Acequia Aqui: Water, Community & Creativity

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Water, Community & Creativity Catalog of Selected Projects: 2018 - 2020



Water, Community & Creativity Catalog of Selected Projects: 2018 - 2020

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First Edition Produced and published by The Paseo Project Inc., Taos, New Mexico

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Organized by J. Matthew Thomas, Executive Director, The Paseo Project This publication is the second in a series made possible by the LOR Foundation.

Additional support is provided by the Acequia Madre del Rio Pueblo, the Taos Valley Acequia Association, and dozens of parciantes. Edited by Barbara Scott, Final Eyes, Taos, NM Designed by Gina Azzari, 3 Bean Studio, Taos, NM Editorial Support by Rita O’Connell Š 2021, The Paseo Project Inc. All images courtesy of The Paseo Project unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any means, including electronic or mechanical, without the express written consent of the publisher.

Cover image:

222.22 Hz Surface Tension, by Sasha Raphael vom Dorp

opposite

Acequia, 2007 photo by Lenny Foster


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Table of Contents Image | Acequia, Lenny Foster . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

Installation | Irrigation, R. Ayrton Chapman. . . . . . . . 20

Poem | Consejito en el caminito, Levi Romero. . . . . . 5

Essay | Acequia Apocalypse Miguel Santistevan. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22

Introduction | Placekeeping Through Past and Future Waterways, J. Matthew Thomas. . . . . . . . . 6 Installation | Water Is Community Pop-up Gallery. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

Installation | The Knot, the Loom, and the Relationship, Olivia Romo, xilli sarkela, Suldano Abdiruhman. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 + Fiber Farm Tour

Essay | The Acequia System in Taos Is Vital to Our Life: A Call to Environmental Action Fritz Hahn and Mark Henderson. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10

Performance | Acequia Madre, Rica Maestas. . . . . . . 26 + La Llorona: HERstoricized, Educational Workshop by Tessa Cordova

Installation | Implied Line, El Linaje Implícito Rubin Olguin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12

Installation | Acequia Stories Morgan Barnard and True Kids1 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28

Installation | Telepoem Booth Acequia del Madre Elizabeth Hellstern. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 + Inventing the Land, Andrea Watson, excerpts from Telepoem Book TAOS Edition

Installation | 222.22 Hz Surface Tension Sasha Raphael vom Dorp. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30

Installation | LIVE STREAM Christine Howard Sandoval. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Installation | Water Wisdom, Spinning a Covering of Illumination, Juanita Lavadie with Krystal McCabe, Judy Torres, Elena Arguello, and Oliva Romo. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 + Workshop: Spinning With Water Wisdom

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Installation | Acequia Crossings Juanita Lavadie. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 Essay | Acequias and Monuments Sylvia Rodriguez. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34 Poem | Capulín, Levi Romero. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 Acknowledgments. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36


Consejito en el caminito Levi Romero

me topé con el vecino en el caminito ¿cómo les fue en la ‘cequia? le pregunte

no, ya hoy en día no hay peones, me dijo ni pendejos, hacen más con el disability luego no quieren trabajar, y no les puede uno decir nada hoy en día es mejor ser gallina que gallo

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Placekeeping Through Past and Future Waterways To introduce a project about acequias and their transformations is both an urgent and a contentious task. The culture of acequias is centuries old, handed down from generation to generation, a vital resource for life to thrive in the high desert. And the destruction and loss of the acequias across the valley have been a signal to many that traditional lifeways and culture are being lost to development, displacement, and climate change. The Acequia Aquí project attempts to give voice to the acequias, the history and | 6

the culture that have supported the valley’s living and breathing web, while also exploring opportunities for new community engagement, education, and generational involvement. The Paseo Project seeks to transform the community through art, and to transform art through community involvement. With Acequia Aquí, we explore a vital public utility through the imagination, resourcefulness, and inspiration of local artists, writers, and acequieros. In the fall of 2017, The Paseo Project set

J. Matthew Thomas

Executive Director, The Paseo Project Parciante, San Francisco de Assisi Ditch

out to address rural community design issues utilizing the creative tools of the contemporary artist. In collaboration with the Acequia Madre del Río Pueblo, we developed the first booklet, Acequia Aquí: The History and Preservation of the Acequia Madre del Río Pueblo, a publication that visualized the downtown area’s disappearing acequia networks. The booklet documented the existing and lost acequias, captured stories from local parciantes, and provided resources on existing codes, guidelines and language around


this centuries-old public utility. In the final pages, The Paseo Project made a call to local creatives: “How can we educate, illuminate, and celebrate our historic acequias?” For PASEO 2019, six New Mexican artists were invited to present their work to the community of Taos, using a diversity of media, presentation methods, and engagement activities. This series of work revealed how intricately connected the acequias have been, and still are, to our lives here in the high desert. Going beyond a sophisticated water-irrigation system for local agriculture, the acequias are embedded with traditions of weaving, storytelling, culture, and art. So intertwined, in fact, that to lose our acequias is to risk losing the art, history, and culture it supports. This compilation reveals these contemporary approaches on how we can share, educate, commemorate, preserve — and perhaps revolutionize—historical lifeways. Along with featuring invited PASEO artists, three guest essays are included that speak to the past while addressing the urgency of the future. Taos Town Council Member and Mayordomo Fritz Hahn, with archaeologist Mark Henderson, shares the current strategies being implemented to secure a future of flowing acequias. Local artist, educator, and activist Miguel Santistevan reminds us of the complex history of Northern New Mexico, and the urgency of including it in the new narratives being created in our community. And we end with Sylvia Rodriguez, who speaks to the historical foundation

photos by Sasha vom Dorp

of our ideals, the struggles of today, and the future of acequias and our world at large. In any revitalization project, the risk is duplicating a ‘placemaking template.’ The challenge facing urban renewal and reinvigoration is to maintain authenticity while integrating into the flows of contemporary economies. The artwork presented here seeks to transcend novelty by being rooted in a sense of place. The work is of the local community and for the community, not just for tourists and outsiders. The installations communicate a sense of history while supposing a future integrated landscape. The projects captured within these pages have the ability to become new landmarks upon the landscape: landmarks of the past, present, and future of acequias. It is imperative that where acequias can be restored, the ditches should be cleared and cleaned, the water returned to reinvigo-

rate the greenspace and restore the aquifer. But sadly, in most cases the acequias simply cannot be returned. Concrete and asphalt have covered the desagües and presas; and even if turned on, they can no longer serve the purpose they were intended to do, as agriculture has been converted to parking lots. With Acequia Aquí, we hope to critically investigate the future of our acequias by exploring new engagements while honoring past achievements. The projects and writings within are to inspire designers, urban planners, municipalities, and acequia communities to continue the legacy of acequias for generations to come. We hope that Acequia Aquí helps create more attention around this resource and the ways in which a community can honor its intricate web.

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Project Collaborators: The Paseo Project and SOMOS Curated by: J. Matthew Thomas and Ariana Kramer Water Collectors: Christalyn Concha, Miguel Santistevan, Jim O’Donnell, and Olivia Romo

Water Is Community

El Agua es la Vida. Water Is Life. In Taos, water unites—and sometimes divides—us. Water has always been, and continues to be, a defining feature of who we are in this high-mountain desert region; therefore the title, “Water Is Community.” This installation, held at the Taos Center for the Arts Encore Gallery, illuminated water and its influence on Taos, letting us hear directly from the people who live here. As expressed on the walls, the precious element of water determines agricultural productivity and economic viability. It also affects us culturally and spiritually. In partnership with SOMOS, for several months community members gathered water and stories about water from residents (and a few neighbors) of our Taos County watersheds. Participants were asked to share a short story about their experiences | 8

opening reception photos by Jim O’Donnell

Pop-up Gallery Installation Taos Center for the Arts April 6-8, 2018


with water in Taos while providing a small container of water. Over twenty community narratives were collected. This three-day installation gathered the voices and water of our community. The pop-up ended with a sold-out Pecha Kucha Night Taos, with presentations by participants of the exhibition and other community water advocates. This project was made possible through the generous support of the TCA and the LOR Foundation.

photo by Jim O’Donnell 9 |


Fritz Hahn

Mayordomo, Vigil y Romo Ditch

The Acequia System in Taos Is Vital to Our Life: A Call to Environmental Action For many generations, acequias have been the literal and figurative lifeblood of our community. Not only have they delivered precious water for agricultural purposes, but they have also brought neighbors, friends, and the community at large together to work and to celebrate the return of another promising growing season. Many people aren’t aware of the historical and cultural significance of our waterdelivery system. Acequias are a form of water management and delivery in the Southwestern United States, overlaying the ancient Pueblo irrigation systems. Every acequia has a mayordomo, who acts as the caretaker of our water. An acequia commission manages the delivery of water, settles disputes, and maintains the ditch system. Our acequias serve a vital role in recharging our aquifers and protecting riparian habitats downstream. Within the Town of Taos alone, there are about 10 miles of Commission (main) ditches. The Town of Taos is a parciante (participant) on the Acequia Madre del Río Pueblo de Taos and the Vigil y Romo ditch. Consequently, all citizens in the Town of Taos can volunteer and participate in the repair and maintenance of our communal acequias. If we want | 10

to recharge our aquifers and protect our tree canopy to mitigate the effects of climate change and the predictions of ensuing megadrought, we must pick up our pala (shovel) and get to work. Unfortunately, our acequia system is not only being threatened by drought and high demand on our water resources, but also by deferred maintenance. Make no mistake, if our acequia system is abandoned, so too are Taos’s history, culture, and long-term water sustainability. As a result of deferred maintenance, drought, demographics, and awareness, challenges abound. More subsurface water is pumped as acequia water delivery is structurally compromised in many areas. Drought adds to flow inconsistencies, resulting in citizens relying on potable irrigation. Residents who are new to the area may not be aware of the significance of the annual ditch cleanups, or the acequia system in general, and are not participating in them, leaving fewer people in the community to volunteer for the maintenance. Changing demographics compounds the problem. Our elders’ knowledge of our intricate ditch system is lost, as many of our children leave for school and jobs, interrupting the availability of a younger par-

Mark Henderson

former parciante, Acequia Madre del Río Pueblo de Taos

ciante workforce and the intergenerational transmission of our elders’ knowledge of the system. Without help from our community, our agricultural heritage will become even more threatened, and the historic appearance of our town will fall further into decline. The acequia system in Taos is vital to our way of life, and we must take action to protect it. As a result, for the last six years the Town of Taos, as parciante, has been recruiting citizen volunteers and helping to clean, repair, and revitalize our acequias. For example, the Town has strengthened its Acequia Ordinance and trained volunteers to manage the irrigation of Kit Carson Park; it was instrumental in creating the new Vigil y Romo diversion and compuerta (headgate); and it funded the feasibility of bringing water into Parr Field. And as part of the NMDOT repair of Paseo del Pueblo Norte, the Town has advocated for three new acequia culverts and green infrastructure (road-pollutant filtration) as part of this road-rehabilitation project. With the advent of the Abeyta water adjudication with Taos Pueblo, the Town of Taos has come to realize that for the agreement to succeed we must implement the three pillars of the agreement:


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Water sharing by Taos Pueblo for mutual benefit with the numerous signatories — including 13 mutual domestic water associations; the Taos Valley Acequia Association, composed of 55 acequia associations; El Prado Water & Sanitation District; the Town of Taos; and the Office of the State Water Engineer.

2. Water conservation measures and regional collaboration. 3. Surface-water flood irrigation through our acequias to recharge our aquifers. The future of the Abeyta Settlement will depend on the realization that because of climate change, the amount of water shared will diminish, while the number of people and entities demanding water will increase. Although drought and usage portend less water, we must maximize the effectiveness of our acequia surface-water delivery system to enhance water sustainability for future generations. When we get the water, we’d better use it effectively. Our hope is that more people in the community get involved in learning about the traditions, culture, and history surrounding our acequia system, and work to protect it. Preservar la comunidad y las tradiciones!

photo by Sasha vom Dorp

For more information, contact TVAA: Judy Torres, Taos Valley Acequia Association 575-758-9461 11 |


Implied Line, El Linaje Implícito Rubin Olguin Roswell, New Mexico 2019

Beneath the concrete pathways of the John Dunn Shops and submerged under the pavement of Bent Street, a memory of water remains. The old lines of the Acequia Madre worked their way around what is now the historic district of Taos. But as the commercial center developed, roads and buildings were built—often to the detriment of the acequia system. For generations, Ruben Olguin’s family has worked the soil of New Mexico. His greatgreat-grandfather helped to build the acequias in Bernalillo. With this installation— Implied Line, El Linaje Implícito — | 12

Olguin maintains this tradition, translating the waters with light, or as he puts it, projecting the “underlying river of history, land, water and life.” For PASEO 2019, his projections could be spotted running down Bent Street, reappearing along the John Dunn Walkway and running west toward the Guadalupe Church parking lot. Using upwards of six maps, rediscovered at the Southwest Research Center, Olguin was able to piece together this all but forgotten acequia, the Old Ditch. What we now traverse via bicycle and automobile was once the pathway for water. Olguin unveiled this through light and movement.

Projected in four locations along the Old Ditch was imagery Olguin created in his studio. Creating acequias runs in the family. Olguin collected a large sampling of New Mexico soils in a spectrum of colors: rich reds, milky whites, and dark browns. Placing the materials in a simulated ditch equipped with a small pump, Olguin ran water through his mini-acequia, manipulating the flow, filling the ditches, and cutting off the water. Olguin captured this handmade ditch and projected it upon the concrete surfaces of Taos, carrying out tradition, adapting to technologies, preserving a memory.


photos by Zoë Zimmerman

What can’t be so easily invented is the community sharing for which acequias are ubiquitous. Traditionally, water was not owned. It was a shared resource. Water flowed on its own terms, determined by the earth and the community that honored it. Projected upon the middle of sidewalks and streets, Implied Line, El Linaje Implícito once again gathered community around its waters, children jumping in the lighted streams, adults becoming aware of the absence of such a ditch today, and the fragility of an infrastructure that in itself literally created the downtown we know today. This illumina-

tion animated the activity of the past, while highlighting the hard concrete surface that we see today. Olguin’s visual disruptions remind us of the fragility of our acequias. The power they had to bring the community together was still present in the work on display; when the projectors were turned off and the ditch disappeared, newly formed memories were left behind. Digital video projection Website: Rubenolguinarts.net Instagram: @rubenolguinarts 13 |


Vintage phone booth, poetry directory 113” x 35.5” x 35.5” Website: telepoembooth.com Instagram: @telepoembooth

Telepoem Booth® Acequia del Madre Elizabeth Hellstern, Telepoem Booth® Organization Cerrillos, New Mexico 2019 Elizabeth Hellstern’s Telepoem Booth ® Acequia del Madre looks at technology and infrastructure using one ‘lost object’ of our landscape—the old-fashioned telephone booth—to explore the disappearing culture and infrastructure of acequias. The Telepoem Booth is an interactive vintage telephone booth. Participants dial a Telepoem number on the rotary phone and listen to the voices of poets reading their work. No money is needed to make a call. By dialing a provided number from the Telepoem phone directory, callers gain access to the self-voiced original work of dozens of local poets and writers. For the weekend of PASEO 2019, the Telepoem Booth became a portal for people to stop, slow down, and access our communities’ voices. Oral traditions play a huge role in acequia culture. Traditions of communities gathering to clean the ditch and celebrate the annual harvest created opportunities to exchange | 14

stories. While the annual events tied to the Acequia Madre have nearly disappeared in the context of its downtown/urban landscape, Hellstern’s use of the phone booth reminds us of the lost public infrastructures of the past and the cultural values they held. The phone booth was a place where we connected with other humans. By dialing a number on this shared public infrastructure, we were almost instantly connected to another human voice for an allotted amount of time; the booth was then made available for the next person. This sense of connection was defined in a context: a blue box on the streetscape. With the evolution of cellular technology, phone booths have vanished. So too have the collective means to obtain water. Long gone are the ditches that crisscrossed Taos Plaza and the surrounding streets, where the sharing of water was standard practice. There is little need for watering trees and

crops, or if there is, water as a public utility has made the ditch obsolete—from groundwater to hose spigot, technology has a way of making us take for granted that which once sustained us. For Hellstern’s project in Taos, she reached out to SOMOS, the local literary society, to engage with area writers and poets. Under the larger theme of the environment, short stories and poetry were collected. Nearly all the pieces were recorded by the writers themselves and programmed into the operating system of the phone booth. Dial (575) 586-4634 and you would have heard Lyla June read her poem And God Is the Water. (575) 244-2639 would have taken you to Jomo Chiteji’s piece And What . The collection of these works becomes an archive, a moment in time for us to reflect on what we have, what is at risk, and what has gone missing.


Inventing the Land Now this is what you shall do— Take the land each way you dream a lover earth skin seamless against his found beauty No map for this country called flame sky the supple throat of fire tasting amethyst bittersweet cerulean Ride some road to that place with no name past ripe-veined acequias pierced by twilight heat blood in rock soil pulsing and blazed Six miles to the belly of moonrise where mesas pleasured by alamillos and sage ache beneath horizon’s arched back Touch loins with smoke and silver to hold the wanted stars unlatch the wilding gate to the burning of the world Nowhere but dusk born in clay and tinder nothing but this night-blooming bed of luminous surrender. Lie down with the land let it break you—

—Andrea Watson Participating Telepoem Booth poet photos by Zoë Zimmerman

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LIVE STREAM Christine Howard Sandoval Sound design by Luz Fleming 2018 LIVE STREAM is a live-streamed performance and video using surveillance technology as a tool to channel disappeared migratory paths and waterways in and around the site of Taos’s Acequia Madre. Christine Sandoval used her body to physically trace buried paths that have been disrupted by ongoing notions of land ownership, boundary systems, and the built environment. Navigating these contested spaces with a wireless camera attached to her body, a video installation transmitted her remote exploration as a disorienting but potentially ‘grounding’ viewer experience. Can an authoritarian technology be transformed by a bodily perspective? Through the use of video and performance, LIVE STREAM attempts to perceive beyond the surface of the built environment through the act of walking to uncover and reclaim the vitality of ecological resources that continue to exist today. This project was made possible by the guidance and permission of Bobby Jaramillo, the Mayordomo of the Acequia Madre, and Taos Town Councilor George ‘Fritz’ Hahn. The project was curated by Erin Elder for We Are All Space in Time and commissioned by the Paseo Project, 2018.

photos by the artist

Single-channel video and audio, TRT: 32:00 Website: chsandoval.com Instagram: @chsandoval44 17 |


Sylvia Rodriguez

Recycled cloth, spindle and rope whirler, black light

Water Wisdom, Spinning a Covering of Illumination

courtesy of the artist

Juanita Lavadie with Krystal McCabe, Judy Torres, Elena Arguello, and Oliva Romo Taos, New Mexico 2019

Zoë Zimmerman

Zoë Zimmerman

On the west side of Kit Carson Park, a small rug was created by hundreds of hands. Tucked beneath the late summer foliage of the oak and elm trees, and lit by a flicker of fire and spotlights, a small team of storytellers and weavers brought a lifestyle to the frenetic scene of PASEO. Part demonstration, part performance and interactive installation, Water Wisdom invited the audience to a ‘quiet time.’ Traditionally, the winters would be a time for slowing down. It was a time of intergenerational story sharing, the passing down of oral traditions, and handiwork: spinning, weaving, and sewing. Winter was the time of year for introspection. During the two nights of the festival, a small rug was created from recycled cloth gathered from old skirts, dresses, and curtains. Selected in shades of blues and greens, the black lights on display created a glow as the amorphous weaving was transformed. | 18

Attendees were invited to use the rope spinner to prepare the materials, and to take part in the weaving of the circular mat. In the background, lit by a small spotlight, local storytellers spun tales that have been passed down from generation to generation. The nature of acequia culture is one of cooperation and trust-building, a community’s contribution to survival. Fathers and sons, mothers and daughters stopped to partake, coming together as a community to make something together. Water Wisdom reminded us to slow down and tune to this lifestyle... the lifestyle that will keep the acequia alive.

Artist Statement: Acequias were the life force of the existence of Spanish-speaking settlements of early 1500-1600 CE. The irrigation water was shared within villages through a dem-


WORKSHOP: Spinning With Water Wisdom As a practice opportunity before spinning at the event, a half-day spinning workshop on rope whirlers was conducted.

Spinning stories within the intimate circle of listeners, cuentistas/storytellers created images in the imagination, union in song and consejos/advice in the telling. Using handmade tools, spinners would quietly spin, listening. Letting nothing go to waste, recycled cloth was spun into yards and yards of ropes and cords that were most often plaited or woven into mats and coverings, the result of group cooperation and effort.

Un dicho: En dĂ­as de sobrevivir, las lenguas en rezo y las mano hacienda.

workshop photos courtesy of the artist

ocratic process of voice, work and water share. Crops could be grown, families could be fed, and wisdom of survival skills were passed on through generations of dichos, songs, and story talk.

Translation: Days of survival do not favor idle hands and minds. 19 |


Irrigation R. Ayrton Chapman, Los Lunas, New Mexico May 25, 2017 Chapman’s piece for PASEO 2019 has nothing to do with people. At least, that is what she expresses in her video short, Irrigation. The patient festival-goer is treated to a sequence of video clips documenting the return of the acequia to a piece of land in Albuquerque’s South Valley. Having recently purchased the land, Chapman worked to revive the acequia to bring water to the soonto-be small-scale farm. The film captures irrigation day at the moment the water was turned on. Fresh dirt becomes saturated. The audience bears witness to the beginning steps of bringing | 20

life back to the soil, back to the land, and ultimately back to the community. But as Chapman quickly realized, this wasn’t about people; this was about habitat development, about giving a place for the insects and organisms to flourish, the first step in conditioning the earth for agriculture. There is a sense of beginning with the work—a new beginning, a new possibility. The sadness of the overworked earth contrasts with the possibilities of the future. Chapman wanted to share this dichotomy, as people can be so removed from agriculture, and even more from acequias. The film is about using

resources, harnessing natural processes, and being a good steward of the land. The video was shown on a large-screen television, placed unassumingly in the window of a retail business on Paseo del Pueblo Norte in Taos. This land once had its own flow of acequia waters, but now it’s sealed with concrete and asphalt and will never again be watered. Acequia tradition and culture in New Mexico is a complex story of tradition and triumph, of disrespect and loss. This video, placed along the festival route, quietly reminds viewers of what once was, and what can be again.


Digital video (9:24) Website: ediblecarnival.org Instagram: @edible_carnival

photos by the artist

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Acequia Apocalypse Miguel Santistevan

Northern New Mexico is the only place in the world where you can find people cooking a crop from the Americas, corn (maize), in an Arabic oven (horno) while speaking a Spanish dialect infused with Aztec words. The scene describes the making of chicos, or horno-roasted green corn, that was once a common harvest activity in this region. The word chicos at first seems to be Spanish but is more likely a variant of an Aztec (Nahuatl) word. The horno we know of today came with the Spanish colonists in the 16th century, but its origins predate anything Spanish and lie within the Arabic culture in the Spanish bloodline and history. Today, the horno is seen on postcards that showcase Native American Pueblo culture, but usually the food item being cooked in those hornos is wheat bread, another crop that arrived in this region with the coming of the Spanish. The horno mud oven could therefore be considered the ultimate iconic symbol of northern New Mexico culture. The horno could be considered an ultimate art form as well. The medium is elemental: Earth from local clay soils to make mud bricks and plaster, water from the acequia irrigation ditches, and straw from last year’s wheat harvest are mixed and formed into mud, the quality of which is defined by the amount of mixing, the amount | 22

Digital video projection Sol Feliz Farm & AIRE: solfelizfarm.wordpress.com Taos acequias & regional agriculture videos: youtube.com/GrowFarmers

of rest, and the proportion of the elements brought together with traditional knowledge and practice. The mold used to make the horno bricks is tapered along two sides to allow for the construction of the parabolic, domelike shape of the horno. The location and size of the door and the chimney hole in the back are subjects of consideration in the construction and define the aesthetics and physics of the final product. The last brick of the horno is shaped perfectly with a hatchet to close the hole in the apex of the horno, sealing the cooking chamber and unifying the entire structure. Cooking in the horno requires skills that flow from generation to generation, much like the way acequias flow in the same channels season after season. Traditional knowledge is needed to know what kind and size of wood to burn, how to determine if the horno is hot enough (or too hot), and how long different food items are cooked. The horno serves simultaneously as a smoker, steamer, and pressure cooker for meat and corn cooked overnight; and pastries are done in about a minute. With pastries and bread, the horno is fired to white hot, then cleared of ashes and coals until the horno cools down to the right temperature for what is being baked. The horno requires maintenance that includes a fresh coat of mud plaster at least once a season, inside and out, until overuse of the horno requires that it be dismantled, mixed back into its elemental form, and reborn into an horno once again for several more years of use. With the coming of the modern age, mud hornos were replaced with metal ovens,

concrete replaced mud plaster, and sometimes modernized hybrids even replaced traditional varieties of corn seed. Over time, the ‘discovery’ of Northern New Mexico brought changes and created exposure of its traditional culture to the rest of the world. As the popularity of our region grew— whether for art, economic opportunity, or tourism on the part of privileged outsiders— many of the people who once maintained their hornos as part of their cultural identity are now no longer able. The masters of northern New Mexico culture grow old and watch their culture crumble in much of the same way that an unattended horno returns to the earth with the passage of time. Their children swim upstream against the forces of poverty, violence, and addiction—the collateral damage of colonization. Where inhabitants of Northern New Mexico are culturally wealthy, those who remain land-based are being edged out of our lands by those who come with ideas of ‘progress’ and ‘development.’ Where hornos were once a cornerstone of connection to our environment and each other through manito culture, we now have little time to maintain our cultural connections as we struggle to survive economically in gentrified Taos. Where hornos do exist, they are mostly for aesthetics, a subtle reminder that people used to live and eat from this land. To educate newcomers about the essence of this experience and cultural struggle in an artistic way, I jumped on the opportunity to create Acequia Apocalypse, a multimedia art project created for PASEO 2019. I have spent most of my adult life learning and engaging


Acequia Apocalypse was presented in partnership with Studio 107-B, “Honoring Our Sacred Acequias and Water,” curated by Maye Torres during the PASEO 2019 festival.

photos by Miguel Santistevan, except LANL image by Jake Mann

in the cultural practices of Northern New Mexico that might otherwise be lost to my descendants. The time I spend in this work to maintain my culture as an art form is motivated by the unsustainability of the modern world and the lament I feel as the changes of modernization come to Taos and potentially reach a point of no return. In this art project, I share images, video, and sound that juxtapose the ultimate beauty of Northern New Mexico culture as it relates to the ultimate devastation from the exposure that real estate, tourism, naturalresource extraction, and the nuclear-weapons industry has wrought on our people and region. I consider that my contribution to The PASEO represents a taproot that accesses the most rooted and truest art form in the deep layers of history: the art form that results from our primal need for sustenance, a need for our connection to nature (food) and to each other in community and through the mutual exchange of labor. The horno we know today is the result of the traveling, mixing, and exchange of cultures from all over the world. The PASEO is also a result of the traveling, mixing, and exchange of people and ideas from all over the world. I participate in The PASEO because artists who don’t know where they come from might not have an idea where they are going… I don’t want to see modern art thrive at the collapse of traditional culture when we can use the process to remind, reconnect, and reinvigorate.

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WORKSHOP: Fiber Farm Tour

photos by Zoë Zimmerman

On August 24, 2019, the artists presented a Fiber Farm Tour, providing local community members a pre-festival workshop that highlighted “the path from fleece to food.” The two-part tour started at Rancho La Fina. On-site at a working ranch, proprietor Patricia Quintana shared the history and current practices of grazing management and fine-wool production. Fiber artist Connie Taylor was on-site to share techniques and samples of locally crafted textiles. The tour continued to Gabriel Olguin’s family ranch where he shared all stages of production, from raising sheep to moving goods. The one-day free event honored the land through addressing issues of gentrification, economics, practices of sustainability, and civil disobedience.

The Knot, the Loom, and the Relationship Olivia Romo, xilli sarkela, and Suldano Abdiruhman with support from Connie Taylor and the Ortega Family

Taos & Ramah, New Mexico 2019

Canvas tent, fiber arts Website: suldanoa.com

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photos by Zoë Zimmerman

There was some hesitation for our curatorial team in addressing the topic of acequias. “Isn’t PASEO about the high tech, the cutting edge—modern tech and flashy lights?” an admirer of the event might ask. The annual nighttime festival has certainly developed a reputation for amusement and spectacle. But more importantly, the event is known for bringing the whole community together. The opportunity to honor and explore acequias, then, is deeply tied to the roots of the PASEO and its efforts to explore connection, shared resources, and community histories. Community and story are foundational to acequia culture; and with The Knot, the Loom, and the Relationship, building connection through shared history was front and center. Through collective storytelling and textile, this team of artists honored the histories

of the land-based people in Taos through a public participatory art-making installation. The artists state, “This project works in the tracks of knot-encoded liberation projects like the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, and engages with the histories and presents of northern New Mexican weavers. We revisit the runner-and-knot system articulated by Popé as a material way to connect people with the acequias, as well as to the stories of the people who tend to these waterways and rely on them.” Throughout the weekend, traditional textile techniques were presented and shared, with demos and workshops. A collection of local fiber arts were on display, with weavers, textile artists, and storytellers visiting throughout the night. And Paseo festivalgoers collaborated in the creation of a textile art piece/group garment/story web, all while

a steady stream of stories were told—to a gathered audience over a small microphone and speaker, and between individuals as they knotted, wove, and embroidered. “The new knot-web of intimate storytelling and action created by these partnerships serves as a hub for digging into the ongoing possibilities of political action that emerge from the hard work of hearing each others’ experiences and being transformed by one another,” explained the artists. Honoring the historical and local while celebrating that which is novel and global do not have to be oppositional actions. This piece brought together artists and acequierx, including Romo, sarkela, and Abdiruhman, to confront the challenges of communicating tradition in a deeply modern context. Through education, demonstration, and festivity, a transformation is being woven. 25 |


EDUCATIONAL WORKSHOP: La Llorona: HERstoricized by Tessa Cordova As an educational intervention and collaboration with The Paseo Project, Tessa Cordova, of Las Pistoleras Instituto Cultural de Arte, facilitated the workshop “La Llorona: HERstoricized.” Together with artist Rica Maestas, this creative educational workshop shed light and empowered the true history of La Llorona and La Malinche as an espejo (mirror) to one another. Philosophies and ideologies are often buried and hidden within legend, myth, archetype, and story. As a result, all legends, myths, and stories serve as vehicles that speak to our truth and to our experiences that may otherwise be viewed as culturally and socially taboo. As we unpack the complexities of story-making, it is important to realize the mirrors to the past that connect us as humans.

photos by Zoë Zimmerman

The legend of La Llorona is no different. Her story comes from the actual history of colonization and mestizaje (mixed-blood), and represents the story of La Malinche, also known as Malinalli or Doña Marina, lover of Hernán Cortés and birthing mother in the mixing of Spanish and Indigenous children.

photos courtesy of Paseo Project

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As we continue to understand our own personal, cultural and historical identities as Chicanas and Chicano people as a whole, it is important to understand that all of our stories originate in truth and experience. Although our stories often reach legendary proportions, understanding the origin of who we are and where we come from holds the true power in the actual historical accounts of Mestizo and Chicano identities.

Performance, ¼ mile Website: ricamaestas.com Instagram: @ricaroux


Acequia Madre Rica Maestas Albuquerque, New Mexico 2019 The folktale of La Llorona can be told many different ways. Whether it’s a tale of a spurned lover turned murderer and vengeful ghost, a wronged mother looking for her children, or an origin story for the Chicanx people in the Americas, the figure of La Llorona strikes fear and awe into the imaginations of children across the globe. In many families and cultures, La Llorona is tied to bodies of water—to acequias in particular in the New Mexican context. She is a haunting presence wielded by elders to teach a healthy respect for the lethal power of water. As a child, Rica Maestas was told stories of La Llorona by her grandmother, who warned her to be careful visiting the nearby acequia. Despite her notorious role as a killer of children, La Llorona also maintains a place of honor in Chicanx literature as a deterrent against the future loss of life. In the performance of Acequia Madre, Maestas assumed the role of La Llorona to guide small groups of festival attendees through the moonlit grounds of Kit Carson Park and Cemetery. Enrobed in a simple white sheet bedazzled with shimmering tears, Maestas sought to create an interpersonal relationship between audiences and La Llorona to illustrate the historical, ecological, and cultural importance of acequias, as well as the woman who haunts them.

Maestas’ performance followed a portion of the historic acequia network that runs through Kit Carson Park. With diversions through the nearby cemetery, Maestas incorporated local history into her characterization, conjuring memories of childhood ghost stories while discussing our fragile acequia system and the ancestral trauma that informs many Latinx and Chicanx experiences. Maestas was warned multiple times to be wary of the spiritual activity in the area, especially as she was to perform on a full moon. At once disarming and unnerving, this work speaks to the larger question of how a community acknowledges the historical trauma of a place. The Kit Carson Cemetery is named after a contentious figure buried there, valorized by some for brutal and prolific acts of genocide during the colonial expansion of the United States into New Mexico. As La Llorona endlessly mourns the loss of her children, we are reminded of the ongoing pain of colonial oppression, the delicacy of our desert home, and the importance of passing on traditions of ecological care. Guided by a figure who herself inspires endless storytelling, Acequia Madre was a procession steeped in reverence for the power of water and the divine feminine, be they life-giving or life-taking. Tender and conversational in style, Acequia Madre tours asked attendees to contribute their own stories of La Llorona, heartache, and gratitude, and ended in a lavender smoke blessing. In a quiet conclusion, La Llorona danced through the cemetery followed by a curious group of children. Turning abruptly to face a young girl, Maestas knelt in a spontaneous final gesture, and offered her three milagro charms, two representing children and one a sacred heart. And with that, La Llorona was gone. 27 |


Digital video projection Website: morganbarnard.com Instagram: @morganix

Acequia Stories Morgan Barnard and True Kids 1 2019 Acequia Stories was a collaboration between Morgan Barnard, True Kids 1, and local high school students to create a site-specific projection-mapped installation that explored the history and significance of the acequia system in Taos. Students participated in a workshop as part of the PASEO 2019 festival and collaborated to create new content that brought to life an otherwise vacant space. During the festival, students gathered audio and video content from different locations around the PASEO, and visitors were encouraged to participate by drawing imagery associated with water or acequias that was incorporated into the live remixes and dynamic projections on the architecture behind the old Taos County Courthouse. | 28


photos courtesy of the artist

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photos by the artist

Digital video projection Website: sashavomdorp.com Instagram: @sashavomdorp

222.22 Hz Surface Tension Sasha Raphael vom Dorp in collaboration with Sacha Riviere Taos, New Mexico 2019 Sasha Raphael vom Dorp works with light and sound. He makes photographs to better know his place in the universe. He has built a machine in an attempt to observe elemental transactions of light and sound through water. The final products are photographs of sound encountering light as seen through the medium of water. These photographs aim to capture the beauty and turmoil that occurs inside the most pedestrian events. Sunlight bounces on water, sound waves march toward oblivion. Presented at PASEO 2019 in partnership with Studio 107-B, “Honoring Our Sacred Acequias and Water,� curated by Maye Torres.

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Work in progress: Acequia Crossing stencils are tested on a sidewalk using spray chalk. The final Acequia Crossings would be executed in blue, green, and gray paint.

photos by Paseo Project

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Acequia Crossings Juanita Lavadie Taos, New Mexico 2020 In the fall of 2020, The Paseo Project reached out to Juanita Lavadie to explore the possible ways that the historical networks of the Acequia Madre del Río Pueblo could be represented on the paved surfaces of downtown Taos. Conceived as ‘acequia crossings,’ Lavadie created a series of stencils to educate and remind locals and visitors of the disappearing acequia. The old villages around Northern New Mexico would not have come to exist without the establishment and presence of acequias to keep the village healthy and fed. Although the official records of acequia documentation may show different dates, you can be fairly sure that they flowed unofficially as each community began to establish itself. The approach to the stencils was to connect to the liquid feeling of water and of water currents. The shovel is the main tool of the acequia parciantes (acequia members and water users) who have access to the water for their agricultural needs. Then, the seeds can be planted and nurtured to grow into fruition to supply the basic needs of families, communities and villages. It is a democratic process utilized in Northern New Mexico villages that predates the U.S. Constitution. To represent acequias, there are three key elements: water, human interaction with water, and agriculture.

WATER: two stencils, water drops, and water current The idea of the stencil design was to depict the flow of water. The two water stencils can be used for interchanging sequences to imitate the random course of water flow within the confines of the land banks that flank the currents. The stencils have to be big enough to be seen by passersby. But they have to be simple enough to be visible from a distance without disrupting the symbolic meaning or getting cluttered. SHOVEL: one stencil, shovelhead The stencil was best kept simple and very close to life-size. It is easy to recognize from a distance. This is how the farmer and acequia parciante manage the water, with the shovel. It is as basic and simple as it gets. With all the complexities of knowing the land, the seasons, the water flow—and with cooperative work with the community—the acequia parciante needs and shares the water to prosper and to thrive.

SEEDS: 1 stencil showing three seeds in different stages of growth—seed, sprouting seed, and growing plant. The seeds are blown up for better visibility. The three stages are depicted together in a row. They represent the most time-consuming and laborious aspects of being acequia parciantes. The garden, the field of crops, the livestock, and the family members who depend on the harvest are all reliant on the work with land, water, and seed. Once the seeds sprout, the constant care and work is needed with thriving plants all the days, weeks, and months into cosecha (harvest).

—Juanita Lavadie

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Sylvia Rodriguez Why do we have monuments, and what should they stand for? What values can sustain people through world-transforming upheaval? What kind of monument would embody cooperation, reciprocity, mutual aid, scarce-resource sharing, the common good, and a constantly negotiated balance between individual and collective interests? What constitutes the sight and sound of civilization in the desert? What conveyed irrigation water to Kit Carson and Padre Martínez alike? Must someone or something be dead to merit a monument? Must it always be a man associated with some form of authority, domination, or violence? Why an individual at all? What are all but dead inside the town of Don Fernando de Taos but struggling to survive beyond its municipal boundaries? What greened and grew biodiversity in the Taos valley and became the sustainable, resilient cornerstone of economic survival and social connectivity? The infrastructure for the agropastoraltrade economy that made Taos a dynamic, often volatile contact zone between diverse linguistic and ethnic groups endures in a latticework of acequias that still operate outside the town boundaries but are now all but extinct inside the town. | 34

odds that come from outside as well as from within. Despite the myriad forces of disintegration that engulf them, acequias still manage to survive in 2020, out of sheer parciante tenacity. Acequieros are a stubborn, devoted, resourceful, vigilant, and defensive lot. Just about everyone on an acequia has plenty of complaints about how little water they get, the condition of the ditch, neighbors who steal water, a flawed mayordomo or commissioner, the weather, drought, gophers, delincuentes, newcomers, lack of participation, the highway department, the Forest Service, the State Engineer, the TVAA, the adjudication, developers, predatory real estate and water markets. But even though almost every acequia and almost every parciante may fall short of the ideal, the point is that the ideal exists in the first place. And anyone who grew up irrigating on an acequia knows what that ideal is and what it should look like and how one ought to comply with it. The ethic of water sharing and upholding the simple but profound rules of the ditch are well known and deeply ingrained. A few hombres buenos y mujeres buenas—as good men and women are called in Spain, are found in every community, and we are still learning from their examples. Acequias are living monuments to the collective struggle to survive through reciprocity, cooperation, and mutual aid in an arid and changing environment. They enabled us to survive in the past, they sustain us today, and—if we maintain, fight for, and honor them—they can prove even more important in the coming dark decades.

photo by Sasha vom Dorp

Acequias and Monuments

Exactly how did this network—or system made up of multiple, interconnected smaller systems—come into being? No one really knows. Every colonial settlement began with the digging of ditches, but no record exists of precisely how, when, or by whom any particular acequia madre was dug. Looking at the overall hydroscape of the Taos valley, one geo-hydrologist suggests that the oldest acequias off the Río Lucero, Río Fernando, Río Pueblo, and Río Grande del Rancho were dug more or less concurrently in an integrated effort. Integrated in the sense that acequias diverting from the same stream share common drainage ditches, or desagües, which return tail waters back into the stream. If they had been dug in piecemeal fashion, he reasons, each acequia madre and its laterals would have their own separate desagüe. How did a farmer-organized and -managed, gravity-fed irrigation system come into being in any given watershed? How did parciantes organize themselves? Who was in charge? The cultural template, or rules and technology, came from Islamic Iberia, but vecinos had to adapt this knowledge to a new environment from which indigenous forms of water management had previously emerged. What does this have to do with monuments or with the state of acequias today? Acequias may symbolize an ideal of mutualism, reciprocity, and cooperative resource sharing, but any modern parciante will paint a far less rosy picture of how things are actually going on with her/his own ditch. Just as cada cabeza es un mundo, so is every acequia a world. Each of these little worlds struggles to survive against enormous


Capulín Levi Romero at the Wal-Mart pharmacy in Española a woman’s prescription costs $400.00 causing a stir of ooohs and aahs among those standing in line

for my son, she says he needs three injections a day insulin? someone asks no, to thin out his blood ¡remedios! someone in line blurts out the word everyone agrees

yuh, mm hmm, remedios yuh, remedios would be better and cheaper capulín, chokecherry! someone remarks my grandmother used to say that chokecherry was good for thinning the blood another woman adds, the bark from the chokecherry tree, boiled into a tea or you can make the jam syrupy, drippy

más antes salía uno a los barrancos y jallaba uno de todito we jostle ourselves from foot to foot mumbling our memories past lessons learned and rekindled a greater wisdom priceless and an offered prescription for lost traditions and discarded remedies at the Wal-Mart

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Acknowledgments This catalog is the culmination of more than three years’ working with artists, writers, and the Taos valley acequia community. We are grateful for the contributions of so many. Our thanks to: The LOR Foundation, especially Jake Caldwell and J.R. Logan, for their support of this three-year project. The Town of Taos, for providing space for the PASEO festival and pop-up events. Charles Chacon, Commission Chairman of the Acequia Madre del Rio Pueblo, for their faith and trust in a bunch of artists. Judy Torres and the Taos Valley Acequia Association for their assistance with our first booklet. Jim Schlarbaum and the Friends of the Acequia Madre, Eloy Jeantete, George Trujillo, and Lillian Trujillo. The Paseo Project Team and Board: Elizabeth Crittenden, Janet Webb, Joleen Montoya, Lili Rusing, Martin Munroe, Enrico Trujillo, Nathaniel Evans, and Amber Vasquez. Deep gratitude to Jana Greiner and Rita O’Connell for keeping our team afloat. Special thanks to Gina Azzari and Barbara Scott for their attention to detail in bringing the publications to fruition. Thank you to our creative and resilient artists—Rubin Olguin, Elizabeth Hellstern, Christine Howard Sandoval, Juanita Lavadie with Krystal McCabe, Judy Torres, Elena Arguello, and Olivia Romo. Thanks also to R. Ayrton Chapman, xilli sarkela, Suldano Abdiruhman, Rica Maestas, Morgan Barnard and True Kids1, Sasha Raphael vom Dorp, and Lenny Foster. It is through your hands that we can glean new perspectives on our world. This project would not have been possible without the wealth of knowledge shared from our contributors: Sylvia Rodriguez, Miguel Santistevan, Fritz Hahn, and Mark Henderson. And thank you to Andrea Watson and centennial poet for New Mexico Levi Romero for offering their beautiful poetry. The Paseo Project and the Acequia Aquí project did not operate alone. Thank you to our wonderful partners Colette LaBouff, Chelsea Reidy, and the entire staff over the past three years at the Taos Center for the Arts; to Jan Smith and Ariana Kramer for dedicated support from SOMOS; and to the indomitable Tessa Cordova with Las Pistoleras Instituto Cultural de Arte in El Prado. And finally, to all the parciantes, mayordomos, and acequia stewards who keep the traditions alive and to the storytellers, weavers, and elders who pass down the history of this fertile valley: Thank you for your time, your dedication, and your tenacity in working with the land in a time of so many changes.



Documenting four years of work produced through the Acequia Aquí project, this catalogue explores a vital public utility through the imagination, resourcefulness, and inspiration of local artists, writers, and acequieros. With Acequia Aquí, we hope to critically investigate the future of our acequias by exploring new engagements while honoring past achievements. The projects and writings within are to inspire designers, urban planners, municipalities, and acequia communities to continue the legacy of acequias for generations to come. We hope that Acequia Aquí helps create more attention around this resource and the ways in which a community can honor its intricate web.

Produced and published by

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TAOS, NEW MEXICO

paseoproject.org This publication is made possible by


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