THE PEOUD QUEZALTECO.
Mataura Ensign, Volume 11, Issue 823, 9 November 1888, Page 7
THE PEOUD QUEZALTECO.
The Qaezalteeo takes more pride in his local nativity than in his natiph'alitfy j and this probably arises from the fact that Qaezaltenango has retained her truly Indian character more tenaciously than any of the other important cities of Central Americsi which have received foreigners, adopted their improved; business methods, and submitted to their higher ' civilisation. Ask a Qaezalteeo if he is a Guatemala, and he will answer that he is a Quezaltenango. The,prejudices of the inhabitants Nj hardly less intense against their owl, s countrymen than foreigners, and titv feeling"hffs, in many ways,: worked V the disadvantage of th^ir city. Of l&ti years she has enjoyeoV great prosperity owing to her proximity ; to the doffee districts of the "Costa Quca ' and "* Tumoador,'* anojto %h*e;i hi^h' prico of thatijruii'j in fact, she has!; gained on the ; city 1 of Guatemala, botK in, wealth and in increase otp < »r D * wtioir il: but until very recently flhe has turned; her r back upon any 'improveme«*«» proposed by her more aiLvf-.*^"^ 2s^ 8 *; 1 and to-day^© lower castes pf, the. population live In, the s?.me primitive.; condition in which their Spanish; conquerors found them over 300 years; ago.' i- :>■•■>■■ • ■••• •'••■'••'■ ' , The city is built 1 oti the gentle Elbpej of &j" mesa 'more than 7500 ft. above; the level of the sea, and approaching from the' high mountain range to the; south. The first view is a reddish; brown ppotrdotte4 Tiere and there by: the high white glistening, in the < sun,*, and surrounded on %c nortli .ens^Janiiweptby immense green fields of corn, which extend for miles to the foot 'of the distant mountains ; and, on entering the city, did not the length of the Btreets immediately impress one, their, i dead quiet would induce the belief that the census of 3O;000 5 Bdulft was -exaggerated. The narrow street?,; paved with ; cobble Btdnea, "are skirted, by sidewalks of about 30 inches in width, and so old that in many places the small flagstones are wbrn'tbroiigh to ihe soil underneath by the tread of many generations of sandalled feet. .The: gutters run in the centre of the streets, marked by rectangular stones which serve as a coyer to the maia sewers. The houses are of " adobe," many of the finer ones being stuccbed-arid pdinted in imitation of stone, jbut the. pointing in nearly every case is so crooked that the appearance , of ,the t walls. , .would have been better 'had it teen omitted. Nearly all are but one story bigh, for the "adobe " suffers greatly from earthquake Bhobksi and originally ground was so cheap that the builders could Bpread their rooms all over it with but little increase of cosi; but in recent years earthquakes has become less frequent, real «state have more than quadrupled in value, and most of the new buildings are pf stpiie and two stories in height. Slight, tremblings of the earth in this country are no more feared than April showers in New York, and. ; ?i;the altitude of Quezeltenatigb they do Dot occur ofteuer than twice a month but in Joweraltitudef, say 2000 feet they are daily visitors. Houses, except^ those built on corner lots, have few windows opening on thestreets,Bndthey are so heavily' iron barred as to remind one of a glimpse he may, have had of a public institution at Sing ' Sing from the window of a .railway car. All the! rooms are connected one with the other by dcors, each in addition having a door opening on to the court, upon which they depend for light and air, and in their construction leps attention has been paid to ventilation than in the receiving vaults of, cemeteries in the United States. The stable, kitchen, laundry, and everything else open on to the court, or "patio, which in houses of any size Have fountains in the centre, the only water supply of the house, but the water runs continillly, overflowing through an automatic yftlye ; and keepbg the house drain
always well flushed and clean to the sewer in the street. This cleanliness exists only in the best portions of the city, and on the outskirts, where the poor live, no such care is exercised ; all refuse flows through opan drains into th« middle' of the street, where it remains eiiher to be washed away in the wet season by the heavy rains or to be shrivelled up by the sun in the dry season and blown away in the form of dust by the winds. In Bpite of this neglect of all sanitary precautions there is surprisingly little sickness in the city, and it is oDly ravages of epidemics that are feared ; cholera is unknown, but smallpox has more than once swept through the low. districts with great loss of life. Better in Quezaltenaugo than in any other "pueblo ' can one see the different grades of people, from the pale Spaniard, down through the mixtures, to the pure Indian. If you take a ride on any road leading to the city you meet every caste, from the Indian struggling along under his load up through every lighter shade and colour to the blue-blooded, superblymounted Castiiian All silute you, from the highest to the lowest, and howevtr insincere this politeness may be it is certainly more gratifying than were the true feeling expressed by an angry scowl; for, whatever other virtues the Quezalteco may possess,? I doubt if he may bo justly accused of a feeling of hospitality towards foreigners. Among the middle class a queer custom exists of never going on any journey, no matter how short, without wearing a bath towel tied around the neck. It cannot be for warmth because the sun gives heat enough for anyone not a salaman- j der, nor tor protection from the sun, for the skin of the wearer is impervious to that; fthough they may be so poor as to be shoeless, hatless, or coatless, they are never towelless. Most of the vendors in the plaza are thoroughbred Indians, who notwithstandingjthe completeness of the Spanish conquest, and their long [servitude under their masters, still preserve their native tongue, and, in fact, among themselvel speak nothing else. The aboriginal language of Central America remains remarkably pure ; fey or no Spanish words have crept into it. It closely resembles in sounds and similarity of expression the language of the Mexican Indians and of the Zini Indians of the South-west. Many of the older men are yet able to express themselves in hieroglyphics; but all efforts to make them express their guttural sounds in the Spanish alphabet have so far failed. Passing through the plaza one hears little Spanish spoken. So distasteful is it to the Indians that many refuse to answer when addressed in that tongue! and were it not,that poverty obliges them to sell, they would feign not to understand, and force customers to speak Indian. I have watched these Indian?,: and I doubt whether they would allow their prejudice to a language to stand inthe way of a good bargain.