Elsie Clews Parsons: Inventing Modern Life

By Desley Deacon | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIFTEEN
Elsie's Lifework--Con Amore

DURING Parsons's final visit to Mitla in the 1933 spring, with the intricate patterns of Indian and Spanish cultural threads worked out to her satisfaction, she was able to concentrate on the sort of work she loved best--capturing the flavor of contemporary Mitla life. Allowing herself to be reabsorbed into "this vivid but very objective Mexico where the rest of your life falls away from you so completely," she moved decisively from being a diffusionist to being a modernist. "Just now I am describing it in some thing like what at college we called daily themes," she wrote John. A few weeks later she was engrossed in what had become her chapter on town gossip: it was getting quite novel-like, she wrote, "full of murder and intrigue and could not be published if there were a Mexican libel law or pueblo folk read books." From Mitla she wrote to George Young, who replied with amusement: "You seem to have been enjoying Mexico in your own way--which is the only way of enjoying anything. You were, I remember, one of those travellers that delighted in discomfort." "Yes--I would make good copy out of you," he concluded, no doubt referring to Herrick's book, "if I weren't a British Baronet."1

Parsons found much changed in Mitla after her two years' absence. Eligio had become catrín (citified), wearing a homburg instead of his broad-brimmed black felt hat, his shirt tucked in, rather than tied in front, and his trousers held up by a leather belt. He was also chewing gum. He was pleased to report that many changes had taken place since Parsons's last visit. A federal school had been established; the school children had made a garden in front of the town hall; a stage had been erected in the plaza; basketball was all the rage; and a plebiscite had been held to elect the town president at the direction of the state governor, who had also banned mayordomías. "Ya es moderno, now it is modern," Eligio told Parsons approvingly--"no more costly mayordomías, no more costly wed

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