Wallace Thompson.

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A Study of National Psychology




Copyright, 1922,

All rights reserved
Published March, 1922


7 7 *9

Bancroft Library
NOv 9 1^2


My Mother

Who made the living of life, the loving of my fellow-man,

and the understanding of both, the polestar

of my growing years


TO its observation of Mexico the world has
brought almost every element of illumination
save one, and that the most essential of all. It
has neglected the universal touchstone of under-
standing, older than Solomon; the dictum that
"For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he." Neither
in our writings upon Mexico nor in our practical
dealings with the Mexicans, have we sought out
the fountainhead of all their action and of all their
failure, the Mexican mind itself. Here, first and
last, has been our basic error of approach, the wreck
of all our desires to help or to use the Mexicans.

The book which is offered here seeks to remedy,
in part, this error of the past and to give a ground
which may help to obviate its repetition in the
future. Here is a humble beginning of a study to
which many minds and many years should be
devoted, the clarifying of the mutual understand-
ing of the Latin and the Saxon peoples of the West-
ern Hemisphere by a frank comparison of the work-
ings of their minds.

Of all those who have written of Mexico, or
indeed of any part of Latin America, not one has
taken up the vital problem of psychology in any



but the most incidental way. Thus this book is
based upon no source material; it has no " authori-
ties" save the standard works on general psy-
chology and the stories and illustrations, which
have been taken wherever they could be found.

Only my own previous book, "The People of
Mexico," 1 may perhaps be regarded as the source
book of the present volume. However, although
"The Mexican Mind" is in a way the third of a
trilogy of studies (the first two being comprised in
the two sections of "The People of Mexico, Who
They Are and How They Live"), it is no more
closely related to my previous Mexican book than
it would be to a similar work by some other author,
if such a book existed. There, as here, I sailed
forth on uncharted seas; and here, as there, I hope
only that such light as I have been able to throw
upon the course will serve to guide those whose
sailing must ultimately be the hope of Mexico.

The generous welcome which the critics and the
public accorded "The People of Mexico" brought
forth but one serious criticism, and that was of
failure to delineate a solution for the difficulties
which were described. And yet there has always
been but one solution, the education of the Mexi-
can mass. All else is but subterfuge and momen-
tary relief. The details of that educational solution
which I have now set forth in this book required,
for their understanding, an exposition of Mexican
character. Here, then, is that exposition, and with

1 "The People of Mexico," Harper & Brothers, New York, 1921.



it my suggestions of the fundamental bases upon
which Mexican education must be founded. I hope
and pray that in some way and some time, ere
many years have passed, they, or a development
of them, will be applied. I can see no other hope
for a country which I have long loved and to whose
service all my Mexican books have been dedicated.

I can, as I say, credit no source material for what
has been written on these pages. But much aid
has come to me, in consultation with many friends
who know Mexico well, in the suggestions of unex-
plained incidents in many travel books and in such
reports as have come to my hands.

Of the many others directly and indirectly con-
tributing to the book, I want to speak first of my
old master, Doctor Daniel Moses Fisk, Professor of
Sociology in Washburn College, whose teachings
these many years ago laid the foundations for both
of these efforts of mine. Truly, if ever man were
the grandfather of books, he bears that designation

A word of tribute must go to all those Mexican
friends whose grave and delightful minds have
added so much of inspiration (and a word of regret
when I re-read what I have had of necessity to say
of their people) ; and of these friends, especially to
one, Doctor Toribio Esquivel Obregon, a gentleman
of the most courtly school, and a student of inviting

Of personal appreciation there is one word: to
my wife, Marian Gilhooly Thompson, who to all
my books on Mexico has brought not only the



wealth of her own observations of the Mexicans and
of the other peoples of Latin America, but also the
intuition and understanding which has smoothed
the rough places and clarified my own ideas.


NEW YORK, December 1, 1921.





White and Indian Heritages Irresponsible Indian
Communism The Indian's Crisis Carried Down to
Our Own Time Adoption of Foreign Codes " Mexi-
canization" of the Indian The Menace of the Yellow


Indian and Spanish Contributions Creole and
Mestizo PVi ygjffi 1 F.TVPJ r r>rup cm t Warring Cultures
Imitation ^Thelae^-Emotionalism Standards of Our


Tradition Emphasized by Foreign Codes Absence
of Colorful Legends Domination of "La Costumbre"
Archaic Business Customs Politeness Social Eti-
quette Mexican Romance


Absence of True Spirit of Play Ancient Indian
Festivals List of Holidays Celebrations Bull
Fights Social Functions The Theater Sports


Racial Cleavage Discouragement of Indian Arts
Spanish Contribution Architecture Pottery-making
Weaving Music Dancing and Folklore Painting


Domination of Intellect Lack of Imagination
Absence of Analysis Empirical Thinking The Con-
crete and the Personal The Sensation-impulse Chief
Stimulant to Thought Self-realization




Emotional Expression and Mental Direction Pau-
city of Instincts Sex Fear, Cruelty, Suspicion
Honesty Oratory and Poetry Humor Haoit


Decision the Result of Intellectual Valuations
Apathy and Other Inhibitions Types of Normal De-
cision Abnormalities of Mexican Will Scales of Psy-
chological Values Sex, j'ride, Honor, Dignity
Property Instinct Desire for a Leader


Mexican Crowd Exists on Second of Four Planes of
Human Social Development Individual and Group
Responsibility Will Organizations Only Communis-
tic Groups Mexican Socialism Class Groupings
Leadership Like-mindedness of Mexicans


Domination of Personalities The "Iron Hand"
Borrowed Systems of Government Constitution of
1917 Revolution Instead of Election The "Opposi-
tion" Mexican Federal States and Democracy The
Church in Politics Mexican Justice Graft Obre-
gon's "Peace"


Fear of American Intervention Diaz and Interven-
tion The Monroe Doctrine Sense of Inferiority to
Foreigners Foreign Capital Liking for Indivdual
Foreigners Business and the Outside World
Radicalism and Anti-foreignism


Mexican Patriotism a Love of the Soil Lack of
Respect for History and Ideals Land " Nationaliza-
tion" Inconsistencies Between Professions and Ac-
tions Diaz's Failure in Education The Problem of
"Socialization" An Ideal of Education for Mexican
INDEX , 295





) great streams have come down from
A immemorial time to the making of the Mexican
mind, as they have come to the making of the
Mexican nation. These are the streams of two races,
white and red, races which in mind and in living
were as far apart as the globe which separated

The red stream, moving along through ages be-
fore the white appeared, had become, ere the meet-
ing, an ocean which covered two continents. It
was into that ocean that the blood of the white
stream poured in the two great rivers which swept
westward from North and South Europe in the six-
teenth and seventeenth centuries. In the north
our Anglo-Saxon river pushed back the red, build-
ing a wall, a dike, which we advanced by slow years
ever westward, inclosing those pools of red we left
behind us, but never mingling. But in the South,
Spain poured her blood and culture and civilization

into the red sea, softening its menacing color and



crying joyfully in triumph when, here or there, a
pool paled to European purity. Through three
centuries this mingling went on, and in Mexico the
blood of three hundred thousand white men was
poured into the sea of six million red men to the
making of what they called a new race, the mestizo,
or mixed breed.

Those white men of the heroic age felt, perhaps,
that they were contributing chiefly their blood to
the great mixture, but they gave far more. They
gave the language of Latin culture. They built a
civilization of great churches and stately palaces
and broad, square-lying towns. They gave a social
and political system essentially Spanish and a re-
ligion which raised the Cross above an area that,
with South America, was vaster than all the Cross
had ever shone upon before. They built a princi-
pality of wealth and power and culture and pressed
down upon the Indian population a domination of
ideas which seemed to mark the land for Spain and
the Church forever.

Then came that strange sweep of freedom which
was first an idea in the Europe of the late eighteenth
century and was next a pulsing reality in that
mighty outpost of England which lay between
Boston and Roanoke. The sweep of that freedom
turned southward, and then Mexico and one by
one each and all of the Americas fell beneath the
sway, not perhaps of the idea, but of the fact, and
kings tottered on their thrones and colonies be-
came independent empires. The white man of

Northern America became his own king, for the



ideas of freedom were deep in his heart. He and
he alone fought the battles which were in reality
but a single battle in the long war which had begun
at Runnymede.

But the white man of the South, the Spaniard,
who for three centuries had bred his blood into the
soil, raising up his Creole 1 and mestizo sons to carry
on the torch, fled back to Europe before the storm,
and the mestizos and their Indian brothers became
the "Washingtons" and "Jeffersons" and "Hamil-
tons" and "Lafayettes" of their revolutions. Red
man turned against white, and for fifty years blood
flowed like water in every land from Florida to
Patagonia. Then here and there arose great men,
and especially, in Mexico, one great man, Porfirio
Diaz, a half-blood Indian, but by some strange
prank of heredity, a white man in mind and

Diaz rallied round him that pitiful handful of the
white Mexicans who remained, the native-born
Creoles, and with them those half-blood Mexicans
in whom the Spanish strain was predominant in
culture and in their ways of thinking. They built
them a republic that was an autocracy and under

1 In Mexico the term " Creole" is used to signify definitely the
pure-blood, white descendants of Europeans, most of them Span-
iards. The term "mestizo" now applies to all mixed Indian
and white blood peoples, whatever the proportion of the mixture.
The word " Creole" has rather differing meanings in South America
and also in the United States. The Mexican use, which is followed
here, is supported by the Spanish Academy, with this further
limitation that by the literal Academy definition negroes of pure
African blood are also Creoles.



their sway Mexico again became an outpost of the
white world in Latin America, paralleling in many
ways the white lands of Chile, Argentine, and
Uruguay, far to the south in the temperate zone, the
home land of the white man.

Under Diaz, European culture became predomi-
nant, as it had been in the days of the Spanish
viceroys, and the mind, the culture of the red man
were buried once more, buried and all but forgotten
in the centers of government and learning. Upward
through that crust of foreign culture there pushed,
here and there, a mestizo and, at long intervals, an
Indian, achieving the miracle of adaptation along
ways ill suited to their strange Indian psychologies.
Thus some reached, at last, to the light of the white
world, up walls less scalable, in many ways, than
those which still shut the American negro from the
heights of our civilization.

But millions of the Mexicans, mixed blood and
Indian, remained red, and red they are to this day,
and red they have shown themselves to all the
world for these past ten bloody years. They do not
dress in war paint and their tomahawks are great
long corn knives which readily disembowel their
adversaries but do not lend themselves to the
more gentle art of scalp-taking. But Indian they
are and to-day, behind the flimsy curtain of their
Spanish language and religion, behind the tattered,
flapping blinds of what was once a copy of the
American Federal Constitution, behind the blatant
Marseillaise of modern socialism, they leap in savage
war dances and look forward to the day when



Indian communism (not Marxian socialism) shall
rule, when the white man with his mines and oil
wells shall be forgotten and Indian demagogues and
Indian priests shall rule their ways and their

That Indian culture, if we may so use the term,
is perhaps the most sinister threat against the
civilization of the white man which exists in the
world to-day. Its strength is in its inertia; its
threat is in the fact that to-day it is the dominating
factor in the political and social life of Mexico, the
keystone nation of Latin America. That that
threat is no mere nightmare the past ten years of
Mexican history may prove to us. Its danger is
the greater in the fact that the white man of Europe
and America finds it so difficult to believe that there
is even the possibility of this reversion. Our pride
in our culture, our faith in the subtle power and
lasting force of the environment which our Spanish
brothers created in Latin America is so great that
we are prone to consider the Indian only as a smaller
brother and not as a grown man capable at least of
bearing arms and of dying for the things which are
ingrained in his soul.

Brothers indeed we may be before Heaven, but
the Indian differs from the white man in qualities
more fundamental than mere variation in ideas
and in the ages of their cultures. White and red
were, and to-day indeed still are, farther apart than
any, even yellow and black, in the processes of
their thoughts and in the ideals of what is worth
living for and what is worth dying for.



Although we may feel far away and distant from
the negro, because centuries of civilization separate
us, the distance seems somehow only that of cul-
tural ages, and the mind of the black man and the
mind of the white man follow the same road. The
brown man of the Mediterranean seems to speak
our language, and his culture and ours are one.
Even the yellow Oriental thinks as we think, and
we misunderstand him chiefly because he does not
let us see his mind, because ever is that cloud of
imperturbable, age-old silence of voice and facial
muscle which we do not penetrate. But the red
man, with a lesser cunning than the yellow, with
a mask of apparent dullness and stupidity, baffles
us by his very simplicity. We may know the illog-
ical sequence of his thoughts, we may plumb his
philosophy till its childishness lies plain before us,
but still he travels a road which is more than the
mere path behind us, which apparently swings in
orbits which know not the planes and verticals and
ellipses that are ours. East and West may lie far
asunder, but they meet indeed before the throne of
common virtues; West and East alike stumble to
incoherence before the enigma of the Apache, the
Aztec, the Maya, and the Inca.

To-day the white world stands as it has stood
since Columbus first planted the Cross on the Island
of San Salvador, aloof and afar from 'those planes
of Indian psychology. But, verily, the day is press-
ing upon us, and it behooves us to take ourselves
out of the safe shelter of our Abbey walls, where for
our thousand years we have sat in judgment upon


the world, and to find that Indian plane, and,
finding it, to know it and understand it. Thus and
thus only will we achieve the civilizing of Latin
America and in that civilizing the saving of white
culture in the western hemisphere and perhaps, in-
deed, in all the world.

At our hand is Mexico, sick unto death, and be-
cause of her very illness with her symptoms and
the processes of her thoughts more open than they
have ever been to the white man. The way of our
search here plunges into the untracked jungle of
Indian and Mexican psychology, a forest into
whose depths no foreigner has ever penetrated.
Into it we must go, because only when we have
passed beyond its edges and glimpsed (even if we
only glimpse) its massive trunks, its bogs, and its
twining, crippling vines, its poisonous, exotic
flowers, its noxious insects and its savage beasts,
shall we begin to understand the problems which
we actually face or begin to approach to their

In that jungle we shall find not only the old,
primeval growths of Indianism unchanged through
the four centuries of white rule, but we shall find
also trees and plants and grasses of transplanted
Spanish ideals, distorted and adapted by their new
environment into forms which we shall hardly recog^
nize, with roots steeped in the rotting atavism of
the untold millenniums of Indian history.

The Mexico of to-day is root and stem of this
ancient jungle. The very physical make-up of the

population harks back to it. The six million Indians



of the fifteen million of the Mexican people are in
many ways more Indian than the reservation tribes
of the United States. Of the eight million mestizos
or mixed bloods, probably two-thirds are Indian
in physical type and in spiritual and mental tem-
perament. Nearly twelve million Indian minds in
fifteen million ! A vast subsoil whose mere existence
is the most illuminating fact in Mexican life, be the
observer psychologist, politician, soldier, or a trades-
man seeking new markets.

Descended, during unrecorded aeons, either
through evolutionary processes from the animal life
of the very land in which they now live, or wan-
derers from distant cradles of humanity of which
they have no tradition, the Indians of Mexico, as of
all America, remain one of the unique racial prob-
lems of science. Their historical and psychological
problems, as well, still baffle our attempts at meas-
uring them by our own scientific yardsticks.

In the period of then* life which we know, the
Mexican Indians, like all the peoples of history, have
had the experience of being conquered and domi-
nated culturally by men of alien races and higher
civilization. But in exception to most others, they
have not and do not now show any sign of the
growing mentality, broader group-consciousness,
improved moral and intellectual adaptability which
have marked other conquered peoples in the five
thousand years of recorded history.

They remain much the same peoples as they were
when the Spaniards came, little changed by white
rule, essentially barbaric in their modes of thought



and in the values which they place upon the factors
of their life. Like the Indians of old time, the
Indians of to-day desire nothing so much as to be
left alone, and the one thing which they fight for
is to be left to themselves and to their primeval
communal life. Spain discovered early that the
easiest way to rule the Indians was to leave the
communes to themselves, and to allow their only
contact to be with the paternal Church and the
paternal landlord. The viceroys early adopted this
easiest way, with effects of which we are only to-
day reaping the full fruits.

This first and most significant surrender to In-
dianism by the Spaniards was virtually a re-begin-
ning of the European feudal system both for the
Indians and for their conquerors. The feudal age
was dead in Europe when Columbus sailed, almost
as dead in Spain as in England. But the feudal
stage of Indian development was not yet passed,
and so, in the surrender to Indian demands, feudal-
ism was revived in Latin America, and that far
less because of Spanish cupidity than because of
the immovable mountain of Indian tradition and
the inertia of Indian psychology.

Thus, in the beginning, the Indian failed in meet-
ing his great crisis, the crisis of his adaptation to
the higher culture which Spain offered him. In his
winning the right to continue his communal life he
carried on to future generations the consequences
of his failure to meet his new conditions. That
failure has been repeated age after age and by gov-
ernment after government, and the crisis of Indian



adaptation to the white civilization which has
pressed upon him has come down to our own day.
It is that crisis which faces the white Mexican and
through him all the white world to-day. For the
crisis of Mexico is essentially this crisis of the
Indian, due to his failure, again, in the past decade,
to meet the crisis of government which has been
thrown into his hands by the machinations of
mixed-breed agitators.

The problem is essentially psychological and
essentially one which, because of the failures and
neglect of the mestizos and of the Indians, the
white world must meet and solve. It therefore be-
hooves us to dig deep into its psychological bases
as well as into its historical antecedents.

Aside from the blame which might attach to the
Spaniards as a colonizing and civilizing power,
aside from the fact that the racial amalgamation
of peoples of such different and distant stocks in-
evitably produces a lower mixed type, less capable
than either of the parent races to meet crises, there
remain certain definite elements of Indian psychol-
ogy and social organization which stand out men-
acingly in the Indian history of the past and in the
Mexican history of the present.

The first of these is that never since the fall of
Spanish rule has the scepter of vital power been
long out of the grasp of the Indian mass. This
power, animal in its beginnings, and animal in
most of its manifestations, has owed its control to
the numerical predominance of the Indian type in

the population, to the dominance of Indian phys-



ical and mental traits in the mass of the mestizos
and to the greater adaptability of the Indian to
climatic and food conditions.

The second important element is the fact that
the strivings, the "ideals" of the Indian are not, as
our sentimentality would lead us to believe, toward
democracy and that freedom which we find a need
of our own souls, but toward the primal com-
munism which has come down, virtually unchanged,
from pre-Spanish times, and toward a liberty that
is license, without limit or inhibition.

This Mexican communism is unique, distin-
guished from other communal organizations in his-
tory by an almost complete absence of communal
responsibility. A system of common ownership of
land and other property has existed from the
legendary era of Mexico down to the modern days
of Carranza and Obregon. But where in other lands
with similar communal ideas the sense of responsi-
bility on the part of the commune for the acts of
its members has been a great controlling and
educative force, in Mexico there has been virtually
no such restraint. Normally, the kin or clan takes
upon itself matters of discipline and control, and
offenses of any sort against the tribal code are pun-
ished severely. Not the least onerous of its punish-
ments has always been, from Africa to Greenland,
banishment or expulsion from the group, a sen-
tence which in the kin organizations of all time has
meant social death, for no other kin will receive a

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