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Water Sharing, Sanctity, and Place

Sylvia Rodríguez

2006. 216 pp., 17 black-and-white illustrations, notes, glossary, references, index, 7 x 10

Every society must have a system for capturing, storing, and distributing water, a system encompassing both technology and a rationale for the division of this finite resource. Today, people around the world face severe and growing water scarcity, and everywhere this vital resource is ceasing to be a right and becoming a commodity. The acequia or irrigation ditch associations of Taos, Río Arriba, Mora, and other northern New Mexico counties offer an alternative. Few northern New Mexicans farm for a living anymore, but many still gather to clean the ditches each spring and irrigate fields and gardens with the water that runs through them. Increasingly, ditch associations also go to court to defend their water rights against the competing claims brought by population growth, urbanization, and industrial or resort development. Their insistence on the traditional “sharing of waters” offers a solution to the current worldwide water crisis.

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  • 2007 Association of Latino and Latina Anthropologists Book Award

Contributors: Sylvia Rodríguez

View the Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Irrigation in Taos
  3. Dividing the Río Pueblo
  4. Dividing the Río Lucero
  5. Respeto and Moral Economy
  6. Honoring San Isidro
  7. Procession, Water, and Place
  8. Water and the Future of Intercultural Relations

Download an excerpt (PDF, 34 KB).

Read Reviews

  • “[This book is] a unique and valuable contribution…. No one else could have written it.”
    Dr. Emlen Hall, University of New Mexico
  • “…Rodriguez writes a fascinating account of the interaction of water, faith, and landscape in northern New Mexico.

    Sylvia Rodriguez’s Acequia details the historic management of water and its impact on daily life in the Taos Valley…. In addition to this story, which recalls a way of life that dates to Spanish colonial times, she explores the ongoing legal disputes over who owns and controls the life-giving liquid.”
    Jon Hunner, New Mexico State University, Western Historical Quarterly Vol. XXXIX, No. 2, Summer 2008

  • “[Sylvia Rodriguez] deftly integrates the daily labor investments in ditch and field maintenance with the deeply embedded religious rituals necessary for the sanctity of the agricultural landscape…. [S]crupulous in her documentation of detail … [she] places the study in a global arena….”
    Vernon L. Scarborough
  • “…a theoretically informed, empirically rigorous, and socially relevant anthropology of water use that overcomes the limits of academic fashion.”
    Casey Walsh, Univ. of Calif. Santa Barbara, American Anthropologist, vol. 112, no. 2
  • “[Sylvia] Rodriguez fills an important gap in the historical and anthropological literature on agroecology and irrigation. Rodriguez’s extensive ethnographic fieldwork, coupled with her experience growing up parciante [a member of the acequia community], gives the reader a unique glimpse into this cultural phenomenon that only the author could provide.”
    Henry F. Lyle, Southwestern American Literature Vol. 33, no. 1 (Fall 2007)