Congreso 2016: El Movimiento en Defensa de Nuestra Agua

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Nuestra Agua, Nuestro Futuro: Acequias Rising!

On Saturday November 19th 2016, over 250 acequia farmers, ranchers, and the next generation of acequia leaders gathered at the Sagebrush Inn Convention Center in Taos to celebrate the future and resiliency of acequia culture and land-based ways of living across the state of New Mexico.

Some of the highlights of the day were:

El Bendición de las Aguas













Acequieros came together to offer water from their respective acequias to the community olla which was then blessed by Taoseño Deacon Larry Torres of  the Holy Trinity Parish in Arroyo Seco.  Acequieros were invited to take some of the blessed water home and NMAA collected a container of the blessed water to send to Standing Rock as a symbol of solidarity.


Hermanimiento between NM and San Luis Acequias
















Many of us understand that political boundaries do not honor cultural regions. The NMAA has been in a relationship with the Sangre de Cristo Acequia Association of Southern Colorado for years. We often present at their annual Congreso. This year NMAA decided to formalize the friendship with recognition of “Hermanimiento” (union, or brotherhood). We were grateful that a delegation of acequia leaders who joined the Congreso to receive the recognition. Experience the deep connection we have with our neighbors to the north:

El Plan del Movimiento de las Acequias























For the year of 2017 NMAA is sending a call to Action to all Acequia communities to participate in El Plan del Movimiento de las Acequias. Here are the ways you can get involved!

  • Plática/Visita – Host a community based conversation to engage and organize community members and parciantes around acequia issues. NMAA will hold a training in the Spring of 2017 for those hosting pláticas and visitas.
  • Community Event – Host a community event such as a blessing, meal, celebration, etc. to celebrate acequia culture. Suggestion: El primer agua:  invite youth and community to celebrate the first day water is released in the acequia.
  • School Presentation – make a simple presentation at your local school or educational institution to bring awareness to acequia issues and engage youth. NMAA will hold a training in the Spring of 2017 for those doing school presentations on acequias.
  • Regional Acequia Meeting or Workshop– Organize acequias in your regional association to strengthen your region and increase participation. A training will be provided in the Spring of 2017 for those hosting regional events. (Note: Only regional delegates can host a Regional Acequia meeting or workshop with NMAA.)
  • Please contact NMAA to sign up and how to get more involved!
  • Become a member of NMAA.
  • Follow us on Facebook.

Stories in Defense of Water and Acequia Success Stories

Acequia de las Joyas– Edward Romero, Mayordomo of the Acequia for 35 years, humbly explained that their acequia is the first RCPP project in the United States that used the Alternate Funding Arrangement for project funding. The acequia replaced a flume that was built in 1947 that was suspended with cables and a welded steel pipe flume that is self-supporting.


















Taos Valley Acequia Association

As the Taos Valley finalizes the Abeyta Water Rights Settlement, the acequias are preparing to strategize and prepare for the future. Sylvia Rodriquez, board member of TVAA spoke on behalf of the newly formed TVAA Leadership & Education Committee. The committee is helping re-envision the work of TVAA and organize the acequia communities in preparation of administration of the water rights, including providing education and outreach.

Las Nueve Acequias del Rio Grande

Alfredo Montoya, Board member of the NMAA and President of Las Nueve del Rio Grande Acequia Association spoke on behalf of the techniques the association is taking in order to do pre-adjudication organizing. “We are campaigning around water rights declarations and ensuring that every association has updated bylaws, active leadership, and is aware of the land with water rights that is at risk. We hope to continue organizing and accounting for every drop we have as a basis for argument when the adjudication comes around.”














Acequias Stand with Standing Rock

Congreso delegates and guests were given a short briefing of the situation in Standing Rock by NMAA Staff Olivia Romo and Maria Gallegos. We screened a short video produced by Indigenous Rising Media titled: Shutting DAPL Down by Water Protectors of the Indigenous Peoples Power Project. In a call to action to stand in solidarity, Maria Gallegos asked everyone to write a message on the NMAA Stands with Standing Rock banner; purchase a t shirt or print – all proceeds raised to be donated to support the effort of the Water Protectors in Standing Rock.


















Nuestro Futuro: Our Youth at the 17th Annual Congreso











This year’s Congreso welcomed many youth as participants and presenters. Youth from our Sembrando Semillas program made the long journey to be with us and share their stories from Abiquiu, Mora, Chamisal, Atrisco/South Valley, and Santa Clara Pueblo. Fourteen youth presented to the entire congregation on the importance of acequias to them as young people. They received a standing ovation for their powerful words! Here are just a few things they shared:

“We nourish our crops through the water and for that we are eternally grateful for the acequias, for feeding us. The acequias aren’t a thing of the past but a passage for a better future.” Tayler, Abiquiu

“Acequias are important because without acequias we wouldn't be able to pass on our knowledge of how to farm, irrigate, and how to make a living out of it.” Ignacio, Chamisal

When the youth weren’t presenting, they were busy in the back room learning how to make screen prints with graphic artist, Eddyberto Cardenas of La Plazita Institute, and hands-on activities with Donne Gonzales. We also hosted a fundraiser for Sembrando Semillas by soliciting donations of local food products. Besides the food products, we gratefully received a beautiful donation of a Corn Maiden from artist R. Rivera. Thank you to all who made donations; this will be a yearly tradition to help support the next generation of acequier@s!















In addition to the Sembrando Semillas youth, we also highlighted the great work of 5 youth who participated in an acequia mapping project with Taos Soil and Water Conservation District as part of a Youth Conservation Corps grant. Emily Quintana, Brandon Martinez and Jason Torrez presented on the project and how it impacted them, alongside instructors of the project, Miguel Santistevan and Peter Vigil. The Taos SWCD-Youth Conservation Corps Program was presented with the Acequia Advocacy award for their innovative acequia mapping project that engaged youth in better understanding the condition and resiliency of the acequia system in the Taos Valley.













SPMDTU Colonial Music Performance As Congreso delegates and guests enjoyed lunch they were treated to a wonderful showcase of Spanish Colonial music and dance by beautifully gifted youth musicians (who have only been practicing since August 2016) from the Soceidad Proteccion Mutua de Trabajadores Unidos, Concilio #18, Ranchos de Taos.  

Acequia Awards

Every year NMAA honors Champion Acequia Leaders across the state of NM. Here are the awardees that were recognized at this year’s Congreso















Edwardo Romero from Cañon was awarded the Mayordomo of the Year award for his devoted time in maintaining the acequia and ensuring participation of all 90 parciantes where they do not have any delinquencies.

















For Acequia Farmer/Rancher of the Year, Leroy Graham, Board Member of the Taos Valley Acequia Association was awarded for his outstanding commitment to maintaining his family ranch, exercising the acequias, and being a life-long advocate for the survival of the acequia system.
















Finally, the commissioner of the year award was given to Norval Bookout from Tularosa, a champion chile farmer and dedicated acequia leader for over 35 years. Norval with a bashful smile, humbly received his award following in the steps of his ancestors, who instilled the love for the land and water in him and community.















A key piece of Congreso is the annual membership meeting of NMAA delegates voting on resolutions that set the course of our work and determine our policy priorities.

Resolution concepts are solicited from the regional associations. All recommendations are then reviewed and completed by the NMAA Policy Committee, or generated by the Policy Committee.


Resolutions Approved by the NMAA Delegates:


Definition of Regions – Resolution 2016-01

Supporting Engagement of Families and Youth in Acequias – Resolution 2016-02

Presented by Las Comadres Caucus


Supporting Acequia Farmer Training and Youth Farmer Mentorships- Resolution 2016-03

Presented by the El Puente Caucus


Supporting Removal of Lands with Acequia Infrastructure from Wilderness Areas Resolution 2016-04.

Submitted by Nacimiento Community Ditch Association


Requesting that the Office of the State Engineer Support Mediation in Water Rights Adjudication – Resolution 2016-05


Supporting Continued Infrastructure Funding for Acequias – Resolution 2016-06


Supporting a Change in the Definition of “Local Public Body” for Purposes of Budget Reporting – Resolution 2016-07


Supporting Efforts to Keep Water Rights Attached to the Land in Rural and Agricultural Communities – Resolution 2016-08


Requesting Exemptions from 404 Permits for Acequia Infrastructure Projects – Resolution 2016-09


All of the resolutions that have direct policy implications will be pursued in the advocacy efforts of NMAA. For full resolutions please visit the NMAA website.
















Thank you

The NMAA would like to thank Seth Roffman of Green Fire Times for his continuous contribution in photographing the Congreso every year, and Robin Collier of Cultural Energy for recording the meeting. . NMAA would also like to recognize all our volunteers; Priscilla Romo, Cassidy Spillman, Ignacio Gonzales, and Donne Gonzales. NMAA would also like to give a big recognition to all of our sponsors and donors for their valuable contributions:

American Friends Service Committee, Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District, Natural Resource Conservation Service (USDA), Tewa Women United, Farm Service Agency, Four Bridges Traveling Permaculture Institute, Agrarian Trust, Guadalupe Credit Union, Sangre de Cristo Acequia Association, Acequia del Rincon ,NM Land Conservancy, Bio-dynamic Association, Fire and Hops, Johnny's Selected Seeds, Payne's Nursery, Rancho de Chimayo, Rio Grande Ace Hardware, Artist R. Rivera, and Trader Joe's