February 2015

Introduction to this Issue – Global Acequia Landscapes: Culturally Green


New Mexico Acequias return to these pages to take their place of honor in a Global Heritage of traditional communities, which have made the arid zones of our planet bloom. If you encounter a verdant landscape in New Mexico, chances are you have entered an Acequia Landscape, which is “culturally green” since water is so scarce. International activists, scholars and irrigators have joined us again to celebrate the spirit of Enduring Acequias: Wisdom of the Land, Knowledge of the Water as the late Juan Estévan Arellano so aptly captured it in the title of his last book. We dedicate this issue More >

The Hermanamiento of the Acequias of Valencia, Spain and New Mexico


Armando Lamadrid

An unprecedented event in the annals of global acequia culture was celebrated in the ancient botanical gardens of Valencia, Spain, and on the steps of its great cathedral last September—an official encounter of acequia irrigators from Spain and New Mexico, after four centuries apart. New Mexican culture is deeply influenced by Spain, despite having been separated politically for centuries and divided by half the globe. Yet, the richly hybrid Iberian legacy is still expressed under New Mexican skies through language, blood and water. Yes, water. And not for the sake of pointing out universal truths—yes, we all need water, More >

Valencia and New Mexico’s Hermanamiento Ceremony: A Personal Perspective


Don Bustos


In September 2014, along with other members of the New Mexico Acequia Association (NMAA), I was invited to Valencia, Spain, to attend a symposium entitled “Irrigation, Society, and Landscape: Tribute to Thomas H. Glick,” the pioneer acequia scholar. Three other major events occurred during the trip that will impact the future of sustainable agriculture, the preservation of traditional people, and water and land for future generations in New Mexico.

The NMAA has been working with professors from several universities and community-based organizations to document and articulate the importance of traditional ways of governance and water distribution for the continuance More >

Heritage Acequias of Spain: The Millennial Huerta of Murcia and the Río Segura Valley


Armando Lamadrid


The morning is still fresh, and the cloudless sky swallows the brightly gleaming sun into its deep blue expanse. My eye follows the arching heavens earthwards, meeting the edge of Murcia’s monolithic, ancient cathedral, which etches elegant, fluid lines against the brilliant blue background. A song by Paul Simon is triggered by the image as I see “angels in the architecture… and he says, Amen! Hallelujah!”


Pedro Jesús Fernández, our local guide, calls us into the cathedral, pulling my attention away from the captivating medieval exterior, into the dark, cavernous nave inside. The intersecting, pointed Gothic arches look More >

Safeguarding the Global Cultural Heritage of Community Acequias


Luis Pablo Martínez


Acequia cultural landscapes provide impressive testimony on the interdependence of cultural and natural heritage, as well as on how heritage can effectively contribute to the promotion of intercultural dialogue and sustainability. The word acequia itself embodies a long and fascinating history of cultural transfer from Arab to Iberian and, later, to American contexts.


When the Iberian Peninsula was incorporated into the Muslim World with the name of Al-Andalus (711 A.D.), the Arab and Berber newcomers found a land that was in deep decline since the times of the late Roman Empire, centuries earlier. The situation was brilliantly reversed in More >

NM Acequias and World Heritage: A Proposal


Carlos Ortiz Mayordomo and Lina Gracia


The nomination of Acequias of New Mexico to the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity has been proposed by various groups worldwide, with the goal of promoting validation, conservation and transmission of traditional knowledge and practice. Acequias have always enabled the sustainable and productive use of community lands. The landscape created by traditional agricultural systems over time has become part of a regional identity. The acequias of New Mexico are an immense cultural heritage, sustained over many generations. Today, they are subdivisions of the state. A More >

Valle de Allende and Aldama: Roots of Acequia Culture in Northern México


Enrique Lamadrid


The roots of New Mexico’s acequias may still be traced along the perennial desert streams that feed the great Conchos River in Chihuahua, the largest tributary of the Río Grande/Bravo, named after the shell-trading natives who lived on its banks. Two communities that still practice the old ways of community-managed water are Valle de Allende and Aldama. Both are far removed from the big dams and conservancy districts that erased traditional acequia culture the same way that Elephant Butte Dam did in the north.


In the upper reaches of the feeder streams of the Conchos flows the Río More >

The Columbian Exchange


As soon as Christopher Columbus started picking up seeds, plants and animals to take back to Spain, and doing the same thing in the other direction, he started what historians call the “Columbian Exchange.” Since he was interested in spices, he immediately noticed small round wild chile berries and took them home, thinking they were a kind of peppercorn, which is why people still call them “chile peppers.” Some scholars who would rather not mention Columbus call the process the “Grand Exchange.” Either way this widespread relocation of plants, animals, diseases, humans and idea between the Eurasian and American Hemispheres More >

Tlaxcala and Aranjuez: Keystone Gardens of the Columbian Exchange


Enrique Lamadrid and Armando Lamadrid

The agricultural bounty of the Columbian Exchange was such a bonanza to people on both sides of the Atlantic that new plants and animals immediately began spreading from hand to hand to mouth along ancient and modern trade routes. Realizing the strategic importance of the exchange, the Spanish Empire did its best to understand and control the transmission. From the 16th to the 18th centuries, more than 50 expeditions were commissioned to collect plants and animals from an increasingly far-flung empire. A network of jardines de aclimatización, or gardens of acclimatization, were run by state and More >

Bounty of the Columbian Exchange


Enrique Lamadrid and Armando Lamadrid


Most schoolchildren know that corn comes from México and potatoes are from Perú. In history class they learn about the potato famine in Ireland and may have heard about the perils of monocropping, that is, the planting of only one kind of plant. Fewer realize that tomatoes are not from Italy but, rather, from México. And very few have heard that chile did not originate in México but, instead, from Bolivia, as recent DNA studies have shown. However, México was the jumping-off place from which chile traveled west on the Manila galleons and took Asia and More >

Water Management and Acequias in Chile


Ovidio Melo, Rafaela Retamal and José Luis Arumí


If you have enjoyed the excellent wines of Chile or the delicious fruit and grapes that brighten the North American winter, you have had direct, personal contact with the acequias of Chile.


While Chile is almost as long as the United States is wide, the distance from the country’s Pacific coast to the eastern Andean border averages only 110 miles. The irrigated central valley is 620 miles long, with Santiago in the center. To the north is the Atacama, the driest desert on Earth. The Chilean Patagonia to the south is as rainy More >

The Zanjeras of Northern Luzon


José A. Rivera


Most of us associate the Philippine Islands as a wet tropical zone and do not expect to find acequia-irrigated landscapes. However, unlike the verdant rice terraces of the Mountain Province in north-central Luzon that are humid year-round, agriculture in the Ilocos Norte Province to the northwest requires irrigation during a prolonged dry season that extends from late October to May. Much of this region is located between the highlands of the Cordillera Central on the east and a coastal area north and west toward the South China Sea. The rice fields in the coastal lowlands in particular require More >

Land and Water in the Middle East: the Yemen Connection


Juan Estévan Arellano


The word acequia seems to have its roots in Yemen. Sabaean was the language spoken by the Yemenis, and it seems most of the words related to hydrology came from Sabaean, an old South Arabian language. Here then is where our global acequia sojourn begins. The scenery in the Harraz Mountains as seen in the photos is breathtaking: cultivated terraces rolling down the fertile slopes, with a backdrop of jagged mountains common to all desert environments. On the ridges, villages cling to the peaks.


On the carefully constructed terraces, coffee plantations flourish. Here, agriculture is practiced more intensively More >

Juan Estévan Arellano ¡Presente!

September 17, 1947 – October 29, 2014


Enrique Lamadrid


At the edge of the Río Grande’s bosque, still resplendent with the golden bower of the cottonwoods, hundreds of people joined together in Española to commemorate the life and celebrate the legacy of Juan Estévan Arellano. We began by acknowledging the antepasados, realizing he is now one of them. He took his last breath not long after midnight on Oct. 29, 2014. Once again in northern Nuevo México, the “Canción de las acequias” became a hymn:


La noche está llegando,           Night is falling,

yo sigo trabajando                   I keep on working

para mantener                         to maintain

lo que yo More >

Book Review – February 2015


Enduring Acequias: Wisdom of the Land, Knowledge of the Water

Estévan Arellano

University of New Mexico Press, 220 pages



For several reasons, Estévan Arellano’s recent book, Enduring Acequias: Wisdom of the Land, Knowledge of the Water, can only be described as a tour de force. Foremost is the author’s depth of knowledge of his native watershed. This knowledge is centered on the many streams born of springs and snowmelt, which flow together to comprise the upper Río Embudo watershed and its nearly 40 major acequias. Through the acequias’ diversion and channeling of the río’s waters to fertile bottomlands, they successfully irrigate the traditional agricultural More >

Op-Ed: The Almunyah – An Integrated Place for Living


Alejandro López


The late New Mexican writer and community leader, Estévan Arellano, left this world while still in the process of enhancing his 2.5-acre garden-like plot of land in La Junta, the place in Embudo where the Río Embudo joins the Río Grande. He described this special place as an “almunyah, a word derived from classical Arabic, meaning “desire.” In the Iberian Peninsula, where Arab and Moorish peoples occupied Spain for nearly 800 years, almunyahs were designed as experimental and recreational gardens where imported trees and vegetables could be acclimatized. The almunyah concept that Arellano envisioned transplanting to New Mexican soil included a protected, More >

Awards Celebrate Community Sustainability Leaders


The city of Santa Fe is seeking nominations for the 2015 Sustainable Santa Fe Awards to recognize model projects that are helping Santa Fe reduce its ecological footprint, mitigate carbon emissions and build resilience in the face of climate change. These annual awards are limited to projects or programs with significant events that occurred during the 2014 calendar year or ongoing programs that haven’t yet been recognized. Award recipients will be recognized at a gala on April 8. Nominations will be accepted until March 15 and can be made online. A link can be found at www.santafenm.gov or at the websites More >

Newsbites – February 2015


The New Mexico Acequia Commission – Meeting on Feb. 27

The New Mexico Acequia Commission (NMAC) serves acequia communities throughout the state. The 11-member commission, created in 1987, is currently seeking to make itself better known to those communities.


Pursuant to Executive Order 88-06, the commission advises the governor, the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission (ISC) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on what criteria should be used to determine priorities for rehabilitating acequias under federal funding programs. The NMAC is also charged with facilitating communication between local acequia organizations and the state and federal governments and with reviewing plans More >

What’s Going On? – Albuquerque – February 2015


Feb. 4, 5:30-7 pm

Green Drinks

Hotel Andaluz, 125 Second St. NW

Network with people interested in doing business locally, clean energy alternatives and creating sustainable opportunities in our communities. Presenter: Theresa Cardenas, founder of Nobel Renewables Group, LLC will speak on Innovative Solutions for a Safe, Sustainable Future. www.greendrinks.org


Feb. 5-6

Urban Tree Conference

Crowne Plaza Albuquerque, 1901 University Blvd. NE

Updating the basics of tree care. Presentations by professionals. $170/$70 students. www.thinktreesnm.org/conference.html


Feb. 7, 8 am-5 pm

Advanced Photovoltaic Design

CNM Workforce Training Center, 5600 Eagle Rock Ave. NE

Participants will learn to apply National Electrical Code standards and industry best practices to design the best systems for More >

What’s Going On? – Santa Fe – February 2015


Feb. 3, 5:30-7:30 pm

State of the City

SF Community Convention Center

Address by Mayor Javier Gonzales


Feb. 4, 11:30 am-1 pm

Green Lunch

SF Area Home Builders Association, 1409 Luisa Street

Topic: The New Rules of Social Media. Presented by Kathy Walsh, Carolyn Parrs and Rubina Cohen. $15 for SFAHB, $20 others. Sponsored by the SF Green Chamber of Commerce. Reservations: 505.982.1774, Raquel@sfahba.com


Feb. 5

Water Policy Day

NM State Capitol

Join New Mexico First to advocate recommendations from the 2014 Statewide Water Town Hall. The platform calls for commonsense changes to water funding and planning, watershed restoration including forest tree thinning, long-range drought planning, resolution of legal issues, More >