Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/249

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inundation. It has passed through several floods, the severest of which was that of 1629, which great inundation lasted till 1634; boats passed through the streets as of old, and, though the most holy image of the Virgin of Guadalupe was brought into the city for the purpose of drying up the waters, it was a long while before they subsided, and chiefly through the influence of earthquakes.[1] At the corner of the street of San Francisco and the Callejon del Espiritu Santo—Alley of the Holy Ghost,—there is the golden head of a lion, grim and dumb, that marks the height, about six feet, reached by the waters in 1629.

TLM D249 Relative levels of lake and city.jpg


There was a physical cause for these periodical floods in the comparative levels of the city and the lakes that occupy a goodly portion of the valley of Tenochtitlan, or Mexico. In the Plaza de Armas you may find to-day a monument (that was only unveiled in the summer of 1881) to one of Mexico's great hydrographers, containing on its four sides the heights of the lakes of the valley, the stage of the water in Lake Tezcoco, and other information of a hydrographic nature. There are six of these lakes;—Chalco and Xochimilco, the southernmost, whose levels are ten feet above that of Tezcoco, the largest and nearest, but six feet below the pavement of the city at ordinary stages of water; San Christobal, a small lake north of Tezcoco, and Xaltocan and Zumpango, in the northern end of the valley, at an elevation of twenty-five feet above the city. In order to save the city, it was considered necessary to divert the waters of Lake Zumpango—which flowed into Tezcoco, a lake without an outlet, and were a perpetual menace to the capital—in another direction, through the mountain wall

  1. The city itself has been seven times inundated, in 1446, 1553, 1580, 1604,1607, 1617, 1629; and five times partially submerged, in 1620, 1630, 1748, 1819, and 1865.