Our May 2019 Pilgrimage to Mexico City included some cultural sites. After our final Mass at the St John the Baptist Church we pilgrims headed to the restful waters of Xochimilco and the Floating Gardens, located south of Mexico City.
The early Aztecs grew their food crops in the area. The rivers, some 120 kilometres long and 20 metres wide in some parts, are navigated by Trajiners or flat-bottomed punts or boats, built to suit the river depth which ranged from one to four metres.
On arrival there we found a buzzing village with shops, music, peddlers and boaters. Behind this the river greeted us with numerous trajiners. We learnt that there were some 2,000 large boats about eight metres long and two to three metres wide, and 200 smaller ones from which vendors sold items to visitors while they sailed.
There were small canoes and other boats with orchestras and mariachis (musical groups) to provide musical entertainment. Most boats had a roof, wooden floors and dining furniture.
Because of our numbers we were housed on two boats, the Julietta and the Samantha for the two-hour sail. The boats were propelled by a unique system. Young men with long bamboo poles stuck into the river floor helped to push or pull the boats along and we swayed along gently. Often, we bumped into another boat, but it was all part of the river experience; no one was angry.
Then came the Mexican lunch which was served as we cruised. First was the porkskin (chicharrón), which was grilled into thin wafers. This was a novelty and salsa spiced it up.
There were tortillas and guacamole and a salad made from the cactus plant, then the main dish of fish or chicken. Beers were available to those needing them. As we sailed, small boaters peddled their goods cruising alongside.
As we journeyed on the placid waters, we feasted our eyes on the roses and flower gardens along the river banks. The musical boats added another pleasing dimension to the river scene while party boats and their rhythms created a joyful atmosphere on the waters.
The rivers and waters of Xochimilco provide a source of life and living for inhabitants and visitors alike. Water pulls people to it like a magnet. Besides its economic value we spend many leisure hours sailing, fishing or resting on the waterfront enjoying the restful beat of the waves and the cool soothing breeze from the waters.