The Acequia Systems In New Mexico From The Spanish Colonial Period To Today

829 words - 3 pages

Water is the essence of life. It's something that many people take for granted, mainly those that don't live in desert areas. When you take away its abundance, acquiring it becomes the focus of any society. Such was the case during the Spanish Colonial Period in New Mexico and it continues on through to today. The water network associations are called Acequias. They have been around since pre-colonial times.In New Mexico, the Rio Grande is the main river and source of water. Pueblo societies have formed around the river since they began using agriculture. According to Dunbar-Ortiz (2007), irrigation agriculture has been around for 2000 years. In that time it has radically modified the landscape and highly transformed land use (p.23).Irrigation systems are complex and many factors are necessary for their success. In order to build them, cooperative construction and planning is required. After they are built, regular maintenance is required. This, coupled with the fact that the several villages all use the same canal, makes cooperation a necessary exercise.According to lecture notes, the pueblos created complex irrigation systems over 60 years before the Spanish arrived. Both the pueblos and the Spanish had irrigation systems, though they view the particulars of the systems in slightly different manners. To the pueblos, water is sacred and male in spirit. To the Spanish, water is also sacred, but female in spirit, while land is male. The two groups syncretized their beliefs and knowledge of irrigation to come up with the Acequias systems.Spanish colonial law set up the basic concepts for regulating the canals, but the system was actually controlled by old customs, with very few actual laws. Many of the customary practices were based on the "Islamic Law of Thirst." This law states that even if you are enemies, if you meet up at a watering hole in the desert, you must set aside your differences and give each other equal access to the water. All must drink.The in class-lecture stated that there are principal functions & features of Acequias. These are as follows: Each irrigator with water rights on one canal was to receive water in proportion to the amount of land irrigated. The maintenance costs were distributed in proportion to the amount of water used and paid for in labor or produce. The administration of the canals was taken care of by appointed or elected officials who were respected members of the community. The main administrator is called the Mayordomo and he has a large amount of power to regulate water among the Parciantes...

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