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A tale of two cities
August 5th, 2022
Today is a sweltering day. In the street, desperate people are looking for a shadow. Many take refuge in shops, buses, or subways, which are air-conditioned.
I'm reading a diary from the cholera times, paying attention to each day's weather description. The author was a wealthy New York banker, John Pintard. I think it's a diary, although it's addressed to his daughter Eliza Noel, who lived in New Orleans, like letters. Instead, the letters are addressed to the wife of Pintard's son-in-law: Mrs. Richard Davidson.
Mr. Pintard also complained about the sultry, hot days, but he often pointed out that the rain refreshed and cleansed the air.
Carlos María de Bustamante described the weather in Mexico City in his diary. Of course, the summer in the Mexican capital is more temperate. It can even be a bit cold—advantages of being more than two thousand meters above sea level.
Both the American banker and the Mexican lawyer described the arrival of cholera in their cities. Each one did it, of course, from their vantage point. At first, Pintard did not believe that the epidemic was severe. For weeks he denied that there was a crisis in New York. When a wealthy neighbor died of cholera, he began to worry. Instead, Bustamante noted from the beginning the seriousness of the plague.
They both had points in common. They criticized the municipal board that should be in charge of containing the epidemic. Bustamante accused it of incompetence; Pintard —at least initially— of causing alarm. Both agreed that God caused the plague so that people would recognize their sins and repent. Fortunately, two centuries later, the covid pandemic has not been linked to the Exterminating Angel.
It is Friday afternoon, and although the temperature is very high, the sun has begun to go down. It's time to go outside. After all, this is New York! On Monday I will write again in this diary.