There is evidence that the crop was widely cultivated by the Aztecs in pre-Columbian times and was a staple
food for Mesoamerican cultures. Chia seeds are cultivated on a small scale in their ancestral homeland of
central Mexico and Guatemala and commercially throughout Central and South America.
The 16th-century Codex Mendoza provides evidence that it was cultivated by the Aztec in pre-Columbian times,
and economic historians say it may have been as important as maize as a food crop. It was given as an annual
tribute by the people to the rulers in 21 of the 38 Aztec provincial states. Chia seeds served as a staple food
for the Nahuatl (Aztec) cultures. Jesuit chroniclers placed chia as the third-most important crop in the Aztec culture,
behind only corn and beans, and ahead of amaranth. Offerings to the Aztec priesthood were often paid in chia seed.
Ground or whole chia seeds are used in Argentina, Bolivia, Guatemala, Mexico, and Paraguay for
nutritious drinks and food. Today, chia is cultivated on a small scale
in its ancestral homeland of central Mexico and Guatemala, and commercially in
Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, and Mexico.