Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/342

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
334
TRAVELS IN MEXICO.

day-dreams of Venice, and that sort of thing, until all at once he finds that the canoe has ceased gliding, and he looks out and sees his degenerate gondoliers engaged in a struggle to the death with a mud-bank, and stirring up with their setting-poles—for the true gondolier in the American Venice does not paddle, but poles—such an accumulation of unutterable odors, that his very hair stands on end with surprise. Then the gondola is pushed away from the mud-bank and glides some more; and all the while other boats are passing and repassing, and making it lively and wholesome on that canal.

To a man with strong nerves, if he can survive an hour without drawing a full breath, this boating on the canal is a protracted delight. Aside from the picturesque crowd on the banks, there are boats crowded with Indians indulging in native dances and playing native airs on guitars and rude instruments. A party of them will charter a flat-boat and convert it into a miniature ball-room, while the lookers on along the banks, and even the boatmen, will dance to the music as they run along the boat with their setting-poles.

Down near the end of the paseo is a bust of Guatemotzin, the unhappy Emperor of the Aztecs for a brief period,—long enough, however, to witness the destruction of his nation. Repenting that their ancestors should have caused him the trouble they did, that they should have murdered millions of his subjects, that they should have burned his feet to a crisp for nothing, that Cortés should have finally hanged him in the wilds of Yucatan, the descendants of the conquerors have made all amends in their power by putting Guatemotzin on a perpetual bust. He looks out over the eastern plains, toward the rising sun, whence came the Spanish demons that made a hell of his paradise.

Still the gondola glides over the green waters of the canal, between green banks lined with trees, beneath a rude and arched bridge of stone, over more water and amongst swarms of boats, to Santa Anita. Here one disembarks, and passing through a miserable mud village takes another canoe, and is poled among the "floating gardens."