National Geographic : 1961 Oct
case. He praised the climate, the light, dry air of the central plateau, and sunshine so clear that it leaves indigo shadows. ("Why else did the Indians become sun worship ers?") He boasted about the artists' colony and the candy-pink church of San Miguel. But the Taxco supporter met him point for romantic point. "The oldest mining town in North America," he called it, and nobody can prove otherwise. He glamorized the silver wealth of the miner who left the town the lavish little Santa Prisca and San Sebastian Church (page 529). He praised the view from the hillside hotels, and the silver craftsmen who fill Taxco shops with glittering bargains. Then the argument got hot and reckless. "It's too crowded," said one. "It's self-con scious," said the other. Both men were miss ing the point. Beautiful spots grow crowded because great beauty attracts people. But if you should think the charm self conscious, then visit any place in Mexico dur ing Holy Week and watch the faithful make their painful penance. Some women wear masks, some mortify the flesh with shirts of hair. In the face of such fervor, a visitor's camera might as well be clicking in another world. The rich and unaffected variety of Mexico is as real as the Mexican people. El Soldado Makes His Farewell Whatever his destination, the traveler usu ally takes in a bullfight, a national sport as important in Mexico as baseball games in the U. S. In Guadalajara, the nation's second largest city, I saw garish posters announcing an all-star corrida: the last appearance of a famous but old matador called El Soldado. A sentimental crowd cheered the old vet eran before his first bull. But El Soldado his body thickened by long success - was ea ger to survive his final fight. His capework was now skittish, his feet nervous; he finished the bull with clumsy impatience. The next bull belonged to an angular young matador named Capetillo. Stylish, and utterly without fear, he won the crowd's ovations. El Soldado returned for his second and last bull. His reactions were slower than be fore. As the old man left the ring, the crowd jeered openly. Then, suddenly, the fans fell silent; everyone realized that El Soldado's career was ended. They began to applaud, then rose to cheer El Soldado's past bravery. Young Capetillo dramatically dedicated his next bull to the retired matador. To cheers, he led the animal through close and 5.36 dangerous movements-and then it hap pened. The bull's right horn ripped into the young bullfighter's thigh. The crowd gasped, and Capetillo was carried off to the surgeon. Who would finish this dangerous bull? El Soldado marched out to face an animal already dedicated to himself. A novelist might finish the story with a return of youthful bra vado or even glorious death. Truth wrote a different tale. El Soldado-still thick in the middle and nervous of foot-again finished his bull impatiently. But the ending was not unhappy: Withal, he had survived to retire. Modern Mexico: Changed and Changeless Preparing to leave the country, I wanted to take one final subjective measure of Mexican progress: to visit the Rancho Tenientc, near the Rio Grande, where my family raised cat tle when I was a boy. So I left the border town of Ciudad Acufia for my first visit since 1934. I followed the road out of town over the rolling, brushy pastureland, past fields of wild verbena and the Spanish dagger's waxen shakos. When we entered the ranch gate, I saw a dead coyote hanging on the barbed wire as a warning to his kind. Folkways had not changed. Then the car pulled up to a vaguely familiar cluster of houses and an old windmill. To the ranch foreman, Luis Vela, I explained my visit. "A boy here?" he said. "Please consider it still your home." The main house had been enlarged. I point ed out the room where my mother had some times written letters for our workmen: Out of perhaps 50 cowboys and goatherds, only one had been literate. "How many people on the Teniente can read now?" I asked. Luis Vela smiled. "We have only one person who is unlettered-a baby of three months." White Leghorns now lived in a handsome brick chicken house; the old swimming hole - our duck pond-had gone completely dry. "Still no electricity?" I asked. "Not yet," said Luis Vela. "But when Am istad Dam is complete...." Amistad, or Friendship, Dam was launched jointly last year by Presidents Eisenhower and Lopez Mateos. Waters from the Rio Grande and Devil's River will generate power for both sides of the border. "Yes," Luis Vela was saying, "Amistad Dam will make a 20-mile lake." A duck pond is lost, a big lake is gained. That one unlettered baby on the Rancho Teniente will enjoy quite a swimming hole in his changing land.