By Juliet Garcia-Gonzales, Sembrando Semillas Project.
In a couple of weeks, the Sembrando Semillas youth and youth from other communities will be attending the NMAA first annual La Escuelita de las Acequias. The Escuelita is a 3 part series that will be held between the months of February and September 2012. The formation of La Escuelita is based on community based education that is unique and relevant to acequias, and the purpose is to cultivate the next generation of acequia parciantes and community leaders. Through this engagement, we hope to increase leadership in our youth, and inspire community action. We expect 10-15 youth participants, and activities will include core values, reflection, acequia governance, and open dialogue.
By Quita Ortiz, Land and Water Program, New Mexico Acequia Association
The New Mexico Acequia Association has partnered with researchers from NMSU and UNM on an interdisciplinary acequia study funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), under their Dynamics of Coupled Human and Natural Systems program which promotes the interdisciplinary analyses of the interaction and relationships between human and natural systems.
A couple of years ago while the proposal was being developed, Dr. Sam Fernald, Interim Director of the Water Resources Research Institute (WRRI) and Associate Professor in the Animal and Range Sciences Department at NMSU, asked me if NMAA would be interested in partnering with him and other researchers on this study. I knew Sam from my days as a graduate student at NMSU where I researched land use change impacts on acequias; I collaborated with him on the research and he served as a member on my thesis committee. He'd known that I landed a position with NMAA and invited us to collaborate on this study. Both myself and NMAA executive director, Paula Garcia, were interested in the research and decided it was appropriate to join forces.
The research is being conducted in 3 sites – Alcalde, El Rito, and the Rio Hondo region near Taos. This study is incredibly valuable to acequias. It aims to understand the resiliency of acequias in the face of so many challenges, particularly regarding climate changes that could significantly affect the water supply. This study is concerned with combining the natural and human components of the acequia system that foster the sustainable practices embodied by acequias (for example, the way in which acequias maintain an equitable distribution of water to parciantes in times of drought or otherwise) in order to better understand their resiliency as sustainable resource management regimes; and to identify strategies for acequias to adapt to so they can thrive for many years to come.
This is taking a holistic view of acequias that incorporates the relationships concerning hydrology, ecology, economics, and socio-cultural components. These interconnected components aren’t a new discovery by any means – acequias have been aware of these intrinsic connections all along, but this study will provide quantified results that back up this long standing knowledge of the sustainability that acequias represent. In the realm of policy-making, unfortunately a layperson’s knowledge of such characteristics is not likely to hold up; but objective and quantified research results will have a lot of weight, and we expect that these results will be to the benefit of acequias.
Pedro A. Casados Sr. 81 a lifelong farmer and rancher of El Guique, New Mexico passed on peacefully on January 20th. He and his wife Juanita Archuleta de Casados are notably known for their family’s widely recognized indigenous New Mexican food business known as the Casados Farms. He was influential in politics and in civic circles in and out of the Española Valley throughout his life. He prided himself in being self-reliant, “never working for anyone yet working very hard throughout his life to build his business and managing his beloved land.” As it is mentioned in his obituary, “He understood the value of land and the food that grows from it when you nurture the land.” He managed two farms, one in El Guique and the other in the neighboring community of Chamita. In addition to what he yielded from his own farms he worked together with other farmers from the valley to distribute various native food products such as pozol, chicos, atole, and chile in addition to other products such as sopapilla mix. The Casados family sustained their business using traditional methods in managing the land. In addition, their food products under the leadership of Mr. Casados were prepared using native technologies such as the horno to cook or dehydrating dried foods in the sun. These products would then go on to be distributed locally and nation wide. His respect for native methods extended to the native method of growing crops only during the short spring and summer seasons and allowing the land rest during the fall and winter months. Pedro A Casados knowledge of the land included a profound knowledge of managing the water. As the saying goes, “Agua es vida,” Mr. Casados knew that practices of irrigation extended beyond the confines of his own ranches and stretched into the community. Here he served as community leader on the San Rafael del Guique Acequia for many years as both a Mayordomo and as part of the Comisión of the Acequia. In this capacity he helped the community of El Guique organize the building of it’s drainage diversion dams which prevented much erosion from causing harm to the valuable agricultural lands below. One of the legacies of Pedro A. Casados Sr. left the greater Acequia community was his ability to affirm our traditional knowledges and make a sustainable and honorable livelihood by the sweat of his brow. He showed us the dignity of knowing and working the land. He his remembered most vividly by many of his friends riding his horse in the mountains checking up on his cattle, working at what he loved best. I personally never met Mr. Casados, however I was asked by the family to sing at Mr. Casados’ funeral this past week. They requested I sing “Canción de las Acequias.” His son Peter Casados Jr. shared with me his sentiment, “That song is what my father's life was about.” So as they laid this well respected man to rest in the land he worked and loved so much, we honored his memory by intoning these words:
La noche esta llegando,
Yo sigo trabajando,
Lo que yo quiero tanto.
Pedro A Casados Sr. QEPD
David F. García NMAA Community Education