Acequia Culture: Water, Land, and Community in the Southwest

By José A. Rivera | Go to book overview
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Irrigation Communities on the Río Grande

The use of water-control systems to support agricultural societies in the upper Río Grande did not originate with the hispano mexicanos, a mixed raza (race) of people with Mexican, Indian, and Spanish heritage who migrated north from the central valley of Mexico beginning in the late sixteenth century. The first farmers in this region appear to have been the Anasazis, a Pueblo Indian culture of the Southwest associated with Mesa Verde and Chaco. Archaeological remains at Chaco, for example, document the fact that these prehistoric peoples built communities for longterm occupation. Their ingenious design technologies included thermally efficient pithouses and kivas, cisterns for domestic water storage, as well as outdoor hearths and roasting ovens. 1 For sustenance, they farmed on contoured terraces, grid-bordered gardens, and canyon floors. Their water supply depended on natural precipitation and runoff from the mesa tops, which they channeled to their fields and gardens via intricate systems of canals, diversion dams, and headgates. 2 For reasons not completely understood, these Anasazi settlements were abandoned after the peak population period of A.D. 1000. Archaeological evidence indicates that many Anasazis migrated south to the present sites occupied by the Pueblo Indians along the upper Río Grande, its tributaries, and other locations.

Prior to and with the entrance of the first Europeans, A.D. 1200-1600, the Tewa, Tiwa, and Keresan Pueblo Indians developed a variety of complex agricultural strategies over a wide range of settlements in the northern Río Grande region Though the Spanish explorers, who entered the region in the middle and late 1500s, observed examples of Pueblo ditch


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Acequia Culture: Water, Land, and Community in the Southwest


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