Page:Travels in Mexico and life among the Mexicans.djvu/44

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one to two per cent a month. Travellers coming here should bring American gold, as it is always at a high premium and pays no duty.

For a city so isolated, and in a climate so totally antagonistic to the development of literary talent, Merida contains many writers of more than local distinction. Her list embraces authors of valuable historical works, writers of fiction, poetry, and the drama. One work, a Dictionary of the Maya, the aboriginal language of the peninsula, is especially valuable; and a recent drama written here has been produced in Havana and Madrid. It may seem strange that men of education and reputation should prefer to live in this remote section of the world; but there seems to be a charm about this old city that draws them to it. There are here men of great wealth, men who have crossed and recrossed the Atlantic, were educated in London and Paris, and have passed years on the Continent, who yet love the city beyond anything else in the world.

Though lying just midway between Havana and Vera Cruz in point of longitude,—cities smitten with yellow-fever every summer,—Merida rarely suffers from this scourge. But few cases annually occur, it not often becomes epidemic, and it is said that at no time has the vomito existed in Merida and in its seaport, Progreso, at the same time. The city is generally in a very healthy condition, though its only supply of water is derived from the clouds and from subterranean caverns.

The climate is hot as the hottest, but the furnace heat of midday is tempered by cool breezes; night and day the wind is blowing, rendering life more than endurable here. The temperature ranges from about seventy-five to ninety-eight degrees, in the shade. Though one would suppose the hottest months would be August and September, yet it is said that March and April have that distinction, when, added to the heat generated by the sun, is that from burning corn-fields, which are fired all over the country.

The houses are freer from vermin than is usual in tropical countries, owing perhaps to their manner of construction. There are two thick walls with a filling of stone, sometimes from four