Xochimilco: The Venice of Mexico
Xochimilco: the remnants of the great Xochimilca’s man-made gardens. It is the place that proves the existence of the once great Tenochtitlan, the floating Aztec capital (A Place With Crops of Flowers). Despite not being as great as they were once was these floating gardens are the example of endurance. Xochimilco was one of the only few lakes that the Spanish conquistadors failed to drain during their conquest of Tenochtitlan. It is proof of the ingenuity and advancement of the Aztec empire.
The Floating Gardens
Imagine Venice’s canals. Venitian canals are surrounded by architecture made out of stone and street from cobblestone. The canals are occupied by gondolas. But the canals of Xochimilco are different; they are organic and earthy. They are not surrounded by infrastructure; they are instead bordered by chinampas and trees. Nature manifest itself and makes Xochimilco a place of great ecological value.
Chinampas are beautiful “man-made islands” that are used as gardening land by the Aztec and are still used to this day by farmers (citation). “Chinampa is derived from the Nauhatl words chinamitl, meaning “reed basket,” and pan, meaning “upon,” which aptly describes their building method”, this type of land reclamation has not been seen before them (Werner). One of the major reasons that the Aztec empire was so successful was that these floating gardens were able to provide many foods for the inhabitants. These chinampas alone can produce double the amount of crops that the mainland could (Aztec Ingenuity) Taking a boat ride down these canals, the chinampas can be admired because they are what is left of the floating gardens that once spread hundreds of acres.
Flowers and more Flowers
Flowers have an important influence on Xochimilco, not only because they are a crop that is grown here but they name of Xochimilco translates into “the place of the flowers” in Nahuatl. During the spring, Xochimilco flourishes because it is then when the flowers begin to bloom. People that live in this district decorate their houses and the streets with flowers of all sorts (Perez Huerta). Also, one of the most important festivals that are held in Xochimilco is called La Flor mas Bella del Ejido or the Festival of the Prettiest Flower, which is a celebration to honor the goddess of the flowers, Xochiquetzal in hope that the harvest are successful. During this festival all the local girls dress up and adorn their hair with flowers and ultimately one is chosen as the prettiest (Perez Huerta).
Trajineras and Family
Trajineras are beautiful and intricate floating boats, the carvings and colors that adorn them are part of what makes Xochimilco so visually appealing. Each trinajera has a name, always one of a woman. Many are named after the owner’s wifes, daughters or any other important women in his life (A Place With Crops of Flowers). The floating boats are capable of taking a whole family into exploring the secrets that lie in the canals of Xochimilco. A festive ambiance is the essence of the trajineras docks. Local women and men yell out to potential customers to climb aboard their trajinera for a pleasant ride. Screams of people trying to sell their other services or products can be heard also. The chatter of the people that are aboard an adorned boat adds to the commotion of the waters of Xochimilco.
Many Mexican families go to the tranquility of Xochimilco to spend their Sunday with family and to go on floating picnics. The trajineras have built in tables and chairs to make the visit more comfortable and enjoyable. It is not unusual to see people selling food right off their own boats. Musical acts float on by as well, trying to sell entertainment to visitors.
Horror in Xochimilco
Come if you dare. Xochimilco is filled with fright as well. This area houses the infamous Isla de las Muñecas, or the Island of the Dolls, a place that is macabre to look at and even more uncomfortable to be in. Mangled and decaying dolls and all sorts of disfigured dolls adorn the island.
A legend is the source of this frightful sight, it is said that a man named Don Julian first started to adorn the island appease the spirit of a young girl who drowned in what is now called the Island of the Dolls. He started to hang dolls all throughout the chinampa. Don Julian drowned in 2001 in the same where he found the body of the dead girl 50 years ago. (La Isla de Las Munecas). “The locals are very faithful that the Isla de las Munecas is a charmed place,” they describe that they can feel the eyes of the dolls following them and trying to lure them to come to the island (La Isla de Las Munecas).
Xochimilco is as Mexican treat. Overall, it provides so variety to any visitor who comes to visit the wonders of the Venice of Mexico. The horror of the Island of the Dolls make a few daring people want to visit the damned place, a social gathering on tinajera to meet up with family or old friends, or witnessing the craftiness chinampas of the Xochilca people and the way that they preserve their canals: all of these are pleasant ways to spend time in Xochimilco.
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