Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/245

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is a view too grand for simple description, too vast, even, for an artist to grasp and depict on a single canvas; and I hesitate to attempt more than separate portions of it at a time.

We occupy the central portion of a valley in the Cordilleras of Anahuac, fifty-five miles in length by thirty in breadth, and enclosed by a wall of mountains two hundred miles in circumference. This rugged barrier circumscribes our view in every direction; amethystine hills of lovely hue, without a break or change in color except far to the southeast, where the two great volcanoes raise their snow-covered peaks to heaven. Between us and them is spread every variety of surface that ever rejoiced the eye of an admirer of nature, in the hills crested with groves, the plains and valleys gemmed with lucent lakes. The great Lake Tezcoco, which formerly surrounded the city, lies now at a distance of three miles from it, sleeping in the sunshine, with the haze of distance enwrapping its farther shore. This is the salt-water lake; farther south are the fresh-water bodies of Xochimilco and Chalco. The hills nearest us are those at the base of which the church and chapel of Guadalupe are built on the north, and of Chapultepec, lying to the west. Both points are historic, the one in the comparatively modern days of the conquest, the other in its connection with ancient peoples and scenes of recent days.[1]

In looking over this vast valley, and the wide area of denuded meadows that surrounds the city, we cannot avoid the conviction that the early chronicles were truthful in their descriptions of Mexico as having been built upon an island. Various doubters have affected to disbelieve this fact, even though every proof is present that the surroundings could afford, aside from the statements of many writers. The Aztec chronicles state that they made their permanent stay on an island, or group of islands, northeast of Chapultepec, and the writings of the Spaniards who were eyewitnesses to the events attending the destruction of the old city and the founding of the new positively assert that both were upon an island intersected

  1. See Frontispiece, for an accurate engraving of Anahuac, or the historic Valley of Mexico.