Xochimilco: A place with crops of flowers!
Without a doubt, Xochimilco is one of the most recognized, emblematic and admirable places in the Metropolitan area of Mexico City (Federal District). This world heritage site dates back to the time of the Aztecs, and in this place, many plants that were used for adornment and food by Tenochtilán inhabitants were cultivated. Its founders were originally an independent tribe, but were soon overtaken by the Aztecs. The Xochimilco canal is located in the city with its same name and was declared cultural heritage by UNESCO in 1987, although for many years it was protected by presidential decree.
The site is mainly admired for its Chinampas and for the tours done on the Trajinera boats. The "Chinampa" is a special kind of crop developed in Xochilmilco and consists in planting small rectangular areas on the surface of lakes and lagoons. They are also called floating plots or gardens. To "build" the cultivation area, a structure is prepared using logs, mud, silt and grass and is anchored to a tree (the Ahuejote). Magnificent results are produced with the cultivated plants due to the filtration of the water.
The Trajinera boats:
The Trajineras are small decorated boats that we can find in Xochimilco. They can hold a capacity of between 10 and 30 people and are moved using long poles pushed against the water bottom. They were created out of necessity to comfortably transport goods around the lake area. They are adorned with flowers and their names (always female) are written on the front alluding to the name of the ship or the owner's loved one. Virtually all of them have tables and woven chairs where tourists can eat what they brought with them, as there is a picnic-like ambience.
The Trajinera boats can be rented on the local piers, the most popular being the Nativitas and Cuemanco piers. The cost to rent one of the boats can vary from $150 pesos to $220 depending on the boats capacity. Many of the boats not only give visitors a tour of the area but also offer food, local guide services and even music. In fact many people pay to listen to the "Mariachis" while sailing through the Xochimilco canal.
When visiting the canals, visitors can also buy diverse products offered by the locals. Although the snacks are good, the main goods being traded here are the ornamental plants. For that reason, pansies, ferns, tulips and countless other species of plants are sold in Xochimilco.
To get to Xochimilco, public transportation is available, the most recommended being taking the light rail to the last station, and from there using van and taxi services to arrive at the piers.
Given the very special ecosystem of the area, the animals that live here amaze, because of their impressive features. In Xochimilco, it is possible to the see many diverse species of birds, reptiles and amphibians. Among the last mentioned, the most famous and representative is the Axolotl, and even though it is known as the water monster, it is not aggressive and is very important to the floating gardens as it helps to control erosion. Its population has suffered tremendously due to the introduction of foreign species and environmental pollution, and although currently protected, the species is close to extinction. Regarding birds, Xochimilco is home to diverse groups of migratory birds and many reside there. There are more than 5 species of herons, wild ducks, owls, kingfishers, doves and black ibis.
The local flora is composed of willows, camphor, eucalyptus, lilies, "navel of Venus" and several species of nymphs. The tree that represents this site is the Ahuejote, native from Xochimilco.
Tourism is not only limited to the canal tours; visiting the area for its diverse neighborhood festivities is highly recommended as they are folkloric and very popular. There are also many different fairs and festivals that take place in Xochimilco. We can recommend the Celebración de la Feria de la Alegría y el Olivo (The Joy and Olive Tree Fair Celebration), La Feria de la Nieve (The Snow Fair), La Feria del Maíz y la Tortilla (The Corn and Tortilla Fair), La Exposición de la Miel (The Honey Exhibit), La Feria de la Nochebuena (The Christmas Eve Fair) and lets not forget The Community's Most Beautiful Flower Celebration, which is a speech, beauty and patriotism contest.
Information about the dates of the festivities and the calendar of events are published on the delegation's website and the Xochimilcos Facebook page. Finally, we recommend visiting the St. Bernardino of Siena Parish to see its prints and the Cerro de la Cruz (Hill of the Cross), as well as the Parque Morelos (Morelos Park). Xochimilco: A beautiful place that you cant miss!
Article produced by the Editorial Team of "Explorando Mexico".
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Photo: Wallack Family