CHAPTER XIV:Riding The Circuit—Continued
Leave Los Luceros.—Farmers afield.—Chamita.—Public Houses.—The Pontius Pilate.—The Pilate Family.—Painted Faces.—People and Court-house.—Dinner.—Bed-cover and Table-cloth.—Court in Santa Fé.—Interesting Cases.—Murder for Witchcraft.—The Accused.—Testimony.—Acquittal.—Perjury Case.—Treaty of Guadalupe involved.—How the Question arose.—Record offered in Evidence.—Decision of the Court.—Author's Opinion.—Importance of the Question.—Trip to San Miguel.—The Town.—Texan Prisoners.—Accommodations.—Return to Santa Fé.—Go to Peña Blanca.—The Mesa.—Residence of Mr. Baca.—Dinner.—Food of Mexicans.—Spanish Mill.
I remained at Los Luceros until the following Monday morning, and passed a quiet and not unpleasant Sabbath under the hospitable roof of Mr. Clark. The governor left for Santa Fé early on Sunday, where he arrived safely the same afternoon. During the day the judge and the balance of our party arrived from Taos, and remained at the rancho until the morrow.
The distance from Luceros to Chamita, the countryseat of Rio Ariba, where court was to commence the next day, is twelve miles, and we were under way for that point early Monday morning. We forded the river opposite the rancho, and after following down the stream for some distance, we turned to the west and struck across the sand hills. In the river-bottom the farmers were afield preparing the earth for seed-time; some were letting the water on the ground from the acequias, and others were engaged with hoe or plow breaking up the soil. In the space of thirty acres I counted as many plows in motion, true patterns of the homely implement used in
We found Chamita great in public houses, both in name and the quality of the accommodations, and hence we were not obliged to throw ourselves upon the tender mercies of a single establishment. Their names were all scriptural, being called the Pontius Pilate House, Centurion Hotel, and Herod House, and each had earned something of a reputation for the manner in which they provided for the guests that chance or necessity threw in their way. Being a stranger to the virtues of these several places where travelers are usually "taken in," I had no choice between them, but followed the lead of the judge, and gave my patronage to him of the Pontius. The host was on the qui vive, and received us as we dismounted at the corral gate; our animals were given in charge of a peon, when the master led the way into the house. We entered through a low door, and, traversing a narrow passage, were ushered into a room about twelve feet square. We found three other persons already quartered in it, but as there was no other vacant room in the house, we had to accommodate ourselves there as well as possible. The furniture was meagre, consisting of three small beds, a bench, and one chair, all of which carried with them the prestige of great age; and a small window,
As a matter of course, the arrival of strangers in the house raised a sort of hubbub among the inmates, and all the Pilate family, old and young, male and female, were agog to see what offered new. Peeping out of a door which led into the narrow passage-way were the hostess and her daughter, who in personal appearance fully sustained the reputation of the establishment. They had their faces besmeared with the crimson juice of the alegria plant, and looked most frightful and disgusting. A thick coating covered the whole face, which gave them the appearance of wearing masks, with the eyes, nose, and mouth uncovered. This was the first exhibition of the kind I had seen, and it struck me as such a filthy and singular custom, that I was not slow to inquire the cause of it. Afterward I noticed the same in all parts of the Territory, and found it to be a common and cherished practice among the village and country beauties. It is done for the purpose of protecting the skin from the sun, and they will remain in this repulsive condition two or three weeks upon the eve of a grand baile or feast at which they may desire to appear in all their freshness and beauty. The cream of the matter is, that in most instances the complexion of the wearer is about the color of seasoned mahogany, and upon which all the sun from the north to the south pole could make no impression. Besides alegria, they make use of clay and starch in the same manner, and at times you will see these three colors displayed upon the visages of as many members of the same family. Perchance this belle of Chamita had been doing penance in a smeared face for several days, in order to appear in her most witching charms during
Having laid claim to a squatter's right in the little room allotted for our quarters, and deposited there our baggage, we set out for the court-house, as it was about the hour when the administration of justice should begin. A trudge through deep sand for nearly half a mile brought us to the spot, where we found a considerable number of people awaiting the coming of the court. A majority of those assembled were wrapped up in blankets that had served them for bed and bedding the night before, while a few of the better class wore coats. When the judge drew near, every hat was doffed in the twinkling of an eye, and a most profound salutation made. The court-house was entirely void of accommodations, being a private house rented for the occasion at the rate of one dollar per day. Court was duly opened, but in a few minutes adjourned for dinner.
At about two o'clock in the afternoon five hungry men were seated around the little deal table in the travelers' room at the Pontius Pilate House, patiently waiting for the food the host had promised to wayfarers. Presently the maid of all work, who had been christened after the Virgin of Guadalupe, made her appearance, trencher in hand. How well the dinner was in keeping with the house! The bill of fare consisted of two small plates of boiled rice, about two pounds of badly-cooked meat, half way between a stew and a boil, a little bread, villainous coffee, and muddy water. We fell to work in good earnest, and, as keen appetites do not stand upon ceremony, we made the food before us disappear with
In the afternoon court was again in session, but, as there was no business to employ my time, I amused myself, while sitting upon a log in front of the house, making a drawing of a Mexican plow that stood near. From the primitive simplicity of this implement, it might have come out of the ark, and in early times turned up the virgin soil of Palestine.
When bedtime arrived our host and hostess made the necessary arrangements to provide us with bed and bedding for the night. Three of our number took possession of as many little beds, the fourth taking to a mattress upon the floor. As bad luck would have it, or, more properly speaking, no luck at all, I was the last to be supplied with bed-clothing, and, by the time the host reached my corner, he had neither sheet, quilt, nor blanket. I felt a little curious to know how he would supply the deficiency, and provide me with the necessary covering. It occurred to me that, as I was the representative of Uncle Sam, perhaps I was to be provided with extra accommodations in the "spare room." The ingenuity of our host, however, quickly remedied the
|Thus it contrived the double debt to pay,|
|A sheet by night—a table-cloth by day.|
The United States District Court commenced in Santa Fé the following Monday morning, the twentieth instant. There was a long criminal docket, but of the whole number of cases there were but two of any interest, one being an indictment for the crime of murder, and the other a case of perjury. The murder case presented some new features, such as are rarely met with modern times. Four Indians, of the pueblo of Nambé, were indicted, during the term, for the murder of two of their own number. It was proved, on the trial, that the two
The scene at the trial was rather an interesting one. The accused were arraigned about twilight, and the struggle between the expiring light of day and that from the candles gave a dusky and indistinct appearance to every thing in the court-house. They sat side by side within the bar, clothed in blankets and leggins, and with painted faces. They seemed fully impressed with the novelty, as well as the danger, of their situation. The room was densely crowded with Americans, Mexicans, and some Indians, eager listeners and lookers on. The defendants severally pleaded not guilty, and put themselves upon "God and the country for trial." The majority of the witnesses sworn and examined were Indians, and their evidence was given to the court and jury through the medium of two interpreters, being first rendered from the dialect of Nambé into Spanish by an Indian of the pueblo of San Juan, and then into English by the regular interpreter of the court. The most important witness for the Territory was the governor of the pueblo, the following being the most material portion of his testimony:
This simple-minded Indian thus confessed the whole matter, as though the killing of the two men was a matter of duty instead of a crime; and his conduct is evidence that himself and the whole of the pueblo believed these two men were really witches. The defendants were acquitted because the venue was not clearly proved, as the killing took place upon or near the line between two counties, and it could not be shown upon which side of the line it occurred. This case showed a re-enactment of the scenes of Salem, in the heart of the continent, and in the middle of the nineteenth century.
At the fall elections in 1853, many whose names were found on this record as having elected to retain the rights of Mexican citizens offered to vote, and, upon being challenged, swore that they were citizens of the United States. Several of those who voted under these circumstances were afterward indicted for false swearing, and upon the trial of the first case called, out of some forty
This disposition of the question of citizenship took a large number by surprise, even those who were parties in interest, and some considered it no better than judicial heresy. The two contracting powers undoubtedly intended that those who desired to do so might retain their ancient allegiance, and as no mode was pointed out by which this was to be accomplished, it is only reasonable to suppose that the particular manner of making the election was to be left to the persons who were interested, so that it should be done in some public and notorious way. A large majority of those who made this election considered that by so doing they retained all the rights of Mexican citizens, and acted accordingly. In evidence of the good faith on their part, several of them afterward came voluntarily into the District Court and made formal application to become naturalized. This is
The wording of the treaty itself seems to determine the question. It provides that the class of persons referred to shall retain their rights as Mexican citizens if they shall make the election within a limited time. Now a person can not retain what he has already parted with; and if the Mexican population had become citizens of the United States immediately upon the ratification of the treaty, their former rights would have been entirely gone, and, in order to possess them again, they would have to be regained instead of retained. This provision of the treaty seems clearly to indicate that, during the period of a year, the right of citizenship of the Mexican population living in the acquired territory would, as it were, remain in abeyance; and, instead of being clothed with either American or Mexican nationality, they were candidates for either the one or the other, according as they might elect to remain Mexican citizens, or, by not making an election, show their intention, and in reality become citizens of the United States. The limitation mentioned was for the purpose of allowing them time to determine
The next place at which the District Court was held was in the town of San Miguel, the county seat of the county of the same name, fifty miles east of Santa Fé. The judge and members of the bar, six or eight persons in number, left town on Sunday, the second of April, mostly mounted and well armed, on account of recent Indian depredations in the part of the country through which it was necessary to pass. We took the Independence road, and passed through the Apache cañon, elsewhere described, stopping by the wayside now and then to rest the animals, or take a shot at the small game that crossed our path. About midway of the cañon a general halt was made, to wait until the wagon which contained the judge and the rations should come up; and in the mean while a council of war was held as to the propriety of lunching at that point, which was decided in
As we rode up to the Hotel de Pecos, for such the road-side cabin was duly christened by one of our number, "Pete," the landlord, stood ready to welcome us. Our animals were turned over to the care of his male help, while the host conducted us into the establishment. The cabin contained two small rooms, about ten feet square, with a little back kitchen; but a traveler should never judge by the size of a house of the number likely to find accommodations, for upon this occasion it seemed, like a Philadelphia omnibus, never quite full. The first arrival numbered seven persons, which was soon followed by the marshal and his deputy; and, I presume, if as many more had presented themselves, the good-natured host would have found accommodation for all, even had he been obliged to suspend some from the beams of the cabin. We had no fault to find with the manner in which we were lodged and fed; and among the luxuries set before us were Irish potatoes, a vegetable found upon few tables in the country. The evening was passed, as was usual in riding the circuit, in conversation, singing songs, and in telling anecdotes, and at an early hour we sought the humble beds the host prepared for us.
San Miguel is an adobe town of about a thousand inhabitants, situated upon the west bank of the Rio Pecos, a small but beautiful stream, which empties into the Del Norte a long way to the south. The river is skirted by a valley varying from one quarter to a mile in width, and, being dammed at various parts, irrigation is rendered comparatively easy, and also less expensive than in some sections of the country. As this was the time of planting the spring crops, the people were busy at work in the fields, some breaking up the ground with their wooden hoes and plows, while others were putting in the grain, or trailing the little currents of water from the acequias through the fields. This is the place where the Texan prisoners were first confined after their capture, and whence they were marched for the city of Mexico. The spot was pointed out to me where Howland and two others were shot, at the southeast corner of the Plaza. Three others of the prisoners, one of whom was Kendall,
The court continued in session five days, but the business transacted was of minor importance. The public buildings, as in the other counties I had visited, I found in a very dilapidated condition, and void of all accommodations for the administration of justice; and it was a matter of congratulation that the weather was dry, so that we experienced no inconvenience from the leaking
We returned to Santa Fé on Saturday, where we arrived about sundown. During our absence matters and things had assumed quite a warlike appearance on account of the active hostilities then going on between the troops and the Apache Indians. General Garland and staff had come up from Albuquerque, and for the present established the head-quarters of the department at Santa Fé. Troops and munitions of war were being forwarded to the seat of hostilities in the north, and both the civil and military authorities were making preparations to carry the war on vigorously.
I remained in town until the Monday morning following, when I started for Peña Blanca, where the court for the county of Santa Ana was to meet that day. The distance is twenty-five miles, and I started with a single companion. We followed the main road some six miles, when we turned to the right into a bridle-path, a nearer way for horsemen. A ride of an hour and a half brought us to a mesa that lay in our route, at least two hundred feet above the valley. The slope rises at an angle of about forty-five degrees, and is covered with loose blocks of amygdaloidal trap rock, as black as night and hard as adamant. This mesa system is one of the remarkable features in the physical formation of New Mexico, and worthy the attention of the scientific. In this case, while riding over a plain, you come to another plain that rises up before you some two hundred feet, with an ascent so steep as to be impassable except at one or two points, and in all parts of the country we find such formations. The overlying rock of the slope is different in character from any other seen in that vicinity.
We dismounted and led our horses up the zigzag path, when, once upon the top, we mounted again and rode onward. The plain above is some five miles in width, and almost as level as a board. The atmosphere was as clear as a bell, and there seemed hardly any limit to the distance we could see with the naked eye. We galloped across the plain, and as we approached the western side the valley of the Del Norte opened to our view, and in the distance we could see the river glittering in the sun. We found the opposite side of the plain bounded by the same slope as where we had ascended, but of greater length, and steeper. The descent was both difficult and dangerous, and in some places it required great care on the part of our animals to descend without falling. Here there are three separate slopes before we reach the valley below, being separated by small plateaux of a few hundred yards in width. Having arrived safely at the foot of the last descent, we mounted and rode forward to our place of destination.
Peña Blanca is but an insignificant Mexican village, built in the valley of the Del Norte, about half a mile from the river bank. Two or three large landowners reside here, and have respectable dwellings, while the balance of the houses are the rude mud huts of their peones. I made my quarters at the house of Don Tomas Cabeza de Baca, one of the ricos of the place, who lives surrounded with a throng of peones somewhat after the manner of the feudal lords of the Middle Ages. Dismounting at the main entrance of the corral which incloses the whole establishment, I resigned my horse to the care of a servant, and followed the lead of Don Tomas into the dwelling. Crossing a large court-yard, we ascended a flight of steps to the second story, and landed upon a portal looking toward the placita. Thence we passed through a large hall into a smaller room, which,
It was about noon when I arrived, and I had hardly finished my toilet when dinner was announced. The meal was a true Mexican dinner, and a fair sample of the style of living among the better class of people. The advance guard in the course of dishes was boiled mutton and beans, the meat being young and tender, and well flavored. These were followed by a sui generis soup, different from any thing of the kind it had been my fortune to meet with before. It was filled with floating balls about the size of a musket bullet, which appeared to be a compound of flour and meat. Next came mutton stewed in chili (red peppers), the dressing of which was about the color of blood, and almost as hot as so much molten lead. This is a favorite article of food with the Mexicans, and they partook of it most bountifully. I tasted all the dishes that were placed before me, out of respect to the host, and in so doing laid aside all epicurean scruples, and the fear of being burned up alive. We were again served with stewed beans, and the repast was concluded.
As I have already stated in a previous chapter, the two main articles of food with the Mexicans are stewed beans, called frijoles, and a thin cake made of corn, called tortillas. The beans are boiled in the first place, sometimes with ashes to take off the hull, and then stewed with lard or tallow, and, when well seasoned with red peppers, are fit for use. Thus prepared they are
PLAZA OF ALBUQUERQUE.