Page:The Rambler in Mexico.djvu/143

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dition states to have been the case on various occasions prior to the conquest; and even since the seventeenth century, the waters of Tezcuco have risen to such a height, that the city has been greatly endangered by it, most of the streets on one occasion remaining many feet under water for between four and five years consecutively.[1] The pavement of the Plaza Major itself, the highest ground in the city of Mexico, is several feet lower than the surface of Lake Chalco.

Nevertheless, such is the combined effect of the extraordinary evaporation from the dry and naked surface of the table land, raised above the clouds, and fully exposed to the sun's rays; the diminished power of replenishment; the decreasing infiltration, from the destruction of woods and forests both on the plains and the surrounding mountains, laying the unprotected soil bare to the action of the ardent sun and rarified air; and lastly, the effect of the artificial means employed by the Spaniards two centuries ago, to carry off the super-abundant waters of the lake to the northward, that all the lakes have retired on every side into narrower limits, and the surface of Tezcuco in particular has become circumscribed far within its original bounds.

The present shore is already 14,763 feet from the centre of the city, which it once surrounded; and on every side, as I have described, wide flats and marshy meadows mark its ancient bed.

The great Hacienda of Chapingo, which we reached shortly after noon, lies some miles distant from the shore of the lake, directly opposite Mexico. By the circuitous route we had taken, that city lay about nine leagues distant, but as the bird flies, it could not have been more than eleven or twelve miles. The intendant of the hacienda, to whom we had brought a letter of introduction, was from home; but we were courteously received and entertained by one of the upper domestics of this spa-

  1. A.D. 1553, 1580, 1605—1607 were years of inundation; and on June 20, 1627, the capital was laid under water from such a combination of causes, and remained so till the year 1634.