[permaculture] Permaculture Connections?!? The Floating Gardens of Mexico City
Lawrence F. London, Jr.
lflj at intrex.net
Thu Feb 14 01:23:18 EST 2008
ethan roland wrote:
> I am about to embark on a trip to Mexico, and am extremely interested in
> visiting the famed 'floating gardens' that are remnants of the incredible
> chinampa system the fed the peoples of Xochimilco.
> I understand that the canals still exist as a tourist attraction, but I
> would like to go deeper and get in touch with folks who are actually still
> cultivating the chinampas as agricultural land/water.
> Does anyone out there have any connections to permies, farmers, or activists
> in Mexico and Mexico City in particular that might lead to some deeper
> contact with the chinampas and chinampañeros? I will happily document and
> share whatever I find along the way.
History and pictures of Gardens of Xochimilco gleaned from a Google search:
MEXICO -- A highlight of any trip to Mexico City is a visit to the canals and gardens of Xochimilco, celebrating its
20th anniversary in 2007 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
with that many water hyacinth the water must be clean:
There are two main parts to Xochimilco - a traditional area and an ecological park north of town. Both areas offer
excellent bird watching. The canals and lagoons attract bulrushes, ducks, herons and egrets.
As in centuries past, canals surround raised agricultural fields called chinampas. Since the Valley of Mexico was
originally wetlands, the chinampas were the most productive means of agricultural production.
Between the eighth and tenth centuries, seven Nahua tribes arrived in the Valley of Mexico. The Xochimilca people
founded their city at the southern tip of the valley. Another tribe, the Aztecs (or Mexica), founded Tenochtitlán and
the Aztec empire farther north. Soon after the Aztecs' arrival, they conquered the Xochimilcas, whose agricultural
fields, or chinampas, were used to provide the food for the growing Aztec empire. Today the D.F. easily encompasses the
In the early 1500s, before the Spanish conquest, chinampas covered nearly 9,000 hectares (22,230 acres) on Lakes
Xochimilco and Chalco. Each hectare (2.47 acres) could feed about 20 people, thus supporting most of Tenochtitlán's
When the Spanish arrived, they began to drain the lake bed. Today's canals are the deepest of what was a much larger system.
What was the proud agricultural hub became a neglected garden. Hundreds of years later, in the 1970s and 1980s, it
became a depository for the city's waste waters. The many freshwater springs that once fed Lake Xochimilco were
successively diverted to provide a water supply for Mexico City. More than two-thirds of the fields cultivated in the
1930s have been paved over by streets and homes.
Most of the water that reached the canals was contaminated by residential or industrial pollution and could not be used
for food crops. The chinamperos chose to increase flower cultivation instead, using discarded oil cans filled with
organic muck from the bottom of the canal. The area suffered from environmental neglect until 1980s.
[The resourcefullness, charm and mystery of Mexico:]
The chinampas should not be seen as mere historical artifacts, but as living examples of alternative agriculture.
Farmers continue to scrape muck and organic debris from the canals, using the muck as fertilizer for the agricultural
gardens. They harvest chilicastle, the plentiful, shiny blue-green algae that grows on the water's surface to help
maintain the soil's fertility.
Chinampas are formed by alternating layers of aquatic weeds, muck, and earth packed inside rectangular cane frames
firmly rooted to the lake floor.
You may hear them called "floating gardens," but the term takes poetic license with the truth. Trees are planted along
the edges of the fields. Their roots have long anchored the beds securely to the lake bottom.
Check out the corn:
PBase gallery showing real agriculture in the Xochimilco chinampas:
Mariano y Rosaura | profile | all galleries >> RECORDANDO VIEJOS TIEMPOS >> UN VIAJE A XOCHIMILCO
Charming and idyllic:
Christian M | all galleries >> Préférées - Favorites > Mexique Xochimilco_4071.JPG
Water hyacinth - beautiful scene:
Felip Cortes | all galleries >> In Box > Xochimilco
Showing trees growing in the Chinampas & no floating aquatic plants:
Pierre Feneyrou | all galleries >> Mexique - Guatemala >> 1 - MEXIQUE : Mexico et Chiapas > Lagune de Xochimilco
More information about the permaculture