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Charting A Greener Future For Mexico’s Aztec Floating Gardens

Two projects aim to save Mexico City’s ancient canals.

We arrive at Yolcan’s Chef Semillas restaurant floating on a shimmering canal rowing a humble trajinera, a flat-bottomed boat with improvised oars typical of Xochimilco’s marshy canals. Crunching into the abundance of Brazilian water lilies, we skitter onto the chinampa, a traditional “floating island” built by pre-Colombian civilizations who terraformed a home on the sprawling system of mountain lakes that would later transform into the Mexico City megalopolis.

Under the thatched palm roofs typical of palapas, a team led by chef Joaquin Cardoso — a rising star of the next generation of Mexico City culinary celebrities — sets out picnic tables and wine glasses. Cooks in matching uniforms spatchcock chickens over clay comal griddles. In the reeds, a woman snaps pictures of a mezcal bottle on her cell phone to post to Instagram.

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