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V


They entered the streets of Juchipila as the church
bells rang, loud and joyfully, with that peculiar tone that
thrills every mountaineer.

"It makes me think we are back in the days when the
revolution was just beginning, when the bells rang like
mad in every town we entered and everybody came out
with music, flags, cheers, and fireworks to welcome us,"
said Anastasio Montanez.
"They don't like us no more," Demetrio returned.

"Of course. We're crawling back like a dog with its tail
between its legs," Quail remarked.

"It ain't that, I guess. They don't give a whoop for the
other side either."
"But why should they like us?"
They spoke no more.

Presently they reached the city square and stopped in
front of an octagonal, rough, massive church, reminis-
cent of the colonial period. At one time the square must
have been a garden, judging from the bare stunted orange
trees planted between iron and wooden benches. The
sonorous, joyful bells rang again. From within the church,
the honeyed voices of a female chorus rose melancholy
and grave. To the strains of a guitar, the young girls of
the town sang the "Mysteries."

"What's the fiesta, lady?" Venancio asked of an old
woman who was running toward the church.

"The Sacred Heart of Jesus!" answered the pious
woman, panting.

They remembered that one year ago they had captured
Zacatecas. They grew sadder still.

Juchipila, like the other towns they had passed through
on their way from Tepic, by way of Jalisco, Aguasca-
lientes and Zacatecas, was in ruins. The black trail of
the incendiaries showed in the roofless houses, in the
burnt arcades. Almost all the houses were closed, yet,
here and there, those still open offered, in ironic contrast,
portals gaunt and bare as the white skeletons of horses
scattered over the roads. The terrible pangs of hunger
seemed to speak from every face; hunger on every dusty
cheek, in their dusty countenances; in the hectic flame
of their eyes, which, when they met a soldier, blazed
with hatred. In vain the soldiers scoured the streets in
search of food, biting their lips in anger. A single lunch-
room was open; at once they filled it. No beans, no tor-
tillas, only chili and tomato sauce. In vain the officers
showed their pocketbooks stuffed with bills or used
threats:

"Yea, you've got papers all right! That's all you've
brought! Try and eat them, will you?" said the owner,
an insolent old shrew with an enormous scar on her
cheek, who told them she had already lain with a dead
man, "to cure her from ever feeling frightened again."

Despite the melancholy and desolation of the town,
while the women sang in the church, birds sang in the
foliage, and the thrushes piped their lyrical strain on
the withered branches of the orange trees.





The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela
Category:
General Fiction

Mexico - History - 1910-1946
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