Sailing the Xochimilco Canals in Mexico
Harbored by a hectic destination such as Mexico City, in a natural parenthesis, you’ll find the water canals of Xochimilco, a place that has been declared Natural Heritage by the UNESCO and that is known as a Magical Neighborhood in Mexico City.
What is a Trajinera?
As soon as you reach one of the 10 different piers in Xochimilco, you’ll find dozens of trajineras waiting to sail the canals. These are traditional roofed wooden boats that are furnished with chairs and a long dining table. You’ll find them in multiple bright colors and, on the front, at roof-height, you’ll read women’s names like Maria, Guadalupe, Andrea and Susana, among others. Probably the tradition of naming these boats comes from a twentieth century custom in which young men took their girlfriends on a trajinera ride in order to spend a romantic evening.
Trajineras don’t sail at a great speed since they are controlled by drivers who use a long wooden stick to push them, somewhat like gondoliers do in Venice. However, even if trajineras have a wide surface, they are flat, so choose a seat as soon as you climb on board and avoid losing your balance.
What to See in Xochimilco
In Xochimilco you can discover a wide variety of species including ducks that are very friendly with tourists. Also, you’ll get the chance to spot some ajolotes –cute amphibians with a funny mane and long legs– an endemic species that represents an essential part of Xochimilco’s ecosystem and that is currently in danger of extinction.
As you sail the canals, other kayak-shaped trajineras called chalupas will sail next to you. Once they are at a close distance, the natives will sell you snacks like fresh fruit with lemon juice and chili powder or quesadillas.
On different boats, groups of mariachis will pass you by while singing songs like “Cielito Lindo” or “La botella” making your ride even more enthusing.
Floating Gardens in Xochimilco
Have your camera ready because throughout the canals you’ll find chinampas that will be perfect photography subjects. These are small extensions of man-built land that date back to before the Spanish conquerors arrived in Mexico (1521). They represent an agricultural method conformed by floating structures that are built with long wooden sticks, branches and dirt and that help absorb the area’s humidity.
La Llorona Legend in Xochimilco
DINKtravelers recommends programming your visit to Xochimilco in October or November –around All Saints Day– because during those months they have nightly performances of “La Llorona”. According to that legend, a woman murdered her children and now her repenting soul roams the land looking for her children. This nighttime event attracts thousands of tourists who enjoy the play from the commodity of the trajineras that are aligned in the shape of a floating auditorium.