Chapter III


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IT was a lovely February morning when Father Kino, Secretary Mange, Captain Anza of the presidio, several soldiers, and Papago guides, started on their journey. For days they travelled over a sandy, barren plain, over which the thorny mesquite and the yellowish green grease-wort struggled for supremacy. Here and there a pretty elder, with its luxuriant, fresh color, was seen, small but graceful, and the cottonwood stood bare and leafless. Not a bird was seen or heard in these desert tracks, no suggestion of life, save here and there the bleaching bones of some thirst-slain animal, or an occasional tumulus, or sepulchral mound, where, in former days, some wandering tribe had left their weak comrades, who had succumed to the fatigues


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and privations of this journey. And yet some historians tell us that this country had become depopulated in consequence of changes in the configuration of the soil; that once all the table-lands between the Gila and Colorado rivers were fruitful and beautiful, and that, where now all is a barren solitude, there existed a prosperous and civilized people. Father Kino has left many very interesting letters descriptive of these explorations and the beautiful Gila River—this mysterious stream whose currents were then disturbed only by the rod and line of the native fisherman, and whose uplands smiled in the verdure of almost perpetual sunshine.

They wandered for some days over this valley, among the ruins of this supposed prehistoric race, so well advanced in civilization. In the valleys their houses had been built of concrete, while in the mountains they were hewn out of stone that formed the mountain sides. The irrigating canals or


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aceiques were of great length and size, conducting the waters over immense tracts of country. Large boulders were seen covered with hieroglyphics and rude figures of men, animals, and grotesque representations. When asked who built these old structures, the Indian is said to have always answered, "Moktezuma." This Moktezuma was the great leader and law-giver of the sun-worshipping Indians, and not the Montezuma of Mexican history who was conquered by Cortes. Moktezuma belonged to a period many centuries earlier, according to their traditions, so long ago that even at that time he was the extreme limit of their chronology, and "united in his person both divinity and patriot."

The history derived from these relics seems irrefutable, and furnishes a strong argument in favor of some primitive communication with that great brotherhood of nations of the old world. We are told that the description of Moktezuma's court might well pass for that


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of the Grand Khan's, as furnished by Mandeville and Marco Polo.

The nations of America are certainly of great antiquity. Many writers advance physical and psychological comparisons to prove ethnological resemblances among the races of America, and agree that there exists a greater uniformity between them than is found in the races of the old world. They tell us that twenty different languages were found within the boundaries of New Spain; not simply dialects, but essentially different; all, however, with one exception, confined to the peculiar synthetic structure upon which they were all based, using the fewest possible words to convey the greatest number of ideas, in fact condensing whole sentences often into a single word, displaying wonderful ingenuity, in which a writer on the subject tells us that, ‘‘some discern the hand of the philosopher, while others only the spontaneous effort of the savage.’’


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The face of the country they found made up of fertile valleys where the maguey was greenest and the cacti blossomed into luxuriant flower. The maguey, or Agave Americano, whose clustering pyramids of flowers towered above their coronal of leaves, was found all through these valleys, furnishing food, drink, clothing and writing material for the natives, containing within its roots and leaves so many elements of usefulness and civilization. Here were precipitous canons and rugged mountains, where the countless curves, hollows and crests heightened the effects of the spring verdure, and made of the desert table-lands a picturesque country full of nature's grandeur and beauty. To the south the peaks of the Sonora mountains lifted their summits above the horizon, to the north stretched out a low chain of serrated hills; at the base of this chain was a long meadow, extending many miles to the south, where the Pimas grazed their cattle. On


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every hand were seen ponderous ruins and abundant fragments of beautiful pottery, yielded by their excavations.

The age that had passed away had left this land full of phantoms and illusive shadows; amid all its calmness and silence it was "the sleep of the dead, in the presence of eternity."

They found Pacheco much better, and after having remained a few days with him continued their journey to the famous "Casa Grande" ruins. These ruins, so justly celebrated, lie in the Gila valley, south of the river, near what was then the Pima villages, and is now the Pima and Maricopa reservations. The "Chichilticale" or red house, is supposed to have been the home of Montezuma, and to have been visited by Coronado in 1540, during his journey from Cualican. An English translation of his account of them is found in Hakluyt's voyages. I have chosen Mange's description, as he accompanied


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Father Kino on this expedition as his secretary.

‘‘The Casa Grande itself is a large edifice, the principal ruin in the centre being four stories high, and those adjoining it on its four sides, three stories; the walls are two paces thick, of strong argamasa y barro—the material of which the adobes are made—so smooth on the inside that they resemble planed boards, and so polished that they shine like Pueblo pottery. The corners of the windows, which are square, are very straight and without supports or cross-pieces of wood, as if made with a mould; the doors are the same, though narrow, and by this it is known to be the work of Indians; it is 36 paces long by 21 wide and is well built. At the distance of an arquebuse shot are seen twelve other buildings half fallen, also with thick walls; all the roofs are burned out except one low room, which has wood beams apparently of cedar or sabino, small and


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smooth, and over them otates—reeds—of equal size, and a layer of hard mortar forming a very curious roof or floor.’’

‘‘In the vicinity,’’ he goes on to tell us, ‘‘are many other ruins, and much broken pottery, much of it resembling the Guadalajara pottery of New Spain.’’ From this Mange inferred that at one time there must have been quite a large town here and that it was the work of a civilised people.

This he goes on to say was verified by ‘‘a canal, which runs from the river over the plain encircling the settlement, which is in the centre, three leagues in circumference, ten paces wide, and four deep, carrying perhaps half the river, and thus serving as a defensive ditch, as well as to supply water for the houses, and to irrigate the surrounding fields.’’

This irrigating canal was such an admirable piece of engineering that modern engineers, not having been able to improve upon


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it, have undeviatingly followed its course over these same plains, and the great reservoir spoken of here by Mange is now being rebuilt as a water storage for the irrigation of the surrounding country.

‘‘What a pity,’’ said Father Kino, ‘‘that the chronicles of this once wonderful people, up to the conquest, should be so vague. It is difficult to see in these ignorant savages of these deserts a derivation from an ancient and civilized race, and yet the evidences all around us point to the consequences of invasions, wars, and revolutions, long anterior to the first arrival of the Spaniards.’’

‘‘There has been ample time for all this,’’ replied Secretary Mange, ‘‘if, as we are told, the settlers' arrival in the country dates back to the seventh century; there are marked characteristics in many ways to support the assertion.’’

‘‘Yes, the Toltecs led the van of the great


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Aztec migration, it is supposed; but all that is obscure in the history of those days is ascribed to the Toltecs.’’

‘‘When Cortes entered Mexico the great Teocalli or temple had been but recently built, and it was constructed after the manner of the pyramids built by this people,’’ said Secretary Mange.

‘‘Yes,’’ smiled Father Kino, ‘‘as, in the absence of more authentic evidence, all the ancient churches of Europe were attributed to Charlemagne, and the old military fortifications to Cæsar, so all these old monuments are credited to the Toltecs. Toltec has passed into a sort of synonym for architecture. But, seriously, all these evidences of a former period of advanced civilisation offer a most interesting study. Spanish writers are fond of tracing analogies to European nations, which are probably purely accidental, and such as necessity leads to in all people. Some little of their military policy even points


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a resemblance to the ancient Romans. There certainly existed here a populous nation.’’

‘‘I read a very pretty and poetic manner of accounting for them the other day,’’ said Secretary Mange. ‘‘It revived the old story of Plato's Atlantis, that huge island which might have stretched from the shores of Africa to the eastern borders of this new continent. They claim that there are evidences of similar convulsions of nature in the green islands of the Pacific, once the mountain summits of a great continent now submerged beneath the water.’’

‘‘They have a tradition of a deluge, which, independently of tradition, would be naturally suggested by the interior structure of the world, and the mountain summits on which marine substances are found. I think, without doubt, that they are descendants of a much higher development of an Indian race of original Asiatic origin. Apart from physical analogies and cosmogonal traditions,


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there are religious customs and analogies of science. Their chronological system of distributing years into cycles, and reckoning by periodical series instead of numbers, was the same used by various Asiatic nations of the Mongol family from India to Japan,’’ replied Father Kino.

‘‘It all seems more like romance than history certainly,’’ replied Secretary Mange. ‘‘What a pity that Juan Zumarraga, the first Archbishop of Mexico, should have destroyed all the paintings and manuscripts of Anahuac! They would probably have told us so much of this people and their ancestors.’’

‘‘He followed the example of Zimenes in Granada twenty years before, and you will remember that in 1556 Spain passed a law that no work concerning America should be published without license.’’

‘‘I have never heard of this. What an extraordinary law? What could have been the object of it?’’


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‘‘Why, fear that the fabulous reports of its wealth reaching the people and other nations, would interfere with the Spanish Government's control of its great wealth and resources. Their arts and sciences were evidently carried to a high degree of excellence, and must have equalled, if not surpassed, their Spanish conquerors,’’ answered Father Kino.

‘‘It must have taken a long period for them to retrograde to their present ignorant and savage condition.’’

‘‘Their definite history must, I fear, always remain largely speculative, but the traditions of all these primitive nations assign their arts to a heroic or fabulous period far back in antiquity. They imply a migration from some distant country, a great deluge or pestilence, in which everything was destroyed, and some legendary re-peopling of the world,’’ replied Father Kino.

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