Thursday, April 17, 2008


Xochimilco is an enchanted place. I had read about it for years and years and used some of its imagery in murals in the many, many Mexican restaurants I had designed in the USA....but I never TRULY saw it until last year. Jo Brenzo who is a photographer and also teaches was taking a few people to an "outsider" environment called "The Island of the Dolls" and so I decided I would go along even though I'm NOT a photographer. The other people had fancy, schmancy cameras and I had my little Olympus "point and shoot. I didn't care though because I wanted to see the island. So, we arrived early in the morning, about 8AM. Xochimilco is 30 minutes from the Historic District but light years away......... We arrived to see all the pole boats as seen in the above photo which was magical to me. We boarded a boat that Jo had made arrangements for and proceeded to head for the locks where we would enter the canals and champas of Xochimilco...........As we came out of the locks and poled along, we came around a bend and here was this bridge. If any of you have ever been to Giverney in France or seen pictures of Monet's home, this scene reminded me so much of that place.
I was stunned by the beauty. I had no expectations or preconceived notions so it was just breathtaking the farther we went down the canals. There were pole boats with people who had their bicycles who were heading to work; there were fisherman with their dog in the back casting nets and I just observed and felt like I was in a fairyland. These canals and floating islands are all used for commerce by the indigenous peoples. They grow 30% of the nursery stock for Mexico in this area and everything is "poled" to a walkway to offload. The silence was magical and large white cranes were flying around and songbirds were trilling...only 30 minutes from a city of 27 million people!
Here is a photo of a man with a boat taking a load of poinsettas to market. I don't know where he came from because there are thousands of acres and I wondered how long his day would be....

This champa which is part of the system that the Aztecs invented is over 500 years old. If this were not ejido land which was set aside for the indigenous, I'm sure developers would be in here building high-rises and who knows what else. The air is so clean and clear that you can see Popo in the background of this photo.

We DID make it to the "Island of the Dolls" which was an environment that had over the years grown to hundreds of dolls hung by a Mexican man around his house and studio etc. I found it creepy and it felt, to me, that it was contrived. I've been to lots and lots of environments all over the world, but this one did not thrill or amaze me. I did photograph it.........but Jo's photos that she used in a book called Isla Mujeres, I think, are wonderful. She used all kinds of special lens and imaging. I would think you could put Jo Brenzo, Island of the Dolls, or whatever into a search engine..........and see lots. Jo will be taking a group to this area in July - I will probably return again.

So, instead of going to a "tourist" place which I've always been told Xochilmilco is, I saw a community of life that I will never forget. It is probably one of the most beautiful, serene, places I've seen in Mexico.
On the way back, this woman was sitting in her boat making floral arrangments and there was another man sitting in his boat reading a book. Aah, Mexico - living in the "moment"!

1 comment: said...

Great photos, my dear, even if you don't have a fancy make up for it with a good eye. I would love to go in July with Jo. Wow! Awesome place and SO different.