Mexico City is a dust bowl, a polluted city Where breathing is difficult and freshly washed clothes are hung up to dry, they become stiff until evening. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck this capital, the residents carried during the frequent air quality emergencies There.
Now the bad air pollution in Mexico City – resulting in high rates of Respiratory and cardiovascular diseases – makes the 21 million people in the metropolitan area more susceptible to the corona virus.
Mexico City has not always been an ecological and health disaster. As the center of the Aztec Empire, it was green and diverse. In the early 20th century, 45 rivers flowed through the Mexican capital.
Photos: The global coronavirus outbreak
I am a Scholar studying poverty Mexico City is my gray, concrete hometown. The relationship between geography, history, and health outcomes is relevant today as the city struggles with its recent outbreak.
Mexico City was founded by the people who are now called Aztecs – but who called themselves Tenochcas – in 1325. The Aztecs built their city on a rock in Lake Texcoco, mainly because the best places along the coast were already occupied.
By 1427, the mighty Aztecs had defeated their neighbors on the lakeshore and built a luminous capital that spanned the lake. The city, called Tenochtitlan, was created amidst water through the development of “Chinampas”- small sea plots filled with debris, ceramics and earth to create solid land around which canals flow.
The most important chronicler of the Spanish colonization of Mexico, Bernal Díaz del Castillo, described Tenochtitlan as being criss-crossed by technical wonders such as causeways and removable bridges and full of “magnificent” palaces. Diaz del Castillo reports that the city market was larger and better regulated than that of Constantinople and Rome. As in the Roman Empire, aqueducts supplied the city with fresh water.
The Spaniards understood neither the water ecology of the region nor did you understand or respect? Aztec technique. In order to rebuild their capital, they drained the lake.
This strategy led to drought and inadequate water supplies for most of the year. However, rainy season brought enormous floods. In 1629, the worst flood in Mexico’s history lasted five years and killed more than 30,000 people through drowning and disease. According to reports, churches held roof masses.
The rainy season turned parts of the city into cesspools that like waterborne diseases Cholera and malariaas well as meningitis. Gastrointestinal diseases also festered because the residents used the rivers of Mexico City to dump garbage and sewage. human and animal Bodies hovered in the stagnant water and emitted a terrible stench.
Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1810. In order to cope with the flooding problems once and for all, the city guides decided in the 1890s that rain, floods and wastewater had one 30-mile desagüe or drainage channel.
This system gave Mexico City enough wastewater capacity, roads, and buildings to supply its population in the middle of the century. The bad smell and unsanitary conditions also decreased because people could not throw garbage into covered waterways.
But without its rivers, Mexico City dried up and became dusty. And because of its geography – located The dust could not escape on a plateau surrounded by mountains. Mexico City is in a bowl that contains everything that floats in the air.
The outbreak of the corona virus was not caused by polluted air. But the city’s poor air quality – along with Overcrowding and other poverty-related factors – creates the conditions for COVID-19 to make more people seriously ill and kill them.
In attempting to eliminate waterborne diseases, the Mexican capital helped an airborne virus find more hosts. It is an irony of history that the Aztecs would surely mourn.