You may think that Macha Mexico is obsessed with Xochimilco—but only until you are there you could understand why we go back again and again. Every time I have been there, I have enjoyed the company of great machas and savored great food made right in front of me by an expert woman who can prepare delicious quesadillas of flor de calabaza (squash blosson), delicious Oaxaca cheese, and my favorite, hutilacoche. Well, a couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to visit Xochimilco again, but I have to say, this time was the best, and probably will stay in my memory as one of the best trips I’ve ever made.
The reasons: we decided to go to the famous Isla de las Muñecas, a legendary place where many years ago an old man–Julián Santana Barrera–was scared by the spirit of a drowned woman who used to visit his chinampa. In order to fight the spirit Julián started collecting dolls that he found sunk in the canals or in the garbage and hung them around his house. Over the years, the collection grew bigger in size and fame, up to a point that locals and visitors would bring dolls too, until long lines of dolls completely surrounded the whole land.
In order to get there, you have to cross the Reserva Ecológica, which compels you to sail far away from the touristy parts of Xochimilco usually full of families and groups of friends who are sometimes singing to the tune of a mariachi or a marimba. Once you leave behind that area, Xochimilco becomes water and sky, herons landing here and there, milpas, and some cows that stare at you as you pass by. As you drift on the water you can actually see everyday life in Xochimilco: a house guarded by a dog here, little shops there, a bridge used by locals, little kids waving with their hands, carps (yes, carps) jumping from the water…
When you arrive to the Isla de las Muñecas you pay 10 pesos and you get to visit a little “museum” which is a little room where you can see Agustinita, the favorite doll of the old man who collected the dolls, seating on her own shrine. Julián’s nephew will tell you the legend of the place while you probably take pictures and peruse the place until you find a fish tank with two ajolotes, the legendary aquatic salamander that undergoes metamorphosis remaining in the water and gilled. No doubt that the whole place has a weird vibe (as expected), but you can ask your guide to take you to see the rest of the land—and his garden. He grows chard, chamomile, and chilacayotes (a type of big squash)—everything organic.
This time we didn’t go early in the morning as many people recommend to “enjoy” the trip. In fact, we arrived to Xochimilco around five which turned out to be a great timing since going back to downtown Xochimilco from Isla de las Muñecas allowed us to see the sunset and enjoy the night during the last part of the trip.
The cost of the trip was 1200 pesos (around a hundred dollars) and believe me, it worth it (thank you Islandia!).
As we were on our way back to Distrito Federal I really missed the water surrounding us. Being in Xochimilco makes you think about an ancient Mexico City that used to have canals instead of streets and trajineras as its main way of transportation. What if we’d started all over again and bring water to this dry lake that makes Mexico City sink more and more every year? Below, a photo montage inspired on this idea.
Taken last Summer at the exhibition Citámbulos, at the Museo Nacional de Antropología.
*Pictures via Macha Mexico’s friends on Facebook