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/The
People of Mexico

Who They Are and How They Live



BY



WALLACE THOMPSON










HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
NEW YORK AND LONDON






HISTORY I



THE PEOPLE OF MEXICO

Copyright, 1921, by Harper & Brothers

Printed in the United States of Americq

A-v



To

My Father
ALTON HOWARD THOMPSON

Who in the folklore that he gave me in

my childhood taught me that science

could be as joyous as romance.



43G7G9



CONTENTS



PART I
WHO THEY ARE

CHAP. PAGE

PREFACE xi

S\ t THE MEXICAN TYPE 3

Physical and mental characteristics Clash of cul-
tures Racial phases of Mexican history Mexico
now a mixed-breed land The menace of the tide of
Indianism.

II. RACE ORIGINS 14

Absence of any race strain save Indian and Spanish
Indian contribution largely of vital force Anti-
white manifestations Racial history of Aztecs
Indian type virtually unchanged Spanish contribu-
tion cultural Failure of racial amalgamation as a
solution.

III. THE MELTING POT 35

Racial correspondences in Mexican history Rank
of three race types Mestizo race or mongrel? Re-
version to primitive types Political domination of
mestizos Disintegration of mestizo control.

IV. MEXICO'S POPULATION 56

Faults of early censuses Populations throughout
history Rate of increase Emigration and Immigra-
tion Distribution and density Rural and urban.



CONTENTS

CHAP. FAQH

V. VITALITY 86

Birth and death rates Infant mortality Death
rates by age groups Causes of deaths Health
Climate Vices Defectives



v



I. CASTES AND CLASSES 110

Racial origins of castes Creation of upper and
middle classes Description of present Mexican
classes Rank of foreigners.



PART II
HOW THEY LIVE

I. CLIMATE 131

Poverty of Mexico in agriculture Climate of three
sorts Strain of climate on population Rainfall
inadequate Irrigation Low corn production Men-
ace of famine.

II. THE MEXICAN COMMUNITY AND ITS GOVERNMENT . 152

Feudalism and Indian Communism Ideas of
property Ranches and haciendas Indian villages
and Spanish cities Government and public order
Organization of rule Functions of states and towns
Communications Police .

III. RELIGION 170

Christian domination Statistics of Catholics and
Protestants Types of native Catholics Spanish
missions Church in politics Civil vs. religious
marriage Protestanism .

IV. EDUCATION 195

Illiteracy School statistics Educational budgets
Controversies over educational systems Moral
Education Education for life.



CONTENTS

CHAP. PAGE

V. THE FAMILY 210

Patriarchal organization Domestic relations Di-
vorce Marriage statistics Size of families Position
of women Children.

VI. MEXICAN HOUSES 235

Town plan Types of houses Materials Rooms
and furnishings Statistics of housing Overcrowding
Modern housing.

VII. MEXICO'S FOODS 257

Unity of national diet Corn and beans National
dishes Meat and vegetables Drinks Food dis-
tribution Nutritive value of Mexican diet Under-
nourishment.

VIII. CLOTHING 286

National costumes Dress of Aztecs The Mexican
hat Zerape and reboso Cosmetics and adornment.

IX. CLEANLINESS AND SANITATION 301

Mexican laundries Peon attitude toward cleanli-
ness Baths Vermin Sanitation and water supply
American sanitation in Vera Cruz Cemeteries
Care of the sick.

THE CONDITIONS OF LABOR 315

Relation of Indians to land Spanish land laws-
Peonage, origins and history Labor efficiency
Hours of labor Classification of labor Labor of
children Labor of women Labor organizations
Labor legislation.

XI. INCOME AND THE COST OF LIVING 348

National improvidence Lack of close relationship
between income and social conditions Sources of
income History of wages Credit system Personal



CONTENTS

CHAP. PAGE

budget Food costs Shelter and clothing Pawn-
shops and usury.

XII. VICES, CRIME, AND PAUPERISM 371

Gambling, drinking, and sexual overindulgence the
national vices Prohibition Political crime Crime
against property Classification of crimes against
persons Statistics Pauperism and beggary
Institutions.

XIII. CONCLUSION 399

INDEX 411



PREFACE

'"PHIS book offers itself as an Anatomy of Mexico.
A It deals with one of the grievously sick nations
of the world, in the diagnosis of whose ills our
greatest lack has not been Heaven save the mark !
for minute descriptions of her pains and aches,
nor yet for elaborate explanations of her afflictions
and suggested panaceas. Our deficiency has been
rather in understanding of the patient, how she is
made and how she has been living and thinking, and
in honest appraisal of her antecedents.

The information vital to such understanding has
been almost inaccessible. Much was scattered
through many books, from government statistics
to records of travel, but even there surprisingly
little of it has existed in easily assimilated form.
Writing and talking of Mexico as I have done for
nearly twenty years, I have come to feel that there
is no greater single need of those who would under-
stand the Mexican situation of yesterday and to-
day, and to-morrow as well, than a work that strives
seriously to set down and interpret the fundamentals
of the national anatomy. It is that need which
this book seeks to fill.

Its materials are from many sources; their ar-



PREFACE

rangement, digestion, and interpretation are almost
entirely mine. Of the two parts, the first, save for
its statistical tables, is largely original, the second
a compilation and interpretation of available data.
The first part, in its frank discussion of the race
question, will perhaps be challenged, but there I
have said nothing that Mexicans themselves do not
whisper. Nor have I approached this very vital
subject with anything but the friendliest apprecia-
tion of those always simpatico and understanding
gentlemen, the Mexican mestizos, who have, many
of them, sought so sincerely to solve their country's
problems. The historical data in this part I have
taken largely from Bancroft, always authoritative
and always sound, much of the material on race
from Bandelier; the more recent studies I have con-
sidered as supplementary, for many of them are
still controversial, and, moreover, this question of
race and its manifestations is one of the fields to
which future research has yet to contribute much.
The statistical material in the first section, as in the
second, is necessarily from Mexican sources, whose
reliability is always questionable, although, where
comparisons were not anticipated by the Mexican
editors of the official reports (as in my vitality
tables) much significant matter has been discover-
able. The rearrangement of the data, which had
always to be made, puts a large amount of statistics
for the first time in usable form.

The second part of the book, dealing with living
conditions, has made use of source material which
could be reached. To this end the invaluable files



PREFACE

of the Doheny Research Foundation, covering
practically everything printed on Mexico that is
available in the United States, were used freely;
to them were added statistical and other data
gathered personally, my own notes being the basis
for most of the facts and observations in such chap-
ters as Foods, Housing, Labor, etc.

The list of those to whom I owe gratitude for
tangible aid must of necessity, in a work of this
sort, be very long, and includes a host of personal
friends whose contribution could not be appraised.
Of those who have actually helped toward the mak-
ing of the manuscript, I would name Miss Ida A.
Tourtellot, my associate in the original work of the
Doheny Research Foundation, a valued colleague
and a sympathetic critic, and with her the many
other members of the Foundation who were truly
my confreres, Prof. Ellsworth Huntington, to whom
I owe much of the material on climate, Mr. Madi-
son Grant for important suggestions on the gen-
eral subject of race, Dr. Norman Bridge, for his
invaluable criticism and inspiration, and Mr.
Edward L. Doheny, for his faith in the sincerity
of my study and his genuine devotion to the best
interests of Mexico.

WALLACE THOMPSON.

NEW YORK, November 1, 1920.



PART I
WHO THEY ARE



THE PEOPLE OF MEXICO



THE MEXICAN TYPE

WHAT is a Mexican? What is his racial, his
cultural background? Whence did he come?
What did he bring with him from beyond the glow
of his recorded history? What type has he truly
been through the strenuous periods since he emerged
from the melting pot of the three-hundred-year-
long Spanish regime? What is he to-day and what
is he to be?

These are questions which even the most factual
students of Mexican history are coming to ask
themselves. They are questions of the impersonal
observer of international affairs, and of the patriotic
American or European who grasps dimly that this
anomalous people is having a disproportionate in-
fluence upon the social and industrial trends of the
world. They are questions which Mexicans them-
selves ask, with a growing frankness into which the
dangerous words "race" and "atavism" and
"white civilization" enter significantly. They are
questions that cannot be answered categorically,
for the light of the past is filtered through glasses

3



Y/r THE PEOPLE OF MEXICO

of prejudice and caution, coloring the most ob-
vious facts and distorting the most impersonal
standards.

The 15,000,000 Mexicans include 6,000,000 pure-
blooded Indians of fifty tribal strains, and until the
exile of the upper classes under Carranza approx-
imately 1,000,000 pure whites of Spanish lineage
I also called themselves Mexicans; between the two
extremes are 8,000,000 mestizos (literally mixed
> bloods) to whose creation the two primary races
have for four centuries contributed contrasting
elements. It is the resultant hybrid whose numbers
Snake him the typical Mexican of to-day.

The body of the Indian, small, firm, and sturdy,
has been softened by the narrow-hipped litheness
of the Spaniard to a combination, in this mestizo
Mexican, surprisingly lacking in Indian endurance
and Spanish virility. The glistening copper skin
of the Indian has been paled by the .Spaniard's
olive glow to varying shades of chocolate brown.
The long skull and oval face of the white have,
however, affected the rounded contour of the Indian
type but little, so that the mestizo is a " round-
head, " his cheek bones are high, though less prom-
inent than in the aborigines, while his nostrils are
wide and lips rather thick. The eyes, uniformly
dark, tend to the Indian form, with a greater curve
in the lower lid than is normal in the European, and
the upper lid much straighter. The hair is black
and straight, and coarse and bristly almost in di-
rect proportion to the preponderance of Indian

blood. There is relatively little body hair, and the

4



THE MEXICAN TYPE

beard is thin and sparse, also an almost infallible
index of the proportion of Indian strain.

Intellectually and psychologically, the Mexican
mestizo is more of a hybrid than he is physically.
His body type has varied characteristics, although
perhaps tending disproportionately to the Indian,
but in his brain there seethes the continual conflict
of intellectual and psychological predispositions
which go back to cultures which in the history of
humanity are thousands of years apart. In his
mind the blind, unchanging grasp of tradition and
superstition" which mark the Indian combine with
the brilliant logic of the Spaniard to create a person,
unstable and at the same time inexorable, bound
by racial prejudices which he does not understand
and yet which he justifies with an Occidental logic
that confuses both himself and the observer.
Brave and often devoted, cruel and blindly selfish;
proud and childishly sensitive; admiring material/
and spiritual achievement extravagantly, yet al-j
most incapable alone of the concentration ancr
sacrifice which create these achievements; senti-
mental and poetical, yet almost untouched by great
passions and desires; the Mexican is the victim of
his mixed racial and cultural heritage, the plaything
of primal forces which tend ever to neutralize one
another into a personality of ten unworthy alike of his
rich Spanish intensity and of his Indian simplicity.
Though he conceives his revolutions, his social re-
forms, and his material progress in high-sounding
terms of altruism, the forces with which he has torn
his country to tatters and even those with which,

5



THE PEOPLE OF MEXICO

from time to time, he has bound up her wounds, have
been selfish ambitions and narrow personal desires
which partook neither of the white man's militant
altruism nor of the red man's love of glory.

Whoever reads Mexican history with an under-
standing mind must realize that since Cortez came
in 1521 to this day Mexico has known but two
periods of progress, material or spiritual one the
long, slow evolution under Spanish tutelage, and
one that golden age when the mestizo dictator,
Diaz, emerging from sixty years of personality-
ridden revolutions, called back from exile to the
task of service the white aristocrats who alone
remained as Mexicans from that picturesque horde
of priests and teachers, soldiers and traders, who
brought the paternal civilization of the white man
to the building of New Spain. The mestizo may
indeed have evolved the idea of a nation, but the
Diaz regime, as its finest flowering, harnessed the
forces that yet remained of white understanding
and sacrifice to the making of that nation. What
we have seen for the past ten years may be called
the disintegration of the mestizo idea of nation-
alism into its component parts, What the Mexi-
cans call "personalism" in politics is but the
remnant in the mixed stock of the self-assured
superiority of the white, and the antiforeign laws
and the bloody outrages upon the whites are but
the Indian fear and hatred of white domination.

One of the basic facts which must be recognized
and accepted before one can go on to a true under-
standing of the people of Mexico is that what ig



THE MEXICAN TYPE

going on in Mexico to-day and what has been going
on there through all of her revolutions since 1810
is basically the uprising of the dark races against
the white, a movement too mighty in its scope and
too patent a peril to be glossed over by anyone
who would speak truthfully of conditions in Mexico
to-day. Indeed, one of the ablest of Mexican pub-
licists has himself written that "at the bottom of
all the troubles of Mexico ... is the prehistoric
Indian civilization trying to destroy the European
civilization; which to-day it has very nearly accom-
plished." l

The Spaniards brought to Mexico ideals and am-
bitions far different from those which the English
colonists carried to New England. Centuries of
warfare with Moslems and Jews had fired the
Spaniards to religious zeal, and they imposed upon
the Mexicans the double yoke of religion and labor,
while the English Puritans and Cavaliers were
exterminating their Indians and making little
effort to convert them. The Indian stocks which
the English and the Spaniards met were themselves
very different, and to the Spaniards fell a people
long ruled by despotic chieftains, long held in
religious bondage to cruel gods, more ready to
change masters than to oppose a racial enemy.
The conversion of the Indians to the Christian
faith, the reaching out of the Spanish arms and
the Cross to distant missions which became centers
of a sort of European civilization and the final

1 T. Esquivel Obregon, in Hispanic American Historical Review;
May, 1919, p. 170.



THE PEOPLE OF MEXICO

welding of a strangely conglomerate population
into a colony which finally became the Mexican
nation, is one of the great romances of history.
Far flung over an area many times that conquered
by the English whites in America before their
revolution, ! the Spanish crown, combining both
Church ana' state, destroyed tribal and theocratic
governments, uprooted and virtually wiped out the
native culture and civilization, and forced upon the
Indian population the standards, the culture, the
- religion, and the language of Castile.

Three objects inspired the Spanish conquerors,
both priests and soldiers: physical domination,
racial amalgamation, and intellectual control. The
white man's arrogance and science quickly achieved
the physical domination of the natives. The
racial amalgamation rapidly created what was,
after the Mexican revolution of 1823, to come to
consider itself a new race the mestizo a blending
of the peoples, which, in the effort on the part of
the mixed blood to set himself up as the inheritor of
the white man's superiority, keeps the racial results
of the Spanish conquest forever upon the surface of
Mexican affairs.

In intellectual control the Spaniards achieved an
apparently far-reaching success from the very
beginning. Fasa&eat missionaries destroyed the
cultural as well as the religious foundations of
Indian civilization, and during the Spanish regime
there was but one government and one Church.
For those three centuries the Spanish government
and the Church sought to wean the Indians rapidly

8



THE MEXICAN TYPE

away from their savagery into the glaring light of
the European civilization of their time.

The Indian was a ward of Church and state, and,
as much for his care as by the power of wealth,
there was raised up an aristocracy of white men
and of white women devoted, as far as their under-
standing went, to the welfare of their people,
masters who helped to bring out of the indigenous
stock such strength and virtues as their European
eyes could find.

During those three hundred years practically all
of the civilized Mexico which we know to this day
was built. At the expulsion of the Spaniards in
1823 almost the last of the churches had been
finished, almost the last of the essential Mexican
codes of justice had been hammered out, almost the
last plan of Indian education had been conceived
and had been partially executed.

Out of this full day of progress Mexico passed
into independence and into a night of bloody wars
in which the Indians, snatched from the security
and lethargy of serfdom, were gathered into armies
and thrown against one another in battle lines.
Independence but found them new misfortunes; it
wrecked their homes and devastated their fields,
and for fifty years white against mestizo and mestizo
against white wielded Indian armies like clubs in
fratricidal war. Most of the accumulated energy
and wealth inherited from Spanish times was
destroyed, and out of her final exhaustion, guided
by Porfirio Diaz, an inspired rebel who became a
successful revolutionist and ultimately a great

9



THE PEOPLE OF MEXICO

x '

statesman, Mexico emerged into her years of
peace.

Previous to Diaz the mestizo revolutionists had
demonstrated throughout their succeeding up-
heavals that the freedom which they demanded
and which they promised to the Indians was in
essence a freedom to loot and despoil their country,
a freedom to use society for their own ends, features
typical of the revolutions of 1810 to 1876, just as
they are typical of the revolutions since 1910.
Diaz from the beginning displayed a new tolerance
and wisdom which quickly reconciled all social
forces to his government. He brought back the
old creole 1 aristocracy because he recognized Mex-
ico's vital need of the stabilizing influence of the
social power which they represented. From these
white aristocrats, representing ordered society, as
the white aristocrats of Mexico who are now in
exile represent all that remains in the world to-day
of Mexican social power, Diaz forged the tools of
his great regime. These were the tools of the
white man's code, the tools which built Mexico's
greatness as a colony of Spain, tools whose intelli-
gence and devotion made her greatness under Diaz.

The Mexican problem has, in the words of her
own statesmen, time and again been announced as
a social question and a social question alone. Diaz
has been criticized and anathematized because to
the solution he brought only political peace and
economic progress, leaving, as his detractors say,

1 The word "creole" is used in Mexico to-day to designate any
Mexican of pure white ancestry.

10



THE MEXICAN TYPE

the great social problem utterly untouched
socially. Yet as one looks on the Mexican situa-
tion to-day, realizing that on these myriad social
problems Mexican mestizos have brought to bear
political solutions borrowed from our Anglo-Saxon
constitutions, borrowed from Teutonic Marxian
socialism, borrowed even from Russian Bolshevism,
tfne finds oneself swinging back to a simple appre-
ciation of the material bases of human progress,
the material bases that gave the Indian in Mexico
under the viceroys and under Diaz a place to call
home, a tiny corn patch where he could raise his
food unmolested and a Church wherein, for all its
faults, his soul found surcease.

This was the white man's rule and this is the
rule which gave way in Mexico after the viceroys
to anarchy and misery and which gave way after
the dictatorship to anarchy and misery. Here is
the essence of the problem in that at least for such
a land as Mexico, where a vast mass of population
lives forever on the outer verge of poverty, the
beginnings of progress and the beginnings of civili-
zation must be concerned first with the filling of
the human stomach and the satisfaction of the
human craving for home and religion and happiness.
These things the mestizo revolutions of Mexico
have never given to anyone save their demagogues.

Yet to-day Mexico is a mestizo, a half-breed,
land. The characteristics ofjlndian and of Span-
iard are merged hi her population and in her rulers.
But as we watch her progress downward through
revolution after revolution, and as we shall observe.

n



THE PEOPLE OF MEXICO

+ her life in the pages which make up this book, we
' find forced upon us the realization that in this
>velter of conflicting cultures and psychologies the
predominating factor to-day is Indian, and that
sooner or later, unless the white world again takes
up the burden, Mexico must inevitably slip back
to the plane of pre-Spanish barbarism.

Mexico stands to-day at our doorstep dressed
in the rags of our civilization. In our pride we
believed that those rags would clothe her always,
and we have lent our prestige to our half brothers,
the mestizos, in the belief that they would see that
the clothing of our civilization on the Indian would
be kept in repair. We must recognize and admit
that to-day the half brother is a failure. He has
used the whip which we gave him for discipline
with the hand of a slave driver; he has stained the
sword of authority with the blood of his wards; he
has thrown back in our faces the mangled bodies
of, our martyred missionaries of religion, of com-
merce, and of science. A hundred years ago his
Indian blood raised him against white rule, and to-
day his Indian blood has almost conquered his white
virtues. He is about to pass under the sway, first
mentally and morally, and ultimately physically and
culturally, of the Indian. The path behind him is
clear and broad; we can look back on it, lined with
ruins and with crosses. Ahead through the jungle
a new road is to be carved. It may go in many
ways, and the choice comes forcibly to us, more
forcibly every day, with the realization that we,

the white, we alone must choose. The mestizo,

12



THE MEXICAN TYPE

the true Mexican, is helpless, torn and driven by his
conflicting heritages, and yet always and hopelessly
with the white in him overawed and made despicable
by the Indian strain which pushes up and up and
up even as his skin darkens under the tropic sun.



II

RACE ORIGINS

FOR four hundred years Mexico has lived in
racial isolation. During the three colonial cen-
turies no white men excepting Spaniards were al-
lowed to enter, and through the hundred years of
independence (save only for the last decade of the
Diaz rule) no other foreigners have attempted per-
manent residence hi the country. When the first
revolution broke out in 1810 there were 60,000
foreign born; in 1825, after the expulsion of the
Spaniards, there were probably not over 1,000;
in 1895 there were 3,713; in 1900, 57,508; in 1910,
115,869; and in 1920 there are not over 5,000
foreigners in all Mexico.

This racial isolation is probably the most im-
portant single fact in Mexican history. It gave
her the long preponderance of Spanish culture;
from it has come the turbulent domination of the



Online LibraryWallace ThompsonThe people of Mexico; who they are and how they live → online text (page 1 of 27)