Page images
PDF
EPUB

melancholic, and silent*, so long as he is not under the influence of intoxicating liquors. This gravity is particularly remarkable in Indian children, who at the age of four or five display much more intelligence and maturity than white children. The Mexican loves to throw a mysterious air over the most indifferent actions. The most violent passions are never painted in his features; and there is something frightful in sei ing him rass all at once from absolute repose to a state of violent and unrestrained agitation. The Peruvian Indian possesses more gentleness of manners; the energy of the Mexican degenerates into harshness. These differences may have their origin in the different religions and different governments of the two countries in former times. This energy is displayed particularly

* It is difficult to reconcile altogether this account of the Indian taciturnity with that given by Ulloa in his Noticias Americanas. He first describes the savage Indians as “largos en los discursos, repitiendo muchas vezes la misma cosa, y durarian el dia entero sin añadir pada à lo que dixeron al principio, si no les procurasse cortar.” “En este modo de perorar con presuncion, he continues, fundan tambien su ciencia, y la habilidad con que sobresalen a las otras personas Europeas con quienes tratan, persuadendose à que los inducen à franquearles lo que desean con su grande eloquencia.” This may be thought to apply only to the savage Indians; but he adds, “ Los Indios reducidus son lo mismo en sus discursos, largos, cansados, è importunos hasta el extremo; y si el lenguage no fuese distinto, podria creerse que un Indio del Peru hablaba en el Norte ò al contrario.” (p. 334). Trans.

by the inhabitants of Tlascala. In the midst of their present degradation, the descendants of those republicans are still to be distinguished by a certain ha ghtin ss of character, inspired by the memory of teir former grandeur.

The Americans like the Hindoos and other nations who have I ng groaned under a civil and mili ary despotism, adhere to their customs, mann:rs, and opinii ns, with extraordinary obstinacy. I say opinions, for the introduction of christianity has produced almost no other effect on the Indians of Mexico than to substitute new ceremonies, the symbo's of a gentle and humane religion, to the ceremonies of a sanguinary worship. This change from old to new rites was the effect of constraint and not of persuasion, and was produced by political events alone. In the new continent, as well as in the old, half civilized nations were accustomed to receive from the hands of the cinqueror new laws and new divinities; and the vanquished Indian gods appeared to them to yield to the gods of the strangers*. In such a complicated mytho

* The Indians appear to have been not at all contented with their gods, and to have wished only to get well rid of them at the arrival of the Spaniards. Such at least were the sentiments of the principal Indians in New Spain, if we may believe Acosta. When an old Indian chief was asked by a reverend father why they had thrown up their own religion without either proof or investigation or dispute, and adopted that of Christ in its place ? “We did not act so inconsiderately," he re

logy as that of the Mexicans, it was easy to find out an affinity between the divinities of Aztlan and the divinity of the east. Cortez even very artfully took advantage of a popular tradition, according to which the Spaniards were merely the descendants of king Quitzalcoatl, who left Mexico for countries situated in the east, to carry among them civilization and laws. The ritual books composed by the Indians in hieroglyphics at the beginning of the conquest, of which I possess several fragments, evidently show that at that period christianity was confounded with the Mexican mythology: the Holy Ghost is identified with the sacred eagle of the Aztecs. The missionaries not only tolerated, they even favoured to a certain extent, this amalgamation of ideas, by means of which the christian worship was more easily introduced among the natives*. They persuaded

plied, “ as you seem to imagine, for we were so wearied and discontented with our gods that we had deliberated about leave ing them in good earnest, and adopting others” (porque le hago saber, que estavamos ya tan cansados y descontentos, con las co sas que los y, dolos nos mandavan, que aviamos tratado de dexarlos y tomar otra ley). Acosta, p. 357. Trans. '

* The missionaries do not seem to have concerned themselves much about the motives from which the Indians became christians. Their great object was to get as many baptised as possible, after which all was safe ; and they were very much concerned when a parting soul could not be snatched from hell for want of a drop of water in the place at the critical mo. ment. (Ay! no una gota en el rancho, Gumilla, II. 21). pacity for piety, and must be first attended to. This battery was to be concealed, for if the drift was to be perceived in the

them that the gospel bad, in very remote times, been already preached in America; and they in.

They were indefatigable in scenting out dying people, para lograr sus almas. An old woman (anciana) on the point of death, who, from seeing baptism and death follow generally so close upon one another, had very naturally associated them in her mind as inseparable, long resisted all the attempts of a holy father to baptise her. When asked her reason, she said it was for fear of death. “O!" replies the father,“I want to baptize you to secure you a life that will never end." (Para assegurarle una vida que no se accabe.) “If that be the case,” cries the old woman,“ baptize me immediately." (Yo tambien quiero que me bautices). “I praised God,” says Father Gumilla, “on seeing that nobody likes to die, however troublesome life may be, and I admired the stubbornness of that heart which could still fatter itself with such motives ; 'but I immediately baptized her.” (Luego la bauticé). Gumilla, vol. II. p. 25. Nothing can be more entertaining than the accounts given by the missionaries themselves of the arts and finesse to which they were compelled to have recourse to gain over those unfortunate sons of Adam, para obrar la eterna dicha de aquellos infelices hijos de Adan. Father Gumilla, in his instructions to young missionaries, lays them open with more naiveté than prudence, as we might think ; but the father very piously considered that the end justified the means. It must be owned that the mission. aries displayed great knowledge of human nature. Not a word of religion for a long time. Presents and kind offices, and Jong endeavours to obtain the Indian's confidence by anticipating his wants, and entering into his views; but above all, the acquisition of the influence which their females naturally possessed over them were the prelude to the grand attack. The · feinales, one of them observes, have every where a great ca

vestigated its traces in the Aztec ritu.il with the same ardour which the learned, who in our days engage in the study of the Sanscrit, display in discussing the analogy between the Greek mythology and that of the Ganges and the Barampooter.

These circumstances, which will be detailed in another work, explain why the Mexican Indians, notwithstanding the ob tinacy with which they adhere to whatever is derived from their fathers, have so easily forgotten their ancient rites. Dogma · has not succeeded to dogma, but ceremony to ceremony. The natives know nothing of religion but the exterior forms of worship. Fond of whatever is connected with a prescribed order of

least all was lost. (Todo esta primera bateria ha de ser occulta, de parte del Missionero ; porque si se aclara, pierde el viage). (Gumilla, vol. I. p. 355). After giving a summary of the labours and innumerable shifts of these indefatigable soul-hunters (Cazadores de Almas), overpowered with the retrospect the missionary feelingly exclaims, O! quien podra explicar las ganas, que tienen aquellos Cazadores de Almas, de que se compongan bien las cosas, y se legue la hora de poder bautizar aquellos innocentes sin peligro !

One of the greatest difficulties in which the holy fathers were placed, was how to reject the offer of a female companion, which was generally made them, without giving offence al Cacique y a los principales gentiles. When the father modestly blushed (con la mayor modestia bien sonroseado el rostro), and answered that all his love was in heaven, it is impose sible to tell the fright and consternation it occasioned (No sabré decir quanta povedad, y espanto causa esta o semejante res, puesta.) Gumilla, vol. I. p. 356. Trans.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »