In a basin high in the Sierra Madre there was once an immense playa lake. In 1350 the wandering Mexica tribe, sometimes called the Aztec, founded their city Tenochtitlan on an island in the lake. The city soon spread out into the lake, forming a city of floating gardens on small islands criscrossed by canals.

In 1519 came Hernan Cortez and his conquistadores. Tenochtitlan was renamed the City of Mexico and became the capital of New Spain. Eventually, the city filled in the lake entirely. There appear to be small remnants, but Lake Texcoco does not exist anymore.

Mexico City's foundation, literally on shifting sands, has been the cause of much tragedy, as evidenced by the 1985 earthquake: The quake liquefied the soil, causing shock waves to travel laterally back and forth across the lake bed. In places where waves cancelled out, there was little or no damage. In places where they added to each other, shaking was doubled, causing large buildings to collapse, with much loss of life.

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