work day on the ditch

our stretch of acequia
We live next to the Acequia Llano del Madre, it feeds from the Rio Hondo. This is our "ditch" which we use to water our garden. It looks like a narrow creek with a rocky bed and willows growing along edges. But the acequia is actually a canal, dug out of this landscape, some time in the early 19th century after the Arroyo Hondo land was granted to Spanish families for settlement.

There are hundreds of these ditches in NM. Often acequia building came second only to building a community's church. When the Spanish first began to colonize NM, over 400 years ago, they recognized the irrigation practices of the native peoples, as it resembled water irrigation back home in medieval Spain. They adapted the system into their own rules, and the acequias function pretty much the same today.

a main gate, last summer

Each Spring, before the ditches are officially turned "on" (headgates are opened) all parciantes (land owners who use the ditch) are required to help in the community clean up. Everyone who uses the water, has to share in the work. And I think its one reason why people here carry such a value to their water...something not seen places where getting water means just turning on the faucet. La Agua es La Vida, so they say.

early winter snowy acequia

Though our landlord is the official parciante, we volunteered to help her work. We woke early, dressed for the cold in our wool shirts, boots and heavy work pants, threw some granola bars & water in the backpack, and carrying a shovel and hedge clippers, walked down the road to the official meeting place, the church. We stood there among our Llano del Madre neighbors of all ages. Each landowner's name was called out, names here for muy generations such as Martinez, Padilla, Chacon, Vigil, Medina, with a few scattered Anglo names (which means you've been here only a generation or two) such as Frank or Miller.

We got assigned to a crew, started at el Medio, and worked East for hours.  Digging roots, cutting willows and removing debris. All down the row, speaking Spanish or English, in polite conversation and neighborly jokes.

An older man noticed that I was stretching & rubbing my hand (it hurt), and he told me about the arthritis in his hands. And then he said, "eh, but I grew up with a shovel in my hand." He had nine brothers and they were his father's cheap labor. An older little lady, (who'd been sure to put on her rouge & lipstick for the work day) took D's shovel from him twice just to show him how to do his task a little better. She told us she grew seven acres of orchards & alfalfa. And lamented how all the city people have no idea where their food comes from, or how hard it is to grow.

I understood 1/64 of the Spanish I heard today. Or maybe less than that. New words regarding acequias learned: sangrias, presas, desague y compuertas.

summer acequia walk

We worked half the day, and left feeling tired and a little sore. But feeling accomplished too. We took part in something that has meaning for this place. And when the water starts to flow, we'll feel a little more like we actually deserve to use it.

No comments:

Post a Comment

thank you for your comments!

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.