Evolution of the Acequia Institution
Spanish legal instructions for the settlement of the provincias internas focused mainly on physical-design ordinances and related guidelines to be followed in the selection of locations suitable for habitation. Criteria included proximity of the proposed colony to vital natural resources in the vicinity; the development of master plans to locate town facilities, buildings, and streets; and the adoption of land-use regulations to support agricultural production. On the other hand, prescriptions for social and political organization, outside the official town governments (cabildos such as Santa Fe and a handful of other municipal jurisdictions), were not dictated by ordinance or by other precise laws. Instead, early settlers in the outlying and agricultural jurisdicciones relied on the customs, practices, and social institutions most familiar to them, transplanted as they were themselves, from Mexico and Spain.
The land-grant petitioners and other colonists who arrived in La Provincia del Nuevo México prior to 1680 established the basic framework for adaptation to be followed by the subsequent waves of immigrants. As agropastoralists, they brought their farming, irrigation, and ranching institutions, introducing them to the Pueblo Indians in the process. The main commodities they brought to the region included horses, cattle, sheep, goats, vegetables, grains, fruits, and other diverse agricultural products, which the Indians quickly incorporated into their own staples of maize, beans, chile, cotton, and squash. 1