Mexico City’s Canal Nacional was built over 2,000 years ago to transport goods from Xochimilco to the center of the city. A rare survivor of the city’s once-expansive network of canals that disappeared as the city developed and expanded rapidly in the twentieth century, Canal Nacional has endured as an open waterway and gathering place for the nearby communities. In a city as densely populated as Mexico City, the canal sustains a natural habitat for an ecosystem of animals, birds, and plants in the heart of the modern urban center.
Neglected by local authorities for many years, residents and community groups adopted sections of the 12km waterway and have organized regular cleaning brigades, planting campaigns, art installations, and more. In 2015, community members opposed the city’s plan to pave over the canal to build a road. Community members now seek to have greater input in the city government’s plan to clean Canal Nacional and develop a linear park in the next three years as part of the city’s 2019-2024 environment and climate change program.
Canal Nacional is included on the 2020 World Monuments Watch to celebrate the residents and associations that have championed it through the years despite limited resources and support. The commitment to invest in Canal Nacional is an opportunity to engage longtime stewards and other stakeholders in its revitalization and protection.