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Xochimilco (sōchēmēlˈkō) [key], town (1990 pop. 271,151), Federal District, S central Mexico, suburb of Mexico City. Mainly a commercial and tourist center, it is famous for its canals lined with poplars and flowers ( Xochimilco is a Native American word meaning "plantation of flowers"). The expanse devoted to the waterways has been reduced since the mid-20th cent. and the aquatic environment degraded. In pre-Hispanic times the Xochimilcas built soil-covered rafts ( chinampas ) in Lake Xochimilco on which they grew vegetables and flowers to be shipped to Mexico City on the canals. Eventually the rafts became islands rooted to the lake bottom. Boating on the canals is popular among tourists and city residents. Colonial landmarks in the area include a 16th-century church.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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