Chinampas/Irrigation

February Agriculture in Compostela, Mexico

Crop Layout

Located in a sub-tropical area, Compostela, Mexico would have the sustainability for agriculture to produce crops at all times of the year. In order to do so, Chinampas or irrigation ditches were constructed before the Spaniards arrival to supply water to those crops during the drier seasons. First, Lagunas, used as reservoirs, were formed to provide water. Then irrigation channels were arguably constructed to provide a system of soil replenishment, and year around sources for water. Higher in elevation there would be a temporary water source from runoff that would feed the main crops during the wet season flooding the fields, and adding nutrients to the soil.

Average Rainfall Recorded in Tepic.
Red Line represents the variation in temperature.



It is not documented that the Aztecs constructed the San Pedro Lagunillas to provide resources for agriculture in the Compostela valley. However, Elisee Reclus, provides the account of Mendoza renaming the lake after the area provided oak trees for a church. Providing proof that this man made resource was developed by the indigenous populations. Regulating water systems is evidence for a sedentary society. While it cannot be attributed to the Aztecs, some indigenous populations used the technology of the Aztecs to provide an irrigation system to the valley below.

San Pedro Lagunillas

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Sources:

Ball, John. M. The Changing Urban Funtions of Tepic, Nayarit, Mexico. Pan American Institute of Geography and History. 1966. 123-135. https://www.jstor.org/stable/40993031

Climate-data.org. Climate Database. Online. 2019.
https://en.climate-data.org/north-america/mexico/nayarit/tepic-871878/#climate-graph

Reclus, Elisee. The Earth and its Inhabitants: The Universal Geography: Mexico, Central America, West Indies. ( J.S. Virtue & Co. London) 113
https://archive.org/stream/universalgeograp17recl/universalgeograp17recl_djvu.txt

AGAVE genus Agave L

Is native to the south western United States and Mexico deserts, some species are native to South America. The Agave was a plant available to the Conquistadors in their conquest of the Americas of the Southwest. In a wide area of the country, traveled by the ancient people and the Spanish explorers, the Agave plant was available to the natives for thousands of years, and they learned how to use the plants wonderful properties for man to live with.

In Compostela, the natives used the Agave as a border for their gardens, to ward off animals that could eat and destroy their crops.

The height of the Agave would reach the shoulder of the average man, with leaves like sharp marginal teeth and a extremely sharp fibrous and terminal spine (approximately 1 -2 meters), the width would exceed the extended arms.

The many uses from the Agave: Hemp for rope, clothing, twine, and the needles were used for sewing. Foods: like edible paste could be made and stored for travel, and a sweetener was made from the sap. Alcoholic beverages were extracted, those are: beer, tequila and mezcal. A lubrication extracted, was used for cooking.


Peccaries

Peccaries are wild animals, closely related to the pig. The three subspecies of peccary are all native to the Americas. The Spanish would have never run into animals like peccaries before and most likely would have thought them a type of wild pig. A very small wild pig, much smaller domesticated pigs and wild boar in Europe. Still edible, however, and quite tasty for explorers on the trail. 

Collared Peccary

The three subspecies of peccary are the collared peccary, the white-lipped peccary, and the tagua. Most of my focus has been on the collared peccary, since collared peccaries are native to the area Coronado was exploring. Or more specifically, the area near Arizona and Mexico. 

These little animals feed off of plant shoots and bulbs, digging up whatever food they can. They’re rather shy and stay away from humans whenever possible. It’s possible the Spanish would have run across them mostly by luck at first, and later only when hunting them as another food source. The native peoples would have used peccaries as food often, though not as often as with crops. Peccary would have been more an extra food, rather than a staple. 

Peccary are more in the background of the situation going on than anything else. They would have probably called ‘wild pigs’ if they were called anything at all. Noticed only for the food they provided. They do make sounds but are pretty quiet, overall. 

In conclusion, the peccary do not play a huge role in Coronado’s journey. However, they were there and play a smaller role instead, to provide the necessary background of the situation. 

 

Bibliography:

Blashfield, Jean F. “Peccaries.” In The Gale Encyclopedia of Science, 5th ed., edited by K. Lee Lerner and Brenda Wilmoth Lerner, 3275-3276. Vol. 6. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale, 2014. General OneFile (accessed February 20, 2019). http://link.galegroup.com.libproxy.uccs.edu/apps/doc/CX3727801821/ITOF?u=colosprings&sid=ITOF&xid=269ac40e. [An encyclopedia entry on peccary, a native animal to the area.]

 

Manin, Aurélie, and Christine Lefèvre. “The Use of Animals in Northern Mesoamerica, between the Classic and the Conquest (200-1521 AD). An Attempt at Regional Synthesis on Central Mexico.” Anthropozoologica 51, no. 2 (2016): 127-47. doi:10.5252/az2016n2a5. [Online article on animals commonly used in the area conquered by the Spaniards.]

 

Geneva Brown, Analysis and Reflections, UCCS

Cotton Production

Gossypium hirsutum

Before the Spaniards inhabited the area cotton or “taman” was used by the Mayans the Aztecs and other indigenous populations. Francis F. Berdan describes many uses for the cotton plant, “Scalp diseases were treated with hot crushed flowers; ulcers and other skin diseases were treated with crushed leaves; and ‘a certain veneral disease’ was treated with the flowers of the cotton plant.” Many uses for the entire cotton plant were used by the indigenous populations. The shoots were crushed and used for asthma, the seeds were used for “tenesmus.” The leaves were boiled down and used in a bath for aching bones, and convulsions. While the flower was used to cure ear infections, and “the toasted leaf is squeezed into the eye to stop twitching.” Even though the obvious use for cotton is clothing, the uses for this particular plant stretch far beyond vanity.


https://www.pinterest.com/pin/731060951985384149/

The Spanish were already familiar with cotton from India, however, there was still great interest in the crop. As well, Francis F. Berdan offers detailed descriptions from primary sources, “Hernandez (1959, vol. I: 426) speaks of the use of the pulverized stem to relieve ulcers, and of the crushed (young plants?) curing “admirably” the bites of scorpions, snakes, and other venomous creatures. Other medicinal uses are mentioned by Martinez (1959: 30-31). Other (non-Mesoamerican) groups used parts of the cotton plant for food.” Other uses including paper, currency, oil, shields and armor, allowed this crop to be a valuable resource for everyone at Compostela. h

Crop Layout.

While Compostela is being inhabited by the Spaniards, the local crop production would be in full planting season. Preparations for the wet season in February would be in full swing. While we know that cotton was available to the Spaniards upon arrival, little is known about the cotton production in Mexico before their arrival. However, “prime cotton growing areas also extend inland from the coasts along river valleys, which provide adequate moisture through rainfall or irrigation, suitably warm temperatures, and protection from frosts,” makes Compostela a desirable location.

Berdan, Frances F. Mexican Studies/Estudios Mexicanos, Vol. 3, No. 2. (California University Press. Summer, 1987), 235-262