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A CENTURY had passed since Hernando Cortes accomplished his daring march across the mountains and rivers which intersect the wide tract of country that lies between the Gulf of Mexico and the Bay of Honduras, and the civilisation of Europe was already widely spread over its surface, though it was more, perhaps, in externals than in reality: for altogether to infuse a new character into a people, demands more than the occupation of a hundred years.

The principle which Spain adopted at the very outset of her conquering career on the American continent, was to subdue as much by Religion as by the Sword; and the earliest efforts of the Christian missionaries, at the head of whom was the excellent Las Casas, had been directed towards the voluntary conversion of the natives. The success which they met with was proportionate to their zeal, and long before the period to which we have referred, the mass of the Indian population in all the transatlantic provinces of Spain had renounced the worship of their forefathers, and boasted themselves as good Christians as any amongst the descendants of their conquerors, in whose veins the " sangre azul" was flowing.

To a people accustomed, amidst many forms and ceremonies, to bend the knee and burn incense before their idols, the substitution for their own of a faith like that of the Roman Catholic Church, was far less difficult than it would have been had a simpler and severer doctrine called upon them to renounce the superstitions of their old religion. To transfer their allegiance from one visible object to another, was easy enough with the multitude: they might be slow to comprehend the mystical truths which their new teachers laboured to inculcate, but to do homage to a statue or a picture was little more than the extension of the principle on which they had formerly worshipped, and they yielded a ready assent to exhortations which, in their view of the case, merely required them to turn from the images of their two thousand fierce and sanguinary deities to adore those of the mild Virgin and a host of interceding Saints.

Outwardly, then, the Indian converts became ardent devotees of the new faith, but it was very long before they forgot or ceased to be influenced by Pagan traditions and observances; and it was not among the lightest of the toils of the Romish hierarchy to endeavour to eradicate those vestiges of the past. Neither was their ministration entirely free from care with respect to those of their flock who were Spanish or of July-VOL. XCVIII. NO. CCCXCI.


Spanish descent, for in a new clime they often claimed immunities and indulgences which in the old world they would never have attempted to prefer. A singular instance of the laxity of conduct which prevailed in religious matters, at the time we are speaking of, is recorded in the annals of Chiapa; and it is partly in illustration of its effects, and partly to show the mixed character of the religion of the Indian Roman Catholics, that the following narrative has been put together.



It was about the year 1626 that the episcopal sway in Chiapa, which had first been exercised by Bartholomew de las Casas, was placed in the hands of Bernardino de Salazar. He was a zealous churchman, austere in faith, and pure in morals, and, though not inaccessible to the promptings of avarice, had been induced to accept the bishopric of this remote province, as much from his desire to maintain the Romish ceremonial in all the strictness of its forms, as to benefit by the large revenues of the see. By temperament he was cold and haughty, and the school in which he had been trained, at the feet of the Dominicans, had not taught him the greater value of persuasion over compulsion. He chose to govern by the exercise of his authority, rather than trust to the efficacy of entreaty; the strict letter of the law was the rule which he took to guide him, and they who swerved from the path of duty while under his control, were never reclaimed by gentle expedients.

On the day of the great festival of Chiapa, which was celebrated in honour of Nuestra Señora de la Peña, Bernardino de Salazar presided at the high mass which was performed in the cathedral of that city. It was the first occasion on which the bishop had officiated in his diocese, and with a vigilant eye he watched every movement of his congregation. For a time everything went on exactly as he could have wished; the genuflections were made at the right moment, at the appointed signal heads were bowed and hands lifted in token of attentive worship, and all the forms of devotion were ceremoniously observed; but at the expiration of about half an hour a sudden change came over the scene.



It was during a period of almost total silence, when the loud ceased to peal, when the voices of the choristers were hushed, when the golden bell no longer tinkled, and the words of the ministering priest ascended only in a faint whisper, that a strange and unusual noise attracted the bishop's attention. It was like the pattering of feet, the rustling of garments, the clashing and clinking of metal, and with it there spread through the cathedral an odour very different from frankincense. The bishop, from the high altar where he knelt, threw a searching glance along the nave of the cathedral, and to his horror and dismay perceived approaching through every portal a host of female servants, bearing in their hands small silver trays, on which were cups of filagree and china, and tall silver vessels steaming with some fragrant beverage. Astonishment prevented him from speaking, but he rose to his feet that he might better observe what this strange incursion signified.

The girls, as they entered, spread themselves through the sacred edifice,

each directing her footsteps to where her mistress was kneeling; and on their approach the ladies got up and, with looks of great satisfaction, laid by their books of Offices and Orisons, seated themselves quietly in their chairs, and prepared in the most comfortable manner to enjoy their chocolate and sweetmeats.

The bishop stood aghast; he could not believe his eyes, but thought his senses had left him, or that some hideous spell had been wrought by the Evil One. He had come to a land in which Paganism still lingered, and he was not amongst the churchmen of his time who had freed themselves from the trammels of superstition. The Pagan deities were, in his eyes, the yet unexpelled Devil and his bad angels, and for a while he was under the impression that, like the possessed herd of swine, they had entered into his whole congregation.

But whatever the nature of the possession, it had no effect in distorting or disfiguring the countenances of the ladies, who, smiling and conversing in the most complacent manner, continued to sip their chocolate and munch their sweetmeats with as much ease as if, instead of being in the body of the cathedral and in the midst of divine worship, they were enjoying themselves in the patios of their own houses. Nor was the interruption apparently heeded by the officiating clergy; with their breviaries before them, they still continued in prayer, though now and then a clerical head was turned, and an expression depicted on clerical features, which savoured rather of a desire to join in the refection than prevent its continuance.

The bishop mused within himself as to the course he ought to take to suppress so scandalous a desecration of the rites of the Church; had he obeyed his first impulse, it would have been to have instantly driven forth the offenders, but he reflected that this would have at once deprived him of more than half of his congregation, and he resolved, therefore, to abide the issue of the scene and afterwards take such measures as should prevent its recurrence.

By the time he had arrived at this conclusion, the ladies had finished their chocolate-the cups were replaced on the salvers of the attendants, who retired as they had entered-the fair devotees again became devout, fell on their knees, took up their Offices, crossed their breasts and foreheads with great fervour, and, perfectly refreshed by the agreeable interlude, resumed their prayers at the point where they had left off, and raised their voices in most appropriate unison with those of the priests, who thus chanted the Canticle of Lent:

Audi, benigne conditor,

Nostras preces cum fletibus,
In hoc sacro jejunio,

Fusas quadragenario.
Scrutator alme cordium,
Infirma tu scis virium.
Ad te reversis exhibe
Remissionis gratiam.

The Mass then proceeded as it had begun, with due reverence and solemnity, and out of the number present there was only one who entertained the opinion that it had been conducted throughout in the most orthodox way possible.

That one, however, was the bishop, who, after he had preached a most edifying sermon on the especial subjection of all good Christians to the ordinances of Mother Church-(a sermon which he had been engaged in composing all the way from Spain to Mexico, and whose efficacy the contretems he had witnessed only served to improve)-took advantage of the occasion, before he pronounced his Benediction, to address the faithful multitude on the subject that so engrossed his thoughts.

Bernardino de Salazar had eloquence, and was, moreover, vastly indignant, not only at the profanation of the cathedral, but at the outrage on his known austerity, which he looked upon as an open act of rebellion against his authority; the terms, therefore, in which he denounced this great scandal, were of unmeasured severity; he reproached his congregation with lusting after the flesh-pots of Egypt, with making unto themselves belly-gods, with offering unclean sacrifices; and, exhibiting the sinfulness of the act that had been committed, exhorted his hearers to twofold abstinence and double mortification, and concluded by expressing his hope that it would be enough for him to have pointed out the abyss on the brink of which the people of Chiapa were standing, more dangerous to their eternal welfare than were to their worldly safety the fiery mountains that rose in the midst of their land.

Like the whirring of a thousand wings, when a flight of birds is suddenly set in motion, arose the loud whispers of the ladies of Chiapa as they huddled together at the close of this address, and betrayed an astonishment scarcely less than the bishop himself had exhibited when the High Mass was interrupted; and as they flocked out of the cathedral, the whispers, rising into shrill exclamations, proclaimed that their astonishment, also, had deepened into indignation.

Assembled in groups of four or five, now moving rapidly onwards and all talking together, now pausing for the expression of some individual opinion more forcible than the rest, the ladies of Chiapa gave vent to the feelings which the bishop's denunciation had excited.

"Ave Maria purissima!" exclaimed Doña Jacinta Valdez.

"Concebida sin pecado!" chimed in the devout but irritated listeners.


Holy Virgin!" continued Doña Jacinta-she was a toothless old lady, who almost lived upon the condemned beverage-"heard any one ever the like! Not take a simple cup, or an innocent dulce, to recruit exhausted nature during Mass-High Mass, too-which always gives me a pain in my back that lasts for a week,-the idea is too dreadful to think of!"

"It is an impiety," earnestly vociferated Doña Magdalena de Morales, a tall, pale, handsome young woman, whose eyes flashed fire as she spoke "a manifest impiety! What is to become of our souls if we are not able to sustain our bodies? Reproach us with hankering after dainties-we, who ask for no more than a bare xicara of chocolate, which never yet has been denied us, and "-kindling as she went on-" Santissima Madre, never shall be!"

"Never!" cried half a dozen voices in chorus.

"It is our right," continued Doña Magdalene, "no less than our necessity. The late holy bishop, Don Melchior de Velasco, never dreamt of interfering with our privilege."

"He knew the nature of the climate and the weakness of our stomachs,"

observed Doña Caterina de Mendez, a stout lady of fifty, whose size implied anything but weakness, and whose appetite no climate could have affected. "He was a good man, and fond of chocolate; may his portion be with the Saints!"

"Domine exaudi!" piously exclaimed the rest of the ladies.

"I have seen him take a cup himself," mumbled Doña Jacinta, "and where could we look for a better example?"

"Where indeed ?" screamed the chorus.


Nothing shall ever make me submit to this tyranny," pursued Doña Magdalena. "Are we not old Christians-have we not blue blooddo we not go to mass regularly-are we not constant at confession? Shall we be treated like Jews, and Moors, and vile Indians ?-no! Don Bernardino de Salazar will think twice of it before he attempts to invade our fueros. If he persists, let him look to himself!"

And as she said this, the haughty beauty clenched her little hand, and compressed her pale lips, with an expression of countenance that threatened deadly vengeance.

Not less violent and clamorous were her companions; and before they parted for their respective homes, each had registered a vow of opposition to the "wicked encroachment"-as they termed it-of the Bishop of Chiapa.



ON his part, Don Bernardino de Salazar was equally determined to put down the irregularity which had so much shocked him. He summoned a chapter of his clergy, and having, with great seriousness, inveighed against the abuse which the laxity of former rule had permitted to grow into a custom, gave strict injunctions to them to visit their parishioners, and make known the firmness of his resolve to prohibit the practice in which they had hitherto indulged.

The priests accepted their mission with no very trustful reliance on its success, for they knew the nature of their Spanish countrywomen; nor were they surprised at its result. At every tertulia in Chiapa the chocolate question had been discussed, and not a dissentient voice was heard when open resistance was declared to the bishop's arbitrary decree. It was in vain that the ecclesiastical supremacy of the prelate was adverted to; in vain that the sinfulness of disobedience was pointed out; in vain that the spiritual risk which the fair offenders incurred was hinted at: no argument had any weight. Chocolate, they said, was one of the gifts of God to the country in which they dwelt; chocolate was necessary to their very existence; and wherever they wanted it-in church or field, at High Mass, or at the Juego de Cañas-chocolate they would have.

It might have been supposed, from the scene which we have described, that the chocolate question affected the ladies only; but this was not the case. Whether the sway of the Basquiña-which we call petticoatgovernment-was more potent in Chiapa than in Old Spain, or whether the Chiapanas believed themselves aggrieved by this attack on the comforts of their wives, is not exactly upon record; but, however influenced,

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