The Invention Of Chinampa Agriculture Essay

1436 words - 6 pages

“And when we saw all those cities and villages built in the water and other great towns on dry land, and that straight and level causeway leading to Tenochtitlan, we were amazed…Indeed, some of our soldiers asked if it was not all a dream,” a Spanish chronicler, Bernal Diaz del Castillo (Woodard), describes the beautiful capital of the Aztec Empire, Tenochtitlan, in awe of the city’s intricate landscape upon their Spanish arrival. The Aztecs were located in the Basin of Mexico, which is a part of Mesoamerica (Popper). Mesoamerica refers to the region known as Central America that includes the modern nations of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, and El Salvador. Several innovative developments took place in Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, such as chocolate, their divinatory calendar, their writing systems, and a Mayan ballgame called Ollama. However, the invention in Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica that holds the most significance is the development of chinampa agriculture. The Aztecs utilized many farming techniques to feed their ever growing population, but since Tenochtitlan was built on swampy land, chinampas were the main food production (Jaime Cóttrill C.).
Although the Aztecs adapted and popularized the chinampa agriculture, the Xochimilca were the first to develop this raised-bed agriculture. The Aztecs came to use the chinampas after expanding their empire into the Basin of Mexico and conquering the people native to the region, the Xochimilca. The Xochimilca people had settled on a small peninsula jutting out into Lake Xochimilco; hence their name. From this lake is where The Xochimilca obtained all their materials to build all their structures. As their population grew, the Xochimilca people were in need of a new food source, so they began to create artificial islands in the lake basin wetlands. Eventually a network of thousands of interconnected raised-beds and water canals were constructed (Woodard), where they grew maize, chile, beans, and squash (Popper). Production is year round, with up to three rich harvests a year. Because of their big population within the Valley of Mexico of 1.5 million, 1200 km² of Chinampa raised-bed and canals network was required to provide the majority of food consumed by the population (Woodard). Although, the the basin of Mexico did present obstacles for sustaining agriculture such as variable rainfall, frost, and little soil fertility. However, the development of the chinampas solved these problems. To make up for the minimal rain, the right moisture for crops was maintained by the proximity of the top of the field to the water level, plus the canals provided irrigation water. The water canals also reduced the chance of frosts by improving the nighttime temperature. To solve the problem of soil fertility, seedbeds had been specially prepared by the chinampa farmers for the seeds to be planted in, then the seedlings would be transplanted to the chinampa fields (Popper).
The term Chinampa comes from the Náhuatl...

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