Canoes played a vital part in supporting the distinctive aquatic societies that Nahuas had fashioned from Lakes Xochimilco and Chalco in central Mexico. Residents there had long relied on waterborne transportation to maintain a wide range of enterprises. The lakes facilitated the commercial integration of the region, and the benefits of canoe transportation extended beyond the indigenous sector of the economy to the provisioning of Mexico City. Canoes came to occupy a strategic place in the broader colonial enterprise. The history of canoes can tell us much about the role of the environment in the regional economy, cross-cultural encounters and exchanges, relations between Nahuas and colonial institutions, and the ability of Nahuas to advance their interests and preserve the relative prosperity that under-pinned lakeside societies.

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