Tlacolula is a large town, in the midst of a dusty valley. Its houses are large, rectangular constructions, well built of poles, with fine thatched roofs. They stand in yards, which are enclosed by fences of organ-pipe cactus. The people dress well, and at almost every house they own an ox-cart and a yoke of animals. While photographing there that afternoon, we suggested that we wanted a group of girls and women in native dress. “Very well; I will take you to the house, where you can get one.” Arrived there, the policeman at once led out five women and four children, whom he placed in line. After the picture was taken, we expressed our satisfaction and surprise that so good a group had been so readily secured at a single house. “Oh, sir,” he replied, “we struck a lucky time; there is a funeral going on there.”
[Illustration: IN THE HOT VALLEY; CUICATLAN]
Between Tehuacan and Oaxaca the railroad passes through a low, deep valley which is ever hot. Few people on the train pass through this valley without feeling its depressing influence. It would seem that travelers would hardly stop at stations within its limits, unless impelled by actual necessity. The most important of the towns in this valley is Cuicatlan. Little of it is to be seen from the railroad, but in reality it is a notably picturesque village.
It is the cabecera of a district in which dwell three most interesting tribes—the Cuicatecs, Chinantecs, and Mazatecs. We had time to visit only the nearest of the Cuicatec towns. Cuicatlan itself is situated near one side of a valley, through which runs a considerable stream. The distant bank rises in two magnificent mountain masses. The nearer bank, at the very base of which the town nestles on a series of little hills, rises into almost sheer precipices of purple conglomerate. These cliffs are hundreds of feet high, and are, apparently, due to a gigantic landslide. The mass which fell must have measured fully two miles in length, and still lies, broken and heaped up, at the base of the cliffs. The face of the cliffs, and the fallen masses of rock at its base, are cut into narrow gullies and gaps by water. The town consists of several clusters of houses, scaled along the slopes of little hillocks and settled into the spaces between them. Gigantic cactuses surround the town, and cocoa palms rise to great heights within it.
It is customary for travelers to emphasize the slowness of the Mexicans. Either we have been exceptionally fortunate, or the reputation is largely undeserved. We have been rarely delayed by sluggish action. Here, however, we found a jefe who would surely satisfy the most complaining. He was mild in manner, gentle in speech, fond of brilliant plans and schemes, all of which, however, were to be put in operation to-morrow and not to-day. It was