Images de page
PDF
ePub

permitted, to make a copy of the document. The work was done by Mr. Henry Bourgeois, the artist who had accompanied Abbé Brasseur to Yucatan, and the task occupied two years and a half of the artist's time. It was published by the French Government under the title of “Manuscrit Troano," from the name of the owner of the original.

This Maya manuscript is, indeed, a most precious document, for it is a brilliant light that, besides the monumental inscriptions, now illuminates the darkness which surrounds the history of the ancient inhabitants of the peninsula of Yucatan. The second part, after describing the events that took place during the awful cataclysms that caused the destruction of ten different countries, one of which, called Mu, was probably Plato's Atlantis, is mostly dedicated to the recital of meteorological and geological phenomena that occurred in the “ Land of the Serpent,” also called Beb (tree), of which Mayab formed a part.

Note IV. (Pages xxxviii. and 150.)

(1) What bitter irony! Every day, all over the land, some workingmen in the haciendas (plantations), sirvientes as they are called, are pitilessly and arbitrarily flogged by their overseers; put in stocks during the night, so that their day's work may not be left undone, and otherwise cruelly punished for the smallest offence or oversight. True, we are told that there are laws printed in the codes that forbid such iniquitous treatment, and that those subjected to it can complain. Complain! And to whom? If they lay their grievances before the owner of the hacienda, their only redress is to receive a double ration of lashes for (su atrevimiento de quejarse) daring to complain. If they lodge a complaint before a Judge, as by law they have a right, he, of course, is the friend or relative of the planter. He himself may be a planter. On his own plantation he has servants who are treated in like manner. What remains for the poor devil to do but to endure and be resigned? That is all. His fathers have suffered as he suffers, as his children will suffer.

These facts I do not report from hearsay, but from actual personal observation. How many times have I witnessed the whipping of some poor creature, for the most trifling cause, without being able to interfere in his behalf, knowing well that such interference would be resented, and would entail on the victim a more severe punishment later on! To a gentleman, a very stanch Catholic, who considered it a sin to fail to attend mass every morning, who had been educated in the colleges of Europe and of the United States, I was once making some observations on the bad treatment inflicted on the Indians in the plantations, which, though most Christianlike, was notwithstanding extremely barbarous, when he interrupted me by saying, “Well, they are accustomed to it. 'Al indio pan y

( palo' ('For the Indian, bread and stick ') is the common saying throughout the country.”

” Alas! for the poor Indian this saying is true only in part, for very little bread falls to his share, but abundance of lashes. Of course, those ill-treated people at times become exasperated - who would not? They kill their overseers. Woe to them then! for they are soon and surely made to remember that there are criminal laws, enacted by congress to punish such as they.

During twelve years that I have dwelt amid the ruined cities of the ancient Mayas, in the depth of the forests of the Yucatan peninsula, I have had occasion to study the character of the Indians as well as the remains of the palaces and temples where, not so very long ago, their ancestors burned copal and incense in honor of their gods. I have found that the Indians, treated kindly, as every intelligent being, human or not human, should be, were generally as good as, if not better than, their white or mestizo countrymen. Of course, there are exceptions; these, however, are rare, and are to be found among those who have been brought up by some white or mestizo master.

With Madame Le Plongeon, I have been altogether in their power for months at a time, in the midst of deep forests, far from any city or village, far from any inhabited place; I have invariably found them respectful, honest, polite, unobtrusive, patient, and brave. I cannot say as much for the mestizos in general; though among them, also, there are honorable excep

[ocr errors]

1 ܕܕ

tions, unhappily not as numerous as miglat be desired. During my expeditions I have always preferred to be accompanied by Indians; I could trust them even in case of alarm from the hostile Indians of cħan Santa Cruz. They knew that I had full confidence in them. I never had occasion to regret having relied on them. Of course, they have defects; but, Who has not?

With Hon. Henry Fowler, who, when colonial secretary of the colony of British Honduras, in 1878, made an exploration in the uninhabited parts of the country, accompanied by half a dozen Indians and two American guides, I will say, “ When the Indian is sober, he is always a gentleman.

During my last sojourn at Chichen, in December, 1884, I had unearthed an altar sustained by fifteen atlantes of fine workmanship, and painted with bright colors. One of these particularly attracted the attention of some Indians who lived in the forest a few miles from the ancient city, perhaps because the ornaments that adorned it appeared like the chasubles worn by Catholic priests when celebrating mass. They came to look at it several times. At last they begged me to give it to them, to carry to their village, notwithstanding its weight.

“What do you want it for?” I inquired of them. “Oh,” they answered, “we will build a house for it; we will burn wax candles and incense in its honor, and we shall worship it --it is so pretty!” they added.

I then learned that in a cavern, in the depth of the forest, they venerated another ancient statue, which they called Zactalah, that is, the “blow or slap of a white man.” But they would not show it to me unless I subscribed to certain condi

a

1

Hon. Henry Fowler, Official Report of an Excursion in the Interior of British Honduras. (Belize.)

tions, among others not to make known the place where it was concealed.

The image represents a man with a long beard, kneeling, the hands raised to a level with the head, the palms upturned. On his back he carries a bag containing, according to the Indians, Bul y uah, a paste made of a mixture of corn and beans. It is now black with the smoke of wax candles and incense burnt before it by the worshippers. Before applying the lighted torch to the felled trees that are cut down to prepare the ground for sowing corn and beans, the devotees repair to Zactalah's sanctuary, and place before him calabashes filled with the refreshing beverage called Zacha, made from corn. They burn copal and wax candles, imploring him to cause the wood to burn well; which is for them most important, since on the more or less thorough burning of the trees depends the greater or lesser abundance of the crops. At the beginning of June, after the first showers of the rainy season, and before the sowing of the seeds, they again visit the cavern to implore the god to grant them a plentiful harvest and to prevent the animals of the forest from eating and destroying the crops. Having obtained these favors, at the time of the harvest the grateful worshippers again come to pay their homage to their beneficent deity. They come with their wives and children, bringing the finest ears of corn, the ripest squashes, the primitiæ of the fields, besides roasted corn and various other offerings. They then kneel in the presence of the image, having previously presented their oblations and lighted a large number of wax candles. Soon the smoke of a mixture of incense and copal gathered from the trees in the forest, with ground roasted corn, fills the cavern; and the devotees, to the accompaniment of a violin, a tunkul, a zacatan, and other musical instruments

[ocr errors]
« PrécédentContinuer »