Xochimilco is the district in the city where there are numerous canals extending over 170 km (110 miles) with artificial islands called chinampas dotting the waterway. Locals and tourists can cruise the canals on flat boats called trajineras. The World Heritage Foundation recognizes this as a historic site, because it pre-dates Hispanic history.
It takes some time to get to this area. First, we took two metros, transferring from one to the other just to arrive at a suburban train station for the final leg of the trip. These small trains with only four cars pack in hundreds of people at once. Watching them disembark is similar to watching the clowns leave a mini-car at the circus.
Once in the area, we followed signs to the embarcadero with locals also encouraging us in the correct direction by pointing. It seemed the only reason a gringo could possibly be here was for the boats.
When we reached the docks, we were the only people who were not working the area. The rides were cash only, but more than we had on us. One young man desperate for our money offered to take us to the ATM to get money. There is only one in this area of the city, so we walked a good half mile to get to it. He kept us on a short lease the entire time, fearful we would bolt and he would lose the business.
Our young guide introduced us to his brother who ran the business. We were the only travelers among dozens of boats in the harbor. This did not last long. As our guide poled the boat through the canals, we encountered dozens of other boats with revelers. Some of the boats only carried Mariachi bands were willing to dock alongside our boat and serenade us for a small fee. Other boaters were cooking on their boat in order to entice others to buy their roasted corn, tamales, tacos and other treats. Less common were those who had miniature trees, plants or toys on their boat for sale as they cruised up and down the canals.
Two hours past with the blink of an eye, it was so completely relaxing for us. It was fun watching those on other boats. Some were celebrating with food and liquor, others were dancing, and few others were just enjoying the ride as we were. Totally mellow we made our way back to the train station. We were only going two stops on our return. Our next destination was Museo Dolores Olmedo.
We had just arrived at our destination and we were leaving the train, when another train traveling in the opposite direction pulled into the station. A few young men who were on our train immediately started arguing with some young passengers from the other train. People stopped to watch and the yelling escalated. I told Ron we should leave before we become part of the fight. Just as we were walking toward the exit, a loud popping noise split the air. It sounded to me like a shotgun. Immediately, five other shot like sounds followed. People on the platform started running in a panic right alongside of us. Within minutes, both trains evacuated with police running up the ramp to investigate. We never heard more about it.
Ron thought it might have been cherry bombs in preparation for the Feast of Guadalupe when tons of fireworks are customary for this occasion. However, I believe the sounds were too loud and too successive for fireworks. In addition, if you are involved in a fight, who would use fireworks as a weapon?
Not knowing what else to do, we continued to the museum to try to recapture our previous tranquil feelings momentarily lost in the drama.
Dolores Olmedo was a rich businesswoman who left her entire estate and art collection with the funds to maintain it as a museum. She was friends with Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. Five buildings complete the complex, which contains up to 150 paintings, including 145 by Diego Rivera, 25 by his wife Frida Kahlo.
Roaming the grounds freely and unfazed by visitors were dozens of peacocks. Three Xoloitzcuintle dogs, commonly known as Mexican Hairless, live within an area protected by hedges. You can view them, but no touching. This breed has existed in Mexico for over 3,000 years. They all seem prone to skin conditions like a bad case of acne. This is not attractive.
Entry was 75 Pesos each and an additional 60 Pesos for a photography permit. I had to have a sticker on my chest showing I paid the fee.
The grounds are sumptuous. The collection of art is enviable. Then again, there are some mistakes that need rectifying.