When in Mexico City for Independence Day weekend, Mario's family decided that they wanted to go to Xochimilco to celebrate together.
Xochimilco is on the very south side of the city. Its claim to fame are the canals that still exist there. When the Spanish arrived in Mexico, Mexico City was a floating city, much like Venice. When the region was settled, those living in the area built it, quite literally, from the ground up. They made rafts out of reeds, raked mud out of the lake bottom, put it on top of the rafts, and eventually made thousands of man-made islands. This was Mexico City in its hey-day. The streets were canals.
Then the Spanish arrived, drained the lake, and put their medieval city planning to work (you know, the kind of city planning where people dumped their trash out their window so it could rot on the street). We're still wishing the Spanish had at least listened to Moctezuma's city planners. Sure, go on with your world domination, but for pity's sake, keep the lake!
Anyway, the canals and floating islands (which will now be referred to as chinampas) still exist in Xochimilco. The flat-bottomed boats (which will now be referred to as trajineras) can be rented by the hour and are a huge tourist draw. So much so that the docks, canals, and trajineras at Nativitas are getting a bit icky.
So when my sister-in-law suggested that we take a tour with a company recommended to her by someone at the Waldorf school she works for, leaving from docks a bit farther south from Nativitas, we said, "sign us up!"
And what a tour we had.
First of all, it was a 5-hour tour. Lunch and drinks were provided. The lion's share of the lunch came right from fields grown on chinampas right in Xochimilco. The whole point of this company (www.delachinampa.mx) is to promote the organic products grown on these small farms in Xochimilco. Our tour guide said that only 2% of the fields in Xochimilco are currently being cultivated. If that figure were increased so that a mere 10% of the fields were being used, they claim that the entire population of Mexico City could be fed from products produced on that land. Just imagine the positive environmental impact that could have!
Furthermore, they believe in selling produce at a living wage. Most fruits and vegetables in Mexico are taken to a central de abastos. The central de abastos then sells fruits and vegetables wholesale to those who have fruit/vegetable stores, stalls in markets, corner stores, etc. The central de abastos sets the prices. Even if it costs a farmer 10 pesos to produce a kilo of carrots, the central de abastos can say (and often does), "we're buying these carrots at 3 pesos a kilo--take it or leave it." And farmers have to take it. There isn't much of anywhere else to sell to.
So yes, De La Chinampa's produce is considerably more expensive than other produce found elsewhere in the city. But it's an investment. And if it catches on, it's an investment that would reap huge dividends for everyone.
So if you live in Mexico City, think about getting together with friends, family, and neighbors and having some organic, Mexico City-grown produce delivered right to your house. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that community sponsored agriculture existed in Mexico City.
But if it catches on, wild dreams could come true.