One curious feature, which we had not seen elsewhere, but which Dr. Castle had warned us we should find, was the nightly guard set upon us. As we lay upon our beds at night, looking out upon the white sand in front of us, we could see, by the moonlight, at some little distance, a circle of eight or ten men who spent the night sleeping within call. Another striking feature was the music which we heard in the late evening and early morning. In the early morning, five o’clock or earlier, and at sunset, there was service in the church. Later on, at eight, there was again singing in the churchyard, lasting until quite a late hour. One evening, on investigating, we found eight or ten men kneeling on the sand before the church door, singing in the moonlight. They were practicing for the procession and special service of the second Friday of Lent.
The water-life of the Juaves is at once picturesque and curiously tame. The men spend much of their time on or in the water. They make great dugout canoes from large tree trunks. There are usually no paddles, but poles are used to propel the craft sluggishly over the waters of the lagoon. Few of the men can swim. The fish are chiefly caught with nets, and both seines and throw nets are used. The lagoons are said to abound in alligators, and the men, when fishing, generally carry with them spears with long iron points which are said to be used for protection against attacks of these reptiles. Great respect is shown the alligator, and curious superstitions prevail regarding it.
Between San Mateo and the nearest of the great lagoons, the country ceases to be level and is covered with sand dunes. On these dunes there are great numbers of hares of a species peculiar to the locality. They make excellent eating, and Manuel kept our larder supplied with fresh meat, which was welcome, and which we could not otherwise have had among these non-meat-eating folk. An old Zapotec woman, seventy years of age, with snowy hair and gentle face, was deputed by the town authorities to do our cooking. Her relatives live in Juchitan, and why she had chosen to live among these people I do not know. She took a motherly interest in all our party. Nothing was too good for us. She spent her whole time in hunting supplies and cooking and serving food. Not only did she insist on all our purchases being supplied at cheapest rates, but her own charge for help and service was ridiculously small. From early morning until late at night the poor old soul was busy in our behalf. On our leaving, she took my hands between her own, and kissing them, begged that we would send her a picture as a remembrance.