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Incidents of Travel in the Yucatan

New York: Harper and Brothers, 1848


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VILLAGE OF BECANCHEN. 231

it was like the fountain to the Arab in the desert, or the rivers of sweet water promised to the faithful in the paradise of Mohammed.

The history of this village has all the wildness of romance, and, indeed, throughout this land of se- pulchred cities the genius of romance sits enthron- ed. Its name is derived from this stream of water, being compounded of the Maya words Becan, run- ning, and then, a well. Twenty years ago the coun- try round about was a wilderness of forest. A sol- itary Indian came into it, and made a clearing for his milpa. In doing so he struck upon the running stream, followed it until he found the water gushing from the rock, and the whole surface now occupied by the plaza pierced with ancient wells. The In- dians gathered round the wells, and a village grew up, which now contains six thousand inhabitants ; a growth, having regard to the difference in the re- sources of the country and the character of the peo- ple, equal in rapidity to that of the most prosperous towns in ours.

These wells are all mere excavations through a stratum of limestone rock, varying in depth accord- ing to the irregularity of the bed, and in general not exceeding four or five feet. The source of the wa- ter is considered a mystery by the inhabitants, but it seems manifest that it is derived from the floods of the rainy season. The village is encompassed on three sides by hills. On the upper side of the pla- za, near the corner of a street running back to the



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