TRAMPING THROUGH MEXICO - GUATEMALA AND HONDURAS
TRAMPING THROUGH MEXICO - GUATEMALA AND HONDURAS
HARRY A. FRANCK
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I INTO THE COOLER SOUTH
II TRAMPING THE BYWAYS
III IN A MEXICAN MINE
IV ROUND ABOUT LAKE CHAPALA
V ON THE TRAIL IN MICHOACAN
VI TENOCHTITLAN OF TO-DAY
VII TROPICAL MEXICO
VIII HURRYING THROUGH GUATEMALA
IX THE UPS AND DOWNS OF HONDURAS
X THE CITY OF THE SILVER HILLS
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
A street of Puebla Mexico and the Soledad Church.
The first glimpse of Mexico. Looking across the Rio Grande at Laredo.
A corner of Monterey from my hotel window.
A peon restaurant in the market-place of San Luis Potosi.
A market woman of San Luis Potosi.
Some sold potatoes no larger than nuts.
A policeman and an arriero.
The former home in Dolores Hidalgo of the Mexican "Father of his
Rancho del Capulin where I ended the first day of tramping in Mexico.
View of the city of Guanajuato.
Fellow-roadsters in Mexico.
Some of the pigeon-holes of Guanajuato's cemetery.
A _pulque_ street-stand and one of its clients.
Prisoners washing in the patio of the former "Alondiga".
Drilling with compressed-air drills in a mine "heading".
As each car passed I snatched a sample of its ore.
Working a "heading" by hand.
Peon miners being searched for stolen ore as they leave the mine.
Bricks of gold and silver ready for shipment. Each is worth something
In a natural amphitheater of Guanajuato the American miners of the
region gather on Sundays for a game of baseball.
Some of the peons under my charge about to leave the mine.
The easiest way to carry a knapsack--on a peon's back.
The ore thieves of Peregrina being led away to prison.
One of Mexico's countless "armies".
Vendors of strawberries at the station of Irapuato.
The wall of Guadalajara penitentiary against which prisoners are shot.
The liver-shaking stagecoach from Atequisa to Chapala.
Lake Chapala from the estate of Ribero Castellanos.
The head farmer of the estate under an aged fig-tree.
A Mexican village.
Making glazed floor tiles on a Mexican estate.
Vast seas of Indian corn stretch to pine-clad hills while around them
are guard-shacks at frequent intervals.
Interior of a Mexican hut at cooking time.
Fall plowing near Patzcuaro.
Modern transportation along the ancient highway from Tzintzuntzan the
former Tarascan capital.
In the church of ancient Tzintzuntzan is a "Descent from the Cross"
ascribed to Titian.
Indians waiting outside the door of the priest's house in Tzintzuntzan.
A corner of Morelia capital of Michoacan and its ancient aqueduct.
The spot and hour in which Maximilian was shot with the chapel since
erected by Austria.
The market of Tlaxcala the ancient inhabitants of which aided Cortez in
the conquest of Mexico.
A _rural_ of the state of Tlaxcala on guard before a barracks.
A part of Puebla looking toward the peak of Orizaba.
Popocatepetl and the artificial hill of Cholula on which the Aztecs had
a famous temple overthrown by Cortez.
A typical Mexican of the lowlands of Tehuantepec.
A typical Mexican boy of the highlands.
Looking down on Maltrata as the train begins its descent.
A residence of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.
On the banks of the Coatzacoalcos Isthmus of Tehuantepec.
Women of Tehuantepec in the market-place.
On the hillside above Tehuantepec are dwellings partly dug out of the
A rear-view of the remarkable head-dress of the women of Tehuantepec
and one of their decorated bowls.
A woman of northern Guatemala.
A station of the "Pan-American" south of Tehuantepec.
An Indian boy of Guatemala on his way home from market.
Three "gringoes" on the tramp from the Mexican boundary to the railway
Inside the race-track at Guatemala City is a relief map of the entire
One of the jungle-hidden ruins of Quiragua.
The last house in Guatemala near the boundary of Honduras.
A woman shelling corn for my first meal in Honduras.
A vista of Honduras from a hillside to which I climbed after losing the
A resident of Santa Rosa victim of the hook-worm.
The chief monument of the ruins of Copan.
I topped a ridge and caught sight at last of Santa Rosa first town of
any size in Honduras.
Soldiers of Santa Rosa eating in the market-place.
Christmas dinner on the road in Honduras.
Several times I met the families of soldiers tramping northward with all
A fellow-roadster behind one of my cigars.
An arriero carrying a bundle of Santa Rosa cigars on his own back as he
drives his similarly laden animals.
The great military force of Esperanza compelled to draw up and face my
The prisoners in their chains form an interested audience across the
Honduras the Land of Great Depths.
A corner of Tegucigalpa.
The "West Pointers" of Honduras in their barracks a part of the
View of Tegucigalpa from the top of Picacho.
Repairing the highway from Tegucigalpa to the Coast.
A family of Honduras.
Approaching Sabana Grande the first night's stop on the tramp to the
A beef just butchered and hung out in the sun.
A dwelling on the hot lands of the Coast and its scantily clad
Along the Pasoreal River.
The mozo pauses for a drink on the trail.
One way of transporting merchandise from the coast to Tegucigalpa.
The other way of bringing goods up to the capital.
The garrison of Amapala.
Marooned "gringoes" waiting with what patience possible at the "Hotel
Unloading cattle in the harbor of Amapala.
The steamer arrives at last that is to carry us south to Panama.
We lose no time in being rowed out to her.
The Author's Itinerary
INTO THE COOLER SOUTH
You are really in Mexico before you get there. Laredo is a
purely--though not pure--Mexican town with a slight American
tinge. Scores of dull-skinned men wander listlessly about trying to sell
sticks of candy and the like from boards carried on their heads. There
are not a dozen shops where the clerks speak even good pidgin English
most signs are in Spanish the lists of voters on the walls are chiefly
of Iberian origin the very county officers from sheriff down--or
up--are names the average American could not pronounce and the
saunterer in the streets may pass hours without hearing a word of
English. Even the post-office employees speak Spanish by preference and
I could not do the simplest business without resorting to that tongue.
I am fond of Spanish but I do not relish being forced to use it in my
On Laredo's rare breeze rides enough dust to build a new world. Every
street is inches deep in it everything in town including the minds of
the inhabitants is covered with it. As to heat--"Cincinnati Slim" put
it in a nutshell even as we wandered in from the cattleyards where the
freight train had dropped us in the small hours: "If ever hell gets full
this'll do fine for an annex."
Luckily my window in the ruin that masqueraded as a hotel faced such
wind as existed. The only person I saw in that institution during
twenty-four hours there was a little Mexican boy with a hand-broom
which he evidently carried as an ornament or a sign of office. It seemed
a pity not to let Mexico have the dust-laden sweltering place if they
want it so badly.
I had not intended to lug into Mexico such a load as I did. But it was a
Jewish holiday and the pawnshops were closed. As I passed the lodge on
the north end of the bridge over the languid brown Rio Grande it was a
genuine American voice that snapped: "Heh! A nickel!"
Just beyond but thirty-six minutes earlier the Mexican official
stopped me with far more courtesy and peered down into the corners of
my battered "telescope" without disturbing the contents.
"Monterey?" he asked.
"No revolver?" he queried suspiciously.
"No senor" I answered keeping the coat on my arm unostentatiously
over my hip pocket. It wasn't a revolver; it was an automatic.
The man who baedekerized Mexico says Nuevo Laredo is not the place to
judge that country. I was glad to hear it. Its imitation of a
street-car eight feet long was manned by two tawny children without
uniforms nor any great amount of substitute for them who smoked
cigarettes incessantly as we crawled dustily through the baked-mud
hamlet to the decrepit shed that announced itself the station of the
National Railways of Mexico. It was closed of course. I waited an hour
or more before two officials resplendent in uniforms drifted in to take
up the waiting where I had left off. But it was a real train that pulled
in toward three from far-off St. Louis even if it had hooked on behind
a second-class car with long wooden benches.
For an hour we rambled across just such land as southern Texas endless
flat sand scattered with chaparral mesquite and cactus; nowhere a sign
of life but for fences of one or two barb-wires on crooked sticks--not
even bird life. The wind strong and incessant as at sea sounded as
mournful through the thorny mesquite bushes as in our Northern winters
even though here it brought relief rather than suffering. The sunshine
was unbrokenly glorious.
Benches of stained wood in two-inch strips ran the entire length of our
car made in Indiana. In the center were ten double back-to-back seats
of the same material. The conductor was American but as in Texas he
seemed to have little to do except to keep the train moving. The
auditor brakeman and train-boy were Mexicans in similar uniforms but
of thinner physique and more brown of color. The former spoke fluent
English. The engineer was American and the fireman a Negro.
Far ahead on either side hazy high mountains appeared as at sea. By
the time we halted at Lampazos fine serrated ranges stood not far
distant on either hand. From the east came a never-ceasing wind
stronger than that of the train laden with a fine sand that crept in
everywhere. Mexican costumes had appeared at the very edge of the
border; now there were even a few police under enormous hats with tight
trousers and short jackets showing a huge revolver at the hip. Toward
evening things grew somewhat greener. A tree six to twelve feet high
without branches or sometimes with several trunk-like ones growing
larger from bottom to top and ending in a bristling bunch of leaves
became common. The mountains on both sides showed fantastic peaks and
ridges changing often in aspect; some thousands of feet high with flat
tableland tops others in strange forms the imagination could animate
into all manner of creatures.
A goatherd wild tawny bearded dressed in sun-faded sheepskin was
seen now and then tending his flock of little white goats in the sand
and cactus. This was said to be the rainy season in northern Mexico.
What must it be in the dry?
Toward five the sun set long before sunset so high was the mountain
wall on our right. The sand-storm had died down and the sand gave way
to rocks. The moon almost full already smiled down upon us over the
wall on the left. We continued along the plain between the ranges which
later receded into the distance as if retiring for the night. Flat
mud-colored Palestinian adobe huts stood here and there in the
moonlight among patches of a sort of palm bush.
Monterey proved quite a city. Yet how the ways of the Spaniard appeared
even here! Close as it is to the United States with many American
residents and much "americanizado" according to the Mexican the city
is in architecture arrangement customs just what it would be a
hundred miles from Madrid; almost every little detail of life is that of
Spain with scarcely enough difference to suggest another country to
say nothing of another hemisphere. England brings to her colonies some
of her home customs but not an iota of what Spain does to the lands she
has conquered. The hiding of wealth behind a miserable facade is almost
as universal in Mexico of the twentieth century as in Morocco of the
fourth. The narrow streets of Monterey have totally inadequate sidewalks
on which two pedestrians pass if at all with the rubbing of
shoulders. Outwardly the long vista of bare house fronts that toe them
on either side are dreary and poor every window barred as those of a
prison. Yet in them sat well-dressed senoritas waiting for the lovers
who "play the bear" to late hours of the night and over their shoulders
the passerby caught many a glimpse of richly furnished rooms and flowery
The river Catalina was drier than even the Manzanares its rocky bed
wide enough to hold the upper Connecticut entirely taken up by mule and
donkey paths and set with the cloth booths of fruit sellers. As one
moves south it grows cooler and Monterey fifteen hundred feet above
sea-level was not so weighty in its heat as Laredo and southern
Texas. But on the other hand being surrounded on most sides by
mountains it had less breeze and the coatless freedom of Texas was
here looked down upon. During the hours about noonday the sun seemed to
strike physically on the head and back whoever stepped out into it and
the smallest fleck of white cloud gave great and instant relief. From
ten to four more or less the city was strangely quiet as if more than
half asleep or away on a vacation and over it hung that indefinable
scent peculiar to Arab and Spanish countries. Compared with Spain
however its night life and movement was slight.
Convicts in perpendicularly striped blue and white pajamas worked in the
streets. That is they moved once every twenty minutes or so usually
to roll a cigarette. They were without shackles but several guards in
brown uniforms and broad felt hats armed with thick-set muskets their
chests criss-crossed with belts of long rifle cartridges lolled in the
shade of every near-by street corner. The prisoners laughed and chatted
like men perfectly contented with their lot and moved about with great
freedom. One came a block to ask me the time and loafed there some
fifteen minutes before returning to his "labor."
Mexico is strikingly faithful to its native dress. Barely across the
Rio Grande the traveler sees at once hundreds of costumes which in any
American city would draw on all the boy population as surely as the
Piper of Hamelin. First and foremost comes always the enormous hat
commonly of thick felt with decorative tape the crown at least a foot
high the brim surely three feet in diameter even when turned up
sufficient to hold a half gallon of water. That of the peon is of
straw; he too wears the skintight trousers and goes barefoot but for a
flat leather sandal held by a thong between the big toe and the rest. In
details and color every dress was as varied and individual as the shades
My hotel room had a fine outlook to summer-blue mountains but was
blessed with neither mirror towel nor water. I descended to the
alleyway between "dining-room" and barnyard where I had seen the
general washbasin but found the landlady seated on the kitchen floor
shelling into it peas for our _almuerzo_. This and the evening
_comida_ were always identically the same. A cheerful but
slatternly Indian woman set before me a thin soup containing a piece of
squash and a square of boiled beef and eight hot corn tortillas of the
size and shape of our pancakes or _gkebis_ the Arab bread which
it outdid in toughness and total absence of taste. Next followed a
plate of rice with peppers a plate of tripe less tough than it should
have been and a plate of brown beans which was known by the name of
_chile con carne_ but in which I never succeeded in finding
anything carnal. Every meal ended with a cup of the blackest coffee.