Sunday and Monday are market days in Texcoco, and just a few minutes north of town is the popular tianguis (public market) – with 2,400 permanent vendors and another 6,000 weekend merchants. Its large food court with open-air restaurants is famous for barbacoa de Borrego (lamb pit barbecue), and other Mexican cuisine.
A population of more than 70,000 now inhabits Texcoco, an ancient rural community founded in the 12th century. It is both a municipality and a city – officially renamed Texcoco de Mora in 1861 (in honor of Dr. Jose Maria Luis Mora, an historian, priest and prominent Mexican politician). The community is also famous for its Feria Internacional del Caballo (International Fair of the Horse) first celebrated in 1978. Over the years, the city has added a bullring, open-air theatre, corrals, stables, a music stage and exhibition structures to attract visitors from across the expanse of Mexico and beyond.
The passionate population of this small, yet noble community has fought to retain its artistic and cultural atmosphere; at times clashing with local, state and even federal authorities. In 2005 local vendors blocked the main roads of the historic center, protesting their threatened removal away from the city’s cathedral square. The next year, flower merchants protested against federal police trying to block them from selling along the highway to Lecheria. From their dissent against the relocation of their 137-ton Aztec Tlaloc statue (actually sabotaging the vehicles that came to transport it to Mexico City) to the last decade’s explosive protests against installing a new airport in their midst, Texcoco residents are fiercely protective of their way of life.
The History of Lake Texcoco
Once a natural lake in the Valley of Mexico, Lake Texcoco was home to an island that would become the very heart of the state of Mexico. On this island, the capital city of the Aztec empire, Tenochtitlan, was founded in 1325. The Aztecs created a chinampa (artificial “floating garden”) around the island and a system of dams to separate the salty lake water from rainwater, as well as a system of channels to control the water level.
In 1521 Cortes captured the city and, unfortunately during the siege, destroyed not only the buildings but also the dams. As the Spaniards built Mexico City over the ruins of Tenochtitlan, flooding would be a devastating problem for the next few centuries. Though a drain was built in the early 1600’s, another flood in 1629 found most of Mexico City underwater for 5 years. Though various methods were attempted, flooding continued until the construction of the Drenaje Profundo (deep drain system) in 1967. Its network of tunnels (the largest is over 21 feet in diameter) carried the rainwater out and away from the lake basin.
While Mexico City expanded to occupy a major portion of the basin, the drastic drainage measures changed the weather patterns to semi-arid; a major reason why the city continues to sink a few centimeters annually. History is soon to repeat itself, as a new wave of innovation brings life back to the waterways that once surrounded a majestic empire.
Lake Texcoco to Rise Again
Soon to be one of the largest urban parks in the world (over 35,000 acres), Texcoco Lake Ecological Park – designed by leading Mexican architect and landscape urbanist, Iñaki Echeverria – will encompass a space 41 times larger than New York’s Central Park! Echeverria wants to reclaim the area once covered by Lake Texcoco to create a sustainable green border to Mexico City’s explosive growth, also providing a shorter path to the popular Texcoco region.
Plans include habitats of lake, meadow, forest and wetland, and renewable energy facilities like wind and solar, as well as an eco-friendly transit system. More features are to include sports facilities, playgrounds, bike and walking paths. The park’s green infrastructure will also act as a natural flood barrier for Mexico City’s urban landscape.
Picture: Lago de Texcoco by Natanael Amenabar | natanael.blogspot.com, on Flickr.