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Dancing with La Muerta

It’s hard to believe the concrete chaos of Mexico City was once a large system of lakes and canals. At Xochimilco, it’s possible to get a taste of what things once were. Trajineras, boats reminiscent of Venetian gondolas, line the docks, waiting to take tourists out to see the floating gardens that lounge throughout the canal system.

Lara, Anita, Emma and I arrived too late to get a daylight view of the gardens, but we did have time to wander around and watch tourist-packed trajineras drift in to the embarcaderos (docks). We were there for something slightly different.

Performance artist Klaudia Vidal had arranged to take two of the trajineras out for a nighttime performance commemorating Dia de Los Muertos. We listened to the musicians play Son Jarocho music dockside for a while and then boarded a pair of trajineras that had been lashed together. Klaudia and the band took up most of one boat while the audience watched from the other.

The boatman used a long pole to propel us through the blackness while Klaudia and the musicians gave a frenzied performance. ¡Qué increíble! My Spanish sucks (i.e. I’m limited to present and present-progressive tenses and have a vocabulary of a few hundred words), but I was able to glean that La Muerta was warning us life is short and to make sure we enjoy it while we can. It was a wonderful mix of music, poetry and performance art.