The brave and bright colours of Mexico’s flowers embody the soul of the nation and are as highly prized today as they were in Aztec times. Many flowers are still cultivated in the ancient floating gardens of Xochimilo in Mexico City and sold in the sprawling flower markets. Mexicans and tourists alike arrive on boats to visit these unique gardens where dahlias, bougainvillea, lilies and even bonsai and cacti are growing.
Flowers in Mexico are not only admired for their beauty, many are also endowed with a deep-rooted cultural significance that dates back to pre-Hispanic times. In Aztec times, the temples would have been dripping with flowers and the priests festooned in garlands. It was not permitted to enter the presence of royalty without a floral offering, and some flowers were only allowed to be carried by those with blue blood. Still today the shamans, magic men and women of Mexico, use flowers, herbs and tree resin to heal, purify and ward off evil, with a few using them for black magic.
Huge, pendulous, white flowers give angel’s trumpet its name and can been see throughout the tropical regions of Mexico. This seemingly innocent bloom, however, is more suited to its other name, devil’s breath, as it produces powerful hallucinations, delirium and even death when eaten. In indigenous cultures the plant is valued for its medicinal properties, and it was used ritualistically in pre-Hispanic times throughout South and Central America with the belief that it brought the user closer to the supernatural realm. Today its amnesiac and disorientating effects are reportedly still in use by malevolent shamans and criminals around the world.
Mexico’s warm and diverse climate provides the perfect conditions for a vast range of plants, trees and flowers to grow. And its rich heritage as a cultural melting pot imbues many of these glorious blooms with a historic significance that holds true today. Here is a traditional Mexican proverb that characterises the indefatigable and determined Mexican spirit which is reflected in its proud and sunny flowers: “They tried to bury us, they didn’t know we were seeds”.