• U.S.

MEXICO: One Touch of Venice

2 minute read

Visitors to Mexico City were almost sure to be asked last week, “Have you noticed anything about our city that reminds you of Venice?” In parts of the hemisphere’s fifth city (pop. 2,234,000), water stood waisthigh. Thousands of working-class houses were flooded; many downtown shops closed; streetcar service was disrupted. Boys and unemployed men picked up welcome pesos transporting pedestrians across riverlike streets. Some of the ferrymen used surplus U.S. Navy life rafts or primitive boats made of packing cases; others, in hip boots or swimming trunks, carried their customers pickaback.

For the past half a century, a good part of Mexico City’s surface has been sinking. Engineers believe that a subterranean lake below the capital’s site has been drying up and, in the process, bringing down the level of the settlement above it (TIME, June 9). The city is now lower than its immediate environs—though, as inhabitants jokingly point out, it is still more than 7,300 ft. above sea level—and the archaic drainage system is out of kilter. As a result, rainwater lingers on. The periodic rain gluts have grown worse in recent years. Last week’s glut, following four days and four nights of heavy rain, was the worst yet.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com