Sidor som bilder

ancient document or record in existence in which the place is mentioned at all, and there are no traditions except the wild superstitions of Indians in regard to particular buildings. The ruins were all exhumed; within the last year the trees had been cut down and burned, and the whole field of ruins was in view, enclosed by the woods and planted with corn. We passed a most interesting and laborious day, and at evening returned to the hacienda to mature our plans for a thorough exploration; but, unfortunately, during the night Mr. Catherwood, I believe affected by the immensity of the work, had a violent attack of fever, which continued upon him in the morning, with a prospect of serious illness. - It was Monday, and very early all the Indians of the hacienda, according to their obligation to the master, presented themselves to receive directions from the major-domo for the day's work. In remaining about the house I had an opportunity of learning somewhat of hacienda discipline and the character of the Indians. The hacienda of Uxmal is ten leagues or thirty miles

square, but only a small portion is cultivated, and the

rest is a mere roaming-ground for cattle. The Indians are of two classes: vaceros, or tenders of cattle and horses, who receive twelve dollars per year, with five almudas of maize per week; and labradores or labourers, who are also called Luneros, from their obligation, in consideration of their drinking the water of the hacienda, to work for the master without pay on Lunes or Monday. These last constitute the great body of the Indians; and, besides their obligation to work on Monday, when they marry and have families, and, of course, need more water, they are obliged to clear, sow, and gather twenty micates of maize for the master, each

[ocr errors]

micate being twenty-four square yards. When the bell of the church is struck five times, every Indian is obliged to go forthwith to the hacienda, and, for a real a day and a ration of three cents’ worth of maize, do whatever work the master or his delegate, the majordomo, may direct. The authority of the master or his delegate over these is absolute. He settles all disputes between the Indians themselves, and punishes for of. fences, acting both as judge and executioner. If the major-domo punish an Indian unreasonably, the latter may complain to his master; and if the master refuse to give him redress, or himself punishes an Indian unreasonably, the latter may apply for his discharge. There is no obligation upon him to remain on the hacienda unless he is in debt to the master, but, practically, this binds him hand and foot. The Indians are all improvident, anticipate their earnings, never have two days' provisions in store, and never keep any accounts. A dishonest master may always bring them in debt, and generally they are really so. If able to pay off the debt, the Indian is entitled to his immediate discharge; but if not, the master is obliged to give him a writing to the effect following: “Whatever señor wishes to receive the Indian named , can take him, provided he pays me the debt he owes me.” If the master refuses him this paper, the Indian may complain to the justitia. When he has obtained it, he goes round to the different haciendas until he finds a proprietor who is willing to purchase the debt, with a mortgage upon him until it is paid. The account is settled, and the master gives the Indian a writing of this purport: “The account of my former servant being adjusted, which is twenty

dollars, and having paid me the said debt, I, his present master, give him this receipt;” and with this he enters into the service of a new master. There is but little chance of his ever paying off the smallest debt. He will never work merely to clear off the encumbrance, considers all he can get on his body clear gain, and virtually, from the time he receives his first dollar, goes through life in bondage, varied only by an occasional change of masters. In general they are mild, amiable, and very docile; bear no malice; and when one of them is whipped and smarting under stripes, with tears in his eyes he makes a bow to the major-domo, and says “buenos tarde, seiior;” “good evening, sir.” But they require to be dealt with sternly, and kept at a distance; are uncertain, and completely the creatures of impulse; and one bad Indian or a bad Mestitzo may ruin a whole hacienda. They inherit all the indolence of their ancestors, are wedded to old usages, and unwilling to be taught anything new. Don Simon has attempted to introduce improvements in agriculture, but in vain; they cannot work except in their own old way. Don Simon brought out the common churn from the United States, and attempted to introduce the making of butter and cheese; but the Indians could not be taught the use of them, the churns were thrown aside, and hundreds of cows wander in the woods unmilked. The master is not obliged to maintain the Indian when sick; though, as he derives a profit from his labour, it is his interest to do so; and, on broad grounds, as it is an object always to increase his labradores, it is his interest to treat them in such a manner as to acquire among the Indians a reputation as a good master. In the course of the morning I visited many of the huts of the Indians. They were built-in an oblong form, of round poles set upright in the ground and thatched, and some appeared clean and comfortable.

[ocr errors]

The men were all away at work, and all day there was a procession of women in white cotton dresses moving from the gate to the well and drawing water. It was pleasant to find that marriage was considered proper and expedient, conducing to good order and thrift certainly, and probably to individual happiness. Don Simon encouraged it; he did not like to have any single men on the estate, and made every young Indian of the right age take unto himself a wife. When, as often happened, the Indian, in a deprecating tone, said, “No tengo muger,” “I have no woman,” Don Simon looked through the hacienda and found one for him. On his last visit he made four matches, and the day before our arrival the Delmonico major-domo had been to the nearest village to escort the couples and pay the padre for marrying them, the price being thirteen shillings each. He was afraid to trust them with the money, for fear they would spend it and not get married. The old major-domo was energetic in carrying out the views of his master on this important subject, and that day a delicate case was brought before him. A young Indian girl brought a complaint against a married woman for slander. She said that she was engaged to be married to a young man whom she loved and who loved her, and the married woman had injured her fair fame by reporting that she was already in “an interesting situation;” she had told the young man of it, said that all the women in the hacienda saw it, and taunted him with marrying such a girl; and now, she said, the young man would not have her. The married woman was supported by a crowd of witnesses, and it must be admitted that appearances were very much against the plaintiff; but the old major-domo, without going into the merits at all, decided in her faVol. II.-3 G

vour on broad grounds. Indignant at a marriage being prevented, he turned to the married woman and asked, What was it to her ? what right had she to meddle 7 what if it was true !—it was none of her business. Perhaps the young man knew it and was party to it, and still intended to marry the girl, and they might have lived happily but for her busy tongue; and, without more ado, he brought out a leather whip cut into long lashes, and with great vigour began applying it to the back of the indiscreet communicator of unwelcome tidings. He wound up with an angry homily upon busybodies, and then upon women generally, who, he said, made all the difficulties on the hacienda, and but for them the men would be quiet enough. The matrons of the hacienda stood aghast at this unexpected turn of things; and, when the case was dismissed, all crowded around the victim and went away with her, giving such comfort as they could. The young girl went away alone; the hearts of her sex were steeled against her; in savage as in civilized life,

“Every wo a tear may claim,
Except an erring sister's shame.”

In the afternoon Mr. Catherwood's fever left him, but in a very low state. The hacienda was unhealthy at this season; the great troughs and tanks of water around the house were green, and, with the regular afternoon rains, induced fatal fevers. Mr. Catherwood's constitution was already severely shattered. Indeed, I became alarmed, and considered it indispensable for him to leave the hacienda, and, if possible, the country altogether. To carry out my other plans, we intended at all events to return. We made a calculation that, by setting out the next morning, we could reach the

« FöregåendeFortsätt »