Dón Facundo Valdez, a well-known acequiero of Las Vegas and native of Las Aguitas in Mora County, passed away on Sunday, August 3, 2014. He was 82 years old. Valdez resided in Las Vegas, New Mexico, near Old Town, where he and his wife, Dora, raised their family. One could sometimes catch him at the historic Plaza Hotel enjoying spirits with friends and loved ones from Las Vegas and surrounding areas. His obituary and schedule of memorial services can be found here.
Last fall, the New Mexico Acequia Association honored Facundo with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Congreso de las Acequias. He was recognized for his lifelong devotion to the acequia movement and for his many years of distinguished service as an educator, community organizer, counselor, and a strong voice for social justice. Upon receiving his award, he regaled attendees with memories of his long life and his upbringing in Las Aguitas. "A mi me criaron con la ley del monte," he said (I was raised with the law of the mountain). And he expounded on the dignity of working with ones hands, the importance of honoring the spirit of the land, and the need for community self-sufficiency. He ended his commentary with a song accompanied by musician and songwriter David Garcia from El Guache.
During his professional career, Facundo Valdez played a major role in the establishment of the School of Social Work at New Mexico Highlands University, where he was the director for over 30 years. Through this work, he was able to establish mental health services in a seven county area through Sangre de Cristo Community Mental Health Programs in the 1980's. He was also a founding member of the National Council of La Raza and was a long-time board member for the Con Alma Foundation.
In addition to his long career in public service, Valdez was also highly regarded for his deep awareness of the collective spiritual consciousness and its manifestations through the aspirations and struggles of everyday life in northern New Mexico. He was recognized as a folk historian who was often consulted; and he used storytelling, poetry, and music as tools to illuminate complex social and economic situations. He would often break into song, a capella, reaching into deep memory to share a corrido, or Mexican folk ballad.
According to friend, colleague, and NMAA President Antonio Medina, "Facundo es un gran maestro y hijo del pueblo" (Facundo is a great teacher and a son of the people).
Dón Facundo served in the leadership of the New Mexico Acequia Association for many years, where his strict adherence to process, was underlined by his deep love for the acequias and land-based peoples of New Mexico. After many years of service, Facundo retired from the Concilio (Board of Directors) of the New Mexico Acequia Association in November 2013, but was appointed by his colleagues to be the founding member of the Consejo de las Acequias, an advisory council of elders.
For the exemplary life he lived, for all who he has taught and mentored, for all those he aided in health and human services, and for his perseverance to sustain a land-based way of life, the New Mexico Acequia Association respectfully mourns the loss of Facundo Valdez with love, respect, and great appreciation. Que en paz descanse.