Friends, loved ones, and colleagues are mourning the passing of Estevan Arellano, a widely respected figure in New Mexico and internationally for his deep knowledge about acequias, food, culture, and community. Regarded by many as a maestro, or teacher, Estevan was considered one of the most important acequia scholars of our time. He was well known for his vibrant storytelling about the dynamics of daily community life in an acequia community as well as his scholarly lectures about ancient acequia history and language. He not only professed the profound importance of language but put language into practice. Many who spent time with him appreciated his mastery of the northern New Mexico Spanish dialect and the locally familiar cadence that carried his words of wisdom and unique style of analysis.
As an asociaciado, or associate, of La Academia de la Nueva Raza, Estevan applied his journalist training, deep sense of community, and love of culture to collecting stories from the ancianos of northern New Mexico. His experiences gave him a lifelong appreciation for the diverse voices that comprise an acequia village and gave him unique insights into the worldview of the people of the region. He and his loving wife Elena were aficionados of traditionally prepared foods and he was well known as a zealous proponent of locally grown heritage foods. He and Elena raised gardens and livestock, recently completing an NRCS project with irrigation improvements and a hoophouse. Many of his colleagues and associates were fortunate to have been guests in the Arellano home and participated in gatherings in the gentle shade of an ancient and grand apricot tree near their adobe house.
He had several publications including his most recently published book, "Enduring Acequias," for which he was currently engaged in numerous book signings and readings. His novel "Inocencio" helped to define a genre of literature based in the distinctive style of storytelling of his contemporaries. His writings also helped to popularize the concept of
querencia, or love of place, and numerous conferences and publications have built upon his articulation of querencia. His life and voice served as a bridge to ancianos, or elders who were his teachers, and his spirited engagement in current political issues. Estevan was highly sought after as a speaker at numerous conferences on the topics of water, food, culture, and community and was recently a featured presenter by video teleconference at the Congreso Internacional de Regadio recently held in Valencia, Spain.
Estevan served as a member of the Concilio of the New Mexico Acequia Association for many years and as President of the Embudo Valley Acequia Association where he served as a devoted servant to local acequias, advocated for restoration of the watersheds that feed acequia flows, and secured resources for the improvement and repairs of local acequias. He hosted numerous workshops including the annual
Celebracion de las Acequias in Embudo which was one of the most widely attended acequia events in New Mexico.
Those close to him will carry vivid memories of his wit, intellect, and passionate opinions on a wide variety of issues. His loyalty, love and devotion to his family, wife Elena, children, and grandchildren, were evident in his daily life. Estevan's passing will leave a great void in his local community and the broader community that he helped to cultivate with his writings and his work.
Memorial services for Estevan will be held on Saturday November 8th at 10:30am at DeVargas Funeral Home in Española, followed by a meal served at the Mission Embudo.