CHAPTER XI:Winter In Santa Fé
Feast and Saint Days.—Guadalupe's Day.—Legend of her Advent.—The Story of the Indian.—The Festivities in Santa Fé.—Festivities at Guadalupe Hidalgo.—The Crowd.—Church on the Rock.—Services within.—Church of Guadalupe—Its Richness.—Holy Well.—Baile.—Appearance of Room.—Dancing.—"Creature Comforts."—Arrival from California.—Supreme Court.—Mode of Administering Justice.—Entertainment.—Address.—Dedication of Church.—Arrival of Mail.—Anxiety.—Reading of Letters.
In New Mexico, as is the custom in all Catholic countries, feast and saint days in the Church are observed with strictness and proper religious rejoicings. The celebration of such anniversaries appears to be a leading article of their faith, without which their Christianity goes for naught, and their prospect of future happiness slim indeed.
On the twelfth day of December the good people of Santa Fé ceased from their labors, and went up to their churches to do honor to the Virgin of Guadalupe, the patron saint of the country. It was made the occasion of festivities by all classes of the population. This day is the anniversary of her appearance, which, according to the tradition of the Church, took place more than three hundred years ago, and, by their showing, in the most miraculous manner. The legend of her advent runs as follows: In the year 1531, an Indian named Juan Diego was passing by the mountain of Tapeyac, near the city of Mexico, when the most holy Virgin appeared to him, and directed him to return to the city and tell the bishop to come out there and worship her. The Indian went
She took the name of the town near which she appeared to the Indian, and was canonized as the Virgin of Guadalupe. The Church made her the patron saint of the country, which position she has ever maintained, and it is as bad as rank heresy in a Catholic to disbelieve in her miraculous appearance. With the Mexicans she is all important, and they believe she exercises a great influence over all the affairs of life. With the mass of the population she appears to be the only identity in religion—the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end of all their faith and practice. She is
Upon this occasion the festivities commenced the evening of the seventh instant, and lasted through the week until the twelfth, which time was very generally observed as a holiday. At dark a row of bonfires were kindled on the south side of the Plaza, in front of the church, and along the middle of some of the principal streets. The wood was dry and resinous, and the flames sent a bright illumination throughout the town. Crowds of people collected around the fires and amused themselves in various ways until the bells tolled for vespers, when they repaired to the Military Chapel, where appropriate religious services were performed by the bishop, assisted by all the attending clergy. Similar ceremonies were observed on the evening of the twelfth, which closed the festivities.
While the American army occupied the city of Mexico in the winter of 1847, I witnessed a grand annual celebration in honor of this saint at the place where she is said to have made her appearance. In order that the reader may have a knowledge of the manner in which such an affair is conducted, I make a few extracts from my military journal of that period.‘‘
On Sunday, the twelfth of December, I rode out to the town of Guadalupe de Hidalgo to witness the ceremonies in honor of the patron saint of the country. I mounted my horse at an early hour and set out alone, but by the time I had reached the garita and turned upon the causeway I found myself in the midst of a crowd tending the same way. The morning was as pleasant
The throng which poured out of the city was dense, and as checkered in appearance as ever made pilgrimage to the shrine of a saint. There were all sorts and conditions of persons, and every rank in life had a representative. Here was seen an elegant carriage drawn by sleek-looking mules, whose smiling inmates appeared the very personification of luxury and ease; there came a rude country cart lined with bull-hide, and filled with the family of a poor ranchero, and drawn by a pair of rawboned oxen made fast by thongs around his horns; here ambled by a squadron of donkey cavalry, urged forward in hot haste to the scene of festivities, the legs of the riders almost trailing on the ground; then thousands came on foot, some carrying children strapped to the back, and others bending under a load of knick-knacks for sale. Men, women and children, mules, donkeys and dogs, saint and sinner, the greasy and the well-clad, were all mingled in one crowd, and the noise and confused sounds that arose reminded one of a modern Babel. On each side of the causeway, up to the very gates of Guadalupe, booths were erected for the sale of cakes, drinks, and sweetmeats, and where all kinds of buffoonery were being carried on. Gambling-tables were numerous, and here and there were pits for cock-fighting, with anxious crowds assembled around to witness the cruel sport, and bets were running high on their favorite chickens. Dancers
When I arrived at the entrance to the inclosure around the church, the procession of the Host was passing. The image of the Virgin, borne aloft on a pole, was followed by a number of priests in their stove-pipe hats and sacred vestments; then came a platoon of filthy-looking soldiers, with a band of musicians playing upon cracked wind-instruments, the whole being brought up in the rear by a crowd of 'red spirits and white, blue spirits and gray,' shooting squibs, and hallooing at the top of their voices. The whole scene reminded me much more of a Fourth of July celebration or a militia training in the United States than a religious festival.
On nearly the highest point of the rock of Tapeyac, and near where the Indian is said to have gathered the roses, a small church has been erected, which, tradition says, sprung up out of the rock in a single night. It is a dark stone building, constructed in the style of three centuries ago. It is reached from below by a winding stairway cut in the solid stone, considerably crumbled by time, and worn by the footsteps of thousands of pilgrims who have passed up to worship at the shrine of their favorite saint. I entered the little church, and found it thronged with worshipers, mostly half-naked Indians, who had come from the mountains and valleys beyond on this their annual pilgrimage to the Mecca of their hopes, and who, like the devout Moslem who yearly kneels at the tomb of the Prophet, having finished their mission, were ready to lie down and die. They jostled and pushed each other in their anxiety to approach the altar and touch the garments of the Virgin,
Turning from this scene of blind faith and humiliation, we led our horses down the stone stairway into the inclosure below, when, giving them to a Mexican to hold, we entered the sacred edifice dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe. The building was yet crowded with people, and the high dignitaries of the Church were celebrating some solemn ceremony commemorative of the occasion. In point of beauty and richness of decoration this church far excels all others in Mexico. It appeared almost one blaze of gold and silver in the bright sunlight that streamed through the windows and played upon the dazzling ornaments. The whole ceiling, and particularly the dome, is painted in the most beautiful fresco, and so life-like are the figures that they seem about to speak from the panels. Above the altar, in a frame-work of solid silver, is an image of the Virgin as large as life. Her dress is spangled with precious stones, and inside the frame are strips of gold running the whole length, thickly studded with diamonds, pearls, and emeralds; golden rays beam from either side, and suspended overhead is a silver dove as large as an eagle. The altar is of finely-polished marble, highly ornamented, and in front
Not far from the church is a holy well, over which a small chapel has been erected, and thither we next bent our steps. The well is supposed, by the ignorant, to be sacred, and to possess the power of healing disease and preserving all who are touched by it. A large crowd were gathered around it, some dipping in the tips of their fingers and crossing themselves, others applying a handful to the face, while the more anxious mothers plunged their dirty children in, head, neck, and heels, in order that the holy water might penetrate through all parts of the system, if the coating of dirt would allow it to do so. With us this closed the scene, and, turning away from the dirty crowd, we mounted our horses and galloped down the causeway toward Mexico.’’
Such is a brief history of the great patron saint of all Mexico, and the manner in which her miraculous appearance is celebrated. It appears quite incomprehensible how an intelligent person, in the middle of the nineteenth
Soon after I arrived in Santa Fé I received an invitation to attend a baile (ball), and as the ticket was drawn up in the most approved style, I presumed it would be a very recherché affair, and that all the upper crust would be present. I determined to be there as a quiet "looker-on in Venice," in order to see what was done and how they did it. The entertainment was given at the house of a citizen in the western part of the city, and at the hour mentioned in the invitation I wended my way thither in company with two friends. Don Tomas met us at his threshold with open arms, and welcomed us with a cordiality that seemed to have no bounds. The room into which we first entered had been fitted up for a bar-room for the occasion, and upon the ample shelves were paraded all kinds of fluid refreshments, said to be good for both body and soul, which I concluded must be the case from the manner in which those present were imbibing. We were urged to take a little something to keep out the cold such a raw night; but, declining the kind offer, we passed on, and were ushered into the sala (hall), where a large number of both sexes were assembled. We were provided with comfortable seats, whence we had a good opportunity of seeing every thing that was going on. Dancing had not yet commenced, and I had a few moments to cast my eyes about to see how things were arranged.
I had not much more than time to make these observations of the room and those within it before the musicians struck up a lively waltz, and the campaign of amusement opened in right good earnest. The floor was filled with willing dancers in a trice, and off they went in double-quick time. The Mexicans, as a race, are much given to this amusement, and they both dance and waltz with exceeding grace; and I could but admire the beauty of their motion as they wound through the figures. The etiquette of the baile-room in New Mexico is quite accommodating, and there is no barrier against a person selecting whom he may desire for a partner. It is not necessary to go through the ordeal of an introduction before you can secure a lady for the dance, but you need only place your eye upon the fair damsel with whom you desire to "trip upon the light fantastic toe," and ask the simple question, when she is yours for the set.
New Mexico, being situated in the middle of the continent, has communication with both seaboards, the Atlantic and the Pacific—with the former by regular monthly mails and private trains. The communication with the Pacific is less frequent and more dangerous; the distance, though not so great, is much more difficult to travel, and the trip is only occasionally made. Now and then a party of returned Californians come home the overland route, and take Santa Fé in the way.
On the twenty-fifth of December a small party of Americans arrived in town from California, in a journey of sixty days across the continent from Los Angelos, whence they started in October. They were headed by Kit Carson and Lucien Maxwell, both old mountainmen, and were on their return from driving sheep to California. The trip was made without accident, and they saw but two Indians upon the whole route. From Los Angelos they struck the Rio Colorado of the West at Fort Zuma, near the mouth of the Gila, where they crossed
The Supreme Court of the Territory began its annual session in the court-house at Santa Fé, and continued its sitting for the argument of causes about three weeks from the first Monday in January. The judiciary system of New Mexico was established by the organic law, which provides that one session of the Supreme Court shall be held in each year. The Legislative Assembly divided the Territory into three judicial districts, known as the northern, middle, and southern. Each of the three judges presides over a district, who is obliged by law to live within the limits of the same, the chief justice being assigned to the middle district. The middle district is composed of the counties of Santa Fé, San Miguel, and Santa Ana; the northern, of Taos and Rio Ariba; and the southern, of the counties of Bernalillo, Valencia, Socorro, and Doña Ana. Two terms are held in each district annually—in the spring and fall. The time of holding the courts begins in the north, and runs through the different counties to the south in rotation, by which arrangement they do not interfere with each other, and the attorneys have an opportunity of making the circuit of the Territory, which is their usual custom.
The American mode of administering justice is yet something of a novelty to the Mexican people, being so entirely different from what they had heretofore been accustomed to. Under the Mexican government courts of justice were almost unknown, and the governor for the time being took it upon himself to redress all wrongs, civil and criminal. It was some time before the people could come to understand our method of doing these things, and even at the present time a man occasionally presents himself before the executive with his grievances, and asks that justice may be done in the premises. Such applicants are always turned over to the courts, but they can not comprehend how or why it is that the governor can not, as in olden times, try the cause and render justice between the parties. As they gradually become familiarized with our system they begin to appreciate it, and can see in it far greater security to person and property than they enjoyed under the old system, where the same person both made and executed the laws. They are becoming sensible of the fact that the trial by jury is the great attribute of a free government, and in time they will appreciate it as highly as those who have grown up under the system.
On the evening of the 12th of January the dullness of Santa Fé was somewhat broken in upon by an entertainment given in the vestry-rooms of the parish church to Bishop Lamy, on the eve of his departure for Rome. The affair was gotten up by the Catholic clergymen of the city and the boys of the boarding-school, and in all its appointments was well arranged. Cards of invitation had been issued some days before, and the hour of five in the afternoon was fixed upon for the entertainment to come off. A little before the appointed time a goodly company were assembled awaiting the announcement of the feast, consisting of the governor and other civil and
In due season the master of ceremonies announced supper, and led the way to the saloon. We were conducted across a small court-yard into a detached building, where we found tables spread with an abundance of the necessaries and luxuries of life, including various kinds of wines. It was such a supper as I had not expected to see in New Mexico, and the tables would have compared favorably with a similar entertainment in the States. The bishop having invoked a blessing, we took our seats and began the agreeable duty of disposing of the eatables placed before us, and I am sustained in saying that greater justice was never done upon a similar occasion. While we were discussing the viands the scholars served in a little harmony in the shape of vocal and instrumental music.
After the board had been cleared—but of nothing else than the victuals—a deputation of the lads of the school came forward and read the following farewell address to the bishop in English, French, and Spanish:
Most illustrious Sir,—Upon the eve of your lordship's departure, we have the honor to present ourselves before your worship in the name of a great number of friends, to express to you our respect and sympathy, and the sentiment of high consideration we feel toward your worship. Words are but the faint echo of the feelings of our hearts; but in looking upon this concourse, you can perceive what our lips are unable to express.
A grand motive carries you to Europe, to represent the interests of your flock: its rights and interests we are convinced you will defend with dignity, and that the smallest shade of an eclipse will never darken the brightness of your character.
From the depths of our hearts fervent prayers will go up to the Almighty for the happiness of your journey upon the ocean, and that you may be successful in every attempt of your career, surrounded as you will be by numerous cares, and the troubles in which you will be placed at every step in the discharge of your high duties.
Remember, illustrious sir, that you leave here in your country, your true country, souls innumerable, who seek your personal happiness in the good result of your enterprise and your destination. God grant that the same hand of Omnipotence which conducts the bark that carries you over the boundless seas, in your return to these shores may cause to shine on your noble brow the rays of a new star on its appearance in the heavens.’’
I am not disposed to criticise the address of the boys to their spiritual guardian, but it must be admitted that it would have been in much better taste had the tone been less bombastic. To say the least, it sounds strangely in republican ears to hear a minister of the Gospel called "lordship" and "worship," and, had such
The new Baptist church in Santa Fé was finished about the first of the year, and on the fifteenth instant it was dedicated to the worship of God with appropriate services. This is the first and only Protestant meeting-house erected in the Territory of New Mexico, and was built partly by contributions from the United States and partly with money raised in Santa Fé. It is a neat and comfortable adobe building, forty-one feet long—exclusive of a vestibule ten feet square—and thirty-one feet wide. The finish is plain and substantial, with pews sufficient to accommodate about one hundred and fifty persons. The ceiling is supported by four square pillars, and the pulpit, in the modern platform style, is at the north end, with a little plain drapery in front, and also in rear against the wall, as ornament. In a semi-circle over the speaker's stand is painted against the wall the inscription, "Holiness belongeth unto thy house, O Lord, forever."
During the ceremony of dedication there were three Baptist ministers in attendance, the Revs. Samuel Gorman, a missionary among the Pueblo Indians at Laguna, Henry W. Reed, of Albuquerque, and Louis Smith, stationed in Santa Fé. The exercises commenced at eleven o'clock A.M. by singing the following appropriate hymn, written for the occasion by a lady of New York City:
|O Lord, the happy hour has come,|
|Which we have longed to see,|
|And now within this sacred dome|
|Our praise ascends to Thee.|
|Jesus, how charming is the place,|
|The courts of thine abode!|
|Come show us now thy smiling face,|
|And here thy name record.|
|Oh! may the desert plains rejoice,|
|And bless the happy day|
|That bids us elevate the cross,|
|And Jesus' love display.|
|Dear Savior, may that precious word|
|In all its beauties shine,|
|And sinners haste to meet the Lord,|
|And own His power divine.|
|Breathe, Holy Spirit, light of love,|
|O'er this benighted land,|
|Till Christ his majesty shall prove,|
|And king of nations stand.|
After the singing of the hymn, the Rev. Mr. Gorman preached a sermon from the fifth chapter of Matthew, from the thirteenth to the sixteenth verses. Not the least interesting part of the morning's exercises was the presentation of an elegantly-bound Bible and Hymn-book, on behalf of the ladies of Dr. Cone's church, New York, which they had purchased and sent out to Santa Fé. In the afternoon Mr. Reed preached a sermon in Spanish from the text, ‘‘For now have we chosen and sanctified this house, that my name may be there forever; and mine eyes and my heart shalt be there perpetually.’’
The exercises of the day were concluded by a sermon by the Rev. Mr. Gorman in English. The congregation was respectable in point of numbers, and very attentive, being composed of American residents in Santa Fé, some soldiers from the garrison, and a few Mexicans.
In the erection of the building much praise is due to the Hon. Joab Houghton, of Santa Fé, who took a lively interest in it from the beginning, and seconded all the efforts of the Rev. Louis Smith to have it completed. The entire cost was about four thousand dollars, being increased about one third by the cupola falling down and damaging other parts of the building.
The position of New Mexico, with the distance from the States, as well as the difficulty of reaching this remote possession, greatly abridges the mail facilities that might otherwise be enjoyed. The mail arrives once a month from Independence, Missouri, and the dates from the Atlantic seaboard are about six weeks old when they are received, and it requires three months to receive an answer to a communication from Saint Louis or any place east of that point. There is also a monthly mail from San Antonio, Texas, but the dates received by it are not so late as those received by the eastern route. The first mail from the States after I had taken up my residence in Santa Fé arrived on the twenty-fourth of December. We had been anxiously awaiting its coming, and many a heart beat once more with renewed gladness when the mule-teams drove into the Plaza, and the conductor deposited the leathern bags of love and news down at the door of the post-office. None but those exiled a long distance from home and friends, and living among a strange people, can fully appreciate the arrival of the mail, and more especially when it arrives but once in a month. How quickly a crowd assemble around the office door, waiting for the "open sesame," when they can enter and receive their letters! While standing there, anxious thoughts chase each other through the head and heart, and you are not wholly at ease until you shall have read every line and syllable addressed to you. You can not help imagining the intelligence you may receive;
Thus, half in hope and half in fear, we stand before the post-office, and await the summons to enter. Presently the door is thrown open, and in we rush, helter skelter, each one making a dive for the letter-boxes, and demanding to be served first, entirely forgetful that our neighbor has equal claims upon the services of Uncle Sam's agent. In a little while you receive your letters and leave the office—a happier man than when you entered. In your own gladness, you pass without pity the poor fellow who walks away sad because there was nothing for him. You perhaps feel a kind of inward sympathy for his disappointment, but at that time you can not manifest any thing of the kind, being too much occupied with your own new-found joy, and, besides, another time will do just as well. You hurry away to your own quiet room to read over, in silence and alone, the letters you have received, for it will never do to open such treasures within the ken of stranger-eyes. You close the door,
Thus far all things have proceeded satisfactorily; but now comes the most interesting part of the episode—that of reading the letters. If you chance to have a sweetheart, as is sometimes the case, you first select her letter from the pile, examine the superscription again to be quite sure that it is from her, and perhaps give the mute messenger a silent kiss—first casting a glance around the room to be sure that no intruding eye is overlooking the operation—before you break the seal. With fingers slightly nervous, you open the envelope, and take therefrom the precious epistle, which, in the first place, you read over rather hurriedly, merely to learn whether she is well. You next take up the others in order, and read those from father, mother, brothers, and sisters, each of which you likewise peruse in rather a hurried manner, reserving a more critical reading until evening, when, in dressing-gown and slippers, and perhaps the feet placed upon the table, you carefully read and re-read each one, even taking pleasure in spelling out some of the expressions of endearment. The poor business-letters are reserved until the last, and are then read more as a matter of duty than because of any interest you feel in the contents.