The village Indian has resisted the twentieth century as he resisted the Spaniards, the Church, the industrialism of Diaz. He has taken only such aspects of the machine as do no violence to his basic pattern. The same cannot be said for urban areas. Cities are made of softer stuff. Both the physical structure of Mexican cities and the people who live therein have been profoundly influenced, first by Spain, then by France, now by the United States. In such a town as Oaxaca or sleepy little Acapulco on the Pacific, the influence is at a minimum, in Mexico City it attains its maximum.
It was in the capital that Aztec civilization received its most deadly stab; the Indian pattern being all but erased. Its inhabitants were butchered, its leaders hunted down and tortured, its gods obliterated, its temples and public buildings razed. As a result it became a Spanish town, with colonial architecture throughout. The same red lava brick was used, many a new foundation was compounded of carved stone idols, but the whole aspect, physical and spiritual, of the city changed. Here the viceroys and the archbishops took up their headquarters, here the hacendados and the silver-mine grandees built their noble palaces. Here the treasure trains-long files of loaded mules guarded by soldiers-came swinging in from the mines, and from the distant Philippines--via galleon to Acapulco. Here as late as the 1840's
Madame Calderon found a gay creole society, the ladies covered with diamonds, and, like so many Amy Lowells, smoking long, black cigars. And here the little boys of the Military School, some of them not fifteen, died defending the castle of Chapultepec against the invasion of General Scott.
Another invading army from the United States was in Mexico during my last visit. It came on horseback but carried polo sticks in place of sabres. It was sternly repulsed by the Mexican army team in three straight games. When the engagement was over, the defeated American officers made a gracious gesture. They hung a wreath of flowers on the monument where the little cadets lie buried.
As late as 1880 we find the United States minister to Mexico letting the cat out of the bag with these words. "Certain gentlemen interested in the administration of President Hayes have conceived the idea that in view of the disturbances in the southern states, it would divert attention from pending issues and greatly consolidate the new administration if a war could be brought on with Mexico and another slice of territory added to the union." First and last we have collected fabulous slices of territory hitherto Mexican. We took Texas by force of arms in 1847. California and New Mexico we bought -more or less at the point of the gun-for $15,000,000 in 1848. This sum today would not buy one minor movie company in one suburb of one California city. In the Gadsden purchase in 1853, we lifted another 30,000 square miles of border territory, while the vast northern area west of the Mississippi fell to us via international transfer involving France and England.
Mexico City has seen revolution, earthquake, bombardment, resplendent viceroy, emperor, dictator, president, and a deal of history in four hundred years. But the real spirit of Mexico it has seldom seen. It is a hybrid, as shifting as the soft lake bed upon which it stands. It has denied its own inheritance and held out its arms to Madrid, to Paris, to London, and now, as one Mexican critic remarks, to Hollywood. Its architecture reflects all these moods, and its literate citizens, vibrating from east to west, from south to north, suffer from acute inferiority complexes.
I feel perpetually ill at ease in the capital, and spend most of my time mapping out the next trip into the provinces. Yet indubitably it is one of the great cosmopolitan cities of the world, with only New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Detroit outranking it on the continent. Its site is magnificent, its climate superb for those who like unlimited sunshine at 7,500 feet above the sea. It rests in a great valley rimmed with mountains. To the east Popocatepetl and the White Woman lift their everlasting snow fields; from street, plaza, balcony, their glittering masses can be seen. The old cathedrals and colonial palaces--such as the Viscainas--are lovely; many of the avenues are regal; Chapultepec, where the cadets were slain and Maximilian ruled for a few short years, is one of the most beautiful parks on earth, with its ahuehuete trees six feet through and a hundred feet high. The city has a variety of admirable features, and deserves unlimited pages, richly illustrated, in any guide book. But I am not a guide book, and I do not like it very well. I do not like its architectural jumble; its altitude gives me a dull ache abaft the right ear; above all I do not like the Yankee invasion, painfully reminiscent of Zenith and Middletown.
As one approaches it, sign boards begin to roar familiar soaps, motor cars and drugs. The same ruddy, vacant faces are upon them, but the words have changed to Spanish, and the emotional appeal is stepped up: "Do not let other tooth pastes scratch his tender teeth." Filling stations sprout to right and left-but happily no hot dog stands. A gas tank looms. Upon a far volcano a tobacco product screams in letters of white cement, fifty feet high and ten feet thick. And here, if you please, is a subdivision, with realtor's office, dreamy title, half completed villas, and nuzzling steam shovel, all complete, labelled "El Hollywood de Mexico." Presently we come to the "High Life" building, in good plain English, but pronounced to rhyme with fig leaf. It indicates the first flutterings of the skyscraper. But between the boggy soil and the constant threat of earthquakes, flutterings mark the limit of the technique to date. Which is just as well in view of a traffic jam that, at certain hours of the day, would bring a blush to Herald Square.
We station ourselves, notebook in hand, at a street corner in the heart of the city, and proceed to analyze the extent of the invasion-interpreting it broadly to mean modern industrial civilization. We shall collect as well patterns of old Mexico, and what for want of a better term we might call the Victorian infiltration. We shall sit on the broad stone rim of a fountain, allowing a crippled mestizo boy to shine our shoes interminably, and try to mark off the old, the intermediate and the new, in everything we see around us.
Trolley cars, thumping tremendous bells.
Shoals of taxis. They are mostly model A Fords, without meters or the heraldic accoutrements of their northern cousins. They are called "Libres," meaning free, because of the cardboard sign displayed on the windshield when a fare is wanted. When the fare is captured, the sign usually stays in place. One can go almost anywhere in the city for twenty-five cents. The overproduction is stupendous; the driving superbly reckless.
Fleets of trucks and motor busses. Chauffeurs of the latter consider the day ruined when they have not capsized, or at least stripped the mudguards from, a brother bus. They do not, however, have the range they should in a flat region like Mexico City. To see them at their best, one must ride behind them to Acapulco-double reverse curves on a fourteen-foot road, with a good thousand-foot drop into a gurgling river over the unrailed road edge. This is where their talents have real scope, and where passengers crawl out with hair gone grey.
Floods of private cars. If you see an Auburn, a Cord or a Rolls Royce without license plates, you will find the traffic officer-with a silly little whistle on a silly wooden stand-saluting rather than arresting. Mexican generals, you learn in due course, do not bother their pretty heads with license plates.
Steel post boxes; neon advertising signs over shop windows; bicycles-a lot of them; street arc lights; radio antennae; telephone cables on poles (they have not yet
gone underground) ; a steel rubbish can; "no parking" signs; a weighing machine; an ice-cream vendor; a cine with huge poster heralding Bebe Daniels in Dixiana; another advertising Radio Pictures in English; another, Paul Whiteman's band.
A sports shop with window full of tennis rackets, golf sticks, basketballs, fielders' gloves, backgammon sets and weight-lifting machines. An electric appliance shop with heaters, toasters, griddles, ice boxes, flash-lights, and all the standard gadgets. The day being cold for Mexico-say 60°--one heater is going full blast on the sidewalk, wafting a hot breath on every passer-by. This strikes us as sound advertising. A gas stove and heater store. A Johns Manville window display. A plumbing store with the basic instruments in pink, purple and baby blue. We stare through the window enchanted at a lavender toilet seat with cover of mother-of-pearl. These Yankee plumbing salesmen know their customers.
The two persons out of three not in native costume regale us with Arrow collars, the cheaper grades of Messrs. Hart Schaffner and Marx, sleazy rayon frocks all but sweeping the ground, near silk stockings, close-fitting felt hats, extra high heels and legs whose curves are subtly wrong. Every man wears a felt hat out of deference to the winter season. The sun has no such deference; on some of these December days it is strong enough literally to strike one down.
This, then, is a street corner in our city. It serves, I think, to give the pattern of the whole; a confusing cocktail of machines, Maximilian, colonial facade and Tepoztlan. The Indian still provides colour and vitality, but he shrinks before forces which descend upon him primarily from the north.
Side by side on the same continent, the area known as Mexico and the area known as the United States (here we are always referred to as the "United States of North America" to distinguish us from the United States of Mexico) have commingled and interpenetrated one another for uncounted thousands of years. The Rio Grande is less formidable than its name, particularly in the dry season. According to the theory of Paul Radin, the mound builders of the Mississippi Valley came up from Mexico. Certainly migrating Indians came down from the great plains upon the Mexican plateau. We find the maize culture spread generally over North America. Once, as we have seen, Mexico held title to Texas and most of the far west. Our cowboy fiction, our cowboys' very habits, would be something far less picturesque, without the Mexican range culture which lies back of both. It gleams in such words as vamoose, hombre, corral, mesa, sombrero, mesquite, rodeo, remuda, reata, bronco, nevada, poncho, no sabe, canyon. Nor should we forget that Mexico and Spain fought the English in Ohio and Florida, and so helped us win the Revolution of 1776. Millions of Mexicans have crossed the Rio Grande to work for a time in mine or field or on the range. Some have drifted to the cities. Scores of thousands have gone back to their milpas, particularly since the market crash of 1929. On June 30, 1928, there were 883,000 Mexicans in the United States. They constitute a migratory population of great importance to the American food supply. They move, according to Paul S. Taylor, in great seasonal cycles, following the crops; thinning sugar beets in May, chopping and picking cotton in June, "following the fruit" in the summer, harvesting grapes in the early fall, and later walnuts and lettuce in the Imperial Valley. Winter finds them, the whole family of course, camping
beside their ramshackle Fords, in southern California. Their cycle ebbs and flows from Pennsylvania, to Michigan, to the Coast.
I was constantly meeting, in the most outlandish places, young men who had been in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York. They recognized me instantly as an American (which the Indians, I am glad to say, often did not) and approached with a warming assortment of my native slang. I found one youth who had driven a truck all the way from Seattle to Oaxaca, a route theoretically impossible for even a Ford. Yes, they like the States. No, they do not want to stay there indefinitely.
The migration of Americans into Mexico is on a much more restricted scale, compounded of business men, concessionaires, adventurers, oil men, miners, prospectors, and a sprinkling of ranchers in the border states. It is estimated that about 30,000 American citizens now live in Mexico, half of them in the capital. Few become Mexican citizens except for strictly business reasons, although they may live out their lives in the southern republic. We shall return to them presently; they constitute a strange phenomenon.
Today we are exporting words, habits, technical methods, and our peculiar type of modern goods to the urban areas of Mexico. Among the words we note:
Lider-leader. There is no Spanish word for civil leader; only
for political and military Spot-spot cash, in market reports
El dumping El boicot
Futbal El goal
El umpire, el pitcher, el bat, el bateador
El box-a boxing match. Plural, los matches
Como el Pulman-very, very plush
Los sleepings-Pullman berth Los smokings-dinner coat
Foxtrotear-a new verb, to dance
Socket, sweetch, and electrical terms generally
Dr. Eyler Simpson estimates that 50 per cent of all
technical terms are in English.
In the States we acquire merit by giving our cigarettes
British names-Pall Mall, Herbert Tareyton, English Ovals, Three Kings, Philip Morris. In Mexico distinction is achieved by facing north; we note the "Country Club" packet, and "Jazz." Out of 4,196 inches of display advertising in the two leading daily papers of Mexico City for a Sunday in December, 1930, 2,509 inches dealt with American products, 1,056 inches with Mexican products, 631 inches with European--or unidentified--products. America outranked Mexico two and a half to one, and Europe at least five to one. The American things advertised were, in order: Equipment for the household, primarily radios and electric devices; other machinery, primarily automobiles, cameras, typewriters, firearms; Hollywood movies and talkies; cosmetics and soaps; drugs and patent medicines; clothing and textiles -silk stockings, shirts and collars, Stetson hats; travel by air, rail, and water; watches and jewellery; schools and instruction; hotel equipment, chiefly plumbing.
Does it not all make one feel at home?
Head-line in Mexico City paper in January, 1931:
"Nueve Chicos, Emulos del Famoso Capone de Chicago"-Nine Kiddies Go Capone. (Head-line writers,
you will note, have still something to learn from America. Spanish is, however, a devilish language to compress.) Nine boys, according to the story, averaging eleven years of age, formed themselves into an armed gang. They began by forcing their way into houses, under pretext of reclaiming a baseball from the patio, and stealing what they could. They advanced to cutting squares of glass out of shop windows and lifting soap and trinkets. They planned to steal a car as soon as the leader learned to drive. All came from well-to-do families, and all were devoted movie fans.
Mexico, the originator of the three-hours-for-lunch club, is headed for gastric ruin by quick lunch counters which are beginning to appear all over the capital. Pigglywiggly stores have their noses under the tent. There are four Tom Thumb golf courses on the San Angel road alone. Indian vendors with their heaping baskets of native flowers are disappearing before florists' shops, tin foil and fancy boxes. For all I know Mothers' Day has been introduced. Bathtubs and showers are making phenomenal progress. A Little Theatre movement is under way. Nuestra Ciudad is obviously patterned after Vanity Fair, while newsboys chant in singsong "Graf-i-co, Graf-i-co," the capital's new picture weekly. O'Sullivan's heels are to be found on native shoes of woven leather strips; Indian artists skilled in silver filigree jewellery are making earrings fashioned like automobile wheels with tires, spokes, and hubcaps. The talkies are all over town; the flappers have their fine black eyes unswervingly on Fifth Avenue. Mexican butter-and-egg men are building homes in the new subdivisions copied from the Los Angeles copy of the Spanish villa--a case of cultural diffusion to excite the anthropologist, and a boomerang in all senses of the word. . . . Instalment selling has long applied to sewing-machines, even in the villages, and now moves on to brass beds, chromos, phonographs and radios. The traffic, however, is not entirely one way. Mexico makes possible perhaps the vilest of all our nationally advertised habits. She ships annually some four thousand tons of chicle into North American jaws, hacked from jungle trees in Yucatan.
We note the Ritz, the Regis, and the Geneve, all in the throes of endeavouring to superimpose Statler standards upon the slippery foundations of normal Mexican innkeeping. The two systems have nothing in common save boarding and bedding. When the stream of Buicks arrives over the new Laredo road, I prophesy piteous outcries from Americanos deprived of their usual quota of steam heat, hot water and snappy service.
If I may be permitted to digress for a moment, I should like to lay a small garland upon the hostelry of the old regime. It takes time to become used to it, but once acclimatized, one cannot deny the charm. In Mexico City I lodged at one of the antiques, in preference to one suffering from the Statler infiltration.
It is only in the provinces that one finds the Mexican hotel in its purest form. The keynote is a sublime casualness. It is normally a huge stone building of two stories, built around a patio. Here one eats, frequently among flowers, banana trees, parakeets in wooden cages, and wandering flamingoes, turkeys, hens, dogs and cats. The huge bedrooms surround the patio on both floors, some of them with no ventilation save the corridor door. One can usually take one's choice of two double beds and assorted cots in the same room. The lobby is normally a dingy little hall with a register chalked on a blackboard, an electric bell signal case in deplorable repair, and nobody about when the traveller meets his crises. Indeed there may be nobody about when he arrives. At other hours everybody, including most of the town, will be in attendance.
We are breakfasting, let us say, at 9 A.M. in Puebla's leading hostelry. It has a giant tiled patio with three tiers of bedrooms and a glass roof. The linen is clean, the waiter is attentive, the food is good. Directly in the centre of the rear patio wall is a large sign: "W. C. Caballeros." A gentleman at the next table has beaten up three eggs in a huge glass beaker, the waiter has poured in about a quart each of hot coffee and hot milk, and the gentleman is now dipping his roll into the foaming mixture and sucking it into his mouth with enthusiasm. A boy, with a wicker crate of beautifully arranged onions, cabbages, beets and other vegetables upon his head, makes his way straight across the middle of the dining room from front door to kitchen. He is followed by another boy with a great basket of flowers, also on his head; an Indian woman with a tremendous bundle of dirty sheets; a man with raw meat in a tray; a woman with a skinned pig held tenderly in her arms; a ragged old gentleman in pyjamas with two live white hens-the price of which is a matter of lengthy bargaining between himself and the proprietor; assorted citizens in sombreros and rebosos--obviously the staff reporting for duty; a boy with a hatful of eggs; a mestizo woman with a load of beautiful inlaid boxes which she carries from table to table.
Down each side of the patio a sweeping brigade is hard at work, dust flying in clouds. Four cats are jumping upon chairs and occasionally upon a table top. They are reproved tenderly by a porter-whose life work seems to be just this-and as tenderly borne away in the direction of the kitchen, immediately to reappear. We askit is always an adventure-for butter. The waiter beams. He brings a large platter of delightful yellow morning glories, but before it reaches the table we are aware that -the adventure has not been successful.
To secure a hot bath in a country hotel is a major operation, shaking the whole establishment to its foundations. Porters, firemen, chambermaids, waiters, all join in the process, converting it into a small fiesta. It is akin to getting up steam on an ocean liner. It takes time, it takes approximately half a day, but ah, what triumph when the tap is finally turned and water, choked with steam, rushes out. Everybody must see the triumph; indeed it is only with the greatest difficulty that the bathroom is cleared. One gets into the tub, one bathes luxuriously enough, one pulls the stopper, hears an alarming sound, and springs for the door. The bathtub is draining directly on the floor, a wild freshet headed for one's shoes. Just as one is about to recall the staff regardless, the freshet dodges the shoes and drops down a drain in the far end of the room.
Sheets are clean, towels are supposed to last a week, there are never enough blankets on cold nights, and no bell is ever answered-provided it is technically capable of ringing-(after 10 P.M. Nor is water or light to be had. Nights are for sleeping, not for gallivanting around. In each room there will be a wardrobe about twenty feet high with no coat hangers. There is never a wastebasket nor an ash tray; to attempt to read in bed by the single dim bulb somewhere up aloft would send one to the oculist. There may be a toilet, washstand and cold shower partitioned off the corner of the room-and there may not. If there is, part of the impedimenta will be chronically out of order. There will certainly be a
motherly Indian chambermaid calling the lady of the party "niņa" (child), and smiling so beautifully that it becomes impossible to reprimand her for neglecting more material attentions. She will take one's laundry and return most of it, in twenty-four hours, admirably done. The missing articles invariably reappear sooner or later; nobody ever steals in a country hotel.
The uncounted staff is willing, helpful, graciously polite and marvellously inefficient. The food is good and served in enormous quantities. The prices are ridiculous, two to three dollars a day, including more than one can possibly eat. Tips are often not expected, and if they are, amount to nothing. One is as likely to be undercharged as overcharged on the final bill. This is not a pecuniary civilization. Repeatedly I have called the proprietor's attention to telegrams, laundry, baths which he had overlooked-in itself a strange phenomenon, quite contrary to my behaviour north of the Rip Grande. One takes no pride in "getting away with something" in a land where money is not God.
You are let alone, you are fed well, you are charged little, you are bathed in friendliness if not hot water. After all, what more does one want? But the Buicks will never tolerate it. . . . Even now the authorities are planning modern hotels along the new roads, and admitting plumbing fixtures free of duty.
Which brings us back to the Yankee invasion. Of all the $200,000,000 worth of goods imported into Mexico each year, the United States supplies two thirds or more. By far the largest item on the import list is "machines and accessories." This does not include automobiles, which rank second. More than ninety-nine per cent of Mexico's 75,000 motor vehicles were manufactured in the United States; they are now being shipped in at the rate of about 16,000 a year. Seventy-five thousand cars for 16,000,000 people is not many. There are more than 16,000,000 people in the States of New York and Massachusetts, and 3,700,000 motor cars. I should estimate, however, that more than half of all Mexico's cars and trucks are located in the capital. Forty thousand cars for a million people is an advance, but Detroit with a somewhat greater population has six times as many. There is one car for every four persons in the United States, and one for every two hundred in Mexico.
The invasion of American capital stands at something under a billion dollars, a total less than it used to be. More than $200,000,000 has been squeezed out of the oil investment alone in the last ten years. Mining and smelting now come first with $23o,000;000, controlling eighty per cent of Mexico's gold and silver. Oil is second, with $200,000,000, half of what it was in the peak of 1922. The investment in public utilities amounts to $90,000,000, with many companies recently taken over from British capitalists. It includes light and power, telephone and telegraph, street railways, water works. The hacienda investment reaches $64,000,000, sugar plantations first, followed by livestock, fruit and rubber. From here we drop a long distance to the investment in manufacturing and selling establishments.
Americans own some eight per cent of the land of Mexico, a little more than half of all foreign holdings, according to Tannenbaum. Next come the Spaniards, and then the English. In certain districts, the word "Spaniard" is identical with the word for "thief." Spaniards own a fertile belt in the central states. American holdings run to range lands in the north, and are less valuable per acre.
In the light of these figures, I found it difficult to become overheated as to American imperialism-old style-in Mexico. A billion dollars is dangerous anywhere, but it is not so threatening as once it was. A greater danger to my mind lies in the invasion of gadgets, ideas and habit patterns.
There are four kinds of Americans in Mexico.
Tourists. Like tourists anywhere, except possibly a little hardier. They do not like Mexican hotels, and their conversation turns mainly on indignities suffered therein; that and their customs' grievances.
Students. We might term them the popular arts boys (and girls). They are tough, intelligent, enormously enthusiastic, a little mystical, and in various stages of going native. Mexico has got them and it is doubtful if they can ever break loose. On their right flank march the more stolid battalions of archeologists, investigating scientists, and even a lonely economist or two, like myself. They seldom have a settled place of residence.
Residents. A very small and select group which loves the country, likes the Indians and associates freely with government officials and other white Mexicans. It may be identified readily by the excellent display of native handicrafts in its houses.
The American colony. A larger group, representing primarily commercial interests, and oriented about the Country Club. Vestiges of it will be found in all the larger cities, but the prime exhibit is the capital. It has little or no handicraft work in its houses; all members sigh for the good old days; all have the Diaz reflex, dependable as the knee jerk; all dislike Mexicans in any form, and are interested in Indians only in conjunction with the servant problem. This they discuss interminably. They were, as a class, bitterly disappointed in Mr. Morrow because he cave more consideration to the viewpoint of Mexico than to their own particular grievances-their mines, haciendas, franchises and oil wells. They hold that an American woman who associates with Mexicans is no better than she should be. They conceive it sometimes inevitable, but no part of their duty, to learn Spanish. They try to keep their children spotless from local contamination. They move in a close, unventilated circle of club, dinner, bridge, golf and Sanborn's tea and gift shop. They are not averse to alcohol in all forms and unlimited quantities.
I am not proud of what I have seen, or the reports I have had, of the American colony in Mexico. I am afraid, as an item in the Yankee invasion, it will have to be classified on a level with signboards and patent medicines--probably below the lavender plumbing. My criticism may be made somewhat plainer if we swing the picture around. Suppose there were a group of Mexicans resident on Park Avenue, New York, with powerful financial holdings in many of our leading corporations. They keep strictly to themselves; despising and looking down upon the United States, criticizing its customs, sneering at its government, refusing to learn English, sending their children to school in Mexico, looking upon any woman of their group who might associate with Americans as a moral liability. They publicly deplore the American Revolution, and sigh for the good days of King George. They appeal to their government in Mexico for armed intervention to protect them against a probable attack of bandits from Chicago. Their protests against all forms of local, state and national taxation are vociferous and unceasing. . . . One hesitates to state in plain words the fate of such a group; enough that the end would be comprehensive and sudden. The inborn courtesy of the Mexican is proved by the fact that a similar fate does not overwhelm the American colony. . . . That, and one hundred and twenty millions against sixteen.
Though the manners of the American colony leave much to be desired, its business methods have been slowly changing in recent years, on the whole for the better. American business, Diaz model, came to Mexico to make a maximum of profit in a minimum of time, by any available method, and retire with the loot. The stench, aye, and the blood left upon the trail could be disregarded, for one did not plan to pass that way again. American business, 1931 model, is tending to pass and repass the same trail; to trade, to operate public utilities, to stay in Mexico. For obvious reasons, stenches must be kept at a minimum. If the Electric Bond and Share Company proposes to put millions into electric light plants and operate them, it will have to get along with its customers. If Mr. Ford desires to keep saturating the available highways with model A's, he and his agents must be polite to prospective buyers, and keep them pleased after they have bought. Oil, the great mother of the exploitation regime, is passing out of the economic scene as salt water comes into the Tampico wells. In brief, he accent is more on long-time trade and services, and less on short-time exploitation. With this gradual change of front, is it too much to believe that the American colony will, in a generation or two-the Diaz reflex dies hard-civilize itself from within?
I cannot leave these business relations without a story. A mine superintendent, and thus allied to, if not a member of the American colony, is speaking: "I was inspecting an elevator shaft in the mine when something went wrong and I started to fall to certain death. My helper, a Mexican boy, watching above, had seen the break.
Instantly he threw himself on the loose end of the counter to balance my weight, and was hoisted up into the pulley. He had risked losing a hand and perhaps his life, but he had saved mine. . . . He was no model of virtue; just an average Mexican."
American penetration is confined primarily to the cities, especially Mexico City. Along the border it seeps into the towns and rural districts. In these states it is not unusual for Mexican farmers, like Texas farmers, to come down to the station in Fords. But in comparison with Canada, the penetration of Mexico by the machine has been slow indeed. The chief difference, culturally speaking, between Canada and the United States is prohibition (waiving an area in Quebec). But one has only to cross the river from Brownsville to Matamoros to enter a different world, and the farther south one goes, the more different it becomes, until Mexico City provides a partial hiatus. They call us in Mexico "Blond Beast" and "Colossus of the North," as well as gringo. Colossus we are. We have done our best to roll Canada flat, and it is inevitable that we should try to roll south as well. The wonder is that we have not rolled faster and more heavily.
Rural Mexico, below the border states, is almost completely unconquered. Cities smaller than the capital have taken to automobiles, electric power, Hollywood and jazz in varying degrees. Mexico City has gobbled a sample of practically everything except skyscrapers and subways. But as our street-corner survey shows, she is still far from a typical American city; great blocks of colonial, European, and Indian still survive. The invasion is not to be measured so much in capital investment as in American words, American attitudes, American sports, American goods.
Nor is this invasion wholly to be deplored. It has some excellent features. Even in rural areas, as we noted in the last chapter, certain technical importations would be very welcome. The health work of the Rockefeller Foundation, the archeological work of the Carnegie Foundation are splendid importations. Dr. Hugh Darby of the United States Department of Agriculture, stationed in Mexico City, represents a scientific liaison of incalculable future benefit. The popular arts students are forcing Mexico to realize the wealth of her Indian tradition. American sports for Mexican youngsters will do them a world of good. There is nothing the matter with electric lights, or, if you please, with automobiles in moderation-provided Mexicans could divest themselves of the conviction that they are a nation of Barney Oldfields. Even imperialism, turning to the long-time view, is a less sinister menage than it used to be.
The sad aspects of the invasion are to be found primarily in diluting and debasing a colourful and vigorous culture quite capable of standing on its own feet; quite capable, indeed, of exporting a philosophy of life which industrial civilization needs even more than Mexico needs gadgets. One is loath to see pecuniary values displacing human values, economic insecurity growing for the urban dweller as Mexico is tied into the world's industrial system. I have no enthusiasm at all for the inroads of high-pressure salesmanship, quick lunches, Arrow collars, screaming radios, squawking motion pictures, jazz, plus-fours, tabloids, subdivisions and copies of California copies of Spanish villas. Mexico could throw all this stuff into her deep barrancas with advantage to her appearance and to her soul.