Martha Montoya-Trujillo, is a lifelong resident of Pojoaque, NM and is the current Secretary of Acequia del Rincon. Martha is wife to Alex Trujillo, Mayordomo of the Acequia del Rincon since 1995. She is also board member of the New Mexico Acequia Association, Los Amigos de Los Luceros, and a Member of Northern New Mexicans Protecting Land Water and Rights.
The name “Acequia del Rincon”, noun rincón: (ángulo) corner inside; (inside) is true to its name. The diversion point is within the corner of the Nambe and Pojoaque Pueblo exterior boundaries dating back to 1739, in the Nambe, Pojoaque, Tesuque Basin (NPT Basin).
Much of our history is documented in the odd shaped red on white journals, yes, the journals that everyone knew were not to be touched but treasured and preserved under the care of the Commissioners of the Acequia (ditch). In the possession of the commissioners is a recorded entry dated Abril 21 de 1900 documenting Reglas de la Acequia Del Rincon En Pojoaque, New Mexico. The history of our ancestors told with each handwritten entry, in script font penning the gastos (spending), the treasurers report, the reglas (rules), the derechos of the acequia and the lay of the land. Not only do we have the history of rules and water rights, but what a gift to see our ancestry of primos (relatives) passing down the roles and tradition to their children and their children’s children.
Over hundreds of years the legacy, dedication, and responsibility has not missed a beat! Past Commissioners and Mayordomos memories of yesteryears speak affectionately of their fathers as commissioners and mayordomos and the work that needed to be done out of necessity , all the while comparing those hardships to the luxuries of today. Rudy Roybal, a former Treasurer for 23 years recalls his father, Meliton Roybal, having to pull dirt from the acequia madre to stop the water and divert it into the lateral, year after year. With the luxury of a modern day compuerta (headgate) makes Rudy’s life much easier. You hear Rudy’s voice soften as he remembers his father and smiles.
Many of our farmers are between 60 and 80 years of age. The old traditions are hard for them to break because of their ingrained duty to work and love of land but the hardship of keeping the land thriving has proven to be an evergrowing challenge. For some producers the challenge is age, equipment to work the land, funds needed to plant crops and risk of loss due to lack of water and usage. The challenges ahead will prove to be a testament to us and the next generation, as we are all called to be good stewards of what has been entrusted to us.
A tradition, years ago, families with derechos would report for a day or two for the “limpia” (cleaning) of the acequia. In late April in preparation for the irrigation season, fathers and sons took a tarea (task, work) per derecho. Around lunch time, the peones (workers) would be close to our house, and mom would make a traditional meal of corn fritters with red chile, tortillas and beans. The back ground music was usually the sound of files sharpening shovels and off to work, but still back home around 5pm with plenty of energy for an evening with a cold drink and a night out.
Today, our limpia is not celebrated. The cross road is cost and effectiveness, so it is now contracted. Water is released by March 1st, pushing through parts of the acequia that is cement, dirt or pipe. Each transition presenting a different challenge, but the water manages to make its way, enduring hundreds of years, never changing, and always ready for its yearly tarea coming out of a dry winter in a desert land.
As Commissioners we have encouraged parciantes to use the land, be more creative in the delivery of water by using more efficient systems such as underground piping and drip irrigation systems. In 2017 we completed the reconstruction of a fifty plus year old Presa (dam or weir) in collaboration with the Pueblo of Pojoaque who are also parciantes of the Rincon.
How did we manage in the past? Pure NEED to survive, there was no romance in the back breaking work of digging a presa, cleaning the acequia after a flood, rebuilding a dam in the middle of the river, using rama ( tree branches) and rocks to divert the water. But, that did not stop production of provision for families.
I know my dad planted out of necessity, with 12 mouths to feed. He planted fields of sweet corn (sometimes blue), beans and squash while managing to keep the pigs and goats contained (well at least most of the time). Now, this same land is divided into smaller parcels planted mostly with memories, our inspiration for the future!