Travelling in Time – Exploring the Chinampas of Tláhuac – Mexico City

On Thursday the 29th of July 2018 we had an incredible experience, exploring the Chinampas of Tláhuac, Mexico City.

It felt as if we travelled back in time, in the time that the Aztecs constructed the Chinampas, artificial islands; an important prehispanic agricultural system. On a small traditional canoa, we were floating through beautiful landscapes, just enjoying the views and the sound of birds, while eating a delicious local breakfast (Tlacoyos with nopales, Tostadas with mushrooms and Gorditas; served with hot chocolate and café de olla). Although technically still in Mexico City, we really felt on another planet. Our local guides, Doña Araceli and Don Juan, treated us like kings, while explaining us about this unique rural place, actually an Unesco world heritage site since 1987, together with it´s more festive neighbor Xochimilco.

We then arrived on the Chinampa of don Juan, where they explained how the Chinampas where formed, and we even made our own Chinampa by 1 by 1 meters, using prehispanic techniques: 1) Putting the mud of the channel in a square of 1 by 1 meters (done by don Juan the day before), 2) Equalizing it by bare hand, 3) Making horizontal and vertical cuts, creating little squares, about 500 of them 4) Making holes in the little squares with our fingers, 5) Putting seeds in every hole (coriander), 6) Covering it with a natural fertilizer 7) Tapping it with reeds or plastic (modern method). After 10 days the little blocks will be cut out and transplanted to a bigger lot, for the plants able to grow. We then explored the rest of the Chinampa of Don Juan, with different plants, herbs and vegetables on different lots, while choosing some fresh vegetables straight from the land to bring home.

On the way back we enjoyed again the beautiful views and the sound of birds, with a fresh pulque with mango taste as desert. A truly perfect day!!!

We also visited the beautiful San Pedro Tláhuac monastry and it´s colorful local market. San Pedro Tláhuac is the oldest native town of Tláhuac, founded in the 13th century. From that time until well into the colonial period, it was an island in the waters between Lake Chalco and Lake Xochimilco, and was the capital of a dominion that stretched of much of what is now the borough of Tláhuac. After the Spanish conquest, the ceremonial center was destroyed, and on top was built a church and monastery dedicated to Saint Peter, dated to 1529. Another hidden jewel in the crown of Mexico City!

Some more information about the Chinampas, the agricultural system of the Aztecs, invented around 1150 AC: Chinampas are artificial islands that were created by interweaving reeds with stakes beneath the lake’s surface, creating underwater fences. A buildup of soil and aquatic vegetation would be piled into these “fences” until the top layer of soil was visible on the water’s surface. The bodies of land appeared to be “floating” on the water because the canals surrounded the chinampa plots. The soil from the bottom of the lake is rich in nutrients, thus acting as an efficient, 100% natural, sustainable and effective way of fertilizing the Chinampas.

I guess we still can learn a lot from the Aztecs .

Below some videos we took during our visit (sorry in Spanish, will put English subtitles soon!). Our tours are normally in Spanish + English; this was the ´pre-discovery´tour!


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