The night air was crisp with a faint crackling like someone was ripping a head of lettuce behind a closed kitchen door. I often walk these streets morning, afternoon, and night because I need a breather from screen time. Plus I’m still in winter mode since I left Boston and it feels like a necessity to savor the sun and warm days.
In Querétaro, the streets are laid out in quadrants like graph paper. Downtown is cinched in by a belt, perhaps reminiscent of the edges of Lake Texcoco. The cobbled stones of the calles through the Centro Historico are neatly arranged like the raised beds that once supported a floating city in brackish waters.
The pavers are old with uneven tops. People with precarious standing wobble as they walk them. The stones were laid sometime between the 1500s and today. I don’t know when exactly because I haven’t fact checked. But I do know that sound carries well down the narrow alleys.
Materially, the belt around the center is comprised of main avenues. These high-throughput traffic zones emanate noise which creeps inward like it was a valley and the sputtering engines, horns, and mechanical grumbling was a raging fog. Which isn’t so far off. The exhaust, after all, is thick and clogs the nostrils. Perhaps noise is viscous too, draining in to fill the reservoir.
Hmm. If sounds move in waves, is there a tide?
Tenochtitlan was built atop of Lake Texcoco on stilts. The Aztecs raised platforms to raise life, all of which was eventually left for dead. The lake later became a basin, the city dried out and was buried under what is now Mexico City. History ripples too.
It’s this march of time and the lines of life that are interesting.
The Mesoamerican Venice had canals that ran between the plots like streets between homes. Did they have sidewalks for smaller, fleeter passerbys?
Speaking of which, don’t you think the term “sidewalk” is an odd word? Maybe it was shortened from “onthesideoftheroadwalkway.” In which case, good call. Still, “walkway” makes more sense, as does “driveway” as it applies to the area cars motor on. But these are modern terms compared to “road” and “street,” and it seems common words have longevity. Yet, following that thread backwards, why don’t we drive on “horsewalks” or “treadfoots?”
In any case, we were talking about lines. Structurally, the canals of Tenochtitlan or the streets of Querétaro are like words, no?
They are created, defined and hard to change. Their form carries onwards in a continuous line. That is, until the society is toppled, or enough time passes for common usage to evolve the meaning, or the landscape to (f)alter. Then the line takes a new course.
Thus Tenochtitlan is now Mexico City.
Graves are often laid out in plots with narrow walkways as well. Is there a form for the burial grounds of dead words?
Feature photo from Wikimedia Commons.