Nurture. Empower. Lead.
Chinampas are our multipurpose multilayer interdependent sustainable ecosystems of leadership development and answerability for our community
The Aztecs had the most sophisticated and advanced water system. It's a multipurpose multilayer interdependent sustainable ecosystem that's usually 300 feet long by 30 feet wide. It starts by weaving a web of sticks floating in the water and pilling reeds on top of them. Mud was scraped from the lake bottom and piled on top the reeds to form the chinampa. The average chinampa can produce up to 7 crops a year, compared to a mainland field only being able to do one to maybe three at the most.
Forget using the imagery of "pipelines" when thinking about preparing and getting young people to leadership positions. The only two main functions of a pipeline is to get clean water to something and pipe back waste. The same goes with leaders piped up, we can only expect waste back.
Chinampas are multipurpose multilayer interdependent sustainable ecosystems
Overview of a Chinampa
Each element, layer, and factor keeps a chinampa sustainable and able to help produce various types of plants, flowers, and crops
Within the Aztecs capital city, Tenochtitlan miles of massive navigational canals connected the city and chinampas. They were used to get around and the water was in constant motion. The water canals provided the chinampas a diverse source of nutrients from fishes, plants, and oxygen unique to the chinampas interdependent sustainable ecosystem.
Collective Vision & Norms
The foundational layer of the chinampa is constructed by purposefully weaving together sticks, which in turn create the perfect firm foundation. The interlocking of the sticks allows enough room for water to still flow through, but also closeness enabling the chinampa to not fall apart or loose it's unique structure.
Strategies & Tactics
Reeds naturally flourish in and around the water as grass-like plants. They are firm, but also flexible. A layer of pilling reeds on top of the weaving sticks brings to life the Nahuatl chinampan, meaning "in the fence of reeds". Likewise, in the framework of leadership, this layer represents the need to be flexible in using various strategies and tactics, in order to allow movement of the water.
Once both the weaving sticks and pilling reeds layers are constructed, mud is scraped from the lake bottom and piled on top. This layer has to be the thickest and fills in the open spaces of the two earlier layers. The soil is rich, organic, and the environment for plant's roots to be expand and be vulnerable.
The final layer of the chinampa is the constant replenishing of the soil with organic decomposition. This initiates the sustainable cycle of providing diverse nutrients to the plants purposefully growing on the chinampa. It is through this process that the chinampa can grow up to 7 crops a year.
Stages of Growth in a Chinampa
"They tried to bury us, but didn't know that I'm a seed."
~ Mexican Proverb
"Quisieron enterrarnos sin saber que soy una semilla"
~ Proverbio Mexicano
During the beginning stage most of the growth remains below the soil surface. This protects from harms like late frost and the seed being eaten. Breaking soil and sprouting the first leaves are significant early accomplishments!
The early blooming stage involves deeper rooting, sprouting of required leaves to catch more sunlight, and possible blooming of flowers. The plant might not still be recognizable to the iconic plant it's becoming.
The plant needs to grow in size both under the ground and above the ground. At this point the flowers, leaves, and size attracts attention from pollinating creatures like hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. It's clear what the plant will produce, but might not still be producing crops.
The plant is grown. It is producing crops, produce, seeds, and a constant flow of nutrients to the whole sustainable ecosystem of growing plants in the chinampa. What this plant produces is going to be judged by others for the crop's size, juiciness, and thickness. However, those judging will never know the whole story of the plant's journey, trauma, healing, restoring, pruning, and transformation.
Within a seed there's huge potential, various futures of possibility, and a responsibility at some point to also produce other seeds. A plant must always be growing its roots and size, but naturally cannot always bloom and produce. It has its unique attributes, contributions, and also scent.
Interactions & Relationships
The deeper the roots, the more nutrients it can access and strength to not be uprooted. A chinampa multilayer structure is perfect for a constant, safe, and rich organic environment for roots to be vulnerable. "Self made" plants don't exist. Plants can only produce and survive with roots.
Required Growth
Leaves show that growth has happened and required within the journey. The more leaves a plant has the more opportunities it has in becoming the plant it strives to be. Within the framework of leadership, leaves are required growth like required degrees, certifications, exams, and landmarks needed to becoming a certain person.
Experiences, Skills, & Qualities
Flowers both decorate and prepare the plant to transform the flowers into crops, produce, and seeds. The more flowers a plant has the more opportunities it has to attracting and interacting with pollinating. Cross pollinating diversifies the core of a plant making it resistant to diseases and harsh seasons.
We Can't Control
Seasons are natural and expected to come and go. There are seasons of drought, plenty, winter, spring, summer, and fall. We don't judge a plants ability to produce when it's going through a harsh season. Being compassionate and proactive go a long way in not only keeping the plant alive, but coming out stronger after that difficult season. It's during these seasons when roots instinctively should deepen.
Produce & Seeds
Once a plant is grown and maturing, crops like produce and seeds grow. Both produce and seeds still require time to get to a point where it's ready to leave the plant. If it happens too early, it risks not having ripe produce and seeds that don't root. The quality of the crop depend on the depth of the roots, amount of leaves, flowers, and the nutrients it has constantly had.
Time is important, but is not the only qualifying factor to becoming a contributing plant in a chinampa. The only element that is equally distributed among every plant is time. Water, sunlight, nutrients, pollination, and seasons all vary among each plant, but time doesn't. However, it's pivotal to recognize that not each seed was planted at the same time and the stages of growth vary depending on the plant.
A plant must always be growing, however, certain growth is not always healthy, contributing to the plant's future ability to produce, or even in the right direction. If a plant grows in an unsafe direction, size, and way it risks not being able to produce at all, damaging itself and other plants. Pruning stimulates a plant's natural healing process, which promotes healthy growth. Consequently, after pruning a plant it often produces larger and healthier crops.
Many types of creatures are part of the pollination process like bats, birds and even land mammals, but the most common pollinators are insects like bees, butterflies and wasps flying from flower to flower in order to collect nectar. In the process, pollen collects on their bodies and rubs off on other flowers that they visit. This fertilizes the flower and the plant will then grow seeds and the fruit around the seeds. Flowers are what usually attract the creatures and are the center of where the pollinating process happens.
There are different tools that can be used for seeding. The most common one is a wooden seed dibber used to make a hole in the soil, place 3-4 seeds, and covering the hole. There is a Nahua Corn Planting Ceremony that takes place to make sure the start of the cycle of planting starts correctly with gratitude and offerings to Chicomexochitl, the Corn God who is a child. If we do not plant seeds then the Chinampa will die and the sustainability of the field will be affected.
It is believed within Aztec/Mexica tradition that during the monarch butterflies are the returning spirits of ancestors, especially those of warriors. Monarch butterflies migrate every year across boarder to come during El dia de los Muertos to Anguangeo Mexico. We must acknowledge and welcome the presence of butterflies in our chinampas.
If we use chinampas as our imagery and framework to leadership development, we understand that nurtured leaders will give back nutrients to the rest of the chinampas. All of our chinampas are aligned to our Collective Vision and follow our Norms. Find out who are our Co-Leads for each Chinampa.