Acequias are hand dug, gravity-fed irrigation canals that divert stream water to sustain the agro-pastoral economy Spanish colonial settlers established in the upper Rio Grande valley in the 17th, 18th, and early 19th centuries.
Acequia agriculture extended riparian habitats, transformed regional ecology, and created the cultivated New Mexican landscape we see today. Ditches divert, divide, and deliver water to crops and livestock. They form borders and pathways. They connect and define communities of irrigators who manage water as a commons.
They sustain biodiversity along riparian corridors and replenish underground aquifers wherever they reach.
The history and present situation of acequias in relation to our future prospects for a viable, habitable Taos will be presented by Sylvia Rodriguez at 2 p.m. at the Sept. 12 meeting of the Taos County Historical Society (TCHS).
Rodríguez is a native Taoseña and professor emerita of anthropology and former director of the Alfonso Ortiz Center for Intercultural Studies at UNM. Her research and publications have focused on interethnic relations in the Upper Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico, where over the past three decades she has studied the cultural impact of tourism, ritual and ethnic identity, and conflict over land and water.
She works collaboratively with acequia (traditional irrigation) organizations and researchers on acequia matters and the politics and anthropology of water. Her publications include journal articles, book chapters, and two prize-winning books: The Matachines Dance: Ritual Symbolism and Interethnic Relations in the Upper Rio Grande Valley, and Acequia: Water Sharing, Sanctity, and Place.
The Sylvia Rodriguez presenation will be held at the Kit Carson Electrical Board Room, 118 Cruz Alta Road, Taos and is open, free, to the public.