National Geographic : 1930 Jul
NORTH AMERICA'S OLDEST METROPOLIS Even in early colonial days, a few Indian painters, trained by the padres, painted pictures which attracted much attention in Europe; and to-day an increasing num ber of artists come to Mexico, not only to study the work of the ancients, but to mingle with modern native artists and to work in the atmosphere of the old Aztec capital. Prominent among these moderns is Di ego Rivera, the famous painter of murals. His work is so outstanding that artists have come from Europe, South America, and the United States to study it. He employs his art in social education and paints to instruct the common people rather than to earn money. "Civilization is harmony between man kind and the soil and harmony among men," says a big red banner over an arch in the new building of the Ministry of Education. Here Rivera's symbolic pan els reflect the lush, sensuous nature of life in turbulent, changing Mexico, with all its problems of labor and society. One mu ral portrays the popular corn fiesta of the Indians and peons; another hints at the building of temples. Others show dyers, cane-cutters, tobacco farmers, pot ters, weavers, and miners at their work democracy massed and in motion. One fresco of a May Day celebration, with its dancers and marching singers, is of strange power and appeal. Not only is the city the cultural center of the Nation, but it is also the center of the publishing and book trades. Practi cally all newsprint and book paper used is made locally. Most Mexican writers barring a few of the older men of letters who cling to the provincial capitals-re side here, and each year there is issued from local presses about 200 new titles, often reaching more than 2,000,000 vol umes. Besides these, the numerous book stores, large and small, sell a steady stream of books printed in Spain and France. The works of Spanish writers appear more popular than those of Mexican writ ers. About 4,000,000 books printed in Spain are sold in Mexico each year and perhaps 500,000 from France. Each of the great Mexico City dailies, Universal and Excelsior, prints a bulky Sunday edition, patterned after American metropolitan Sunday papers, with illus- trations and features, even including some of our well-known "comic strips" and car toons, with texts rendered in Spanish. AMAZING MONUMENTS LINK MODERN MEXICO WITH ANCIENT TIMES To art students, and particularly to sculptors, the graven images on the mys terious old ruined temples in the Valley of Mexico are of profound interest. Some of the most colossal structures built by prehistoric men anywhere in the Western Hemisphere are found in Mex ico. Mitla, Uxmal, Palenque, Chichen Itza, the incomparable pyramid of Cho lula, its base greater than that of Cheops all these are monuments left by forgotten civilizations.* Skirt Lake Texcoco, on a fine motor way extending from Mexico City, and you soon reach San Juan Teotihuacan. Here, before even the Aztecs came, some mysterious race appeared, building its tem ples and pyramids with a symbolic art strangely like that of ancient Egypt. Here is the Pyramid of the Sun. On its sum mit, according to tradition, once stood a giant stone figure, which bore on its breast a great plate of burnished gold, fixed there in such a position that it reflected the rays of sunrise. A few furlongs from here, on a strange road called the Path of the Dead, stands the Pyramid of the Moon. About the moon temple are many ruins of other structures adorned with oddly evil serpent faces carved from stone.t A tattered old Indian came shuffling up to sell me a tiny terra-cotta mask. It showed a flat, slant-eyed oriental face. It may have been a sample of the "photog raphy" of an ancient race before the days of cameras. "Who made it?" I asked. "La Gente Olvidada" (The Forgotten People). I looked at him and then at the infi nite stretches of terraces, quadrangles, * See, also, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, "Chichen Itza, an Ancient American Mecca," January, 1925, and "The Foremost In tellectual Achievements of Ancient America," February, 1922, by Sylvanus Griswold Morley; and "Hewers of Stone," by Jeremiah Zimmer man, December, 1910. t See, also, "An Interesting Visit to the An cient Pyramids of San Juan Teotihuacan," by A. C. Galloway, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE for December, 191o.