English-language travel writing about Mexico goes back to the notorious Thomas Gage — the renegade monk turned Cromwellian propagandist, and has always been full of cliches and “ango-centric” views of the country. Although travel writing didn’t really take off with Gage, and had to wait until the late Victorian Age to find it’s genre, one of the pioneers of the art, Ethel Brilliana Tweedie (“Mrs. Alec Tweedie”) discovered something that still seems to surprise the English language writer: Mexicans are delighted to have their country written about, but want to remind the author to keep us in perspective.
From Mexico As I Saw It (1901):
After luncheon, a short swarthy man stepped forward, bowing low, and addressing the Goveror in Aztec, he asked if he might say something to the English lady; his name was Florentino Ramirez, and he came from the village of Tetlama. Of course, permission was at once granted. He stood opposite to us, surrounded by all those Indians, and though only a young man — perhaps, twenty-two or three years of age — he spoke as to the manner born. He was neighter shy nor awkward: his voice was loud and clear, and the determined expression of his dark face denoted his descent from some great race. His words were more or less as follows:
“I am spokesman of the neighbouring villages. When we heard our beloved Governor was coming, accompanied by a lady from such a far-away land, we felt proud. We are honoured that anyone should come to see our ruins, and we thank you, Señora, from the bottom of our hearts, for you must have undertaken a long and tedious journey to come so ar to see our Xochicalco. That you are going to write a book about Mexico delights our hearts, and we have come from far and near, and done our best to bid you welcome and manifest our gratitude. We are only ‘the people,’ but we have hearts and sympathies, and both have been aroused today by the visit of Colonel Alarcón and the English authoress. You have come from a land of great civlisation to visit our wild country; but. Señora, you must remember that five thousand years ago, when England was unknown, our ancestors raised those ruins,” and he waved his hand with a theatrical air as he spoke, and pointed proudly to the fortress.