Growing an empire

Man and chinampa
Modern-day chinampa in Xochimilco southeast of Mexico City.
Image: Hernán García Crespo
Source: Used under CC BY 2.0 via saguayo

Ingenious Agriculture

The city of Tenochtitlán depended on intensive agriculture, particularly as the population grew. The city was in the middle of swampy lake so there wasn’t much land available for growing food. The Aztecs solved this problem with an ingenious technological innovation - the chinampa.

They built these garden beds in the lake by layering vegetation and mud  from the lake floor. Long poles or willow trees secured the corners of the chinampas, and nutrient-rich lake waters fertilised them. The Aztecs also ate fish and water fowl from the canals between the chinampas.

Trade and Tributes

War was important to the Aztecs for conquering new land. When they gained control of other territories they did not replace existing governments. Instead, they imposed tax regimes upon each newly acquired territory. Taxes, or tributes, were in the form of everyday needs, like food and firewood, and luxury items.

These tribute systems made the Aztecs unpopular with their neighbours. When the Spanish invaded in 1519, some of these disgruntled territories formed alliances with the Spanish against the Aztecs.

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