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Most of the Western end of the New World lies along fault lines, making earthquakes nearly commonplace, especially in the Andean regions.  But, prior to the advent of the Europeans, man-made structures generally withstood the impact of even serious quakes.  The pre-Colombian people had developed advanced ways of building construction that took the particulars of topography into consideration and eschewed the more vulnerable arch.  For this, they could build their temples to the gods high atop hills and plateaus pretty much worry-free.

The Aztecs of Tenotchtitlan made their temple pyramids nearly completely solid, while the Maya of Guatemala and the Yucatan built theirs lower to the ground, with gradual ascents, and the Incan empire was built of walls of snugly-fit stones that could still breathe with the constantly shifting earth below.   Lamentably, when the Europeans arrived, they destroyed many of the ancient Indian cities, building their own on the ruins, often using the same stones but never the same sound principles.  Thus, quakes all along the chain, toppling Managua, Nicaragua, twice last century–1931 and 1972—razing Antigua in 1775, after which it was abandoned as the capital of Guatemala, killing 40,000 people in Ecuador in 1797, etc.  These are all tragic reminders of how European/Anglo disregard of environment and culture invites catastrophe.


Much of the info for this tidbit was gleaned from a wonderful book, perhaps out of print now, Indian Givers: How the Indians of the Americas Transformed the World, by Jack Weatherford; Fawcett Columbine, 1988


Also of Interest @ the Village: Hispanic/Latino Heritage Month: Quiz of the Day
New questions and answers every day, annotated with background links for further information.  Learn something new for Heritage Month!


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