$250 and an NMAA T-shirt
$200 and an NMAA T-shirt
$150 and an NMAA T-shirt
PHOTO/ART CONTEST DETAILS
Show us what acequia culture means to YOU! We invite you to enter your photos and art for NMAA’s annual Acequia Art Contest. There will be prizes for for ADULTS (19 years and up) and YOUTH (18 years and under).
All types of art are welcome, including paintings, sketches, mixed media, models and videos! Show us – “What does acequia culture mean to you?” or “Why are acequias important to your family, culture, or community?”
Art participants may submit one entry per person.
Send photos in any of these categories: (1) Acequieros Working the Land ~ (2) Digitally Altered Imagery ~ (3) Regando ~ (4) Food and Seed Traditions
Photo participants may submit one entry PER category!
Submit poems, short fiction or non-fiction essays, interviews or other community storytelling pieces
Written works participants may submit one entry per person.
CHECK BACK FOR THE 2024 ART CONTEST DEADLINE
Submissions must be sent in HIGH RESOLUTION/high quality format
Please email to email@example.com OR mail to 805 Early Street Bldg. B, Suite 203 Santa Fe, NM 87505
Include: (1) Name of Artist (2) Home Town (3) County (4) Acequia Name (5) Art/photo title or short description (6) Note if this is an adult or youth submission
All winning entries will be celebrated and shown at our annual Congreso de las Acequias, on the New Mexico Acequia Association website, and on social media
Upon submission, you agree to the use of your work(s) in NMAA materials including but not limited to publications, calendar, website pages, and outreach materials. Photo credit will be given where appropriate.
2023 Acequia Art Contest Winners
While taking Santiago to school one morning, our ATV kicking up dirt alongside the acequia, we notice suddenly an object. I slow down, and as we near, we see the carcass.
“What is that Mama?!”, asks my boy, curious and un-afraid, even as he sees the carcass for himself.
A dead coyote. We stop. I let him see the animal for himself - all fur and limbs. There is no blood or signs of trauma. Instead, the animal just lay dead, it’s mouth open askew. Santiago names him simply ‘Coyote’.
After dropping off my boy at school, I stop to drag the carcass off the path and into the brush between the acequia and row of Siberian elm trees. Later that afternoon, on our way from school back home, Santiago quickly asks, where’s Coyote? as we drive by, and I show him, the carcass still visible as we pass on our way home.
Days pass, the stench of decay grows stronger. Then it fades. Coyote’s body deflates further and further into the soil and debris, then autumn leaves from the surrounding trees soon cover coyotes corpse like snow.
Coyote’s scientific name, Canis latrans, which means "barking dog" in Latin.
“Mama, we’re almost gonna pass Coyote,” reminds Santiago on our mornings to school, remembering Coyote’s resting place alongside the narrow road between acequia and terreno. “How did coyote die?” my boy asks, again and again, and I reply honestly, “no se, mi hitio, sometimes animals just die…all living things die”.
My boy does not respond to this explanation, instead, he’s quiet, as if fully accepting my words as truth. And we both sit in wordless rumble of the ATV beneath us arriving at the school along the path of the ditch-bank.
The school year progresses, COVID masks come off, and my little boy is at last able to ‘see’ his teacher and his classmates without the hidden protection he’s been wearing since his first day of kindergarten. Days, then weeks go by, and each morning & afternoon, we pass Coyote. Still dead, always dead, but we leave him be, his body now becoming only hair and bones, a meat-less shape. With alfalfa fields now dormant, and December quickly approaching, I’m glad winter is coming, to mask coyote’s decomposition from my little boy, to make the carcass less noticeable. This is how Santiago learns about death. Daily, on our ride to school along the path the acequia outlines for us, always between alfalfa-field and acequia, and I hide nothing from him. I let him see. He looks. Always and often my boy remembers Coyote, and we acknowledge his presence as we pass along the narrow dirt road. This is how Santiago learns about death.
“Hi Coyote!” he says aloud, sometimes with a small wave as we pass. It is hardly ever joyful, instead, simply an acknowledgment.
Little do I realize, only a few months from now, as winter quickly becomes summer, nineteen children and two teachers will be killed in a shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde Texas. This is how I learn about death. A deeper learning. But how to acknowledge or give meaning to this?
We ride on along the acequia road, dirt beneath our bike tires, only a bit of summer left before school starts again for my boy.
Santiago sees and learns from coyote’s decay beside the acequia on our way to school each day. A soft learning about the reality of death. As summer wanes, coyote’s decay reminds me of the violence Santiago has yet to witness or understand. I think about the mother’s in Texas, the shape of their sorrow.
From now, until the end of time I will be Santiago’s mother. But more specifically, his Mama. Will he remember that I kept my jewelry in a cigar box? Will he remember that I loved classic-country-drinking songs and held a fondness for any gavilan (bird of prey)? What will he remember about me? What will remain his fondest memory? Or worst? He’s only six years old; what many more mistakes will I make in raising him? I watch him petal on his bike, little-boy-sneakers fast and strong on the black pedals of an orange bike, and suddenly I’m overcome with the idea of what specifically we remember about our mama’s, both while they are living and when they are gone.
We ride on along the acequia road, dirt beneath our bike tires. “Orale coyote!” I say as we pass the place that marks our remembrance, and Santiago lifts his hand to wave, a genuine-ness that makes me smile.
Life and living, death and dying – I think of these things as Santiago pedals his bicycle along the dirt path between house and school, that outlined path created by the acequia near our house. I’m pedaling too. Acequias have been a part of my life since birth – growing up a farmer’s daughter, I was raised learning from Papa’s practice of irrigating his fields in summertime. As I still remain within the Middle Rio Grande Valley, I often think about my own boy’s relationship to acequias. What will he learn? How will I teach him? What influence will these water-ways have on his upbringing, his identity? If I do not take on the vocation or farmer or rancher, how will acequias still inform his learning?
Papa would rather I write about brilliant things, like newly-planted alfalfa sprouting, a green blanket laid out like a comforting sigh. It makes Papa uncomfortable when I write about drunken-ness, or blackouts. Lovely things like pinon-juniper woodlands at the foothills of the Manzanos, a light breeze coming down from Trigo Canyon. Lovely things - the santos in Nana's bedroom - San Antonio, Mother Mary, and a photo of honey-brown-hair-Jesus staring off into eternity's distance. Lovely things - two pheasants crossing the field, headed towards the willow stand alongside the acequia, their feathers bright as they hurry to reach the cover of green.
But I write about a dead coyote instead. About riding my bike with my boy instead of gardening or raising livestock. But this does not mean, that even now, acequias do not still impact our lives. Living in the valley of the Middle Rio Grande, these spaces created by acequias, the water and life, still leaves imprints, lessons.
Santiago sees and learns from coyote’s decay beside the acequia on our way to school each day. A soft learning about the reality of death. As summer wanes, coyote’s decay reminds me of the violence Santiago has yet to witness or understand.
A summer morning, nearly a year since coyote’s death, and we pass the spot, both Santiago and I on bicycles. “Look Mama, coyote!” my boy points out, his memory much better than mine, his hat on crooked, little legs pedaling fast as we move down across the dirt-road. “Yup,” I reply to him, “hi coyote!” and I wave. Santiago waves too.
The lesson Coyote teaches both Santiago and I is one of multiplicity – he is slowly growing to understand the world as it is, as it shows itself to him, conversely, Coyote reveals to me the complexity, yet also the simplicity, of life in all it’s cyclical patterns, biologically and spiritually.
“Que vivan las acequias…” is often the mantra, the declaration, yet I so often think about this saying in the broadest sense.
Most days the world hides nothing from us.
We ride on along the acequia road, dirt beneath our bike tires, only a bit of summer left before school starts again for my boy.
Finding Water on Top of the World
Please find the podcast here.
Following the River
Please find the photo-essay here.
When people look at you, they see an OLD woman that is probably sitting in her house.
When I look at you, I see a STRONG woman still working her 30 areas of farm land.
When people look at you, they see an OLD Woman that is probably sitting in her rocking chair sewing or knitting.
When I look at you, I see a STRONG woman driving a 15,000 pound John Deere 310 backhoe on her farm land.
When people look at you, they see an OLD woman with nothing more to offer.
When I look at you, I see a STRONG woman anxious to share and show all her farming knowledge to her grandchildren.
When people look at you, they see an OLD woman.
When I look at you, I see my STRONG grandmother "THE FARMER."
The Acequia That Feeds My Youth
When the winter would end and the spring air would enter, my grandfather and my cousins would clean the acequias. They would clean for hours with other men, cleaning any trash or unnecessary items that would eventually flow down the water. When they would finish their long day of cleaning, they would go back to my grandparents house to have food to fill their almost empty stomachs while they talked about how they did, proud of their work they have accomplished that day.
When the spring was almost near ending my grandfather would take out the coffee containers that he has always had his seeds in and walk towards his garden. He would spend days making sure all the seeds were in the ground. He used to ask for all his grandchildren to help him, always saying “bring clothes you don’t like, they will get dirty.” multiple times to make sure it went through our heads. But now he does it mostly by himself.
My grandmother worries about my grandfather for if he falls, he might be injured. She tells my family to always look for my grandpa. I would follow her directions and stand on the porch while facing his garden. I would see him there most of the time.
My grandmother wouldn’t like my cousins and I to go into the water of the acequia too early in the late spring or early summer because the priest hasn’t blessed the water, worrying her that we would get a cold. When we were allowed to play in it though, it was extremely entertaining. My cousins and I would walk up the grassy hill in my grandparents backyard and continue until we saw cement. We would get to the top and look over the gray ledge and see the level of water that is in the acequia. We would take off our shoes and socks and roll up the cloth of our pants. There were only two ways to enter the water, trying to find a place to slide your body off the cement and hope there is a large rock nearby, or walk down a slippery hill of mud.
When the water would hit our skin it would go into a slight shock. It was freezing to be in, but compared to the excruciatingly hot day, it was going to be worth the temporary pain.
We would walk only to certain parts of the acequia where we knew our family owned and would be okay with us there, but we wouldn’t like to go further if anyone called for us. The mud would go in between your toes and in certain places there were plants that felt like when you stepped onto a carpet in a fully wooden house. I enjoyed the concrete though, it was a nice, centered feeling compared to the rest, and if I looked slightly upwards, it would say my family's name.
I would look forward to the fourth of July, not because of the fireworks, but because of the togetherness of my family. I would be ecstatic knowing that my cousins and I would be able to play with the water once again, then get out of the acequia and have our clothes damp when we watch the fireworks.
I would drive past my grandfather's garden, looking every time I passed to see the green getting slowly larger and higher as the days went past us. Waiting until we would be able to pick food from it.
One of my early childhood memories was of when my grandmother took me into the green to pick vegetables and some fruit. We then walked towards the house and made a salad. It was the best salad I’ve had in my years of life.
Once summer was almost over and fall would creep into the world, the corn would be finished, having us eat corn almost every day. Having calabasitas in the fridge, and eating corn on the cob with our dinners.
I would go past my grandfather's garden in the fall and see the green slowly turning brown. Waiting for next summer to see the freshness enter once again.
In winter my cousins and I would walk further down the acequia to see what held in our living space.
When the winter would end and spring would enter, my grandfather and cousins would go to clean the acequia once again, for another year.
This summer I spent great times with my grandparents. My Grandpa Adonais would tell me stories about New Mexico. He said it is called the “Land of Enchantment” because of its beauty and different culture and traditions. We would look at our garden and would say that our traditions were disappearing and only in history books and in memories of older people.
Looking across the field where the acequia runs he saw some kind of grass known as popotes. He told me to get an oz, and I didn’t know what it was. On the ground he got his cane and made a design. Then I learned it was a sickle, a very funny tool to cut popotes.
He cut them along the acequia and I carried them on my brother's red wagon. There were several bunches and we found a safe place for them to dry. I couldn't think of what the popotes were for. Maybe build a house like the Three Little Pigs story.
About three weeks later, my Grandpa told me to bring the popotes to the woodpile. My brother and I started making bunches. Grandpa shaked them to get the seeds out. He put the top down to get them even and told me to bring something to tie them. All I could find were my ribbons. He trimmed the down side and tied the ribbons saying they were too colorful but to me they looked pretty. To my surprise, he said how do you like your new escoba. I learned a new word and learned how brooms were made out of funny grass growing on the side of the Acequia. Grandpa told me Acequias without water are no good. That is why we take care of our Acequias. He explained that popotes are hard to find, most of the fields have dusty roads and the grader cuts all the popotes growing.
Grandpa says he heard people say, “vamos a la escoba.” He said people would go to Silver City where there were fields of popotes. It was hard work but they earned money to have a good winter.
I am glad that he taught me about taking care of Acequias and keeping them clean. If we keep learning about traditions the stories will no longer be in history books. We will keep learning why Acequias are important to everyone. I enjoyed spending time and talking about our culture and traditions with my grandparents.
P.S. Sadly, my Grandpa Adonais died peacefully one beautiful morning. He was 92 years old and was my happy Grandpa every evening when I got off the bus. I miss him. He died on October 19, 2023. He was a Korea Veteran. Military came and gave him a gun salute, played Taps and presented the flag to my Uncle Rubel. I had spent the evening with him joking and combing his hair. We will continue taking care of my Grandma. May you rest in peace Grandpa Adonais.