Page:A Study of Mexico.djvu/44

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34
A STUDY OF MEXICO.

ances for raising water, nothing worthy the name of machinery. Without being bred to any mechanical profession, the peons make and repair nearly every implement or tool that is used upon the estate, and this, too, without the use of a forge or of iron, not even of bolts and nails. The explanation of such an apparently marvelous result is to be found in a single word, or rather material—rawhide—with which the peon feels himself qualified to meet almost any constructive emergency, from the framing of a house to the making of a loom, the mending of a gun, or the repair of a broken leg; and yet, even under these circumstances, the great Mexican estates, owing to their exemption from taxation and the cheapness of labor, are said to be profitable, and, in cases where a fair supply of water is obtainable, to even return large incomes to their absentee owners.

As agriculture can not be prosecuted on the plateau of Mexico without irrigation, the chief expense of each hacienda or cultivated district consists in providing and maintaining a water-supply, which is not infrequently obtained through a most extensive and costly system of canals, ponds, and dams, whereby the water that falls during the limited rainy period is stored up and distributed during the dry season; and what the great proprietor accomplishes through a great expenditure of