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tious investor who must be shown the absolute certainty of big profits before I would loosen up, the hatchet-faced, bean-pole of a man began to give me glimpses of golden opportunities.
“The land here is productive beyond anything dreamed of in the States," -I nodded assent—"but the real gold mine is the native labor. You're not opposed to 'contract labor,' are you?"
He leaned forward and studied my face.
With a look of relief and pleased appreciation of my viewpoint, he lowered his voice to a confidential pitch, saying, impressively, “All wealth comes from labor (this startled me a bit, for it sounded like the commencement of a socialist speech), and here, in Mexico, you can buy more labor for less money than any place in the world. It's a gold mine for those who know how to work it."
Seeing my opportunity to draw him out I expressed some doubts. “Yes, but wages are going up, even here in Mexico, and I've heard of strikes
He laid his bony hand on my arm. “Don't you think it. The Mexican government has warned all employers not to raise wages -and a warning from Diaz means an order."
We looked at each other in silence; he studying me closely, and I covered my real feelings with the air of a business man wary as to investments.
Apparently satisfied, he went on, "You people of the States
are so dominated by labor unions A "CONTRACT LABORER."
that you can't realize what free"In Mexico you can buy more labor for less
money than any place in the world." dom is till you get into Mexico.
Why, here the police think no more of allowing agitators to run around loose than they would mad dogs. Diaz cleaned out the last of 'em some inonths ago. They're either over the border or in prison. That fellow Magon—maybe you know where he is ?"
I looked the question.
“No? Well, he's in jail in Los Angeles. He was the worst. Those of his miserable followers that were caught alive in Mexico—it's seldom they are caught alive-are now in the prison of San Juan de Ulua, the military camps of Yucantan, or in the Valle Nacional. Mexican law cuts to the bone.”
I showed small interest in what became of those disturbers of the Government, and the canegrower returned to the strictly business side of the question.
"You see, the Mexican peon has no hope of ever owning a foot of land or saving a 'centavo,' and consequently Mexico gives the greatest
MEXICAN MAN-HORSE. "You people in the States are so dominated by labor unions that you can't realize what
freedom is until you get into Mexico."
opportunities on earth to reap a harvest from labor. It's practically only the cost of their keep that we calculate upon. The little money that goes out in wages all comes immediately back to the hacienda stores. Last year our store cleaned up $15,000 for us and we've never had more than $5,000 worth of merchandise on its shelves."
Following his lead of money talk I warmed up to the trade possibilities of the country and put a question to him:
“I am told that you can buy gangs of peons from the government, and that it pays?"
His face took on the shadow of a grin.
"Well, you might as well get it straight before you settle in Mexico. We do not buy this forced labor directly from the government, but we do pay from thirty to forty dollars a head for it—to contractors. many cases these contractors are also the “Jefe Politicos' or political heads of their districts. Take my advice—always stand in with the Jefe Politico. He's 'the man behind the gun' in this country.”
The fat man from Kansas had been listening and the picture of peonage drawn by the cane-planter seemed to have made a bad impression. He waggled his head slowly from side to side, and finally asked a hesitating question.
"All this may be profitable for a time, but don't you think it will lead to an uprising?"
“Uprising !" the planter fairly snarled a protest. “Uprising when there are over sixty thousands troops distributed over the nine military zones in Mexico! Let me tell you that the army is given President Diaz's personal attention. It was only last week that the papers printed news of the completion in the arms factory of Newhauser, Switzerland, of the 3.000 automatic rifles invented by General Mondragon, and if they prove as effective as they are said to be, the entire army will be furnished with them.”
"That's the trouble; its despotic," objected the man from Kansas. "I'm told there's not been a popular election in Mexico for over thirty vears.”
“No, thank God,” rasped out the Yankee planter, “there's not been one—not one. Think, man! what would happen to Diaz, cheap labor, and our interests, if the Mexican peon was allowed to vote?"
Black clouds gathered against the mountains and as the City of Mexico was reached the deluge broke.
A sandal-footed, brass-tagged "cargador" seized my bags and carried them from the Pullman's steps to a blue-flagged coach.
I kept my face glued to the carriage window and asked myself this question: "Mexico, Mexico, Mexico is--what?" The answer seemed to rise from the passing throng of bent-backed, human burden bearers, “Mexico is a land of cargadores.”
With leather thongs passed across their foreheads and around their heads, cargadores carrying as much as three hundred pounds, trotted by without a stumble. And in the steps of these men followed the women and children likewise loaded.
In no other country in the world does the human back so stagger under a dead weight as here in Mexico.
Arriving at the hotel in front of the Alameda, I went immediately to my room, locked the door and got out my list of addresses in cipher. It was a wearisome task to figure them out, one by one, but I dared not run the risk of being taken by the police and having them find names of Mexican revolutionists given me by the Junta in Los Angeles—that would mean prison for all. One person in Mexico in particular had been recommended to me by Magon. I would see him first.
On the street corner I caught a boy. For "cinco centavoes” he would guide me to the “Calle Misercordia." (Let it be understood that the real names of people and of streets do not appear in these writings, where the life of a member of the Liberal Party in Mexico would be jeopardized.) We pushed through the evening crowd of home-going artisans, clerks and laborers. Venders of cakes and candies, their wares piled perilously high on oblong wooden trays poised on their heads, threaded their way through the throng without a mis-step or collision. Sellers of an endless variety of fried foods fed the passers by, their sizzling little stoves sending out a stream of strong odors from many doorways.
The lottery-ticket sellers were out, and on every block men, women and boys shook their paper fortunes enticingly in my face, crying out the number of thousand "pesos" that might be won from the Loteria Nacional for the quick payment of a few "centavos."
Gamble. Why not? The government licenses it, the "pulque" shops incite it, and the average wage of the city workman being not over sixty "centavos" a day (you must divide this in half to get its value in American money), it must be plain that the only road of escape from gutterpoverty is the barest possible, hazy chance of a successful gamble. The city government has suppressed all other gambling with an iron hand. No mine in the Western Hemisphere can hold a candle to the wealth that fiows daily into the hands of the government's partners—the lottery lords of Mexico.
Wrapped in a raincoat I followed my guide through the crowds that jammed the narrow sidewalks. Beggars there were a plenty, blind beggars, led by boys who, grasping the wrists of their sightless charges, forced their upturned palms into the faces of the passers by; old beggars, standing or squatting in front of the churches, and with whining, musical voices holding out their hands for dole.
At the entrance of a court in the poor quarter of the town, my guide stopped. This was the number of the house that I had asked for in the "Calle Misercordia.”
I paid him his five coppers and he disappeared into the darkness.
Under the archway, by the light of a small lamp, I could see a family bedding themselves down for the night on the stoneflagged floor of the passageway, all unconscious that passers by to the second story must walk through their midst.
Climbing the stone stairway I knocked at the first door twice, and at the last rap the one whom I had come to see stood before
me. OLD AGE AND POVERTY. "The Mexican peon has no hope of ever owning
If all Mexico loved Ricardo a foot of land or saving a centavo.'
Flores Magon, Magon loved this man beyond all others in Mexico. Broad-shouldered, curly-headed and almost cat-like in the grace of his firm, agile movements, the grasp
of his hand sent confidence and enthusiasm through my veins.
He read my letter slowly to the end, turned to me with a smile almost womanly in its sweetness, and welcomed me to Mexico. "Friend of my friends, how is Ricardo?"
I gave him the latest news from across the border and he plunged immediately into the Mexican situation.
“Senor, one month from today you must be out of Mexico back into the United States, for the way may be blocked. You know the reason why?"
I gave him the date set for the uprising as it had been told to me.