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Lake Xochimilco is an ancient endorheic lake located in the Valley of Mexico, part of a series of lakes, which included the brackish Lake Texcoco, Lake Zumpango, and Lake Xaltocan and the fresh water Lake Chalco. These lakes were the home of many Mesoamerican cultures, including the Teotihuacanos, the Toltecs, and the Aztecs.
Due to its shallow waters and the freshwater springs that lined the south shore of the lake, Lake Xochimilco was the center of chinampa agriculture in the centuries leading up to the Spanish conquest of Mexico. This made the region a prime target for the expansionist Aztecs, who obtained control over the lake in a series of campaigns, from circa 1432 until 1440, during the reign of the Aztec Hueyi Tlatoani, Itzcóatl.
The Spaniards' destruction of the dams and sluice gates in the 1520s, as well as the sharp declines in the native population, led to the near abandonment of the chinampa gardens.
The five lakes within the Valley of Mexico have now largely disappeared, drained to reduce flooding. Only the Xochimilco canals remain from the original Lake Xochimilco. Even today, some chinamperos still work their chinampa gardens within the canals.
Lake Xochimilco is the last remaining native habitat for axolotl, a species of mole salamander endemic to Mexico. Until it was drained, the species had also been present in Lake Chalco. Given Lake Xochimilco's present extensively compromised and reduced state and the accelerating impact of Mexico City's urban growth, as of 2008[update] axolotl in the wild are listed as a critically endangered species by the IUCN.
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