The design itself is beautiful. It's like an amazing combination of nature and human design, surrounded by the trees, by the water, the big canal, the small canal.

Lucio Usobiaga

PLACE
Mexico City is on the wonk, its buildings leaning off in odd directions – and it is sinking at a rate faster than any other city on Earth. Each year it drops 20 inches lower, collapsing under a mountain of bad decisions, dodgy policies, over-population, inefficient infrastructure and terrible pollution – all stemming back to the Spanish conquest where indigenous wisdom was literally paved over.

But just below these bad decisions lies the foundation and the solution: Las Chinampas – an Aztec-designed network of resilient and fertile allotments, surrounded by waterways – vital arteries in this complex agroforestry system. Like floating gardens – big juicy sponges of black, volcanic soil, layered up organic matter from the bottom of the river, strapped in with stakes and bendy willows and still enduring today thanks to projects like Arca Tierra.

PULSE
Mexico City wants to be a lake – but the Spanish couldn’t get with its watery ways. Too convoluted for them who preferred to bring in a German to drain it and pave over it. Nor did they like the naturally porous and symbiotic volcanic stone that the Aztecs used for their buildings, preferring to import a whiter stone from Monterrey in the north – more European, closer to their own skin colour. And all these centuries later the hollowness of their plan continues to reveal itself. Fascinating what can happen when you’re not fully tuned into where you are…

ROLL CALL
Arca Tierra – visionary permaculture and food cooperative who run lots of great events on their plot
Maiz Ajo – Dani and Santiago are doing brilliant things with heritage corn, defying the GM-isation of their native crop
Andrew Millison – explains the chinampas brilliantly

ESSENTIAL READING: The Conquest of New Spain also A City on a Lake

ON CORN: SUNU documentary and Sin Maiz No Hay Pais campaign

ROUTE
Into the chinampas in my slides and sock combo and not enough warm clothes for an early morning meeting on the muelle with Lucio of Arca Tierra. Lots of time spent on trajinieras and kayaks amongst this ancient system of waterways. Very inspiring. Lots of lessons learned here with sound recording and the need to keep the recorder playing a LOT longer in future!