THE bronze clangor of the cathedral bells marks the hours. Out of the night day bursts with an abruptness of light and of birdcalls. Newsboys′ voices announce the first editions of Mexican morning papers and the fall of Tampico. There are dog yelps, the rattle and grind of big-wheeled mule carts, a clatter of cavalry hoofs on the asphalt, bugle calls, and Vera Cruz has begun another day.
Bareheaded women, betraying little of Spanish and much of Indian in their faces, pass on their way to market. Cargadores slither by on leather sandals, and peddlers carrying their stocks in trade on their heads. Spigotty police, in wrinkled linen uniforms, swing their clubs valiantly, and, in contrast with our husky sentries of the regular army, appear pathetically small of stature, pinched of chest, and narrow of shoulder. And in the cathedral Indians and mixed breeds pray to the gods and saints of their believing, perplexed by the incomprehensible situation of their beloved city in the possession of armed white-skinned men from over the sea.
These natives of Mexico have never possessed more than a skeleton of law. They were two entire ethnic periods behind the Spanish when Cortes landed his mail-clad adventurers on their shore. And Cortes and the generations of acquisitive adventurers that followed him, themselves no genius for government, intermarried with the Indian population and made no improvements in government.