Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/256

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him in this defenceless position till a companion has found and got away with his purse or watch.

From its great elevation, combined with its geographical position, Mexico (the city) has a most perfect climate. Except for the local influences, previously mentioned, the atmosphere is dry and pure. Many people affect to suffer from the rarefaction of the air; but it is believed that, if they had been transported here without knowing of the change of altitude, they would breathe as easily as at the coast. The air is so transparent that objects at a distance seem close at hand; many writers have noticed the deceptive appearance of the hills, which can be seen at the termination of every street as though within an hour's walk, when in reality twenty miles away; and the two great volcanoes, though seemingly within cannon-shot, are all of fifty miles distant.

The brisk electric condition of the air may account for the animation of the people, both native and foreign residents, who are always stirring, except at noon, and always cheerful. Despite the exhilarating atmosphere, to breathe which is a perfect delight, there is a universal cessation of active business at noon, (though morning is early devoted to work, and evening to recreation,) as the siesta imperatively asserts its claims, and everybody retires for an hour or two to couch or hammock. The longest day of the year being but thirteen hours, and the shortest eleven, this almost equal division of time between day and night greatly facilitates plans for business and amusement. Everything goes on with clock-work regularity, and the inhabitants of the great city rise, eat, work, snooze, dance, and retire at stated hours. Honest men profit by this regularity to despatch their labors with their fellow-men when they are most accessible, and after dark those who are not honest know where and when to find victims to fleece or murder, without losing sleep, or shivering all night in the cold.

With this brief digression, as explanatory of the sanitary condition of the city, let us continue our sight-seeing. Having started with the plaza mayor, it would perhaps be well to work outwards from it, and take the most distant places last. Diago-