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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
tions, unhappily not as numerous as might 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 Chan 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
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."1
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
'Hon. Henry Fowler, Official Report of an Excursion in the Interior of British Honduras.
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
used by their forefathers in their ancient religious rites, chant some prayers of the Catholic Church. These they repeat over and over again, counting the beads of their rosaries. It is a strange medley of ancient and modern idolatry. But what matters it, since it makes them happy? And they have so few joys in their life.
NOTE V. (Pages xxxix., xl.)
Eligio Ancona, "Historia de Yucatan," vol. i., p. 37. (3) Señor Dn. Eligio Ancona, who, in 1875, was governor of Yucatan when Madame Le Plongeon and I discovered and unearthed the statue of Prince Coh (Chaacmol), is a Yucatan writer well known in his country. Besides several historical novels of doubtful merit, and a history of Yucatan of no great value, he edited, at his own expense, after the death of the author, the Maya dictionary compiled in great part by Dn. Juan Pio Perez, a gentleman who applied himself to the study of things relating to the ancient history of the aborigines of his fatherland. Whatever may be said of the history of Yucatan, in four volumes, written by Señor Ancona, and its worth respecting the events that have taken place since the Spanish conquest, I leave to others to decide. But when he attempts to write on the ancient history of the Mayas it may be confidently said that it is a fictitious production of his fanciful imagination, founded on the narratives of Bishop Landa, Cogolludo, Lizana, and others, with some extracts from the writings of Abbé Brasseur.
(1) Bernardo de Lizana was born in 1581, at Ocaña, in the province of Toledo. He entered the Order of St. Francis in the convent of his native city. He came as a missionary to Yucatan in 1606, with eleven other monks, under the care of Father Diego de Castro. He learned with great perfection the Maya language, and was teacher of it for many years.