By Juliet Garcia-Gonzales
On the morning of Saturday, April 29th some of the NMAA Sembrando Semillas youth group was able to walk alongside 31 peones and mayordomo, Candido Dominguez, as they cleaned the Acequia Madre in Chamisal.
The avisador had made contact with the property owners the prior week, and everyone was to meet at the compuerta where the acequia madre ends. To the north of this compuerta is the Acequia del Medio, and to the east is the Acequia Del Monte.
We started out early, making sure we had our equipment set up to record the peones. I have always wanted to photograph the peones, but have always had a great deal of reverence for the practice. With a sincere interest from some of the youth, we asked the mayordomo, and he allowed us to record audio, video, and take still photos.
The mayordomo assigned 3 different groups. The first group, composed of 3 individuals, was in charge of cutting jaras. The second group and third group were broken up equally, and they all had palas.
The age range of all the peones was between 16 and 77 years old. There was mutual respect between them all, and a genuine camaraderie. The majority of the peones were from Chamisal, and some were from the surrounding area. In the past few years, the acequias have been an opportunity to make some money. It is not much, but it is advantageous for the peon, and beneficial to the acequia community.
Toribio, Michael, Adam, Kevin, and Isaac, Sembrando Semillas youth members, were acequieros that day. Donne, Augustine, Ignacio & I, were taking photos, and had a few opportunities to speak with and interview the peones. We asked them to share with us a story about the acequia.
As we reached the compuerta in Ojito, and everyone stepped out of the Acequia, the mayordomo's son sat on the compuerta and turned the wheel, lifting the gate, and allowing the water to flow. It was a very powerful experience.
At the end of the acequia limpia, the mayordomo's wife, Aurora was there to assist with the paperwork. At this point, any peon who was assigned on behalf of a landowner is given a notita. The notita is the Acequias Property Owner Work Receipt, which states the acequia name, date, name of the worker, the number of hours worked, and the name of the property owner. You are then entitled to present this notita to the property owner for payment.
The acequia allowed us the opportunity to see a side of Chamisal that we have never seen before. We crossed many fences, and heard many concerns. Over the course of the next couple of months, the youth will use this material to compose a short film, and write the stories shared with us.