Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/361

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THE GRAND PASEO.

when he arrives in Mexico is a place to go to,—some house, hotel, section of the city, or quarter where his fellow-countrymen most do congregate. He cannot find it here; he wanders about like a cat on a strange roof, seeking a pleasant, home-like place, but finding it not. There is no hotel here that suits him; not one even on the American plan. The Iturbide, because it is central, grand, and gloomy, has been most patronized; but it does not meet the wants of its guests in a way our great hotels in the States would. There has been a constantly increasing need of a quarter where the stream of Americans could settle and form the nucleus of such winter homes as exist in Florida and the South. This has at last been found. It is on the outskirts of the city, yet within its limits and within gunshot of its busy streets.

The grand drive divides a level tract of land lying between the two great aqueducts that supply the city with water. One of these comes from a point leagues away among the hills, where the old convent of El Desierto is situated; the other conducts the water from the sweet springs of Chapultepec. Both start into view from the base of this rocky hill to the westward, but diverge, one taking its course nearly due east, along that road down which dashed the American soldiers, in '47, as they stormed the San Cosme gate, the other trending more to the south, striking nearer the heart of the city. Between these ancient monuments of the past lies the most beautiful stretch of plain in the Mexican valley, smooth as a floor, covered with short sweet grass, low and flat, yet gradually rising to a level much above the city.

It lies west of the city, the only land available for building sites till the distant hills are reached; its drainage is perfect, through the city and into Lake Tezcoco. The reader of Mexican history will remember that, when Cortés had destroyed the Mexico of the Aztecs, it was proposed to build the new city either at Chapultepec or Tacubaya, at the border of the hills, but that the abundance of building material already at hand, from Indian temples and palaces, induced him to rebuild on the same spot. Ever since, the error has been apparent that the