Chinampas are rectangular shaped areas of fertile arable land used for crops during the Mesoamerican era. To build a Chinampa plots about 30m by 2.5m were staked out on the lake bed. A fence was woven between the stakes, and the area would be filled in mud and vegetation. The next rectangle would be parallel to this one, with room for a canal in between, where canoes can pass through.
Chinampas were primarily used in Lake Texcoco and Chalco near the springs that lined the south shores of those lakes. The primary chinampa crops were maize, beans, squash, amaranth, tomatoes and chili peppers and also used to grow flowers.
In the area of Xochimilco, the chinampas are still in use. The area was was first used by the Aztecs for chinampa farming after they had conquered it from previous inhabitants, seven Nahua tribes, who themselves moved into the area between the eigth and tenth centuries AD.
With the destruction of dams and sluice gates during the Spanish conquest of Mexico, many chinampa fields were abandoned, although many remnants are still in used today of what still remains of Lake Xochimilco. Chinampas were also the main food supply for the city of Tenochtitlan which is known today as Mexico City.
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