Malena, her three-year-old son Mateo, and I left her mother's house around 11:00. We metro-bussed to a restaurant with a kid's play area. By noon we were on our way again to Xochimilco (Zoh-chee-meel-koh). Using the fastest methods available, we arrived in that far-south part of the city two hours later.
|Malena and Mateo|
Xochimilco is famous for it's chinampas, the "floating gardens" dating back to Aztec times. In those days the Aztecs built large square plots of land a couple of feet above the surface of the lake, which itself was not very deep. Between the plots they left eight or ten feet of open water for boat travel. If the rains were not sufficient, they could always dip into the lake and water their crops. And because of that, they took great care not to contaminate the water with human waste.
The climate was mild enough, even in the winter, to have three rotations of crops every year and this practice is still continued in Xochimilco. The earliest accounts from the conquering Spaniards told of markets overflowing with fresh vegetables and fruits, the likes of which they had never seen, and of a variety they found impossible to imagine.
These days the original lake is surrounded by city and eight embarcaderos where tourists can hire a boat with a poler to take them into the waters between the chinampas. Unlike Venice, where beautiful stone buildings seem to rise directly out of the water, the houses on the chinampas are usually set back in the middle of the lot, with gardens all around, though some buildings are right on the water's edge. The gardens are planted with flowers of every kind and, in the winter, with chard, spinach, peas, hardy lettuces, carrots and potatoes. There are a couple of wide canals where the bulk of the tourist boats pass, but between the islands are much smaller waterways used as streets by the residents.
Floating around with us were small flat bottomed boats with vendors selling colorful embroidered clothing and table cloths, toys, musical instruments, cold drinks, and food kept hot with a coal fired stove sitting on the bottom of the wooden boat. We weren't yet hungry but we could have sampled steaming ears of corn with butter or mayonaise slathered over them, tacos, or tamales. Bands of up to ten musicians also floated around and entertained the boats full of people, for the price of about $5US per song. We just floated past and enjoyed the music other people had paid for!
|A floating vendor with toys and dolls.|
|View out the front of our boat. We were docked at a greenhouse|
where we toured a typical chinampa garden.
|Empty boats, it was the low season.|
|Large group parked at a restaurant along the canal|
|Typical view up a residential watercourse|
|Many couples enjoy Xochimilco for a romantic getaway|
PS: for us word nerds, the flat bottomed boats are called trajineras.