Fear and ignorance wiped out the manatees.
Xochimilco is characterized by its canals and its trajinera tours. Did you know that there were once manatees in its waters?
Although this region was considered a Natural and Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 1987, decades before its appointment there was a huge ecological problem in its waters: a species known as water lily infested them and became a pest.
Faced with this situation, in 1976 the then delegate Mariano Velasco Mújica brought four manatees to eradicate the plague because these animals feed on water lily. However, the Yo Amo Xochimilco webpage reports that there were 28 specimens, so the exact number is unknown.
Manatees are herbivorous mammals that can live in fresh or saltwater and pose no risk to the population. That is why they were brought from the Grijalva river and released into the canals without notifying the inhabitants of the area.
This was a huge mistake, as the presence of the animals created panic among the villagers, who believed that they were soul-eating monsters and immediately began to hunt them down. The unfortunate result: they were neither monsters nor did they kill the lily.
As a result of this hunt, the manatees were exterminated and their remains ended up in different Mexican dishes. From this story a legend was born: “cursed souls” navigate the waters of Xochimilco and can still be seen in the moonlight.