If you appreciate rich Mexican culture, you’ll find no better sampling of it than in Xochimilco, a tourists’ dream site located about 28 kilometres (approximately 17 miles) south of Mexico City. The charm of Spanish colonial architecture against the backdrop of the Aztec ruins is unparalleled anywhere on the continent.
Xochimilco: The Early Years
Modern-day Xochimilco was once a hub for the Aztec civilization. Up until the 1500s, much of this valley region was water, and the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, was an island city in the middle of Lake Texcoco. The rich farmland surrounding the lakes was called nahuati, or “flower field,” and was home to the chinampas, the rectangular farming plots that are still used today. The lake was drained, its water being turned into a canal system as the Spaniards built their city amidst the destroyed city of Tenochtitlan.
In 1987, Xochimilco was listed as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations’ Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. The designation provided environmental protection for the area’s canals and ecosystems, while at the same time helping preserve the cultural artifacts of ancient Aztec society.
Today, you can explore Xochimilco while leisurely floating on its canals, riding on the colorful trajineras (wood bottomed-boats), giving you a good look at the area’s beautiful architecture and natural beauty. Filled by natural springs, the canals are the remnants of the enormous lake that was once Texcoco.
As you coast along on the trajineras, you’ll relax hearing the sounds of authentic Mariachi bands, a trademark of Central Mexico. You can listen to the horns and strings while you nibble away on genuinely Mesoamerican culinary treats.
While in Xochimilco, you can enjoy the many secular and religious events, including the Flor Mas Bellas del Ejido, a pageant celebration of the Aztec “Flower Woman”. Or you can take in the corn and tortilla festival, or any other local festivities—there’s always something going on in Xochimilco.
Xochimilco is an ecologist’s dream. Amphibious life, Pelicans, Storks, and migrating birds grace the water and the landscape, which is decorated with achiote, the red shrub that gives us annatto spice. The nearby Xochimilco Ecological Park has a botanical garden and bird sanctuary that you will also enjoy.