Tag Archives: Mexico.

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

1950's colorized photo postcard of reclaimed and canalized Lake Xochimilco, along with farmers on canal boats.

1950’s colorized photo postcard of canalized Lake Xochimilco

Predating the Hispanic Period and geographically south of the main capital city of Mexico was an ancient large lake called Lake Xochomilco. Over the centuries, beautiful flowers and agricultural products were grown above the water on tall stalks, anchored to trees and filled in the rich mulch and soils from the lake bottom. Eventually, early farmers in the area separated by the capital city built canals and colorful canal boats for transit to and from the central Mexico City with their produce.

Over the centuries, Mexico City has grown outwardly, incorporating this former lake bed covering 48 square miles, sustaining a population of almost half a million, mostly farmers.  In 1928,  Xochomilco became recognized as an independent city.  For hundreds of years, these farmers cultivated their lush flowers, plants, and produce above the water, traveling on these colorful canal boats. On Sundays, tourists and townspeople have travelled to see these brightly colored boats filled with their produce for market. Some tourists have boarded these canal boats to tour these canals and view the ancient methods of growing produce.

Farmers on their canal boats tending to their crops above the waters of Lake Xochimilco.

Farmers on their canal boats tending to their crops

Despite Xochomilco’s status as an independent city, Mexico City has drained off much of the water for its own needs and drilled wells for more water, which has caused subsidence of the land created by the canal people who populated the Lake.  The draining off of potable water has left the lake people with degraded land above the water and non-potable water.  The need to protect this ancient cultural site has caused UNESCO to place Xochomilco on the World Heritage Sites list.