|The annual rites of the passage spring have created many festivals and celebrations held all across the world but perhaps none as beautiful or maybe even as old as the Xochimilco Festival. This four day festival is held annually two weeks before Easter, and dates back to precolonial times when Mexicans honored the goddess of flowers (Xochipilli) and the goddess of dance (Maculxochitl) to ensure good harvests. The highlighted event of the festival is the crowning of La Flor Mas Bella Del Ejido ( the most beautiful flower of the land). The crowned modern day goddess wiill then preside over colorful parades on flower-decorated barges along Xochimilco's famed canals.
Todays modern day festival has grown to include various races, car shows, food festivities, art events and of course the traditional and beautiful parades that draw crowds from across the globe. Xochimilco has often been called "the Venice of Mexico", known for it's fantastic garden district and beautiful canals, located just 12 miles south from Mexico City. The Xochimilco Gardens just recently celebrated their 20th anniversary in 2007 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This festival and the town takes its roots from an ancient time when the Aztecs named the town Xochimilco , which in the Nahuatl language means "garden of flowers". Even today the city streets and roof tops are lined with flowers and gardens and one can only imagine the even lushier landscape of 500 years ago when this area was the agricultural center of the Aztec empire. Some say the festival itself is over 300 years old when the cult of the Xochiquetzal began.
The Aztec worship of the the goddess Xochiquetzal (which means flower feather) involved holding a feast in her honor every eight years where everyone wore animal masks or masks made of flowers. If the feast and festivities were pleasing to the goddess she would bless their crops, and their families with fertility and love. She was known in the Nahua religion as the goddess of love, flowers and dance. She is also the patroness of artisans, prostitutes, pregnant women and birth. Her lineage is interesting as she was the wife to Tlaloc the powerful rain god and her twin brother was the Aztec god Xochipilli (flower prince). However, the god Tezcatlipoca (a lord of the underworld) wanted her for himself and kidnapped the goddess and took her to live with him in the underworld. Even after the area was desimated by the conquering Spanish and the exploding population, this one area of gardens at Xochimilco was set aside to honor her and still stands today.
Though Xochimilco is just a few miles from one of the largest cities in the world it has managed to hold onto its pre-hispanic Aztec roots. Go and enjoy the culture, beauty, and revery of the Xochmilco Festival, March 9 - 16.