WE START FOR GUATEMALA
The evening we were at Mitla, Senor Quiero came hurrying to our room and urged us to step out to the corridor before the house to see some Mixes. It was our first glimpse of representatives of this little known mountain people. Some thirty of them, men and women, loaded with fruit, coffee, and charcoal, were on their way to the great fair and market, at Tlacolula. They had now stopped for the night and had piled their burdens against the wall. Wrapping themselves in their tattered and dirty blankets, they laid themselves down on the stone floor, so close together that they reminded me of sardines in a box. With a blazing splinter of fat pine for torch, we made our inspection. Their broad dark faces, wide flat noses, thick lips and projecting jaws, their coarse clothing, their filthiness, their harsh and guttural speech, profoundly impressed me and I resolved to penetrate into their country and see them in their homes, at the first opportunity.
Our friend the padre never tired of telling how much more interesting Guatemala was than Mexico; he could not understand why any man of sense should waste his time in Mexico, a land so large that a dozen students could not begin to solve its problems, while Guatemala, full of interesting ruins and crowded with attractive Indians, was of such size that one man’s lifetime could count for something. His tales of indian towns, life, dress, customs, kindled enthusiasm; but it was only after thinking over the Mixes, that I decided to make a journey to Guatemala. The padre, himself, could not accompany me, being a political refugee, but he had told me Ernst should go with me. After three months’ consideration my plan was made. We would start from Oaxaca overland via the Mixes country; we would everywhere keep in the mountains; in Chiapas we would completely avoid the usual highway, hot and dusty, near the coast; in Guatemala itself, we would go by Nenton, Huehuetenango and Nibaj. This did not suit the padre: he had had in mind a journey all rail and steamer; and friends, long resident in Mexico, shook their heads and spoke of fatigues and dangers. But I was adamant; the Mixes drew me; we would go overland, on horse, or not at all.
When the Padre left Chila, he took a letter of recommendation from the Archbishop of Oaxaca to the Bishop of Vera Cruz at Jalapa. By him, the padre was located at Medellin, a few miles from Vera Cruz itself. Thither I journeyed to join Ernst and make the final preparations for the journey. Ernst met me at the station at 6:30 in the evening and we stayed the night in the hot, mosquito-tortured, plague-stricken city. Leaving at eight o’clock in the morning we were at Medellin in an hour. Our journey was through low, swampy ground on which the chief growth was of palm. The padre, whom we had not seen since we parted at Oaxaca, met us at the station and