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Jan 2: Xochimilco, Mexico

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Xochimilco is the Venice of Mexico...sort of. Not quite as beautiful as the canals of Venice, Italy, but still worth the experience. Xochimilco dates back to the times of the Aztecs who used the canals to transport the sugar cane from the fields to the local WalMart.

Xochimilco means "flower field place” in Nahuatl, the Aztec language. A place where locals and tourists gather to enjoy one of the main attractions, a tour through the canals on board of “trajineras”, boats painted with bright and colorful flowers, that once where natural. It offers a one of a kind alternative for a folkloric Mexican brunch because you can taste the typical delicacies that natives prepare on board smaller boats. A “trajinera” welcomes 10 to 15 and you can even hire a Mariachi to animate your already joyful boat.

UNESCO declared Xochimiclo a Cultural Heritage Site in 1987. Originally it was a lake that Aztecs transform into an agricultural hub, by building artificial islands, “chinampas”, where they used to raise corn, beans, squash, tomatoes as well as flowers. They built them by layering logs, mud, earth and decaying vegetation. Each islet was fenced with vine and secured by the roots of wattle that anchored to the bottom of the lake.

Before the Spanish conquest, chinampas on Lakes Xochimilco and Chalco could feed 180,000 out of the 250,000 habitants of Tenochtitlán. This is a great example on how Aztecs transformed an unfavorable environment into a more habitable one, knowing that the Valley of Mexico was mainly wetlands.

Xochimilco is located in the South of Mexico City about 23 kilometers from Zocalo. Distance may not be important, but the time varies tremendously depending on the day and hour you schedule your visit. Sunday morning is recommended so you avoid traffic, or opt for a late night tour for a little more romance. [View Photos]

Travel log contribution by Gabriela Rodriguez.

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