AUCTION 23

 
 

Manuscript Map of the Irrigation & Flood Control Project
for the Valley of Mexico

 
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392. [MAP]. ZÚÑIGA Y ONTIVEROS, Felipe de. Manuscript map: “El presente Mapa Demuestra la cituacion, plano, y repartimiento, que en la actualidad tienen los Arroyos que bajan de Sierra Nevada, y giran entre Poniente, y Sur respecto de ella para la Provincia de Chalco, juntandose todos frente del Pueblo de Santiago Ayapanco, en cuyo paraje en el braso -A- fuè segun dizen donde el Agrimensor D. Antonio Cataño el año de 1734. hizo la medida de las Aguas denunciadas por D. Luis Naranjo. La -B- paraje donde ataja las Aguas la Haz. de Zetlalpa. La -C- Portesuelo por donde saca Agua el Rancho de Theopantlalpan. La -D- lugar donde se advirtiò una rotura en que sacaron Agua para legar la Rinconada. Los nombres de Rios, Pueblos, Haziendas, y Caminos vàn advertidos con sus rotulos. Fecho para mayor claridad, e instruccion de la Y. Archicofradia del SSmo Sacramento de esta Sta Iglecia en la vista de ojos qe. extrajudicialmte. practicò D. Phelipe de Zuñiga y Ontiveros, Philo-Mathemco. de esta Corte Agrimensor por S.M. de Tierras, Aguas y Minas del Reyño, en lo 18 [de] Mayo de 1768. De cu[y]o original salió este ala letra y tamaño Mexico 31 de Agosto de 1770.” [Circular note at lower left] “Pertenece al L.D. Antonio de Lecca de Guzmán abogado de la Rl. Aud. Thesorero de la Nina Ciudad de Mexico, para el uso de las Aguas que tocan à la Haz. de Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion.” Mexico, 1770. Bird’s-eye view (southeastern region of the Valley of Mexico, whimsical sun with face rising between the snow-capped volcanoes Iztaccíhuatl and Popocatépetl at top; located are bodies of water, roads, villages, towns, churches), in sepia ink and watercolor wash on paper mounted on cartographic linen; overall sheet size: 85.4 x 32.5 cm. Except for old folds and closed tear at left, very fine.

     This extremely fine and historically important manuscript map is the work of Felipe de Zúñiga y Ontiveros (1717?-1793) noted mathematician, astronomer, scientist, and founder of a major printing establishment in colonial Mexico. In 1754 Zuñiga was appointed Royal Land-Surveyor and Hydraulic and Mining Engineer of New Spain. He wrote the following works, all printed in his establishment, and the last of which has special bearing on the present map: Efemerides calculadas y pronosticadas según el Meridiano de México (1752); Explicación del Pronóstico de México (1753); Respuesta satisfactoria a las Anotaciones hechas a las Efemerides Mexicanas (1756); and Bomba hidraulica para levantar las aguas (1770). For more on Zúñiga y Ontiveros, see: Dicc. Porrúa, Medina, México, I, pp. clxxvii-clxxx. Trabulse, Historia de la ciencia in México (I, p. 81).

     This map was made as part of an irrigation and flood control project for the Valley of Mexico around 1770. The historical background for its creation lies in the history and geography of the Valley itself. The City of Mexico, situated on a lake that had been gradually drying for a thousand years, began to experience serious flooding as early as the administration of the first Viceroy Velasco because the Spanish radically altered land use by Native Americans in the region, deforesting the ocote and cypress-covered slopes of the three central lakes--Xaltocán, Texcoco, and Zumpango. Those practices caused water to cascade off the mountains, and soil erosion began to fill the lakes with silt. The lakes in Anáhuac had never drained to any sea, and during seasons of unusually heavy rains the water level lapping against the capital rose dangerously. After a major inundation in the 1550s, the Viceroy ordered the old Aztec dike system rebuilt, but by 1604, no dams or levees could hold off the rising water. The second Viceroy Velasco ordered engineer Enrico Martínez to solve the problem, but the four-mile tunnel Martínez constructed in the 1620s proved a disaster, as did Martínez’s subsequent open ditch, the Tajo de Nochitongo. In short, the draining of the Valley occupied the attention and revenues of a whole series of viceroys. The problem was never really solved, and placed a terrible burden on the surviving indigenous Anáhuac population. Drainage and the subsequent sinking and shifting of the porous lake-bottom soil is still a monstrous engineering, architectural, and financial problem for Mexico City.

     What we have in the present artifact is the Bourbon approach to solving the drainage and flooding problem that continued to plague the world’s greatest city. Cornerstones of Bourbon reform were public works and projects, such as that documented in the present map created for a commission to deal with flooding. The idea was to change the course of a river by constructing a dam shown on the map southwest of the Hacienda de Alculco. That dam still stands today, and most people do not have any idea why in the world the dam was built.

     The present map is not only a splendid artifact with great aesthetic appeal, but an important one for the history of irrigation, flood control, engineering, land use, and geography in America.

     See Ola Apenes (Mapas Antiguos del Valle de Mexico, Mexico: Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico Instituto de Historia) Plate 23 for a reproduction, and Entry 25, where the map is described and ownership is listed as private (Ralph Josephson).

($25,000-50,000)

Sold. Hammer: $25,000.00; Price Realized: $30,625.00.

Auction 23 Abstracts

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