THE LAND OF THE MIXES
Santa Maria was the last Zapotec town; we were on the border of the country of the Mixes. Starting at seven next morning, we followed a dizzy trail up the mountain side to the summit. Beyond that the road went down and up many a slope. A norther was on; cold wind swept over the crest, penetrating and piercing; cloud masses hung upon the higher summits; and now and again sheets of fine, thin mist were swept down upon us by the wind; this mist was too thin to darken the air, but on the surface of the driving sheets rainbows floated. The ridge, which for a time we followed, was covered with a thicket of purple-leaved oaks, which were completely overgrown with bromelias and other air-plants. From here, we passed into a mountain country that beggars description. I know and love the Carolina mountains—their graceful forms, their sparkling streams and springs, the lovely sky stretched above them; but the millionaires are welcome to their “land of the sky”; we have our land of the Mixes, and to it they will never come. The mountains here are like those of Carolina, but far grander and bolder; here the sky is more amply extended. There, the slopes are clad with rhododendrons and azaleas, with the flowering shrub, with strawberries gleaming amid grass; here we have rhododendrons also, in clusters that scent the air with the odor of cloves, and display sheets of pink and purple bloom; here we have magnificent tree-ferns, with trunks that rise twenty feet into the air and unroll from their summits fronds ten feet in length; fifty kinds of delicate terrestrial ferns display themselves in a single morning ride; here are palms with graceful foliage; here are orchids stretching forth sprays—three or four feet long—toward the hand for plucking; here are pine-trees covering slopes with fragrant fallen needles. A striking feature is the different flora on the different slopes of a single ridge. Here, too, are bubbling springs, purling brooks, dashing cascades, the equals of any in the world. And hither the tourist, with his destroying touch, will never come.
We had thought to find our wild Mixes living in miserable huts among the rocks, dressed in scanty native garb, leading half wild lives. We found good clearings on the hillside; fair fields of maize and peas, gourds and calabashes; cattle grazed in the meadows; fowls and turkeys were kept; the homes were log-houses, substantially built, in good condition, in neat enclosures; men and women, the latter in European dress, were busied with the duties of their little farms. Clearing after clearing in the forest told the same story of industry, thrift, and moderate comfort.