Mexican Twins - Lucy F. Perkins

Judas Iscariot Day

[Illustration] from Mexican Twins by Lucy F. Perkins


One day, later in spring, in the week just before Easter, Dona Teresa got ahead of the red rooster. It happened in this way. Early in the morning, when everything was still as dark as a pocket, and not a single rooster in the neighborhood had yet thought of crowing, Dona Teresa woke up and lighted a candle. Then she went over to the Twins' mat and held up her candle so she could look at them. They were both sound asleep.

"Wake up, my lambs," said Dona Teresa. But her lambs didn't wake up. Dona Teresa shook them gently. "Wake up, dormice! Don't you know this is Judas Iscariot Day, and you are all going to town? Come, we are going in Pedro's boat, and he has to start early."

Tita began to rub her eyes, and Tonio was sitting up with both of his wide open the moment Dona Teresa said the word "boat." They bounced out in a minute, and they even washed without being told, and they used soap, too!

Pancho was roused by the noise they made. He got up at once and went to attend to the donkey and to Pinto. When he opened the door the gleam of Dona Teresa's candle woke the red rooster. He began to crow, and then all the other roosters crowed, and almost right away candles were glimmering in every hut in the village and every one was up and getting ready to start to town.

Everybody was going. Some were going on horseback and some on donkeys; more were walking, and as it was many miles from the hacienda to the town it was necessary to start very early.

The quickest way to go was by boat, but, of course, not every one could go that way because there were not enough boats. Pedro's boat went back and forth every day between the hacienda and the town, carrying wood and all kinds of supplies. He was a friend of Pancho's and that was how they were so fortunate as to be invited to go with him.

Dona Teresa got breakfast very quickly, and while they were eating it they heard a voice calling, "Here, buy your Judases—at six and twelve cents—your Judases."

"There comes the Judas-seller. Run, children, run," cried Dona Teresa. "You may each have twelve cents and you may buy two little ones or one big one, as you like."

The Judas-seller had a long branch cut from a tree, with little twigs growing out of it. On each twig hung a "Judas." They were small dolls, with sticky pink-painted faces and sticky black-painted hair, and they were dressed in tissue paper. The hands of the Judases were stuck straight out on each side and from one hand to the other there was a string stretched. Fire-crackers were hung along on this string. When these fire-crackers go off, one after another, they set fire to the Judas and burn him up.

You remember that long years ago, when Jesus was on earth, He was betrayed by a man named Judas Iscariot, who sold Him to his enemies for thirty pieces of silver. In Mexico, Judas Iscariot Day is kept in remembrance of this, and all the Judases which the people buy and burn up are to show how very wicked they believe the real Judas to have been.

But the Judas dolls didn't look the least bit as the real Judas must have looked. Some of them were made to look like Mexican donkey-boys and some like water-carriers, while others represented priests, or policemen, or cowboys.

Tita couldn't make up her mind whether to buy a donkey-boy or a policeman. But Tonio found what he wanted right away. It was a "Judas" made like a thin young school-teacher! Tonio thought it looked like the Senor Maestro, and he thought it would be very pleasant to see him burn up, and so, though he cost twelve cents, he bought him at once.


When Pancho and Dona Teresa and the Twins were ready they went in a little procession to the lake-shore. They found Pedro with his wife and baby and Pablo already there.

This was the very same Pablo on whose feet Tonio had put the lizard. He was Pedro's son.

Pedro was loading the boat with bundles of reeds. They were the reeds used for weaving the petates  or sleeping-mats. The reeds grew all about the lake, but the people in the town could not easily get them, so Pedro had gathered a supply to sell to them.

The boat was quite large. It had one sail and there was a thatched roof of reeds over the back part of it. It was too large to bring into the shallow water near the shore, so Pedro had rolled up his white trousers and was wading back and forth from the boat to the beach, carrying a bundle of reeds each time and stowing it away under the thatch.

[Illustration] from Mexican Twins by Lucy F. Perkins

Pancho at once took off his sandals, rolled up his trousers, and began to help carry the bundles, while Dona Teresa and the Twins sat on the sand with Pablo and the baby and their mother.

There was a large sack of sweet potatoes lying on the sand beside Pedro's wife. You could tell they were sweet potatoes because the bundle was so knobby. Besides Tonio felt of them.

"What are you going to do with your sweet potatoes?" asked Dona Teresa.

"I'm going to cook them in molasses and sell them," said Pedro's wife.. "I shall sit under an awning and watch the fun and turn a penny at the same time. The baby is too heavy to carry round all day, anyway.

"I'll help you," said Dona Teresa. "Very likely I shall be glad enough to sit down somewhere myself before the day is over."

"Pedro made me a little brasero out of a tin box," said his wife, "and I have a bundle of wood right here, and the syrup and the dishes, all ready."

When the reeds had all been put on board, Pancho took Tonio in his arms and Pedro took Pablo, and they tossed them into the boat as if they had been sacks of meal. The boys scrambled under the covered part and out to the bow at once, and Pablo got astride the very nose of the boat and let his feet hang over.

Then Pedro lifted Tita in.

It was more of a job to get the mothers aboard, for Pedro's wife was fat, and he was a small man. Pedro shook his head when he looked at his wife, then he took off his sombrero, and scratched his head. At last he said, "I think I'll begin with the baby."

He took the baby and waded out to the boat and handed her to Tita, then he went back to shore and took another look at his wife. "It'll take two of us," he said to Pancho.

"I'm your man," said Pancho bravely. "I can lift half of her."

So Pedro and Pancho made a chair with their arms, and Pedro's wife sat on it, and put her arms around their necks, and they waded out with her into the water.

They got along beautifully until they reached the side of the boat and undertook to lift her over the edge. Then there came near being an awful accident, for Pedro's foot slipped on a slimy stone and he let her down on one side so that one of her feet went into the water.

[Illustration] from Mexican Twins by Lucy F. Perkins

"Holy mother!" screamed Pedro's wife. "They are going to drown me!

She waved her arms about and jounced so that Pancho almost dropped the other foot in too, but just in time Pedro shouted, "One, two, three, and over  she goes," and as he said over, he and Pancho gave a great heave both together, and in she went all in a heap beside Tita and the baby.

While she crawled under the awning and settled herself with the baby and stuck her foot out in the sunshine to dry, Pancho and Pedro went back for Dona Teresa. She wasn't very stout so they got her in without any trouble.

They put in the brasero and all the other things, and last of all Pancho and Pedro climbed on board themselves, hoisted the sail, and pushed off. Luckily the breeze was just right, and they floated away over the blue water at about the time of day that you first begin to think of waking up.


Even with a good breeze it took nearly an hour to sail across the lake. If they hadn't been in such a hurry to see the fun in town, the Twins and Pablo would have wished to have it take longer still.

Far away across the lake they could see the town with its little bright-colored adobe houses and the spire of the church standing up above the tree-tops.

As they drew nearer and nearer, they could see a bridge, and people passing over it, and flags flying, and then they turned into a river which ran through the town, where there were many other boats.

It took some time to find a good place to tie the boat, but at last it was done, and the whole party went ashore and started up the street toward the open square in the middle of the town.

Pedro and Pancho went ahead, each carrying three bundles of reeds on his back. Then came Pedro's wife with the bag of sweet potatoes, while Dona Teresa carried the baby. Pablo had the brasero and the wood, and Tonio and Tita brought up the rear with the molasses jug, the cooking-dishes, and their Judases all carefully packed together.

"Now, mind you, Tonio," said Dona Teresa as the procession started, "don't you get to watching everything in the street and forget that jug of molasses."

[Illustration] from Mexican Twins by Lucy F. Perkins

It was pretty hard to keep your mind on a jug when there were so many wonderful things to see. In the first place there was the street itself. No one had ever seen it so gay! Strings had been stretched back and forth across the street from the flat tops of the houses on either side, and from these strings hung thousands of tissue-paper streamers and pennants in all sorts of gorgeous colors.

The houses in Mexican towns are close to the street-line and stand very near together. They are built around a tiny open space in the center called a patio. The living-rooms open on the patio, so all that can be seen of a house from the street is a blank wall with a doorway, and perhaps a window or two with little balconies. Sometimes, if the door is open, there are glimpses of plants, flowers, and bird-cages in the little patio.

Pablo and Tonio and Tita had their hands full, but they kept their eyes open, and their mouths too. They seemed to feel they could see more that way.


It was not very long before they came to the public square or plaza of the town, and there on one side was the church whose spire they had seen from the boat.

On the other side was the market-place, and in the center of the square there was a fountain. In another place there was a gayly painted band-stand with the red, white, and green flag of Mexico flying over it.

There were beds of gay geraniums at each corner of the square, and large trees made a pleasant shade where people could sit and watch the crowds, or listen to music, if the band were playing.

Pedro and Pancho went straight across the street to the market side. There were rows of small booths there, and already many of them were occupied by people who had things to sell. There were peanut-venders, and pottery-sellers; there were women with lace and drawn work; there were foods of all kinds, and flowers, and birds in cages, and chickens in coops or tied up by the legs, and geese and ducks,—in fact, I can't begin to tell you all the things there were for sale in that market.

Pedro found a stall with an awning over it and took possession at once. He and Pancho put down the bundles of reeds in a pile, and. his wife sat on them. Pedro placed the brasero on the ground in front of her, and the sweet potatoes by her side. Pablo put down the wood, and Dona Teresa put the baby into her arms. Tita gave her the cooking-dishes, and Tonio was just going to hand her the jug, when bang-bang-bang!—three fire-crackers went off one right after the other almost in his ear! Tonio jumped at least a foot high, and oh—the jug! It accidentally tipped over side-ways, and poured a puddle of molasses right on top of the baby's head!

It ran down his cheek, but the baby had the presence of mind to stick his tongue out sideways and lick up some of it, so it wasn't all wasted.

[Illustration] from Mexican Twins by Lucy F. Perkins

Dona Teresa said several things to Tonio while the baby was being mopped up. Tonio couldn't see why they should mind it if the baby didn't.

At last Dona Teresa finished by saying to the Twins and Pablo, "Now you run round the square and have a good time by yourselves, only see that you don't get into any more mischief; and come back when you're hungry."

Pedro and Pancho had already gone off by themselves, and as they didn't say where they were going I can't tell you anything about it. I only know they were seen not long after in front of a pulque shop (pulque is a kind of wine) talking in low tones with a Tall Man on horseback, and that after that nobody saw them for a long time. It may be they went to a cock-fight, for there was a cock-fight behind the pulque shop, and most of the other men went if they did not.


The Twins and Pablo with their precious Judases went to a bench near the fountain, and sat down to watch the fun. There were water-carriers filling their long earthen jars at the fountain; there were young girls in bright dresses who laughed a great deal; and there were young men in big hats and gay serapes who stood about and watched them.

[Illustration] from Mexican Twins by Lucy F. Perkins

There were more small boys than you could count. Twelve o'clock was the time that every one was supposed to set off his fire-crackers, and the children waited patiently until the shadows were very short indeed under the trees in the square and there had been one or two explosions to start the noise, then they tied their Judases up in a row to the back of the bench. They hung Tonio's Maestro in the middle, with Tita's donkey-boy on one side and the policeman on the other. Pablo's Judas was a policeman too, and they put him on the other side of the donkey-boy.

Then Pablo borrowed a match from a boy and set fire to the first cracker on his policeman. Fizz-fizz-bang! off went the first fire-cracker. Fizz-fizz-bang! off went the second one. When the third one exploded, the policeman whirled around on his string, one of his hands caught fire, and up he went in a puff of smoke.

They lighted the fuses on the donkey-boy and the other policeman, both at once, and last of all Tonio set fire to the Maestro Judas. He was the biggest one of all. While the fire-crackers went off in a series of bangs, Tonio jumped up and down and sang, "Pop goes the Maestro! Pop goes the Maestro!" and Tita and Pablo thought that was so very funny that they hopped about and sang it too.

Just as the last fire-cracker went off and Tonio's Judas caught fire, and all three of them were dancing and singing at the top of their lungs, Tonio saw the Senor Maestro himself standing in front of the bench with his hands in his pockets, looking right at them!

[Illustration] from Mexican Twins by Lucy F. Perkins

Tonio shut his mouth so quickly that he bit his tongue, and then Pablo and Tita saw the Maestro and stopped singing too, and they all three ran as fast as they could go to the other side of the square and lost themselves in the crowd.

They stayed away for quite a long time. They were in the crowd by a baker's shop when a great big Judas which hung high overhead exploded and showered cakes over them. They each picked up a cake and then ran back to show their goodies to their mothers. They could hardly get near the booth at first, because there was quite a little crowd around it, but they squirmed under the elbows of the grown people, and right beside the brasero eating a piece of candied sweet potato, and talking to Dona Teresa, whom should they see but the Senor Maestro?

Tonio wished he hadn't come. He turned round and tried to dive back into the crowd again, but the Senor Maestro reached out and caught him by the collar and pulled him back. Tonio was very much frightened. He thought surely the Maestro had told his mother about "Pop goes the Maestro," and that very unpleasant things were likely to happen.

"Anyway, there aren't any willow trees in the plaza," he said to himself. "That's one good thing."

But what really happened was this. The Maestro took three pennies out of his pocket, and said to Pedro's wife, "Please give me three pieces of your nice sweet potatoes for my three friends here!"

Pedro's wife was so busy with her cooking that she did not look up to see who his three friends were until she had taken the pennies and handed out the sweet potatoes. Then she saw Pablo and Tonio and Tita all three standing in a row looking very foolish.

She was quite overcome at the honor the Maestro had done her in buying sweet potatoes to give to her son, and Dona Teresa thought to herself, "They really must be very good and clean children to have the Maestro think so much of them as that." She thanked him, and Tonio and Tita and Pablo all thanked him.

After that there was a wonderful concert by a band all dressed in green and white uniforms with red braid, and at the end of the concert, it was four o'clock. Pedro's wife had sold all her sweet potatoes by that time and Pedro had sold all his reeds. Pancho had come back, the baby was sleepy, and every one was tired and ready to go home. So the whole party returned to the boat, this time without any heavy bundles except the baby to carry, and sailed away across the lake toward the hacienda.

Pancho and Dona Teresa and the Twins reached their little adobe hut just as the red rooster and the five hens and the turkey were flying up to their roost in the fig tree.

[Illustration] from Mexican Twins by Lucy F. Perkins