AP PHOTOS: Mexico's canals a quiet weekday retreat

May 8, 2014
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Pictures of Jesus are displayed for sale in the main plaza of Xochimilco, on the southern edge of Mexico City, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. In Xochimilco, busy markets stand side by side with colonial churches, and children ride to school in boats pushed by poles, along a network of canals and floating gardens that date to pre-hispanic times. The popular tourist destination was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1987. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — It's a different Xochimilco on weekdays.

Gone are the boats full of revelers and sightseers plying the canals of the watery district, many of them residents of Mexico City keen to take a break on the tranquil remnants of the pre-Columbian waterways and gardens that remain on the capital's southern edge.

The canals are quieter. Children are poled across the water in dugouts on their way to school. Farm workers pack boats full with flowers and send them to the market beside Xochimilco's main square.

In the plaza, stalls sell everything from CDs to tacos to children's clothes, and performers dressed in Aztec garb offer blessings to passers-by, wafting them with incense and blowing into a conch shell.

Traditions remain vibrant here. Xochimilco, which means "place where flowers grow," is home to the "Most Beautiful Flower of the Common" pageant, a 200-year-old tradition that draws contestants from 12 of Mexico City's 16 boroughs.

In the 16th century San Bernadino de Siena church, Roman Catholic faithful celebrate the Ninopa, a more than 400-year-old representation of the Baby Jesus. Festivities and processions honoring the Ninopa take place throughout the year.