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In New Mexico, caches de paseo of any kind
are very rare ; occasionally, however, one of
those huge, clumsy, old-fashioned vehicles of
Mexican manufacture, so abundant in the
southern cities, and often nick-named ' wheel-
ed tarantulas/ by strangers, may be seen.
Such an apparition in a Yankee city would
excite as much curiosity as a caravan of the
rarest animals. The coach alone is a load for
two mules, therefore the vehicle is usually
drawn by four and sometimes six, and inva-
riably driven by postillions.

The stature of both sexes in New Mexico
is commonly below medium : but they are
mostly well proportioned, of athletic make,
and sound, healthy constitutions. Their com-
plexion is generally dark ; but every variety
of shade is found among them, from the
lightest European tint to the swarthiest hue.
Their darkness has resulted partly from their
original Moorish blood, but more from inter-
marriages with the aborigines. An occasional
Indian, and sometimes an entire village, have
abandoned their wonted seclusion, and be-
come identified with their conquerors. In
the North, the system of Indian slavery has
contributed still more to the same result. They
buy the captive children of both sexes of the
wild tribes, taken prisoners among each other,



or by the Pueblos in their petty wars with the
former and indeed by the Mexicans them-
selves who are generally held in bondage to
the age of twenty-one years, and some, from
ignorance, their whole lives. Such as resume
their liberty, intermarry with the race of their
masters, becoming Mexican citizens, often un-
distinguishable from many of the already
dark-hued natives. The present race of New
Mexicans has thus become an amalgam, ave-
raging about equal parts of the European and
aboriginal blood. The peasantry, as well
from a more general intermixture with the
Indian, as from exposure, are the darkest;
yet the tawny complexion pervades all classes
the rich as well as the poor.

The females, although many of them are
about as broad-featured as the veriest Indian,
not unfrequently possess striking traits of
beauty. They are remarkable for small feet
And handsome figures, notwithstanding their
profound ignorance of the ' refined art' of
lacing. The belles of the ranchos and vil-
lages have a disgusting habit of besmearing
their faces with the crimson juice of a plant
or fruit called alegria, which is not unlike
blood ; as also with clay and starch. This is
not intended, as some travellers have sup-
posed, as a beautifying appendage, but for the
purpose of protecting the skin from the sun.
A country beauty will often remain in this
filthy condition for a whole fortnight, in order
to appear to advantage at some favorite feast
or ball ; when, by washing off the paint, the


cheeks look as fresh and ruddy as the natu-
ral darkness of their skin will permit

The New Mexicans appear to have inherit-
ed much of the cruelty and intolerance of
their ancestors, and no small portion of their
bigotry and fanaticism. Being of a highly
imaginative temperament and of rather ac-
commodating moral principles cunning, lo-
quacious, quick of perception and sycophan-
tic, their conversation frequently exhibits a
degree of tact a false glare of talent, emi-
nently calculated to mislead and impose.
They have no stability except in artifice ; no
proftmdity except for intrigue: qualities for
which they have acquired an unenviable ce-
lebrity. Systematically cringing and sub-
servient while out of power, as soon as
the august mantle of authority falls upon
their shoulders, there are but little bounds to
their arrogance and vindictiveness of spirit.
While such are the general features of the
character of the Northern Mexicans, however,
I am fain to believe and acknowledge, that
there are to be found among them numerous
instances of uncompromising virtue, good
faith and religious forbearance.

But taking the Northern Mexicans without
distinction of class or degree, there is scarcely
a race of people on the face of the earth more
alive to the dictates of charity that is, alms-
giving ; which is more owing perhaps to the
force of religious instruction than to real sym-
pathy for the sufferings of the indigent and
the helpless. The law making no provision


for paupers, there is no country perhaps more
infested with beggars, especially from Chihua-
hua south. In the large cities, Saturday is
the alms-giving day by custom ; and on such
occasions the limosneros (as the mendicant
race is called), may be seen promenading the
streets in gangs of thirty or forty, or in smaller
numbers, performing genuflections at every
nook and corner of the town, each croaking
aloud his favorite set of orisons and inviting
the blessings of heaven upon every man, wo-
man or child, who may have been so fortu-
nate as to propitiate the benison by casting a
few daws into his outstretched hand.* In
some sections of the country, this system of
begging has proved so successful that parents
have actually been known to maim and de-
form their children, during the earliest stages
of infancy, in order to fit them for the trade,
and thereby secure to themselves a constant
source of emolument for the remainder of
their lives. Persons affecting disease and fre-
quently malformation for the purpose of excit-
ing the commiseration of the wayfarer, are
also extremely numerous. I had often observ-
ed in Chihuahua a robust-looking fellow, who,
to all appearance, had partially lost the use of
his lower extremities, sliding about the streets
from door to door upon a sort of cushion, ask-
ing alms. One fine day, a furious bull, pur-
sued by some vaqueros, came plunging down
in the direction where he sat, moaning and
grieving most piteously ; when, forgetting his
physical disabilities, he sprang to his feet with


the agility of a dancing master, and inconti-
nently betook himself to his heels.

The Northern Mexicans have often been
branded with cowardice : a stigma which
may well be allowed to reafeupon the wealthier
classes, and the city-bred caballeros, from
whose ranks are selected the military leaders
who decide the fate of battles. But the ran-
cheros, or as they might be still more appro-
priately styled the yeomanry of the country,
inured as they are from their peculiar mode
of life to every kind of fatigue and danger,
possess a much higher calibre of moral cou-
rage. -Their want of firmness in the field, is
partially the result of their want of confidence
in their commanders ; while the inefficacy
and worthlessness of their weapons are alone
sufficient to inspire even a valiant heart with
dismal forebodings. It is true that most of
the regular troops are provided with English
muskets, which, by the way, they are gene-
rally too ignorant to keep in order; but a
great portion of the militia are obliged to use
the clumsy old-fashioned escopeta, or firelock
of the sixteenth century ; while others have
nothing but the bow and arrow, and some-
times the lance, which is in fact a weapon
very much in use throughout the country. I
have seen persons of the lower class do things,
however, which would really seem to indicate
a superlative degree of courage. Some of
them will often perform journeys alone
through wildernesses teeming with murder-
ous savages; but as they not ^infrequently



embark upon these perilous jaunts unarmed,
it is evident they depend greatly upon good
luck and swiftness of limbs, and still more
upon the protection of their favorite saint,
la Virgen de Guadfliiipe.

The Mexicans, like the French, are remark-
able for their politeness and suavity of man-
ners. You cannot visit a friend but he assures
you that, " Esta V. en su casa, ypuede mandar"
etc. (You are in your own house, and can
command, etc.), or, " Estoy enteramente a su
disposition" (I am wholly at your disposal),
without, however, meaning more than an ex-
pression of ordinary courtesy. Nor can you
speak in commendation of any article, let its
value be what it may, but the polite owner
immediately replies, " Tomelo, V. SeJlor; es
suyo (Take it, sir; it is yours), without the
slightest intention or expectation that you
should take him at his word. Mr. Poinsett
observes, " Remember, when you take leave
of a Spanish grandee, to bow as you leave
the room, at the head of the stairs, where the
host accompanies you ; and after descending
the first flight, turn round and you will see
him expecting a third salutation, which he
returns with great courtesy, and remains un-
til you are out of sight ; so that as you wind
down the stairs, if you catch a glimpse of
him, kiss your hand, and he will'think you a
most accomplished cavalier." Graphic as
this short sketch is, it hardly describes the
full measure of Mexican politeness; for in
that country, when the visitor reaches the


street, another tip of the hat, and another in-
clination of the head, will be expected by
the attentive host, who gently waves, with
his hand, a final i a dios' from a window.

In epistolary correspondence, the ratio of
respect is generally indicated by the width of
the left margin. If the letter is addressed to
an equal, about one-fourth of the page is oc-
cupied for that purpose ; but when extraordi-
nary respect is intended to be shown to a
superior, nearly one-half of the page is left a
blank. There are other marks of civility and
respect peculiar to the country, which among
us would be accounted absolute servility.

In their salutations, the ancient custom of
close embrace, not only between individuals
of the same sex, but between those of differ-
ent sexes, is almost universal. It is quite a
luxury to meet a pretty senorita after some
absence. The parties approach, shake hands
in a cordial manner, and without loosening
the grasp, the left arm of each is brought
about the other's waist ; and while a gentle
embrace brings their persons closer to each
other, the contact of the cheeks becomes in-
evitable without admitting a kiss, however,
which would be held as decidedly indelicate.
In short, it is worth while absenting oneself,
for the gratification of a first meeting with
the prettier of one's female friends upon the

Among the least unpleasant customs of this
country is that of the siesta or afternoon nap ;
* species of indulgence in which all classes


are prone to share. The stores, private and
public offices, are, by common consent, gene-
rally closed at one o'clock (that being the usual
dinner hour), and not reopened till three.
During that interval nearly every kind of
business and labor is suspended. The streets
are comparatively deserted ; the rich and the
poor retire to their respective couches, arid
remain wrapped in slumber, or 'thinking o'
nothing,' till the loud peal of the three o'clock
bell warns them to resume their occupations.


Government of New Mexico The Administration of Justice
Judicial Corruption Prejudices against Americans Partial-
ity for the English Anecdote of Governor Armijo and a
Trapper Outrage upon an American Physician Violence
suffered by the American Consul and others Arbitrary Im-
positions upon Foreigners Contribution de Guerra The Al-
caldes and their System The Fueros Mode of punishing
Delinquents and Criminals Mexican System of Slavery
Thieves and Thieveries Outrage upon an American Mer-
chant Gambling and Gambling-houses Game of Monte
Anecdote of a Lady of Fashion Chuza Cockpits Correr
el gallo El Coleo Fandangoes Cigar ritos.

PRIOR to the adoption of the Sistema Central
in the Mexican republic, the province of New
Mexico was under a territorial government.
The executive was called Gefe Politico (poli-
tical chief), and the Diputacion Provincial very
inefficiently supplied the place of a legisla-
ture. Under the present system, however,
New Mexico being a department, the names
of these powers have been changed, but their
functions remain very nearly the same. The
Gobernador (governor) ia appointed by the Pre-
sident for eight years. The legislative power
is nominally -vested in a Junta Departamental,
a kind of state council, with very circum-


scribed powers, somewhat analogous to, and
certainly not more extensive than, those of a
board of aldermen with us. But even this
shadow of popular representation was 'pro-
rogued' by Gov. Armijo soon after his acces-
sion to power (five or six years ago), and has
never since been convened ; so that its func-
tions have been arbitrarily exercised by the
governor ever since.

The administration of the laws in Northern
Mexico constitutes one of the most painful
features of her institutions. Justice^ or rather
judgments, are a common article of traffic ;
and the hapless litigant who has not the means
to soften the claws of the alcalde with a ' sil-
ver unction/ is almost sure to get severely
scratched in the contest, no matter what may
be the justice of his cause, or the uprightness
of his character. It is easy to perceive, then,
that the poor and the humble stand no chance
in a judicial contest with the wealthy and con-
sequential, whose influence, even apart from
their facilities for corrupting the court and
suborning witnesses, is sufficient to neutral-
ize any amount of plebeian testimony that
might be brought against them.

The evil consequences arising from mal-
administration of justice in New Mexico are
most severely felt by foreigners, against whom
a strong prejudice prevails throughout the
South. Of -these, the citizens of the United
States are by far the most constant sufferers ;
an inevitable result of that sinister feeling with
which the ' rival republic' views the advance-


ment and superiority of her more industrious
neighbors. It is a notorious fact, that while
the English are universally treated with
comparative consideration and respect the
Americans residing in the southern parts of
the republic are frequently taunted with the
effeminacy of their government and its want
of decision. So openly has this preference
for British subjects been manifested, and so
thoroughly conscious have the Americans be-
come of the humiliating fact, that when a
mercantile firm, consisting of an American
and an Englishman, has occasion to present
a memorial of any description, or to sue either
for an act of favor or of justice from the na-
tion, the application is sure to be ma'de in the
name of the latter, knowing it will thus be
more likely to command proper attention.

Few men, perhaps, have done more to
jeopard the interests of American traders, or
to bring the American character itself into
contempt, than Armijo, the present arbitrary
governor of New Mexico. I am happy to say,
however, that in the midst of his many oppres-
sions, he was once at least obliged to ' knock
under' to one of those bold and daring spirits
of the Rocky Mountains whom obstacles
rather energize than subdue. This was about
the year 1828, during Armijo's previous gov-
ernorship. A law was then in existence
which had been enacted by the general Con-
gress prohibiting foreigners from trapping bea-
ver in the Mexican territory, under penalty of
confiscation, etc. ; but as there were no na-


tive trappers in New Mexico, Gov. Baca and
his successor (Narbona) thought it expedient
to extend licenses to foreigners, in the name
of citizens, upon condition of their taking
a certain proportion of Mexicans to learn the
art of trapping. In pursuance of this dispo-
sition, Gov. Narbona extended a license to
one Ewing Young, who was accompanied by
a Mr. Sublette, brother of Capt Wm. Suh-
lette, and almost equally celebrated for his
mountain adventures. Previous to the re-
turn of this party from their trapping expe-
dition, Armijo had succeeded Narbona in
office, arid they were informed that it was
his intention to seize their furs. To prevent
this, they deposited them at a neighboring
village, where they were afterwards discover-
ed, seized, and confiscated. The furs being
damp, they were spread out in the sun before
the Guwrdia^ in Santa Fe, when Sublette,
perceiving two packs of beaver which had
been his own property, got by honest labor,
instantly seized them and carried them away
before the eyes of the whole garrison, and
concealed both them and his own person in
a house opposite. The entire military force
was immediately put in requisition, and a
general search made for the offender and his
prize ; but in vain : indeed, if the truth must
be spoken, the troops seemed to have as little
desire to find Sublette as the latter had of be-
ing found; for his character was too well
known to leave any room for hope that his
capture could be effected without a great deal




of trouble. In the meanwhile, Armijo raved,
and threatened the Americans for not ferret-
ing out their countryman and delivering him
over to justice. Failing to produce any im-
pression by blustering, however, he caused a
couple of cannons to be pointed at the house
where the offender was supposed to be conceal-
ed, declaring at the same time that he would
batter it down ; but all to no purpose. Mr.
Sublette finally conveyed his furs in safety to
the frontier, and thence to the United States,
The following anecdote affords another il-
lustration of Armijo's summary mode of deal-
ing with Americans. In the fall of 1840, a
gross outrage was committed upon a physi-
cian from Massachusetts (said to be a gentle-
man of unexceptionable deportment), who
was travelling through the country for his
health. He had loaned nine hundred dollars
to a person of the name of Tayon, who after-
wards borrowed the same amount of another
foreigner and repaid this debt. The doctor
then left for the South, where he intended to
pass the winter, being afflicted with a pulmo-
nary disease. But the individual who had
lent Tayon the money, being informed that
he was insolvent, applied to Gov. Armijo for
an order to compel the doctor to return, ex-
pecting thereby to make him reimburse the
money. The order overtook him at the village
of Algodones, near forty miles from Santa Fe,
where he was at once arrested by the alcalde,
and detained some time, ignorant even of
the offence for which he was doing penance,


In the meantime, the American Consul at
Santa Fe, having been informed of what had
taken place, procured a counter-order from
the governor for the release of the prisoner.
When the alcalde of Algodones received this
document, he determined at once that so ex-
traordinary an act of justice should cost the
foreigner some trifle. Accordingly, another
order was forged on the spot, commanding
that he should be taken to the capital yet a
4 gentle hint' was given, that his liberty might
be purchased by the payment of two hundred
dollars. Being in a land of strangers, among
whom he had but little hope of receiving fair
play, the doctor resolved to pay the amount de-
manded, and fly to Chikuahua, where he would
at least be safe from Armijo's clutches. Hav-
ing been informed, however, of the fraud prac-
tised by the alcalde, before he had proceeded
far on his journey, he returned and made an
attempt to bring the delinquent officer to jus-
tice, but altogether without success.

But perhaps the most glaring outrages upon
American citizens were committed in 1841,
upon the occasion of the capture of the Tex-
an Santa Fe Expedition. In Taos, a poor
deaf and dumb U. S. Creole Frenchman was
beaten to death in open day. In San Miguel,
the alcalde, at the head of a mob, entered the
store of a Mr. Rowland, whom he robbed of
a considerable amount of merchandise. At
the same time, the greatest excitement raged
in Santa Fe against Americans, whose lives
appeared in imminent danger; and a most


savage attack was made upon our excellent
Consul Manuel Alvarez, Esq., who had al-
ways taken an active interest in the welfare
of American citizens.

A few minutes after the governor had de-
parted for San Miguel, to encounter the Tex-
ans, a fellow named Martin, his nephew and
confidential agent, aided by a band of ferocious
sans culottes, and armed with a large knife, se-
cretly entered the house of the Consul, who
perceived him in time, however, to avert the
blow ; yet he received a severe wound in the
face during the scuffle that ensued : the rab-
ble running in at the same time, and vocife-
rating, " Sdquenlo afuera ! matenlo /" Drag
him out ! kill him ! Mr. Alvarez doubtless
owed his preservation partially to the conster-
nation with which the failure of their clandes-
tine attempt at his life inspired the cowardly
ruffians. Instead of being punished for this
diabolical act, the principal assassin, on the
contrary, was soon after promoted in the army.

The outrage did not end here, however;
for on the Consul's demanding his passport
for the United States, it was refused for nearly
a month ; thus detaining him until the cold
season had so far advanced, that, of his party
(about fifteen in number), two perished from
the cold ; and not one arrived without being
more or less frost-bitten some very severely
besides suffering a loss of about fifty ani-
mals from the same cause.

Although these and other daring outrages
have been duly represented to our Govern-


inent, it does not appear that any measures
of redress have yet been taken.

With a view of oppressing our merchants,
Gov. Armijo had, as early as 1839, issued a de-
cree exempting all the natives from the tax
imposed on store-houses, shops, etc., throw-
ing the whole burden of impost upon foreign-
ers and naturalized citizens; a measure clearly
and unequivocally at variance with the trea-
ties and stipulations entered into between the
United States and Mexico. A protest was
presented without effect ; when our Consul,
finding all remonstrances useless, forwarded
a memorial to the American Minister at
Mexico, who, although the vital interests of
American citizens were at stake, deemed the
affair of too little importance, perhaps, and
therefore appears to have paid no attention to
it. But this system of levying excessive taxes
upon foreigners, is by no means an original
invention of Gov. Armijo. In 1835, the gov-
ernment of Chihuahua having levied a con-
tribution de guerra for raising means to make
war upon the savages, who were laying waste
the surrounding country, foreign merchants,
with an equal disregard for their rights and
the obligations of treaties, were taxed twenty-
five dollars each per month ; while the native
merchants, many of whom possessed large
haciendas, with thousands of stock, for the
especial protection of which these taxes were
chiefly imposed, paid only from five to ten
dollars each. Remonstrances were presented
to the governor, but in vain. In his official


reply, that functionary declared, " que el go-
bierno cree arreglado el reparto de sus respect ivas
contribuciones" the government believes your
respective contributions in accordance with
justice which concluded the correspond-
ence, and the Americans paid their twenty-
five dollars per month.

The only tribunals of 'justice' in New
Mexico are those of the ordinary alcaldes or
justices of the peace ; and an appeal from
them is carried to the Supreme Court in the
department of Chihuahua. The course of
litigation is exceedingly simple ancl summa-
ry. The plaintiff makes his verbal complaint
or demand before the alcalde, who orders him
to summon the defendant, which is done by
simply saying, " Le llama el alcalde" (the al-
calde calls you) into his presence, the appli-
cant acting thus in the double capacity of
constable and complainant The summons
is always verbal, and rarely for a future time
instant attendance being expected. Should
the defendant refuse to obey this simple man-
date (which, by the bye, is a very rare occur-
rence), the alcalde sends his baston de justicia,
his staff of justice, an ordinary walking-cane,
distinguished only by a peculiar black silk
tassel. This never fails to enforce compli*
ance, for a refusal to attend after being shown
the staff, would be construed into a contempt
of court, and punished accordingly. The
witnesses are sometimes sworn upon a cross
cut on the baston de justicia, or more fre-
quently, perhaps, upon a cross formed with

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