Sembrando Semillas Atrisco Site Summer Project

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Refugee Sembrando Semillas Youth at Cornelio Candelaria Organics- Photo taken by Travis Mckenzi

By Travis Mckenzi

Las Acequias son la vida! Acequias bring us together and nourish our lives, families, and humanity. They are the life force that connects us to our sacred mother earth and each other. Mil gracias to all the Acequiero/as that are trabajando las acequias and keeping our land, water, and culture alive! 

Working with Lorenzo Candelaria and Dora Pacias at Cornelio Candelaria Organics is a blessing. Being able to bring youth and community to enjoy a 300 year old family farm in Atrisco, New Mexico is an honor and very fulfilling for my life and spirit. On March 28th, 2017 we were blessed to be able to partner with Rachel White, a teacher at Highland High School and Mallory Garcia from the Food Corps Member for Albuquerque Public Schools to bring a class of Refugee Youth to Atrisco to visit our family farms for a day of service-learning and fun. We did not know how amazing it would be, but the experience has inspired us and given us hope and energy for the future. 

When we all got to the farm you could feel the excitement and happiness starting to build and the youth received a breath of fresh air after being in the city of Albuquerque since arriving from their homelands. These youth come from all around the world: Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Tanzania, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Chad, Pakistan, and speak many different languages, Arabic, Pashto, Burundi, Swahili, Kirundi, Kinyarwanda, French, Persian, Dari, Farsi, Sango.  It was the largest national delegation we have ever hosted at the farm and it was an honor to experience it together.

Mother Earth connects us all and reminds us that we are all children of the earth.  We were blessed with some beautiful cold spring rain and all gathered in the hoop house and began exploring the farm.  We harvested vegetables for the farm and for our lunch that we would be cooking later that afternoon.  Afterwards we began the farm tour and walked through the blackberries back to the Acequia.  Everyone began to connect the experience with their ancestral homeland and we were filled with memories of culture and Querencia. Nuestra Querencia Que Viva! The youth began to touch the earth and the sand and share memories of their home and the land they are from.  They erupted in song and dance, and we ran in joy and all climbed to a hilltop overlooking the entire Valle del Atrisco and city.  At the top of the hill some youth began to reenact making a fire, and cooking food, all while singing in their native tongue.  It filled our hearts and it was a memory we will carry forever.  

Then we went to the Garcia family’s ancestral land whose family has graciously offered the land to farm to provide food for all the Refugee families.  With the hard work of the youth and our community, we will grow food to nourish our bodies, our minds, and our souls.  We had our drums out and the youth began to drum and dance and share their music, beauty, dance, and culture.  We had so much fun! We prepared all the vegetables we had harvested from Lorenzo’s Farm and began cooking them on Mallory’s Dad Benny Garcia’s custom made disco! Mallory’s Abuelita came and blessed the day and the food and we all celebrated an experience we will remember for a lifetime.


I am honored to share this story with all our Acequia Familia, and express that the Acequias are so crucial for our humanity.  The experience reminded me, that now more than ever we need to come together and support one another and collectively protect our sacred mother earth.  We all want health and wellbeing for ourselves and for our families and united we will be able to harness the abundance provided by our sacred mother earth and remember our ancestral and cultural teachings to carry us forward into the future!

El Agua es Vida!