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Chinampa y trajinera

Symphony Orchestra

Work commissioned by the Mannheim Orchestra, Germany.

Built in shallow regions of wetlands, chinampas are frameworks of logs and branches covered in mud and leaf litter, surrounded by a fence of branches and allowed to sink to the bottom, delineating an area filled with soil and compost. This farming system ensures a constant water supply and soil fertility, allowing for sustainable agriculture that fueled the development of the Mexica capital, the colonial capital, and continues to be productive for present-day Mexico City.

Once widespread across large regions of the extinct lake system in the Valley of Mexico, chinampas survive today to the south, in the remnants of Lake Xochimilco. Although greatly diminished in extent and agricultural importance, it still retains the magnificence of its navigable canal system, making it one of the must-see tourist attractions for visitors to the Mexican capital.

Visitors can take a leisurely ride on a trajinera, a boat that will take them to discover hidden spots, escape the hustle and bustle of the asphalt city, and step back in time to imagine the beauty of the great Tenochtitlan.

To set sail, the chinampero pushes the stern by resting his pole on the canal floor, meandering among dozens of trajineras crowding the vicinity of the pier. As they navigate the canals, boats with traditional musicians approach, creating an atmosphere with a mosaic of multiple regional folklores. The warmth of the Chiapan marimba, the joy of the Jarocha harp, the virtuosity of the Huastec violin, and the festivity of the Tapatio trumpets resound.

Chinampa and trajinera narrate a journey through the canals of Xochimilco, making stops at different chinampas. During the intermediate routes, musical trajineras approach playing traditional Mexican tunes.

The chinampas have been composed with a contemporary language, while the trajineras retain more of the characteristic style of their popular origins.

Chiapaneca Trajinera - Ahuejotes Chinampa

Quetzalcoatl, the divine feathered serpent, turned into an emerald green quetzal to root its claws into the lake bed and support the sky with the plumage of its tail. Over the water's reflection in the canals, it projected its foliage into the depths, sustaining balance with the underworld.

Ahuejotes are water willows endemic to the Valley of Mexico, which play a crucial role in chinampa construction. Planted around the perimeter, they root themselves to the lake bed with their strong roots, consolidating the cane fence in place.

Jarocha Trajinera - Ajolotes Chinampa

At the beginning of time, a pair of gods sacrificed themselves to bring forth light, becoming the sun and the moon. However, more divine sacrifices were needed for the stars to be able to traverse the sky. The god of wind, in charge of the immolations, searched everywhere for the dog god Xolotl, who transformed into an axolotl to avoid being recognized and hid deep within the wetlands.

The Mexican axolotl is an amphibian endemic to the lake area of Xochimilco, whose Nahuatl name means "water monster." Related to salamanders, it does not complete its transition from larval to adult state, retaining its ability to regenerate limbs and vital organs. It is because of this ability that it was considered a god by the Mexica and was consumed by the Mexicans until it was on the brink of extinction.

Huasteca Trajinera - Dolls Chinampa - Tapatía Trajinera

Don Julián Santana found a drowned girl among the lilies in his chinampa. Shortly after, he began hanging dolls from the branches of the ahuejotes, seeking to appease the spirit of the deceased girl, who haunted him at night and tormented him in his dreams. Over the years, the number of dolls grew, as did the interest of the curious to see the eerie landscape, which became one of the most visited places in the chinampa area of Lake Xochimilco.

Dedicated to my beloved grandmother, Norah Behrens.


Nationaltheater-Orchester, Rosengarten Mannheim, Germany. Alexandre Soddy, director.


World Premiere. Nationaltheater-Orchester, Rosengarten Mannheim, Germany. Alexandre Soddy, director.

July 27, 2021

July 26, 2021

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