National Geographic : 1927 May
AMONG TrHE ZAPOTECS OF MEXICO 549 because of our interest in a stone story that no one can read to-day. They haunted us with offerings of little godheads in clay, and copper axheads found in the tombs, and bits of stone carvings. The axes were of such unusual hardness and density that some believe the ancient Zapotecs possessed the secret of tempering copper. THE WEAVERS LEFT THEIR LOOMS The natives of Teotitlin had been warned of our coming, and as we entered the plaza the weavers gathered from their huts, each with a burden of gaudy blan kets on his shoulder. The Indian who wove them, on a hand loom that is common to every primitive people, in the cool shadow of the portico of his little hut, by the side of which, under the peach trees, a little stream tinkled in a stone-lined ditch, obviously knew himself to be in the wrong when he asked eighteen pesos for them. Later it seemed to me that he displayed an un seemly haste in closing at my offer of ten pesos each. After all, he said that he could finish a serape in a week, or maybe in two weeks if he did not work too hard. The sturdy mountaineers of San Pablo Guelatao, in which little village Benito Juarez was born in 80o6, were to hold the annual fiesta in honor of his birth. They have a flaming pride in the fact that the First Reformer was born in their hills, as well they might have. Not a drop of other blood than Zapotec ran through Juarez's veins, and until he was twelve years old he did not know a syllable of any other language than that of his tribe. Then he became an errand boy in the shop of a bookbinder in Oaxaca City. Throughout his life Juarez fought for a free Mexico. He was hunted, imprisoned, threatened with execution, and finally ex iled, to become a fruit peddler on the streets of New Orleans. Before he died he ordered the execution of Maximilian, although the President of the United States and the sovereigns of France, Great Britain, and Austria pleaded with him for mercy. The memory of no other man is so reverenced in Mexico to-day. The horses were at the door at 4 o'clock in the morning for the trip to Guelatao. Others joined us. One was a deputy of the Oaxacan legislature - a brown, strongly built Zapotec, on a buckskin horse that bucked in sheer exuberance. It was a forty-mile hammer into the Zapotecan highlands. Wherever the road was moderately level, we loped or trotted our horses. We passed ruined houses, some of which had been destroyed in the past ten years; others dated back to Spanish colonial times. There were arched brick bridges over the ravines and a brick aque duct, built by the Spaniards, which still carried a stream to irrigate neglected orchards. Barefooted, blackened charcoal burners hailed us, as they climbed the heavily wooded hills toward their kilns. Time after time they took short cuts, bounding up precipitous hillsides like deer, to meet us at the angles of our switchbacks. Goats took the place of the pig of the lower levels. Goats feed themselves, whereas pigs must be provendered, and in the mountains there is no corn to spare. At some of the wattled huts hens were hanging head downward to cure them of their passion for motherhood. We began to meet men with rifles and others carrying deer and goatskins to mar ket for the few pennies they would bring. In the hills back from the trail Indians communicated unseen by whistling and clear, buglelike calls. From one high ridge we looked down into a valley, per haps five miles away and half a mile be neath us, although its details stood out as sharp-cut as those of an etching, in this brilliant mountain air. "As old as Mitla," said the deputy. "Almost as old, at least. Our people have lived there for generation upon genera tion." NO WHEELED VEHICLE EVER SEEN HERE At last we came to Guelatao, as twi light deepened into dark. A mud-walled village, flat-roofed, set in pleasant or chards and little fields, checkerboarded by stone walls, in which no wheeled vehicle has ever been seen. The sound of running water came from every crevice in the hills, and a rivulet washed down between the thigh-high stones of the single street. "To-morrow," said my escorts, "we celebrate the birth of Juarez here, where he was born. To-night we go on to Ixt lan, because there is no place in Guelatao where you can sleep."