National Geographic : 1930 Jul
NORTH AMERICA'S OLDEST METROPOLIS and mathematically perfect courts of the ruined city. Who built these marvelous works, now so still, unreal, and empty? Certainly no native race in the last half dozen centu ries has produced any architecture to com pare with these ruins. In fancy, as you stand out there, alone on top of one of these ancient pyramids, with the silence of the dead city all about, it is easy to imagine the vanished people back again. What a busy scene the mind can conjure up! Foremen shouting, crack ing whips at the slaves, the rattle of ob sidian tools, and trumpet blasts, as this pagan city took shape in the long ago; and what a talking picture could have been made of one of the feast days, with all the wild music, the strange confusion of tongues, and striking costumes and dances! On one fine, still day in June I sat for hours atop the Temple of the Sun, ab sorbed and lost in trying to imagine what kind of people these were, where they came from, how they lived and loved and fought, and what became of them. Of course, everybody else would like to solve the same riddles. The ride back to town is short, but memories of the dead city and its mystery are persistent. The chances are you are still day-dreaming of it as you plunge again into the busy, crowded capital; and you feel again, as always below the Rio Grande, the sharp conflict between the very old and man's last word in new things. Cortez studied the roomful of account books he seized from Montezuma and learned from whence came the city's gold, silver, pearls, cotton, grain, and supplies. To such centers as Jalisco, Oaxaca, Mi choacan, and other districts he sent his captains to found posts. To-day trade still flows through these same channels. So in the capital is focused the nation's commercial life and, to an increasing de gree, its industrial life. Besides trade in wares and things produced locally, much American-made machinery, farm imple ments, motor cars, trucks, lumber, drugs, and foodstuffs are imported. Although exports of ores, oil, hides, lumber, and vegetables from Mexico to the United States run into many, many millions of dollars, practically nothing is shipped from Mexico City to the United States. Persistent as Indian conservatism has been and deep as is the native Mexican love for handicraft, you see it yielding now to the machine age. Cigarette fac tories here are marvels of modern speed, efficiency, and mass production. Tourists visiting one famous factory, which em ploys hundreds of men and girls and has its own private chapel, medical depart ment, school, post and telegraph offices, as well as a complete lithographing plant for its advertising work, are fascinated at the velocity of the great machines, which make nearly 16,ooo,ooo cigarettes a day. It has often been said that these almost human machines can make the cigarettes, sort them, pack them, and do everything but smoke them. It is the mushroom growth of small shops, fostered by electric power and the new import tariff laws, which is most significant. In recent years an amazing number of necessities, formerly imported, have come to be made here. From a ver itable host of tanneries comes leather of good quality, which is skillfully worked into trunks, harness, saddles, belts, boots and shoes, and handbags. Candy and cakes and soft drinks are important manu factures, and the output of ready-made clothing from cotton, wool, and linen has grown hugely in recent times. Railroad shops, iron and steel mills, as well as smelt ing and refining works, now give employ ment to thousands; and a new industry, airplane construction, is growing up. On billboards, in street cars, in news papers, and on theater curtains the well known illustrations for American-made toothpaste, typewriters, motor cars, and toilet soaps give gaudy welcome to visit ing Yankees, and bring that sense of se curity which comes from contact with familiar things in far places. MONTE DE PIEDAD A BOON TO THE POOR "We went to the 'Thieves' Market' with an American dentist who lives here. He bought back his own doormat and radia tor cap !" declares a tourist from Iowa. "There's the most microbic lot of junk there I ever saw. Whenever anything is stolen from you here they say, 'You go to the Thieves' Market and look for it'."