Charles Fletcher Lummis.

The awakening of a nation; Mexico of to-day; online

. (page 13 of 13)
Online LibraryCharles Fletcher LummisThe awakening of a nation; Mexico of to-day; → online text (page 13 of 13)
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which cow-boy is a mere offshot). " Loco-weed " is
from loco, crsLzy. " Cinch " comes from cincha. The
cow-boy's leathern " chaps " are short for chapparejos ;
and his word " cavvyard " (horse -herd) is a still more
remarkable liberty with caballada.

A typical cowboy perversion is the familiar, but
never before traced, "horse- wrangler." Not in any
Spanish dictionary, caballerango is a pure Mexican-
ism, now almost obsolete. It meant the man in
charge of the spare riding- ponies of an expedition.
CaballOy every cowboy knew, was horse ; so, transla-
ting half the word and corrupting the rest, we got
" horse-wrangler."

One might follow indefinitely so pleasant by-paths :
but basta ! As throughout, I must merely set up a
finger-board and go on.

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The seal of Spain is upon all things that she has
ever touched. To the thoughtful, few side-lights in
history are more striking than this vital individuality
of the Spaniard. Whatever page he opened in the
New World, he wrote across it his racial autograph in
a hand so virile and so characteristic that neither time
nor change can efface it. Three centuries and a half
of continuous evolution have not availed to make that
nlbrica illegible or mistakable. He mastered every
country between us and Patagonia; and there is no
land in which he ever sat down which does not to
this last day bear in its very marrow the heritage of
his religion, his language, and his social creed. His
marca is upon the faces, the laws, the very landscapes.

How significant this is we may better judge when
we remember that the Saxon, masterful though he is,
has never anywhere achieved these results. He has
filled new lands with his speech and his faith (or his
lack of it), but only by filling them with his own blood,
never by changing the native. The United States,
for instance, is of his speech ; but what Indian tribe ,
ever spoke English? In the vastly greater area of
Spanish America every Indian tribe speaks Spanish,
and has done so for centuries. The Saxon has never

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impressed his language or his religion upon the peo-
ples he has overrun. Something of his face goes to
the half-breeds he begets and will not father ; but even
this physical impress is less marked than in the case
of his Latin predecessor. For he himself, of course, is
a less fixed type.

It is a curious fact that no other nation in history
has ever legitimately produced crosses with so many
aboriginal bloods as has Spain. The conquistador was
human ; but the hand of the church was always upon
his shoulder. Individually and casually he might
elude it, but broadly he could not. He intermarried
with a thousand distinct types of the Original Ameri-
can ; and all the way from Denver to Valparaiso you
can tally the varying fruits of these first wedlocks of
the first frontier. You are often in doubt as to the
mother, distinct as tribe originally is from tribe ; but
the father — you need no directory to find him.
Among these mestizos are some of the finest types,
physically, of Spanish America.

The same astonishing individuality which has stamp-
ed itself forever upon the offspring of his union with
innumerable other bloods has, when he stayed un-
mixed, as remarkably preserved his own family like-
ness. Compare the Yankee with the Briton, then
the lineal Spanish-American with the Spaniard — and
you will marvel to see how much more strongly the
latter is " marked *' across ten generations than the
former across two or three. Among civilized nations
only the Jew hands down the ancestral face so per-
sistently through the ages.

The Spanish-American face is always Spanish, yet
not quite of Spain. As much to the artist as to the

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anthropologist it is a fascinating study — the differen-
tiation of this unmistakable and attractive type by
local conditions operating for centuries. That is what
evolution means ; and here is the very poetry of evolu-
tion, as true and instructive as the prose. It is lucid
verse, too. One may grow so proficient as to guess
very shrewdly, from an unmarked photograph, from
what section of Spanish America the sitter comes,
particularly if it be a woman's face, which is more
plastic to the hand of circumstance. Yet there is no
sameness. A thousand localities have their local va-
riants, each as a rule already a recognized type ; each
one face has its individuality as clear as with us; and
through all, individual or local, runs the inevitable
sub-dominant of Spain.

We often talk of the Spanish type as exclusively
dark — a notion which argues no great knowledge of
either history or geography. All Spaniards are not
ntorenos. The swart Moorish tide that ebbed and
flowed across Spain for seven centuries did, indeed,
leave its eternal mark upon the Gothic-Roman ; but
all Spain was not drowned. As you go northward from
the Ebro — that is, up where the Moresque wave rather
splashed than inundated — ^you find the nut-brown of
Valencia and Castile shading off to lighter hues. Not
unknown in other provinces, in Galicia, Arragon, and
Asturias, the "gold-haired, heaven-eyed" type is famil-
iar. And if there is anywhere a more perfect beauty
than that of the true Spanish blonde, I would fain
treat my eyes to sight of it.

Oddly enough, this survival of Spain's first days is
practically without representation in Spanish America.
In the New World the type is not only a great rarity.

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but a disprized one. The epigrammatic wit of the
paisano shows it no mercy. The dicho has a hundred
forms ; but in some shape it is current everywhere.
Palma, the laureate of Peruvian letters, has given it
its most finished form :

" Como una y una son dos.
For las morenas me muero ;
Lo bianco, lo hizo un platero ;
Lo moreno, lo hizo Dios."

•* As sure as one and one, my elf,

Are two, for the brown maids I'm dying.
The white is but a tinker's trying,
But God, He made the brown Himself."

The perfect moreno is the most perfect skin in the
world. We talk of olive glibly — and most of us never
saw one true olive type. Now and then you find it in
Spain, and it is exquisite as rare. But it is not the
" browny " and elfish morenOy which is the hue of the
" nut-brown maid " of old English balladry. Our fore-
fathers knew a good thing when they saw it.

That perfect brown is so transparent, so fine, so
soft, so richly warmed with the very dawn of a flush,
as no other cheek that is worn of woman. No other
complexion so lends itself to the painter's canvas.
Nor would I precisely advise the loveliest of my
countrywomen to lay her cheek to one of perfect An-
dalusian brown. A yard away, her superior beauty is
safe ; but side by side she cannot afford comparison
with that skin — nor ever can, till Art shall have re-
versed the whole gospel of color.

Perfection of the moreno type is found in many
parts of Spanish America. In Peru it sometimes

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crowns the predominant Andalusian face, the most
vivacious of all Spain. In Colombia it is rarer, thanks
to the tropics and to — Africa. In parts of Central
America, of Cuba, of Mexico, even of New Mexico
and California, it has lovely representatives. Mexico
is less famous for female beauty than Peru, where
Lima heads the mundane list ; but it is not behind in
genuine charm. Its type is less rotund : the peculiar
first touch which Peru generally adds is exuberance
of curve. As a rule, the facial types of the cooler
Spanish-American countries are perhaps not hand-
somer, but certainly finer, more spiritual, than those
nearer the equator.

Always and everywhere, the Spanish -American fe-
male face is interesting ; at least as often as in other
bloods it is beautiful. Photographs tell but half the
story, for complexion is beyond them. But a certain
clearness of feature, the almost invariable beauty of
the eyes and fine strength of the brows seem as much
a Spanish birthright as the high-bred hand and foot.

Not even the Parisian face is so flexible in expres-
sion, so fit for archness, so graphic to the mood. Yet
there is a certain presence in it not to be unnoticed,
not to be forgotten. To no woman on earth is relig-
ion a more vital, ever-present, all-pervading actuality ;
and that is why you meet the face of the Madonna al-
most literally at every comer of Spanish- America.
And it is not a superficial thing. There is none in
whom the wife-heart, the mother-heart, is truer-wom-
anly. The dofla is human. She may err, but she can
never be gross. It is a truth so well known to every
traveller that I wonder to find our philosophers so
dumb about it — that even when outcast, no woman

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of Spanish blood falls or can fall to the outer vileness
which haunts the purlieus of every English-speaking
great city. And, thanks to her religion and to her
social conservatism, she contributes perhaps fewer re-
cruits to the outcast ranks than any other civilized

At her best she is admirable in heart as in face ; at
her average, interesting in both. Years of study of
the field in which she is a sociologic part of history have
given me to know and to respect her. She is a true
woman — which is as good as can be said of any creat-
ure that is mortal. And for the frontispiece that God
gave her — ^that wise artist-touch of His to cajole the
male brute into reading through the best of all books
— I can say no more for it than is said : " Es mucha
carUy la cara de ella*'


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Online LibraryCharles Fletcher LummisThe awakening of a nation; Mexico of to-day; → online text (page 13 of 13)