motmots. 

Short commons drove us away from our ' ; Pacilic Camp," 
and we plunged once more into the forest, following a track 
pointed out by our friends. Progress became more difficult 
than ever, as beyond the Cerro del Tigre much of the forest 
was under water, and for hours our beasts had to flounder 
through it, often well up to the saddle, so that we were glad to 
reach La Salina without any accident beyond the soaking of 
some of the luggage. There were many Cassicus nests, built like 
those of Icterus, or weaver birds, here artfully suspended for 
extra safety from such branches as overhung the more per- 
manent pools. 

La Salina is a small settlement, at the head of an estuary, 
where salt-pans are worked, the crude salt being collected in 
large heaps under some shelter. There are many " salinas r ' 
along the coast, and these are connected by mule-tracks with 
the places further inland ; in the present case with San Luis 
Allende, where we hoped to replenish our stocks. The inhabit- 
ants were mostly Zambos, rather friendly, and with nothing 
to do during the wet season. Although a pleasant guide was 
secured, it was not easy to learn anything reliable about the 






A BROAD RIVER 



44^ 



distance to San Luis. These people did not know the meaning 
of leagues and hours, and the only information vouchsafed 
was that " If one leaves La Salina ' muy tempranito ' 
('Very little early'), one gets there after midday." Mean- 
while the escort, ravenously hungry, commandeered eggs and 
tortillas, there being nothing else to be got, not even fruit, 
and after an hour's riding we came to the Chilcahuite, opposite 




INUNDATED FOREST. 

the large village of Marquelia. The river was broad, ap- 
parently in flood, and I never funked a crossing so much as 
this one, which looked so ugly, and proved quite harmless, the 
guide knowing the shallows well. It was a mistake not to 
stop at the village, at least near it, on a cerro, the scenery being 
exquisite, but the people were not hospitably inclined, and we 
managed to get on to the wrong side of the Mil. I had inquired 
whether one could get up there to camp. " Como no ? " 
'' Why not ? " When we got to the foot the answer was 



448 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

qualified by "If you take a party of men to clear a road." 
Somehow it was all mismanaged. We hoped for a suitable 
camping-ground a little further on, but there followed a long, 
terribly hot and stuffy ride along the left bank of the river, 
through low, scrubby growth, and several attempts to break 
through on to higher ground were futile. At last we came to 
an open space on a rise of granite, with tolerable water, good 
grazing, and beautiful views, mostly amongst the cheerless 
' raspa vieja " oak, though our front lawn was a carpet of blue 




CROSSING THE RIVER CHILCAHUITE. 

tradescantias and green, aromatic orchids. It was quite four 
hundred feet above the sea, which was visible across the swelter- 
ing forests and swamps, and, oh joy ! the water in our buckets 
had by the morning cooled to 70 F. With sugar, and some 
of the spicy, wild lemons picked on the way, it was better than 
the most expensive iced, soft drink, and what a delightful 
sensation it was to our heated bodies- to tub in " cold " water. 
During the night a " tigre " carried away a dog, making a 
terrific disturbance. 

The well-trodden road led through hilly, partly open 
country, with thickets of mimosa and spiny, climbing plants, 
enlivened with " chachalacas." At some agricultural village 



THE GODDESS OF THE RAINBOW 449 

maize and tortillas were procured, and also a guide, who was 
soon dismissed, as the road seemed so very obvious. There 
was, in fact, too much road, since it presently divided, and we, 
with Sabino and Tranquilino, promptly took the right one, 
which was in reality the wrong one. At the fork the other path 
should, according to custom, have been closed by a freshly-cut 
branch being laid across it, as a sign for our pack-train not to 
take that path when following us. But Sabino was that 
morning in a sullen mood, and Tranquilino happening to talk 
about an " alco-ilis," wanted to know how that was produced. 
He meant " arco-iris," the pretty Spanish term for rainbow. 
The explanation was, I am afraid, not quite appreciated, and 
I further put my foot into it by saying that the origin of the 
term referred to Iris, a goddess who was supposed to walk 
across that pretty bridge. ' There is no such goddess, at 
least, we have none," was his comment. The good Tranquilino 
was in his way a learned man, having read up the history of 
his country, being addicted to pondering over questions of 
political economy, and he considered he knew Italy rather 
well, because he had an Italian friend. That country was 
reached directly by steamers, and so was Londres, but the 
English lived on the other side of North America, which was 
somewhere opposite Vera Cruz, although their ships also called 
at Acapulco. The French were a race of soldiers in the pay of 
the Austrians, who were " ecclesiasticos," and had sent Maxi- 
milian to govern the country for the Pope. He lived in Italy, 
but the Italians had now a king of their own since they had 
beaten the French. 

At a shady brook we paused for early lunch, that meal being 
usually the remains of last night's soup, with some chicken 
or game on feast days boiled down till it was soft As the pack- 
train did not come up Sabino went back, to return with the 
dismal news that two horses, or mules, were running about 
in the bush. So we went off on their track, and when we got 
the beasts at last, they proved not to be ours after all, and 
there was still no sign of the missing party. We waited long 
at that brook, employing our time with butterflies, lizards, and 
short dozes. According to a passing boy, San Luis was not 

E E 






450 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



far in front. It took a good hour to get to the village, which 
was a San Luis, but, to our dismay, it proved to be a species 
called Acatlan, not Allende. This place was strikingly situated 
near a river, on hilly ground, amidst cocoanut palms and 
banana groves, and was en fete with fireworks, the beating of 
drums, and a procession of " gachupinos," not so well got up 
as those at Ayutla. The children were dressed gaudily in green 




MARKET AT SAN LUIS ALLENDE. 



cloth, with gold tinsel, and their arms were tightly bandaged 
with red and yellow kerchiefs. The ' comisario ' was polite, 
and gave us a guide, but w r as otherwise in haste to go back to 
the dance, which we could not afford to witness. The poor 
guide was loth to serve us, as he was one of the " bailantes," 
and tried to escape every half-hour, and would have left us 
in the lurch had not Sabino, who by this time had become 
quite fierce, used means of persuasion. 

There was a short, breakneck descent through a limestone 



UNCIVILISED NATIVES 451 

gorge, by far the worst place of all these crazy tracks, and it 
was not obvious how a pack-train could either get up or down 
those zigzag steps, either between, or formed by, those washed- 
out boulders. And yet for hundreds of years both men and 
beasts have carried heavy loads of salt over this very spot. 
San Luis Allende seemed to be one of those places which is 
always near and then recedes. But at last, after many turns, 
swamps, and tall weeds had been passed, it appeared on the 
other side of a grassy plain. The sun was just setting and a 
storm brewing when we selected a camping-place outside the 
village. With mixed feelings of relief we heard that the pack- 
train had been waiting at the market-place ever since 2 p.m., 
they having by chance taken the left, which was the proper 
road. The " comisario," or "' presidente," was a very decent 
fellow, and had already given orders to clear out the school- 
house for our reception, and seemed quite put out at our in- 
tention of camping outside. It was better so, however, than 
inside a stuffy house in a noisy square. Of course, he promised 
every assistance, and so did the schoolmaster, not that any- 
thing came of it. All we wanted was food, and the place being 
full of resources, that night we revelled and feasted on bread, 
wine, coffee, sugar, and heavenly cigars. 

In the morning we had a look round. Two rivers met 
near the village, high wooded hiUs rose towards the north, and 
in the distance, falling as it seemed from the very sky, rushed a 
big waterfall over a yellow limestone cliff, while all around us 
were meadows with cattle. Fortunately, it was Sunday, and, 
therefore, a fair, or market day, and there was a busy scene, 
the people coming from far and near to buy and sell their goods, 
and several different tribes being represented. The majority 
in the town are probably Misteca, with the usual admixture 
of those Spaniards whose ancestors had founded the place. 
There were also Musgos, and above all Tlapaneca, a small, 
interesting tribe still speaking their native idiom, who lived 
amongst the hills to the north of the town. These uncivilised 
natives, especially the women, were our delight, not on account 
of their rather ugly features, but because of their genuine 
dresses, each woman wearing her white cotton " huipil " 

E E 2 



452 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



embroidered in red and blue with the figures of animals and 
plants. Of course, we coveted them all ; and having settled 
upon a victim, pointed her out to Sabino, who, with admirable 
tact and persuasion enticed her into a house whence she 
emerged minus that garment, and clad only in her " enagua," 
or skirt. Sabino then mixed again with the crowd, giving us a 
wink, and pointing at his bulging shirt, which held the precious 
spoil. Besides the " huipiles," quaintly-shaped and gaudily- 
painted little clay whistles, mostly representing birds, attracted 




EMBROIDERED " HUIPILES." TLAPANECA TRIBE. 

our attention ; but otherwise it was a market for grain, many 
kinds of fruit, and meat. The people were very orderly, and 
most of them kept sober. 

A woman died of dysentery overnight, and the burial 
ceremony took place close to our camp, which we had established 
unwittingly near the cemetery, for which it is the commendable 
custom of the country to select the driest spot available. The 
procession was headed by children carrying branches and 
flowers. Then came a boy carrying a cross in front of the 
black-painted, thin-looking coffin, which was carried on 
men's shoulders ; next came the women, with more children, 



RELIGIOUS LIBERTY 453 

screaming and weeping, and the rear was brought up by men 
and a band of music, in which the drum took a large part. 
They played a weird funeral dirge, which, with occasional 
pauses, continued in a monotonous but touching manner. After 
the ceremony, in which, by the way, according to law, no priest 
is allowed to appear, the friends returned to the house, where 
the same music was kept up till sunset. As to this exclusion 
of the priests, the whole Republic enjoys now, since the 
mischievous power of the Church was broken, at the time 
of the episode with the French and Maximilian, absolute 
freedom of creed. The Church is disestablished, and even the 
Church buildings belong to the State. Religion, the mode of 
worship, is rightly considered a private affair, and on no 
account can it ever again be used for political purposes. Hence, 
religious processions, or the display of ecclesiastic pomp out- 
side the churches (within which full freedom, and the safety 
of the articles contained in the inventory, are guaranteed by 
the State), is absolutely forbidden. This is enforced so strictly 
that no priest may appear in public in his official vestments. 
On no State function whatever is even a prayer offered. 

In San Luis the natives were, in a quiet way, devout enough ; 
on Sunday both sexes crowded into the church, which an 
earthquake had deprived of the roof, and which had now been 
replaced by a safer thatch of palm-leaves and reeds. 

Soon after the funeral several women approached carrying 
dishes with food ; this was not, however, with the object of 
taking it to the departed, but it was our landlady, on whose 
ground we had camped, come to pay us a visit with her 
daughters, and to regale us with a dinner. They were invited 
to tea, which was new to them, and we became very friendly, 
so much so that the beauty of the party presented me with a 
" cocoyul " ring, made of some kind of jet, with inlaid figures. 
Claudio Garcia's acquaintance we had made already on the 
evening of our arrival, through his brother, the town clerk. 
To my joy he was suffering from heartburn, and some obstruc- 
tion, complaints which I could safely tackle with the mater ia 
medica at my disposal. By the morning he was an altered 
man. " Friend," was his greeting, " you are a great one ; 



454 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

I have had such a night, and now, look, I have just finished 
and relished my breakfast, I who have not enjoyed food or 
drink for days. Sit down, please, and now we are going to 
breakfast together. I must do something for you in return, 
and my men shall catch ' coralillos ' and ' escorpiones.' ' We 
struck a bargain, which, however, never came off, of a whole 
bottle of soda-mints against a single escorpion. 




CLAUDIO GARCIA AND FAMILY, SAN LUIS ALLENDE. 

The trade in animals was not so bad after all. Altogether 
the men and boys gradually brought in heaps of tortoises, 
clean-shelled Cinosternum integrum, beautiful tree-frogs, 
Phyllomedusa dacnicolor, enormous specimens of Bufo marinus, 
Coronella micropholis which, painted almost exactly like the 
coral snake, with red, yellow, and black rings, lived in the 
houses, generally underneath the water-tubs geckos, and so 
forth ; also a fine old specimen of the " zopilote rey,"or king 



MUTINY IN THE CAMP 457 

vulture, and a tame " martica," or kinkajou (Cercoleptes caudi- 
volvulus), was also for sale. Their offer to bring " axolotls ' r 
made me fairly jump. Surely these inhabitants of the " tierra 
fria " could not be found here ; but they nevertheless described 
them as fat fish, with a thick head, four small feet, and a long 
tail, and they were tadpoles. I might have guessed it, but 
how is one to know unless one learns by mere accident ? Then 
and there it dawned upon me, and it was easily verified, that 
"axolotl" is the usual Aztec term for tadpole, which, near Mexico- 
City, has been, not transferred, but rather restricted, to the 
famous larva of the Aniblystoma in fact "axolotl" is simply the 
tadpole, and there is not much need for speaking of ordinary 
" taddies." 

The mountain with the waterfall, though looking within 
reach of a moderate walk, costs five and a half hours' steady 
riding, through the villages of Carmen, Las Baynillas, and 
Ayenjeble, leading to Santa Monica, a good hour to the south 
of which, near a place called Paso Pastoria, are hot springs, 
much resorted to by the natives, who wallow for hours in the 
pools between the rocks. When they are cured of their 
rheumatism and skin complaints, they plant a little cross, 
and if their numbers are a proof of efficacy the waters must 
indeed be effective. This district is already in Tlapaneca 
land ; the quiet, pastoral folk, who walk about unarmed in their 
pretty valleys and mountain fastnesses, speak a language 
which is provisionally classed with Mixe. We were looking 
forward to see more of this scarcely-known tribe, and had 
intended to strike due north from San Luis and struggle across 
the high sierra to Quechultenango. and thence back to 
Chilpancingo. But, unfortunately, this plan had to be given 
up, for there was rank mutiny in our camp, the culprit being 
Pablo, between whom and his sergeant had grown up a feud. 
It was a most disagreeable and ticklish business to have to 
restore and to enforce discipline. Next, our men did not at all 
relish the idea of passing through the Tlapaneca country, with 
its unknown language, and the San Luis authorities thought 
it risky on account of the bad state of the tracks and scarcity 
of food for a large party. It so happened, moreover, that a 



458 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



gentleman, a high Governmental official, a reviser of accounts, 
rode in with some rurales. He had come from the east, having 
been obliged to make a wide detour, and reported that the 
state of the track northwards had been rendered so bad by 
rains, that it was now out of the question to take a pack- 




HEAVENLY CAMP. 

train over it. All carrying of goods across the sierra had 
stopped. Well, there was an end of that plan, and there was 
nothing left but to move due west from San Luis, and to strike 
the old track somewhere south of Ayutla. 

Whilst splashing through the river, we were waylaid by a 
man and woman, who had brought some interesting beadwork 
for sale, pieces such as are sewn on to the shoulders of their 






HEAVENLY CAMP 459 

"huipiles"; but it took some persuasion, in which the husband 
sided with us, to get the woman to strip herself then and there 
of the "huipil" which took our special fancy. The road then 
began to rise, and a number of little brooks, tributaries of the 
river on our left, had to be crossed, each new brook more 
fern-begrown, shady and pretty, than the last, and with clear, 
fresh water. There we beheld such a panorama that we could 
not resist camping there, although barely ten miles from San 
Luis. We called it the " Heavenly Camp," and it deserved 
its name. It was exactly 2,000 feet up, on a grassy, dry knoll 
under pine-trees, with a sprinkling of " nanche " and " encino 
amarillo," and at the back were the wooded ranges, one above 
the other, of the high sierra, while in front, seen through a 
natural vista in the pines, across many miles of sweltering, 
tropical forest, swamps, and lagoons, was the sea. Near the 
brook were ferns, begonias, and red dahlias, the latter drawn 
up by the oakwood shade to a height of seven feet. Once more, 
at this comparatively low altitude, there was nothing tropical 
about the aspect of the vegetation, which reminded us very 
much of that described between Limon and Pochote. We 
fairly revelled in the panorama and the fresh air, coupled with 
the absence of flies, and the presence of good water which did 
not need to be boiled and drunk lukewarm, so that men and 
beasts were able to work in harmony and peace. 

On the next morning Miahuichan was passed through, a 
small and curiously scattered village situated in a bare spot, 
with many round houses instead of square ones. The inhabit- 
ants ran away, or hid themselves in the houses, and nothing 
would induce them to answer us. Only one man was caught, 
and he, poor fellow, knew but a few words of Spanish, and no 
Aztec either. By noon we came at last in sight of the river 
which we had expected from early morning, and about the 
difficulties of crossing which much had been said. On the 
opposite side, hidden by trees, the road having dropped again 
to 1,150 feet, is the village of Coacoyulichan. The river, 
which was of a good size, was fortunately not in flood, though 
full of boulders. The "comisario" was a reasonable man; without 
fuss he sent us five men who, at twelve centavos, the usual 



460 

price, carried the baggage across, the animals being dragged T 
or swimming through, separately. We ourselves crossed by 
the bridge, a most beautiful work, which put the most scien- 
tifically constructed suspension-bridge to shame. It was a 
vine bridge, stretched between two enormous fig-trees across 
the foaming river. It was entirely made out of the rope-like 
stems and roots of vines, with four pah's of bottom strands, 
and two on either side by way of railings, and at the bottom r 
between the long strands, ribs of palm-leaf were interlaced 
with ample spaces between each, which presented anything but 
a reassuring appearance. The tree is ascended by a ladder f 




RIVER NEAR COACOYULICHAN. 



and before the middle is reached the whole thing becomes alive, 
undulating throughout the three dimensions. " Does this- 
bridge ever break ? " " Como no ? " " How often is it 
renewed ? " " ' Quien sabe ' ; whenever it breaks ; it has 
been pretty safe for a long time." 

In the town hall were three wooden masks, painted red and 
black. Each was carved differently, and had its own special 
signification, as the people explained, though the one man who 
really knew was reluctant to give further particulars. They 
all were most friendly and well mannered, and on our enquiring 
what tribe they belonged to, the "comisario" smilingly said they 
were " too much mixed," although they were all " Indios- 



A DANCING DRESS 



461 



legitimos," i.e., pure Indians. When Sabino told him that we 
had a chest with medicines enough to cure any mortal disease, 
he went into the town hall to send forth two men with wands 
of office. Then he said to me : " Chief, these men are to search 
the village, and if God will, they may bring you a case or two, 
although I doubt me whether there is any illness, as the time 
for the " calenturas " (the fevers) is still to come." 




VINE BRIDGE NEAR COACOYTJLICHAN. 



We had barely left this hospitable village, in the early 
afternoon, when a sudden rain drenched us, and it was with 
difficulty that a camping spot was found, the terrain being so 
very uneven and covered with vegetation. It was a nuisance, 
and spoiled our further trading, although some men brought 
various creatures, and a curious old dancing dress of yellow- 
dyed leather, with animals and plants embroidered on it, and 
bedecked with a border of silver braid. This dress had been 
used by their master of ceremonies ; they parted with it on 



462 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

the understanding that we should not show it to any of the 
authorities or to a priest. They brought it only for show, but 
we pleaded earnestly, and told them that I had not got a single 
dancing dress, and that I should be proud to w r ear it when 
occasion arose, whilst our escort bore witness, and promised 
that we should not betray them. To our surprise the man 
took it seriously. He made me put it on, and was careful 
to explain how the parts over the shoulders, which were badly 
broken, could be mended. Now, all this happened just because 
we tried to enter into their line of thought ; we took it, for 
instance, as if it were valuable news that a dance in such a 
dress and with such masks would bring rain when performed 
at the proper time. Yes, we also had prayers for rain ; now 
and then our high priest ordered them to be said all over the 
country. " Ah, our padre won't do that ; he does not allow us 
to hold a rain ceremony in the Church ; he says he does it all 
himself. But, say, what results does your chief rain-maker 
get ? " " Well, he considers it frivolous to hold these rain- 
meetings unless there has been a very long drought, unless, 
in fact, the rain has been long overdue." " The same with us." 

The screeching red macaws heralded a beautiful morning, 
and then came two women visitors, one with a bad throat, 
the other with a large fowl under her arm, as the intended fee 
(the cock of ^Esculapius ! ), and her astonishment was great when 
we paid the regulation price of 2|d., provided her friend with 
material for a gargle, and made her go through the unaccustomed 
performance. 

Travelling became troublesome on account of the bad state 
of the trail, and the incessant crossing of rivers, troubles which 
increased the higher we ascended. Then we managed to lose 
the track altogether, and our pack-train returned and reported 
further progress to be hopeless. At a place consisting of three 
houses, fitly called Rancho Escondido, or " the hidden farm," 
an old man was willing to act as guide, and after a long detour 
we found ourselves again at the low level of 500 feet, amongst 
" cocoyul " palms, and a kind of dwarf palm, only eight feet 
high, with nasty prickly stems, there being all around us swamps 
and stony ground covered with a dense mass of salvias and 




fa O 

O o 

H 2 

Q X 

! H 



il 



8 5 



S3 S3 
W S3 



465 

sunflowers. How we had learned to loathe this " yerba." 
The weeds either sting like nettles, or else they scratch, or are 
covered with a glabrous, rosin-like substance, whilst, above all, 
they exhale a sickly, pungent smell which hovers in the moist, 
dank atmosphere. It is bad in the daytime when the heat of 
the sun causes the oils to evaporate, worse in the evening when 
the plants exhale it on their own account, worst of all, suffocat- 
ing at night, after a rain, when the rising steam is laden with 
the smell of the rotten humus. Frequently this stuff reaches 
above the rider's head, there is no break in it, and it is the despair 
of the collector or observer of life, since he cannot pick up 
anything in the tangle. When snakes, lizards, birds, or 
insects are seen, it is just a glimpse, and they are gone. All 
this tangle of weeds and creepers disappears during the dry 
season, and then for months the ground may be almost bare. 
The heat dries and burns up the stalks till they are perfectly 
brittle, winds beat them down and scatter them, and with the 
first onslaught of the rainy season enormous masses of this 
rubbish, haulms and sticks, are washed into the roaring 
torrents which spring up as if by magic, and are then fairly 
choked with the herbaceous debris. Every new spate carries 
down more, and when the slopes have at last been cleared, there 
is still enough comminuted stuff to give the rivers a chocolate- 
brown colour. All this is as it should be, and one also under- 
stands the reason for the deep accumulations of rotting stuff 
in sheltered places, which become hot-beds for other plants, 
but it is somewhat of a puzzle to know how so much of the dried- 
up growth can disappear long before the rains set in, unless 
it is eaten by the millions of ubiquitous ants and termites. 

From the village of Asesucar our guide took us to the 
neighbourhood of Meson Viejo, which is, as its name shows, 
a place where the natives are obliged to give shelter and food 
to man and beast. The country was a little more open, and we 
found a dry spot on the granitic soil amongst mimosas, 
nanche, raspa vieja, Cassia, and ceiba trees, with arums, and 
arboreal Cereus near the brook. The view was grand, and a 
striking effect was produced by the many large clumps of 
Loranthus in the trees, now in full bloom. In the sierra, to the 



466 

north, it had been thundering since the early afternoon ; a 
black thunderstorm burst after sunset, and for the next few 
hours lasted as a soft and thick warm rain. The lowest night 
temperature was 69.5 F., and the altitude about 800 feet. 

On the following day we struck the Ayutla trail, went right 
through the town, and camped an hour to the north of it ; 
then I rode back with Tranquilino to forage, and to buy shoes for 
the horses, most of which had lost a shoe or two, Sabino, who 
was a skilled farrier, having long ago exhausted his spare stock. 
We made a regular raid upon the bread-shop, and then fairly 
feasted on what we obtained. Only a native can keep well on 
the everlasting, insipid tortillas, which are either flabby or burnt 
and blistered with a liberal seasoning of charcoal and the ashes 
of the camp fire. Unfortunately, bread soon deteriorates 
in the tropics ; it gets mouldy, or becomes so dry and hard 
that it loses all the advantages of leavened bread, and it was 
impossible to carry enough for more than a day. When 
these Indians had much, they consumed much, eating half the 
night through, and on the next morning they had nothing, 
trusting either to luck or to our stores. They could never be 
prevailed upon to carry a supply for themselves, nor for the 
horses, it was not " costumbre," and since we often camped 
at unexpected spots where nothing could be procured, they 
squatted on their haunches like turkey buzzards, eyeing every 
morsel that we ate ourselves. Now, you cannot enjoy your 
own food, scanty as it may be, under such conditions. Once 
or twice we did try to starve them into submission, by way of 
teaching them a lesson, having warned them previously that, 
if they passed through a likely village without catering for 
themselves, they should have nothing, but in the long run 
it was we who suffered. When Pablo shot a " conejo," he roasted 
it himself on his own fire, and picked the bones clean, apart 
from the rest of the company, like a hawk which turns its back 
to its companions, screening its prey with its own wings. 

There was other trouble in the camp. Excepting my wife's 
and my own horse, after which we had looked ourselves, being 
careful to see that an extra sweater was put under the saddle, 
every other beast had a sore back. The horses each had a big 




F K _ 



MULE DOCTORING 



469 



boil on the crupper where, owing to the incessant ups and downs 
of the road, the saddle bumped upon its spine. That, they said, 
did not matter, since it always happened. The backs of the 
pack-animals were in a sorry condition. Now, in Chilpancingo 
I had bought packing-pads for each of them, soft mats an 
inch and a half thick, made of felted cocoanut fibre, such as are 
used by every muleteer. These mats, however, were never 
put on ; Rafael had stowed them away in a bundle, using his 
own dilapidated rubbish, which consisted of little but holes 
held together by packing thread, and a mere fringe of matting ; 
his intention was, of course, to bring our mats back entire 
and then to sell them again. The big mule was in the worst 
plight. These creatures, though not the horses apparently, 
and certainly not the donkeys, are liable to mysterious swel- 
lings proceeding from the shoulders and spreading either 
towards the flanks, or and this is considered more dangerous 
forwards over the chest and neck. The inflamed portion 
swells up, becoming at first hard, but then fluctuating, whilst 
the creature itself is feverish, refuses to eat, and is likely to 
die. After being severely rebuked about the mats, Rafael 
was sent back to the town to buy some of the remedies that are 
fancied by muleteers ; needless to say he spent the money on 
himself. That night there was much horse-doctoring. Pablo 
was made to apply fomentations to the mule, and when Rafael 
returned he was put on to this job, which, being a new, although, 
as it turned out, a most effective remedy was not to their 
liking. This treatment of the sore backs caused much kicking 
and biting ; but the kinosol lotion was most beneficial, and 
henceforth every one of the rurales kept a bottle of it. Why, 
it may well be asked, was not all this seen to weeks ago ? 
First, because the men never used the lint, ointments, or 
lotions they were given until now, when things had reached a 
climax ; next, because the " arriero " had sole charge of his string 
of beasts, and it was not my business to interfere with the horses 
of the rurales, which belonged to the Government, and were 
not private property, like our own riding-horses. Lastly, 
which is the chief reason, in addition to mere callous laziness, 
there is the custom of never washing the animals' backs. 



470 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

It is believed that a sweating animal catches cold if its saddle, 
or " apparejo," be removed before it is dry ; and to put a cloth 
over its back is not customary ; hence, instead of this, 
the poor beasts are allowed to stand about for hours in their 
soaked, over-heated, foul trappings, which cannot dry beneath 
the pack, and it is not till this is at last taken off that the 
" arriero " with a special spatula scrapes off the scurf produced 
by the festering sores from the pads, throws a handful of dust 
upon the sores themselves, and leaves the creatures to the 
mercy of the flies. The animals are never hobbled or tethered. 
If they are hobbled, it is said that the " tigre " will eat them 
in the " tierra caliente," or the " leon," in the mountains ; 
if they are tethered, they cannot find enough grass, or, as 
indeed does invariably happen, get hopelessly mixed up in the 
bush. If anyone interferes, the blame is his for the slightest 
thing that goes wrong. Therefore the beasts are allowed to 
wander about, cause disturbances in the night by tumbling 
over the tent-ropes, or stray at will. On the following morning 
they had all run away, except the sick mule, and we had a long 
hunt for them. When one was caught it had to be taken to 
the camp, saddled, and then off again until the others were 
at last brought in. Then a letter was despatched to the " jefe 
politico," a new man, who was ill in bed with fever, for the levy 
of three fresh animals. Such were the aggravating delays 
that occurred here. 

The man in charge of the new beasts was a " Pinto," one 
of those unfortunates who suffer from the " mal del pinto," 
a mysterious disease, common in the " hot-lands " of Mexico 
and Central America. It begins with the deposition of small 
patches of black pigment, on any part of the body ; these 
patches spread, and become blue ; in later stages the normal 
brown pigment disappears, and part of the black also disappears, 
changing to red, and ultimately to sickly white patches, which 
give the person a disgusting appearance. There is, however, 
no suffering and no malaise. This disease is not infectious, 
and apparently not inherited. It is restricted to Central and 
South America. In Mexico it is confined to the Pacific slope 
from about Mazatlan to the Isthmus, and, as a rule, it does not 



NATIVE DOCTORS 471 

go further inland than a few days' journey, which happens 
to coincide with the average distance to which dried fish are 
carried, a diet much affected by the poor. Pintos at Chil- 
pancingo, Oaxaca, or Zapotlan, are invariably not natives of 
these places. The disease is essentially one of the costalenos, 
but also creeping up the Balsas basin, and thus it has come to 
pass that it is usually connected with fish diet. In South 
America it is most common far inland, on the Andes range. 
Some suppose it to be due to a too one-sided diet of Indian corn, 
this being devoid of a certain substance necessary for man's 
well-being. But in many large districts of Mexico, for instance, 
on the plateau, people live on scarcely anything else but 
tortillas, and yet the " mal del pintos " is unknown. Probably 
some fungoid growth upon the maize will be discovered, as it 
grows only under certain conditions, hitherto unknown ; just 
as bad rice is responsible for the dangerous beri-beri of the 
East. 

The native doctor or, rather, apothecary, may be found on 
market days squatting among the throng of other vendors 
before a mat, on which is displayed his stock, but he is easily 
passed over, since his goods look so insignificant. When 
treated sympathetically he will open out and impart much 
startling information. Some of his medicines work upon the 
principle of homoeopathy, and these are mostly charms, others 
are allopathic, and contain some real medicinal agent. With 
some the reasoning seems obvious, with others far-fetched, or 
so involved that it is lost in transcendental theosophy now 
but vaguely remembered. There is, for instance, the root of 
the " yerba immortal," small pieces of which are taken as a 
purgative ; an infusion of the red bark of the " mulato " tree 
is good for the chest ; the root of the " yesgo," taken similarly, 
alleviates rheumatism. None of these can do much harm ; 
but the " noz vomica," which is sold at one real each, and is 
sometimes nothing but a walnut, has to be taken in small 
doses, little scrapings of this very poisonous kernel being taken 
in cases of pneumonia and pleurisy. A decoction of the apple- 
like fruit of the Crescentia, which contains some very potent 
drug, is much favoured in cases of cough and " weak chest." The 



472 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

whooping-cough of children, however, is treated with a pounded- 
up piece of the shell of the armadillo, taken internally, whilst 
the shed skin of a snake cures " el galico," or liberation of 
the chest. The philosophy of the latter nostrum is not so far- 
fetched as may at first be thought. In many parts of Southern 
Mexico people suffer from a mysterious disease which, when 
fully developed, shows soft and discoloured, though not 
inflamed, patches on the skin, often on the chest ; these spots 
become quite soft, and beneath the skin may be a large cavity 
extending right down to the bone. There is much watery 
discharge, with much sloughing and peeling. Here comes in 
the snake, at the best an uncanny creature, with its periodically 
sloughing and renewed skin. " Palomitas," literally butterflies, 
but in this case the large, thin- winged seeds of some bignonia, 
sold in the pod, cure headache, if one of the seeds be glued on 
to the patient's head ; in chronic cases a little packet of seeds 
is sewn up and tied on, to be worn as a more or less permanent 
charm. Another cure for headache is the dried head of a 
woodpecker, because this bird, using its head as a hammer, 
must be free from headache, and therefore may impart some 
of its enviable immunity. A little bit of the skin of a coyote, 
or jackal, with the hair on. may ward off the effects of a 
chill, if the patient burns and inhales it over a charcoal fire. 
The slimy skin of the axolotl, stewed to a jelly, alleviates 
asthma. 

The above samples do not exhaust the list, which is really 
endless ; almost any odd-looking seed, as, for instance, the 
" ojo del venado," or stag's eye i.e., the seed of the Mucuna 
urens the rattle of a snake, a tooth, the finger of a corpse, a 
dried humming-bird, or anything equally strange, may some- 
where or other be considered a potent remedy or charm. 

It is possible that the old Aztecs had some serviceable 
knowledge of the medicinal properties of their plants.* If 
that was so, their descendants have lost most of it. I have 
often found, to my disgust, that they no longer know the names 

* Cf. the works on the Natural History of Mexico, by F. Hernandez, 
translated, edited, etc., by F. Ximenez, Mexico, 1615, with the title : " Cuatro 
libros de la naturaleza y virtudes medicinales de las plantas y animales de la 
Nueva Espana." Reprinted, Morelia, 1888. 



WANT OF DOCTORS 473 

of their plants and trees ; the names mentioned by one man 
were at once contradicted by another, and they further differed 
in neighbouring districts, although the people belonged to the 
same stock. This is due partly to the spreading of the Spanish 
language, and partly to the influence of the priests, who dis- 
courage anything like ancient folk-lore. Instead of trying to 
study the properties of the concoctions prepared by the natives, 
they persuade them to rely more upon the miraculous powers of 
a little oil, which the native buys in the shop and then takes 
to the priest for his blessing. 

In entire countries, sometimes in large provinces, medical 
men are not available, and no travelling doctor could make a 
living at the low prices ruling. It would be a boon to such 
States if their Government could see its way to establishing a 
kind of primitive dispensary in the chief municipal centres. 
There being no medical advice, the medicines should be 
restricted to such as cannot do much harm, even if occasional 
overdoses are given. The stock need not consist of much more 
than quinine, purgatives, or bismuth, for cases of dysentery, 
chlorate of potash for gargling, bi-carbonate of potash, or 
kinosol, for making antiseptic lotions for wounds and sores, 
carbolic acid for the sand-flea, etc. 

This may sound rather unprofessional, but it must be 
remembered that the natives actually do buy, on their own 
responsibility, all kinds of drugs in the " boticas," or chemists' 
shops of the more important towns. Moreover, various 
medicines can be bought in many " tiendas," or shops, on the 
plantations, though the prices charged are shamefully high, 
and the stuff sold is often so stale, or adulterated, or of such a 
quack character, that it is useless. The difference between 
a good doctor and none at all may sometimes be small, whilst 
an amateur can do much harm, but, as a matter of fact, the sick 
Indian without them will continue to suffer, or will die with a 
fair certainty, and since his friends try to cure him, he may as 
well, in any case, be given the chance of the right drug. An 
annual expenditure of one hundred pesos, spread over a whole 
State, need not kill a single person, whilst it is sure to alleviate 
the sufferings of thousands. The doctors could not well 



474 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

complain where scarcely any exist, and more than that small 
sum is embezzled in every town. 

The commonest diseases in the Mexican " hot-lands "' 
are various forms of malaria, mostly the " paludismo," 
" calentura," or ague, whilst pernicious kinds are much rarer. 
The Indians suffer as much and as repeatedly as those of white 
extraction. Some persons, even children, are quite immune, 
in a large family of which all the other members suffer every 
year. On the Atlantic States, with their much wetter climate, 
the malarial season sets in with that of the heavy summer 
rains ; on the Pacific side, at least in Guerrero, the time for 
the dangerous kinds is the dry, or winter, season, and a short 
period of recrudescence coincides with the setting in of the 
torrential rains in May or June, but the rainy season itself, 
from June to September, is considered far less dangerous. It 
often happens that a native, who may appear practically free 
from malaria, or only subject to slight attacks, breaks down 
seriously when going on to the healthy plateau, the unavoidable 
chills being sufficient to bring on the outbreak. Chills are 
responsible for most illnesses in the tropics. It is so very easy 
to get chilled in the " hot-lands." A slight wind makes the 
perspiring skin feel icy cold, although its surface temperature 
may be as high as 80 or 82 F., because the cooling effect of the 
rapid evaporation is so great. The natives, in their draughty 
reed huts, and dressed in cotton, are pictures of abject misery 
when a cold rain is keeping everything in a clammy state ; 
and rheumatism, sore throats, fevers, and dysentery are then 
rife. A pedlar might make his fortune by selling soda mints, 
where heartburn is such a common complaint. By the way, 
when a man is bilious, he is said to have " un viento en el 
higado," " a wind in his liver." 

There is not much to tell about the return journey to 
Chilpancingo, with our large " cavalgadura," now swelled to 
seven or eight people, and more than thirteen beasts, and 
all the more difficult to feed and keep in order. The look of 
the open country had changed ; yellow, orange and blue 
composites had covered the ground, and " yerba " had grown 
up, the force of the rainy season having spent itself. It was 



A WILD-LOOKING TRAVELLER 475 

hereabouts that we were joined by a wild-looking traveller 
from some unknown tribe. His dress consisted of nothing 
but a zarape with a slit for the head, a sombrero, an amulet 
round his neck, and a machete. Through him we first heard 
of the " guerra " which had been waged by the Government 
near La Cruz Grande against those bandits. 

Theoretically, we had planned a halting stage well beyond 




MIXE WITH AMULET. 

Tierra Colorada, but Fate decreed that we should stop in its 
neighbourhood, everything going contrariwise. Much of the 
baggage had got soaked on the Cumbre del Coquillo, and re- 
quired overhauling ; Tranquilino, our quiet mainstay, collapsed 
with an attack of fever at Omitlan, which was no place to camp 
in, nor was there any such near it. I bungled over a stag, 
and Sabino, sent into the village to forage, came back late in 
the night with an offering of a box of matches instead of the 
expected eggs and fowls drunk ! It rained steadily, the 



476 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



" yerba " smelt worse than ever, all the old insect pests asserted 
themselves, and there was the man in the luggage tent who had 
to be helped through his paroxysm, and to be coaxed into a 
sweat. This good fellow, whom we liked best, hampered our 







LOOKING SOUTH FROM LOS C A JONES RIDGE. 

progress considerably, and had to be kept out of the daily 
soaking. Our next camp was, therefore, made near Rincon, 
at the south foot of Los Cajones, in splendid air, and on rising 
ground, just in time to get him under shelter before a mag- 
nificent storm burst, which then clung on to the high ridge. 



THE TOP OF THE RIDGE 477 

producing a most gloriously tinted sunset. I don't know what 
possessed us, maybe it was the change of temperature, which, 
during the day had been like that of an oven, and had cooled 
by 8 p.m. to 66F.,or perhaps it was the sunset and the aromatic 
exhalation of the pines, in place of the stench of the "yerba," 
but, anyhow, we decided to move on to the top of the Cajones 
and spend the next day there. Accordingly, the tent was 
pitched as near the top of the pass as possible, and my wife 
attempted to sketch its most beautiful views, with its ten 
distances, and the whole day was turned into a joyful picnic. 
Sabino retrieved his character by catching a Philodryas putnami, 
a rare snake, hitherto known only from a few localities in far-off 
Jalisco. The incessant soaking, and perhaps also the wading 
about in the lowland swamps, had not, in the hot country, 
caused me much inconvenience, but here on the higher ground, 
and with the tolerable night temperature, combined with the 
crisp air, rheumatic stiffness asserted itself. I had been 
shooting on the Cajones road and, whilst stooping, got 
doubled up with a twinge of lumbago, and was leaning 
against a rock, with my head resting upon my arm, when down 
rushed Sabino, attracted by the shots, throwing his arms round 
me and enquiring where and by whom I had been wounded. 
This little bother soon passed off, only for the next few days 
it made the incessant climbing in and out of the saddle dis- 
agreeable ; it disappeared again in the hot valley of the Balsas, 
not to recur. The night was painful, but we were diverted 
from bodily troubles by other lively conditions. With some 
misgivings we had discovered that not a few trees on that ridge 
had been split by lightning, and took at least the precaution 
of actually moving the camp away from underneath some of 
them. The storm did come, rather late, and then two more 
storms came from different directions, and soon we were in a 
most tremendous uproar of the elements, the storms making 
right for the ridge, and keeping at it till after midnight. One 
or two of the reports were deafening, and it was as if the shocks 
could be felt coming out of the ground into our camp beds. 
There was nothing for us to do but to lie still, and to promise 
not to do it again. 



478 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

Nobody is afraid of being struck by lightning in South 
Mexico, whether in the open or in the forest, the natives taking 
shelter under a tree without hesitation, and I did not hear of 
any accidents, nor did we ever see a flash strike into the tropical 
forest. Possibly the heavy rain wets the trees so thoroughly, 
or they themselves contain so much moisture, that they act 
like so many lightning conductors. It is well-known that here, 
in Europe, certain kinds of trees are practically immune, as, 
for instance, birches and beeches, whilst pines are particularly 
dangerous, those pines which stand in certain positions especially 
so. It may be because these trees prefer rather dry soil, and 
have no taproot, while their wood is especially rich in rosin. 
The pines on the Cajones were in as dangerous a 'position as 
they well could be, but perhaps familiarity breeds contempt 
in a country where electric explosions are witnessed every day 
for months. 

When we rode into Chilpancingo, alighting at the Hotel 
del Sur, the landlady did not at first recognise us ; we had 
become so weather-beaten, brown, and thin. The hastily- 
planned fortnight's trip had grown to five complete weeks to 
a day, with twenty-four camps, constituting a round of some 
510 kilometres or 316 miles, according to my subsequent calcula- 
tions and map-making, not counting departures from the 
track. This is not much of a result for twenty-six travelling 
days, giving an average of only twelve miles a day ; but the 
quality of the road accounted for this, and, after all, the journey 
was one of exploration. It would have been better if the time 
could have been spread over a shorter distance, to allow for a 
more than hasty examination of those spots which proved 
especially attractive. 

There was much to be settled in the town, above all, the 
accounts of our prolonged trip, and as the Governor was away, 
in Mexico, I saw more of the Prefect than was good for either 
of us. Thanks to his keeping of the accounts, and his badly- 
earned wages as valet de chambre, Sabino was now in affluent 
circumstances, eager to continue the journey to Iguala with 
two inexperienced straplings instead of Pablo, who was seriously 
thinking of leaving the service, and of Tranquilino, who was 




THE CAXADA 479 

put on the sick list. The worry, the threats, the loss of temper 
about procuring new animals were repeated, to a worse degree 
than ever, although the owners of our riding-horses had ex- 
pressed themselves as completely satisfied on seeing the sleek, 
well-fed, and frisky condition of the horses (which were without 
sore or boil), and they promised to let us have them again. 
By the time that they were wanted, however, they could 
nowhere be found. 

Near Zumpango, in the almost dry river-bed, we were 
overtaken by a storm, which came up so suddenly that there 
was scarcely time to climb the loamy bank, take the loads off 
the animals, and begin to unfold the 
tent before the place was an inch under 
water. With the hope of studying 
animal life in the Canada, we pitched 
camp in it again next day, but with 
disappointing results. At the upper 
end, near Mesquititlan, we had, on our 
outward journey, found some Scelo- HIEROG LYPH-ZUMPANGO. 
porus climbing about on the rocky walls " Tzom-pan-co." 

of the gorge ; these having proved a new 
kind (S. gadowij, we were anxious to Pantli = standard, sign 
get more, but the sky was cloudy, and 

no more could be found, another instance of how fortuitous 
and accidental such discoveries are. Besides Cnemidophorus 
deppei running about in the grass at the bottom, and iguanas 
climbing on the rocks, no life was visible, except butterflies 
and other insects. The entire pass is a gorge with very 
steep walls, and the bottom, even where it widens out into 
grassy valleys, is subject to sudden spates. Still this scarcity of 
life was surprising, for there were no " tejon," no " cacomistle," 
no kinkajou, or any similar beasts which elsewhere enlivened 
similar places, not even " zopilotes," after which the Canada is 
named. Yet nearly every day, or district, brought something 
of interest which set us musing, and I know of nothing more 
cheering and helpful in getting one over the ground, whilst 
jogging along at the normal rate of 3^ miles an hour, than 
fitting together little bits of observation to make a problem. 



480 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



Many a hypothesis was launched and developed into a 
theory, beautiful but short-lived, like the white flowers of the 
climbing Cereus, to wither when exposed to the full light of day. 
Here, near La Venta Vieja, where the valley broadens out, 
a tributary from Xochipala joins the main stream, having 
formed high banks by eating into the loamy and gravelly ground. 
This was a breeding-place of motmots, which, like our king- 
fishers, dig deep, horizontal nesting-holes into banks of this 
kind. Near by was a " cuadrilla " of a few reed huts, which 
belonged to a carpenter whose family were bird-lovers. They 
had a dear little parrakeet which climbed about in the hut, and 




VENTA VIEJA 

at night slept in a gourd, and one of the women was stuffing 
some young motmots with " massa," the paste from which the 
tortillas are made. Motmots are a typically tropical American 
group of birds, related to kingfishers and bee-eaters ; south- 
wards they range through Brazil, northwards through the 
hot and temperate parts of Mexico, and, curiously enough, one 
species extends on to the plateau itself, to the Valley of Mexico. 
They are generally described as inhabiting dense forests, seldom 
visiting the outskirts, and preferring the vicinity of streams. 
We had been puzzled by the fact that we had seen none in the 
really dense forests of the lowlands, and in eastern Oaxaca, 
only in the neighbourhood of swift rivers, for instance, at 
Tetela and La Raya, while here again in the Canada there was 



THE MOTMOT 481 

more bush than forest. The reason of this scattered distri- 
bution is that they depend upon rivers or streams which have 
sandy or loamy banks, but not swampy, nor rocky, nor covered 
by vegetation. The motmots are omnivorous, their serrated 
bill indicates the fruit-eater, and they are fond of berries, as 
well as of insects and small lizards. They live either solitary 
or in pairs, flitting before the traveller from tree to tree, or 
sitting on the lower branches, whence they make sudden dashes 
to secure their prey. They are very beautiful without being 
brilliant, green and blue predominating in their plumage ; 
consequently they breed in cavities, and the sexes are alike ; 
or it may be that, both sexes being alike and vividly coloured, 
they therefore conceal their nest in a cavity, as is the case with 
kingfishers, bee-eaters, and rollers. Which is the correct view ? 
The motmots provide an almost uncanny puzzle. The 
middle pair of tail feathers is much longer than the rest, and 
the vanes of this pair are for some distance somewhat narrowed, 
broadening out again towards the tips, so that the feathers are 
slightly racket-shaped. In young birds this tapering, or 
constriction, is slight, but increases with successive moults. 
Before the feathers have, however, grown to their complete 
length, the bird deliberately nibbles off portions of the right 
and left vane, or web, to an extent which varies from one to 
four inches, according to the species. They take their time 
over it, the gaps left by each species respectively, being met 
with in any stage, and often asymmetrical, until the process 
is finished, when the brightly-coloured terminal racket is left 
connected with the rest of the feather only by the very thin 
shaft. Further, these birds are in the habit of deliberately 
flicking their tail sideways, to right and left, like a pendulum,* 
so that the two rackets seem to flit about like a blue or green 
butterfly. At any rate, it is the fashion with these birds to 
have such tails, and since they cannot grow the rackets by 
nature, they cut them out artificially. Possibly the slight 
constriction above mentioned was the first thing that suggested 
this mental freak. It is the only instance positively known 

* A good photograph is given by C. Beebo, in his delightful " Two Bird 
Lovers in Mexico." 

G G 




HHH 



6c M bo JO 

SEES 



BUTTERFLIES 483 

of normally-minded birds methodically destroying part of 
their precious plumage, except the parrot ( Prioniturus platurus) 
of Celebes, which does exactly the same. 

Over-zealous Lamarckists may possibly still look upon the 
fact that these feathers gradually approach the narrow-vaned 
shape, as an instance of the inheritance of acquired characters, 
on the assumption that the repeated process of nibbling the 
feather into such a shape has ultimately caused them to grow 
into it. But it is not necessary to resort to such a phantasy, 
and thus to put the cart before the horse. On the contrary, 
it is a way which many over-elongated feathers have, to grow 
slightly narrower webs at that portion which, so to speak, is 
intercalated by overgrowth. That is quite intelligible as being 
in the nature of feathers. Cumulative inheritance along the 
line once started upon, will then do the rest, until eventually 
a perfect racket will result without any interference, or help, 
from the bird.* 

White butterflies, with dark " eyes " on the wings, measur- 
ing four inches across, were abundant, and apparently liked 
our cavalcade, as they clearly overtook it and flapped along 
in front in leisurely fashion, or hovered above it, at once to 
rise out of our reach when pursued, and to play about again 
a little further on. We had seen many of them in the month 
of June near Cuernavaca ; here in the Balsas valley, in the 
middle of August, they were just emerging ; especially during 
the forenoon they could be observed sitting on low branches, 
with their wings still crumpled up and limp, and before the 
wings had dried sufficiently they fluttered together and paired. 
Enormous transparent Neuroptera, with formidable mouth- 
pincers, made for the butterflies, and in the same valley, on 
shaded trees, were curious snails two inches long, quite white, 
and therefore very conspicuous, some, especially the biggest, 
with a large extra spiral ridge parallel to the opening. 

The river of the Canada was low, fortunately, as for the 

* Other instances of elongated tail-feathers, more or less spatulate, are 
common, e.g., the central pair of the Malayan Kingfisher (Tanysiptera), the 
African sunbird (Nectarinia famosa), and the Indian fly -catcher (Tchitrea). 
In some humming birds (Lesbia) it is the outer pair that are long and 
spatulate. 

G o 2 



. 




ANTS AND FEATHERS 



485 



greater part its bed formed the road, which was completely 
overhung in many parts by the meeting branches of the dense 
vegetation. It would be no exaggeration to say that we 
crossed and recrossed it a hundred times. The camp close 
to the Balsas river, this time a little higher up, and on the 
northern side, was extremely picturesque, but spoilt by the 
usual pest of insects. The escort had carefully pitched the tent 




A HOT RIDE. 

as near as possible to a colony of ants, which lived in* the honey- 
combed ground, and soon sent out their soldiers in distressing 
numbers. There was nothing left but to make a cordon of 
burning logs, which added smoke and heat to the already more 
than sufficient sultriness. The removal of the whole camp 
was seriously contemplated, when the situation was saved by 
the strewn feathers of a plucked fowl. Every one of the feathers 
was got hold of by some ant, and it was a comical sight to see 
how these feathers danced about in an upright position, and, 



486 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



as if by some effort of their own, disappeared in the ground. 
Within half an hour none were left, and there was peace, at least 
from the ants. The big river had fallen much, at least eight feet, 
leaving the banks covered with a thick, chocolate-brown ooze. 
The return to Iguala was uneventful. 




TORTILLAS. 



It was a terribly hot ride until we reached Iguala, and 
camped actually in the railway station, to be prepared for any 
emergencies, in anticipation of the vagaries of the train, which, 
in the early morning, should carry us to Cuernavaca. Close 
by was a Chinese shanty, and there were iced drinks, tea, and 
rolls, and then a belated lunch (or was it early dinner ?), and 
then a never-before-so-much-enjoyed meat tea, and when the 
evening train came in, and supper was made ready for possible 
passengers, we once more rose to the occasion. 



CHAPTER XXIII. 

AX ASCEXT OP POPOCATEPETL. 

Features of Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl Altitudinal Distribution of 

Plants A Night spent at 13,000 feet elevation The Ascent to the Crater 

and the Descent Perilous Ride back to Amecameca. 

There are certain names firmly associated with each other, 
and stamped indelibly upon a child's memory from its earliest 
lessons in geography. The bare mention of the word Mexico 
is sure to conjure up in many minds the odd-sounding name 
Popocatepetl, usually pronounced with some hesitation, and 
yet easy enough if one knows how to manage it : " popoca " 
" to smoke," " tepetl " " the mountain "the " smoking 
mountain," and " Iztaccihuatl " the "White Woman," with 
their summits reaching high up into the azure sky, and capped 
with eternal snow and ice, are in full view from the plateau 
of Anahuac, in the centre of which stands the City of Mexico. 
Thus speak the guide-books, but they should add the im- 
portant clause " when they are visible." It so happened that 
in the summer and autumn of 1902 we spent, off and on, several 
weeks in or near the city without ever catching so much as a 
glimpse of that pair of giants. It was on the last evening 
before our leaving that land of wonders, when returning from 
a walk over the lava-field to the south-west of the capital, 
that we beheld the famous panorama in all its glory. The 
September evening was refreshingly cool at that altitude of 
8,000 feet, the air still, and had been cleared of every particle 
of dust by the afternoon's rain, so that the sunset tints were at 
their best. Our standpoint was the " pedregal," the petrified 



488 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



billows of rough lava that had flowed forth so recently from 
the Sierra de Ajusco that they buried corpses and implements 
of some representatives of prehistoric mankind. In the plain 
below stretched the great city, with that dreary sheet of 
water, Lake Texcoco, beyond it, and Lake Xochimilco, to 
the right, in a land of flowers and green pastures. But the 
setting of the scene baffles any attempt at adequate description. 
Some twenty miles away to the right, beyond Xochimilco, 
stood out against the purple sky that old giant, Popocatepetl, 
raising his head up to a height of nearly 18,000 feet, that is 





REALITY AND FANCY. 

Upper figure -The two extinct volcanoes, Iztaccihuatl and Popocatepetl. 

as seen from Mexico City. 
Lower figure The White Woman and her funeral pyre. 

to say, 10,000 feet above our standpoint, with a broad cone of 
colossal proportions, the last 4,000 feet of which were clad in 
snow, bathed in the rosy reflections of the sun, which had 
already set for us. To the left of Popocatepetl, just in the 
middle of the panorama, lies his companion Iztaccihuatl, 
well-named " the White Woman," because, especially from 
this point of vantage, its outlines bear a certain resemblance, 
not at all far-fetched, to the figure of a woman in a shroud. 
Her head points to the north, while the neck, bosom, knees, 
and feet, are formed by the striking outline of this long-drawn- 
out volcanic ridge. Less romantic, but equally to the point, 



PREPARATIONS FOR THE ASCENT 489 

is the Spanish name of this mountain, " La mujer gorda." 
Black-blue crests and precipitous gorges interrupt the snow, 
indicating the dangerousness of this sleeping beauty, which 
few men have succeeded in conquering, while some have paid 
for the attempt with their lives. 

Scarcely two years later we beheld the giant again, this 
time from Cortez' palace, in Cuernavaca, when day after day 
it loomed up in brilliant sunshine, its immense proportions 
enhanced by its being seen from a level of but 5,000 feet above 
that of the sea. Then and there we vowed not to leave the 
country without having seen it from its very top. It so hap- 
pened that we made the ascent just after our return from the 
tropics of Guerrero, somewhat exhausted and very thin, but 
perhaps for the latter reason all the more fit for the climb. 




IZTACCIHUATL AND POPOCATEPETL AS SEEN FROM CUERNAVACA. 

The few necessary preparations were easily made. One 
of the higher officials of the Inter-Oceanic Railway obligingly 
telegraphed a short order to their agent at Amecameca, and 
that was all that was necessary. It is in the interest of this 
railway to promote tourist traffic ; they are on friendly terms 
with General Ochoa, who owns a large slice of the mountain, 
though no less than seventeen people are said to claim part of 
it, always including the top. We left San Lazaro Station on 
the 7th of September, at 8.10 a.m., and arrived at Amecameca 
at 10.28. The road leads through the flat land between 
Lakes Texcoco and Chalco. The heavy rains had transformed 
the country into a huge swamp, and Lake Texcoco in particular 
had actually no limits, since water, rushes, and weeds inter- 
mingled here and there with stretches of sand, combined with 
the hot sun in producing wonderful mirages. Cattle and horses 
which, during the dry season eke out a precarious existence 



490 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

on the scanty pasture, stood in the water up to their bellies r 
and browsed off the luxuriant plants. Sunburnt natives,, 
in white cotton trousers, and with large sombreros, waded 
about, driving some of the numerous waterfowl, snipe, plovers, 
sandpipers, and ducks into primitive nets, artfully concealed 
amongst the rushes ; or a man suddenly rose out of a clump of 
reeds with a big racket-like net set upon a long pole, and made 
a dash with this contrivance at a swarm of birds that whirred 
past him. 

Amecameca offers no attractions, least of all the Hotel 
Hispano y Americano, where it is as well to keep one's eyes 
open. Nevertheless, " pero no hay remedio " that "cannot 
be helped," since there is positively no other fit abode. 

We soon interviewed our " guides " for the lower part of 
the mountain, viz., two men with four horses, who were to- 
convey the party to Las Tlamacas, the shelter-hut, where two 
real mountain guides were to meet us. Then we had to buy a 
pair of " petates," straw mats measuring about one yard by two,, 
for sliding down snow-slopes. This seemed reasonable enough 
and promised excitement, but to the wonder and misgiving of 
the crowd present, we refused to invest in plaited sandals r 
or in the yards of cotton employed for protecting the feet 
from the cold whilst walking in the snow. For it is odd that 
hardly a single tourist arrives there properly shod, and although 
whole parties of them arrive in the winter season, few, very few,, 
make a successful ascent. The invariable charge for each 
person, no matter how large or small the party, is twelve pesos. 

We started at 12.30, and came in for the usual afternoon 
rain before arriving at the foot-hills, where the forest begins. 
Amecameca is situated at about 8,000 feet elevation. There 
is a road all the way up where timber, firewood, and the dairy 
produce of various cattle ranches are brought down, the track 
often following what are merely deep runnels which the rain 
has worn into the loamy soil. At the base the vegetation con- 
sists chiefly of the graceful, long-leaved Pinus liophylla, called 
here " tlac-ocote " i.e., small pine and various kinds of 
deciduous oak, with a variety of other trees and shrubs. At 
about 9,500 feet appear fine firs, the Abies religiosa,OT"oya,me\ r >7 



THE HALFWAY HUT 491 

which form a belt of about 2,000 feet, interspersed with ever- 
green oak ("ilice"), thick bushes of small-leaved Arbutus 
spinulosus, and, in moister spots, a brittle kind of elder shrub 
(Sambucus mexicana) , with long, narrow leaves, grey-green above 
and white below, the ugliest, most untidy-looking and absolutely 
useless shrub in the whole country. Then, at about 11,500 
feet, the Abies, hitherto the dominant forest tree, becomes 
scarce, next there is but a mere sprinkle of these (still fine) trees, 
and then they suddenly cease. The same applies to an alder, 
with leaves much resembling those of the edible chestnut. 
These give way to the "ocote," a short-leaved pine. The open 
slopes are studded with masses of tall, richly-coloured, red and 
purple Pentstemon, and long-stemmed light blue lupins, which 
latter accompany us to the very limit of the tree-line. About 
half-way up, the road passes through a small cluster of hamlets, 
wooden shanties with a saw-mill, while above the pine forests 
and grassy slopes appears the cone in all its brilliant whiteness. 
There are but few ferns, in addition to the masses of Alpine 
flowers, but somehow or other the views are nowhere extensive. 
We arrived about 5 p.m. at Las Tlamacas two large wooden 
huts, at an elevation of nearly 13,000 feet, constructed for 
storage of sulphur and shelter for the workmen. This sulphur 
industry has a curious record. Cortez sent a small party of 
his soldiers to the crater for sulphur in order to manufacture 
his own powder. He reported to the Emperor, Charles V., 
that although it was feasible to supply his ordnance with 
Mexican sulphur it would be far more expeditious to have it 
sent over from Sicily as before. Now and then a little company 
has been floated to work the crater, but invariably, after a 
short time, the attempt " se acabo " came to an end. 

There was a blazing fire of pine-logs in the chimney, because 
it so happened that only an hour before us two Americans had 
installed themselves there in order to make some surveys in 
connection with boundary regulations. Their presence was 
rather a bother, in spite of their numerous acts of helpful 
courtesy. But we made the best of it, had a light supper of 
our plentiful provisions, and settled down on our rugs and some 
hay on a kind of sloping plank bed. But it rained and rained 



492 

in torrents, and the ceaseless drip came through the old roof. 
We experienced, however, none of that nausea which so often 
spoils sleep at such altitudes, except that one of the engineers 
suffered severely from the typical headache, loss of appetite, 
and giddiness. 

The rain cleared off long before sunrise, and we started 
with the two mountain guides, a man and a boy, at 6.30, in 
brilliant sunshine, without a breath of wind ; but it was cool, 
temperature only 36 F. The path first crosses a deep, dry 




POPOCATEPETL FROM LAS TLAMACAS. 



ravine, the trees cease a few hundred yards above the hut, 
and tussocks of grass are then the only vegetation, together 
with the little Draba, the last of the flowering plants. Then 
began the steep slopes of red and grey lava, sand, and pumice- 
stone, and continued until, at about 7.30, we reached La Cruz, 
a big, rough wooden cross erected in memory of numerous 
accidents, mainly due to sudden snow-storms, which had 
befallen Indians employed in carrying down on their backs 
the loads of sulphur. This cross stands upon a prominent 
rock, at some 14,500 feet elevation, and here we had to leave 
our horses. These sturdy creatures can go up still further, 



THE SNOW REACHED 



493 



as on Citlaltepetl for instance, where the slope being more 
gentle, they go up to nearly 16,000 feet, but here the loose 
lava and ashes, into which the horses sink, and the steeper 
slope make progress very difficult, they pant painfully, and only 
frequent stops make it possible for them to regain their wind. 
The ascent proper may be said to begin here. We soon reached 




THE LAVA-SAND FIELDS. 



the snow. Our outfit was of the scantiest. The guides swaddled 
their sandalled feet in many layers of cotton cloth, and carried 
two zarapes, with some provisions. Each of the party had a 
stout stick, or rather, pole, my wife wore a blue veil, I myself 
dark spectacles, and that was all. Ropes, spades, ice-axes, 
there were none. 

The ascent, which is always undertaken on the north- 
eastern slope of the mountain, was easy. There are no< 



494 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

glaciers proper, and no crevasses, but always the same steep, 
smooth slope. The snow was in excellent condition, firm, 
with a thin hard crust. The guides floundered along anyhow, 
often slipping on account of their clumsy footgear, which gave 
them no hold. I myself kicked step after step into the snow 
for my wife to follow, and this step-kicking, continued for 
hours, became very exhausting work. The only danger to be 
apprehended was that of slipping down during the frequent 
short pauses, unless we rammed our poles into the snow to 
hold on to. The sky above us was of an unbroken deep blue ; 
below, half-way up the mountain, were thick masses of clouds, 
hiding the landscape, and moving like billows of the sea, but 
in time there appeared rifts in them, and long before we neared 
the top most of the clouds had vanished. We experienced no 
great difficulty in breathing until nearing an altitude of about 
17,000 feet. Of course, even so far it had been hard work, but 
then things became somewhat more serious. The heat of the 
sun and the reflection from the brilliant snow-fields were fierce, 
although the temperature remained at about two degrees of 
frost. Besides the ordinary tired feeling a curious lassitude, 
with slight nausea, made itself felt. It required some force of 
will to make fifty steps without stopping. Then these were 
reduced to thirty, twenty, and at last five. A few steps at once 
brought on panting and gasping for air, accompanied by an 
intolerable hammering and throbbing in the temples, with an 
increasing sensation of giddiness and a nauseous sinking 
feeling, though stopping brought immediate relief. We found 
the sucking of meat lozenges a great help. However, by 11.55, 
after a steady climb of four and a half hours, including pauses 
amounting in all to about twenty-five minutes, we arrived at 
the rim of the crater, which at this spot reaches a height of 
about 17,500 feet. On its very edge we rested for nearly an 
hour, and enjoyed the most glorious scenery. The crater itself 
is of an oval shape, lowest at the north-east, highest at the 
south-western corner, which forms the summit of Popocatepetl, 
reputed to be 17,600 feet high. The greatest diameter of the 
cavity has been recorded as six hundred metres ; its depth 
perhaps half as much. But never mind the dimensions. Before 






THE CRATER 



495 



us was an enormous cavity, with precipitous walls which ap- 
peared black in the dazzling sun, and here and there with 
particles of snow on some prominent ledge, and gigantic 
icicles, veritable pillars of ice several feet thick and many yards 
long, festooning the walls, and close to these fantastic masses 
appeared bright yellow patches of sulphur, many of them 
burning or smouldering in closest vicinity to the snow. It 




WESTERN THIRD OF THE CRATER. 



was these that had caused the sudden stifling whiffs of brim- 
stone which we had already noticed to our surprise and dis- 
comfort some time before the crater was reached. To collect 
the sulphur the Indians went down by means of ladders and 
staging, or were lowered and hoisted up by windlasses. The 
volcano is practically, although not quite, extinct, and certainly 
it does not emit any smoke. Keen-eyed observers in Mexico 
City say that in the early morning on very bright days thin 



496 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

smoke may be seen ; but this is not quite exact. It is the 
vapour rising from the melting snow, when the morning sun 
strikes the walls of the crater. One hundred years ago, however, 
the volcano was still emitting smoke, at least Humboldt has 
thus drawn his coloured sketches ; and at Cortez' time it fully 
justified its Aztec name of the Smoking Mountain. 

The view before us was sublime, with Iztaccihuatl right 




IZTACCIHTJATL SEEN FROM POPOCATEPETL. 

ahead, appearing here, however, like a cone above an ever- 
changing belt of white clouds. To the left of it lay the 
Valley of Mexico ; only to the right a thick haze prevailed, 
thus unfortunately shrouding anything beyond Puebla, 
unfortunately also Citlaltepetl, the tallest of all the giants of 
Mexico. We lingered, revelling in the surrounding beauty, 
for nearly half an hour. This was too long, as it proved later on. 
The descent was to be made on the " petates," down a shorter 



A PERILOUS DESCENT 497 

direct curve of the slope. Not liking the idea of parting com- 
pany, the guide, my wife, and self sat down on one of the straw 
mats, the guide gathering up the front edges, and putting his 
stick through them by way of a brake. At first the contrivance 
did not move, but when we got off at last we experienced 
a novel sensation, since with continually gathering speed 
we shot down into the unknown, as, owing to the peculiar 
curve of the slope, we could net see far ahead. Although we 
had been assured that there was nothing to impede our way, 
we passed close by several ledges of bare rock. The thought 
of landing upon one of them was not cheering ; but we had 
several unforeseen stoppages. As I sat straddle-wise behind 
my two companions my feet slipped off the narrow mat, 
ploughed up the snow in an instant, and we three rolled over 
sideways. This happened several times, and acted as a most 
effective brake until the snow, which was thawing rapidly, 
became too soft, and for the next half -hour we floundered 
about, breaking through incessantly up to the armpits. 

We arrived at the huts at 2.30, prepared a little soup, 
and left at 4 p.m. Clouds had in the meantime gathered 
round the volcano, and suddenly we beheld the grand spectacle 
of a tremendous thunder-and-snowstorm raging at the summit 
whilst the surroundings of the hut remained in sunshine. The 
ride down was beautiful. It had been decided to take a shorter 
track from the saw-mill downwards, since this would save much 
time, provided the way was in good condition. It turned out 
the reverse. Instead of one track, it divided into many, all 
rendered most awkward by last night's rain. At 6.30 we were 
still in the forest, and black clouds gathered over the plain, 
with distant lightning and rumbling thunder. Night sets hi 
quickly in the tropics, and soon we got into a bank of clouds. 
It became so dark in the wood that we aU had to dismount, 
and then scrambled in a pitchy darkness through a veritable 
maze of sharp ledges, puddles and roots, until one of the men 
called out to stop, and not to move an inch further. " Strike 
a light, for goodness sake, and look ! " We stood on the brink 
of a cavity as large as a house, the track having completely 
vanished into some subterranean cavern. The stump of a 



498 

candle, found providentially in my pocket, saved the situation 
for the next ten minutes, and then the elder guide declared 
solemnly that our only salvation was to remount. "It is too 
dark and too dangerous for man to walk, horses see more at 
night. The pack-mule, as ' la mas racional ' (the one which 
reasons best), must walk in front to pick the way." This was 
the most creepy ride I have ever had. I saw nothing whatever, 
except now and then dimly the light straw hat of the man in 





i 



ON THE TOP 



front. Every minute came a warning shout or a stop, as our 
various creatures carefully picked their way, zigzagging to 
right or left, halting, and then lowering themselves into, or 
scrambling over, some invisible horror. We knew there was a 
little river to cross somewhere with a sharp descent, and full of 
boulders, but we never saw it though there was no doubt 
when we were actually in it. What a relief when we emerged 
from the underwood upon the road over the plain. Incessant 
flashes of lightning showed up the ruts and puddles, stones, 
and overflowing ditches. The storm had continued to move 



SAFELY BACK 499 

before us, and thus, although it was a rainy afternoon and 
night, it came to pass that we arrived at Amecameca at 9 p.m., 
without having encountered a drop. We hammered a long 
time upon the door of the inn, and it was near 10 o'clock before 
we got our much-needed rest. 

The fierce sun had raised big blisters behind my ears, the 
skin of my neck and face was terribly burnt, and for days after 
it peeled off in brown flakes. 

Within a week of this ascent we were encamped near 
another volcano, on the Nevado de Colima, when the sergeant 
of our escort proved equal to explaining my unusual appear- 
ance. " The patron has looked into the crater of Popocatepetl, 
and the fire has scorched his face." 



H H 2 



CHAPTER XXIV. 

THE NEVADO AND VOLCAN DE COLIMA. 

The Mexican Volcanoes The Recent Eruptions The Town of .Zapotlan 

Camping on the Nevado Altitudinal Changes of the Fauna and Flora 

The " Escorpion " A Newt and its Distribution Woodpeckers The Lake 

of Zapotlan Goodbye, Perfecto.' 

Far in the south-west, where the little State of Colima is 
wedged in between those of Jalisco and Michoacan, stands 
an isolated group of high mountain peaks, the famous Nevado 
and the Volcan de Colima. Very few of the big Mexican 
volcanoes are known to have been active within the memory 
of man. The giant Citlaltepetl appears to be extinct, although 
there is a vague Aztec tradition of a big eruption, while 
Humboldt ornamented his sketches of this mountain with a 
cap of smoke. Popocatepetl, " the smoking mountain," is 
likewise not known to have been active, but is quiescent, only 
issuing sulphurous vapours. In the south-west, however, 
nearer the coast, and in the bend of the Sierras Madres, volcanic 
activity is far from being extinct. Witness the famous volcano 
Jorullo, which arose during a few weeks in the year 1759. 
The only really active volcano at present is that of Colima. 
It has been the subject of an exhaustive study by Padre Jose 
Maria Arreola, who lived for many years at Colima, and who, 
during the recent eruptive period, conducted observations 
in conjunction with the scientific authorities of the Seminary 
of Zapotlan. He has written two papers* on the subject ; 

* J. M. Arreola, " El Volcan de Colima. Boletin mensual del Observa- 
torio meteorologico central de Mexico." 1896. ''Las erupciones del volcan 
Colima en Febrero y Marzo, 1903, Guadalajara. 1903." Translated by 
F. Starr in "Journal of Geology," Vol. XL, No. 3, 1903; with eight 
illustrations. 





COLIMA IN ERUPTION. 
From " The Recent Eruptions of Colima," by R. R. Rivera. 



502 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

one of which has been translated and reprinted by Professor 
Frederick Starr, of Chicago, that energetic student and 
explorer of all things Mexican, from the deciphering of hiero- 
glyphic codices to the taking of plaster casts of the faces of 
unwilling Indies, and from prehistoric burial mounds to 
volcanoes. 

The Colima volcano has from time immemorial shown 
many irregular periods of great activity and of quiescence. 
One of the liveliest of these periods, with grand displays, took 
place in the months of February and March, 1903. It has 
never thrown out lava, and the whole cone seems to be com- 
posed of sand, cinders, and pebbles. The heavier products 
fall upon the higher slopes, not more than two or three miles 
from the crater, where they do no harm. The scoriae and 
sands are stopped in their course by the gorges, which exist 
about half-way up, on all sides of the mountain, and at various 
altitudes, this loose stuff being again cleared away by the 
rains. 

At the time of our visit, September, 1904, the volcano was 
distinctly quiet, it did not even smoke, and the so-called 
smoke visible in the early mornings was nothing but the vapour 
arising from the rain-water when the sun shone upon the sand 
which chokes the crater. This is about four miles distant 
from the peak of the Nevado, and is reputed to be 3,960.90 
metres high (12,991 feet and 9 inches). How this exactitude 
has been arrived at is immaterial. Suffice it to say that a 
total height of less than 12,000 feet seems to be nearer the 
truth, at least 2,000 feet less than the height of the Nevado, 
which is scarcely 14,000 feet, although this is likewise stated 
to be higher. However, people are prone to over-estimate 
everything, except their returns for the income-tax. Down 
to a level of 8,000 feet, all the vegetation had been scorched 
and killed by the hot ashes and sands, amidst which there arose 
the barren yellow, much-furrowed cone, with the crater on 
the southern side, and well below the top. We wished to see 
at least the scene of action ; besides, these mountains offer 
interesting problems relating to the study of the geographical 
distribution of animals and plants. They are situated in the 



A LONG JOURNEY 503 

gap between the Sierra Madre Occidental and the Sierra Madre 
del Sur. Moreover, they stand in the midst of the depression 
by which the plateau of the Mesa Central slopes gradually 
down towards the Pacific coast, and they mark the angle where 
the western sierra swerves towards the south-east, forming the 
southern boundary of the central plateau. 

Well, the whole tour turned out to be a successful picnic, 
and very easy at that, for Mexico ! It necessitated our 
going a long railway journey to Guadalajara, and thence by a 
branch line right on to Zapotlan, in all 480 miles. 
Leaving Mexico City at 6 p.m., we just had a glimpse of 
Guadalajara (the " Pearl of the West ") on the following 
noon, and arrived at Zapotlan at 5 p.m. The line passes 
over the Mesa Central at an average elevation of 5,000 feet, 
flat country, covered with the alluvial debris which overlies 
the erupted masses, and the older calcareous formations. 
These accumulations of more or less sandy soil form plains, 
without any forests. Here and there a field of lava crops up, 
and there are a great number of " valles," fertile plains, inter- 
rupted or partly surrounded by the outcropping volcanic hills. 
There is a marked change when we approach the State of 
Jalisco, or the " Sandy Land," with its terraces of lakes ; the 
lowest is the fine stretch of water of Lake Chapala, the largest 
in the Republic. Further south is the Lake of Sayula, while 
still smaller and higher up is that of Zapotlan. During and 
after the rainy season, the country appears as one continuous 
mass of green meadows studded with numerous little lakes, 
ponds, creeks, and pools, fringed in the distance with wooded 
heights, and covered with thousands of white Nymphceas, 
rushes and reeds in dense clumps, a paradise for aquatic life. 
Towards the south the Nevado looms up, its broad base clad 
with dark green forests, then a belt of clouds, and above it the 
bare, light brown peak, w T hich, just falling short of the per- 
manent snowline, is, as its name implies, often " besnowed." 

Zapotlan, at an elevation of 5,000 to 6,000 feet, is a thriving 
town, with a large, well-kept, garden-like plaza, a fine old 
church with monastic buildings, now transformed into a flourish- 
ing " seminario," and some good houses belonging to well-to-do 



504 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



merchants ; but the bulk of the town consists of houses of the 
adobe type, built with sun-dried bricks of yellow loam, and 
covered with the usual double-curved tiles. The town lies 
on a plateau, which slants slightly towards the lake. Hence, 
many of the lower streets, whether paved or not, become quite 
impassable during the rainy season, as they are turned into 
natural water-conduits. The passer-by has to pick his way 
along the house-fronts, over the projecting doorsteps, cross 
and re-cross, and then, more likely than not, retrace his steps 




ZOPILOTES. 

at a spot where the pavement has vanished, and a gap of ten 
feet in depth has been eaten into the rich brown clay. All the 
filth and garbage collects in these holes, which are the un- 
disputed domain of dozens and dozens of black turkey buzzards, 
the " zopilotes," which, knowing their value as the only 
scavengers, scarcely deign to hop out of your way. 

On recommendation we went to the Hotel Cosmopolita, 
which was not a pretentious building, being neither hotel nor 
lodging-house, but a hostelry. The wall of the " patio " 
was covered with some thirty cages, wherein ground-squirrels 



LODGINGS AT ZAPOTLAN 505 

and birds of various kinds, from singing-birds to doves, were 
kept in scrupulous good order. They were the pets of our 
landlady, who pointed out one pigeon as having been in her 
possession for thirty-one years. I do not know whether it is 
given to these birds to be so long-lived, although such has 
been asserted, but am inclined to believe it in this case, con- 
sidering the care which she bestowed upon her birds. 

It may be as well to describe an example of the typical, 
unpretentious lodgings. It is a room with whitewashed walls, 
a single iron-barred window, one foot above the pavement, 
giving directly into the street, and a floor formed by red-backed 
tiles which are always damp, and contains two iron bedsteads, 
with the usual very hard Mexican mattress, a blanket, pillow, 
and bedspread, and an iron washing-stand holding a tiny 
enamelled basin. That is all. Water will be doled out to you by 
the brown, sandal-shod " mozo," if you can catch his attention, 
but he prefers smoking and gossiping in the passage of the 
doorway where muleteers collect, and where they wait to offer 
to take you to Colima, since that can be the only object of any 
stranger stopping at Zapotlan. Somehow it may be 
imagination I felt here more amongst Spanish-speaking 
people than I did anywhere in Morelos or in Guerrero. 
Spaniards and Basques settled early in the West, in and around 
the present Guadalajara, and they brought the country to a 
considerable state of civilisation and cultivation. Far removed 
from Mexico City, Oaxaca, Puebla, Vera Cruz, and similar 
centres of never-ceasing political disturbance, they did not 
" pronounce " so much, i.e., did not issue " pronunciamientos," 
or political programmes, or initiate risings against the powers 
that happened to be. Maybe that the native Indian substratum 
was a favourable one, since it consisted of the Tarascos, who 
form the aborigines of Jalisco and Michoacan, a reserved nation, 
appreciative and capable, of indigenous, as well as of Spanish 
arts. In many parts, however, they were overrun by Aztecs, 
There is no Tarasco spoken now, while the next town, Tuxpan. 
is a purely Aztec settlement, where Aztec is the prevailing 
language, and the inhabitants are, by the people of Zapotlan, 
considered as decidedly inferior. 



506 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

The town itself enjoys a double-barrelled name. It is the 
frequent custom, for political reasons, to substitute the name 
of some famous man for the usual native name of a town ; 
for instance, Chilpancingo is officially known as Bravos, and 
so, too, is Zapotlan now known as Guzman. Some of the 
inhabitants indignantly repudiated the idea of their being of 
Aztec blood. ' Yes," said they, " we understand Aztec, and 
we speak it to be able to get on with those heathens, but 
we are Zapotecas." This information puzzled us much. 
Imagine the finding of Zapotecs, the ruling tribe of the State 
of Oaxaca, here in this far-off western town ! And yet the 




HIEROGLYPH ZAPOTLAN. 
" Place of Zapote trees." 

Tlan = close together, expressed by two front teeth and the 
, red gums inserted into the green fruit trees. 

explanation was simple enough. Our informants meant that 
they were inhabitants of Zapotlan, or, people of the place 
where the " tzapote " trees grow. 

The most influential gentleman in the place, Sr. Teofilo 
Sanchez Aldana, banker and landowner, made things easy and 
pleasant for us, and procured the necessary riding and pack- 
animals with (last, but not least) a reliable servant. This, 
an elderly, rather well-educated man, had the appropriate 
name of Perfecto Sanchez. Attentive, ever obliging, civil- 
spoken and good-mannered, full of quiet humour, and gifted 



SEARCHING FOR WATER 507 

with irresistible persuasive powers, he was indeed a perfect 
treasure. 

A telegraphic message sent to the Governor was promptly 
and most courteously responded to by the despatch of a 
sergeant and two men of the mounted police from Sayula, 
who presented themselves ready next morning, when our 
cavalcade set out for the Nevado, which is in full view of the 
town, whilst the much lower volcano just peeps over a shoulder 
of the Nevado. As nobody could impart information about the 
mountains, we had to trust to luck, and followed the track 
towards Colima, and at a hamlet called Las Canoas enlisted 
the services of a small boy to show us the way to a cattle-ranch 
higher up. The people there were disobliging, being naturally 
distrustful of our escort, and it was with difficulty that they 
were at last induced to direct us to a spot on the eastern shoulder 
where was a cattle trough with a little fountain. There in 
the forest we established our first camp at 6,600 feet, after a 
ride of five hours from Zapotlan. Early next day we struck 
camp and wriggled our way through the pathless forest up 
the south-eastern slope until, on a ridge 8,000 feet up, we found 
a lovely spot in full view of the volcano. Our pack-animals 
had stopped half-way ; it would have been possible to bring 
them up, but in the meanwhile we searched for water. The 
search was in vain, not a drop was to be found on the whole 
southern slope, although it was covered with thick forest ; 
the loose, volcanic ground lets all the water through like a sieve. 
There was a " barranca," some hundreds of feet deep, with 
sheer, precipitous walls, all covered with exuberant growth, whilst 
at the gloomy bottom huge ferns indicated the probability of 
water, but it proved to be inaccessible. Next morning we moved 
back to the rancho not in a happy frame of mind, and practically 
captured one of the men to take us round to the north-eastern 
side. Why had nobody told us what we should find there ? 
An elaborate water-conduit had been constructed on this 
shoulder, taking the water from high up, and supplying not 
only all the ranches near and in the plain, but also several of 
the towns, e.g., Tuxpan. The water flows through earthern 
pipes, while at every 1,000 feet or so of elevation there is a 



508 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



well-cemented brick tank with intake and outlet for the 
overflow. Thus the tank is always full of running water, 
while the stages before mentioned prevent any undue pressure. 
What could be better than to follow this conduit from tank 
to tank ? Near one of them we established our camp at 9,500 
feet. Much further up it was too difficult for the pack-animals 
to follow. Although everything was soaking wet there was 
no running water, nor pools, and the brooks were full only as 
long as it rained, which it did, heavily, at this camp, mostly 




VEGETATION AT 9,500 FEET. NEVADO. 

beginning in the late afternoon, and continuing right through 
the night. Besides, this was the level of the belt of clouds 
which, even on many fine days, surrounds the mountain. 
The thunderstorms, however, raged below us, and during 
these times we also had rain ; otherwise everything was wrapped 
in dripping mists. With deliciously cool and pure water in 
the gurgling tank, and with abundance of firewood, our party 
made themselves comfortable around a roaring fire. Our 
men, all handy, and entering into the fun of the thing, were 
given the tent-annex by way of shelter, and built themselves 
a cleverly-contrived staging, a foot above the soaked ground. 



VEGETATION OF THE MOUNTAIN 509 

The spot was in the midst of dense forest, composed chiefly 
of evergreen oak, large-leaved deciduous oak, and huge 
strawberry trees, or arbutus. Polypody in profusion covered 
the weather side of the stems ; tillandsias adhered, like pine- 
apple tops, to the branches ; enormously long pendent cactuses 
crawled and swayed about, and every branch or twig was 
festooned with yards of the greenish-grey lichen, Usnea. Life 
was scarce, and hardly a bird was to be heard or seen ; but 
centipedes and small black scorpions abounded in the 
stumps, most of the scorpions with a load of then* still 
white young ones on their backs. It was very easy to catch 
the scaly Sceloporus lizards, as they hid beneath the bark, 
stiff and lethargic from the prevailing cold, the temperature at 
sunrise being only 50 F. Nowhere were either frogs or toads 
to be seen, since they require standing water to rear their young 
in, and the total absence of these creatures could safely be 
assumed from the fact that none existed in any of the tanks, 
although these had been established for at least a dozen years ; 
only a diminutive kind of Hylodes hopped about amongst the 
leaf mould. 

Now let us ascend. A little above the camp Abies appears, 
and soon becomes plentiful ; then the blooming tillandsias 
finds its upper limit, together with the deciduous oaks, which 
give way entirely to an alder (Alnus jorullensisj. Fiery red 
salvias, ten feet high, bloom in profusion, together with a tall, 
likewise red, thistle, called " cardo santo." Small-leaved 
sedums live on the tree-stems, together with polypody, and a 
peculiar single-leaved fern. Whilst at this level of about 
10,200 feet, on the southern slopes of these mountains, her- 
baceous vegetation finds its upper limit ; here, on the north, 
away from the sun and with more moisture, it ascends consider- 
ably further. The topmost tank stands in a beautiful spot 
affording a glorious view of the Nevado, which rises there like 
the Matterhorn. Here, at 11,000 feet, we met by chance a 
lonely herdsman without occupation, who was willing to act 
as guide. The trees are here composed chiefly of big Abies, 
and a large, rather short-leaved " ocote," somewhat resembling 
the Austrian pine. The alder having ceased, yellow coracopsis, 



510 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



dark red-purple pentstemons, orange flowers like snapdragons, 
tall blue lupins, white oxalis, with long-stalked trefoil 
leaves, thick fat sedums, in size and shape almost like squat 
agave plants, an abundance of saxifrages, and everywhere 
enormous tussocks of fine-bladed grass (Agrostis) made up the 
characteristic vegetation. Nowhere were any maidenhair, 
or other ferns, to be seen, but all the trees were covered thickly 




THE NEVADO SEEN FROM 11,000 FEET LEVEL. 



with moss and pendent lichens. The " ocote" pines alone go 
up further, to about 12,200 feet, forming at first a continuous 
forest, then patches, and then ceasing rather suddenly without 
dwarfing. Thenceforward there was short grass in tussocks, 
and, lastly, the barren pinnacle of the cone, for at least a 
thousand feet, covered mostly with loose debris, yellow or 
light brown in colour. 

The mountain here forms a vast amphitheatre, closed in on 
every side by steep, often abrupt, slopes, with a brook at the 



A TERRIBLE BEAST 511 

bottom, the source of the conduit. The whole forms, as it 
were, an immense corral into which the cattle are taken, and 
where they are left practically to themselves, as they cannot 
get out. By mid-September they are taken down again. 
There was a log hut, a sort of dairy shelter. Lightning had 
burnt many of the pine-trees, and on their black scorched 
trunks were basking numerous lizards (Sceloporus microlepi- 
dotus), the darkest specimens I have ever seen, beautifully 
adapted in their almost black garb to their temporary sur- 
roundings. But the main object of our visit was what we may 
well call the " hunting of the snark." From the coast of 
Guerrero for three months we had been haunted by the account 
of a lizard which was described in the following terms : " The 
' escorpion ' is the most dreadful beast in existence. He is 
unkillable unless you crush him with a big stone. Foolhardy 
people have suspended him in a cleft stick ; the poison which 
then drops to the ground causes all vegetation to wither for 
yards around. Cattle who tread on such spots lose their 
hoofs, even those which browse off grass crept over by the 
' escorpion ' soon decline and die." We knew that this terror 
could not possibly be the Gila monster (Heloderma), a sluggish, 
but poisonous beast, the only noxious lizardknown. At Zapotlan 
we had been warned against it. The rancheros below had 
flatly refused to procure one, and to our surprise they said it 
lived " higher up, on the Nevado." Here, then, was a 
problem. Our guide was at last prevailed upon to take us to 
the spot where the beast lived, the agreement being one peseta 
for each and every specimen seen. Not far from the hut he 
suddenly stopped and stood as rigid as a pointer. An 
"escorpion" had slipped into a tussock. Of course, I rummaged 
about until I got it, a fine specimen of the amiable, harmless, 
and easily-tamed lizard, Gerrhonotus imbricatus ! Everybody 
yelled when I held it up for inspection, and allowed it to bite 
my finger. Epifanio, the sergeant, folded his hands in mute 
consternation, the ranchman lifted up his walking-pole as if 
prepared to bring it down upon the lizard and myself at the 
same time, and Perfecto said solemnly : " Patron, we do not 
want to lose our chief ; take care, you do not know what you 



512 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



are in for." Well, we caught a fair number of these 
"escorpions," which were basking upon the tussocks, and which, 
at the slightest warning, vanished into the masses of rotten 
grass. The ranchero received a good many pesetas which, no 
doubt, convinced him that we strangers were really quite mad. 
We talked " escorpion " for hours, and thrashed the matter out 
until nothing remained but the hard straw of superstition, 




THE HUNTERS OF THE " ESCORPION. 



of which plentiful crops are grown by every nation, those who 
pride themselves on being superior to others having the least 
excuse. Perfecto ruminated upon the matter for some time, 
and then put to the herdsman the following poser : " How is 
it the many ' escorpiones ' hereabouts have not long ago killed 
off all your cattle ? " Of course, this was not a fair question 
to ask a fellow who had grown up in these surroundings. 

A few days later we met with the same kind of Gerrhonotus 
a few hundred feet below our camp, amongst the withered 



DISTRIBUTION OF PLANTS 513 

leaves of oak trees. Fallen and mouldering trunks were in- 
habited by the small scaly Sceloporus, and also afforded con- 
venient shelter to grass-snakes (Tropidonotus), and to the little 
rattlesnake (Crotalus triseriatus) , which is so characteristic of 
moist Mexican mountains. 

The cloud-belt marked a kind of special zone of distribution. 
A little below our camp, for instance, was the upper limit of 
the large, pendent mistletoes, of the genus Loranthus ; here, 
too, grew yellowish-green, flowering orchids, and clusters of 
tillandsias grow on the oaks, chiefly the small-leaved " encino " 
and " roble Colorado," a deciduous oak, together with the fine 
and long-leaved " ocote " ; " cirimo " trees, with flowers and 
leaves like our lime trees ; of laurels, Nectandra sanguined ; 
" capulin " (Ardisia revoluta), with its smooth, dark leaves and 
cherry-like fruit ; the snake cactus, the lichen Usnea, and 
Tillandsia usneoides. This was also the lower limit of the 
" alisa," or alder, and of a few solitary Abies. An enormous 
dahlia with mauve flowers grew high up in an oak tree. 
Bracken was plentiful. 

A marked change takes place below the cloud-belt, coincid- 
ing with an approximately sharper slope of the mountain 
shoulder, at an altitude of 7,200 feet, which is heralded by an 
outburst of scarlet dahlias, maidenhair, and bracken, in a 
forest of arbutus, deciduous oaks, and huge-coned pines. A 
few feathery-leaved, red-flowering mimosas indicate a further 
change on more open ground, which is covered in profusion 
with tall, almost shrub-like, Senecio. YeUow and red mimosas 
become prevalent ; purple convolvuli trail over the ground, 
which is also studded with white orchids, and the forest trees 
are reduced to the two kinds of pine, with the addition of ever- 
green and deciduous oaks in more shady depressions. All 
these changes are reflected by the reptiles. For instance, the 
upper limit of the mimosa coincides with the lower limit of 
the small-scaled lizard, while the larger and rough-scaled 
Sceloporus acanthinus takes its place. Little anolids, in their 
delicate drab or buff garb attract our attention, by unfolding their 
gorgeously-coloured throats, which they stretch out in the form 
of a disc, coloured pink and blue with white specks. Then the 

1 1 



514 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 

disc collapses, and the lizard seems to have vanished, as its 
dress mingles so well with the brown mimosa branches upon 
which it disports itself. Snakes (Leptodird) are basking on 
the ground, and, when cornered, display a ridiculous semblance 
to rattlesnakes in respect of their colour-markings, which are 
enhanced by their threatening attitudes. But their broadened 
jaws, with the sideward kink of the head, their hissing, and 
their striking poses are nothing but make-believe. Further, 
there are "salamanquescas,"skinks scarcely six inches in length, 
with tiny limbs, hard of scale, and as slippery as glass, with a 
brittle tail the colour of which is their glory, it being of a 
beautiful, gleaming azure-blue, whilst the glittering body is 
brown. They bask on the ground, but on the slightest alarm 
flit away amongst the leaves between your very fingers, and 
are lost in the soft, mouldy ground. When you have secured 
one, and, as you think, safely tied him up in a bag, the most 
likely place to find him again is somewhere up your sleeve or 
tucked away under the collar of your coat. Our specimens 
continued to play at this game even during our long train- 
journey home, when my wife discovered one in her pocket. 
The last Eumeces lynxe, to give its technical name, I grabbed 
just as my right hand was occupied with a twisting and 
wriggling Leptodira. Perfecto and Epifanio came to help, 
armed with a long forceps ; they were prepared to tackle the 
snake, but when they understood I was lying upon a "salaman- 
quesca " it was all over with them, since these creatures are, 
according to general belief, extremely poisonous. 

It never rains but it pours. While thus busy we made 
the discovery of the whole Nevado excursion, another apt 
illustration showing how patchy and accidental are the results 
of such zoological investigations. I had kept a keen look-out 
for Spelerpes newts, although I did not expect any on this 
mountain, and we had rummaged an untold number of rotten 
stumps during the last few days in search of the tiny Thorius, 
all without avail. But here Perfecto was chasing a lizard 
upon the stump of a pine-tree, and as we dislodged it from 
beneath the bark, we found there one solitary young specimen 
of Batrachoseps attenuatus. Although it was the only newt 



A TRAVELLED NEWT 515 

which we got during the whole excursion, it was worth all the 
rest of the other creatures, since it was the first and only 
occasion on which a Batrachoseps had ever been found in 
Mexico. The genus, closely allied to Spelerpes, has a wide 
range in the United States, one, B. scutatus, ranging from Illinois 
to Rhode Island, and to the Gulf, whilst other kinds live in 
the Pacific States, from Oregon to California. Quite unex- 
pected, therefore, was the occurrence of this Calif ornian species 
(B. attenuatus) on the Nevada de Colima, and probably it occurs 
all throughout the slopes of the western Sierra Madre, which 
is mostly clad with pine forests, a stretch of about a thousand 
miles, where it is still unknown. This little creature on the 
Nevado opens up a large question. Newts could not well 
survive in any of those districts which had become overlaid by 
the volcanic formation, which, in the north, extends in an 
unbroken stretch for about two hundred miles, until the 
gneiss is reached, to the north-east of Mazatlan. There are, 
however, patches of granite and limestone, some even not far 
from the Nevado, which, theoretically, may have acted as 
islands of refuge for the newts during the times of prolonged 
volcanic activity. From such enclaves they could re-people 
the lost ground, as, for instance, the newly-risen Nevado 
itself ; but these volcanic ranges have, at the best, risen a long 
time ago, and it is not likely that the newts thus cut off should 
have remained unaltered in species and identical with those 
in far-off California. The Spelerpes., which I consider must 
have already existed in Mexico during Miocene times, during 
the western volcanic upheavals, has in this country developed 
into many species, differing in the north, centre, and south. 
But our Batrachoseps attenuatus and the Amblystoma 
tigrinum, being identical species both in the States and in 
Mexico, we have to look upon as comparatively recent 
immigrants from the north-west. How long ago this immi- 
gration took place we have not the faintest conception. That 
these newts can spread, or widen their range, is shown by the 
fact that they have established themselves on the volcanic 
Nevado itself. If we give them the ridiculously low time-limit 
of ten thousand years to cover the distance from California 

n2 



516 THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO. 

to Colima, the average rate need have been but one mile in 
ten years, or six hundred feet per year, a distance which these 
little creatures can cover in one day should they be so inclined, 
and if there is any continuity of suitable terrain. But this 
is a very big "if." Let us, therefore, increase the difficulties 
tenfold, and the result still remains within very reasonable 
possibilities. 

A woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus) , called " carpintero 
ocotero," or the " pine carpenter," frequents the pine forests. 
We have seen many trees into the bark of which this bird had 
inserted nuts, acorns, and small pine cones, using the cracks 
in the bark as a kind of anvil or vice. By repeated use long 
semicanals are driven into the bark, sometimes six inches 
long. I cannot vouch for the story that this bird uses the 
hollow, pithy flowering-stalk of the agave, drilling a hole into 
it, and filling it with acorns as a store for the winter. 

Descending to Las Canoas by another track, through pines 
and mimosas, and over rolling pasture grounds, we passed by 
a curious-looking natural cavity, almost circular in shape, 
about one hundred yards across and eighty feet deep, with 
nearly vertical walls, the bottom studded with trees and shrubs. 
It was said to have been formed by a " culebra de agua," a suffi- 
ciently startling explanation, even if one recollects that in this 
case " water-snake " stands for water-hose or water-spout. The 
hole was, no doubt, caused by the collapse of a subterranean 
cavern, the flat-backed ridge, near the lower shoulder of which 
it stands, being in reality one of the many arms of lava which 
radiate out from the mountain. Below Las Canoas is an ex- 
tensive pedregal, or lava-field, rugose and studded with some 
kind of small mamillaria cactus, the tiny red fruits of which 
our men praised as good to eat. Its diminutive fruits are quite 
smooth and bare, whilst the plant itself is covered all over 
with long and viciously-curved spikes. 

Once off the mountains proper we delight in new kinds of 
flowers. On rocky slopes grows the " huele de noche," a bulbous 
plant, with white star-shaped flowers, emitting a strong, 
delicious scent during the night, whence its appropriate name. 
Gorgeously-coloured Tigridea fringe the edges of ravines, 



THE LAKE OF ZAPOTLAN 



517 



and in damper places make a show like tulip beds. Purple- 
brown Fitillaria preferred the neighbouring oak-woods. 
Leguminous shrubs, such as Cassia, with their golden-yellow 
bunches of flowers, and the lovely sulphur-coloured, richly- 
scented, trumpet-shaped blooms of the tree Tecoma cesculi folia 
grow in the ravines, and a solaneceous shrub with woolly 
leaves, mauve, potato-like flowers and curved spines, justifies 
its name of " ungue de leon," or " puma's claw." 

We wound up our stay at Zapotlan with an excursion to 
the lake which lies in the midst of meadows and swamps, here 




FOUR-IN-HAND OX-CART. 



and there fringed with willows and poplars, all of which are 
the bearers of big clumps of " inhiesto," a kind of mistletoe, 
or Loranthus, the red and orange bunches of its blossoms, one, 
or even two feet in diameter, attracting the eye from afar. 
The rootless stem grafted upon the host, can be severed when 
dry, and leaves a pretty, star-shaped rosette impressed upon 
the branch. Such pieces are polished and sold as " flor del palo," 
or " wood-flowers." The amount of water in the lake varies 
much according to the season. During the rains it is of a turbid 
yellow, and inundates the country for miles around. Cattle 
waded about amongst the rushes, pestered with enormous 



518 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



leeches, some of which promptly fastened themselves on to us 
as we waded about in search of tortoises. Of these latter, only 
one kind (Cinosternum integrum) is very abundant, most of 
their shells being in a leprous condition, owing to the tiny 
algse which live parasitically upon them, boring their way 
through the horny scutes. Deep irrigation ditches were the 
home of large specimens of the monstrous frog, Rana 
montezumce. On the higher, sandy parts, ground-squirrels, 
(Citellus) disported themselves, and one ranch was literally 




THE LAST OF THE NEVADO. 

swarming with fat lizards (Sceloporus torquatus) , the males with 
black and dark-blue under-parts. Dozens and dozens of them 
were basking on the tiles of the roof, and the walls of sun-dried 
brick were riddled with holes made by these lizards to serve 
as their homes, which they shared with a kind of nest-making 
harvest-mice. 

The up-train was scheduled to leave Tuxpan, the present 
terminus, at the cheerless time of 5 a.m. Our men must have 



A TRAVELLER'S TALE 519 

bragged not a little about their prowess. Perfecto, who saw 
us off at the station, was the centre of an agitated group. " My 
patron," he said, " I have told these gentlemen that we have 
caught escorpiones and salamanquescas on the Nevado ; 
will you tell them how you did it ? " " Con la mano " " By 
hand, of course," was the answer. Withering superior smiles 
and the shaking of forefingers were the only response, and at 
this Perfecto said : " What is the good of all our doings on the 
Nevado, our camping above the clouds, ascending far beyond 
the highest regions of life without any air to breathe, our 
catching the most noxious creatures with our own hands. What 
is the good if nobody believes us ? " " My dear Perfecto, 
they will appreciate it in England, where people are supposed 
to lie less, and, therefore, believe more, and sometimes even 
the tales of travellers." 



THE END. 



INDEX 



acanthinura, Ctcnosaura, 121, 139. 
acanthinus, Sceloporus, 270, 513. 
Acapulco (town), 323. 
Adam, Mr., 144, 175, 178. 
adstringens, Jtdiania, 385. 
ceneus, Oxybelis, 95. 

Sceloporus, 57, 63. 

affinis, Geococcyx, 168. 
Agaves, 24, 25. 
Aguacates, 34, 37. 

Aguafria (village), 125 ; avifauna of, 127 ; 
collision near, 122 ; crocodiles at, 125 ; 
helping a wounded man at, 131, 132 ; 
insanitary condition of, 125 ; lagoons 
of, 127, 128 ; post-office at, 131 ; tapirs 
plentiful at, 131 ; vegetation of, 127. 

Rio de, 125 ; mending a broken 

bridge over the, 125. 

Alarcon, Col. (Governor of Morelos), 

278, 279. 

albifrons, Olauconia, 363. 
Alder, 50. 

altamirani, Amblystoma, 12, 16. 
Amate trees (ill.), 386, 400. 
Amblystomas, 10, 12, 13. 
Amecameca (village), 489, 490. 
Amejileca (village), 367. 
americana, Agave, 25. 

Mammea, 39. 
americanus, Basiliscua, 85. 
Amusgos (tribe), 259. 
Animal plant (ill.), 287. 
Anona trees, 34. 
antarctica Acanthopis, 199. 
antauges, Oerrhonotus, 61. 
Ant-bears, 129, 130. 
Antiquities, 235. 
Ants, 485. 

- leaf-cutting, 97, 98. 

- white, 192, 193, 195. 
arborescens, Ipomcea, 244. 
Arbutus, 50. 

Armadilloes, 51, (ill.) 52, 118, 129. 
Ase.sucar (village), 465. 
asio, Phrynoaoma, 183. 



Asses, 347, 349. 

attenuatus, Batrachoseps, 514. 

Axolotl, 8-16 ; origin of the word, 457. 

Ayutla (town), 408; prison of (ill.), 412. 

Aztecs, 87, 293-298, 315, 505 ; civilisation 

of the, 299 ; monuments of the, 299 ; 

place-names of the, 313 ; religious 

rites of the, 301 ; writing of the, 312, 

313. 

balsanus, Amiurus, 329. 

Balsas (station), 323, 324, (ill.) 332; 
a fisherman of (ill. ), 327, 329 ; market 
at (ill.), 335 ; our house at (ill.), 326, 327. 

Bananas, 34-36, 234. 

Bats, 441-445. 

baudini, Hyla, 76. 

Belmar, Sr. Don F., 259. 

Bird-life, 120, 121, 127, 161, 181, 191, 
245, 393, 397, 402, 407, 438. 

Birds, 51, 61, 420, 425. 

biscutatum, Trimorphodon, 397. 

Bittern, 438. 

Boas, 402 ; a struggle with, 82. 

Boatbills, 438. 

Boca del Monte, 28, 29. 

bocourti, Cnemidophorus, 270. 

Bromelias, 50. 

Bush-fowl, 346. 

Butterflies, 94, 321, 483. 

CACAHUIMILPA (village), 288 ; caves of, 

289. 

cachinnans, Herpetotheres, 425. 
Cacti (various kinds of), 226-233, 243. 
callorhina, Hirundo, 279. 
calotis, Lepus, 166. 
Camps on Citlaltepetl : at Xometla, 

41, (ill.) 45, 46 ; at 12,500 feet (ill.), 60. 
Canada, 479. 

canaliculatus, Chirotes (ill.), 330-332. 
canicula, Conurtts, 351. 
Canon de la Mano, 321. 
Canon del Zopilote, 353, 355 ; dangers 

of the, 356. 



522 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



Caracaras, 192. 

Caritas (masks). 17. 

Cassias, 346. 

Castellanos. Sr. Abraham, 2C5, (ill.) 266, 

267. 

Cafasetum, 51. 

caudivolvulus, Cercoleptes, 457. 
Caves, 368 ; of Cacahuimilpa, 288, 289 ; 

fauna of the, 290. 
cenchoa, Himantodes, 95. 
Central Plateau, 21-24 ; habitations of 

the, 24 ; maguey, cultivation of the, 

24 ; sand-spouts on the, 22 ; scenery 

of the, 21, 28, 29. 
Cerro de San Felipe del Agua, 269. 
Chacalapan (village), 403. 
Chalchicomuia (village), 67. 
Chalco (lake), 1, 5. 
Chapala (lake), 5. 
Chapultepec (" Grasshopper Hill "), the 

reputed summer retreat of Montezuma, 

1. 

Chatina (tribe), 259. 
cheriway, Polyborus, 192. 
Chewing gum, 38. 
Chichimecs (tribe), 31. 
Chilpancingo (town), 358, 359, 382 ; 

altitude of. 345 ; destroyed by an earth- 
quake, 360; fruit market at (ill.), 362. 
Chinampas (" floating gardens "), 6-8. 
Chinanteca (tribe), 259. 
Chirimoyas (fruit), 34. 
Chochos, or Popolocos (tribe), 259. 
Cholula (town), 299. 
Chontals (tribe), 195, 259. 
Chronological and Calendric systems, 

302-304. 

chrysocephalus, Tropidonotus, 380. 
Citlaltepetl (volcano), 41, 55, 57, 500; 

ascent of, 67-72 ; the southern slope 

of (ill.), 66 ; with Sierra Negra (ill.), 64. 
Climate, its effect on the temper, 83. 
Coacoyulichan (village), 459 ; river near 

(ill.), 460 ; vine bridge near (ill.), 461. 
Cocoanuts, 436. 
Cocoyule (village), 427 : boys of (ill.), 

430 ; natives of (ill. ), 427 ; women of 

(ill.), 428. 
Cocula (trib. of Rio Balsas), 324 ; ferry 

across the (ill.). 325. 
ccerulea, Tillandsia, 377. 
Coloration of forest creatures, 107. 
Concessions, 422. 
Copala (village), 425, 426. 
Copan, monuments of, 305-307. 
copei, Hyla, 385. 
Coquillo (village), 402. 



corals, Coluber, 100, 212,. 

Cordoba (town), 30 ; abundance of orchic 

at, 29 ; church of (ill.), 79. 
Cortez, 3, 6. 

cotinifolia, Byrsonina, 393. 
Crabs, hermit, 439. 

shore, 438. 

Crocodiles, 100, 125, 328, 436, 437. 
Crotalus, 56. 
Cruciform crypts, 256. 
cruentatum, Cinosternum, 167. 
Cuantecomatl (tree with poisonous fruit) 

285. 

Cuckoos, 120, 121. 
Cuernavaca (town), 272, (ill.) 274. 27.: 

climate of, 273 ; lizard carved out 

lava near (ill.), 276. 
Cuicateca (tribe), 259. 
cumingiana, Byrsonina, 393. 



DABBADIE, Sr. Henrique, 279. 

dacnicolor, Phyllomedusa, 454. 

Dancing dress, 461, 463. 

Datura trees, 34. 

Death adders, 198, 199. 

deppei, Cnemidophorus, 139, 181, 234. 

Desmodus, 118. 

Diaz, General Porfirio (President of 

Mexico), 4. 80, 156, 187. 2.-,2-2; 

264, 337. 

Diseases of the " hot-lands," 474. 
distichum, Taxodium, 271. 
Deer, 371, 372, (ill.) 373 ; antlers of (ill.) 

375. 

brocket, 130. 

dorsalis, Rhinophryne, 128. 
Doves, 192. 

Inca, 101. 

dowei, Anableps, 203, (ill.) 204, 205. 
Ducks, tree, 420. 
dugesi. Scaphiopus, 234. 
duleis, Glauconia, 363. 

EARTHQUAKE shocks, 398. 

Ebony trees, 440. 

ecaudata, Diphylla, 441, 442. 

edulis, Casimoroa, 39. 

elapoides, Urotheca. 95, 96. 

Elaps, 95. 

Elder shrub, 59, 491. 

elegans, Bessera, 354, 367, 404. 

Coleonyx, 439. 

El Paso (town), 13. 
Embroidery, pearl (ill.), 395. 
Escorpion hunters, (ill.), 512. 
Executions. 341. 



INDEX 



523 



felina, Lutra, 130. 

Ferns, 51. 

Fever, yellow, 33, 152. 

Fig trees, 393, 400. 

Finea de San Bernardino (hacienda), 75. 

Fishing with dynamite, 83. 

Flowers, 404. 

Flycatchers, 257. 

Forest, destruction of, 49 ; limit of growth 

in the, 62 ; near Omilteme, 377 ; 

scenery of, 50, 59. 

tropical (ill.). 104; arboreal life in 
the, 109-112; coloration of the fauna 
of, 108, 109 ; features of the, 102 ; im- 
penetrable, 439; inundated (ill.), 447; 
rainfall in the, 102, 103 ; struggle for 
life in the. 113 ; vegetation in the, 104. 

jormicivorus, Melanerpes, 516. 
formosa, Calocitta (ill.), 191, 192. 
formosissima, Sprekelia, 354. 
formosus, Sceloporus, 57, 270. 
Four-eyed fish, 203, (ill.) 204, 205. 
Frigate-birds, 181. 

Frogs, 55, 381 ; enormous collection of, 75. 
- tree, 326, 329, 330, 385, 397, 454 ; 
arboreal characteristics of, 109, 110. 
Fruit, 34-40, 363. 
Fuchsias, 50. 
Funerals, 418, 452, 453. 
Furcroya, 305. 

GACHUPINOS, 410 ; dance of the masked 

(ill.), 417, (ill.) 418. 
gadowi, Eupemphix. 160. 

Sceloporus, 479. 
Geckos, 183, 198, 394, 439, 454. 
ghisbrechti, Ceratozamia, 440. 
giganteus, Cereus, 227. 
glaucns, Sphaerodactylus, 183. 
goeldi, Hyla, 113. 

Gold mines, 333, 334. 
Gophers, 51. 
Grackles, 393. 437. 
gramineus, Gerrhonotufi. 57. 
gratissima, Persea, 37. 
Guacos, 425. 
Guide, a (ill.). 424. 
Guillen, Sr. Manuel, 364. 
guttatus, Cnemidophorus, 128. 

HACIENDA de Alarcon, 386. 

hcdecina, Rana, 381. 

Hares, 166, 425. 

Heavenly Camp (ill.), 458, 459. 

hernandezi, Corythophanes, 85. 

Herons, 438. 

Hidalgo, Sr. Miguel, 278. 



Hieroglyphs, 313 ; armadillo (ill.), 52 ; 
Ayutla (ill.), 431 : Cuernavaca (ill.), 
284; Huilotepec (ill.), 174; Mazatlan 
(ill.), 407 ; Mitla, 271 ; Mizquitlan (ill.), 
365 ; Orizaba (ill.), 40 ; Tehuantepec 
(ill.), 157; Xochimilco (ill.), 19; Zum- 
pango, 479. 

hirtirpes, Cinosternum, 5. 

horridus, Sceloporus, 220. 

Horses, 347. 

House, hot-country, construction of, 90. 

Huasteca (tribe),. 169. 

Huatz (cloth made bv the Huavi), 162. 

Huavi (tribe), 162-17X 259. 

Huilotepec (village), 173. 

Huipile (native garment), 89, 148. 451, 
(ill.) 452, 459; of the Mazateca tribe 
(ill.). 90. 

Huitzilopochtli (Aztec god), 209, 303. 

Humming-birds, 208 ; as mementoes, 
209 ; tongue of a long-billed (ill.), 210. 

Hunters, Indian, 372. 

Hvdrophobia and scorpions, 286. 

Hylae, 113. 

IBISES, wood, 438. 

Idols, 235 ; (ill.) 215 ; (ill.) 235 ; (ill.) 277. 

Iguala (town), 321-336, 486: altitude of, 
345 ; dirtiness of, 335 ; high temperature 
of, 328, 329 ; shopping at (ill.), 323. 

Iguanas, 119, (ill.) 126, 127, 139, 166, 168, 
291, 394. 

Iguanids, 85. 

imbricatus, Gerrhonotus, 511. 

immutdbilis, Cnemidophorus, 181. 

Indian mind, the, 218, 219. 

Infant mortality, 261, 262. 

Insect pests, 326 ; chaquistles, 124, 354, 
425 ; chinches, 279 ; jejen, 124 ; mos- 
quitoes, 425 ; zancudos, 124, 425. 

integrum, Cinosternum, 454, 518. 

Isthmus Railway Line, 143. 

izaplanum, Cypripedium, 367, 404. 

Iztaccihuatl, 487; (ill.) 488; from 
Cuernavaca (ill.), 489 ; from Popoca- 
tepetl (ill.), 496. 

J AC AN AS, 101. 

Jaguars, 118, 321, 402. 

Jalapa (village), 188. 

Jicaras (gourds), 150, (ill.) 151. 

Jigger (sand-flea), 178-180. 

Jilotes (corn cobs), 212. 

Josephines (settlement), 88, (ill.) 89 ; 

accident near, 99. 

Juarez, Benito (President of Mexico), 278. 
Juanita (station), 134. 



524 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



KERCHIEF map, 173. 
Kingfishers, 120. 
Kinkajou, 457. 



LA DICHA (mines), 381. 

labiaius, Dicotyles, 374, 377. 

Labour market at San Juan Evangelist a, 
138. 

Lagoons, 436, (ill.) 437; at the coast, 
424 ; of Aguafria, 127, 128 ; of San 
Mateo del Mar, 166. 

Laguna Grande, 100, 101. 

lanceolatus, Lachesis, 94. 

Languages, native, 266, 269, 315-318 ; 
questions concerning, 164. 

La Perla (village), 41, 44, 65. 

La Raya, 89. 

La Salina (settlement), 446. 

Las Tlamacas (hut on Popocatepetl), 491. 

La Union (village), 419. 

Las Vacas (hamlet), 212. 

La Virgen (natural image), 386. 

laxiflora, dllchmea, 123. 

Leeches, 518. 

Lepisma, 290. 

Lianas, 51, 105, 377. 

liocephalus, Gerrkonotus, 380. 

liophylla, Pinus, 490. 

Liriodendron, 43. 

Lizards, 57, 85, 166, 181, 182, 197, 220, 
234, 291, 321, 330, 380, 385, 394, 397, 
439, 509, 518; Ameiva, 128; catching, 
129 ; Cnemidophorus, 123 ; Ctenosaura 
acanthinura, 139. 

loculator, Tantalus, 438. 

Los Cajones (pass), 390, (ill.) 392 ; for- 
mation of, 391, (ill.) 476. 

ynxe, Eumeces, 380, 381, 514. 

MACAWS, 242, 369. 

Machetes, 81, 82, (ill.) 147. 

Mahogany trees, 440. 

Malaria, 117. 

Mai de Pinto (disease), 470, 471. 

Mammals, 51, 60 ; climbing and " flying," 

111, 112. 

Mammee fruit, 39. 
Mangrove swamps, 439. 
Mapa lienza (Kerchief map), 173. 
margaritiferus, Drymobius, 128. 
marimis, Sufo, 454. 
Marquelia (village), 447. 
Martinez or Maartens (Dutch engineer), 3. 
martinicensis, Hylodes, 55. 
Martins, 279. 



Mateo Trujillo (author's servant), t'io, 
114, 159; contracts fever, 46; and 
family (ill.), 115; house of, 116. 

mawi, Dermatemys, 128. 

Mayas (tribe), 303, 304. 

Mazateca (tribe), 88, 259; house (ill.) 
87, (ill.) 100 ; woman of the (ill.), 87. 

Mazatlan (village). 384. 

Mescal (Mexican beverage), 25 ; 
Tequila, 25. 

Mescala (village), 353. 

Mesquititlan (hamlet), 356. 

Mestizos (tribe), 259. 

mexicana, Muscivora, 257. 

Phenax, 213. 

Sambucus, 491. 
Mexicanos (tribe), 87, 259. 
mexicanus, Boborocoetes, 380. 

Cnemidophorus, 235, 270. 

Dermophis, 139. 

Sambucus, 59. 

Siredon Gyrinus, 9. 

Mexico (city), 1-4 ; climate of, 4 
drunkenness at, 28 ; inundated by sin 
rounding lakes, 3 ; population of, 4 
situation of, 1 ; sketch map of, to Vera 
Cruz, 22 ; water supply of, 4. 

- (state), 26 ; plateau of, 243, 244 
pulque making the chief industry of. 2( 

- Gulf of, 4. 

Southern, climate of, 44. 

- Valley of, 1 ; distribution of tl 
fish fauna in the, 5 ; sketch map of, 

Miahuichan (village), 459. 

microlepidotus, Sceloporus, 57, 380, 511. 

micropholis, Coronella, 96, 454. 

militaris, Ara, 242, 369. 

mirabilis, Jalapa, 270. 

Misteca (tribe), 259, 263, 271 ; love sonj 

267 ; reverie, 268. 

Mitla (town), 257 ; ruins of, 254, 255. 
Mixe or Ayook (tribe), 259; tramp (ill.) 

260. 

Monte Alban, 19, 259 ; ruins of, 258. 
Montezuma, 1. 
montezumce, Pinus, 44. 

Rana, 518. 

Monuments : at Copan, 300 ; at Palenque 

300 ; at Uxmal, 300. 
Morelos, 278. 
moschata, Cairina, 350. 
Moths, 275. 
Motmots, 480, 481 ; tail-feathers 

(ill.), 482. 
Motzorongo (hacienda) : interesting his 

tory of, 79 ; station of, 85. 
Mountain herdsmen, 47. 



INDEX 



525 



Mulato tree, :54<i. 

Mules, 348, 349 ; doctoring, 469 ; hiring 

of, 222. 

Muleteers, 349. 
Musgos (tribe), 451. 
Musk ducks, domesticated, 350. 

NAHOA (family of tribes), 294 ; dialects, 
295 ; known as Mejica, 315. 

Names, vernacular, for snakes and lizards, 
202. 

Necturua (" water-dog "), 9. 

Nevado (mountain) 500, (ill.) 510, (ill.) 518. 

Newts, 53, 514. 

Nochistongo (canal), 3. 

Nototrema, 113. 

novemcinctus, Dasypus, 51. 

OAXACA (town), 263-265. 

obtusi/olia, Diospyros, 39. 

Ocelots, 402. 

Ocote trees, 50, 62, 272, 378. 

Ojos de agua (springs), 8. 

Omilteme settlement, 369, 377; mountains 

near, 402. 

Omitlan (village), 400. 
Opal ornaments, 226. 
opossum, Didelphys, 84. 
Opossums, 84, 129, 321. 
Orchids, 354, 367, 404. 
Orioles, Mexican, nests of (ill.), 207. 
Orizaba (mountain), 30. 

- (town), 29-31, 34 ; climate of, 33 ; 

hotels of, 32 ; theft at, 32 ; population 

of, 31. 

Otomi (tribe), 19, 294. 
Ox-cart travelling, 158, 159, (ill.) 160, 

173 ; four-in-hand, (ill.), 507. 
Oyamel trees, 378. 

PACHECO, General, 79, 80. 

Pacific shore, 432. 

Palenque : monuments of, 305, 307, 309 ; 

inscriptions at, 306. 
Palms, 402. 

Palo Blanco (village), 385. 
palustris, Lepus, 425. 
Papaloapan (Butterfly River), 94. 
papillosus, Anelytropsis , 84. 
paradisiaca, Mtisa, 36. 
pardalis, Fdis, 402. 
Parrakeets, 351, 393, 397. 
patula, Purpura, 162, 433. 
Paso de Omitlan, 400. 
Peccaries, 374. 
Pedlars (ill.), 241. 
Pelicans, 438. 



pennatuliis, Tliorius, >4. 

perniciosa, Pseudomosdinjium, 28(> 

Piayas, 120. 

Pigeons, 168. 

Pimentel (guard), 189, (ill.) 190. 

Pineapples, 36, 37. 

Pines, 50, 490. 

pisciforme, Siren, 9. 

Pit- vipers, 198. 

Plantains, 35, 234. 

Plume dancers, 248-252. 

Pochote (village), 404; church of (ill.), 
403. 

poliocephala, Ortalida, 350, 351. 

Popocatepetl (extinct volcano), 487, (ill.) 
488; ascent of, 500; crater of (ill.), 
495 ; from Cuernavaca (ill. ), 489 ; 
from Las Tlamacas (ill.), 492. 

Pottery (ill.), 20; ancient and modern 
(ill.), 215; modern (ill.), 153; of San 
Antonio, 275 ; of Tehuantepec, 150. 

Presidio (station), 74. 

Prickly pears, 233. 

Proteus, 9. 

pterophora, Vitis, 429. 

Puebla (town) : drunkenness at, 28 ; 
zarape factories at, 32. 

pulcherrimus, Zamensis, 181. 

Pulque (Mexican beverage), 24-28 ; differ- 
ent kinds of, 27 ; making, the chief 
industry of various States, 26. 

Pumas, 372. 

purga, Ipomoea, 51. 

putnami, Philodryas, 477. 

Pyramids : of Cholula, 299 ; of Huatusco, 
299 ; of Papantla, 299 ; of the Sun and 
Moon, 14-16 ; of Tepoztlan, 277 ; of 
Tetela, 300 ; of Tuzapan, 299 : of 
Xochicalco, 279, 280, (ill.) 281, (ill.) 282. 

QUACK medicines, 471, 472. 
Quails, 397. 

Quemada, stone carvings at, 300. 
Quetzalcoatl (god), 283, 295, 299, 303. 
Quiengola, ruins of, 187. 
quinquecarinata, Ctenosaura, 197. 
Quirigua : monuments of, 305, 308, 309 ; 
inscriptions at, 306. 

RAINFALL, 78 ; at Coatzacoalcos, 185 ; at 

Salina Cruz, 185; in tropical forests, 

102, 103. 

Rain-makers, 462. 

Ramon (author's servant), 344, (ill.) 343. 
Rattlesnakes, 56, 61, 197-201, 513 ; 

evolution of the rattle of (ill.), 199; 

vibrating tails of (ill.), 198. 



526 



THROUGH SOUTHERN MEXICO 



Rebozo (female garment), 361. 

redimita. Geagras, 166. 

religiosa, Abies, 48, 63, 490. 

Religions, native, 236, 237. 

Religious customs, 162. 

rhodopis, Hylodes, 55, 128. 

Rio Amacusac, 290. 

Rio Balsas, 333 ; rafts on the, 328 ; 

various names of the, 328. 
Rio Blanco, 29, 42, 83. 
Rio Chilcahxiite, 447, (ill.), 448. . 
Rio de Omitlan, 402. 
Rio Grande, 5. 
Rio Lerma, 5. 
Rio Nexpa, (ill.), 419. 
Rio Panuco, 4. 
Rio Papagayo, 400 (ill.), 401. 
Rio Santiago, 5. 
Rio Tonto, 94. 
Rites, native, 238, 239. 
Robbers, 421. 
rufinus, Coassus, 130, 372. 
rufus, Desmodus, 441, 442. 
Rurales, 337, (ill.) 338-342, 387-389. 

SABINO trees, 270, 271. 
salicifolia, Lucuma, 38. 
Salina Cruz (town), 174-186; harbour 

works of, 175-177 ; rainfall at, 185. 
San Bartolo (village), 214. 
San Carlos (town), 220. 
San Dionisio (village), 244. 
Sand-spouts, 22. 
San Juan Evangelista (town), 136, (ill.) 

137 ; laziness of inhabitants of, 138. 
San Lazaro (canal), 3. 
San Luis Acatlan (village). 450. 
San Luis Allende (village), 451 ; market 

at, 450. 
San Mateo del Mar (village), 161, 162, 

169-171; alcalde of (ill.), 172; market 

place of (ill.), 161 ; President of (ill.), 

171 ; stockaded entrance at (ill.), 170. 
Santibanez, Sr. Demetrio (Prefect of 

Tehuantepec), 155, 156. 
sapota, Achras, 38, 39. 
salivas, Ananas, 36. 
scalaris, Tropidonotus, 57. 
sderocarpa, Acrocomia, 402. 
Scorpions, 509. 
Sheat-fish, 329. 
Shooting affray, 85. 
Sierra de Ajusco, 1, 272. 
Sierra Madre del Sur, 334, 366, 404, (ill.) 

405. 

Sierra Negra, 64, 65. 
Silver mines, 234. 



Siren (" mud-eel "), 9. 

Skinks, 380, 381, 514. 

Small-pox, 224, 225. 

Snakes, 95, 100, 128, 161. 181, 182, 

321, 363, 394, 397, 402, 410 ; prehensile 

organs of, 111. 

coral, 95. 

- grass, 380, 513. 

- tree, 110. 
Snails, 433. 483. 
spectrum, Vampyrus, 441. 
Spelerpes (sp. ), 53, 54. 61. 
Spoonbills, 438. 
Squirrels, 31, 129, 321. 

ground, 518. 
Stags, 397. 

Starving family, a (ill.), 240. 

staufferi, Hyla, 84. 

Stegomyia, 33. 

Stone slabs near Texonapan (ill.), 406, 407. 

sulcirostris, Crotophaga, 121. 

Sulphxor industry, 491. 

Swifts, 368. 

TAPIRS, 130. 

Tarascos (tribe), 294, 505. 

Tarima (wooden drum), 426. 

Tehuantepec (town), 145, 146 ; beauty ot 
the women of, 149 ; chief industries of, 
150 ; inns of, 152 ; fever at, 152 
pottery of, 150; Prefect of, 155, 156. 

Isthmus of : railway ride acros 
the, 142-144 ; sketch map of, 159 
vegetation of, 160. 

Tenochtitlan (anc. Mexico City), 3, 295. 

Teocalli (Aztec temple), 300. 

Teotihuacan (village), 14-17; black 
earthenware (ill.), 19; pyramids of 
the Sun and Moon at, 14-16; terra- 
cotta mask from (ill.), 18. 

Tepache (Mexican beverage), 189. 

Tepoztlan (village), 277. 

Tequesixtlan (village), 195 ; bell towe 
at (ill.), 196 ; view from Curato of (ill.), 
206. 

Termites, 192. 

terrificus, Crotalus, 197. 

Tetela (hamlet), 114; fauna and flora of, 
117; jaguars at, 118; pyramid near. 
121 ; river (ill.), 120. 

Tetecala (town), 285. 

tetradactylus, Myrmecophaga, 129, 130. 

Texcoco (lake), 1, 2, 4, 5, 489. 

Texonapan (village), 406. 

Tezonapan (village), 88. 

Thieving, 197. 

Thunderstorms, 434, 435, 477. 



INDEX 



527 



Tierra caliente (hot-lands), 30. 

Tierra Oolorada (village), 394, 399 ; 

natives of (ill.), 398. 
Tierra fria (cold -lands), 25. 
Tiger dance, 413, 416. 

dancers (ill.), 414, 415. 
tfi/rinum, Amblystoma, 10, 12, 13. 
Tilcampos (lizards), 121. 
Tiotepec (God Mountain), 379, 402. 
Tlapaneca (tribe), 451 ; children (ill.), 467 

village, a (ill.), 455. 
Tlacolula (town), 246 ; fete at, 247. 
Toads, 128, 160, 183, 271, 326, 380, 385, 

397, 439. 

- horned, 183. 

spadefoot, 234. 

toltecanus, Cariacus, 53, 371, 372. 

Toltecs (nation), 294, 295, 310, 312. 314. 
315. 

Tonalamatl (Aztec almanac), 301, 305, 
314 ; day-signs of the, 302 ; probably 
not invented by the Aztecs, 303. 

lorquatus, Dicotyles, 374. 

Sceloporus, 518. 

Tortillera, a (ill.), 399. 

Tortoises, 128, 454. 

- box, 166, 167. 

Totolapan (village), 234 ; antiquities of, 

235. 

Tree-ferns, 44, 377. 
Tree-line on Citlaltepetl, 62. 
tricolor, Tillandsia, 63. 
Triques (tribe), 259. 
triseriatus, Crotalus, 56, 200, 513. 
tuberculosus, Ptiyllodactylus, 439. 
Tuna (fruit), 233. 
Turkey-buzzards, 438, 504. 

urens, Dolichos, 433. 
usneoides, Tillandsia, 142. 

VAMPIRES, 118, 440-445; dentition of 
(ill.), 443. 

Van, goods, used as a domicile, 77. 

variegatus, Sciurus, 51. 

Vegetation, 220, 285, 286, 346, 355, 367, 
490, 516; at Omilteme, 377-379; at 
San Felipe, 270, 271 ; near Coquillo, 
402 ; near Salina Cruz, 183 ; of Agua- 
fria, 127 ; of Isthmus of Tehuan tepee, 
141, 160; of Los Cajones, 390; of 
Orizaba, 38 ; of the plateau and plain 



compared, 29 ; of the Sierra de Ajusco, 
272, 273 ; of the southern Sierra (ill.). 
231; on Citlaltepetl, 41, 59 ; on the 
Nevado (ill.), 508, 510,. 513 ; round 
" Heavenly Camp," 459 

Venta Vieja (village), 355; (ill.), 480. 

Vera Cruz (town), 30. 

Village scenery (ill.), 347. 

Vine-bridge, a, 460, (ill.) 461. 

Vines, 429. 

virginiana, Didelphys, 84. 

Vistola," (ill.), 345. 

vittata, Conophis, 181. 

Volcan de Colima, 500 ; altitude of, 502 
in eruption (ill.), 501. 

Vulture, king, 454. 

WANDS of office at San Bartolo, 214. 
Wave, tidal, at Salina Cruz, 176. 
Weavers (or hangnests), 206. 
Wood-fowls, 350, 351. 
Woodpeckers, 516; and cacti, 231, 232. 

XALTTLA (village), 346. 

Xochimilco (lake), 1, 5 ; chinampas 

(floating gardens) of, 6. 
Xochipala (village), 354. 
Xochiquetzal (goddess), 283. 
Xometla (hamlet), 41 ; camp at (ill ), 

45 ; house at (ill.), 45. 

YUCCAS, 43. 

ZACATE (fodder), 348, 349. 

Zambas (ill.), 357. 

Zambos (tribe), 446; boys (ill.), 427; 

children (ill.), 467. 

Zapote (fruit), different kinds of, 38, 39. 
Zapoteca (tribe), 246, 247, 259, 261, 269 : 

cage-seller (ill.), 262; culture of the. 

252 ; house of the (ill.). 238 ; parading 

for the plume dance (ill. ), 248 ; plume 

dancers (ill.), 249 ; schoolmasters, 163. 

(ill.), 164, 197, 217. 
Zapotlan (town), 503. 
Zarape (blanket), 32 ; factories at Pnebla r 

32. 

Zopilotes, 181, 191, 206, (ill.), 504. 
Zoque (tribe), 259. 
Zumpango (lake), 3. 

- (river), 355. 

- (village), 357, 358.