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distinguishing their language from that of
their former oppressors. They have also adopt-
ed many significant Indian words from" their
aboriginal predecessors and neighbors, which
serve to embellish and amplify this already
beautiful and copious language.

In nothing is the deplorable state of things
already noticed made more clearly manifest,
than in the absence of a public press. There
has never been a single newspaper or periodi-
cal of any kind published in New Mexico,
except in the year 1834, when a little foolscap
sheet (entitled El CrepuscuJo] was issued
weekly, for about a month, to the tune of fifty
subscribers, and was then abandoned, partial'
Jy for want of patronage and partially because



LACK OF NEWSPAPERS. 201

the editor had accomplished his object of pro-
curing his election to Congress. Indeed,
the only printing press in the country is a
small affair which was brought the same year
across the prairies from the United Stales, and
is now employed occasionally in printing bil-
lets, primers and Catholic catechisms. This
literary negligence is to be attributed, not more
to the limited number of reading people, than
to .those injudicious restrictions upon that
freedom of the press, which is so essential to
its prosperity. An editor attempting to arraign
the conduct of public functionaries, or to op-
pose ' the powers that be,' is sure to subject
himself to pei^ecution, and most probably
suspension, a tyrannical course of proceeding
which has checked the career of two or three
papers even among the more enlightened in-
habitants of Chihuahua; where a miserable
organ of the Government is still occasionally
issued from the office of the Imprenta del
Gobierno, or Government Press. No wonder
then that the people of Northern Mexico are
so much behind their neighbors of the United
States in intelligence, and that the pulse of
national industry and liberty beats so low !

Medical science is laboring under similar
disadvantages ; there being not a single native
physician in the province^ ; although a great
multitude of singular cures are daily perform-
ed with indigenous roots and herbs that grow

* Neither is there a professed lawyer in New Mexico : a fact
which at least speaks favorably of the state of litigation in the
country.



202 DOCTORS AND THEIR BILLS.

in abundance aU over the country. But lest
a knowledge of this scarcity of doctors should
induce some of the Esculapian faculty to
strike for Santa Fe in quest of fortune, I
would remark that the country affords very
poor patronage. Foreign physicians who
have visited New Mexico, have found the prac-
tice quite unprofitable ; not more for the want
of patients, than on account of the poverty
of the people. Nine-tenths of those who* are
most subject to disease, are generally so desti-
tute of means, that the only return they can
make, is, "Dios se lo pague" (May God pay you !)
Even the more affluent classes do not hesi-
tate sometimes to liquidate their bills in the
same currency. A French doctor of Santa
Fe, who had been favored with too many pay-
ments of this description, was wont to rebuke
their "Dios se lo pague" with a " No 9 sehor, su
bolsa me lo pagard" No, sir, your purse shall
pay me !

The mechanical arts have scarcely risen
above the condition they were found in among
the aborigines. Gold and silversmiths are
perhaps better skilled in their respective trades
than any other class of artisans whatever ; as
the abundance of precious metals in former
days, and the ruling passion of the people for
ostentatious show, gave a very early stimulus
to the exercise of this peculiar talent Some
mechanics of this class have produced such
singular specimens of ingenious workman*
ship, that on examining them, we are almost
unwilling to believe that rude art could ac-



MECHANICAL ARTS. 203

complish so much. Even a bridle-bit or a
pair of spurs it would no doubt puzzle the
'cutest' Yankee to fashion after a Mexican
model such as I have seen manufactured
by the commonest blacksmiths of the country.

In carpentry and cabinet-work the me-
chanic has to labor to great disadvantage, on
account of a want of tools and scarcity of
suitable timber. Their boards have to be
hewed out With the axe sawed lumber being
absolutely unknown throughout New Mexico,
except what is occasionally cut by foreigners.
The axe commonly used for splitting and
hewing is formed after the model of those
clumsy hatchets known as ' squaw-axes'
among Indian traders. Yet this is not unfre-
quently the only tool of the worker in wood:
a cart or a plough is often manufactured with-
out even an auger, a chisel, or a drawing-
knife.

In architecture, the people do not seem to
have arrived at any great perfection, but rather
to have conformed themselves to the clumsy
style which prevailed among the aborigines,
than to waste their time in studying modern
masonry and the use of lime. The materials
generally used for building are of the crudest
possible description ; consisting of unburnt
bricks, about eighteen inches long by nine
wide and four thick, laid in mortar of mere
clay and sand. These bricks are called adobes,
and every edifice, from the church to the pa-
lacio, is constructed of the same stuff In
fact, I should remark, perhaps, that though all



204 MEXICAN ARCHITECTURE.

Southern Mexico is celebrated for the magni-
ficence and wealth of its churches, New Mexi-
co deserves equal fame for poverty-stricken
and shabby-looking houses of public wor-
ship.

The general plan of the Mexican dwellings
is nearly the same everywhere. Whether
from motives of pride, or fear of the savages,
the wealthier classes have adopted the style
of Moorish castles; so that all the larger build-
ings have more the appearance of so many
diminutive fortifications, than of private fa-
mily residences. Let me add, however, that
whatever may be the roughness of their ex-
terior, they are extremely comfortable inside.
A tier of rooms on each side of a square, com-
prising as many as the convenience of the oc-
cupant may require, encompass an open patio
or court, with but one door opening into the
street, a huge gate, called la puerta del za-
guan, usually large enough to admit the family
coach. The back tier is generally occupied
with the cocina, dispensa, granero (kitchen,
provision-store, and granary), and other offices
of the same kind. Most of the apartments,
except the winter rooms, open into the patio;
but the latter are most frequently entered
through the sola or hall, which, added to the
thickness of their walls and roofs, renders
them delightfully warm during the cold sea-
son, while they are perfectly cool and agreeable
in summer. In fact, hemmed in as these
apartments are with nearly three feet of earth,
they may be said to possess all the pleasant



DWELLING-HOUSES. 205

properties of cellars, with a freer circulation
of air, and nothing of the dampness which is
apt to pervade those subterranean regions.

The roofs of the houses are all flat azoteas
or terraces, being formed of a layer of earth
two or three feet in thickness, and supported
by stout joists or horizontal rafters. These
roofs, when well packed, turn the rain off
with remarkable effect, and render the houses
nearly fire-proof.* The azotea also forms a
pleasant promenade, the surrounding walls
rising usually so high as to serve for a balus-
trade, as also a breast- work, behind which, in
times of trouble, the combatants take their
station, and defend the premises.

The floors are all constructed of beaten
earth * slicked over' with soft rnortar, and co-
vered generally with a coarse carpet of do-
mestic manufacture. A plank floor would be
quite a curiosity in New Mexico ; nor have I
met with one even in Chihuahua, although
the best houses in that city are floored with
brick or squares of hewn stone. The interior
of each apartment is roughly plastered over
with a clay mortar unmixed with lime, by fe-
males who supply the place of trowels with
their hands. It is then white washed with

* During a residence of nearly nine years in the country, I
never witnessed but one fire, and that was in the mining town of
Jesus Maria. There a roof of pine clap-boards is usually ex-
tended over the azotea, to protect it against the mountain torrents
of rain. This roof was consumed, but the principal damage sus-
tained, in addition, was the burning of a huge pile of corn and
some bags of flour, which were in the garret : the body of the
building remained nearly in statu quo.

18



206 SUBTERRENE DWELLINGS.

calcined yeso or gypsum, a deleterious stuff,
that is always sure to engraft its affections up-
on the clothing of those who come in contact
with it. To obviate this, the parlors and fa-
mily rooms are usually lined with wall-papei
or calico, to the height of five or six feet The
front of the house is commonly plastered in a
similar manner, although not always white-
washed. In the suburbs of the towns, and
particularly in the villages and ranchos, a fan-
tastic custom prevails of painting only a por-
tion of the fronts of the houses, in the shape
of stripes, which imparts -to the landscape a
very striking and picturesque appearance.

Wood buildings of any kind or shape are
utterly unknown in the north of Mexico, with
the exception of an occasional picket-hut in
some of the ranchos and mining-places. It
will readily be perceived, then, what a flat
and uncouth appearance the towns of New
Mexico present, with houses that look more
like so many collections of brick-kilns pre*
pared for burning than human abodes.

The houses of the villages and ranchos are
rarely so spacious as those of the capital, yet
their construction is much the same. Some
very singular subterrene dwellings are to be
found in a few places. I was once passing
through the village of Casa Colorada, when
I observed some noisy urchins just before me,
who very suddenly and mysteriously disap-
peared. Upon resorting to the spot, I per-
ceived an aperture under a hillock, which,
albeit considerably larger, was not very



RUSTIC SOFAS. 207

unlike the habitations of the little prairie
dogs.

The immense expense attending the pur-
chase of suitable furniture and kitchen-ware,
indeed^ the frequent impossibility of obtaining
these articles at any price, caused the early
settlers of Northern Mexico to resort to inven-
tions of necessity, or to adopt Indian cus-
toms altogether, many of which have been
found so comfortable and convenient, that
most of those who are now able to indulge in
luxuries, feel but little inclination to introduce
any change. Even the few pine-board chairs
and settees that are to be found about the
houses are seldom used ; the prevailing fash-
ion being to fold mattrasses against the walls,
which, being covered over with blankets, are
thus converted into sofas. Females, indeed,
most usually prefer accommodating them-
selves, a rindienne, upon a mere blanket
spread simply upon the floor.

Wagons of Mexican manufacture are not
to be found ; although a small number of
American-built vehicles, of those introduced
by the trading caravans, have grown into use
among the people. Nothing is more calcu-
lated to attract the curiosity of strangers than
the unwieldy carretas or carts of domestic
construction, the massive wheels of which
are generally hewed out of a large cotton-
wood. This, however, being rarely of suffi-
cient size to form the usual diameter, which
is about five feet, an additional segment or
felloe is pinned upon each edge, when the



203 PRIMITIVE CARTS.

whole is fashioned into an irregular circle.
A crude pine or cottonwood pole serves for
the axle-tree, upon which is tied a rough frame
of the same material for a body. In the con-
struction of these can-etas the use of iron is,
for the most part, wholly dispensed with ; in
fact, nothing is more common than a cart, a
plough, and even a mill, without a particle of
iron or other metal about them. To this huge
truckle it is necessary to hitch at least three
or four yokes of oxen ; for even a team of six
would find it difficult to draw the load of a
single pair with an ordinary cart. The labor
of the oxen is much increased by the Mexi-
can mode of harnessing, which appears pe-
culiarly odd to a Yankee. A rough pole
serves for a yoke, and, with the middle tied
to the cart-tongue, the extremities are placed
across the heads of the oxen behind the horns,
to which they are firmly lashed with a stout raw-
hide thong. Thus the head is maintained in
a fixed position, and they pull, or rather pusb
by the force of the neck, which, of course, is
kept continually strained upwards.

Rough and uncouth as these carretas al-
ways are, they constitute nevertheless the
* pleasure-carriages' of the rancheros, whose
families are conveyed in them to the towns,
whether to market, or to fiestas, or on other
joyful occasions. It is truly amusing to see
these rude vehicles bouncing along upon their
irregularly rounded wheels, like a limping
bullock, and making the hills and valleys



.* - '
DOMESTIC MANUFACTURES. 209

around vocal with the echo of their creaking
and frightful sounds.

The New Mexicans are celebrated for the
manufacture of coarse blankets, which is an
article of considerable traffic between them
and the southern provinces, as also with the
neighboring Indians, and on some occasions
with the United States. The finer articles
are curiously woven in handsome figures of
various colors. These are of different quali-
ties, the most ordinary being valued at about
two dollars apiece, while those of the finest
texture, especially their imitations of the So-
rape Navajo, will sell for twenty dollars or
more. There have also been made in New
Mexico a few imitations of the Sarape Sal-
tillero, the blanket of Saltillo, a city of the
south celebrated for the manufacture of the
most splendid fancy blankets, singularly figur-
ed with all the colors of the rainbow. These
are often sold for more than fifty dollars each.
What renders the weaving of the fancy blan-
kets extremely tedious, is, that the variegation
of colors is all effected with the shuttle, the
texture in other respects being perfectly plain,
without even a twill. An additional value is
set upon the fine sarape on account of its be-
ing a fashionable substitute for a cloak. In-
deed, the inferior sarape is the only over-
dress used by the peasantry in the winter.

Besides blankets, the New Mexicans manu-
facture a kind of coarse twilled woollen stuf
called gerga, which is checkered with black
and white, and is used for carnets, and also



210 WANl OF MACHINERY.

by the peasantry for clothing, which, in fact,
with some other similar domestic stuffs, to-
gether with buckskin, constituted almost the
only article of wear they were possessed of,
till the trade from Missouri furnished them
with foreign fabrics at more reasonable prices
than they had been in the habit of paying to
the traders of the southern provinces. Their
domestic textures are nearly all of wool, there
being no flax or hemp* and but little cotton
spun. The manufacture even of these arti-
cles is greatly embarrassed for want of good
spinning and weaving machinery. Much of
the spinning is done with the huso or mala-
cate (the whirligig spindle), which is kept
whirling in a bowl with the fingers while the
thread is drawn. The dexterity with which
the females spin with this simple apparatus is
truly astonishing.

* Hemp is unknown in this province, and flax, as has before
been remarked, though indigenous, is nowhere cultivated. ." The
1 court of Spain (as Clavigero tells us, speaking of Michuacan,
New Mexico, and Quivira, where he says flax was to be found in
great abundance), informed of the regions adapted to the cultiva-
tion of this plant, sent to those countries, about the year 1778,
twelve families from the valley of Granada, for the purpose of
promoting so important a branch of agriculture." The enterprise
seems never to have been prosecuted, however at least in Ne\v
Mexico.



CHAPTER XI.

Style of D*.>* < in Now Mexico Riding-dress of the Caballero
. Horse Trappings The Rebozo Passion for Jewelry Ap-
parel of the Female Peasantry ' Wheeled Tarantulas' Gene-
.ral Appear ance of the People Tawny Complexion Singu-
lar Mode of Painting the Human Face Striking Traits of
Character Alms-giving Beggars and their Tricks Won-
' derfulCureof Paralysis Lack of Arms and Officers Traits
of Boldness among the Yeomanry Politeness and Suavity of
the Mexicans Remarks of Mr. Poinsett Peculiarities ob-
served in epistolary Intercourse Salutations La Siesta.

'

THE best society in the interior of New
Mexico is fast conforming to European fash-
ion, in the article of dress, with the exception
of the peculiar riding costume, which is still
worn by many caballeros. This generally con-
sists of a sombrero a peculiarly shaped low
crowned hat with wide brim, covered with
oil-cloth and surmounted with a band of tinsel
cord nearly an inch in diameter : a chaqueta or
jacket of cloth gaudily embroidered with braid
and fancy barrel-buttons : a curiously shaped
article called calzoneras, intended for panta-
loons, with the outer part of the legs open
from hip to ankle the borders set with tink-
ling filigree buttons, and the whole fantastical-
ly trimmed with tinsel lace and cords of the



,

212 COSTUME AND TRAPPINGS OF

same materials. As suspenders do not form
a component part of a regular Mexican cos-
tume, the nether garment is supported by a
rich sash which is drawn very tightly around
the body, and contributes materially to ren-
der the whole appearance of the caballero
extremely picturesque. Then there are the
botas which somewhat resemble the leggins
worn by the bandits of Italy, and are made of
embossed leather, embroidered with fancy
silk and tinsel thread and bound around
the knee with curiously tasselled garters.
The sarape saltillero (a fancy blanket) com-
pletes the picture. This peculiarly useful as
well as ornamental garment is commonly
carried dangling carelessly across the pom-
mel of the saddle, except in bad weather,
when it is drawn over the shoulders, after
the manner of a Spanish cloak, or as is
more frequently the case, the rider puts his
head through a slit in the middle, and by let-
ting it hang loosely from the neck, his whole
person is thus effectually protected.

The steed of the caballero is caparisoned
in the same pompous manner, the whole of
the saddle trappings weighing sometimes over
a hundred pounds. First of all we have - the
high pommel of the saddle-tree crowned with
silver, and the * hinder tree' garnished with
the same, and a quilted cushion adjusted to
the seat. The coraza is a cover of embossed
leather embroidered with fancy silk and tinsel,
with ornaments of silver, and is thrown loose
over the cushion and fuste or saddle-tree, the



THE MEXICAN HORSEMAN.



213




extremities of which protrude through appro-
priate apertures. Then comes the cola depato,
literally 'duck's tail' (it were more appropri-
ately called 'peacock's tail'), a sort of leathern
housing, also gaudily ornamented to correspo n d
with the coraza, attached to the hind-tree, and
covering the entire haunches of the animal.
The estribos or stirrups are usually made either
of bent or mortised wood, fancifully carved,
over which are fastened the tapaderas or cov-
erings of leather to protect the toes. For-
merly the stirrups constituted a complete slip-
per, mortised in a solid block of wood, which
superseded the use of tapaderas. But one of
the most costly articles of the saddle-suit is
perhaps the bridle, which is sometimes of en-
tire silver, or otherwise heavily ornamented
with silver buckles, slides and stars. To this



214 SADDLE EQUIPAGE.

is appended a massive bit, sometimes of pure %
silver, but more commonly of iron, most sin-
gularly wrought The spurs are generally of
iron, though silver spurs are very frequent.
The shanks of the vaquero spurs are three to
five inches long, with rowels sometimes six
inches in diameter. I have in my possession
a pair of these measuring over ten inches
from one extremity to another, with rowels
five and three-fourths inches in diameter,
weighing two pounds and eleven ounces.
Last, not least, there are the armas de pelo, be-
ing a pair of shaggy goat skins (richly trimmed
across the top with embroidered leather), dan-
gling from the pommel of the saddle for the
purpose of being drawn over the legs in case
of rain, or as a protection against brush and
brambles. The corazas of travelling saddles
are also provided with several pockets called
coginittos a most excellent contrivance for
carrying a lunch or bottle, or anything to
which convenient access may be desired.

In former times there was a kind of harness
of leather attached to the saddle behind, cov-
ering the hinder parts of the horse as low as
mid-thighs, with its lower border completely
fringed with jingling iron tags, but these are
now seldom met with in the North. Even
without this noisy appendage, however, a Mex-
ican caballero of the present day, with full
equestrian rigging, his clink and his rattle,
makes altogether a very remarkable appear-
ance.

Though the foregoing description refers par



LADIES' FASHIONS. 215

ticularly to the chivalrous caballero of the
South the rico of the country, yet similar
modes of costume and equipage, but of
coarser material, are used by the lower classes.
Nor are they restricted among these to the
riding-dress, but are very generally worn as
ordinary apparel. Common velveteens, fus-
tians, blue drillings and similar stuffs, are very
much in fashion among such rancheros and
villageois as are able to wear anything above
the ordinary woollen manufactures of the
country. Coarse wool hats, or of palm-leaf
(sombreros de petate), all of low crowns, are
the kind generally worn by the common peo-
ple.

As I have already observed, among the bet-
ter classes the European dress is now fre-
quently worn ; although they are generally a
year or two behind our latest fashions. The
ladies, however, never wear either hat, cap or
bonnet, except for riding ; but in lieu of it,
especially when they walk abroad, the rebozo
(or scarf), or a large shawl, is drawn over the
head. The rebozo is by far the most fashiona-
ble : it is seven or eight feet in length by
nearly a yard in width, and is made of divers
stuffs silk, linen or cotton, and usually va-
riegated and figured in the warp by symmetri-
cally disposed threads waved in the dying.
It is certainly a beautiful specimen of do-
mestic manufacture. The finest articles are
valued at fifty to a hundred dollars in the
North ; but the ordinary cotton rebozo ranges
nt from one to five dollars, and is generally



216 RANCHERA DRESS.

worn by the lower classes. A Mexican fe-
male is scarcely ever seen without her rebozo
or shawl, except when it is laid aside for the
^dance. In-doors, it is loosely thrown about
her person, but in the promenade it is coquet-
tishly drawn over the head, and one end of it
brought round, and gracefully hooked over
the opposite shoulder. As a favorite modern
authoress justly remarks, however, in speak-
ing of the rebozo and the sarape, an important
objection to their use, in this unsettled society,
is the facility they afford for the concealment
of the person, as well as secret weapons of the
wearer. Pistols, knives, and even swords are
carried unsuspected under the sarape, while
a lady fashionably muffled with a rebozo, may
pass a crowd of familiar acquaintances with-
out being recognized.

The ordinary apparel of the female pea-
santry and the rancheras, is the enaguas or pet-
ticoat of home-made flannel ; or, when they
are able to procure it, of coarse blue or scar-
let cloth, connected to a wide list of some
contrasting-colored stuff, bound around the
waist over a loose white chemise, which is
the only covering for the body, except the re-
bozo. Uncouth as this costume may appear
at first, it constitutes nevertheless a very grace-
ful sort of undress in which capacity it is
used even by ladies of rank.

The New Mexican ladies are all passionate-
ly fond of jewelry ; and they may commonly
be seen, with their necks, arms and fingers
loaded with massive appendages of a valua-



THE SWARTHY COMPLEXION. 217

ble description. But as there has been so
much imposition with regard to foreign jew-
elry, articles of native manufacture, some of
which are admirably executed, without alloy
or counterfeit are generally preferred.


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