Ancient Floating Gardens and Canals of Mexico City’s Xochomilco (“So-Cho-Mil-Co”) Part II

Especially before the Hispanic period, the dominant form of transportation was by use of the many colorful, small, slender light draft boats on the myriad canals. Over a period of several hundred years, farmers continued to grow flowers, fruits, and vegetables atop the mulch and muck lands dug by hand from the bottom of Lake Xochimilcho.

Colorful canal boats at Xochimilco between tourist trips along 110-miles of waterway
Colorful canal tourist boats at Xochimilco, Mexico

Farmers then carefully placed large quantities of mulch and bottom lands above water on various varieties of long fibrous plants tied together in bundles. Workers then tied the bundles in line to small trees in the waterway. The topography of the land was not exclusively reclaimed lake land called chinampas. The colorful boats for tourists became known as trajineras. Tourists now share with farmers the 110 miles of canals snaking their way throughout the lush centuries-old muck lands growing above the surface of the lake.

By the 20th century, the intricate complex of lakes, artificially made land, and canals had dwindled down to just a relatively small system of canals. Today the canals are still fed by fresh-water springs. But Mexico City’s population growth has stressed Xochimilco’s aquifers and cause subsidence of Xochimilco’s lake beds. Xochimilco’s  ecosystem of juniper trees and other rare species of flora and fauna are under siege by various external threats that originate with population explosion. These threats and stresses upon the land and water have resulted in UNESCO to list Xochimilcho as a World Heritage Site.

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