THE NATIVES OF THE JUNGLE - Oaxaca Mexico

I read such a nice article in the Times today about the city of Guadalajara. It made me feel real homesick for the sights and sounds described by Timothy Turner, the writer of the article. What a lifetime of subjects and material for an artist, what inspiration for a poet!

After you have seen the cities of Mexico with all that is quaint, all that is old, and all that is charming, come with me and get acquainted with life in the byways. There is such variation of conditions that it would make a good book if one was to write of Mexico from the northern border of the Rio Grande to the Southern coast: The vast highland plains, the beautiful snow-covered mountains and the rich valleys. Of the caballo I will not write, nor the peon, nor historical things. I want to tell you of a few common people who till small fields.

Wherever fancy wills, they build a home of poles covered with a palm-leaf roof. Their stove is made of poles fashioned like a small square table, built so as to contain a thick layer of clay on the top, and upon this clay the fire is lighted for the boiling of carne and friJoles and the baking of the tortillas. Their bed is also of poles with a few tea mats for a mattress and a coarse w6ol blanket as a cover. And the pavione [Pavilion?], which is made of cheap calico, doing duty as a dressing room, is for protection against mosquitoes and is hung over the bed.

Every home has its tub, which is made from the end of a log sawed about eight inches thick and chiseled out smooth, until it is only about two inches in thickness. This is carried to a stream of water on the head of the Mexican women, and the clothes are all washed by the hands, rubbing and squeezing the fabric; or if the clothing is coarse and heavy, it is beaten with a stick or slapped against a stone after being wet and soaped. The clothes are made beautifully clean and rinsed in the flowing stream and laid on bushes to bleach and dry. The tub is turned upside down ... the blanket used for an ironing board. One, or at the most two old-fashioned sad irons heated in the coals in the cook stove and the laundry is finished in a way that one though ever so fastidious would not disdain to wear.

You have seen the highlands with the cactus and maguay, and the great cattle ranges. You have seen the quaint cities. But have you seen the Jungle of the Tropics with its great variety of flora? Flowering things, from tiny things in the grass to trees covered with beautiful waxy flowers of pink or bright yellow. There, trees bloom just before the new leaf puts on. Many — in fact most — of the tropical trees are never bare. Have you ever jogged along ... back throughout a tropical forest of Royal Palm trees so high you can scarcely see the tops, straight as a liberty pole, so dense that the noonday sun is hid from view and the great shade makes a somber coolness, yet you feel the atmosphere ...rive, because there is no movement of the air, not a quiver of a leaf or bough: The forest is too dense for air currents to penetrate. And you are glad when you ... from out the palms, to the less dense jungle where the sun shines through ... breezes stir the branches, though interlaced overhead, and hung with wild sweet peas and morning glories are climbing by the side of the trunks ... on every bush.

Now you reach the water stream, make the crossing, and approach a home and a small corn field, maybe a patch a of rice or beans. And always a few fowls are kept and carefully watched from varmints. The man of the house is taking his noon nap or siesta — for in Mexico it is not only the wealthy people (whom you have met and admired) who have time to rest. The poor as well must have his noon (midday) nap, two hours at least. Mexican people, young and old, children and all, alevantan with the first approach of dawn.

The fields are all prepared and the products harvested by the crudest methods, the ever-ready machete doing duty on all occasions. And the pole, sharpened on the end, is the universal planter's implement. The women fall heir to the old machetes when too much worn for use in the field, the hunt, or the construction of huts as the case may be. The Mexican is seldom seen without his machete, and likewise the women folks carries her machete as a means of protection when on the trail, and as her most useful article in the kitchen.

Dish rags — no, they. would not think them sanitary; Mexican women have no dish rags nor dish towels. A great many things are wiped with cornhusks, and banana leaves are used for wrapping all manner of food. The corn husks are made into a small hand brush by tearing through into narrow strips and tying them with a tough ... vine, which is the Mexican's twine for all purposes. These corn husk brushes are made in a moment, and used only once. What few pottery or other dishes or utensils is used in the kitchen is cleaned with a brush and hot water, well rinsed in clear water, and turned to drain on a pole rack against the wall. The floor, being of clay, needs a sprinkling of water to keep it hard and dustless; therefore, no objection to a little water from the clean dishes.

The great oja, holding ten or twenty gallons of water, is found in most of Mexican homes. They are kept very clean and filled with water that keeps cool and is more refreshing than the warmer water of the running streams.

These folks of the jungle have their feasts as well as the city people. They dress in their well-starched and ironed best wearing apparel. The men wear a sash and a new sombrero. Though barefoot he may be, he is clean, and he has his ever-trusty weapon — a sharp and dangerous looking thing it is when he unsheathes that long steel blade. The señora is dressed in a ... beruffled skirt and blouse and black reboso, and señoritas in gayer and more beruffled lace-trimmed dresses, sometimes carrying a pair of slippers and stockings that they don just at the edge of the village. There the fiesta is in full swing, with its toys and candies. All manner of Mexican best culinary ... may be procured and enjoyed, especially the hot tamale the like of which was never seen nor tasted in the United States of America.

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[ This page was last updated 19 February 2012]