| Chapter V -- Punishment|
The old man was right. The townspeople and white men return in a vengeful mood. Finding the village deserted, they break in the doors, looting what little they find and they burn a house. Here and there a cat, the animal that attaches itself to the house rather than to the inmates, hurled itself over a wall and raced into the woods. Even the trees in the orchards and yards were so still as to heighten the emptiness of the forsaken homes. The look that epidemics stamp on Indian villages when the inhabitants are exterminated because of negligence, ignorance and helplessness, hung now over the cluster of hovels that the authorities had invaded.
A conversation between the town president, secretary and schoolteacher ensues. The topic is the Indians, their inferiority, their opposition to progress. The proposed solutions to this 'problem' range from genocide to 'cross-breeding' to education, which will lead to assimilation.
Many different Indian tribes are both isolated from and hostile to one another, divided for centuries by language and customs, united only rarely in their hostility and mistrust of the descendants of the conquistadors.
| Schoolteacher and secretary argue:
Schoolteacher -- "Descended from a single trunk; a race, even though they speak different languages."
Secretary: -- "Go on! A race in fragments, almost completely scattered, without bonds among itself, ignoring itself completely, without knowing in what part of the country there are other men who would even understand its words! . . .What is there in common between the Otomi, who live on the central mesa, who struggle against the cold, drinking pulque, and sleeping in ashes, who live in sheds roofed with maguey waste and eat reptiles and bugs, and the Totonac, of clean customs and brilliant past? What affinity do you find between the taciturn Tepehua and the pig-headed and quarrelsome Huichole? The inhabitants of this very region, descended from a strong branch, the Nahoa, do they even know the name of the rancheria inhabited by others like themselves on the other side of the sierra?"
Schoolteacher -- "That just proves that we have had them bowed over the furrow so long that they haven't had time to look at the horizon."