Some Memories of My Times

-by Guillermo Prieto-

translated by D. Ohmans
© copyright 2015

Text imprint Mexico City, Fondo de Cultura Economica, 1997

FONDO 2000 adds to the commemoration of the centenary of the demise
of Guillermo Prieto with a selection of his celebrated and extensive work
Memories of my times, a detailed chronicle of the mottled Mexican 19th
century that narrates the life and circumstances from 1828 to 1853 from the pen
of one of the most lucid protagonists and witnesses of that era. Born in 1818,
Guillermo Prieto spent his infancy in Molino del Rey, whose bakery his father
administered. Upon the latter's dying in 1833, his mother went mad and the boy
Guillermo remained forlorn in the employment of a clothing store. Later, under
the protection of Andrés Quintana Roo, Prieto enrolled in the San Juan de
Letrán school and, in 1837, published his first poems in the
Galván Calendario.
     Like other intellectuals of his era, Guillermo Prieto led a
multifaceted life. He was a poet, dramatist, chronicler, prolific journalist,
and distinguished politician. He came to be a deputy to the Constituent
Congress of 1857, senator of the Republic and minister of Finance. However, his
wide popularity is due to his famous column "Saint Monday," where, with the
pseudonym of Fidel, he commented on all the political events, social activities
and popular and religious events of his times.
     Guillermo Prieto was a popular poet, in tune with the Romantic current,
whose most well-known works are the National romancer and The
street muse. As Fidel he flourished in theatrical criticism and,
furthermore, came to write almost a dozen of his own works. A prolific
polygraph, Prieto not only left travel books and varied tales but also
Elementary lessons in economy, A brief introduction to the study of universal
history and Lessons of national history.
     Maybe the best way of rendering homage upon completing his mournful
centenary would precisely be the reading of some of his most personal
paragraphs. In these pages, the reader will not find passages of our history
written beginning with foreign testimony, but the autobiographical chronicle of
a Mexican intellectual and politician who came to be considered by his
contemporaries as a patriot, distinguished for his intelligence and

Some memories of my times

The general Santa Anna had been situated at the San Antonio ranch for
its being considered a strategic point for attacking Tlalpan, occupied by the
Americans: like Padierna, where general Valencia was found, and Mexico City
with the convent of Churubusco, which is located on the road near the little
outpost San Antonio Abad.
     The morale of the army of the North was extremely elevated; the old border
and desert soldiers revived their energy on being convened to glory by the
trumpet; the music sounded, the flags floated, the horses of the officers
pawed and the dragoons rose in their stirrups as if to quicken the pace of
their steeds.
     The announcement of the presence of the enemy was given by Alejo Barreiro.
     Since Mr. Valencia honored me with important commissions; since he took
special care to use his command to expose me to the least possible danger,
telling me of the least safe places, and how the helper boys were my friends,
who came on the eve of the battle to perform their assignments. Oh, what a
night; oh, what tender and passionate confidences; oh, what a rich aura, that
of angelic poetry of those men, who detached from life through a sense of duty,
cast their eyes back on what they loved most in the world.
     --To my father, give him my timepiece, Guillermo: tell him to forgive me
as the old man of my heart.
     --Listen (elsewhere) do you know her? Do not tell her anything; let time
pass, return this locket to her... I do not know how my kisses have not melted
     --My María is already grown... she will listen, tell her about me.
You will see me: I want to distinguish myself, I want to die to leave her my
name, which will give her pride...
     Oh, that youth, that aspiration to glory, those confidences they shared
as invisible witnesses to mortality shall never be erased from my memory.

I retain horribly painful impressions of the fury, of the envy, of the
personal passions of Valencia and Santa Anna, the hostilities among their
circles; the calumnies and creeping scandals that like wildfires would fly to
the heights and produce disaster and ruin.
     I remember also the illusions and the hopes of victory, so sincere, so
noble in the masses, and so sadly vanished.
     The moment when the young Agustín Iturbide put himself at the head of
the Celaya batallion shouting: With me, boys, my father is the father of our
independence moved me deeply!
     González Mendoza, throwing himself like a torrent on enemy heads,
singing the National Hymn with his officers, it was magnificent!
     The assault on Padierna, the arrival of the "yankees," one of them
climbing the pole to the flag, pulling it down, ripping it, proudly trampling
it, was horrible; I saw it through my laments and cried like a woman... my
blood hurt, something groaned within me that was appalling... dying would have
been like pure fresh water for my thirsting soul.
     One instant, one instant only, that could hardly be measured, with the
illumination of lightning, we had an hallucination of victory.
     An obscure Celaya officer, small in body, thin, of quick movements and a
strident laugh, put on his wide hat lined with fabric, grabbed his sword,
directed a few words to the soldiers who surrounded him and bam, bambam
advanced, braving whatever obstacles opposed him on his march towards
Padierna... There he assaulted, killed, annihilated everyone who opposed him...
he climbed the flagpole, grasping and pulling down the American banner in
tatters... and restored to its place our beloved flag of Iguala, which seemed
to shimmer and greet us like a being endowed with a heart and grandeur.
     All the musicians broke out in songs, all the standards, scripts and flags
were waved in the air and we all cheered with manly tears that instant robbed
from the fatality of our destiny.
     Chuabilla, for that was the name of the brave officer, the author of the
deed to which we just referred, was left mortally wounded... and over the last
days that he covered accompanied by the music, he still suffered the
consequences of that rapture, which places its throne and its fame in such a
distinguished place in our military celebrations.
     The glorious demise of Frontera, the impassivity of general Salas,
Blanco's injury, everything would stick in my memory, yet it is seized by the
last moments of that battle.
     The slope of the hill occupied by Mr. Valencia, which was like the base of
a section of the Southern range, was encircled by "Bad Country" and a very
deep gully, whose borders, in a semi-circle, comprised on the north the edge of
the village of Coyoacán.
     The Americans had encircled the hill, penetrating through the Bad Country
and the gully until reaching and almost embracing our camp. But to the heights
of Coyoacán there had been sent as help, yet without orders to fight, the
brilliant division of general don Francisco Pérez, who was perfectly
situated to catch the enemy between two lines.
     Then the confidence in the triumph was complete; congratulations rained,
dispatches were sent and the men of that meritorious division delivered
themselves into the most incredible deliriums.
     I should in all justice mention the chief, don Agustín Zires, who
twice cleared the Americans from Padierna with heroic bravery; and Mr. Garcia
who lost a leg in the action, and the captain Feliciano Rodríguez, who
while only an assistant to Mr. Valencia, threw himself with ardor at the
greatest dangers in helping his companions in arms.
     But night fell, suspending all communication between the columns of
general Santa Anna and our own. In the darkness the advances of the enemy were
felt precisely from the side we had thought protected. General Valencia sent
expert scouts of the terrain, who returned saying that general Santa Anna's
forces had withdrawn, leaving the most important points abandoned with our
positions remaining surrounded without an exit at the discretion of the enemy.
     General Valencia knew the compromised nature of the situation and he
commissioned don Luis Arrieta and myself to go to San Ángel to make Mr.
Santa Anna aware of our position.
     Mr. Santa Anna was to be found in San Ángel in the home of general
Mora and there comprising the throng according to the circumstances,
politicians, soldiers, chiefs, profiteers, muleteers, et cetera, swamped by
letters that entered on horseback into the patio crowded with women, orderlies,
pages, and people of the servant classes, the patio was a labyrinth of legs,
tables, baskets, and some encumbrances which might escape the most
perspicacious inventory.
     The general, surrounded by his favorites, gave his orders next to a little
round table lighted by an oil lamp and surrounded by scribes.
     Arrieta and I entered the compound, and Arrieta, who was very neat and
well-spoken, exposed to him the continuing situation of general Valencia.
     --You don't say, you don't say, he is an insubordinate climber, who
deserves to be shot... Drunkard!
     --Sir, your excellency will do what you feel just, but that army cannot be
     --You must not give me lessons... Alright! I do not take my example from
you... Help! help! and I expose my troops to the rain, to sleeplessness...for
a... (here it is not possible to repeat the words that sprang from the lips of
Santa Anna) and my soldiers to the outdoors... what do you all say (pointing at
     --Well those soldiers are not beneath a roof...nor enjoying themselves--I
     --Eh, silence, you all get out of here... away... curses...
     And we left full of rage and pain...
     The night was extremely dark, it rained heavily, constant lightning
illuminated the ranges and was reflected in the gusts that descended the hills.
     We had to make an immense detour almost to the back of the Zacatepec
mountains and the Bell.
     After an extremely laborious passage we arrive at the camp... nobody in
advance, not a rumor, a seeming desert... the very thick fog, the bonfires
extinguished, the noise of the rain heard in the leaves and branches of the
trees that appeared and disappeared like phantasms in the lightning.
     We reach the tent of the general, who receives us in the doorway...
     --What does Santa Anna say? he asked Arrieta.
     The latter in a few words gave him an account of our commission.
     Then, like an explosion, beside himself, crazed, lost in tempests of
anger...Valencia shouted: Traitor! He has sold us out, he delivers us to be
wiped out and the Nation extinguished... At those shouts in the black shadows,
the suspected groups emerged like wild animals... By the lightning soldiers
could be seen fleeing in various directions, and one heard something like the
cries of women... rifle and pistol blasts exploded, horses ran loose across the
hillside... In reality the defeat was consummated at that moment.
     At dawn on August 20th, the Americans, uprooting our position with
movements effected at lightning speed, aimed their artillery and ours at the
dispersed forces that fled down the descent of the hills which trailed
cadavers, the moribund injured dragging themselves, vehicles broken to pieces,
and women crazed with crying, with arms raised and the eyes of persecuted she-
wolves... That avalanche rolled, advancing crazily, frightful, in the direction
of Churubusco.
     In the hollow of a hill, lying on the ground, a youth of about 25 was
found in very bloodied shirtsleeves, notably handsome. A man tended to him
with loving diligence, effortlessly using medical skill and experience. I
approached the group and recognized in the surgeon my illustrious friend
Antonio García Gutiérrez, author of The Troubador and honored
in Spanish letters.
     --Antonio, what is this? What are you doing here?
     --Guillermo, my people, my people!
     And in effect, García Gutiérrez was an angel of charity in those
circumstances, and I, when I imagine his memory amidst his laurels, I see him
with gratitude, shining with goodness for being with the defenders of my
     I hurried like everybody in the direction of Churubusco when one of the
dragoons whom general Valencia had as much trusted orderlies overtook me. He
drew his horse up to mine and told me we should separate from the current, for
he had to speak to me on the part of the general.
     I vacillated, because I knew the terrible orders that general Peña y
Barragan had received, to shoot Valencia wherever he found him, with no more
formality than the identification of his person. The soldier showed me a
countersign to my equivocation, and I followed him over trails full of
precipices. Beneath a tree, with a sleeve crimson and totally disfigured, I
found general don Valencia. At his side was José Martín
Velázquez de la Cadena, called el chico in the army; my school
companion, an exceedingly intelligent officer with a great place in good
society for his man of the world tact and finesse.
     The general told us where he was going, the precautions that we had to
take to find him, the name of Ferrer which he adopted and notices, those of
Cadena, in reference to intimate family matters, and my own, concerning persons
who were found beside general Santa Anna and from whom he wanted to get
guarantees regarding his trial or his exit from the country.
     With profound bitterness we bid farewell to the general, after promising
the faithful fulfillment of his charges. The general displayed very deep
sadness: more than anything because he could not keep fighting for the Nation.
     The family of Mr. Valencia was living in Cuautitlán, and we headed
there making an immense detour through the King hills, the Morales and lands
of Santa Mónica and Tizapán.
     Our assistants accompanied us contentedly and in less than a rooster's
crow they changed from war outfits to palm hats and open sandals, mule saddles
and rural trinkets.
     The black clouds that blanketed our spirit gave way to some rays of the
light of hope and allowed the illusions around us to sing.
     This Pepe Cadena, with his green eyes, his eagle's beak, his white skin
and eyes as expressive as his tongue, was a precious archive of scandalous
chronicles, a storehouse of jokes, a collection of underground genealogies of
ecclesiastical leaders and dignitaries, and a precious mosaic of writings,
illegitimate loves and all manner of falsifications.
     Of obvious talent, widely read and of scientific principles, he held a
distinguished place, among soldiers who customarily knew the same of Napoleon
as Moro Muza, the same of Voltaire as of Chateaubriand, and who imagined
themselves as great as Julius Caesar himself when they knew some chapter of
the Ordinances by heart.
     Pepe was consulted regarding revolutionary intrigues, was heard when
providing a reception or banquet, and men of a certain importance like Basadre,
Juan Peza Requena and others, accepted him with appreciation and intimacy.
     Joking and mocking we walk several leagues and with the afternoon
exhausted we enter Cuautitlán, leaving Cadena to go in search of don
Valencia's family and agreeing to meet to leave the village.
     Step by step we traversed the royal street, weary with hunger and thirst,
when on a small balcony at ground level to the street, the most beautiful eyes,
the most luminous and seductive that can be imagined, captured my attention. I
do not consider myself combustible, but that was a lot for a heart with certain
propensities towards fragility, such as mine.
     I shortened my pace, composed my posture, and with a voice full of
restraint asked that lovely lady for a glass of water.
     The mistress, with exquisite courtesy, gave the orders and urged me to
rest, with as much authority as finesse. I left the horses at the door, entered
a very clean little salon, with its red bricks, with tule chairs and a large
painting of the Sorrowful one, at the head of the room.
     --You must have suffered a great deal with your defeat--the hostess said
to me.
     --But, who told you?
     --O, one soon finds out! And you should have changed paths... did you come
to see the family of Valencia?
     I kept silent.
     --I do not wish to be imprudent; yet I seem to see the disaster...
Valencia and Santa Anna, each from his side committing miscalculations...
Pérez headstrong, the cavalry unable to work with the chiefs...
     Annoyance arose in me and standing up I said to her:
     --Madam, that is unjust; it was the cavalry that was mainly responsible
in the encounter at San Jerónimo.
     --Who commanded then?
     --The colonel Frontera.
     --The same as all of them...
     --Madam, for God's sake, do not say that. I have seen him fall riddled
with bullets and forcing himself to advance bathed in blood, cheering for
     Meanwhile, the lady arose pallid as the dead, advanced, entered the
bedrooom, emerged with his two two angels... put them in front
of the Virgin, and with an accent that enclosed every pain, lamented, directing
herself to the Virgin... Sainted Mother, shelter these children who now have
no father...! And she fell to the ground as if shot by a ray.
     I quickly left that place with my heart in pieces.
     When night arrived I rejoined Cadena and we set about our march through
the rough Bata range and Tepatlasco, on the road to Toluca.
     The terrain was horribly uneven, mountain spines and deep canyons, lead
pits and breaks bristling with boulders, the ground red with such slippery clay
that on each step we fell without being able to advance; in the mountains there
were occasional huts, silent masses bathed by the rain.
     Overcome by blows and fatigue, we asked for lodging in a hut. After much
insistence, with total mistrust they rented a little kitchen to us; yet not
even by showing them money could we obtain one tortilla, nor an egg, nor
anything with which to feed ourselves.
     Chilled by cold, half stirring some embers that died among the ashes,
Cadena began to recall some episodes of our defeat and some adventures on our
     The people of the little village, alerted to our arrival, surrounded the
hut hiding themselves and listening through the slats.
     Cadena kept talking and I would interrupt him, completing his narration.
     Some faces appeared in the little kitchen... The narration continued... An
old lady put a pan on the fire... I hastened to the narrative of the battle...
some brought bread and bottles... Cadena narrated like an Italian the feats of
our heroes; some offered us mezcal, and were our friends... we dined heartily.
     Mr. Valencia was hidden in Toluca, in the home of Mr. Zozaya, where he
received us accompanied by the valiant and loyal captain Feliciano Rodriguez. I
drafted the manifesto that the general delivered to the Nation, and he gave us
new instructions, with which we returned to Mexico City.
     On the 9th of August, in the midst of the agitation and the alarm bells in
the city, my family left my Mexico City house, and in wagons with furniture
arranged their movement en route to San Cosme. My wife very sick with three
children, one of them recently born and the rest of the family ailing and full
of worries, sought in vain for a house in which to shelter and did not find
     Unexpectedly from a home of wealthy appearance emerged a servant to offer
habitation to the travelers, telling them that later they would determine the
price and the conditions of the rental.
     The family accepted and occupied a comfortable and decent section of that
large building.
     When I found occasion to see my family, I learned that we lived in the
bottom of that house, property of Mr. don Lucas Alamán.
     The lodging was highly disagreeable to me because of my deep political
antagonisms with Mr. Alamán, against whom I had published all manner of
taunts and who my fantasy painted as a monster, dark, bloody and a terror to
Satan himself.
     That house was like an enchanted house: a profound silence constantly
reigned in it.
     Respectful servants, with their black jackets, old servants of the
shipowner, apron and caps... chimes of the bell for mass and rosary: at noon
a noise the length of the hallway, while the meal lasted. Before ten at night
everyone slept.
     The part that I occupied communally at the bottom opened onto the garden
which was carefully cultivated, with its sand paths, full-grown trees and
exquisite fountains.
     Mr. Alamán, at the close of the afternoon, passed in front of my
room, with his wide-brimmed straw hat, his thick cane and his linen frock-coat.
     Mr. Alamán was of average body, handsome head, completely white-
haired, a fair face, Roman nose, withdrawn mouth, and wrinkled lips with very
fine white teeth, fine skin, and red the color of his cheeks. Upon passing by
my room he would say to me:
     --Mr. don Guillermo, shall we make a circle around the garden...?
     I answered brusquely and in poor form, because as I have said, I had
strong reservations about that gentleman.
     Days and more days passed, and he always repeated the invitation, which
was perpetually refused.
     My mother-in-law, mortified by my conduct, at one of his invitations put
my hat in my hand and said to Mr. Alamán:
     --There he goes, sir.
     That afternoon we spoke of petty things and about some Spanish orators.
The next day we embarked on literary discussions, at at 15 days I searched out
Mr. Alamán, for the enchantment of his travel stories, his deep immersion
in Latin and Spanish literature, his treasures of anecdotal history of France
and Spain. Of course in those conversations there was not the slighted allusion
to politics.
     I thought then, as I think now, that Mr. Alamán was a closed fanatic
in politics, who believed independence was premature, the grito of
Dolores like a criminal insurrection, and was persuaded that they were a series
of delirious sacrileges and the principles proclaimed as dogmas of the French
revolution dangerous.
     And these beliefs were so obstinate in Mr. Alamán, that even though
he, he first, denounces abuses in his history, and censures pernicious
practices, he embraces the colonial system, closing his eyes to the truth and
condemning the propaganda of liberty as impious chatter.
     In the interior of Mr Alamán's family, everything is virtue,
regularity and order.
     He arose with the sun, washed and got dressed. He would write in a room
that opened on the roadway to Tlaxpana, with a number of books at hand. His
elevated desk caused him to write while standing, and his manuscript became a
book out of the box, without a spot, nor an erasure, nor anything between the
lines, nor ashes on the leaves because he did not smoke. When writing he
maintained complete composure and one almost could not see his face, because
the visor of the cap that he wore shaded it.
     At noon on the day in question food was served to the entire family in
attendance, doing honors to Mrs. doña Narcisa, his wife, an adorable
matron, of refined ways and angelic goodness. A priest whom they called
father tata, the brother I believe of Mr. Rodríguez of Puebla,
blessed the table, and concluded the meal with the Our Bread prayer kissing the
bread, and calling forth the servants and the friends.
     They took a siesta and made room for the chocolate and the reciting of
the rosary in the prayer.
     I owe that family honor that they admitted me into their breast, me
receiving distinctions from Mr. Alamán which enhances him in my memory,
and above all, develops my gratitude for the affection with which he always
treated me and respect for my opinions, despite the acerbity and dumb self-
sufficiency with which at times I combated his.
     When the armistice ended that was negotiated after the battle of
Churubusco, I had presented myself to my Hidalgo Corps, that was moving from
Belén to Chapultepec under the command of don Félix Galindo.
     The Victoria Batallion was situated at the Bucareli Pass, and there
distinguished themselves through their heroic bravery: Carrasco, who had come
fighting since Palo Alto, Torrín, Bensegui, Urquidi, and Muñoz, most
distinguished deputies.
     In the little garrison of Belén the venerable general Torrens, who
was unjustly and villainously maltreated by force by general Santa Anna in one
of his brutal outbursts that dishonor a man, could be seen. In the Pink House,
also called the Alfaro, was the military hospital for blood, with general
Vanderlinden and the doctor Luis Carreón at the head... It was a horror...
     Santa Anna could be seen constantly crossing the roadway, now ordering a
march, now recognizing very dangerous spots, with reckless bravery, now
quarreling with some muleteers, now shouting out and undertaking jobs with some
drivers, now finally, making agreements or conferencing, with interruptions,
with some bosses and employees.
     I seem to see him with his panama hat and his handy whip, his coffee-
colored blouse and his pants of whitest linen. He squandered his activity,
recklessly challenged danger, and just as he could not be called a traitor, he
could not justly be considered a good general, neither as a statesman, nor as a
personage at the level of the situation.
     For us to be able to form an honest idea of the activity at Molina del
Rey, it would be necessary to present in all fidelity a picture in which three
very extensive lines or stairs are displayed, running from south to north, from
the back of the Archbishopric, in the high part of Tacubaya, down to the
Anzures Ranch behind which today there is a monument to that battle, and has as
the Casamata as its limit and the rapid descent of Anzures Road that opens onto
the Verónica.
     The first line from above would embrace the descent of the hill. The
second would form there an ample and straight alleyway, and the third is the
line formed by the united buildings of the Flour and Powder Mill, with some
sunken land, and in front of the first Mill which was very extensive, a  Mill
or Plant, and a gully with its bridge. Through this entire hinterland run the
very high archways of an abandoned aqueduct.
     The American forces had the Archbishopric as point of departure, while
ours occupied the first building with the general Balderas, the outside part
with the general León, the point where the monument is today, with the 3rd
infantry under Echegaray's command, and the Casamata and its surroundings with
the general Álvarez commanding the cavalry.
     At the tremendous push of the American forces, three actions followed. The
outbreak in the highlands; along the intermediate line, fruitless combat of the
infantries, on the buildings; on the third line and the aqueduct, very robust
fire. Everything wrapped in smoke, thunder and frightful shouting.
     In Notes for the history of the war with the United States, a quite
exact idea is given of the battle to which I now refer here; yet my personal
impressions cause to re-appear at this moment in my presence, León,
Balderas, Arrivillaga, Margarito Suazo, Gelati, and Miguel Echegaray.
     León, tall in stature, very brown, strong in flesh, serious in the
extreme, finds himself wounded, hides it, and when he falls he rises, raises
his voice and cheers México: they lead him to a cot, and he asks that they
cure him quickly so as to return to combat.
     Balderas, dragging himself with his sword held high, encourages his
soldiers, bleeding until he falls into the arms of his son Antonio. What a
pitiful scene! It splits the soul: the father, moribund, self-sufficient and
valiant, the son tremulous, drowning in grief, trying to keep his voice calm.
He was led to a shack near the little church of Chapultepec, where he expired.
     Arivillaga's story has for me something curious.
     Arivillaga was an ugly little watchmaker, flabby of flesh, with a crossed
eye, smiling mouth; the happiest, most helpful and honorable boy that can be
imagined. Whenever he had prepared some delicious sausage, he would bring out a
music box, would help decorate a table, a dance hall or a Good Friday altar.
     I associated with a salon of very appreciable people, to which came, among
others, Balderas and Manuel Balbontín, model patriotic gentlemen. In that
salon they sometimes called Arivillaga the pug, at other times the
captain, an allusion to a noble mastiff named that, but which had no
teeth, and this referred to Arivillaga's sweetness of character and his
inoffensiveness. He attached himself passionately to Balderas, and when the
general marched towards Molino del Rey, he declared his companion his
assistant, his feet and his hands, as one should say. Balderas took care not to
expose him to any danger. The pug guarded the equipment, provided the
food, kept watch over order, had the arms and the chief's horse ready, and was
beloved by everybody for his generosity and grace.
     As the battle of Molino was engaged, he anxiously followed the chief: when
the latter was wounded he was at his side when he fell; he threw down the
clothing and medicines that he had in his hands, recovered a sword from a
corpse, hoisted it, and uncontainable, frenetic, sublime in courage and
bravery, put himself ahead of a group of valiants, and charged the enemy; so
grand, so ardent and so irresistable that he re-established the battlefield
order, and riddled with injuries, verified his transformation into a hero of
that glorious time. Arivillaga died as the Palace watchmaker, and left a son, a
worthy heir to his father's name.
     Margarito Suazo was an extremely humble artisan, who became beloved in the
Mina Corps for his obedience and goodness, and thus he was designated the
     The day of the action, Margarito went beyond the fulfillment of duty. He
was mobbed by a large number and made a screen for bayonets, was left for dead,
grabbed his flag. Feeling he was dying, he took it, removed his clothes,
wrapped his flag around his body which spewed blood and expired.
     But more than Gelati, Colombris and Norris, the hero of that day was
     O, were I a painter! If I were a painter I would present that champion,
epic, glorious, with his white horse, floating like a golden vision, standing
in the stirrups, with his refulgent sword, advancing among clouds of smoke and
shrapnel raining from the cannons; trampling cadavers, advancing, firing, using
the sword, set against the cannons that the enemy had taken from us, regaining
them, superb, celebratory, radiant, and to his troops, obligating them to glory
so as to give to very defeat the grandiose proportions of triumph.
     Echegaray died poor, forgotten, with unmerited anathema: he rests in an
almost ignored tomb. I loved him with all my soul; I defended him with ardor. I
maintain and exalt his memory, swollen with pain from the injustices of

On the eve of the bombardment of Chapultepec, I had reason to review the points
now occupied by the enemies, as a preliminary to the assault and measure of the
alleged strength. In the wheat and powder mills the forces of Pillow were
hunkered, encircled at a short distance by the western part of the hill. To the
south formidable artillery could be distinguished, and staircases were seen to
climb and descend the area, like trampolines to the interior, with many forces
in the ranch of the Countess, in front of an outwork defended by Mexican
     In the port of Bosque, which served the Calzada, was general Santa Anna
with his numerous retinue of helpers, chiefs, officials, and many who
approached to ask instruction and receive their orders.
     On my return from the points I just described, I spoke with the colonel
Juan Cano, one of those who later was heroic in that assault in which he lost
his life.
     Cano was a man of 30 years, his head Germanic, Yucatanic, pallid, round-
faced, with some penetrating and happy eyes; a mouth full of jokes and
laughter. Of average stature, stocky and quick of movement. His intercourse was
simple, courteous and frank: farce and ceremony mortified him. That man who at
first sight might have passed as a happy colleague or good-humored socially;
he, loving to eat in the open air and jokes in good society, was reflective and
studious; his very exactitude, in his gentlemanly and decent fulfillment, stood
out to his friends, as a sign of informal confidence, informality and only when
duty required it did he make known his vast military knowledge and the outcomes
of his brilliant studies performed in Paris.
     Mr. Quintana Roo, his uncle, inspired his excellent studies in literature,
and I would be enchanted when in his moments of solace, he would elegantly
translate Tacitus for me and delight in Virgil.
     I had occasion to know the rare energy of Cano's character, through a
grave miff that exploded between himself and the generals Tornel and Santa
     General Bravo abandoned, as is known, victim of the envy and of the whims
of Santa Anna, left the higher part of the hill badly defended. Mr. Cano
ordered cannons brought.
     Santa Anna sent general Tornel and another lesser general, yet equally
fluent with language. Cano did not manage to make them comprehend, and when the
generals left, he said in a sarcastic tone:
     --I asked the general for cannons and he sent me lanterns...
     Santa Anna learned of it, called Cano to reprimand him, and he, with great
respect, yet with unmatchable energy, reproached the former for his unworthy
and not patriotic conduct in those circumstances.
     Cano died, providing an example of sublime, encouraging, serene, and grand
valor to those who remained defending the nation, on the high part of the hill.
There general Pérez also died, a very modest man, who executed almost
unperceived acts of bravery and abnegation, of whom history's silence could not
be enhanced.
     As I said, I was in the edge of the Forest near general Santa Anna, but
he, facing the fire with an open chest, and we sheltered in the ranger's
house. For this reason I have been able to add that in the so-called botanical
garden there were the families of students, whose clamor and anxiety spread the
fear; yet I can assure you that the most hard-fought combat was where the
monument is found now, and that great Xicoténcatl's demise and that of his
illustrious soldiers was a little beyond the wall and area where today the
building with the machinery for the handling of water is found.
     Concerning Xicoténcatl's soldiers, I will never in my life forget an
episode, tragic and sublime, that was imposed on my young heart.
     Fighting like lions, Xicoténcatl and his soldiers had died. General
Santa Anna anxiously followed the vicissitudes of that formidable encounter.
Suddenly I saw one of Xicoténcatl's soldiers come through the door; he
seemed a deserter, a coward; the soldier took large hurried steps, was pallid
and his eyes shone like flames.
     --Rascal! Coward!--shouted Santa Anna at him beside himself with rage. 
--Where is your colonel?
     The soldier came to a halt; he saw Santa Anna; without saying a word, two
tears fell from his eyes; he removed his hand from over his chest broken from
bullets and fell dead before the general.     

I was not there, nor could I take account of what occurred at the diverse
points where the combat unfolded, particularly on the South and South-east
sides. The position which I occupied permitted me to hear the often repeated
words given to don Santa Anna; the rumble of the cannons; the redoubled
discharges of the infantry; the shouts of the soldiers, the cries of the
wounded, the din of the branches of the trees breaking and the disturbance of
those who arrived from various directions with words and on stretchers.
     Santa Anna was genuinely valiant, wanting to attend to everything, not
succeeding, yet giving examples of valor in fear and encouraging the soldiers.
     --Those from the South are attacking. Xicoténcatl is engaging them.
     --Pillow and Quillman have already advanced... The furies were frustrated.
     --See for yourself, they are on the rooftop of the Castle.
     And that grief shattered my soul, to such a degree that I thought the pain
was going to kill me.
     And my woods, my enchantment, the nest of my infancy, my boyhood orchard,
my youthful play, my temple as a man.
     Every tree held a memory of mine; I had rubbed against every trunk like a
grandfather's chest; every bush had rocked me like the arms of a nurse. When in
the silence of the night I crossed those sites, lighted by the moon, I seemed
to be traversing an ethereal region, which communicated with eternity.
     With that precious woods so humanized, to see it hurt, injured, flattened
by the invader, tormented me like seeing the body of my father trampled and
     When the combat ended, as if the dams were suddenly opened, that contained
a torrent, our scrambled boiling troops hurried on the footpaths to
Verónica and Belén, in a tumult, in a stampede, in shouting and
confusion such as is easier to imagine than to describe.
     I barely remember in that frightful mix of men, arms, horses, bellows of
desperation and mortality, captain Traconis, with his curly hair and his
frenetic eyes beside Barreiro, whom we called the Spaniard for his
manner of speaking; and Comonfort, serene; García Torres and also don
Antonio Haro beside Santa Anna, behaving with commendable gallantry.
     Santa Anna thought of holding the little garrison of San Cosme; but that
point was guarded by general Rangel.
     Rangel was a light-skinned man, brave, of some scientific attainment. In
his youth not being able to pursue his studies, he became a printer in the
Palacio printshop [Then situated where the stables are today, next to the
entrance to the garden, in that time a botanical garden under the care of Mr.
Miguel Bustamante]; a Mr. Tornel knew him there, and assigned him an official
spot and encouraged him in his career.
     He went towards the small Belén garrison and Santa Anna, implied that
the latter abandoned general Terrés, outraged him and was crossed in the
face by his whip.
     Carrasco, at the Bucareli wellspring, performed with prodigious valor, as
did Béistegui, an officer of the Victoria batallion, with astonishing
intrepidness in a battery at Belén of the Mochas, today the Belén
     The troops, the city, the families leaving, the war trains and the mules,
the ambulance stretchers, and the unquiet surge of vagabond people, all
presented an image of chaos.
     Santa Anna had renounced the Presidency; Mr. Peña y Peña had
substituted for him, whom they told us was in Toluca, en route to
Querétero, and that there he would re-unite the Congress.
     Many deputies, and I among them, awaited the result of a War Council,
called by Santa Anna, with prayers on that night in the Ciudadela, in which
council would be decided whether the city would be defended or abandoned. At
the council were assembled: as President, Mr. Santa Anna; sir Lino Alcorta,
minister of War; the generals Pérez, Carrera and Betancourt, and Mr.
Olaguíbel, governor of the State of México.
     It is known that such councils are comedies as a general rule; they always
do what the chief wants, and the chief wanted to evacuate the city, despite the
judicious and patriotic observations of don Olaguíbel.
     Without attending to any issues, nor settling anything, Santa Anna spent
that night in Guadalupe, to where he took don Ignacio Trigueros in his vehicle.
     On the 11th the rest of our forces took the road to Querétero, under
general Herrera's command....
     Upon descending the steep and rocky China Incline was the
voluminous human current who had left Mexico City, and distinguishable behind
the horizontals, a park of steep mountains dominating green pastures, the
unexpected counter-intuitive carriages and horses, courtesan costumes, bonnets,
canopies, sherbet and luxury items, confusing colors, equivocal conjectures,
provoking enigmas and absorbing sorrow, it cannot be described.
     Leaders and servants, employed and homeless, happy damsels and mothers of
family overwhelmed with the child that they carried in their arms, the suitcase
and the pencil-case, the brazier to improvise food, and the guitar, like a mute
hope of future solace.
     Joined to the immense disorder, and tinging its ambience in a special way,
there marched in dispersion and like superhuman cattle, a swarm of beggars,
sellers of tortillas, biscuits, fruits, et cetera, appearing on foot or
horseback, and indians who seemed to sprout from the greenery, the shaking of
the earth and their hardships.
     Thus we cleaved Querétero, and the run-off from that inundation
swirled in the plazas, drained down alleys and gullies, and pooled in the
city's suburbs which, moved and as if with a spasm of surprise, opened their
hospitable arms to the guests, and spread traffic and noise into every corner.
     The inns, the private houses, the extensions and the shacks, overflowed
the woods, and seeing that many had no coat whatsoever, the convents were made
available, and those retiring saints entered, adding Jesus! to the
gatherings and mundane dealings.
     The governor, tall, pallid, ceremonious and dry, with his political
pretensions as executive of the cloisters, found space for rooms for the
president and ministers, and also for offices and quarters.
     The House of Diligence, then perfectly served and attended, was the center
for the most visible and well-off persons, like Godoy, Muñoz Ledo,
Cardoso, et cetera.
     Other leaders, with fame rigorously economic or with small fortunes,
occupied the Carmen, among the first being Lacunza and Lafragua, and the
seconds being Comonfort, Talavera and someone else.
     The wealthy of Querétero hosted their friends from Mexico City in
their houses, and the palaces, if they may be called that, of don Cayetano
Rubio, Figueroa, Samaniego, Domínguez, declared a perpetual feast for
themselves, regaling their guests.
     Taverns and cantinas, sites for mixing and meeting, multiplied up and down
the plazas, central roads and route in from the country.
     The courtesan chickens, pretending to be tourists, seasoned, arrogant and
countrified; the little scrupulous frightened chickens, with their individual
fashions, the joking of the chosen Quereterans, the tone of the head farmhand,
the insolence of the friar, bothered by the presence of those disrespectful
libertines; the infinite variety of outfits which formed playful mosaics; the
blanket and the leather, the smock and the shawl; the palm leaf hat the and the
ice; the whistle and tambourine of the wild music, the fiddle and the mandolin,
the cry of complainers and the querulous shout about shredded tamales,
everything formed a single vista for the eye.
     In the nature of things two political groupings formed, distinguished
without being hostile; yet in continual agitation.
     One of these groupings was that for Peace, advocated by the Council and
intimates of the government, and the other that for War.
     In the first, Lacunza and Lafragua stand out, who were called princes
of Peace and formed a circle in the home of Mr. Víctor Covarrubias, a
person of certain aristocracy, expansive, sociable, and obsequious. There
Lacunza and Lafragua went to reinforce their convictions with succulent snacks,
aromatic chocolate and biscuits for the famous in the population.
     The House of Diligences was the asylum for the partisans of war and blazed
with disputes, while imagination and patriotism forged plans, imagined
battles and the cause made another Sinai bloom amidst the thunder and
     In another house, Ponciano Arriaga, Pradel, Gabino Bustamante, and don
Pío Villanueva enjoyed particular esteem as editors of the newspaper that
defended the war.
     While those paragons of wisdom and patriotism commanded the attention of
the entire Republic, more obscurely, in a disjointed and narrow alley carrying
the name, Palm street, in a low, compact and badly arranged house, I lived with
my family, if not bordering on misery, in very intimate relation with scarcity,
worries and diseases.
     The little home had at its entrance a long narrow room like an umbrella
box; the walls shone for their nakedness and whiteness, and the door and window
that opened onto the street, whose ledge could be used as a reading bench, for
its lack of frames, scaffolds and windows restrictive of the freedom of the
     Rough tule chairs, as if embedded in the wall, a wide board arranged as a
map table, papers and books, glasses with pure water and ordinary candlestands
with wicks extinguished. We have here Fidel's bottom drawer and the
location of fervent budding politicians, military scientists with threadbare
and filthy uniforms, generous officers, and geniuses who brought benevolence to
the discussion illuminated with intelligence and perfumed with the most
delicate sentiments of patriotism.
     The salon was in the morning, presided by señor Pedraza, smoking and
rolling his cigar between index finger and thumb; Otero helped with a supply of
biscuits in his pants pockets; Crestfallen Iglesias followed Otero, scratching
his premature bald spot with his little finger.
     Alejo Barreiro, with his expressive mime, gave battle; Segura, whom we
called the Mayan, traced the airborne course of a mosquito, and Manuel
Payno spun a fantastic story full of salt, about the sneeze or howl of a
Comanche or the breath of a desperate nun.
     Each one frequently referred to each of their adventures and campaigns,
and this gave rise to the formation of Notes on the history of the war with
the United States, there engendered, there corrected and from there sent
upon its vigorous wings to review the country concerning the recent campaign
battles, producing from its authors sorrows, pains, broken bones, and hatred
between the fortunate class and the immortal three fourths, as the
clever called general Santa Anna....
     Activity and family groupings on one hand; on the other, meetings of
incandescent patriots; here, misery soliciting protection; there, youth
inventing pleasures, industries sprouting everywhere, celebrating agreements,
establishing relations and fanning the extraordinary galvanization which
nourished the inner lands of the Holy City, so-called because of its many
magnificent temples.
     Mr. Peña y Peña being installed as president, and although the
peace negotiations were very stealthily re-animated, commissioning señor
don Luis Cuevas and the lawyer don Miguel Atristán for them to have their
conferences in the village of Guadalupe with Mr. Trist, commissioned from the
United States, where Mr. Polk was president at that time.
     Now it is necessary to take a stroll through the extensive gallery where
those personages figure who became visible in that memorable outcome of the
peace and the war.
     Mr. Peña y Peña was a monumental person, and as someone said,
the incarnation of juridical science.
     A symmetrical fury, a viceregal face for its width and gravity, a stout
chest, meditative eyes, white with sharp sideburns and an atmosphere full of
majesty and composure.
     His leisurely voice, his imperative cough and his ceremonious ways, made
of him a type who required veneration from the persons of the altar and of the
     Visibly adhering to peace, because his upright conscience and exaggerated
opinion of American power so inspired him, his favorite advisers were: Pedraza,
Lafragua, Lacunza, Riva Palacio, and Rosa.
     The circle in which he found himself was strange to him, his atmosphere
had been with attorneys and clerics and great authors, the king don Alfonso,
Justinian and the Pandects, and his governing ideals, friar Payo de
Rivera and the count of Revillagigedo.
     Without malice nor worldview, without sufficient light in his brain to
confront the situation, he maintained power on tenterhooks, ready to release
     Mr. Peña was a fanatic, and his presence at the first Mass or with
the monks made it a solemnity, and likewise, his relations with people of the
church were very numerous.
     Señor Peña y Peña was born in the humble town of Tacuba
in 1789, performed brilliant study in the seminary, and occupied extremely high
posts since his early years. He married with señora Osta, son of don
Miguel, of a distinguished family, and lived many years on Calvary street, in
front of the Alameda.
     Mr. Peña y Peña died in 1850, and was given the most sumptuous
     In his intimate life, Peña y Peña was sweet and loving; Mr. don
Mariano Riva Palacio, who was his clerk, owed favors to his father.
     He passionately loved children and his mischief delighted them, even when
they threw themselves into the fountain in the patio of their house, on Corpus
Christi street, completely dressed.
     Don Pedro María Anaya. Flesh seemingly solid, rigid and ornamented,
tall, angular, dry, yellow complexion with baggy skin on his face, Roman nose,
large mouth, hairless as wet parchment, penetration and severity in the black
eyes, prominent cheekbones, frankness and noble promise painted upon his wide
and high forehead.
     Once they asked me who was don Pedro Anaya and I answered, almost without
considering it:
     --He is a stick figure with an angel's heart.
     He was serious and monosyllabic; rarely, very rarely, he was seen to
laugh. One knew it when he affected a dry cough peculiar to him, and his lips
sounded without his face changing, like the expressions of a cartoon fox.
     He was born in Huichapan in 1795, and took his place as a cadet in 1815.
And he was already a captain in 1821, when Independence was declared. He was
designated for the expedition to Guatemala, where his relations resulted in a
son. He was the personification of honor and probity, of very firm liberal
ideas; he separated from the course of the administrations of Bustamante and
Paredes, signed the dead hands decree, as the president of the Congress
in 1847, and earned immortal laurels at Churubusco.
     Mr. Peña y Peña, upon our arrival in Querétero, was the
dominant character, even though his duration in power would be very short, and
he, with his good faith, accelerated that by procuring the reunion of Congress
at all costs and with diligence.
     From my notes of those days, which I soon copied, it turns out that the
personages whom I graded most influential for the outcome that events would
take, were the following, that is to say, in what is ostensibly public, in my
domain, and according to my way of judging things:
     Don Manuel de la Peña y Peña and don Pedro María Anaya,
     Attorney Miguel Atristáin and don Luis G. Cuevas, commissioners for
the treaty of Guadalupe.
     The Commission for Relations, charged with ruling for peace or for war
(the Chamber of Deputies).
     The lawyers José María Jiménez, Teodosio Lares, Marian
Macedo, J. M. Lacunza.
     These spoke for the war:
     Lawyers Manuel Muñoz, from Chihuahua; Trinidad Villanueva, of
Jalisco; Ramón Pacheco, of Jalisco; Rodríguez, Prieto, Doblado,
Guanajuato; Arriaga, from San Luis; don José María Cuevas.
     These spoke for peace:
     General Micheltorena, Lares, Lacunza, general Mendoza, Payno, attorney
Hilario Elguero.
     Voting for the opposite:
     Aguirre, Arriaga, doctor Juan N. Bolaños, Anastasio Cañedo,
Cardoso, Cuevas, Doblado, Prieto, Urquidi, Guillermo Valle, Siliceo,
Fernández del Campo, Granja, Herrera, Zavala, Mariscal, P. Jesús
Ortiz, the deputies who spoke in favor of war.
     In the Senate they voted only for the war.
     Attorney Octaviano Muñoz Ledo, Fagoaga, Fernando Ramírez
Morales, Robredo, Otero, Mr. Bernardo Flores, Mr. Miguel Aristáin. I knew
or dealt with don Atristáin very little. Blond, pale and with limp hair,
eyes spying behind thick gold glasses, large mouth and rough, sharp nose.
     He spoke badly in a monotone, and distinguished himself by his probity and
     He was born in Oaxaca, and I have the idea that he studied at San
Ildefonso, without distinguishing himself as a student.
     A certain celebrity came to him for being the representative in the great
negotiations the Mackintosh offices held and that of don Francisco Iturbe with
the government, and for his marriage with a sister of ecclesiastical sir
Berazueta, of powerful influence in the clergy.
     The interests which he represented put him in contact with the government,
and from that was born his interference with the peace treaties. Santa Anna
paid him particular attention and confidence, and left his wife at the
latter's house, upon undertaking his operations against the Americans.
     Hilario Elguero.... Mr. Luis Cuevas....

Mr. Jiménez was a native of Puebla.
     Dark, with a large head, bulging eyes, a wide back, a regular massive
body. Exceedingly profound in jurisprudence and theology, he spoke slowly and
methodically, with a sweet voice and rolling his ll like a good Pueblan.
     In the court his discourse was logically distributed, chaining his
syllogisms and producing words reminiscent of the pulpit. In ordinary dealings
he was clever and witty, and with his friends refined and obliging.
     Don Teodoro Lares, round-faced, dark-haired, a little red, with glasses
and a smile, was born in Aguascalientes, performed his studies in Guadalajara
and located in Zacatecas as the director of the Institute.
     His erudition was vast, he wrote correctly and spoke with a pronounced
rustic accent, of very weak character and a great admirer of the partisans of
the conservative party, he fell into the Empire and had to perform important
roles, in reality being a well-educated colleague without pretensions.
     The lawyer Macedo, a dandy, a fop, a face without spots or wrinkles,
chiseled features as if drawn from a mold of perfect elegance.
     A dark complexion, a glance that sweetened the glasses, thin black
sideburns, an extremely sweet voice.
     First in his observances of women and persons of respect.
     Mr. Macedo, whom all the world called don Marianito, out of love, a native
of Guadalajara, he did not have the slightest tinge of the rustic, on the
contrary, he seemed dapper and ceremonious, as if walking on tiptoe. Of
closed belief, his relations were with the people of the Church and political
     In the courtroom he was methodical and measured; in business was
calculating, decisive, and in intimate dealings, of incomparable refinement.
     Ultimately Macedo belonged to the moderate party; yet he had intimate
friendships which he knew how to conserve with exquisite finesse and
     Macedo's office was highly accredited, and when he was in the Congress, he
already had a reputation, through the exalted unjustly accused him of
conservatism, because though a liberal, he did not follow the banners nor did
he like to compromise his independence.
     Upon lifting the veil to present this portrait of Ponciano Arriaga, I feel
incapable for two reasons: the first, because I am partial, partial like with
Cardoso, with Ramírez, with all those who were rays of light for my soul
and the lifeblood of my most intimate affections. It was loving the ugly, it
appears beautiful, and when one loves the beautiful, what will happen?
     As for the other, the phases of Arriagas intelligence and faculties were
quite varied, so that when he would pass through a gallery of different
aspects of eminent authors: he laughs with Goya's drunks and rubes, delights
in the Madonnas of Rafael and Murillo, becomes nervous over the battles of
Salvator Rosa, trembles at the sinking of the Novara, and is amazed at
Zurbarán's oracular friars.
     Thus with myself and Arriaga in his study, silently meditating, I admire
him. In Guanajuato, challenging Arista, he scares me; opposing Comonfort's coup
of State, he overcomes and subdues me; makes me happy in traditional fandangos;
in court he enchants me; as a patriot he is a handsome ideal; as a friend,
without comparable type nor more enriching tenderness.
     Ponciano was born in San Luis: there he underwent his studies and held
chairs with great enlightenment.
     An enthusiast of the Independence and passionate for everything Mexican, I
got to know him at some special bullfights where two teams of fighters were
formed, one of Spaniards and the other of Mexicans.
     In his bullfighter's costume, in a thousand details, he asserted a certain
competence that spoke vividly of the self-love of some for the others.
     Given the bullfight; every bull fell to a different team. The public were
converted into factions who applauded frenetically.
     The Spanish team, due to their wealth and their good selection of horses
and riders, was in a lather.
     The turn of the Mexicans arrived, and they used the pic and cape
admirably, with flowers raining, galas and entertainment abounding in the
     When Arriaga placed the banderillas, the imported bull followed him to
undertake harm; the banderilla man was going to be called, when he heard some
whistling from the Spaniards; then Arriaga returned against the bull, with such
daring, with such fury, so unexpectedly, plunging the banderillas and falling
over them, that the bull ran away frightened, the spectators shouting, Viva
México! in the midst of the trumpets and reveilles.
     Such circumstances gave him so much popularity that the unhappiest took
pride in being friends with don Ponciano, who always served them with the
greatest care and disinterestedness as a free lawyer and incomparable ally.
     When the revolution of religion and land exploded in 1833, Ponciano
established a most vehement periodical with other students, and the newspaper
became more assertive and bloody when Arista was already in Guanajuato
as a measure against the ire of Santa Anna.
     The newspaper of the influentials told Arriaga, intimidating him, that
they hoped he would repeat his little braveries before the cannons of
Guanajuato. Arriaga enlisted in the national guard, marched to Guanajuato, and
at the height of the bloody taking of Guanajuato, fighting frightfully, shouted
from a trench:
     --Tell Arista that here is Ponciano Arriaga, he of the little braveries in
the Guanajuato newspaper.
     Arista saw that trait of Arriaga whom he did not know, and from then on
maintained profound esteem for him.
     Tall, thin, angular, with small eyes, with smallpox scars on his face, a
ragged beard and hair that revealed stripes of his bald spot, a voice which
came out quite sweet and vibrant from between his white teeth.
     He had extreme nervousness: he would mount the tribune awkwardly
vacillating, trembled upon entering into actions like Massena and passed his
right hand over his forehead as if to draw out the ideas, yet imperceptibly his
voice would clarify, his neck straighten, he would turn his face to the sides
and confront his listeners; then he did not perspire, nor was his eloquence
hurried, yet proceeded by fits and starts; yet with ideas so energetic, so
convincing, like a battering ram which with each blow seemed to topple with a
clatter the wall defended by his enemies.
     And this same man, among his friends, modest and humble, brightened the
group, animated the dance and convened the poor to give them something to eat
during the domestic fiestas. Arriaga with Gabino Bustamante and Pradel
published the war journal in Querétero.
     The attorney at law don Manuel Doblado. The curtain rises.

Boyhood At the foot of a high hill is a playful and content little village, a river's murky waters and its numerous springs, the tower extending its neck to view the plains and little low houses with doors and windows painted white and paved in front. Notice here and there a remnant of a banquet under the sign of a food hall and another with a lantern, whose green glass seemed more like traps than paths for the light. In the solitary streets, passing by with white breeches, muleteers and majordomos on thin long-necked horses, each one equipped with their tame saddle horse, its saddle garnished with silver, and some young men on his lively and spirited beasts, and for Corpus and San Juan a road carriage like a wardrobe, with its shirts, floating on pillows and possessions wrapped in a bundle and their children beneath the box, in the hammock, showing their heads like a nest of woodswallows. For someone who reads this who knows little of our people, the picture will be completed with vagrant hogs crossing the roads, small burros free in the quiet passageways or letting loose erotic braying, and groups of dogs in packs. One or another carriage that creaks with wheels laboriously turning, a shortcut for donkeys or for mules who raise the dust. In that theatre, then in the year of our Lord 1833, there cavorted an extremely poor boy, yet of an honorable family, as agile on the ground as ready for a brawl, and in first place at the school, really without a second in relating the life and miracles of Peter Quixote, who served as altar boy for the parish or enchanted the adults officiating the Communion or the rosary. Poverty had fallen fully upon the Doblado family, to the extent of occupying the boy in very secondary work, and in the days of which I am speaking, his occupation was tending a plot where his parents had a bit of barley and beans. At that time he made a visit and passed through the town which was none other than San Pedro Piedra Gorda, in the state of Guanajuato, where the celebrated bishop of Michoacán, sir Juan Cayetano Portugal, lived nearby, to whom the Doblado youngster was presented, as a phenomenon of talent and application. Mr. Portugal spoke to him, asked him questions about his studies and finished by giving him some coins, telling him: --I bless you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost; you will be one of the most eminent persons in my nation. That prophecy lifted Doblado's reputation to fifth heaven, such that when, by virtue of a law in the state of Guanajuato, Piedra Gorda was asked to supply a poor youth who had the best qualifications in school, without hesitation Doblado was designated, who mounted upon an old horse damaged in hooves and loins, and left the paternal home, amidst the benedictions and tears of his relatives. After being in school a short while, the blessed boy from Piedra Gorda occupied first place in his lessons, and distinguished himself by his skill in play and pranks, his complicity in pilfering the pantry, his amorous participations and his reserved, bold, ambitious, subtle, and extravagant character. The schoolboy advanced rapidly in his studies; he was, without exaggeration, consultant and chief; yet scarcity crippled him, hunger weakened him, but although displaced and deceived, he did not reach the point of asking for help with his necessities. One night when the moon was shining, illuminating the school ballgame where there were various youngsters hearing stories told, a singular inspiration occurred to Doblado's surprising intelligence, and to effect something stupendous he exclaimed... --That happened to me the fifth time that I died. --How does that figure--said some. --Just what you heard, yet more extraordinary. --Tell us! Tell us! --With two conditions. --Let us see what they are. --The first, that the first to interrupt me with impertinences will be expelled from the circle. --And the second? --That if you appreciate the relation and want it to continue, you should give me something for my expenses, for paper and the supplies I need. Agreed? --Agreed. --Then listen. And the youths formed a circle in the dirt, fell silent, and listened in the profoundest silence with shouts and barking from beyond the walls of the school. --Actually I do not know my origins, nor know who were my parents; I presume that I come from the Antarctic pole and I assert, as I will prove in its time, that God gave me the special art of reviving after being buried, in another land, with another new name and in a new infancy, youth and old age, experiencing new and marvelous adventures with each rebirth, with the ability to remember the past with complete clarity, as you are going to see if you lend me your attention; so the prodigies, the wind and storms, their secrets, the earth, its miracles, the waters and its intimacies, caverns and caves, have confided to me. In those varied phases of my life, I have been a troubadour and a warrior, priest of various sects, sailor and astronaut, judged perverse, and been at the gates of canonization as a miraculous saint. Impassioned lover, happy spouse, inconsolable widow... In the end, I have been everything and want to inform you of all...stopping for now because I find myself tired, and some memories cloud my eyes with tears and seize my voice... Doblado fell silent, and their silence followed his muteness. At first, the boys wanted to interrupt with jokes, then listened, later, moved, surrounded the narrator. His words were so simple, the coloring of his narration so beautiful and so interesting, his aplomb so great, that even those persuaded they were dealing with a fable were astonished by that miracle of improvisation. They embraced Doblado, and placed him for the next night and rained coins into his hand, imploring him to continue with his story. On the next night all the youths gathered punctually and curious to hear Doblado, they lay their coats on the floor in a semi-circle in front of the botadera, the prominent seat of the narrator. Silence was re-established, and the storyteller cemented his pending role thus: "One of my tales, or better said, that which I remember best, concerns a swan white as snow, who I know not why came into a great hall like Peter through his own house; the duck had a wide rear, which jiggled as it walked; but most singular was that it cried like a baby and almost articulated human words in an unknown language. "The participants of both sexes who occupied the hall were quite unique: on the men's heads could be seen little tiny shrubs and green branches that shaded their faces, and on the heads of the women lovely precious flowers on stems that deliciously adorned and guarded their heads. "At the presence of the marvelous goose, all the participants showed amazement: one, agitated by the pained cries, unleashed his dagger and stabbed the flank of the swan with it; as it opened in the midst of the white plumage the blood that fell become carnation petals, and there appeared, smiling, a white child, blond, gurgling, reaching his precious little hands towards one of the women who was no one less than the queen, who covered it with kisses and caresses. "Almost immediately after that scene, the queen sank completely to the floor with her new acquisition, and the same occurred with other persons prominent, in my judgment, by the richness of their clothes. It so happened that that hall was connected to a Palace which one reached or communicated with underground through the very luxurious rooms of a royal habitation, and in the walls were doors and machinery, through which those magical and sudden disappearances were achieved. "Gymnastic exercises in that, my country, commenced from a very early age, and consisted of trapezes and very high swings that were subjected to more or less arbitrary adjustments, according to the tastes of the teacher. "There were flyers like those of the Aztecs and, lastly, small balloons which propelled a boy a short distance at an extraordinary velocity. "All those exercises were accompanied by that which served as horses, being gigantic ostriches, domesticated and trained as our horses; those immense birds worked for the travelers and for the troops, with horses prohibited except for in the cities and on the paths, such that long trips were by air with great violence and comfort, and those horses of the air had a certain aspect of grandeur and majesty impossible to describe. "The great rows of collosal birds hanging in the clouds, the standards and flags, the apparatuses to transport the wounded and descend to earth, the music, everything was unexpected and fantastic. "Of course there were the well-known wise men who set the days for combat so that no downpour or hailstorm might transform the war plans. "After a thousand marvelous adventures and occupying very eminent positions in the State, in a battle the narrator, who had the name of Kerchuffs, was killed and was depicted painted on a huge kite that rose in the air during those days of great troop formations in space." When the narrator concluding his relating that night, enthusiasm overflowed, he was passed in triumph throughout the school and the name of Doblado was pronounced with fanatical admiration, raining down tips, obsequies and considerations. When the examinations approached, our friend, who won the first prizes, suspended his presentations, and when the vacations took the youths to the hearths of their families, the fame of that extraordinary colleague, an abyss of grace and elegance, was spread. News of Doblado's miraculous adventures had reached the rector of the school, and when the boys returned to continue their studies, he advocated the continuation of the stories by our new Guzmán de Alfarache or Lazarillo de Tormes. Doblado organized the meetings attending to his tips and began one of his thousand transmigrations with the name of Motetes. He was a curly-headed boy, dark, with black eyes, alert movements, valiant and generous, a good son and very excellent friend, yet with such a stupendous imagination for mischief and devilry that neither in the past nor in present times has a rival been recognized. The hat with the crushed upper, the shirt insolently open, the bright pants supplied with a sash... with bread and cheese in one bag, in another a top or a vulgar carving out of bone. Once an enormous dog attacked him, and as it leapt, Motetes dropped onto all fours and barked and growled at the dog, such that the canine turned tail and ran away frightened. In a quarrel that he had with an apothecary, the latter pursuing him with a stick, the boy jumped onto the counter and standing on it shouted at the enemy: Not one step more, or I will topple and turn every jar in the pharmacy into pieces. With which the pharmacist withdrew from battle. He spoke to a vendor in the street, to see the effect produced, asking him if he was selling... --Yes, lad. --Well console yourself, because others are not, and he ran away. He retaliated on a musician who bothered him thus: smearing wax on the strings of his violin, so that the artist could not play due to overflowing bile. And he introduced a piece of ice into the trumpet so it sounded untuned. And he would begin eating lemon gesticulating in front of the flutist, who with watering mouth could not proceed. On one occasion he joined the chorus of a church, and with consummate subtlety and dissimulation split the folds in the bellows of the organ. When the occasion required it, they were to give a full tone but produced a noisy and ridiculous snoring that drew horselaughs from all the faithful Christians. Or he entered a haberdashery very seriously, to ask whether they had shoes for mosquitos or little pistols to kill fleas; or would shout "fire" at the chocolate vendors, a negative allusion to the flames beneath the vat that warmed the substance. To tie a bell to the tail of a dog, and cause it to run crazily; to make shoes for a cat out of nutshells, so that it would totter in walking; to tie a paper to the tail of another cat and see it turning mad circles; for these Motete was unique in his genre. And the enthusiasm of his listeners rose so high that Doblado adopted the name of Motetes, remembered to this day by the few school companions who survive. The rector decided to listen to Motetes, but concealed this by being seen with other colleagues, yet thus he acknowleged him. That night Doblado spoke of the porous condensation or consolidation of a cloud, which he inhabited converted into a floating island, and where amazing things happened. And the style was so gala, the interest he gave to the narrative so profound, the coloring of his story so alive and poetic that the good rector was on the point of declaring him a supernatural wild child, to plagiarize a description made of Victor Hugo. With true astonishment, and in a familar conversation, the rector spoke of Doblado to a great madam, as opulent as she was beautiful, and as intelligent as generous. The rich matron promised the rector to disguise herself and place herself so as to hear Doblado. That night, in who knows which of the lives that Doblado painted, orphaned, hurting, he was picked up by some bold mariners navigating in tempestuous seas. A tremendous shipwreck occurs, which the narrator divinely describes, as Byron did in Don Juan, like Pereda, like the most courageously inspired poet. Exhausted, surging with the waves, he lost consciousness... and upon recovering found himself on a very silent sand bank, without a tree, without water, without any incidental that might offer life... The shipwrecked was totally naked but left around his neck was a medal of the Virgin Mary, a legacy from his sainted mother. He took the medal from his neck, placed it on the sand and knelt to kiss it; upon placing his lips on it, the ground gave way precipitating Motetes head-first into a very deep hole, and scaling the walls of that abyss, some rocks fell, and extending a hand, he became convinced he was on the first level of a spiral staircase. He then went up fearlessly, began to perceive fragile and very white glimmers, ascended more and more, and suddenly dressed through the art of a miracle, he found himself in the center of a delicious orchard, full of lovely branching trees, with sounding cascades and beautiful flowers, with a perfumed freshness in the air in which painted butterflies twirled and one heard the very sweet songs of melodious birds. From the heart of a source of very clear crystals, without even a trace of humidity, a sprite emerged so dazzling in beauty, with such a sweet gaze and so lovely an attitude, that it would have required an ad hoc soul to admire and to love it. He called to the sprite and it said: --Take this little gold key, look for a spot that is before you, in which the hole for that key is encrusted, open the plate, which will transform into a door opening upon the habitation that I give you in reward for your love of God, of your parents and for your talents, and also for your noble ambition to be useful to your nation and to your family; I will never abandon you. The youths attended to what the sprite said, and it said such tender and heartfelt things that the narrator could barely be heard amidst the sobs of those surrounding him. The grand matron, companion to the rector, withdrew without saying a word, supplicating her friend that the next Sundy he should send Doblado under whatever pretext to her house. He was in effect a lucky schoolboy; the lady took him to her room and said to him: --I am the servant of the sprite that you saw in the vision, and this (showing him a key) is the key to your room, so follow me. Doblado followed the steps of the matron and found a perfectly equipped apartment, with shelves and books, tools for cleanliness and everything imaginable for the comfort and well-being of the young man. --You are in your own house, here you shall live, here you will crown your career and find a second mother. Thus Doblado joined that opulent family, thus encountering a generous protectress whom he loved and revered throughout his life and thus was his entrance into the wide world.
We shall have occasion to occupy ourselves more carefully with this personage. When he went to the Congress of Querétero he was 30 years old. He was blond with small, yet very lively, blue eyes; of small mouth and very refined lips, of medium build but well-built and agile, very neat in his dress and with the habits of a grand gentleman with one and pleasing peon with another. The attorney Mr. José María Cuevas. The family of the Cuevas clan originated in Lerma, the father or grandfather of don José María being the owner of the very wealthy ranch of Mayorazgo, from where his opulent fortune, influence and relations were garnered. He performed brilliant studies in the School of San Ildefonso, and said that the Jesuits, for whom all his life he professed profound admiration, had educated him, and whose maxims of morality or conduct in the strict sense of the word he frequently cited in his ordinary conversation. Dark, a handsome and wide forehead crowned with scarce and dispersed hair, a well-proportioned nose, slightly curved, a withdrawn mouth, with fine lips and graceful movements, a light beard that shadowed his face without communicating roughness. He always walked with his head tilted towards one shoulder, and in his seat he seemed doubled over and as if asleep. He approached the court with a certain timidity that looked like fear, his voice was opaque and seemed to demand attention and silence. His speech was an eloquent spontaneity, like a clear current beneath ripples; he had the quirk of stretching his neck from his shirt and of repeating, as an aside, punctuating his peroration: well sir, well sir. He never appeared motivated by applause or signs of censure; he never aimed at his enemies, naming them by name: he was the diplomat of the tribune. In society he was affable and enchanted by reminiscences of school, did not know vanity and referred to his defeats in the forum in a simple and frank manner. Although his exterior was deceptive with something of the monastic invalid, he was a notable hunter, skilfully handled weapons and his reputation as a rider was well-founded. Mr. Cuevas married at a young age with the Etanillo girl, a most beautiful woman of angelic virtues. At home Mr. don José María was sincere and forthcoming with his friends; frank and loving, a gallant gentleman to his wife with unsurpassed tenderness towards his children. He observed his religious practices without prudery and made of his family the ornament of our society. In actuality, señor Cuevas was a moderate liberal, which is to say, that in his convictions he held to liberal principles, except those that he thought caused injury to his religious beliefs and the immunities of the Church. The decision and firmness with which he defended those charters caused the higher-ups to consider him affiliated with the conservative party as an enemy of independence, which was highly unjust and belied by proofs of his patriotism. The hall in which the Congress re-united in Querétero performed their sessions was situated in the building called the Academy, looking onto one side of the opulent temple of San Francisco. It was, properly speaking, a large oval gallery with a single door and without large window or skylight, the ceiling a stone dome, the floor paved and a small window in the back with its iron grate. Against the wall, and descending to the floor, there was along a wide walkway that ran across the middle of the oval rough tiers of carved limestone where chairs were placed for the deputies. I seem to be seeing the hallway: in the center of the upper tier was placed the canopy, the table for the president and the secretaries who were in front of a huge Holy Christ with the enormous silver pitcher at the foot of the cross. Beneath the canopy I see the bust of Mr. Jiménez Caberón, dark, bulging eyes, where what should be the whites of the eyes, was red. To the left of the line, in first place, Doblado, with grey hair, small eyes, sparse beard and pointed nose; there in the front, Elguero, white, sunken cheeks, with his handsome black eyes and his large mouthful of marble dentistry; over there is father Madrid, a bishop, with his crimson cassock, thin, wearing glasses on a yellowing monkish invalid's face; don José María Cuevas was one sunk into the collar of his shirt, supporting his cheeks with his hands and with dark green spectacles which seemed to isolate him from the world. He would remain in the session silent and bowed, his bald patch looking like a priestly crown. Arriaga, his hair arranged to conceal the baldness, an open and frank forehead, small, black eyes, of untold boldness, scarred from smallpox, a moist mouth and fine shining teeth; he was like the champion of grace. Micheltorena sat not far away, with his large hairpiece like that of a cloak-and-dagger duke of comedy, random grizzled curls upon his temples, very refined and measured, suggesting his valor though his indolence in speaking of great dangers, and his science through the digressions when he constantly examined the sky, because astronomy was his favorite passion. His mode of speaking pompously reverberating, even in familiar conversation, did not correspond with his natural modesty. --What would be good--he would be asked--for a monument to Hidalgo, sir general? --Durable marble or eternal bronze--he responded with the greatest naturalness, as if he described the cooking of a stew in oil and vinegar or with mustard sauce. Micheltorena was brave to the point of forgetting about mortality. At the height of the battle of Angostura, he did not arise from the cot where he was. He distractedly took up a book and did not let it go until he finished the chapter, almost surrounded by the enemy. The public crowded the wide portals of the hall, on foot with their faces and heads in waves. There was no hall for relief, nor anything resembling it, such that the deputies rested on foot against the wall, and there had their conversations, consultations and altercations. Before proceeding, I wish to refer to an incident of great influence to the spirit of those who vacillated in good faith between voting for the peace or for war. When the government arrived in Querétero, Mr. Peña y Peña called a meeting of governors to determine the resources that the states could put at the disposition of the government, given the case that the Congress should decide in favor of the war. The meeting convened with the number of governors who could be re-united, with one of the ministers presiding, and using Zarco and myself and secretaries. Some of the governors were represented by persons chosen by themselves. Some notables from the junta were Ocampo for Michoacán, the lawyer Adame for San Luis Potosí, and Mr. Mesa, governor of Querétero. The elements which the states could provide were genuinely meager, as they all suffered due to the war; rents could barely provide the most basic necessities, procedures were in complete paralysis, the camps abandoned, the roads deserted. Nevertheless, Guanajuato, Michoacán, San Luis and other states declared they would exert themselves, arguing the advantages of the war and how justified were the great sacrifices of the nation. The turn of the governor of Querétero arrived, a person of great dignity and the oracle of the high Queréteran clergy. Mr. Mesa was tall, thin and upright, as if built from a plank. A white tie and a thick cane with a gold handle, handkerchief curiously folded, with a gold smokers box. He spoke deliberately and pompously, displaying much ceremony and circumspection in actions and words. Mr. Mesa began his discourse with some statistics of Querétero, full of puns, in which true jokes were hidden, uttered with the utmost formality. He concluded offering his pleas for the agreement of the government; prayers which, as Zarco said, could not be inventoried as war materials. Perhaps because the same Mr. Mesa could not remain content with the set of prayers or anything else, in a reflexive act he said: --I could offer the gathering a lovely piece of artillery, which I have no doubt would be very useful; but it is the case that it has had to be loaded with stones for a long time, so that the opening is lopsided, such that if fired to the right it aims the bullet to the left. That explanation, which had all the marks of the ridiculous, profoundly outraged Ocampo, who unable to contain himself said to me: Consider, Mr. secretary, that the state of Querétero will contribute Ambrosio's carbine to the war. The gathering soon dissolved itself, without any success, serving only the allegations of those who opted for peace. The answers of the commissioners of Guadalupe, although truncated, incomplete and in pieces, enlivened the restlessness and put the fears and hopes on display. Among the partisans for the peace, there were the refined egotistical rich, who lamented the loss of their comforts, their theatre, their walks, and the flattery to their positions. They painted ruins without advantage, impotent, cowardly and afraid, exaggerating the height of the horses and the reach of the spears. The yankees were imagined with giant hands, mouths where half a bull could disappear in one swallow, and herculean or supernatural strength. --It is not possible, that fight is foolhardy; our sacrifice would be sterile. The partisans of the war outlined our resources for the struggle and our immense loss. With them were joined the sapos, the bullies, the swordsmen, and braggarts, and each center of conversation was a field of Agramante. At last, the sessions of the re-united Congress opened, that act transforming the circumstances and the religious silence very solemnly. The half-oval of tiers was occupied by the deputies; on foot and to the door onto the street, the multitude was jammed, ordered, silent; the men with uncovered heads and attentive like in a church. Of the orators who took the floor, I remember only don Hilario Elguero, who spoke in favor of peace and Mr. José María Cuevas, who declared for the war. We already have described Mr. Elguero; he was, during the years in which he spoke, sick. He waveringly approached the tribunal, pallid and with his right arm over his stomach, which was his undoing. The metal of Elguero's voice was extremely sweet with delicate and expressive vibrations. To the extent that he spoke, his physiognomy quickly colored, and his handsome eyes accented, realized and embellished his thought. The orator had his pretensions, a Ciceronian flavor to his discourse, undoubtedly because of his familiarity with the Latin writers; but his images were resplendent and of great originality. With imperceptible artifice, he presented his decision for peace, as if torn by his emotions, by his convictions, by his personal manner of feeling; he had to wipe his Mexican pride from his forehead and generate tears of humiliation in order to sacrifice everything to the good of his country. Every paragraph, every vocal inflection of the orator, was avidly followed by the multitude, as if it leapt to move the auditors...and by painting the Nation on its knees due to the spoliation of its glories and its sons, it seemed that the air of the Chamber groaned and the walls cried. It was not a rapt eloquence, nor was it feminine weakness, but the sincere sentiment of a sensitive patriot of great heart and goodness; yet misled by the hallucination of the power, perhaps exaggerated, of the enemies. When the peace treaty was discussed, the attorney Mr. don José María Cuevas, who had consistently opined in favor of the war, was found ill in bed, and even so he supplicated the president, by means of an envoy, not to concede the floor to those against, protesting that we would appear when his turn came; the president scheduled him for the end of the debate, in due consideration of his infirmity. The debate reached its end, one day with the afternoon ending. The area of the Chamber was very gloomy, with its smooth walls and its stone vault. The limited number of lightbulbs had been distributed, due to the configuration of the hall, in a way so that the faces of the deputies could only be seen as exhumed from abysses of darkness, and the multitude that was gathered from the middle of the hall to the street was perceived as a wall which roared and moved, and that communicated a deaf accent of murkiness and the unknown. The silence imposed a terrible majesty onto that picture. Unexpectedly, and without the slightest noise, the wall obstructing the door of the hall opened and gave passage to a stretcher, with its white canvas like marble, and upon it a person wrapped as if in a morgue, in a long cape with a fur collar, from which was displayed a handsome head like bronze, with its hair thin, its forehead august and its glasses green, who communicated to his handlers a certain cadaver-like immobility. That body outstretched on the cot was the attorney Mr. don José María Cuevas. All the deputies got onto their feet. The cot was deposited near the first step, and the spectre descended from that sort of coffin and remained standing at the podium. The president said, after the deputies had become seated: --Mr. Cuevas has the floor. Mr. Cuevas approached, even healthy, the tribunal, with a certain limp; his voice was extinguished and with a certain trace of a cold; he had the obsession of pulling, while speaking, on the collar of his shirt, and again repeating, well sir, well sir, as usual, but on exhaling he was transfigured, his voice was vibrant and sonorous, and his habits disappeared. In the midst of a sepulchral silence, señor Cuevas began his speech, and was growing robust, animated, until exploding in an overflow of ideas, in magnificent tempests of sublime concepts, in inspired, incredible revelations of patriotism. That sort of illusion came from the lips of the subjugator and the sublime. The Chamber listened at first attentive, afterwards surprised, finally maddened by that map of eloquence. The deputies left their seats and surrounded the orator at his side and on foot on the tiers. The speaker, tall, upright, omnipotent, with his words traversed the extensive gamut of his feelings, now sweet and persuasive, now terrible, now complaining and hurting from abandonment... O, never in my life have I heard a display of words that made a deeper impression. The deputies, pale, their eyes shining with tears, their lips parted anxiously, their bodies tremulous, listened like shadows who obeyed a magical invocation. The orator finished speaking and fell as if lifeless upon the cot... and then, as if dealing with a father's love for a child or a glass entity, they surrounded him, they covered him and bestowed blessings on the man who had become adorable. The deputies disputed the honor of taking him to his house on their shoulders and without knowing how, a procession of candles and torches was mobilized that accompanied the orator until his house. The peace treaties were ultimately ratified and approved, and the emigrants returned to the capital with more contentment and anxiety than they had had upon arriving to Querétero.