Contemporary Status of Acequias:
Development vs. Sustainability
During the colonial period of Nuevo México, only a handful of the irrigation settlements ever achieved the status of municipalities. The great majority of settlements were loosely grouped ranchos located in the narrow valleys on or near the major rivers. Land grants issued to petitioners by the republic of Mexico from 1821 to 1846 increased the number of new settlements well beyond the confines of the Río Grande, but in the vast majority of cases, acequia communities have remained unincorporated even into the contemporary period. In these communities the acequia associations are the only form of local government at the subcounty level, and for this reason they perform political and social functions outside of their main purpose as irrigation institutions. For example, the annual cleaning of the acequia not only marks the beginning of the agricultural season in early spring; it is also an occasion for the vecinos to address other local issues, reconfirming the sense of traditions that undergird the social and political life of the community.
In the acequia culture, connections with a geographic locale are an integral part of individual as well as collective identity. Everyone is "from a place." When two persons introduce themselves, invariably the next question of mutual interest is: "De dónde eres?" ("Where are you from?") The acequia delineates the physical boundaries of the community; thus, many acequias bear the name of the locality itself, as in "La Acequia de Corrales." Others pinpoint an interesting natural feature, such as "La Acequia del Monte," at Talpa, "La Acequia del Bosque" at Embudo, the "Acequia de los Ojos de la Agua Caliente" at Agua Caliente Canyon, and the "Acequia Madre del Llano Largo" on the Río Santa Barbara, near Pefiasco. Still others identify