Acequia Community Spotlight–Chamisal y Ojito

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Twelve families, Twelve miles, Twelve years
By: Toribio Garcia
Since I was a small child, I have been fascinated by the story of the acequias in Chamisal, the 12 families, 12 miles, and 12 years. Since I was little I have been told I was the eleventh generation to grow up on the acequia in Chamisal and have participated in the annual limpias alongside very knowledgeable people for many years. The story of the acequias has made me feel closer to these people and my ancestors. Being asked to write an article for the NMAA acequia community spotlight has given me the opportunity to interview my grandpa Max.
What is the history of your acequia, as you know it (or as you've been told)?

While speaking to Maximiliano Garcia of Chamisal he informed me that the Santo Thomas Apostal Del Rio de Las Trampas also known as the Las Trampas Land Grant located in Southern part of Taos County was settled the 15th of July, 1751. It was granted to 12 families known as the "Doze Familias". The history of the acequia goes back prior to 1751 but the priority date is 1751. Chamisal is one of several villages that diverts from the Santa Barbara River. The acequia was constructed by the 12 families in a time frame of 12 years totaling 12 miles from the Santa Barbara River to the plaza de chamisal.
What kinds of crops does your acequia community grow?
Max explained that Chamisal has historically grown a wide range of fruit trees, grains and vegetable crops. He mentioned the types of trees grown included apple trees, apricot trees, plum trees, pear trees and choke cherry trees. The vegetables grown included maiz (corn), alberjon (peas), calabazas (pumpkins), havas (fava beans), papas (potatoes) and trigo (wheat).
He mentioned that times have changed and many parciantes of Chamisal y Ojito currently grow mostly pastura y sacate for animals but that small gardens that include many of the above crops are still found growing in the community. Max mentioned that a lot can be grown with the exception of green chile and watermelon, and that is because of the short growing season.
What traditions and practices does your acequia community maintain? (Food and agriculture, limpia, etc.)
The communities of Chamisal y Ojito begin their annual acequia cleaning in April and have them completed before the water is needed in May. The commission is composed of a Chairman, a secretary, and a treasurer. There are two mayordomos; one that serves the acequias de Chamisal, and the other Mayordomo serves the Acequias de Ojito.
What is your irrigation season? (Time frame)
Irrigation starts early in the spring for pasturas, and agriculture crops that are usually planted in mid may get irrigated in early June.
What are your commissioners and mayordomos doing this time of year?
The Mayordomos and commissioners are busy getting ready for next year, checking by laws, rules and regulations and making sure that everything that needs to get done is getting done. He mentioned one of the most important duties at this time of year includes locating and repairing socavones , which is the place where water is lost due to a faulty ditch bank.
What makes your acequia special?
Max stated "Our Acequias bring water to Chamisal, which is Desert Mountain Southwest. We get water to grow crops and I feel very fortunate to be surrounded by Acequias". The communities of Chamisal y Ojito which lie in the Las Trampas land grant and the Picuris Land Grant were settled by Tramperos, who are his descendant's. Max says it is special to be in the middle of the Las Trampas Land grant and in the Picuris Land grant, but also what makes it all work is community, the organization, and the sharing.
There are currently 16 operational acequias totaling more than 58 miles that irrigate over 1,115 acres of land.
Acequia del Medio de Chamisal