When food supplies were disrupted due to the coronavirus pandemic, Mexico’s capital discovered that it could and should rely on an Aztec-era style of farming – and that its revival is not only possible but necessary for the very survival of the city.
“We have a food-growing tradition of hundreds or thousands of years,” says David Monachon, a social sciences researcher at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. “There’s nothing alternative about this. It’s the historical legacy. This is the normal thing.”
Chinampas are artificial islands built by Aztec predecessors which served as the backbone for the Aztec food supply. There are still some 2,023 hectares of chinampas and only 2.5 percent are used for traditional agriculture. Once the city’s primary food source, island farming can no longer provide food for the entire population – some 22 million residents – but could potentially account for 20 percent of its consumption needs. Reviving chinampas will enhance the megacity’s food security and environmental sustainability. Island farms can act as cooling oases and havens for wildlife. What’s more, they preserve the cultural heritage.