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were virtually forts of adobe, each with its round tower pierced
with loop-holes ; near each was a corral made of bush, or poles
fastened to the cross-pieces with thongs of rawhide. A solitary
door afforded admission to the placita; the long line of outer
walls showed no openings in the way of windows. Everything
of value wool, hides, wheat is kept inside the walls. It has
been so long a land of perpetual danger and watchfulness.

As darkness drew on we saw across the plain the four white
tents of the engineer party, and drove over there for supper.
The boys were found in comfortable condition, and interested in
their few Mexican neighbors. They told some curious stories
of the effects of the yerba loca, or mad-weed, which grows in
these plains. Two of their mules having eaten it went absolutely
crazy, and suffered from swelled heads the next morning ; yet,
having eaten it once, eagerly sought for it again. The weed ap-
pears to operate on mules as whisky does on men. I was sorry
to hear of the. existence of such a plant ; an inebriated mule
around a camp must be a terrible calamity.

The cloudy night had settled down when we resumed our soli-
tary way. There was no sound except the clatter of the hoofs
of our mules and the crunching of the wheels in the gravel. A
barking of dogs heralded our approach to the few houses called
Sacramento, where there was once a show of fight between our
troops and the Mexicans in the old "Mexican war;" then all was
still again for miles and miles. Then we saw a light; at times it
seemed directly in front; then it appeared on one side or the
other; now we are bearing down upon it; it is at the end of a
long, straight avenue; we shall reach it presently; no, it is re-
ceding ; perhaps it is but a star ; no, here it is again. So with
weary eyes we watched the light Now it shines, clear and well


defined. It is a street lamp ; it throws its gleam on the front of
some buildings. We pass under the over-hanging boughs of
trees; we rattle over a stone bridge; the blank walls of houses
arise, white, ghostly, vague, on either hand in the light of lamps
few and far between. The sharp cry of a sentry comes out of
the dark, "Quien vive?" " Amigos" is the reply, and we pass
on. Here is an open space; lamps gleam through trees and
shrubbery ; high up between the towers of a church shines an
illuminated clock face; the brazen clangor of a bell drops down
from the height; it is 3 o'clock in the morning, and this is the
plaza of Chihuahua.


THE city of Chihuahua, which in a few weeks will be as access-
ible to the people of the United States as New York and Phila-
delphia, is situated 224 miles, by rail, south of El Paso, Texas,
and 900 miles north of the City of Mexico, with which it will
be connected by rail within two years.

It is the largest city in the extreme Northern Mexico, has had
a brilliant past, and seems destined to a prosperous future. It
will be visited within the next twelve months by thousands of
Western people including a large proportion of Kansans
drawn by business, pleasure, and curiosity.

Chihuahua is the capital of the State of Chihuahua, the north-
eastern State of the Republic of Mexico; it is the seat of justice
for the county of Iturbide, and the military headquarters of the
department at present commanded by Gen. Fuero. It is the site
of a Government mint, and generally the political and commer-
cial capital of the North. It is the first point reached by the
great Mexican Central Railway, (an extension of the Atchison,
Topeka & Santa Fe system,) and no city of importance will ever
be built within two hundred miles of it in any direction.

Chihuahua has a municipal government, the present mayor
being Don Juan N. Zubiran, for many years the Mexican consul
at El Paso, Texas, and one of the most progressive of the public
men of Mexico. He speaks and writes English with fluency,
and is the friend of every respectable American who comes to
Chihuahua. He is an encyclopedia of Mexican history and pol-
itics; has known every Mexican political or military chief of
prominence from the days of Santa Anna, and was the devoted
personal friend of the late President Juarez. Kindly, affable, a
friend of popular education, he has laid the city of Chihuahua



under everlasting obligations, and is the creditor of a large num-
ber of foreigners for information extended.

Chihuahua is well paved, has waterworks of an ancient pattern,
and is lighted with naptha lamps ; it has several hotels, mostly
frequented by Americans; two American barber shops, and one
bootblack of native origin. It has banks, stores of all kinds, a
theater, a plaza de toros, from which the bulls and matadors have
however departed, and which is occupied at present by a Mexi-
can circus company, which performs every Sunday. The clown
speaks Spanish, and is therefore unable to bore Americans.

Historically, Chihuahua may be said to be a comparatively
modern place, for a Spanish-American city. It lays no such
claim to antiquity as Santa Fe or several other towns in New
Mexico. It was in fact as Senor Zubiran says, "nothing but
grasshoppers," until 1702, when the great silver mine of Santa
Eulalia attracted attention to the neighborhood. The town grew
after the fashion of mining towns in other times and centuries,
and in 1718, by royal authority, the settlement was organized as
a village, under the name of San Francisco de Chihuahua. The
immense richness of the mines, the fact that there was no other
town of importance within hundreds of miles, and the wealth and
energy of its inhabitants, combined to make Chihuahua a marvel
of prosperity. Other colonies and towns were the outgrowth of
missions, and were located on the site of Indian pueblos. Chi-
huahua sprang into existence under the shadow of its mountain,
El Coronel ("The Colonel")* the product of mining and com-
merce. When Capt. Zebulon M. Pike was detained here a pris-
oner in 1806, he found a fine city of 60,000 people. It is well
authenticated that in the middle of the last century the town had
70,000 inhabitants. Its rulers were merchants and mine owners.
It was also a manufacturing town, and within the last fifty years
articles from the State of Chihuahua were sold in great quantities
at Santa Fe.

The era of greatest prosperity was probably reached about
1727, when the great church on the plaza, called the Cathedral
but which it is not, as Chihuahua has not and never has had a


bishop was commenced. It was built as the parish church of
Chihuahua by the business men of the city, out of a fund raised
by a contribution of 12J cents on each mark, or eight ounces, of
silver produced in the vicinity. Commenced in 1727, the ex-
terior was completed in 1741 ; the interior was not finished till
1761. The building proper cost $600,000 ; of the cost of the
interior no one presumes to make an estimate. In those days
the banks of the little river Chuvisca, which flows by the town,
were lined with smelters and reduction works, and immense
piles of waste can still be traced for miles. Outside of the pres-
ent city the foundations of ancient houses can be traced, scattered
over a large district. Here was a great city, enormous in its
wealth, with its fine Alameda thronged with pleasure-seekers
every morning and evening, and yet as utterly shut out from
every foreign country as if it had been situated in the interior
of Africa. The Spanish erected a more than Chinese wall about
the country. Within a few years it has required two months
for a letter to reach Chihuahua from the United States.

When the decline of Chihuahua began, is hard to state; proba-
bly with the abandonment of the policy of enslaving the Indians
and working them in the mines. The staggering blow was dealt
by the Mexican revolution, which lasted from 1810 to 1821.
This eleven years of war was followed by the years of perpetual
revolution, which have now happily ended. The Spaniard
worked no mines except by slave labor; now comes the Ameri-
can with his mighty slave, steam, which performs the work of
millions of bondmen, and the restoration of Mexico and of
Chihuahua is at hand. After all the backsets and calamities,
the town is still estimated to contain 19,000 people. Most of its
public buildings have survived the shocks of time and revolu-

Chihuahua, nine hundred miles from the City of Mexico, the
political center, has yet had its share in the wars of the country.
The people bore an honorable part in the struggle for independ-
ence, and in this city occurred the saddest tragedy of the revo-
lution, the murder of Hidalgo. Amid all the bitter contentions
of Mexican politics, no voice has ever been raised against the


character of Hidalgo. A scholar and a priest, he first distin-
guished himself by his efforts in behalf of his parishioners; he
introduced among them the silk-worm and the honey-bee. Al-
though allied by his profession and his family to the ruling
class, he yet raised in the face of what seemed resistless power
the standard of revolt. He foretold his own fate, saying that it
was the fortune of men who inaugurated revolutions to perish in
them. After the disastrous battle of the Bridge of Calderon,
Hidalgo was captured and brought to Chihuahua, where he was
shot within the walls of the Hospital Real. He died with the
utmost resolution; giving his gold watch to the jailer, and divid-
ing what coin he had about his person among the firing party,
to whom he said: "I will place my hand upon my breast; it
will serve as the mark at which you are to fire." The hospital
has been nearly all torn down to make room for a new govern-
ment building now in course of erection. A monument has
been erected near the spot of his execution, but it bears no in-
scription; no carved word or line is needed to remind Mexicans
that here died the purest and most unselfish man whose name
has yet adorned the annals of Mexico. His head is engraved
on the postal stamps of the country, and on the walls of the
council chamber of Chihuahua hangs his portrait, with those of
Morelos, Guerrero, Juarez, and General Mejia, Minister of War
to the latter. It is sad but true that in the long line of public
men who have figured in Mexico the names of Hidalgo and
Juarez alone seem to receive universal veneration. Hidalgo
died with his work hardly begun, but Juarez lived to see his
country freed from the invader, and every substantial reform
now doing its beneficent work in Mexico is the result of his
labors and counsels.

During the invasion of the French, Juarez, driven from his
capital, resided for a year in Chihuahua. Congress had delegated
all its powers to him. He was the government. The French
twice occupied Chihuahua; the second time they were driven
out. At one time so desperate were the fortunes of the Republic
that Juarez took refuge in Paso del Norte, but he never aban-
doned Mexican territory. During his stay at El Paso the ex-


penses of the government are said to have been thirty dollars a
day, a sum which was contributed by the citizens of Chihuahua.

Chihuahua has had two revolutions, but appears to have been
fairly governed except during the reign of a drunken vagabond,
Gen. Angel Trias, who destroyed one of the finest churches in
the city and committed other depredations. The present Gov-
ernor, Don Luis Terassas, has been in power a long time, and is
said to be liberal in his views. His brother, Col. Terassas, distin-
guished himself in the destruction of Victorio and his murdering

Chihuahua is to some extent an adobe town, but the public
buildings and principal edifices are built in a great measure of a
stone obtained from a quarry three miles from town, which in
texture resembles the magnesian limestone found in Kansas, but
in color somewhat resembles the Caen stone so much used for
building in Paris.

The society in Chihuahua is at present largely Mexican. There
are a few foreigners who have long been domiciled here, have in-
termarried with Mexican families, and have exercised a great in-

Henrique Miiller, a German, was for many years a ruler in
Chihuahua. The family of Macmanus, originally from Carlisle,
Pennsylvania, has been in Chihuahua for forty years, and the
second generation is now in business here. Many people antici-
pate a complete revolution, social and otherwise, with the coming
of the Mexican Central Railroad, but what I have seen of the
survival of the Mexican habits and customs in New Mexico,
after over thirty years of American rule, leads me to think that
it will be several years before Chihuahua ceases to be to Ameri-
cans a foreign city in many things.

The altitude of Chihuahua counteracts the latitude. Here, in
the last quarter of May, the weather is like the June of Kansas, with
a few hours of July in the middle of the day. There is nothing
in the atmosphere or the vegetation to suggest an extreme south-
ern, much less tropical, climate. The flowers here are the lark-
Spurs and hollyhocks and roses, the commrn garden flowers of
New England. This all changes, however, in the rainy season.


Kansas people who are not in a hurry will enjoy a visit to
Chihuahua, merely as a visit. If they are on business intent,
and wish to rush things, they had better leave the city and go to
prospecting. In Chihuahua as far as I have observed no one is
in a hurry. I have never seen a town with such facilities for
sitting down. There are seats on the plaza, seats all along the
Alameda, and stone benches on all the placitas. These are not
at all necessary for the ordinary Mexican, male or female, for he
or she takes a seat on the sidewalk whenever repose is required.
The American out of a job travels incessantly; even the profes-
sional loafer moves or tramps; but the Mexican, when there is
nothing urgent on hand, takes a seat. Americans must make up
their minds to this, and not get excited, since it will effect nothing.

The people of Chihuahua, as far as my observation goes, and
as far as I can learn from others, are extremely civil. The rowdy
and the hoodlum do not seem to be native to Chihuahua. The
men do not carry knives and daggers, nor do they stick them in
the backs of Americans, as commonly represented. The vices of
the Mexican character, of which we hear so much, appear to be
carefully concealed, as far as strangers are concerned. In a some-
what extensive acquaintance with public grounds in various cities
and countries, I have never known a more orderly, perhaps it
would better to say, courteous place, than the plaza in Chihua-
hua at night.

Whether an American can enjoy himself as a mere looker-on
here, depends on his temperament. If he is easy-going, tolerant,
willing to submit to a state of things different from that existing
at Jonesville Four Corners, U. S. A ; if he is curious about an
ancient civilization, different from our own ; if he wishes to see a
Southern European city without crossing the ocean, he will find
it in Chihuahua.


THE center of Chihuahua is the plaza. There is a ruined por-
tion of the town called "Old Chihuahua," but it is certain that
this plaza is as old as anything in the city. It is now, as it al-
ways has been, the joy and pride of the town, this little square
of green. In appearance it is somewhat modernized; it was
originally planted in orange trees, which were killed some years
ago by the frost, and handsome young ash trees now fill their
places. There are beds of common garden flowers, larkspurs,
hollyhocks, petunias, verbenas and the like, trellises covered with
vines, and in the center there is a bronze fountain, which sup-
plies the place of an antique stone-work. The aqueduct, a very
ancient construction, is out of order, yet the bronze swans of the
fountain pour out little streams from their bills, and keep up a
continual splashing, and partially fill the basin. From the ear-
liest light of morning till far into the night a crowd of women
and girls are coming to or going from the fountain with earthen
jars, such as you see in pictures of "Rebecca at the Well;"
there are also porters, who carry away little barrels of water
slung on a pole between them. Whatever stillness may linger
around the rest of Chihuahua, it is always busy about the foun-
tain. There are seats of bronzed iron around the plaza, and
they are always occupied, day and night. When the sun has set
the promenade commences. The major part of the promenaders
are young ladies, sometimes attended by an elderly female;
oftener alone; very seldom in the company of gentlemen. In
many a northern city they would be exposed to rudeness. Noth-
ing of the kind occurs in Chihuahua. I have never seen so uni-
versally decorous a people. To romp, to talk loud, even in
innocent glee, is quite unknown ; all questions are exchanged in



a low voice. To be reposeful and quiet seems to be the Mexican
idea of good breeding.

On the plaza, facing the east, is the great church, La Parrochia.
It has two towers one hundred and fifty feet high. The towers
are built in four receding stories, of columns of a graceful de-
sign. The facade between the towers is a mass of carving of in-
tricate pattern, and in niches are thirteen life-size figures of saints,
while on the crest stands the winged Santiago, patron of Spain.
There are entrances on the north and south, each set in a mass of
carved work. Over the altar is a massive dome, which supplies
light to the church. In the towers are chimes of bells, and bells
are hung at every coigne of vantage, and these bells are eternally
in motion. When the clock strikes the hour, two bells supple-
ment its information, and about once in fifteen minutes all the
bells are set going with a deafening clangor. This being the
month of May, sacred to the Virgin, services are held with un-
usual frequency. The interior of the church is striking from its
height and vastness, but for no other reason. The pictures are
revolting. In no country have I seen the sufferings of Christ de-
picted with such brutal fidelity. There are crucifixes in these
old Mexican churches, where the wounds, the bruises, the rigidity
of death, the clotted blood, affected me as if I had suddenly dis-
covered a murdered corse in the woods. The high altar is of
immense proportions, so that it is ascended by stairs, but it is a
mass of gilt paper, artificial flowers, and mirrors, of which these
people of the South appear to be so exceedingly fond.

Such is the great church of Chihuahua. I have many times
stepped in while service was in progress, and have noted what
may be seen in every Spanish- American country the vast ma-
jority of women among the worshippers. They knelt or sat upon
the floor by hundreds, while the men could be counted by scores;
and many of them left before the service was over. The priest
of La Parrochia is a marked figure as he goes about the streets
with a robe of black, with a cape like that of an army over-
coat. He is a man of wealth and imperious bearing, and in his
look reminds me somewhat of the first Napoleon. The same


Napoleonic head is seen in the pictures of Morelos, the priest
?ho led the Mexican struggle for independence after the death
of Hidalgo. Down a long, narrow street that leads out of the
plaza is the Casa de Moneda, or mint, with its tower in which
Hidalgo was imprisoned. Soldiers are always on guard here,
and further down are the barracks. There are about one thou-
sand men in garrison in Chihuahua. These troops are from the
Gulf coast. The men are much darker than the inhabitants of
Chihuahua, and in fact many of them are pure Indians. The
infantry wear a linen jacket and pantaloons, and a round leather
hat with a red pompon. They are armed with breech-loaders.
They are drilled entirely with the bugle, and move with reason-
able steadiness. They are not as robust physically as the Amer-
icans, English, or Germans, but they are larger than the average
French infantryman. They live on little, and are said to be
rapid and far marchers. Well led, they ought to be fair soldiers.
The cavalry are better clad, wearing a dark-blue uniform, a copy
of the French, and wide white shoulder belts. Those I have seen
rode indifferently, perhaps because they were incumbered with
the iron war club technically called a cavalry saber. The offi-
cers of both are handsomely uniformed in dark blue, with trim-
mings of scarlet and silver. Some of these troops have been
stationed on the frontier, and have acquired so much of the
English language as is necessary in the transaction of their " reg-
ular business ; " at least one of them has asked me in an intelli-
gible manner for a dime to buy a drink of whisky.

In Chihuahua soldiers do not have a monopoly of conspicuous
clothes. Variety in unity is the Mexican motto. Occasionally
a gentleman from the country is met whose costume apparently
consists of a shirt and a pair of drawers; but the general "rig"
of the lower order of the male persuasion is a pair of pantaloons
cut off about six inches above the feet, with a white cotton exten-
sion from there down, a jacket, a sombrero of straw, and around
the shoulders the serape. This much-talked-of garment is largely
manufactured in Chihuahua. It is simply a coarse blanket, and
looks like a gay-colored piece of rag carpet. The articles known
in the rural districts of the United States as "galluses" are not


in vogue in Mexico, consequently many of the men gird them-
selves with a white handkerchief, which hangs down in triangular
shape behind, producing a not very imposing effect. Among the
poorest people shoes are not worn, but instead sandals of rawhide.
Mexico is a country of grades, and from these Mexicans in serapes
and sandals to the rich rulers of society it is a long way. These
last, in many instances, are ultra-fashionables in the matter of
clothes, and the old Mexican dress is seldom worn. Young men
sometimes wear it when riding on the Alameda. It seems to me
handsome and graceful. The silver-banded sombrero, the short
jacket, and the pantaloons trimmed down the seams with gold or
silver buttons and braid, does not seem theatrical when you see
it commonly worn. The same may be said of the red or purple
sash or waist-belt. That bit of color seems the mark of the com-
mon Latin man the world over. It is worn by French-Canadian
lumbermen, by Italian and Portugese sailors, and by Mexican
laborers and herdsmen.

The grand gathering-place of all the Chihuahua people, old
and young, is the Alameda, so called, I suppose, from the alamo,
or cottonwood. It must originally have extended half around
the town, from the river to the river again; and Pike speaks of
the promenade as existing in 1806. Four rows of cottonwoods
make the Alameda, and many of the trees now standing are over
one hundred years old. Their gnarled roots run along on top
of the ground, twining with each other in many a fantastic fold.
The place of many primeval cottonwoods has been supplied with
others, and may the shadow of the Alameda never grow less. All
along either side are stone benches of unknown age, on which
successive generations of Chihuahuans have rested. Men born
in a cold climate are prone to dash about in the sun, and risk sun-
stroke; natives of a hot country never do. Consequently, if you
would see the Alameda in its glory, you must see it in the early
morning or later eve. It is a pretty sight in the fresh, cool morn-
ing to see the crowded Alameda, the ladies seated on the stone
sofas, watching the carriages as they drive slowly along, or the
groups of the young bloods of Chihuahua, mounted on fine horses,
with saddles of the most elaborate pattern. A pendent housing


of goat-skin is very fashionable, and is quite showy. All is quiet !
The carriages move slowly ; the horsemen ride in a measured pace;
nobody gallops, nobody whoops; the band plays gentle, plaintive
airs; and the spectators they just sit still and look idly happy.

On the Alameda may be seen the beauty of Chihuahua; and
here is a good place to speak of the question of the existence of
"the beautiful Senorita." Many Americans traveling in New
Mexico come back swearing that the "beautiful Senorita " is a
myth. But such would change their minds in Chihuahua. There
the beautiful Spanish eye and the mass of glossy hair of mid-

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Online LibraryNoble L. (Noble Lovely) PrentisSouth-western letters → online text (page 8 of 11)