Chapter 2

I go to Mexico. See a bull fight, a cock fight. And fly over a thousand miles.

As the train steamed on its way in the night I looked out on to the desert. In the moonlight it had its fascination, as most things then have. We passed near Charles Crane’s place, where he rears the finest dates in the world and sells them at five dollars per pound. He had asked me to visit him here and I was sorry I couldn’t do so. He is an interesting man and an extensive traveller. The desert itself was, I confess, like other
deserts. I had breakfast when we were going through the Arizona Desert. All day we passed through a wild and deserted country.

Many of the twenty-eight different kinds of cacti could be seen-the sahuaro (pronounced sa-whar-o) giant cactus, the candy cactus, the night blooming cactus, the jumping cholla, the cane cactus, as well as the prickly pear and the parsajo. Some parts of the desert were red and some yellow like the Oman desert country in Arabia.

The railway from Tucson to El Paso runs through a rich mineral territory which was at one time desert. Now the cotton and alfalfa flourish where formerly the cactus ruled, and fat thoroughbred cattle have supplanted the long-horned Texas steer. And one still could hear in fancy the war-whoop of the ancient Apache.

After a night and a day in the train I arrived at El Paso and stayed at the Hussman Hotel. The next morning I spoke to Mr. Owen, the British Vice-Consul, and was taken in Major Benton’s car over the frontier to Juarez, a delightful, picturesque old place with an interesting market, where every kind of fruit is piled up for sale.

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Most of the inhabitants of El Paso dash over the frontier into Mexico-it is only five minutes in the car can be had even if dinner is not wanted. The people in El Paso gave me a most pleasant time. I visited a motor camp, which I had never seen before. You park your car outside the door or at the side under cover, and each party has its own house, which contains a bedroom-kitchen with gas, electric light, crockery-everything except food.

At El Paso I experienced the fallibility of the reporter I saw on a placard, “Woman Explorer says Petting is Uncivilized.” Who on earth can that fool woman be? When I got the paper I saw I was the woman! It is strange how these trivial things make one furious. I rang up the editor and asked him what he meant. He said I had been asked what I considered the worst sin in the world and that had been my reply.

What I had said was ” hurting one another” was the worst sin. Which, they said, was taken for hugging and then turned to petting (very much to the fore then). He promised to put it right in all the telegrams for the next day’s papers. It was corrected in a line stuck at the bottom of a column with a new story about me above it.

I paid a visit to the Red Light Café. What a place! I have seen many low types in Constantinople, Vienna and elsewhere, but never anywhere where women had sunk so low as I saw them here. The women were not merely coarse, dirty and bestial, they seemed almost to have ceased to be human beings. Some of the attitudes and gestures were the last word in repulsiveness. When a woman drinks she sinks, and there seems to be no depth she cannot touch. However low and worthless a woman is, there is usually something which can be appealed by some person or thing, but a woman who is a drunkard is lower and less clean than animals, even when sober.

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The bullfight I went to see also left its nasty taste in the mouth. They always have horses terribly injured at these exhibitions: there surely isn’t any sport in blindfolding a horse, leading it into the ring and then letting a bull gore it till its entrails hang out. It is part and parcel of the “sport”. If the men faced the bull without the horses I should have watched it with interest; it’s up to the man to get from harm-if he’s killed it’s fair, he knew he might be; but the horse, a dumb but lovely creature, has no choice and no chance. The men risked their lives and they were astonishingly agile, some of their daring tricks being most thrilling.

If the matador brings off a good kill the women go almost wild with delight and cover him almost with the clothes they wear. A good kill means the bull is killed by the sword being thrust between the horns and it falls dead. If it doesn’t the matador must get back his sword, if it is still sticking in the bull, for no other matador can intervene then and no other sword can be used. One of the poor bulls seemed to drop with fatigue; but another
gave excellent sport. One of the matadors fell and his sword and cloak went flying, and the bull was a foot away, breathing hard. The man lay perfectly still and kept his
eyes on the bull. It was a thrilling moment. The other men rushed in and attracted the bull’s attention, and the spectators screamed with approval. I managed to take some still and cinematograph pictures, but I admit to feeling very giddy and sick.

Then a cockfight. The pit was circular, with sloping walls about four feet high, and on forms up to the ceiling were the spectators. The birds were weighed and then prepared for the fight. They were both sleek and in fine condition. Their legs were massaged, and after a wad of felt had been put round the leg, a leather band was attached holding a bright steel, strong, curved hook. The very feathers of the birds shone defiance. Adhesive
tape made the leather straps fast: the legs were massaged once more; the owners held the birds close to each other so that they pecked and drew blood, and then they were put down at certain marks, when they went for each other.

After a few seconds they were picked up, massaged again and the second round began. The birds were very sporting; a defeated bird raised himself erect and crowed-and then fell dead.

Most women will appreciate this item in my diary at this time: “Had new frock at laundry completely ruined.”

I gave a dinner party in El Paso at the hotel, to the friends who had been so kind to me, and managed to get as much liquor as I wished, and next day motored, at 6 a.m., to the airport to take my place in a C.A.T. aeroplane for Mexico City. In five minutes we landed at Juarez, where passports and luggage were examined and the mail for Mexico City was taken on board. The going was somewhat bumpy. We came down for a short time at Chihuahua (pronounced Cha wa-wa), also at Parral and Torreon, where I was met by Major Law and given freshly-made sandwiches and deliciously cool beer. Torreon is a junction, and we changed ‘planes there. A few more stops and, about half-past five in the evening, the city of Mexico was below us.

It had been a wonderful journey. We had travelled 1,104 miles in less than eight and a half hours; had I gone by train it would have taken four days. We had skimmed mountains at 15,ooo feet, flown for hours over wild, sandy, rocky country where we had not seen a living soul. It was certainly hot. The sand covered us before we took off and the sun poured its rays on us.


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