Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
towards the fellow who was coolly facing death down in the arena, but I made up my mind to
be more careful next time; experientia docet !
Next day we ate a barbacoa (barbecue), made with the killed bulls' heads. The Mexican
way of preparing a barbacoa is most original. A hole is dug in the ground and lined with
stones, and in it a fire is made, charcoal or wood being used as fuel. When the hole and the
earth around it have been made very hot, the fire and ashes are taken out; the bottom of the pit
is covered and the sides lined with maguey leaves. The meat is then placed into the hot hole,
covered with more maguey leaves, and finally everything is completely covered up with hot
ashes and earth. When this has been done in the evening, the barbacoa is ready to be dug out
and eaten next day at noon. The bulls' heads were still very hot when they were dug out, and
were so tender that the juicy meat literally fell off the bones.
When we left we followed the Laredo - Mexico City railroad line wherever possible. The
country here is very arid and water scarce, and the few people who live in poor settlements,
separated by long distances, make their living by combing out ixtle , the fibre of small, shaggy
palm trees, and lechuguilla , the leaves of the maguey plant. With these fibres, ropes, brushes,
etc.,aremanufactured, themagueyvarietybeingparticularly goodfor reatas (lassoforroping
The weather was ideal for staying indoors and huddling near a cosy fire, for a strong icy-
cold wind swept the mesa , and the sky was of an ugly dark grey. As I had been in the tropics
for so long, and possibly owing to malaria, I felt the cold doubly, and whenever I shuddered
I thought my bones must fall to pieces. Often I used to dismount and get between the two
horses, and making them go at a fast trot, I did all manner of gymnastics by catching hold of
the pack-saddle in one hand, and the riding-saddle in the other. The horses did not seem to
mind this in the least, for they would keep up their fast trot or slow gallop until I let go and
headway towards the next place where we hoped to find something to eat.
Hereabouts the huts are built of palm wood, and the roofs are covered with dry maguey
leaves which much resemble round tiles, when cut for the purpose of roofing. Although the
people are very poor, and the cold winds were howling, the warmth of their simple but gen-
erous hearts made up for what nature did not provide, and I found excellent hospitality every-
where, and whatever food these poor people had was at my disposal. I always insisted on giv-
ing them a present in the shape of money before I left, but usually it was quite a struggle to
make them accept it. Hills came in sight ahead, and I was glad to know that we were nearing
the end of the long, wide valley of San Luis, in which we had travelled for many days.
When we came to a hacienda , I rode to the entrance, where several men stood observing
mymovements.Havingsaid buenas tardes (goodevening)Iaskedforpermissiontounsaddle,
which was immediately granted. After a while the men asked me where I came from, and
when I told them they were delighted and slapped me on the back and went to fondle the
horses. I observed that all were in fits of laughter, which rather puzzled me, but soon I was
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