good food + awesome travel & occasional odd bits

Xochimilco and La Isla de las Munecas

It takes effort to get to Xochimilco, effort and the courage to endure steaming hot metro rides along with a trip on the local train which can cause motion sickness in the most seasoned travelers. Our trip started as such, and took no less than 90 minutes. Followed by a walk to the embarcadero, which many will always assure you that it’s just around the corner, however its never really “just around the corner”. Your efforts however, are well rewarded should you be up to the task.

Once there, we negotiated the ride out to what we decided was our destination, La Isla de las Munecas. The trip out there is an experience in itself. Xochimilco is an extensive network of canals deep in the south of the valley that Mexico City sits in. Once you’re in the trajinera its a slow meandering ride, first through the traffic and madness out of the embarcadero. Here you weave your way around zillions of trajineras loaded with people celebrating who knows what, others carrying mariachi, ranchero and marimba bands, and a few selling food and beer. It’s impressive since the trajineras are always colorfully painted and their sheer numbers fill your eyes.

However, once out of the main canal it is a completely different world. You float down a chain of canals past farms and ranches. You don’t see another soul, save for the occasional goat, sheep, or cow. It’s quiet. The birds singing are beautiful and exotic, their chirps and the sound of water make you understand exactly why this is a world heritage site.

About an hour and a half into the trip we finally make it to the Isla de Los Munecas. This island is actually a fairly well known chinampa that once belonged to a man named Julián Santana Barrera, who unfortunately had passed sometime in the early 2000’s. Julian “decorated” his chinampa with old dolls for purposes of protecting it from evil spirits. They were hung from tree branches, tied to trunks, impaled with sticks and speared in the ground, they are everywhere.

This wasn’t the first time we’d made a trip out to the island either. We’d visited about 10 years ago and this was very much a different experience. 10 years ago, the island was essentially deserted, except for its doll inhabitants of course. There was no outhouse, there were less dolls, certainly no other people. It was pretty much how Julian had left it. It still has an eerie feel tho. I would say its still absolutely worth the cost and the effort as I’m quite sure, you’ll never see anything like this anywhere else in the world.
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