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been fair, and although rain at this early period was unusual, the storm which raged on the morning of the 9th among the mountains to the west of the valley gave no cause for apprehension. In that region, however, the rains were so heavy that many natives and cattle were carried away by the flood, and the waters of the swollen streams were precipitated in torrents into the valley below. Fortunately precautions had been taken against such a catastrophe by the viceroy and by several of his predecessors, whose efforts have already been related, and the
waters soon subsided.
A month later, however, a more serious flood occurred. On the 11th of July a heavy rain began, and continued without interruption until the 22d. The whole valley was now inundated, together with a large portion of the city, and communication with the surrounding country was for several days cut off, causing a scarcity of provisions in the capital. Upon the cessation of the rains the viceroy caused abundant supplies to be brought to the city in canoes, and the archbishop displayed his usual charity by ministering to the wants of the starving natives.
Galve now gave his attention to the improvement of the drainage system, causing the sewers of the city to be cleaned and extended, new ones to be opened, and repairs made on the canal of Huehuetoca. The natural channels of the streams were cleared of obstructions and widened, an outlet opened for the pentup waters, and all this accomplished in an incredibly short time, the viceroy animating the laborers by his frequent presence, and even expending his private funds on some portions of the work.
But a more serious calamity now began to threaten the capital. Previous to the 23d of August the grain crop in its vicinity which had escaped destruction from flood gave promise of a bountiful harvest. But on this date a total eclipse of the sun occurred, accompanied by intense cold, and almost immediately the
FAILURE OF THE WHEAT CROP.
rapidly ripening wheat was attacked by the chiahuiztli," and the greater part destroyed.
The eclipse occurred about nine o'clock in the morning. For three quarters of an hour the city was shrouded in almost total darkness, during which the greatest confusion and consternation prevailed.18 To the superstitious and already excited minds of the lower classes this phenomenon appeared as an evil omen, a belief which subsequent events only served to confirm.
With the loss of the wheat crop the consumption of corn increased, its price being further advanced by the partial failure of the crop, due to excessive moisture and cold. The situation was indeed critical. Maize was the food staple of the natives, and since the loss of the wheat crop the tortilla had taken the place of wheat bread, not only among all the lower and laboring classes of the capital, but also to some extent among the wealthy.19 Such was now the increasing scarcity that by the beginning of September the price of wheat had more than doubled. The
17 According to Sigüenza, Carta al Almirante, MS., 28, who submitted the wheat to a microscopic examination, this is a small insect, a mere speck to the naked eye, the size of a needle point, with legs like those of a flea, and wings resembling those of a weevil. Myriads of them were seen on each ear of wheat, and spread with astonishing rapidity. He states that pulgon, or aphis, is the meaning given this word in the Mexican vocabulary. Molina, in his Vocabulario, pt. ii. 19, to which Sigüenza probably refers, writes the word chiauitl, which he renders in Spanish, 'Otro biuoro, o pulgon q roe las vinas'-worm or aphis which destroys vineyards. Robles, Diario, ii., writes it chahuistle, describing it as a worm which attacks the roots, and this term is also probably taken from Molina's definition. In modern times the usual form of the word is that given by Robles, and it is generally applied to rust in grain.
18 Stars of the first, second, and third magnitude were visible; dogs howled; birds, with frightened cries, flew wildly about; cocks crew; women and children screamed; the native women in the plaza abandoned their stalls and fled in terror to the cathedral; and the excitement and dread were increased by the ringing of the church bells for prayers throughout the city. Siguenza y Góngora, Carta, MS., 27-8; Robles, Diario, ii. 66.
19 Cavo, Tres Siglos, ii. 79, is not altogether to be relied on. Sigüenza y Góngora, Carta, MS., 31, whose statements are to be preferred, for reasons which will hereafter be shown, says, 'jamas le faltó á la republica el pan con la pension de caro, porque (ya que otra cossa no se podia), se acomodaron los pobres y plebeyos á comer tortillas (ya sabe vmd. que asi se nombra el pan de maiz por aquestas parttes) y a los criados de escalera auajo de casi todas las cassas de Mexico se les rasionaua con ellas.'
bakers in consequence refused any longer to make bread, for at the price at which they were compelled to sell it they found the business unprofitable, and a disturbance was averted only by the prompt measures taken by the viceroy to insure a sufficient supply.20
Murmurs began to be heard on all sides, and notwithstanding the strenuous efforts of the viceroy to provide a supply of grain the suspicious and unreasoning populace would not credit the reported failure of the crops until a special commissioner was sent into the valley to verify the report. From the beginning Galve adopted every measure that experience and prudence could suggest to prevent or at least mitigate the suffering and dangers of a prolonged famine. Officials were sent among the farmers of the valley and interior districts to purchase all the surplus grain, and with orders to seize it if necessary. The sale of grain and flour in the city by private individuals was forbidden, all that could be found being collected by the government for distribution at the public granary. The use and cultivation of the trigo blanquillo which was unwisely forbidden in 1677,22 was also permitted, the viceroy having induced the church authorities to remove the interdict against it.
The public granary was now placed in charge of the municipal authorities, and grain could be purchased only there. In November of 1691, the daily allowance for each individual was one quartilla," and the daily consumption from one thousand to thirteen hundred fanegas. In the surrounding country the suffer
20 The difficulty with the bakers occurred on the 13th of Sept., and on the following day there was no bread to be had. Robles, Diario, ii. 67; Carta de un Religioso, in Doc. Hist. Mex., série ii. tom. iii. 310-11.
21 Sabado 15' (Sept.), embargó el corregidor toda la harina á Hurtado y á Guerto y la trajo á la alhóndiga.' Robles, Diario, ii. 67.
22 The trigo blanquillo was a species of wheat, chiefly cultivated in the bishopric of puebla, of enormous yield, and superior in every respect to all other kinds produced in New Spain. For some reason not clearly explained it was denounced as unwholesome, and its use and cultivation prohibited under heavy penalties by both government and church. Montemayor, Svmarios, 60-1; Sigüenza y Góngora, Carta, MS., 37-9; Carta de un Religioso, 312.
23 Equal to about two quarts.
24 A fanega is about equivalent to a bushel and a half.
ADVANCE IN PRICES.
ing was still greater than in the city, as the governor having seized most of their grain, many of the inhabitants were compelled to beg food in the capital.
Meanwhile the viceroy did not relax his efforts to maintain the supply. In April 1692, a meeting of the principal civil and ecclesiastical authorities was called for this purpose, and commissioners were kept constantly busy in the neighboring districts as well as in those more remote, collecting and forwarding corn. In May an abundant crop of wheat was harvested from the irrigated lands in the valley, and under the belief that the prevailing high price would induce the farmers to bring their grain to the capital permission for its free sale was given. Many, however, sold it elsewhere, and this, together with the partial failure in the remoter districts, owing to a snow storm early in April-a rare occurrence in the valley of Mexicocaused the stock in the capital to run low toward the end of May. Vigorous measures were now required, and fresh commissioners were despatched with orders to confiscate all grain wherever found. The daily allowance of corn in the city was also reduced, although a sufficient quantity of grain was obtained by the commissioners to insure a moderate supply until the next harvest.
By this time the price of grain had increased so enormously that a load of wheat which usually sold for three or five pesos could not now be purchased for less than twenty-four pesos.25
25 The load of corn which was ordinarily sold at about two and a quarter pesos, was now worth seven. The loaf of wheaten bread usually weighed sixteen ounces, and was sold for half a real. Its price continued the same, but its weight was now reduced to seven ounces. Sigüenza y Góngora, Carta, MS., 29, 41-2; Robles, Diario, ii. 72-3; Carta de un Religioso, 312.
CORN RIOT IN THE CAPITAL.
INCREASED MURMURS-RUMORED GRAIN SPECULATIONS OF THE VICEROY—
THE suppressed murmurs of the populace previously heard against the government, now gave place to complaints in which the viceroy was openly accused of speculating in grain; and notwithstanding the publicity of all his measures and the character of the persons commissioned for the collection and distribution of supplies this unjust charge gained a ready credence among the natives and lower classes. This grave accusation and the hostile attitude toward the government to which it gave rise were encouraged by the imprudent language of a Franciscan friar, during a sermon preached in the cathedral at the beginning of Easter. Notwithstanding the presence of the viceroy, oidores, and the officials of the various tribunals, he alluded in such terms to the existing scarcity as to confirm the suspicions of his audience, who loudly applauded him.1
1 Sigüenza y Góngora, Carta, MS., 40, states that he preached 'no lo que se deuia para consolar al pueblo en la carestia sino lo que se dictó por la inprudencia para irritarlo.' Robles, Diario, ii. 122, who confirms the foregoing, states that the friar's name was Antonio de Escaray.