A Gringo Guide to Mexican History – Another Excerpt

24 Dec

Mexican History Medium
An Exceprt from my, “Gringo Guide to Mexican History”.

During the 16th and 17th centuries little was known about the spread of disease and the need for sanitation. The streets were open sewers full of garbage, discarded clothes, dead dogs and cats, broken crockery, and any other disgusting thing that came to hand, all thrown down from the windows of the houses on either side. The masters of the houses lived on the upper floors. The first floor was for animals and servants!

It wasn’t until the 18th century that they began to illuminate the streets and plazas at night. When forced to leave their homes in the dark, the nobles were preceded by their imported Negro slaves carrying flaming torches. Many a poorer resident, coming home in the dark, found himself drenched with unspeakable filth thrown out of an upper story window. (And they tell me México City had no public illumination until 1970!)

The plazas were open air markets full of pig stys, chicken coops, sheep and goat pens, and cows waiting to be milked. There were slaughter houses with no regard paid to the rotting blood that spilled on the paving stones.
Even though the atmosphere was very pious, the private lives of the city’s citizens were not. Prostitution and every other vice flourished, and consciences were eased with large donations to the Church.

Then in the 18th century the colonial cities changed morally and materially. Filthy canals were filled in, streets were paved, public bathrooms were built, water hydrants were provided for the citizens, streets were named and houses numbered, free schools were instituted, bell-ringing was further limited, and public nudity was abolished.

Streetlights were ordered to be provided by the inhabitants of the houses in their doorways and windows. By the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th centuries, city police were providing protection for the citizens. In 1722, the first national newspaper was published, and in 1805, the first daily emerged.

Public libraries were opened and the intellectual life of the great city began in earnest, with conversations and discussions in the first cafes that opened along the boulevards.

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