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"Floating" Gardens
The Chinampa
Mar. 5, 2023

by José Luis Mendoza Aubert

It seems that the ingenious technology of the "chinampa" was first used in lakes and water reservoirs by the Mesoamerican peoples, specifically the Toltec tribes. Although the Mayans also cultivated on the banks of rivers in strips similar to the chinampas.

In the Texcoco, Chalco and Xochimilco lakes, around the twelfth century, the Mexica people already used this technology with very good results. The Spaniards brought European cultivation techniques. Chinampas were deemed inefficient and their use abandonded, although they never disappeared completely.

But... What is a chinampa and how is it made?

Well, a section of the lake is chosen, approximately 10 x 2 meters, then it is delimited in four corners with tree trunks, from there, a frame begins to be woven around with weeds and branches, which is filled with earth from the lake bottom, organic matter and leaves.

So a platform is built that becomes a plot for planting, the crops take their nutrients from the matter and the soil and their water directly from the lake. This serves as protection for fish, which add to the fertility of the system, and which can also be consumed. The eco-system alsoprovies habitat for a wide variety of birds. A space is left between the chinampas to allow the passage of a canoe, giving ready access to the farmers either to sow or to harvest.

With the time sediment accumulated below and between these chinampas so that they became part of the mainland. The builders of Tenochtitlan often used this technique to increase the terrain, because the demand of space of the growing city. This is how our current Mexico City ended up being built in valley once mostly filled with lake. And this is why, according to a study (Advancing Earth and Space Science), Mexico City is sinking, at a rate of about 50 centimeters per year.

This way of farming is regaining popularity, although it is not sustainable for large-scale and industrial agriculture, but it not only respects the landscape but is an absolutely natural way to grow the precious "milpas", a topic that we will address next article.


Jarocho Jam (w/ José Luis)
Wednesday, March 8, 6:30pm
Paprika, Ancha San Antonio 9a
$300 ticket + $300 minimum consumption, 415-124-2338 WhatsApp


José Luis Mendoza Aubert: actor, director and theater technician; teacher and writer of Theater and Plastic Arts; founder and director of the Comedia del Universo theater company and school, operating in San Miguel for the last 20 years; musicologist and cinephile, judge of the En Corto Film Festival now GIFF for 8 years; Director of Art and Culture of the Public Library for 15 years; member of the board of directors of El Sindicato Centro Cultural Comunitario.

José Luis gives talks and workshops on environmental awareness in schools and communities. He is a founding member of the Allende la Cultura Collective. He plays Veracruz music and writes poetry and is a founding member of the music group Jarocha "Soledad".


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