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.

Integrating An Inland Waterways System with Roadways (Goa)

Since we face heavy traffic every day, the waterways could be integrated with the existing road transport network. This system would greatly benefit the tourists and the locals. The various phases of the project are: 1. Documentation of existing river transport facilities. 2. Proposal for an overall inland waterway network. Suggesting new routes to add […]


Author’s Note:   This is a creative enterprise system that integrates an inland waterways system with other transport systems in solving the dilemma of fast-growing populations in the Third World. But is this practical, useful and low cost over enough years to justify the upfront costs.  Especially, when engineering fees and other soft costs grow at exponential rates. Generally unaccounted for in government projects, professionals may be required to provide professional errors and omissions policies.  How large will the premiums on such policies be to cover the unknown risks and damages of new, untested systems that may be faulty or defective in the public sector?