Event Recap: 5th Annual Celebrando las Acequias

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By Estevan Arellano

The Fifth Annual Celebrando las Acequias, held June 14-17 was a great success, as the two-night event, Saturday and Sunday tours were well attended. The event started Thursday evening with a presentation by the Rio Arriba County Planning and Zoning Dept., followed by an eloquent and very informative presentation by New Mexico Acequia Association Executive Director Paula Garcia. She was followed by David Garcia who played his own compositions about the acequias and agriculture, including a “cuando” about chile, as well as singing the Trovo del Café y el Atole.

Friday, Arid Land Institute Co-Director Hadley Arnold provided an overview of the past 3 years of work, followed by a reading by Tierra Amarilla na-tive Dr. Arturo Madrid, from Trinity University, who read from his recently published memoir, In the Country of Empty Crosses. He read from the chapter of his grandfather as the mayordomo, which set the tone for the rest of the conference.

Dr. William Doolittle, from the Geography De-partment at UT Austin, presented the keynote ad-dress, “Our Canal is Indigenous, Yours is….: Whence the Technology Came.” Dr. Severin Fowles, a Dixon resident and anthropology professor at Barnard and Columbia University in New York, gave a fascina-ting talk on his work excavating a Pre-Columbian Pueblo site known as El Bosque on the north side of the Río Embudo across from the old Embudo Plaza, dating back to 1300 AD. Presentations were followed by master folklore musician Cipriano Vigil and his son who performed for the public.

Saturday morning Dr. Thomas Glick from Bos-ton University, who has studied the acequias in Spain for over 50 years, spoke on “Spanish Rights, Lawyers’ Wrongs,” and made a very interesting com-ment that “Pueblo Doctrine has no support under Spanish and Mexican Law.”

Mora native Dr. Manuel Montoya, from the UNM Anderson School of Management, gave the most eloquent and inspiring presentation, “Finding Global Heritage in Indigenous Agricultural Land Us-age.” He spoke of acequias as an intellectual activity, and that they shouldn’t have to first be recognized by the state, then at the federal level. Rather, they are a world heritage endeavor.

Dr. James Wescoat from MIT gave an illumi-nating presentation, “The `Duties of Water’ Reconsid-ered: Landscape Ethics and Infrastructures for Sustaina-ble Design.” He spoke of the word acequia (saqiya) as having multiple meanings, including being the cup bearer of water or wine, making it a “courtly and poetic symbol.”

After a great lunch prepared by caterer Elena Arellano, Dr. Jorge Ricardo Ponte, who has written extensively on Argentina’s acequias, presented, “Mendoza’s Acequias and the Caciques of Water.” I then followed with a brief presentation “The Embudo Land Grant and the Development of the Acequias,” high-lighting place names which date back to 1725. The last two presentations were “The Evolution of Water Management Boards in The Netherlands,” by Jan-Willem Jansens of Ecotone: Environmental and Ecological Planning, and “History to Live By: Pueb-loan Peoples Farming on the Edge,” by anthropologist Dr. Kurt Anschuetz, Rio Grande Foundation for Communities and Cultural Landscapes. This was followed by a presentation by ALI, “Designing Adap-tation in the Embudo Valley,” followed by a panel dis-cussion.

After dinner, farmer and acequia commissioner of the Acequia del Medio, Romolo Griego, was rec-ognized both as a sustainable producer and acequiero. Also recognized for there lifetime com-mitment to sustainability were retired educators Al-fredo and Ada Martinez. Los Coyotes de Cañoncito closed the event with their music.

The event was wrapped up on Sunday with group excursions to Pot Creek and the mulch gardens in Velarde.