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La Navidad en las Montañas

"No one who knows not the Mexican Indian village can appreciate theheroism of the man, who, born of
Indian parents, in such surroundingsattains to eminence in the nation. It is true that the Aztec mind iskeen,
quick, receptive; true that the poorest Indian of that tribedelights in things of beauty; true that the proverb
and pithy saying intheir language show a philosophic perception. But after all this isadmitted, the horizon
of the Indian village is narrow; there are fewmotives to inspiration; life is hard and monotonous. It must
indeed be adivine spark that drives an Aztec village boy to rise above hissurroundings, to gain wide
outlook, to achieve notable things.
"Ignacio M. Altamirano, a pure Aztec Indian, was born at Tixtla, Stateof Guerrero, December 12, 1834.
The first fourteen years of his lifewere the same as those of every Indian boy in Mexico; he learned
theChristian Doctrine and helped his parents in the field. Entering thevillage school, he excelled, and was
sent at public expense in 1849 toToluca to study at the Instituto Literario. From that time on his lifewas
mainly literary,—devoted to learning, to instructing, and towriting. From Toluca he went to the city of
Mexico, where he entered theColegio de San Juan Letran. In 1854 he participated in the Revolution.From
that date his political writings were important. Ever a Liberal ofthe Liberals, he figured in the stirring
events of the War of theReform, and in 1861 was in Congress. When aroused he was a speaker ofpower;
his address against the Law of Amnesty was terrific. Partner withJuarez in the difficulties under
Maximilian, he was also partner in theglory of the re-established Republic. From then, as journalist,
teacher,encourager of public education, and man of letters, his life passedusefully until 1889, when he was
sent as Consul-General of the Republicto Spain. His health failing there, he was transferred to
thecorresponding appointment at Paris. He died February 13, 1893, at SanRemo. His illness was chiefly
nostalgia, longing for that Mexico heloved so much and served so well.
"Altamirano was honored and loved by men of letters of both politicalparties. His honesty, independence,
strength, and marvelous gentlenessbound his friends firmly to him. He loved the young, and ever
encouragedthose rising authors who form to-day the literary body of Mexico. Heever urged the
development of a national, a characteristic literature,and pleaded for the utilization of national material."
[Footnote 1: Published by The Open Court Publishing Co.,
Chicago, 1904.]
A Vd., mi querido amigo, a Vd. que hace justamente veinte años, en estemes de Diciembre, casi me
secuestró, por espacio de tres días, a fin deque escribiera esta novela, se la dediqué, cuando se publicó por
primeravez en México.
Recuerdo bien que deseando Vd. que saliese algo mío en "
El Álbum
" deNavidad que se imprimía, merced a los esfuerzos de Vd., en el folletínde "
La Iberia
" periódico que dirigía nuestro inolvidable amigo Anselmode la Portilla, me invitó para que escribiera
un cuadro de costumbresmexicanas; prometí hacerlo, y fuerte con semejante promesa, se instalóVd. en
mi estudio, y conociendo por tradición mi decantada pereza, no medejó descansar, alejó a las visitas
que pudieran haberme interrumpido;tomaba las hojas originales a medida que yo las escribía, para
enviarlasa la Imprenta, y no me dejó respirar hasta que la novela se concluyó.
Esto poco más o menos decía yo a Vd. en mi dedicatoria que no tengo a lamano, y que Vd. mismo no ha
podido conseguir, cuando se la he pedidoúltimamente para reproducirla.
He tenido, pues, que escribirla de nuevo para la quinta edición que va ahacerse en París y para la sexta que
se publicará en francés.
Reciba Vd. con afecto este pequeño libro, puesto que a Vd. debo elhaberlo escrito.
PARÍS, Diciembre 26 de 1890