In creating the Escuelita de la Acequias, the New Mexico Acequia Association (NMAA) envisioned acequieros and acequieras of all ages learning from one another and cooperating to manifest the vision of acequias flowing with clean water, people working together to grow food, and celebrations of culture and acequia tradition. Embracing the principle that everyone is a teacher and everyone is a student, the Escuelita is a space for learning through dialogue and shared work. Each year, the NMAA works with some 30 adults and 10 youth leaders through a series of encuentros (gatherings). Each participant commits to a tarea or community project and shares experiences with the whole group.
Joseluis Ortiz, originally of Peñasco and now living in Albuquerque, has long had an interest in supporting his community and in social justice. Ortiz was a participant in the Escuelita and has been embraced as an upcoming NMAA young leader. Asked about his Escuelita experience, he said, “By honoring the elements of life and love, La Escuelita opens a space that strengthens deep understandings… It has fueled my need to fight for our water, land and ways of life. One of my favorite parts of La Escuelita is the ongoing intergenerational exchange of knowledge and the transfer of energy and wisdom.” Ortiz also has an important leadership role with Los Jardines Institute in Atrisco.
Ignacio Gonzales of Chamisal tagged along to his first Escuelita at age 9, accompanying his parents and two older siblings, and became one of the most enthusiastic participants. “Escuelita got me to plant more,” he says. “It has taught me about our acequias, and how we’re supposed to keep our water clean. Don’t sell your water rights and don’t let anybody take your water rights. My favorite activity has been the singing and the songs. It’s fun.” Ignacio is one of several youth involved with NMAA’s Sembrando Semillas program in Chamisal.
Martha Trujillo has served as a commissioner for her acequia for several years in the Pojoaque area and has recently taken on a new level of leadership as a result of her participation in the Escuelita. “Escuelita gave me a level of awareness on how big the acequia community really is. My focus has been my local acequia, but the community is statewide! Without the Escuelita I had kind of forgotten the love, that water is life. Without it you won’t exist—without love you won’t exist—without investing something it won’t grow.” Trujillo was recently elected to the NMAA Concilio or board of directors and also serves on the Santa Fe County Water Committee as the acequia representative.