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A Story of How Chia Seed Caused Betrayal, Contraband Smuggling and a Massacre
The history of chia begins with the “floating gardens” of the city of Tenochtitlan. The shallow lakes around the city had nutrient-rich soil underwater. To access this fertile soil, workers drove juniper stakes into the lake bed. They would then weave canes around the posts, creating a “fenced” area. Soil from the lake bed was dredged and dumped into the potential island. Willows were planted around the islands to give them stability.
The islands were the property of the emperor and on them grew the sacred chia seed. This seed was considered divine and was not shared with the people. Instead, it was hoarded by the emperor for personal use.
Inevitably, chia was smuggled out under the noses of the emperors, and over time, chia became the most widely grown crop in Mexico second only to corn.
The ancient Aztecs used chia in several ways. It was grilled and eaten as a snack. It was mixed with water and used as an energy drink for sporting and hunting activities. It was offered to the deity Chicome Coatl who was the “maker and donor”. Its oil was pressed and used as varnish.
Chia became so widely appreciated that its status quickly became a prized commodity. Chia was traded for other valuables. It was used as currency, to pay taxes and as an aphrodisiac. He was also buried with the dead so they would have an offering to appease the gods.
Chia became such a part of the way of life in ancient Mexico that the modern state of Chiapas takes its name from the sacred plant.
While the Spaniards were busy conquering the Aztecs, Father Bernardino de Sahagun was busy documenting the Aztec way of life in an illustrated manuscript called the Florentine Codex. He noted chia and how it was used in everyday Aztec life. It was consumed in various ways, given to women in labor to facilitate childbirth and as a remedy for ailments.
There is an interesting story that catapulted the chia seed from obscurity into modern scrutiny. Ciraldo Chacarito, a native of Tarahumara, competed in an endurance running race in 1997. Wearing a pair of homemade sandals, he wiped out most of the competition to finish in the top ten. Its competitors, top athletes from around the world wearing state-of-the-art shoes, were amazed at its results. How did he do it? He attributed his strength and stamina to a diet consisting mostly of chia. The following year, using chia to aid his training, he returned and won the race.
Athletes around the world turn to chia as the best natural source of energy, stamina and stamina. Chia is unmatched in its ability to lock in hydration, provide electrolytes and boost recovery.
Chia has also been used medicinally. Willis Linn Jepson said “an infusion of the seeds was valued by mission fathers as a remedy for fever; the seeds also provided ‘the best poultice for gunshot wounds…’ Lol! Keep that in mind for the next time you get shot.
In James F. Scheer’s fantasy book The Magic of Chia, James tells the story of a man who looked fifty years old when in fact he was seventy-two. He attributed his longevity to a diet consisting mostly of chia, brewer’s yeast, desiccated liver, yogurt and other natural foods.
James tells another anecdote: a man is driving down a dirt road in Mexico and stops next to a running native. He asks him if he would like a ride. “No thank you”, replies the native, “I’m in a hurry”.
Harrison Doyle, author of two books, ‘Golden Chia’ and ‘Harrison Doyle at 100: How I Sustained My Vital Electric Life Force’ lived to be at least 102 years old. He also attributed his longevity to chia. He spent time living with Native Americans in Southern California. Remember ‘The Last of the Mohicans? Harrison was there. He witnessed first hand the natives using only chia seeds and water for endurance running. The tribesmen would fill bags with seeds and take just that and water to travel distances of three hundred miles to trade copper and turquoise, arrowheads and ocher paint. Like the scene in the movie, when hunting, the natives hunted deer for hours, tiring the animals, fueled by chia.
During the transformation from childhood to adulthood, tribesmen smeared chia gel in their armpits and slept at night with their arms tied at their sides. The chia would clean the pores by reducing body odor to a minimum. The point was not to impress the girls but rather not to scare off the deer with a strong human scent.
Doyle tells the story of the Ivah tribe who lived in a small village. One year there was a drought and the neighboring Temucala Indians came to fight them for their chia crops. Outnumbered and cornered, the Ivah were murdered by a man in an area now known as Massacre Canyon. The moral of the story: share your chia.
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