IN THE MIXTECA ALTA
Of all railroad cities in the Republic, Oaxaca is the most completely indian. It is the capital of a state the population of which is nine-tenths of native blood. Fifteen native languages are spoken in the state to-day. While some of these are related to each other, they are distinct languages, not dialects, even those which are related being as unlike as the French, Italian, and Spanish. The indians commonly seen on the city streets are Zapotecs or Mixtecs, but at times Mixes come from their distant mountain homes with burdens on their backs, or parties of Tehuantepecanas attract attention, by their fine forms and striking dress, as they walk through the streets. The market is crowded, even late in the day; ox-carts from the indian towns for miles around are constantly seen in the streets. Most of the sellers in the market are indians; they bring fruits and vegetables, dried fish from the Pacific, jicaras and strainers of gourds, beautifully painted and polished gourds from Ocotopec, honey, sugar—both the crude brown and the refined yellow cakes—and pottery. The indian pottery here sold is famous. Three kinds of wares are well known—a dull plain red, an unglazed but highly polished black, and a brilliant glazed green. The black ware is made into useful vessels, and also into a variety of toys, chiefly whistles and bells. Pottery would seem to be one of the least suitable materials for bells. Here, however, bells of pottery in many shapes are found—little bells, with handles like the upper part of a human figure; larger bells, with curious flat handles set transversely; others, still larger, like cow-bells in size and tone, and curious cross-shaped bells, really a group of four united. Among the whistles some are made into the shape of animals and birds and curious human figures; among the latter, some closely resemble ancient whistles from the prehistoric graves. This black ware is made at Coyotepec, and when the objects are first taken from the kiln they are almost white; before they are cold, they are exposed to dense smoke, and thus assume their black color. The brilliantly glazed green ware is the most attractive. Vessels made from it are thin, and, in the parts which are unglazed, resemble common flower-pot ware. The larger portion of their surfaces, however, is covered with a rich, thick, emerald-green glaze. Cups, bowls, saucers, plates, sugar-bowls, tea-pots, flasks, and censers are among the forms commonly made in this ware. The shapes are often graceful and the prices low. Most beautiful, however, and relatively expensive, are the miniature vessels made in this ware—scarcely an inch in height, but formed with the greatest care, and in such variety of dainty forms that one may seek some time to duplicate a piece which he has found; these little pieces are completely covered with the rich green glaze both outside and inside.