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.
Also known as American aloe, the Maguey is a species of agave is used to make a thick, milky alcoholic drink called pulque that was created in pre-Hispanic times and still drunk today. The fermented sap was consumed in huge amounts during religious rites, celebrations and festivals and its fibres were used for weaving. The drink was enjoyed so highly that the maguey’s beautiful, young goddess called Mayahuel was worshipped in return for her nectar. The giant and fatalistic maguey plant steadily grows for 10 years before it thrusts a towering tree of flowers from its centre and dies.