Viva la Vida – Part 2

Viva la Vida – Part 2

Viva la Vida – Part 2

Swimming through History

Arriving in a foreign place, where you don’t know anyone and where you may not be super great at speaking the language is like jumping into ice cold water, it hurts a little, is incredibly exhilarating, and you have to keep moving to get acclimated. Your eyes open wide and your awareness expands.

The high-rise I stayed in was right in the central district. I was on the 22nd floor of a 48 floor building, staying in a cute, simple little studio that has a beautiful view that looks out at the Monumento a la Revolución. The city stretched out before me and the mountains rose up in the distance. Underneath all of this rests an ecological tragedy. Everything I see stands on what was once a sprawling spring fed high altitude lake in an endorheic basin (no natural drainage) teaming with life, including some creatures found no where else in the world (axolotls). 

Draining the Lake

With the arrival of the conquistadors and the conquest of the Aztecs, the Spanish drained it over several centuries. First they removed the dams the Aztecs created to separate the salt water areas from the fresh water ones. After this modification the city suffered through years of flooding. Next they channeled the water underground, created a tunnel to a river system outside the valley and emptied the lake. A few remnants are left, but nothing like what it was in the time of the Aztecs or before them. Now the city with around 20 million residents has water stress. Their water comes from the aquifers below the city, which has caused the ground to sink 33 feet.

Visualizations by Thomas Kole of what Mexico City looked like before the arrival of the Spanish. There is more about this in a future post.

Two floors below me on the 20th floor of the building there is a pool. It’s only about 4 feet deep all the way across. I would go there and imagine swimming in what was once the great lake. The water that fills it must come from deep below and here it was a little bit of that ancient lake way up in the sky. 

Lake Texcoco Park

There is a bit of good news about the lake, there is work being done to restore a part of it and to create a large open space for the community. There had been an effort to turn the land into a new airport but people pushed back and now it’s becoming Lake Texcoco Ecological Park, which is huge at 14,000 hectacres. To give you an idea, Central Park in NYC is only 341 hectacres, Golden Gate Park in SF is 421 hectacres. This could be a real gem of a place and a way to restore a bit of what was lost by creating something new. 

There a number of environmental initiatives happening to improve the city and ameliorate the harm of the climate crisis, including a requirement to plant more trees. It is making the city very lush.

Climate Awareness

As someone who volunteers to bring awareness around the issue of climate, I think a lot about my individual impact and the fact that I took an airplane to go on my trip. Of course it’s adding CO2 and that matters. The personal benefits and knowledge from travel experiences I find so valuable. I don’t have a good answer. I try my best, imperfectly. This is something we must all do together. Hopefully, we will find a way to make travel less polluting and have a governing body that is capable of implementing the change. It is a privilege to be able to travel, and I try to do it in a way that is thoughtful and reduces my impact.

Written by jennalex

Artist and designer who explores the relationship between the natural world and the digital world and aims to create art and design that expands people's consciousness and creates meaningful experiences.

May 7, 2024