Charles Frederick Holder.

The Californian (Volume 4) online

. (page 103 of 120)
Online LibraryCharles Frederick HolderThe Californian (Volume 4) → online text (page 103 of 120)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

more substantial dwelling is needed,
it is of adobe, with a roof of beaten
clay supported on beams. Inside the
hut the sacred fire of the hearth is
never allowed to die out. The do-
mestic utensils are few and simple:
a metdte, or stone for crushing the corn
of which the tortillas are made, a flat
pan for baking the tortillas, an earth-
enware brazier in which charcoal is
used as fuel, and a few unglazed pots
and dishes. In some parts of the
country, however, beautiful pottery,
highly glazed, of artistic color and
graceful shape, is manufactured.
Copies in miniature of the various
domestic vessels of a native house
can be obtained, and make pretty
mementos of a visit to Mexico. Usu-
ally the walls of an Indian hut are
decorated with a few rude, highly
colored pictures of saints, and in a
corner there is an image surrounded
by cheap and tawdry ornaments.
Though the property of the Catholic
Church has been confiscated, yet the




priests continue to exercise a strong
influence over the natives, a large
portion of whose scanty earnings they

The food of the Indians consists
of fruit, vegetables, tortillas, frijoles
or beans, and chilies. At a country
fonda, or restaurant, one is offered
chile con came, or bits of meat ren-
dered fiery hot with peppers, frijoles,
the ever-recurring tortillas, either
plain or with chili sauce, and to drink,
the national liquor pulque. Pulque is

maguey, and is much more highly
intoxicating than pulque. To pre-
pare it the leaves of the plant are
crushed in a mill, and the juice thus
expressed is distilled.

The fermented juice of the prickly
pear is also drunk ; and on the lands
near the coast palm-wine is made.
From the juice of the sugar-cane an-
other intoxicant, called aguardiente,
or fire-water, is obtained. However,
this last, despite its ominous name,
is no worse than the rum of the Brit-


produced by the fermentation of the
aguamiel, or honey-sweet juice of
the maguey, or century plant. It
is of a milky-white color and looks
very much like soapsuds. It is
slightly intoxicating, as it contains
about six per cent of alcohol. Its
taste and smell must be tasted and
smelt to be described. If one is very
dusty and thirsty, closes one's eyes,
and tries to deprive one's self of the
sense of taste, it may be drunk, but
hardly otherwise. Mescal is a spirit
prepared from a particular species of

ish sailor, the potato-brandy of Ham-
burg, or the arrack of the Chinaman.
As servants the Indians are indo-
lent, but are always to be relied on ;
nor are they ever guilty of rudeness
or impertinence. Of course, if a
mistress starts out by thinking them
devoid of all honesty and treating
them as thieves and liars, she will
probably be served as she expects to
be served ; but kindness and consid-
eration, in the Republic of Mexico
as elsewhere, reap their reward in
faithful service. In hiring laborers



to work on a plantation or as domes-
tic servants, you must advance them
money and repay yourself by keep-
ing back a part of their wages as they
are earned. A servant always owes
his master or mistress money when
he leaves. When he wishes to leave
he tells you so, and goes. This is
usually done when the servant has a
little money in hand, and then he
does nothing while the money lasts.
The next employer assumes the debt
of the servant to his former master.
There is no imprisonment for debt:
a laborer cannot be forced to work
until he has earned enough to wipe

mestic work with a little supervision
from their kind mistress. When ad-
ditional help is wanted in the house,
the cook's mother is near at hand,
ready to help. The cooking is done
at a native range, built of brick, and
using charcoal. as fuel. The servants
make for their own use or have
bought for them tortillas at a price,
if I remember correctly, of three
cents for fourteen.

The tortilla is the staff of life to
the native, and the poor women seem
to be working night and day at the
grinding of the corn with which it is
made. The corn is softened in lime


off a debt ; and at death all obligation
ceases; being purely personal, it does
not descend to heirs. Wages are
low, about two reales a day for an
ordinary laborer ; but mechanics and
artisans are, of course, more highly
paid. Our hostess in Coatepec told
me that when she and her husband
first came to Mexico she had to do
almost all the work of the household
herself; but she took great pains in
teaching her servants, and now she
has an excellent cook, a neat maid,
and a boy, who carry on all the do-

or potash water, and is then crushed
to a fine paste with a stone rolling-
pin upon a little sloping three-legged
stone table. Some of the paste is
patted and flattened between the
palms of the hands into a thin cake,
which is baked on a flat stone or on
a thin iron plate over a quick fire.
Often the tortilla is mixed with bits
of meat or with chopped peppers
and fried in grease. Tortillas and
frijoles, eaten with red peppers, are
the chief articles of food of the poor
of Mexico.




The natives are clean in their per-
sonal habits, being fond of bathing.
Rude steam-baths are produced by
pouring water on heated stones.
They also keep their clothes very
white and clean. When not grinding
corn a native woman seems always
to be washing clothes. At Coatepec
I was fond of going down to a
clear, brawling stream which flowed
through the village and watching
the women, with skirts tucked up to
their knees, standing in the running
water washing clothes, or sometimes
their own long hair, a process in
which they are very liberal of soap.
Often both banks of a stream are
lined with women washing clothes
upon flat stones at the edge of the
water. At Coatepec my attention
was especially attracted by a pretty
fair-haired girl, who laughed very
much when I wished to take her
photograph. She was probably a
bewitching maiden of Jalapa, where
blue-eyed blond girls are not un-

The Indians are strong in bearing
burdens, and will carry loads weigh-
ing from fifty to a hundred pounds as

many miles to market, from which
they return with only a dollar or two.
After selling their earthenware ves-
sels, chickens, charcoal, or garden
stuff, they usually visit a pulqueria,
or drinking-shop, which absorbs most
of their earnings, and of the remain-
der the village priest gets a large
share. The pulquerias are adorned
with gaudy wall-paintings, and bear
such names as "The Devil," "The
Black Cock," "The Elephant," "The
Little Hell," and so on. Like the
American saloon, the London gin-
shop, and the Parisian cabaret, they
are the resort of loafers and idlers,
who consume immense quantities of
pulque. The stronger drink, mescal,
is the cause of much of the crime in
Mexico, fatal quarrels frequently aris-
ing from over-indulgence.

I come now to the second division
of the inhabitants of Mexico — the
Creoles. They are of European par-
entage, born in Mexico, and are
often very handsome. They are in-
dolent, veiy fond of gambling and of
the fair sex. The young Creole girls
are very closely watched by their
mothers, and flirtation is carried on



under considerable difficulties. Usu-
ally the women wear the mantilla, or
lace shawl, especially when going to
church, but when dressed in their
best they wear the latest French

The Mestizos (feminine, Mestizas)
spring from the union of the Spanish
and Aztec races, the fathers being
usually white and the mothers In-
dian. They have swarthy complex-
ions and are the handsomest people
in Mexico. They are of gentle man-
ners, docile, clean in their habits,
and perfectly honest. They are fond
of pleasure, and still retain many of
their ancient customs and dances
and the style of dress which they
wore before the conquest. When of
good blood they are often clever, and
make excellent lawyers, doctors, and
soldiers. They are superb and showy
horsemen, and their riding costume
is handsome and appropriate. It
consists of a
plaited shirt,
with trou-
sers of white
or colored
drill, fast-
ened round
the waist by
a colored silk
sash. The
broad, high
felt hat has jfk*

a silver cord
round it, of-
ten a silver
on the sides,
and silver
on the brim. The saddle is embel-
lished with carved leather and silver
bosses; a silver-mounted sword, a
revolver, and a carbine also forming
part of the outfit. The peasant wears
open trousers of leather ornamented
with silver and split up the sides to
show the white drawers underneath,
and a serape, or blanket, of gay colors,
with a slit in the centre for the head
to pass through. The Mestizas wear


loose embroidered chemises, woollen
or calico skirts, and over the head and
shoulders the fringed reboso, or shawl.
They rarely wear stockings, though
their shoes are often neat.

The Mestizos of the better class are
disposed to adopt the usages in dress
and social matters of the gay, re-
fined, light-hearted Gaul, rather than
those of the more phlegmatic races.
Their manners are very agreeable,
and their courtesy and readiness to
place themselves and their property
at your disposal, if not to be taken au
pied de la lettre, is at any rate charming.
To return to Coatepec. Overlook-
ing the village is a hill called the
Cerro de Coatepec. Up this we
scrambled one damp afternoon
through bushes and undergrowth,
and obtained from its top a capital
bird's-eye view of the little town, only
one or two private buildings of which
exceed a single story. We noticed

the bull-
ring, the
low red-tiled
roofs, and,
rising high
over all,
the three
with their
domes and
towers; also
a curious
hill of the
shape of a
cone. Had
the day been
clearer, w e
should have
seen the peak of Orizaba and the
Cofre de Perote.

On any village road in Mexico one
may see from time to time a string
of bullock-carts, each in charge of a
driver who holds in his hand the ox-
goad so familiar to students of the
Old Testament and to the readers of
books of travel in the Holy Land.
Indeed, one is often reminded in
Mexico of the primitive usages of



Palestine and the East. In both
there is the same tenacious clinging
to old-fashioned and apparently in-
efficient implements, and the same
mistrust of new-fangled contrivances
which their forefathers knew not.
And in common fairness to primitive
peoples it must be considered that
highly ingenious and complicated
pieces of machinery are not suited
for use in a country where there are
no skilled mechanics. If the complex
machine gets out of order, who is to
repair it? If one of the screws or
springs is missing, how is it to be
supplied? Further, where the labor
of men and women is exceedingly
cheap, much can be done by hand
which in countries where labor is
costly must be done by machines.
For my part, I am by no means de-
voured with anxiety to see old coun-
tries invaded by steam-ploughs and
patent harrows; there is more charm
to me in the old methods. Beauti-
ful handiwork is becoming a thing
of the past, and the craftsman of ear-
lier days, who was really an artist in
clay, wo6d, or metal, has well-nigh
disappeared, and instead of him we
have machines (of wonderful ingen-
uity, it may be granted) which turn
out thousands of articles precisely
alike, and which dull the ears, blear
the eyes, and deaden the souls of all
who are concerned with their work-

Who would compare the spiritual
value of life in a modern man-
ufacturing town with existence in
Florence or Rome in their best days?
Does the thick white iron-china plate
of a cheap city restaurant bear com-
parison with the commonest Mexican
pulque-jug? Is cocoanut matting any
improvement on hand-made petate?
Does a machine-made straw hat, even
with a buzz-saw edge, mark any dis-
tinct advance upon the peon's head-
gear? Is not a modern railway sta-
tion or ferry depot an object of despi-
cable meanness and ugliness? and
what lessons does it teach other than
those of a grovelling utilitarianism?
If it pleases the traveller in Mexico
to go back in imagination to Pal-
estine in the days of Christ, why
deprive him of his simple, harmless
pleasure by noisy declamation about
the wonders of steam, the telephone,
and the telegraph? Let us rather
thank God that the world has some
regions left as yet unpenetrated by
the modern spirit of unrest, where
the heart, tired and chafed by the
self-laudation of the nineteenth cen-
tury, may refresh itself by contempla-
tion of the simplicities of a life which
hears the din of the great world, with
its marvels of steam and electricity,
only as the roar of a distant sea,
whose ceaselessly plashing waves
serve not to disturb, but to accentuate
its calmness and repose.



THE WHITE CITY is one of the
things that come up to the brag,
" It is immense :" there is so much
to see that nothing can be seen. One
is reminded of that son of Erin who
went hunting, but came
back disgruntled and v
empty-handed, say-
ing, "I give it ^^^^gg^
up : every time I
aimed at a duck
another got in the
way." There is
food in the Fair
for the critic and
the cynic, but,
withal, there is
nothing of the
kind in recorded
history so vast,
var i ed,
and im-

place in this
great show is
distinctly strong
and dignified.
vShe attracts the eyes of the world.
There is an air of vastness and abun-
dance about her exhibit. The Cali-
fornian commissioners did wisely in
making a separate State exhibit, in
addition to her display in the general
departments. In no other way could
California have impressed her dignity
and importance upon the world. As
it is, she makes a profound impres-
sion ; she stands out a distinct and
significant figure — an empire in her-
self. Moreover, I feel that this gath-
ering of the peoples will help on the
growth of the fraternal feeling — help
to wipe out our petty jealousies, our
Httle spites, our absurd provincialism.

Mr. Opie Reed is a prominent fig-

♦ ■>


ure in literary Chicago. I asked him
the usual question, " What do you
think of our exhibit?" He answered
quickly: " California's exhib-
it will be worth $20,000,000
to her. It surpasses the
combined displays of
any other ten States.
|^^ She is beyond ri-
valry. Washing-
ton is the only
State that ap-
proaches her. She
seems to unite in
herself Europe,
Asia, and Africa.
Even the build-
ing is a marvel.
To speak of the
architects of that
as 'wool-
ly West-
erners' is
to show a
gross igno-
rance of the
meaning of
words. Judged by
her display, California is the foremost
State in the Union. It will be worth
to her a thousand articles — worth in-
deed all that you could print. The
many-volumed Bancroft could not, in
a century, produce the effect of this
demonstration. It will do more than
all your books and papers to remove
erroneous impressions. California
has a great future. In time people
will pour out of the East and the
Northwest upon the Pacific slope.
A nature-force and a human-force
will drive them to you. The people
of the East will flee before the snows
of the Atlantic seaboard : while the
Swedes and Poles, crowding into
the Northwest, will gradually force





the present inhabitants upon the

Let us step into the old adobe Mis-
sion, so strangely picturesque, and
see the exhibit that inspired this song
of praise. We are at once in the heart
of Southern California. On every
hand are oranges and orange-boughs
.and the delicate fragrance of lemons.
Here, upon the left, is the daring dis-
play of Kern. The county is sym-
bolized by a bridge; the bases rest
upon two globes, one the "Orient,"
the other the "Occident." In the

wheat, barley, corn, onions, oats,
broom-corn, ramie, cotton ; gold, sil-
ver, lead, copper, gypsum, iron, sul-
phur, salt, nickel, kaolin, borax — but
the list runs out to the crack of doom !
Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange,
Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Bernar-
dino, and the new county of River-
side, owing to the similarity of their
products, are associated in a combined
exhibit. As we pass Santa Barbara
we hear a clack of tongues: "What
holds the bottles up?" M Don't touch
them or they'll fall!" Looking that


centre of the bridge hangs a scale of
prunes; the short arm represents the
world, the long arm the county of
Kern! So Kern is the macrocosm,
is it? Draw your own conclusions.
But first inspect these heaps and
pyramids of riches. Inspect the pi-
lasters and panels of the arch. Here
are oranges, lemons, peaches, ap-
ples, pears, nectarines, plums, cher-
ries, olives; English walnuts, black
walnuts, peanuts, pecans, pinones;

way, we see two tons of bottled olive
oil built high into a new Cleopatra's
Needle. The frame of steel support-
ing it is hidden. This Needle points
to the fact that California is a rival
of the oil-producing regions of the
Mediterranean. Near by, another
group is silently looking at pictures
of the " Flower Festival" held annu-
ally at Santa Barbara. I also look,
and I am again in the southwest



"Where tides of grass break into foam of
And where the wind's feet shine along
the sea. "

Another turn and we stand before
the Bean Pagoda of Ventura! But
how can we talk of beans, with the
scent of the wild-rose in our nostrils
and the noise of breaking billows in
our ears? Let us pass on to the mul-
berry-trees of San Diego and Los
Angeles. Here we find silk-culture
in all its stages from the egg of the
worm to the finest of colored sewing-
silk. Here, too, are jellies and grains
in heaps. We taste the raisins of San
Diego and find them sweeter than
the raisins of Malaga. Now we come
to the big vegetables of Orange. You,
comrade, sit there on that mammoth
beet, and I will get along on this big
squash. If you wish to move the
beet, call two helpers, for it weighs
one hundred and fifty pounds. What
slender trees are these to our left?
They are not trees: they are twenty-
foot corn-stalks from the valleys of
Orange. Yonder is the fine citrus
display of San Bernardino — her
grains, her honey. We cannot see
from here the case containing speci-
mens of the gold and silver hidden in
her mountains. A little farther on
is Riverside. In spite of her youth,
she attracts almost as much attention
as any country in the southern sister-
hood. Here, to the right, is Los
Angeles with her immense globe of
oranges and her tower of English
walnuts. Yonder is her " Palace of
Plenty, " a large structure in the shape
of a Greek cross. It contains the
products of the southern group; and
it is claimed that among these prod-
ucts will be found all the fruits and
grains of the Union. Those nodding
plumes yonder are feathers from the
ostrich-farms. Elsewhere Los An-
geles has her mighty Liberty Bell,
made of oranges and modelled after
the old cracked bell of '76. Later
on we will look at the work of the
women of the south ; nor can we now
stop to look at the clumps of shrubs

and ornamental trees. We must
hasten on to Central California, to
the northern citrus belt. Perhaps we
can climb north on this castor-bean
stalk. It will hold us up, for it is
fourteen inches in diameter ami is
the famous stalk that Jack the Giant-
Kill er climbed in our youth. < >n our
way we pass frames of honey in the
honey-comb, and suddenly my 1
goes back to the woods of Ventura,
to the glens of Santa Barbara. Buried
twilights return— I see the flaring
camp-fire and the bed upon the green

We are now on the border of Fresno,
the region of the sun-dried raisin.
Here is a pagoda of redwood, with
rafters of fir and roof of barley and
wheat and oats and corn and pan
plumes. Here are all the sun-dried
fruits — raisins and the rest — the pride
of Fresno. Look at the walls of the
pagoda: the pale gold of the lemons
and the blood-red of the wood make
a delicate chord of color.

We are bound for Santa Clara, but
on the way let us step over to the
Pampas Palace, examine the plume-
built walls, the pictures, the relies.
Close at hand is the great central
palm-tree, towering forty feet into
the air and throwing out of its top
its green, enormous leaves. A daily
bulletin is fastened to its trunk, giv-
ing the comparative temperature of
Chicago and Coronado Beach. On
July 13th the noon temperature of
Chicago was 95 and that of Coronado
70 . This old tree has come two
thousand miles to tell its story of
sunshine and soft air.

What black knight is this on high,
clad in the sixteenth century, dashing
forward, sword in hand, "pointing
with pride" toward a banner inscribed
with the bold device: "Santa Clara
challenges the world in the produc-
tion of dried fruit !" It is the famous
Knight-errant of Prunes (mem., Santa
Clara in 1891 produced 20,000,000
pounds of prunes — the rest of the
world 9,000,000). Let us turn a
moment, in this time of war, to listen



to the healing music of the redwood
piano of Santa Clara. How exquisite
the grain of the wood — how perfect
the polish! Now we examine cinna-
bar from the mines of New Alma-
den ; magnesite, or fuller 's-earth, that
gives smooth finish and weight to
paper; Angora fleeces, silky and fine,
we are told, as the wool of Ancyra.

and petals. Another moment must
go to the transparent views from the
Lick Observatory. Nor must we
forget the Eschscholtzia Club of San
Jos£: it sends a case of hand-painted
china — very attractive work. (But,
in the name of Apollo and the Muses,
I call down a purifying evil upon
this club for adopting that atrocious


We are urged to taste the delicious
cherries and to sip a new beverage,
an unfermented grape-juice that holds
the flavor of the grape. Now we pass
an immense pyramid of fruit — fruit
seemingly from all lands. Here is a
symphony of color — reds and yellows
and whites and delicate greens. We
must spend a moment over the pressed
wild-flowers. They are mounted on
cardboard and covered with celluloid.
This new process protects from dust
and prevents the crumbling of leaves

name. What is the matter with Cali-
fornia Poppy Club?)

Moving on we pass Rupert
Schmidt's famed figure of California.
Now we are at Humboldt. As we
enter, a grizzly, coming out of his
cave, growls across our path. One
thinks himself in the midst of a mu-
seum. Here are trophies and relics
and curios; here are woods and fruits
and grains, and Mrs. Herrick knows
the story of them all. Tell us, good
woman, what are these? and these?



I note some fragments of her long

" Humboldt is the banner redwood
county. Her redwood alone is worth
one and a half billions, and her fine
showing of the burl, curly, and
straight-grain, plain and polished,
has made the woodsmen of the world
say it is the wood of the future, and
that oak has had its day. The capa-
bility of this wood to take a high

wood, only of a deeper, richer red,
hard as mahogany and capable of
a high polish. We show Douglas
spruce from which our finest ships
are built and our tapering masl .
made. And they are of such strength
that even if old Boreas bends them
when he sends his mighty breath
roaring over old Ocean, they
gracefully again and bear our' prod-
ucts all over the world. . . . Formin-


polish shows that it is far ahead of
all foreign woods. You can see
plaques, vases, urns, and curios, all
polished like glass; canes made of
bark and burl ; also a vase turned
from redwood bark that equals
ebony. Humboldt has laurel of a
width and length to utterly paralyze
Eastern people. She shows yew-logs
two feet in diameter, equal to rose-

erals there is gold, silver, petroleum,
coal, and iron. . . . Humboldt's fu-
ture is assured. And they haven't a
Chinaman in the county. . . . This
famous mule's-head violin was made

Online LibraryCharles Frederick HolderThe Californian (Volume 4) → online text (page 103 of 120)