Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/255

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A RAMBLE AROUND THE CITY.

man is delighted with verdure and the bloom of flowers, which clothe the valleys and brighten the gardens. At the close of this season the migratory birds arrive from the north; great flocks of ducks and plover, which betake themselves to the lakes and marshes, where they afford an abundance of food for the Indians and much sport to the denizens of the city.

Even long journeys are pleasantest in this season, especially in the northern portion of the republic, except for the occasional disadvantages of swollen streams and flooded roads. By timing the hours of travel so that a start is secured before daylight, and halting by the middle of the afternoon, the rains are avoided, as they invariably fall between noon and sunset, except at the beginning of the season. In a journey of above a thousand miles on horseback, through Southern Mexico, in the height of the rainy season, myself and companions got wet scarcely a dozen times, though in the saddle every day. In the city of Mexico, the encircling mountains, by their position and great height, precipitate many showers that do not fall in places outside the valley, as in Puebla, for instance, which has a much smaller rainfall.

From the contiguity of the mountains to the valley, also, the rains here assume a violence that at times is tremendous, filling the streets of the city, and flooding the parks and plazas. In a single shower, lasting but an hour or so, I once saw the main street of Mexico filled knee-deep, and every one caught out in it had to hire a coach with which to reach his home. This was owing not only to sudden precipitation, but to the defective drainage of the city, which would not allow of the carrying away of the water in sufficient volume. Even the contents of the sewers were floated into the streets, and washed into the doorways of many stores and dwellings. On the occurrence of such sudden rainfalls, the porters of the city transform themselves into beasts of burden, and carry ladies and gentlemen from one crossing to another, for a few centavos, on their backs. They are rascals, many of them, who have been known to suspend an unlucky passenger above the water till he agreed to give a generous douceur for the privilege of landing, or keep