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SIGHT - SEEING
FOR several weeks Juanita’s life moved on with little incident to call for special mention. She went to school as usual, called on her young friends, at Sarita’s making considerable progress in learning drawn-work.
One day, late in the spring, she was invited to the home of Rosa and Panchito to see a wonderful sight, — the arrival of a little stranger who would make them a long visit. The Alvarez children were wild with delight over the baby sister.
A week later the grandmother and the happy children took the little one to the civil register and entered her arrival. It wore its best clothes on that occasion.
Two weeks afterward there was a baptism. The family took their new treasure to the nearest church. The padrinos, or godfather and godmother, were important personages on that occasion. The entrance to the church was crowded with poor people who had learned that a christening was to occur. Juanita and Sarita and Carlos were present, as well as a number of other friends who had been invited by card.
The father handed the priest five pesos for himself and his assistants. The priest then recited in Latin from the ritual, afterward calling the name of the child, Ramona. After pouring some water on the baby’s head and neck, the priest rubbed the neck and the little mouth with salt, and pronounced the benediction, thus completing the ceremony.
As the small party left the church, the crowd of poor people called out El Bob, El Bob.” Then the godfather gave each a centavo or two, all new coins which he had brought for that purpose. After the baptismal supper candies were served and cards with coins given as souvenirs.
To Juanita all this was a new and delightful experience, and it formed a topic of conversation with her and her friends for a long time.
Soon after the pretty baptismal ceremony and while Ramona was a baby in arms, Juanita became acquainted with two American girls, Grace and Louise Winthrop, daughters of an American merchant who was visiting Mexico on business, and who had thus met Señor Jiminez.
The girls were curious to see the sights of Mexico, so a little party was made up, including Florence Mason, aiso an American girl, who was born in Mexico and who acted as interpreter between the children. Sarita and Rosa were in the party, also Carlos and Panchito, their brothers.
First they visited the national palace, which stands on the site of the “new house” of Montezuma. The old-time cedar ceilings put in place by Cortez are disappearing, giving place to rich frescoes and rare furnishings, and elevators are taking the place of the broad stone stairs. The offices of President Diaz are in the palace, and there he holds public receptions.
The children gazed with a good deal of interest on the portraits of historic personages hung in the palace, and the two American girls were especially delighted to see a painting of Washington among them.
In the same block, which is six hundred feet square, are two barracks for soldiers and the fire brigade. On the front are three large entrances open all day to the public.
Next they visited the “Thieves’ Market,” to the south of the palace, where the rarest of things may be purchased.
To the American girls the strange scenes and customs were a continual source of delight. On the street they saw all kinds of costumes, — the cavalier clad in buckskin pantaloons seamed with double rows of silver or gold coins, wearing gay vests, sombreros, and clanking spurs; elegantly gowned señoritas in flashing carriages and swift automobiles; soldiers in brilliant uniforms; and an occasional Aztec girl added novelty to the scene.
But the National Museum was the chief object of attraction for our party at this time. Here they saw the famous Aztec calendar stone and other curiosities and relics of centuries of ancient Mexican history. Here also they saw some very interesting objects pertaining to modern history, such as Maximilian’s gala coach, his silver service, etc.
The boys were particularly attracted to the mementos of the unfortunate Maximilian. An old attendant standing near observed their interest, and said to them, “Ah, he was the brave man!”
Observing the look of inquiry on the boys’ faces at his exclamation, the old man proceeded to tell them how he had been a soldier in the patriot army of Mexico in the time of the emperor. He had witnessed Maximilian’s death, and had seen him give the gold coins to the soldiers who acted as his executioners.
Like many of the Mexican opponents of Maximilian and his government, the old man’s feeling for the dead emperor was one of pity rather than hatred, and many a tear is shed in Mexico to-day over the sad fate of the unfortunate Empress Carlotta, — driven mad by her misfortunes.
The old man, made bold by the attention of the boys, led the party of young people about the museum, pointing out here and there the most interesting objects. Many of the stories of the Aztecs and the Spanish viceroys of old time he was able to tell.
“That,” pointing to an antique sword hung upon the wall, “was the property of the Viceroy Revillagigedo.”
“What a name! How did they ever pronounce it?” put in one of the American girls.
“This viceroy ruled here in 1787,” continued the attendant, not noticing the interruption. “He was famous for his unusual sense of justice. On one occasion a certain Indian had found a bag of golden ounces. The Indian was an honest man, and, discovering the owner to be a Spanish gentleman, he returned the gold to him.
“The Spaniard was not so honest, and, as the bag was returned to him, he quietly slipped two gold pieces into his pocket. Then, instead of rewarding him, he charged the Indian with theft, and kicked him out of the house.
“The Indian saw through the Spaniard’s scheme to defraud him of a fairly earned reward, and complained to the viceroy, who called the two men before him. He asked the Spaniard:
“ ‘How many ounces were in the bag you lost?’
“ ‘How many ounces in the bag now?’ was the second question.
“ ‘Very good. It’s a clear case. If the Indian had been a thief, he would not have brought the bag back to you at all. It must belong to some one else.’
With this conclusion, the viceroy, sweeping up the gold from the table before him, gave the whole thing back to the Indian.”
“Good for Revillagigedo!” said Panchito, as the guard finished his story.
I think we had better be going home now,” said Juanita, “but first let’s go with Louise and Grace to their hotel.”
Thanking the old man for his kindness, they all hastened out of the building to the street. They decided to take a car, as the hotel was some ways from the museum. They had to wait quite awhile for the car on account of the peculiar system of running street-cars in the city.
They all start from a common point in the centre. After running for a couple of blocks or so, they switch off to the right or left, as the case may be. This is convenient for the stranger, because it makes no difference where he takes a car, he will inevitably get back to the locality of his hotel, if he will sit still long enough.
The time-table, however, is peculiar. For some reason no arriving car is permitted to leave the central point until a certain number have collected. It is a daily thing to see scores of cars waiting for the signal, while all over the city people are standing on corners waiting patiently for transportation to heave in sight.
At last, however, their car appeared, and Juanita and her friends clambered aboard. On the way to the hotel they passed, among other notable institutions, the Home for the Poor Working Boys, which was opened in 1898, and is one of the unique charities of the city, having graduated fifteen hundred boys. The organizer and manager of the home is Rev. A. M. Hunt-Cortez. He is known among the Mexican Indians as “The White Indian,” a title he appreciates more than a crown of gold, for it enables him not only to demonstrate his own kindly spirit, but also to bring out the best elements among the boys in his control.
In this home, Carlos told the girls, Father Hunt places the poor boys he picks up on the streets, and educates them and feeds and clothes them with funds which are voluntarily given. He makes an effort to educate the boys in the original tongue of the Aztecs, which he says is too rich a language to be allowed to perish. He does not, however, neglect reading, writing, and religious education.
Although the institution is sustained at an expense of about fifty pesos per day, the good priest has such a firm hold on God, as the Provider, that the needs have been met and the mission of this good man so far has been crowned with great success.
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